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For the last eight years, W2O Group has hosted a handful of invite-only events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. If you haven’t attended, this 100,000 person event hosted in Austin, TX has become a “must attend” for marketers, communication professionals, entrepreneurs and investors alike. While there is no shortage of panels, keynotes, networking events and concerts during what the veterans call “Southby,” we are big believers in creating a highly curated experience for our customers and partners to maximize the event. In addition to recommending the best health and tech panels, keynotes and parties to attend, we also produce two different thought leadership events and an awesome party featuring local BBQ (Terry Black’s this year) and top notch music (more on that soon).

If you’ve never been to one of our events, here are a few highlights from last year’s festivities.

If you want to dig deeper, you can read recaps and watch some of last year’s speakers talks here.

Note, all of our events are invite only. If you would like to attend, click on the event links below and select “Contact Organizer” to request the password. We review every request and promise to get back to you with either a password OR a good explanation why you might not be a fit (of course we prefer more of the former, and less of the latter).

Now, a little more detail about the events:

Friday, March 10th
7th Annual PreCommerce Summit | 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM
AT&T Executive Conference Center | 1900 University Ave, Austin, TX

The PreCommerce Summit is one of our signature events (one track/one day) and is free to the 350 invite-only attendees. The event consists of a series of brief keynotes,  10-minute TED-like talks mixed with select 20 minute fireside chats and by industry leaders. The focus is on business innovation and spans the health, tech and consumer industries.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dan Bartlett, former Counselor to the President (George W. Bush) and current EVP, Corporate Affairs, Walmart
  • Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Dropbox (@judithmwilliams)
  • Mike Clarke, Head of Analytics and Research, Google (@michaelfhclarke)
  • Torod Neptune, Corporate VP, Corporate Communications, Verizon (@torodneptune)
  • Francesca DeMartino, VP of Communications, Medtronic Diabetes (@GetFrescaFresh)
  • Brett Hurt, CEO and Founder, data.world (@databrett)
  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Chairman, Huntsworth
  • Robin Hauser, Director/Producer, Finish Line Features, LLC (@rubie226)
  • TK Keanini, Principal Engineer, Product Line CTO for Analytics, Cisco (@TKeanini)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Sysomos (@dberkowitz)
  • Melinda Richter, Head of Innovation and JLABS, Johnson & Johnson (@melindarichter)
  • Rohit Barghava, Author, Founder of the Influential Marketing Group (@rohitbhargava)
  • Bob Pearson, Author and President, W2O Group (@bobpearson1845)
  • Ray Kerins, SVP of Comms and Government Affairs, Bayer (@raykerins)
  • Steve Cragle, CMO, United Health (@slcragle)
  • Angela Gillespie, Chief Strategy Officer, Global Medtech Practice, W2O Group (@AG_medtech)
  • Jim Larrison, President & Co-founder, Dynamic Signal (@jlarrison)
  • Bryan Kramer, Author and CEO, Pure Matter (@bryankramer)
  • Amy Lamparske, Managing Director, W2O Group (@amylamparske)
  • Matt Dickman, Head of Digital, Comcast (@mattdickman)
  • Jeremiah Owyang, CEO, Crowd Companies (@jowyang)
  • Mark Stouse, CEO, Proof (@markstouse)
  • Lorie Fiber, VP of Communications, IBM Watson Health (@loriefiber)
  • Mike Huckman, Global Practice Leader, Executive Communications, W2O Group, (@mikehuckman)
  • Katrine Bosley, CEO, Editas Medicine (@ksbosley)

