As a student, attending one of these events may seem a little daft, but with the promise of sessions discussing topics such as content strategy, SEO, website design and usability, and the use of analytics and social media metrics how could I afford to miss it?
These topics all have a bearing on my degree subjects and any future career choices based upon that degree, the fact they were coming from the marketing perspective as opposed to a technical one shouldn’t really matter..
..But first a word about the event itself, the chosen venue was easy to find as Earls court is directly opposite an underground station – definitely a bonus over a few other events I’ve been to in London, but the wifi was sadly flaky at best and as mentioned by another a blogger in the blur group the event app (should you have been able to locate and download it) was made pretty useless by this fact.
Seating areas were few and far between and the chairs used in the sessions were not designed with short folk like me in mind – It gets very tiring very quickly trying to balance a notepad or laptop on your lap when your feet are swinging 2 inches off the floor! Not exactly a fantastic scenario for someone who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome when combined with all the travelling and walking attending such an event necessitates.
The first session in my ‘not to be missed’ schedule was given by Neil Burton representing Web Spiders the company responsible for creating the seemingly elusive web app for the event. I have to say he presented his material incredibly well – that may sound patronising but having tried my hand at presenting I know it’s no piece of cake.
He knew his audience and distilled usability principles into bite size demonstrable chunks without naming folk like Schneiderman and Nielsen to get the point across. The one page shopping cart he demonstrated was truly a thing of beauty and had me itching to find out if it was built in flash or used jquery (as you’ll see if you click the link; it’s flash.)
I will admit much of what he covered was old news to me but I admired his delivery. However he also covered something I should have been more aware of but coming from a tech rather than marketing or design background had not really looked into in this way before: multivariable testing along with a useful statistic and source for my soon to be written final report:
22% of companies spending at least £50000pa on seo (source; econsultancy search engine marketing benchmark report 2010)
(So that alone made the trip into London worth it for me)
The second session I attended was “SEO the latest keys to success; John Heffernan, MediaCo (UK) Ltd.” as I tweeted at the time; some of the information he gave had me arguing with him in my notes so that I wouldn’t vocalise my dissent and disrupt the session.
I’m not an SEO expert – or even practitioner (yet) but having attended more than a few mediaCamps and social media gatherings I know a little more than the average joe – and I like to think that the information I cull from my twitter stream along with the books I read help to add to that knowledge daily.
The claims made about this session were that the audience would:
- Gain a clear understanding of what Social Media is in practical business terms.
- Gain a clear understanding of Social Media fundamentals and how to get them right
It is these points on which I’d quite strongly disagree.
He had slides with a lot of different social media sites on them, he didn’t mention the need to see which ones fit best with your customer profile but you’d hopefully expect the audience to figure that out for themselves, he did however make the very valid point that in a marketing sense:
Social media is about syndicating content back to you – direct quote.
What he didn’t say ONCE to all these impressionable eager to learn people is that social media as a marketing tool is NOT a broadcast medium. It is about building relationships and hopefully fostering a sense of ownership amongst your audience in order to derive feelings of loyalty and positivity towards your brand.
Yes, he mentioned making link backs natural (and JC Penny was spoken about) and he eventually mentioned that a successful use of social media needed time devoted to monitoring the channels (with HSBC and a prominent house builder given as an example of #fail)
..but the most basic and fundamental thing about social media is that it is SOCIAL, and not once did that observation raise it’s hand.
Despite learning several things of interest during the session that one lack left a taste of disappointment as it felt like I’d seen an intelligent guy almost get it right.
Arrogant of me? Perhaps, but learning is subjective and that was my take away from Johns session.
If you’ve managed to get this far; congratulations! You’ll be pleased to learn I have only one more session to discuss:
This was one I’d actually been incredibly excited about after reading the session page on the TFM&A website; Catherine Toole; Kingmakers: why 2011 is the year of the content strategist.
..Perhaps I’d been too excited because the 30minutes of waffle and example upon example boiled down to 2 points:
- Reduce effort – make everything as quick and seamless as possible for the user
- Use text and images effectively – have professionally written copy so great ideas from the top don’t fall at the bottom rung.
Now to be fair, the lass started on the back foot due to several technical issues (microphone not working, new mic battery died, laptop power started going 5 minutes into the presentation..) so maybe she is normally more of a Neil Burton type of presenter, but my attention began drifting after the 4th slide of examples and her offer to carry on into the lunch break for questions held no appeal for me whatsoever.
That being said, again I received a source that made the trip into London worthwhile; upon her recommendation I’ve read a couple of articles from the Harvard Business Review and can see how this one at least will be a useful citation in my forthcoming report.
After these three sessions I couldn’t summon any enthusiasm for the others I’d jotted into my schedule; my back was killing me from trying to balance on the slightly too high chairs and my disappointment at not learning as much as I’d hoped in those sessions was tempered slightly by the knowledge I know more on those subjects than I previously thought.
I wish I’d taken the time to track down the web spiders stand but as I had company it was hard to fit in the things we both wished to do – I’m especially gutted I gave into tiredness when I did as it meant I missed out on meeting up with @farhan who was also in attendance and tweeted the fact while my train was heading homewards, but all told it was a good day.
..and having a small child exclaiming in delight over the red ball and flower pen I obtained for her from the confex side just made it all that more worthwhile *grin*