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We kicked off our 2nd annual Movers & Shapers event (last year known as Geekfest) on Saturday here during SXSW. This one featured several people I’m lucky to call friends. As Bob Pearson mentioned, we chose this list of speakers because many of them are shaping the future of business in this digital age.

Thanks to our clients, partners and sponsors and W2O employees who made today (and our other #SXW2O events) possible. Below are a few highlights from each of the speakers.

  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie
    Javier discussed activating a storyline paradigm (see his pre-interview here). When he and the team thought about how to move AbbVie in the storytelling realm, they knew they had to approach things differently. That’s why they created StoryLab.  For AbbVie, StoryLab = Content Development + Media Relations + Digital + Measurement. Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at just over the 9 minute mark to see Javier’s session.

Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish Photography

  • Michael Jarjour, CEO, ODH, Inc
    Michael joined us to talk about how Data is Improving Mental Health. He sat down with our own Bob Pearson to discuss Michael’s passion, how we transform behavioral and health. Key challenges in behavioral health are resource constraints and highly fragmented data. Mentrics is a tool that combines ODH’s risk assessment data along with data of the complex care patients to find out which patients are most at risk.  From a data perspective, payers are the most important component. How does the risk stratification process work? Michael explained that the ODH team had worked on the solution for four years. It identifies the high-cost patient population to track cost drivers over a year. The goal is to help health care providers figure out which patients are at risk and provide insights into the kind of treatment that can best affect outcomes. It’s about identifying 1) which patients need the most help 2) what kind of help do they need? 3) How can we help? Tune into the Movers & Shapers livestream at about the 23 minute mark to see their discussion.

Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish Photography

  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing, Sysomos
    I’ve known Amber a long time. She’s someone I’ve always had a great deal of respect for. Now even more so after hearing her talk about embracing imperfection. Everyone talks about transparency and authenticity. Amber nails both. She lives and breathes social engagement and analytics. Much of her talk centered around Impostor Syndrome. It refers to “high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud.” In 2011, she was riding high when Radian6 was purchased by Salesforce, she had a successful book and was well-known for the social engagement work that she was a part of. During her next step is when she starting struggling those negative feelings of self-doubt. Especially as so many of her peers in the social space appeared to be at the top of their game. That period led her to do research on the topic. She quickly found in her interviews that Impostor’s Syndrome affects everyone… men, women, all ages, etc. Even extremely successful people like best-selling author Stephen King. Bottom line, Amber’s currently focused on making this topic as her next book. I hope she’s successful on that front and applaud her for having the courage to share with the folks here at our event.  You can check out Amber’s session at about the 39 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Ray Kerins, SVP Head of Communications & Government Relations, Bayer
    Ray’s topic of discussion was the Criticality of Intellectual Property. Ray did something I wasn’t expecting. He made a talk about IP pretty lively and engaging. He started his session by acknowledging that most people’s eyes glaze over when they hear about patents and IP. He defined IP as the set of laws that protect individuals and companies who have created a unique product or thing. It’s important to all of us because it protects innovation. Ray cited one of the most difficult aspects of IP is the un-evenness of laws around the world. While those in the United States are decent, several countries outside the US have very weak laws, and in some cases, those laws can be difficult to enforce. Ray is a board member of the US Chamber of Commerce and he’s also a member of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). GIPC’s sole responsibility is to make sure the IP laws around the world help protect innovation created in America. According to Ray, IP creates job. He referenced several reports compiled by GIPC. One such report is the International IP Index, which ranks the world’s countries in terms of levle of IP protection. In other words, to track the places where counterfeiting is the biggest problem. Surprises? Venezuela is the country that currently ranks the highest on that list. India is #2. Another surprise? China currently ranks  17th on the list. Ray attributed China’s going down on the list (improving) to the Chinese government’s active efforts to strengthen their IP laws and enforcing those laws. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 50 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Michele Skelding, SVP Global Technology and Innovation, Austin Chamber of Commerce
    Michele’s topic was The Next Big Thing? Disruptive Innovation in ATX. Michele has lived in Austin for the last 20 years and has worked in technology for most of that time. She joined the Austin Chamber of Commerce about three years ago with the goal of bringing her tech expertise to the city. Michele mentioned that the average age in Austin was 33. The city has a population of about 1.9 million people, of which 415,000 are students. What’s one of the most important things the city can do to keep those students here? Create jobs that they’ll want to stay here for. As a city, that means we have to be on target with our business benefits. Add it all up and Austin is expected to be one of the fastest growing cities until 2025. Michele ended with a plea for those of us in Austin to get engaged in terms of the future of the city. Along those lines, she mentioned recent headlines where Austin proposed city ordinances are creating barriers for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in this city. One more thing: Thanks to Michele for making the introduction to Hugh Forrest and making that PreCommerce fireside chat possible. You can check out Ray’s session just about the 1 hour 27 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.

