While South by Southwest (SXSW) surges in the spotlight each March, less than a week later another conference quietly assembles some of the top brand strategists and personalities on social media.
For the past three days, 7,000 social media pros descended on San Diego Convention Center for Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) to dig into the current and future state of social.
Big players like Brian Solis (principal analyst at Alimeter Group), Jay Baer (serial entrepreneur, author, and consultant), Amy Porterfield (online marketing expert and creator of the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast), and Joel Comm (The New York Times bestselling author) were just the tip of the iceberg of power influencers in attendance.
Many of the top keynotes and speakers are regulars as features or authors on Forbes, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, Fast Co, and Entrepreneur Magazine. They work with top companies like Pfizer, Google, Adidas, AT&T, Disney, and, well, probably most of the Fortune 500 companies. They are top content producers and power influencers in the corporate digital space.
If there is one common denominator among presenters and attendees, it is that they are all storytellers in one form or another.
Another is that many of them could put five different titles on their business card because they are the type of people who don’t just do one thing. Speaker Carlos Gil is a prime example.
Gil — founder of digital agency Gil Media Co, entrepreneur, top Snapchat influencer, and recurring public speaker at SMMW and SXSW — presented on how companies can better elevate and enable their employees to be brand advocates.
“My personal brand (and persona) has evolved over time through a lot of trial and error,” he says.
Gil has worked with Winn-Dixie, Save-A-Lot, LinkedIn, and BMC Software. He credits the success of his agency and his personal brand largely to how he was able to successfully develop himself as a brand advocate for those companies while he was there.
“I operated more so as an ‘intrepreneur’ whereby my personal brand, including speaking opportunities, became a ‘value add’ to the organization.”
Gil’s story is not uncommon at SMMW, as many notable attendees have found success developing a personality in the industry while working with large corporations.
Others, like Goldie Chan, have developed their personalities more directly through the original content they produce on social media. She is currently the top video creator on LinkedIn, which is her bread-and-butter of how she engages with people and shares her digital storytelling wisdom.
Chan was busy at SMMW creating more video content with guests and attendees for her platforms, including a behind the scenes look on Instagram of the kickoff party.
Like Gil and many others at the conference, Chan is fresh off attendance at SXSW, though SMMW has a distinctly more down-to-business purpose for attendees.
“Can you tell us one great piece of advice for networking?” Chan asks fellow presenter and marketing strategist Stephanie Liu in one of her videos.
“The best advice that I can give you guys is to take selfies with people,” Liu says, “because that’s the best way that you can tag them on social media, get to know them, and really build a relationship with them.”
Liu is an expert in live video and ran a session on successfully launching a Facebook Live show.
While YouTube stars like Gavin Magnus give the impression that social media success is simply a combination of talent and luck, attendees of SMMW work tirelessly behind the scenes proving otherwise — focusing on the future of the industry.
“Consumers are tuning out brand content no different than they have TV commercials,” Gil says. “The next five years will be all about the ‘humanization of content’ through people.”
Noah Staum is a staff writer at Grit Daily. He grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and has lived in four different countries. Across that span he’s learned Mandarin, adopted an adorable Shiba Inu, and worked for several major dating apps. Noah is a writer and creator based in Los Angeles, California.