Yesterday I attended the Internet Strategy forum in downtown Portland. The event was well run, the food was great, registration was smooth, and the speakers were all very informative.

After last year’s show, I was happy to see that the theme this year revolved around Web 2.0 and marketing, and it certainly could not have disappointed anyone in attendance.

After Executive Director Steve Gehlen’s opening remarks, Robert Scoble was up, and I think he was a little surprised at the technical savvy of the Portland audience.

He started out with what I thought was a very cursory and introductory level approach, until about halfway through, when he took a poll of attendees. By a raise of hands, we showed how many of us were already participating in various web activities, including blogging and social media site membership, and the number was quite high.

At that point, he stepped it up a bit and got into some more specifics, running a live demonstration about how he uses his preferred services, from Twitter to Facebook. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but it wasn’t quite what I expected from the man who reads over 600 RSS feeds a day.

Still, it was a treat for me to hear him speak, and I did catch him unoccupied in the reception area briefly to chat.

Next up was Marc Colombo, vice president of electronic channels and strategic marketing for Fed Ex. He began his presentation titled “If Ben Franklin saw the Internet” with a strong note, but at that point, I got a phone call and was forced to step out, missing nearly half of his presentation.

When I returned he was talking about reputation management, and how FedEx participates and answer some of their critics in today’s public Internet arenas. He mentioned an entire community of people interested in photographing and talking about the Fed ex trucks hidden arrow.

He also talked about their participation in online communities, and answering critics in those communities When it comes to things like customer service and protecting the environment with “green friendly” policies and equipment.

He mentioned a mistake they made concerning a website about building furniture out of free FedEx boxes. He said the way they responded was a mistake, sending him a cease-and-desist order, making FedEx the “big bad corporation” attacking the small guy.

During Matks Q % A, a question came from the audience that basically asked why Federal Express didn’t have a corporate blog of its own to fight back or tell their own side of these stories or controversies, and basically talk about whatever they want in a controlled environment.

His answer stunned me. It sounded like he didn’t know the difference between a blog, a blogger, and a comment. He implied that Fed Ex had discussed it, but did not want to run the risk of having negative comments appear on the blog.

That caused a murmur in the crowd, as he went on to further dig himself a hole, implying that they had no need to have their own controlled conversation, because they were participating already in other communities where they felt it was important. It was the most memorable moment of the whole day for me, and I sort of felt bad for him.

After break came Tim Kopp from Web Trends, and his presentation was “Turning Customer insight into a Strategic Advantage”, which basically explained how important your stats are, and why. I’ve seen more analytic sessions than I care to count, and I’ve heard Tim speak before, so I took the opportunity to get caught up on my e-mails for the morning.

After that was Cammie Dunaway, the Chief marketing officer for Yahoo. I thought she did a very good upper-level non-techie presentation, talking about consumer trends and how Yahoo has responded to the needs of the advertising industry.

While it wasn’t a technically informative session, her examples and topics were fascinating to me, as she showed the best example, a Super Bowl commercial that cost $12.75 to make (yes 12 dollars and seventy five cents).

Doritos and Yahoo sponsored a contest to see who could make the best 30 seconnd commercial, and the winner was to be played during the 2007 Super Bowl. It drew mass audience participation and drove a brand awareness in a huge way. This was truly advertising 2.0.

However, two things Cammie mentioned really made me sit up and take notice… the first was that she used the phrase “program a result” twice, when talking about their dealings with an advertiser on Yahoo sponsored search.

The second time she used it, and she showed a screenshot of an ad for special K coming up as the number one result, yet it was not marked as a sponsored result. I just tried this, and it still looks the exact same way. I wrote more about this on my own blog, in a post titled “Is Yahoo Selling Out?

The other phrase she used, when talking about a consumer search for “used Honda” was
“… we took users to a page”, and I took this to mean that instead of showing search results, they turned the search button into a sort of Google “I feel lucky” button.

I tried this search at home, and either the campaign was over, or after the special K. screenshot, I’m imagining black helicopters that really aren’t there. Maybe they never were “taking users ” anywhere after a search, and I misunderstood.

Lunch time arrived, and the food was great, provided by Jake’s Catering. Most conferences offer box lunches provided by a sponsor, but we had food brought right to our tables. It was an impressive sight watching the army of waitstaff all come out of one door… Nice job!

After lunch was Ray Ramsey, the CEO of One Economy . He was a returning speaker from last year, where I felt his presentation was among the best I saw, as he discussed the founding of his company, and his mission of helping the poor inner-city youth get connected.

For me, this year’s presentation did not quite fit in with the 2.0 theme, and since I had seen him speak last year, I again took advantage of the time to try to dig out from underneath Mount E-mail.

After that, the panel discussion was something I really wanted to see, but I had a phone conference scheduled that I could not avoid and only caught glimpses.

After the afternoon break, I thought the best speaker of the day was Mike Moran. Mike is an engineer for IBM and the author of Search Marketing Inc. His topic was called “Marketing 2.0 – Do it wrong – Do it quickly” and was simply fantastic.

Mike wrote one of the first Internet marketing books I’d ever read, and he was funny, entertaining, and informative all at the same time. Although I have read his blog – http://www.mikemoran.com, I’ve never heard him speak, and I was really glad I stuck around for the afternoon.

What Mike had to say was something that every marketing person in every company in the world should hear. His message about Web 2.0 was a simple one, and I’ll paraphrase – “If your company is not participating, you are missing the boat. If you don’t start walking in that direction, you’re never going to get there.”

He then went on to suggest that “you can’t just stick your head in the sand and expect to control the conversation around your brand”, and he also said that “if your company doesn’t get it, and you’d be better off working somewhere else”.

Not coincidentally, the title of his presentation coincides with the title of his new book, “Do it wrong – Do it Quickly”, and I do hope he sends a free copy to Marc Colombo from FedEx, the morning’s first presenter, because he clearly “doesn’t get it”.

Mark also had a helpful tip for an audience member who asked “what’s the best way to optimize a flash website for the search engine’s?” Marks answer? “Don’t rely on flash being found by the search engines “.

Marks answer was straight, to the point, and even backed up by input from an Adobe employee, but it will still likely fall on deaf ears to the dozens of Portland advertising agencies in attendance, doing their clients a disservice every day, who continue to design websites entirely in flash.

The last speaker, and afternoon keynote, was given by Erik Kokkonen of CNet. His topic was “Could the Web 2.0 party be over?” and while it was an interesting premise, I don’t think he made his case very well.

In fact, near the end of his presentation, he cited some statistics showing how low participation was on three websites, You Tube, Flickr and Wikipedia. He showed exactly how small a percentage of people ever upload any content to either service, despite the remarkable growth.

On the contrary, my outlook was completely different on those statistics. I thought this made the case for opportunity, and that as popular as those services are, with such low participation, was a huge area of opportunity.

Also noteworthy in Erik’s presentation was that he said “uh” and “um” approximately 700 times, and it was so distracting that I could barely focus on what he had to say.

Erik, you are truly at an expert in your field, but you really need to attend some speaking classes or Toastmaster meetings if you’re going to keynote.

The networking reception afterwards was well attended, and all in all, it was a worthwhile day. If this years event is any indication of how next years will be, then be sure to put it on your calendar when the date is announced.

Scott Hendison
Scott Hendison is the CEO of Search Commander, Inc. and one of the founding board members of SEMpdx. Find out more here.
Scott Hendison
Scott Hendison
Scott Hendison

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