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Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Conference Recaps

The Digital Content Summit 2017 Recap

London Digital Content Summit(Image Source: Beth Murrell)

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Digital Content Summit in London. It showcased a range of experts who shared their knowledge of such varied topics as multichannel delivery, content and influencer engagement, measuring impact and different realities.

There was a whole day of speakers, so I wanted to share with you a few of my choice standouts and key takeaways. The day kicked off with a keynote from Patrick Collister, head of design from Google. The main message that resonated from his speech was that augmented reality and virtual reality are the future. This also seemed to be a theme throughout the conference, with so many speakers sharing the same belief.

We’re already starting to see these changes come in with the introduction of Snapchat Spectacles and the recent success of Pokémon Go. People love this mixed and augmented reality, but we’re only really seeing these in apps and games currently. How long will it be before they become part of everyday life?

Pokemon Go(Image Source: Pexels)

Another interesting panel was around managing content-ownership models. These experts championed the use of influencers in campaigns to allow full integration into a brand’s ethos.

So what do they think is holding brands back? They spoke of the fact that many brands are looking at content as a menu rather than the story behind the medium. They also don’t trust the opinion of the influencers, and try to control them too much.

Victoria White from Hearst Magazines UK reiterated that “content is key to any creative campaign” and that Hearst saw seven times more engagement when using influencers. There did seem to be an ongoing theme from companies starting to utilise influencers more; you can read my previous blog post that talks about The Rise of Influencer Marketing.

Going back to basics a bit, we also heard from Daniel Rowles from Target Internet, who implored everyone in the room to really paint a picture with their data and work out end objectives. So many companies run brand campaigns without having steadfast goals, and they don’t analyse the data afterwards to determine the success of campaigns.

We also saw a case study from David Meany of Contiki. He firmly believes that brands should live and die by their content, and that “everyone is a creator and there is a bigger risk sitting on the sidelines.” He showed us Contiki’s evolution over the years, and how they took leaps to create innovative and interesting content by partnering with popular influencers. One of the featured videos was created in partnership with cliff-diving experts, and has now around 5 million views.

My final key takeaway came from the last speaker of the day, Matt Simmonds of The Telegraph, who said, “The only rule is that the old rules don’t apply”. He finished off the day just as it had started: with his firm belief that the future is in 360 videos and virtual reality. He shared this formula for virtual reality, as he believes it encompasses all of the following:

Virtual Reality = 360 + Virtual Reality + Mixed Reality + Augmented Reality

These days, we’re no longer passive observers; we’re active participants. Therefore, the brands we embrace and encourage should feature this type of user-generated content.

So what does this mean for the hotel industry?

In the hotel world, I definitely can see a move into a world where augmented reality is overlaid into the travel experience – with a computer sitting on your nose. Imagine being able to wake up, pop on some glasses and have a mixed-reality overlay where you can select room service or see what time the spa opens. Or fully immersive 360 videos, where you can walk through the hotel, open doors to rooms and see what you’re buying before you click checkout.

If this conference is anything to go by, it won’t be long before these are our reality.

Virtual Reality(Image Source: Pexels)

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Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in Conference Recaps

Spark Digital Marketing Conference Recap

Spark is an annual digital marketing conference hosted by TrackMaven, a marketing software company. This year, the conference was held at the iconic Newseum in Washington, D.C. on May 18. Spark brought together a group of digital and content marketing leaders from various industries to discuss the future of social, marketing, analytics and digital creativity. Mary and Katie, two of our MDS associates, had the pleasure of attending and are sharing their top takeaways from the speakers.

Mary Cline & Katie Lopus(Image Source: Mary Cline and Katie Lopus)

Mary’s Picks: 

Storytelling IRL: Creating Big, Beautiful Experiences that Drive Brand Results 

Vanessa Fontanez, executive director of brand marketing for VOX Media, shared how her brands create multisensory experiences to drive results. VOX Media’s most successful activations are realized when brands combine multi-sensory experiences with passion points shared by the audience. To promote Infiniti’s newest car designpar and Eater, the dining website, VOX Media created a virtual-reality lab in partnership with the Museum of Food and Drink. A virtual-reality screen was placed inside the windshield of the new car to give guests a tour of culinary centers around the world. Fontanez conveyed that experiences like this should be paired with an editorial hook, branded content and social media for a multilayered approach and to measure ROI. Marriott has hosted countless experiential brand activations like this in the past. For example, this year’s luxury “glamping” tents at Coachella music festival, designed by brands like Aloft, Moxy and AC Hotels, were a hit. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Next-Generation Retail Strategies 

