Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Social Marketing Summit
As I consider what path my recent work with The Challenge Factory is helping me to find, my career "guru", Lisa Taylor, steered me toward a terrific event that took place yesterday under the joint efforts of Enterprise Toronto and Constant Contact. The Social Marketing Summit, a completely free event which quite understandably was fully booked days in advance, was held in the Council Chambers at the Scarborough Civic Centre and featured several informative and engaging people all speaking to the theme, "Learn How Online Engagement Can Drive Business Opportunities". That fourth word, "Engagement", was the theme of the day, both in the way the speakers worked with the attendees and in the messages they were delivering.
First up, after the opening remarks from Katherine Roos of Enterprise Toronto, was Lisa Kember, Regional Development Director of Constant Contact. The big message from Lisa was that many small businesses are too focused on the "numbers" and not nearly enough on engaging with their clients. A company running a Facebook campaign, for example, is far more successful when a few people "like" or, especially, "share" their posts than when a great many people "fan" their Facebook Page but don't get involved in the discussion in any way. Her most salient point, in my opinion: "When it comes to engagement, small = big." She was very strong on the message that we need to pay attention the "social" aspect of "Social Media" and must take every opportunity to "Wow!" our customers, keep in touch with them and continue to engage with them.
Speaker number two, as the temperature in the Council Chambers started to rise from the heat of the 270+ attendees and event co-ordinators, was Anita Windisman, President of One of a Kind Marketing. Her main focus was on how to effectively and powerfully use LinkedIn to drive your business. She spoke for the most part about how to use this versatile tool to find and attract customers but her tips for optimizing one's LinkedIn profile work well for job-seekers also. As this was the one Social Media branch being covered that I knew the least about, I consequently was very happy with the wealth of information I took away from this presentation. My next goal is to apply it to my own sparse and dormant LinkedIn profile so I can tailor it to my specific future needs. Anita also delivered one of the best quotes of the day: "LinkedIn is Facebook with a tie."
The final speaker before lunch was Darrell Keezer, CEO of candybox marketing. (There is also a good - and more concise - blog piece on their site, written by MC Chowdhury. With that blog piece there is a picture and in that picture I can be seen close to the left-hand edge, sunglasses perched atop my head, wearing a very colourful plaid shirt.) Darrell spoke to us on the importance of Facebook Pages to a business, but before his talk he did a very good thing: he made us all stand up and stretch. Those of you who have ever attended a council meeting at the Scarborough Civic Centre will know that the pew-like "seating in the round" is not conducive to long hours of just sitting. Sadly, although I was one of the first people to arrive I did not realize until it was too late that I could have chosen one of the high-backed chairs positioned around the council table; consequently I roasted and stiffened for the entire day. But that wasn't Darrell's fault and his small act of getting us up out of those seats for a couple of minutes was brilliant and much-appreciated. The talk he then delivered was very interesting - likely my favourite of the morning. Using some of his company's current campaigns as an example, Darrell demonstrated the power of Facebook to engage an audience like possibly no other Social Media platform that exists today. He explained how the Facebook "EDGE" algorithm works to determine the popularity of a post and thereby deciding how many people will be able to view it in their newsfeeds. He also drove home the point that Facebook considers a post to be far more "important" if it contains a photo or video rather than simple text.
At this point we mercifully broke for lunch. The temperature in that room was sky-high and climbing, which was made even more noticeable by the coolness of the atrium when we staggered out for our mid-day break. I grabbed a BLT and some delicious home-made lemonade from the little cafe next to the Council Chambers and when I was done eating I tried to get some fresh air. I was met by a solid wall of heat when I ventured outside and I only lasted a few moments before I headed back in to cool off. It's a shame that this event had to take place on the hottest day of the year so far. And the news didn't get any better post-lunch: Katherine Roos addressed the crowd again (as she did before every speaker) and delivered the punch line that they had spoken to Building Maintenance about turning up the air conditioning in that room only to be told that it wasn't working. They must have been furious and the crowd was noticeably smaller after lunch. There were still many of us who stuck it out for the duration, though I must admit it was difficult to concentrate for a while after the break.
The first speaker to attempt to cut through the fog of the heat and full bellies was Lara Veltkamp, Chief Engagement Officer (there's that word again) of Watershed Marketing. Her presentation concerned Twitter and "How the heck do you market your business with 140 characters?" She broke the whole process behind maximizing your Twitter experience down into four parts, with the acronym "L.O.V.E." L: Listen to what people are talking about and who they are following; O: Observe who is receiving engagement and why (who is being retweeted, who is having a conversation); V: Value - give it to your customers by informing, educating and sharing; and E: Editorial Calendar for scheduling pre-written Tweets to correspond with events and issues that your business wants to publicize. (A suggested Editorial Calendar was made available for free to all attendees of the Summit, which was a nice gesture.)
Our penultimate speaker was Jackie Ranahan, Creative Director of MachOne Communications. Her subject was "What's next?" and she based much of her presentation on Pinterest, a site I have just recently joined (following Sarah's lead). In all honesty, I didn't take very good notes here; I'm not tremendously interested in Pinterest just yet (although I will be keeping my eye on it, for sure), it was very, very hot at this point (although the event staff did a fantastic job by turning all the lights way down to minimize the extra heat), and Jackie herself said that all the notes/slides would be emailed to us post-Summit. She did deliver one very important message, though: start with branding, then marketing, then Social Media. Too many people try to get "out there" before they are truly ready and it just becomes a big, messy soup for them. Her discussion about Pinterest specifically centered on the precept that visual content is becoming more and more significant to the Social Media landscape. Also, she pointed us towards a fantastic video on YouTube, "From Sussex and I Know It", which served to perfectly illustrate her maxim: "Be Flexible and Have Fun!"
Finally, we came to the last speaker and he was well worth the wait. Sean Stephens, President of Treefrog Interactive, resplendent in a silver suit and mauve-streaked hair, told us his "Crazy Little Secrets of Content Marketing". He was funny and vibrant and, yes, engaging - a perfect person to wrap up the long, hot day. He delivered to us his "Tao of Google": be the most credible. (Failing that, you can purchase their "paid optimization", which he referred to as "snake oil"...but allowed that he sells exactly that kind of "snake oil" so he cannot completely dismiss it.) He focused on what he calls "digital adolescence" and compared the comfort levels and learning curves of the various generations, from "Traditionalists" down through "Gen Y" and even more current. "Credibility above all" was the main focus of his talk and reinforced the point that, with Social Media, you are not simply "broadcasting" but "engaging", bringing the day full circle. A very entertaining presentation to tie things together in a nice package.
I really enjoyed the Social Marketing Summit. I consider myself to be fairly well-versed in many facets of Social Media so I thought there would be some rather uninteresting moments during the day but, as it turned out, I learned many things from each and every speaker. Sarah created some brand-new business cards for me to hand out that identified me as a "small business content writer", complete with an "updated" Grumpy Penguin logo (which I am now using on my blog header as well). Perhaps the very best part of the day was how entirely comfortable and downright proud I felt to hand those cards out. It is entirely possible that the "next chapter" of my working life has already begun without my even noticing it. If so, I think that's the best way to go about it.
Many thanks to Enterprise Toronto and Constant Contact for putting together such an interesting, informative and engaging event.