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There are three certainties in life… death, taxes and the fact that our company, W2O Group, will once again be hosting some awesome events during SXSW Interactive. Unless you live under a rock, you know this is one of the largest interactive conferences on this planet. Over 100,000 of the top digital, social and mobile minds from around the world haling from companies large and small, agencies, startups, etc. come to Austin, TX to network, attend panels and catch up on the latest trends. Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, senior marketing and communications professionals and journalists who report back on who is doing what in the interactive space.

Because a significant number of our clients at W2O Group (WCG, Twist and BrewLife) are now involved with SXSW Interactive, over the last six years we have developed a series of events during SXSW that complement all of the activities that go on during that time. Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on March 12 (Thursday) from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like H&R Block, Google, Twitter, Verizon, Intel and Bayer. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, NBC and Bloomberg providing industry insights. Did we mention that we are honored to have none other than Al Roker, co-anchor of the Today Show, and a special fireside chat between Tech moguls, David Kirkpatrick (author of The Facebook Effect) and Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi (former EVP of printing at Hewlett Packard)?

We are interviewing a number of these speakers on our blog here.

ALRoker

Jon Harris (former head of comms at Hillshire Brands and media personality), will be interviewing Al at our event. You can hear more in our Live from Stubbs interview with Jon here on what he and Al will cover.

This event will be attended by about 400 plus customers and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event via UStream if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public (RSVP here).

We will also host a digital brunch at our (not so) new office located in East Austin. If you like food trucks (hint: Gordoughs will be one), music, cocktails and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in digital. This year, we’re planning to host our first GeekFest on Saturday at The Austonian between 10am – 2pm. We have 12 speakers including Becky Brown, VP of media at Intel and TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope to give 15 minute talks with some time for Q&A every 3-4 talks. We will have no more than 70 people in attendance. This event is being sponsored by Synthesio.

In addition to our PreCommerce Summit (selected talks from last year’s event), Digital Brunch and Geekfest, we will also host our sixth annual Geek-a-Cue Saturday night at the historic Charles Johnson House (on the Colorado River). This is the house MTV uses to host its SXSW Music parties so you know it’s good. We were sad to not host our Geek-a-cue for a fourth time at world famous Franklin’s BBQ, but with their new expansion we simply ran out of room. Not to worry, however, because we are pleased to bring you one of Austin’s newest gems, Terry Blacks. While we won’t pretend anyone can cook brisket like Aaron Franklin… the Black brothers (their grandfather is Terry Black who opened Blacks in Lockhart 83 years ago) come pretty damn close.

Oh, did we mention that we have two AMAZING bands this year as well? For openers, we’ll have Austin favorite, Monte Montgomery. And then for our main act, we are featuring Black Joe Lewis (yes, that Black Joe Lewis that has appeared on Letterman and countless music festivals).

Check out my 2014 wrap up post to get a better flavor of the awesomeness you will experience this year.

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

  • Friday, March 13th: Digital Brunch (400+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (no password required)
    • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin
    • 10:00 AM – 2 PM
    • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
    • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am
  • 6th Annual Geek-a-cue: Saturday, March 14th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
    • Charles Johnson House – 404 Atlanta Street, Austin, TX
    • 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
    • To RSVP contact info@w2ogroup.com (space is limited)

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Sysomos, DataSift, ClarabridgeSprinklr, Businesswire and Bayer as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.

I tuned in to listen in on some of the Windows 10 details Microsoft shared last week. They shed light on features users can expect when the company rolls out the operating system later this year. Before last week’s news, Microsoft had already made it clear that  a big part of the Windows 10 strategy is to unify the code base that runs across devices.  In case you didn’t follow, Terry Myerson’s post on Blogging Windows does a good job highlighting a lot of those features. And if you want to dig further into some of the news, here’s a page on Techmeme that highlights much of the online activity that happened soon after Microsoft’s Windows 10 event. One of the biggest aspects of what Microsoft announced: Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first year after it is commercially available.