In this session, Laura O’Shaughnessy of SocialCode discussed innovative retail strategies that are reshaping how consumers shop. In comparing the shopping experience at a big-box retail store, such as Target, versus a digital-first store, like Rent the Runway, it is apparent why many traditional retail stores are closing and online-only retailers are opening brick-and-mortar locations. The main difference is that the brands that start online allow consumers to drive the design of the brick-and-mortar stores. Some examples include Warby Parker, Bonobos and none other than Amazon. Customization is key in this model as well. Because eCommerce is the hotel industry’s bread and butter, creating the most customized and intuitive shopping experience possible is a continuous work in progress for hospitality digital and eCommerce professionals.

Washington DC Capitol Building(Image Source: Mary Cline and Katie Lopus)

Katie’s Picks: 

The Importance of Video in Your Digital Strategy 

Beverly Jackson, vice president of social media and content strategy for MGM Resorts International shared some valuable insight from her professional experience. Across social platforms, people who see your content organically are users who love your brand. The key to owning algorithms is to tell good stories by leveraging video trends. Some of the current trends include cinemagraphs, live video and episodic content, all different themes that can be used while being authentic and staying true to your brand. Marriott International hotels around the globe can utilize this strategy by implementing videos across social channels. Hotels can use video to show off iconic features, such as infinity pools or rooftop bars with a view. Also, hotels can live stream events, for example, interviews with chefs and bartenders for a behind-the-scenes look.

Social Strategy at Scale, Conde Nast’s Road Map to Accelerated Growth

Spark Digital Marketing Conference(Image Source: Mary Cline and Katie Lopus)

Rochelle Stewart, a growth expert and director of Social Strategy & Innovation from Conde Nast, shared how the company focuses on growth within the right market for each specific brand, while staying true to the umbrella brand of Conde Nast. When focusing on expanding followers, consistency is key. Focus on the people by delivering in a consistent manner and providing what the audience expects. Having the largest audience isn’t what’s most important; having the right people engaged is. Determine which social platforms have the best opportunity, establish benchmarks, set goals, share knowledge and celebrate wins. Additionally, use the data for what themes are successful on each platform, and consistently implement those successful content buckets. For Marriott, our hotels can establish which posts resonate the most with users by categorizing the content in buckets, and creating benchmarks to track data. Hotels can use content buckets for posts, such as local areas, hotel pictures, special events and employee features. With this knowledge, these themes should be shared in various forms, whether via photo album, quick video or gif.

Facebook Principles_Spark Digital Marketing Conference(Image Source: Mary Cline and Katie Lopus)

Instagram Growth Strategy_Spark Digital Marketing Conference(Image Source: Mary Cline and Katie Lopus)

A day well spent learning about all things digital from iconic digital leaders. To read more about the event, the speakers and the schedule, visit the official website at http://spark.trackmaven.com/.

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Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Conference Recaps

Why Going Global is Essential to Your Business – My SMX London Session

In the last days of May 2017 at the SMX London conference, I had the pleasure of presenting a session about the importance of going global, and the key considerations to ensuring success.

Here is what I had to say:

The world is a very big place with about 7.5 billion humans. And half of those humans are connected to the internet in one way or another.

The distribution of internet users is surprising to many, as only 8% of total users are in the U.S. and 9% in Western Europe; both lower than Africa at 10%, South Asia at 16% and East Asia at 24%. These statistics were compiled in a We Are Social and Hootsuite 2017 study.

Even more impressive is that only 29% of the African population is online (internet penetration ratio), which means that when a larger part of the African population eventually goes online, it will represent an even greater share of the world’s internet population. The U.S. and Western Europe have an internet penetration ratio of about 90%, leaving a smaller growth opportunity.

