Specialists from a host of digital companies came to Manchester on Friday for the increasingly popular SAScon Mini conference.
This year, experts in a range of fields converged on The Studio to give their presentations. Two spaces – the ‘main room’ and the ‘genius room’ – were open to attendees, with talks being given simultaneously throughout the day.
Things kicked off with a roundtable discussion held by the event sponsor, Melbourne Server Hosting, followed by an introduction from Latitude Digital Marketing’s managing director, Richard Gregory.
In the main room’s first presentation of the day, ‘State of the PR Nation’, Drew Benvie of Battenhall discussed the significant impact that social media has had on how companies approach PR.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes that Benvie talked about is the fact that, through social media, customers are able to give feedback in real time.
He said that companies over in the U.S. have been somewhat more responsive to the changing nature of PR when compared to firms on this side of the pond. As an example, he spoke about how the San Francisco Chronicle now sends its journalists on an intensive social media boot camp.
Discussing the slow response to social media from some companies, Benvie said he believes it is a fear of something potentially going wrong that holds firms back from establishing themselves on sites like Twitter and Facebook. However, he said that when used correctly, the social approach can serve as a vital tool from a marketing, reputation management and customer services standpoint.
Benvie call upon a number of revealing stats, which showed that while the majority of the FTSE 100 companies are using social media, not all of them are utilising it in the most beneficial way. In its report from September last year, Battenhall found that just 12 of the FTSE 100 do not use Twitter, and of the 88 companies with an account on the micro-blogging site, just eight have never Tweeted.
Further, he drew the audience’s attention to the fact that the vast majority of today’s media is accessed via some form of screen.
While Danny Roche from Bathshop321 gave a talk titled ‘How to Steal your Competitor’s Customers with PPC’, which was followed by ‘Why the Long Form’ from Tom New of The E Word in the genius room, a panel discussion took place in the main room.
PushOn’s David Gerrard, Canddi’s CEO Tim Langley and Ryan McKay, the head of SEO at Mediacom i-Lab, made up the panel and discussed the role of metrics, and how data can be used to the best advantage of brands. The speakers debated the point that, rather than simply seeking to gain new users, metrics should be used to look at a brand’s existing fans and repeat customers, as well as the shareability of content such as articles and videos.
McKay pointed to the fact that users will act differently depending on what kind of device they’re on – highlighting the importance of a responsive approach to website marketing, and Langley said that while some have previously considered each device to be a different user, the average number of devices per person now stands at 2.2.
Further, the trio discussed the importance of finding the right balance between gathering user data for the benefit of the brand and, ultimately, respecting people’s right to privacy.
Following a lunch break, Asda’s head of social, Dominic Burch, gave an interesting presentation that looked at the importance of making meaningful connections with customers via social media. Burch gave five insightful thoughts on his social strategy, and much of his approach centred around honesty – seeking the trust of fans and followers in order to succeed as a brand and placing an emphasis on listening and engaging over merely influencing. Additionally, he said it’s important for brands to serve as a ‘connector’ rather than a ‘collector’.
He rounded his presentation off with some predictions for trends we may expect this year, including a rising interplay between social platforms and television, and the increasing relevance of engaging content.
Later in the afternoon, another panel got together to discuss the potential importance of a unison between PR, search and social, this time comprising Andy Barr of 10 Yetis, Rob Weatherhead from MediaCom i-Lab and Robin Wilson of McCann Erickson.
With PushOn’s Simon Wharton acting as chair, the group discussed how PR and search have moved on significantly in the last few years, and debated the relevance of social approaches and how they fit in with the more traditional, established fields.
In a review of the event, Sadie Sherran attendee from Falcon Digital wrote:
“This was a feisty debate with definite similarities but in the real world (not on a panel) these guys compete for budget, therefore it was evident in the discussion they each valued their own services higher.”
The penultimate talk for the day in the genius room was delivered by Chris Bush from Sigma, who looked at webdesign and how difference aesthetic decisions can influence – either beneficially or detrimentally – a user’s response when visiting a website, and how a brand’s principles can either encourage or discourage a visitor to take action.
He elaborated on the importance of appearing authoritative, as well as setting a brand up to contrast against its competitors. Regarding e-commerce, he drew the audience’s attention to the role that perceived scarcity can play, how users will be more likely to make a sudden, impulsive purchase if they believe – rightly or wrongly – that a particular product or service will soon be unavailable.
While the Irish Wonder delivered a talk over in the genius room entitled ‘White Hat Myths’, Moneysupermarket.com’s head of organic performance, Phil MacKechnie, rounded off the day’s proceedings by giving advice on breaking the cycle of bad SEO and marketing strategies.
Some images from Mini SAScon 2014