Conferences The other day, I was rolling through my Twitter stream when I saw a post about the ROI of a certain conference. Finding posts of substance about marketing these days is becoming increasingly difficult so I jumped right in.

I was expecting to at the very least see what the blogger had learned at the conference and how they were planning to apply that knowledge to their business. At the most, I was thinking perhaps there would be legitimate talk of return on investment – a sale made against the investment of going to the conference.

Instead, what I found was that the post talked about how neat it was to be able to meet online friends in real life. Not only is this NOT ROI in any sense of the word (unless you want to count emotional investment versus emotional return), but to me it also rang as completely unrealistic.

How can professionals go to a conference and openly state that the ROI was that they got to hang out with their friends?

Am I from a different planet?

Don’t get me wrong. I love hanging out with friends. Hanging with friends fills me with joy – that’s sort of what friends are for, right? And the prospect of hanging out with friends whom I have only known via the online world is always exciting.

However, in my life, hanging with friends has no connection with my work. Many of my friends are fellow marketers. That’s how we got to be friends. That was our common ground. Is us hanging out going to help our businesses? Maybe incidentally, but it probably won’t drive your sales up.

More to the point, as a marketer my job is to serve my clients. If it’s work time, I have my nose to the grindstone, most especially when there are projects that need to get done, which is pretty much all of the time. Posting pictures of myself with friends when work is pending would make me feel terrible about myself as a professional.

And yet…the online world is rife with such instances. So I wonder, am I the weird one here?

Is hanging out conferences somehow useful to clients in ways that I haven’t fully explored? Is getting your picture taken with your friends somehow representative of your capabilities as a writer, as a marketer, or as a PR professional? I can’t make the dots connect.

Playtime is Over, or You’re in Trouble

I would wager a lot of this behavior is symptomatic of the Great Recession we are coming out of. Many marketers had a lot more time on their hands from 2008-2012, let’s face it. There was time to do all of that tweeting. There was time to write two blog posts a day and promote those posts.

You could even do some Twitter chats during the work day if things were pretty slow. While I still thought that updates about how “the boss is letting me leave early” with pictures of wine glasses were irresponsible back then, it made sense sociologically.

Nowadays, most industries are seeing a little growth. Marketers should be busy, especially at this time of year, which is affectionately known as planning season. But the behavior overall in the online world has not shifted. If anything, it has become less professional, more playful, more casual. I am not sure that’s really a good thing. When your company seems more like a clique that talks online all day, what messages are you sending to your existing and potential clients?

From my perspective one word comes to mind, and it’s an ugly one: Slackers.

This may not be accurate, but what else can people think if they don’t know you?

Release that Sense of Entitlement

I would love to be able to have it all, which in this context means being able to have fun at all of the conferences, while still getting all of my work done and serving my clients the way I believe I need to. However, it is impossible to accomplish both objectives simultaneously.

One or the other has to give, and my job takes the priority in this case, even though that makes me sad. I think some people are no longer willing to make the trade-off. Work must be fun and filled with friends or it’s not worth doing.

That would be great, but I am not sure that is a function of the real world. Like I said though, I could be the weird one.

Over to You 

So where do you stand on this issue? Are you noticing this more casual mode of operation in the online world? Does it make you ponder what is going on in the offline world? I’d love to hear from you!