Looking at eMarketer’s data on projected digital buyers’ growth by continent, it is clear where the growth will continue at a double-digit rate (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) and where it will plateau (Europe and North America):

eMarketer’s data on projected digital buyers’ growth by continent

(Image Source: eMarketer)

All of this leads to one clear conclusion: Every company, regardless of size, needs to globalize in markets that make sense.

So how does a company globalize? It all revolves around three core considerations:

  1. Linguistics
  2. Cultural
  3. Technical

LINGUISTICS:

A company needs to make sure its brand name doesn’t mean something strange or inappropriate in the target language, and that the correct version of the language is identified and used. Many languages spoken in multiple countries have variations. Even within a single country (e.g., China), languages can have varying dialects. Identifying the right one is key to ensuring success.

Once the language is identified, the tone (formal or informal) must be chosen. French, German and Spanish, for example, have formal ways of addressing people (a politer way, if you will), which can be preferable depending on the company’s industry. Also, the tone may vary by country depending the company’s products. This all must be researched before developing website language.

After the language, tone and format are decided upon, cultural considerations, such as references, preferences, perception, awareness and local competitors, need to be researched.

CULTURAL

Cultural references vary from country to country. In the West, babies are brought by the stork, whereas in Japan, babies come from big peaches. In China, red is synonymous with warmth and success, but disliked in South Korea. Movies stars, singers, authors and the like are different throughout the world. Target-audience research ensures cultural references are relevant.

Along the same lines, it is essential to cater to preferences (e.g., payment methods, formats, aspect), local norms and public holidays to avoid any faux pas.

It is also important to confirm if the brand is known and, if so, how it is perceived. If the brand is unknown, it might require a full explanation. If the band is known but misunderstood, it may require a change to affect perception. Doing the research is crucial. It can also help to identify and understand successful local competitors.

TECHNICAL

Finally, I touched upon the technical elements that should be used to ensure that well-written in-language content makes its way to the right platform and is understood.

Google provides multiple tools, such as geo-targeting, adding “hreflang” tags to signal the availability multiple languages and identifying potential markets.

While Google, Facebook and Twitter are the norm in many countries, different platforms may be more widely used in others. For example, Baidu is the lead search engine in China, Line is the lead social media platform in Japan and Yandex is the lead search engine in Russia.

Ensuring optimization of in-language, culturally relevant content on the right platforms and sites ultimately leads to successful business globalization.

For even more details and visuals, view my deck here.

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Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Conference Recaps

Two Days at SMX London

The world-renowned SMX Conference had its annual edition in London on May 23 and 24.

As usual, the program was jam packed and featured great speakers who covered the latest on many subjects from social, to paid, to SEO, to attribution models.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was fortunate enough to be both an attendee and a speaker this year. More to come in another post on MDS Decoded about my talk. But, as always, it was about global.

If I had to sum up the whole conference in three words, they would be:

  • AMP
  • HTTPS
  • Attribution

Most of the presentations revolved around these themes, as they are top of mind for digital marketers at the moment.

While HTTPS seems to be widely adopted (as high as 50% of domains according to Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush), AMP is still in its ramping-up phase, with relatively low adoption as highlighted by many presenters.

Many reasons were invoked for the low adoption of AMP, which is hosted by Google. It’s not clear what they will do with the data collected this way – it’s too complicated to implement on large sites. But the general agreement is that it leaves a wide opportunity for marketers to be early adopters and get a head start on the competition.

Attribution modeling was debated at length across various sessions and panels. While no one seemed to have the perfect solution, all agreed that current attribution models are incorrect. First and last click provide only one side of the explanation, leaving much crucial information out of it.

During the two-day event, consensus was reached: Agencies, in-house marketers and technology partners need to have serious discussions, put personal bias aside and find a solution together.

Google coincidentally announced the release of a new attribution tool. It was welcomed, but with a lot of skepticism from the search community.

As always, the world of search marketing is a busy, exciting and continually evolving one to watch.

