Included 14 speakers, 17 exhibitors and 93 total attendees

By Abbie Digel Editor, explorebigsky.com

Both small and large business owners can benefit from social media, according to the speakers at one of the afternoon sessions of the Big Sky Business Conference and Expo, held at Buck’s T-4 on Oct. 6.
“Facebook isn’t [just] for young people anymore,” said Chris Syme, principal of CKSyme.org and new media strategist.

Syme, one of 14 speakers at the inaugural business expo also spoke about the importance creating a strategy around the different platforms available.

“In the end, social media is about finding a way to beneficially fit into someone’s life, and finding those people,” said Eric Lindeen of Zoot Enterprises, a Bozeman-based credit solutions organization. Surprisingly, the fastest growing segment on Facebook is women 55 and older, Lindeen added. Businesses need to use that information, and run with it.

While the audience took notes and asked questions, exhibitor tables lined the outskirts of the banquet hall. One of the exhibitors included trippons.com, an online coupon platform that specializes in resort and college towns.

“Having the business expo in Big Sky helps me break into this market easier, and network with the local business owners, and explore a new place,” said Kim Lugthart of trippons.com.

Debbie Feigle, of Discovery Maps and Guides of Bozeman agreed. The conference “blew away my expectations,” she said. Feigle left with a pile of brochures and information, and “100 things” on her to-do list.” Although Discovery Maps and Guides already uses a multi-media approach to their business, Feigle learned new ways to reach more customers through developing phone apps and creating a Twitter account. She also made new local contacts in Big Sky.

“I was impressed by the variety of speakers, and all the steps that go into running a successful marketing campaign,” said Chelsea Clark from Moonlight Basin guest services.

Robin Brower-McBride, membership director of the Big Sky Chamber of commerce, coordinated the conference, and said it was bigger than she expected.

“There were people who only registered for one session who were begging me to let them stay,” Brower-McBride said. “We’ve been so busy today.”

Brower-McBride, who began her job at the Chamber last winter, recognized that businesses in Big Sky had to travel elsewhere to attend seminars and learn new practices.

“It was time for Big Sky to have its own business development opportunities and education,” Brower-McBride said.

So, without a budget or backup, Brower-McBride gathered speakers, exhibitors and a venue in just a couple of months. Sessions included finance, internet marketing, growth strategies and staffing solutions.

“We had great feedback from the attendees,” Marne Hayes, Executive director of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. “The conference was a good indicator that business are hungry for knowledge.”

Hayes said this year’s conference will kick-off another year of regularly scheduled seminars sponsored by the Chamber.

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