Big (D)esign Conference Social Media Marketing Track Chock Full of Golden Nuggets

by Louellen Coker on June 1, 2009


On Friday, I made a last minute decision to attend the Big(D)esign Conference that was held on Saturday, May 30 on the SMU campus. Boy, was I glad I did! I have to give a huge shout-out to the coordinators, volunteers, and speakers who made this event possible. It was one of the best conferences I’ve attended in a while, and from the #bigd09 twitter stream, I’m not alone in my assessment.

As I’m speaking to the Denton County United Way Partner Agencies later this week, I spent my day attending presentations in the event’s Social Media track. Each presenter did a fabulous job and left the audience wanting for more. I learned quite a bit that I’ll be passing along through this blog and upcoming presentations.

The focus of this particular post will give you an elevated view of the sessions I attended. I’ve pulled out the biggest nuggets of gold I mined throughout the day. I’ll follow up in future posts with more details about tools, books, and other techniques mentioned.

Video and Social Media for Youth Markets

Presented by Ben Smithee of Spych Research and Elysa Rice of Gen Pink, this session gave attendees perspectives from both sides of Social Media Marketing. The underlying theme conveyed by Smithee and Rice is that Social Media is

  • a natural evolution of Marketing and Brand Communication strategy
  • a means of obtaining feedback
  • about building and maintaining relationships
  • about potential value rather than inherent value
  • amazingly intimate despite the breadth of the relationships.

They pegged the usual Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as good venues to dive right in. For video, they suggested Vimeo and Viddler rather than the ever-popular YouTube. Recognizing that newbies to social media can quickly become overwhelmed, they gave a great list of tools that will help make your social media interaction a productive use of your time rather than a distraction. (Never fear, I’ll discuss these social media portals and tools a bit further in a future post.)

My favorite nugget of wisdom: “If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s not about your network….it’s about theirs! You need to give them a reason to interact with you.”

From 0 to Social Media in 50 Minutes

Possibly the most-attended social media presentation of the day, Giovanni Gallucci, led us through a humor-filled discourse of what rules to break (and what rules not to break) when approaching social media. He was careful to convey that jumping on the social media bandwagon was not going to solve your overall problems and that, if that is your reason for participating in social media, you should reset your expectations. He said, “You don’t sell product through social media, but you do create relationships.”

In addition to the tools Smithee and Rice touted, Gallucci recommended obtaining accounts with StumbleUpon, Digg, and Delicious. For people to find you, he recommends “focusing on the words your audience uses rather than the words you want them to use.” Further, he suggests approaching social media “as a way of paying it forward: be present, add value, and build your reputation. Eventually, someone in your network will recommend you. Keep an eye out for my upcoming post about the tools he recommended.

My favorite nugget of wisdom: when you imbed objects that won’t allow you to use descriptive text (such as YouTube videos), remember that search engines look seven words on either side of the link when looking for key words.

Monetizing Your Blog

Derrick Shaefer took us on a fast-paced ride through the basics of monetizing your blog while we enjoyed the tasty boxed lunches provided as part of our registration fee. He discussed how to design, strategize, and manage your blog. No discussion of design would be complete without covering the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). He recommends

  • remembering that content is king
  • creating natural links
  • thinking about how people search
  • canonicalizing your site (big word for consistency in link presentation as in or
  • automatically updating sitemaps
  • integrating a list of mandatory wordpress plugins (I’ll discuss these further in a future post as well. In the meantime, you can find these and a few more I find valuable in a post I wrote at the STC Marketing Communications SIG Blog, 10 Basic WordPress Plugins for a Business Blog.)

Van Wilder’s Guide to Social Media

Erica O’Grady, another popular presenter drawing standing room only crowds, provided social media initiates with an excellent definition of social media marketing: “word of mouth/community based marketing that leverages technology as a platform. She kept the crowd laughing as she showed examples of what worked and what didn’t work, provided a great list of time saving tools and books, and pointers for making people feel important when they engage in your social media conversation:

  • Stop focusing on the influencers
  • Treat everyone like a VIP
  • Be remarkable
  • Become genuinely interested in your clients and customers
  • Promote/Support things your clients and customers are interested in.

She also provided some sound cautionary advice against practices that could damage your social reputation:

  • Signing up for EVERY social media outlet
  • Being inconsistent
  • Focusing too much on the Buzz
  • Focusing too much on your virtual world
  • Bankrupting your social capital
  • Focusing too much on monetization (making money off of your blog).

Using Social Media in Large Organizations

Tony Brice and Joanne Wright, along with Ben Smithee and representatives from Sabre and Travelocity conducted a panel discussion focusing on how large organizations can (and in their case, are) embracing social media. They shared that companies benefit when they employ the “Good Uses of Social Media” because they have the ability to

  • Engage their clients/customers
  • Educate their community
  • Introduce services or products
  • Humanize their company
  • Monitor their brand
  • Have an avenue for early intervention when things don’t go as planned
  • Gather intelligence about their competitors
  • Watch trends.

The panelists recognized that what fits for one company may not be a good fit for another and encouraged people to consider their company’s culture, where their client/customer base was present in the social media realm, and, most importantly, to recognize your brand identity and leverage it in a way that makes sense to your community.

The Million Dollar Social Media Nugget?

Throughout the day, I launched tweets into the twittersphere and the #bigd09 twitter stream. At the end of the day, one of my followers asked if we were given the answer to the million dollar question of how branding and social media go together. While I think the possibilities in this industry are evolving too rapidly to have a single answer, the theme that was consistent in all the presentations, was that to be successful in your social media marketing, simply be yourself, be humble, acknowledge when you screw up, and try again.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the presenters or have further insights? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Sullivan October 28, 2009 at 10:14 pm

I am glad you liked the conference. We are planning the 2010 conference right now. Expanded it to two days now. Lots of positive buzz and lessons learned with 2009. Glad you liked it.


Louellen Coker November 4, 2009 at 10:18 am

Excellent news! I can’t wait to learn the details. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can make it again this year.

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