How is it possible for one human being to have SO much fun at a conference?
This past Tuesday and Wednesday, I attended Digital East 2013, a conference devoted to digital marketing and topics related to it. It was a blast — I learned some amazing information relating to social media, SEO and the digital marketing industry, made new friends and even got some swag (T-shirt, thermos bottle and other good stuff). For images of the conference, look at the Digital East website or see it on Twitter under #deast13 or #DEast13.
I have never seen so many people tweeting, Facebooking, taking images with their smartphones, or working on their tablets or laptops. I’m sure the Wi-Fi connections gasped in exhaustion at some point or needed a strong drink afterward. (Just kidding.)
The conference also featured keynote speakers such as Brent Herd (Director of Southeast, Twitter) and Joe Lockhart (former White House Press Secretary under Bill Clinton and now VP of Global Communications, Facebook). Both were highly entertaining and hilarious storytellers. Brent Herd spoke about the rapidity of how we hear about global events (such as the birth of Prince George) and how brands like Pampers could respond to such events. He showed an amazing graphic that charted how fast information was flowing to and from Japan on Twitter after the tsunami disaster.
Joe Lockhart talked about what it was like to work for the President and for Mark Zuckerberg, then progressed to how the way we receive information has changed over the years: from fax machines to satellite dishes to cellular phones to cable TV to the Internet. He also pointed out how powerful social media and metrics have become in political campaigns. That picture of Barack and Michelle Obama hugging each other after Barack’s re-election? It is now the most retweeted image in history.
But I don’t ever think I’ll forget his Russia story. As I recall it, Joe was on a trip with the President and went out for drinks with a friend after he had finished for the day. He went back to his hotel room, fell asleep and missed his flight on Air Force One (whoops).
So there he is, stuck in Russia, with no way to get home….Joe went to the airport, managed to get a flight and got himself back home with profuse apologies. Later, he was called to a meeting with the President but the way it was worded, he thought it sounded like a prank and he didn’t go. The invite came again twice more and the third time, Joe went. The meeting happened to be with a band called U2. Bono came over to Joe, hugged him and said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you. Anybody who can drink all night and talk back to the President is somebody I want to meet!”
Another funny storyteller was Simon Dumenco (“The Media Guy”) of Advertising Age, who spoke in one of my sessions. Simon discussed some interesting moments in social media, such as the social media disaster of Applebee’s and the social media success of Bennigan’s. Applebee’s fired a waitress for posting a receipt online, then mishandled the social media disaster afterwards. Bennigan’s had much better luck, posting an image of a beer bought in memory of a soldier, which inspired the “Wall of Heroes” website.
One of the speakers was a local social media expert, Maddie Grant, who I’d “met” through e-mail in 2011 and who had given me some great info. I had the chance to meet her and thank her in person, which was wonderful.
I had the chance to talk with the vendors sponsoring the event too. One of them was a company called Cinegif from Austin, TX, who creates high-quality animated GIFs that look so real, you’d swear they were video. Graham, their CEO, and I spoke about blogs and he showed me Cinegif’s. The blog has excellent examples of animated GIFs, such as an August 14 blog post that has an image of a Great Lakes Brewing Company bottle with a label showing a moving image of the Edmund Fitzgerald making its way through a storm. You can see the stormy waves, lightning flashes and rain pelting down, and I almost heard the thunder, looking at it.
Another cool website I saw was Chelsea Hover’s Salamander Hotels and Resorts page. Salamander created a Social Lounge, which integrates their Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter in one attractive collage. You can click on it and see what they’ve posted without the need to log separately into each of those sites.
Overall, Digital East 2013 was a fantastic experience. I wish I could have taken you all with me to see for yourselves. It was THAT good.