Here are the key things I overheard at SMX London this year:

SMX Key Learnings

(Image Source: Fred Schaub)

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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Conference Recaps

2017 Skift Forum Europe Recap

The “TED of travel” is what media, speakers and participants have been calling Skift Forum. Held usually in New York, this year the for the first time, the European forum was held in London, UK. On April 4th, 2017, two of our European team members had the pleasure of attending this one day conference focused on top marketers, strategists and technologists in travel. Deepa Arthur and Kasia Rudnik share their thoughts from a full day spent with travel professionals being grilled by Skift journalists about the hottest travel trends and the future of travel. There is no doubt that the first European forum sent a very clear message of what is important: customer’s trust, loyalty, uniqueness and understanding the fragmented European market. Have a look at what were their top 3 picks.

SKIFT_April2017

To read more about the forum and subjects discussed in London, head to the official page of the event: https://skift.com/sfe2017/.

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Conference Recaps, Social Media

State of Search – Social Takeaways

Since accepting a role within Digital Services, I have experienced varying perspectives on search. From weekly videos of Rand Fishkin from MOZ, to weekly calls with other teams at Marriott. Much like every winter snowflake, each perspective is slightly unique compared to the next. That is why I didn’t hesitate when asked to attend State of Search’s 3rd Annual marketing conference in sunny Dallas, Texas.

State of Search Conference

(Image Source: State of Search)

As I stepped off the plane at Dallas Love Field Airport for the conference, I had three questions lingering in my notebook, all of which were I answered during my trip.

1.) Is social media a direct ranking factor in search?

Mark Traphagen State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

To find the answer to this question, I sought out Mark Traphagen’s presentation from Stone Temple Consulting. Through his presentation of “Social Media & SEO: Separating Myth from Fact,” Mark leveraged video interviews from SEO Power Players. A video with Google’s Former Engineer, Matt Cutts, concluded that Google constantly monitors how they view social media pages, specifically Facebook and Twitter. In a later video, Matt Cutts goes on to say, “Sites that get lots of shares are so good, they likely also earn signals that do affect rankings, such as links.”

Google has been slowly indexing tweets for quite some time, and many believe the search engine favors higher authority users. Since the digital landscape has grown to an endless field, complete indexing will not be possible overnight (or any time soon). This does not mean brands with small followings should think any less of social media in search, it simply means that instead of being on social specifically for search rankings, use this space to build your brand and drive qualified traffic.

2.) How can I help others create more engaging content?

For any problem or question I have, the first place I visit is YouTube. From installing a new SSD on my MacBook, to jumping my car battery, YouTube has never let me down. With this in mind, I decided a presentation from former YouTube star Deandre Upshaw was going to be a presentation I wasn’t going to miss.

In “Creating Video Content that People Will Actually Want to Watch,” DeAndre was quick to point out that for moving content, the future continues to function in 60 second segments. This doesn’t mean each piece of moving content should be in this proximity, it means the total content digestion should take no longer than 60 seconds. On episodic platforms like Snapchat and Instagram stories, profiles can provide small segments that result in no more than 60 seconds of content.

The importance of having a stable shot is a given, but the importance of clear lighting and audio are proving be a heavier weighted factor. If you were to search for the first videos of the current viral phenomenon, you are likely to find poor audio or bad lighting. There is a constant desire to be an innovator and have your video posted first, but it usually results in violating the importance of lighting, audio or stability.

3.) Where should I go for dinner?

Before each conference Digital Services attends, we reach out to the team for suggestions of activities after the conference concludes for the night. In addition to asking my Digital Service coworkers, I enlisted the help of the Marriott Traveler website for all necessary recommendations.

Although State of Search had a fun filled schedule intricately planned, I found myself with a final night of dinner unaccounted for. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get a recommendation from Marriott Traveler’s website. After a quick conversation with my coworker who also attended the conference and a few scrolls on our smartphones, we found ourselves in a trendy area of Dallas with sidewalk lined boutiques and quaint restaurants. Among the restaurants was “the Porch” which Traveler highlighted with a heading “Graze Over Modern, Moderately Priced Meals.” From the candle lit tables to the pristine food presentation, Marriott Traveler had delivered a great recommendation and perspective for a first time Dallas visitor. My answer for navigating new cities was quickly answered for future occasions.

The Porch, Dallas Texas

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Working in the digital emporium, we are bombarded with a variety of opinions and perspectives to answer various questions. With the opportunity to continue to grow my digital knowledge at conferences and trainings, I look forward to sharing my perspective on further digital growth.

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