The first annual Dallas Digital Summit rolled through North Texas earlier this week as an excellent opportunity for digital marketers, agencies, and entrepreneurs to learn from and connect with industry experts. It was well attended, with over 700 people in the audience, and featured speakers from tech giants like Twitter, Google, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and many others. A wealth of knowledge spilled from the stages, providing value on a number of topics such as mobile, social, SEO, content, and design.
As a Dallas-based entrepreneur and startup cofounder, I was interested to soak in the sessions and utilize the event to connect with some new faces, on both a local and national level. I found a few key takeaways that became consistent themes throughout the two-day event. Regardless of which speaker or panel you were listening to, the majority touched on several of these points, which I found particularly valuable from an entrepreneurial perspective.
1. Be Present
I hate to state the obvious, but events such as these are critical for entrepreneurs and startups, which is why it's a great thing that TechMedia decided to begin hosting one in Dallas annually. The content is extremely topical, and the ability to network and actually get face time with an assortment of your peers and out-of-towners cannot get any easier. Those looking for a cofounder, seeking strategic partners, or looking to generate new business can all make great progress in a short amount of time with such a concentrated group of like-minded people. Sure, the registration fee of a few hundred dollars might be tough for a bootstrapped startup founder to scrape together, but it's an investment you just have to make. The amount of new contacts and potential relationships you're able to develop will undoubtedly pay off over time.
2. Be an Expert in Your Field
“Thought leadership” is a term that gets thrown around pretty loosely these days, especially in the social/digital marketing spaces. At a conference such as this it’s very top of mind, given that those few chosen ones on the stages are indeed thought leaders in their fields. For many entrepreneurs, they envision themselves on that stage in the future, engaging the audience with stories of their past and current successes.
Sure, that might be the end goal, but there is a middle ground. There are many levels of thought leadership and a lot to be gained by adopting it as a mentality. The key takeaway is to start now. Start developing your personal brand, organizing and presenting your expertise, and showing your peers that you are an expert. You don't have to be chosen as a speaker at a prestigious event for this to happen. It can be reflected in your tweets, on your blog, and in the way you speak with people on a daily basis. Know your niche better than anyone, and convey that in all of your social activity.
3. Create and Curate
This is really an extension of thought leadership, because in order to become the leader that you know you are, you have to be able to back it up. Creation and curation of content are the most effective ways to do this. Many of the Summit speakers touched on these topics, walking the audience through examples of each. There are countless platforms that act as excellent distribution channels, allowing the content to spread virally. It's important to choose the best format for your content (e.g., blog, infographic, SlideShare, e-book, white paper) and syndicate it where it is most likely to be welcomed. Regardless if you've created an original piece of content or curated an interesting piece that another industry expert has distributed, it's essential to know your audience and super-serve them with what they are likely to want to consume.
4. Take Care of Your Customers
It seems like another no-brainer, but it can't be emphasized enough. You've got to take care of your customers. In fact, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian made it the basis for his entire opening keynote presentation. After all, those who use your products/services will eventually define the success or failure of your company. I think it's important to mention that this applies regardless if you're in a B2C or B2B industry. The customer and their satisfaction level should be priority number one, always. Brent Herd, director of southeast sales for Twitter, presented an excellent closing keynote on day one with a number of crowd-pleasing examples of how Twitter is not only impacting digital marketing but also affecting customer service channels and habits. If you're not engaging with your end users on Twitter (and other social channels), you're very likely missing the most important feedback you'll ever get on your product.
5. Move Fast
As I sat through presentations from many of the self-made experts on stage at the Summit, another glaring trait I found myself coming back to was their ability to adapt quickly. It's clear technology and innovation are moving at the speed of light. If you're gong to win, going to survive, and eventually going to thrive as an entrepreneur, you'd better be ready to run the race.
A year from now when the Dallas Digital Summit comes back through town, I wonder what the topics will be discussed that aren't even on the radar today. This year Pinterest and Instagram were frequently mentioned in the social space as emerging trends. Which will be top of mind 12 months from today? Are they even out of beta right now? The same can be said for mobile, SEO, and the other topics discussed. The key takeaway for entrepreneurs is to not only keep up, but to forge new ground. Push the envelope within your niche and move as fast as you possibly can.
As an entrepreneur and cofounder of Dallas-based Fancorps, guest author G.I. Sanders has a passion for startups, social media, and digital marketing strategies. He is a music and fitness enthusiast, frequently merging the two with the latest mobile technology. His primary goal for Tech Cocktail is to bring much-needed exposure and attention to the vast number of startups and entrepreneurs in the southern United States, particularly central Texas. Follow him on Twitter @gisanders.