11 Things I Learned at the Digital Summit

Earlier this week, I attended the Digital Summit at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta, a two-day conference packed full of marketers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders talking about content marketing, branding, social media, SEO, e-mail marketing, and so much more. Needless to say, I learned a lot over two days. Here are the 11 most important things that I learned:

1. Give yourself the freedom to explore your ideas. Randi Zuckerberg kicked the conference off with the opening keynote, and it was spectacular. She talked about how everything is media, how different consumers are now, and the value of finding a tech-life balance, but the biggest thing I got out of her talk was that you should always let yourself explore your ideas.

When she worked at Facebook, they used to have #hackathon sessions all night where they would do just that: explore their most creative and innovative ideas. One night, she was exploring an idea she had for Facebook live by broadcasting herself. Her parents were the only ones watching, and she thought it was an idea that would go nowhere. Within a year, however, pop stars like Katy Perry and even President Obama were using it. “You could all be sitting on that 2 million dollar idea,” she said.

2. Create less but more targeted content.Bob Tripathi spoke about some of the challenges facing marketers today. He talked about building the right digital team structure, having a holistic view of all marketing campaigns on a single platform, and breaking down barriers with IT.

He also talked about the importance of creating more targeted content, even if that means creating less content. Personalize content where you can and create customer personas that you can aim your content at. He talked about the importance of repurposing existing content and not always starting from scratch. So essentially, you want to make the content that you have really count.

3. Influencer marketing is huge. Influencer marketing was a hot topic at the summit, but the first time I heard it mentioned was when Juanika Cuthbertson of Ladypreneur Academy talked about how you can extend your reach with the help of influencers. It’s important for customers to feel like they know and like you, and one great way to do that is through the use of influencer marketing. Having influencers help market your products and services brings a certain level of authenticity and authority to your brand. It’s also a way to target your entire market by targeting one individual.

4. Tell the story of your brand. Chantel McGee of Google talked about how we are all storytellers. We tell stories constantly–to ourselves and to each other. It’s important for us to shape the narratives of our brands, and she gave us questions we could ask to help us do so:

    • What do you want your audience to know?
    • What happens?
    • Why should anyone care?
    • What obstacles are in the way?
    • What do you want your audience to feel?

5. For content to be effective, it has to be innovative and unique. In the second keynote, Beverly Jackson of MGM Resorts International talked about making content unique and innovative. She gave some examples of content that MGM has created that has gotten quite a bit of attention–like Game of Thrones coming to life on the fountains outside the Bellagio. She talked about the importance of live content, and she gave some more examples of content she loves like Phone Swap and Leslie JonesGame of Thrones commentary on Twitter.

6. Teams work better when they are cross functional. In a talk from Marissa Ranalli of DoSomething.org, she explained how the organization was able to get over a hundred thousand young people to register to vote. In her explanation, she taught us how our teams could achieve our biggest goals by being cross functional, using everyone’s strengths, and working together. She gave us some ground rules for brainstorming, and I was reminded of Randi Zuckerberg telling us to explore our ideas.

7. Optimize your website according to the questions people are asking. Matthew Capala from Alphametic talked about keyword research and gave us a lot of tools to use like AnswerThePublic.com and Soovle. He talked about how essential it is to optimize your site for the questions people are asking because you want to end up in the featured snippet on the search engine results page. It’s also important for voice search as people tend to phrase things as questions when asking smart speakers.

8. People want unique experiences. Brian Fanzo talked about the now infamous Fyre Festival and what we as marketers can learn from it’s failure. The reason so many people bought tickets to the Fyre Festival was because of the epic video they originally put out promising a unique experience. In this world of constant screen time, people are desperately craving unique real-life experiences. This was another big theme of the summit, but it really came across for me in Brian’s talk.

9. Create customer personas and rally around the buyer. Another thing I heard repeated through many talks was the importance of creating customer personas. So many people at the summit talked about targeting your content towards your ideal customer by knowing exactly who she is. This really stuck out for me in Lauren Goldstein’s talk. She also talked about how we should rally around the buyer and use metrics to measure what matters. (Another theme that would continue to pop up.)

10. Take the time to think about how you work so you can be more efficient. Brent Bird of Workfront talked about how so many of us spend so much time trying to do our work that we rarely stop to think about how we’re doing our work. He took us through four strategies to get more done:

    1. Provide structure that supports creativity and innovation
    2. Make collaboration easier
    3. Streamline the review and approval process
    4. Measure what matters (I told you this would pop up again!)

11. Follow your obsessions. Scott Dikkers, the founder of The Onion, told us hilarious stories about The Onion getting their start. But mostly, he talked about how obsessed he was with writing, with making people laugh. That is the whole idea behind what he calls outrageous marketing: marketing is much more effective when we’re using the things we’re obsessed with.

I filled nearly half of my notebook with notes because there was so much great information at the Digital Summit. And as I try to digest everything else I learned, I know one thing for sure. I definitely want to return next year.


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