Thursday, March 21, 2013

Digital Media Summit ReView

Yesterday was the second and final day of the Digital Media Summit conference in Toronto. I recapped my highlights from the first day of the conference on Webslinger and the Twitter feed has useful highlights as well.

Some speakers on the second day overlapped with material covered on the first day. But this helped drive home key themes raised in various sessions. Overall, however, it was an excellent conference. Here are my favourite take-aways:
  1. Consider mobile first
  2. Create social objects
  3. Context is crucial 
  4. Recruit your customers to work for you
  5. Identity matters
1) Consider mobile first
With the exponential global adoption of smartphones, more people are accessing digital content predominantly through mobiles and this is expected to increase.  There will be a role for desktop computers (as one speaker noted "who has ever created, let alone used, a spreadsheet on their mobile?" - no one had). But more people are using their mobiles to access company's content - several properties represented at the conference are already receiving more traffic from mobiles than PCs.

Yet accessing content via mobiles is often difficult, messy, or impossible to access via mobiles. Several speakers advised that instead of trying to retrofit all web content to mobiles, which is what most companies do, consider building for mobiles first.

To do this effectively, Erik Qualman, pointed out the 80/20 rule applies to mobile - so 80% of a company's value will come from 20% of their online content, so "scale down your offerings to the essentials" to optimize the mobile experience (and likely the web too)/

2) Create brand awareness and engagement with social objects
Although no one used the term "social objects" the concept came up several times. Social objects are pieces of online content - videos, articles, photos, games - upon which people are drawn to, organically share and discuss. Think of the latest kitten video featured on YouTube's homepage and you got a social object.

Mark McKay presented Ford's Zombie Escape commercial, which is an excellent example of this. Of course zombie videos are going to go viral like well a zombie epidemic, but what I liked about this campaign is it actually tied into the product features it was promoting. As McKay urged it's important with such campaigns to be "relevant and differentiated" in addition to "shareable".

3) Context is crucial
As the ability to customize digital media continues to become easier and cheaper to produce, it's crucial to consider the context of your audience and deliver content and experiences relevant to their habits and motivations.

As Nicola Smith advises, "context should drive execution" and to demonstrate this Smith used the example of a German pet food company that placed poster dispensers by parks where people walked their dogs with instructions to check-in via Foursquare. They then got a free sample of a new pet food. I find this campaigns works on a few levels - obviously, it's a fun and memorable campaign. But more importantly, it delivers the brand engagement and sampling where and when it is most relevant to people.

Context is also important not only in content but in media form - whether tablet, PCs, mobile, etc. Katrina Klier urged that it is crucial to get "the right modality and the right time".

4) Recruit your customers to work for you
I'm not sure if blogger relations and "brand ambassadors" campaigns are the topic-du-jour for marketers but this came up a lot at the conference. This isn't something particularly relevant to my work, but I did find one tip on this particularly interesting.

For companies wanting to reach a global audience, tapping into people's social networks offers an opportunity.  Katrina Klier noted that most people have at least one of a few international friends on social networks sites, so whether people know it or not they have a global footprint.  She also mentioned that the average Facebook user has 359 friends - so tapping into this extends one's reach incredibly. (But is that statistic true? If so, I'm clearly a real loner.)

5) Identity matters - know your audience and help them know themselves
Although I only heard the issue of identity raised once, by Alfredo Tan of Facebook, I think it is a vital issue.

First, there's the aspect of knowing the true identities of your online audience. Tan raised the famous comic of the dog at a computer saying to another dog "on the Internet no one knows your a dog". Well, not true anymore says Tan due to Facebook - as they have the true identity of 1 billion people. This is a significant marketing opportunity.

Tan also talked about how social objects give people the opportunity to shape their identity around digital content. They like products/things to project an image of themselves to their friends. So learn about your customers and consider "why they care and why they share".

Final review
I mentioned yesterday how much I appreciated how well run the conference was and the choice of venue.  I forgot to mention that I really liked the staging of the conference.  The main conference room, which housed the keynotes, had the best stage and audio-visual set-up I have ever encountered.  The use of multi-screens allowed for the speakers and their slides to be displayed, which is great for big conference - but rarely done.

The set and lighting also looked great!  It's great to to not always have Toronto tech conferences seeming low rent - which I think projects poorly on the vitality and maturity of our industry.

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