#SwimBiz Conference 2015: Takeaways

#SwimBiz conference at the Olympic Training Center in ColoradoBack in the day when I was a Director for an international association or two, I got to travel quite a bit on my employer’s dime. It was always the right amount of travel – enough to feel comfortable zipping through airport security, and not so much that I forgot my home address. I left that job and that lifestyle four years ago. When you’re self-employed, the idea of work travel suddenly becomes much more costly and much less glamorous. Zipping around the beltway to meet with clients or metroing into the city for a business meeting doesn’t have quite the panache as twice-yearly conferences in Las Vegas.

My dry streak ended last month, however, when I got the opportunity to travel to Colorado Springs for the first annual #SwimBiz conference, a marketing and social media conference hosted by USA Swimming. You know that when a conference incorporates a hashtag into its name, it’s serious about social media (and yes, we did watch this video).

Two generous clients paid my way to the conference in exchange for bringing back my findings and helping them each craft marketing strategies based on what I learned. It was three packed days (one full, two half) of excellent presentations that encouraged interacting with social media throughout. Some of my reactions:

While different niches will favor one social network over another, one of the best things about social media is that the basics are the same for almost every industry. I have pages and pages of notes, and if you’re one of my clients, I’m happy to share them with you. If you’re not, never fear. Here are some of my takeaways from the #SwimBiz conference.

General #SwimBiz Takeaways

  • On different social media platforms, always keep in mind: what is your purpose for being there? Just engagement? News and information sharing? Or are you looking for growth? This will help determine your strategy moving forward. It often makes sense to have different strategies for each social platform.
  • Consider who you want on your social media team and what roles you need them to fill.
  • Consider your tone, frequency, and responsiveness (and don’t engage with haters).
  • Latch on to current events (#TheDress anyone?) and ride that tidal wave.

Marketing on Facebook

  • Highest traffic is mid-week between 1-3pm, though this differs depending on your demographic.
  • Use the 80/20 rule – how often you talk about yourself vs posting broader content.
  • Have standing days or buckets – Throwback Thursday #tbt, Motivation Monday, etc. Get creative, but keep it consistent.
  • Organic vs. paid reach – Facebook really isn’t free for organizations or businesses. Paying in the beginning will help you get more organic reach moving forward, but you need to maintain momentum.
  • Small investments into Facebook advertising can have a huge ROI – quantify what one new client/customer/lead is worth, then decide your budget.
  • Consider running a cost-per-click campaign and use the built-in A/B testing option. You can cast your net wide or specify your ideal audience using their built-in tools.
  • Track your stats, boost posts when needed, and keep a consistent schedule.

Marketing on Twitter

  • Over 1/3 of people who follow brands on social media will buy from them.
  • Twitter is huge on mobile – make sure your links are mobile-friendly and load FAST.
  • Twitter is becoming more visual – photos display on the feed and they are testing auto-play videos.
  • Twitter is more real-time than any other social media platform. Use this to your advantage and live-Tweet events or consider Twitter chats.
  • Twitter is more forgiving for infrequent posting than Facebook.
  • Interact as much as possible – monitor your @mentions and be responsive.
  • Use Twitter metrics to keep tabs on your performance

Marketing on Instagram

This is one frontier I haven’t yet explored. While I have a personal Instagram account, I don’t update it often and most of my interaction comes from giveaways and contest that ask me to share something (hmmm). But its popularity among (most) millenials cannot be underestimated (see above tweet).

  • It’s all about pictures and 15 second videos. What visual story can your brand tell?
  • Hashtags are extremely important in Instagram.
  • Total audience has surpassed Twitter with 300 million members. 41% are 16-24 year olds, 35% are 25-34 year olds.
  • More than 70 million photos and videos are posted daily.
  • Pick one or two main themes and stick with them for all of your posts.
  • Take lots of photographs and make them fun and creative. Filters are your friend. So is #nofilter.
  • Comment and interact where appropriate – engagement is important.
  • @mentions have a 50% higher engagement, so use them!
  • Contests and promotions are a great way to build followers and turn engagement into $$$. Just remember the 80/20 rule. Social media conversions are 13% more effective than traditional marketing and advertising.
  • Create a “theme of the week” and a unique hashtag (and always do your hashtag research first!).

It was a great conference, and the attendees were treated extremely well. My hat’s off to USA Swimming for the stellar job they did, and I hope to return next year with success stories from my clients.