Saturday, March 11th

3rd Annual Movers & Shapers | 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM
The Parish, 214 E 6th Street, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers is our newest event and takes us back to our early roots of the PreCommerce Summit. With only 150 people in attendance, this event also leverages the 10-minute TED-like talk format with a few select fire side chats.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Jessica Mega, Chief Medical Officer, Verily
  • Jeff Haydock, VP Communications, (@jhaydock)
  • Dan Herscovici, SVP and General Manager, Xfinity Home (@danherscovici)
  • Stacey Higginbotham, Founder, SKT Labs LLC (Internet of Things Podcast) (@gigastacey)
  • Bret Greenstein, Vice President, Watson IoT Consumer and Volume Offerings, IBM (@brettgreenstein)
  • Ellen Jackowski, Sustainability Lead, Hewlett Packard
  • Chris Preuss Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Delphi (@cpreusscarwild)
  • Bryan & Amelia Thomas CEO/Co-Founder, PopUp Play (@popupplaytoy)
  • Larry Dobrow, Senior Editor, Medical Marketing & Media (@larrydobrow)
  • Nick van Terheyden, Chief Medical Officer, NTT DATA, Inc. (formerly Dell) (@drnic1)
  • Sandra Lopez, VP & GM of Wearables, Intel (@nycsf)
  • Asif Qasim, Clinical Director & Interventional Cardiologist, MedShr
  • Michael Plante, CMO, Inside Sales
  • Marie Baker, Senior Manager, Social Strategy and Community, Bayer (@marieveebee)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Sysomos (@dberkowitz)
  • Mark Stouse, CEO, Proof (@markstouse)
  • Stephanie Agresta, Author and Cofounder, Virago Group (@stephagresta)

8th Annual GeekACue6 PM – 10 PM
Historic Scoot Inn, 1308 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78702

This eight-year long tradition started with 50 employees and clients out at local BBQ legend, The Salt Lick and has evolved into a 700-person party. This year’s event will be at the historic Scoot Inn and will feature Terry Black’s BBQ and two amazing bands — LOLO (recently on the Bachelor) and Eric Tessmer.

We hope you can join us for some/all of our events. As you may have noticed, all of the events are password protected but if you click, “Contact Organizer,” you can request permission.

Last but not least, none of this happens with out the support of our sponsors (whom we like to call, “partners”). We encourage you to introduce yourself to their senior leaders at our events at SXSW. And if you’d like an introduction before then, we are more than happy to facilitate.

 

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Did Google Alphabet remember to google the letter “G” before they said, “G is for Google”?  We here at W2O Group are all about data mining and sometimes all that requires is the simplest of questions as well as the simplest of search tools.

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Scott Kramer & Franco Galimberti

PreCommerce Summit London

The W2O Group PreCommerce Summit London 2015 on Monday 14 September in London’s City Hall will focus on how we live, work and create in the digital world, and the challenges of the generational digital divide. With technology at our fingertips, we are living in a time where having multiple online personas is normal; work, life and play meaning that we have never been more empowered to control what information we want, when we want it and how we want it. But is being connected making us more disconnected?

Coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, our event convenes industry leaders, senior marketing and communications professionals, entrepreneurs, influential journalists and bloggers from across a broad range of industries and interests. Our distinguished panel includes:

·         Marvin Chow, Senior Director at Google

·         Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer

·         Anna Gruebler, Artificial Intelligence specialist

·         Dina Rey, Head of Digital at Roche

·         Kriti Sharma, VP Data Strategy at Barclays

·         Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel

·         Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF

We will be sharing more information about our panel, new members, as well as event highlights and topics in the coming weeks.

The event is by invitation only, so to reserve your seat, please do so early at W2O events.

See you on 14 September!

In my earlier post on the topic, I discussed using technology to stay connected to reporters. It’s pretty common these days for brands to make communications team members responsible for producing content on social properties and company blogs. If you are in a content production role, using some level of technology during the development process will result in more informed, relevant content overall.

These days, we’re swimming in data, and it makes sense that it gets confusing for a lot of folks in Comms or Marketing. That doesn’t mean you have to become a technologist or data scientist to gain some level of insight that informs the content you develop. In my experience, it’s an iterative process. Start somewhere, and expand from there. Find a few things that work for you, that you can incorporate into a daily (or at least regular) routine. Success will lead you down more specific paths.

While there are tools to help you get a sense for the content and the influencers that are moving the needle, there’s no substitute for real analytics insights. W2O Group’s analytics chops were a big part of why I decided to join the company in the first place. Understanding what content and topic trends with free tools is a start, knowing who the topic influencers are takes some real effort. Beyond that, we identify the sources that inform the influencers. Putting that level of insight together with a solid understanding of content is where the magic happens.

In my view, the best content strategy focuses on providing balance between things that matter to your customers, things that tie your company to broader industry trends in a seamless way and the things you want to communicate as a brand. In other words, you have to earn your way in to market to your customers.

