Why I Volunteer to “Live Blog” Search Marketing Conferences

As a volunteer reporter for Barry Schwartz’s Search Engine Roundtable blog, I’m often asked, “Why do you do it?” My consulting work is focused on usability and Internet application testing. Why am I out chasing sessions at search engine marketing conferences?

To begin with, my work began in web design and consulting/online teaching search engine optimization in the 1990’s. Therefore, I know many “long-timers” in the SEO/M industry. It remains an area of strong interest for me, which is why I continue to keep another volunteer, non-paying project, Cre8asiteforums, going. Discussions there cover web design, development, usability, accessibility, search engines, marketing, and much more.

This daily involvement keeps me well informed, which makes me unique to companies and individuals who wish for usability consulting from someone who can see the whole picture. I need (and want) to understand the code behind a page, the behaviors and habits of people intended to use those web pages and the ways in which the final product may be marketed.

Knowledge Fortifies and Enhances Skills

Since in today’s web environment, more and more people are finding web sites from social networking sites, I felt it was important for me to truly understand how advertising, marketing and public relations companies are applying social media to their clients’ marketing campaigns.

This is why I chose this particular conference as my next volunteer reporting “job”. Being there in person allows me to meet industry leaders or speakers who are teaching attendees. The entire time I’m at a conference related to marketing, in my mind, I’m weaving what I learn into what I know about human factors and user centered design.

For example, one of the messages that came from this conference on social media was that success comes from participating in social networking. It’s not something you can pretend to know from the outside, looking in. To truly understand who uses Facebook, Stumbleupon, or the hundreds of niche micro community sites popping up, marketing teams learn and apply campaigns by first getting involved with social media/networking communities.

When a client comes to you, seeking the right profitable course for their brand, a skilled marketer will know which social networking site is the best fit for your company. This may absolutely NOT be Digg, Reddit, MySpace or Facebook.

Choose a marketing company that takes the required time to study your target market and understands their behaviors, language, interests and their favorite ways of communicating with one another. This includes understanding the importance of usability, accessibility and persuasive web design and where these fit into web site promotion and social web behavior. Once again, I’ve reinforced my long-held belief that usability and seo (and all the related tie-in skills to these two areas), are able to join forces and provide a united project plan. A team such as this understands and values your brand reputation management.

They are also well aware that the Internet never sits still. Consider hiring employees and consultants who invest time in keeping their skills and knowledge current. Additionally, make sure to budget for continued education for your present staff. A poor choice in marketing or web design can absolutely crush your business.

This is why I place such value on reporting conference sessions and why I invest my own money to do it.

I want to be sure that those who hire me are getting the best person for the job.

Coverage by Search Engine Roundtable, Rather Than My Own Blog

Another key reason I’m tied to SER is because I’m a contributing writer for that blog. I do that, and conference reporting, because he’s been a great friend and strong supporter to me. So yes, a bit of simple loyalty and friendship certainly comes into play. Barry doesn’t put any pressure on his reporters. He’s always grateful for the help. I’m crazy enough to work for a smile and a hug sometimes…

It’s our tradition, at SER, to get the session information posted quickly. SER was the first blog to try and reach every SES conference and bring it to those who weren’t able to be there in person. Several years later this remains a volunteer project, where reporters offer to help Barry Schwartz (and now Tamar Weinberg), blog sessions. In cases like SES, where there are 3 – 4 days with 4 tracks of sessions, the result exceeds the exceptional when his volunteer reporting team produces nearly complete coverage.

Everyone has their own style. Perfect copy is not a requirement, nor a demand. (I tend to push out the first draft and then go back and edit for clarity and errors.) While the lack of perfection has been sometimes criticized, I feel that many people don’t realize that none of us are paid to do this. We pay for our own rooms, food and travel expenses to “give back” to the community in this way. We try to not make mistakes (like when I got dates wrong on Tuesday), but when we have a chance to breathe, someone from SER manages to go back and catch the errors readers haven’t already pointed out.

Lastly, I do this work wearing my jeans and sneakers if I wish to. (Thanks so much for that!)

Barry’s Recap of Sessions is here

SMX was a two-day, one track conference. The following were covered (all sessions except the last one on Wednesday, which was a clinic. We also don’t report Q & A, which follow each session.)

Social Media Marketing Essentials
Linkbait – Chumming for Traffic on Social Media Sites
Extra! Extra! The Social News Sites
A Marketer’s Guide to Social Bookmarking & Tagging
Keynote Q&A: Joshua Schachter of del.icio.us & Garrett Camp of StumbleUpon
Effectively Leveraging Social Networking
Evangelist – The Marketer’s Role in SMM
Micro Communities
Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers & Answer Sharing

I also linked to additional coverage and photos in Photos Are Up for SMX Social Media NYC

As I’ve mentioned, this is the last conference I can afford to volunteer for. It’s been an honor to serve the Search Engine Marketing industry in this way.

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Related:

SMX: Was it worth it? Did I learn anything? Will I go again? by Brendan Picha.

Photos from Liana Evans’ SMX Social NYC 2007 pictures set.




3 thoughts on “Why I Volunteer to “Live Blog” Search Marketing Conferences

  1. Amen. Funny, I just made a note this morning to write a blog entry called “My Secret Love Affair with SEO” :) I’m tired of SEO people being bashed; the ones I’ve gotten to know are smart, capable, contribute to the usability of the internet, and (unlike some usability folks) are open with their knowledge and believe in sharing best practices.

    Besides, from a purely selfish standpoint, SEOs know how to market. As I dig through the references and back-links I’ve gotten over the past 6 months, 80-90% of them come from the SEO community.

  2. I agree. The fact that Digg quickly buries any blog post that has a hint of an SEO topic in it just provides proof to me that there are some SM networking audiences that have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

    Yes. Some SEO/M companies are absolute idiots, such as the one who spammed Cre8asiteforums the other day by advertising an SEO conference in Korea. I banned them for that.

    To spam a forums in your own industry is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. But, people like that are not the majority and I know this.

    Most professional marketers are quite good at what they do and will never risk their client’s reputation.

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