It’s been a few days week since Social Media Marketing World (SMMW17), and even amid the excitement of a few days in Phoenix with much-loved-and-rarely-seen friends, and now in NYC, my buzz has not abated.

This was my second trip to San Diego for what is arguably the world’s best social media conference. There are many things to love – the content, the learning, the social events, attending an event that is 100% professional in every way, fantastic speakers and the networking. SMMW also offers a virtual ticket, so the question is why bother going to the expense and effort of travelling across the Pacific? Well for me there are two reasons:

1. To physically meet the speakers, organisers and quite a few of the other attendees.

The conference highlight for me is getting to meet people face to face, have conversations, eat and drink together, and forge strong friendships. This year I was especially thrilled to meet Joel Comm and Mark Schaefer, and to be able to personally thank Mike Stelzner for his fab event. Because no matter how amazing social media is for creating relationships, it’s just not the same as looking people in the eye and giving them a big hug. And my favourite moments this year all included spending time with friends I met last year, and new friends I made this year.

2. It’s an excuse for a holiday to the US!

Those of you who knew my father will know that I learnt this little trick from him. Going to a conference was his code for “ski-holiday”. This time my holiday included a few days in Phoenix visiting Canadian friends I lived with when I was a Rotary exchange student in Brandon, MB back in 1988. They spend 3-4 months in Phoenix over the winter, and this time the timing was perfect for me to visit. And as I write this, I’m currently in Phoenix airport waiting for a flight to NYC where I will have 12 nights with friends from Sydney, Brisbane and DC. Yep. Going all the way to NYC to visit Australian friends I also rarely see who are coincidentally holidaying there at the same time! #winning

Highlights of Social Media Marketing World 2017

Jay Baer presenting – my fave in 2017

Key themes of SMMW 2017

This year there were a few key themes that kept popping up. Along with the phrase “reverse engineering”. I swear if there was a reverse engineering drinking game we would have all been plastered by lunchtime each day. So probably good there wasn’t…

In no particular order, the key themes for me were:

Customer engagement and the customer experience

“Social customer service is a customer spectator sport”, Jay Baer.

My favourite SMMW17 speaker was Jay Baer, speaking on customer service. He reminded us that by 2020 (in 3 years people, only 3 years!), the vast majority of purchases will be decided based on customer experiences. So if you don’t provide your customers with a good experience, don’t be surprised when they don’t return!

Social media has given customers a huge voice and we are not afraid to use it. Additionally, increasing numbers of customers expect brands to have a social media presence. However, it’s essential that you make your brand and content about your customers, not about you. Transparency is essential, no one expects perfection (but make sure you own your mistakes), and when people are critical of you, it just adds to your credibility. After all, who trusts a restaurant that only has 5* reviews??

Don’t forget your staff are customers too – if they are treated well, they will be fabulous brand advocates for you. Encourage your people to share your content and make it easy for them to share. We trust people more than we trust companies, so think about how you can get your customers to trust your people. Be more proactive than your customers expect and they will talk about you to everyone. In a good way. This is what you want!


Show your true voice – individual and brand.

As Mark Shaefer said “Be more human. In every engagement and comment”. Because we know that people do business with people.

Read my blog post on Adele and authenticity to find out how to be more authentic.


Video is growing faster than ever – technology advances such as self-driving cars will give us even more time to watch video! Live video provides a lot of opportunity to show true authenticity. Live video is now possible on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest/Twitter and YouTube.

Live video is not about YOU, it’s about your customer. So if you’re scared of getting in front of the camera you really need to just get over yourself! Just pretend you’re on a video call to someone you love. If you’re not yet using live video, the good news is it’s still in the early adopter phase. So just get on with it! People don’t expect live video to be fancy or scripted or beautifully presented. Do it when you have something to say and don’t worry about what you look like.

Live video lets people have access to you, which means they get to know you. And people do business with people they know, like and trust. Therefore live video helps with that – get it? Good. Now pull out that phone and get some live video happening. It’s fun!!

Think about whether you can use 360° video – it’s particularly great for the real estate, tourism and hotel industries.

Storytelling is key, regardless of the platform, and make sure you put your face in front of the camera. Again, this increases authenticity.

Create content where you own it

Consistently great content will stand the test of time, but be sure you create it where you own it – such as on a blog, podcast or video. You do not own social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and twitter, so you need to use these platforms to drive content to a place you have control over – such as your blog or a podcast.

Don’t forget to collect your customers’ email addresses so you can control how and when you contact them. Organic reach on Facebook is approximately 2%, so most people don’t see your posts.

Great content helps establish thought leadership, and it can help make your business indispensable.

There is so much more I could say, but as it’s already taken me 3 tries to finish this post, I’m going to close off! It was a fabulous few days, and I’ve already bought my ticket for next year.

If you would like me to come and do a lunch & learn, a webinar or a full day workshop for your organisation where I share my top learnings from SMMW17 and the key trends for social media in 2017, please get in touch.

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