Actions & Insights – why I attend the Social Media Summit

Last March, I attended the Social Media Summit in Dublin. It was one of the most worthwhile and informative conferences I’d attended in ages. Why? Because I came away with over 40 action points that have had a positive and tangible impact on my business.

In the last five years, social media has evolved into my main marketing tool, it’s become a core competency of my business. Whilst I’m no novice in the field, the accelerating speed of technological change and the turbulence of the social media landscape can be overwhelming. Like most people, I tend to stick with what I know, but it’s always our blind spots that are our weak spots. Before last year’s summit, I knew there was much about social media that I didn’t know (Snapchat!) and equally there was plenty that I didn’t know that I didn’t know! (I didn’t know you could include video on your LinkedIn profile – one of my many take-away action points!) So, I signed up for the two-day event with an open mind and notebook, and boy were my expectations exceeded.

What appealed to me most about the Social Media Summit was that the emphasis was on sharing practical insights and strategies. It was not a front for speakers to sell their programmes, or promote their products, which is always a turn off. The vast majority of speakers were independent experts, not connected with any one company or platform. This meant unbiased insights. The expert speakers shared their knowledge openly and honestly. They’d already tried and tested platforms and strategies therefore short-circuiting my learning.

The speakers’ generosity of spirit fuelled a positive, engaging, warm and inclusive atmosphere at the event which is no small achievement and testament to the founder of the Social Media Summit, Samantha Kelly (@tweetinggoddess). As someone who attends and speaks at many conferences, what also impressed me about the line-up last year (and it’s also the case with this year’s line-up) was the diversity of speakers as regards topics and gender, and the fact that so many terrific speakers were Irish and more than held their own with the overseas experts.

As I review my notes from last year, the 40 plus action points took me several months to work through and tick off. There were some big-ticket items such as setting up my own YouTube Channel which I did after hearing Steve Dotto speak and demonstrate how easy it was. In fact, the use of video overall was a key take-away for me last year, a ripple effect being that I started using Facebook Live with great success. Then there were the quick wins such as updating my LinkedIn profile (and yes, incorporating video) following the practical talk by LinkedIn guru Melonie Dodaro.

There were also the changes in perspective, those precious ‘aha moments’ where my thinking shifted. In my notebook, these are the double underlined entries. For example, as well as being a coach, speaker and author, I realised that I’m also in the media production business. Prior to the Social Media Summit, I viewed the articles I wrote, my blog, my social media activity as ancillary to what I do, now I see it as media production and a core part of my business.

Several speakers emphasised that social media strategy has to be an extension of business strategy. This really struck a chord with me, so much so that I hired the services of both a business strategist and a social media strategist after the summit to do an audit on my business. The ripple effect of this is on-going and has been a key factor in making the last twelve months my most successful year since I established my business in 2004. In short, for the cost of a ticket to the summit (a bargain this year at €395 & early bird just €350) and even adding in the opportunity cost of the two-days ‘away,’ the value added to my business was incalculable. The best investment is always an investment in our own learning, because in the words of the late Maya Angelou ‘when you know better you do better.’

This year the Social Media Summit takes place in Croke Park on the 11th & 12th April. Samantha Kelly, the dynamo behind the first Social Media Summit has partnered with Cogs & Marvel to take the summit to the next level. The line-up of speakers is fantastic. Some names that have caught my eye are Greg Fry, Paul O’Mahony, Niall Harbinson, Andrea Finnegan (Airbnb) and my namesake (but no relation) Chupi Sweetman.

There’s another reason why I’m eagerly anticipating this year’s Social Media Summit – the networking. Last year, I met many interesting people in person at the event (including making connections with several of the speakers.) Plus, as you would expect, there was also the online networking, the tweets, posts and new connections in the virtual world.

Lastly, there was a triple-underlined nugget of wisdom from last year’s keynote speaker Ted Rubin. “Real trumps perfect because real creates trust” and ‘real’ is what the Social Media Summit was all about, no surface level platitudes, no gimmicky sales – real people having real conversations, sharing real wisdom.

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