Nearly two-hundred attendees showed up on Thursday, January 28th to attend the MITX Digital State event. Guest blogger for MITX, Daniel Schwartz of Donor Communications and from Northeastern University,volunteered this article in which he covers hot topics discussed by the expert panel throughout the night. Please feel free to leave any comments you may have on the piece or the writer below. Enjoy!
A day after the President's State of the Union in Washington, we held our own in Boston - sort of. The icy conditions didn't hurt our attendance numbers as hoards of marketing and business professionals braved the cold, filling The Lenox "Dome", to network and get some insight on the state of the industry from respected industry veterans Noah Elkin, Adam Cahill, Julie Coulton, Sean Downey, Ian Fitzpatrick and Rob Griffin.
The ensuing panel discussion touched on a number of issues but the prevailing themes were: doing more with less, evaluating data, privacy concerns and the marriage of social media and mobile devices.
On doing more with less:
It was generally agreed upon that 2009 was a down year; in fact, Noah said it was "one of the most difficult years in a decade" for the industry. Revenues were down across the board but, as expected, online revenues fared significantly better than anything else.
Needless to say, pressure is on to do more with less. Ian's solution was ostensibly fairly simple, hiring "people who get it," meaning people who know technology and don't need time to get acclimated. The need to hire more versatile employees was echoed around the panel. "The days of having 12 people in a room to solve a client's problems are over," said Julie.
Those 12 people, Rob argued, are still players, they're just doing different things. It's of vital importance to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively between agencies and different departments.
On evaluating data:
The notion of evaluating data responsibly dominated the second segment. Rob stated the problem best saying that you "have to know what the data and the value and the engagement is." It seems like a simple answer, but with the vast ocean of data out there, spanning different forms of media, it gets a little convoluted. Rob suggested breaking the data into small sample sizes instead of trying to put together some all-encompassing evaluation. "It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it," Rob quipped.
It's clear that we need new ways to learn from our data. Data like time of day usage is still far from complete. And, Julia suggested, that believe it or not, Facebook is underutilized analytically speaking because it's still hard to assign a value to your fan base and it's not clear how it helps SEO indexing.
On privacy concerns:
From evaluating data, the discussion segued into privacy concerns in tracking and sharing data, particularly those persistent Flash cookies. There was debate about whether people want marketing campaigns that are tailored to their personal preferences.
Altruistically, Adam stressed that transparency with customers is essential. Sean took that a step further and advocated self regulation within the industry, saying that being upfront will give marketers more leeway in terms of government regulation. Looking to IBA standards seems reasonable for now.
On social media and mobile devices:
Apple's move away from Flash, seemed to the panel, as an opportunity to exploit other mobile apps as a new (somewhat new) frontier.
Ian addressed the Twitter monster, suggesting that despite clients' requests, in most cases it's probably a better idea to collaborate with customer service and HR on a tweeting strategy, rather than a marketing campaign.
Ian also brought up another idea about linking social and mobile that's perhaps the most useful moving forward. The notion of linking RFIDs on products to social networks is huge for the industry. To be able to track what your contacts buy and recommend could mark a major shift in consumer patterns. It's a little 1984 and gets back to some of the privacy concerns, but it's not that far off.
New platforms and everything else aside, savvyness and creativity are still useful commodities. "Ideas are still king," said Julia.
A lot of interesting ideas got tossed around thanks to a lively panel and a responsive crowd. We want to take another opportunity to thank our sponsors, our parent organization MITX, participants and attendees for making the event such a success.