For the third year in a row, AOL was the premier sponsor of the Ad Age Small Agency Conference and Awards in Minneapolis. This one-day conference brings together 100 senior leaders from agencies all around the U.S. to network, share and celebrate their accomplishments over the past year.

During a fireside chat with John Coleman, CEO of last year's Small Agency of the Year, Via, AOL advisor and Chairman Emeritus of IPG, David Bell, shared how technology has leveled the playing field. He described its impact on agencies who no longer need to be big or part of global networks to deliver great work to big brands at home or around the world. A Minneapolis native himself, David has taken small agencies and turned them into major growth engines for global holding companies. Growth is a hot topic for all small business, and David shared his 4 Ps of growth: "People, Position, Projection and Pipeline."

Since David usually asks the questions (see our popular Voices video series spotlighting ad industry thought leaders), it was a real treat to hear him share his insights. He also emphasized the importance of corporate culture and shared some of his favorite new business pitches from his agency days, including having someone dress as General Patton to inform the client they "are going to war." The audience was thrilled to have him, and David acknowledged the special atmosphere in the room arguing, "Running a small agency is the best job in the world."

Following David's chat, AOL Director of Social Media Matt Knell gave a fun and enlightening presentation during lunch on telling brand stories through social media. To engage the audience early on, Matt announced an Instagram contest to win headphones -- attendees simply needed to deliver a creative image and tag it #thingsandpeople. "Things and people," Matt maintains, is what brings us together on the Internet, which is trending away from text and towards images. Online, a picture is not just worth 1,000 words, but 1,000 shares.

The day wrapped up with the annual awards at a nearby jazz club and this year's winner was Baldwin&.

Take a look at Matt's presentation and check out the AOL Advertising Blog for more research and insights.