Speak Goes To Washington: Digital Summit DC Conference 2016

Speak Goes To Washington: Digital Summit DC Conference 2016

Speak’s Digital Marketing team recently attended the sold-out conference, Digital Summit DC, which took place in our nation’s capital. The conference brought together digital marketers from across the globe (with attendees from as far away as India!) to discuss shared trends and challenges in the digital space.

With presenters from well-known companies – such as the Washington Post, National Geographic, IBM, Twitter, Refinery 29, Bitly, and Living Social – and top marketing firms, our team learned tricks of the trade from some of the best in our industry.

Of the many takeaways we gleaned from the Summit, one thing is certain: Speak’s continued growth in digital marketing is a sure way to keep our clients moving forward. As digital marketing evolves, as it does on a daily basis, it is important to have a partner who can stay ahead of the changes and implement strategies to take your business further.

Here are our top 10 takeaways from the Digital Summit DC 2016:

1. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

In a session by Quinn Whissen, Director of Marketing at Vertical Measures, we learned how to get more traffic to existing content. As explained in the session, “It’s not always about creating new content. Look at what you’ve already created, and try to squeeze more ROI out of that.”

Of course, this sounds great in theory; but how is this done effectively? There are a few ways to make meaningful changes to your existing content:

Incremental progress is still progress

Or, as the takeaway says, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Start small. Select a handful of pages on your website where content can be refreshed and optimized. Doing a bit at a time helps raise overall site traffic, improving site health across the board.

Revisit older blog posts

Go back to your content and edit titles, keywords, and on-page text. Share refreshed posts on different platforms to drive traffic and engagement. See where you can be better.

See where you are not ranking well

Where are you falling behind in comparison with your competitors? Take a look at where your competition is ranking, do keyword research to optimize pages, and, eventually, you will start to see change.

See where you are ranking well

What kind of content does your audience want, seek out, and respond to the most? Find ways to deliver content that is useful and important to your customers.

Since content is a living and breathing thing, it is important to tend to it, making small changes to help it thrive.

2. Twice the work in half the time

A favorite session among our content marketers was on agile content, presented by Andrea Fryrear from SurveyGizmo.

Agile Content Marketing is a concept that focuses on delivering better content to the right people. While your content still needs an editorial mission and strategy to guide you, the idea of creating agile content is to follow a prioritized to-do list. This to-do list is created based on the following:

What content can be written quickly?

Smaller stories should be near the top of your to-do list. Knock them out quickly, then save them for when you need content.

What content is most timely?

Leave room in your to-do list for content that responds to current events, trends, and important issues. Know that something is always going to come up, so leave space in your schedule for it.

What are your “epic” pieces of content?

These items take longer to produce, require more people to approve, or need a larger budget to accomplish. Considering the investment that goes into this content, it should be “evergreen” and able to be shared at any time (or shared strategically if it is for a certain goal or purpose). These items should be further down the list and can be worked on slowly.

This agile content approach is less like the “waterfall” approach many of us use in creating content, where we establish a calendar and check items off as we go through the month. Instead, think of agile content as adaptive and iterative, where we consistently work on and release content without ruining our lives. Win-win!

3. Persona-lized information

Throughout our sessions on both SEO and content, a consistent theme was using data to develop personas, a practice that many of our clients have found useful. But, what are personas? 

A persona is a descriptive profile of a buyer or content audience. You may have more than one persona for one product, but personas must contain two factors: demographics (who they are) and psychographics (what they believe).

The way to build a persona list quickly is to pull a list of your current customers. Since these people are already your customers, you want to find more people like them. Look at the ages, titles, industries, company size – whatever data you have available. Find commonalities to guide your research, the ads you place, and the content you write.

From here, you can create content strategies based on what these personas need. What are their pain points? What would make their lives easier? Knowing more about your target audience allows you to anticipate their needs, create the content they want, and become a reliable resource and brand your customers trust.

4. Video going viral

In a session about Marketing to Millennials, speaker Anne Gherini, noted these important facts:

Millennials consume 2.5 hours of online video per week

1 in 3 millennials don’t watch broadcast TV

Video viewing was up 55% on mobile in the past year

Not only that, but live video is also getting priority. Since releasing the live stream feature, Facebook has been giving more weight to live stream videos, bringing this content to the top of news feeds.

Speak has seen the power of video across online platforms, and we’ve recently added video production to our digital agency’s services menu. Contact us if you are interested in leveraging this powerful tool for your business.

5. Importance of mobile

It isn’t news that mobile-friendly websites are a must. We have known for years that mobile templates not only improve the user experience, but they also meet customers where they are – on their phones.

However, mobile friendliness has become much more important for ranking purposes. Google is prioritizing websites that are clean and easy to navigate on mobile.

Additionally, mobile apps are continuing to be promoted through Google, often being the first search result that populates before you even complete your Google search.

This focus on mobile is also affecting advertising. The banner ad is dwindling away because half of all clicks on mobile banner ads are accidental, causing bounce rates to be incredibly high on these ads.

6. The need for speed

Mobile isn’t the only factor that is affecting Google rankings. Speed is becoming necessary for overall site health.

While this isn’t necessarily new information, it has become increasingly more important for companies to test their speed, make changes, and adapt to the demand for quick page loads. Just as many people won’t wait for a website that takes more than 10 seconds to load, neither will Google.

