By Rachel Callahan
On July 23, Birmingham hosted the first Corporate Storytelling conference in the world, Y'all Connect Presented by Alabama Power. More than 200 attendees came from as far as Oklahoma to hear a stellar lineup of speakers.
Although the target market was corporate CEOs and Social Media Executives, I quickly realized that the networking opportunities and depth of information available at this conference was not just for the business world. As a blogger, I was able to visit with fellow local and national bloggers, increase my understanding of tricky subjects such as SEO, and glean tips on how to tell better stories.
Alabama Power's Social Media Genius, Ike Pigott, opened the conference with his keynote address. He provided context for why storytelling is an important facet of communications - because facts are boring. We have infinite facts at our fingertips, thanks to the digital age. But storytelling is about leveraging a story to communicate better. An important point that he made was that stories should not be all about the teller - they are also about listening and understanding what role we play in other people's lives. I especially resonated with this important point, as I find my reader's comments and input equally important to my own story.
Ike also stressed the importance of having a strong social media network. Your network can and will share information with you that you didn't even know you needed, giving you an edge over your competition.
"The dynamic for success used to be based on what you knew, then on what you found. But the dynamic of success is now shifting towards what your network finds for you!" ~ Ike Pigott
He also made the valuable point that because of the closeness of our network to our own lives, we will get much more relevant news from them than from any newspaper headline.
After the Keynote, I attended Mack Collier's session based on his new book, Think Like a Rock Star.
The premise of Mack's research is that rock stars can easily create and cultivate fans when companies simply cannot, and he set out to discover their secret.
But what he realized is that there was no secret: rock stars simply go out of their way to create a deep and emotional relationship with their biggest fans, with the thought that doing so will create sales. While most companies focus on new customers, rock stars focus on brand advocates, who will market to new customers for them in a much more powerful way than they could accomplish by themselves.
Mack shared four ways to connect and cultivate fans like a rock star:
1. Get in the face of your fans. Understand your fans because you're having constant interaction with them, and reward the behavior you want to encourage.
2. Give up control to get control - Fans look for ways to take control and want control - they want to act on your behalf and help you reach your goals.
3. Find the bigger idea behind the content you create.
a. Raise awareness of ideas and news that's relevant to your customers.
b. Be a teacher - share your knowledge. If you have a skill, teach others how to do this skill. This establishes your expertise.
c. Create inspiring content - create customer centric content, and teach your fans how to use your product better.
4. Love the people that love you! Figure out ways to give your fans special access that isn't available to the general public.
Ultimately, you should strive to have the mindset that your fans are the real rock stars, not you - a concept that is applicable to corporations and bloggers alike. Mack’s ideas were fresh and eye-opening – I hope to find time to read his book soon.
I was also able to hear from Mitch Canter, who discussed how best to tell the stories you own; James Spann, who spoke about the changing Social Mediacentric world and how not to panic because of it; and my dear Twitter friend Jenny Schmitt, who taught us all about the Millennial Generation and how to reach them.
Wade Kwon, the Conference Organizer, reflected later, “My biggest takeaway was meeting as many guests as possible and learning about what they do and what they were learning at the conference. It was fun just being able to chat with folks as they were in line for the lunch buffet.”
And I agree – the chatting in-between was just as valuable as what I gleaned from the sessions.
I was able to visit and deepen relationships at the pre-party, lunch, and snacks (although I skipped the after-party to get back to my family.) I left feeling exulted and enriched, excited about my city’s social media presence and leadership. I would highly recommend attending next year, which is currently slated to be June 2014.
The Twitter Transcript of the conference is available here, and videos of all of the sessions will be available soon at the Y’all Connect website.
All photos courtesy of Jack Wyrick/Y'all Connect.
Rachel Callahan is a blogger in Birmingham, Alabama. She writes at Grasping for Objectivity and runs the blogging networking site Alabama Bloggers.