Brad Post, Create the Movement, host
Brad Post, Create the Movement, host: Welcome back to Create the Movement podcast. This is Brad Post and I’m very excited to be sitting and talking on telephone with Cheryl Lawson. Cheryl, how are you doing today?
Cheryl Lawson, SMTulsa, guest: I’m wonderful. Thank you so much for having me Brad. How are you?
BP: I’m doing great. I’m excited. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on. You’ve got a big event we’re going talk about – coming up here in 21 days, 22 days? You’ve got the countdown on your website. Cheryl Lawson from smtulsa.com, or socialmediatulsa.com. But Cheryl, can you share a little bit about your story? This is your seventh annual Social Media, or SMTulsa Conference, correct?
CL: That is correct.
BP: Just share your story.
CL: I’m originally from Tulsa. I don’t know that a lot of people know that. Tulsa is home. Graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. I was that kid who had to leave Tulsa immediately. Right?
CL: Now that I’m an adult and I see kids on Twitter talking about, “I can’t get out of Tulsa…” I’m thinking, “No, Tulsa’s great! What are you talking about?” So, times they have changed a bit. I left here and traveled a bit with corporate America. Spent about 16 years in corporate America in several different cities. I think 10 cities in all. Tulsa has always been home.
Back in 2008, my dad was ill and eventually passed away. And I was travelling back and forth from California to Tulsa to check on him, and of course, check on my mom. And I just decided that I didn’t want my mom to be here by herself. So, I made the step to move back home, and it has really been an amazing experience for me.
When I was out in southern California I was a part of the social media community. The 140 Conference, some of you might have heard of, or experienced, here locally. And I met so many people and networked with so many people in that organization, or in that group. When I came to Tulsa I was looking for that community – other geeks like me who love social media. And I didn’t see it at the time so I started it. This was around early summer 2010 when I officially moved back.
Mashable was doing something called ‘Social Media Day.’ And it seems like so long ago, that that was the first Social Media Day. And they were using Meetup, and you could plan a meetup for your city, and no one was doing it for Tulsa. So, I raised my hand and started planning the first Social Media Day in Tulsa with a couple of weeks’ notice. I’m pretty used this last-minute stuff apparently.
But we had about 25-26 people show. And from there we created this community of people who are interested in these tools, who are interested in marketing and finding out more about social media. And I’ll say that the difference between the Tulsa community and the Los Angeles community was: everybody in the L.A. social media community, at the time, was a social media expert. You weren’t going to go to a meetup and find somebody to do business with unless they had some sort of collaboration opportunity.
In Tulsa, we started to get doctors, massage therapists, dentists, lawyers, and people from all walks of life and every professional background coming to our meetups. It was just incredible because we were able to find people to do business with who also had this connection on the internet. So, it was face-to-face plus online, and it was really just an amazing experience.
Two, I was able to explore my hometown in a way that I hadn’t done as adult by going to different restaurants and bars and different things for our meetups. Our meetups started out with a few speakers, maybe one speaker. We’d go to a local restaurant on a Thursday or Wednesday night and bring 20-60 people sometimes to our meetups in the middle of the week.
Our first meetup, by the way, was at Fat Guys in Greenwood. In fact, that location, my dad’s office used to be right there on Greenwood. So, it meant a lot to me be in that space doing my thing and I might have gotten a little emotional, but it was it was really great.
Eventually though, what I noticed was people at these meetups were doing more one-on-one connection. You know, I’ve got my phone in my hand, “Hey, how do you do this app? Or, what app do you use?” Very similar to this conversation. Right? We’re asking each other questions and having conversations. And so, I thought why don’t we just keep these meetups very social in nature and people can learn from each other? So, we started just social meetups.
So, the conference was born in 2011 out of people coming to the group really wanting to learn. So, I had to find a mechanism to both teach and learn from members of the group. And so, the conference was born in March of 2011. We had our first conference at the Hyatt downtown and it was a half day. We started with lunch and ended at the end of the day. And it was really an incredible experience.
