Five days and ten sessions later, we’re still buzzing from all the awesome insights we’ve learned at our second digital conference, Sprout Sessions: Inspiring Action. We’re grateful not only to all of our incredible speakers, but also to everyone who participated in this epic week of education and inspiration.
Our goal for this series was to move beyond theories and concepts to provide more tangible, actionable advice and tactics that attendees can put into practice immediately. Simply put, we wanted to inspire action. And by the end of the week, we could practically feel the forward momentum happening in offices across the country.
If you were unable to join us for all of the sessions or just couldn’t take notes fast enough, here’s what you missed:
1. Don’t use influencers to push sales. Use them to humanize your brand.
Ben Trinh from Postmates helped us navigate the rapidly evolving world of influencer marketing by pointing out that brands are starting to focus less on direct sales and more on connecting and engaging with audience in a more meaningful way. Part of this is knowing what type of influencer is right for your campaign’s goals. He shared that brands should utilize micro-influencers when they’re really trying to get granular and hyper-local in their focus and target, while celebrities may be a better fit for national/global campaigns.
He also preached a message of patience, stating that awareness is a long game that can be difficult to quantify in traditional week over week results.
He urged, “Don’t let the first round of results dictate the success of an influencer campaign. Let your learnings dictate your next campaign and continue to improve for the future.”
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For more on the current and future state of influencer marketing, check out Trinh’s full session here.
2. Use your mission and core values as a lens to evaluate your content.
We know that great stories = great content. But how do you find the stories that are the best fit for your brand? Storytelling masters Leigh-Anne Lefurge and Lauren Gebhardt from March of Dimes believe you have to start by looking within your organization. Lefurge and Gebhardt said having a company-wide dialogue to establish and agree upon your mission, core values and company manifesto is critical to your storytelling success.
“If you can’t articulate these, chances are other people are having trouble as well,” they cautioned.
The March of Dimes social team is also a huge proponent of incorporating user-generated content (UGC) into your social strategy.
“All around you, people are already telling your story,” Lefurge said. “And not just from the general public, but also from popular social influencers, your organization’s own employees and volunteers and even third party stories from celebrities and other news sources.”
But no matter the source, the ladies cautioned, “if your messages don’t ultimately support your mission and core values, then it’s not worth the share.”
To learn more from Lefurge and Gebhardt about how to incorporate emotional storytelling into your content strategy, watch the entire session here.
3. Consider the consumer experience. Don’t overlook how your content will look to your audience.
When creating compelling digital content, Joe Sargent from Effen Vodka told it like it is: “You get 3 seconds to capture a person’s attention when they’re scrolling through their social feeds. People consume with their eyes; they aren’t reading your beautiful copy.”
He urged marketers to engage visually and quickly—and to be mindful at all times of what the content and experience will look like to consumers.
The actual content needs to follow some guidelines, too. In his current role at Effen and the brand’s partnership with 50 Cent, Sargent has witnessed what can go wrong when posts veer off course.
The rapper’s content is at its best when posts are relevant, engaging, informative and give the brand personality. But when posts aren’t relevant to the brand or industry, are overly aggressive towards competitors and their customers or run the risk of legal repercussions, the negative impact on loyalty and retention can be severe.
To see some of the real-life campaigns Sargent has seen the most success with, check out the full session here.
4. Emotion is what drives action.
If you’re scratching your head trying to tie together the correlation between social strategy and a pool of sprinkles, chances are you missed Madison Utendahl’s chat on how the Museum of Ice Cream uses online content to inspire action offline.
And while some may argue that inherently visual spaces (like the Museum of Ice Cream) are an easy sell on a visual platform like Instagram, Utendahl was quick to point out, “Action doesn’t always mean ticket sales.”
For this museum, it’s not just about inspiring visits. The way Utendahl described it, it seems as if the team has a bigger offline vision.
“We want to inspire people to believe in the power of imagination, and that anything is possible,” Utendahl said.
To see the famous sprinkle pool and learn more about the museum’s inspiring offline and online mission, watch the full session here.
5. Decide what a crisis looks like for you.
One of the most insightful moments during our very own Andrew Caravella’s talk was when he made the point that crises can take many forms. We tend to think of a crisis as universally negative or detrimental, but the truth is that it can be subjective. What may be considered a crisis for you may not be as impactful to another brand. So before you begin creating a response plan or strategy, it’s equally, if not more, important to first identify possible crisis scenarios unique to your brand.
Caravella also pointed out that crises ring true across all channels. So even if a crisis begins on social, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to stay there or that it’s the best channel to address it. Some crises may require a multi-channel approach.
Caravella explored several reasons why social has complicated crisis management, as well as actionable strategies to best address and resolve potential problems. This information could have a huge impact on your brand’s reputation one day, it’s a can’t-miss session. Watch it here.