Credibility Builders

A good place to start is to look more deeply at the analytics behind the content you’ve been publishing. If you work for a big, established brand that has regular social media reporting meetings, take advantage of them. Whether someone in your company’s analytics team or an outside agency delivers the results, ask questions. If you’ve got a lot of questions, ask the presenter or team to meet separately. Many times, those reports show trend level-level items in a week, month or quarterly basis. They’ll usually also show some level of reach. Those are both useful from a directional standpoint; but in my view, it’s more helpful to dig into engagement metrics at the content level. Whether you’re responsible for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or other social properties, engagement metrics are things such as Likes, Shares, Comments or retweets. When you’re looking at these metrics, pay attention to how they are helping acheive your objectives. Once you can get to this level of detail, keep it simple: do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not.

That’s definitely true in terms of managing blog content as well. Like I mentioned in my Content Hub post, there are a handful of metrics that really matter. In my view, the two most important are 1) the # of inbound links and 2) the # of shares into social platforms. Links (especially ones that come from other sites directly to your blog post) are the lifeblood of blogs. Inbound links are the best indicator that a blog post is hitting the mark. And speaking of social shes, if more people are sharing your blog post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or elsewhere, that’s validation they see value in the content itself. Data backs up that social shares continue to matter.

Beyond inbound links and social shares, I’d add time on site, # of comments and # of page views as blog traffic metrics that give you a good sense for what content’s working (or not). Working from the inside out, thinking about content from an external perspective, start with credibility builders I mentioned in the image above.

You’re probably already paying attention to things that matter to customers in terms of traditional media. In the digital realm, it’s as easy as reading comment threads on your company’s social properties (or @ replys to your company Twitter account). That’s how I found much of things that became systemic issues we needed to address on the Dell blog.  Regarding the broader trends part, when done well, adding your brand’s perspective to a broader industry trend makes your company relevant to a wider audience. Finding those trends quickly and efficiently is the hard part.

So, how can you get a better feel for what’s happening around the web? Using aggregation sites like Techmeme.com and Mediagazer.com (and the search feature they both offer), are a good place to start if you’re in the tech or media industry. Otherwise, Facebook and Twitter already offer some level of trending stories. Facebook’s Trending section tends to be consumer-oriented, but it does allow you to offer feedback on what types of stories you’re interested in seeing in your trending feed. Twitter’s Trends feature on the left hand side of your profile page offers a tailored view of what’s happening now, but much like Facebook, seems too general to be of much use in this context. Twitter recently unveiled Project Lightning curated news served real-time, but Instagram’s already rolled out its version and some feel Twitter will be playing catchup with it and Snapchat in this regard. The curated news space is heating up quickly, so there will be plenty more to come.

For now at least, here are three curated news tools I’ve used to help cut through the clutter:

  • Nuzzel – I just start using this service recently, after reading this article. In that short time, it’s become my favorite. It’s a service that surfaces the stories that your friends and connections shared most often. In other words, it delivers a curated list of headlines based on either your Twitter or Facebook contacts.
  • Newsle – This is a service LinkedIn purchased about a year ago. It surfaces stories that feature contacts in your LinkedIn network.
  • Prismatic – This one is a social news recommendation engine, but it doesn’t seem to be as closely tied to the people you follow.

And then there’s Google. They’ve been on a tear recently, starting with last week’s rollout of the redesigned Google Trends website, then launching YouTube Newswire. They followed it up this week by introducing the Google News Lab, and the related Google News Lab site. Even though Google positions all three as journalistic endeavors, I’d argue there’s usefulness for PR folks as well, specifically with Google Trends. At the very least, I think it’s worth following @GoogleTrends on Twitter.

In spending a bit of time on Google Trends, I’m impressed with the level of real-time data it makes available to anyone on the web. Beyond showing trending news and topics, it displays real-time demographic data, topic queries  and in some cases, questions users are asking related to those searches. And make no mistake, having access to real-time questions is massively valuable to brands, especially in issues management mode. I sure would have loved to have a tool like it back in my Dell days. Why? Answering those questions directly in the content your company publishes is the best way to ensure its relevance to customers and reporters.

