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Our PreCommerce Summit started off our events with a bang. Hard to believe, but 2016 marks the 6th annual version of the summit. We built it around a series of 10-minute Ted-style talks, and rounded it out with a few panel discussions and a couple of fireside chats.

These discussions featured insights from executives and leadership from some of our top clients and partners. It’s a view into what’s next, the technology that’s impacting all of us, how its changing business, as well as other aspects of our lives outside of work.

  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Founder of Shandwick and Huntsworth Group; See Lord Chadington’s preview interview here.
    Lord Peter Chadington discussed global communications trends with our own Bob Pearson. In terms of global trends, Peter pointed out that 50% of the world’s population have just started getting access to the Internet.  Lord Chadlington is someone who’s dedicated much of his work to politics and shared his thoughts on the impact that social media is having on politics. According to research they did in the UK, 72% said social media and the Internet made them more involved in politics. They feel empowered. You can watch Bob’s interview with Lord Chadlington at about 33:15 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy von Walter, EVP Global Communications and Public Relations, Toys ‘R’ Us
    During Aaron’s introduction, he shared the news that Amy is now EVP at Toys ‘R’ Us. Amy gave a powerful talk about first impressions. She’s passionate about encouraging confidence in her employees. It’s an extension of her confidence which comes from her experiences overcoming first impressions.  And she’s an expert there, based on her reality of being from South Korea and raised in Minnesota by her adopted parents. She referenced the work of Dr. Hendrie Weisenger’s about the many ways you can build confidence. You can watch Amy’s session at 58:04 in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP
    Manny discussed breaking through silos to get into more conversations with customers. He’s a person with unique perspective since he’s been CMO at both Symantec and a division of HP and now he’s responsible for 3,000 engineers working to reinvent HP’s printer business. Manny’s passionate about not imposing our business structure on our customers, which breaks the dialog with our customers. You can watch Manny’s session at about the 1:07 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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Before the first panel, my friend and someone I really respect, Robert Scoble joined Aaron on stage to share his recent news that he will be joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence. All the best to you in the new gig Robert. Your early work at your Channel 9 days at Microsoft and you (and Shel’s) book Naked Conversations helped me prepare for taking the reins as Dell’s chief blogger back in 2006, Onward and upward, my friend! You can watch Scoble’s news at about the 1:24 mark in the PreCommerce livestream. Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for the live pic.

