SouthWiRED 2014

Last week I was at the beautiful 201 17th Street high-rise in Atlantic Station for SouthWiRED 2014. From Object 9, Gregg, Travis, and I navigated through what has to be the world’s largest underground parking deck, and meandered up and down over the several floors hosting presentations. The floor plans had tons of open space, and offered debatably the best views in Atlanta.

Downtown AtlantaNot a bad place to set up shop!

The conference, formerly known as Digital Atlanta, is “one of the Southeast’s largest and longest-running digital conferences staring the country’s top innovators,” and is now going on 6 years! With content sure to ignite lightbulb moments, easy access, and unparalleled networking, I’m confident that we’ll be back for years to come! Now for some of our daily key takeaways, and I say “key takeaways” because otherwise this post would go on for for-ev-er!

Day 1: Social Media

Travis and I arrived on this Manic Monday for the 9am session featuring Chelsea Curtis and Lanier Norville from AirWatch, who spoke on content marketing and social media as the new PR. Chelsea stated that in paid social media campaigns, blog posts are a great form of content to promote because they will land you a mix of new followers, as well as increased site clicks. The women went on to explain how they use Spredfast to publish content, HootSuite to monitor and listen, and Twitonomy for analytics. Overall, great presentation.

Next, I headed over to my friend Jason Dominy‘s presentation on taking your social marketing program from 2d to 3d. Big fan of Jason’s #2Dto3D initiative, making social connections real by inviting followers for face-to-face meet ups, so you know I couldn’t miss this discussion. Jason described how context changes the social dynamic, and I couldn’t agree more. When you’ve actually met somebody in person it will be easier to pick up on sarcasm and general personality feature in future online interactions. Jason’s thoughts lie in building loyalty through real engagement. And when you’re unable to establish a personal connection it’s vital that you speak how you would speak in real life. Not just, “Hey! Like this picture!” This is really a general social media necessity, and if you’re not doing this, you’re doing it wrong. As soon as social media becomes a one-sided conversation, it’s all marketing. Jason’s aiming to make social media social again, and speak above the noise and clatter. (A great example he gave: friend got a job promotion, but cat videos show up in Facebook timeline instead. Important to keep friends close, and remember to check-in every once in a while!) Some tips:

1. Listen – respond with context, not canned messages

2. Connect – genuine conversation that adds value, and don’t forget to say thank you! Brand responses, in particular, make huge impacts on followers, and will make their day. Throw some social currency every once in a while!

3. Invest – encourage, give hope and support. Let customer service be your #1 priority, and don’t forget to reward your followers. This will bring them lasting feelings of surprise and delight.


Jason has currently had over 30 meetings — very impressive!

At noon was the SouthWiRED Keynote, featuring Ron Carpinella who addressed Atlanta’s Tech Resurgence. The increase in smart technology is prevalent worldwide, from facial recognition, to auto-correct and predictive texting based on context and learning algorithms. Ron’s presentation was very insightful, and a great tech eye-opener to begin the week. Here’s a picture of Ron:


Next on was Nick Ayres, who talked about IHG’s Social Marketing Center of Excellence. What this means is that IHG strives to be the best in class social leaders. He mentioned that social media, for them, plays a role as a horizontal because of the fact that guests can post pictures instantly of a toilet overflowing, or a breath-taking sunset over the beach, for example. The four main pillars of Nick’s strategic activity comes through Reputation Management, Campaign Management, Community Management, and the Center of Excellence. Nick commented that it’s cool how hotels in Asia ask his department for best practices. I agree, Nick, that is pretty badass. Nick also pointed out that in terms of content, substance > sexy for them and is the focus moving forward. Nick’s final piece of advice was to make friends with your legal department. They’ll be your best friend when it comes to running contests, global policies, trademarks and copyrights, franchising, disclosures, etc. etc. Great job, Nick.


