10 Digital Marketing Conferences That Are Perfect For Newbies

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10 Digital Marketing Conferences That Are Perfect For Newbies

Editor Note: Some of the conferences listed below do advertise on SEJ, but we weren’t paid or perked to write this post. 

One of the best ways to sink your teeth into what’s new in digital marketing is to attend conferences.  The value of new content, the networking and the presented material usually makes the cost worth it, while allowing you to usually visit a new city and get out of the office for a few days.

I know that when I come back from a conference, I usually find myself re-energized; ready to tackle my projects and inspired to launch new ones.

Speaking at Conferences

Speaking on panels or in solo sessions can help with your personal branding and gain more exposure for your business. Most conferences require you to submit a session topic proposal with a title, description, and key takeaways.

Getting the Most Out of Conferences

To get the most out of each event experience, take notes, interact with your fellow participants, and try to take in as much as possible. Recording the audio of sessions (when permitted) or taking notes will help even out the information overload that comes from learning so much in just a few days. Additionally, some conferences have orientation sessions for First-Timers. These are listed below (if applicable) and are usually worth attending.

So pack your phone and laptop chargers, open up Evernote, and get ready to attend the following conferences this year.

Social Media Week

Date: February 17-21, 2014 and September 2014
New York, NY and others concurrently:


Cost and Sessions of Note:
TBA January 2014

Social Media Week is a week of conferences running concurrently around the world. Sessions cover everything from hiring with the help of social recruiting to content marketing and SEO and take place in several locations around each host city. To view a list of example sessions from previous events, visit the Social Media Week schedule. With Social Media Week’s global presence, in 2013 they racked up over 10,000 participants in their events. Their global events showcase the emphasis on the hyper-connectivity of the world.

Because of its wide variety of sessions that are both official and unofficial offered in tandem, Social Media Week is good for newbies because it gives you a taste of official conference events mixed in with unofficial presentations and meet-ups, which are a component of a lot of larger conferences. Additionally, because of its many locations, it makes it more accessible to beginners who are looking to cut down on travel costs.

South by Southwest Interactive

sxswi session

Date: March 7-11, 2014
Place: Austin, TX
$1095 through January 10, $1195 through February 7,  Walk-Up rate: $1295
Sessions of Note:
SXSWi has that star factor with a little bit of everything, from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone to Mashable founder Pete Cashmore.

This is my favorite conference that I’ve ever attended, mostly because it is so overwhelming and all-consuming in the best possible way. SXSWi covers a wide spectrum of technology, marketing and design, so attendees will never find themselves at a loss for choices. In fact, you’ll probably find that there are more sessions that you want to attend than you are physically able to.

Combined with party tents from companies like Nokia, free daily drink tickets, and the easygoing networking atmosphere, makes SXSWi worth the trip. It is also great for beginners because you can get a taste of everything, all in one trip, and I found that the attendees are very accomodating to newcomers.

While SXSWi doesn’t have an in-person First Timers session, they do have a digital version on their website.

SMX West

Date: March 11-13, 2014
Place: San Jose, CA
Cost: $1595 until Feb 1, $1695 until March 10, Walk-Up Rate: $1795
Sessions of Note: Keynote sessions include a conversation with Google Search Chief Amit Singhal. You can look forward to finding sessions like “App Store Optimization”, “Long Term SEO” and “Structured Data Super Session” on the agenda.

SMX West is part of the SMX series organized by Third Door Media, which owns Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. Although there are sessions about social media and content marketing, the main focus is on SEO, paid search, and analytics. There are a range of sessions, making the beginner and the expert happy.

SMX West has a First-Timer session on March 10 from 5:30-6:30pm, as noted in the agenda linked above. If you are a beginner SEOer, SMX is a great way to start learning more advanced SEO methods or tactics that you wouldn’t get it just from reading blogs or e-books.


pubcon conference

Date: March 17-20
New Orleans, LA
Conference pass is $699 until February 28, then $799 until March 16. No walk-up passes available.
Sessions of Note:
Peter Shankman is one of the keynote speakers and although conference sessions haven’t been announced yet, former speakers include Tony Hsieh, Malcolm Gladwell, Guy Kawasaki, and Matt Cutts.

