It was a funny moment. I was standing on a stage, singing and swaying to a live band playing a song titled “We are Social,” in a T-shirt no less. Anyone who knows me knows I virtually NEVER wear T-shirts. It was a bit surreal, being part of a choir at a social media marketing conference, but what the hell!
About Social Media Marketing World
Social Media Marketing World has been running for 5 years now and the event attracts 4000 marketers from across the globe. It’s where all the social media and content marketing influencers go to catch up and it’s where marketers from all industries connect to learn the latest in social media marketing.
Run by Social Media Examiner, a digital marketing publication I’ve been contributing to for the past 5 years as a writer, the event is aimed at small to medium businesses, but there was a pretty heavy corporate presence there as well. It’s an event known for quality speakers with tactical knowledge to share in the social space.
I mostly attended sessions in the podcasting and blogging tracks but was mainly there to reconnect with influencers and friends I’d already met previously at other events. In the content marketing field, virtually all of the influencers are in the US, so it made sense for me to leg it to Boston last year for Inbound and Social Media Marketing World this year. Below are some highlights from my experience of Social Media Marketing World 2017.
Park Howell – The Hero’s Journey
The first session I attended was actually a storytelling workshop run by Park Howell. Park took the audience through the Hero’s Journey as chronicled by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It was a great reminder about story’s power to influence the hearts and minds of your readers, whether you’re writing a blog post or a book.
USS Midway Party
That night we had an opening night party on the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier.
My friend Michele and I had a lot of fun mixing and mingling with other attendees and I got to catch up with Darren Rowse who was there to speak about blogging. Speaking of which…
Darren Rowse – Changing Face of Blogging
The following morning I attended Darren’s talk on the Changing Face of Blogging. Darren said that blogging used to be considered a one-platform medium, but that’s changed a lot over the years with the introduction of blogging on social platforms. Really, he said, a blog is just a virtual home for all of your content wherever it may be. He also
Darren also questioned the claim that blogging is a dead medium. He said that fewer people were searching for the term “what is a blog” simply because they now know what it is. He said the biggest challenges were noise and distribution and he gave tips on how to break through the noise.
One hot tip that Darren shared was to write crash course posts (where you share a single idea or tactic per post) and then publish a summary of your posts (linking back to each post). He said this helps search engine optimisation and means that your older posts will be read more frequently. He also said that more bloggers should consider doing seasons to spice up their blogs.
Brian Clark – How to Craft a Blog Editorial Strategy That Works
I first met Brian Clark at Tropical Think Tank in 2016 and he’s been very supportive of Writally, for which I’m incredibly grateful. It was great to catch up with Brian again and hear his take on crafting an editorial strategy. Brian said that one of the biggest problems is many bloggers get rolling without a plan and they quickly run out of steam. Only 37% of marketers have a documented strategy. Brian simplified the planning process for the audience into 5 key questions every journalist is taught to ask:
Brian talked about the importance of knowing your goal, or starting with the end in mind. And when it comes to metrics, Brian’s favourite is money, plain and simple. Of course, there are other important metrics but money is the obvious one if you’re blogging for profit.
Panel – John Lee Dumas and co — How to Land Guest Interviews on Podcasts
Later in the day I went to a panel discussion on landing guest interviews on podcasts with:
- John Lee Dumas – Entrepreneur on Fire
- Jessica Rhodes — Interview Connections
- Jill Stanton — Screw the Nine to Five, and
- Aaron Walker — Interview Valet
Lots of valuable tips here including:
- Have a one-sheet which gives a podcaster your bio written in third person, and talk about what is valuable to their audience.
- Know the show before you pitch. Don’t say “I want to talk about X, Y and Z”.
- You’ve got to be you. What is ordinary to you is extraordinary to others.
- Create a gift for the audience. Create a landing page.
The gist of the entire session was that relationships matter more than trying to weasel your way in the door. Put time into building genuine connections and you will stand out.
Chris Brogan – How to Write Blog Content People Want to Read
I’d never met Chris Brogan before but I had interviewed him on a podcast once upon a time with my first podcast. Chris was funny and blunt. It was a great session to end the day with. Chris said provocative stuff like “If you have written a post with a number in the front in the past six months, basically it sucks.” He said that despite the crap on the internet, blogs still have power because Google loves them.
