ESPN Dominates Social Media, Here’s How

Gabe Goodwin is the Coordinating Producer of Social Production for ESPN. Gabe leads SocialTV production for multiple shows, including SportsCenter, SportsNation, First Take and Numbers Never Lie as well as specialty shows for NFL, NBA & MLB.  He spoke at the Westchester Digital Summit.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him moments after he stepped off stage. He shared some incredible insights regarding how ESPN has been so successful in social media.

I asked Gabe about how much social media informs the producers about content they’ll put on air. He mentioned that there is some value in pivoting on a story based on what’s breaking in social media, but that the real news comes from the newsmakers – ie, the athletes on the field.

He shared that ESPN leverages Mass Relevance to help his team look at real time marketing and breaking content as the show airs. They use them to review a data point to see if the sentiment is in line with the production run down for that particular day. They may give some more attention to something that will show up on the report. So for example – this story line may resonate more than the lead story line. But he makes it clear that a seasoned producer will never be swayed by social media. They review data points. They add social media to the pie, but it’s only a percentage of the audience. They’re also those who choose to be vocal. Gabe explained that you want to reward clever content, but you don’t want to get away from the host of the show to feature fans on social media.

See the whole Video here:

Purchase a ticket to next year’s Westchester Digital Summit in advance.

What I Learned from Gary Vaynerchuk at the Westchester Digital Summit

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk

Despite people being tired from a long days event, they sure got re-energized when Gary Vaynerchuk got on stage to close off a wonderful event filled with brilliant speakers from a diverse bunch of companies. Gary’s presence lit up the stage and his enthusiasm and spunk made everyone laugh. You could tell if you looked around that the audience got another whiff of energy and paid close attention to his insights.

Gary’s presentation included informative and insightful knowledge and advice. He was very engaging and took a poll of the audience. More than half of the crowd voted that they get annoyed when others call them and have to speak to them on the phone. Gary’s point was proven correct – people expect everyone to be on their own time. They don’t like it when others call us and interrupt our time.

Gary’s energy continued to keep everyone fully engaged in his presentation. Furthermore, he spoke about how in today’s day and age, you need to be involved in the media. Companies have to change the way they are marketing and adjust their needs and market in the age we are living in. If they can’t find that market, then they need to react to it and change to keep up with the times, especially in this constantly ever-changing world of technology.

To close off the presentation, Gary emphasized that we are all battling for attention when we sell something. We are constantly trying to sell and promote our product or brands, whether it is through a hidden message or in a more obvious way. However, technology is battling this struggle with us. With the technology and the world we are living in, Amazon will eventually take over big box stores. Gary hypothesized and believes that in the far future brands will go directly to consumers.  Smart technology will eventually take over Amazon.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s lively presentation was a perfect way to end the second Westchester Digital Summit. There were many insightful speakers and conversations that made everyone take away something from the conference.

By Talia Zapinsky

Intern, Silverback Social

Talia Zapinsky

Talia Zapinsky




Silverback Social’s Favorite Moments from the Westchester Digital Summit

Westchester Digital Summit

What an incredible few weeks it’s been here at Silverback Social. You see, we produce an event called the Westchester Digital Summit. This year we were named by Forbes as one of the “Must-Attend Marketing Conferences For Leaders in 2014.” Each year we curate the brightest minds in tech, media, and entertainment. This year’s event, held on May 15th lived up to that moniker.

There were many highlights throughout the course of the day – here they are as told by the Silverback Social team:

Idia Ogala:

Undoubtedly – the Vaynerchuk keynote. As a marketing student, hearing that marketing principles that I was currently being exposed to instantly becoming obsolete was inspiring on so many levels; after the initial disappointment from a financial standpoint, of course lol. It was an eye opener that really challenged my understanding of marketing. It compelled me to try and use education and personal creativity to attempt to solve some of our industry’s problem through innovation. Challenge accepted.

John Zanzarella:

Mine came from our youngest participant, Josh Orton. Josh made waves at WDS1 when he was 12 (estimating) and heard a hyped up Gary V drop a digital smackdown on Westchester. This year Josh was prepared for Gary and when Q&A began Josh’ hand shot up. “What is ROI?” – at first I thought there was more to the question but then I realized that there didn’t need to be. There was something so innocent and brilliant about Josh’s question in a day and age where most businesses are more worried about ROI numbers than providing value with their marketing dollars.

Gary Vaynerchuk answering Josh’s question about ROI.