Jesse Knish Photography Jesse Knish Photography

  • Robert Scoble, Entrepreneur in Residence, UploadVR
    Robert is another person I’m fortunate to know pretty well. Robert’s book Naked Conversations (that he co-authored Shel Israel) had a big impact on me when I was gearing up to take the reins at Direct2Dell back in 2006. Robert’s one of the best in the business about what’s next in technology. Look at his other books as an example. Age of Context focused on how sensors and big data will continue to impact business. He and Shel are currently working on their third book called Beyond Mobile. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is not surprisingly one of the main topics that book will cover. Fresh off the news that he’s joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence, Robert dove right into the topic of virtual reality and augmented reality. He discussed companies like Magic Leap and Meta that will play a part in the future, as well as other established tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google. This technology is already showing up in our world… self-driving cars use sensors and tons of data to map the world around them. Heavy machinery company Caterpillar is already using AR to help train mechanics on repairs. According to Robert, augmented reality (where we interact with virtual objects superimposed on top of real-world objects) is going to have the biggest impact. We’re still 3 – 5 years away from the truly ground-breaking stuff that will occur has hardware gets smaller, faster and cheaper. It’s coming though, and in my opinion, there’s much to look forward to. You can check out Robert’s session at about the 1 hour 38 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy
    Patrick’s topic was The Future of Healthcare is Closer Than it May Appear. Before becoming an industry analyst, he spent over 20 years in the tech business, focused on things like product management, product marketing and strategy. For 15 years he served on the board of St. Davids’s Medical Center and the Austin Heart Hospital (where he also chaired the board for five years). Besides sing the bureaucracy first hand, he was struck by the number of people so passionate about helping others. He mentioned that we spend over $3 trillion dollars in Healthcare annually. An estimated 90% of that goes toward chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. And an estimated 80% of those could be prevented with better healthcare along with personal responsibility. He also said the biggest issue in healthcare is the disconnect between payment and service. During the session, he called out that Moor Insights was welcoming Yuri Teshler to lead the Healthcare vertical  You can check out Patrick’s session at just over the 1 hour 58 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography
  • Natanya Anderson, Sr. Marketing Director, 365 by Whole Foods Market
    Natanya talked about the Mandate to Innovate, which is a good topic for her given how much she has done inside the walls of Whole Foods before taking on the charter to expand their 365 effort. She touched on disruption and called out Whole Foods’ recent investment in Instacart as an example of how Whole Foods is working with innovative companies instead of against them. Figuring how to innovate inside a big brand was something she struggled with at first. Her light bulb moment came when she spoke at the Foresight & Trends Conference about 18 months ago. She spoke to many people there who were part of innovation groups, or in some cases, even innovation business units. Many of them spent time analyzing trends to help figure out what areas lend themselves to innovation within their respective companies. That’s when it hit her. Instead of thinking, “How do I get that (innovation) job?” She realized the better question was, “How do I make innovation part of my job?” She started by establishing a mandate to innovate for herself. That’s when she starting actively looking for places where Whole Foods could innovate. Then she extended the that intention to innovate to her entire team. She found that some people on her team were more receptive to it than others. The tipping point was when she tied innovation to the team’s goals overall and they worked as a group to figure out how to measure the innovation part of their efforts. Hint: It wasn’t ROI. You can check out Natanya’s session at just over the 2 hour 14 minute mark of the Movers and Shapers livestream.
Jesse Knish Photography

Check back soon to learn more from other speakers and what amazing insights they offered at Movers & Shapers!

 

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Lionel Menchaca currently serves as Director of Corporate & Strategy at W2O Group. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or reach out to him on Twitter at @LionelGeek!


 

Learn more about W2O Group:  About  Work  Contact.

Austin means music, tacos, and innovative new ideas (AKA “weird”), and our SXW2O events definitely incorporate all of these. But when it comes to great local music in particular, our Austin office employees are passionate fans. To make the perfect local playlist, we asked these local music experts to curate their favorite tracks from Austin artists.

spotifyCheck out the Geekaque playlist on Spotify here.

