This week I flew to San Diego to attend Social Media Marketing World 2014.  I knew the event was going to be great, and let’s face it, it was a win-win from the get-go when it became apparent I was leaving behind yet another snowstorm on Cape Cod (please tell me that was the last one).  I arrived after dark and the conference had suggested using Uber for transportation. They were curbside within 3 minutes of me hitting the “request black car” button on my iPhone.  So quick and easy!

I woke up VERY early the next morning and waited for the sun to peak through so I could safely go for a run. It was worth it.  How BEAUTIFUL San Diego is!

San Diego at Sunrise

After catching up on a little work I got ready to head to the first networking event aboard the USS Midway.  Not gonna lie, you all should be jealous if you weren’t there. This was a super fun event.  Not only is the USS Midway a great museum (I’d definitely go back and spend more time touring) but the folks at Social Media Examiner presented us with a fun game of Networking Bingo which had everyone engaging and searching for people that fit descriptions for everything from: Lives outside the US,  Owned an Atari 2600, Owns stock in Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, to Sleeps with their smartphone.  I had a blast meeting new people, and like a good little networker, I completed my card!

Other highlights included standing on a glass deck looking to the levels below…

Glass Floor on USS Midway

….and posing with this super cool flight dude.

Ghost Rider

…..and riding in the flight simulator.

Flight simulator aboard USS Midland during #SMMW14

Day2

Up and ready, I made my way to the opening key-note session featuring Michael Stelzner, Founder and CEO, Social Media Examiner.  Michael is an engaging speaker who talked to us about all the great things ahead of us at #SMMW14 and some of the changes taking place in social media.

My first session was Ekaterina Walter on using visuals to tell a story. She showed us some very compelling examples of video storytelling.  Did you know the brain processes visuals 600,000 times faster than text?  Ekaterina said it perfectly: “Images are like shortcuts to the brain”.

Ekaterina Walter at #SMMW14

My second session was with Melanie Duncan talking about Pinterest. Oh how I love Pinterest.  What other tool out there has customers doing most of your work for you? Plus, let’s face it, it’s fun to use!  I have several clients using Pinterest and they just keep growing.  Melanie recommends at least 5 boards in an account with at least 10 pins per board to be visually appealing and substantial for your audience.  Other tips were to always, always, always include a call to action, create pins that are taller rather than wider to gain more real estate in search results and include URLs in a pin description.

Pinterest w: Melanie Duncan at #SMMW14

Next up was a Google+ session with Martin Shervington.  Martin gave me a lot to ponder.  My biggest challenge as a business owner is finding time to create my own content when I spend SO MUCH TIME creating content for my clients! His overall message is that what we’re working towards is simple – Trust, Reputation, Authority.  The way I interpreted it is this: we create content on the web and we attach our identity to it.  If our content is authentic and valuable then we build trust within an audience and our audience starts talking about it and about us.  As people start talking about our content and about our company (or individual) we become regarded as an authority on said topic. This is the tipping point when we really start to see traction with our efforts. There’s no short-cutting the system.

As you think about your content creation, think about the big picture. It’s not inauthentic to think in terms of a campaign.  A campaign has a process and that’s a necessary part of building authority.  Create amazing content that deserves to surface in a Google search result. Create hashtags and visuals and then get ready to distribute! Think in terms of delivering on a promise.  What need are you filling with your content, what question are you answering?

Google+ w: Martin Shervington #SMMW14

End day 2. Whew.  It was that good.

Day 3.  Let’s start with another amazing view from my morning run!

Morning run at Seaport Village #SMMW14

The morning keynote session featured a panel of speakers including Ted Rubin, Jeff Rohrs, Jay Baer & Nichole Kelly.  These guys were a hoot! They were animated and opinionated and they bantered back and forth. It was all that and a bag of potato chips!  I couldn’t keep up with my notes it was so good.  The topic was “Have We Lost the Social in Social Media”.  The consensus was no….but with perhaps the caveat that we’ve lost some of the authenticity in social media.  Here are a few candid quotes I was able to jot down that are worth remembering:

“It’s all about attitude and follow up.” – Jay Baer

“I follow them back so they don’t unfollow me.” – Ted Rubin (defending the position that you can’t possibly be social on a personal level with 3,000 people)

“Social media policies will never be able to cure stupid.” – Nichole Kelly

“Every employee is in customer service whether they like it or not.” – Jay Baer

“If you aren’t great at customer service, why are you buying ads on Facebook?” – Jay Baer

Panel speakers at #SMMW14

I must confess I had a bit of fun this session tweeting about the panel’s attire. The first thing you noticed when they all sat down was Jay Baer’s sneaks.  That prompted my first tweet & photo here. A few minutes later Ted Rubin shows off his socks which naturally prompted this tweet and photo. Then as I started paying closer attention I noticed Nichole Kelly’s sparkly converse and that just topped it off here.  It was all in great fun and if you read through my Twitter feed you’ll see that the panel got a kick out it too.

I also met a great girl from Zest Bakery that was fun to chat with:

Making friends w: @ZestBakery at #SMMW14

The first session I chose to attend was on mobile marketing. This is an area I hope to do more with my clients and so I was hoping to hear the latest and greatest.  Jamie Turner provided insight as to the future of mobile marketing by discussing some of the amazing ways we’re able to target customers and niche groups on a mobile device.  He gave an example about displaying a coupon for a particular product on a customer’s mobile device upon entering your store based upon that customer’s past purchases, even if that customer didn’t make that purchase with your store!  The more he spoke about some of the options available to us the more you could hear the murmurs of those concerned with privacy. Jamie was quick to point out that what we’re now able to do with mobile marketing is no different than what direct marketing has been doing for 50 years.   The other little nugget you’ll want to note is that, and I quote Jamie Turner: “QR codes are gonna die (and not soon enough in my humble opinion)”.  He said this at least twice more in the session along with the comment that people should feel free to capitalize on QR codes right now and use them while we can but it’s probably not wise to build a long term strategy around them.  All in all it was a good session with some insight as to the types of things I can be considering with my clients.