What happened next was a thing of beauty. Gary took a simple question, which most of the room knew the answer to, and answered it in a way that added value to everyone. Simple is difficult. Gary takes a complicated world of digital and social marketing and he makes it simple. That to me is his greatest strength and what helps make his keynotes so compelling.

Brian Funicelli:

Getting the chance to chat with some of the speakers after the event. I wasn’t expecting to have such casual, relaxed, down-to-earth conversations with executives from big-name companies like IBM, Mashable, and Fox Sports. I was able to talk to Adam Ostrow from Mashable about a mutual friend we have, and I was surprised at how much he and I had in common. Not only are this year’s summit participants incredibly smart, but they’re also super friendly. I’m looking forward to connecting with many of them again in the future!

Brian Levine:

Seeing all the speakers interacting and exchanging information behind the scenes. It’s great to have a lot of smart people in the same room, but when they start sharing and riffing off each other, that’s when the real magic happens. Helping facilitate the Q&A sessions with Chris and some of the speakers after their segments was fun and informative. During one of the Q&A’s, Adam Ostrow from Mashable recounted his inspiring story about how he became employee #2, which started by simply emailing the Founder when it was a one-man operation. Stories like these can inspire entrepreneurs at any
level. It was a great way for me to gain a deeper context to what they were talking about on the stage. WDS2 was a great day of learning and connecting with smart folks, which, at the end of the day, is what
social media is all about.

Tesla Motors at the Westchester Digital Summit

Josh Fenster:

Having the Telsa model s car at the event. At an event that last 9 hours it’s always a good idea to take a break. What a better way to spend your down time than to test drive one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world. As much as the summit was about information sharing and learning it was also about the experience. I didn’t get to test drive the Tesla because I was running around all day but I did take a peak inside. I was amazed how simple the design of the car looked yet how complex the technology that powered the car was. Between the Tesla, the chocolate delight buffet and the cocktail hour, the summit experience was one I’ll cherish forever!

Daniela Raciti:

My favorite moment, as everyone knows, was when I met Chris Hansen. Having watched him for years on TV, I was star struck when I found myself standing a few feet away from him. When he finished a conversation, I approached him with a huge smile on my face and said, with arm out, “Mr. Hansen, it’s so nice to meet you. I’m a huge fan, I just love you” to which he responded, (something to the effect of) “Too bad I’m not 30 years younger!” After speaking with him (and taking a picture, and wishing he was 30 years younger), I thought how cool it was that he was attending WDS2 to discuss how social media has changed the landscape of modern journalism. I hope that one day (soon) our paths cross again!

Westchester Digital Summit

Chris Dessi 

A highlight for me was the moment when Gregg Weiss VP Social Media at Mastercard was explaining to the audience how Mastercard keeps “Priceless” fresh – by offering their fans “priceless surprises.” The way he pulled this off in a room of 300 digital marketing executives was a thing of beauty. Let me explain:

Gregg Weiss of Mastercard turned to the crowd and posed the question:

What are you passionate about?

To which an audience member blurted out;

“the Mets”

Gregg replied

“Do you have a Mastercard?”

Audience member:


Gregg turned to the other side of the room:

“What are you passionate about?”

Another audience member shouted

“The Yankees”

Gregg replied

“Do YOU have a Mastercard?”

Audience member:


Great said Gregg (now standing up and reaching into his pocket:

“you just won a $50 Mastercard gift card.”

The crowd erupted in applause.

Greg sat back down in his chair and explained why that exchange was important and a great real life representation of how Mastercard engages with their community via social media. He started by saying that Mastercard is interested in their community – so they ask questions and engage with them. He also created something he referred to as “card envy.” The first audience member didn’t have a Mastercard, and missed out on the “priceless surprise” of a $50 gift card. Envy ensues. Brilliant. I’m certain that some in the audience were upset that they hadn’t chimed in as well. He trained them to always be on the lookout for “priceless surprises” guaranteeing future engagement.

The final maraschino cherry on top was that after Gregg sat back down at his seat and began explaining what he’d just done an audience member shouted:

“Can I get an application for a Mastercard?”

If that’s not ROI, I’m not sure what is.

Photo Credits: Pinksy Studios

Were you at the Westchester Digital Summit?

What was your favorite moment?  Share in the comments below.

