There are still lots of people who might think you’re just “on Facebook” all day while in reality you’ve got a big job: figuring out your social media strategy, perfecting the right times to post, understanding your analytics and building strong connections with your community.
That’s why it’s nice to be able to take some time to connect with others who have the same challenges as you. Luckily, there are lots of great social media conferences worth your time.
But how do you know which conference is right for you? We asked Jason Keath, CEO of Social Fresh (more on that conference in a minute), to help us out with that question.
“Most events will list a ton of information about the event online ahead of time. And more events are offering online networking opportunities before the event through communities, email lists or Facebook groups,” he says.
“Take advantage by researching the schedule, speakers (even watch past video of them), sponsors, attendees and the venue. Pick out companies, speakers, sessions that will make your trip the most productive to focus on.”
We’ve gotten you started on your research by collecting 11 (and a half!) social media conferences every marketers should know about for 2014. Read on to hear their pitch, see details of each and check out some tweets from past participants.
After you’ve picked the right event, read on for great tips from speakers and organizers on making the most of your conference experience!
One note: This list is only U.S. events, but I’d love to gather up a future list of great conferences worldwide. Let me know your picks in the comments!
Social Fresh has two conferences a year, but first up in 2014 is East. Stay tuned on their site for more details of Social Fresh West in San Diego this fall.
What: “Social Fresh is the social media conference you have always hoped for. We keep it simple and focus on quality content with actionable insights. No panels. Just one speaker at a time focused on success stories and tactics. One track. We curate a single track of great speakers, so you don’t have to. Real quality networking. Enjoy multiple happy hours, speed networking, snack breaks and a brainstorming event to meet and get to know other social professionals.”
When: July 17-18
Where: Orlando, FL
Cost: $597-$1,097 (Use promo code “BUFFER” for a 10% discount!)
Organizer: Social Fresh Conference
Speakers: Social media strategist and Youtility author Jay Baer and social and digital strategist Sarah Evans are confirmed so far.
Best for: With one track and one room, this one’s great for hyper-focused networking and getting face time with speakers.
What: “Social Media Marketing World 2014 is the world’s largest social media marketing conference. By attending, you’ll make connections with 80+ of the world’s top social media pros (plus 2,000 of your peers) and you’ll discover amazing ideas that’ll transform your social media marketing.”
When: March 26-28th, 2014
Where: San Diego, CA
Organizer: Social Media Examiner
Speakers: The Impact Equation author Chris Brogan, Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and social media strategist Jay Baer, among others.
Best for: Social media generalists looking for a deep dive into strategies and tactics.
What: “UserConf is the only conference of its kind, built to bring education and insight to people working in customer support and community management. We think customer support is just as important as sales and marketing. We tried to find a conference that reflected these values. We couldn’t. So we created UserConf, a conference for people like us.”
When: May 2, 2014
Where: Chicago, IL
Organizer: UserVoice and CoSupport
Speakers: None announced yet, but past speakers have included folks from companies like MailChimp, Vimeo, Microsoft, WordPress, AirBnB, and Uber.
Best for: Community managers or social media managers heavily focused on customer support.
What: “The Corporate Social Media Summit is the largest and most senior meeting of social media and marketing execs, giving you unrivaled insight into how social can drive your business growth & competitive advantage.”
When: June 16-17, 2014
Where: New York, NY
Organizer: Useful Social Media
Speakers: 2014 speakers include Dow Jones & Company Chief Communications Officer Paula Keve, MetLife Chief Customer Officer Claire M. Burns and Century 21 Chief Marketing Officer Bev Thorne.
Best for: Well established and/or senior social media practitioners.
What: “Three days of forward-thinking, actionable sessions on SEO, social media, community building, content marketing, brand development, CRO, the mobile landscape, analytics, and more. MozCon speakers share next-level advice on everything from building a loyal community to making data-driven decisions in your marketing.”
When: July 14-16, 2014
Where: Seattle, WA
Speakers: Moz’s Rand Fishkin, The Web Psychologist author Nathalie Nahai, Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive and more.
Best for: Cross-trained social media marketers who also dabble in (or want to learn more about) SEO, analytics and more.
What: “Content Marketing World is the one event where you can learn and network with the best and the brightest in the content marketing industry. You will leave with all the materials you need to take a content marketing strategy back to your team – and – to implement a content marketing plan that will grow your business and inspire your audience.”
When: Sept. 8-11, 2014
Where: Cleveland, OH
Organizer: Content Marketing Institute
Speakers: 2014 speakers include such brands as Kraft Foods, Microsoft, Facebook, SAP, Cisco Systems and Coca-Cola Brazil.
Best for: Social media managers with a content marketing focus.
7. Inbound 2014
What: “Join thousands of marketing and sales professionals from around the globe for the world’s most remarkable business event. INBOUND provides attendees with the inspiration, education, and connections needed to transform their businesses to match the way purchasing behaviors are evolving in a connected and digital world.”
When: September 15-18, 2014
Where: Boston, MA
Speakers: 2013’s event included talks from Arianna Huffington, President & Editor in Chief of Huffington Post; author Seth Godin; Scott Harrison, CEO & Founder of charity: water; and FiveThirtyEight.com founder Nate Silver.
Best for: Big-picture social media strategy and inspiration; seeing big name speakers.
What: “This isn’t Social Media 101: this is a celebration of how social media practitioners are creating exciting new ways to connect people within and outside the enterprise – customers, employees, managers and leaders. It’s an exploration of how we’re shaking up traditional organizations and communication channels to create a brand new form of business: the Social Enterprise.”
