8 Big Conferences That Content Marketers Need to Be at This Year

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As a content marketer, you understand the importance of staying up-to-date with industry trends in order to keep your brand relevant, interesting and able to stand out from the noise. Unfortunately, there’s only so much we as professionals can learn from sitting behind a screen all day.

The solution? Attend a damn content marketing conference, already.

The reality, though, is that between hotels, transportation and the event itself, conferences can get a little pricey. In case you need to convince your boss (or yourself) that you need to spend the time and money to go to a conference every now and then, here are a few solid reasons:

  • You should invest in yourself. You’re never done learning–which is why you should take advantage of new and exciting experiences that may be outside your comfort zone.“Conferences are extremely important for continued growth,” Quinlan’s Creative Director Frank Conjerti says. “Blogs, social, and video training are all great resources for learning, but it’s sometimes difficult to get inspired by just staring at your laptop.”


  • We all need to re-energize. If you’re dealing with a nine-to-five job (or really any routine position, for that matter), it’s pretty likely your drive is going to turn stale.“It’s hard to break away from routine tasks,” Quinlan’s Account Director Jessica Chapman says, “and a conference is the perfect remedy to reset your brain for new and fresh thinking.”


  • You can meet new people. Conferences bring people with similar interests together from all different places–each with their own unique set of experiences.
    “You’re not just learning a ton, but you’re meeting and interacting with like-minded people that are passionate about their careers,” Frank says. “There’s a reason people who attend conferences come back recharged.”


  • You’ll learn directly from industry leaders. One of the biggest things conferences have going for them is the key industry leaders they invite to speak.“It’s inspiring to hear from other leaders in my field,” Jessica says, “and to know that sometimes even the largest companies are facing similar challenges on a day to day basis.”


Now, you may think that you’re “too busy” to look into which conferences you should consider this year. Luckily for you, I already started the research (you’re welcome).

1. Content Marketing World

content marketing world

Presented by Content Marketing Institute in Cleveland, Sept. 6-9.

Who should attend: Content managers and creators, company leaders, marketing and PR professionals.

Session sneak peek:

  • How to Create a Documented Content Marketing Strategy
  • Developing a Mobile Content Plan that Converts
  • Creating a Facebook Content-Marketing Lead-Gen System


What to expect: As the name suggests, Content Marketing World is all about strategically using content marketing to attract and retain customers. Attendees learn how to customize content marketing, how to dominate search with content and how to measure their content’s value, along with other code-cracking tips.

The conference is set up so that B2B companies, consumer-driven companies, nonprofits and small businesses all get their own specialized sessions. More than 100 speakers will attend over 150 sessions, including:

  • Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz at Moz
  • Jay Acunzo,vice president of platform at NextView Ventures
  • Ardath Albee, author of Digital Relevance and CEO of Marketing Interactions, Inc.


2. Social Media Conference


Presented by Ragan, PRSA and PR Daily in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, March 9-11.

Who should attend: Any position from entry-level to C-suite in PR, marketing and corporate communications, media relations, HR, branding, public information or social media.

Session sneak peek:

  • Winners and sinners in social media
  • Afraid Google’s new search algorithms will make you irrelevant?
  • Innovate with Instagram: Secrets of building brands and followers with buzzworthy visuals


What to expect: Disney’s Social Media Conference will get attendees up to speed on proven PR and marketing strategies for existing and emerging social media channels. Workshops will touch upon powerful storytelling techniques to fire up brand advocates, metrics to prove social media success to management and smart tricks for blasting content across the appropriate social channels.

To meet the needs of a diverse audience, there are three different tracks: social media strategies for marketing and PR, social media needs for internal communications and what’s next on social media platforms. One of the best parts of the conference? The speakers:

  • Steve Clayton, Microsoft’s chief storyteller and general manager of Image & Culture
  • Thomas Smith, Disney Parks’ social media director
  • Brooks Thomas, Southwest Airlines’ social business advisor


3. Inbound


Presented by Hubspot in Boston, Nov. 8-11.

Who should attend: Marketing and sales professionals, business owners and agency executives.

Session sneak peek: Since Inbound isn’t until November 2016, the website hasn’t officially released this year’s agenda. If it’s anything like last year’s list, though, I wouldn’t be worried:

  • Serendipitous success: 7 Habits of Lucky People
  • 5 steps to a successful video strategy on Youtube
  • The intersection of content and social media


What to expect: Inbound is a new type of conference that combines traditional keynotes, small breakout session and product dives with unique networking and entertainment opportunities.

“I was actually surprised at how many people went into each session too absorbed in their phones to talk to anyone,” Jessica says. “I got much more out of the sessions by simply disconnecting when I could.”

With speakers like these, there’s really no reason to be glued to your phone. The 2015 lineup included:

  • Amy Schumer, featured comedian
  • Aziz Ansari, comedian and author
  • Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed’s co-founder and CEO

When you aren’t learning about the latest branding strategies, you can spend time socializing at INBOUND Rocks, happy hours, and various parties in the area. Inbound isn’t for everyone, though.

