Podcamp Nashville 2011 Review

Podcamp Nashville 2011

The crowded first floor of Cadillac Ranch during Podcamp Nashville 2011

Podcamp Nashville, a free and interactive ‘un-conference’ – a forum for bloggers, marketers, content creators, social media experts, educators, podcasters and the like to gather, network and learn about the latest trends, tricks and technologies in the interactive world  – marked its fourth year in the music city with a simple theme:

Express Yourself.

With social media, individuals and companies have tremendous opportunities to broadcast thoughts, perspectives and in the case of a company, tell stories. Expressing yourself can help influence the way others perceive you or your company and in today’s social media world, if you can’t get started expressing yourself, you’ll have a hard time making use of social technology.

If you have never attended a Podcamp, you should. Many thanks to the organizers of this free event – it was full of awesomeness and very helpful information.

@brandjournalist@faithfulPR and @mackvong from Brand Journalists attended this year and here are our thoughts and take aways from podcamp Nashville 2011:

Forget keywords for SEO and start thinking about Key Phrases.Expressing yourself is not just about getting your thoughts out; its about communicating your thoughts in a way others can access. We see this in our client work daily – people are inundated with information and rarely do people find what they are looking for with a one or two word search. What we’ve found and what I heard several presenters mention was how important longer phrases are. If you are shooting a video about a macbook upgrade, think “macbook unibody 8gig upgrade review’ rather than just ‘macbook.’ People use keyword phrases to find very specific content and as a marketer or content creator, you’ll need to create content to cover a wide range of what people are looking for. This holds true for blogs, webpages and videos.

QR Codes have come of age. We LOVE QR codes! There were several sessions on QR codes. @irenewilliams did a great job of explaining how to use QR codes to help
with customer engagement. In particular, QR codes let customers experience digital content in the moment. QR code faux pas #1 – don’t use one to send customers to your website home page. DO create them to send to blog and web pages with content that is helpful for a customer in a specific situation such as standing in a store trying to make a buying decision. Use web and blog pages formatted for mobile viewing (the only users of QR codes are on smart phones) and create content specifically for QR code use. Our favorite tactic: use QR codes to gather facebook fans. QR code stats:Use increased over 1200% in the last half of 2010. Best tip of the day: use the bit.ly link shortener to create automatic QR codes with free analytics.

Youtube videos are an essential component of expressing yourself. Best stat of the day: Google owns Youtube and Youtube now gets 2 Billion searches a day. Because of the relationship between Google and Youtube, videos get preferential ranking. If you are not creating and posting videos to Youtube, start now. It greatly increases your reach and search-ability. Use key phrases in your titles and use the description to post the same content you would in a blog. Embed videos on web pages and blogs. Sometimes, video content sticks better with readers than text. Favorite camera: Kodak zi8 (better than flip) with a 20’ wired lapel mic and an inexpensive tabletop tripod. Total cost for kit: $150. Best tip: use a white board as a background and write items on the board as you talk for an effective video blog.

Blogging is still the cornerstone of expressing yourself. There were no sessions dedicated to blogging but it was clear from almost every session that to express yourself, you need a home base and more often than not, that means a blog. WordPress is still king. Best tip: Tumblr is an easy place to start. Tumblr has made a range of improvements making SEO better and for someone who has never blogged Tumblr is a really good first step. Serious blogging is better done on hosted, custom wordpress installs. Blog for yourself, for your company and for clients.

Digital Stalking is Cool – Just do it. Most amusing session of the day was from @courtenayrogers on digital stalking. In her words, Google is made for digital stalking and with the wide range of data on people and companies at your fingertips, you should get in the habit of digital stalking people you want to do business with, people you want to network with and especially those you might want to date. Stalking  – or researching – a company online gives you a much better idea of how to jump into a conversation and makes a cold call a warm and friendly call. To demonstrate, Courtenay ‘stalked’ the pre-registered attendees. “What, you are still on myspace? Really?” Stalking helps you express yourself by helping you better understand your target audience. Go on, get your stalk on.

Authenticity and transparency are not just important for individuals, they are essential for businesses. Several sessions focused on how to be more authentic – social media is, after all, a conversation and people crave dialog and relationships with ‘real’ people. Put it all out there and be as transparent as possible. Be a real person and don’t be afraid to show yourself. In the case of a company, the more information you publish, the better. Trust is earned over time and the more ‘real’ information you get in front of potential readers and customers, the richer your interactions will be.

Mobile marketing via SMS is a powerhouse if used properly. @lcguttery did a great job tackling the tidal-wave of QR mania to make the point that mobile, SMS marketing packs a powerful punch. QR code marketing is all about letting customers tap into digital content in specific places whereas SMS marketing is broader in reach and focus. Best SMS marketing tip: long form SMS marketing is cheaper and more flexible than the more expensive short form marketing. Use a trusted and experienced vendor for services if you foray into this and be very sensitive to how customers perceive SMS marketing as somewhat invasive.

Just Do It. Expressing yourself takes motivation and cadence.Several sessions addressed something we see daily – how do I get started and once I get started how do I keep it up? Fellow colab coworker and SEO expert @kateo gave one of the more thought provoking sessions at the end of the day titled ‘Cathartic Content: how a blog can help you grow.” Her point: sometimes, just the act of expressing yourself via a blog helps you define your story. It helps you get in the habit of producing work and helps you sort out issues and focus on what is important. For her it lead to the foundation of her company MetaMarketer. For companies, it can help tap into better and far richer relationships with customers. Success at expressing yourself takes practice – readers are attracted to the regular cadence of thought and if you really want to succeed, build up your skills over time.

What was missing from Podcamp Nashville

As amazing as some of the trends were above, we were surprised at what was missing. Namely, sessions on facebook, blogging, SEO and Twitter. We make a living expressing ourselves and helping a wide range of clients express their company stories and we’d be hard pressed to get results without them.

Podcamp Nashville uses a random drawing for the volunteer presentations and as a result, many were duplicates. We’ll be sure to put our names in the hat next year for a range of presentation topics. Might be helpful if organizers could put out requests for specific topics to make the day more valuable than it already was to attendees. There was no shortage of experienced presenters in the room. Coolest trend: ipad2 users using the ipad to connect to the projector and an iphone to change slides.

Thanks to everyone who presented and especially to the volunteers who orchestrated this event. We learned a lot and everyone came away energized.

See you next year!

Thomas Scott is the CEO of Brand Journalists, a Nashville based digital PR, blogging and social media firm that serves the franchise industry.

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http://www.podcampnashville.org

(Source: brandjournalists.com)