At 3:00 I attended Melissa Kerwin‘s presentation on the paid side of social media. We know Melissa and the awesome Marketing Inspirations team through our collaborative campaign work for the Fox Theatre’s 40th anniversary of Save the Fox. You can read a little more about this, and see some pictures, here. Anyways, back to Melissa! She defined paid social as your voice amplified, and sometimes that is completely necessary to get the scale your brand deserves. However, you must think, “Is this ad relevant to my followers?” In a market like Atlanta, you can expect to fork up about $400-500/month to properly reach your targets. Melissa went on to discuss using Facebook and Twitter in B2C campaigns for consumer awareness, promotions, and starting a new page. LinkedIn and Twitter will be more relevant for B2B projects where you’ll need lead generation, lead nurturing, and increased professional/business awareness. You must make sure, in both industries, that your ad interaction is straight-forward and has a clear call to action (i.e. Learn More Here, Buy, Follow, etc.). In terms of reporting, Melissa suggested establish metrics and KPI’s with your client from the get-go, and that Excel Pivot Tables should become your best friend. And then came the infamous social ROI discussion. Melissa recommended inserting pixels to demonstrate click thru activity, and conversion tracking softwares. Contests and surveys will get you actionable and marketable data, simply by asking 1-2 questions about offline purchase intent for example. In terms of Facebook ads, Melissa suggested using Page Engagement Posts/Ads rather than the simple and more easily found “boost.” And finally, do not promote typical posts for longer than 48 hours, because by that time it’s old news. Look at click thru rates and engagement numbers to determine how long the promotion should last. P.S. her presentation can be found here.


Day 2: Startup & UX

The first panel I attended on this terrific Tuesday was Mobile App Design for the Future, featuring Lesley Robb and Dale Kim. They discussed what’s in store for the retail industry. Get it? In store? Ok. They noted that you should try to add as much information as possible to add value to the consumers while they’re in the aisle. You’ve got to blend the physical and digital aspects of the shopping experience by making retail a destination and letting digital technology guide people through the experience. Everything in the physical retail location should be “smarter” both in terms of technology but also the customer journey and experience. The discussions were great and the content made so much sense! Didn’t have my Batdorf coffee prior to this one, so apologies for the lack of notes.

The 10:30 presentation was perhaps my favorite of the week — The Future of Marketing Technology with Allen Nance. He discussed how tomorrow’s startups are transforming the marketing technology landscape, and then went through some of his predictions. I’ll try to keep this digestible; I have tons of notes. Allen started with an insightful and foreshadowing fact: “Pinterest drives all of their same-day organic traffic through email (40% of traffic).” The most successful of their emails are the board recommendations that go like, “Hey Allen, you like these boards, you may like this one too…” Allen labelled email as the digital glue that holds marketing channels together. I’ll admit, I was a bit of an email skeptic before this presentation, but Allen completely changed my opinion. He walked us through the journey from primarily texting in high school and college, but since you can’t text in your resume for jobs after college (yet), and wouldn’t text a formal boss an RFP, the adoption rate to email after college is about 102%. Although email has not changed in over 10 years, it is not dying and the usage/adoption rates are not on the decline. Furthermore, you have to have an email address to authenticate yourself online! Really. Think about it. Almost everything online requires an email address.


Now we’ll get into his 5 predictions on email innovation:

1. This one’s short and simple. In the future there will be an email only client with over 100 Million users. I could see it.

2. Payments phenomenon: Gmail, Google Wallet, Square. All combined, like they were Captain Planet and the Planeteers, sort of. Imagine email addresses fully integrated to create a global payment phenomenon. Buy buttons, and the option to check-out directly in your email’s text. (Allen put a 36-month time table on this type of transaction, and I’m holding him to it.) Hyper-personalized online history and discounted rates combined to send you an incredibly creepy and effective email offer, and so forth. This will result in permanent email addresses that nobody will want to change, that may even be linked to your credit score. Allen told the crowd to set up two Gmail accounts and send $1 between the two using Google Wallet, and we’ll be blown away by the simplicity. I’m yet to try this out, but if you’d like to try, please send your test dollars to 😉

3. IPv6 – putting data in IP addresses. This will allow credit scores to coexist directly within your computer’s unique IP address. Hosting companies will love us because everything will be more static, and we won’t jump addresses as often (if at all). Credit score commodity market – buy credit scores via buying IP addresses. Hmm.