Social Media Nirvana Equals Gary Vaynerchuk, Vayner Media, Silverback Social & Panera Cinnamon Buns

Silverback enjoying Gary’s Buns

If you know anything about Silverback Social, you know that we’re all  huge fans of Gary Vaynerchuk. Our love affair with Gary started when I first saw Gary speak in 2008 at the Web 2.0 conference.  I took that love, and parlayed it into an epic introduction of the entrepreneurial minds when I introduced Gary to Mike Lazerow (my boss at the time) at Buddy Media.  I even dedicated a chapter of my book Your World is Exploding to Gary.

My team here at Silverback all have a similar love for Gary Vaynerchuk  because he keynoted our event we produce: Westchester Digital Summit.  He’s also returning to keynote the second Westchester Digital Summit next year.


Gary Keynotes the Westchester Digital Summit.

So we pay attention to what Gary is doing, and we enjoy supporting everything that he does.  In short, Gary is the man. He has a way about him that transcends social media.  But maybe that’s the point. He’s so good at social media because he’s such a good dude and he’s an amazing businessman.  Gary preaches basic human tenants in social media. He encourages brands to grasp onto the human side of their brand, and to push themselves to connect with their customers at this human level.  He preaches this, but he also practices it.

Let me explain:

This morning Gary Tweeted the following:

“If u live in NYC – what are u craving right now in this rainy weather”To which one of our star employees Josh Fenster while manning our Twitter account at Silverback Social spotted and Tweeted back:

“Cinnamon buns”


We forgot about this brief tweet exchange, until about 4 hours later we received a box of warm, sweet, and delicious Panera Cinnamon buns!

We’re also in the suburbs of New York City (about 35 minutes north of the city). So this means that Gary and his team at Vayner Media had to find a place near our offices, see if they had yummy cinnamon buns and then order them for us.


The power of social media to spread joy.  What a novel idea …and we love him for it …and we’ll love him forever for it.  We are Gary brand advocates.  All because he sent us Cinnamon buns.

So when you’re thinking of cool social media ideas for your brand.  Start here – “what can I do for my clients”….”how can I help”….”how can I say thank you”

Gary recently posted a video about how he got out of a taxi early so he could pay it forward to someone standing on the side of the street. The result was magic.

Thank you Gary Vaynerchuk for practicing what you preach. We can’t wait to see you live  at the Westchester Digital Summit May 15th at the Ritz Carlton here in White Plains, NewYork.  Until then, we’ll leave you with some parting social media love:




Summit Takeaways: On Time Transport

On Time Transport, Inc., a local luxury car service in White Plains, attended the Westchester Digital Summit and overall had a remarkable experience. The company set up their own booth and held high expectations of the event itself.

“We were expecting to expand our knowledge and get more information on how the new era of social media will impact and help our business.”

On Time Transport, Inc. is recognized for providing local, domestic and international ground transportation throughout the NY tri-state area. Prior to the conference, On Time Transport, Inc. sponsored their limousine services for the clients and guests who were attending. They handled these arrangements in addition to having a booth.

What was something that the company took away from the conference, aside from the free coffee and trinkets?

“We enjoyed the guest speakers and meeting new people at the trade show booths.”

Throughout the entire event, On Time Transport, Inc. was not only pleased with the guest speakers but also with encountering new people at the other booths.

At On Time Transport, Inc., social media has immensely impacted their business and makes it relevant and accessible to those who need an escort service immediately. They believe it’s important to attend events, such as the Westchester Digital Summit, because it is an opportunity to network, grow and learn about the social media world.

Looking ahead, On Time Transport, Inc. hopes to continue to gain further insight on how social media affects the day-to-day life.

Game Changing Speakers for the Westchester Digital Summit

Last year when I first conceived of the Westchester Digital Summit , I thought we would have about 30 executives stuffed into a Marriott talking about social media for a few hours and that would be the end of that. As the event began to evolve I decided to push myself.  We booked one of the largest venues in all of Westchester, and we cast a wide net sourcing our phenomenal speakers & panelists.

Westchester Digital Summit

By thinking big, we created the biggest digital event in the history of Westchester County, and instead of being small and fizzling out we were named by Forbes Magazine as one of “4 Lesser-Known Conferences That Deserve Your Attention in 2013.”

We had 775 digital executive attendees and included speakers from Facebook, IBM, Ogilvy, Target, Heineken, L’Oreal, Fox Business, The Pivot Conference, Big Fuel, Publishers Clearing House, Poppin,, Rue La La, and Hubspot and Gary Vaynerchuk keynoted the event.