A few quick examples:

Google Trends can show you changes in real-time in things like the 2016 Presidential race. Like this tweet where they show how Bobby Jindal’s announcement to run for President affected searches for Donald Trump, who had led earlier. Click on the image below to get to the before and after images.

Google Trends - Trump vs. Jindal

Going to the Explore section, you can enter your own topics to compare. One caveat: it only works for topics that have enough volume. Here’s a comparison between Facebook, Google and Twitter. The cool thing thing: it shows more than just a volume graph—it also allows you to see the demographic and query data for all three.

Google, Facebook and Twitter on Google Trends

But probably the best example is the U.S. Supreme Court rulings currently happening. The top section shows the most relevant articles. Those are the ones I’d read first, (and potentially link to), followed by Top Questions for the U.S. Supreme Court, plus separate top questions for U.S Supreme Court Justices and the Affordable Care Act, searches over time, search interest by state, etc. In other words, tons of real-time information. Click this link to go to the Google Trends page itself, or click the image below to see a larger version:

US Supreme Court - Google Trends

While I understand there’s a very limited and finite amount of time for Comms people to spend researching trends and news, finding some time is a worthwhile excercise in my book. There’s definitely a purpose here. I’ll blog more about that soon.

I have always enjoyed reading what David Cassak, Editor-in-Chief of The MedTech Strategist, has to say about medical devices and innovation.  Recently, I participated in a column written by David that was published in the April 13th issue of The MedTech Strategist.  Enjoy, Bob

The Column

The argument that digital health proponents often make as to why they healthcare industry needs to step up its game – and quickly – when it comes to digital technologies is simply that if the whole work is incorporating digital technology into its day-today existence, how can healthcare not follow along? If virtually everyone on the planet has made smart phones and similar devices integral to every day functions, healthcare can’t help but become part of the phenomenon.

Can a similar argument be made for Social Media? If Facebook and Twitter have become major media of communication, shouldn’t healthcare companies find a way to incorporate those channels into their communications efforts as well? As the accompanying chart suggests, medial device companies – to take just one segment of the healthcare industry – lag far behind consumer and tech companies in their use of Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook and generate dramatically fewer hits on Google and YouTube (See Figure 1). To be fair, more and more device companies are incorporating Social Media into a broader strategy that embraces a direct-to-consumer approach. Companies like sleep apnea specialist ResMed Inc., for example, diabetes company Dexcom Inc. or cold-therapy company MyoScience Inc. are not only aggressively using Social Media, they’re bringing on staff marketing folks who specialize in the media (See, “MysoScience: The Promise of Cold Therapy,” The MedTech Strategist, February 27, 2015)

Areas of online Influence

But effectively using Social Media isn’t simply a matter of racking up the most “likes” or hits. Bob Pearson, president and CIO of W2O Group, an integrated marketing agency powered by analytics, notes that all B2B and B2C populations follow what he calls “the 1, 9, 90 model” – i.e., “less than 1% of a population creates content, approximately 9% shares or moves content and 90% lurks and learns and benefits, via search mainly.” And he notes that device company customers – namely, hospitals and physicians – “are online, learning from each other today,” making it incumbent on medtech companies to begin to understand the 1% and 9% who create or share content “well enough to understand what [those customers] desire/need/ask about.” He says, “Patients, payors and other parties are often following each other and are learning form their communities.” More, he notes, providers aren’t just following providers. Thus the critical question Pearson poses is “What is the social media network that is shaping the market’s perception of a given device?”

Pearson insists that “it’s not all that important how many Facebook ‘likes’ a device company has.” That’s a nice metric, but largely irrelevant, he says. Rather, more important is whether device companies have “defined the exact audience that is shaping the market’s perception and activity related to a disorder or disease, a device or your company.”

Indeed, he says that while device companies are amazing at understanding which physicians are most important, how to train them and build relationships, nearly all such activities today are done in person and offline. “That same experience should continue online,” Pearson says.

But device companies can’t make customers and other influencers come to them. They “must become expert at Audience Architecture to identify, build and interact with their audiences in a highly engaging/content driven relationship.” In short, rather than just chasing “likes” or followers on any given social media channel, it’s about understanding your audience and how they’re participating in social media in all of its ramifications, and in particular, how that audience perceives and understands individual medical devices.

