Six months ago, I was travelling up to Leeds for the Think Visibility conference preparing myself as a speaker to convince an audience that KPIs and reporting can be, will if not sexy, at least pretty fascinating and certainly useful. This weekend I was back up for Think Visibility 6 (and my 5th time at the conference) ready to sit back and enjoy someone else’s hard work and insights.
This is now my 3rd write-up of one of my favourite conferences in the calendar, and I’d say that alone pays testimony to its interest, increasingly amazing organisation and the loyalty of its fanbase. Many others are far more diligent than me and have written full conference write-ups. (See Pete Handley’s, Koozai and our very own Bas’ among others). I’ve decided to take a wider angler, continuing on the Top Takeaway theme I used in my last write-up, and considering some of the specific things I’ve personally learned at ThinkVis.
Never mind the speakers, how about a lesson from Think Visibility itself? For a successful conference (and conference website link building strategy), always provide your attendees with something to talk about. In the case of ThinkVis, it’s more like 100 things to talk about. Highlights include, in no particular order: ThinkVis Lego Man, Think Vis Pick ‘n’ Mix, Think Vis Crazy Golf and Think Vis Robot Wars and lunchtime gold sparkly suit entertainment.
It’s a whole lotta fun! And in all seriousness, it keeps the punters coming back and possibly more importantly it makes the big wigs want to speak at what is really a very small and previously unheard of conference in Leeds. Who isn’t a sucker for self-branded pick ‘n’ mix?! Some of the biggest names in search have spoken over the last 3 years, and a lot of that is thanks to the consistent positive reviews the conference gets with these ‘gimmicks’.
This takeaway comes on the back of watching Jennifer O’Grady talk about her company’s involvement in the launch of The Rock, a shopping mall in Bury. (Editor’s note: Man I was disappointed when I realised she was talking about the shopping mall not the former wrestler. *sigh*) Jennifer covered a calendar of social media activity for the mall, looking at events undertaken throughout its first year.
- Understand your audience and use your platform accordingly. Twitter won’t work for The Rock as it is so real-time based, people would expect to be able to use it to find out if the car park is full or if certain shops are closed. The mall simply doesn’t have the resource to do this so instead focuses its SM efforts on Facebook and promotional one-off activities rather than day-to-day life.
- Avoid the cringe. Just because it’s a big event and you can see your face on it, this doesn’t mean people will participate. The Valentine’s Day ‘Make a video for you loved one’ campaign flopped because people were simply too embarrassed to tag themselves in them on FB. However take Mother’s Day and a bunch of kids drawing pictures on post-it notes to tell their mums how much they love them and FB is teeming with proud mothers more than ready to tag themselves in photos of these works of art.
- The most important point of all: this isn’t just fluffy fun and games. This is DATA CAPTURE. Consider the value of all that tagging, look beyond the common conception of why people use social media.
This takeaway is from Nichola Stott’s highly entertaining talk on Finding the Angle in a story to make it link worthy. It’s a challenge every SEO is more than familiar with, however mastering the knack of getting your story out there and building links for you is a whole different ball game. Nichola’s point about controversy is often difficult to achieve but if done well can be worth a hundred just plain ‘interesting’ link bait stories.
More on Nichola’s talk as written by the lady herself on her own SEO PR Training blog.
The simplest way to explain it? Think Ryanair! How many of the rumours about them have ever proved true? How many stories were written about them? One crucial tip I did focus on is making sure you get approval written and signed before you undertake any kind of storm. It can all fall down on you, and you want to be prepared if it does. Is the risk worth it? It can yield great results, it can be a dangerous game!
This top tip is from Kelvin‘s talk, and one of my favourite of the day. Playing Championship Manager makes you a better SEO? Nuff said. Kelvin’s talk focused on elements that are not associated with traditional SEO that actually have a direct impact on your prowess, even if it does not at first seem obvious. Some of these elements included behavioural psychology, chaos theory, game theory and economics
And for more information on exactly when he means, here’s Kelvin’s deck.
To me, this is an idea that has legs and is also simple to work on. Look beyond keywords and links. Try to UNDERSTAND why and what you’re doing. Kelvin talked for example of emotional aspects of link outreach, get a guy on a good day and he might give you a perfect anchor text link back. Catch him when he has a hangover and he probably won’t be even bother reading your email or answering the phone.
Simple steps. Read some books. Do some research. Train in other areas. Go to non- search conferences. Topically for Kelvin’s hometown, I was actually reading about UX Brighton just a few days before. Or how about a Conversion Conference?
Kelvin’s books of choice to read on some of these areas are included below, go check them out!
Unfortuanately, I felt I couldn’t get away with 100% positivity in the write-up and I have to end on a slight note of warning. Although I admire and respect Pete Wailes, I have to confess that his audience participation laden presentation was a step too far for the majority of the baffled attendees taking part, and detracted from the point Pete was trying to make. Pete’s presentation on ‘How to Be a Ninja’ had strong potential but there was a lesson to be learned in simplicity and focusing on the point you intend to get across.
Presenting is hard. And intimidating. No matter how much you’ve rehearsed in your own front room (or with a hairbrush in front of the mirror), it’s impossible to gauge how the audience will react. I speak from experience (not the hairbrush bit, honest). I think Pete was trying to make some really valid points in his presentation, and I could see where his audience participation idea had come from. However trying to get a hungover Think Vis audience to Aaah and Yup on different counts was just too optimistic and too confusing.
With thanks to @a4u for the pick ‘n’ mix picture.