 

We’re also beyond excited about our 2016 SXW2O artists (some local, all awesome) we’ve lined up for our events:

  • At our annual PreCommerce Summit Reception, we were lucky enough to hear some mellow tunes from The Autumn Defense, a side project for WILCO band members Pat Sansone and John Stirratt. Thanks to our premier sponsor Bayer for bringing them down to Austin!
  • Texas’s “original recession era string band” Hot Nut Riveters provided some Southern Hospitality at our Digital Brunch, led by Guy Forsyth.
  • We’re especially excited for tonight’s Geekacue lineup featuring Black Pistol Fire and Red Bull Select band Not in the Face, both of which cnall Austin home. Email info@w2ogroup.com for an invitation!
  •  lionelLionel Menchaca – Director, Corporate & Strategy
    Artist: Willie Nelson, Song: Whiskey River
  • How long have you lived in Austin? Hard to believe, but I’ve been here just over 25 years.
  • What is your role at W2O? I work with our team to help clients implement digital tools in everything from internal communication and collaboration, external communication and issues management, and how to empower employees through advocacy programs.
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist? It’s Willie. He’s a Texas legend who calls Austin home. I chose that song because it’s the one that makes me think of Willie more than any other. There’s a reason why he uses it to start the set of his live shows.
  • #WhyAustin? So many reasons. The great live music scene, the cool outdoor options, great events like SXSW, Austin City Limits Music Festival, the food: Franklin, La Barbecue, Fonda San Miguel to name a few favorites, and the people.
  • Favorite Taco: Hard to list a favorite, but Taco Deli is my go to place for tacos. Hard to go wrong there.

darron

Darron Davis – Art Director
Artist: Shapes Have Fangs, Song: Dinner in the Dark

  • How long have you lived in Austin? 9 years
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist?: This album reminds me of the time I volunteered for SXSW in 2010. I saw them play at a tiny venue on Red River called Beerland. They were insanely loud and enjoyable.
  • #WhyAustin? Austin is a progressive city where you can still carry a pocket knife without getting side-eyed.
  • Favorite Taco: The Smoked Brisket Taco at Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

angieAngie Gette, Senior Director Strategy & Insights
Artist: Wood & Wire, Song: Anne Marie

  • How long have you lived in Austin?: 8.5 years
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist?: Tons of energy and pure folk spirit.  Love seeing this band live. Check them out!
  • Favorite Taco: Migas from Veracruz- can’t believe how good they are!

colleenColleen Hartman, Group Director, Social Commerce
Artist: Tameca Jones, Song: Hot and Bothered

  • #WhyAustin? For me personally? As a child, I spent a lot of time each summer with my grandparents in Dallas. They took me all over Texas and loved the unique culture. After living many places in my adult life including a stop in Waco home to Baylor University, my family unanimously wanted to move to Austin. As a then W2O client, when the opportunity came to join the agency, I was thrilled especially with the opportunity to move to Austin. The rest is history with my new “forever hometown.”
  • Favorite Taco: The steak taco from Veracruz All Natural’s food truck. It’s hard to eat other tacos once you’ve had anything from Austin’s best taco spot. (Migas and fish tacos are amazing too.)                                                                                                                    

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Bob Pearson, President, W2O Group
Artist: Black Pistol Fire,  Song:  Suffocation Blues

  • How long have you lived in Austin? We’ve lived here for ten years. I told my daughters when we moved here that when we reached ten years, we could start to call ourselves Texans.  In our case, we say we’re “Jersey Texans”, a rare breed.
  • What is your role at W2O? I spend most of my time with clients discussing what is important to their business or working with our teams to talk through how we build or refine our models. The role is President, W2O Group. My mission is to ensure our clients build unique advantage and succeed and our team members at W2O learn and grow professionally every day.
  • Why did you pick this song/artist for our playlist? Black Pistol Fire is symbolic of Austin. Originally from Toronto, now splitting time between Canada and Austin.  Austin just has a magnetic draw for innovators to head down here and never leave.  And, I love rock ‘n roll and these guys know how to have some fun.
  • #WhyAustin? I came here to work at Dell and our family fell in love with Austin. I love how supportive the community is of each other, whether you are an entrepreneur or you have fallen on hard times.  Austin is a city with a soul.
  • Favorite Taco: There is a small stand one block from our office behind a building that has amazing breakfast tacos. Few know it is there. Small stand. One woman who runs it. Amazing tacos and the hottest sauces around.

If you’ve been in a communications role for a decade or more, chances are you have lots of experience in traditional comms. In recent years, there’s no question that social media has had a significant impact on communications. While social media has overwhelmed many communicators with a dizzying array of platform choices and a firehose of data to make sense of, it also provides them with new ways to connect with reporters, influencers and customers more efficiently than ever.

Over the years, one thing hasn’t changed: communications is fundamentally about building relationships. To me, social media augments ways communicators can build those relationships. Like I’ve said before, it doesn’t replace phone calls, email conversations with or face-to-face conversations with reporters. But many times, a brief back-and-forth discussion on Twitter or via the comment thread in a blog post can go a long way to answering questions from reporters (and many times, your customers too). This is especially true if your company uses its social presence to respond to news-related items.