SXSW just ended in Austin, so we thought we would write this Millennials Unplugged post from the standpoint of “what matters to us”.  We’re not trying to create a better list of technology innovations.  We just talked this weekend about what we both care about. We also asked our W2O Millennial colleagues for their first-hand views, as well.   Here’s our SXSW summary. 

#1 – We are shifting from Call of Duty to Duty calls – Brittany grew up playing Call of Duty, often as well as the boys, who seemed to dedicate every waking hour to reaching the next level.  Well before women in tech was a theme, Brittany was waiting in line for the midnight launch of the newest Call of Duty game.  Just her and 100+ boys.  That was then.  Now, we see an explosion of wearables, 3D printing and, in particular, healthcare applications.  Bob always hoped that this generation who grew up on gaming would eventually apply their knowledge to the real world, although he was skeptical at times as he watched 5-6 kids shoot each other on screen, laugh and drink a diet pepsi. But it looks like it’s happening.  Kids used to spend time teaching others cheats and tricks of the trade for video games.  Now, we are realizing that as millennials get older, they will start applying tremendous technical knowledge to innovation that may not have been so obvious to us parents.  Yes, fellow parents, our kids did pick up new skills we didn’t fully appreciate.  And as their skills widen beyond Call of Duty to applications in life, it also opens up more opportunities for women in technology.  Duty calls and millennials are ready to surprise us with their innovative ideas.

#2 – Virtual Reality Drives Healthcare Reality – we are living in a time when we have tremendous technology advances and we have a health system in flux due to the Affordable Care Act.  Our colleague, Anke Knospe of Twist said “SXSW helped solidify that virtual reality is truly taking shape and offers potential far beyond video and gaming. Physicians have already been using aspects of virtual reality to conduct surgeries or help treat psychiatric/neurologic conditions, but video games and VR may even show promise as diagnostic tools and could potentially help improve the drug development process.”  Anke’s right, but what she said next is profound.  “While highly scientific, healthcare typically hasn’t been known to be the most innovative and, in the past, hasn’t attracted the (millennial) geek squad that has helped push social media/tech into a new era. The fact that we are now starting conversations around using video games and VR in healthcare and that companies like Akili are working on out of the box ideas like developing a video game to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage are speaking to the fact disruptive thinkers are no longer steering clear of pharma and healthcare.”  Anke, we both believe you are right.  It is becoming cool to innovate in healthcare for millennials and beyond.  Let’s go!

#3 – Let’s break down the walls to connect and share – anyone who does this wins.  That’s why we like Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat and iBeacons.  Help us connect faster?  Heck, even Bob likes that.  Help us live stream video to twitter?  No brainer.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  The three things we both care about.  Meriel McCaffery of WCG added a very interesting observation. She said “Considering the (snails) pace with which some companies adapt basic social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), this for me underlines that we need to continue to push our clients and, as an industry, are obligated to make our clients uncomfortable.”  Meriel’s right in our book.  Technology makes innovation possible.  Consultants push the envelope related to what is possible.  It’s like Reese’s.  Have to have chocolate and peanut butter or it just doesn’t work the same.  At least that’s what Brittany says.  Bob’s on a diet.

#4 – Being a real person online matters…..a lot – it’s not all about technology.  We’re people and we care about making connections and doing the right thing.  Taylor Carr of WCG provided a great summary of what he believes matters about better understanding human behavior.

Unconscious Bias conversation – Sometimes, we don’t even understand our decisions, or why we’re making them.  We all loved Judith Williams of Google’s talk at PreCommerce who made us all think about what we do and why we do it.

Empathy at scale – Taylor really loved the Covey quote that was included in this presentation, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Business today is tasked with actually understanding and listening to its audience.

  • It’s All About Strength – Truly tapping into people’s strengths and passions to really unleash them within their organization. In order to do that, you really have to deeply understand them.  Great talk from Mason Nelder of Verizon

Taylor said why this matters.  “We wear a lot of hats. Communicators, marketers, consultants, etc. Today, it’s becoming more important we add some others to our portfolio. Those of sociologist, psychologist and more. Digital technologies like our analytics tools are starting to allow us to “listen” to audiences, but a crucial layer isn’t just listening, but understanding them. Their behavior, emotions, habits, tendencies and more.