Mobile Social w: Jamie Turner #SMMW14

 Session two was on “Creating Original Visual Content That People Love To Share.  The speaker was Donna Moritz.  This was my favorite session of the conference.  Just like many of you out there, I’m a small business.  I don’t employ a large staff and I wear many hats.  Donna’s session WAS FABULOUS!  She quoted that Facebook uploads 350 million photos a day!  Instagram has 200 million monthly users (and that’s all they do is upload photos!) Of course the previous sessions on Pinterest and visual content just sealed the coffin on this topic.  It’s time to get more visual people!  Donna shared some of her favorite tools including Canva (which was kind enough to give attendees some free credits to play with!) and Snagit.  I’ve used snagit previously but I have to say I really prefer Skitch which is part of the Evernote suite.  So as not to dilute Donna’s message, I’ll explain my love for Skitch in another post.  Donna shared that visual content must pass 3 stages:

Creating Visual Content w: Donna Moritz #SMMW14

 Here are 3 great ways to do this:

1) Create original images
2) Be timely
3) Be snack-able (easy to digest, quick, and simple)

Donna’s session was easily the most actionable and immediately implementable session of the conference. I’m a huge fan from here on out, and you can thank her when I start cranking out visuals you guys can share!

Next up: How to Build a Social Content Marketing Strategy That Works, featuring Jay Baer & Rustin Banks. Now I try to keep it real and I tend to tell it like it is so I won’t sugar coat this one too much.  I have read lots of Jay’s content and have nothing but respect for him. I wanted to hear Jay speak, but I was a touch hesitant about this session because so often sessions like this are geared to big brands and higher level concepts.  Those where you leave the room going “ok I get it, but HOW did you do those things?” Nevertheless I went anyway and…..it wasn’t my favorite session.

I just wasn’t the right audience for this but I can see how this was probably WAY more useful for the MANY big brands that were in the room as they have much larger budgets than little ol’ me.  They gave some great stats (The average person checks their cell phone 110 times a day!) and showed some good examples of brands identifying and filling consumers needs.  They talked a lot about how and why to connect with a marketplace of content creators (which is what Rustin’s company offers) to generate content.

Three types of great social content
1) Produced Content
2) Curated Content
3) Cooperative content (the focus of their presentation which pointed people to the concept of a marketplace of content creators)

I didn’t really take any photos of this session other than the token photo of Jay.  I did enjoy hearing them speak and I appreciated some of the examples and quick stats they shared but all in all I should have gone with my instincts and attended a session that better aligned with my personal needs and those of my clients. Lesson learned, my bad.

Building a Social Content Strategy w Jay Baer & Rustin Banks #SMMW14

After a yummy box lunch I was ready to hit another session and struck gold with Powerful, Underused Facebook Ads Tools You Should Be Using featuring Jon Loomer.  After a touching back story on how Jon got to be where he is, this session moved into geek mode! Jon offered great info on the latest tools within Facebook’s Ad arsenal. He focused on the top 4 problems Facebook ads can solve including:

How to target your customers
How to find your audience
How to measure ROI
How to optimize your ads

This is already a historically long blog post so I won’t go into much detail and will leave it at saying that Jon provided very useful information that I can start implementing immediately to help my clients achieve even greater results with their Facebook ad campaigns.

Facebook Ads w: Jon Loomer #SMMW14

 Since I was already geeking out on Facebook ad data I decided to select another Advanced Facebook Advertising session featuring Dennis Yu and Alex Houg as my last session of the conference.  These guys didn’t let me down either.  Dennis is a major geek (in the very best use of the term) and was throwing out crazy ways to access back end information and data about Optimized CPM and Custom Audiences. Honestly, I need to sit back down with my notes and really dig into this before I can even write much more on the session. It was great information!

Advanced Facebook Advertising w Dennis Yu & Alex Houg #SMMW14

 Finally it was time for the closing keynote.  On the one hand I was pretty much on information overload, on the other hand I would have loved another day to go to some of the other sessions.  The content was just that good.  The closing keynote featured Marcus Sheridan aka The Sales Lion. I had read a story about Marcus awhile ago but wasn’t that familiar with him.  It took me about 2 minutes to become a fan.  He was hysterical and insightful and authentic. He’s your average guy that had hit rock bottom and clawed his way to the top with very basic (yet almost always overlooked) principles. His philosophy is simply: “They ask, we answer”.  The customer wants the price, we give it. They want to know how something is done, we explain it.  Become an authority on your subject by simply being willing to give the information that no one else will.  He said: “You cannot see the end until you start to walk the trail.  Just be willing to improve.  You do not have to be perfect.” It was refreshing and inspiring, and honestly he could have a career in comedy he was that entertaining. His closing thought provided the perfect words to end the conference. In discussing why we do what we do and how hard it can be to carve a career and prove value in this social media space he said:  “I would challenge you to say we will apply, we will try because we understand the end game.  Let that be the thing that drives you.  Do more, run with it, be the best you can possibly be.”

Timeless Qualities of Great Content w Marcus Sheridan #SMMW14

The end. #SMM14 is over.

If you want to read more candid little tidbits from #SMMW14, check out my Twitter feed. Great location, great hotel, very useful content, approachable speakers and staff.  All in all, I personally found it to be a fantastic event.  I’ve already registered for #SMMW15!