On October 19 Mannix Marketing welcomed nearly 150 Upstate New York business people to the fall 2016 M2Con, a digital marketing conference designed specifically for small-to-medium sized businesses. The mood as attendees checked in was expectant: everyone was anticipating a day filled with advice, tips, and tricks that they could immediately implement in their own businesses and communities.

Social Media Marketing for Small Business

The morning sessions were devoted to social and digital marketing. Mannix Marketing’s Amberly Rundell gave two back-to-back presentations on the power of Facebook in small business marketing plans, followed by an informational session on the growing influence of Instagram for brands by Mannix’s Scott Stevens.

Small Business Facebook Marketing

Amberly’s first presentation focused on how to “Improve Your Facebook Marketing: Getting More Likes and Increasing Your Reach”. Attendees learned four design tips for creating great impressions with their business’ Facebook pages, what types of content to use to improve their Facebook marketing, and how to increase and measure engagement. Amberly’s second presentation titled “4 Ways to Advertise on Facebook: Which One is BEST for You?” expanded on how to improve small business Facebook marketing with Facebook Ads. The presentation focused on understanding the business-fan relationship on Facebook and the platform’s powerful segmentation tools that allow businesses to reach very specific audiences for relatively little effort or ad spend.

BONUS: At the end of her second presentation, Amberly asked attendees who were interested to submit their business cards for a chance to win a free hour-long Facebook consultation. Nearly every business submitted a card, and the lucky winner was the Lake George Land Conservancy!

Instafamous: Instagram for Brands

Instagram is a relatively new platform for brands, only recently unveiling marketing insights and analysis tools for businesses. But Mannix Marketing’s Scott Stevens has been using Instagram successfully for several years to promote brands in the Adirondacks and Capital Region. His presentation, “Win with Instagram: Gain Followers & Engage Your Audience”, sent a murmur of intrigued appreciation through the crowd as he revealed that 55% of millennials are using Instagram multiple times a day. It’s no wonder the image-rich platform is the fastest growing social media network for brands, and M2Con attendees left the session with tips on what to post, how to use Instagram to interact and encourage direct engagement with customers, and several ways to engage and grow their audiences on the platform.

Website Conversion is Key to Digital Marketing Success

In the next session, Jeremy Abel- who not only organized and emceed the event but also presented- shifted the discussion from social media to website conversion and the important role design, messaging, and functionality play in how customers and potential customers behave on your site. After all, even if you can drive thousands from social media to your website, if they can’t figure out what to do once they get there, much of your effort on social media was in vain. Jeremy’s presentation focused on practical steps attendees could take without committing to an entire website redesign. Sometimes, Jeremy said, it’s as simple as choosing the right verbiage or improving the site’s effectiveness for visual learners.

Influence, Content, Branding, and Getting a Little Technical

Native Advertising and Influencers are the Future of Content

After lunch, Mannix Marketing’s Director of Digital Sales and Strategy introduced another new concept: native advertising. Though, as Valleri pointed out in her presentation, the idea that customers will respond better to an advertisement that reads like an editorial than one that feels like it’s trying to sell you something is hardly new, using native advertising and influencer marketing is a new trend in digital marketing. Native advertising is a powerful tool for small business marketers. If you can identify a social media account, blogger, or other digital influencer with an audience very similar to the one your product or service targets, you can contract them to promote sponsored content to their audiences. This type of advertising is extremely effective because influencers have trust with their audiences, trust that you can capitalize on to promote your business.

Content is King, but Distribution is Queen

Long awaited, CEO Sara Mannix took the slide advancer next to talk about “The “Write” Way to Success: Tips for Creating Attention-Grabbing Content”. Sara’s presentation focused on 10 proven tips for creating content. Attendees learned how to identify audiences, where to find ideas, when to mix it up, and how to stand out from the crowd. Most importantly, though, the small business owners and marketing professionals in the audience discovered why content is so important to digital marketing and how to distribute that content effectively.

Brand Consistency and Market Share

Special guest Sean Magee of Trampoline Design joined Mannix Marketing to speak with the audience about “Creative Placemaking: How Brand Consistency Can Improve Market Share”. His talk covered the principles of brand consistency and an eight-step process for developing a compelling and unique brand to improve market share. Sean also discussed the differences between design fads and design that fits your brand. Something as simple as three notes, he told the audience, can make you think of a brand. To prove his point, he sang “Na-tion-wide” and the audience responded, almost involuntarily, “is on your side”. Touché.

The Importance of Search Engine Optimization

Sara Mannix closed out the day with a technical discussion of search engine optimization (SEO) and what makes sites rank well. Though she covered many of the hundreds of factors that affect site rankings, Sara wanted attendees to walk away with something concrete that they could go back to their office and change starting Thursday morning. So, along with slides detailing the different signals that generally affect site rankings, every attendee walked away from the conference with a Visibility Report that evaluated the external location signals affecting their website’s search engine rankings.

A Day’s Worth of Information, A Year’s Worth of Tools

Just before the final session I turned to the woman sitting next to me and asked what she thought. I’m not exaggerating when I say that she lit up. Sue was there with a local chamber and very eager to get back and implement everything they’d learned through the course of the day. She told me that she and her colleagues had been discussing how useful and valuable the conference had been to them so far – well-worth the money spent. As a chamber president, she could see the possibilities not just for individual businesses, but for an entire community of businesses to work in concert on social media and digital marketing strategies to improve attendance at local events and sales at local businesses.

I left her with one more piece of advice: “Create a content calendar and share it with everyone in the chamber,” I said. “That way you will all know what campaigns and hashtags your community is using and you can capitalize on them!”

About Sara Mannix

Sara Mannix is the CEO of Mannix Marketing, Inc., a Digital Marketing Agency headquartered in Glens Falls, NY. She founded Mannix Marketing in 1996 with a goal to get clients "found" on the web through organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The company now serves over 1500 clients worldwide and employs a team of over 30 specialists, still operating under the tagline "We Get You Found On The Web." This multifaceted company is an industry leader, specializing in organic SEO, Link Earning, SEO-friendly Website Design, Online Advertising, Social Media and more. Mannix Marketing also has one of the largest portfolios of tourism and city guides in Upstate New York. These guides, which include Albany.com, Saratoga.com, LakeGeorge.com, GlensFallsRegion.com, CliftonPark.com and Adirondack.net, reach over 10 million visitors a year. Corresponding social media profiles for the region extend this reach to millions more on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and more.