One thing that has changed: press releases aren’t what they used to be. While there’s still a place for them (company earnings information, acquisition news, corporate reorganization updates to name a few), social media platforms provide companies a more efficient way to communicate news. The problem is that not enough companies use social media to communicate and respond to news.

I’ve blogged about what I think it takes to be an effective communicator in 2015 (see here and here). Hint: combine that newsworthy sensibility with a little bit of tools and technology. It may require you to step out of your comfort zone, but doing so will yield solid results.

One example: a tool I mentioned before called Nuzzel. It’s a website/ mobile app that highlights articles people you are connected to are sharing. While that’s useful on its own, the real power is that you can use it on any public or private Twitter lists you create. See my Pioneers private list in the Your Custom Feeds section near the bottom right in the image below. In my view, that alone makes creating Twitter lists worth the hassle. Imagine clicking on one link to see the stories that 25 of your top reporters are sharing, or the 17 strategic topic influencers, or the top 15 subject matter experts in your company. All it takes is to create those private (or public) Twitter list, then connect your Twitter account at Nuzzel.com. From there, you are one click away to seeing what’s being shared most on Twitter or Facebook at any point in time.

Image for Lionel's Summit Post

 

If you’re not sure who the online influencers are, or if you need help identifying the topic conversations that are most relevant to your brand, W2O can help. Our analytics services are built to help communicators and marketers understand the online conversation that’s happening about your brand, identifying strategic topics that affect your brand (and that you can impact) as well as identifying individuals who are most influential about your industry, your competition and your brand even as they change over time. Those are people you need to foster relationships with. In many cases, those influencers are reporters you already know. Engaging them via social will deepen the existing relationship—especially when you focus efforts to adding value to their online conversations.

On September 14th, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. Social media has forever changed our world and it’s our responsibility to evolve with it! More on what to expect from the event here. Register for free here, or by clicking on the image below.

London Summit

We closed out the PreCommerce Summit with a far-reaching heck of a futurist discussion when David Kirkpatrick’s interviewed VJ Joshi.

David: What did you do after leaving HP?

VJ: I wanted to learn about Healthcare and startups. Working with startups in terms both consulting and some investment.

David: What are you most excited about?

VJ: Data insights and intelligence; genomics, nanotechnology and robotics. Those trends will change everything. Those are the boundaries where innovation is going to happen.

VJ Joshi interview with David Kirkpatrick

David: Where are the advances? What kind of things are possible?

VJ: There’s progress in Tool automation; also getting into better understanding our subconscious. How we see things, how we feel things; virtual reality and Oculus Rift/ virtual reality; another area of interest: changing the neural pathways; How to change behavior (drug addicts)? Change the way of thinking, create new neural pathways.

Learning a language in two months, maybe even two days. How we learn can be enhanced dramatically. Not science fiction, things will happen within 10 years.

Think about the Terminator point of view; seeing related information about people in real time, customized ads in retail products, etc.

Augmented Reality: If kids can play with 3D models, that’s a way to enhance education; Magic Leap technology blending technology in real experience.

David: How is this relevant to Marketing?

VJ: Technology could enable new ways to reach an audience in ways that are deeper than we think about now: How can I affect a potential customer’s thought process?

Worth worrying about manipulation?

I’m on the optimistic side of the equation. Think of VR in terms of military tactical preparation. Understand people are concerned with privacy. But there are many possibilities.

David: Know you’re working with companies re: implants. Can you talk about it?

VJ: Cochlear implants are one example; Eye implants to affect rods and cones to improve vision; Ex: Rabbits can’t see red, but they can with these implant’s; Ex: Seeing through fog; improving upon our natural capabilities.

Increasing life extension, improving quality of life are health areas worth focusing on.

David: Intersection of technology and humans… how does automation and robotics displace jobs?

VJ: I have a more positive view, am more optimistic; it is complementary. We will learn important skills faster; It will enable us to work on more important things; solve bigger problems.

David: How does education change?

VJ: It opens up lifelong learning, no more 8 years of going to school. Replacing certain jobs will allow people to focus on solving hard problems. People will get more specialized learning, they will focus more on niche areas.

David: Regarding your years at HP: What was the best learning?

VJ: Take risks on people; empower them to focus on innovation; when I took over printing in 2001: people said you can’t grow. VJ thought they could grow 6% that year and beyond. We had great people to figure out higher-end printing; faster printing, 3D printing, etc.

Tech landscape: So many companies paralyzed by fear from innovation coming from startups. Do you worry about it?

I do worry about it. Companies aren’t focused enough on true innovation. Research is tied too close to earnings and profits these days. Too focused on the near term, meeting quarterly revenue and profit numbers.

