Sunday | April 26, 2015
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Making social media work for business

A first-of-its-kind conference drew big names and experts Thursday to the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa, where they shared views on sustainability and the power of the local economy. Speakers also stressed the importance of humility and community matters.

Other speakers spoke about the rise of social media, not just as a source of information, but also as an opportunity to engage with others and understand the influence someone has within a community.

More than 150 people attended TechConKona, a conference focusing on four crucial components of business: digital marketing, computer technology, green jobs and renewable energy.

It offered networking opportunities, technology-related exhibits, presentations by experts, a luncheon and a pau hana business reception. Words such as collaborate, restore, reimagine, revitalize, inspire and engage could be heard during the four sessions and casual conversations happening at breaks.

Much-anticipated keynote speaker Paul Hawken — Smith and Hawken furniture store founder, a man who worked alongside Martin Luther King’s staff during the march on Selma and founder of the first U.S. natural food store — moved many attendees who repeatedly called him “brilliant.” Some said Hawken awakened them to the need to set a new course toward sustainability or likened the experience of hearing him speak to an epiphany. Hawken explained how to operate a business with a triple bottom line philosophy: profits, people and planet.

Presenter Ramsay Taum of Blue Continent Holdings touched on the notion of leaving people and places better than they found them, which included “leaving people whole” and “focusing on mana rather than money.” He explained how Hana Pono, a program he helped coordinate, is helping local students prepare for green jobs by increasing on-the-job learning opportunities and building on the state Department of Education’s training facilities and curriculum. For instance, it created new curricula called STREAMS (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering, Art, Math and Sustainability). It also modernized Kaimuki High School’s auto shop to teach students how to repair electric vehicles.

Throughout the day, speakers presented green business, tech startup and online marketing tips and tools.

When using social media products, it’s more important to be interested rather than interesting, and to listen better, said Dustin “Mr. Social” Luther — a digital marketing and social media visionary for Malibu, Calif.-based Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. A featured speaker, Luther gave several examples of listening tools for businesses, such as Facebook and Twitter lists, review sites such as Yelp and Google alerts.

He shared how his company successfully promoted the animal-cruelty documentary “The Cove” by creating conversations, attracting an audience of roughly 250,000 people and spreading the story in real time through a live, one-hour video chat on Facebook with the director. This not only generated visits to “The Cove” page to view the video, but also countless tweets, status updates and engagement in worthy causes.

Aloha Kiss owner Keith Elliott said it was conference creator and promoter Julie Ziemelis’ enthusiasm that inspired him to attend Thursday. Since 1984, he has performed and coordinated wedding ceremonies, as well as provided photography services in West Hawaii. His business already has a website, blog and Facebook page. Still, he came for “motivation and ideas.”