Mike Hanbery October 2, 2014

Internet Marketing Experts Glimpse Future at IMPACT14

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Imagine going through life deaf, and one day being handed a piece of technology enabling you to hear what it sounds like when your mother says, “I love you.”

This video, part of Brandon Graham’s September 25, 2014, presentation at IMPACT14, the Internet Marketing Association’s annual conference, illustrates the theme that ran through every aspect of the three-day event.

Yes, Webolutions won an award at IMPACT14. And we’re proud of that. But this is about takeaways.

As online internet marketing and SEO experts, we must change our thinking. We do not understand, or are too frightened to take the leap, or we don’t know how, or we just don’t believe—in our ability to form transformational relationships with people. Too often, we default to the pre-Web 2.0 tactics: Target, get eyeballs and push our stuff at people until they “submit.”

We have an unprecedented opportunity to reach people at an emotional level; to let them see who we truly are and why we exist. To have the same type of relationship with our customers, partners, employees that we enjoy with our friends and family. As any NFL player will tell you, the truth always comes out.

This is the opportunity for content marketing. To connect with the people with the greatest proclivity to believe in us—who have similar dreams and goals for each other and the world as we do. The objective, to borrow from Simon Sinek, is not to sell stuff to people who might be talked into buying it; rather, it must be to connect with people who believe as we believe.

Yes, we are still talking about advertising. But perhaps the principal upshot of the interactive web and constant, ubiquitous connectivity is the irreversible increase in consumer power.

Increasingly, people can choose the messages and sources thereof they receive. Increasingly, people describe the Internet as, “creepy.”

This is partly because we can’t seem to visit a website without a Groupon for that product or service showing up in front of us for the next six months. It’s partly because every time we exit the bank, an ad for the Embassy Suites across the street pops up on our smartphones. And it’s mostly because we know Google, Facebook, advertisers and the government are collecting all sorts of information about us and we feel helpless to do anything about it.

One of my favorite statistical nuggets from the conference came from keynote speaker Ruth Brajevich, CMO of Ware Malcomb: 86 percent of consumers are worried about the data they believe marketers are collecting. Yet, 85 percent are fine exchanging that data for value.

So, what is “value?” It’s information. It’s entertainment. It’s perspective. “Value” means we have provided something that person didn’t have before they connected with us. It means we’ve touched a heart or stimulated the mind. And the overriding theme at IMPACT14, through keynote presentations from executives and subject matter experts from Google, Microsoft, Oracle, tagboard (you haven’t heard of them yet, but you will) and others, whether they were talking social media, mobile website design or analytics, was the power inherent in, and the importance of, storytelling.

The real “value” in gatherings like this include, perhaps primarily, the relationships created and developed with people you meet face to face.

A large contingency of attendees at IMPACT14 were executives of venture-funded Silicon Valley startups. Know how you get venture capital? Great ideas, well-executed by the right people. We launched relationships with people representing tools we intend to add to the arsenal available to Webolutions clients. We enjoyed extended conversations with CEO’s, CMO’s, founders and principals of Internet marketing applications truly on the leading edge.

Perhaps the most fascinating conversation I had, however, was with Shannon Magpiong, a Junior at the University of Arizona who, chaperoned by her retired mother, took it upon herself to attend the conference. Shannon is an eSociety major. eSociety is a program—not a course—blending “technology, information and society.” According to the university:

An undergraduate degree in eSociety at the University of Arizona involves interdisciplinary curricula focused on the convergence of digital information, computation, and contemporary social life and work. Students will be well trained in socio-cultural issues as well as in computer science, data analysis, information management, and related technical skills. Computer-mediated service, online collaborative work, social media use and management across health, education, business, or civic sectors, as well as information analysis typify contemporary professions that relate to an eSociety degree…

The eSociety program seeks to provide students with:

    • A particular awareness of the social, cultural, and economic implications of wired life.
    • Competency in collaborative work, social networking, and contemporary digital culture.
    • A solid theoretical and analytical background in internet and new media studies that can be applied across a wide range of contexts, institutions, and organizational types.
    • An understanding of basic research methods (research design, statistics, as well as data searching, organization, analysis).
    • A base set of technical skills including a basic knowledge of computing language, algorithmic thinking, and managing ‘big’ data sets.
    • The ability to communicate ideas across traditional academic boundaries (e.g., disciplinary, theoretical, and/or methodological divides).

I don’t have any affiliation with Arizona University but I’m starting to wish I did. This is exactly the foundation and basic skill set which will launch the next set of successful marketers. It is also the foundation and skill set today’s marketers must embrace, acquire and constantly hone and develop.

How to Use This Information

  • We are all connected and visible to each other in ways we do not completely understand.
  • This is a permanent change in how the world works.
  • Increasingly, we choose what messages we receive. We will always choose to spend our time with and devote our attention to those who share our beliefs. That which is transactional and “creepy” will be marginalized.
  • Understanding this is not enough. A rising generation will make this way of thinking the standard.
  • We must not wait for the eSociety majors. Leaders in our industry, such as the Internet marketing experts at IMPACT14, understand this.
  • We can make the Internet a better place. Some are doing this today.
  • Each of us has the power to make this decision for ourselves.

What will you decide? How will that decision be manifested?

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