Pack your bags! During the 2nd half of this week, several of us (Jared and myself) will be headed to San Diego to attend Social Media Marketing World, the “world’s largest social media marketing conference” (can we expect to see you there?!).
We’ve identified our two objectives for attending the conference: learning & networking. In preparation, we’ve jotted down a few of our thoughts and notes as to how we’re preparing for our attendance to make the most of the three days.
Knowledge Is Power
For many of us, the thirst for knowledge ends after we walk across the graduation stage. As if being handed an expensive piece of paper somehow relinquishes all of our needs to learn, grow, and innovate. The mere fact that we’re all attending an extremely innovative digital based conferences geared towards teaching, empowering, and enabling means we’re already ahead of the game, but it’s still easy to get lost in the routine of things:
“I have this session to go to then this keynote speech, then I’ll try to network with this person, then I’ll finally be able to sleep”.
Don’t get me wrong — the trip doesn’t have to be 100% business at all times. When Jared and I arrive in San Diego, we plan on brushing up on our surfing skills. But when the conference is in full swing, we will be as well. We’re looking forward to joining the morning networking workouts to get the blood, brains, and creativity flowing. We’ve already mapped our schedules weeks ago so we don’t have to exert any extra brain power in thinking what we’re going to do next.
Unlike the last conference we travelled to, we’re not hosting any events or speaking. We’re along for the ride this time, with the hopes to soak up as much knowledge (and sun) as we can. To set ourselves up for success in this area we’ve identified three steps we will take in order to consume, digest, and apply as much constructive knowledge as possible:
- Take Notes: We’re attending many sessions over the course of the conference. Trying to remember the highlights of each session & keynote isn’t possible. We’ll be armed w/ a pen & paper / laptop.
- Talk About What You Learned: It’s one thing to listen, but it’s another thing to explain it or have a meaningful conversation about it. We’re looking forward to share information we learn with each other to see that information sticks with us longer than just the days we’re attending.
- Establish a Roadmap for Implementation: What’s the use of learning new things if you don’t apply those ideas? Once we’ve gone through the previous two steps, we’ll sit down and determine how to put these ideas into practice. We want to leave this conference more innovative, inspired, and equipped than when we came to it.
Networking Is A Contact Sport
#SMMW14 is an incredible networking opportunity. Some attendees network 100% of the time and purchase a “recordings pass” to watch the lectures at a later date. We’re attending the lectures and aiming for a 50-50 education-to-networking split.
Preparation: Connect In Advance
Social Media Examiner provides attendees with many opportunities to connect before the conference. There’s an attendee LinkedIn group, Facebook group and a Bizzabo group. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we’ve used these groups to reach out to and connect with other attendees online. Rather than starting at ground zero at the conference, it feels like we already have friends waiting for us to join them. It’s a great feeling.
Preparation: Who To Meet?
SMMW14 has a star-studded cast of social media marketing experts. I can’t list everyone we’d like to meet (it would be too long!) but here are a few of the noteworthy folks that will be in attendance:
- Mike Stelzner: The founder of Social Media Examiner and reason why we’re all coming together for SMMW14. In the words Wayne and Garth: “we’re not worthy!”
- Mari Smith: “The Queen of Facebook”, Mari Smith is a leading expert in social media and Facebook marketing. Mari is author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day.
- Jay Baer: To prepare for the SMMW14 and for a springtime content marketing push, I picked up a copy of Jay’s New York Times bestselling Youtility.
- Chris Brogan: Publisher and CEO of Owner Magazine, New York Times bestselling author of The Impact Equation, podcaster and educator — Chris is an inspiration. And he gets extra points for playing Minecraft with his kids :)
- Ted Rubin: Co-author of Return on Relationship (ROR), social media strategist and keynote speaker. At another conference, my friend Toni Anderson spoke very highly of Ted. I hope we get the chance to meet him.
- Ian Cleary: CEO @ RazorSocial & a recognized social media marketing leader (traveling all the way from Ireland!).
Attending The Many Networking Events
Outside of the educational sessions, we’re going to take advantage the scheduled networking events. Respect to the #SMMW14 organizers, because attendees are in for a treat :) Several of the networking events at #SMMW14 include:
Networking Parties — Opening night, we’ll be hobnobbing at a party aboard the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. On our second night, we’re attending a networking cruise around the San Diego Bay. I’ve packed my dancin’ shoes :)
6 am Networking Walks — The early bird makes new friends at #SMMW14 :)
Thursday Lunch Table Talks — A lunch hour dedicated to chatting about one of ten interesting topics. Because our business team has more bandwidth, the blog is going to be become a primary focus. As such, we’ll be attending the ‘blogging’ table talk.
Rafflecopter’s content strategy is inspired by Rand Fishkin and Jay Baer. In the Content Marketing Manifesto, Fishkin states that “content marketing exists to build familiarity, build likability and build trust.” To achieve these goals, Fishkin advises the content to be a combination of exceptional, inspirational, unique, credible, fun, & beneficial to share.
Jay Baer would add the following bullet to the top of Fishkin’s list: useful. In Youtility, Baer advises writers to “stop trying to be amazing and start being useful.”
These nuggets of advice serve as a framework to guide the evolution of the Rafflecopter blog. I’m looking forward to learning more about content marketing from the experts at #SMMW14.
Friday Lunch Interest Group Meetups — A lunch hour dedicated to networking with people who share similar interests. There are nine meetup categories, from blogging to podcasting (we plan on attending two of the nine meetups; attending more than two would spread us too thin).
As Rafflecopter ambassadors, how do we choose which meetups to attend? Great question. My recipe is one part strategy and one part passion:
Strategically, we can think of the nine interest group meetup categories as Rafflecopter market segments. Each of the nine markets comprises a percentage of the total Rafflecopter user base.
The blogger market is our strongest market. Josh, our customer support warrior, answers thousands of blogger questions every month; so it’s only fair that he get the opportunity to meet bloggers in person.
Since we also have a growing cohort of businesses and brands that use Rafflecopter, to better serve our corporate marketer and agency markets, I’m going to attend the corporate marketer meetup. My goals: build new relationships and learn how Rafflecopter can better serve corporate marketers and ad agencies (i.e. customer development).
I love podcasts. My favorites include: Radiolab, Welcome to Nightvale and of course the Social Media Marketing Podcast. As such, my second meetup choice is Podcasting. With luck, I’ll get to meet podcasting pros like Joel Comm, Pat Flynn and Mike Stelzner.
Can We Expect To See You There?
There is no perfect way to prepare for a conference; the above is the approach we’re using. And hey… this is the first conference we’re attending as “regular attendees”. With the 2,000+ folks expected to be in attendance, we hope to see you there!
Have any other suggestions for some conference newbies? Anything we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!