David: End of industries: Traditional models don’t apply; Uber and Airbnb are disrupting businesses they arent even in. Do you believe big businesses should think about that? Definitely.

Audience Q&A:

Are you saying William Gibson right?

In terms of possiibilities, yes. Check out a company called Nanovision; William Gibson’s vision won’t be accurate, but aspects will be there.

What do you think about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift?

Augmented reality and virtual reality are sexy topics. Already real applications happening in military; repairing jets, VJ: seeing the manual while you are working; Facebook and others are thinking about next-generation computing technology;

David: virtual and augmented reality distinction will go away… when Zuckerberg bought Oculus, he said he was buying it’s the next generation of computing; Microsoft HoloLens. Google is working on similar technology. Started with Google Glass.

What about location-based technology?

More advances on current technology… Won’t need maps when visiting new cities; Dynamic ads that are tailored to you as an individual.

What about natural language speech recognition? Google Hiring Ray Kurzweil

VJ: Yes, it is huge, but it is related to virtual reality machines. Lots of peripherals will emerge, just like the PC space.

Linguistics based approach vs. Programming language approach; Microsoft and Google are working on real-time language translation. Effectiveness will continue to improve.

The next economy were all these technologies converge is the Molecular Economy. That’s where we are heading;

Google Glass: Going into a store seeing personalized ads; Creates privacy issues.  Are you concerned about that?

Would you wear glasses if they allowed you to see through fog? Yes. Adding useful capability is key.

Technology is in the hearts and minds of the people who use it. In your view, what are the threats to innovation;

David: Security is an issues. Macro-point of communication; ICANN is really worried that countries won’t use it; different standards; the app economy mirrors that from a content perspective; but app development is siloed; that fragmentation is real; VJ: I hope we are still appreciate nature; the beauty of outdoor activity and the physical world we live in. I hope we don’t ever lose our appreciation of that.

David Kirkpatrick (CEO – Techonomy)

Bio: Founder, host and CEO of Techonomy, David Kirkpatrick is a journalist, commentator about technology, and author of the bestselling book “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World,” published in 32 countries. He spent 25 years at Fortune, and founded and hosted its Brainstorm and Brainstorm Tech conferences. Inaddition to writing to Techonomy, he contributes to Forbes and Vanity Fair. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

David Kirkpatrick

 

 

 

 

 

VJ Joshi (Former EVP Imaging & Printing – HP)

Bio: VJ Joshi served as an Executive Vice President of Imaging and Printing Group at Hewlett-Packard Company from 2002 to 2012, and served as its Executive Vice President of Imaging and Personal Systems Group. He retired in 2012 after a 32-year career at Hewlett Packard Company. Since 1989, he held various management positions in Imaging and Printing Systems, such as Phogenix Imaging LLC and Immy Inc.. He has been a Director of Harris Corporation, Director at Yahoo! Inc., and serves as a member of Dean’s Advisory Council at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego.

Vyomesh Joshi

 

 

 

 

 

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

These days, with so many brands focused on developing content for shared properties like official company pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and more, it’s easy to marginalize corporate blogs. In my view,  blogging still matters. While I think lots of companies still agree with that thinking, I see a bigger problem that decreases the effectiveness of corporate blogs: a lack of content organization.

This problem tends to affect large companies that have been blogging for quite a while. Once a company has some level of success with a blog, there is a natural tendency to expand beyond a centralized single blog into additional blogs. In those cases, brands often segment those blogs by business unit, or some sort of structure that resembles how the company itself is organized. One problem with that strategy is that customers aren’t interested in a brand’s organizational structure. They tend to be interested in specific topics. The other problem is customers won’t waste time looking for content on your blog, especially if you make it a confusing mess. The end result is that companies spend time and resources producing content that not many customers never see.

So, what can brands do about this? Besides building an operational model for content marketing, I recommend a technical solution like a Content Hub. Our digital team can build a hub on a platform like WordPress or Drupal. Visually, the Content Hub can be made to look like your blog or you company’s website, or it can have a distinct look and feel. While I’m focusing mainly on blog posts, a Content Hub can also include other content items you would typically see in a news center section of a site, like press releases, white papers, reports or other articles. Think of Content Hub as a content front end or customized portal that pulls in content from a brand’s entire network of external blogs(or other sources) and displays that content based on which posts are getting the most engagement. In my mind, engagement is a mix of the following factors:

  1. The # of inbound links a piece of content gets
  2. The # of shares on social networks
  3. The # of comments
  4. The # of page views

Surfacing content on a landing page this way ensures that readers will see your brand’s most popular content regardless of how many different blogs are aggregated into it. This will eventually translate to a wider readership for blog authors who contribute to blogs with less visibility. The engagement factors I mention above can also be weighted more heavily to things like number of inbound links or number of shares as well. In the mockup below, we show content by most popular authors, but it could also be used to show content by topic (think of sites like GigaOM, The Verge or Buzzfeed.com). Here’s a wireframe of what a Content Hub could look like: LionelGeek Blog Hub wireframe

There’s additional benefits than broader visibility as well. From an editorial perspective, this data makes it easy to see what content resonates with your readers (and what doesn’t). Tracking inbound links gives you a way to see what external influencers your teams should be connecting with. Tracking the number of shares will give you solid insight into the kind of content your employees your customers and influencers like to share. All can be used to shape your subsequent content strategy.

