On opening an email from the Welsh Government last week, we noticed an invite to the Google Launch Event: Getting Welsh Business Online. Not being ones to miss out on an opportunity, we immediately signed up!
Tuesday 7th March arrived. At some point, we did wonder what the event would entail? How should we dress? Who would be there? What was the purpose? How would it be organised?
As we walked towards the Coal Exchange, Cardiff Bay, we smiled at the ‘Gingham Bunting’ and the signs pointing us in the right direction. Our first clue that the launch was going to be a bigger event than we first anticipated!
Conference badges in alphabetical order gave another clue. Followed by complimentary bottles of ‘juice’ – refreshing, surprisingly tasty and supplied by Lovely Drinks of North Somerset. Row upon row of seats in the main arena – each with a Google ‘goodie’ bag. Twitter users immediately began the ‘goodie’ bag banter. Why were some red and some blue? Did they contain different items? Some excitedly mentioned the free information books…others the sweets…and one ‘loving the lip balm’!
A general buzz of excitement could be felt in the room.
As the event was about to kick off, someone sitting directly behind us whispered,
“If I can learn one new thing, it will be worth it…”
And then Sian Lloyd, who was hosting the event, took to the stage… “Noswaith dda a croeso…”.
It really wasn’t until this point that we understood what this was all about. Google had chosen Wales to launch their new ‘Getting British Business Online’ initiative. Along with the Welsh Assembly and Partners, Google will offer a programme of support to boost the online digital presence of Welsh business.
Edwina Hart, Business and Enterprise Minister, spoke about the digital skills needed for tomorrow’s market, the target to ensure faster broadband access across Wales by 2015, recognition of problem-solving skills and preparing young people for work in a technological age.
Dan Cobley, MD, Google UK and Ireland, arrived on stage amidst polite applause. He expressed his delight at being in Cardiff and delivering the keynote speech.
“We live in exponential times.”
Dan Cobley highlighted success stories in Welsh business and then attempted to engage the audience by testing their knowledge of Welsh success in history. A mixed response at this point. The audience yet to warm up and participate. Only a few responded. (Although alternative reasoning could point to the fact that the audience lacked ‘general Welsh knowledge’!).
“Let’s pick a word like sex…”
The demonstration of ‘Google Insights for Search‘ began with an initial intake of breath and a few nervous glances as Dan Cobley uttered the phrase, “Let’s pick a word like sex…”
He went on to show the ‘search trend’ for ‘sex’ on a global basis over the past 5-10 years. Audience participation then surged as he asked the question, “So, what if we put chocolate in as a term? Would chocolate be higher or lower than sex in Wales?”
Immediate laughter and the word ‘chocolate’ reverberated around the venue – although mainly from female voices noted Dan Cobley!
The audience finally warmed to Dan Cobley at the mention of ‘Rugby’ – especially when he commented that the Google Insights trend for the UK maybe suggested why Wales did so well in the Six Nations.
“Chocolate…higher or lower than sex in Wales?”
On a more serious note, Dan Cobley spoke about the need to understand data and the link between understanding what the market ‘search terms’ really were so that these can be utilised within your own websites to optimise the performance and presence of your business.
This sparked an interest in us – what would the search trend for ‘education’ look like in the last 10 years?
I’m not sure if we were surprised, shocked, saddened or just resigned to reality. It is something we will definitely think about from multiple perspectives.
Returning to Dan Cobley and the ‘facts’ he presented:
Businesses which embrace the digital online economy experience 4-8 times faster growth. These SMEs bring in custom from around the world and export their products globally – and they can do it without the support of big I.T. departments.
Everyone today is a broadcaster – 60 hours of YouTube footage is uploaded every minute.
Everyone is connected – 845 million people on facebook, 91% of 16-24 yr olds are active on social media.
Half of all new internet connections are now from mobile devices. In 2011 the sale of smartphones overtook the sale of PCs.
Make your website ‘mobile friendly’ – 79% of people use a smartphone during shopping.
‘Mobile’ optimisation is a game changer for local businesses. 81% use a smartphone to look for local information, 31% make a purchase after looking.
25% of all search queries come from mobile devices.
Take the first step and create an online presence…or improve what you already have
Become ‘greater with data’ – use tools like ‘Google Insights for Search‘
‘Digital Basics’ – use images, tell people why you are different, use endorsements from clients, use a map plugin to publicise your location.
Make your business have a ‘multi-channel and multi-media’ presence
‘Leap and learn’ – engage in the process. Try something out, analyse it, refine it.
Local Salon Owner
Guy Christian, a local salon owner, joined Dan Cobley on stage to explain how an online presence has contributed to the success of his business. It was great to hear someone talk realistically about their experience – both the pitfalls and the success. Recognising the need to take a risk and learn from mistakes. 70% of new clients to the salon now come via the internet and they market their business exclusively online.
“Business only survived because of our web presence”
Sian Lloyd returned to the stage to bring the formal part of the event to a close. The reading aloud of ‘tweets’ was met with laughter – particularly the mention of Dan Cobley’s great hair and inspiring speech. The ‘roving microphone’ began moving around the audience – question time with Dan Cobley and Robert Lloyd Griffiths (Institute of Directors).
And the final surprise…
As the informal networking began, delicious canapes were distributed by friendly staff. The bar opened…and, much to my surprise, I was given a complimentary glass of sauvignon blanc! How civilised. Maybe my surprise is due to a career in education – the only complimentary thing you are likely to receive is a pencil (and that’s if you are lucky!). 🙂
So – it was ‘goodbye’ to the Coal Exchange. A great evening. A great event.
And ‘hello’ to Google Juice Bar. But that’s another story…
Google launches a year-long project to help get Welsh firms online (thenextweb.com)
Google to help firms get online (bbc.co.uk)
USA told Wales open for business (bbc.co.uk)
- Have You Played with Google Insights Already? (dailyblogtips.com)