The little conference that could : Social Capital

Part 1 - Planning a conference

Many of us talked about a social media conference in Ottawa for quite awhile before I finally just called a few of my online friends together.  “Let’s do it!” I said.

I thought I knew how much work was involved (a lot), but it was really way more than just a lot.

I won’t get into the gory details of the planning, nor will I go into the gory details of the things that went wrong (well, I will say that the wifi not being activated as ordered is still something haunting me) but I will say that despite all of the hours of work from an amazing group of people - it was totally worth it.

The excitement, the enthusiasm, and the kudos for the little conference a bunch of women who don’t plan conferences decided to “throw together” in four months…  it’s enough to make us truly believe it was worth it all, and to make us want to do it again (lord help us).

The gals that made it happen (except Vicky who had to go home sick :(

Part 2 - The conference

Turns out when you’re one of the organizers of a conference it’s hard to just sit back and enjoy.  Not that this is shocking, but the day was kind of a blur.  Thankfully, some great recap posts (thank you Amy, I love this format!) and a few moments where I got to just sit and listen brought some highlight tips out of the day for me that I’m going to share with you now:


During the morning Keynote, Glen Gower of Ottawa Start asked how we can get people more involved and spread the word about our communities.  I think this is going to become a whole blog post for me at some point. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and it is so in line with what I want for growing Ottawa’s community.  Must put my thinking hat on.

What are you doing to grow our community?

Some of the amazing Ottawa community


Joe said something really important “Sometimes a news release or a poster is the right tool.”   Seriously. Not everyone needs to use every tool just because it’s the “in” thing.

Nick and Joe talked a lot about not scaring off management with terms like social media.  Include the tools as part of your communications plans instead of making social media out as an entirely different form of communication. All of it should be integrated for it to work best anyways.

They also talked about management’s fear of social media. Sit down and talk out the worst case scenarios. Then walk away and “solve” the issues they’re afraid of.  I think this is a great tip! Really - is it as scary as they think to put yourself out there online?


I was lucky enough to lead a session with Dani and Vivian about social media tools for business.  A few key highlights from this session included this gem from Dani:

“Social media is not free, it’s a lot of work, you need to be ready for the time it takes.”

I think this is so important. People are willing to spend a fortune on advertising but don’t want to pay (generally in a salary or time) for building up their online presence.

It takes time, but it’s relationship management, customer service and public relations all rolled together. And most importantly, people will expect to find you in the online space - what are they going to find when they go looking?

A good tip from Dani - Think about your comment policies - are you going to allow negative comments, personal attacks, profanity? If you post a policy you manage expectations

Don’t delete comments you don’t like, only delete ones that go against the afore mentioned policy.

In her portion of the session Vivian talked about how social media has helped her business grow. She has a great twitter and Facebook presence but I think one of the things she has clearly done that has had huge impact on her business is built relationship with bloggers and writers. Her new products get to the eyes that count, and that (along with awesomely creative products) have gotten them featured in major online publications like Wired, Gizmodo and Alltop.


Analytics are one of those things I know I should do better and don’t. This session by Ben and Scott gave me some great reminders and ideas on a) the importance of measurement to see if what you’re doing is worth doing and b) what some easy ways to track things are.

- Track total cost of every effort, impressions received from effort and then follow through on the “call to action”. This is a great way to see if spending $5000 on a new app for something was more useful in bringing in revenue or increasing company awareness than 5 hours of tweeting and updating Facebook. If you made $8000 from each and one cost $5000 to implement and one cost $500…. well you do the math!

- Use different URLs for different tools to tracking where people are coming from.

- Think about what a follow is worth.


The problem with leading a roundtable was that I couldn’t attend the others. I heard a lot of really interesting feedback about the format and what I thought was the best from my small group was being able to talk and brainstorm ideas with people and for them.  I really enjoyed people coming and asking me questions and think that next year the format will morph a bit but not too much.


We will definitely be doing this again.  We’re already working on securing a location and a date and the ideas are flowing mightily on what the conference should look like next year.

I want to thank everyone who believed in the event in it’s first years.  The amazing sponsors (we couldn’t have done all we did for the price we charged without them!), the incredible speakers (many of whom have never spoken before!) and all the attendees.  A sold out conference in the first year? So awesome!

I still can’t believe we did it. Oh, and in case you’re wondering.  I’m still sick ;)

“I think I can… I think I can… I think I can…”