Microsoft Windows 10 details

So, why do this? It’s the simplest way to a large user base. And that’s key for attracting developers. Microsoft is offering  the free Windows 10 upgrade to licensed users of Windows 8.1 (and Windows 8) , Windows 7 and Windows Phone 8.1. A few numbers to consider:

I couldn’t find confirmed numbers of Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 users. But even without them, getting a fraction of the millions of users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free will help Microsoft get more developers on board. There’s no question Apple (and Google) deserve much credit for changing the PC landscape. These days, developers and the platform apps they write are the key to success or failure of a platform. Much of the shift Apple started was getting developers to focus on mobile and tablet app development for the iPhone and the iPad. Google has also attracted legions of programmers to write smartphone and tablet apps, but there’s no question Apple still has a big lead in getting developers to write tablet-focused apps for the iPad. It’s been well-documented  that Microsoft is behind here, both in terms of getting developers to focus creating apps for Windows Phone and tablet-optimized versions of those apps. While the nature of apps developers write has changed, attracting developers to code for a platform is still the name of the game.

Years ago, long before Windows 8 was ready to ship, I wrote a post that Microsoft’s Windows 8 gamble just might work. Back then, I thought the plan was to ship Windows 8 with a unified code base. We now know that will happen with Windows 10. As everyone knows, there are no guarantees in the tech industry, even for well-established players like Microsoft. When you look Microsoft’s plans to complete development of its next-generation operating system and that it will roll it out as a free upgrade for many Windows users, and you compare that to their recent moves to offer Microsoft Office on Android and iOS devices, no one can accuse the company of playing it safe.  It may be too early to say Microsoft is cool, but it is clear that Microsoft isn’t afraid to change the way it does business to change with the times.

Last week, when Google unveiled the Nexus 5 smartphone and Android 4.4 (otherwise known as KitKat), the news dominated the front page of Techmeme. I wasn’t surprised since flagship smartphone launches and official mobile OS updates always generate lots of interest around the web.

Android 4.4 KitKat on Techmeme

What did surprise me was the fact that Google is putting so much effort into memory optimization. That means Android 4.4 can now run on older phones and smartphones with more modest specs. The minimum memory requirement for KitKat is now 512MB. This is noteworthy in my opinion because this is the biggest step I can remember Google taking to address Android fragmentation. The details of just how fragmented the Android universe really is may vary a bit, but what’s not up for debate is that there are a heck of a lot of people using smartphones running old versions of Android. One reason getting more users on the latest version of Android makes sense is that it simplifies work for developers. They can write and test fewer versions of apps than they’ve had to in the past. Theoretically, this could translate into more smartphone and tablet apps being made for Android devices.

Let me switch gears a bit to talk about some Android history. Back in 2010, I took note when Google hired Matias Duarte from Palm. He was the guy that wowed the crowd at CES when just about everyone in the industry had written off the Palm OS. Even though it didn’t ultimately reverse Palm’s fortunes, he gave them a chance. Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) was the first Android version Google released with input from Matias. Thanks to Project Butter, the early reaction from reviewers was that Android 4.0 ran much smoother than previous versions and there was something new called Google Now.

Update from Lionel: Speaking of Matias Duarte, the folks at The Verge just posted a video interview with him and other key folks from Android’s dev team:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLoA_dvVMOA[/youtube]

At the time, the latest version of Android I had tried was Gingerbread, which originally came out in December 2010 (and it’s still one of the most common versions of Android that people are running even today). Back then, I had written off Android as an interesting experiment that did not offer a cohesive user experience. To me, it felt like functions in Gingerbread were bolted on—it seemed that Android was a phone OS for geeks.

Still, I figured it was worth buying the original $200 Nexus 7 tablet Google introduced with Jelly Bean to see what had changed since Matias and team had been working on a new Android version. Turns out I was blown away. Android 4.1 ran smooth as I had read in the reviews. It also offered a much more seamless and integrated experience. So many parts of the new OS seemed more visual. With Jelly Bean, Android as a whole was a much more polished OS. And my favorite part was Google Now. It was amazing a year ago when they introduced it, and since then, they’ve made it better.

So, why does this matter? 1) As this plays out, it looks like Android fragmentation will finally start to improve and 2) More importantly, many customers with older or lower-end smartphones will finally get the chance at the latest Android experience that includes polished Google standard apps (Google Maps, Chrome, etc.), the Google Play Store and Google Now.

Those are all good things in my book. Even if you’re not an Android fan, more competition in the mobile space means a higher bar for iOS 7 and Windows Phone iterations.

October was a big month for social media, with updates and new features across all channels. Keep your clients up-to-date and socialize what’s new! If you would like to be featured in the November updates, please let us know!

