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On the Edge - Birmingham Thursday 19th September

Businesses everywhere are scrambling to keep up with the ever-changing digital world. Social media has changed the way businesses communicate, and digital marketing and media is now a larger part of business than ever before. Previously dominant means of advertising like press are now seen as decaying and boring. The digital age is fascinating, but maybe none of it is as new as it seems…

WarwickTweetup | On the Edge BirminghamOn Thursday 19th September @Pinky_Princess and I attended the excellent On The Edge Birmingham event at the The Macdonald Burlington Hotel, to hear expert speakers share their thoughts, knowledge and insights into the past, present and future of digital. To say we were excited by the chance to spend all day listening to leaders in our field speak about our favourite subject is a vast understatement! 

We live and breathe digital, social media, online content, SEO, blogging, email marketing and anything online that screams for your attention. We come across many businesses that need our help, and to be surrounded by others that do the same was very warming... in a geeky sense!

When you think about digital media you may think about the bit you do, or the bit you hear about, or the bit you know you should be doing. I think what was perfectly demonstrated by all seven speakers was that everything we do on digital is not only increasingly important, but also increasingly more difficult too. The presenters demonstrated with constant cross-overs and ‘doths of the cap’, that all channels should all be working together in unison to truly capitalise on digital. There’s no single hard and fast way to win with digital marketing, but knowing your audience and what they want, and how they want it, was a common theme throughout. 

Amongst all the updated information (there were some amazing stats) and all the graphs, research, surveys and mentions of Google, Twitter, Facebook and many others, something struck a chord with me; something that made me warm and fuzzy, like a mother at a school play. I realised that this is nothing new, what all those people in that room were doing and hoping to do, was actually so natural and made so much sense when you took away all the fancy words and graphics and related it back to people and human interaction.

Gamification

One of the crowning moments of the day was the performance by Matmi. I say performance as it was so much more than a presentation. Matmi make games, games that  make people play… games that just so happen to get millions upon millions of plays… games that just so happen to teach the gamer about a brand and what it offers whilst they’re playing. 

Learning (about a brand) by playing...

Hang on! Isn’t that what our kids do at school? Learn by play? They’re educated about subjects through play? Matmi have completely grasped that with their incredible media, and brand advocates are playing their way to education about brands around the world - all through the medium of play. Not just that, but they’re forging a strong bond with them too.

Games are not the only thing in the digital marketing arsenal though. During René Power’s excellent “Help, I’m a content marketer” presentation, he professed:

“If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d probably punch you in the face.”

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He’s right. Adverts can be so rude, they’re selfishly shouting about what they want to sell. So who wants to help or buy from them? That’s why we love social media! 

Social media

Social media is all about connecting, sharing, helping others, building a community – and being a bloody nice person! Who wants to help bloody nice people? Well, most people actually. Social media is leading the way to human advertising; the personal touch from big corporations, a lighter tone of voice with a fun element, and a caring attitude for its customers.

OK, so social media and games are mirroring basic human characteristics, but SEO? Come on Todd, there’s no way you’re going to relate Search Engine Optimisation to human interaction. 

Google and SEO

Well, years ago you could get on the front page of Google by not giving a crap about your customers, never being helpful and never giving anything away. You could quite literally jump the queue, push in front of everyone, get to the front of the Google queue and be served first! 

And now? Well now thanks to a couple of animals called Penguin and Panda (Google it) the search engine giant is not only favouring the helpful content sharing websites, but it’s throwing the queue jumpers out completely. 

Google knows that we want good, accurate results, Google knows that we want quality content, and Google knows that we have a choice, and that choice must always be to Google it and not Bing it. By giving us what we want: good, quality content that enriches our lives, it will keep people coming back - it’s just good customer service. 

People want up-to-date quality, not queue-jumping spammers with rubbish, old websites. SEO is now favouring the human side of online, and the resulting websites are from real people with real expertings and high quality content - isn’t that what we as Googlers want?!

Browsing habits - responsive design

Not only are we as consumers of the Internet shaping the way that Google’s algorithm works, but according to Hannah Kimuyu we’re now shaping the way website design is heading by the sheer way we’re using it. Mobile use is driving the need for responsive design, and tablets are being used more and more in the evening to surf the web while watching TV. 

Interestingly 21% of people surveyed said they would give up their TV over their smartphone, and as Hannah pointed out, the use of tablets and mobile Internet is actually bringing families back into the same room at night, now that they’re not plugged into separate rooms. What a turnaround! 

Facebook - ask, don't SHOUT! 


facebook_logo2.pngFacebook stats showed that people are more likely to react and engage with posts that wanted engagement, not ones that shouted. Ask a question and they will answer, shout about how wonderful you are and they won’t like it - literally, they won’t ‘like’ it! So being more human and taking an interest in someone other than yourself is good! 

Ben Harper also pointed out that the new generation are being slowly turned off by Facebook and we should keep a watchful eye on the next big thing for social. There’s no room for two or three; just look at MySpace and Bebo. The younger generation are going to decide, and we and the Internet will have to follow!

You still got mail

Email marketing is still a key player, but again using it to show you value your subscribers and offering something to your customers is more effective than constantly trying to sell to them. Emailing them to say you miss them, emailing them to wish them happy birthday, emailing them just to say “Hi”? Yeah, that’s really quite nice actually. Some companies set up systems to send more updates to people who read all their emails, and fewer to people who don’t read them all. It’s a great idea if you don’t want to annoy one group but would like to keep your keen customers constantly fueled with news.

The personal touch

It seems that digital is mirroring our human needs; our need to feel loved and to feel appreciated. Digital is becoming more human, more engaging, and more conversational. The marketing companies that are vying for your attention are starting to realise that they need to ask nicely rather than shout and be that pushy salesman you cross the street to avoid. 

I love the way that it’s all going because it’s the only way I’ve ever done it. I’ve always liked helping others, sharing knowledge, giving away quality content and caring about who reads it. Sure, go where your audience is - but make sure you listen and take an interest when you get there. 

Thanks to Edge Birmingham for a fabulous day and for organising a superb line up of speakers. You can find out more about it (and similar events around the country) and read the speaker’s slides on Edge Birmingham's website.

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About the author.

My name is Graham Todd and I've been helping businesses benefit from social media for almost three years. I train, blog and manage social media for business.

Find me on Google+

Leave a comment

Posted by Rene on
Great write up - thanks for attending, being so keen and sharing this post.
Posted by Warwicktweetup on
Thanks René, fabulous event and obviously fabulous speakers!
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