#5 – How about just getting to the point? Samantha Hershman of WCG was inspired by Al Roker’s talk and his point to do just that…..get to the point.  She said “I find Al Roker to be an extremely interesting person and appreciated his whole take on digital communications today. What I found impactful was when he talked about what we’re learning about consumers this year, as opposed to last year, and he said that consumers really just want people to be honest with them. He continued to say that consumers are looking for more value in their daily tasks – pretty much they want people to get to the point.”

#6 — Societal benefits of technology are important – a great example is a company started in Austin by Stephen Garten and Scott Jacobs called Charity Charge.  This new company, which was one of 10 companies selected by IBM at SXSW as a key social business start-up is “a for profit benefit corporation focused on creating giving tools that allow people to make the world a better place through simple actions. You use a credit card to earn 1% cash back donations to help the charities of your choice charge forward.”  Perhaps the next Toms is starting right in our backyard?  Let’s hope.

#7 – Automate our lives, please – yes, automated cars are good.  Energy transfer by wifi (Witricity)to allow us to not carry cords in our backpacks or charge an electric car in the future is good.  We’re not scared of what’s next.  Yes, bring it on.  The no brainer of no-brainers for both millennials and boomers. Automation will soon not only assist, but replace the need for human intervention and operators.  That sounds more cool than scary to us.

That’s what we know.  Enjoy, Brittany and Bob Pearson

Our next column will be on Facebook.

We just completed an awesome series of events during SXSW in Austin.  We heard from leaders of key companies (Intel, Verizon), leading online companies (Twitter, Google),  leading thinkers (David Kirkpatrick/Techonomy, VJ Yoshi), leading innovators (Witricity) and leaders in media (Al Roker, Bloomberg).

We created this content capsule with our friends at NextWorks so that we could share the presentations, blog posts, videos and photos with you directly.  This is designed so that you can share it internally with your teams or simply share it with your network via social channels.

On behalf of our partners at Sysomos, DataSift, Clarabridge, Business Wire, SprinklrBayer and Synthesio, we hope you can join us next year at our PreCommerce Summit, GeekFest and Geek-a-Cue.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the summary of what we have learned from some of the smartest people in our business.

Enjoy, Bob




Just when you thought the internet couldn’t get any more endless, ICANN, the non-profit dedicated to maintaining the namespaces of the internet, decided to release hundreds of new domain extensions known as GTLDs (generic top-level domains)  We currently have about 22 GTLDs.  These are the .com, .us, .biz, .net and other addresses you’re used to visiting.  Add to these the country level domains: .es for Spain, .it for Italy, .co.uk for the United Kingdom, and so on.  Soon there are going to be over a hundred more.  Think .luxury, .cool, expert, .dating, .guru, .clothing, and more.  Particularly vexing for marketers is the new ‘.sucks’ domain.

In what amounts to super-highway robbery, the company that won the registration rights for .sucks, Vox Populi Registry – owned by the Momentus Corporation, is asking trademark owners to fork over a jaw-dropping $2,499 to own a yourbrand.sucks domain.  If brand owners are not ready for that level of investment, they can block the branded domains for a mere $200 per year.  After an early-bird “sunrise” period, irate consumers will have access to what remains for $250.  It will be an arms race for brand-bashing territory, with most of the competition made up of cyber-squatters hoping for a big legal settlement once they’ve made enough noise.

Robberyer
Cyber-Squatter in Traditional Attire.  Source: Wikimedia Commons

This may sound complex but it really isn’t.  The one word that describes all of this is coercion.

This is a new game of internet whack-a-mole.  If you’re a proactive marketer and buy up your company’s trademarked domain during the sunrise period, you’d better account for every permutation imaginable.  Just shelling out for yourbrand.sucks doesn’t cover the creative genius who will snap up yourbrandREALLY.sucks and yourbrandTOTALLY.sucks soon after.  The promise of .sucks is consumer advocacy and it could have some viable, humanistic uses through cancer.sucks and hunger.sucks.  Some pessimists may have finally found their promised land on everything.sucks.  At best, you can buy your domain and direct people to a customer service portal if they’re taking the time to type a .sucks domain in their navigation bar.  But the real problem with these infinite GTLDs is that there is no end for the marketer with a finite budget.