6. If you don’t define your brand, someone else will write that story for you.
If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around what your “employer brand” is, Alicia Garibaldi from Glassdoor suggested considering, “What do people say about your company when you’re not in the room?”
Garibaldi outlined four main ingredients to an employer brand:
- Your company mission and values
- Your company culture
- Your employees
- Your reputation
She emphasized just how important it is to define your brand and what you value as the first step to creating a successful recruitment strategy.
And like many brands are beginning to realize, she was also quick to point out how important your employees are in defining your brand.
“Employees are your brand ambassadors,” Garibaldi said. “Treat them as if you would treat a customer.”
She went on to share that both company value and employee testimonials are the two most valuable types of marketing candidates. View the full session here for more actionable strategies for boosting recruitment.
7. Don’t just market your product, build a brand.
Okay, we’re definitely sensing a theme here. When Dropbox found itself drowning in a sea of similar brands, they decided it was time to make some significant changes. But it wasn’t their product that needed an update, it was their brand.
And even though the rebrand included new colors, a new logo and new visual style, Dropbox’s Social Lead, Susan Chang, claimed it was the change in overall messaging that made the biggest difference.
“It’s not enough to just market your features anymore,” she said. “You’ve got to connect to your audience’s emotions and aspirations to establish a relationship with your consumers.”
When all the other brands were talking about teamwork and simplifying workflow, Dropbox went inspirational. And their new message was born. To see the full evolution of their branding and to learn the important role social plays in connecting with their customers, watch the full session here.
8. It’s more important to listen to a customer’s needs than to talk about your solution.
We can’t help but start with some of the more eye-opening stats Sprout’s Sales Development leads, Kelly Marberry and Jenny Poore, shared with us at the onset of the session:
- It takes 18 phone calls or more to make a connection with prospect
- Callback rates are 1%
- Social outperforms other sales methods by 2x the ROI
“The saying goes that when one door closes, another window opens,” Marberry said about the staggering numbers. “And today’s window is social media.”
In this digital age, there’s really no need to build a case for social selling. The conversation should focus instead on how to do it right. And according to Marberry and Poore, it takes an intelligent and personalized approach to be successful.
“It’s more important to listen to a customer’s needs than to talk about your solution,” said Marberry. “That doesn’t change from phone calls to social.”
But now with the power of social media, sales people have more insight into their prospects than ever before. Marberry and Poore advocate extensive research and discovery through social listening, a multi-channel outreach, and establishing credibility through thought leadership.
Watch the full session here to learn more about how you can harness the power of social to get into the consumer mindset and sell more effectively.
9. Use social listening to speak your customer’s language.
This candid agency roundtable touched on several topics including the evolution of the client/agency relationship, how agencies can empower clients to create their own compelling content and the most effective ways to prove social ROI to clients.
Although the entire session was chock-full of priceless expertise, when the conversation shifted to the advantages of social listening, it felt like we had struck gold.
Nicole Spears from Mindstream Interactive shared a story about how one of their clients had been using the word “scent” in their messaging, but found through social listening as a fly on the wall that most people use the word smell instead.
“It’s small changes like that made from insights you get through social listening that can really make the conversation more authentic,” Spears said.
Bingo. The other speakers agreed, sharing their own experience with listening and how they each incorporate it into their creative process.
Our agency partners are an incredible resource and we were pretty grateful we were able to gather a few of them together to pick their brains. Listen to the full session here.
10. When you write like everyone else, you’re saying “our products are like everyone else’s.”
Sprout’s very own Director of Brand Content, Lizz Kannenberg, blew our collective mind with her presentation on brand voice design—the systematic approach of applying solution-based principles to the development of brand voice and tone.
Not enough brands make their voice a priority. And the result is an unfortunate echo effect in the marketplace where everyone is saying the same things over and over again with no clear differentiation.
In the session, Kannenberg outlined the four primary phases of voice design:
- Gather inspiration
- Generate ideas
- Bring those ideas to life
- Listen, learn and evolve
She suggested that when it comes to step one we should look within and revisit our own brand position.
“Your brand position is your North Star,” she declared. “Remember what your customers love about your product, what your customer’s emotional needs are and what sets you apart from other brands. At the center of all that is your brand position.”
And that’s just step one. To learn the rest of the brand voice design process, as well as some real-world applications, view the full session here.
And that’s a wrap! Another heartfelt thank you to all of the speakers and viewers who participated.
Here at Sprout we live by the mantra, “Always Be Growing.” Not only is this phrase proudly displayed on the wall at our headquarters, but we also take great care to ensure its meaning is the driving factor behind everything we do as an organization.
And when re-imagined in the context of Sprout Sessions, it translates into arguably the most important takeaway of all: never stop learning.