Starbucks and Cheezeburger Rock First Half of IN-NW. Facebook, Not So Much

So far the inaugural IN-NW conference is coming off better than expected. Ahead of time, it’s hard to gauge if a day-long conference on social media in a city like Seattle will be effective and informative or simply repetitive and lacking in actual engagement. It’s yet to be seen how the second half of the day pans out but the first half definitely kept everyone’s attention.

Part of the reason people were forced to pay attention was related to the fact that wi-fi was nearly impossible during the first two hours. One router didn’t cut it for a room full of people trying to use multiple devices at once. A second router arrived and wi-fi still wasn’t working properly. Usually people would be upset, but it caused most of us to give up and actually pay attention.

Five routers later, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezeburger, was the undeniable rockstar of the morning. John Cook of Geekwire gives a good breakdown of Huh’s best moments but I but I can tell you that he decided to focus mostly on copyright, DMCA, and the reason why people shouldn’t receive astronomical fines for sharing copyrighted material illegally. Because Huh was one of the key figures to speak up against SOPA/PIPA several weeks ago, it’s not surprising that’s what he decided to discuss. It’s pertinent info and anyone trying to figure out how to manage their social media and online content should have been wrapped around the legality issues that Huh touched upon during his presentation. Best quote of his presentation was clearly, “If we continue to only protect the Goliaths, we won’t see more Davids.”

Before Huh, Alexandra Wheeler who helps head the global digital marketing team at Starbucks had the most poignant message of the morning. While talking about the best way to use social media to market, a loose translation of her comment was that “It’s about customer relations first and foremost, not marketing.” In other words, forget trying to market to people online as an upfront goal. Simply engage with them and the marketing can fall inline afterward or in conjunction with genuine conversation. It sounds simple and it’s nothing most people haven’t heard before, but it’s so simple that most companies still fail at it.

Peter Wilson of Facebook was easily the most underwhelming figure in the early panel. He sat beside Evan Lew of Bing and David Tedman of Invoke Media. Both Lew and Tedman were spot on in their talks about staying relevant and reaching clients. Wilson was a bit standoffish and said in an off the cuff remark about Pinterest that he logged on once, made a single pinboard and hasn’t gone back on since then. Currently, Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site of 2012 and Wilson clearly wanted to treat them like a junior varsity team. Compared to Facebook, Pinterest is still small, but he seemed a bit elitist with his remark. He also kept mentioning all of the things he couldn’t talk about on behalf of Facebook during the Q&A and definitely didn’t come off as friendly or engaging.

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