Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Annual Social Slam Conference put on by the Knoxville Social Media Club. The conference was 36 hours of meeting incredible people and whip-smart insight into the use of social media.

Even though I had the honor of speaking at the conference and moderating a panel, I wished that I could have done more. Right now, the biggest challenge I face is boiling down all of the insights into a concise post!

I could write a book on what was shared, but here are 6 strategic takeaways that I gleaned from the roster of stellar social thinkers.

#1: LinkedIn Is Becoming a “Must Have”

I think that Business-to-Business (B2B) companies are being overlooked in the social media conversation. It’s easy to wax strategic about the impact of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging on consumer-facing companies. The conversation cools, however, when we mention LinkedIn.

The problem has been that LinkedIn’s advocates aren’t flashy, omnipresent, or armed with gee-whiz presentations. LinkedIn fans are steady, professional, and persistently pragmatic users who expect their virtual rolodex to turn into real-world results. Surprisingly, out of all the social platforms, LinkedIn seems to have pulled off the extremely difficult – making social pay.

Jon Moss did a fabulous job convincing Social Slam participants that there are specific benefits that can be gained with surprisingly little work on LinkedIn. While watching his 10-minute presentation, I was struck by how under-represented LinkedIn is and how critical it is for many B2B and even B2C companies.

#2: Find Your “Tip”

Marcus Sheridan’s swimming pool installation company almost went bankrupt in 2008. The recession had drained homeowner equity down to dangerous levels, the same equity used to finance new backyard pools. Desperate, Marcus turned to his company’s analytics and discovered his “tip”. He learned that new customers read 30 pages of website information.

Most people would store this factoid away as an interesting bit of trivia for the local chamber get-together. Not Marcus. His next move was as unorthodox as it was brilliantly simple – Marcus began writing more articles about swimming pools. Next, he insisted that his sales team not talk to anyone who hadn’t agreed to read a packet of information that had—you guessed it—30 pages of relevant information.

His strategy paid off. He didn’t go bankrupt. He sells a swimming pool to 84% of his prospects, which contributed to his company being recognized as the #1 independent swimming pool installation company in the United States.

Every business has a similar “tip” buried in their digital analytics. Marcus’s story convinced me that it pays to focus on finding that critical piece of information before it’s too late.

#3: Use Social to Ask Better Questions

We love data at Fluency Media. We can spend hours discussing the fine points of statistical significance, correlation versus causation, and predictive modeling. So I looked forward to Tom Webster’s with giddy excitement.

He didn’t disappoint.

His presentation was filled with fascinating data takeaways; the best was “Use Social to Ask Better Questions.” While business professionals wrestle with social media’s ROI bona fides, social’s qualitative utility is unrivaled. The ability to watch a brand’s fans engage and share information is an incredible tool for providing context about an audience.

But are you digging through your social data to formulate questions and hypotheses to optimize your marketing? For example, why do people reference a brand in Twitter during a specific TV show and on Facebook during another TV show? Social supplies a great question that could yield valuable brand awareness tests and insights.

#4: Social Media Is a Team Activity

Gini Dietrich kicked off the Social Slam conference with an insightful and practical session on leveraging an organization’s assets to power its social strategy.

Her insight on “breaking down silos” was spot-on and thankfully taken to heart by many of the attendees. Sequestering your social team in a corner and pursuing marketing as usual is a sure way to cripple your social program. Gini encouraged attendees to actively solicit opinions, resources, and content from departments throughout the organization.

We encourage our clients to do the same. We’ve seen the power of “All Department” social updates and collaboration meetings and believe that it’s the secret sauce for delivering a successful social program.

#5: E-mail Marketing Is a Force Multiplier

Digital pundits are crowing that e-mail is dead, but DJ Waldow made a convincing case that e-mail isn’t dead. In fact, e-mail is the key to multiplying the power of social media.

DJ showed how social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest require an e-mail for sign-up. These players rely on e-mail to increase retention and encourage repeat engagement. While it’s fashionable to bury e-mail, it still retains its ROI advantage and ubiquitous utility.

2012 might be the year when savvy businesses use e-mail to create deeper engagement with their social audiences. For example, what would happen if you sent an e-mail to your list offering them a reason to follow you on Twitter or Facebook? You might find that this effort delivers a better return on investment than buying Facebook ads.

#6: Pay Attention to Your Influencers

Mark Schaefer wrapped up the conference with an insightful examination of the power of influence in modern marketing. His thoughtful examination of Klout and the utility of influence scoring provided an excellent perspective into the science of influencer marketing.

I enjoyed Mark’s effective use of case studies to demonstrate influencer marketing’s power. For example, he showed how Audi and Jay-Z adroitly used Calvin Lee, a Twitter mega-influencer, to attract attention and jumpstart their marketing campaigns. His final case study featured a 20-something student who faced down Bank of America and convinced them to stop charging minimum fees.

Even though I was a contributor to Mark’s new book, Return on Influence, I was struck by how quickly influencer marketing is evolving as a marketing strategy. I look forward to applying its power to Fluency’s clients in 2012.