Mini SAScon 2014

Last week I attended this year’s Mini SAScon, the younger brother of the two day Search and Social Conference held in Manchester every year. Growing as it does each year, this was a day full of talks and panel discussions, proving so popular that there were two tracks of presenters, discussing everything from the effect SEO is having on PR through to how you can use PPC to grow your client base. Something for everybody who attended to take in, I’d be surprised if everybody didn’t learn at least one new thing for the future.

You can catch up below on the sessions I attended and my takeaway highlights from them as well as hopefully some useful tips and insights.

Drew Benvie, Battenhall: The State of The Digital PR Nation

The first session of the day wasn’t one to disappoint; Drew was infectiously enthusiastic when talking about social media & PR. He’s been a pioneer in the industry for decades, writing the Wikipedia page on Social Media in 2006.

  • Facebook and YouTube are still the largest networks with over 1billion users each.
  • But the image-sharing networks are the fastest growing with 49% of all images shared on Snapchat compared to 43% on Facebook.
  • This instant image & messaging form of network has lead to consumers being distracted so brands are taking to these networks to keep us engrossed and customers.
  • This is shown by 90% of consumers using multiple screens to complete their purchase and achieve their goals.
  • From this their has become a blurring of the lines between seo and pr people; you now need a depth in digital knowledge to be successful in social media, but you don’t necessarily need to know it all as an individual.
  • Social/PR teams grow from within a company, sometimes ‘secretly’ interacting online, before becoming their own department and branch of the bigger company.
  • Understanding of social media has become so important to some businesses in America, they are sending their teams to ‘Social Media BootCamp’
  • The clash of cultures between social & search has lead to agencies building their own search toolkits and developing stronger assets from within to integrate the opposite camp.

Drew also talked of his own company, Battenhall, and the culture they are building. He promotes a relaxed work ethic, so much that they employ the ‘80%’ work principal, where you have 20% of your work time off to yourself, but he only asks that you use this to better yourself in order to potentially benefit the business. His team are also provided a budget to buy whatever kit they need to do the job, be it laptop, tablet, etc, but it’s something they have chosen which is better than just being thrust upon them something they may not make full use of.

Moving on he talked about what he sees as four ’emerging forces’ for the coming years:

  1. Wearable Tech –Β What he calls ‘a perfect storm’, wearable tech will be the future for social sharing, life logging and will include health tech as well as just lifestyle gear. This obviously includes Google Glass as well as any similar visual tech pieces from competitors.
  2. The Rise of Photo Sharing – As already mentioned above, image-sharing networks are the fastest growing and will continue to do so.
  3. Messaging Reinventing Social – Instagram direct, Vine & WhatsApp are changing the ways brands have to think about reaching people socially.
  4. Social Data Driving Smarter Business – as analytics and user data grows, again brands are rethinking their social strategies, big brands are also approaching social in a more proactive way; 88% of the FTSE100 are on Twitter.

Dominic Burch, Head of Social ASDA: Why Content & Context Are The Key To Meaningful Social Connections

Dominic talked about the ASDA approach to social media, I was surprised to learn that for a company so large the team is just two people; but they clearly do a successful job, he gave an insight into how they approach their customers and the strategy they use for each social media networks and what can go well (and poorly) for them.

He started with five simple thoughts they use to approach social media:

  1. The old rules don’t apply any more; literally speaking, connecting to your customers is simply not the same or as difficult as it was only ten years ago. 50% of ASDA’s customers are on Facebook and they use this to drive their social strategy.
  2. We’re a media owner and we’ll increasingly act like one; ASDA FM reaches more listeners than Radios 1 & 2 combined, they have an instore magazine as well as their website and these branches of media integrate into their social media.
  3. We’re a connector not a collector; ASDA communicate with the community on a daily basis, rather than having an emphasis on just ‘collecting followers’ they are proactive in their responses and the content they share.
  4. We will only succeed if we win the trust of shoppers; from the shop floor through to their social media, everything ASDA do has to create a trust from the customers.
  5. Listen first, Engage second, Influence third; extending on the trust principal, by following these three ideals they can work with their customers to provide just what they need and then driving them to their sales.
  • Listening is the fundamental most important part of what they do; again by using Facebook as their main social network they get a better response to their content, both positive and negative, but they know it reflects the mindset and opinion of their general customer base.
  • Their custom built audience allows them to create more targeted campaigns and this then develops the trust further by appealing to individual needs.
  • Social media has allowed them to target their market greater than the mainstream media.
  • The social media team were given Β£100,000 to work on social; compare this with Β£150,000 it costs the PR team to run a whole round of press adverts.
  • Creating a clear editorial calendar, including strategic marketing, interactions & tactical advertising, they have grown their engagements to 3.1m in the first nine months of 2013

Dominic also provided his ‘Dirty Dozen’ for 2014 regarding what could be defining factors in social in 2014.

  1. The resurgence of the advertorial
  2. Employee advocacy
  3. Engaging content will still be rewarded
  4. The age of advocacy
  5. Pay to Play
  6. The millennials will fuel even more video sharing
  7. Death of the social media manager
  8. ‘Social’ organisations will be the real winners
  9. Customers expect instant responses on social channels
  10. Growth gamification on social
  11. Key influencers / content creators can monetize their position
  12. Stronger interplay between social and television

I also attended three other sessions, my highlights are below:

Screaming Queens v Plain Janes: Where Next For Metrics (Panel Discussion)

  • Work out what you want to achieve before you decide which metrics you need.
  • Your KPIs should be matched to your offline business objectives not just your online targets.
  • If you can implement user IDs onto your site they are worth their weight in gold.
  • Custom dimensions and metrics are a great new inclusion into universal analytics, you can not enter more data than you would normally collect, e.g. sex, membership level, etc.
  • Capture as much data as you can get and store; don’t throw anything away as you don’t know what you’ll need in the future.
  • Use webmaster data tools for tracking trends.
  • The data from Google Analytics should not be discounted, but if you want to use another tracking tool use this as well as GA.
  • Should we have ever reported on how many links we built when link building, or should we have just reported on the results they created?
  • Their is a desire to see more use of the right metrics but also an innovative use of the data being used.

PR, Social & Search in Perfect Harmony (Panel Discussion)

  • There should be interactions between the three, the measures for each are linked nowadays anyway.
  • To see the bigger picture they should have skills belonging to the others, growing their own skillset to be an all-encompassing marketer.
  • Whoever owns the social media output within a company needs to have PR and SEO skillsets.
  • Different sectors are cross-recruiting from the opposing ones. e.g PR companies looking for SEO people
  • The battle is at content-level, the obvious but also most important aspect.

Brands That Get ‘It’ and Deliver ‘It’ (Panel Discussion)

  • Burberry
    • Half of their budget is on their social strategy.
    • They are a perfect example of revitalising a perishing brand
    • Expensive, high-quality photos making excellent content
  • Red Bull
    • Sole revolutionaries of the content marketing industry; are they a drinks brand or content marketers?
    • Single minded on the content they are building
  • British Cycling
    • Event marketing through social media
    • Bringing instant video online; used a video editor onsite for recent events, videos were online within ten minutes of races finishing.
  • Aldi
    • Great at building funny, engaging and memorable content
  • It’s a lot about the people on the edge of a business who ‘get it’ and then spread their influence creating a culture across companies.
  • Sustainability is a great metric to measure for the people at the top of the business.
  • Companies who don’t get social are seen every day; airlines are a perfect example by limiting their ‘opening hours’ and having stock responses loaded.
  • Social trends matter; Channel 4 are as interested in trending on Twitter as they are on ratings figures.

You can find all the slides and presentations from the sessions I was in as well as all the others from the day over at SAScon’s site here.