The Big Social Media Conference 2015: What we learned

Posted by Kay Stevens Jul 13, 2015 5:24:00 PM

Topics: social media marketing, in-house marketing, big social conference,


bigsocial1RDPR’s digital team were delighted to attend the Big Social Media Conference 2015, held at Lancashire County Cricket Club last week.

If you weren't able to attend, or simply want to catch up on the expert social media marketing advice offered by the event's expert panel of speakers, we've put together a handy round-up.

Day One

Sell More by Selling Less

First up, we heard from the delightful Sam Flynn, a social media trainer, with a background in psychology who runs her own social media consultancy. Sam explained that the more businesses push sales on social media, the more they push people away.

She suggested business should be building relationships, with particular focus on the word ‘social’ – not just ‘media’. She also coined the phrase ‘brandonality’- the personality of a brand (she really needs to trademark that!). Basically, it’s all about being personality-driven, instead of sales-driven.

Sam advised companies to ‘be the red apple’ (among the green), urging them to stand out from the crowd and not just copy what their competitors are doing.

Twitter1a89a73Social Strategy

Next up was social media strategist Zoe Cairns with her seven steps to a successful social strategy, which consisted of the following:

  1. Determine your goals and objectives
  2. Define your target market
  3. Connect with key centres of influence
  4. Keep an eye on your competitors
  5. Content and Campaigns
  6. Join Conversations, Engage
  7. Monitor and measure

Zoe talked about how a social strategy is much like a business plan, in terms of setting goals (like brand awareness or driving more traffic to a website) and stressed the importance of building a know/like/trust factor with your target audience.

She also shared some tops tips to implement on Twitter, which included:

  •  1 out of 4 tweets should be promotional
  • Links work better in the middle of a tweet, rather than at the end
  • Have a maximum of two hashtags

Zoe also suggested some key social media tools, including  as: Sendible, Tweriod, #TWUBS, Buzzsumo, Followerwonk and Social mention.

Finally, she left us with the quote:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”

How to be a success on Facebook

The third speaker up was Mari Smith, a Facebook marketing expert joining us from San Diego, named as one of the Top Social Media Power Influencers by Forbes with her talk on why and how businesses are succeeding with Facebook.

Mari set out the state of the market, noting that Facebook is taking over YouTube and is disrupting a number of industries including television, video, search and email. She emphasised the rise of social referrals, which are now rivalling those of search, with 79 per cent of these coming through Facebook.

Yet as much as Mari highlighted Facebook's rapid growth - she said it’s still worth to be on YouTube, purely because Google owns it – and therefore owns search.

The three main ingredients to social media success are content, engagement and conversion – and if we took one thing away from this talk it was that: ‘content is king and engagement is queen’.

Panel One: Turning negative views into positive

Katie King, managing director of Zoodikers, Julia Bramble of the Social Marketing Scientist and ‘tweeting goddess’ Samantha Kelly teamed up to answer questions on how to handle bad reviews on social.

The first question, from chair Alexandra Kington, was on whether companies should avoid social media if they don’t want negative feedback – it was a resounding 'no' from the panel.

They also agreed that the best way to handle a complaint was to respond quickly, professionally and to take it offline as soon as possible – e.g. offer to call them.

Some other top tips included: having a crisis-comms plan, don’t take it personally and beware of trolls. The key takeaway from this was to engage and respond to a complaint – not to just bury your head in the sand.

Turning followers into customers

CEO and cofounder of Social Bro, Javier Buron delivered a blistering lesson on the importance of listening to your audience – find out what they are saying and doing on Twitter. He says once you know your audience, it’s time to start targeting your clients.

Some key facts about Twitter we noted from his talk included:

  •  288 million users are active monthly
  •  500 million logged users
  •  59 per cent of users follow brands
  •  84 per cent of people trust word of mouth recommendations
  • 90 per cent of people who engage with a brand do not follow it

Lifestyle Marketing

Alasdair McWilliam from Infusionsoft was up next with an insightful talk on lifestyle marketing. He explained you need to attract, sell and 'wow' to make a difference to your customers. Delighting or 'wowing' them offers a great opportunity to be fondly remembered by your customers. This could be a free gift, Alasdair explained, or something that will make them remember you. Alasdair then warned, ‘if you try to sell to everyone you end up selling to no-one’.

