Commentary

Five Takeaways From OMMA Social

I just finished scanning 28 pages of tweets from OMMA Social San Francisco, which was held on Monday. If you couldn't make it, it's a great way to get a quickie synopsis of the conference. If you did, it serves as a great reminder of all of the insightful things that were said from the stage.

There are also other observations of the conference, at other locations, like Shiv Singh's posting on Charlene Li's presentation on the personal CPM, and David Berkowitz'posts; he has probably provided more published content about the show than MediaPost itself.

As the show's chairwoman, emcee, and chief chef, here are my five main takeaways:

Damn the economic torpedoes! Social media is still hot! There we all were, on a day that dawned with the news that tens of thousands more people were being laid off, and the conference was packed, and stayed packed all day right through cocktail hour. This, I think, speaks to the hunger that many people in the marketing industry have to figure out what social media means to their businesses, even when budgets -- including budgets to attend conferences -- are tight.

Among clients, social media is lukewarm. Many attendees were surprised, as was I, when my quickie poll from the podium about what kinds of people were in the audience yielded only three or four clients in a room of roughly 300. Agency people made up the vast majority of attendees. Even if my poll allows for some clients not raising their hands -- so as not to be attacked by agencies who want their business all day -- it makes you wonder if agencies have drunk the Kool-Aid, while marketers may not know it's even being served.

The personal CPM will be one of the hottest topics of the year. Although the idea has been around for awhile that, in a social media context, different people have different values to marketers, our panel on the personal CPM demonstrated what a hot, and controversial, topic this will continue to be. Moderated by Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li, it touched on many issues that could have made up a full day conference just by themselves. Those included whether influencers should be compensated by those who wish to use their influence, the increasing use of systems that grade the influence of individuals in the social graph, and whether this kind of marketing is indeed "kinder and gentler," as Brand Networks' Jamie Tedford said, or the opposite. As one person in the audience commented, "The more you guys talk, the more you creep me out."

In some categories, advertising as we know it may go away. One statement that seemed somewhat overlooked in all of the chatter up on stage, was this one from keynoter Chris Curtin, vice president of digital strategy for Hewlett-Packard: "What we would like to do is dial back on our paid media" in favor of social channels. That's a devastating statement for traditional advertising, but it also shows how powerful a marketer who is deeply immersed in social media is finding it to be.

Whenever Twitter does find a business model, it will be controversial. The panel in which four Social Media Insider readers pitched the audience on Twitter's business panel proved just how thorny finding its business model will be. While there are plenty of good ideas out there - ranging from users subscribing to a limited number of sponsored feeds to various takes on a paid subscription model -- our panelists were passionate about the models they pitched, and about how advertising would destroy Twitter, on the one hand, and how a subscription model would destroy it on the other.

If the thoughts above seem rather random, I think that underscores how many issues there are still to clear up as social media moves ever forward. Fine with me. Lots of fodder for future columns, and conferences.

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5 comments about "Five Takeaways From OMMA Social ".
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  1. David Shor from Prove, January 28, 2009 at 5:43 p.m.

    As I said to my good friend Jonathan Josell of Mission Control, the challenge I am having with social media is that it ultimately is expensive and doesn't scale well as a mechanism to reach the masses. So, with the decline of the banner and a flight toward paid search (there are only 10 paid search results and a lot more companies in most industries bidding on a keyword within a geo), what's the next scalable internet/mobile reach mechanism?

    Putting my investor's hat on, other than aggregating the new social media monitoring software companies, where can investors place their money on the social media agencies? They are, after all, people driven (and therefore low multiple businesses) and not necessarily systems-driven. Any ideas?

    David Shor
    Principal
    Quillion - a WONGDOODY company

  2. Dale Larson from No Such Agency, January 29, 2009 at 9:36 a.m.

    Here are a couple of my thoughts and the slides from Rich Ullman's lunchtime presentation at OMMA Social, "Social Marketing Models that work for Publishers and Marketers":

    http://dalelarson.com/2009/01/a-hint-about-good-presentations-politics-as-an-example-of-transparency-and-omma-social.html

  3. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc., January 29, 2009 at 1:37 p.m.

    I fear that a lot of the marketing-think surrounding social media is still rooted in the mass media mentality, when social media is far more like the telephone (vs. TV, radio, etc.) than anything before it (e-mail marketing, etc.).

    And discussions about Twitter still seem mired in a bit of industry navel-gazing at the novelty still. There's nothing about Twitter that hasn't been done already with blogs, for example -- just that now these blogs are stripped down to a raw 140-chars of text, and the RSS reader is slightly friendlier ... like simplified e-mail through a single service provider. As such, I would hardly call Twitter an "authentic medium".

    People can be so hungry for revolution they lose sight of evolution.

  4. Steve Sarner from if(we), February 1, 2009 at 3 p.m.

    This conference exceeded my high expectations in both quality of the content and the networking opportunities. Every session was packed with great insights and learning. It is interesting that actual clients were sparse in attendance, however, I think many are looking to their agencies to help them sort out this fast moving and evolving space.

    I personally see too many firms trying to force old media buying habits into a whole new medium. The best is certainly yet to come. Great job Ms. Taylor and the OMMA staff!

  5. Arthur Barbato from Advertising Database, February 5, 2009 at 11:18 a.m.

    thank you Catherine! imho, failure to find major brand sponsors that are acceptable to the audienace is the hurdle that MySpace, FaceBook and BeBo are handling with aplomb.

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