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SAScon 2016

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited by Kristal to accompany her at Manchester Metropolitan University for the yearly SAScon conference. Held over two days the conference focuses on the digital world of Search, Analytics and Social Media, with leaders in the industry delivering talks. The event has been running for 7 years, and is quite unique in the fact it’s organised by the digital community, for the digital community. With audiences over 350, this event shows no sign of slowing down!

Day One



Firstly, we attended the talk on ‘How Social Media Helped the NHS beat Bieber to Xmas No.1’. Presenters Simon Lewis (The Gate Films) & Nick Entiwistle (Magnafi) were both ambassadors in their own right to the NHS; Simon brother to the Junior Doctor who famously resigned live on Good Morning Britain, and Nick suffering a heart attack only a year ago. In pursuit to help the NHS, in such difficult times, Simon & Nick created a heart felt video that they sent out to agencies, urging them to come up with ideas on how to aid with the situation. They hit gold when one agency suggested linking the wedding vows with NHS work in a video, they expanded it into a song, then consequently into a music video. The word was spread over many social media platforms, including Nick’s channel ‘One minute briefs’. The song went from strength to strength, and made it to Christmas No. 1 with some encouragement from Justin Bieber! Upon this campaign moral was lifted for NHS Staff, and the Choir even performed at Glastonbury this year. The key message from this presentation was to ‘Have No Fear’. There was not a dry eye in the house after the official video was played; An extremely moving presentation from these guys.



Then came Steve Bartlett. Steve is a 23-year-old entrepreneur with a £8 million business, named The Social Chain. Yeah you heard me… 23! Dropping out of uni after one lecture, he had an idea called Wallpark – which was a notice board for students online. He stated the traditional methods of marketing made no sense to him; he knew his generation used social media, whether it was capturing their attention when they were on their phone in lectures or on their laptops at home at night. Steve created communities for students on social channels; Student Problems, Overheard in Manchester etc. It was incredible to be face to face with the person who had made my long hours in the library so entertaining! When questioned on how to be successful with the difficult channel Snapchat, Steve stated he considered it as a TV Series – ‘Brands must be consistent with it to be successful’.


James Hart then discussed Native Advertising, and how it’s not as new as we think! Native advertising deals with how paid promotion blends in with its environment. James suggested we must adapt our brands to be native, not overload our customers with ads… We must blend in! When brands stop listening, people stop trusting what they say. Additionally, when we forget we are being sold to, we are more likely to buy. Hart finished with the statement – It’s not advertising that keeps brands connected to people, its culture.


The keynote speaker Robert Scoble, an entrepreneur in Upload VR and futurist, is one of the most fascinating people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Scoble discussed how computer systems within virtual reality glasses, recognize your kitchen table, your ceiling, your floor, meaning they can overlay an interactive-spatial-sensitive virtual world on top. Caterpillar (Machinery) is already using these systems within their manufacturing process!
Another mind blowing fact Scoble disclosed to the conference was that the new Disneyland in Shanghai, China, was completely designed in VR. This presentation left people in astonishment of what the future has to hold.

Day Two


Marty Weintraub, founder & evangelist-aimClear, got the ball rolling with his enthusiasm for SEO! He gave some very insightful knowledge to the analytics area of digital. Marty’s take home messages were; Buy SEO in your Space, Layer Psychographics, Influence Influencers, Filter Retargeting (RLSA) and Test Search & Social Mashup.


Laura Thomas, Head of Online Display at MediaCom, suggested twitter is leading the pack for all creative media, in her presentation on ‘Paid Social and the Quest for Creativity’. Laura discussed how marketers know more about audiences than they ever have done, as well as being blessed with more creative options than ever before. She showed the true power social media can have with the amazing example of how Volvo won hands down with their superbowl advert, by actively not buying a TV spot!


Kristal was up next and discussed Gen Z, Millennials, and Media. With the phrase millennials being on everyone’s lips, Kristal dived into who this audience actually is, and their relationships with brands. Anyone born after 1982 is in fact a millennial; hence we can conclude this is a vast group of people marketers are targeting, and we are nowhere near all the same! Lazy, Unemployed and Narcissistic are descriptions this generation receive, whilst Kristal disputed through research we are in fact Smart, Innovative and Tech-Savy!


Lisa Myers, CEO & Founder-Verve Search, or what I’d like to call her – Queen of Search! What hit the most with me from Lisa’s presentation was her ability to see past qualifications; her key three attributes she looks for is passion, determination and belief. Lisa’s presentation demonstrated a few fantastic outreach pieces her company had produced for massive brands such as Expedia, whilst including some inspirational quotes from motivational speakers to newscasters…

‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’
Wayne Dyer

‘It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are’
David Brinkley

Lisa’s words made anyone in the room look at themselves and believe they had the ability to achieve greatness.

Walking away from SAScon I was in awe at how much passion these people have about this digital world we have all become accustomed to. We all live and breathe it everyday; but to actually have time to sit down and see all the back story was truly inspirational. So much so, I can say that I hope one day I could myself be one of the speakers! As Lisa Myers told us – Be Passionate. Be Determined. But most importantly, Believe you can and you will.


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