Where are all the social business conferences? Or at least one.

Social business is a billion dollar industry, with nearly all the major enterprise software vendors fighting each other for dominance, and all sorts of start-ups hoping for a Yammer-style cash out. Large, medium and small businesses are adopting social tools and using them to get work done more quickly and socially. So then, where are all the social business conferences?

Yes, there is the E2 conference, which has been affiliated with the concept of social business for a long time, despite rejecting the term. E2 is all that’s left of the now discredited ‘Enterprise 2.0′ meme and brand, which sounds way too dot com-ish at this point. And the conference has has recently gone through a major change. Where formerly the conference alternated from the East to the West Coast on a six month schedule, now the West Coast version — held in the Bay area most recently in November — has repositioned as E2Innovate, which includes social business and collaboration, along with a long list of other technologies, like big data, mobility, and cloud computing. The East Coast conference is now positioned as E2 Boston, and I plan to attend for at least some of it. In recent years, the conference seems to have lagged in many of the themes that make social business distinct from the older enterprise 2.0 foundation of web 2.0-era collaboration technologies.

I spoke at Meaning 2012, organized by the folks at NixonMcInness, and held in Brighton England. Its themes include social business but go beyond, into purpose and meaning in our work. I hope to attend again, although there is nothing up for a 2013 conference yet.

I attended the Reboot conference in Copenhagen for years (six?) but it has gone dark, and seems unlikely to be rebooted.

Web 2.0 Summit and the various Expos operating as part of that, are on ‘a hiatus’, as John Battelle called its shut down.

GigaOM had its own Net:Work conference in 2011, positioned around the future of work and treating social business as one of many factors confronting business, but that conference is no more.

SxSW has had some social business sessions in past years (for example, last year I was on a panel with Dave Gray, Gordon Ross, Megan Murray, and Thomas Vander Wal), but this year nothing much seems to be happening in that vein. I doubt I will be attending, actually, although I am on the program committee and have a free pass. Just not getting much out of that high tech Mardi Gras.

Obviously, a lot of vendors and consulting companies are talking up social at their own events. Dachis has its Social Business Summits, for example, and IBM was almost tattooing its employees with the S word at the recent IBM Connect conference. And social business is a critical theme at a broad spectrum of more horizontal conferences, like HR, legal, and marketing events.

Still, there seems to be a missing event, the must-attend industry defining social business event that practitioners and product vendors all attend. It baffles me that there isn’t a clear leader in this space. E2 Boston is perhaps the closest to that role, but the folks behind the conference are ambivalent about social business or they would have used the last rebranding as an opportunity to firmly embrace it.

Please let me know of other alternatives, at @stoweboyd.


Update – 4 Febraury 2013 10:00am

I received some thoughts via Twitter:

Both look interesting, but far away.

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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Lead analyst, future of work Gigaom Research and stoweboyd.com

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