So, This One Time, At Podcamp

Over the weekend, I went to camp for my first time in my life. For two days, I played and learned with a group of like-minded professionals, amateurs and people interested in new media.

Podcamp Toronto is an “unconference” – a two-day gathering of new media professionals that began in 2007. Podcamp began in Boston in 2006 and has since been held in a number of different cities. The conference is free (thanks to some fabulous sponsors and the presenters who donate their time), and attendees vote with their feet. If you don’t like a session, you walk (hopefully not without some measure of respect for the presenter). And if you have a session you want to present, you go to the Podcamp site a few weeks before the conference and describe your idea. If you have an idea during the conference (and there’s space in the schedule) – well, talk to the organizers, put it together and Tweet it out to find your audience.

A last-minute decision I made on Thursday afternoon to attend found me standing in the lobby of the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson University on Saturday afternoon. Since I missed the entire morning of sessions, I felt like it was my first day in a new school – cliques were formed and were gathered, talking and laughing – and I was all by myself. But, I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. And I’m glad I did.

Six Things I learned at Podcamp:

  1. That as much as I love radian6 and Sysmos as social media measurement tools, they may not be the best for small businesses because they’re pricey. But, you can gain information about reach of your posts, you can use the basics: Facebook Insights, Hootsuite Analytics or Sprout Social (which, while Facebook Insights and Hootsuite Analytics are basic free tools included with the applications, Sprout Social does have a cost. But there are educational and not-for-profit discounts for those that qualify)
  2. That while some of the session titles may not actually describe what the focus will be, if you stay, you may take something away from it anyway. I attended the How to Develop A Killer Content Marketing Strategy session on Saturday afternoon. While content marketing wasn’t exactly where we spent the most time (I learned about buyer personas during my undergrad but the refresher was interesting), I did meet three interesting people from a variety of areas just by starting a dialogue about what we had just learned – and I came up with an idea for a killer blog post (more on that later this week)
  3. That about 70% of Google’s algorithm is geared to answer the question “who cares?” – and the better you answer it, the higher you’ll show up in the search results
  4. That a 16-year-old kid can be more mature than some adults I know, and that said 16-year-old can summarize why people like brands on social media better than anyone who has ever liked a brand on social media can. When this kid graduates from high school and gains more experience in the customer service side of social media, I’d hire him
  5. That sometimes, the presenter of a session may not show up. And while it’s disappointing, it’s a good time to network with others, decompress, review your notes from previous sessions and check your email
  6. That I need to become a ninja in my field

Will I go back next year? Absolutely! Would I recommend it to my friends in new media? Absolutely! Will I propose a topic for next year and present? Maybe! The world does need someone who will talk specifically about developing a killer content marketing strategy, does it not?


Five Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

networkingSmall business owners are time-strapped. The day-to-day activities of running a business often push the mere idea of networking right off even most thorough to-do lists. But, networking can be critical to the success of your business – it’s been said that up to 75% of business can come from networking. There’s value (personal, professional and monetary) in taking some time to put yourself out there. Below, you’ll find a few tips to get you started.

  1. Networking and prospecting are not the same thing. Don’t look at networking as a way to sell your product or service, look at it as a way to meet others, have conversations and build connections.
  2. Find your people and your venue. Find events or groups that will offer you opportunities to meet other business owners or influencers. A good place to start finding events is through your local Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Listen – and ask questions. As the old adage states, we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Don’t go in with the hard sales pitch and expect great things to happen. Ask questions of others and make the people you meet feel valued. By showing sincere interest in others, people will remember you fondly – and look for ways to connect with you again.
  4. Be willing to give in order to get. Don’t go in expecting people to hand you advice, their money for your products or their time without your willingness to give to them. If you can, give first. It goes back to point two, people like to feel valued. After listening to what they say to you, look for ways you can give to them.
  5. Connect with the people you met after the event. Review those business cards you collected and follow up with all of them, even if it’s just to say that it was a pleasure to meet them. By doing so, you take a step towards building a potentially valuable relationship.

The most important thing to remember is that networking is a two-way street. Don’t go in expecting everything without giving, don’t walk in with an agenda and don’t expect your network to come to you without putting in some effort. Establish yourself as a connector who is willing to work with others and the payoff will come.