My Midwest Interactive Surprise

A number of months ago I was asked to speak at an event for the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association, known as MIMA. Had I heard of it? Nope. To be honest, I didn’t think there was much of an interactive presence in Minnesota. Wow, was I wrong.

At MIMA’s annual one-day event a few weeks ago, nearly 700 interactive professionals from the Midwest and other parts of U.S. gathered to examine some great topics. As a too-frequent seminar attendee, I was really impressed by the other speakers and the conversations among attendees.

Two Keynotes, Two Perspectives

Lee Rainie, 2007 MIMA Summit keynote speaker and director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, introduced the idea of interactive work environments full of “absent presence.” Rainie’s oxymoron describes the essential multitasking self: you’re physically present but mentally absent. You want to be vigilant about everything Web, but the volume of information is simply too great.

Looking at the virtual multitasking issue from another angle, Jason Fried, another MIMA Summit keynote speaker and founder of 37signals, a Web-based company, said, “the e-mail you don’t even know you’re getting is more interesting than the meeting you’re in.”

Fried’s main idea: to accomplish something, people need uninterrupted time. Constant meetings and interruptions aren’t productive. He recommends prohibiting direct contact during some periods during the work week and personal life.

These two presentations ring true when thinking of the many things people do while visiting a Web site. Of course, we’d like to believe they’re fully engaged and focused and will take time to explore our sites. We all know from our Web-surfing habits this isn’t the case. It’s imperative, then, we optimize sites so they fit the schedules of our customers and prospects. We must give them what they need while helping them work toward the specific things we want to them to do for us as a company to be successful.

These issues, when viewed through a Web analytics lens, can prompt you to change your approach to analyzing data and tuning survey questions. Start with the site’s simplicity; do people easily find the content they’re looking for? If people, when fully focused, can’t find what they’re looking for, what happens when they aren’t present in their task? Now think what that’s like when they’re distracted by other tasks and have eight tabs open in their browser — you and your seven competitors. This really drives home the importance of ease of use, simplicity, and simple navigation.


Another conference session that caught my eye and triggered a lot of discussion involved a reference to a recent Forrester Research report stating that U.S. interactive marketing spending is expected to triple over the next five years, reaching $61 billion by 2012. Interactive technologies are expected to infiltrate all media channels, dissolving the barriers between traditional and interactive marketing. It’s interesting to explore what this could mean over the coming years. At MIMA, I hopped into a few conversations and heard good ideas about what this may look like down the road.

This got me thinking about the importance of understanding a Web site’s impact. Not only understanding how people convert on a site but also how the site impacts behaviors after people leave and through a company’s other channels. As I’ve written about in past columns, it extends far off your corporate site on review sites, blogs, and other social-networking communications. Again, understanding all these interactions, what’s happening, and how to leverage the power of these interactions will begin to truly separate companies that “have Web sites” and those that leverage the overall Web channel.

While I don’t often recommend specific conferences, I was so impressed with the MIMA event, I strongly encourage you to check it out. You can visit the MIMA’s Web site, which includes a lot of the conference content, including presentations and podcasts.

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