There’s other work that would go into getting a Content Hub up and running (deciding which blogs or sites to pull content in from, defining the category taxonomy, deciding whether to display the full post or to redirect to the existing site where the content originated, determining a paid strategy to help get traction to the hub, etc). I’ll blog in more detail about those things in future posts.

Blogging does still matter, but these days it requires more than just producing solid content.

Over the weekend, I saw a good New York Times article about the state of music streaming services. The premise is that a growing list of companies like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and others are attracting lots of users, but are having a tough time convincing that customer base to pay for their services.

Spotify logoIt’s a tough problem to solve, but what I do know is that offering streaming service access for free (with ads and lower sound quality) is not going to get it done. Even as Apple is reportedly drumming up a real-time bidding service with a focus on iTunes Radio. I thought the music industry would have figured this out back when Napster influenced a whole generation of young folks that music should be free. And earlier today, Billboard Magazine confirmed that digital downloads of music are starting to decline, and that’s partly because more customers are flocking to these streaming services. Guess what? That doesn’t help anyone if most of those customers aren’t paying. I thought the music industry would have figured this out back when Napster influenced a whole generation of folks that music is free. Maybe ads will eventually generate more revenue… but they sure aren’t making up the gap up to this point.

I’m old school when it comes to music.  Over the last decades I’ve bought reams of albums (starting with the Flash Gordon soundtrack), cassettes (starting with Kiss’ Dynasty), CDs, digital downloads from iTunes (when it was the only game in town) and Amazon MP3, and I’ve been a paying subscriber on Pandora and now on Rdio for over a year. I’m the son of a musician, so I’ve always believed in the concept of supporting bands I like by buying their music and seeing their concerts when I can.

But I know I’m the minority. There’s a heck of a lot of folks who subscribe to the post-Napster view of the world that music is free. The fact that most streaming services lead with free is not a good long-term strategy.

Pandora logoI originally paid for the Pandora One premium service for two main reasons: 1) I liked the music recommendation service powered by the Music Genome Project. I find it’s a great way to discover new music. 2) I like the improved sound quality. I’m also old school when it comes to how good music sounds. I haven’t renewed my Pandora One subscription, primarily because my Lumia 928 Windows Phone came with a free year of Pandora One service. But, I’ve used it a lot less than I would normally because of ongoing problems with Bluetooth connectivity and the fact that my 2012 Camry doesn’t support the Lumia 928 via the USB port. That’s one of the downsides of being loyal to the Windows Phone platform.

Rdio logoThe other service I pay for is Rdio. I found Rdio when I looked for an alternative to managing my digital music library of hundreds of CDs. I spent way too much time ripping CDs, adding album art manually, and re-ripping CDs at a higher bit rate for better sound quality years later. And I hate how easily iTunes duplicates music in my collection. I loved that Rdio made it easy for me to assemble a large part of my digital music catalog with little effort. And that the service was designed from the ground up to be mobile. It was the first digital music subscription service that covered (most of) the bases with iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Plus it’s also on other devices in the home like Roku and Sonos.

However, because of my Windows Phone Bluetooth issues and the fact that my car doesn’t recognize my phone means that I almost never use it on the go. The other problem is no one in my family is interested in using it. And I’ve tried. I’ve pitched my wife and my two kids (ages 9 and 10). My wife usually opts for the radio due to simplicity and my kids seem content with listening to a handful of digital albums on their devices. I would gladly pay more if anyone else in the family showed stronger interest.

So, I’ll probably reluctantly cancel my Rdio subscription and just buy a handful of digital downloads through Amazon in those times when I do purchase music. All this makes me wish more bands would go the direct route like Radiohead did with In Rainbows. I’d gladly give money directly to for new albums from bands like Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Trent Reznor/ NIN, Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots (if the latter two can ever patch things up). At least established bands would probably earn more royalties that way.

Recently, Michael Brito and I were talking about content, and we both agreed in today’s noisy social world, it’s easy to look past blogs and long-form content in general. We also agree it’s a mistake to do so (and so does Ev Williams). In my view, blogs are important for two key reasons: 1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and 2) because of the link and aggregation capability they provide.

