I spent last week surrounded by 14,000 marketers. We traveled from all over the world (really, there were a lot of international attendees), snagged every single available hotel room in Boston, and flocked to the 2015 INBOUND conference.

It was crowded. It was overwhelming. It was a little stressful. But most of all, it was awesome.

Let’s do the math. Four days. Twelve-hour days. Over 14,000 attendees. Something like 200 speakers. All devoted to inbound marketing. It’s just too much inbound goodness to not be one of the best weeks of the year.

But there’s no reason that all that knowledge and insight needs to stay at the conference. We all want to be better marketers. But not all of us can go to every conference, or any at all. I’m a big note-taker, so I left the conference with enough content to write about the event for months.

That seems kind of excessive, so I went for this instead. Here are the quick n’ dirty key takeaways from some of the sessions I enjoyed the most. (For more recaps and notes, check out the conference hub on Inbound.org.)

On the intersection of content and social media:

I started out day one listening to Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer of Rainmaker Digital (formerly Copyblogger Media), talk about the relationship between content and social media. You see, most people think that social is either good for engagement and relationships, or for content promotion. But as Sonia’s friend Steve says, “’Or’ is for wussies.”

Social should be about content and relationships. Because content itself is based on building relationships. Why should promoting it be any different? Content can be used to start conversations, build relationships, and celebrate your customers.

Favorite nuggets of wisdom:

  • The content and the conversation are a celebration of the customer and her experience. This presentation was a celebration of content and social. If you’re a dentist, it’s a celebration of healthy teeth. We all have some kind of celebration because we’re all solving some kind of problem. And helping people, even just one person, is worth celebrating.
  • Content needs to be created with love. Your customers are passionate about whatever you’re solving for them. You need to share that same enthusiasm. For your product, customers, team, and even the tools that you use. How can you write interesting content around a topic if you’re not interested in it yourself?
  • If you don’t get it, you can’t make it. This a different spin on “know your audience” that really drives home its importance. “Great content” is interesting, entertaining, educational, etc. But above all, great content needs to serve some purpose or another. And if you don’t know your customer, you don’t know what that is.

On earning influence with humility:

Laura Fitton, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Evangelist, turned the idea of humble pie upside down for influencer marketing. Being humble is often mistaken for being insecure. But how did that even happen?

Laura gave examples of several great leaders who were humble, self-aware, and respectful: Bezos, Buffet, Berners-Lee, and that’s just the beginning of the alphabet. And showing the same humility can make you more appealing to influencers you contact.

Favorite nuggets of wisdom:

  • Don’t obsess over the competition. Yes, it’s important to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. But never forget who really matters: your customers. Instead of obsessing over what your competitors are doing vs. what you’re doing, obsess over what your customers want from you.
  • Make your content as collaborative as possible. The more people involved in any project, the more people there are that want to see it succeed.
  • Always lead with “how can I help?” Never forget that influencer marketing is about creating relationships that are valuable for everyone. You’re not entitled to help, attention, or really anything from an influencer – you earn it. If you want someone to help you, help them first.

On tomorrow’s content promotion strategy:

Chad Pollitt, VP Audience at Relevance, says that social networks and search engines are breaking their promises to us. For awhile, they said “create good content, and people will find it.” And at a time, that could have been true. But now there’s just too much of it.

As stated in Content Code, the amount of information on the Internet will grow 500% by 2020. As more and more content is created, we need more and more unique ways to promote it. So Chad walked us through content promotion 2.0

Favorite nuggets of wisdom:

  • Today’s search isn’t built for tomorrow’s content. Search query growth is on the decline, but the number of organic positions on page 1 stays the same. PPC isn’t built for TOFU content. Native advertising will be huge in the future of content promotion. Almost all social networks already have a native ad option, and search engines are even buying and creating their own native ad networks.
  • SEO is not something you do anymore, it’s what happens when you do everything else right. I love this sentence both because it’s the kind of thing that I feel like needs a mic drop after it, and because it shows how search and its algorithms have evolved.
  • Create less, promote more. We’ve all heard that you should spend more time promoting content than creating it. But if you’re like me, after hearing that you mentally open your calendar and look for more time. But busy content marketers aren’t going to find free time, they need to make it. And it’ll actually make your content better: according to Ryan Skinner at Forrester, “Better distribution improves content’s quality, as the feedback cycle accelerates.”

On using media relations for SEO:

What’s the best way to increase your domain authority? According to Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich, it’s good old media relations. And in return, domain authority is a great metric to look at in your PR efforts.

It makes sense: a link from a big-time site is great. But a few paragraphs, or even a whole article, about your company on a big-time site is even better. And it will probably include a link as well. Double win!

Favorite nuggets of wisdom:

  • Don’t ask, instead offer or suggest. How would you react to an email saying “Can you link to this?” So yeah, don’t send that. Instead, suggest your story or offer it to the website’s readers. Make the audience the focus of your pitch – the website cares about their readers more than you right now. And they’ll still most likely include a link, because that makes things easier for the readers.
  • Build up when you can’t compete. If your can’t compete with the ones showing up on page 1 for a target keyword, first start with a related keyword with lower competition. Focusing on that one for awhile, building links and creating content, will improve your DA. And that will make it easier to go back and try to rank for your original keyword later.
  • If you can’t beat them, join them. What if page 1 for your main keyword is filled with DA 100 sites? It’s definitely not worth it to try to outrank them. Instead of looking at those sites as your SEO enemies, think of them as your media relations besties.

On getting an editor’s attention:

I don’t think there’s an inbound marketing role that will let you skate by without ever pitching an editor. Whether you’re contacting them about PR coverage, link building, guest blogging, syndication, you’ll probably get called up to bat at some point.

And publications get dozens or even hundreds of pitches per day, so you’ll be facing reaaally tough competition in their inbox. HubSpot content strategist and Agency Post editor Jami Oetting, gave great tips for getting noticed.

Favorite nuggets of wisdom:

  • “Why you matter” isn’t enough. I mean, yeah, you need to lay that out. But it’s just a start. When you’re pitching an editor, explain why you matter to their publication and why they should pay attention now, versus next month or later.
  • Don’t treat editors like customers. Writing for your own customers is very different from writing for other professionals in your industry. Always write for your audience – that changes from outlet to outlet, so your pitch should, too.
  • Be polite. It’s a bummer this even needs to be said, but it does. Don’t assume the editor didn’t read your pitch. Don’t follow-up incessantly – once is enough. And don’t call or direct message. For the dos: do read the publication’s guidelines before pitching, ask if they’d prefer whatever your pitching in a different format, and offer to work with them to bring your story to their standards.

Still feeling the FOMO?

I get it! Going through someone else’s scattered notes isn’t the same as going to an event yourself. While I can’t promise to teleport you to next year’s INBOUND (if I do figure that out, I’m using it for myself), I can point you in the right direction for more lessons from the conference.

INBOUND will be updating this blog post with links to slide decks and videos as they’re published. You can also follow their SlideShare account and YouTube channel for notifications when new stuff goes live.

Were you at INBOUND this year? Which sessions were your favorite?

Brittany Berger is a content marketer helping B2B companies and entrepreneurs create unicorn content that shows personality and demands attention. Connect with her on Twitter at @thatbberg.

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