First held in 2009 in New York City, Social Media Week has expanded to become an international celebration of the way online social tools are transforming the world we live in.

In 2012, Social Media Week is set to be bigger than ever and The Next Web is partnering with its organizers to provide coverage of some of the week’s many events which will be taking place in 12 cities: Hamburg; Hong Kong; London; Miami; New York; Paris; San Francisco; Sao Paulo; Singapore; Tokyo; Toronto, and Washington DC. We caught up with founder and Executive Director of Social Media Week, Toby Daniels to find out more about this enormous project and what’s lined up for this year.

ccToby 225x300 Why Social Media Week 2012 will be bigger and bolder than ever“We wanted to build a conference from the ground up and address many of the failings of traditional industry events, especially those that focused on emerging media and technology,” says Daniels. “We also wanted to elevate the conversation and explore social media’s role as a catalyst in driving economic, cultural and social change.”

After launching the idea in New York City in its first year, Social Media Week has expanded quickly into a multi-city model that allows people around the world to participate in a real-time conversation about how online social shifts impact our lives and are reshaping our society.

Social Media Week now takes place twice a year with 12 cities taking part in February, and another 12 in September each year. This year for the first time, there’s a unifying theme – Empowering Change through Collaboration. This was developed in conjunction with the project’s global curator, Don Tapscott, the author of the hugely influential books Wikinomics and Macrowikinomics.

What’s new in 2012

“In 2012, we want to strengthen and deepen the relationships we have with our local markets, continue to build the Social Media Week brand, and most importantly, significantly increase the quality of the experience for those that participate,” says Daniels.

Part of this drive involves a more ‘connected experience.’ “We want more people globally to be able to participate and connect to the global experience regardless of whether they are able to attend physically, online or via our new official mobile app which we’re launching on 5 mobile platforms in conjunction with Nokia.”

An epic scale event

The scale of Social Media Week is impressive to say the least, and Daniels is proud of what it can achieve. “In February alone we are likely to host more than 1,000 free to attend events across 12 cities.  The value that this creates for individuals and industry in helping to advance our knowledge and understanding of social media’s role in society and business is huge.

“It’s a highly collaborative event, with as much as 75% of the content being curated by our content partners.  In New York, we’re organizing the content across 6 primary content hubs, including Art & Culture at Hearst; Advertising & Marketing at JWT Worldwide; Health & Wellness at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness; Social & environmental Change at Thompson Reuters, and Global Society and our HQ which is hosted at Big Fuel.  Their support and participation, together with the support from global headline sponsors and local sponsors and partners plays a huge role in helping to keep Social Media Week open, inclusive and free for those wishing to attend.”

smw1 Why Social Media Week 2012 will be bigger and bolder than everOrganizing something the size of Social Media Week must be an epic task. Although Daniels has the assistance of a team of staff and advisory boards at both global and city level, what keeps him coming back for more each year?

“We are facing one of the most significant shifts in how we, as a society, connects and communicates,” he says. “It is having a profound impact on all our lives and having a platform that brings people together around the most pressing issues and emerging trends is fundamentally important work.

“We are inspired by everything that is happening and driven to gain a deeper understanding and to support the idea of a global conversation. The operational challenges are insignificant compared to the opportunity.”

The Next Web will be highlighting some of the events taking place around Social Media Week as it approaches, and our editors in San Francisco, New York and London will be attending some of the many events during the week itself. For now, you can find out more at Social Media Week’s website.

➤ Social Media Week