Last Friday, I once again attended the fantastic BrightonSEO conference. A full day of SEO and digital marketing professionals listening to their peers give insights and share best practice, it's grown to be one of the largest events of its kind in the country. For anyone interested in the growing umbrella term that is SEO, it's undoubtedly worth a visit.
Having attended a couple of times now, I truly appreciate and benefit from the day in a variety of different ways - but that actually wasn't always the case. Or at least that's not how it seemed.
I remember leaving after my first visit and feeling slightly deflated. I didn't feel like I'd learned something unbelievable or discovered a hidden gem that was going to completely revolutionise the way I approached SEO. I definitely found the day beneficial - I was in a room with over 1,500 of my peers, so something positive was always going to happen - but I couldn't really explain what or why.
And then it started to click.
It wasn't necessarily about finding a golden nugget of information or discovering a brand new way of doing things - it was about peer collaboration and the many benefits that alone brings, which has cemented my belief further that it's something we all need to be doing for three very clear reasons.
1. Inspiration is the key to success
When you're working in a creative industry, inspiration is vital. You need it to stay on top of your game and be able to feel confident that you're delivering the best projects you possibly can.
The problem is, every creative person will tell you that sometimes, the inspiration reserves dry up and you need a little kick start to get things going again.
After leaving BrightonSEO, I feel unbelievably inspired. I've been in a room for several hours listening to a variety of people talk all about what they're doing with SEO and digital marketing in general. Whilst it's not often the case I leave wanting to drastically change the way we approach SEO, I do come away wanting to make developments and amendments to certain areas, or consider how we can tweak something for increased benefit.
For me, this all happens purely because I'm in the same vicinity as so many like-minded people. Collaboration breeds creativity, whether you're kicking off a design project with two other people in a small room or you're in an arena with 1,500 other people talking about SEO.
Simply put, the more you speak to others, the more thoughts will develop, grow and become tangible ideas that can be actioned to have the greatest impact possible.
2. The more you engage, the more confident you become
Whilst I'm by no means a complete introvert, I'm not the world's most outgoing person either and I think by our very nature, most people would describe themselves the same way.
But when you leave a room full of likeminded people after being with them for several hours? It's impossible not to feel completely and utterly confident in everything you do!
Everyone's discussing what you're passionate about. You're nodding along, adding to the conversation and quickly become an important part of the discussion. This whole scenario touches on psychology to a certain degree, as the more you can contribute or connect with, the more valued you believe you are - and the more value you see in yourself, the more confident you are.
And this confidence isn't just something that's restricted to your time during the collaboration. Instead, it impacts on your views and outlook in general, making you feel more confident as a person and therefore positively affecting your entire approach to everything you do.
3. To share is to care
I think there's often a belief that collaborating with peers means people share just the basics, keeping the real, true value to themselves. There's that mentality of why would you want to share best practice information that could see you get the upper hand on your competitors?
Whilst, in theory, this could be the case, I'm yet to see it actually happen, as people want to share. They want to tell you what they've been doing, what results they've achieved and explain how they've done it. And it's good that you do the same, too.
It's worthwhile pointing out here that there's more to business success than one process or even entire business area - just because I explain how we approach third party content distribution and another agency go ahead and implement it (which is unlikely to be in a like-for-like way, anyway), it doesn't mean that's going to completely revolutionise their entire agency offering.
Sure, it might make them a bit more effective or efficient with this component, but that one component could account for less than 0.1% of everything they do as a full service agency.
Some of the most fascinating talks at BrightonSEO in my opinion are those where people give an overview of what they've done. I remember Malcolm Coles, now Director Of Digital Media at the Telegraph, presented at #BrightonSEO once and talked about gaining quality links via gamification and social content. It was undoubtedly a great talk and gave an insight into some of the key processes his team used, but the amount of information I took away and implemented directly? Next to nothing.
Instead, this goes back to my first point about inspiration. I left Malcolm's talk feeling particularly inspired and my creative juices were flowing. This started my train of thought on things such as how certain clients of mine at the time could better benefit from Facebook competitions and how investing heavily and regularly in visuals for sharing on social media could increase brand reputation.
It's also beneficial to mention about Buffer here. I've mentioned Buffer in previous posts and I'm a big fan of their social media scheduling tool, but I also find their approach as a business interesting, as they're completely open.
Have a look around their Open blog and they'll tell you things such as how much money they made last month and how they did it, going into specifics on some occasions.
Will people read their posts and copy some parts of what they're doing? Without a doubt. It's practically guaranteed.
Has it harmed Buffer's business? As far as I can see, not in any way at all. In fact, their openness seems to have an entirely positive effect on the company.
Collaboration is crucial
One of the main things I've taken from from BrightonSEO most recently is that peer collaboration really is crucial for so many different things. Your knowledge base. The way you deliver strategies. Your network and connections. The overall success of your company.
No matter whether we're looking at things on a granular level or an umbrella one, collaboration brings with a whole host of benefits, and although the three points mentioned here are some of the most notable to get involved, I'm certain everyone will discover their own benefits the more they engage and interact with people just like them.