So, now a few years later, we’re two days and 20-plus speakers and now we’re moving up to the Hard Rock Hotel Casino.
BP: That’s awesome!
CL: I think our community still stands. The conference, I think at least in my opinion, is just an extension of the community that we created.
BP: That’s exciting.
CL: I always tell people, “The conference came about because I really wanted to create the conference I wanted to attend.” I’m kind of a conference nerd. I like going and learning from other people. That can get a little costly when you’re travelling to do that. So, I thought, why don’t I just build the conference I want to attend?
BP: And you had some event planning too, correct?
CL: Yeah, absolutely. So, that was my business originally – Party Aficionado. And those of your listeners who follow me on Twitter, that’s my personal Twitter account. And so, it also gave me an opportunity to become my own client. From a business standpoint, I think I mentioned 16-years of corporate America, I’ve got a couple of degrees, it’s hard to afford somebody like me. My brain costs a lot of money. So, it was difficult to find just clients who wanted to spend that kind of money at the time. But social media was a way for my event-planning clients to stay in touch with their communities, but online.
So, a little more history. I left corporate America, started the event-planning firm, and then a couple of years later the market tanked, 2007-2008. Social media at the time was how I kept clients. Because I had spent a few years, back in 2005-2006 with one of my clients whose attendees were very young, 18-24-year-old women, who spent their entire lives on Myspace at the time. Right? So, we talk now about daily visits to Facebook and clicks on Twitter, but Myspace, that’s where they lived. I mean they were on 24/7.
Because it was the only game in town it was great to be able to create communities and learn from the communities as they migrated to Facebook, and Twitter, and eventually everywhere. That was how the transformation from planning events to social media began. And that’s why, what I thought Social Media Tulsa and our conference would be. “Hey, I’ll be doing event planning and people will start to notice and then maybe they’ll want to hire me.” Eventually, people wanted to hire me to do social media for their events. So, Social Media Tulsa became its own entity.
So, we’ve done social media, for those of you who remember The Center of the Universe Festival for all three years. I’ve done social media for the Route 66 Marathon for the past six years. The last couple of years we’ve had a team at Scotfest. So, some of your favorite events in Tulsa, Social Media Tulsa is behind it. Or, at least we’re the people you connect with online.
The 2017 SMTulsa Conference
The Conference is one thing, SMTulsa Conference, and Social Media Tulsa is kind of the arm around if you need social media help throughout the year. The Conference is the once a year, we bring in experts from all of the country and locally so, you can refresh. It’s like a professional development conference. And so, every other profession has professional development, with the exception of social media professionals in some ways. At least it’s not as acceptable to bosses wanting to pay the bills. But I think it’s time and Tulsa certainly needs that with the great startup community and business community that we have here.
BP: With the SMTulsa Conference you guys have a focus every year. Correct?
BP: And what’s the focus this year? Can you share some of the speakers, some of the topics? It’s March 30th and 31st if I didn’t mention that.
CL: Thank you for that. March 30th and 31st. This year we’re at the Hard Rock. We have a bit of a theme. Most of the speakers this year are going to be talking about different ways to create content. We are going to talk strategy. We are going to talk about ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of social. Last year we had a pretty heavy focus on analytics. Because I think that the birth of analytics and the growth of analytics in the space warranted us to looking deeper into how to measure and show results. And we’ll have some of that again this year. In fact, a couple of our speakers Jared Carrizales from Heroic Search will be talking about SEO and things that a lot of people want to talk about from their website perspective.
Tom Bowen from Dallas, he’ll be talking about tools that you can use that are not going break the bank to measure all of those things that we’ve been doing on Google Analytics and all these other analytics tools.
But the majority of the speakers are going to be talking about creativity, content creation, how to create content that stands out above the noise. Because now everybody’s doing social media and content creation.
We have Robert Bochnak. He is the social media director for Harvard Business School’s Alumni Office. So, he’s going to talk about some of the ‘rules’ of social media engagement and how to know when to connect with people online, and what to do, and how to engage people. That’s always been a challenge for a lot of businesses. When do I respond? How do I engage? Especially if you are creating an audience. And how do you engage with them?
