Rohit Bhargava is a well-respected marketer and blogger and frequent speaker at conferences, including the upcoming MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer. Having attended countless business, marketing and social media conferences, Rohit makes sure that attendees get the best possible experience—before, during, and after each event.
Here, he shares advice on how to get the most from the conference experience and discusses where social media is headed, as well as how businesses can make the most of it.
Q: You're a very popular speaker and have a constant list of conferences to which you've been invited to speak. But it seems there's a new marketing/social media conference popping up every day, and for potential attendees it can seem a bit overwhelming. What are a few things that attendees should look for from an event to ensure that they will get their money's worth?
A: You're right, there are a ton of events coming up, and it's tough to choose which ones to spend time at. The most obvious way most people probably evaluate events is by the quality of the speakers who will be there. That's a measure I use to decide where to speak as well. The quality of the programming is also important in terms of what the session topics are and how the event is organized in relation to what you are most interested in learning about.
The other thing I would pay attention to is the companies who will be exhibiting or sponsoring the event. They have had to do the work to determine if the conference is worth spending money to sponsor, so any event that can bring in a good assortment of sponsors is obviously doing something right.
Q: Earlier this year, I met you and several other members of Ogilvy PR at South by Southwest and Blogger Social. As a result of connecting with you and your colleagues John, Kaitlyn and Virginia, I now have a better opinion of Ogilvy, as a result. How important do you think it is for companies to have their representatives attend events such as these and connect with influencers and potential customers?
A: This is hugely important because it speaks to a topic that you know I believe in—that brands need to have a personality and bring their company to life through their employees and their brand evangelists.
For us in our Digital Influence team, the fact that we're at these events is a big deal for our business not just in getting new clients but also in getting really high-quality people interested in working with us and joining our team.
Q: Besides opening the Digital Marketing Mixer conference, you'll also be speaking on the How Great Content Keeps People at the Table panel. How can companies reach the point where they understand how to position their social content so that it appeals to their customers, instead of attempting to use this content as a way to promote themselves? Is it simply trial and error?
A: Some of this is trial and error, but the nice thing is that it is pretty easy to tell if you are creating compelling content or not, for the simple reason that if it is useful then people will find it and pass it along to others. The best content creates a word-of-mouth effect where people share it with one another and that's easy to track online.
Q: You've been spending a lot of time in Beijing at the Olympics and working with Lenovo, a client of Ogilvy PR, and I noticed that you guys helped organize a Tweetup (meeting of users of the microblogging site Twitter) while there. How prevalent do social media such as Twitter and blogging seem to be at the Olympics—and from what you have seen/heard, in China?
A: Social media is emerging in China as it is in many parts of Asia. Going to an event like a blogger meet-up is the most encouraging way to experience social media in a particular region because you are meeting the people who are most active and engaged.
I wouldn't say that I got the impression that social media is experiencing a meteoric rise in China, but the people who are using it and promoting it have a great sense of promise at what it could do in the country... and like with other aspects of China, it is something we should definitely watch.
Q: Social media is in a constant state of change. What is your advice for companies that want to get up to speed on social sites and tools. Where should they start?
A: The most common advice here is to start listening, but usually when social media "pundits" offer that advice they only talk about it in the personal sense. I got started blogging because I started reading marketing blogs. And I read them because it was my profession and I was interested in them, not because they necessarily had something to do with a client project I was working on.
So my biggest advice would be to find blogs about something that you are interested in, whether it's rowing or table tennis... and start to get familiar with social media and blogs through that. After that, you can start to pay attention to social media as it relates to your job and your business, but at least this will get you past the first barrier of inertia and get you to invest the time to get familiar with the tools.