Project Priceless

What I Learned at the Social Capital Conference

Last weekend I attended the Social Capital Conference. There were two keynote speakers (opening and closing), three hour-long sessions, and three roundtable discussions (with lunch and breaks in between). There were so many different topics and sessions to choose from! I attended with my friend and fellow PR student Meghna Shah, and our strategy was to attend sessions about topics we haven’t learned about or covered in-depth in class. It was a great idea.

The opening keynote speaker, Martin Waxman, was very interesting. The theme of the presentation was the social media barometer. Some points and ideas I took away were:

  • Semantic web (algorithm recognizing the relationship between words) vs. network knowledge (link-based connections) – I learned about the semantic web in a university class, but not about network knowledge.
  • The digital dividing line is 35 – Rogers did a study and it showed people over and under the age of 35 do things in very different ways.
  • Pinterest – using Nordstrom as an example.
  • Think like a publisher and have an editorial calendar (and six steps to get there), and how to make an editorial calendar – this is something we are starting to do at work, so this was very helpful.

The first session I attended (and by far my favourite) was ‘Thought Experiments in Attention Economics: Maximizing Your Return on Attention” by Adrian J. Ebsary. You can read more on his website, I learned:

  • Attention economy is a term coined by Michael Goldhaber. To briefly sum it up, the wealth of information online has caused the scarcity of something else – attention. How do you allocate attention among information sources?
  • Attention has inherent value – where is the future of attention economics? Eyeball scanning?
  • Tips on bridging online communities and maximizing return on attention.

My second session was “Making Dollars and Cents of Social Media” by Dave Hale. Unfortunately Dave was not able to make it, but a Soshal Group employee who helped him make the presentation, Marissa, took his place. The room was packed and she was nervous, but she did a good job. I learned:

  • You need to extend your arm beyond messaging and create engagement to make a profit.
  • To communicate revenue and cost savings to executives regularly, and to request executive feedback.
  • If you can’t measure it, dont’ do it! We have had a few presentations in the PR program

The last session I attended was “When Humanity Meets Industry: Soulful Social Media Marketing” with Jordan and Brian Kent-Bass. They started Project Priceless, where they were planning a DIY, used-item wedding free of charge. They started with a blog, Facebook page, press release, and word of mouth, and turned it into something bigger than they thought. They ended up with a fairly large, beautiful wedding, only having spent a few hundred dollars (but they invested a significant amount of time and effort!). You can read more about them on

After the sessions, there were small roundtables with different topics. I learned about podcasting, engaging an audience with Google, and search engine optimization. My knowledge of podcasting and search engine optimization is currently very basic, and I learned some helpful tips during these discussions.

The conference concluded with keynote speaker Heather Davis. This was my second favourite presentation of the day – she is very inspiring! Heather writes a travel column for the Toronto Star (among other things), and spent a year travelling around the world with her family. Instead of turning off the technology, Heather told us how social media and technology enhanced her family’s experience. You can read more about her experience at

Overall, it was a fantastic day, and I’m very glad I attended the conference, and that I had the opportunity to at the student rate (about $100 less than a regular ticket). There were many people there, but oddly enough I didn’t run into any students. It was mostly working professionals, and I noticed not all of them were from the public relations and communications field. There was a good representation of small business owners looking for ways to improve their businesses. I will certainly attend this conference in the future, and highly recommend it to others (students included).

Featured image from