Snowcializing In Heavenly: Highlights From The 5th Annual Tahoe Snowcial

Five years ago a group of social media experts from the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe had a vision of combining their love of skiing and snowboarding with the turbo-charged evolution of social media strategy. The group, led by David LaPlante partnered with Heavenly Resort and the collision of the two passions led to the apt portmanteau  that has become the Tahoe Snowcial.

The fifth-annual Snowcial went down February 27-March 2 and brought together approximately 150 social media professionals, snow and resort execs, and media from as far as Australia for the event which has been dubbed the Sundance for the Facebook generation. (Check out coverage from 2011 here)

We've been to dozens of social media conferences and presentations, but none reach the caliber of thought, the breadth of relevant topics, the disruptive thinking, the connections, and extra-curricular activities that define Snowcial. The best summary of the conference I heard was actually in the men's room as a winded older gentlemen panted "I've never been to a conference that I ran to the bathroom and back not to miss a minute." Maybe it was the fact that Red Bull was a presenting sponsor, but I'm guessing that even if he wasn't hyper-taurined the content would have been propelling him just as fast.

The four-day itinerary was packed with two days of speakers, a lightning-round presentation modeled after the Ignite series, a poker tournament, three days on the mountain, concerts, comedy, and enough heavy ideas to fuel conversations well into the mandated media black out hours of 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

"The original concept was a 50/50 split of partying and learning, but it's morphed into a heavier focus on the learning," explains Heavenly Senior Director of Brand Marketing John Wagner. "But not to worry, partying and snow sports are still part of the DNA."

Heavenly Director of Communication Russ Pecoraro says the event is a perfect fit with the resort’s brand which meshes South Lake's after hours culture with the Bay Area's tech-heavy clientele and world-class riding.

While you may have missed the fun and networking, here are some ideas that got us thinking throughout the event from some seriously heavy intellectuals. All in 140 characters or less:

David Armano, Managing Director, Edelman Digital Chicago

David Armano
  • Digital is incredibly disruptive…in everything today. It has changed every job in the economy.
  • The moment you stop evolving you cease being relevant.
  • The "cheese" never stops moving.
  • Use social media to close the loop with your customers.
  • Content is currency. We share it because it makes us look good.
  • Meme has "me" in it because it's all about me.
  • Brands must create content strategies before they create content.
  • Use digital to create insights about your brand and the market – insight is more important than "influencers."
  • Learn what people are saying about your brand and industry online and direct your content accordingly.
  • Sponsored Facebook posts will be the next disruptive advertising medium.
  • You don't need an app for everything. Focus on responsive design techniques for multiple platforms.
  • "Church and state" between ad and edit is over. Not sure if that's good or bad, but I don't think the genie is going back in the bottle."
  • Brands are the new media.
  • What would you do if you weren't afraid? Keep asking that. Be bold, experiment—you will fail, but keep trying!

 What is Snowcial you ask?

Dean Eckles

Dean Eckles, Director of Data Science, Facebook

  • Facebook's social science department is rapidly growing and studying how social media is changing our world.
  • The future of Facebook isn't just about liking things, it's about shaping culture.
  • The study of online viral sensations is leading to new insights about how we share    things, influence each other, and the world of marketing.
  • Social cues in ads have huge results due to homophily – the love of the same.
  • If your peers like things, you're much more likely to follow them than if strangers do.
  • Facebook is constantly studying society to create better programs…and advertising  models.
Chris Heuer

Chris Heuer, Specialist Leader-Social Business, Deloitte Consulting 

  • Social media's power lies in making things visible.
  • To become a market leader you must align with the interests of the market you serve.
  • EVERY company is a media company—Coca Cola is one of the biggest media companies in the world.
  • The competition for attention is more difficult than ever which means cultivating relationships is more important than ever.
  • Your promises and actions to customers are always on display.
  • Every transaction has an impact on your entire network.
  • Achieve ROI by helping users be successful on their journey and they will become loyal customers.
  • Social lets you observe the primary context of your audience's relationship with you. Leverage it!
  • Social has turned HR into a marketing department.
  • The switching cost of a relationships is much higher than the switching cost of a commodity. Create relationships!
Stephanie Naegeli

