I was extremely happy to be able to resume my attendance to X Change this year. Last year I had to go to France to launch my book, the first and only time I was missing this amazing conference organized by Semphonic since 2007. The 2010 edition was simply superb, held in beautiful Monterey, CA. As usual, the team organized an impeccable event, very sophisticated and classy in every details, thanks to the always warm efficiency of Grace Angel.
The conference is still based on its trademark huddle format, which makes it different and very worthwhile. No presentations, only round-table discussions. Everyone shares during those sessions, and we get to go deep into topics, since they are 90 minutes long. I can not stress enough how refreshing and satisfying that kind of conference is. Sure, one gets to cover only a few topics, six typically, but I can assure you that it is well compensated by the discussion depth.
If I compare with two years ago, it was easy to see how tremendously things have evolved at the large companies that compose the bulk of attendees. A lot are doing datawarehouse, data integration projects, whereas only a handfull did then. However, it seems that Web Analysts still have to fight for their legitimacy in their organizations. I believe the problem is ours: we are still not very good at positioning what we do in lign with the core business. We tend to generate very intrumental, mechanical analyses, often poor on the valuable business recommendations side.
One thing that surprised me in particular was how little companies measured their social media investments. I must confess that I wanted to pick a fight walking into the session: I am a skeptic and rather tired of all the hype around social. It reeks so much of circa 2000 buzzword frenzy. I ended up convincing myself to shut up (my apologies to Judah Philips who was leading the huddle and had to compose with the strain expressions I was producing), and listen to what people had to say. Guess what, nothing much came out from a measurement standpoint, which is more interesting than what you might think. Believing I would hear amazing stories from the top tier brands present at the discussion, I was shocked to see that mostly, people were still struggling to establish a solid analytical framework to their social media efforts.
It seems that at many companies, the rush to spend on social media is rather a higher up thing, you know, “Let’s have a Facebook page quick! Let’s do something with that Twitter thing!!” etc. kind of executive orders that make everyone run for their life. No wonder we struggle to know what to measure! We are supposed to account for how well our businesses execute on their strategic vision, vision that is still too often absent!
I must say that surprised me a lot from large American brands, and comforted me in my Canadian humility. We are not alone wondering (wandering?)…
Very few consultants and vendors are allowed to participate in X Change, and I am grateful to Gary and Grace Angel for the yearly invitation I get since the beginning.
I left Monterey a more educated Web analyst; not by the answers I found, but by the better questions the conference helped me formulate.