Highlights from Chris’s talk were numerous. Here are a few:
- Your goal with blogging is to help people make a decision to take the next action.
- 30+% of blogging platforms are WP. That is all.
- The very first thing you should do is make people feel something.
- Have an opinion, a point of view. Start with the title.
- Your two jobs are always to inform and entertain.
- “if you think FB or Medium are your blogging platforms, leave.”
- The very first sentence is always a personal story.
- Humans read your blog one at a time. Write to one person.
- The voice of your company must be personal and personable, have some sense of personality.
- My job as a business is to reduce friction, between you and buyer. Don’t write your buyer away.
- “Remember when we all used to use Twitter?”
- Visual SEO is not yet a thing, so you still need to create text so the robots can read it.
- We blog for Google, we write our newsletter for humans.
This Event Wouldn’t Be Complete Without Live Karaoke and Circus
After Day 1, everyone let loose with live Karaoke, that’s Karaoke with a live band. Being a huge karaoke fan I was all set to belt out Total Eclipse of the Heart, only it wasn’t on the list and I was too late to get on the list–apparently. Or it might have had something to do with a horde of people going up and harassing the poor DJ to feature their song next. Who knows? In any case, I had a lot of fun dancing the night away with my friends.
Day 2 began with the Conference Chorus which takes me back to that moment in the beginning of this post. It was a little surreal, but I joined the choir to make some friends. As it turns out, I got more than I bargained for.
I made friends with some Ah-may-zing people, a couple who I’m sure will be lifelong friends and one who is a new accountability partner. It was fun and a quirky way to get involved, even if it felt a little bit funny to be singing about being social :-).
Keynote: Panel on AI and Chat Bots
After that, there was a keynote panel on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Chat Bots and Content.
The panel featured:
I had had a brief discussion with Chris Penn the day before at Chris Brogan’s session. He gave me some pointers on where he thought I should go with Writally in terms of AI, but he was of the opinion that humans would be completely replaced by machines. The idea that machines are NOT capable of reading between the lines and interpreting unspoken human emotion is one I feel strongly about, but who knows what the future holds. It’s not that I’m not open to the possibility, it’s just that humans have enough trouble with this that I can only imagine now much machines would totally mess it up.
This session highlighted that machines aren’t there yet, even though they can write factual stories (and are).
In any case, this discussion fascinated me. Here are some of the highlights:
- Kids are growing up with bots now. They expect it and are creating for it. Kids engage with a bot for 20 mins on average. Kids are more comfortable talking to Siri. A robot doesn’t get impatient.
- All AI begins with an algorithm. An algorithm is nothing more than a repeatable process. There’s two categories of machine learning: Supervised learning and unsupervised learning. Deep learning — takes each of these things and chains them together in a row until the process becomes self-aware.
- Google has reverse-engineered human language in a way we cannot do.
- Every AI right now is purpose-built. We’ll get to a point where we’ll have machines that can decide what they want to do.
- Be inspectors or quality checkers of what the machines are putting out. Unconscious bias is a problem. Make sure the data is inclusive.
- If you do something with a template today, a machine will do it without you tomorrow. If you do something more than 3 times, a machine can do it (Naturally, this bit had my attention big-time).
- You can use AI and bots as a consultant. Sandy Carter uses AI to suggest segmentation and ad buys. Sandy also uses it for more personalised learning. AI can ID gaps in learning. Deeper human experience is a long way off with AI
- People relate to bots as if they were a person, not an app.
The biggest takeaway from this session is not to put your head in the sand. Machine sentience is coming and we need to start experimenting with it now.
Pat Flynn – How to Create a Hit Episode that gets massive engagement
One of my favourite practical sessions was this one by Pat Flynn. Pat shared 10 simple tips on how to create a hit episode for your blog. Some of them I’d already tested, but there were a few I’d never thought of doing before.
Here are some highlights from Pat’s talk:
- Strategy 1: Create a roundup episode: Ask one question. Feature the answers on your podcast. Use Speakpipe.com. Send them a link to record. As people answer, comment between the answers.