Robert Scoble #SXW2O

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  • Susan Glasser, Editor in Chief, Politico and Peter Cherukuri, EVP Audience Solutions & President, Politico
    Susan and Peter discussed the evolution of sponsored content. Interesting perspective from the two of them and how they’ve made a new publishing model work for Politico. To do it, they re-invented what it means to be an online news platform in an era where journalistic speed a given in the space. That meant diving deep into new types of stories and experiences to stay ahead of their competition. You can watch their session at about the 2:16 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • David Kirkpatrick, CEO, Techonomy, author of The Facebook Effect and Graham Weston, Founder/Chairman, Rackspace
    David sat down with Graham to get his take on where the cloud was headed. Before jumping into the conversation, Graham took a minute to thanks Robert Scoble for his 7 years at Rackspace. Rackspace is a $2B company who provides cloud infrastructure and integration services for AWS and Azure clients. His company’s still focused on providing “fanatical” support in the midst of a changing competitive landscape. Lastly, David asked Graham about his considerable community efforts in the city of San Antonio and beyond. You can watch their fireside chat about the 2:47 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Jeremiah Owyang, Founder/CEO, Crowd Companies
    My good friend Jeremiah spent a few minutes getting into the future of Crowd business models. He shared examples of how the collaborative economy is already disrupting traditional businesses and also shared his take on how it would evolve moving forward . Key takeaways 1) Common digital technologies empower people to get what they need from each other. 2) The crowd is becoming like a company—bypassing  inefficient corporations. 3) Like the Internet and social, corporations must use the same digital strategies to regain relevancy 4) This requires a business model change: Product>Service>Marketplace>Repeat. You can watch Jeremiah’s session at about the 4:08 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Greg McCullough, Senior Director Partnerships, Medtronic and Gail Day, VP, Publisher Harvard Business Review
    Greg and Gail sat down to discuss what’s next in brand/ media partnerships. Gail attributed part of HBR’s success to the organization’s commitment to a goal to rid the world of bad management. That focus also extends to their partnerships. They’re strict about working with their brand, and that’s why they choose to work with limited partners. Medtronic was one of those partners. Their collaboration resulted iYou can watch their session at about the 4:31 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Becky Brown, VP Digital Marketing & Media Group, Intel
    Becky spent a few minutes discussing The New Digital. Becky reiterated that marketers are all aware of consumers’ aversion to ads—look no further than ad blockers and the fact that they are willing to pay a premium for services without ads. Intel is answering this co-creating with companies like Buzzfeed and Mashable. And now, taking that idea with new ESPN where they integrated technology into the X Games, which allowed both companies to create new kinds of content. And they are building on the success of their online magazine called Intel IQ, where they will introduce original programming next month. You can watch Becky at about the 5:28 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy Hoopes, CMO, Wente Vineyards
    Amy took some time to discuss how user experience is becoming the new marketing. The family Amy works for has been in the wine industry for 133 years, in the Livermore Valley area of California. They were always good at making great wines. To understand the history of Wente Vineyards, Amy did extensive interviews with the family. Through that research, it was clear that the Wente family had been doing many innovative things, like operating a full-service white tablecloth restaurant that recently celebrated it’s 30th birthday. Amy talked about here SMS strategy: Simplify, Motivate and Share. You can watch Amy’s session at about the 5:43 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • The third panel of the day, All Hype Aside featured 1) Michael Putnam, SVP Consumer Marketing, AmericanWell 2) Lorie Fiber, Global Corporate Communications, IBM Health and 3) Jeroen Brouwer Director of Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Philips
    Our own Rob Cronin moderated this esteemed panel of guests to discuss how digital health will impact our lives in the future. You can watch the panel discussion at about the 6:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity Corporation
    Alex discussed the future of wireless charging and how it will impact us with all the smart devices we carry with us every day. When he says wireless, he means it. Their technology doesn’t require a charging pad to be plugged into on outlet. It’s about moving power over a distance. WiTricity Corporation’s technology works with all kinds of devices: from Bluetooth headsets, to laptops and tablets, and event electric cars. You can watch Alex’s session at about the 6:56 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing & Chief Evangelist, Sysomos
    Amber used her time to discuss the Future  of Analytics: Social Data and Beyond. She started by talking about how much customer expectations have changed. They expect answers in 30 – 60 mins, and they also expect those answers on nights and weekends. She  also talked about how creative design is even more important as a way to reach customers. Then, she discussed the importance of bridging the gap between data scientists and marketers or communicators. Analytics is currently a specialized skillset. But back in the 50s, typing was a job that was done via dedicated employees. Amber argued that data analysis will ultimately become a core skill just like typing did. You can watch Amber’s session at about the 7:10  mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Shiv Singh, SVP Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation, Visa
    Shiv discussed how to open source your brand.  He started with a simple but painful premise: that customers don’t trust your brand. And then he offered examples of how Visa reached out to the startup community for innovative ideas. One outcome: they are opening up the Visa network as an API for developers. You can watch their session at about the 7:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Hugh Forrest, Director, SXSW Interactive and John Battelle, CEO of NewCo and co-founder of Wired Magazine & The Industry Standard
    This fireside chat was a blast. John interviewed Hugh on the past, present and future of SXSW. See my earlier blog post here for a much more detailed summary of that lively discussion. The interview covered a lot of ground. My favorite quote from Hugh? “TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too.” You can watch Hugh Forrest’s interview at about the 7:40 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Make sure to tune into W2O Group’s Movers & Shapers event.

 

Andrew Soucy Classroom Photo

Established by W2O Group Founder and CEO, Jim Weiss and his wife Audra Weiss and spearheaded by W2O Group Principal, Gary Grates and Syracuse University’s Maria Russell, the Center for Social Commerce (CSC) has been incubating a collaborative partnership between W2O Group and Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications since 2012.  The CSC has continued to bring immersive events to campus to provide students with unprecedented opportunities to sharpen their skills across analytics and digital media and learn about emerging industry trends.

On March 1-3, visiting executives and W2O Group subject-matter experts traveled to Syracuse University for a particularly special 2016 Social Commerce Days. To kick things off, students and faculty packed into the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium for, “The Missing Ingredient(s) in Career Achievement: Corporate, Firm and Entrepreneurial Perspectives,” featuring Jim Weiss and Chevron’s General Manager of Public Affairs, Dave Samson. Samson and Weiss shared insight into their diverse career paths and straight-talk advice for future leaders on rising to the top in a rapidly evolving communications industry.

