Members of the Manifest team recently participated in the St. Louis Ad Club’s Digital Symposium, where we rubbed elbows with 400 other marketers who are as embarrassingly passionate about digital marketing as we are.

Melissa Bouma, VP, Acquisition and Analytics, crushed it on the “Creating Content to Increase Brand Power” panel, while Melissa Lemberg, Regional President – West, introduced the day’s last keynote.

The symposium stimulated ample rich discussion around agile content marketing and data-driven content strategy. We boiled down our top five takeaways:

1) ABT: Always be testing

Taking chances with strategic tests was a theme of a number of sessions. From new technology like virtual reality and augmented reality to content marketing and beyond, digital is moving so fast that people and brands often can’t keep up. In a way, everything we do is a test. The key is, making your test a success. Know your goals and stay focused on your KPIs.

2) Look at your data from 10,000 feet

Visual IQ’s Tom Anderson used an analogy we loved: Data are like the works of Seurat, the master pointillist painter. When it comes to marketing, many individual data points exist, but it’s not until you step back that you can see that they combine into a full picture. To gain this level of insight, marketers need to take the right upfront steps to ensure they’re capturing, connecting and analyzing the right data. In other words, quality inputs lead to quality outputs.

3) Customer obsession is healthy obsession

No matter if you’re planning a social channel strategy or developing a content program, the most important thing you can do to ensure success is know whom you’re talking to. Understanding your core consumer is key when it comes to creating “right-time interactions” that drive relevance.

4) Work on the business to improve the work in the business

The presentation on “Convergence with Divergence” by Tomiwa Alabi, a senior human interface designer at Apple, got us thinking about not only the work we produce but also how we produce it. Each member of the team brings a unique perspective to creating solutions to client problems, and agencies need to continue to encourage diverse thoughts and perspectives.

5) Be authentic

When it comes to producing content and experiences it’s essential to be real and human. You can’t fake engaging content, and when it comes to community management, authenticity is essential. Marketers can’t hide or ignore negativity. Embrace brand controversy, treat audiences with respect, take responsibility and get ahead of any problems.