3 Surprises from the 2018 Internet Summit

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Raleigh Convention Center lobby

2018 Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina

One month ago I made my annual trek one county over to the Southeast’s largest digital gathering. The Internet Summit never disappoints and always reinforces what I had been seeing change in the industry, while shedding light on areas I had not considered. Here’s what surprised me:

Personalized content. Data collection is only growing, and I’ve shared the early talks of the personalization wave in my posts from Internet Summits past. (See below for the full list of links.) We have had unique search experiences for years because of algorithmic curation of content delivery based on our purchase history, search history, and even the conversations we have IRL (in real life) since many apps on our phones are ‘listening’ (and you might also be in range of an Amazon Echo or similar device). While this was not a surprise, I was surprised to learn of a basic implementation of customization that seems to work well when applied to an existing consumer base: Start with gender and build an experience unique to both genders. Then segment and build custom content by age. Lastly, personalize by their location. What this means for writers: Don’t take this as a trusted formula. I can think of a few examples where location-based customization would be a prime initial filter. For instance, if you’re an author planning a book tour, you would benefit more from personalizing your reader list by their location first rather than starting with gender. You could build custom messages to readers in a city you’re visiting without bombarding out-of-area readers on your list with details that are not relevant to them.

Airbnb. Yeah, it’s a service for vacation rentals. So what? So that’s changing. I attended Daniel Dubois’ session about fostering growth with an Airbnb mindset. Dubois is a market manager at Airbnb and shared a bit about Airbnb’s carefully planned evolution. The idea is that you won’t use the service to simply book your travel accommodations, you’ll also use it in a Meetup-like way where you can connect with other travelers. They’re leaning toward becoming an experience-based provider through building personal connections. That was the farthest thing from my mind if you would have asked me what Airbnb’s next step would be. A surprising statistic shared at the session: travel is expected to experience the fastest growth over the next decade. Plus, international arrivals are growing. What this means for writers: It’s prime time to partner with travel companies to create content, and contact magazines to write travel features since travel editorial budgets will likely grow to match the industry.

Big platforms don’t matter. Individuals and businesses are almost always focused on the number of likes on their Facebook page or the number of followers on their respective social media platforms. It’s becoming more apparent across industries–including publishing–that the number of followers is irrelevant. Are you truly engaging with those followers? I went to Nick Stagge’s presentation that centered on the ‘consideration phase’ that we all flow through when we decide if we’re going to buy something, where we’ll travel, if we’ll subscribe, etc. Stagge is the vice president of marketing at ExpertVoice, a service that connects brands with influencers. I was surprised to learn that brands like Reebok and Yeti are choosing to work with individuals who have small social media followings. They’re looking for true connections and valuing quality over quantity. What this means for writers: If you develop social media content, keep educating your clients on valuable metrics beyond their number of followers. For authors, think carefully about how you’re interacting with your followers rather than boosting your social circles. For all, if you’re partnering with another individual or business for an ‘Instagram takeover’ or other social promotion, don’t make your decision based on the other person’s number of followers. Take time to look at how their followers interact.

Internet Summit program and pass

veggie wrapA non-digital surprise from my time at the Internet Summit: a vegan lunch! While I am not vegan, I’ve moved to a more plant-based lifestyle over the past year. I’m more aware now of vegetarian options since I try to opt for those when I can. I was thrilled that the conference offered these veggie wraps that included a fruit cup, chips, and an apple!

As always, I can’t say enough great things about the Internet Summit. I already have 2019’s dates on my calendar: November 13 and 14. Let me know if I’ll see you there! #isum19

Here are my posts from past conferences:

Internet Summit 2017

Internet Summit 2016

Internet Summit 2015

Internet Summit 2014

Internet Summit 2013

Internet Summit 2012