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Social Brand Forum Recap 2013

By: Ricky BrandtScreen shot 2013-11-03 at 11.21.26 AM

When opportunity knocks on your door, you don’t say no.  Or, more appropriately, when a post arrives in your newsfeed that offers a free ticket to Brand Driven Digital’s Social Brand Forum less than five days before the event, you jump and say, “how high.”

The Social Media Brand Forum bills itself as the “premier digital marketing event” in the Midwest.  I have to say, they lived up to the title.  Featuring such speakers as Jay Baer, Gini Dietrich and Lee Odden, the event was an invaluable learning experience for students, young professionals and seasoned veterans alike.

I was fortunate enough to attend this event with some of my coworkers, thanks to a free ticket sponsored by ExactTarget.  Here’s what I learned along the way.

Second Screens Encouraged

Let’s get one thing straight.  This is a social media conference, and everyone there is wired in to the social web.  Smartphones, laptops and tablets are out at every seat.  Hootsuite is open and active (#SocialBrand13 FTW) and Evernote seems to be everywhere.  At times, there is so much social media interaction going on, you’d be surprised anyone was listening to the speakers at all, but social media types never seem to miss a beat.  If you’re at a digital marketing conference and you’re not interacting on with this community on Twitter, you may as well be sitting in the hall.

Mobile is King

Tim Hayden’s presentation on the proper use of mobile in marketing efforts was a real eye opener for me.  Were you aware that 70% of us have a mobile phone within arms reach at any point of the day?  That 60% of Americans over the age of 12 have a smartphone?  Primarily, smartphones are used for texting, social networks, shopping, games and search functions (notice I didn’t say phone calls). Always keep a user’s device in mind, after all, the next device you reach consumers on won’t be a smartphone, it will be a 52” plasma.

Honest & Transparent Content Wins Every Time

For years, we’ve been hardwired to think that talking about price, admitting our weaknesses and giving credit to competitors kills a business.  Marcus Sheridan, a former pool contractor turned “Sales Lion,” who is also one of the best speakers I’ve seen in my life, bet his business and reputation on the fact that the opposite is true.  The logic is utterly convincing.  Today’s marketing spends all its time convincing people that their business is the best, but consumers see right through that.  We let our message be shaped by the competition, people who won’t ever be our customers, and then finally the people who actually are our customers.  Sheridan built a content marketing strategy around praising his competitors via awards, going through the nitty gritty details of pricing, and writing legitimate posts on why someone wouldn’t want to buy his product. $2,000,000 later, you tell me if his strategy works.

Spin Really Does Suck

Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arement Dietrich and Author of Spin Sucks, is on a mission to give PR back its reputation and eliminate harmful spin from the industry.  Dietrich is truly a hero to those of us who hate the idea that public relations is equal to media manipulation.  That being said, eliminating spin from PR all together is a lofty goal, so I asked her, “should we be throwing framing out the window?  Where is the line?”  Her response was remarkably straightforward.  She explained that you have to know your moral compass.  Look out for those moments where the framing is getting farther away from the truth.

Podcasts are Still Awesome

It’s no secret, I love podcasts.  So a live recording of Jay Baer’s Social Pros Podcast was a special treat for me.  But I only include it here because the next best thing you can do besides attending these conferences is to educate yourself.  Be it through a podcast related to your business interests or a book from a respected author, knowledge is certainly power in the real world.  Do everything you can to expose yourself to new ideas.

Without a doubt, attending the Social Media Brand Forum was among the greatest opportunities I’ve had this semester.  The event is held every year in Coralville, so I highly encourage any student or professional in Eastern Iowa to do whatever it takes to get in the doors.

Photo Credit: Adamson Studios Photography // Brand Driven Digital

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