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internet summit

Internet Summit 2017, Raleigh, NC

Through no collective effort, a theme surfaces at the Internet Summit each year. In 2011 it was all about the cloud. In 2012 it was about paying for valuable content. In 2013, reading and storytelling. Media-rich content bubbled up in talks in 2014. Letting go of #1 in search results due to predictive search and other machine learning changes hit the mark in 2015. Content marketing and amplification were stressed in 2016.

And this year? 2017 stressed forward thinking. Due to the high competition brands and users face in getting the attention of others, and the highly refined functions of algorithms, it’s more important to think about what’s changing in our future. Consumer tendencies and technology are changing, and businesses need to change too. Hopefully, before their competition does the same!

tara lynne groth at internet summit

SEO nerd and annual Internet Summit attendee, me.

With that theme in mind, here are seven tidbits out of the dozens that I wrote down while at my favorite annual digital marketing event in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Internet Summit:

  1. Forget quantity. I don’t casually throw around the term guru. When I use it here, you know it means something. Marketing guru Seth Godin led the opening keynote. Among the many gold nuggets I wrote in my Evernote during his talk, one of the big questions Godin asked was, “Why aren’t you dating your prospects?” How many followers and subscribers one has is becoming irrelevant. It’s time to focus on delivering valuable content in new ways to the people who already know, like and trust you. Godin’s approach is to get the attention of the people you care about, then let them be the megaphone about you.
    Bonus: One of my favorite podcasts is Design Matters. Check out an interview with Seth Godin on Design Matters from earlier this year. FYI the podcast automatically plays if you click the link.

    seth godin at internet summit

    Seth Godin presenting the keynote at Internet Summit 2017.

  2. Accessibility. Some content writers focus exclusively on developing the right words for a website. However, in my work, I also suggest design and layout changes to help improve user experience (UX). I always stress that great content means nothing if you have a negative UX. Of course, I never considered what it would be like to navigate a site with a vision disability or hearing impairment. Soon we all need to make these considerations. The Department of Justice is slated to release accessibility requirements for websites in 2018. I attended a session with the Vice President of Account Services at Ntara, Andy Didyk. Ntara is a digital agency in Tennessee. (There was some pre-conference Tweeting that Ntaralynne was planning to attend Ntara’s talk. 🙂 ) Didyk explained a number of different proposed levels of compliance. For now, look at your site and make sure your can easily tab-through to all options. Read your site aloud. Visually-impaired individuals use screen readers. If your site would not be easily navigated if read aloud (image-heavy, poor content, Flash–please, you should NOT have Flash!), then you need to make some serious changes.
    Bonus: Ntara offers an accessibility checklist. So smart!
  3. Story marketing. Laura Wilson, Director of Digital Engagement at Georgetown University, held a session on microstorytelling. If you’re unfamiliar with the stories utility on Instagram (and rolling out on Facebook), it’s a user-generated video/slideshow feature based on the Snapchat format. Essentially, users can create time-restricted stories that are only accessible for 24 hours. This adds a sense of urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out) to other users because if they don’t watch your story when it’s available, they miss it. Per Wilson, Instagram has 300 million users utilizing the stories function every day. That’s more than Snapchat. If you’re planning on using story marketing, focus on these three areas: Privacy, storyboarding, and selfie-style. Wilson suggests using stories for “discreet peer-to-peer communications.” Of course, nothing so private that you don’t mind it being temporarily public! For storyboarding, see the image below as her example. You should decide each piece of your story to help improve its value and engagement. In regards to selfie-style, Wilson shared that studies show that you appear more authentic if you hold the camera yourself. So, of course, I was empowered to run a story on my Instagram while at the Internet Summit utilizing both Wilson’s story board and holding the phone selfie-style!
    Bonus: Follow me on Instagram @taralynne0 for my own stories adventures. Of course, only if you’re ready for stories on beekeeping, backyard chickens, and foodie fun in addition to SEO!


    Storyboard example for stories marketing.

  4. Long-form content. In a session on developing personalized content, Ogilvy’s Executive Director of Strategy and Planning, Alberto Brea shared, “Most brands are moving to long-form content.” Long-form content has been a Google-friendly factor for a few years. Brea explained that it’s all about the moment. In his words, “The moment is the message.” In any piece of content, long or short, consider how that moment resonates with your audience.
    Bonus: The post you’re reading right now is long-form content!
  5. Customize. As Godin so eloquently put it, “What we have to learn to do is speak to different people differently, because different people hear differently.” In several sessions I attended, speakers mentioned the WIIFM factor. What’s in it for me? Your audience is asking that. Curate an experience that suits a particular audience. Whether you’re segmenting email lists for your email marketing efforts, or developing an Instagram storyboard custom for a particular niche among your followers, stop delivering broad messages for the masses.
    Bonus: Check out tip #1 from my re-cap of the 2015 Internet Summit. It’s about a process for developing customer personas.
  6. Email still reigns. According to Jen Capstraw, Adobe Marketing Cloud Consultant, “Email is accessed more than social media on mobile.” In her session on email marketing, Capstraw stressed deciding your call-to-action and subject line before writing your email. Since email is accessed prominently on mobile, conduct multiple tests on mobile devices to ensure the message displays properly. What I learned in these sessions is making me consider switching from the email marketing provider that I have used for more than a decade, mainly because they don’t appear to offer a mobile-friendly format!
    Bonus: Capstraw is co-founder of Women of Email. Free to join!
  7. Mobile-first v. mobile-only. The first age of mobile is ending. That’s what Michael Trapani, Product Marketing Leader at IBM Watson explained. He reminded us that the first iPhone came out a decade ago. 2007! (Can you believe I only got my first smartphone in 2013?) Trapani also reminded us that mobile devices are no longer used primarily when we’re in between computers. Now mobile devices are the easiest ones to access, so they’re often the primary device of choice. It’s become so paramount that  in other sessions I attended, the speakers stressed we are now in a mobile-only world. If you’re writing content or considering UX, stop reviewing a desktop experience first. In Tony Marlow‘s session, he explained that 1 in 5 people are mobile-dominant, and by 2020 that number is forecast to be 50 percent. Marlow is the Vice President of B2B Marketing at Oath.
    Bonus: If you haven’t already, test your website to ensure it’s mobile-friendly.

There is so much more that I want to share, but I’m still deciding the best format to relay everything I learned at the summit. Blog, stories, video, day-long seminar…there are so many options. For now, there is a lot of work ahead with just the few items I shared above. Are you making changes to your website, social media, and marketing efforts? Share in the comments!