What you need to know in October:

  • Users Can Now Edit Facebook Posts
    • Facebook users can now go back and edit posts (including status updates and images) after they have been posted. All engagement on a post will not be lost, as opposed to previously deleting a post/comment. http://w.cg/16pz9S
    • Why it matters: While this feature is only available to users and not brand pages, brands must be aware of what fans are posting to ensure they do not change the copy after the comment goes live,
    • What you have to say about it: “This new feature makes it easier to make changes on the go – which is entirely necessary in today’s world. I would imagine I am not alone in making most of my Facebook status updates from my mobile device and am looking forward to be able to edit those when needed, no matter where I am.” – Kendra Cassillo, Account Manager, Health, Los Angeles, CA
  • Facebook Graph Search – Updates
    • Facebook is making it easier for users to search for topics of interest. This update will make almost anything posted accessible to other users and keeps Facebook conducive to real-time conversation. http://w.cg/16pzhAV
    • Why it matters: Facebook is becoming a one stop shop. Brands can easily follow conservation about their products/offerings via Facebook, as well as understanding what fans are saying about competitors. The more time users are spending on Facebook (to seek information), the greater the opportunity to reach fans.
    • What you have to say about it: “This is a much-appreciated update for marketers, providing an alternative to Twitter as the go-to source for trending news.  We’ll be able to conduct real-time searches for publicly shared content. This offers a wealth of new competitive insights and consumer research that can be quickly gleamed through keyword searches into everything from competitors to  product attributes and all things important your friends and followers. For local market perspective, you can search by location to garner conversation threads for a particular city, offering insights for market-specific campaigns. From an engagement perspective, the new content searching enhancements provide quick and painless ways for brands to tap into timely events and conversations with posts that are relevant in the moment.” – Peter Duckler, Director, Earned Media, Los Angeles, CA
  • Facebook Simplifies Ad Buying
    • Facebook is simplifying the ad buying process by asking advertisers to choose their objectives from a list of options and then selecting where the ad will appear on Facebook. http://w.cg/1aWZxkt
    • Why it matters: The easier it is for brands to advertise, the more inclined they will be to do so. Advertising leads to more social recognition, which boots levels of engagement. The advertising will do the talking, while brands watch to see which campaigns are most effective.
    • What you have to say about it: “Previously, a lot went into implementing the most effective Facebook ads. It looks like Facebook is now taking steps to demystify their ad buying process by walking users through some of the more confusing steps and decisions. This is going to make it easier for clients to get their ads in front of the audiences they want. It’s also going to be easier for users to find out which images and campaigns are most effective. So ads are demystified, and our jobs are made easier. This is win-win! – Todd Dwyer, Analytics Manager,  Austin, TX
  • Facebook Ads – Across Platforms
    • Facebook advertisers can now target users across multiple devices, from desktop to mobile, thanks to a new self-serve tool that brings retargeted ads to Facebook’s mobile app.  http://w.cg/1bGNSrM
    • Why it matters: Companies can target consumers who visited their website or downloaded their app, but didn’t make a purchase.
    • What you have to say about it: “Companies are going to be able to reach consumers who may have visited their site, but didn’t necessarily make a purchase. I can see customers getting annoyed with this because they don’t want updates from a company that they are not purchasing from. Ads going on people’s mobile phone will be frustrating because with mobile, the ads are removed and scrolling through the feed is less distracting than on a desktop. I appreciate not seeing ads on my personal devices.” – Gage Grammer, Marketing Associate, Austin, TX
  • Twitter Allows DM from any Follower
    • Twitter users can now opt to receive direct messages from any of their followers. http://w.cg/Hx8fOz
    • Why it matters: This opens lines of communication between brands and their followers and influencers, making it much easier to connect with influencers, receive contact information, etc.
    • What you have to say about it: “This is key for brands who utilize social media for influencer outreach and real-time feedback. For clients like Verizon, who have spent a lot of time and effort establishing relationships and connections with influencers via Twitter, this new feature is a much needed update and opening for more meaningful conversations with both influencers, followers and potential customers in a social, yet a bit less public, forum. It’s amazing to me that this was not an update earlier since so many companies have a strong Twitter presence today.”- Lauren Barbiero, Associate, Media and Engagement, New York, NY
  • Twitter Suggests Followers Via Mobile