When: September 16-17, 2014
Where: Atlanta, GA
Cost: Prices ranged from $497-$1,299 for 2013’s event; they haven’t been announced yet for 2014.
Organizer: Social Media Today
Speakers: 2013’s event had speakers including Coca-Cola Digital Strategy & Content Director Neil Bedwell, The Body Shop Director of Brand Communications & Values Jennifer Barckley and Bravo Senior Social Media Manager Abigail Cusick.
Best for: In-house social media marketers working for (or aspiring to work for) large and enterprise brands.
What: “The Social Brand Forum, a top 10 social media conference, brings national social media and digital marketing thought leaders to Iowa’s Creative Corridor for two days of impactful keynotes and interactive discussions.”
When: Sept. 25-26, 2014
Where: Iowa (Specific location TBA)
Cost: Last year’s event cost $325; this year’s prices aren’t available yet.
Organizer: Brand Driven Digital
Speakers: Past speakers have included Spin Sucks author Gini Dietrich, Toprank’s Lee Odden, Youtility author Jay Baer and more.
Best for: Social media marketers looking for great value on a budget.
What: “This event is focused on the core skills you need to be a successful social media executive. This two-day conference features 16 intense peer-to-peer discussions, 12 how-to classes, 12 real-world case studies, 3 brilliant authors, and 3 amazing keynotes.”
When: Oct. 27-29, 2014
Where: Orlando, FL
Cost: $1,500 plus some optional add-ons
Speakers: None announced yet, but past speakers include folks from brands like AutoTrader.com, Salesforce.com, USAA and Best Buy.
Best for: In-house social media manager at large brands.
What: “A two-day, tactic-rich conference that covers all key issues for getting the most out of social marketing, whether you’re tasked with driving organic traffic, managing paid campaigns, or stewarding your company’s brand with online reputation management and customer service.”
When: November 19-20, 2014
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Cost: Prices for 2013’s event started at at $1,495; they haven’t been announced yet for 2014.
Organizer: SMX Social Media Marketing is programmed by the editorial team behind two leading internet marketing sites: Marketing Land and Search Engine Land.
Speakers: None announced yet, but 2013’s event had folks like Moz Director of Community Jennifer Lopez, AOL Audience Development Manager Travis Bernard and Realtor.com Director of Social Media Marketing Audie Chamberlain.
Best for: In-the-trenches social media marketers responsible for driving traffic and proving results.
Make the most of any conference
And if you’re planning on heading to one of these events, make the most of your conference experience. We asked Keath, Jennifer Lopez, Moz’s Director of Community, and Monica Wright, Director of Audience Engagement at Marketing Land, for their top tips on maxing out a conference experience. Here’s what they had to say:
Show up the day before
My best tip for getting the most out of a conference is to get there early,” Keath says. “Getting to an event a day early is a huge psychological advantage. You are not rushing or unprepared. You can learn your surroundings before most of the folks get there. And you can typically meet speakers, sponsors, organizers and other early birds without the chaos and competition of the full event as a distraction.”
Go all in
“Don’t half-ass your conference experience, go with gusto. This means focusing on the conference, the people, the sessions, not work (I know, this is a tough one for most),” Lopez says. “This sounds odd, right, since you’re going to learn for your job. But if you’re too distracted by your daily work to get anything out of the sessions, or hang out at the networking events, then what’s the point of spending all that money to be there? You should be exhausted after a conference because you’ve gone all in and made the most of it.”
Make what you learn actionable
“Make a point to see if you can condense your takeaways to 10 things to do when you get back to the office,” Wright says. “There are so many great ideas, but if you can narrow it down to the top ten things, it’s much easier to take action.”
Attend the networking events
“While the sessions are for learning tips and tactics, the networking is where the ‘goods’ happens,” Lopez says. “You make friendships, start partnerships, build communities, by talking with people. So, no sitting in your room working, get out there and talk to people.”
Organize your own event (at the event)
“Bring folks together for coffee, lunch, a late happy hour, or a morning networking event,” says Keath. “If you are a runner, get some attendees together to go for a run in the morning – it is a constructive and memorable way to bring together groups of people at an event for intros, networking, and quality discussion. (Make sure to know the event schedule and to avoid conflicting with events or vendor rules if you are a business.)”
Don’t forget logistics and details
“Some more tactical tips include staying hydrated, keep a light sweater or jacket with you,” says Wright. “If you have a portable phone charger, bring that. Having some gum or mints you can offer to your conference mates (especially after coffee breaks) is always a nice gesture.”
“Whether you’re in a session and ask the speaker a question, or you tweet to them later, or ask the person next to you what they learned from the session, or what they do… learn from the people around you,” says Lopez. “It’s not just the speakers who know all the answers, it’s the other attendees as well. When you grab lunch at the conference, ask the person next to you what they work on, you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn just by asking questions. It doesn’t need to be all about you. :)”
Take a break
“Many conferences will have long days to fit in as much content as possible. You do not have to go to everything,” Keath says. “Look for sessions less relevant to your needs where you can take a break and clear your head. Take a walk, get a snack. Check out the exhibitor space. Start a conversation with other attendees.”
Did we miss your favorite event happening in 2014? Do you have a great tip for making the most of a conference experience? Let me know about it in the comments (and definitely nominate those outside-the-U.S.) events for a future list)!
P.S. If you liked this post, you might also like The 10 Most Popular Social Media Marketing Guides of the Buffer blog to Kick-start 2014 and 6 Random Social Media Tips to Help You Improve Your Marketing Today.