Category Archives: conferences

SOBCon: Successful Online Business Spirit Lives On

I’m back from SOBCon and feeling freshly inspired by brilliant entrepreneurs. I’m so impressed by the businesses the conference founders and attendees are creating for themselves and their customers.

I’m also in awe of the kindness, generosity and goodwill of everyone I met. No, really. I’m not just saying that. Everyone. We expect business people to be cordial and helpful most of the time, but the people that SOBCon attracts are amazingly genuine and go out of their way to give to the community. I believe this generosity we experience at SOBCon is due in no small part to the founders who host the event, Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker.

Models and Masterminds. Inspire and Be Inspired. Generosity, Giving and Gratitude.

The format of the conference also reinforces this intention. A successful business leader provides their take on the conference theme, and then each table acts as a mastermind group to apply the speaker’s talk to their own businesses. Plus, on the last day of the conference, the attendees apply their business acumen to assist non-profits.

The SOBCon 2011 theme was loyalty: Building the New Loyalty & Leadership Business.

What transpired over this working weekend was an event that helped everyone appreciate that building loyalty should be about attracting a loyal customer base by being an authentic leader, and not about just creating a loyalty program in which customers have to do things to get points that have only nominal value.

Successful Online Business Leaders Get Congruent

The first speaker, Cathy Brooks, CEO of Story Navigation, really set a wonderful tone for the event. She started her talk by asking all 150 attendees to lower their laptops and put down their cell phones, and breathe. Ah….try it yourself…..Nice. We need to be present in order to begin.

Beginning her talk in this way reinforced the main points of her talk: creating a congruent story for your business requires you to be present to the vision you have for your business and is fundamental to what you want to create (in social media or otherwise) and offer to your customers.

You have to connect authentically with your customers and make sure that all of the touch points actually connect to this larger vision you want to create. It’s not just about creating a Facebook page in order to show you’re in social media. You have to have a plan for actively participating. Otherwise, why bother? You’re better off opting out.

Yes! Congruent stories — presence plus authentic conversations go a long way towards building customer loyalty.

Interview With Chris Guillebeau of the Art of Non-Conformity

One pearl from Chris: it’s not always efficient to take the most direct route. Instead of efficiency, consider adventure.

It’s true. From the pleasure I get from taking the back roads on my motorcycle, I know the most direct route — the highway system — is also the most boring.

My career has also unfolded by an adventurous route — I’ve moved from challenge to challenge, not afraid to pick up and move to new states and make new friends and business colleagues. It’s certainly been an adventure, and not the most efficient way to move up the career ladder.

Speaker, Author Tim Sanders, Today We Are Rich

I have always thought of gratitude as a feeling. However, in his talk, Tim suggests that we think of gratitude as a muscle we need to exercise. We need to actively use it.

I’ve started one of the practices he recommended for first thing in the morning — think of two people who helped you the previous day and allow yourself to feel gratitude for what they have done for you.

One of Tim’s other recommendations was to feed our minds good stuff. No checking email first thing before even getting out of bed. This bad habit was never one that plagued me. However, I’ve stopped watching the TV news in the morning, and instead have started reading for 15 minutes from quality books.

Even after just a few days, I feel better already. Amazing. I can’t wait to see what months or years of keeping these practices feels like.

Steve Farber, The Radical Leap Re-Energized

I’ve started reading Steve‘s book (*Disclosure: I received a free, advance copy at the conference). Steve advocates Extreme Leadership through the LEAP framework: “Love generates energy, inspires audacity, and requires proof” (53). I believe the SOBCon conference inherently works because Liz and Terry both know and have infused it with their love which generates an intentional energy that all attendees feel and experience and want to share, which inspires all of us and in turn generates audacity. We, the attendees, are the proof of its success. We take that love, energy, and inspiration out and share that with others.

Each year I see more and more people return as attendees. SOBCon could easily be a 500 person conference. However, if they allowed it to grow that big, I’d be concerned that it would lose the intimate inspired energy.

One Suggestion

At our table, we talked briefly about our desire to meet more of the attendees. What if we had one segment that was set up like speed dating. If we formed a snaking line throughout the halls, we could briefly introduce ourselves. I know many are introverts, but if we did it after we’d already experienced part of the conference, maybe people would feel more comfortable. It could be challenging from a time perspective — we’d have to make our conversations quick. I envision something like —

Hi, I’m Marcia. I create marketing plans for a huge tech brand. I love sand between my toes and motorcycling up the California coast. How can I help you?

