Cause Marketing Brilliance: @HardlyNormal Receives GMC Terrain at SOBCon

In a brilliant moment of guerilla cause marketing, GMC gave road warrior and homeless advocate Mark Horvath a brand new Terrain today at SOBCon. SOBCon regularly attracts 150 of the world best professional bloggers. The moment created an immediate splash on major social networks.

Adrants publisher Steve Hall was at SOBcon and had this to say about the marketing moment, “We all cringe when a brand gets in front of a crowd at a conference even though we know it’s the brand’s money that helps make the even possible. And we especially dislike when a brand turns their presence at a conference into a commercial. But that wasn’t the case with this giveaway. GMC handled it well and offered support for a good cause. I think it was very nicely handled.”

The cause — InvisiblePeople — is a natural tie for GMC. Friend Mark Horvath drives around the country every year helping individual homeless citizens along the journey. His efforts seek to highlight the many and often shocking examples of homelessness through personal stories, and to help the individuals with their trials (see case study).

“I often use the term ‘wrecked’ when things mess with my heart either good or bad,” said Mark Horvath, “What just happened here has me wrecked beyond words. The GMC truck and free gas is wonderful, but it’s the relationships, and that people believe in me it what has me so overwhelmed. I am so very grateful.”

GMC’s effort took advantage of several key factors; the high concentration of influential voices at the conference, an open opportunity with the cause (Ford sponsored InvisiblePeople’s U.S. cross country trip in 2009), the selection of a cause that matches their business, and selecting a cause that has high visibility, at least online. The well planned move was a brilliant example of guerilla marketing, and working with a cause to help achieve its mission.

Kudos to Mark, GMC, and SOBCon Organizer Liz Strauss for making it happen.

Get Your Social Media Events for $9.99!


When social media was new, conferences were rare special gatherings of early adopters eager to see how to use new tools. People looked forward to their local BarCamp or PodCamp. As the years progressed the novel barcamp, evening networking events and social media conferences became an every day occurrence in major markets. The best ones spilled over on Twitter into hashtag conferences.

Today, with adoption passing its peak, social media conference #hashtags and events trade faster than delivery pizzas on Saturday. There are so many events to meet the crush of information demand.

More is not better, ironically. It’s hard to get a consensus on quality events. In some cases, the event quality offers little more than an excuse to talk about Twitter and Facebook. Again. Get your pizza, faster cheaper, and tastier! For only $9.99!

Some signs that can clue a potential attendee that the event may not offer the robust content they would like. Does the event offer the same topics that get repeated over and over again in online memes? What’s new about this event, how will it take the conversation deeper? Or if it’s a 101 event, what’s the curriculum, what are the takeaways? Does it seem smarmy and hucksterish?


In addition, there’s a perception of an A-List who bring their song and dance to every local con across the country. Not that seeing a renowned speaker isn’t worth it, but what are they talking about? Is it the same old schtick as last year? One wonders if these folks will be speaking in 20 years in dimly lit coffee shops and pubs, headlining small gatherings of Facebook loyalists.

Some quality social media events that have retained their value over the years:

1) SOBCon, curated by the incredible Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker, is by far the best pure social media event out there. This is where top ranked bloggers and influencers go to school.

2) SxSW, from the name dropping and shoddy crowdsourced content to the exorbitant partying and philandering, everything that’s bad about social media events happens here. It also attracts everyone in the business, making it dollar for dollar the best online business networking experience possible. Just bring your Advil.

3) NewComm Forum, run by the Society of New Communications Research, uses a research-based model to drive content. Led by experienced and often accredited communicators, this event often attracts some of the best of the corporate and nonprofit social media leaders.

In addition, industry specific events like NTC offer great value, too.

What social media events do you like?

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