11 Of The Best Things To Tell You From My First Conference
Hello my lovely readers! Boy have I missed you. But now I'm back from France, refreshed, rested and ready to work hard for the next six months of the year.
Nearly three weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend my first ever conference, called SAScon: Search Analytics & Social Media. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you'll have been well aware that I live tweeted the whole event. There was so much incredible information, I couldn't not share it. Which made me realise that I also needed to write about it. So here we are.
In this post, these eleven points will open your eyes as to where the blogging and online world is heading. They aren't action points to work on, and I'm not going to tell you how to do anything. This will be more of a discussion as to what you need to know to get a head start in the direction our industry is heading in. So sit back, relax and get ready - some of these points will definitely shock you.
#1 SEO Will Never Die
Let’s just get the SEO one out of the way, shall we? It’s not going anywhere. Fact. That might fill some of you with fear, and some of you may not believe it. But this has come from people who have been studying and working in this industry for years. They admitted it will continue to change, but it will never die.
We all know how powerful Google has become over the years. But now, people who run a website, whether as a blogger or for your career, need to do a hell of lot more than you had to five years ago. In our industry, we’ve seen the challenges and complexities of SEO. But we’ve kept up with them, which has led us to become better marketers. Even so, there’s still a lot more we need to know now to stay in the game.
The reason why SEO won’t die? It’s simple really.
You need to have marketing skills to get really good rankings in search engines. But those rankings can’t exist in the first place without SEO. You won’t be seen as much, without SEO.
Think about what you do for your blog at the moment. Or if you don’t have a blog, think about what needs to be done – branding, social media, content, imagery, promotion.
SEO is involved in all of these areas.
Which justifies that it isn’t disappearing.
#2 But SEO Isn’t Enough
Something that really hit home for me was when the speaker in our talk about the future of SEO said, “10 to 20% of your day should be spent on SEO. The rest needs to be spent on everything else like content and social media.”
I’d say, at the moment in my job as a Digital Marketing Executive, 90% of my day is spent on SEO.
What does that tell you? Well, it tells me that some of us are still very confused as to what we should be spending the majority of our time on.
For me, the “best practice” SEO tasks that have to be done for my clients are pretty worthless. I spend 90% of my day doing that. Is it building an audience? No. Is it generating sales? No.
So what does?
Social media engagement and campaigns. An effective email marketing system. Creating high value content on a regular basis. Interacting with your community. Creating a streamlined brand.
That list should take up 80% of your time. The maintenance tasks like updating your meta data and audits should take up the least amount of time.
Which means that SEO isn’t enough. So if companies and agencies are purely focusing on SEO, they’re not going to make as much money as they first thought. That might be harsh, but it’s true.
A new term generated by a speaker at the conference was eMarketer. So you have the basic technical SEO skills. Then it's about having the expertise to market that through other channels, such as branding, social media and content.
Some people have the idea that “digital marketing people” always work in SEO. That’s not true. Or else my job title would be SEO Executive. But it’s not. SEO is a part of it. But there’s so much more to be aware of and to be actively working on.
#3 You Need to Know as Much as You Possibly Can
And then specialise.
OK, so here’s the idea. There are two types of individuals in this industry. T-shaped, and V-shaped.
T-shaped individuals are skilled in two specific areas in the industry, and that’s it.
V-shaped individuals like the above, specialise in two specific areas. But they also know how to do everything else.
We need to aim to be V-shaped.
Everything is always changing in our industry. What would happen if you specialised in Twitter and only Twitter, then tomorrow, it was gone forever? Your speciality would be useless, because it wouldn’t matter.
But if you specialised in all aspects of social media, your expertise would still be valid.
We never know what the “next big thing” is going to be. When it happens, we’re going to want to know about it. So this part helped me reaffirm what I’m already doing:
Learn about branding. Learn about design. Learn HTML. Learn social media. Learn how to create content. Learn it all! You’ll only benefit yourself and open up more doors in the future.
#4 Creating High Quality Content Is Really Hard
Why? Because now, it is assumed.
Do you know how many blog posts are published per day?
That’s 4,800 every minute.
Competition is tough. Which means it’s even tougher to create quality content.
But the issue that always seems to occur is that people don’t know what quality content actually means. How do you define it? Surely it’s something that has a different meaning for all of us.
The speaker from this particular talk on creating content used a great system that you can start applying to every piece of content you create:
I know it's missing another S but still. If you take anything away from this point, let it be this – quality doesn’t always mean pretty. Remember, it’s about the value of your content. That means it’s about the value of your words and the information you give.
#5 Your Relationship with Your Audience Is the Most Important Factor
Your content is all about making conversions. That could be your customer buying a product, leaving a comment, following you on social media or signing up to your email list. Whatever it is, you create content with the aim of your community forever imprinted in your mind. Which means the relationship you create with that community is the most important factor.