Stephanie Naegeli, Brand Manager, Nestle

  • Nescafé sponsored a major snowboard contest in Switzerland to shift its demographic to a younger bracket.
  • Creating content for eight months around one event is crucial for leveraging the investment!
  • Sponsoring events is key for long-term engagement and behavioral goals but not for short-term sales.
  • Find ways to not jeopardize your current customer base while seeking a new one. Social is good for parsing messages.
  • The biggest lesson of this sponsorship: you have to stay credible and invest in your credibility.
Paul Crandell

Paul Crandell, VP of Marketing, GoPro

  • Focus on building your brand one moment at a time.
  • Follow your passion, success will come.
  • GoPro's next goal is democratize the content sharing and distribution.
  • Ask yourself, "what's the next moment you're going to create?"

Day Two's Speakers

Greg Cannon

Greg Cannon, VP of Digital, Caesars Entertainment

  • Everything is measurable with digital marketing. With traditional, not so much.
  • Persuade the persuadables—regardless of your politics, take a page from Obama's 2012 playbook.
  • Ads need to provide actual tools and information for your customers.
  • Everything is going to be mobile. How do you optimize? No one really knows but make your platforms utilitarian.
  • Focus on user generated content, it can go wrong but it's honest. Sites w/negative comments have better conversion than those w/none
Stanley Hainsworth

 Stanley Hainsworth, CEO, Tether, Inc.

  • In 20 years with Nike, Lego & Starbucks learned we are the stories we tell. What is your company really?
  • Nike isn't about shoes, it's about inspiration/motivation, Lego is endless play, Starbuck's is daily inspiration. What about you?
  • Find the core of your brand and tell its story.
  • Brand videos are very important to establish a connection for customers…and employees alike.
  • Joining a company is like joining a religion—it's a good thing but you can become myopic and sometimes need outside perspective.
Christopher Steiner

Christopher Steiner, Senior Writer, Forbes; Author of "Algorithms Rule Everything"; Founder, Aisle50 

  • There was a time when humans shaped algorithms, now they're shaping us.
  • They already control 70% of all stock trades, increasingly shaping music, sports, medicine, and more.
  • The story of the next 20 years is algorithms and big data. The question is how much will we let them take over?
  • When you hear "this conversation may be recorded," it's not for a supervisor, it's so an algorithm can determine your personality type.
  • Call centers route you to the same personality type that you are for better results.
  • Narrative Science is a company that has created creative algorithms. It already writes music and full stories for ESPN.
  • The lesson? Get close to the people creating these algorithms and stay close to them.
Patrick Harrington

Patrick Harrington, SVP, WalmartLabs

  • Walmart ingests data on everything you do to create a better experience and monetize it through repeat visits.
  • Display ads may not generate click-through but they affect behavior & future visits.
  • Walmart uses algorithms to predict the things you'll like based on past behavior and your friends.
  • If you're not Walmart's size, start by hiring an engineer and use them to fine tune your platforms to collect more data. Start small, win big.

Grant Korgan, Founder, Korg 3.0 Movement

Grant Korgan
  • On March 5, 2010 Grant Korgan was paralyzed while filming a snowmobile movie and overshooting the landing.
  • Korgan was told he'd never walk again.
  • On January 17, 2012 he traveled 80 miles to the South Pole in a sit ski, and then walked with skis ad poles the last 100 feet.
  • "It's not if shit happens, but when—it's how you deal with it that matters."
  • "It's the summation of little goals that lead to conquering the insurmountable."
  • "I believe it's human to fall down. The magic happens when we get back up."


Follow the jump for videos from the hilarious side of Snowcial—Lightning Round presentations on the state of snowboard participation and Heavenly Epic Mix pins that didn’t make the cut (#amazing)…

Tahoe Snowcial Lightning Round – Margo Stoney and Lars Ames

See you next year!

Cheers to Snowcial!