When a few months ago Rand Fishkin let slip that he was going to be visiting Northern Ireland as part of a whirlwind tour of the emerald isle, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I and my buddy Kevin McCaffrey (who runs the successful Conversion Rate Services business here in Northern Ireland) decided to organise a small event and invited the whole NI digital marketing scene to come along and meet the man.
It’s an exciting time to be part of the digital industry in Northern Ireland. There’s a lot going on at the moment which is helping to boost this niche.
First of all, there’s an excellent education system in place which provides superb courses in various aspects of digital marketing. The University of Ulster has a great Digital Media Communication course (disclaimer: I contribute modestly to that course) and the Digital Marketing Institute has a range of courses and diplomas in digital marketing (disclaimer: I lecture for them as well).
Queen’s University also has a digital marketing programme, as does the Belfast Metropolitan College. So anyone who’s interested in digital marketing in Northern Ireland will have an abundance of top level courses to choose from.
Secondly, companies in Northern Ireland are increasingly embracing digital marketing as a way to grow their business. While compared to the likes of London we still have a ways to go here, overall we see more and more success stories arising when companies embrace digital marketing wholeheartedly.
These success stories are shared and celebrated through events such as the annual DANI Awards, which rewards the best digital campaigns across Northern Ireland (disclaimer: we won two DANI Awards a few weeks ago). The recent CultureTech festival in Derry/Londonderry is another example of a great digitally-themed event featuring top speakers and drawing big crowds.
Lastly, fuelled by all these growth factors we see more and more agencies establishing themselves in the digital marketing arena. Some are small specialised agencies focusing on one aspect of digital marketing, where others are more holistic agencies that offer a wide portfolio of services. My own employer Pierce Communications is the latter, having grown from a print & design agency in to a full-fledged creative agency with core strengths in design, web development, and digital marketing.
With all these digital companies trying to establish a foothold, Kevin and I thought it might be a good idea to have Rand discuss his approach to running a successful digital business.
While it’s no secret I have on occasion taken issue with SEOmoz’s output, I have huge respect for Rand as a businessman. The company he’s built and the corporate culture he’s fostered are highly admirable, and Kevin and I wanted to take the opportunity to have Rand explain his company’s TAGFEE culture to the Northern Irish digital scene.
In front of a crowd of around 30 of Northern Ireland’s finest digital marketers (we had 78 registrations, but as seems common with free events only around half showed up) Rand explained, in his usual enthusiastic speaking style, what TAGFEE meant and how his company embraced these ideals.
Afterwards pints were had, photos were taken, and stories were shared.
From left to right: Myself, Rand, some dude in the background,
Kevin, and Jordan McClements
We hope that Rand’s visit to Belfast can serve as a starting point for future local digital marketing meetups, and I’ll be abusing his name abundantly for that purpose (“previous speakers include SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin!”). I’m hoping we can turn this in to a regular event, with short talks from expert practitioners followed by a proper Belfast drinkathon.
On a personal note I got along great with Rand and his lovely wife Geraldine, and want to thank them both for taking the time out of their busy sight-seeing & event-speaking schedule to meet with local digital marketers. Rand said he’d definitely be back to Ireland, and when he does I’ll make sure a fresh pint of Guinness (without the nasty syrup!) will be waiting for him.