If you attend one or more marketing conferences each year you know how your head can explode by the end of an event with new gained knowledge and insights, as well as new contacts to explore. Now that Social Media Marketing World (SMMW15) 2015 is in the books, it’s time to process my key take aways and share them with you.
In my opinion, SMMW has become one of the top three marketing conferences in the U.S. Approximately 2,500 people descended on the scenic city of San Diego for two-plus days of education, networking and entertainment.
The biggest challenge for any SMMW attendee is choosing which of the 10 or 12 concurrent sessions to attend. Fortunately, this year all the attendees will receive the video recordings of each session, made possible by event host Social Media Examiner, led by marketing veteran Michael Stelzner. This year’s attendees included more than 100 people from more than 12 countries as far away as Australia and Japan.
This year I was a track leader at SMMW15. My responsibility was to introduce each speaker in Ballroom D. I had the privilege of introducing these popular speakers: Darren Rowse founder of Problogger.net, Michael Hyatt author of Platform and founder of Platform University and MichaelHyatt.com, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs and author of Everybody Writes, Dan Miller author and producer of 48Days.net, Brian Clark founder of Copyblogger.com, Jon Loomer, Facebook advertising guru and founder of JonLoomer.com and Nichole Kelly, author and co-founder of TRKS.IT.
I’ve boiled my two days at SMMW15 down to these five take aways.
Social Media is Part of a Bigger Thing
Overwhelmingly, I heard from speakers and from private conversations with attendees that social media is a growing component of a brand’s marketing plan, but it’s a cog in the wheel, not the wheel. The implication is that brands need to have a plan that defines the role of social media in their over arching marketing strategy. Jay Baer’s closing keynote titled Hug Your Haters, featured the importance of responding to haters on social media. His main point is that the customer experience is becoming the single largest factor in good marketing. Haters who express themselves in social media should be responded to with humility, compassion and (when warranted) an apology, then invited to take the conversation offline.
Tools, Tools and more Tools
The role of automation and tools in social media was a very poplar topic. For example, tools guru Ian Cleary’s session on 12 Awesome Tools to Optimize Social Media Results was well attended. With the growing number of social media platforms, there is likewise an explosion of tools available to marketers. No social media marketing tool is a one size fits all. Understanding the role of tools and potential fit with your plans is an ongoing challenge for all marketers. Neil Schaffer’s upcoming Social Tools Summit in Boston, May 12th, is a one day event dedicated to helping brands make sense of the exploding social media marketing tools market.
Where does a blog fit into social media marketing? Considering the amount of content devoted to this topic from speakers such as Michael Hyatt, Darren Rowse (pictured with me below), Brian Clark and others, it’s clearly a big component. Add the “content shock” factor highlighted by Mark Schaeffer, and it’s no surprise that a successful blog must have a strategy. Multi-author blogs were also a popular topic. In fact, Social Media Examiner is itself a multi-author blog. If your blog isn’t delivering business results, maybe it’s time to revisit your strategy.
The myth that brands can not measure results from social media is just that – a myth. While most marketers agree that social media marketing is still in its early days, the rising availability of measurement tools, along with tools such as Google’s campaign tracking UTM tool, allows marketers to measure the impact of social media engagement on KPIs they care about, including sales. Nichole Kelly (pictured below) points out that all marketers have one thing in common – a fear of failing. Management wants to know the impact of social media marketing in order to justify budget. And, social media marketing practitioners are under increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI to justify their budget. Nichole points out that the single, largest contributor to measuring the ROI of social media is measuring links back to your content.
Networking Trumps Everything
Without question, the educational value of Social Media Marketing World is truly outstanding! That said, the value of meeting people from different industries and engaging in conversation is equally valuable. The SMMW event is organized to intentionally facilitate networking. The opening night reception was held on the USS Midway, a retired Navy Aircraft carrier. In addition to the opportunity to tour this national treasure trove, SMMW organized a networking strategy that’s simple, yet brilliant. Staffers handed out “bingo style” cards for people to fill out by meeting other attendees who fit different categories. Completed cards were submitted for a chance to win a free ticket to SMMW 2016. This motivates everyone to meet as many people as possible and engage in conversation. During the event, Table Talk sessions are held during a long lunch break. They are set up by topics ranging from Analytics to Podcasting to Employee Advocacy and more. Additionally, sections are available by industry segment including Small Business, Non Profits, B2B, Government, etc.
Fun, Fun, Fun
This post is titled “Five Take Aways…” but I would be remiss if I didn’t share this bonus take away. SMMW is a ton of fun to attend! In addition to the opening night event on the USS Midway, the second night featured an indoor beach party. There was an indoor surfing apparatus, plus many other beach themed activities including ping pong, basketball hoops and (my favorite) a karaoke room, hosted by the master of karaoke in the marketing world, Jon Wuebben (pictured below). With 2,500 people convening in one location, there is sure to be some singing talent. Inspired by Jon, some of the talent that made its way to the karaoke stage was truly amazing.
As if that wasn’t enough, on Friday morning, the main session kicked off with a choir singing We Are Social. By the way, this choir (pictured below), which was amazing, was 100% comprised of SMMW attendees. It was truly inspiring and a whole lot of fun!
Imagine if you had 10 people attend SMMW and each person attended different sessions. The knowledge gained would be amazing. For most organizations, that’s not a reality. Fortunately, Social Media Examiner sells a standalone virtual ticket that provides access to all the recorded sessions, allowing you and your colleagues to benefit from all the sessions at SMMW15.
I’ve marked my calendar for Social Media Marketing World 2016. I hope to see you there.
If you’ve read this far, tell me which of these take aways are most valuable or interesting to you in the comments below.