4. Inboxes. Allen started with a quick shout out to Pine Mail to test the audience expertise, and also age. Inboxes are transforming, as seen in Gmail’s integrated tabs for Social, Promotion, Updates Forum, and Primary. No longer will the newest emails be on the top. Algorithms will come into play that will evaluate who you interact with, why, and how, and place them in your inbox using these properties. Another interesting thought – Inbox SEO – how will marketers get their ads to the top of your new smart inbox?? New, specialized companies and positions will be formed to execute on this.

5. Codified User Experience. YouTube links in Gmail automatically embedding. HTML5 adoption, embedded java, and so on. Basically, your emails will come to life. Muahaha!

Allen then brought up the Humin iPhone App (Android in pre-release beta), being an aggregator of all the content in your day to day life, from social media interactions and phone contacts to answering the question, “Who did I meet last week?” This App is so personalized that it even has the potential to tell that you’ve received a nasty message from your wife, and you’ll be in a bad mood. Hyper-personalization is coming, and I think it’ll be pretty cool! In conclusion, Allen shared that email will continue to be the #1 digital channel because it’s mobile, personal, smart, and transactional, and I agree. Great job Allen, very inspirational.

Next, Gregg and I attended Eric Holtzclaw‘s discussion on surviving the awkward in-between years as a startup. Eric, a serial entrepreneur, founded Laddering Works as a company strategy firm, and has a published book you should check out called Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior. The presentation dealt with moving a company from entrepreneurially managed to professionally run, and Eric provided 6 key ways to survive the in-between years.


1. Uncover your blind spots.
It’s important to have a 5-person informal board that includes: one “yes-sayer,” one skeptic, one personal relationship (husband/wife), one internal and one external resource. It’s also important to hire people who make up for your short-comings, and to join relevant industry groups. Getting out of the office to network and make connections is vital, as well as receiving mass amounts of external feedback and opinions.

2. Give up control.
The first Inc. article Eric wrote was titled “Fire Yourself.” You have to think, what is the best and first use of your time.

3. Perfect your systems.
Rule of 3: If something includes more than three people, more than 3 steps, or done more than 3 times, you should document it and turn it into a process. I love this advice. Related tip – teach another person to run your company. This will allow you to view your every day work as a process rather than just a “grind.” Having systems in place is a necessity, and even if the advice you receive is to stop selling, you do need to insure that your systems are developed and structured properly.

4. Determine your core business.
People say what they’re doing, but not why, or the problem they’re solving.

5. Breakdown your barriers. 
AKA your fears.

6. Identify the exits.
Know who will buy you! If you don’t at least have an idea, this is a huge red flag for investors.

The next presentation Gregg and I attended was another one of my favorites. Jabari Adisa on being Presponsive, as opposed to just being responsive — sort of like being proactive rather than reactive, and I’m a big believer so Jabari really was preaching to the choir. By being Presponsive you’re answering the question before it’s even asked. Check out this video example Jabari displayed of Google’s Gesture venture in being Presponsive, it’s genius. He continued with tons of great examples including the Circle of 6 App for women to prevent violence before it happens, and next generation wearables that give you feedback and analytics so that you’re next visit to the Doctor’s office will no longer be a one way conversation. The Village Defense App for neighborhood security, and the previously mentioned Humin App are two more excellent examples. I feel like Jabari and I share a similar mindset and set of ideologies, being a part of the reason this presentation stood out to me. Apologies for the picture quality here – packed room and I ended up behind the camera man.


The final presentation Gregg and I attended on Day 2 was on leveraging the network, with Rachel Zick. Rachel is a representative of ATDC and TiE, and facilitated an engaging conversation about using the resources around you to succeed. Her list of Atlanta-area resources included:

Atlanta Tech Village – Startup Chowdown, every Friday
Opportunity HubShark Tank viewing, every Friday
ATDC – Entrepreneur’s Night, every third Thursday
Startup Chicks – weekly newsletters (for female entrepreneurs)
TiE – monthly meetings, every second Wednesday
Decatur Makers, and other Makers events – tons of great Atlanta groups and events!
Also: Venture Atlanta, Hypepotamus, Startup Gossip

Day 3: Entertainment & Health Tech

Woebegone Wednesday. Woebegone because we unfortunately missed this day because of, you know, our real 9-5s.

