The inaugural Search and Social Rank Symposium, presented by Jib Marketing and Lenzr Photo Contests kicked off successfully last night, Nov 14th 2011 in The Cannery venue in the historic Distillery District at 55 Mill St in Toronto, Ontario.
The heavy rain delayed proceedings, but didn’t deter attendees. Once inside the event, it was quite cozy. The Cannery is a very spiffy venue with exposed wooden beams and sand blasted brick walls. A white table overflowing with salads and sandwiches met the guests when they walked in, and everyone enjoyed dinner and a refreshing alcoholic beverage while getting to know each other at the long table.
Rob Campbell played host and MC —making introductions, cracking jokes, and generally encouraging conversations throughout the room. He was the first to speak. He started out by saying that all the presenters for the evening were search and social rank pioneers of sorts, and each of them has contributed something unique to the industry. Rob is a gifted speaker, and his ability to engage with an audience made him the natural choice to go first and describe, quite passionately, exactly how he put Onyx Containers on page one of Google for the search term ‘popsicle molds’ while teaching 75 teen girls how to communicate their thoughts and opinions online through blogging.
Rob set up a WordPress blog network for the 2011 Search for Miss Teen Canada-World. For the first time, each Miss Teen (representing regions from St. John’s to Vancouver Island) was given her own blog property and writing assignments. Most of the blogging was simply the girls’ experience preparing for, and finally getting to the pageant in Toronto, but occasionally they were asked to blog about sponsors. That’s where ‘popsicle molds’ comes in. Not only are keyword focused links suddenly coming in from seventy five busy blogs, they are presented within real content about popsicle making; the posts are original how to pieces describing healthy recipes.
Rob explained how the blog network had, in his opinion ennobled the annual Search for Miss Teen Canada-World by giving each participant the tools and encouragement to share her voice with the world. The girls’ blogging skills are graded and comprise ten percent of their score in the overall competition. Rob also defended the honour of his SEO practice — while spammers may be “ruining the internet”, some SEO pioneers, like himself are producing informative, relevant content that “benefits all of humanity.”
Next up was Michael Nus, with a presentation of SEO 101. The night was devoted to search and social rank. The phrase ‘weird science’ emerged many times, because it’s so full of experimentations and trying new things? nebulous but exciting? Thankfully, the talks extended far beyond tricking the latest algorithms on Google.
Further blurring the distinction between web marketing and SEO was Ameet Wadhwani and his innovation OptMeIn, which allows customers to elect how their favourite companies should contact them, and is attached with powerful metrics to monitor traffic and conversion – coupon redemption.
Discretion is at the core of the service; Twitter users, for instance, are contacted through direct messages rather than public tweets. Yet despite the discretion, companies have experienced impressive distribution stats as customers are taking it upon themselves to share promotions with their social circles. Ameet’s focus with OptMeIn isn’t necessarily SEO, but customers who willingly share promotions through social networks, and by taking this action are inadvertently increasing the ‘social rank’ of the sponsor companies
The night wrapped up with Benjamin Allison’s articulate soliloquy about managing client expectations and still being creative. His words formed a reminder that companies need to stop acting like overprotective parents with their brand. “The odds of having your child kidnapped from your front lawn is about a million to one,” explained Ben, “but how many people still worry about it?”
The idea that brands should be allowed to enjoy agency voice was the centerpiece of Ben’s presentation. Of course, brands can’t do it alone, and often need the help of forces like marketing agencies to develop a unique voice.
In conclusion it was fun filled evening of argumentative discovery wherein it become increasingly obvious that companies need to face that brands are taking on a life of their own. But it need not be a rude awakening. As Rob Campbell showed, an SEO campaign can also create social capital in the process. And as much as Ameet’s unique services are removed from the public sphere, people are bringing it back by choosing to share company broadcasts. It was an evening of weird science at the intersection of search engine optimization and social media marketing; it was a group discussion on the definition of social rank in the age of earned media.