But how to solve this? There are a few things that can help:

  • Check Google Page Speed Insights, which will show you where you have issues
  • Use Google Analytics to determine average speed
  • Use ByteCheck to see if a page loading issue is because of your server; if it is, get in touch with your vendor to correct it
  • Go through your files and see how big certain photo and video files are – sometimes these files do not get compressed and cause much longer content load times
  • Clean up bloated JavaScript, use a clean CSS framework, and remove unnecessary HTML code that could be throwing off load time

In the world we live in, attention spans are short and the window of time to get your content across is even shorter; speed is just part of offering a good user experience! Invest in it. Because, as we all know ... 

7. Test for success

While many organizations are struggling to stay on top of content production, we may forget to focus on something that is equally important: experimentation.

Trying new things, measuring results, and analyzing what works and why are all key strategies for effective marketing. If you never know what truly resonates with your audience, how can you give them the best experience moving forward?

One session examined A/B testing, honing in on minor design and semantic changes that make a world of a difference in audience interaction and response. The presenter, Mia Vallo from National Geographic, broke down the testing process with the following questions:


Have a hypothesis, test its reason


Test elements, play with placements


The audience for your test must be kept in mind when testing to allow for segmentation and personalization down the road


Test days of the week, times of day, and times of year


Key performance indicators should be set in place to help measure goals

The key, she says, to this process is to be transparent; report on successes and failures to truly assess what works.

8. The future of search

In more than one session of DSDC, there were a couple of products that were getting a lot of attention: Amazon Echo and Google Home.

While these products are cool, what do they mean for digital marketing?

The rise of these products, similar to the function of Apple’s Siri and voice search technologies, is going to have a big impact on search engines. Gone are the days of plopping in keywords into your content to improve ranking, without creating a readable, worthwhile webpage.

Instead, the future of search will focus on semantic searches, or terms that are similar to frequently used keywords. As marketers, this is great news; it allows us to write our content more freely, without the rigid, robotic text that helped rankings before.

Still, it is recommended that you do keyword and semantic research to know what searches are conducted and what your audience wants to find on the page. But, the future of voice-activated search will continue to shift the way Google ranks the content it crawls.

9. Get rid of the friction in your conversion funnel

Once your site is ranking above your competitors in search results and you have drawn people in with unique, innovative content, it’s time to convert them to customers, donors, email subscribers, or whatever you want them to be. And once they’re part of your customer base, you want to keep them there.

To do this, you need to think about – and resolve – anything that could potentially frustrate your audience to the point where they give up on buying from you, donating to your cause, or joining your subscribers.

Michael Barber, founder of LA marketing consulting agency barber&hewitt, puts it like this:

Friction = Time wasted = Unhappy people = Unlikely to do business with you

Now, what could possibly cause friction and frustration? Barber gave these examples:

  • Confusing site navigation in which the user can easily get lost
  • Extremely cluttered, noisy website pages
  • Eblasts that are unreadable because they don’t render correctly on all devices
  • Sending way too many eblasts in a short period of time
  • Lack of response to customers’ questions on social media

How can we fix all this friction? There is a unique solution for each point above and for each business, but the overall rule of thumb is to think about the user first in everything you design, write, or send.

Will your audience be able to find what they’re looking for on your website? Do they think your messages bring value to their email inbox or social feeds? Do they feel like you’re really listening and responding on social media?

These are the considerations that will help you get the clicks you’re looking for on that “purchase” button (or subscribe, learn more, etc.). And you might even breed customer loyalty and strong referrals while you’re at it!

10. “We have a tremendous opportunity to do something different”

While this is just one quote from the conference keynote by Ann Handley, bestselling author of Everybody Writes, it was echoed throughout her talk in story after story of brands that were diving into new and exciting territory with their content and in turn attracting customers who were eager to engage with them.

One such brand that Handley spoke of was the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and its #MutualRescue campaign. This group’s content tells heartwarming stories of mutual benefit between rescued animals and their adopters. This nonprofit wasn’t interested in guilting people into adopting from them or donating to their cause, but rather chose to motivate and inspire them with uplifting videos about mutual triumph for man and his best friend.

Another example Handley gave was Blue Bottle Coffee, a brand that not only offers top-notch coffee but also wants its customers to know why its product is so high quality and how to get the most out if it. Instead of just writing all of that in some ad copy that potential customers may or may not read, Blue Bottle provides added value through video classes that teach consumers how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

It’s brands like these that Handley spoke of who truly gather what we know today as a “squad” or a “tribe” - essentially a loyal customer base that is delighted with your product and image, keeps coming back for more, and recommends you to their friends.


How Does it All Come Together?

Speak Creative attends Digital Summit

As much as we enjoyed seeing all the sights in DC and checking out the local scene, at the end of the day, the knowledge we each got from the conference was worth the trip. Coming back from such a knowledge-packed conference can be overwhelming, but luckily we've had the opportunity to make the new info applicable to our day-to-day operations for clients across the digital marketing spectrum. We're constantly fine tuning our process and our strategy to better equip our clients to reach their audiences, and are continually engaging at a deeper level.

Do you need help reaching your audience? If you have any questions about how we've put the lessons we've learned at #DSDC into action, let's talk.

Let's Talk #DSDC
Posted by Digital Marketing Team at 14:17