Opening Keynote with David Meerman Scott

March 23, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hey party people! I hope you’ve had your coffee (I HAVE! CAN YOU TELL?) because we’re here in New York City about to kick off Search Engine Strategies. What’s that? You’re not quite ready yet? Here, listen to this.  Now are you ready? Yeeeeeah you are!

We’re kicking things off with a keynote from David Meerman Scott.  I’m lucky enough to be seated front and center with the awesome Virginia Nussey and have already scored my first hug from Mike Grehan.  It feels a bit like home. Or maybe high school. Let’s hop in.

Mike’s up on stage and kicks off with some housekeeping. He calls New York the greatest city in the world.  There will be 84 sessions happening over the next few days. I sigh with relief that I am not blogging every single one of them.  Only the best 18.  Mike’s telling all the same stories he told me over beers last night. So now I get to hear them twice.  I guess next time I’ll just wait to catch up with Mike during the show. [i love you, Mike.]

Now up is David. Lots of applause from a sober crowd. All the hungover people are probably still in bed.

David starts. Cindy Gordon was launching a new theme park for Universal Orlando resorts. She could have done anything to launch it. She could have hired the best agency. She could have done a Super Bowl ad.  But she didn’t do any of those things. Instead, she told just seven people. She told the seven most popular bloggers. She held a secret midnight web cast where the bloggers got a special code and they were the only people allowed to go.

What happened next?

Those seven bloggers blogged about what was going on. Their followers blogged about it. The media that covered those bloggers covered it. Within 24 hours of telling seven people, 350 million people had heard about the Harry Potter theme park. How cool is that? What we’re all about (all of us, he says), is attention. We’re about generating attention and getting people to pay attention to us.  [Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty accurate… stop judging me.]

He asks people a series of questions:

  • In the last one to two months, either privately or professionally, have you answered a direct mail advertisement?  A few hands raise their hand. Like four percent.
  • In the last one to two months, have you gone to mainstream media to research a product or service you wanted to buy? 22 percent of the room.
  • In the last one to two months, have you gone to the yellow pages?  People laugh.
  • In the last one to two months, have you used Google or another search engine? 100 percent of the room.
  • In the last one to two months, have you tapped your online network about something you wanted to buy? 85 percent of hands.

He shows a video of himself all around the world asking the exact same questions. Remarkably, the results are pretty much the same.  Which is cool.

He pulls out a Flip camera and records a new video. He asks the audience if they’ve looked at a video online and pans the audience. Lots and lots of people raise their hands. We’re gonna be on YouTube, yo!

There are so many different ways to generate attention. Cindy Gordon thought she was going to get fired for only asking seven people. There are so many people who are fearful about many of the ideas that are being talked about at this conference.  Sometimes when he talks about Cindy Gordon, they tell him they don’t work for a large company. He tells another story.

Dr. Smith is a dentist in Boston. She advertised in the yellow pages, spending $2,000 a month. Her business was worth $150k a year in revenue.  She decided to create some great content. She started a blog called the Healthy Smiles blog. She wrote an ebook about the correlation between your oral health and your sex life [cough]. It got her on the news.  People shared it.  They loved it. She’s ranked number one for [boston cosmestic dentist]. Her business is now worth a million dollars a year. She no longer does yellow page advertising.  Ben Affleck was in Boston, needed a dentist and went to her because he found her on Google and ‘liked what she was doing’. z0mg, its Ben Affleck on the screen. He’s super duper cute. And a Boston guy. Wait – what were we talking about? I don’t know anymore.


Things you need to unlearn:

Buyer Personas: The concept of how can you reach out and do marketing for the people you’re trying to reach? We used to talk to nameless, faceless prospects. Reaching people is really important. He’s stayed at 54 hotels in 2009.  He says that every hotel Web site in the world is exactly the same. The only difference is if they put the room availability widget on the right or the left. The site is built around the product. Imagine how different a hotel Web site would be is if they talked about people instead of products.

He picks out five buyer personas for people choosing a hotel:

  • Independent business traveler
  • Corporate travel manager
  • Couple organizing a wedding
  • Family choosing a vacation spot
  • Event planner

Imagine if the hotel created content for each of these buyer personas? Imagine if they did interviews with brides and groom who got married there or about the different bands in the area. Think of what would happen with that content?

When you talk about buying personas, the buyers and users are different.   For example, parents or grandparents may buy the tricycle, but it’s going to be the 3 year old that rides it (well, normally, at least.)   The grandparents may want a gold-plated tricycle for the precious baby. Heh.

How can you reach your personas and give them content that is interesting to THEM, not you?

Earning attention

There are four ways to generate attention:

  • Old Rule: You can buy attention with advertising: He talks about the stickers on his laptop.
  • Old Rule: You can beg for attention: Beg and hope people put you in their stories.
  • Old Rule: Bug your way in by selling.
  • New Rule: EARN attention

Get your customers to create content for you.  HP did a contest where they invited students to submit videos. He shows one of the videos, which he calls his favorite online video of all time. I tried to find it on YouTube, but I couldn’t locate it. Sorry, guys. David says that on the Web, you are what you publish.  If you take crappy content and you SEO it, you have slightly less crappy content.

Encourage Sharing

How can you encourage people to share content and that gets them interested? He calls his concept Word of Mouse. Yes. Mouse. There are six different things to think about.

  1. Nobody cares about your products except for you: People care about themselves. “Innovation” is the most overused word in press releases.  The third is “unique”. He says to get rid of the visual gobbledygook [yeah, i had to look that up that spelling. you’re welcome] on your Web site — all the fake model people in boardrooms. Those people don’t represent you or your customers. Use your REAL employees! Stock photography does not represent you. Neither does fake language. Speak to your buying personas in their language, not yours.
  2. No coercion required: You don’t have to force people to talk you up. If you’re doing something cool, they’ll talk about you anyway. The back button is the third most used Web feature.
  3. Lose Control: [cough. sorry.]  The Grateful Dead let people take photos and video at their concerts when no one else would. It helped them sell concert tickets. You should be measuring is not by the ways that we measured in the offline world. The idea of losing control of information is where we need to be. Don’t require email addresses for white papers. It puts the brakes on and stops people in their tracks.
  4. Put down roots: Understand where your people are and how to get them.  The collective reach of the people in the Bloggers Lounge at SXSW is bigger than any paper in the US.
  5. Create triggers that encourage people to share: He was invited to ring the bell at NASDAQ and was allowed to bring 50 friends. He didn’t have 50 friends – Wait, HE DOES! He went on Twitter and invited them and held a tweetup. They got tons of coverage for it.
  6. Point the world to your doorstep or where they can create action for your organization.


The US Air Force is one of his favorite “if they can do it, you can do it” examples.  The Air Force started following him on Twitter and he immediately followed them back. Heh. He DM’d them asking if they were really the Air Force. And it was. They have 12 people working on social media.  They want the entire organization to be in social media and engaging with people.  Twenty-five percent of employers BLOCK access to social media.  What is that about?

If the generals can trust a 23 year old to work on a 50 milion dollar airplane, why wouldn’t they trust him on Facebook?  True facts.

Stop making excuses. What do you have to lose?

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