Here’s Why I Won’t Be Attending Social Media Week 2015

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social media week 2014

This was my second year attending Social Media Week here in New York City. And while I’ve had some successful outcomes with the event, it seems the ratio of good to bad may not be enough to keep me going back as an eager social media student.

And I know I’m not the only one … but we’ll get to that below.

Social Media Week NYC

Let’s Start With The Pros

Starting with last year, I have a slew of pros on my list:

  • I met Desiree in line for class, and we have remained friends
  • I was able to come up with two blog posts from classes and speeches given
  • I found several innovative and lesser-known tweeps to follow on Twitter

This year, my list is similar (perhaps a little better):

  • I met digital friends, Jamie of Plan Promote Prosper and Matthew of Search Decoder in real life
  • Through Matthew I was able to meet Dan Cristo of Triberr
  • I was able to come up with 4 to 5 blog topics (4 from one class alone)
  • I met a few new friends networking in line
  • I downloaded a few new apps that will make my life easier/more fun (like YPlan)

All great things, right? Yes! The reasons listed above are the reasons I decided to attend this year.

Déjà vu (Social Media Week 2014)

Jamie and I went to scope out Highline Stages on Sunday (two days before the event). The space was HUGE, so I was really hopeful that the space and logistic issues I experienced last year (2013) would be solved.

Not so fast.

Logistics Nightmare

While we made it easily into our first class, we were turned away from classes later in the day. We were entirely confused as we had registered for the classes we wanted to attend three weeks prior! Each class showed how many seats were left, and showed “full” if they were booked (and you could not register for full classes).

However it seems this little action was more about data mining for SMW and their sponsors, and not about user experience or logistics.

There were times we waited nearly two hours for a class. And even after a wait like that, we were turned away once or twice.

Waiting in line at Social Media Week

Compared to last year (2013): The stages were bigger. The space was bigger (3 floors). But there were still only a handful of classrooms and once again they only fit about 30 students comfortably. There was only one elevator to get upstairs, and the only other way up was a staircase.

*While there were other staircases, those were saved for egress, not ingress. Apparently the Fire Marshall showed up and threatened to shut the whole thing down. Yikes. 

It was not uncommon in speeches and classes to see people littered on the floor, desperate to get the information they had paid for with their money, but more so with their time.

Social Media Week from the floor

How It Was Handled

I’m going to post the entire letter we received from the Social Media Week powers that be here. There’s no way to paraphrase and have you get the full effect:

Hello, Passholder,

It’s often said, “Adapt or perish.” Well, we’re listening and adapting. Yesterday was our first day of SMW NYC. While we had some incredible content, from Jonah Peretti’s keynote to unveiling and introducing our 10 Startups to Watch with, the most important factor to us is YOUR experience.

So, today, we are adjusting Campus logistics. Here’s what you need to know:

  • All events are first come, first serve.
  • We encourage you to arrive 30 minutes early for any event.
  • ENGAGE Stage access is located at the 14th Street staircase by the Unplugged Playground. This will be staffed with information about capacity at an earlier time frame.
  • CHANGE and INNOVATE Stages and all Masterclasses access will continue to run through the passenger elevator, aka @SMWElevator. We will separate queues for these lines, clearly labelled with signage.
  • At the end of each session, the stages will be reset and rooms cleared for checkin purposes.
  • WiFi has been upgraded to provide a more consistent stream for the large number of users.
  • Due to overwhelming popularity, we have added a repeat of this morning’s Content Marketing Revolution with Percolate on Thursday. We do hope you can join us.

We do have some incredible installations on the first floor in the Future of Now Exhibition area that we would love to have you join us for, like the NOW Studio with Vine artists teaching claymation and stop-motion techniques.

Your relationship with us is important. We expect this new process will help equip you with the info you need to navigate your SMW NYC experience. Thanks immensely — and know, we’re monitoring actively the @SMWNYC account. Feel free to join our conversation. We do want to hear from you.


The Social Media Week New York team

My issues with the letter:

  • It calls me “passholder” – really?! They have my name and every piece of info I have, why not use it? This is SOCIAL MEDIA WEEK! Isn’t using my name 101?
  • It never apologizes
  • It never mentions why class registrations now don’t matter, only bolds the fact that classes are first come first served
  • 30 mins to wait in line is a complete joke – you needed at least an hour
  • The voice and tone and decision to bold certain lines of text seems completely condescending – a little humility with a heartfelt sorry would have gone a long way (with me)
  • They say to use the SMW handle, but they were very clearly ignoring most negative comments and responding mostly to the positive ones

It’s Not About The Money, But My Time

It almost feels silly to complain about MY time when people traveled from all over the U.S. to get to Social Media Week. Not only that, one fellow Matthew met had come from Germany, and we also met a girl in line from Paraguay.

While the cost of $299 is very reasonable for an event like this, when the majority of my time is spent waiting in line for said classes, and when I’m unable to make the classes I registered for based on massive logistical oversights, the cost is extremely high.

My time as a bootstrapped start up owner is precious. I spent 12-15 hours a day in and on my business. To commit four days to an event that doesn’t have it’s shiz together (yet again) is a complete waste of my time.

I’m angry about wasting that time and even more angry at how the mishaps were handled.

What Does The Future Hold?

Yes, the content was amazing for the most part. There was one class I waited an hour for entitled, Data Driven Channel, Content and Campaign Intel, that was thought to be an hour long class on the topic, when really it was a 20 minute pitch on the product they were selling (with 40 minutes left for YOUR Q&A!!! [insert eye roll]).


Yes, meeting Jamie, Matthew, Dan, and Robyn was fantastic.

Social Media Week friends

However, I’m not sure spending 10+ hours for four days last week had any sort of ROI for me or my business. Time will tell.

Perhaps there are other socially savvy sponsors just waiting in the wings, ready to create an even that New York City can really enjoy – sans lines, and fake empathy.

[You can see more pics of my SMW14 here]

See you in the social sphere!


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Brooke B. Sellas is the in-the-trenches Founder & CEO of @HelloBSquared, an award-winning social media, advertising, and social media customer care agency. She's also the author of Conversations That Connect -- a book all about social listening and social media customer care. Brooke's marketing mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on the socials!
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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Avatar
    Tina Mellergaard
    February 27, 2014 7:23 PM

    I had the same experience and I travelled from Denmark. Registered a month in advance for desired classes and events. The logistics were completely horrible. In SMWCPH registrations are used. NYC should take note.

    • Wow, Tina! I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet. Thank you for sharing your experience as well. Where is SMWCPH?? I still don’t understand why we registered if it wasn’t going to be used … the letter I got saying registration was just to “help us figure out what we wanted to do” seemed like a total crock of bullshiz, if you know what I mean. Let’s hope they DO take note!

  • Sorry you had a bummer time! You should come check out the Chicago this fall (with me!) it is a bit more spread out, but is a little easier to get into the classes you want to get to.
    Carrie Keenan recently posted…The Lunch Hour: #PRSCamp LAST day for BOGOMy Profile


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