Digital Communications Associate Austin Hostetter recently spent a week at Pubcon 2014 as part of his role on our team. Here are his thoughts on the event.

There are few things that can trump spending an entire work week in Las Vegas (at least in my opinion), which is exactly what I was able to do for the first week of October. My journey, however, was not to test my luck at the slots in hopes of winning big, but to enhance my knowledge of all things digital marketing related at the 15th annual Pubcon conference (which, let’s be honest, is just as fun as winning at the slots for a social media guy like me).

Pubcon is a yearly convergence where professionals from all areas of the digital marketing arena – SEO, SEM, social media, creative/design, content writing, etc. – gather to network with each other, hear from industry experts and grow in their knowledge of today’s latest marketing trends and techniques. Entering its 15th year of existence, this annual conference is recognized by Forbes, Inc., and Huffington Post as a must attend event for anyone in the field.

To give you the best summary I can on the week’s happenings, I’ve compiled the main takeaways I left the conference with, compiled from the keynote speakers, breakout sessions with industry thought leaders, and special Q&A opportunities I participated in each day. Here are the main points every marketer should know in today’s digital landscape.

Strong content is a must
If there’s one thing that all digital marketing boils down to, it’s this: content, content, content. Online efforts can no longer be defined as “just showing up.” As you compete with everyone and everything for the attention of your customers, developing strong, noticeable content that creates a dynamic story around your brand is an absolute must in today’s marketing world. Utilizing your social accounts to push original content from sources/mediums like blogs, videos, and apps — and creating content that can be a marketed resource on its own and not a simple PR push or product promotion — is the key equation to online marketing success. This type of strong content builds a relationship with your user by giving them useful information that doesn’t always promote your products or services. Building a relationship first will lead to a sale in the future; once a strong connection is made, your company will be an obvious choice when the decision to purchase is made.

Everything is heading towards mobile, including advertising
Mobile is the next frontier. Everything from design to content building is already being shaped by the growing use of mobile to consume everything digital. The biggest indicator of this point was Facebook’s rollout of its new Audience Network. The Facebook Audience Network, which was first mentioned by the social network in April but was officially released during Pubcon, offers app developers and Facebook advertisers the opportunity to expand ad campaigns to mobile apps. The push into mobile advertising is a simple one; Facebook’s ads manager will integrate its targeting factors to show an ad in mobile apps that are relevant to the audiences chosen on Facebook – making it extremely simple for marketers to expand the reach of their content.

Start by telling a story, support it with data
If you took all of the transcripts of every presentation given at Pubcon, the word that would appear more than any other is storytelling. “Journeys” and “stories” are the buzzwords in today’s marketing arena and are spouted at every conference across the country, however, that doesn’t mean the ideas behind these new trends aren’t completely accurate. Empathy and emotions speak louder than hard facts and data, and should therefore be forefront of any digital content. Social media is about peer-to-peer interaction, which means businesses have to change up their usual idea of B2C and B2B efforts. Peer-to-peer marketing involves shaping a narrative around every idea you convey. From there, you can utilize any data you’ve collected on target markets to push your narratives to the audiences they would appeal most to.

The whole purpose of sending team members to this type of conference is not just to gain knowledge, but to also execute that knowledge on a real-time basis. After my return from Vegas, I debriefed with the entire dgs team during a Digital Learning Lunch and discussed how this knowledge can be applied agency-wide when working with our clients. We are always engaged with thought leaders and industry professionals to push the envelope on improving our services for clients day after day.

For more information on this year’s Pubcon or on plans for next year’s conference, click here.

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