I have been so keen on attending the Social Media Conference NZ 2017, ever since I heard about it in May. The stars aligned for me one Thursday morning, and I had my chance – thank you heavens! To learn the best digital marketing practices first hand from industry professionals was beyond what I could ever ask for. And having the opportunity to connect with them was definitely the icing on the cake! The event was held at SkyCity Convention Centre on September 15-16. The two-day event was packed! I was absolutely thrilled to be there, as my thirst for knowledge on digital marketing strategies continued to intensify.
Call time was 7:45am for the first day of the conference. I honestly did not know what to expect. Upon arrival, my friend, Lance, and I met with Wanita and she asked us to help out with the registration booth. There I met a fellow Filipino volunteer, Chris, two lovely Indian Girls, Kesar and Khushboo, and Russian-boy-who-lived-in-Britain, Tim. We all got along very easily and started doing our early morning tasks. Wanita also briefed us about how the conference would run, and told us to tweet about the event, making sure to include the official hashtag, #SMCNZ17.
Wanita Z. Fourie did the first talk, and spoke about The Evolution of Social Media. She has highlighted that in our world today, Social Media has changed the way we think and act. She showed us how the different platforms had evolved and spoke of other platforms that had come and gone. Social media will continue to evolve with new technologies like chatbots, AI (artificial intelligence) and algorithm changes. She spoke about how advertising had changed and how influencer marketing was becoming more predominant and how this would evolve too. Being on social media as a business means that you need to grab the attention of your potential customer and keep their interest. It has even made us have a shorter attention span than a goldfish (7s for humans vs. 8s for goldfish). Wanita said that what will keep our businesses alive online will be building strong tribes and communities, as well as being consistent and using new features well, like livestreaming. One of the things she said that stuck to me was, “How are you evolving your brand?”
The second session was by Amanda Betts. She spoke about Branding and Reputation. Amanda stressed the importance of building a good reputation, whether for a personal brand or a business. I learnt that values and reputation should NEVER be compromised. Moreso, honest reputation is essential, and that the integration of both reputation and branding is of absolute integral importance. Additionally, a connection between communication, reputation and storytelling should be present to build a good brand. My favourite quote from Amanda would definitely be, “Products are built in the factory. Reputation is built in the mind. Brand are built in the heart.”
Samantha Kelly (a.k.a. @TweetingGoddess) was second on stage to talk about building awesome relationships with customers. Among the key takeaways were tips on how to engage with one’s audience. Sam suggests that brands put out great content, use high quality images, tell stories by taking audiences on a journey, share other people’s content, and most importantly ask and listen to what the audience is saying. In addition, Sam shared the ‘secret recipe’ to awesome online relationships — (1) engage, interact and build relationships, (2) be authentic, (3) be helpful and kind, (4) keep away from controversy, and (5) be supportive of others.
After Sam’s presentation, we had morning tea and had some time to mingle and connect with people from the Business, IT, Digital, and Marketing industries. It was awesome to have spoken with Amanda Betts on the causes she supports and the branding she upholds for herself. My friends and I also got to speak with our instructor from school, Jay Best, laughing our socks off from his bloody Kiwi humour.
The next part of the conference was a division of all the speakers into ‘streams’. I chose to go to cool girl Cassie Roma‘s keynote on How to Keep Content Marketing Fluid in a Corporate Environment. Even if I’ve heard Cassie speak before, it’s still always good to hear from her again on how to tell great stories. Cassie could not stress enough that brands should tell compelling stories to engage and connect with their audience. Cassie said that authenticity, being measured, being bolshy, and being agile are key to achieve this.
Another thing that struck me from Cassie’s keynote was, in the words of the Zuck, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message.” People we trust influence our choices and it is best to be as authentic as possible in the stories we tell. In brands, just as in personal relationships, be authentic and honest in branding and storytelling to truly make lasting relationships with your audience.
The next stream I went to was the one by Thomas Evans. He gave a plethora of tips on how to plan, execute, measure and adjust social media campaigns. Among his tips were to ensure having a good content plan, to know your type of audience, to have a consistent tone of voice, to create good content, and to engage in two-way conversations with your target market.
The day started early again and this time it was more exciting. We had two additions to the team: beautiful Colombian ladies, Natalia and Paula. We all had a quick chat and proceeded to meet Wanita for our morning brief.
Cathy Mellet of NetBranding opened the second day, speaking about how to win with customers through the power of social media. She gave us some digital strategy pointers for online businesses like improving online visibility by amping up SEO, optimising websites, and building flexible websites. Cathy also said to have a multi-channel strategy to retain clients, to build trust across all channels, to listen and be open to feedback, and to always deliver on promises made.