Day 4: General Marketing & Social Enterprise

Tremendous Thursday. Sitting here writing this on a Friday, you have no idea how hard it was to resist the urge to make this Thirsty Thursday.

The first presentation I attended was Alex Membrillo talking how to shine in a crowded market through pricing and differentiation. This was a really great discussion, and I was really impressed by Alex and how well-spoken he is. Takeaways:

1. Passion first, not money
2. Determine your differentiation, make it your tagline: depends on the situation, however. Different case studies for each buyer persona, and for each proposal, but always use industry vertical examples. If you’re fired or declined an opportunity, use the great work you’ve done for them to go after their competitors!
3. Test new offerings
4. Focus on your niche
5. Keep everything in-house that is vital to your services
6. Build out buyer personas: market research companies, focus groups
7. As business grows, you’ll hit plateaus if you don’t expand your service offerings
8. Alex is a big fan of paid media – very predictable, scalable, quantifiable
9. Book recommendations: Good to Great and The e-Myth
10. Paid social media is necessary to reach the entirety of your fans. Dedicate ad spend for both awareness and new fans. You only reach ~20% without throwing some money behind your efforts, and you’re not likely to gain a plethora of new followers without expanding your reach and impressions.
11. Never stop learning or going to conferences


Alex finished by discussing an interesting development in how Google views social media as a potential future threat. Why would the search engine giant that’s become a verb feel scared and threatened by social media? Take, for instance, somebody looking for “lawn care” … I know I’d rather listen to what my friends recommend versus what has the best SEO score.

The next presentation I attended was related to word of mouth marketing, with Ted Wright. Word of mouth marketing has always been fascinating to me, I love the concept, and Ted was an excellent speaker. He began by stating that an average word of mouth brand conversation will last for 32 seconds, and that you don’t have to seek out influencers as a brand, they’ll come to you. I believe this holds true, and you’ll recognize (likely through social listening) who they are and what they’re commonly doing/saying without even looking for them. To leverage this, you must set up platforms to allow for conversation and questions.


“Influencers share, not sell, and hate being viewed as sell-outs.”
-Ted Wright

This is a great quote from Ted, who stated that influencers make up just 10% of our population. Ted went on to discuss a case study on chocolate milk, and how he used word of mouth marketing to make the drink relevant again. The four steps in creating a word of mouth marketing campaign include Focus, Design, Delivery, and Reporting, and I’ll take you through these steps now.

Focus: Chocolate milk is the best beverage following exercise. This creates some cognitive dissonance as people believe chocolate milk is unhealthy because of how great it tastes. Confusion. Went after football coaches in high schools who would then disperse the information down to their players.

Design: Give influencers the chance to share the story first. Never interrupt and never intercept these conversations, let them roll organically! Create a situation where they’ll want to talk to you. Also, the best way to break a story is to listen to what’s bubbling up in your area of expertise. That’s exactly how Josh Martin from Arby’s produced this infamous Grammy’s tweet that nearly broke the internet.

Delivery: In this case, Ted’s efforts were picked up by ESPN for a 7 minute segment, and posters were placed in schools nationwide. The ADA had no budget for this, and could have never afforded these spots. The key is to approach as a resource to answering questions on a trending topic, rather than schmoozing your way to the top.

Reporting: In short, consumption increased by a staggering 485%! 1,000 new points of distribution were gained, the NFL now co-promotes the product, and invaluable Earned Media from ESPN, LA Times, and Men’s Health to name a few.

I’d say the campaign was a success. Ted then brought up the Brunch Test, a concept that really made sense to me: Will a roundtable of people eating brunch be interested in your story, and is it shareable? If the answer is no, it likely won’t go far in a word of mouth campaign. Another great point Ted made was that in word of mouth marketing, you must assume that your whole audience is very intelligent. People seek out intellectual conversations, and won’t want to discuss something that’s passed on to them as irrelevant or not worthwhile. Broadcasting does not work well anymore, and people are becoming more selective with what they’ll listen to, so it’s important to really think out the conversations in planning a word of mouth campaign. Also in terms of reporting, in the first 1-3 months you can take note of interesting things developing and bubbling up, but it’s really after 10-14 months that word of mouth can become significant. A final tip from Ted – in marketing to millennials think religion before retail. Purpose and meaning are everything to the increasingly curious and intellect kids these days.

