Mini SASCon and The State of the Digital Nation

Enjoy Digital
By Enjoy Digital
5 minutes to read

Last Friday 17th January, several members of the Search team set off from Enjoy Digital for a presentation-packed day in Manchester at Mini SASCon, “organised by the digital community for the digital community”. It was a one-day event based on the main SASCon event, one of the UK’s finest Search, Analytics and Social Conferences, which takes place again this summer.

This year Mini SASCon showcased the latest thinking, innovations and technologies in digital marketing, regarding the current divergence and imminent convergence of Search, Social and PR. We were treated to several marketing authority’s sessions and panel discussions, aiming and succeeding to “educate, share best practice, inspire and enthuse”.

We arrived at The Hive in Manchester and ascended to The Studio upstairs, which was buzzing with activity. Once we signed in at and claimed our name badges, we mingled with our friends from Pitman Training, who were also attending. The Studio continued to fill with attendees, until a gradual migration towards the Main Room doors announced that the event was about to start. We filed through into a large room and took our seats.

We were all greeted by Richard Gregory, Managing Director of Latitude Group and Head of SASCon, and welcomed to the Mini SasCon event, which he informed us was even bigger than their first ever full SASCon! MiniSASCon is obviously just as popular as their main annual SASCon event, as the room was full of top class PR, search, social, content, and other marketing executives.

After setting us up on the Wi-Fi networks (for our live and instant Tweeting commentary and questions for during the event), we sat back to listen to our first speaker’s presentation by Drew Benvie, Managing Director of Battenhall, describing the State of the Digital PR Nation:

Drew began by conveying how the landscape of life is changing, with the rise of ‘net natives’ ie. people born into this tech-orientated age. He described one of his own personal experiences of the disruption of technology in real life, with a tale of how his own children call turning the corner of a book to mark their page ‘pausing’ it!

Being able to understand this savvy audience is therefore imperative in order to engage with them and shape the future of their communications with a brand, especially since nearly all media is digital; “90% of media is on a screen”. There is a universal digital ubiquity, with rapid growth of new social niches and trends driving today’s digital consumption across the UK and all over the world. Most brands are now globalised, and smaller businesses can also become so through their use of social, to expand their brand and clients across the globe.

The rise of messaging apps, such as Snapchat (the largest of all the photo sharing apps together!), clearly shows that the public are looking to get more visual in their connections. Mainstream media is constantly and progressively reinventing itself, with a shift away from traditional media (such as TV and print), to the ‘untraditional’ social and online networks, but how long will it be before these terms are reversed?

Drew implores that, although it is disruptive, it is imperative that a business learns how to use and understands social, and not just one individual; the whole business. This message give rise to the buzzword to take away from his talk: ‘social business’ - social has to be integrated all through a business, and not just managed by one or two individuals. It has to be a unified and inclusive management to ensure all members of the business are social and digital literate to understand and ‘get’ what their brand is about.

However, many businesses shy away from this approach, or from using social media for their brand at all. They’re afraid of what might happen if they do use social media in case they are open to negative attacks from unhappy users, tarnishing their reputation, despite the fact that most negatives can easily be turned into positives by a quick, responsive approach) There is also the growing fear of the ‘social hacker’ culture, with concerns in case their brand account is hacked, not just by external users (such as the BBC, which was recently held to ransom), but by their own disgruntled employees (such as HMV with their mass social team firing). Although, with Drew’s revelation of the US regulation that all registered businesses must be using Twitter, these wary businesses may have to face up to their fears if such jurisdiction were also to be implemented here in the UK.

The purpose of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, for a social business is to listen and engage with their customer, no matter if the comments are positive, or negative, or how distracted the users may be. With so much going on in this “partial attention economy”, it can be hard to grab the attention of a “distracted consumer” for more than a few minutes, or even seconds. Some people will look at their phone up to 110 times a day! There is a lot of noise and distractions to cut through to reach out and get a brand message across. Consumers are diverted by the chance to grab the latest trends, but this in turn can provide opportunities for a brand’s engagement (particularly in terms of a depth in digital PR, building interactions and real-time conversations, link building and developing and improving a brand’s reputation. This far reaching form of communication can mean the difference between survival or stagnation of a business in today’s modern and social world.

Drew recently conducted a report, which found that 88% of the businesses surveyed tweet, and the top 5 uses of social media by these companies include:

  • Community management - bridging the gap between the internal and external brand advocates, ie. between the customer and company.
  • Customer service - responding in real time to customer comments, queries and complaints.
  • Corporate communications - between members of the company, and from the company to the customers.
  • Investor relations - a way to showcase products and services to potential new clients and endorsers.
  • Recruitment - talent spotting and personnel engagement.

Drew then introduced the idea of 4 Forces emerging and shaping communications, with one foot in the future and one foot in the past, for us to be aware of current and potential trends to use and operate, which include:

  1. Wearable tech: a perfect storm- Wearable tech collects data and brands use them to understand their customer’s interests, such as through health tech and sensors (calorie counters), GoPro cameras (for keen sport fans, for ski-ing, surfing etc.), Google Glass (and even potentially Google bionic lenses), such as for ‘vlogging’ (video blogging), such as a few visitors were sporting these specs at the conference. These various forms of tech utilise the phenomena of mobile and ‘life logging’ ie. downloading and analysing your data and videos, and once uploaded to a user’s social account are causing a mainstreaming of social into a ‘sentient world’, where brands can do something with the information and data gathered (even  Thermostats and alarms are collecting data too) to benefit their brand outreach, offering and engagement with their current and potential customers.
  2. The rise and rise of photo sharing - Photo messaging apps are reinventing engagement between consumers, and between customers and brands. It’s no wonder that big social networks are trying to snap these apps up (Google owns Tumblr, Facebook owns Instagram, and Snapchat recently declined Facebook’s bid to buy them for $3billion!) Tim Bradshaw tweeted “photos are the atomic unit of social networking”.
  3. Messaging reinventing social - Tim Bradshaw also stated in his tweet that “social is moving to mobile, fast”. With instant access to social media profiles from nearly everywhere in the world wherever the consumer goes, smart phones also offer instant sharing and uploading of photos to social media. Image sharing is creating new engagement alongside tweets and posts, especially since photos are usually much more likely to be responded to than just mere posts and posts or tweets (it has been revealed that images get 2x the engagement of posts that don’t include images).
  4. Social data during smarter business - No matter how separate they seem, the offline and online world are intrinsically linked. There is an ever-increasing fusion of both worlds (such as Ebay shipping customer’s goods to their local Argos). This is with the aim that interaction online will drive footfall back to the shops in the real world, and not just to Amazon and other ecommerce sites.

In conclusion, Drew states that trends are continuously changing, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with this technological disruption. However, this disruption is creating new opportunities and innovation for engagement. And when these opportunities don’t always go according to plan or achieve the desired results, you can always “Keep calm and break things”:

Mini SASCon and The State of the Digital Nation

For more information and to view the slides of the presentation, please visit:

Or download the slides from SASCon:

Follow Drew Benvie @drewb

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