Shayla Price from Florida is coming in and she’s going to be talking about user-generated content. That is the chupacabra, that is the unicorn, that every marketer is after. How do I get my users to create the content for us? So, that we’re not consistently and constantly trying to create something new. She’s got a lot of experience with encouraging user-generated content.
BP: It is.
Our talks this year are very specific to an entire marketing plan. You can do everything from cause marketing to video and live, streaming. Streaming is huge now. Eric T. Tung will be here talking about how that works. How social video works as a part of your marketing strategy and your social media strategy.
BP: That’s exciting.
CL: We pride ourselves on having a diverse group of speakers.
BP: You really do and you have close to 20 you said? Over 20?
CL: Right now, we have 20 and there might be one more added here in the next week or so. Different age groups, male/female, from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s definitely important to me that our speaker lineup look like the audience and look like the audience that we’d like to have.
CL: So, you’ll get perspective from different people who are actively using the tools and I think that’s one thing that makes SMTulsa Conference different. Yeah, we have the speakers and people who have spoken in other places, but these are people actively using the tools that they’re going to be talking about. And not necessarily recycling a speech that they’ve been giving on the circuit for a year or two.
The Legitimization of Social Media in Business
BP: That’s awesome. I’m excited about it. I’ll be going and hopefully interviewing some of the speakers and maybe producing a podcast after that. We had Ryan Daley, who’s also speaking at your conference, I believe last week or the week before that.
Cheryl, I know there’s a lot of things that are very exciting to you. But what’s the one thing that you’re really excited about in your business right now?
CL: Well, the one thing that I’m excited about is that people are starting to come around to the fact that social media is not just something that’s touchy-feely and emotional. We’re able to now measure with specific links, we’re able to measure sales, we’re measuring return on the relationship that we’re building. And not just, “Hey, we got some comments or some ‘likes.’”
I think the maturity of the platforms and the analytics tools around now really excite me because now you can make a real business case for social media and engagement and why you should be doing something. I’ll give you a really quick example: one of our events that we worked last year. It was a great event and everything was ready to go. Day one the website went down.
BP: Oh no!
CL: Of course, online ticket sales were cheaper than if you bought them at the door. So, everybody’s panicking; the organizers are going crazy. And one simple post I made to the social platforms was, “Hey guys. Thank you so much. You have overwhelmed our system. We’ll honor the online price at the gate.” And that completely changed the mood of people. It changed how they were reacting on Facebook and Twitter about the website being down. Changed the conversation to, “Oh my god! We have to get there because if so many people wanted tickets to crash the site we’ve got to be a part of it.”
So, I think that the way social media now is changing conversations from negative, or not so positive, to positive. It’s a great communication tool. I love how some of our local brands are using social media to not only get us excited about their business, but also using it as a customer service tool. If you have a question nowadays people are more likely to go to your Facebook page, or to Tweet you the question, than they are to go look for you ‘Contact Us’ page on your website.
And for me that’s pretty exciting because as somebody who spends a lot of time on social media that’s where I want to ask and answer your questions. Right? I want to answer them in the space that you’re most comfortable being. That really excites me.
The Best Business Advice Ever Received
BP: That’s awesome. What would you say, Cheryl, is the best business advice that you’ve received?
CL: Wow. So, probably to care. I know that sounds cliché, but if you care about your business, your clients, your partners, your investors, your stakeholders in general, everything stems from that piece. My mom was an English teacher in the Tulsa Public School system for years and years. She’s retired from that. And then she taught for Drumright in one of the welfare-to-work programs teaching adults to pass the GED. Everywhere we go somebody is recognizing my mom. She’s a local celebrity. Teaching in high school and junior high for 30 years, you’re going to run into some people locally that you know – and she does. People remember her not for being the easiest teacher because she was not. And not for how they got away with things in her class because they didn’t. But because they realized maybe now so, more than ever, is that she cared about their future.