This year was my 3rd year attending, and I walked away feeling inspired, but also a little sad that it went by so quickly. In case you’re wondering, the acronym SOBCon actually refers to Successful Online Business Conference, and I also think of it as a smart and outstanding gathering of no-bullshit creative and critical business minds.

I’ll be posting more about the great ideas and work of my mastermind colleagues, Steve Sherlock; and Mary-Lynn and George at BIGG Success. Plus, I can’t wait to dig into books by Steve Farber, Carol Roth, Michael Port and Tim Sanders.

If you’d like to share your talents and mastermind with the best, go register for SOBCon 2012 already. Do it now.

You can also read what some of these brilliant minds have said about their experiences:

The Best Day Out of 26 Years at GM: Paying it Forward at SOBCon 2011, by Connie Burke — Awesome of GMC to gift Mark Horvath of with a new GMC Terrain in support of the work he does for the homeless.

GMC gifts Mark Horath, a car at SOBCon, by Danielle Smith — so great to talk with you over lunch!

Connecting To Happiness: A Single Model For Leadership Excellence, by Terry Starbucker — You’re awesome, thank you!

Not Speaking is the New Black, How to Turn a #Fail Position into a #Win, by Liz Strauss — I am blessed to know you, thank you!

The Way You Wear Your Brand, Mary-Lynn Foster and George Krueger — Thanks for the great masterminding!

5 People You Meet at SOBCon, by Steve Wood — Don’t miss this post!

Cause Marketing Brilliance: @HardlyNormal Receives GMC Terrain at SOBCon, by Geoff Livingston — Thank you for leading the non-profit 1/2 day!

The Ultimate Brain Diet, by Carol Roth — look forward to chatting!

The Lesson From SOBCon, by Jeannie Walters — wish we had been able to spend more time talking!

SOBCon 2011: Successful Online Business Conference – The Must Be There Conference, by Lorelle VanFossen — so glad to talk with you again. Will let you know when I’m in PDX next.

SOBCon 2011 Models Teams and Tables, by Barbara Rozgonyi — you rock! I’m inspired by all you’re creating.

Lessons From SOBCon: Amazing People, Incredible Conversations & Love, by Debba Haupert — we need to talk more! So glad to see you again! Love the work you’re doing.

Favorite Quotes at SOBCon 2011, Barry Moltz — Great collection of quotes.

Love Notes From The Freshman #SOBCon11, Lennie Rose — Will I see you next year?

SOBCon: Enter as an Attendee and Leave as a Friend, by Shashi Bellamkonda — Inspired by the work you do @netsolcares!

Stop, Consider Adventure and Give Love – Lessons from a Mindful Conference, #SOBCon Inspiration Part 1, Mana Ionescu — Will I see you next year?

SOBCon in Photos:

Steve Sherlock SOBCon 2011 Photos — so great to meet and spend time masterminding with you!

Erno Hannik SOBCon Photostream — wish we had time to talk more.

Shashi Bellamkonda SOBCon Photostream — you are an awesome creator!

SXSW Marketing Tactics

Some of the most popular marketing efforts at SXSW involve free food and beverages. It’s not surprising given there is even a service that tracks them (see: During the conference, brands rented a food cart, reserved space in many of bars and restaurants on 6th Street, or went the low budget route and passed out food and beverages from the back of pick-up trucks.

I started taking pictures to have some examples of various tactics.

building wrap and food cart Austin pedicab SXSW Ogilvy Notes AT&T Charging Station SXSW Stickerbook Gapingvoid Print Rackspace Tattoo Arm SXSW Austin Chronicle Booth SXSW Guardian Booth sxsw posters

1.Building Wrap and Free Food Cart

Squarespace wrapped a building just a block from the Austin Convention Center and across from the Hilton Hotel. In the picture above you can see the food cart they stationed in front of the building to serve free food to conference attendees. The only downside of free food this close to the event is that lines were long during lunch hours.

2. Pedicab Posters

Notice the signs on the back of the pedicabs? Here’s another opportunity for brands to get advertising exposure. I’m sure brands could even sponsor pedicab rides.

These riders worked all day and into the night to carry attendees from panels in one location to another, as well as from different bars and restaurants back to hotels in the evening.

At $10 per person/per ride, it was an economical way to help mitigate things being so spread out. Also, these pedicabs were much easier to flag down than traditional cabs.

