The secret is out: the key to success in social media is networking and relationship building, and there's no better place to do that than a great social media conference.
I've been to a bunch of social media conferences around the United States, and still have yet to find one I didn't like.
But each conference I've been a part of has its own strengths, and hopefully this post will help you make some decisions in 2019 and beyond.
Here, in no exact order, are the social media conferences that I would recommend:
I was overjoyed to be on the 'Social Media for Nonprofits' panel on Day 1 of the 2018 edition of the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference
The Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (#MDMC19); St. Louis, Mo.; April 16-18, 2019
Literally the only thing that I don't love about MDMC is that they wait to officially release dates for the following year. (I'll happily update this post when I get them, though :D)
UPDATED: #MDMC19 will take place April 16-18, 2019. See you there!
MDMC has become my favorite social media conference to take part in, year after year. The vibe at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel is immensely positive and energizing, and the slate of speakers that Perry Drake and the team bring in seems to get brighter and stronger every year.
Networking at MDMC is simple and straightforward by design -- unlike some other larger conferences, everyone is pretty much in the same place during the whole event. The sessions, which are carefully scheduled and all valuable in their own ways, are clustered together in one part of the hotel, which makes it really easy to stay near your group of friends/colleagues between sessions, and decide together which topics you want to tackle in the upcoming hour. This year's keynote room was packed out twice for speakers Dre Baldwin and Pam Moore, while the previous year included one of the best speakers you might not have ever heard of, James Whittaker of Microsoft.
I also keep a mental list of the best speakers I've ever encountered, and this year, Stephanie Liu easily cracked that list for me. St. Louis natives Jade Harrell and Vernon Ross are also a definite treat to meet and hear from.
MDMC attracts speakers from some of the biggest digital brands in the world, but what makes it top of mind for me is the cost: a basic two-day pass starts at $159 (!!!). A full-access pass escalates to $219, while a premium pass clocks in at $339. (Note: these prices go up after Feb. 28.) Weighing pass options? In addition to a t-shirt and a sweet swag bag, the premium pass gets you access to the VIP Lounge, where a lot of the speakers (including me these last two years) do spend a good portion of their days.
MDMC is produced by UMSL -- the University of Missouri-St. Louis -- and as such, it is made extremely accessible to college students. In fact, local students can get passes for just $50 (!!!!!), and the experience and knowledge they can absorb in those two days, in my opinion, far outweighs coursework and textbooks that would come with some extra 0's on their price.
For those looking to attend their first conference, the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference is, 100%, the perfect option for you. But it's not just for rookies, either -- there are some heavy hitters at MDMC, and the blend of a great atmosphere, talented speakers and a fun cityscape around the beautiful Union Station makes it the sort of event that I would recommend to people of all experience levels in the industry.
I can see MDMC continuing to grow exponentially over the next few years, and you'd be smart to snatch up tickets ASAP -- that is, once those dates are revealed ;).
I was joined by, left to right, Shonduras, Amanda Robinson, Brian @iSocialFanz Fanzo and Sara Moore on the USS Midway at Social Media Marketing World 2018 in San Diego
Social Media Marketing World; San Diego, CA; March 20-22, 2019
The 'Grandaddy of them All,' so to speak, Social Media Marketing World will be a conference on my schedule for many years to come.
Hosted by Social Media Examiner, 'World,' as it's known in the industry, provides the ultimate destination for any speaker in the social media industry, and thus attracts a broad crowd of thousands each spring to the gorgeous shores of southern California.
The 2017 edition was my first trip out there, and I left with some heavy eyelids, a slightly raised resting heartbeat, a couple extra pounds on my not-yet-a-Dad-but-still-Dad-bod -- and an overwhelming amount of exciting memories, new friendships and plenty of knowledge to apply to my career in the field.
I might compare 'World' to another type of world -- Disney -- in that it's the quintessential choice for an exciting adventure. Some people who have been to San Diego four, five, six times have mentioned that it becomes monotonous after a while, but I'd return to my metaphor: would you get tired of Disney World?
I could never imagine getting 'bored' of attending this particular conference, year after year, specifically because of the extraordinary variance in the audience. If you use social media to effectively build relationships year-round, Social Media Marketing World is your very best opportunity to gather with your people from around the globe. It's accessible from all corners of the planet, and the diverse international squad that descends into San Diego makes this the unquestioned best place to initiate and solidify relationships that you can benefit from year-round.
Of course, you can also use the wide hallways and generous table seating at the San Diego Convention Center as a content creation stage, and quite literally record enough content in a short week to sustain your weekly podcast, video show or blog for an entire year. Talk about efficiency -- Social Media Marketing World is a content marketer's dream.
And if Twitter is your forte, nowhere else will you find a hashtag hotter than #SMMW19. In 2018, my Twitter ended the week with 3,207 interactions -- a very clear, data-based indication that Social Media Marketing World is the epicenter of the foundation of social media, year in and year out.