And so, I’d say my parents probably taught me that lesson first. And you hear it a lot around from business people and I think Scott Strath and Gary Vaynerchuk would say giving a bleep about people. But you do have to care about the people that you come in contact with, and why you’re doing what you’re doing.
I’m doing Social Media Tulsa because I really want businesses here locally to be successful. I want them to use these tools that are maybe free from a time investment, and maybe not even financial investment any more, but they’re so much easier to access than what we had years and years ago. And I’m old enough to have lived both genres as a marketing professional in corporate America, and now as an entrepreneur. The difference and the availability is just astounding. It’s my passion to teach as many people how to do these things for themselves for their brand, for their companies. Or, for somebody who wants to be the next Food Truck Star, or the next Cupcake Lady.
I definitely want people to just understand these tools and be aware of them and just rock them out for their businesses here locally. So, I would say the number one lesson I’ve learned, or piece of advice, is just to care.
Cheryl’s Recommended Blogs
BP: That’s good. I like it. One last question, and then we’ve got a special code to give our listeners at the end. So, rather than books, I’d rather speak more online with Cheryl. So, what kind of blogs would you recommend that our listeners follow?
CL: We talked a bit before the podcast about how, probably a year or two ago, we were all telling people to clean out your email inboxes and unsubscribe to all these blogs and bloggers. And so, now where do you get information from? Of course, there’re great podcasts like yours and others, but I think still getting a little bit of information through email or even following some bloggers is very helpful.
So, one of my favorites for analytics is Occam’s Razor. Avinash’s blog is incredible. And his newsletters are definitely savable and trackable, and you certainly will want to go back and read them over and over again. Sometimes it takes that just to get the concept. But he talks about analytics and dashboards and how to prove your business case for the investment online. Whether it’s your website or any social media I highly recommend Avinash. I got a chance to hear him speak a few years ago, and it was incredible.
Seth Godin, of course, is one that I’ve never unsubscribed to because he’s always offering insights whether you read every one, or not. Having those available for when you are going through something in your business is always great. I use Google’s Inbox so I can just go and search ‘Seth Godin’ and look for the topic that he’s particularly talking about. One of my favorites from him was he was talking about storytellers and that we’re all storytellers. And one of the keys to that is to be the hero in your own story. That doesn’t sound like business advice, at first. But then as you start to experience things you can start to relate what he’s talking about to your specific situation.
Finally, Chris Brogan, I still follow him. Chris’ business partner was with us last year as a speaker. We just had a great time learning from him. One thing is how they do email marketing is impressive. Even if you follow Chris and you don’t necessarily follow all of , or you don’t sign up for their podcast or their webinars, because they do a lot of them. Just seeing how they do their email marketing and how precise that they are. I learned a lot from just getting the emails. One of the things that he does is he sends something personal every Sunday. And you get a message from Chris every Sunday. And I know Rob Hatch, who was one of our keynotes last year, that’s the same. So, you can even just learn from them by being a subscriber and how often they send emails. If you’re on their website and you are thinking about signing up for one of their webinars, if you’re on there more than 45 minutes you’ll get an email that says, “Hey, Cheryl. We notice you’ve been on the website, or you haven’t checked out yet. Let me know if I can help you.” To me, those are the lessons that you can learn even you don’t follow the clicks or the links that they’re sharing.
BP: That’s good. SMTulsa.com is the website. March 30-31, The Hard Rock Casino, Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can register online which we encourage. And you also can, Cheryl’s been generous enough to our listeners that you get a $50 off code. Correct, Cheryl?
CL: That’s right if they use the ‘CTMPodcast’ code. And I’ll give you a link, too, for this if somebody wants to just click on it. But if you use the ‘CTMPodcast’ promo code you can save $50 off regular registration. Our early registration actually closed March 1st.
BP: You’re in luck – $50 off. You said it was ‘CTMPodcast.’ Is that okay?
CL: Yes, I’m sorry Brad.
BP: It’s okay. ‘CTMPodcast’ is the code. We’ll have a link on our blog. Well, Cheryl, thank you so much for joining us today.
CL: You’re welcome. This was fun. I hope it was good for you.