- Strategy 3: The Burst Strategy. We love to binge on content. Create a series and put out at the same time. 3 to 5 episodes? Accelerate your ranking on iTunes when people download more of your content in one hit.
- Strategy 6: The Challenge. Start with small wins. Small wins can lead to big growth. You can do a contest and prizes etc.
- Strategy 9: Round 2. Do a followup episode from a popular episode.
- Strategy 10: Create a niche specific show. Choose one and create an episode just for them. You can better serve that sub-audience and it can disrupt the pattern of your show.
Jay Acunzo – How to Create Intimacy on Your Podcast
This session by Jay Acunzo was my favourite session at the whole conference because it was new information for me and it was also very much in alignment with how I’m approaching story element creation on Writally. The tips in this session really got me thinking differently about how I open my podcast. I did feel a little overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to do this well, but as Jay said at the end: “taking the easy way out causes you to blend in.”
Here are the highlights:
- Start with a story. It get’s you emotionally invested in what’s going on.
- Use music to build intensity. You get a big dopamine hit just at the intro.
- Your job is to make sure your listener doesn’t hit stop! The golden rule of audio: Get them to the end.
- It’s harder to share a podcast from your phone. Typically people share the blog post attached to the podcast episode.
- A great hook empowers the audience to confidently decided whether or not to invest their time. A great hook helps the audience instantly understand both the episode and the journey.
- Get shoulder to shoulder with your listeners. “I think most people do this” or “have you ever?”
- A great podcast host signposts things: Don’t miss this, it’s important. A great host asks the right questions to extract the right answers. If an interviewee doesn’t deliver the right content, it’s not their fault. It’s yours. Connect with them. If you’re having fun, so will they. Empower them. Provide show and audience context. When in doubt, use puppies and kittens.
- Use the 3 arrows in your question quiver: 1. Tell me about… how did it feel to…? You shut up. 2. Can you give me an example? 3. Put them in a box. Just so I understand it… you did…. x , y, z, so what was step one from there?
- Use a Rundown — The rundown helps you produce episodes at scale. The rundown helps you be more efficient.
- You don’t want to create sameness. You want to create difference. Aspire to be the best show period!
Mark Schaeffer – On becoming a thought leader
I love listening to Mark Schaefer. He’s funny, humble and sharp. This talk was no exception. In this talk Mark asked: Can anyone become known? His answer was “Maybe. Everybody has the opportunity. Everyone starts at the same point.”
Here are some highlights from Mark’s session:
- Mark differentiated between being known and being famous. Known means:
- What is your goal? To accomplish your goals, writing a book, speaking etc, you’ve got to be known.
- The idea of “doing your passion” is misdirected. The no. 1 reason people fail is because they follow a dream without a plan. Some things need to stay a hobby.
- 4 major principles:
- Place: A sustainable interest,
- Space: a space to tell the story = underserved or uncontested niche
- Content: You need one source of rich content: Blogs, podcasts, video. Pick one! On average it takes 2.5 years to become known.
- Audience: The value of content is zero unless people see it and share it. A large audience does not mean it is an actionable audience. Your ideal audience size is determined by your goals, not your ego. There is no shortcut. You must develop an emotional connection. You can’t trick people into sharing something. You have to do the work.
- It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, what you’ve overcome. You have the power to find your own power and influence today.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Social Media Marketing World. It’s a well-organised and fun event, geared to help you get social. I enjoyed the quirkiness as much as I enjoyed the poignant moments, but I did feel a sense of overload by about 3.30pm on the last day and retreated to my room. I was grateful that all of the sessions would be available online afterward.
If you want to connect with a lot of influencers in this space, it’s THE event to attend because this event attracts pretty much anyone who’s anyone in social media. It’s like a “family” reunion. It’s also great for beginners who want to ramp up their content marketing and social media marketing as well as more seasoned marketers who want to brush up their knowledge.
Following a specific track is a great idea, but I mainly picked the sessions where I wanted to connect with specific people. I still didn’t meet with everyone I wanted to connect with. Will just have to go again next year!
Tickets for next year’s Social Media Marketing World are on sale now at a greatly reduced price. I have mine already! Hope to see you there next year!
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