December 12th, 2018

Impressions from Internet Summit 2018

by Katelynn Watkins

In November, a few members of the Sage Island marketing crew got to attend Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina.

A favorite conference of ours, IS is a convergence of others in the marketing and digital management world, during which we can learn about what our peers are learning when they apply the latest promotional trends to their respective strategies.

We make connections, ask questions, and generally have a chance to improve ourselves so that when we come back to our office in Wilmington, our brains are refreshed and ready to try out some new ideas with our own clients and projects.

Our three marketing specialists that were in attendance decided they’d like to share what they learned during this year’s event, so here are some highlights and sneak-peeks as to what you can expect from Sage Island in the coming new year!

Katelynn, Digital Media Specialist:

The main objective of a well-rounded content marketing strategy should always be to connect with your audience without overtly expecting anything in return. But when your business happens to depend upon sales, that ideal tends to get pushed aside in favor of messaging that centers on purchases rather than brand awareness and storytelling.

What some fail to see, though, is that sometimes cultivating this image online – even in more innocuous ways – and telling a true industry story will be what helps lead to sales and continued brand loyalty further down the road. By giving your audience more of your brand’s background and overall vibe, you give them an entity with which they can relate and engage on an individualized basis.

One of the themes to this year’s IS was encouraging a resurgence of brand voice and personality, particularly in your social media campaigns. Here are just a few pointers I made note of during the different sessions I attended that you can either include or reinforce in your own content marketing plans.

  • Keep your posts short, sweet, and to the point. Social media is supposed to be made up of quick updates and engaging messages: not someone’s life story or a drawn-out sales pitch.
  • When you can, post on the weekends. Your followers don’t stick to a nine-to-five schedule when it comes to social media, so you don’t necessarily have to, either.
  • You don’t always need a link back to your website, but when you do include one, make sure it serves a distinct purpose.
  • Not every message is suited for every platform – make sure you’re using each outlet, from Facebook to Instagram, or even a blog, to its fullest potential with the right form of content.
  • Always use a consistent tone of voice that will invite your followers to interact with your brand, not just listen to everything you want to say.

Rachel, SEO Specialist:

Search engine optimization is, and always will be, a complex science. With more than 200 factors in Google’s algorithm, this ruling search engine is always changing the rules of the SEO game. Each time I participate in IS, I cannot help but anticipate an update from Google. And while all we can do is wait to hear what these changes might be, it’s nice to review what we’re doing right in the meantime.

Regardless of how savvy your business is on the SEO scale, IS offers an opportunity to review your brand’s online presence and establish its strengths and weaknesses. Does your website give an exceptional user experience as far as visual appeal and navigation? Does it rank well organically for the services your offer? Are you providing users the information they seek, which in turn builds your credibility and reputation as a leading voice in your industry? These are all critical questions you must ask yourself regularly to stay ahead in the SEO game.

To stay on top of SEO, there are a few tried and true recommendations I heard from our speakers that I cannot agree with more:

  • To even begin ranking in Google or other search engine results, your website must be indexed correctly. Does your website have a sitemap, which allows search engines to access, crawl and understand what is on your pages?
  • Your website should be easy for users to navigate through to find the information they’re looking for, regardless of what device they’re using. Is your website designed and optimized for all platforms (desktop, mobile, etc.)?
  • Meta data (the title and description of a page that appears in search results) is critical to your SEO efforts because it determines whether people will click on your page versus a competitor. Is your meta data optimized so it’s clear what information users will see if they click on your page?
  • Your content should always be relevant, engaging, and answering questions. If a user comes to your site looking for something about what your business specializes in, does your content provide them the answers they’re looking for?
  • Research online tools that help you develop new content ideas. Does your content answer questions your competition doesn’t offer, making you a more valuable, trustworthy source?

Emmy, Brand Strategist:

What is your brand? Is it the sign on your office door? The logo on your business card? We know there’s more to it than that, because we’ve seen brands like Apple, Nike and Starbucks develop identities that extend far beyond a logo or product, and align more with a story and relatable – or in some cases aspirational – values. And the ability to create such a well-defined brand is no longer reserved for companies with billions to spend on advertising.

At IS, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Cynthia Round, a brand strategist who worked on the rebranding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I believe we can adapt many of the concepts Ms. Round spoke about to our branding services.

  • Your top priority should be creating an emotional connection with your consumer, not selling your product or service.
  • Before rebranding, conduct a brand audit answering the following questions.
    • How is this brand significant in the lives of its consumers?
    • Beyond the technicalities, what does this brand do that others in its category don’t?
    • How do the feelings and emotions it evokes differ from those of its competitors?
    • How do people who choose this brand differ from others?
  • Develop brand guidelines that include a color palette, typefaces, and tone of voice. Ensure that all social media platforms, printed pieces (brochures, tickets, employee nametags), outdoor (signage, billboards, posters), and experiential marketing (events, sample booths, product releases or demos, stunts) comply with those guidelines. No exceptions!
  • Create experiences that turn users into brand loyalists. As part of the efforts to revitalize The Met brand, staff opened the museum to after-hours tours for small groups and encouraged them to share their experience in Instagram using #EmptyMet.

As professionals who are eager to learn, we’re always up for the experiences to be found at a conference literally teeming with other experts in digital marketing and design. And we’ll certainly seek out opportunities to use these and other great pointers garnered from Internet Summit this year. Get in touch if you’re curious about how your business can benefit from our adventures!

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