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Last Monday we started a bit of a debate on Reputation Online to coincide with the start of Social Media Week London.

I’d noticed some criticism over where the value of such events really lies and whether this space had become too saturated with events. Following seven days of voting about who benefits from the week, the majority of feedback has been positive, with almost half of respondents stating they thought the industry as a whole would benefit.

However, the second most popular answer was ‘no one’, with agencies coming a close third. There are obviously fairly diverse opinions on this matter but, to be fair, I’m sure it’s the same for most events. Surprisingly, no one chose ’clients’.

I’d love to think the notion of being a better service provider is the driver for most, but more often than not new business is front of mind. The ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’ know that brands or businesses which aren’t sure what to do in this space congregate at events such as these with the idea of pouncing when necessary. Some of those leaving comments on the poll dismissed it as a backslapping exercise, while others said it was cliquey as agencies liked to portray a sense of being the only ones to understand the space.

This is unfortunately representative of many, but not strictly all. Jess Greenwood from Contagious raised a good point, saying we hadn’t included the end user as an option to vote on. We’d been considering the direct benefit of attending more than that of the long run (which could be another contributing factor to the lack of people choosing ‘clients’).

However, it’s interesting that she was the only one to pick up on this, which in my mind further proves the sentiment above. Many people used the comments field to vent and we saw a lot of emotive responses. Many people have invested time and resource planning events throughout the week and that’s never something to be sniffed at.

Some of those attending and even organising the events seem to agree with a lot of the negative points – specifically around going over old ground and a lack of direction – but still want to try to create a productive environment. Hats off to them, it’s a brave thing to take a subject so hyped up and overanalysed, then try to find a new angle or simply retell the basics. I tend to agree with those who asked for less talking and more doing, but it’s important to remember that many parts of the digital and social media spaces exist in very small circles.

These events have a wider appeal to those outside the industry and, although the usual suspects might little find value in them, they’re not solely set up to cater for their needs. There’s also some responsibility that lies with the attendee as well, and personal objectives need to be clearly defined in order to make the most of any event, regardless of its topic.

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Published 8 February, 2010 by NMA Staff

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