“There may be situations where you cannot get into every session of your choice,” Jess adds. “If you’re going for a very niche area of training, a smaller, more concentrated conference may be a better fit.”

4. SXSW Interactive

SXSW interactive

Presented by South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, March 11-20.

Who should attend: Key creatives, web developers, designers, bloggers, wireless innovators, content producers, programmers, inventors, tech and new media entrepreneurs, gamers and game developers, investors, and educators.

Session sneak peek:

  • Everybody Dies: What Is Your Digital Legacy?
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It: Ad Blocking and User Revolt
  • What I Learned From Publishing a Book on Instagram


What to expect: SXSW is a launching pad for new creative content that uses outside-the-box thinking to rejuvenate passions and creative juices. In addition to the usual conference learning panels, SXSW offers new media presentations, music showcases and film screenings that  provide buzz-generating exposure for creators and compelling entertainment for audiences.

“SXSW is an extremely unique experience,” Frank says. “The crossover between industries creates an incredible energy. The topics covered by experts range from public speaking and management skills to artificial intelligence and wearables.”

Some of this year’s speakers include:

  • Frank Cooper, Buzzfeed’s chief marketing officer and chief creative officer
  • J.J. Abrams, the creative force behind Star Wars
  • Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity

“I was able to attend sessions with Tim Ferriss, Mark Cuban, Eric Schmidt of Google, the team at Pixar and Biz Stone, amongst others,” Frank adds.

5. Social Media Strategies Summit

social media strategies summit

Presented by Global Strategic Management Institute, in Chicago, April 26-28.

Who should attend: Digital, marketing, PR or sales VPs, directors and managers who deal with social media.

Session sneak peek:

  • Capturing Social Media Data & Accelerating ROI
  • Empowering employees to be advocates and champions of the brand
  • Become a digital video content creator on a budget


What to expect: Social Media Strategies Summit teach attendees how to use social media marketing to increase engagement and revenue through intensive, classroom-style workshops that dive into the most challenging topics around social media strategy, alongside peers and with one-on-one time with workshop instructors.

Some speakers include:

  • Elly Deutch, McDonald’s global social engagement campaign and advocacy manager
  • Cassandra Clark, Facebook’s client solutions manager
  • Lauren Gray, PepsiCo’s communications coordinator

Even better? You can actually have dinner with some of them!

SMSS also has upcoming conferences in New York on June 1-3 and Boston, November 2-3.

6. Ad Age Digital Conference

ad age digital conference

Presented by Ad Age in New York, April 5-6.

Who should attend: Digital marketers and agency gurus.

Session sneak peek:

  • Brand Building in the Third Decade of Digital
  • Behind the Work: The Best in Branded Content
  • The Future of Advertising in a Streaming-Video World


What to expect: In a world where digital advertising is now considered traditional, the industry is moving towards an ad-free future. Ad Age’s Digital Conference invites brand, technology and media leaders to teach attendees how to engage consumers on their own terms — while also hashing out big topics like ad blocking and ad fraud.

  • Seth Farbman, Spotify’s CEO
  • Ev Williams, Medium’s founder and CEO; Twitter’s co-founder
  • Marc Pritchard, Procter and Gamble’s chief brand officer

7. MozCon


Presented by Moz in Seattle, September 12-14.

Who should attend: SEO, social media, content marketing, branding, mobile, analytics and digital marketing professionals.

Session sneak peek: Like Inbound, Mozcon hasn’t decided to release its schedule yet. The 2015 agenda,  though, was pretty cool:

  • Ultimate Search and Social Mashup: Expertly Curate Owned Audience
  • Surviving Google: SEO in 2020
  • Marketing Innovations: Creative PR, Content, and SEO Strategies

What to expect: Headed by Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz, MozCon covers everything from building a loyal community to making data-driven decisions in marketing. Perfect for the number-crunching lovers, different sessions cover technical SEO and email marketing to content strategy and digging into your creative side. Some of last year’s speakers were:

  • Adam Singer, Google’s analytics advocate
  • Courtney Seiter, Buffer’s social media and workplace culture examiner
  • Cara Harshman, Optimizely’s content marketing manager and blog editor


8. Social Media Week

social media week

Presented by Crowdcentric in New York, Feb. 22-26; Los Angeles, June 6-10; Miami, Sept. 12-16; and Chicago, Nov. 14-18.

Who should attend: C-level execs, mid-senior level marketing managers, digital professionals, tech entrepreneurs, media and publishing gurus, bloggers and journalists.

Session sneak peek:

  • How to Run a Successful Social Media Campaign without Breaking the Bank
  • No one cares about your news, content or brand – now what?
  • Creating Ideas That Socialize: A Behind the Scenes Look at How to Curate the Internet


What to expect: Social Media Week seeks to understand how humanity and technology are coming together to change the ways we live, work and create. Each session gives ideas, innovations and insights into how social media and technology are changing business, society and culture around the world.

SMW hosts conferences on six continents, including Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Australia and Asia.

Did I miss a good content marketing conference?

Let me know. Tweet me at @grace_gerass or @QuinlanCompany.

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