…was that there wasn’t any big news. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What this told me is that digital and social marketing have become part of the mainstream conversation among marketers. The questions are no longer, “What is it?” and, “Should we?” The questions most frequently asked are “how” questions.

How do we get our bosses to approve our plans?
I had coffee with Deb (@va_deb) from AARP and learned about how the organization has embraced social media marketing. AARP is now committed, so that should tell you something about how far we’ve come. eMarketer reported that 79% of companies are now funding social media initiatives. Listening to Fara Howard from Dell, she suggested letting your customers’ voices convince your leadership to do things. Nicole Cochran from Chili’s reminded us that “executives are kids at heart, so expose them to the fun and they will buy in.”

How do we assess what is working?
Experts in the area of social capital acknowledge that the tools are still improving. Bill Parkes (@BillParkes) projects improvements to occur with increasing rapidity, monthly not annually. Zach Hoffer-Shall (@znh) from Forrester advocated using multiple measures and not limiting your view of social success to what is easily measured in one channel. Mike Spataro (@mikespataro)  reinforced that perspective. Richard Margetic (@margetic) reviewed how Dell oversees a global command center to monitor social conversations about its brand and evaluates the ripple effect of a customer’s voice. Understanding the connections will be an important part of assessing impact.

How do we connect all the dots?
I had a great conversation with Julie Hamp, Chief Communications Officer at Pepsico, about the importance of integrating all touch-points, both traditional and digital. She openly questioned why the Pepsi delivery trucks don’t have a URL or Facebook icon on them. I like the way she thinks! Organization silos and services provider fragmentation will continue to make this a problem, but astute marketers are beginning to realize the synergistic impact of linking all the digital touch-points.

Along with these meaty issues, attendees did get to see some new things. A good summary of eight companies to watch was recently provided by AdAge. Here’s the link.

What will SXSWi 2012 have in store for us? My guess will be a few new ideas and lots of discussion about how to leverage what we already have. Any predictions?