Can we knock it off with the “bring the Social Media Tourism Symposium to Milwaukee” crap?
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Back in 2004, my former band opened for the Suicide Girls Burlesque Show at the Cactus Club. It was the first time the alt-flavored nudie site had sent a group of its models out on the road, and my band was lucky enough to be a part of it. Actually, luck didn’t have much to do with it. We nabbed the opening slot by winning one of those awful online “Vote for your favorite band!” contests. So how did my group—a band whose biggest song was about a crime-fighting llama from Los Angeles—manage to win such a prestigious contest? The same way everyone wins online contests: by badgering friends and loved ones, and by voting for ourselves 1,000 times over. Because when it comes to sharing the stage with naked ladies who may or may not talk to you after the show (they didn’t), no amount of browser-cookie refreshes can stand in your way.
Which brings me to another dippy online contest, one sadly bereft of racing-stripe tattoos and girls named “Persephone.” If you’ve been paying attention to your Facebook and Twitter feeds for the last week or so, then you’ve probably encountered any number of organizations (FOX6, VISIT Milwaukee, Newaukee, etc.) imploring you to bring something called the Social Media Tourism Symposium (ugh) to Milwaukee. The location of this not-at-all-awful-sounding event is being determined by a bracket-style tournament. The competition began with 16 cities, and Milwaukee is currently up against St. Louis in the second round. If we advance to the next round (voting ends tonight!), we would take on either Baltimore or, er, Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania for the honor of hosting a glorified “make money quick” seminar. Holy shit!
Okay, maybe that’s unfair. So, what exatly is the Social Media Tourism Symposium (ugh)? A quick glance at the event’s website reveals a tellingly vague description:
The symposium will be a combination of destination marketing organizations, hotels, resorts, attractions and any other tourism related entities sharing ideas and learning more about how social media is effecting [sic] promotion within the travel industry.
Quick guess: Social media is indeed affecting the travel industry. A lot. Oh, but there’s more!
What makes this conference unique is the involvement of attendees throughout the entire process. Attendees will have a voice in everything from the location to the session topics and presenters.
So yeah, it’s one of those awful events where everyone attends some panel discussions, uses the proper hashtag, and pretends they’re accomplishing something. It’s Comic-Con without the cosplay; a “Seduce And Destroy” seminar without Magnolia’s Frank T.J. Mackey giving you tips on how to conquer “Denise The Piece.”
But the real reason this whole thing bugs me—and the reason it saddens me to see so many smart people pimping it on Facebook and Twitter—is that it’s nothing more than an empty, meaningless, stupid popularity contest. Click on your city to win! Share this link with your friends! You made it to the second round! Vote for your city and share again! You did it for Kony, right? Oh, and you might want to enable Facebook Apps, because all of our links lead to something called “Offerpop”! Good luck!
Aren’t we better than this, Milwaukee? Is blindly clicking a link (and offering up plenty of personal information in the process) all it means to be “Milwaukee-proud”? Shouldn’t we land a “national conference” based on our actual strengths and weaknesses as a city, and not on our ability to vote early and often on each of our mobile devices? Don’t we have enough meaningless “Best Of Milwaukee” garbage in this city already? Did we mention The A.V. Club is up for a WAMI People’s Choice award?
So today, on a day when we should be voting, you know, for real (another fact you’ve no doubt been reminded of approximately 8,000 times on Facebook), why don’t we give the “bring the Social Media Tourism Symposium (ugh) to Milwaukee” thing a rest. It’s cheap, it’s unbecoming, and it’s beneath us. Save the rigged “hot or not” popularity contests for the kids, or for the bands that would totally get back together if another naked lady tour came through town.