Thoughts, Impressions from Pubcon 2008

by Kat French |

Greetings, Social Media Explorers, from sunny Las Vegas on the last day of Pubcon 2008.

For those not familiar with it, Pubcon is an internet marketing conference created by Webmaster World and sponsored this year by Microsoft.  It’s one of the oldest and most well-attended conferences for those in search marketing (SEM), which includes both SEO and paid search.  

Over the years, Pubcon has expanded their content to include sessions on other topics of interest to webmasters, including affiliate marketing, usability, and yes, now social media marketing and online community management (hence my attendance).  Pubcon 2008 was well-attended despite the uncertain economy, and I got the opportunity to meet and talk at least briefly with some of the top minds in internet marketing.  I also got the opportunity to drink and gamble with some of the top minds in internet marketing (it is Vegas, after all).

I spoke with the guys from WetPaint, who are doing some amazing stuff with social publishing software (video to follow next week).  I also met the good folks from SEOmoz.org, who are building increasingly sophisticated tools to analyze your website (their latest tool, Linkscape, looks amazing.)  I also attended sessions covering topics as diverse as Understanding the Complex Social Media Landscape, Video Search Engine Optimization, Podcasting and Podcast Optimization, Linkbaiting, and Enterprise-Level SEO.  

While some of the sessions were at a beginner level, all of them I attended had great, actionable content.  Clearly, the sessions at Pubcon are designed to equip Webmasters at all levels to better perform their jobs.  That said, I did think that all of the social media sessions focused a little too heavily on Digg.  I think that’s a reflection of the fact that as a primarily-SEO conference, big traffic is still a big deal.  

Rather than detail all the things I learned, I’d like to just quickly run down a few of my key thoughts and impressions from the conference in general.  (If you want session details, get your own conference pass next year!)

 

In the Conference Introduction, Brett Tabke said that only 30% of the sessions in this year’s Pubcon covered search engine marketing.  Despite the fact that it was an entirely different crowd, I heard the same idea repeated frequently that I heard at ad:tech Chicago this summer:  the social web is becoming the mainstream web, and a mastery of social media is becoming critical for success.  

In the opening keynote, Shawn Rorick of Cirque de Soleil talked about how all the different disciplines of marketing and advertising, both online and offline, traditional and interactive, are merging.  We’ve seen that recently in the fact that interactive agencies are now going after Agency of Record status, and also in a number of traditional agencies acquiring smaller web shops to expand their line of service.  

One thing became clear to me over the course of the conference.  In the same way that online and offline marketing are merging on the common ground of social media, the communities that encompass advertising agencies, public relations firms, and internet marketing agencies are merging, or at least learning from each other.  

This cross-pollination, while uncomfortable for everyone, makes the professionals willing to learn from a different mindset better, stronger, and faster.  A former PR guy who presented to our local Louisville ad-fed on social media last year said “PR firms conceded measurement to advertising years ago,” and he was right–Public Relations folks need to develop some of the analytics and measurement savvy of internet marketers.  

Many people in the crowd here at Pubcon are still getting used to the idea of using social media to build relationships, and not to focus so aggressively on getting links.  And we’ve already discussed the fact that traditional advertising creatives need to become more conversant in the web, and in how people interact with it.  

In evolutionary terms, the fittest, most-likely-to-survive marketer is the one who understands messaging and relationship-building like a PR person, branding and creative like an ad geek, and the technology, tools and measurement that power the web like an SEO.  

And what does Social Media bring to the mix?  The humanity to see your audience not as an “audience” (like a PR person would), not as a “demographic” (like an ad geek would), and not like a “visitor” (like an SEO would), but as a person, and possibly, a friend.


About the Author

Kat French

Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.