Lead generation on LinkedIn

Melonie Dodaro - CEO of Top Dog Social Media and author of ‘The LinkedIn Code’ - began the next talk with a touching story on how she had gained a husband and father this year. As well as sharing some personal, yet entertaining, anecdotes, Melonie explained that LinkedIn is definitely the best network for companies in the B2B (business to business) sector.

She went on to reveal methodology for mastering lead generation on LinkedIn. In short, this can be achieved by this three-step formula:

  1. Get found
  2.  Attract ideal client
  3.  Stand out

We learned that LinkedIn is 277 per cent more effective for lead generator than Facebook and Twitter and that two new people join LinkedIn every second.

Melonie claimed that it's not all about collecting connections, but building relationships – a message that seemed to echo throughout the day.

Life in 2050

katieking2Katie King joined us again, this time on her own, to discuss the future – including artificial intelligence (AI), humanoids, insect meals and driverless cars (no, really!). While she made light of the advancements in technology and AI, the talk took a slightly dark twist with the mention of ‘making way for the marketing robot’ and that we need to ‘take control while we still can’.

Undoubtedly, this sparked some discussions in the Q&A afterwards to whether ‘robots’ could replace the work we do with social media – regarding search, analytics and communications – and how humans have the edge (for now) because of the emotional and personal response we can provide to customers online.

The road to social media success

Back from the future, Lilach Bullock from Comms Axis took us back to basics regarding social media, with a focus on Twitter. Some key advice included:

  • Shorten your tweets – ‘think 120 characters not 140’
  • Utilise the bio space with keywords
  • Be consistent with the brand
  • Writing ‘Please Retweet’ is four times more likely to get a retweet than writing ‘Please RT’ (but don’t abuse this)

She then left us on an entertaining discussion on how NOT to do social media e.g. why hashtags need planning, drawing on the example of the #susanalbumparty fiasco – capital letters are important, people!

Social media meets business strategy

Next up was Guy Levine, CEO of Return on Digital, who gave an appropriately named talked on how to generate a return on digital from social media.

Guy highlighted the importance of personas to create the right content for the right people. He also advised using as a tool to get demographics of a brand and other websites like Tagxedo (for tag clouds) and Canva (for infographics) as a way to make engaging content on demand.

Panel Two: Marketing automation

Finishing up for the day was the final panel talking about different automation tools. We heard from Ian Anderson Gray, co-founder of Select Performers, Emeric Ernoult, CEO of Agorapulse and Google Expert, Susan Dolan.

They discussed email marketing platforms and their benefits, including Mail Chimp and when asked about the best social media listening tools, Brandwatch and Meet Edgar got a special mention.

Roll on Day Two

Day two kicked off with a brief introduction and hilarious video on the culture of social sharing before Brand Content founder and former journalist Sharon Flaherty took to the stage to advocate the importance of authenticity for brands online.

“Talk to everyone at every level in the business, talk to the business founders if they are still there, find out what the story behind the business is that you want to convey," she said.

Powerful Twitter Strategies

Lilach Bullock returned for her second presentation at the event, where she spoke about the dangers faced by those who rely too much on automation and setting up recurring tweets.

Echoing Sharon Flaherty's thoughts on authenticity, Lilach highlighted the importance of transparency for businesses looking to build meaningful relationships with their customers.

Making loyalty programmes fun

Next up was Andy Nemes, head of sales at Antavo, who offered some top tips on making loyalty programmes more engaging.

He set out the difference between schemes like loyalty cards, which drive repeat purchases, and those that generate true loyalty to a brand.

Andy highlighted rewards, exclusivity and personalisation as some of the key pillars of a successful loyalty programme and urged businesses to reward all kinds of customer actions that led to purchases.

Similarly, he pointed to incentivising customer reviews as an easy win in an era where consumers routinely do due diligence on a company via the web before committing their cash.

Facebook power techniques

Mari Smith, author, trainer and all-round Facebook marketing expert, revealed seven tactics for exponentially increasing Facebook marketing performance.

While you can view her entire slide deck below, some key points from her fantastic presentation included:

  • Having a content strategy
  • Setting out a plan well in advance
  • How to use 'dark posts' for  testing


IMG_20150710_111922Bringing a boring topic to life's Yossi Erdman offered an engaging presentation on the unique tactics his company used to engage customers around the somewhat boring of appliances.

