I was on a panel this morning with Mike Lewis and David Armano for Social Media Breakfast NYC titled Business is Social, Now What? (Thanks to Selina McCusker for organizing). Maybe it is that we are at the end of conference season and I've been hearing a lot about social media, social software, E2.0, and social business lately and I'm a bit jaded (and yes, I've been contributing my fair share to this general conversation). But I struggled with what to say that would really cause the audience to think differently or provide inspiration that hasn't been said before.
What is really new? Over the last year - in terms of concepts - not much actually. We are at a different phase of the market right now. The phase of the market where the rubber hits the road. The phase where people are taking the concepts and applying them, tweaking how they apply them, and figuring out what works for them. Those use cases are not particularly generalizable because every business has its own strategy, culture, imperatives, etc. This phase of the market is full of hard work, not 'new'. Part of the challenge for event organizers is finding companies willing to share their 'experiments' - very few companies are confident that they are doing things right... or they've figured out something that works phenomenally well and consider it a differentiator that they don't particularly care to share.
Are conference and panels still useful? Yes - they help give us encouragement, spark a slightly different way to think about or communicate an issue or opportunity, and give us critical access to others who are working on the same issues. If you are looking for the next new, new thing though you will probably be disappointed. Good business is about getting the fundamentals of a discipline right - making strategic decisions, creating plans, testing, re-working, negotiating, training, and project management. It's no different in the 'social' space. So dig in, this is not going to be something that passes quickly - and start looking for specific, tactical take-aways that you can get from events, not big A Ha ideas.