Last week I had the opportunity to attend opening day of the much-anticipated independent Social Media Week in Toronto. After several years of absence the conference was back with a stacked list of presenters. While I was only able to attend the full day of talks at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I left feeling inspired and with some great insights to consider as I continue to manage social media and content strategy at Splash Effect.

While sitting in the theatre accompanied by a MacBook with rapidly dwindling battery, I found myself scribbling down a number of great insights, quotes and one-liners (some paraphrased) from the day’s talks in my notebook. As the day went on these notes actually started to look pretty nice so I decided to share them on Twitter. Little did I know that it would make one of the most retweeted posts of the entire conference! 🙊

I’m not going to take you through everything I jotted down here, but do take a look!


Without further ado, here are my 8 🔑 Takeaways from #SMWiTO



One of the most enlightening talks of #SMWiTO for me was Sam Fiorella’s keynote, “The Internet is Too Big for Influence Marketing.” Influencer marketing is a hot topic these days and marketers are increasingly coming out against it – or rather what it has become. There is no doubt that there are a number of “internet celebrities” out there who making a huge impact to increase awareness for certain brands, but shelling out thousands of dollars for “awareness” isn’t going to give you a return on your bottom-line which is – say it with me – SALES. Sam stressed that “peer-to-peer” or “dyadic” relationships are still essential to a successful conversion, so for this reason your loyal customers – the ones who will recommend your brand or product to a friend – are your most powerful influencers. When a customer makes a purchase driven directly by your traditional “celebrity” influencer, they often already in the sales funnel, but your customers are the influencers who bring more customers to it. In sum, basically this:



FOMO – or the Fear of Missing Out – is definitely, 100% a thing and it’s not just for teenagers anymore. In this age of sharing we are bombarded by all of the cool things our friends are doing or planning to do and (unless you are doing something equally awesome) you want to do it too. I know you responded as “interested in attending” on that Facebook event for that Gatsby Garden Party at Spadina House last summer? DON’T DENY IT. You were one of thousands who RSVP’d to that event because it was a moment (and, most importantly, a sharable moment) that you did not want to miss out on. So, what’s the takeaway for marketers? Create shareable moments your community wants to be a part of: cool events, pop-up shops, festivals and even Snapchat stories or filters that will create the powerful, sales-driving feeling of FOMO.


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Don’t panic. That’s not to say Social Media is not incredibly valuable and essential for your brand. What Amber Naslund, SVP of Marketing at Sysomos was getting at in her presentation, “The Future of Strategic Social Media” was that we need to stop treating as this magical, special snowflake that lies in the hands of interns and is a complete mystery to most within your organization. Instead, we need to treat social media simply one of the many marketing tools at your disposal and should be treated with the same consideration that your marketing strategy receives.

While I don’t believe that pure marketing will lead to social media success – you need transparent communication and community engagement to do that – I do agree that ROI is no way to measure social media success. Not only is social media ROI extremely difficult to track for most industries, the benefits from building real relationships with your customers and community frankly cannot be measured.



One of the most impactful presentations of the day was “Communicating Impact Through Social” with Mark Jordan of SickKids Foundation. This presentation focused on the incredible SickKids giving campaigns from 2014 and 2015, and particularly on how social media massively contributed to the success of their campaign. The only tweet that I was able to send to fully encapsulate my reaction to this talk was this:

The whole audience practically turned into a giant puddle as Mark told the story of their campaign and shared videos that many of us remembered from our news feeds over the past two years. The story of SickKids patient Kael (you can watch the 2014 video here and the 2015 video here) drove the narrative of the presentation and got to the heart of the audience, just as these campaigns got to the heart of Canadians.

At the time I was so compelled by the stories Mark was telling – both about Kael and about their campaign rationale – that it was hard to fully identify my key takeaways. But on reflection, this presentation gave us 3 tactics to help us make an impact in your social media community:

BE THERE | In their 2014 campaign SickKids aimed to insert themselves into the daily lives of their target audience, making it hard to put these kids to the back of their mind. Make an impact on social by becoming daily fixture in the lives of your community members.

GET TO THE HEART | SickKids’ content was so impactful because it touches the heart of everyone who sees it. Identify what hits your community right in the feels and use it to create content they will love.

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FOLLOW UP | After someone donated to SickKids in response to this campaign they received a follow-up email with a video from the parent of the child whose story prompted their donation. They made an effort to keep in touch. Have a customer who reached out to inquire about a product? Follow up with them a few weeks later to see how they’re getting on – it will make a huge impact.



BuzzFeed Canada Editor Craig Silverman provided a very insightful presentation on the content that has succeeded (and failed) since the northern outpost of the media giant opened shop last year. While the “hub and spoke” model of content strategy has been a pillar many strategists have relied on in recent years, BuzzFeed Canada often takes a very different approach, creating content specific to each social network. ie:

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While not directing to their listicles and digestible content, their posts featuring GIFs, images, video, or even simply emoji combined with a clever quip has been more successful on social than posts centred on a call-to-action. This approach helps you develop a more distinct persona for your brand and also asks less of your community. While not always possible, working this approach into your strategy will build brand affinity and drive more engagement than your traditional link posts.



I find it very fitting that my 6th #SMWiTO takeaway is inspired by the #6Dad himself. Norm Kelly, Toronto City Counsellor and social media maven Norm Kelly was a highly anticipated guest at last week’s event and the hype was totally worth it. Mr. Kelly’s spoke about his philosophy behind his social media presence and revealed a very strategic and measured approach that is not common for many personal brands on Twitter.

I found it very refreshing that as a politician her strictly does not use social to address his political views, nor does he use it as a “diary” of his day to day life. He has established that his social media presence is for fun and fun only. It’s a very strict approach, but speaks directly to the very business-like manner Mr. Kelly has approached his personal brand. Frankly more brands need to follow in the steps of the #6Dad.



Tucker Schreiber from Toronto-based tech company Shopify took to the stage to talk about content as a growth strategy and dropped the above line it echoes something I have said in the past when giving presentations about social media strategy. Whatever you produce, whether it’s a video, a white paper or a funny quip accompanied by a GIF, it’s content. And as long is that content is suitable for your audience and speaks to your brand values, that content is social. This takeaway is pretty self explanatory but was very much inspirational and reaffirming for me. It’s basically my motto:


Create stuff.

Share it.




While not part of his presentation per say, something Jesse Brown – podcaster and the final speaker of the day – said really stuck with me. In response to an audience question relating to her rather traditional organization and risk-taking he said “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” As a community manager sometimes you have to make a decision on the fly to own the moment, which means no consulting your client or your supervisor. If you do, you might lose the moment or they might just say “no,” which either way would mean a huge missed opportunity. Taking a risk like that absolutely might backfire, but as a super community manager you know your brand’s values backwards and forwards and will likely make the right choice. So, trust your gut, take the risk and click send.

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