Takeaways and Lessons Learned from #SMMW13

With over 1,000 people in attendance, many lessons and takeaways were learned from hearing the best in the industry.

SMMW13 Marriott
SMMW13 Marriott

This year I had the pleasure of attending Social Media Examiner's Social Media Marketing World Conference (#SMMW13) in sunny San Diego. With big names like Chris Brogan, John Jantsch, and so many more...it is safe to say that this conference was a time of great learning.

Over the next few weeks I will be going in depth on some of the topics I heard, but for now I will discuss a few takeaways that I learned not just from the speakers, but the attendees as well. Out of a speaker list of 49, it was difficult who to pick and choose who to listen to in person and who to listen to via audio when I came home. But since many of the speakers were ones that I had read their books or admired, I opted to listen to those I had already come to learn so much from.

Lesson #1: Be Authentic.

With social media being an outlet for many people to hide behind a computer, it was refreshing to hear so many of the speakers encourage people to be authentic. It is so easy these days to hide behind a brand and not make close connections with our online audience, but this is a HUGE mistake. Back before newspapers, TV, Radio, and even the web, people bought and sold based on word of mouth, which relied on being "likeable" and providing quality products and service. People buy from those they like and you are far more likely likeable by being genuine and authentic. Relationship building is the key to long term success.

One story I have from the conference is from my interaction with Dave Kerpen, writer of Likeable Social Media and owner of Likeable Media. The first networking event the conference orchestrated was at a museum not far from the hotel, but far enough to bus attendees to the location. On the ride over Dave sat next to me and we had a wonderful discussion about our businesses. He talked about running his company with his wife and how I grew up with small business in my blood from my parents running a company together. He handed me his card and for some reason I did not put 2 and 2 together that this was the author of one of my favorite social media books (and one that I give to many of my clients). Before we had finished our conversation he was already tweeting to me about wishing me luck. Now I am not one that gets starstruck, I simply appreciated his kind words and encouragement regardless of who he was.

Fast forward a day and a half later and I see the same gentleman get up on stage and give one of the best keynotes of the entire conference. Within his keynote he mentioned how important it is to be the same person in public and in private. He also explained how transparent he was and that even though he is extremely busy, when people tweet to him he will almost always respond within 1 to 2 days. Now how many CEO's do you know that have that closeness with their followers?

The principles he was explaining to the crowd is one that every businessman should learn. You must take the time to be genuine to anyone regardless of what they can do for you. I have countless stories on my own of the connections and business I have made from people that I never thought would be so vital to my life and success, but it is because I treat everyone the same. Being one person in your professional and someone different in your personal life will not gain you great success. I can tell you I did have a speaker I wanted to listen to, but after he dismissed me as someone that could not bring him business I have since unsubscribed from all of his digital media. He was someone else in person then when he projected to his digital audience. Those that learn this lesson will not only see success, but will make connections and relationships they never thought possible.

Lesson #2: E-mail Marketing is having a Comeback.

Chris Brogan + Kersten
Chris Brogan + Kersten

For me I have spent years LOATHING e-mail marketing, at least the e-mail I get sent from big brands that do not give me any value whatsoever. But according to Chris Brogan and many others, building your e-mail list is the key to profits. Chris mentioned many times that he has never seen social media bring him business, but over and over he has seen his e-mail newsletter bring him money. And let's be honest, we all are attempting to receive paychecks from our social media efforts. So how does one build an e-mail list? Here are a few tips from the experts:

  • Make your e-mail sign up visible to your site viewers. You can do this by having a pop-up on your site, asking visitors to sign up before they read your post. I will add that you may want to consider the pros and cons before adding a pop-up box on your homepage.
  • Entice them to sign up. You must give your readers value to sign up for your newsletter. This could be a free e-book or whitepaper, something that will push them to want to hear from you more often.
  • Tell them what they will get. Most people are not fans of e-mail marketing, which is why you need to be upfront and honest with them about what you will be sending to them.

Lesson #3: Connect, connect, connect!

According to Mark Schaefer of The Tao of Twitter, Born to Blog, and Return on Influence, social media has brought us back to the core of marketing and connecting with customers. When we created the printing press, we took a step away from our customers. With the addition of radio, TV, and other channels, brands have become more and more disconnected from their customers. Social media changes the game and allows brands to directly connect with brands with the push of a button.

There were countless stories told during the conference of people interacting one-on-one with customers and fans and how these interactions build stronger brand loyalty. I have had numerous occasions where I had a bad experience with a brand and the way they handled the issue via social media made me a brand advocate. People crave connection and want to feel as if their opinion matters, which makes social media the perfect solution for brands to better satisfy their customers.

So how do you implement this? Respond back to your followers and fans. Don't rely on automation services, but take the time to personally connect with those that are following and interacting with you. You never know how one kind word can create a customer with a long lifetime value.

SME Museum Group Show 2013
SME Museum Group Show 2013

Lesson #4: What's next in Social Media?

All of the "experts" have different opinions on which platforms will survive and which will fade away. To me the platform is not the point, in my opinion being able to connect with your customers is the key to the long-term survival of social media. I do not see it going away any time soon, nor do the experts. What you will see is brands sinking or swimming depending on their management of social media. Years ago many thought social media was just a fad. To that I say, look at the brands that have seen a significant increase or decrease in their bottom line and/or PR because of social media.

As you can see from my pictures the conference was not only a time of great learning, but of making true connections and lasting relationships with a truly remarkable group of professionals. It was a privilege to attend, but now it is time to take all that I learned and apply it to my wonderful clients to help them grow!

Nicole + Kersten
Nicole + Kersten

I may not be able to take you out for that drink, but I am here to help get your marketing on the right track. If you are business owner that feels like they are struggling in today’s digital marketing, then look no further. We are here to help you be able to get back to what you do best and we can handle the rest.

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P.S. Over there on the right is one of my newfound friends from the conference, Nicole aka Cute Culture Chick. She is a seasoned blogger and social media expert and I look forward to continuing the friendship. A perfect example of a real relationship created through the world of social media. Take a look at her #SMMW13 recap!