Let me preface this blog by stating two key facts about myself: I am not comfortable meeting new people or going new places – at least not alone. So while I was excited for the opportunity to participate in Internet Summit 2010, the prospect of a convention with over 1,400 people in a city I’d never been to before was a bit daunting. Not only did I survive, however, but I truly feel like it was a valuable experience – not only for the wealth of information they managed to cram into a day and a half, but for the chance to overcome some of my personal inhibitions.
Internet Summit 2010 was a convention discussing web-related topics and trends. It took place in beautiful downtown Raleigh – a six and a half hour drive for me (quite the experience for someone whose husband typically hogs the wheel on road trips).
What did I learn at the summit? Well, I took pages upon pages of notes at each of the breakout sessions I attended, but for this blog entry, I’m just going to discuss a few key points that were stressed in multiple sessions.
1) Have a plan. Whether you’re talking about social media marketing, web analytics, online advertising, or any other facet of an online presence, having a plan is a key factor to success. This includes knowing what you have to market, how you’re going to present it, and who you intend to target. You should also always have some sort of goal in mind. One of the presenters (Emma Battle, Director of Online Marketing for Red Hat) gave the example of having a P.L.A.N. This is a circular model that involves planning, launching, assessing (see number two below), and nurturing.
2) Measure, measure, measure. How are you going to know if what you’re doing is working if you don’t track your actions and goals? There are many ways to track site analytics, the most popular provided by Google. You’ve got Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and something they discussed at the Summit called Google AdWords Experiments (ACE). You should have tracking codes on your page links so that Google can track who clicked on what, and you should have some form of method for tracking conversions (discussed more below).
3) Engagement is important, but conversions are key. Two key goals of just about any website are getting customers to stay on the site and getting them to return to the site. Creating a good customer experience through an attractive and usable website can help establish engagement, but it’s something that is far more difficult to measure than conversions. A conversion can be measured in any number of ways – if someone bought a product, if someone downloaded a free trial, if someone watched a video. One of the first questions asked during the keynote speech was which was more important – conversions or engagement – and the answer was definite. We want to engage our customers, but that isn’t going to count for anything if the people don’t inevitably buy your product.
4) One of the best places to meet people is at the hotel bar. My main complaint about this Summit is that I felt overwhelmed. You have all of these people in this enormous space, and we were either claustrophobically gathered together outside of the meeting rooms, or we were spread out far enough that we weren’t forced to be social inside of the meeting rooms. There were after parties both nights that might have helped with the social / mingling aspect, but I was on alcohol restriction (doctor’s orders), which made the prospect of an after party not so much fun. Instead, I returned to my hotel and had dinner at the bar of my hotel’s 20th floor restaurant overlooking the city. While there, I met a few people from the Internet Summit and a few in town for other conventions and actually had some surprisingly great conversations about a variety of topics. It was quite possibly the most fulfilling part of the entire trip for me.
So…since I have nothing to which to compare Internet Summit 2010, I can’t really give an accurate rating. This was my first ever convention. I can say that it was an enlightening trip. There was an overload of information – some of it perhaps a bit too general for my taste. And it drove home the fact that, when it comes to many aspects of having an online presence, I am a complete dunderhead (and yes, I did just use that word). But for just under $300, I think it was well worth the money (or, in my case, the company’s money). If you’re in or near Raleigh next year, check it out!