The second speaker for the day was John Kapos (a.k.a. @ChocolateJohnny), who talked about the power of live video platforms to evolve business brands. “Video builds relationships. Video builds trust. Video builds relationships.” These were the highlights from the Chocolate Man’s talk. He also had one very important tip for all those who want to ‘go live’, and that was to just go for it and BE YOURSELF. “Push the button. Go live. And tell your story!”
I then proceeded to Samantha Kelly’s stream to hear her give Twitter hints and tips to evolve brands and businesses. Sam gave so many tips and made me realise how effective Twitter is as a tool to build and grow a brand or business. Crafting the perfect tweet, according to Sam, included tagging people, using relevant hashtags, adding photos/videos and adding a links, which in turn reach a wider audience. Moreover, Twitter is a platform for one to get noticed; so Sam suggests to just be yourself, and include a funky and fun bio that makes you or your brand stand out. After all, Twitter is all about your army of marketeers and like-minded people supporting you.
In the afternoon, there was a Breakaway Session with the speakers and I chose to join Samantha Kelly’s table, along with my good friends, Amar Trivedi and Dee Trivedi. I asked about more Twitter tips like having personal tweets mixed in with professional tweets. Her advice was really just to be myself, and that personal tweets won’t affect my Twitter following, as long as I keep it consistent, authentic and valuable. She gave even more insights on how to maximise Twitter by using Twitter lists, and improving my Twitter bio and tweets.
Next on the agenda were keynote stream sessions with Jam Mayer, a.k.a. the best person in the world, and Amar Trivedi, a.k.a. Mr. Madness, who is all sorts of awesome. I had such a hard time picking as I loved both speakers, and loved both their topics. I eventually picked Jam’s stream as I was more interested in Social Chatbot Marketing. Being the geek that I obviously am, I loved hearing from Jam about how chatbots are the future of marketing. I have always been interested in emerging and new technologies, including but not limited to bots, AI and IoT and I finally found someone with the same passion.
I made sure to squeeze in some time for Amar’s session, and was so glad I did. His presentation was on Omni-channel Experience – Community Management to Customer Engagement. Amar emphasises on creating relationships across multiple channels, and that relationships built on sincere service and care are what drive to brand trust, brand loyalty and optimum customer engagement. Social media is about building these relationships, nurturing them and simply always being true to who you are in the process. By cleverly using technology, brands can personalise experiences that in turn harness the power in ROR – Return on Relationships. No, it’s not about ROI anymore; it’s all about ROR. Amar’s presentation was definitely awe-inspiring.
The final speaker for the day was Vicki Fitch. She had such a wonderful, spirit-lifting talk. She first talked about ‘ditching the deck’ (#DitchTheDeck), where “There’s no need to be perfect. No need to be all buttoned up.” She encouraged everyone to give hope and be hopeful; to look at the bright side. Using characters from Winnie the Pooh as the perfect metaphor, Vicki told us to choose Tigger and give off energy. “Don’t choose Eeyore. Eeyore just sucks out all the energy.” Vicki urged us to simply CHOOSE the bright side. Another point she made was to get to the edge of our comfort zones. “Say it and believe it: I will get to the edge of my comfort zone!”
On top of that, Vicki also told us to keep this in mind: “I AM GOOD ENOUGH. So why am I telling myself I’m not?” Stop wallowing in self-pity. “Build a bridge and get over it!” There is no use moping in misery. Perhaps what Vicki was trying to say was just do what you have to do; do what you want to do. Chase your dreams and make them come true. Ditch the deck, be a hope dealer and most importantly, BE INSPIRED.
After two days of being in a goldmine of digital marketing knowledge, there were three things I found to be the most important lessons when creating and implementing digital strategies. First is to create, curate and publish good, valuable content. All of the best in the industry could not emphasise this enough – that good content is king. Second is to build trust with your customers. Be honest and always fulfil promises made. Engage with and listen to what your audience is saying – that way you can cater to their needs better. And lastly, be yourself. Be authentic and true to yourself. Authenticity is key to building lasting relationships – whether online or offline.
My heartfelt gratitude to Jam Mayer and Wanita Fourie for pushing me to the best of my abilities, and for being such amazing mentors. Being a part of the SMCNZ was definitely an experience I’ll always keep close to my heart. Special shoutout to Amar and Dee Trivedi for always spreading awesomeness, and being so supportive of the things I do.