    • A Twitter update will now suggest which accounts a user should follow by sending push notifications via mobile. http://w.cg/18GTC1r
    • Why it matters: Your brand wants to be a top player in the “suggested follower” game. The more real-time/relevant conversation produced by your brand, the more users will be able to relate and pick-up on what you’re saying, thus, gaining followers and becoming a suggested account to follow.
    • What you have to say about it: “What you have to say about it: “I think that this is a nice, straightforward way to potentially characterize ROI for clients. Since Twitter’s suggestions will be based on engagement, this will be a great opportunity for us to encourage our clients to produce more engaging content to improve their “suggestibility”, and subsequently, to reach their potential audience.” – Jane Hurh, Analytics Associate, New York, NY
  • Embedded Tweets Now Include Photos
    • In an attempt to maintain its real-time marketing appeal, Twitter announced that embedded Tweets will now feature photos. http://w.cg/1aWZOE1
    • Why it matters: Strong visuals are more important than ever. Fans can now scroll through their feed, without that extra click to view an image, and will stop to pay attention to the photos that strike their interest and are above average. Your brand wants to be that brand.
    • What you have to say about it: “I think this speaks to how interactive media has become and appealing to all audiences. When reading a news story I want more than just great writing; I want to see a side-bar with a photo slide show or maybe a 90-second video along with it. Twitter is reminding users that this is one-stop shopping and I love it.” – Christiana Pascale, Healthcare Associate, New York, NY
  • Should Your Company be on Google+
    • While only 35% of big companies are on Google+, they are benefiting via Google. These brands are gaining SEO, properly utilizing hashtags and ahead of the YouTube game. http://w.cg/16zyiPb
    • Why it matters: Sooner or later Google+ is going to be a great platform for brands to have, especially if fans can’t comment on your valuable YouTube content without it. Your brand will also be more searchable, which will boost engagement amongst competitors. If your fans are on it, you might consider it as well.
    • What you have to say about it: “There’s more to engaging stakeholders than the tool you use to connect. It’s about understanding where your stakeholders are, how to meet them there and inspire them forward around what your brand or company offers. Learning about their current behaviors and interests will make the engagement more authentic and effective, helping them to make easier purchasing decisions. Google+ might just be the right platform through which your brand or company can engage, but it shouldn’t be just because it’s the second most-used social network worldwide.” – Abigail Rethore, Director, Corporate Strategy, New York, NY
  • YouTube Comments Ranked, Personalized
    • YouTube is rolling out a new commenting system powered by Google+ which aims to fix the issue of spamming in comments. Comments will be ranked based on several things, including if the commenter is in your Google+ circle. http://w.cg/Hx8usY
    • Why it matters: Influencers can comment on your videos, ranking higher than spam comments, keeping relevant comments higher and conversation between brand and influencer easier to track/follow.
    • What you have to say about it: “I’m interested to see how Google+ based rankings will play out. I worry that Google+ relationships don’t have enough data to make an automated algorithm deliver relevant content and that Google is forcing the channel onto consumers. In addition, adding the ability for brand pages to blacklist certain words will likely make brands more willing to engage, but this could also be a detriment to organic conversation – brands could potentially blacklist competitors’ products, or negative comments about the brand. This provides them with some ease of mind, but could also strip away honest conversation (which is ostensibly the reason that people like to engage online in the first place). – Stephen Yoon,  Manager, Corporate Strategy/Analytics, New York, NY
  • Pinterest  Expands Pins
    • Pinterest announced that article pins will now include the headline, author, title, a brief description and link, right on the pin, making it easier for users to save, organize and share articles. http://w.cg/17ZX33Y
    • Why it matters: Users can pin now, read later. This means that instead of browsing over your content and forgetting about it, they can pin it and it will be saved for them, expanding the content users save/read about your brand.
    • What you have to say about it:  As an avid pinner, it is frustrating when I do not understand the story behind a great photo or where the content originates. Pinners can now access more information on topics they care about from sites – and sources – they trust, knowing that the click-through won’t take them to a dead link. The photos uploaded with these expanded pins are going to need to continue to compete with Pinterest eye-candy and not rely on the links and copy to get attention of readers, because let’s face it, it’s hard to focus on too many words when you staring at a gorgeous shot of homemade lasagna that is made with only three easy steps.” – Jessica Carlson, Account Director, Chicago, IL

