It is time for SAScon 2017 and this year’s conference will be held at the Contact Theatre, Manchester on Thursday the 20th and Friday the 21st of July. This being the 8th SAScon, a Search, Analytics and Social Conference which gathers both local and international digital professionals, and we here at The Candidate are proud sponsors of the event and the evening social. The social, which this year will be at the hip and trendy Roxy Ballroom, is a chance to network and reflect on the day with other delegates whilst relaxing and catching up over a drink and some nibbles!
SAScon and its winter spinoff SAScon Beta are both digital conferences ran by top digital professionals in Manchester. This year the committee has been reformed and whilst they may be new to the committee, they’re already accustomed to SAScon as they have all previously been involved and contributed to this great event. The new organising committee consists of Rob Weatherhead, Digital Advertising Director at Amplify UK, Dawn Anderson, CEO and Founder of Move It Marketing, Laura Thomas, Head of Digital Media Strategy at MediaCom and Craig Murphy, Head of Paid Media at Latitude Digital Marketing. Each of them will bring their own skills, experience and networks to this exciting digital conference.
We caught up with Rob Weatherhead to hear all about SASCON 2017 and what we can expect!
Hi, Rob thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Clearly SAScon is the digital event of the year in the Northwest but for those who haven't heard of it (where have they been?) Give us a brief description of what it is all about!
SAScon is the biggest, most established gathering of digital brains in the North of England. It is a two-day conference covering search, analytics and social that provides inspiration and ideas to fuel your own campaigns or careers.
This is your first year heading it up alongside the new organising committee, now that you are fully onboard what is your role and how are you going to put your own stamp on it?
I’ve been involved with SAScon in a few different guises over the years. I have spoken at events, sat on panels and more recently been part of the organising committee. As it is run by volunteers it takes a number of people to bring it all together and people’s workloads dictate how much they can commit each year.
More recently some of the founders found themselves no longer in a position to commit to the organising each year and wanted to pass the baton. I would say to somebody a bit younger but they may not take kindly to that!
But it is not just me, we have a new organising committee focussing on the different areas they cover. My role is just to make sure everything comes together. I also bring consistency and knowledge from previous years events as to what we have tried and what has and hasn’t worked.
In reality, the real hard work is done by the guys at Don’t Panic Events.
What's new and what sessions and speakers are you looking forward to the most?
We’ve kept the conference at two tracks, so whilst that’s not new it is a change we are sticking with. We found three tracks often gave people a dilemma on which session to attend and meant people missing out on some great talks.
We are also holding the event at the Contact Theatre after a number of years at Manchester Metropolitan University. This will bring a different feel to the event in and out of the sessions and is something I am looking forward to.
In terms of speakers anybody who saw Jon Burkhart a couple of years ago on the final session of the Friday will know he isn’t to be missed. He is opening up for us this year which will bring an unrivalled energy, and potentially some ginger balls….
And then David Levin who is closing the event is an incredibly witty man who has turned his skill for crafting jokes in 140 characters on Twitter into a business.
Wow, that is quite a lineup!
The industry is constantly developing, for you what has been the most exciting development(s) in Search & Social this year?
I have actually been working outside of the search and social circles for the last couple of years which has brought me a different view as an ‘outsider’ rather than a practitioner.
The move within paid search to a more audience focusses, data-driven channel has been interesting to see. Especially given my current work within programmatic display. Equally how analytics and paid channels are converging to use CRM and actual audience data to influence decisions is very interesting.
On the SEO side, there is a clear separation appearing between content and content marketing (dare I say link building?) and the technical side of SEO. They are becoming separate disciplines in themselves with not just individual specialists, but businesses themselves being built on just one element or the other.
What makes the digital sector in the North West so successful?
I think it is our attitude towards industry and hard work. Whether we like it or not, at a national and international level it is perceived the talent and innovation are in London. When you look under the bonnet though you realise this couldn’t be further from the truth. We thrive off our challenger status and are constantly looking for ways to change the perceptions of what we do.
How important is attracting new talent to the region for the sector's continued growth?
It depends on how you look at it. Everyone is experiencing a skills shortage in one area of another. Agencies and client businesses are addressing this more by training entry-level employees and more recently apprentices, they don’t really focus on bringing people from other areas.
Attracting talent to the region is a collective objective of trade bodies and industry groups, and also the people charged with filling roles such as recruitment companies. Whatever can be done to ensure we have the talent pool to keep growing our regional businesses will only help us grow stronger.
Have you any predictions for digital in the next 12 months?
My only prediction is that in 12 months’ time, the game will have changed again. Some of the things we talk about at this year’s SAScon will be less relevant or even obsolete in 12 months’ time, and that is what makes this industry so exciting. So that is why conferences like SAScon are so valuable as they keep our fingers on the pulse and us talking about the right here and now of what is going on.
Thanks, Rob sounds like the event is definitely going to be better than ever!
If you have read this and now want to go to this year’s event then click here and enter our discount code SAS15 for 15% off tickets!
Or if you want to try and win a pair of tickets click here and find out how!