Behold the magic of thinking big.

I reached as far as I could and most of what I could conjure up in my little pea brain actually came true.


Next year, we’ve reached to go big and bold once again.  The upcoming event will take place at the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, on May 15th, 2014

Below you can see that I’ve created a dream list of speakers I would love to have speak at the summit, and I’m asking you, my social media network to please help.  If you, or someone you know has any contact with any of the speakers or their booking agent, please contact me [email protected] as soon as possible.

Let’s think big together.

Arianna Huffington

President and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post Media Group

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer
Yahoo!, President & CEO

Deepak Chopra MD (official)
Founder, Chopra Foundation

Jeff Weiner
Jeff Weiner

CEO of Linkedin

Katya Andresen
President and COO/Incoming CEO at ePals
Jack Welch

Jack Welch
Founder, Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University
Bill Gates

Bill Gates
Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Eduardo Saverin

Eduardo Saverin
Co-Founder, Facebook Inc.
Richard Branson

Richard Branson
Founder at Virgin Group
Sean Parker
Sean Parker

Board Member, Investor at Spotify

Randi Zuckerberg
Founder & CEO at Zuckerberg Media
Michael Dell
Michael Dell
Chairman and CEO at Dell
Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg
Chief Operating Officer at Facebook
Reid Hoffman
Reid Hoffman
Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor.

Kevin Rose
General Partner at Google Ventures
Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki
Advisor at Motorola Mobility

Pete Cashmore
CEO, Mashable Inc


Avi Savar, Founding Partner of Big Fuel Communications Weighs in on the Westchester Digital Summit

This year’s Westchester Digital Summit was no new experience for speaker Avi Savar, founding partner of Big Fuel Communications. Although Savar entered the Summit with little expectations, he was curious as to how fast the event would unfold in Westchester, rather than the Manhattan pace he was familiar with. Savar has spoken at events similar to the WDS before that have reached out to a variety of audiences, so Savar felt confident with his material.

“I speak a lot, and I’ve given talks like this many, many times,” said Savar, “It was just nice to show up, be well taken care of, and be able to give the people the benefits.”

As a whole, he felt the Westchester Digital Summit was held at a good venue, filled with great content and even greater people. Although Savar was content with his talk, his favorite part was taking questions from the audience. The real fun and engaging moments for Savar were when he jumped off the stage, ran around with a microphone, and got the people to speak up.

“I definitely had my Jerry Springer moment,” he said.

Savar believes that the more people present at an event, the more exciting it becomes. He hopes to see growth at future Summits, and is certain that next year’s even greater outcome will come from building and pushing the content. When it comes to Savar’s company Big Fuel Communications,  he wishes there was a crystal ball to show him where it will stand in a few years. However, Savar sees his business’s success relying on one thing – A long-term vision on a plan. With the industry growing and evolving at such a rapid pace, the biggest struggle faced by an organization is keeping ahead of it – Which is exactly what he plans to do.

“I think we’re going to operate like that for the better part of the next 2-3 years until things start to stabilize and standardize,” said Savar, “We’ll continue to push the envelope and all we can do as an organization.”

As a further break-down for this plan, Savar says that in a few years, his organization will be servicing brands, providing the best possible solutions and advice, and advancing in the world of digital and social marketing.

“Where that ends up, nobody knows,” he said, “What opportunities present themselves in the way that brands are going to play, again, nobody knows.”

Despite this unknown angst, Big Fuel will continue to guide their clients and provide stellar service, incredible thinking, and flawless execution.

“We’ll stay true to that as we grow and advance, said Savar, “We’ll continue to play and figure out what’s worth knowing, and of course, staying ahead of it.”

Ed Butowsky, Managing Partner at Chapwood Investments Discussed the Westchester Digital Summit

Ed Butowsky, Managing Partner at Chapwood Investments, is an internationally recognized expert due to his involvement in the financial service industry for over 25 years. He was present at the Westchester Digital Summit  as a guest speaker during the first panel. What did he expect from the event overall?

“I had no expectations other than I knew Chris was doing it,” he said. “So I knew it was going to be good.”

With many years of knowledge and expertise, he found it unnecessary to practice in advance for the conference.

“If you’re always prepared,” he said, “You don’t have to get ready.”

Whereas social media is ever changing, people are always finding new ways to get their message out into the world.

“If you’re not a digital marketer then you’re not a marketer,” he said, “Because that’s the only way we are going to deliver content to potential customers.”