For more detailed information, please view our deck

Samantha HershmanErin Weinert, Amanda Cillo, & Michel’le Roddy, Consumer Team

 

 

 

The day Apple introduced the iPod was the day it ceased being just a computer company – not that many people realized that at the time. In fact, Steve Jobs may have been the only one who did. But over the next few years, as succeeding and improved iterations of the pocket music player came out, the idea gradually sunk in that Apple had expanded beyond the realm of the Macintosh.

The notion became permanently etched into the public’s consciousness with the subsequent introductions of the iPhone and iPad. Sure, Apple continued to produce evermore powerful, functional, and sophisticated computers and laptops. But Apple had morphed into a lifestyle company: a purveyor of tools and technologies that make our lives more pleasant, to some degree easier and, in many ways, more portable.

What Apple and Steve Jobs figured out was how those tools and technologies perfectly linked to one another to create a unified whole that redefined for the world what Apple was and what it was capable of doing and giving us.

In a similar vein, it’s unlikely that anyone who draws a paycheck from Nike thinks of the company as a shoemaker. When Bill Bowerman, the exceptional University of Oregon track coach, borrowed his wife’s waffle iron in the 1960s to make the sole for his ideal running shoe, he launched Nike. Little about the company today would be familiar to him.

Today, the company’s Nike+ system allows runners to monitor and track each workout by means of sensors in their shoes to download data through Bluetooth into devices like iPhones. Via a Nike Internet platform, runners can share performance data online and receive customized advice from Nike coaches. Now that’s something Coach Bowerman would have loved.

But that’s only one small part of what Nike does and is capable of today.

Amazon and Google

Amazon is not just an online bookseller. In addition to selling just about any and all consumer products, Amazon is now in direct competition to Netflix, streaming its own movie and TV series catalogues. Rumor has it that Amazon wants to get into the cellphone business, too – with free cellphones, no less. Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post. Any guesses as to what that might mean for Amazon (and the Post)?

Google is not just a search engine but, well, Google is now into nearly everything: from tablets, smartphones and the Android operating system that runs them, to office productivity software and advertising.

What these organizations have in common is that they didn’t stand still within the narrow confines of how the world perceived and defined them. Instead, they grasped the essence of their craft and passions, and understood where they excelled. They asked themselves what that implied, where it might take them, and what was possible. And they haven’t stopped asking those questions yet.

Companies too numerous to name hewed to the tight concept of themselves, and continued to practice their trade efficiently and repeatedly. As a result, many of them either no longer exist or are a mere shadow of their former selves.

While being in business in a capitalist system means you must grow, growth for its own sake is ultimately fruitless. What gets people out of bed in the morning and commuting to jobs at places like Apple and Nike is the thrill of constantly reinventing their businesses, of expanding the realm of the possible.

The growth, success and profitability that those companies subsequently realize are the outcomes of that effort, not the reasons for the pursuit. When business leaders confuse the two, the end is in sight.

What are you doing today to reinvent your business for tomorrow?

(Co-authored by Blaire Borochoff and Kelsey Carroll)

Strong core muscles provide a source of stability and balance for the human body. The same fundamental principle of core strength is true for organizations and companies. From global corporations to boot-strapped start-ups, companies develop core values to structure, strengthen, and maintain their corporate vision.

Core values cannot simply be installed into the culture; they are as organic and soul-driven as the employees themselves. These principles are the standards that employees live by and are held accountable to. Clearly outlined values provide context for internal communications, as well as inspiration for external social responsibility. Overall, core values are the foundation of a company’s unique identity.

Core values serve four distinct purposes:

Compass: The core values guide the employees as they make internal and external decisions.

Origin: The core values support the company culture. They serve as a reiteration of the vision and mission of the organization.

Resource: The core values provide a benchmark for recruiting and evaluating employees. This concept gauges whether potential candidates are aligned with the company’s values. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh emphasizes the importance of core values by incorporating them into the interview process to determine if the candidate is a cultural fit.

Empower: The core values enable employees to set goals that are parallel to the brand’s mission. These principles inspire each employee’s role and purpose which leads to an increase in workplace engagement.

Foundational principles are not developed by Googling synonyms for “integrity” and “respect.” Outlining and identifying core values should be a thoughtful, collective process, taking into account the history and individuality of the company. These essential principles inspire the culture of an organization, breathe life into the soul of the company, and, ultimately, contribute to its success.

