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Social Media Club Chicago: What’s Happening Next/Now in Social Storytelling

Last week, Social Media Club (SMC) Chicago hosted a paneled event at the headquarters of interactive marketing agency NEXT/NOW complete with four influencers who shared their perspective on personal branding and what it means to storytell in a social space.

Moderated by president of SMC Chicago, Jeff Willinger, the panelists included Liz Strauss, founder of SOBCon and a social business strategist; Joe Piehl, Chicago editor of The Local Tourist; Sean McGinnis, marketing director at Sears PartsDirect; and Anne Reuss, social and marketing manager, customer/user experience investigator for 360Connext.

To start things off, the speakers were asked what their differentiating factor was. “The new model now is solution, solution, solution,” Strauss said. “Open the doors as soon as you know what you are going to build, invite your customer.”

McGinnis advised to find “a mentor that you can mimic.” He explained that he grew up idolizing former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and tried to replicate his signature throw. “So inside the corporate world, my recommendation would be to find someone that has a work style similar to yours, perceived a certain way, and mimic the things that you see them successful with.”

Piehl then explained that from a freelancer’s perspective, it’s all about core competency. When he worked at Weber Shandwick PR, he was one of the first to dive into social media when it was new; these skills made him stand out. “Look at how you’re developing and expanding and really look at what are the capabilities whether as a communicator, brand manager or social media expert.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Reuss explained a challenging situation she faced when she was studying abroad as a deaf woman. She remembered feeling left out of the group she travelled with because they didn’t want to communicate or explore the city of Prague with her.

“I work my ass off to make a connection with someone and they weren’t even willing to do that,” she said. So her story evolved to her exploring on her own and conversing with locals to find the best spots to visit. “You have to be brave and uncomfortable. I think it’s good to be uncomfortable. You can still be confident.  I think that works together. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I will do whatever it takes to make a connection with people, and that’s my differentiator.”

The panel then examined what it means to expand on a brand and what are the upsides and downsides to that expansion.

Strauss said that it’s important to know to where you’re expanding. “Know deep, before you go wide,” she said. “The upside is you can make yourself more shareable, the downside is if you don’t pay attention, you’re going to spread yourself too thin.”

For Piehl, there are two things to think about. First, similar to Strauss, ask yourself questions such as:  How far do you want to expand? What’s the target audience? What’s the group that you want to be a part of that you’re not currently a part of now? What’s the spirit of influence? Second, he advised to think about how you can support that group instead of what you take away from it. “Because by consistently providing good value, people will look at you and start pulling you into the conversation instead of you trying to push your way into it,” he explained.

Reuss admitted that it’s hard to define her personal brand because she is still changing, but she suggested that it’s ok to be dynamic and changing as long as you maintain consistency and social presence. Additionally, she encouraged the notion of facing challenges head on. “I face problems all my life from being deaf…but if you look at the problem first, then you’ll find an opportunity inside it and I think that provides help.”

The panel continued to share helpful advice with their personal experiences and stories on what brands and people own a position in the industry, as well as what personal traits it takes to expand successfully.

To wrap up the session, Willinger asked the panelists to share one quick tip and takeaway that influences them on the topic of social networking and personal branding.

Strauss proclaimed she liked Reuss’ tip from earlier in the discussion and reiterated it. “Have the courage to get out of you comfort zone and go say ‘Hi’ to other people you don’t know,” she said.

“Go be a mentor,” McGinnis said. “Go find someone who can benefit from the expertise you already possess or maybe you’ve been afraid to tap inside yourself… [there are] many folks out there that are dying to learn what you can teach them.”

“Think about how you can support a community,” Piehl added.

“Define your style. You have to find what works best for you,” Reuss said. “Remember if you are going to a big event, and you want to follow up with someone – give it some time because people are travelling or they forget.  So you can send them a quick email saying ‘Hey it was great to meet you’ and then wait a week to send a more in-depth, meaningful follow-up.”

After the discussion, guests were encouraged to participate in a large “selfie” taken by Willinger and tinker around with the NEXT/NOW interactive technologies such as a virtual reality mask, a Kinetiq football game and photo booth complete with green screen backdrops.

For the local chapter and events nearest you, visit Social Media Club on Twitter.


Photo by Jenny Wittman 

About Jenny Wittman

Jenny Wittman is senior editor and features writer for Cision Blog and oversees the daily media updates on the site. She is also senior media researcher at Cision and joined the company in March 2008. She likes being outdoors, going to concerts, traveling and exploring art galleries. She adores all animals and has a fascination for the cosmos. Find her on Twitter @jennywittman.

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