Big brands, small brands, and political and social leaders gathered from all around the world at Mashable Connect, a three day conference at the Walt Disney World resort this past weekend. The diversity in experience of the conference attendees and speakers allowed for great opportunities from people of different disciplines to connect and discuss universal issues impacting the digital media landscape.
The first day of presentations started with a bang, as Ethics evangelist and Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig gave a stirring talk which started with tales of local citizens in NC trying to overcome poor broadband quality being stopped by telco lobbyists. Lessig also shared examples of inequality in access to copyrighted academic material and ended with stories of how social media helped to create leaderless contingents like Occupy Wall Street and the groups that helped to defeat SOPA/PIPA and forced advertisers to quit Rush Limbaugh's show en masse.
Other selected highlights of the first day:
- June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED, described how their media company had to turn themselves inside out to foster the growth of their worldwide community which started when TED decided to make its content available to the general public. TED talks have now been viewed more than 800 million times.
- American Express SVP of Digital Partnerships & Development, Leslie Berland, took a look back at how American Express transformed their organization, and described their successful Sync campaign launch with Jay-Z at SXSW.
- Alexander Ljung, Founder & CEO, SoundCloud, presented a compelling argument as to why sound will be bigger than video, adding that "sound is the key to being human".
- Mashable's Christina Warren led a discussion on the The Evolution of the Second Screen with Randy Shiozaki, Co-founder, TVplus, Miguel Monteverde, Vice President, Digital Media, Discovery Communications and Scott Rosenberg, CEO & Co-founder, Umami, that reviewed the opportunities and struggles of TV networks and application developers trying to provide companion content to their TV shows.
- Hilary Mason, Chief Scientist, bit.ly, offered a look at the nature of real-time content and how what we click on is often very different than what we share.
- Burt Herman, Co-Founder of Storify, talked about how big media organizations (like us) are using Storify to curate the social web and find small stories in big ones.
After an evening of networking opportunities (including a chance to ride the newly refurbished Star Tours at Disney's Hollywood Studios, day two offered more stories of digital transformations and gamechangers:
- Joe Trippi, showed the influence of social media in political campaigns, specifically the Howard Dean campaign, the Obama campaign, and most recently the Nigerian presidential campaign of Goodluck Jonathan, believed to be the first president to announce his candidacy using social media tools.
- Mashable's Lauren Indvik led a conversation with Scott Havens, Senior Vice President, Finance and Digital Operations from The Atlantic about how his company has embraced a digital first approach in their operations and its impact on users and profits.
- In undoubtedly the most buzzy (and to me, most inspiring) session at Mashable Connect, Cindy Gossip, Founder & CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld.com, offered advice on how brands get marketing wrong, how the new creativity is informed by data, and how Action Branding is the next wave in digital marketing.
- The audience was capitivated by 14-year-old, Author, Teacher, Speaker, and Activist, Adora Svitak, who shared some real advice how brands can offer her generation opportunities to help change the world for the better.
- Joe Fernandez, CEO of controversial online reputation service Klout spoke about how he thinks social media is the "democratization of influence", and how Klout now is "just a benchmark", but someday could be a great way to really help people.
After two days of inspirational talks and networking (and great hospitality by the Disney Parks and Resorts teams), I was left with three key takeaways:
- Motivated people are still the driving force behind both the successes and failures in the digital media space.
- No matter the cost, product or service, there is always value in storytelling.
- Bringing people together who are motivated and excited to be there, and treating them well usually results in a great conference.