Getting Engaged: The Social Theme of KahenaCon

KahenaCon was a great experience if you knew how to utilize it.  As with most industry conferences, a definite theme emerged from the line up of speakers, although it seems there was a bit of a cacophony on what overall message KahenaCon might have delivered.

The main topic was clearly engagement.  Gilad de Vries of Outbrain made it clear in his presentation that acquisition of social media followers is pointless without ‘feeding the beast’ once they’ve been gotten.  Kate Morris made it clear businesses always need someone willing to and able to strike up conversations with people on Facebook or Twitter.  Eitan Chitayat made it the centerpiece of his presentation.


Eitan Chitayat of Natie emphasized the efforts large brands exert to build an intimate connection with their audience.

This is a message that social media marketers have been reading for months – well, years.  It sounded like it was being brought up in a very different sort of context though: branding.  The term doesn’t come up so much in the digital marketing world, but the term’s employment at KahenaCon is just another signal that the industry is maturing and settling into the greater world of marketing, online and off.

Joanna Lord: Oh Lordy

Joanna Lord was the perfect opening act.  She broadened the scope of thought from the outset and got the room energized.

With a focus on consumer behavior, she characterized a “paradigm shift” on the web: the last three years have seen major changes in consumer habits, mainly that marketing has become much, much more personalized.  To borrow a bit of a suggestion from the closing presentation of Ari Nahmani, where he referenced his grandfather’s suit shop, online storefronts are starting to resemble the local mom-and-pop shops where the owner knows the customer and the customer knows the owner.  Things are personal.  Things are friendly.  Joanna’s presentation didn’t let go of that point. To paraphrase her, “I went from acquisition marketer to engagement and loyalty.”

Kate Morris: Getting Jiggy with It

Morris’ line-by-line breakdown of Will Smith’s Lost & Found brought home some great points, mainly that the digital marketing industry can recycle “proven” methods to the point those methods don’t pay off as well as they used to.  She emphasized originality, or taking up ideas that hadn’t been fully tested and given a chance to flourish.  As Rebbe Smith says, “I don’t ride beats, I take them off the ground.” Don’t ride the wave, but look for what has been lost in the scramble, dust it off, and give it its opportunity.

It’s always a message to come back to and more easily said than done, but it’s true that something different will gather more attention than something customers have seen before.

The best point of the presentation though was to go beyond the basics and to actually dive into a client’s business.  In emphasizing ways businesses set themselves apart, Morris told us to look for ways clients could actually plug holes their competition aren’t filling, to offer services that aren’t available and create products that make them unique.  From the marketing standpoint, you can see where it would be great if your client had something more than a slogan or an angle to emphasize in a campaign, but an actual product that was offering something more.  It can also come in the way services are provided though, from shipping and offers to customer service and contact.

You can see her SlideShare presentation here:

Braining Out on Trust

Gilad de Vries of Outbrain probably woke up everyone in the room with his marriage analogy.  You want to date someone before you agree to marry them.  So too, you wouldn’t buy something from a salesman at the first pitch.

“At least buy me dinner first!”

– Angry Customer

Bring people to the table first and build your social community.  At that point, you are still looking to feed the beast.  In my college days volunteering for Israel lobbying missions on Capitol Hill, they called it “retail engagement;” developing a rapport with a respective politician before upping the ante and asking for support on certain bills or resolutions.  In the non-profit world, you only solicit after multiple meetings.  Get to know the prospective donor before you deliver the “ask.” De Vries brings that lesson to the forefront.  Develop something with your customers if you expect to have larger sales later.

The Importance of Branding

The day gave me the impression the digital marketing industry is getting more comfortable nestled into the greater marketing world, with more emphasis on creativity and branding than the technical elements of SEO, PPC and social media strategies.  Perhaps that’s more evident just by the variety of ways attendees were trying to brand themselves: Digital Marketing Manager, Inbound Marketer, Social Strategy Coordinator, among the other titles we saw on the floor.

Overall, it was a refreshing conference with few drawbacks, stepping out from behind the websites and encouraging further involvement in clients’ general business strategies.  And for myself, as my first industry conference it was an encouraging experience.

About Gedalyah Reback

A graduate of Rutgers University, Gedalyah has been in digital marketing since 2011 with an emphasis on social media marketing, content management and branding. He has worked for clients in a variety of industries, including 3D printing, diamonds, fashion and law.

Gedalyah is a student of Middle Eastern Studies and is studying for Rabbinical ordination. You can follow him on social media and other things on Twitter

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