It was a scorching hot South Florida weekend, yet Nancy Richmond, Florida International University College of Business marketing professor, wanted to see it heat up even more – in a social media sense, that is.
And it did. More than 350 students, alumni, bloggers and business people attended FIU’s second annual Social Tech Live! The July 16-17 event featured seminars, panels and speakers addressing how social media can augment virtually any business, from high-tech startups to traditional health care and government sectors.
“The goal of the conference was to connect students and professionals across disciplines interested in learning more about the latest trends in technology, social media, and business,” said Richmond, who specializes in social media marketing.
Attendees were encouraged to share comments and photos on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And share they did: The event garnered more than six million social media impressions and was trending on Twitter for two days.
A volunteer corps of 60-plus students and alumni from across disciplines staffed the event. Many were members of the Social Media Association student group, of which Richmond is faculty advisor.
Speakers included Fady Saad, co-founder of MassRobotics at MIT; Alison Thompson of Third Wave Volunteers, and FIU President Emeritus Modesto A. Maidique. Topics ranged from robotics, drones, coding, social media strategy and web development to imagining the digital future.
Also featured: a Startup Showcase and Innovation Challenge sponsored by IBM and organized by StartupFIU, which helps early stage South Florida entrepreneurs, and coding school Wyncode.
Other corporate sponsors and participants included the Miami Herald, AT&T, the Miami International Airport, United Data Technologies, DHL, the Newlink Group, WLRN and Piper Companies.
Every business affected.
It’s hard to overestimate social media’s effect on business. That was made clear by speakers that included several other FIU College of Business professors, as well as Richmond.
Jerry Miller, research coordinator, Discovery Lab in the FIU Computer Information Sciences department and his students showcased their research in robotics, engineering and computer science, which underscored a key theme of the conference: bridging the divide between business and engineering.
Marketing Instructor Wendy Guess spoke on the “Healthcare: Patient Engagement & Technology” panel. Guess, who teaches health and fitness marketing along with other marketing classes, focused on the importance of well-thought-out social media content, especially if the goal is to change behavior — for example incorporating healthier foods in one’s diet. This strategy may maximize the engagement of a social media campaign.
The social media advantage, she noted, is being able to send people to websites or how-to videos. The medium’s interactive nature fosters connections and community. “There is a word-of-mouth and community building aspect about it,” that can intensify the impact, Guess said.
One of the best attended panels, “How Technology can Increase Sales,” was moderated by Rafael Soltero Venegas, an instructor in the marketing department. The panel was composed of FIU alumni – and one current FIU student, Jonas Erthal, a principal in Joust, which connects auto services with clients and was a semi-finalist in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, FIU track.
“How can tech increase sales?” Soltero asked in his introduction. “Everything starts from sales. It’s not about selling more, it’s about selling better.”
Questions explored issues such as the uses of sales-generated data and how a startup with no track record can generate customer trust.
For the attendees, it was all about networking and learning.
“I enjoyed how the talks were an extension of what we learn in the classroom, providing a much-needed real world perspective.” said Jessa McRee-Krim, who is pursing a marketing and management double major with a minor in entrepreneurship at FIU.
Richmond hopes people left the conference with a “deeper appreciation and new knowledge about technology, virtual reality, coding, social media, startups, robots, business and more that they can use to change the world in positive ways.”