Good SEO helps cut through the clutter

SEOMichael recently blogged about a larger, related topic of brand as publisher. In that post, Michael makes an important point: a lot of the content published on other social networks (think Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) are not indexed by search engines at all, or at least not as effectively as relevant blog content. Why should you care about this? Because even after working for years to build traction with Dell’s corporate blog Direct2Dell (we had over 3 million page views in 2012), almost 50% of its traffic came from organic searches. And that traffic pattern was pretty consistent over the last few years. What this means is no matter how well-established your corporate blog is, it’s a safe bet that lots of people are finding specific posts after doing a Google search. They won’t find your Facebook brand page updates that way.

One thing I should mention again is that building traction with a blog takes time. Just publishing content on a regular basis doesn’t mean you will show up in search engine queries. Building traction is about building authority. In my mind, the quickest way to do that is to link to active external conversations and articles, and hopefully drive inbound links from other blog posts to the ones you’re writing. It’s also important to realize not all links are created equal. I’ll go more in-depth on this topic soon.

Blogs are still the most flexible tool in your social media arsenal

WordPress LogoThe second reason blogging still matters is because of the inherent flexibility they provide. By design, blogs are meant to include a mix of text, images and video.  Blogs are also built to include hyperlinks and embeds of all sorts of things like tweets, YouTube videos, Flickr and Google+ photos and SlideShare decks. And they can include a number of any of those things. Ever since the early days of blogging, hyperlinks were often called the life blood of blogs, and I still think that’s still the case today. You can and should link to external sources and conversations every time you sit down to write a blog post; you should also link to owned and shared properties to embed videos, images or other content assets whenever it helps you tell a more complete story. Compare that to Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Those services are designed to support a single link at a time.

In my view, company blogs should be used to connect conversations from around the web. And they should also be used to tell a broader brand narrative that tries to offer something of value to its readers. A corporate blog that adds value to customers is a natural candidate to serve as a publishing hub for those companies like Coca-Cola and Red Bull who are both well down the brand as publisher path.

What do you think? What other brands are getting the publishing thing right?

I’ve blogged about following the right people, that’s step 1. Then, I discussed a bit about how to engage the people you’re listening to (step 2).  Now you’re ready to blog.

This process is something I refer to as the Connected Content Model. It’s really that simple: 1) Listen 2) Engage and 3) Blog. Notice that blogging comes last, and the process is repeatable by design. Once you get through the process, do it again, and keep doing it. Ultimately, this model will result in ongoing conversations you can link to, or at least third party blog posts or articles you can react to.

Connected Content is an inherent component of this model. To me, it’s about engaging an audience, whether we’re talking customers or external influencers on a given topic. Put simply, Connected Content is content that is connected to external conversations.

Connected Content Model

Why does being connected matter? In today’s world, there’s a lot of noise. As examples, over 72 million WordPress blogs exist. There’s 140 million tweets per day. 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute. The good news is there’s a ton of good insight companies can derive from the barrage of daily online activity. The downside means it’s a lot harder to cut through the clutter to get noticed. Gone are the days when being a smart person and writing an insightful blog post were enough to get you noticed. If you don’t rise above the noise, chances are good hardly anyone will see the blog post you wrote.  Writing blog posts with connected content is one of the most effective ways I know to change that.

Connected content is about bringing external conversations in. Go where those conversations are occurring and add value to them. Blog comments are a great place to start because they can almost always be linked to, plis comment systems like Disqus and Livefyre make conversations much easier to keep track of .Twitter is also now a great way to link to a conversation because they show the original tweet and replies (like this example of a PlayStation 4/ Xbox One conversation). LinkedIn discussion threads can be linked to, but specific comments inside them cannot. Facebook conversations are the most private (unless the status update is public). Google+ is in the same boat, but many more people make their updates public.

Connected Content

The Value of Connected Content:

  • It builds relationships – This is the most important reason. Whether you make a connection with an influential blogger, or his or her readers, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is every new connection drives more visibility to your content, and provides you more opportunity for engagement.
  • It makes your content less about you – As much as brands want to believe it, people don’t wake up wanting to read a company blog or a company’s status updates in Twitter  or Facebook or elsewhere. Linking and reacting to others inherently focuses things externally, about things that matter to others. That potentially makes you and your company blog much more interesting.
  • It expands your reach outside the walls of your owned and shared properties – This increases the likelihood that more potential customers will see the content you and your company produces.

Don’t get caught up in numbers. Your content doesn’t have to reach a huge audience. It just has to reach some of the right people. And don’t get discouraged—building relationships takes time. Sticking with it will pay dividends. As an example going back to my Dell days, Richard Binhammer became more recognizable than me in the social media world without writing a single blog post on Dell’s blog, Direct2Dell. While that’s a testament to Richard’s rare networking skillset, I think much of it can be attributed to the fact that he posted anywhere and everywhere around the web.

