This month I hit what felt like a career milestone—I attended my first conference, the Social Media Strategies Summit, in San Francisco. Scratch that, I attended and presented at my first conference thanks to a former colleague who invited me to be a co-presenter—two birds with one stone! It was an enlightening experience professionally. I got to learn more about the landscape of social media, as well as on a personal level, it brought me closer to the idea of being a working professional.

I’ve given presentations before at school and at work, but the stakes are a little different at conferences. There’s money and time involved to attend, and people have the option of leaving for a different engagement in another room. My presentation was about innovative Instagram strategies. I don’t consider myself a true Instagram “expert” but despite my self-doubt, the audience generally seemed to enjoy the tips and case studies discussed. Our presentation covered @KabbageInc and @Mailchimp (B2B “unsexy” brands) and @Glossier (beauty brand in a saturated market). Check out their accounts and consider these tips from the presentation:

3 Tips for Creating Instagram Strategies

  1. Find the compelling story in your brand.
  2. Don’t be afraid to go niche.
  3. Focus on your target audience and unique selling proposition.

My main takeaway from this event was that social media is a vast, complicated thing and it’s hard to know everything about it. There is always a ton more to learn. I think that my initial fear of not being “expert” enough speaks to this. In social media, everyone has specific platforms that they gravitate towards, their toolbox, their strategies, etc. When my presentation ended and I listened in on some others, I got to hear from someone preaching about the platform I’m the least active on and another person who came from an industry I have no experience in.

Events like these are important because you get to hear from people with different points of view who are operating in different situations than you are. At the end of the day, you can take that knowledge and use it to inform your own strategy. That’s the great thing about social media—no matter if you’re B2B or B2C, for-profit or nonprofit, big or small, a lot of the core aspects are the same. For example, a company can be totally different from yours, but their method of branding, style of visuals, or way of storytelling can help you re-think your own.

In the end, the experience of going to the conference was energizing. I came away with some insight in how other social media professionals handle their given brands. And I witnessed the passion that others have for utilizing social media to its fullest potential.