He provided a glimpse into the social-centric customer service of, whose CEO personally writes letters thanking customers for positive comments and expressing regret in cases where things go wrong.

The company's commitment to social prompted a move away from homepage offers towards posting reviews from happy customers, a tactic that has evidently worked wonders.

Yossi also illustrated the effects of social by plotting the correlation of brand searches with increases in Facebook fans and briefly discussing the types of animals that generated the most engagement on social, dropping the bombshell that ducks are apparently the new cats.

Check out his full slide deck below:

Omni-channel panel

Yossi returned to the stage alongside Alex Connock and Rene Power where the rise of omni-channel marketing was the centre for a lively panel debate. We were treated to some great examples of campaigns straddling the lines between social, TV advertising and even more disparate fields.

There was great deal of furore around the wealth of data generated by multi-channel activity and how audiences reacted to different content on different channels.

Social Growth


Next up was Eword and Formissimo founder Al Mackin, who set out how he'd used social to grow his new start-up and detailed some of the mistakes he'd made along the way.

His candid talk offered some great insights for burgeoning businesses looking to harness the power of social, with some of the key points including:

  • Using social to listen to key audiences
  • Building a funnel and using this to determine where problems lie in your processes
  • Optimising social activity with experiments
  • Using data to narrow target audiences
  • Going back to popular content and improving it.

LinkedIn and Thought Leadership

Melonie Dodaro was up next, highlighting the power of LinkedIn for companies and individuals looking to position themselves as thought leaders.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, it all came back to the quality of the content being posted. She asserted that high value content got people talking and that the most valuable tended to be long-form.

Mel's other key tips included using images to increase sharing, ensuring you're posting stuff regularly and using custom title graphics to catch the eye of prospective readers.

And while she didn't share her slides from the event, you can check out the regular resources she posts on her immensely popular LinkedIn page here.

Boosting social effectiveness with tools

Ian Anderson Gray set out some of his favourite tools for bolstering social media efficiency, noting that scheduling allows you to reach your audiences when they're online without having to slave over multiple accounts at all hours of the day.

Some of his top picks included:

  • Buffer
  • Friends+Me
  • If this, then that
  • Latergramme
  • Buzzsumo
  • Hootsuite
  • Quillengage.

If you're looking for a more in-depth guide to these tools, and some more of Ian's favourites, be sure to check out his downloadable guide here.

A renaissance in email marketing

Email marketing superstar Ian Brodie spoke of a resurgence in email marketing, where smart marketers were using it conjunction with social media to great effect.

He provided numerous examples of how email was seen as a marketing staple by the experts, as well as how to synergise social effort to re-engage targets.

Influencing the influencers

Owner of a boutique social media agency in Ireland, Jenny Brennan's advice focused on influencer marketing.

She advised businesses to seek out and identify the big guns of their industry and focus on building visibility and credibility by nurturing and building relationships.

Some other tactics floated by Jenny included guest posting on industry blogs, using CRM software to help manage influencer relationships and picking the right channels to focus on.

IMG_20150710_154906LinkedIn and labour

Sue Duke, European director of public policy for LinkedIn, delivered a fascinating talk on the data generated by the platform and how it could be put to better use in addressing the skills gap.

She detailed plans to use the data from the 500,000 professionals in Manchester as part of an initiative to gain insights into how the labour market operates in the city.

Embracing social in new ways

The event's final talk came from Microsoft's James Akrigg, who offered social marketers advice on standing out by using better tools to utilise data.

He claimed that better-utilising the information generated from social activity, as well as that from within a business could help a firm's overall proposition.

Pointing to tools like Microsoft's Delve, James claimed visualising connections could help facilitate providing the right information to the right people at the right time.


He said social should take centre stage at a business, allowing companies to narrow their focus and target audiences more accurately.

See you next year

Our profound thanks goes to the organising team from Pro Manchester for setting up such a great event and we'll definitely be booking in for next year.

If you’ve got any questions about any of the topics we've discussed above, or anything social media marketing related, be sure to fire us a tweet, or leave a comment below!

And if you're wondering where to begin with social media, be sure to check out our eBook guide, which you can download for free right now:

An introduction to social media for SMEs


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