Lessons Learned at #mesh09

The following post was written by Heather Morrison. She has written a number of previous posts on BlogCampaigning and she also maintains her own blog about events and happenings in the T-dot at Toronto Uncovered. She is @HMorrison on Twitter. Mesh, Canada’s largest Web Conference, was held at the MaRS Centre last week. The schedule was packed with the ‘who’s who’ of the online world, speaking on topics like Twitter, word of mouth, monetizing, community building, and the ever expanding internet population. Top of mind, both in and out of the scheduled sessions, were questions like: What happened since Mesh08? What do we think will happen in the next 12 months? And, most importantly, what does it all mean? I enjoyed my first Mesh experience, and came away with some key lessons learned:

Lesson 1: According to CIRA, one billion more people will join the online community within the next three to five years. That is amazing market growth. The size of the pie is about to expand exponentially, making online business and commerce more attractive than ever before. For anyone who was at Mesh09, this was great news – we are already at the forefront of this shift, already learning and understanding how to work within, and benefit from it. Lesson 2:

Companies need to put more dollars towards digital media. This nugget of information came straight from the lips of Bonin Bough, PepsiCo.’s Global Director of Digital and Social Media. He went on to explain that, in order to see any true ROI or measureable statistics, marketing departments need to devote more dollars towards online campaigns. They need to think creatively, outside of the box, push the envelope, and not be afraid to make a mistake (how else will they learn?). He noted that HP recently devoted 50% of their entire marketing budget to digital – definitely a move worth watching! Lesson 3: There is such thing as Twitter foreplay. Just when you thought you were a Twitter expert, they had to hit you with this. When asked what he looked for when courting a new Company/start up, Venture Capitalist, Howard Lindzon advised that interested start ups should begin by commenting on his blog, and connecting with him on Twitter (@howardlindzon)– he doesn’t jump into the investment sheets with just anyone – you need to earn his attention and respect first. Lesson 4: I heart Torontoist, Spacing, and BlogTO. The “Hyper-local media: Does it work?” panel, which featured all three Chief Editors was intelligent and informative. Online local media sites have a distinct place in Toronto’s media, with the ability to tap into initial stories often before the mainstream, traditional media. Tim Shore of BlogTO noted that traditional media have more resources to pick up where online sites leave off, and follow a story to its conclusion. The existence of both types of media, and their ability to work in conjunction with each other, gives Torontonians full coverage beginning to end. Lesson 5: The Web can be used for good. One thing can be said about the communities popping up on Twitter: people care. And not just about hard earned dollars, trash talking, or raising the bottom line. Speakers on the ‘Using Social Media for Good’ panel highlighted that companies are moving away from “cheque book philanthropy” and are becoming more engaged and active with online communities looking for charitable support. The Toronto online community has definitely employed this new model of giving back by supporting initiatives such as Twestival, HoHoTo and PIBTO. Lesson 6: Geeks (myself included) know how to throw down and party up. The post conference events were well organized and well attended by Mesh-ers. Tuesday night’s party, sponsored by Social Media Group, was held at the Mod Club. My original plan of stopping by for one or two hours was out the window pretty quickly. Based on some of the pictures (Parker's note: I've got to learn how to smile better in photos...) that surfaced the next day (thanks @photojunkie) everyone clearly had a pretty good time. Wednesday night’s event at Proof was hosted by Edelman PR and was so packed you had trouble making it from one side of the room to the other. It was great to put a lot of Twitter names to faces and get to know Toronto’s online community on a more personal level. Both events were definitely worth attending.

With Mesh09 officially wrapped up, I have lots of new information to sort through, and people to follow. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference.. only 11 months and 3 weeks to go!

-Heather Morrison