Many major brands are not bothering with the GTLDs.  Aeropostale.clothing and Burberry.clothing are currently registered by squatters. These brands made a decision to ignore the hype and invest instead in empowering their existing domains.  This may be the best approach because it is only a matter of years before domains like .istheworst, .stinks, and .hatestheircustomers join the fray.  So ignoring it is always an option..but what does .sucks mean for SEO?

In 2012, Matt Cutts from Google had the following to say about GTLDs:

“Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

In other words these new domains won’t get any special ranking, but they won’t get left out of the ranking either.  Being brand new, these domains don’t have anything behind them when they first launch, but the eager consumer advocate can get a site up and running and full of torch-wielding product-reviewers in no time.  Even smarter consumer advocates will take the review site they’ve been running for years and move it to the new domain with 301 redirects and social media promotion so they can get fresh inbound links and still benefit from Google’s ‘Query Deserves Freshness’ SEO value.  New things on the internet sometimes find their way to popularity.

After reading all this you must think the sky(net) is truly falling.  The domains are going to keep proliferating, they’ll always be one step ahead of you, and even if you try to keep up, a popular .sucks site could eat your lunch.  But this game is nothing new.  We had the same emotional response to social media and the democratization of product reviews.  But social media has opened up an entirely new means of reaching and engaging with consumers.  Brands have seen net promoter scores skyrocket in response to engaging social media campaigns and a great review on Amazon or Yelp can mean the world to a brand.  Already, individuals can amass thousands of followers on twitter under a @YourBrandSucks handle and spend the whole day spitting vitriol about their negative experience.  Brands can engage with that user and do everything they can to solve their problem, converting them into positive influencers.  The means have changed and your opportunities have grown.

Brand equity is important, and if you have the money and anticipate negativity it may be worth locking up whatever you can while you still have the chance.  But for the most part, if you don’t run a vacuum cleaning business, it’s probably not worth buying into [dot]sucks.  New platforms emerge everyday.  There is far more traffic on Facebook and tumblr and snapchat than there will be on any .sucks site for a long while. If you have limited hours, limited dollars, and a legion of fans out there, focus on connecting with them in the places they spent their time.  In doing so you’ll have the back up you deserve if the haters come calling.

Three of our speakers in the morning of the Precommerce Summit covered diverse topics, from the impact of visualization to understanding bias in the workplace.  In an era of “infobesity” how can brands stand out, and at the same time how can brand leaders build effective teams that can achieve high performance. Our three speakers shared perspective on how these can be relevant in today’s marketing world.

Jessica Gioglio (Head of Creative Lab – Sprinklr) – From Meh to Marvelous: Standing out in the Era of Infobesity

BIO: Jessica Gioglio is a Social Media Strategist and recognized thought leader who specialized in content and community engagement. Throughout her career, Gioglio has been a valuable contributor to the social media and communications teams at Dunkin’ Donuts, TripAdvisor, State Street and Comcast. In addition to be a featured speaker at numerous social media and technology conferences, Gioglio covers social media best practices for the Convince&Convert blog. She also founded and runs The SavvyBostonian, a Boston-based lifestyle blog. Finally, she published her first book (co-authored with Ekaterina Walter) in 2014, “The Power of Visual Storytelling”

Jessica Gioglio

Jessica opened talking about the genesis of the term “Infobesity,” using it to describe the current state of social media.  Today, more information is being shared across social channels than ever before.  Every 48 hours we are producing the same amount of content than has been created since the beginning of time to 2003.  To stand out, we need to take several steps:

1) Embrace Visuals to Tell Your Story 

Visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text, and over 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.  As an example, TSA uses Instagram to share extreme examples of what people try to get through the airport.  The images are true to the brand voice and objectives, educating the public about their mission.

2) Content Personalization – Personalize, Don’t Spray

Personalizing visual content is a key way to help content resonate with audiences.  L’Oreal partnered with LinkedIn to develop the “Are You In” program, creating custom shareable visuals.  This was very strategic in engaging women professionals who are also important consumers.

