What I learnt from #smlondon

The day was Wednesday. The time, early. I was up at 4am to catch the first train down to London, where I’d be attending Social Media London Live 2015, or #smlondon as they’d insist I called it.

As I left my flat I had two thoughts: First – fuck me, this is early. The only other people out are drunks or serial killers. I should be able to blend in seamlessly.

Second – I hope this is worth it. It’s going to be a long day.

As it happened it was completely worth it and I’d recommend you all went if you got the chance, especially if your work is willing to pay the £285 ticket price. Here are highs and lows of my day spent down south.

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The day was hosted in Bounce Farringdon, the self proclaimed home of ping pong. The entrance was a tiny door hidden amongst some huge glass buildings, so I was both relieved and surprised when I managed to find it. I headed in and down some stairs, where I was met by some smiling people handing out lanyards. As soon as mine went round my neck I felt obscenely important, and that alone made the 4am start somewhat worthwhile. Free coffee and croissants helped a bit too.

I sat down and waited for things to kick off, both excited and very conscious that the coffee had gone straight to my bladder. Jorgen was our host, and he had a pile of cards on him full of puns. Some of these puns were that subtle I didn’t even know they’d happened, while others were that bad I could feel the croissant coming back up my stomach. Either way, a pun is a pun and I’m not one to complain.

Talk number 1.

The first talk was by a man called Steve. He was introduced as looking like Steve Jobs, but not actually being Steve Jobs. Both of these facts were true. Steve was the man behind BuzzSumo, a company whose tagline is sadly not ‘wrestling with content engagement.’

Steve had done some research. This pointed out that there was little correlation between the amount of content being shared and the amount of clicks that content got, basically suggesting that everyone in that conference was wasting their time. There were two reasons put forward for this being the case – either your content isn’t good enough, or there is simply that much content out there that it’s proving harder to get any form of engagement.

Content backed up by data seemed to be performing best, with longer form pieces doing far better than shorter stuff. With that in mind, here is an extra sentence that isn’t really required.

The questions Steve posed were good:
Why are you using social media?
Why are your audience using social media?
What are your audience looking for on social, and how can you make sure you’re giving them that?

Good solid talk, Steve. I’ll give you 3 out of 5.

Talk number 2

Next up was Tamsin from Constant Contact. She called herself a Small Media Evangelist, which sounded very much like a made up job title, and she lived on a boat. She was also into steampunk at which point a man nearby cheered, making the 4am start suddenly seem like an awful decision.

Fortunately Tamsin knew her stuff. She was talking about email marketing, which is something I do shit loads of (sorry dreams). Tamsin was useful. Did you know, for example, that 91% of people check their emails on a daily basis, meaning your audience is looking at what you send them. On the other hand, the chances are that most of those people will delete your email straight away, meaning your audience is only looking at your subject line. Make your subject line appealing, I guess.

Insightful stuff, Tamsin, you too get a 3 out of 5.
You’d get more if it wasn’t for your ridiculous job title.

Talk number 3

Some guy from Social Chain got up. He was 23, very rich, and successful based on his ability to make things spread fast on Twitter. He was also wearing a fedora.

25 minutes later and he was still talking about how good he was, and then he finished, leaving people jealous, inspired or, in my case, bored of the sound of his voice. TEACH ME SOMETHING, I AM HERE TO LEARN.

1 out of 5 for the fedora. 0 out of 5 for the talk.

Then it was time for a drinks break. 
Morning round up: Our jobs are pointless, emails can be very impactful, and men wearing hats are richer than I am. In short, wear more hats.

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Talk number 4

Now for something a little European. A woman from Adecco was next, talking about how recruiters and job seekers use social media to get good results. In my notes I’d written, ‘Google her name later,’ but at the time of writing this I still haven’t got round to doing that. Remember when I said content backed up by data did well? This bit of data is being left out.

For the next 20 minutes, -insert name here- used lots of graphs and statistics, and taught me lots of useful information about how to find a new job. On an unrelated note, have you checked out my portfolio recently?

I didn’t learn a great deal from this talk, but then I’m not sure I was its intended audience.

2 out of 5 for -insert name here-.

Talk number 5

A man from Pizza Express was, fittingly, the last talk before lunch. He was good and fun and engaging, all of the things that his social media tried to achieve. He made lots of good, bite-sized points (ha!) making his section of this blog post nice and short:

  1. Don’t force yourself into a conversation that doesn’t have a natural fit for your brand.
  2. Talk about what you know. Focus on what you’re confident with.
  3. Don’t suggest naming the royal baby pizza.