Pubcon is similar to SXSWi in that it has a little bit of everything, from social media to sessions on emerging technology and SEO. Digital marketers that want to learn a lot in a variety of topics will find several interesting sessions here.

Pubcon is good for newbies because of its friendly atmosphere and wide variety of sessions, which is helpful for professionals new to the industry who want to learn a little bit of everything.

Social Media Marketing World

Date: March 26-28, 2014
San Diego, CA
: $1017 as of January 7, increases to $1297 on January 10 or after the 100 discounted tickets are sold.
Sessions of Note:
Speakers already committed to the “largest social media marketing conference in the world” include Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Lee Odden, and Ric Dragon.

As one would expect, this conference specializes in providing sessions and keynotes surround social media and its various platforms, from podcasting to Facebook. The conference website estimates about 2,000 marketing professionals attend its 80+ sessions each year. 

Because Social Media Marketing World is geared toward social media only, beginners in that niche of digital marketing will find its wide variety of content useful. Additionally, because it is a newer conference, they usually offer more progressive events (like a Networking Walk) that some of the older conferences may not have. This enthusiasm is great for digital marketing beginners.

Social Fresh

Dates: April 18-19 and September 12-13
Tampa, Florida and San Diego, California, respectively.
$400-$700, depending on dates of registration
Sessions of Note:
While Social Fresh doesn’t have any information about its East or West conferences for 2014 yet on its website, the format stays relatively the same. All attendees attend the same sessions, which are usually under an hour. The topics usually stay within social media and the smaller attendee size leads to a lot of opportunities for networking.

Because of its shorter format, Social Fresh may be good for marketers that would be too overwhelmed by large conferences like Pubcon and SXSWi, but still want a great conference experience.

SMX London

smx event

Date: May 13-14, 2014
London, United Kingdom
Cost (exchange rates as of 1/7/2014):
$1133 until February 7,  $1297 until March 28, $1461 until May 13, Walk-Up: $1790
Sessions of Note:
Sessions include SEO & Google+, Facebook’s New Graph Search, and Hardcore SEO Power Tools.

The only international conference on the list, visiting the United Kingdom for SMX London will allow you to network with European internet marketers and professionals, which may be extremely useful if your company conducts business overseas.

Like SMX West, SMX London is great for beginners who want to start getting a more advanced SEO and social education.

Content Marketing World

Date: September 8-11, 2014
Cleveland, OH
$995 for the second level full conference pass until February 28, $1095 until May 30, $1295 until September 7, Walk-Up rate is $1495. A virtual pass is also available for $495 until September 7, when it increases to $595.
Sessions of Note: Kevin Spacey (!) is one of the keynote speakers. Tracks haven’t been announced yet, but each day typically has a wide selection of sessions, from content creation to global content strategy.

Content Marketing World is hosted by the Content Marketing Institute and is the largest content marketing conference in the world. In addition to its annual conference, CMI also hosts regular #CMWorld Twitter chats on hot content marketing topics and hosts free webinars throughout the year.

For newbies who have a writing background that are just beginning their role as content marketers, CMW is a great introduction, because while all its sessions are centered around content marketing, the topics and expertise are still wide-reaching.

Inbound Marketing Summit

Date: September 15-18, 2014
Boston, MA
Not available as of press time, be alerted by email here
Sessions of Note:
Hosted by HubSpot, last year’s featured speakers included Arianna Huffington, Seth Godin, Nate Silver, and Scott Harrison.

As the largest event for Inbound Marketers, the conference promises lots of specialized content geared toward this type of marketing. This conference would be great for content marketers as well as those wanting to get certification from HubSpot, which is offered at the event.

Because inbound marketing is a smaller subset of digital marketing, a specialized conference on that topic can help newbies be less intimidated while also being able to learn a lot about a specific topic in a short amount of time.

Do you have any you’d add to our list? Let us know in the comments!


SXSWi photo credit: Christopher Schmitt via photopin cc

SMX photo credit: Dana Lookadoo – Yo! Yo! SEO via photopin cc

Pubcon photo credit: planetc1 via photopin cc

Kelsey Jones

Kelsey Jones

Marketing Consultant, Owner at MoxieDot & StoryShout

Kelsey Jones is a marketing consultant, writer, and owner of and Kelsey has been in digital marketing since ... [Read full bio]