I sit here writing this, just 2 weeks removed from Social Savvy, Ireland’s first social media conference for higher education. The conference was the idea of both myself and one of my partners in crime, Shane McCarthy.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let me take you back to November 2015. Shane and I were brainstorming, as we regularly do, formulating new ideas for 2016. We wanted to explore the option of expanding our offerings to third levels in Ireland. From 2014, we have worked with numerous third levels around the country including the University of Limerick, NUI Galway, Limerick Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, Athlone IT, but to name a few. We train staff to best utilise social media to promote their college or university online, increase admissions and engage with prospective, current or former students. We have witnessed firsthand, somewhat of an awakening for third levels, when it comes to social media. They now understand that they have to be where their target market is.
Because of all of this, we came up with the idea of Social Savvy. Nothing of its kind had been done before here in Ireland. Staff were still relatively new to a lot of aspects of social media and their employers even more so. With all of this in mind, we felt there was a huge opportunity to build something special. Third level staff are busy people. With the speed at which social media moves and changes, it is incredibly difficult to keep up to date with everything. With all of this in mind, Social Savvy was born.
I have organised two Startup Weekend’s in Limerick since 2014, and over that time, I found myself developing a real love for event management. Because of this, I have transitioned in my role here at BlueChief. The shift has slowly taken me away from social media account management/training/consultancy and towards organising events and growing the brand along with my other duties as general manager.
With any conference like this, it is the line-up of speakers that forms the core nucleus of a successful event. After researching countless individuals online, I formed the dream team. I reached out to individuals who I felt would add serious credibility to the conference. I was quite surprised at the willingness and enthusiasm of the speakers I had reached out to. Every person committed to the conference after one email or phone call. I thought to myself, “this is too good to be true”. It was reassuring to know that these individuals fully bought into what we were trying to achieve with the conference.
The Dream Team
Before long the line-up for the event took shape. We had Barney Brown (@BarneyBrownCAM), head of online communications at Cambridge University, one of the top 5 universities on the planet – not only from an academic standpoint but also on social media.
Next up we had Ruchika Hassan (@ruchika_d), an award-winning digital marketer who is head of digital, social and content marketing at Groupon. Ruchika’s philosophy and knowledge of building digital strategies are second to none.
Hubspot, the biggest marketing company in the world was always going to be one of our main targets for the conference. We were thrilled to get Amy Carroll (@goinginbound), an inbound marketing specialist who deals with higher education.
Lisa Molan, a relationship manager with LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional network would speak about the importance of LinkedIn for students when preparing for life after higher education.
We had our very own Shane McCarthy (@ShaneBlueChief), CEO here at BlueChief along with our CMO Danny O’Brien (@DanBlueChief), both of whom have worked with numerous third levels over the past couple of years. Danny has just written a blog post highlighting “The 5 Key Takeaways from Social Savvy 2016”.
Valerie Leahy (@val868594) who works in marketing and communications in postgraduate recruitment, NUI Galway has flourished on social media over the past 18 months, going from a complete novice to a national trendsetter.
A onetime fighter pilot and one of Ireland’s early adopters when it comes to social media, Bernard Goldbach (@topgold) is a digital marketing lecturer in the Limerick School of Art and Design. No one understands social quite like Bernie and his refreshing approach and delivery of information is quite hypnotic.
Louise McCormack (@Louisemcire) has been immersed in social media and marketing for almost 10 years. She currently manages the social accounts for the International Office at the University of Limerick. Utilising live-streaming and video very successfully in her role, Louise would discuss why video is so important in 2016.
Having worked with many of the third levels in the country we were starting out at a real advantage. One thing I hadn’t banked on was how difficult it would be to get information about the conference to all third level staff in Ireland. Even with our contacts within higher education, protocol within many of the colleges and universities meant that we were restricted with our avenues of promotion. I am not going to lie, that gave me a few headaches in the lead up to the event. Luckily I had a kick ass team helping me with the event and collectively we hit every third level with as many phone calls and emails as humanly possible, with permission, of course.
Both @LauraBlueChief and @PaulBlueChief are the newest members of the BlueChief team. This was the first event they had ever organised and I have to say they absolutely knocked it out of the park. We were like the three musketeers with one goal in mind, run a kick ass event that would provide attendees with real value.
Three weeks out from the event I was nervous as hell. We had a theatre with a capacity of 520 as our venue and had only 30 people signed up to attend.
Thankfully in the remaining three weeks sign-ups increased significantly. The final count was 125 attendees. Typical Irish, leaving everything until the last minute :). We had done it, our hard work had paid off and we hit our target for sign-ups. The signage, banners, promotional material, food, sound, lighting, transport and hotels all had to be organised, but no-one wants to hear about the boring stuff 🙂 Not even a last minute withdrawal of one of our speakers due to a work commitment could dampen the mood. These things happen. You just have to roll with the punches. Now all that was left was to hope that the months of planning would lead to a successful conference.
The Big Day
April 1st finally arrived, it was time to kick things off. I don’t think I have ever been as calm before an event before. Maybe it comes from experience and learning as I go. I was confident that as a team we had ticked every box and left no stone unturned.
It was great putting faces to the names of people I had spoken to by phone or email on the lead up to the conference. Attendees arrived with smiles on their faces and you could see that they were excited for the day ahead.
The day was jam packed full of speakers delivering top class advice. We covered pretty much all the bases, digital strategy, video and live streaming, engagement, building a personal brand, the information sharing economy, increasing admissions and more.
Bar one or two little hiccups, the event ran pretty smoothly. There are a few things I would have changed looking back now but what is done is done. We will know for our next event.
As you can see from the comments below, people seemed to really take a lot from their day at the conference. We also trended in Ireland for 22 hours, which was a nice achievement. As you can expect at a social media conference, people were posting and tweeting all day using the hashtag #SocialSavvy16.
I really feel like a social media marketing mogul after everything I learned at the #SocialSavvy16 yesterday.
— ElishaBernie (@elishabernie93) April 2, 2016
#SocialSavvy16, so inspired I’ve given myself a w/end of strategy planning!
— Susan Whelan (@Salesplash) April 1, 2016
— Ann Mitchell (@AnnMitchellNUIG) April 1, 2016
— Athlone IT (@AthloneIT) April 1, 2016
— DCU (@DublinCityUni) April 1, 2016
— Nexus Innovation (@NexusUL) April 1, 2016
— Jess Beeley (@bettyoctopus) April 1, 2016
After a successful conference, we want to continue the momentum into 2017. It is our aim to run Social Savvy annually. We have tentatively pencilled in Social Savvy for February 2017. Our goal is to market the event to an international audience as well as Irish third levels. We feel that the magic and allure of Ireland coupled with a top class speaker line-up will be enough to attract higher education staff from around the world. A tough task you may say, indeed it is, but we will try our utmost to make it happen. If you want to make it in this world you have to think big. Think big, dream big, believe big… and the results will be big.
Stay tuned to @SocialSavvyIrl over the next couple of weeks as we release footage from the conference. If you work in higher education and would like to shape Social Savvy 2017, just get in touch and let us know what topics you would like to be covered at our next conference.
Hopefully, we will see you at #SocialSavvy17.