Hosted by SMCKnox in charming Knoxville, Social Slam is a social media conference where great content and marketing minds converge and educate. Conferences (especially the social media ones) are hit and miss. They usually hit you for $500-$1500 and then underwhelm with pre-beginner level information that my four year-old daughter could give to me. Not this one. Priced for the students and small business community, Social Slam is affordable without sacrificing hospitality, depth and organization.
The conference took on the personality of its founder, Mark Schaefer of Businesses Grow and ROI fame. Egos were put to the side and the presenters cut the bullshit and gave the crowd unfiltered information and advice that they can implement immediately to make a difference. My mind was set on studying the speakers for techniques I can add to my speaking arsenal. I knew the names on the bill so I expected them to bring good info, but I was honestly blown away by some of the nuggets I was able to take away. The topics of new business/corporate structure, blogging, social media marketing, spirituality, branding, statistics/analytics, crowdsourcing, social media in higher education, lead management/nurturing/closing, search engine optimization and more were all covered quickly and with substance. Below are my personal highlights.
Gini Dietrich, author of Marketing In The Round, from Arment Dietrich started the day with an important talk on the recent history of tech-business formation/structuring and how businesses must be more cross-functional in their approach to internal collaboration. She spoke on the importance of knowing your team and the strengths of its individuals. Oh yeah, she’s NOT the woman from Bones. Key takeaways: Break down silos and kick butt!
Stanford Smith aka Mr. Pushing Social from Fluency Media caught my ear with his advice to create and takeover micro niches with your blog content. As a new blogger, going after the keyword “social media” is a tall task. It’s very competitive and it might not be the easiest path to blogging success. So why not differentiate yourself and stand out? If you’re the king or queen of homemade flavored dental floss, own it! His points on partnering on creating content, mutant content (the re-purposing of your blog posts on other platforms) and studying people and things outside of your niche were also salient.
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A pleasant surprise was the entertaining quick hit by Jon “not the dude from Culture Club” eFin’ Moss of Moss Media Labs. Jon gave the low down on LinkedIn, a network I’ve used to obtain speaking opportunities. He was entertaining, funny and informative. I appreciated his info on the SEO-ing of your LinkedIn account by having a thorough profile that includes all your business activities and interests. He also touched on LinkedIn ethics and how to leverage Answers and Groups to build authority for your brand.
Tom Webster is one sharp son of a gun. Several people have told me to check out his Twitter and blog (and I have) but seeing and hearing him present really drove this fellow’s brilliance home with me. He powered through a (computer) malfunction like Justin Timberlake and delivered a high-level punch with a statistical five-fingered ring. He presented examples of good and poor uses of social media statistics. He also reminded us to consider the source when we read articles that are “supported” by statistics. If you’re going to talk stats and analytics around this guy, you better come correct. Awesome reminder of my bad grades in stats at Georgia Tech: Random numbers clump!
After a yummy Bush Beans-sponsored lunch, I took in a nice breakout session moderated by Jay Baer. I really wanted to hear Jay speak but I was apparently one year late as he was a keynote at Social Slam 2011. Gary Schirr and his story about how he formed a social media class at Radford University through crowdsourcing the design of the class outline/syllabus struck a chord with me. My recent talk about social media at Auburn University has inspired me to consider teaching at the college level. I thank Gary for telling his story and for the advice he gave me on how to pursue becoming an adjunct professor.
Mitch Joel inspired me. Yeah, the guy is a marketing rockstar and many claim to be… but this fellow is the real deal. He emits confidence and intelligence. He’s a kick ass speaker and I’m going to pay more attention to him. I won’t lie. Where he is now in his career is where I want to be. I might not reach his level of success in my pursuits but I’m damn sure going to try to get there and further. To be honest, what’s magnetizing about him goes beyond what he spoke about (which was some good stuff). It’s how he delivered the message that impressed me. He spoke on five points (plus one more thing) – 1. direct relationships 2. sex with data 3. utilitarianism marketing 4. passive vs. active engagement 5. the importance of the one screen in front of you 6. brand narrative. Tell your story. Tell your brand’s story. Key takeaway: Strive to “own” the consumer from the cradle to the grave. “Own” them on the web, mobile, in retail, and through customer service. I’m a proud black man who’s in-tune with history. I enclosed the word “own” in quotations. We must be careful with that word when it comes to the subject of human beings and our relationships with each other.
The next slam section brought a speaker who struck another chord with me. Alice Ackerman, MD is a medical doctor who has embraced blogging and social media to help raise vaccination rates. My wife is a family physician and I’ve been encouraging her to blog for some time. Maybe Dr. Ackerman’s story will allow the idea to tip for my lovely better half. Another awesome moment of the second slam was by Bill Delaney who spoke on the spiritual nature of social media. His main point is that we all want to be loved by our clients and customers, but we must earn their respect and love them first.
Up next was Marcus “The Sales Lion” Sheridan. This blog post’s title is inspired by his advice to periodically do a “versus” blog post for its SEO value. This brother brought energy and passion. He’s a pro-HubSpot (and pro-WordPress) lead-generating content-producing sales-closing super-human. No seriously, this guy should be the face and hero of Inbound Marketing with his own theme music (I can produce the music for it). The sky’s the limit for him and his story is proof that educating your customers increases trust, authority and sales. Key takeaway: Content is the greatest sales tool in the world.
The man of the day, Mark Schaefer, brought it home with story after story about online influence and why it’s real and why it matters. He talked about Calvin Lee’s success and fame via social media. He spoke about how a community of influencers was formed around the television show Falling Skies. He explained why and how companies like Klout are putting the power in the hands of individuals who successfully engage people and inspire them to move. Key takeaway: Build a relevant audience, engage on Twitter, blog with quality content and watch how things change positively for you and your business.
I’ll see you all at Social Slam 2013… next time as one the presenters 🙂
P.S. – Props to Nicole Denton, MC Chad Parizman and the volunteers for working their butts off. They were the heartbeat of the conference.