On Tuesday the 25th of February some of the brightest minds in web technology gathered at the Phare conference in the center of Ghent. Sadly enough the organizers forgot to invite me as a speaker 🙂 but I was glad to get a chance to listen to what the seven speakers had to say.
All seven come from vastly different backgrounds; they covered a wide array of topics, from the impact of the web on the traditional 40-hour workweek over the effect of NSA spying to the decision-making process of a web shopper. Paul Boag of the digital agency Headscape was kind enough to sum up the message of the day in one short sentence – ‘The web has changed stuff!’
But what does that mean on a practical level? It means that we need new plans and strategies adapted to this changed environment. And these need to be detailed enough to provide useful guidance while making business decisions. ‘’We want to increase revenue by 25%’ is not a strategy but a wish list for Santa.’
Will Hayward from Buzzfeed describes the changing requirements for businesses to be successful online as a three-step process: first, having a website was sufficient. But once everyone had one, you needed to perfect your SEO optimization, so that people managed to find your content. Once you understand how machines think, that’s quite easy to do.
But now that we are dealing with the social web, it has become imperative to try and get people to share your content. This requires a totally different and more difficult form of understanding. Instead of knowing how machines think, you need to know how your customers think.
The final speaker of the day was Nathalie Nahai, ‘The Web Psychologist’, who gave some advice on how to deal with this new paradigm. Her suggestion is a three-step process as well, starting with knowing who you are targeting. Only if you truly understand your target audience can you communicate persuasively and that is what you need to do if you want to create a win-win situation. If you do not sell with integrity and try to manipulate your customers, they will notice this and they will not appreciate it!
At the end of the day the Phare conference asked some intriguing questions – and gave some inspiring answers. A very insightful experience!
P.S.: A tip for anyone considering organizing a conference – popcorn makes everything more fun!