If you’re new to social media, and even if you’re not, attending conferences is a great way to learn about new trends, get inspiration from motivational speakers and gain a fresh perspective on the Web 2.0 world.


And so it was here in Toronto with Social Media Week 2012 .

If you’re not familiar with the event, it’s a week-long global conference about social media. In 2012, Social Media Week, or #SMW as it’s affectionately called on Twitter, was held in 21 cities around the world. For the most part it’s run by volunteers and all events are FREE.

I attended 7 SMW events in Toronto. Of those, 5 were really valuable, one was blatant self promotion and one featured speakers who had little to say and looked like they had slept in their clothes (more on that in a future post).

Two sessions in particular resonated with me.

Project Butterfly: Escaping the net

Project Butterfly is a multi-city research project conducted across the United States by the Palmerston Group. The study compared sociable people in the real world (a group the researchers dubbed “social butterflies”) with their counterparts in the online world (“hyperconnectors”).

What did they discover?

The two bear absolutely no resemblance to one another.

Social butterflies are interesting and interested. They’re accepting, flexible, show mutual respect for others and are sensitive to verbal and non-verbal social cues.

Hyperconnectors, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. They’re good at initial contact but lack the skills to maintain a relationship. They’re afraid to be alone, are longing for a sense of community and tend to overtly promote themselves (follow me, look at me, add me, I am awesome) in order to attract attention.

Take-away: To be more successful online, strive to be like real-life social butterflies—learn, listen, be attentive and empathize with others.

Social Media ROI: Myth or reality? 

The return on investment of social media is on everyone’s minds these days. But it’s elusive.

In fact, one of the panelists compared social media ROI to the Sasquatch: Everyone is looking for it, but no one can find it.

While we didn’t find the Sasquatch, a consensus emerged that social media ROI means something different for everyone.

A few organizations are still counting impressions and advertising value, while others are taking a more sophisticated approach by considering conversation volume, share of voice, sentiment and topics of conversation.

One panelist controversially offered the opinion that you can’t measure social media ROI. Another said social media ROI is like a toilet: You can’t really put a number on it but you wouldn’t want to live without it.

Personally, I prefer the analogy of having dinner with your family every night. You can’t measure the ROI of a meal with the kids but you know it’s really important.

There’s a great summary of the session here that discusses four ways to start measuring results.

Take-away: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that’s counted counts (Albert Einstein).


Were you at Social Media Week? What sessions inspired you? If you weren’t able to make it, what conference discussion encouraged you to look at social media in a new light?

Written by Shelley Pringle