Some of us weren't lucky enough to get a chance to meet 'la crème de la crème' of social media at SXSW, but after my first day at the Marketing 2.0 Conference in Paris, I feel that I’ve had the chance to mingle with some of the top social media and marketing people. Shame the WiFi was non-existent once again at a French conference - I guess US folks must think WiFi hasn't been invented yet in France!

But back to the conference, the impressive list of speakers and what this first day was all about. Much was said about the fact that people trust their peers more than they trust brands or advertising. Scott Monty at Ford, Alex Hunter at Virgin and Georges-Edouard Dias at L'Oreal all insisted on that notion and went into the details on what this meant for their company and the notion of 'conversation' was once again on everyone's mind.  For Scott Monty at Ford, conversation is indeed what it all comes down to: social media is an opportunity to prove to individuals that you're listening to them; it's about building a relationship with people and humanising the company. For Charlie Schick, at Nokia,  the web is a conversation channel and brands must participate in conversations.

What's interesting from our point of view at We Are Social is that the concept of conversation is clearly emerging - when Robin and Nathan set up We Are Social and established it as a 'conversation agency', it was in some way 'groundbreaking'.  It now looks like the Forrester Connected Agency report's predictions that 'facilitating conversations for its clients will become the new role of an agency' is now a reality, which is great for us as a business as more and more brands will understand the importance of being conversational. And clearly when Charlie Schick at Nokia explains that social media is the voice of a brand, this really reflects what we do for Skype: not only do we help them with strategic consultancy and social media monitoring, but we are also the voice of Skype: my colleague Peter is Skype's blogger and he's also @PeteratSkype on Twitter, managing their reputation online through conversation. Similarly, the This is Now campaign for the Ford Fiesta we've been working on for the last 6 months has all been about the conversations we've created.

Scott Monty talking at #marketing2paris

But back to my favourite word for 2009: ROI... If social media is about building relationships with people and engaging in conversations in social media, how, as a brand, you measure your ROI? As an agency we have a fairly advanced approach, but I guess I was interested to hear about how these brands approached it. I very much like Scott Monty's answer: ROI is very much a campaign-based approach vs. a long term commitment and an opportunity to build a relationship with people. And he went further and added "What's the ROI of putting your pants on in the morning?", along with a joke about how campaign-based ROI can be measured through HITS: How Idiots Track Success. Nevertheless, in real life, and especially in this period of recession, we know that ROI is important to clients but it's great to see brands are taking a longer term interest with building relationship with people. Olivier Hascoat at MySpace insisted on that concept again: ‘stop campaigning and make a long term commitment'.

All in all, a very promising first day! As I'm publishing this, Day 2 has started and it's already looking as exciting...