Slaying dragons in social media fantasyland

Takeaways from #RaganDisney

Mickey slayin'

The social media industry can be a lot like New Fantasyland at Disney World: there’s a ton of information, flashing lights, advice, experts and characters out there. 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 own way to the top of the mountain.

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

With that goal in mind, I attended the Ragan’s 6th Annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Walt Disney World to get inspired, network with other social media pros and come up with some new ideas to try out 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 it’s core, social media is sharing the story of your organization.

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

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

It’s all about the fans

Widely regarded as one of the best sports franchises on social media, the Phoenix Suns’ VP of Digtal, Jeramie McPeek spoke about their 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 their strategy for keeping fans engaged during a down time for the organization (the Sundoggies are 17-34, with an eminent lack of direction).

How do they do it? By finding new ways to reward their 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 their fans. They focus on that excitement more so than whether those efforts are driving ticket sales and revenue. Interestingly enough, he 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. Yes, they do have 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. Ryan is clearly just as crazy about Marvel as the millions of their 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 they handled this year’s Super Bowl. Marvel was active on Twitter throughout the game to hype-up the new Ironman 3 trailer. I asked Ryan about their strategy during the power outage and if they thought about doing anything similar to Oreo’s genius tweet.

He said they were watching what their 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 – especially 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’m feeling 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.

Update: The folks at Ragan read my recap and re-published it on Pretty sweet!