The next discussion I attended was on social enterprise with Joe Walker of Adobe. Joe discussed organizational readiness and activation. Organizational objectives should include Reach, Impact, Influence, and Engagement. Joe briefly touched on the idea of Return on Influence versus return on investment, a concept that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. I believe it shouldn’t always be about the numbers and analytics, as having a presence in social media is invaluable and worthwhile by itself. People nowadays expect you to be there, and come to them rather than them seeking you out.


In terms of organizing your enterprise, Joe listed several activities and practices to help you get set-up, or in his words “Divide to Conquer.” This includes setting up structured teams with differentiated user roles and governance, groups for various brands or regions, social listening departments, social campaign teams, and integrated marketing as a whole. Divisional considerations include engaging, listening, advertising, converting and monetizing, managing and creating content, and reporting. These six points will touch at least one person in each organization, so must be structured accordingly and ran systematically.

Joe stated the development of the modern marketer is now a combination of creativity and analytics, and I couldn’t agree more. All of us creatives wear many hats, all the time, and it’s become a prerequisite. It was great to catch up with Joe following his presentation and talk about his experiences going to school in Sweden and living in Germany — he’s my kinda guy.

Day 5: Financial Tech, Mobile & Student Track

Friendly Friday, because SouthWiRED was so great to develop a Digital Marketing Education Series for Jen Osbon‘s UGA students, and all of the other young ones in attendance. Naturally, there was a lot more energy and engagement in the audience on this day. You can tell by the picture below that it was tough to even find seats at some of the presentations. If you’re interested, check out what the students were tweeting by checking out the hashtag #SWStudent.

Student Panel2

Unfortunately I missed Katia Herrera and Brian Diggelman (and the ghost of Adam LaHaie?) speaking in the morning, but heard they did a great job. Speaking to students and helping them as a recent grad is rewarding and a lot of fun and I look forward to doing this more often in the future – before I get too old to be considered a recent grad!! Basically all of the panels following the student track dealt with breaking into a digital career, explaining the brand side versus the agency side, choosing a niche/specialization, keeping up a professional appearance and brand, overall how to be successful. As you can imagine, we didn’t attend most of these presentations but chose to follow discussions a bit more relevant to our agency and our future.

The highlight of this day was Jordan Silton‘s interactive workshop for SEO. Jordan, being the Director of SEO and Analytics at Relevance Advisors, really knows his stuff. And I mean really knows it. He taught me some useful new skills, like using x-code’s iOS simulator to test responsiveness on mobile, and Chrome’s developer tools to also emulate iOS devices and pretty much anything else. On top of simulations, Jordan introduced us to Optimizly as an A/B testing tool to see if a design is worthwhile, and also different development resources like robots.txt. And hey, don’t judge, this may be super simple to some of you but I’ll admit it’s brand new to me!

Silton Common SEO Mistakes

We were even able to score an audit on one of our most recent client website projects where Jordan gave us tons of useful information to bring back to home base for our engineer, Kyle.


Thanks, Jordan!

This pretty much sums up our week at SouthWiRED 2014. Can’t forget to shoutout Batdorf and Bronson Coffee for being there all day, every day and providing us with fuel to take in all this great content! Also, Asante Bradford, Adam Wexler, Jason Katz, Rob Kischuk, Brandon Beeken, David Ahn, Joshua GuilbaudHannah Levinson, Joe Koufman, Nick Ayres, Jason Dominy, Joseph Arnold, Kevin PlanovskyBenjamin Kepner, and Dana Barrett it was great seeing all of you, and sorry to forget anyone! And FINALLY, great job all week to the SouthWiRED team and volunteers, especially you Kashi!




6 Replies to “SouthWiRED 2014”

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