Social Media in Wales – I asked Allan Blair-Beaton

Allan Blair Beaton Social Media in WalesAllan Blair Beaton II – Founder – What’s Next Social Media Event
Born in Scotland Allan Blair Beaton II moved to The USA with his mother and step-father who was an American Naval Officer.

Whilst growing up in the Southern United States, Allan studied for and achieved a double degree in Exercise Science & Psychology at the University of South Carolina. Upon returning the U.K. Allan enrolled in law studies, and achieved an LLB. Law was not Allan’s true calling, but he was a great communicator and connector of people which stood him in good stead for his future entrepreneurial endeavours.

Follow Allan on Twitter @AllanBBeaton Read about “Whats Next Event”

In 2009, Allan moved to Cardiff, South Wales to set up his first business. As a successful B2B networking event organizer regularly attracting attendance of over 150 businesses per event, which by early 2010, began to establish himself as one of the most connected businessmen in South Wales and the surrounding regions. His second business, Social B2B Ltd almost happened by mistake.

His unrivalled knowledge of social media sites and their integration with the digital web put Allan at the forefront of all social media related endeavours in South Wales. Allan stands out from the crowd due to his ‘selling by not selling’ approach to being part of the conversation.

Currently Allan consults with many local businesses in South Wales, some of them being award-winning hotels, PR firms, and other business-related services. In addition to this, Allan regularly facilitates seminars to the public and private sector bodies in all areas of social media engagement, strategies, and content creation.

I Asked Allan Blair Beaton what his motivation was for founding the first high-impact Social Media event in Wales in February 2011.

What’s Next? Event:

With the explosion of social and digital media services, tools, and applications in recent years, Small to Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) are struggling to keep up with all of the new developments.

The reason that they are struggling is simple. Resources and time prevent most small businesses from investing and engaging in social and digital tools. In the current economic climate dating back to 2008, most businesses are struggling to maintain existing relationships in an ever-increasing ‘cut-throat’ market place.

Funnily enough, social and digital tools have been on the increase in exactly the same time period, but smaller businesses have been so focused on the immediate future and survival that they were not paying attention to what was next.

For several years, social media was viewed as a recreational behaviour and not a viable tool for businesses to engage target markets, strengthen existing relationships, and most importantly raise awareness of their products and services for a fraction of the traditional costs of marketing.

In particular, businesses in South Wales have been even slower on the uptake and are being left behind other businesses in regions not too far away from the area.

As an avid user and early adopter of social media, I have been in the ‘know’ as to the value of engagement via online and digital tools for years. The most important thing for me is to help businesses understand web 2.0 and the trends that are quickly taking us to 3.0 and beyond.

Whys and why nots of this new digital era?

But seriously, how can SMEs take the time out of their challenging schedules to learn about and be educated as the whys and why nots of this new digital era?

A lot of those same people are very aware of the various platforms out there as most have some type of profile, but I can assure you that those same people are not taking full advantage, and certainly not getting the ROI that they deserve.

What can be done to combat this lack of knowledge and perhaps most importantly, lack of engagement? The answer came to me last October after reading a report by the Boston Consulting Group that ranked Wales as the lowest region for internet access and usage. My brain child was called What’s Next? Event (WNE).

WNE is a social media event specifically related to the SME marketplace. You only have to open a magazine, watch a program on the telly, or perhaps see the typical follow us on Twitter or ‘like’ us on Facebook banner on a Premiership football sideline or a London bus. This is all great stuff, but the brands doing this are much bigger, have way more budget, and perhaps have global communities.

SME marketplace has a HUGE gap

This is where the SME marketplace has a HUGE gap between what is possible with a global budget and what is realistic when the budget is blood, sweat, and tears. What is out there that is either free or very low cost to help SME get an upper hand to ‘level’ the playing field? This is exactly where I wanted my event to be, and I wanted to host it in an area that was so far behind every other region in the U.K. The challenge was huge and the undertaking financially was risky.

The first What’s Next? Event took place on May 23rd in my town of Cardiff, Wales. We attracted and audience of around 150 businesses to attend. Most of those that attended were thirsty for new knowledge and wanted some insightful tips to help them grow their businesses, but most importantly how to engage their customers and target markets efficiently and effectively.

I would say that the first event was a huge success, maybe not financially, but more importantly, I gave others an opportunity that was within their budget. The information that was shared on the day via the various seminars was invaluable to most that attended because it was readily available and at little or no cost to engage. The simple truth is that with enough time and effort we all have the same access to information via the global social web.

The problem that often arises is that most business owners don’t have the time to trawl the internet for new information, techniques, and applications that can help them achieve their goals. Like any learning environment, WNE is designed to inform SMEs about what is next and what you should be doing. It is facilitated by doers in the industry, people that are some of the most engaged individuals online.

Thrive in a global digital marketplace

This means that attendees are not getting stale information by people getting paid to inform, but by business folk that rely on it themselves to thrive in a global digital marketplace.A resounding percentage of delegates expressed an interest for other related type events, or perhaps due to the name of my event, another What’s Next? Event. As a businessman myself, I quickly realised that in order to make the next event bigger, better, and more successful, I would need some assistance.

I turned to a ‘new friend’, someone that grasped my concept in the same way that I did. Someone that saw the potential to take this event not just across Wales, but across the country and perhaps across the globe. Mick Say and I formed a new company called What’s Next? Event Ltd earliest this year with the sole aim of formalising a commercial opportunity that would assist SMEs all over the country.

Mick’s expertise was in digital media, something that I was very aware of, but did not possess the technical knowledge to benefit my endeavour. Because of our collective business contacts, we were able to quickly harness our concept and begin a journey that to date has had some extremely ‘big wins’ early on.

Recently, the Dean of Faculty from the University of Glamorgan approached me about hosting and sponsoring the next What’s Next? Event.

This was because representatives from the University had attended the first event and saw the opportunity to engage local business, but also to coordinate the event with the launch of their Social Media for Business foundation course that was being launched next Feb ’12. With the University’s assistance, WNE has attracted speakers, sponsors, and partnerships that may have normally taken 18-24 months.

World-Class event at the University of Galamorgan, Wales

Through this strategic relationship, the University is assured of a world-class event and content due to the high-calibre of speakers involved. We hope to roll out similar events regionally across the country, enabling SMEs from the four corner of Britain to know What’s Next? in social and digital media.

Hosting the event bi-annually across several cities will give SMEs the opportunity to attend a ‘local’ WNE within their networks to find out What’s Next? If you are looking to stay informed in a relaxed, educational environment, then I recommend you check out the next What’s Next? Event taking place in Cardiff on February 6, 2012.

About Mick Say

Mick Say is an Online Business Development and Online Marketing Consultant. Mick's goal is to help businesses to develop meaningful On-line Marketing Strategies via Websites designed to inform and sell.