Missed the Ragan Disney conference? 3 major takeaways

One attendee shares some highlights and lessons learned from Ragan’s Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Walt Disney World.


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The social media industry can be a lot like fantasyland at Disney World—full of information, flashing lights, advice, experts and characters. And like Mickey, we social media managers need to be able to blast through the nightmares and hype, to slay the dragons (e.g. social media pitfalls, haters, crises, stale content) and find our way to the top of the mountain.

The best route is to set a strategy, jump in the fire and grow from there. After more than three years of corporate social media management, I continue to look for new ideas, fresh perspectives and ways to elevate my craft.

With that goal in mind, I attended Ragan’s 6th Annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference held this year in Walt Disney World to get inspired, network with other social media pros and come up with some new ideas to try at work.

Here are the key lessons I took away from the conference and I hope they help you slay whatever social media dragons you’re battling.

Tell a great story

Justina Chen gave my favorite presentation of the event. Not only did she use big, thought-provoking images and limited text in her slide show (completely avoiding the PowerPoint snoozefest), but she reminded us that at its core, social media is sharing the story of your organization.

Whether it’s engaging content, communicating during a crisis, or influencing behavior or positioning your brand, people need to listen, hear and respond to what you’re saying. To accomplish this on social media, you need to have the principles of good writing and storytelling top of mind (more so than calls to action and marketing objectives).

I particularly liked her tip about the moment of truth in storytelling: in the first few minutes, the leader must show true character and endear the audience. Translating this for us corporate social media managers, we need to share that endearing story of our organizations.

It’s all about the fans

Jeramie McPeek, vice president of digital for one of the best spots franchises using social media—the Phoenix Suns—spoke about strategy and innovative tactics. As a lifelong Suns fan, there’s no way I was missing this presentation.

Was I secretly hoping for a guest appearance from Charles Barkley or the gorilla? Yeah. But I was really interested in hearing the Suns strategy for keeping fans engaged during a down time for the organization (the Suns are 17-34, with an eminent lack of direction).

How does the franchise do it? By finding new ways to reward its fans. The Suns focus more on Twitter than Facebook (due to EdgeRank exposure limitations) and are constantly pushing the envelope and experimenting. But one thing is constant: it’s all about giving value and rewarding its` fans. It focuses on that excitement more so than whether those efforts drive ticket sales and revenue. McPeek mentioned that email is the highest-producing medium for new ticket sales.

Speak your fans’ language and recognize when less is more

Marvel’s Ryan Penagos spoke about the comic giant’s Twitter strategy. He has a social media manager’s dream audience (not many people are as fanatical as comic fans) that few can relate to, but he provided some examples that can be scaled to any strategy.

Most prominent was that in order to squeeze the most out of your fans, your social media managers need to be fans themselves. Penagos is clearly just as crazy about Marvel as the millions of its followers, and it shows. They speak the same language, the discussions are genuine and the audience appreciates it.

I was also really interested to hear how the Marvel handled this year’s Super Bowl. Marvel was active on Twitter throughout the game to hype the new Ironman 3 trailer. I asked Penagos about the brand’s strategy during the power outage and if he thought about doing anything similar to Oreo’s genius tweet.

He said his team was watching what the fans were already saying, and they were coming up with some great stuff. So he let the fans do the heavy lifting. He felt like anything Marvel posted would be forced, which brings up an excellent point social media managers need to keep in mind. When things are moving quickly and you’re caught up in the moment, sometimes less is more and you’re better served to take a step back and let the conversation flow naturally.

Armed with this nice refresher, I feel confident and excited to march onward through social media fantasyland and slay more dragons on the road to that ever-elusive top of the mountain.

If you’re looking for a more detailed account of the conference, check out the #RaganDisney hashtag on Twitter.

Adam Fuller is a social media professional in the utility industry, from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs about writing, photography, social media and design at adamsfuller.com.

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