When we set out to introduce our company to the world, we were thinking BIG. We had ambitions of putting Jugnoo on the map but we didn't have a whole lot of time to do this. We needed to raise our brand awareness and drive to meeting some short-term objectives so we put our heads together and decided to develop a Toronto-based social media conference.
But the idea of putting together a kick-butt conference in 3 months was beyond insane. I remember telling everyone that I wanted to disrupt NXNE but I also knew that would be a more ridiculous feat since the timeline was much shorter. So we ended up agreeing on a summer conference --EEK!! - when there was much less noise in the market place .... and when everybody went on vacation. We had to somehow build enough buzz to get people excited about the event ahead of people planning their summer vacations. We also had a few more critical things working against us:
- Nobody knew who the heck Jugnoo was, let alone the conference we were putting together.
- As a start-up we didn't have the burgeoning budgets of the Cokes and Starbucks of the world.
So with time, money, seasonality and low awareness working against us, we set out on this risky mission to build out one of the biggest social media conferences in Toronto.
Below reveals our harrowing but exciting 3-month journey to launch #SoMix2012.
It all started with GaryVee
It started at SXSW and Julie Tyios, our Senior Manager of Retention, happened to meet Phil Toronto of Vaynermedia. We got to talking and soon struck a deal to have Gary be our first keynote. Yay, that was win number ONE! It wouldn’t be difficult to draw an audience with this guy! Everybody knows GaryVee right? .... Not really! Outside of the social media community, his brand is virtually unknown. To top that off, we were targeting small business people, many of whom were still new to the notion of social media.
So our internal connector, Danny Brown, Award-winning marketer and blogger, Jugnoo's VP, Partner Strategy, opened his social media black book and introduced us to some top notch personalities in social media: Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston, strongly respected in their fields, and who co-authored Marketing in the Round. Soon after, AmberMac, a local social media superstar, and someone I've admired for years, happily agreed to be part of the conference. Now, we were well under way! We secured GaryVee, AmberMac, Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston. It was now clear that we had a killer line-up that would definitely draw an audience.
How Social Mix was Born:
While this was happening, we needed to get a website up (within 3 weeks). We estimated that if we launched the website at the end of May, we literally only had 2 full months to drive registration. In order to make this happen, we needed positioning for the conference: what it was about, who it was for, and what message would resonate with the audience. At the time, we had already established a partnership with The Remix Project, a youth organization whose mission is to "help refine the raw talents of young people from across the GTA in order to help them find success as participants define it and on their own terms".
We decided to target small businesses and create a social media conference where people could have access to and learn from some of the best and brightest social media experts in business. The Remix Project was especially dear to me because of the struggles these young people have met in their lives. They grow up in a world where communication is more technology driven, and (because of access – or lack thereof) can hinder the development of youth if we let it. We decided that this event was as much for the youth as it was for small business. Everyone could take away something from this event. So, we decided to use the event as a fundraiser, with proceeds going to The Remix Project. After some clever brainstorming, our dear friend, Hugh Oddie (and yes Hugh, you deserve credit), came up with our conference name, Social Mix 2012 or #SoMix2012.
Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe that. Costs started to creep with the calibre of speakers we had to bring on board. So, we were very cautious when we were scoping out venues. Luckily a friend of ours, Judi Samuels aka @ChiefLemonhead, happened to work at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Given, our partnership with Remix, we were able to secure some favourable rates, as well as provide yet another strong corporate partner for this youth organization.
With a clear message positioning, we were now able to begin to brand #SoMix2012. Fawad Mehrzad, our In-house Designer and Director collaborated with Tabitha Aquino (the voice of Jugnoo, and Business Development) and Lindsay Bell, Chief Content Officer, to develop this poignant video.
By end of May, 2012, we managed to secure a venue, design the website, develop the messaging, produce the video and secure the speakers -- all within 5 weeks.
Tons of Administrative Details
There was still so much to do. Our heads.... I mean, my head was spinning. We needed sponsors, swag, signage, a corporate booth, collateral, event video, speaker content, menu, conference agenda, A/V equipment, media plan and execution ... and we were only 8 weeks away from D-day. It was then that we decided to bring aboard a seasoned event planner to keep us on track while we executed the details -- on top of our other duties. Amanda-Lynn-Ballard, thank you! Thatisall.
Promoting the Event
This was the most critical piece mainly because we didn't have the time or budget to drive awareness in mass scale. So we leveraged our connections. We outreached to social media friends to help spread the message–bloggers, twitterers, digital podcasters, social media practitioners in PR and agency. Plus we developed partnerships with contacts we met in SXSW, content providers, publishers, tech media, start-up media, small business organizations–all helping us drive awareness for this important event.
I won't lie... I was on pins and needles the whole time. I felt like a watch-clock-that-never-boils every time I opened up the registration stats. Those registrations weren't moving as fast as I had hoped. So we went back to the drawing table and brainstormed contests and other executions to get the registrations moving. We even purchased some nominal media in local radio and TV because it was inexpensive especially during the summer months.
And then it hit: Nirvana! We made it rain. All the registrations came pouring in the final 3 weeks. Near the end, it seemed like a groundswell of activity. By this point, we had secured even more Tier 1 Speakers like Sault Colt, Mayor of Twitter from Freshbooks; Matt Hixson, CEO of Tellagence and eventual Klout-killer; Sergeant Tim Burrows of the Toronto Police Services, Frank Falcone, from Rotman MBA; Ayaz Pira, from PWC; Marc Mondesir from Dell; Mark Greenspan from Achilles Media; Laurie Dillon Schalk, from Draft FCB, and our own Danny Brown (we decided that he deserved to be up there:).
The Day Arrives
By this point, nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong!! I had been up since 2:30 worrying about the details, realizing that many of them were well in hand. The only thing I worried about was GaryVee somehow being detained. Call it a bad hunch! This came to fruition mid-day when we saw Gary's tweets through the #SoMix2012 hashtag. A storm was hitting the New York area and all planes were grounded. I know Gary's effort was genuine. He kept us up to date on what was going on. Unfortunately, the afternoon agenda was in horrible danger of being rejigged and we hadn't yet informed the attendees. Luckily, Gary was able to secure the last seat on the only flight leaving Laguardia that morning. He made it to the event on time and everything went as planned. Whew!
As for the results. They speak for themselves:
Here are some mentions:
@Strategy4Social @DanColangelo Nothing like a little conference #afterglow to kick off a friday morning - enjoy! #somix2012
Congrats @jugnooMe on the rave reviews for your excellent inaugural conference #SoMix2012 today in #Toronto
@carrieburrows @T_Burrows lots of laughs, the surprise hit speaker of #SoMix2012
We managed to pull off this amazing event with the little resources that we had. A group of marketers with diverse skills were able to execute flawlessly. And, it seems time was on our side. Will we do this again? Hell, yes!!
In the coming weeks, we'll be posting the speaker videos on Social Mix. First up, @GaryVee!
Thanks for all those who came out to support our event! Next year'll be even better!