Last week I attended a conference in Newcastle on how to effectively use social media for your business. It’s something I’m actively working on and trying to get better at, so I thought it would be useful to hear some expert advice.
There was a range of sessions to choose from, and I wish I could have attended them all! I thought it was a really well-organised event, and The Assembly Rooms was a great venue. I was surprised to see that most of the delegates were employees, as small businesses could have got a lot out of the day.
The morning keynote speaker was Stefan Thomas, who talked about the importance of online and offline networking and how to do them more successfully. He’s a great speaker and had some excellent anecdotes. It was reassuring to hear him admit that he was really nervous the first time he went to an event, and still gets slightly nervous now. It’s never my favourite thing to do, but I did like his tip that you should see that while it has a purpose, it should really be for starting conversations and building relationships. I think this is more positive than the impersonal hard sell you often get.
He advises actively following up with people who are interested in you, but passive follow-up is necessary too, as you don’t know when someone will need your help. And you should never underestimate the people in the room.
Breakout Sessions with the Social Media Experts
I’d chosen two out of four possible speakers for the morning breakout session, and the first one I attended was Steven Sefton talking about SEO. This is really not my strong point, so I thought I’d get some useful pointers. However, it wasn’t really about SEO, but more about how you can use social media to increase views on a blog post and create some hype.
His advice was to re-share old content, but to update articles and blog posts slightly. Big online aggregators look for articles they can re-use, because there’s such a demand for content. A good tip was to create content that will be of interest to companies and the aggregators – people will share what they value. He had an interesting example of a ceilidh band he’d worked with, who get booked constantly for weddings due to an article they published about venues. This was tweeted to the venues in question and has become a useful resource.
He also cautioned against wanting to go viral with content, pointing out that the success of one item can distract you from your existing work and create a demand which you can’t cope with.
The next session was with Chris Marr of the Content Marketing Academy. Content creation is something I’m particularly interested in as a writer, so I was looking forward to hearing him.
Chris explained that as 70% of the buying decision is made online before the first contact with the seller, you have to win this “The Zero Moment of Truth” as he terms it. There has been a shift where consumers now know more than they did.
The important thing is to build trust and this can take time – you need to give information and make sure it’s what people are looking for, and which makes them feel good about buying from you. But if you’re not creating content, you don’t exist.
His best advice was that you need a list, a plan, lots of ideas and lots of content! Although you can repurpose it!
We had a lunch break and time to assimilate what we’d heard, and I was pleased to have a break as I’d there was a lot to take in. There was an afternoon keynote speaker, Ross Craig, a former comedian turned marketing expert. He had lots of useful things to say about online communications and some that stood out for me were:
Make things clear, simple and in a language people understand. Be a thought leader and don’t be afraid to offer an opinion. List posts are popular and an eye-catching headline can go a long way (not that easy to do!). And importantly, communicate value and only mention your services if you can do it in a non-salesy way.
Afternoon Breakout Sessions
I’d chosen to attend a session on Twitter, as it’s something I really struggle to get to grips with. Mary Collin made it easy to understand, and says it helps to see social media platforms as rooms. You need to consider why you’re on Twitter and what you want out of it. It’s about building lists and engaging with people, and you should ensure consistency (I think I’m guilty of not managing that). I rather liked her quote: “Followers are vanity, engagement is sanity, leads are king”. I need to interact more and start conversations with people.
Other points that were useful were: Find – Connect – Engage and to think about your Market – Message – Media. You need to make an effort because your tweets are like headlines and you have only three seconds to get people to engage with you.
Mary recommends looking for # trends and participating in Twitter Hours (something I’ve never enjoyed). Encourage people to retweet you, but give them a good reason to. Find out who people know who do something that could help you. Above all, make it easy for yourself!
The fourth breakout session was on LinkedIn, which is considered a professional social media platform. I’ve got a pretty good profile on there, but I don’t use the site as much as I should. Andy Gwynn said you should view your profile as a way of helping people to find you, to provide value and to demonstrate your credibility.
Most people will use LinkedIn to find professionals to work with, so use your skills as search terms so that people can find you. Testimonials are vital, and having them as videos is even better. You can also add PDFs for people to download and the content you provide is important.
An interesting suggestion was to accept requests from most people, unless they are obviously spam, and then email to thank them for the request and why they wanted to connect. Most won’t have a clear answer, but you may find people who want to work with you.
The day concluded with a Q&A with all the speakers on the panel, which was a great way to get advice on a specific issue but from more than one viewpoint. I’d highly recommend attending a conference like this, and the organisers host events right across the UK: www.freshstartevents.uk