3. Visual Storyteller

Ogilvy hired digital artists to create visual notes of several sessions each day. In addition to these huge poster size pieces, they printed a quantity of these for sxsw attendees.

Personally, I really like this tactic. It provides something of value that people can take home with them, in addition to being available online. It’s an example of social object that can be used to generate conversations online (like this blog post).

4. Charging Stations

This tactic has been executed by many a brand. It’s highly useful for conference attendees. AT&T’s charging station was between the bookstore and the coffee bar. And, as you might guess, it saw plenty of traffic. In addition to having the kiosk as pictured, they had a bar and chairs where people with chargers could plug in and relax. Of course, in the process of charging their device, attendees could get a little info about AT&T products and services.

I stopped in at this booth several times during the conference. I do wonder, however, how AT&T measures the effectiveness of this brand exposure.

5. Stickers

Are you the type to put stickers on your laptop? There were plenty of these available. Enough that you could go home with a full laptop lid if that’s what you’re in to.

Also, if you wanted to collect pins for your badge holder, those were really prevalent, too. I have to say, though, a brand’s pin would really have to be unique in order to stick out from all of the different options.

6. Social Objects

I’m biased (I commissioned Hugh at to create a series of prints for Intel at CES in January (see Gapingvoid Art Gallery on Inside Scoop), but I think using social objects like his fun artwork is a really dynamic way to help generate conversations in social networks for a brand. Consumers appreciate the gift and blog, tweet, and share pictures of the artwork, while each mention racks up another activation point for the brand. It’s a win-win in my opinion. Quite a few of the presentations I attended included Hugh’s artwork in their slides.

7. Tattoo Arm

Here’s an original idea that I hadn’t seen before. Rackspace gave away tattoo arms. It’s conference swag that really fits in with the culture of the conference. It’s something unique, and really cool. Plus, I bet they have created conversations online because of using them. However, what is the life of the freebie? Will people keep it once the novelty wears off? A t-shirt might have more longevity, and could even become a collector’s item depending on the artwork.

8. Booth as Meeting Space with Couches

This tactic fits intrinsically with the SXSW culture. It’s also an answer to the question, “Who can throw the best party?” There were many different booths with chairs and couches available for attendees to lounge around and chat with each other. It’s such a different experience than CES in which there are even bigger crowds.

I really liked the Austin Chronicle’s interpretation of booth seating. See the casual couches in the photo above. It fits right in with the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan you see around town. They know their audience. So too does the Guardian, which offered much more yuppie places to sit and talk in keeping with their brand.

9. Posters

Some of the people who hang posters have developed it into an art form — hanging it in such a way so that it sticks out past the pillar or post.

5 Big Ideas from SXSW to Uplevel Your Digital Marketing

The SXSW conference can be a lesson for brands in how to blend a face-to-face event with social, music, and film. The organizers, panelists, and attendees create an experience, lots of content, encourage ongoing social participation and promotion, which all leads to it being an entertaining and educational experience for attendees.

You have to understand, however, SXSW is huge. To get the most out of it, you have to go with a plan.

Then, you have to come back and organize your notes and mine slideshare for the panels you missed in order to get real value from it.

Here are the 5 Big Ideas I (re)learned and want to share from SXSW Interactive 2011.

1. It’s critical to uplevel focus on content and content marketing

  • People try to fix a web presence in one or two ways: add new technology or redesign; no focus on content.

From panel: Not My Job: The Ultimate Content Strategy Smackdown (click through for audio)

  • A discussion about content strategy should come around to how you leverage the content you have. The content is raw material, some of it good or great, some of it perhaps less so. But how you use it, package it, distribute it … can all add value and ensure a valuable asset, a value to both the audience and to the company.

From Blog Post:

  • By giving content away, you enable the ability to dramatically increase your global reach, ability to inspire, spread ideas, and engage a passionate user base.

From: TED: Radical Openness (click through for audio)

2. It’s critical to create many different types of content.

  • It’s not just text. It’s convergence. Think apps, games, infographics, PPTs, PDFs, video, FAQs, etc.

From panel: Future 15, Convergence, Dan Shust

3. Learn how to create great content for the right context: Or, Say it short and make it a story.

  • The less you say, the more they’ll remember.
  • Our brains are wired for stories. Make it a short story (even though it takes longer to create because it’s more difficult).
  • Data isn’t a story. Data: the king died. Then, the queen died. Story: The king died. Then, the queen died of grief.
  • Successful communication is not about technology. It’s about story.