This was something that was drummed into us throughout the conference. Audience this, audience that. But another word many speakers kept saying was trust, and the importance of building trust with your community as a brand.
With content marketing and blogging, it’s easy to think about instant gratification. But it’s actually more important to focus on long term benefits. There needs to be a lifetime value for the person you’re creating for in everything you create.
#6 Social Ads Are Something to Think About
The average person checks their phone around 150 times per day. That’s a huge figure! But with so many people on social media, how do you get your brand and presence out there? Apparently one of the most effective ways to do that is social adverts.
They’ve been proven to boost your content, promote engagement on your page or account, increase clicks and improve website conversions. The great thing about them is that you can make them really targeted. You can hit your audience with your brand right between the eyes.
#7 Facebook Is the Leader in Our Industry
Facebook has over 1.19 billion monthly active users, making it the most popular and powerful social media platform. So even if you hate it and even if you don’t think your audience is on there, it’s still good to use it. It’s a great brand awareness tool.
From using purely Facebook as a brand marketing tool, a company’s branded traffic grew by 154% over twelve months, with branded sales up 128% and repeated customers up 20%. It just shows that activity on Facebook has a huge impact on brand searches and branded traffic. I don’t have a strategy for Facebook. But I’m definitely planning to create one now.
#8 People Love Looking at Cats on Social Media
But seriously, they do.
Point 8 is actually this:
You NEED social media.
As in really, seriously need it. It’s not one of those things where it’s like, oh there’s no harm in having it, but you could probably do without it. It’s something you need to be on.
Social media gets reactions and comments in real time. It’s fast paced, immediate and so effective – if used in the right way.
Social media is an essential part of the branded mix. You can connect with your community, promote yourself, create relationships – the possibilities are endless. Social media was something every single speaker at the conference mentioned, which just proves its importance. All the top brands and experts in the world of digital marketing shout about it, with very good reason.
#9 Social Media Generates Leads & Conversions
You’ll notice that many of these points of what I’ve learnt all relate to what I’ve already mentioned in various posts on this blog. They’re basically confirming what I’ve believed for some time. This is one point in particular, when people were talking about it, I just wanted to fist pump the air.
Social media creates conversions! It’s true!
A brand at the conference had carried out an experiment using social media campaigns. They found that through these different campaigns, more conversions were generated and more sales were made.
People say your customers won’t buy from you on social media?
#10 You Need a Multi-Screen Strategy
In one talk during the conference, everyone in the room was asked if they owned a smartphone, tablet and laptop. About 90% of people in the room raised their hand.
48 million people in the UK engage with digital content each month. But we’re consuming this content on various different platforms. Which means we actually need to be targeting these customers in completely different strategies.
Tablet adaption is taking over, and that’s where the conversions are coming from. A multi-screen strategy and the creation of unique content for different screens allows you to boost your conversions across the board.
So I bet you’re thinking, Holly, I’ve no idea what a multi-screen strategy is. What are you going on about?
A multi-screen strategy means that your users can access content effectively from any device. So whether they’re on desktop, a tablet or their smartphone, the content they’re viewing adapts to each screen, and it’s easily accessible for them.
You know how on some websites you visit it looks different on a desktop to your smartphone? That’s because the website is adapting to the type of screen that you’re viewing it on. This is called a responsive site – it responds to the type of platform it’s being viewed on. And since 79% of consumers own a smartphone and 43% own a tablet, it’s pretty clear that we need a multi-screen strategy.
#11 There's Still Huge Gaps in Gender, Skills & Pay in Our Industry
I’m just going to throw a bit of information at you here.
- There are twice as many men working in the digital industry than women.
- There are 156% more men in management roles than women.
- 80% of the top salaries in the digital industry go to men.
- There’s going to be a huge skills gap in education if something doesn’t change.
When I was sitting in this talk called Women in Digital, listening to this information, my mouth was open in shock. Do you know that in some companies, women get fired from their jobs if they’re pregnant in a managerial role? And there are still companies out there who base talent on the employees that are chained to their desks for the longest time?
People say we’ve come a long way as women and we have. But this still isn’t good enough. We’re living in 2015, yet for a lot of the time it seems like we’re going to back to the 1950’s, with our concrete working hours and the stigma still associated with men.
What was even more surprising, was that a good third of the audience in this talk were men. And they were backing up women. They were saying how unsatisfied they were with the ever present gaps and that we need to do something about it.
I guess my response to that would be, what do we do? Some people are just too set in their ways to change anything. There’ll still be companies that lead a very strict 9 to 5 life, and there’ll still be companies that favour men over women. It’s true, but it isn’t right.
But this is what’s great about conferences like these. Real issues are addressed and real people are addressing them.
I guess that’s just the power of digital.
Which of these points interests you the most? What surprised you? Let me know in the comments
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