In today’s rapidly-paced corporate environment, soft disciplines, as in the development of core values and fostering of company culture, are the first things dropped in exchange for double-booked meetings and full calendars. Chairman and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, Robert Haas once said, “What we’ve learned is that the soft stuff and the hard stuff are becoming increasingly intertwined. A company’s values—what it stands for, what its people believe in—are crucial to its competitive success. Indeed, values drive the business.”  Strong, relatable values should serve as a nucleus for every business decision the company makes and contributes to the interpersonal relationships of the employees.

What are some companies whose values inspire you?

Here’s a few of our favorites:

Google

Zappos

 

During my Microsoft days, it was sacrilegious for me to own or support anything produced by Google. They were the arch-rival, the antithesis of establishment, and the pesky yet incredibly agile innovator. These days I fancy myself as an impartial tech enthusiast and avid believer in free market forces, and like my fellow Austinites I can barely contain my excitement over Google Fiber’s expansion into the heart of Texas. From this marketer’s perspective, the rising tech-tide will lift all boats.

Infrastructure costs/timing/regulations aside, let’s assume the Google Fiber announcement signals a not-too-distant future expansion of affordable broadband to the masses (Google or any other ISP). Consumers and brands alike should have plenty of reasons to rejoice. I’ve explored only a few of the reasons below, but as always I’ll welcome your feedback.

CONSUMERS

1.  The entrance of new broadband technology puts pressure on established ISP’s, which drives down cost, boosts service quality, and ultimately drives more rapid innovation

  • Benefit: affordable and flexible internet, cable, and wireless plans
  • Caution: the hidden cost is privacy, Google now knows EVERYTHING about you

2.  Ubiquitous connectivity leads to the genesis and availability of value-added on-demand services and applications

  • Benefit: a fully-connected and “always-on” home, internet in every device in every room and on every street corner, startup paradise
  • Caution: “with great power comes great responsibility” – once again buh-bye to privacy

3.  Enhanced digital access leads to greater interactive and connected experiences for events, products, and services

  • Benefit: adding a social “surround sound” to your favorite shows, concerts, and shopping experiences
  • Caution: human social interactions regress exclusively to six second loops and 140 characters

BRANDS

1.  Expansive broadband will enable rich, high-fidelity media options, ultimately enhancing commercial experiences and customer touchpoints

  • Benefit: videos, banners, and ad placements won’t be device or bandwidth dependent, technologies such as augmented reality can flourish
  • Caution: brand saturation and customer intrusion, focus on consistent/relevant vehicles and messages

2.  Increased interactivity –> bigger data

  • Benefit: digitized dialogue can lead to loads of data, which can be distilled into insights revealing unmet customer needs, market opportunities, and competitive activity
  • Caution: data and insights are not synonymous, and organizations can drown in irrelevant datapoints

3.  Organizations can separate themselves from competitors with the adoption of digital collaboration tools, which will be critical for partnerships, employee and team dynamics, and customer connection

  • Benefit: no longer will you be constrained geographically for access to talent or customers, face-to-face interactions can literally happen anywhere, any time, on any device
  • Caution: as Marissa Mayer discovered, remote-connectivity may actually depress productivity, and sometimes there’s no substitute for the good ol’ fashioned water cooler

Google’s investment in Austin perpetuates our reputation as one of the most innovative, vibrant, and exciting cities for commerce and entertainment. We have a unique combination of academic thought supported by The University of Texas, and an active, diverse, and growing population of progressive thinkers, resulting in rapid startup incubation and corporate growth. You couldn’t design a better petri dish for invention and investment. South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, and Formula One may be the most recognizable symbols of our city’s distinctive culture. But those of us living here know that beyond all of the bells and whistles, it’s really just a damn cool place to be.

(Check out the video here)

With the 2013 version of SxSW Interactive in the books, it’s time for a look back on highlights, key trends (or lack of) and links to some of the awesome content we collected during the several events that we hosted during the event.

For starters, there really weren’t any big technologies that shined through at this SXSW like we’ve had at past events. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but likely more of an indication that it’s becoming harder and harder to break through all the noise at SXSW Interactive. There was a larger corporate presence than ever this year and that will likely be a continuing theme over the next few years as companies continue to embrace, grow and operationalize social, digital and mobile into their corporate DNA.

Social Commerce Summit

For W2O Group in particular, we had a very successful set of of events that kicked off with our Social Commerce Summit on Thursday, March 7. During this six hour event, we had 19 speakers each give 10 minute TED-like talks. The talks covered a range of topics including love, marriage and creating brand passion. We know it’s a lot of content but we hope you’ll take the time to watch the video (or at least read the highlights in the blog posts) from the speakers below.

