A couple of weeks ago, I left unseasonably cold New York for palm trees, blue skies, and ferociously optimistic speakers at Social Media Marketing World 2014 in San Diego. Hosted by the social media gurus at Social Media Examiner, this conference was a neon-tinted, “Happy” singing, digital media paradise.

Sessions included speaker such as Jay Baer, Martin Shervington, Mark Schaefer, Michael Hyatt, and Gini Dietrich, just to name a few, covering topics from analytics to Instagram and everything in between. I was in digital marketing nerd heaven.

Here are nine things I learned at Social Media Marketing World 2014:

  1. Employees are your best advocates: Advocacy is born from culture and employees help you reach more people at the individual level. According to Jay Baer, “You can’t be the best place to buy if you’re not the best place to work.” 92 percent of Americans trust recommendations from family and friends. 41 percent of people trust a company’s employees more than the CEO. 98 percent of millennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s social media post than a company’s.
  2. Bi-directional content sharing is key to advocate participation: Your company should feel comfortable passing information to employees to share online. This way, employees will also feel integrated enough to pass information to the company.
  3. Create a Twitter mission statement: Follow this template, @[Your Twitter handle] is where ________ can find _________. Filling these blanks will allow you to tweet with purpose and make everything else about defining your Twitter strategy so much easier.
  4. Give in to Google+: The social aspect allows people to connect around content. Then, that content surfaces in Google searches. Based upon who engages, Google’s algorithm pays greater attention to it and the content appears in more searches. Once your content is up on Google+, look to refresh it after a few days to add value, then reshare the blog again – this will often give it a lift in search. Remember, content engagement is what will get you searched, not your follower count.
  5. There’s a right and a wrong way to retweet: Don’t just retweet, quote tweets and mention authors and sources instead. This allows you to add your own thoughts and provide insight into the information will interest your audience.
  6. Follow the Cowbell Principle: According to Brian Carter, find out what your customers like and give them a ton of it. The more familiar people are with your brand the more they like you. Create 50 online advertisements, 50 posts (for Facebook and LinkedIn), and 50 tweets. Then, track engagement on each, paying attention to the tone and topic of the top 10 and bottom 10.
  7. Social media is designed for awareness:  Digital communities give your leads and customers a chance to share you with the world by saying, I love this brand, so I want to tell you about this brand, too. This clarifies that social media isn’t designed for direct sales – it’s a bonus.
  8. Design animated explainer videos: Add these to your Facebook and LinkedIn pages and YouTube channel, detailing product updates and system demos for both customers and leads. With animation you have more control than live-action.
  9. The next social media revolution is data: Create content that moves. The big theme going forward is entertaining content – the most popular content is funny, compelling, and innovative. People want to see something they’ve never seen before. Data will increase by 600% by 2020, the equivalent of six internets. 75 percent of this data will be created by consumers.

The main take away was pretty simple – social marketing matters. Use it and use it well. As a digital marketing strategy, social media isn’t going anywhere, in fact it’s only going to become more prominent in the next five years.