I have a playlist on my iPod that is titled simply ‘awesome’. I know that’s unimaginative, but sometimes it’s necessary to cut to the chase if you need to prepare for a big day/event/meeting. It’s not subtle. It’s direct and it gets me going. My ‘awesome’ playlist includes a bit of James Brown riffing on how he’s ‘paid the cost to be the boss’ alongside Curtis Mayfield telling the story of Superfly (shut your mouth!). One artist who figures heavily in this playlist is the incomparable Marvin Gaye, and maybe it’s because I was listening to him first thing this morning, but I kept going back to that music throughout the day at the inaugural SMX Social Media Marketing conference today in Scottsdale, AZ.
As an organization, we’ve been big supporters of the SMX circuit, regularly attending the advanced conference in Seattle as well as regional ones (East in NYC and Toronto) over the years. We have been looking forward to the social conference primarily because we’ve been wondering how a conference that has traditionally attracted the propeller heads (and I count myself as one) would handle such potentially fluffy material as social media. In other words, we wanted to find out what’s going on (see what I did there?)
What’s more, we came into this conference on the heels of a series of meetings last week at the Googleplex in Mountainview where we were taken behind the curtain. Google is deadly serious about the social space and its integration with search. We were looking for a sense of that at this conference. I’m pleased to say that this is exactly what we found on the first day.
There were a number of standout presentations today that highlighted specific actionable tactics in social media, from Kevin Scholl of Red Roof Inn who told how his company made connections with their customers based on talking about things that they cared about, in this case, pet friendly hotels (I’ll be doggone) and who said that he would ‘rather have 10,000 engaged members rather than 100,000 disinterested members’, through Arnie Kuenn of Vertical Measures who uses Q&A websites like Yahoo Answers and Quora for content ideas (I heard it through the grapevine), all the way to Mathew Guiver of e-storm international who provided a masterclass on how to advertise on Twitter (His eye is on the sparrow). James Zolman of Quality Scores provided one of the more refreshing presentations, focusing on ideas that they tried and that were…less than stellar in their results (My mistake) but that showed the ingenuity and courage in that is necessary in testing tactics within an emerging channel.
The most striking thing that we noticed throughout the day was that the most rewarding sessions kept coming back to the same concept – content.
Everything in social media, just like everything in search revolves around content. As Marvin put it, What good am I without you? Content is the hub around which everything revolves. Good, unique and relevant content that the advertiser publishes and controls is the central component to social media marketing. This is why Drew Conrad of Zagg talked about how it is critical to move users from a Facebook environment to a landing page infrastructure that is designed to convert. Content is at the heart of Google +, as passionately described by Tim Moore of Crush IQ. You should not even be paying for advertising through social channels if you don’t have authoritative content that marks you as genuine in the eyes of your customers (Ain’t nothing like the real thing). If this sounds like a search argument (content, relevance, conversion, ROI), then that’s no accident. The cold, analytical and data driven perspective that is helping search marketers take over the digital world, moving relentlessly into upper funnel awareness advertising in the shape of display advertising is what is being applied here. And it’s us search marketers with our math that are going to win in this game (Ego tripping out) because we choose not to hide behind smoke and mirrors.
In other words, what we heard directly from the senior team at Google a week ago is what we have heard today – just as the lines between the channels are blurring and they are starting to impact each other (paid, organic, local, mobile and social), what remains a constant at the heart of this is good content. So don’t be scared by the brave new world of social. It’s not that far removed from your old world of search. Stop worrying, understand that the fundamentals still apply and say to the world, Let’s get it on!
Nasser Sahlool, Vice President Client Strategy