We also had a few nice write ups from the event by former PR Week/current Holmes Report writer, Aarti Shah (here) and friend of W2O, Lisa Grimm (here).

In particular, we would like to thank our sponsors, Sysomos and BazaarVoice, for making all of our events during SXSW possible. They were (and are) great partners.

 

W2O Group Open House/Live from Stubbs Video Podcasts

While there weren’t any breakthrough companies this year at SXSW, we did have a number of themes crop up during our Social Commerce Summit and then again during our Live from Stubbs podcast tapings during our open house on Friday, March 8. In particular we heard a lot about big data, mobile, analytics and the operationalization of digital across the organization from many of our speakers/guests. There was also a significant amount of interest in our partner, SnapTrends, technology that provides for location-based analytics, a topic that W2O is quite bullish on.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be embedding the Live from Stubbs videos in blog posts on our Common Sense blog. In the meantime, you can check out all of the videos on our Youtube channel here. You can also read my Live from Stubbs co-host, Kyle Flaherty’s summary of our interview with Youtube’s Jeben Berg, here. When Kyle is not podcasting he is the VP of marketing at local analytics firm, 21CT who was kind enough to sponsor our Live from Stubbs videos. I would also like to thank local video production and strategy company, UPG for all of their brilliant work with both the Live from Stubbs videos as well as recording/editing all of our Social Commerce videos.

Geek-a-cue

Of course SXSW wouldn’t be what it is without a party. And party we did at our 4th annual Geek-a-cue on Saturday night at Franklin BBQ (ranked best BBQ in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine). Fortunately the rain held off this year allowing us to eat fantastic BBQ, enjoy the brilliant music of local favorite, Monte Montgomery, share a few beverages, take funny photos in our photo booth and play a little Corn Hole out behind the tent.

This short video shot and produced by UPG does a wonderful job of summing up this fabulous event.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_TYROYXApk[/youtube]

We also need to thank Natalee Norwood and Spoiled Doves for producing our Geek-a-cue. Without all her creativity, foresight and elbow grease, this event wouldn’t be what it was. Thank you to Aaron and Stacy Franklin and the Franklin staff for use of their venue and all the mouth watering BBQ they served up with smiles on their faces.

Digital Brunch

Capping off the week, we hosted a digital brunch at our East Austin offices. In spite of threats of rain, the springing ahead of the clocks and a lot of hung over SXSW attendees, we still enjoyed over 125 visitors to our new offices. The petting zoo, chair massages, drinks (alcoholic and caffeinated) and gourmet brunch courtesy of local restaurant/catering company, Dai Due, probably didn’t hurt.

Biggest thanks of all go to the dream team at W2O Group of Erin Disney, Stephanie Layton, Blaire Borochoff and Katrina Hallowell for their months of hard work putting these events together. Huge props also go to our CEO, Jim Weiss and President, Bob Pearson for making these events possible. Last but not least, a shout out to all of our W2O Group employees who volunteered/attended as well as our clients for being an integral part of our SXSW experience. Thank you!

Last but not least, we also had a little fun with our #sxswpickuplines this year. Details are here. Video that put the cherry on the cake is below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR6kVwM2Gp8[/youtube]

Forgive us if you have heard this before, but video is becoming an incredibly powerful medium. There are other sites that host video content, but the biggest by far is YouTube. There are more than 800 million unique visits to YouTube.com each month. There are 72 hours of videos uploaded every minute, and there are over 4 billion hours of video watched each month. Those numbers are staggering, and brands need to understand how to leverage this visual medium. The good news is that there are folks like Jeben Berg at YouTube that understand how to create interesting branded video content. Jeben’s presentation at #socialcommerce was loaded with information, but here are a couple of takeaways from my perspective:

  • 25% of the search results from the world’s top 10 brands are links to user generated content. Jeben noted that this statistic was from 2009, but we would expect that number to increase substantially as social media becomes (even more) mainstream.
  • NIKE and GoPro leading the way – Jeben highlighted video examples from both NIKE and GoPro during his talk, and after seeing the videos you can see why. These are two brands that companies could learn from when they

We’ll be paying close attention to how YouTube evolves over the next few months as more brands begun to adopt it as a way to tell their story.