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Reviewing Social Media Week Chicago

This was my second year attending the weeklong celebration of all things social media. Social Media Week is an annual conference that takes place in several cities around the world. Events are a combination of speeches and panels.

When the week’s schedule was announced, I scanned the events to see what looked most useful to my company and me.

I asked my boss to let me attend them. Luckily, she values learning and told me I could take three days to go to whatever events I thought would be helpful. Some people aren’t as fortunate.

A friend’s boss said, “You don’t need that. Aren’t you already a social media expert?”

As flattering as that might sound, it’s pretty naïve. First off, there are no experts of social media, as the industry is still in its infantry. Secondly, hello? – don’t you want your employees to continue learning so they can do their jobs even better?

The Social Media Week website is helpful at event tracking.

Each event has a star next to it, that you can ‘favorite’. Go through the events and star every one that looks interesting. Then see which have the same speakers or very similar content. Make sure the events you choose don’t overlap. A lot of events take place at the same time, so you don’t want to overbook yourself. Another thing you have to consider is the location of the events. This year there were 7 host locations. They aren’t all next to each other, so you have to take into account traveling time. Once you go through the entire list, you can pair it down into a manageable schedule.

This year, there were 186 events in Chicago! It’s awesome, but makes it harder to pick which to go to.

Social Media Club’s Chicago chapter created our own event for the week.

Our board members participated on a panel that our president moderated. 

This was actually the first panel I’ve been on. I was nervous at first, but as time passed I started really enjoying it. What I liked most was probably when we asked the audience about their takeaways from the various sessions they attended. This event was definitely very different from most of the events we host.

SMC Chicago founder Barbara Rozgonyi attended SMW in Berlin the same week. She entered and won a Nokia contest that allowed her to be a reporter during the week! You can read about her adventures here on her blog.

One thing that makes these events so great is that a lot of people live tweet during it.

It’s pretty amazing how some people pick up on certain things that others don’t. You can have a room full of 100 people, and each will get something different out of it.

SMW assigns an exclusive hashtag for each event, so attendants can add it to their tweets, and others can follow the conversation. This is very helpful for people who have an event they wanted to attend but couldn’t. By looking at the tweets with a particular hashtag, they get a brief snapshot of the important takeaways.

Many events are also video recorded, so anyone can view them afterwards.

At work last week we started altering some of our social media strategy, based on things I learned during SMW. We’ll re-evaluate in about a month to see if these changes have helped us reach our goals.

Did you attend or listen to any Social Media Week events near you? Which sessions were your favorites?

Photo caption: B.J. Mendelson speaking at a keynote session “Is Social Media Bullshit?” during Social Media Week Chicago (I took the photo!)

Audrey Schroder is a social media marketing strategist for electronic cigarette company Vapor4Life. Tweet her at @audreyschroder.