4 out of 5 for Tim. He was great.

Lunch!

Pleasingly for lunch there was pizza, which was all I really wanted after that final talk. Good work, Tim. Over lunch I got chatting to a girl who I think was called Mary, and she told me all about a dog being chopped in half by a revolving door. Thanks Mary.

Talk number 6

Rachel from O2 had helped make Be More Dog happen, so she knew was she was talking about. I liked Rachel, but I was either food tired by this point or I didn’t find much of what she said to be that useful. My notes included something about a dog that could split in two like a worm, and these three words:

Love. Choose. Buy.

That’s what Rachel said mattered when it came to customer engagement. Make them love your brand by giving them engaging content. Make them choose your brand by placing yourself front of mind. And finally, make them buy your brand by occasionally giving them a hard sell.

Thanks Rachel.

3 out of 5 for you.

Talk number 7. Don’t worry, we’re nearly there now.

Yossi from AO.com was talking now. You know how the song goes. Yossi was by far the most entertaining talker we’d had so far. He was genuinely funny and you could see the brand voice had almost come directly from him.

He mentioned how social media is not a selling platform – it’s an engaging platform, and that’s what it should be used for. Take note, pretty much every brand out there. Social is a great testing space. You can try ideas out that might not be that successful, but it doesn’t matter so much as long as you learn from them.

Yossi’s issue was that AO.com do fairly boring products, a problem I know about all too well. How he got past this was by not focusing on the products themselves, but by instead focusing on what those products could do in fun, interesting ways.

One such example was a video of him stuffing clothes into a washing machine. The person who guessed correctly could win a washing machine of their own. The more Yossi talked about white goods, the more I wanted to buy some. He showed a video of some cricketers trying to throw balls into a washing machine drum, some ducks sitting in a dishwasher, and a wonderful rap from a customer who was very impressed with his delivery.

Yossi was very good, and for a minute I considered following AO on social media. I still haven’t done that as of yet, but you never know, it might happen one day.

5 out of 5 for Yossi. A white goods talk without any white noise.

Talk number 8.

INNOCENT FLIPPIN’ SMOOTHIES.

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As a person who is paid to write engaging content, Innocent are something of a pinnacle in my eyes. Of course most of my clients would find the Innocent approach completely alienating, but that’s why my tone of voice is incredibly versatile and I’m capable of adapting to any given task. Well done, Ash.

I felt like this could have been a bit of a fan girl moment, and it definitely made the early start 100% worthwhile. Oh, how I longed for the opportunity to write freely like they did. Oh, how I considered stealing her identity and giving my crazy the chance to shine. Oh, how I was too busy being entertained by her talk to take any valuable notes down.

What I did manage to grasp was the following:

Nonsense is useful. Conversations should always be interesting. People shouldn’t just read the tone of voice, they should see the tone of voice. Relevance is in the eye of the beholder.

I like that last one best.

People don’t want to talk about products; that’s not why they log on to social media. They’re there to be entertained, and you should really think about what your audience want before you go ahead and give them just anything.

5 out of 5 for the lady from Innocent. Could we end the day there? I was perfectly happy in that moment.

Sadly the day did not end there, therefor neither will this blog post. Long content does well, remember? Is anyone still reading this? Hello?

Talk number 9.

By this stage I’d been up for so long that I no longer understood the concept of time, but I was keen to press on and squeeze any further information out of the two remaining talks.

People from BBC Radio were doing this one, and the first thing I learnt was that the biggest broadcasting machine in the world still used animated transitions in PowerPoint presentations. That was something.

The second thing I learnt was that collaborations can be key. If you’ve got expertise around you, use it, and make the most of the talents you have at your disposal.

The third thing I learnt was that, despite these people working in radio, they did not know how to use a microphone. Gold star for being by far the loudest talk of the day.

1 out of 5 for the BBC. Sorry. I like your TV shows if that’s of any consolation.

The final talk.

This was from a man from BP. They do oil. That’s all I can really think to say about this talk, apart from the fact he used the line, ‘You don’t want to be a sausage factory,’ without really knowing what he meant. No-one else really knew what he meant either, and that was the end of a very long, yet very enjoyable day out.

In summary.

#smlondon was a most excellent occasion. I learnt a great deal from most people there, came 3rd in the tweet of the day competition, and realised that my Oyster card still had money on it from the last time I topped it up – approximately 3 years ago.

To quote the Buzzword Bingo cards that were being handed out, my main takeaways were:

Ah forget it, I’d been up since 4am. It was all useful.

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