The real advantage of attending a conference like the Inbound Marketing Summit in Dallas is meeting the people who move and shake the industry. It's one thing to tweet and blog, but to shoot the breeze with people who preach and practice Inbound Marketing has given me new perspectives. I'll focus on some of those folks and what they are doing and saying, leaving the themes and takeaways to other bloggers.
Of course you have to start with the honchos, Chris Brogan and Justin Levy, who are well known throughout the social media world. Both of these guys are passionate about social media as a force for good (and profit). Chris talked a lot about "influencers", both people and ideas that move us forward. It's not about the numbers - it's about learning and putting your ideas to work. Justin is into relationships in a big way. Whether in social media marketing or selling steaks, keeping it personal is what delivers success. I thank both of these influencers for putting on a great conference and for inspiring me.
Next on my list was Tim Marklein who talked about social media trends in business, how decision making is being driven by advocates (and their evil twins, the "badvocates"). Tim's take is that social media will revolutionize business, upsetting many "apple carts" of conventional thinking. This got me fired up as I listened. We tend to focus more on the technology of social media, forgetting about the larger trends in both business and society.
As a stunning example of transforming the norms, Greg Matthews talked about his team at Humana and their efforts to "humanize" the health insurance giant through social media and unconventional thinking. Somehow these guys have been given a license to create, to try new approaches, and most amazingly, to involve the rest of the company in their communities, blogs and social media platforms. If it can happen at Humana, it can happen anywhere.
Perhaps the ultimate highlights for me were the after-hours conversations with people who are working in the social media industry both as technology vendors and as marketing services providers. There seems to be a sincere desire to share ideas and build the industry as a whole, rather than competing with each other. I hope this spirit of community continues, and the Inbound Marketing Summit is a great vehicle for learning and building relationships at the same time.