If I leave a conference with a few “kernels of truth” I can gnaw on and think about, I consider the time well-spent. Here are a few nuggets I picked up at the Social Fresh conference held in Nashville this week.

“Movements make their audience feel like rockstars.”
To me, the highlight of the conference was a talk by Geno Church. Geno, of Brains on Fire, is an engaging speaker and discussed the distinction between marketing plans and a cultural movement. The most amazing case study of the day was work he had done for Fiskars Scissors (I guess you could call it cutting-edge). By enlisting scrap-book enthusiasts (The Fiska-teers) to contribute as bloggers, they created an army of passionate Fiskar users. If you can make scissors exciting, this guy can market about anything!

“People fill information voids with rumors. Your strategy is simple. Don’t allow information voids.”
Another super-bright guy I met was Dan Zarrella. Dan spends his time poring over Twitter statistics to determine the secret sauce that makes something go viral. He applied evolutionary theory, mathematical principles and psychology to his study.  A few Twitter items that people pay attention to:

  • Warnings
  • “Social proof” as evidenced by large numbers of tweets
  • Bigger, bolder, louder statements
  • Tweets with “you”
  • Tweets that are personalized
  • Tweets that occur later in the week

“The biggest failure in social media marketing is not doing anything.”

Paula Berg, who just left her job with Southwest Airlines told some riveting stories about the social web and crisis communications.  Remember when the USAir flight went down in the Hudson and the first news and photos came through Twitter.  USAir did not have a Twitter account … but started one that day!  She also talked about the trust-selling strategy on Twitter, noting that the airline had been on Twitter since 2007 but did not attempt to make a sale through the channel until 2009.  When they did, they set a single-day sales record — only using the social web!

Paula also provided an entertaining case study about a rap-singing flight attendant that became a national phenomenon.

“If you don’t think it’s about BUSINESS your gonna be out of a job!”

This was a refreshing and encouraging statement from Jason Falls, an admitted recovering social media purist. He has distanced himself from the “it’s all about community crowd” and in fact playfully made fun of them.  Nice to see capitalism creep into the social conversation.

Illustration: Christian Science Monitor
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