In this video, I talk a bit about connected content, the importance of establishing a dedicated place to publish and brand as publisher:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m9R_gZB0eA[/youtube]

I’ll be talking more about content in future posts. I’m hardly the only person here with thoughts on content. Our own Michael Brito wrote a book on the subject. If you missed his post on mobilizing employees in relation to content,  it’s definitely worth a read. Brian Reid and Ryan Flinn are two ex-journalists who have tons of perspective. If you’re interested in content strategy and content marketing, you’re in the right place.

If you have questions, insight you want to share, or you want to agree or disagree with me on this, please drop me a line in the comments below or reach out to @LionelGeek on Twitter.

Earlier this week, I blogged about following the right people. So, let’s say you’ve gone through done searches for cloud computing, storage or something like social media, PR or gaming and spent some time creating a Twitter list and RSS feeds for those people/ outlets. From there, be sure to follow them in other places where they may be active. Even if you’re not friends personally, you can subscribe a person’s public Facebook feed.  People like Jeff Jarvis are active on Google+ in addition to their blogs for instance. Robert Scoble posts a lot more on Google+ than his personal blog these days.

You’ve made it this far, now what? Read. Read a lot. Spend time looking at your Twitter feed in the list(s) you created. Spend time in the RSS feed. Get a sense for what those people tweet about. Pay attention to the sources they refer you to. Read their blog posts they point you to. Doing this will give you insight into what drives that topic. If you spend a lot of time thinking about a topic like cloud computing as part of your job, chances are good you’re reading many of the same articles from the same sources that the people you’re following do. But, I bet you’ll be made aware of some new sources of information. Follow those people too.

Now, you’re almost ready for engagement. I’ve already discussed Twitter lists and RSS feeds as two main tools for engagement. You’re already good there…

WordPress logoThe next set of tools are blog comment systems. Start with WordPress. It powers more than 72 million websites and blogs across the Internet. Create an account at WordPress.com, complete your profile just like you did on Twitter. Create a Gravatar as part of your WordPress profile. Be sure to include a link to your company’s blog in your profile. Use the same profile pic that you use in Twitter so you’ll have a common presence on the web. If you want to be an influencer in your area of expertise, people have to know who you are outside the walls of the company. You will get there through engagement.

Disqus logoFrom there, I recommend you go through a similar process and create profiles on the other leading comment systems: Disqus, LiveFyre and Intense Debate. Be sure to include a link to your company’s blog as part of your profile and use the same profile pic you use on Twitter and WordPress. Having a common external presence on the Web makes a difference. Of the three, seems like Disqus is the most commonly used comment system, but all three are used by some pretty big sites and lots of bloggers use either the WordPress comment system or one of these other services on their personal blogs. Still, what matters here is that you create profiles for all of these comment systems. After that, log in to each of them.

Why go to all this trouble?

  1. After you are logged in to each of these services, you will be able to comment on any blog that uses any four of these comment systems seamlessly—usually, you can just start typing a comment without any other steps.
  2. Each of these comment systems track your comment activity. That means you can automate notification when someone replies to one of your comments on the Web. And it also makes it much easier to go back to any comment you have published.
  3. All of these systems create permalinks (a unique link) for every comment. This is important. You will use permalinks when you start blogging.
  4. Every time you comment on any site that uses one of these comment systems, you are leaving digital breadcrumbs to your social profile and back to your company’s blog or website. Good for you and helps build a bit of SEO.

Now you are ready for engagement. I’d recommend starting with your Twitter lists. Start simply. Retweet the good tweets you see. Reply to the ones you can offer some perspective or point of view on. Go to the blog posts they are amplifying and spend a few minutes reading the comment threads on posts you have a point of view on. Share your point of view in the comment threads. Now go to your RSS feeds in Feedly or whatever other reader you use. Find other blogs to comment on from there, and do your thing.

If all this seems like a lot of work, it is. The good news is doing it right will give you and your company an advantage over your competition. I’m confident that it works too because I saw it work at Dell. First with the break/fix support outreach we started in April 2006, then shortly after when Richard Binhammer and John Pope started doing reputation outreach. Those efforts were a big reason why we were able to impact people’s perception of Dell, moving it from almost 50% negative when we started down to the low 20% range a few short months later.

In my view, there’s a right way to engage. Here’s the Rules of Engagement that have served me well over the years.

  1. Add value to any online conversation you join
  2. Stick to the topics you know
  3. Be authentic, be human
  4. Let your passion and personality show through
  5. Don’t be afraid to disagree… as long as you can back it up
  6. Always keep it professional