3) Be Timely and Relevant in a Way that Adds Value

In the era of social media, relevant content can take on a life of its own.  SmartCar leveraged this concept best when replying to  @adtothebone’s tweet mentioning a bird crapping on a Smart Car by creating a timely infographic about the weight of bird crap to damage a car.  The response was consistent with SmartCar’s smart, cheeky persona (and in my opinion, brilliant).

4) Create Content with Brand Advocates

Audience members who are advocates of a brand can enable and enhance content campaigns online, and employees (when guided properly) can jump start the effort.  Dunkin’ Brands did a content integration with Shark Week, creating the “Take a bite, take a pic” selfie contest.  Brand advocates made the campaign work because of their passion for the brand and the level of participation.

5) Surprise and Delight

Looking for ways to surprise audiences visually can also be very effective.  BenefitBeauty on Twitter will reply with custom “pick me up” phrases to inspire.

Jessica concluded succintly stating, “Cut through the clutter with remarkable experiences to achieve success.”  Well said.
Mason Nelder (Director of Social Media and Digital Strategy – Verizon) – Leveraging a Strengths Culture to Scale Insights

Bio: Mason Nelder currently serves as the Director of Social and Digital Strategy for Verizon Communications. He is a communications and social business strategist, primarily focusing on social media and digital strategy.  With over ten years of digital experience from startups to Fortune 20, he’s a collaborator, strategist and speaker who has sparked culture change, improved business communication and persuasively mandated business innovation. .

Mason Nelder

If statistics hold true, 65-70% of all of us are not working within our strengths. Mason shared the approach to designing, hiring and building the Verizon Central Insights team to ensure that the team was set up for success and leveraging team members’ strengths to achieve a high performing team.

When we work within our strengths, working is easy because that’s where the largest potential is.  Mason showed the formula:

TALENT  x  INVESTMENT = STRENGTH (consistent, near-perfect performance)

So how do you position this within a company to scale?  For Verizon Central Inisghts, Mason created the Insights Ecosystem, mapping four different personality types and skill sets that could be showcased as strengths in his team:

1) Research and Trends
2) Marketing Science
3) Analytics
4) Insights
5) Insights Enablement

Last group is key to ensuring all parts of the team is working together – creating a framework, linking technology and interacting with the business community and driving governance.  This is typically the weakest link in most organizations.

Most groups do not hire to their strengths and put people in roles that are a mismatch.  For example, taking project managers and having them in roles to focus on providing advanced analytics.  When people are in roles that leverage strangths, quality and output improves and happiness levels go up.

 

Judith Williams (Global Diversity & Inclusion Programs Manager – Google) – Unconscious Bias: Little Things Make a Big Difference

Bio: Judith Williams is the Global Diversity and Talent Programs Manager at Google where she supports engineering and the technical side of the company. Before joining Google, Judith was an entrepreneur, a human resources consultant and a college professor. She co-founded, Wallace Williams Global, LLC, a strategic diversity and inclusion consulting practice. Prior to creating WWG, she was a Research Director for the Corporate Leadership Council where she consulted with global human resources executive issues.

Judith Williams

“Unconscious bias” is errors or flaws that occur as we process information.  If you make a mistake in the context of identifying friends and foes, the cost is very high.  We receive 11 million bits of data in every moment.  We are 99.999996% unconscious because we can’t process that amount of data.

Several types of bias:

1) Social biases – Preferences to be with “someone like me”
2) Memory biases – The way we remember information based on patterns of prior behavior
3) Decision making biases or confirmation biases – Seeking out information that confirms our viewpoint
4) Probability and belief biases – Overvaluing information that is easily accessible to us, and assuming it has more value than it does without the right sample size

These biases are acting on us all the time and change the way we view the world.

Google is starting out with a large education campaign “Unconscious Bias @ Work” and “Bias-Busters,” role playing real scenarios.  One example is the learning that~10% of YouTube videos were uploading upside-down through iOS uploader. Turns out none of the engineers of the app were left handed, and videos are filmed horizontally in a different way.

To address biases, it’s important to commit to actions:

1) Structure for Success
2) Collect Data
3) Evaluate Subtle Messages
4) Hold Everyone Accountable

Think about the questions you might not be asking because of your blind spots.

For more information on our SXW2O events and our speakers, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com