Monday of interactive weekend at South-by-Southwest is typically the day the social media and digital marketing crowd wakes up and realizes they aren’t in college anymore and that much alcohol is best used in truck engines. SXSW has been called “Spring Break for Geeks” and though I am not in attendance this year, I can attest, it certainly can be that. But I learned a valuable social media lesson going to SXSW over the years worth sharing.

You see, social media is a fun way to connect with people and share information. Using social media for marketing purposes is similar. It is a fantastic channel to leverage to connect with customers, share information and, on occasion, sell things. But social media is just one facet of the relationships you need in your life, personally or professionally.

The Social Media Lesson - Move OfflineMy social media lesson came after spending six years attending SXSW. I went to make real-life connections to the virtual friends and online communities I cultivated the rest of the year. For several years, Tim Hayden and I hosted a Friday night party at SXSW where many of those relationships came together to talk, laugh, drink and enjoy some face time.

But the real social media lesson came in 2011 when I went to SXSW with a purpose. I was asked to help the executive team at Expion, then a new-ish startup in the enterprise content management software space, connect with several influencers in the social media and technology space. Peter Heffring, the CEO of Expion then, asked me to organize a week’s worth of meetings and meet-ups. It helped that I had pledged to not drink alcohol to support a friend going through rehab for addiction at the time, so I went to SXSW with clear intent and no distractions.

That year was the most successful year of my burgeoning consulting life. The connections I helped Expion made included ones that bolstered the company’s growing roster of clients and increased exposure in the technology space. Expion was eventually acquired by Sysomos and a couple years later, Heffring took over as CEO of that company.

Among the people I connected with Expion in 2011 was David Berkowitz. His agency became a huge Expion partner and client. He’s now Sysomos’s Chief Strategy Officer.

Now, I can’t take direct credit for anything other than the introductions. But I did learn that spring that while social media is wonderful, it is but a superficial layer on a much deeper skin of relationship building. Unless or until you are able to take the online to the offline, social media is just a nice-to-have. When you’re able to turn the corner on moving ideas to action, it becomes the critical first step in a series of several that lead to meaningful returns.

Don’t forget that for your small business. You can collect all the fans and followers in the world on your social media accounts. You can even gather up all the email addresses of them and reach out to them on a regular basis. But if you never motivate them to come in, call or visit your site, then transact in some way, then you’re just using social media.

If you do move them to a more meaningful, deeper and perhaps even offline relationship, then you’re a social media marketer. And that’s a powerful social media lesson.


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