From: Saying It Short Writing Workshop with Betty Draper (click through for audio)

4. What are the necessary elements of a content strategy? OR, Cultivating relationships and building trust matter.

  1. Creation: the trick to marketing is having something so cool that you want to talk about it even if you weren’t in the business. (Hugh MacLeod)
  2. Curation: Brands have the expertise, the time, and the money to be great editors and curators of digital content. It seems reasonable to conclude that one part of being a great brand is now also being a great curator. (Steven Rosenbaum)
  3. Cultivation: We have entered a new era in which developing strong consumer relationships is pivotal to a brand or company’s success.(Gary Vaynerchuk)
  • The creation and curation of relevant content, coupled with the cultivation of a relationship, leads to trust.

Ok, so this panel wasn’t at SXSW 2011, but it’s a preso entitled Creating, curating, and Cultivating the Social Web, by Esteban Contreras, Social Media Manager at Samsung for the Marketing 2.0 and Social Media Conference 2011 in Paris on 3/28/2011, and it’s based on SXSWi 2011 so I’m including it here.

See slide 9 for tips on how to create.
See slide 26 for tips on how to curate.
See page 40 for tips on cultivation.

5. Rest/renewal breaks, game play, and doing social good can make us better more engaged people.

  • We’re more productive when we build in intermittent renewal along the way
  • We’re not meant to operate the way computers do – at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time
  • Your sense of purpose–to serve something greater than yourself–is a source of great energy
  • 4 nights in a row of 5 or fewer hours of sleep = functionally intoxicated.
  • The critical issue is the value you create, not the hours you work.
  • Myth: One hour less of sleep will add one hour of productivity to your day.

From panel: The 90 Minute Solution: Live Like a Sprinter (click through for audio)

  • Gaming unleashes our natural ability to be the best version of ourselves.
  • Our generation will achieve 10,000 hrs of gaming by the age of 21. We can harness that for good instead of escapism.
  • The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression.
  • 3-4 hours of Call of Duty decreases PTSD response in veterans. vs. 6 hrs of gym time for the same response.

From panel: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they can change the world (click through for audio)

  • For every pair of shoes that are bought, Tom’s Shoes gives one pair away.
  • The best thing you can give your employees is the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.
  • You don’t need advertising: just focus on giving and that story will be told by your raving fans.

From keynote: Blake Mycoskie, Toms Shoes

Create Your Content Strategy: Bring your dish-to-pass

Potluck Dish-to-PassI attended my first SXSW this month, and I am intrigued by various sessions about creating and marketing content that seeks to inspire, entertain, and educate an audience, be it an audience of consumers who have grown more skeptical about what you have to offer, students who have become more and more disengaged by coursework and classrooms, and even some SXSW attendees who are less than enthralled with the size and spectacle that SXSW interactive has become.

See Various Sessions: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, Content First, Everything Else Second, Not My Job: Content Strategy Smackdown, Brave New World: Debating Brangs’ Role as Publishers and No Child Left Inside: Mobile Tech Meets Education.

These days I’m mainly focused on creating content for a large brand. In my opinion, creating and marketing compelling content for a brand can be one of the most important intersections of business, social media and marketing because it gives the brand something to have conversations about and around other than their products — conversations which, by and large, are falling on deaf ears. You can think of this more engaging and compelling content as the dish-to-pass that you bring to a potluck. Like most any meal among colleagues or friends, it’s the object that warms them up and creates an opening for conversation and connection.

Good Content & Good Potlucks
The content you create serves many purposes and can meet different business objectives. Like any good potluck — the event gets better the more different kinds of dishes there are. The types of content we can create may include videos, podcasts, text, slideshares, infographics, white papers, FAQs, apps, games, etc. Because of SEO issues and trying to serve the needs of a diverse audience, creating as many of these types of content as possible is important and necessary. Plus, you can consider how you might aggregate content to invite conversation and build engagement. Of course, when you’re ready to ramp things up, you can ask your users to help create content.

Having worked for several large brands, I know that content development and content aggregation can be one of the biggest challenges facing teams because of all of the different forms that “content” can take. And, from what I’ve seen, not many brands are staffed with expert content developers in all of these areas.

Content Strategy Priorities
Once you have your business objectives in hand and before you begin creating all these different types of content, you should consider the following.

