Confab 2012: Observations by a First-Timer

This week I attended my first Content Strategy conference. I spent an energizing 3 days at ConFab 2012 in Minneapolis, networking my buns off and standing out in a sea of editor-type looking women sporting pixie cuts and plastic cat-eye glasses (I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.)

Here’s what I saw, what I learned, and what inspired me.

confab-2012-welcome

First Thing’s First: Updated definitions

Content is “why people go to your site”.1

It’s the stuff people want to see, read, learn or experience from your website. This includes the text, images and video and even maps, metadata and music.

Content Strategy = the plan for creating and managing content that is: (1) Useful (2) Usable (3) Purposeful and (4) Profitable.2  

This is a combined audience-driven and organization-driven approach. It’s figuring out what users WANT from a website, and how the website’s CONTENT serves those wants.

This results in better user experiences, customer experiences and a more efficient way of managing content. Real world examples were given of companies saving hundreds of thousands of dollars from revamping their content strategy.

A Friendly, Inviting Bunch

Despite my non-pixie haircut, I found most people were extremely friendly and interested in learning about one another’s backgrounds and current relationship with content. I felt welcome and able to strike up conversations easily with those around me at the snack stations during breaks, my table during my Content Strategy 101 Workshop (a la @meghscase and @leecthomas), and even on the streets of downtown Minneapolis as it was easy to spot ConFab attendees with their Brain Traffic swag totes.

Me at ConFab without a pixie haircut

Surrounded by pixie cuts

Other Observations from a ConFab First-Timer:

1.   Content Strategy is a melting-pot. I sat next to a VP of Business Development from a top search engine. I met creative directors and people from Interactive teams. Copywriters, magazine editors, PR professionals, web designers, SEO geeks and librarians. Everyone has a unique appreciation for content, it’s creation and implementation. As an SEO person, I felt well-equipped to contribute my two cents to many conversations on good-versus-bad-content.

2.    I only met a handful of “real ones”! Most attendees I spoke to were not officially labeled “Content Strategist” within their organizations. When I met a woman with it written out on her business card, I literally exclaimed to her “You’re a REAL one!!!”. It’s tempting to think we’re all content strategists at heart, but some people really are able to fully dedicate their work to the craft, while the rest of do it quietly at our desks or during overtime.

3.   It’s “not too late to be early” in the content game. Unless you work for a Content Strategy agency, odds are your company or organization still needs a good amount of education on what good content is, isn’t and why it’s crucial to the business’ success. The field has been around for about 20 years, but it’s still marginalized by management and decision makers in the C-suite. I met conference attendees from all walks of life, in a variety of professions, positions and experience levels, who all recognized this reality.

4.   This creates a very strong sense of community. Anyone whodoes realize the value of good content is unified in an effort against those who don’t. We’re like a band of misunderstood teenagers rallying together against the machine of low-quality, low-priority content. There’s nothing like a common enemy to act as a glue that forges strong bonds.

5.   Curation: the “buzzword” that won’t stop buzzing. Someone in my Content Strategy 101 Workshop asked about “curation” and it felt like a sort of Pandora’s box that was too big to dive into. The topic is so popular and so easily misinterpreted that, since it wasn’t on the 101 workshop’s agenda, our presenters perhaps wisely left it alone. A session dedicated to curation was on the schedule for later in the conference, which I did not attend but will look out for notes/takeaways from those who did. Our presenters did reference the Brain Traffic blog as a good resource, and I found this post from 2010 lauding curation as a “new buzzword”. Yet two years later it’s causing a sort of stir within the community perhaps as a backlash result of the traction it’s gained amongst the broader field of digital marketing.

6.   The concept of a “page” is changing. Getting a little technical here, but this point stood out. It was mentioned in the workshop I attended, and in the Twitter feeds of a few attendees of other sessions. It especially hit home with me, coming from an SEO perspective. With Javascript, dynamic content and a bunch of other fancy footwork, web pages are becoming sort of “traditionalized” in favor of sleeker formats.

Final Impressions

Now I’m back home. Feeling more informed and a lot more connected to this exciting and *still new community. Looking forward to staying in touch with the people I met, and getting involved with New York content strategists/orgs!

Here I am feeling “involved” with my gameface on:

Workshops

Workshop presenters Meghan Casey and Lee Thomas:

Lee and Meghan in CS 101 Workshop

Excited for ConFab 2013!

Closing Remarks

References:

1. & 2.  Content Strategy 101 Workshop by Brain Traffic’s Meghan Casey and Lee Thomas

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