UPDATE: Guess what ... I’ll be speaking at Social Media Marketing World 2019! The date and time of my session is TBA, but I’ll be speaking about Twitter, specifically building relationships and networking via Twitter. You can get your ticket at the lowest current price HERE ...
(Edit: These ticket prices are out of date, as ticket prices for SMMW gradually escalate throughout the year.) Ticket prices vary greatly based on your intended experience; you can get in the doors for $297, but the 'Marketer' pass for $647 represents a much more valuable opportunity (including seeing sessions). $797 gets you the all-access pass, and although that might sound steep, that dollar amount could easily land you a number of new clients, valuable connections or even a new job.
I grabbed a selfie with the attendees at a three-hour pre-event workshop about Livestreaming at the 2018 Social Shake-Up in Atlanta.
The Social Shake-Up; Atlanta, GA; May 6-8, 2019
Looking for a more corporate-focused social media event?
The Social Shake-Up is the one for you.
The pre-sale rates for The Social Shake-Up 2019 are $995 for the Shake-Up pass, or $1,290 to include the afternoon workshops the day before.
For the young marketer just getting her feet wet in the game, $1K may be a bit steep for a conference, but in terms of pure concentration of corporate marketers in one spot, you can't beat The Social Shake-Up.
I won a ticket to the conference in 2014, where I met a gentleman named Dan Gingiss, (as well as the event's since-deceased founder, Robin Carey). After connecting via Twitter, Dan and I connected IRL and have since become best friends.
I attended again in 2017 and 2018, speaking three times this year, and got extraordinary value out of the event all three times. PR News, which has taken over the Shake-Up since purchasing Social Media Today in 2016, does a terrific job of organizing panels and picking speakers who are not afraid to encourage significant changes in your social media marketing strategies.
The conference slate is a who's-who of big brands, with an emphasis on companies local to Atlanta, including Coca-Cola. Event organizers have gotten creative in establishing fun ways for people to network both on-site and around Atlanta, with activities like an Escape Room, aquarium visit and 'Sip and Paint' highlighting this year's schedule.
Industry-wide awards are also distributed at the Social Shake-Up, which means your brand could be highlighted on the big screen and represented by the faces of your brand on the big stage, even if you're not a well-known social media speaker.
I genuinely love the Shake-Up, and each time I've attended, have found that opportunities abound, as big brand representatives are there to genuinely consider new approaches to their social strategies in the months ahead.
Social Media Day (June 30); various cities around America
So you've attended World, MDMC and the Social Shake-Up -- what now, to do with all this knowledge?
OR -- you couldn't travel to San Diego, St. Louis or Atlanta, but you'd still love to participate in a social media conference sometime?
Social Media Day is growing in popularity around America, and as more and more events continue to pop up, the chances of finding an inexpensive opportunity within driving distance is becoming better and better.
I've been to Social Media Day events in Dayton, Ohio; Houston; Wichita, Kan.; and Denver (pictured), plus Social Media Week Lima (Ohio), which lands just before the official Social Media Day on the schedule, and #SMTulsa (Okla.), which isn't an official Social Media Day event, but is awesome nonetheless.
Major events also take place in Phoenix, Jacksonville, San Diego, Philadelphia and more, and plans are underway for at least one more in 2019 in Charleston, W.V.
No matter where you go, you're likely to find a strong and supportive social media community. I can't overemphasize how important that real-life, human-to-human connection is, and there's no better place to make 'real' friendships than at a 'real-life' event.
Regardless of your experience level in the industry, you're sure to love your experience at an event near or far.
And if you prefer the 'far,' or you're reading this overseas, I'd very highly recommend Marketed.Live, an event just two-plus months away now in Nottingham, England. I'll be the closing speaker at this all-day event, and it'll be my first time outside of North America -- so if you've never taken a trip over the pond, you won't be the only one in attendance.
You can save 25% on your ticket to Marketed.Live by using this URL to register: http://marketed.live/Strub.
Save 25% on your ticket to Marketed.Live by using my discount code at www.marketed.live/strub.
What are your favorite social media conferences? What have I missed? Please JOIN MY BRAND-NEW FREE FACEBOOK GROUP, 'SocialWithStrub,' by visiting www.socialwithstrub.com, and join the discussion!
You can see the complete list of live events that I have appeared at, both as an attendee and as a speaker, HERE. You can see a full list of my online appearances -- podcasts, video interviews, etc. -- HERE. And you can see the full list of nonprofits that I have worked with around the country HERE.
Chris Strub is the first person to live-stream and Snapchat in all 50 U.S. states, author of '50 States, 100 Days: The Book,' and creator of the online course 'Livestreaming for Nonprofits.' Chris would love to speak at your event in 2019 -- contact him at chrisstrub <at> gmail <dot> com for rates and availability.