1. Define the target audience
2. Identify the content topics that will appeal to each audience
3. Specify the level of content detail to provide and all associated metadata
4. Create appropriate calls to action to achieve business goals (engagement, sales, etc.)
5. Develop an editorial calendar to guide and prioritize the creation and publishing process

Next Steps
Once you have a content development strategy, then some next steps include:

1. content marketing: as you create the content, you also need to figure out the mix of paid media and social media you’re going to do to promote the content and build engagement around it, as well as how content aggregation might fit into your plans.
2. content measurement: define your plan so you know what content is working and you’re able to fine tune your efforts
3. content management: (not to be overlooked) you need to define the lifecycle of the content and what plans you have to maintain, archive, or delete.

In The Thank You Economy keynote, Gary Vaynerchuk advocated developing strong relationships with consumers and showing them that you care — not in just fuzzy-feel-good-ways — but in authentic ways before, during, and after the sale. As he writes in his book by the same name, “If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond” (ch 1).

Add one more quality to the list of what makes for great content: genuine. People can tell when you’re faking it.

Building Relationships

Silence would be a blessing.Someone asked me the other day the difference between link baiting, link building, and link or comment spam.

Trying to keep it simple, here is what I said:

Link baiting: is a philosophy that places importance on creating useful, remarkable content that people will, just as a matter of course, want to share with their friends because of the content’s intrinsic value.

Link building: is a method of gaining connections via a hyperlink to another web page or site. Increasing the number of links to your site from credible sites is important because it’s one of the ways Google measures the popularity of your site and the position it achieves in search engine results. More good links increases a site’s visibility with Google.

Link/comment spam: In face-to-face conversations, this type of person likely talks highly of himself and what he’s doing while not listening to others. Online, this sort of behavior is called link or comment spam. It’s the frowned-upon practice of a poser saying little or nothing relevant in a comment on a post, but including a link to his site with whatever keywords he deems important. It can leave a bad impression that he’s just doing it to game the system and drive traffic to his site.

As in this funny picture I found, this type of behavior may make you want to tape his mouth closed or glue the keys on his keyboard together. But of course, the first route of link baiting with professional link building are the best options of how to handle things.

However, even more, I like meeting and talking with people face-to-face. I’m so glad it’s a component of my job because then I have the opportunity to build real relationships that have the potential to continue on and on past one blog post. That’s why I wanted to attend BlogHer, the Social Media Soiree, Social Luxe Lounge, and BowlHer last week. It’s inspiring to build relationships with so many savvy entrepreneurial women. If later, we and our companies do more business together, then that’s icing on the cake.

Web 2.0 Conference Notes

I attended the Web 2.0 Conference last week in San Francisco. Over the next few posts, I’ll try and upload some of my notes for you from the Web 2.0 marketing sessions I attended.

One of the Tuesday workshops I attended was SEO From Soup to Nuts, by Stephan Spencer. Stephan is president of Netconcepts, writes a column for Search Engine Land, and his blog is Stephan Spencer’s Scatterings.

SEO has become one of my interests over the past few months because a good SERP is one of the ways that I’m measuring the success of the various social media marketing projects I’m working on for Allstate.

Stephan held everyone’s attention. I’ve only been following the SEO buzz for a short time, but everyone listened to hear what the secret sauce is to getting good search engine results on Google. I’m sure there are a few secrets, but from everything I’ve read and heard, it really comes down to basic concepts like publishing good content, using good keywords and at the right keyword density.

Stephan pointed out the right keywords are ones that are relevant to your business and popular with searches. There are a number of good SEO Tools available to help you see your site the way a search engine would and to refine your keywords.

SEO Tools
Some of the tools mentioned include:
Google Suggest
Yahoo Search Assist
Woodtracker (subscription)

Much of the talk focused on keys to pagerank such as getting your site fully indexed, making sure your pages are visible to crawlers, and building good inbound links.

Please update your links for m2h blogs.
Speaking of building good inbound links, would you please check your links for me and make sure they’re still working? My site at “mwrites” died a while back because of problems with a domain host.

But back to the topic at hand — did you know that the length of time your domain is registered for is one of the ways authority and longevity is determined? I don’t know that it’s a major factor, but it was one of the things mentioned.

Stephan’s Top 3 Tips
1. Content – write good content
2. Architecture – publish flatter (1 level down better than 5)
3. Links – build inbound links with good authority

Another tip Stephan gave was how to add good anchor text to your website links on LinkedIn. it’s easier than you think to do, but it was a great final remark he gave as “homework.”

Are you on LinkedIn? View my profile and add me as a contact.

View Marcia Hansen's profile on LinkedIn

More to follow.