From the moment we were welcomed by an escort of tri-college mascots (I got the Bison) to the final clap of the thunderstick at the last applause, FargoConnect offered up a whole slew of new ways to create better digital content.

The all day event, held on September 15 and hosted by Flint Group, was sold out to some 500 attendees and featured 20 different speakers throughout the day.

Fargo Connect

NDSU’s “Thundar” Bison, Concordia’s Kernel Cobb, and MSUM’s Dragon were there to greet the attendees – like this young girl who may or may not have been Snapchatting this moment when the photo was taken.

The purpose of the event, which centered around the theme “Let’s Get Real,” sought to answer the question: “How do you stay authentic in a world cluttered with different social media outlets?”

Of the waterfall of wisdom I took in at the event, here are 5 of my favorite answers to that question given by the speakers. Turns out there are a few key components to good online presence, and the methods the speakers use vary from bacon to bobbleheads.


“I like the pink lighting, it’s like FargoConnect has its own custom filter,” -FargoConnect attendee

The Necessity of Trust

By far, the most important theme woven throughout many of the talks, was the necessity of trust-building with your digital content.

In an incredible first keynote, Marcus Sheridan, aka The Sales Lion, shared how he was able to survive the recession and create the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world, by doing one thing: creating honest and valuable content.


Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion, speaks emphatically to guests.

He wrote a series of articles for their blog, answering the questions that no other pool guy had dared to answer. For instance, one article was titled “Five of the best pool companies” in their city, which highlighted some of the most competitive other companies in the industry.

Why do that? “Because we’re all in the business of trust,” Sheridan said.

Successful content marketing, he explained, is “your company’s ability to be the best and most helpful teacher in the world at what you do.”

By creating content that was honest and useful, one article made the company over $3 million in pool sales. Not necessarily because it talked about the pool, but because it illustrated the trustworthiness of the company.

“Become the trust agents of your industry,” Sheridan said. “Honest and transparent content is the greatest sales and trust-building tool in the world. Period.”

Care for Your Customers

Caring for your customers is an umbrella for a variety of things: prompt responses, customer-centric content, and consistent relationship-building content.

Daniel Lemin, Senior Strategist at Convince and Convert, highlighted the importance of responding to reviews in a prompt and thorough manner. Yelp reviews, website reviews, wherever you get them – address them NOW.

“Practice good review hygiene every single day,” he said. “Respond right away, and take it seriously.”

Fargo Connect

Daniel Lemin gives his talk, “ManipuRATED.”

Ajit Pai, a special guest speaker and commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), backed that up when talking about responding to e-mails and social media questions.

“Forty-five percent of people leave after no response,” he cited. You get one chance to make a good impression for your company, and then it’s gone.


Ajit Pai was also the first person in the FCC to get a Twitter account! Woo!

Caring also means creating consistent content, one that keeps your audience engaged and interactive. Mary Scheive, content strategist for Flint Group, put it best when she said this:

“Resist the one-and-done,” she said, referring to one-time campaigns or one-time interactions with customers. “You’re building relationships, you’re not having one night stands.”

Make ‘Em Laugh

Humor is also a key component to an authentic social media presence, according to many of the speakers.

President of MSUM Anne Blackhurst shared how she has been able to create quite a social media following, much to her own surprise. But one thing that she tries to do is incorporate humor into her social media posts.

“I think by being humorous, it makes me seem more human to the students,” she said.

That said, she is a full supporter of stopping to take selfies with everyone who asks as she strolls through campus. She is flattered by the #Annefan hashtag, and laughs at the student phenomenon of taking pictures of President Anne bobbleheads in various set ups. (That’s where the title for this article comes in… behind the bobblehead.)

She also appreciated the giant blown-up picture of her face that kept showing up at the event.


Emcee + FargoConnect mastermind Eric Piela poses with a giant Anne head. #Annefan

Erik Hatch also spoke about being human online, and not using it as a platform only to share articles or spew political views. A post he made about his undying love for bacon, he said, was one of his most successful social media posts, and it has nothing to do with his real estate business.

“It’s much more real if people know me as the bacon guy and not as the real estate guy,” he said.

That way, when it does come time for real estate, customers know him as someone funny, as a fellow human, and not as a salesman.

So basically, make posts about bacon and you’ll be good.

Create Snackable Content

Speaking of bacon, one of the cutest terms I heard came from a break-off presentation by Mary Schieve and Brittney Hanson, content strategist and social media strategist for Flint Group.

“Be consumable,” they advised. “Create content that is snackable and shareable.”


Schieve and Hansen present about snackable content

This means short sentences, short paragraphs, with clear and concise wording, they explained.

Thinking of content as a snackable is a lovely way to think about it, for me. Personally, one of my all time favorite snacks is Cheez-Its; if I can create content that is as crunchy and satisfying as a Cheez-It, I’ll consider it a job well done.

Be Otherish

Another crucial theme woven throughout the event was summarized best by Dale Carnegie Chief Engagement Office Tonya Stende with these two words: be otherish.

As in, don’t use social media outlets as a megaphone for yourself, your product, or your company. Use it to celebrate others.


Stende held her own with a crowd that was ready for the free drinks.

This theme was echoed by Hatch, by the panelists, by Sheridan and Lemin, and probably everyone else I didn’t get to see in some way, shape, or form.

“Make content about them, not you!” was the rallying cry.

In a next-level act of “otherish-ness”, Stende had everyone put their phones down and turn to someone next to them. We had to ask three questions:

What did you enjoy about today?

What ideas will you implement?

How will you connect differently?

She reminded everyone that just as important as respectful online communication, is respectful offline communication. This means, hey, I know you’re tweeting or Snapchatting or Periscoping right now, but if someone is trying to have a conversation with you…

Put your phone down.


Huge thank you to Eric Piela from Flint Group for organizing a stellar event.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Jenson, Media Productions

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Marisa Jackels