The Westchester County Center was the perfect location for the conference to be held at. In regards to next years Westchester Digital Summit, Butowsky believes there needs to be a larger amount of people in attendance.  Social media is the wave of the future and with the attendance of more and more people; the event will ultimately build on itself. Butowsky left satisfied and is looking forward to the next Westchester Digital Summit in hopes that Silverback Social will have him return again.

Richard Hargrave, Internet Marketing Consultant & Sales Executive at HIBU, spoke at this year’s Westchester Digital Summit

Richard Hargrave, Internet Marketing Consultant & Sales Executive at HIBU, spoke at this year’s Westchester Digital Summit with high hopes to make connections with global business owners in the Westchester County area.

“We were looking to make new connections, build new connections with local business owners who are also looking to network and educate through our workshop/breakout session with local business owners,” he said, “That was the initial goal, and we thought it was a good branding opportunity as well.”

Does he feel that these expectations were met?


Hargrave believes that his preparation for the Summit completely paid off, as the succession of his presentation and interaction with the audience were better than he envisioned.

Hargrave’s company promoted the event through about 25,000 direct mail postcards that wee sent out to the local market – targeting local business owners.

They also had Elmsford, New York circulate the invitations for the event, thus promoting the event with HIBU’s customer base in the Westchester market.

“We were definitely just trying to get the word out,” he said.

For Hargrave, two moments during the Westchester Digital Summit stood out to him. -The first being the enthusiasm and level of participation from his Breakout Session.

“The room was packed, there was standing room only so I was thrilled with that,” he said.

Aside from his own personal accomplishment, Hargrave was overjoyed to speak with business expert and fellow Summit speaker, Brandon Steiner.

“I got to spend a lot of fun time with him,” said Hargrave,  “He signed a copy of his book for me and we got a picture, so that was pretty cool!”

As for next year’s Summit, Hargrave envisions a more targeted approach, with slightly less emphasis on social media and a broader position of online media and Internet marketing.

“Social is obviously a major component, but there’s a lot of commercially related services, solutions, and opportunities that should be included as well,” he said.

Along with this idea, Hargrave also hopes future Summits include the highest possible level of involvement with the local business community.

‘I’d like to see a higher level of participation of local business owners and marketing directors and people who control the budgets,” said Hargrave, “You know, let’s bring them in and educate them.”

Hargrave’s company HIBU is a rapidly evolving business, moving from traditional media to digital media at a very high rate. It is a one and a half billion dollar company, with 1.3 million customers, consisting of mostly small medium sized business owners. Going from digital revenue representing 5% of their entire profit to almost 50% in almost five years, Hargrave believes that in another five years, the digital will be an excessive 90% of their overall revenue globally.

Dan Merritts, CEO of F#, ran a Breakout Session at the Westchester Digital Summit

Dan Merritts, CEO of F#, ran a Breakout Session at this year’s Westchester Digital Summit. Although unsure of the Summit’s outcome, Merritts left fully satisfied with his session and the connections he made with the fellow speakers and attendees.

“It was such a great event, with a lot of people,” he said.

Knowing he had to prepare ideas and material for a fixed amount of time, Merritts spent his time prior to the Summit debating which content and overall delivery could successfully be developed into a memorable presentation. He dedicated quite a bit of time to preparing, but was unsure of who his target audience would be.

“I think the biggest challenge in preparing was understanding exactly who was going to be there,” said Merritts, “I wasn’t exactly sure who was going to show up!”

Were small, medium, or local types of businesses going to be there? Or maybe the larger brands, brand managers, and IT techs? These questions entered Merritt’s mind as he put together his presentation, but only helped to broaden the variety of his content.

Merritts was not only extremely satisfied with his Breakout Session, but couldn’t have been happier with his time slot, directly before Gary Vaynerchuk.

“My speech and his speech were oddly similar, so I’m glad I went before instead of after,” he said, “ Otherwise it would’ve looked like I stole his speech!”

For next year’s Summit, Merritts hopes to have far more meaningful conversations with different audiences.

“It would help to further identify the people who are going to be there and would make it a little more beneficial from a speaker’s standpoint,” said Merritts,  “Then the conversations can be a little more targeted.”

As for Merritt’s company, F#, he plans to continue the growth of his business and reach out to as many clients as possible.

“My goal is to make my business as big as it can be, and gain a reputation around the world.”