Spring 2016 Social Commerce Days didn’t stop there. Throughout the week, visiting executives and W2O Group experts spoke with students, visited individual classrooms and hosted a series of interactive sessions including:

  • A networking lunch with W2O Group, where experts provided perspective and insight into agency life.
  • An exclusive “Life After Newhouse” breakfast with Jim Weiss and student leaders.
  • A sold-out “Translating Analytics to Strategy” interactive workshop, hosted by W2O Group’s Colin Foster, during which students collaborated to develop strategies for applying analytic in developing business solutions across paid, earned, shared and owned media.
  • An “Agency Management Workshop” session with student-run public relation firm Hill Communications, where Scott Kramer, Meriel McCaffery and Gary Grates spoke with teams about account management and integrating multimedia, digital components into client campaigns.

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Jim Breakfast Photo

The CSC also formally introduced 2016 Student Ambassadors, Nicole Sherwood and John Thomey. Here are just a few reactions from the experts and executives visiting Syracuse this year:

Dave Samson, General Manager of Public Affairs, Chevron

“What I witnessed at Syracuse University is the redefinition of our profession. Together with W2O Group, the Newhouse School is actively preparing its students with the critical mix of communications, marketing and digital fluency skills.  Not only is their deliberate focus on social commerce smart, it places Newhouse at the forefront of education in the field of communications.”

Scott Kramer, Group Director, Content Engagement, W2O Group

 “I am not exaggerating when I say that Social Commerce Days was a true highlight of my career.  It allowed me to pay it forward by sharing advice, insights and knowledge with aspiring marketers the same way so many mentors and colleagues have done for me.  In addition, and just as important, it was an opportunity to be with fellow W2Oers that I normally don’t interact much with in a setting that allowed us to truly bond – the long hallway was in full effect and then some.  Last but not least, spending time with Jim and Gary was so beneficial.  So much of what they shared was helpful to me just as much as it was to the students themselves.

The Newhouse School was very impressive.  Through a tour of the school and speaking with students and faculties, I could easily see why it is the top communications school in the country.  The school was very appreciative of the Jim’s generosity and dedication to his alma mater.  Having been selected to represent Jim and W2O as part of this program was a true honor.

Being a part of Social Commerce days is now at the top of my list of #WhyW2O.”

Colin Foster, Managing Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

“As I sat at the front of the room I could only think of one thing: Why didn’t anyone do this for me when I was in university? Instead, I had to endure hours of lectures, of being talked at, of endless reading, of studying concepts, writing papers and tests and exams.

Now, flash forward to the classroom at Newhouse last week and I find myself fully engaged with students talking about the challenges of real world. The students got a taste of how to apply what they are learning; they got a front row seat to the passion of our team as we navigate our careers in real time. We got to share our diverse career paths, give practical counsel on their term projects, lead a 2-hour workshop, answer questions about what it’s like to live and work in different countries.

It was the great “meet-up” of knowledge acquired and experience gained. Back in school, I would have loved the opportunity for real life to be held right up in my face. I was a late bloomer, professionally-speaking, only hitting my stride into my 30s. An opportunity like this just might have inspired me to find my passion a little sooner.

And, to be completely honest, I loved being Dr. Foster – even if that title was my little self-bestowed secret.”

 Hollie Noble, Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

“Attending and participating in the Social Commerce program at Syracuse was exciting. Students were enthused and hungry for real world insights and the W2O Group team was able to provide perspective and important context. The three days were an information packed immersion into the communications industry.

The growth and expansion of digital and social means that we as communications professionals need to forever adapt and challenge ourselves in order to deliver for clients – through meeting with the bright minded students from Newhouse, it was fabulous to see how the next generation of colleagues are really taking this onboard and living it – creating their own brands via social, working with clients to find solutions and collaborating as partners and teams to succeed.”

 Andrew Soucy, Director, Technology, W2O Group

“Participating in Social Commerce Days was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with the students (man, are they sharp!) and professors, as well as get a better sense for the curriculum (perfectly configured to meet today’s marketing/comms challenges). It was great to feed off the students’ passion for the subject and help guide them on finding the next (or first) step in their careers. Something truly valuable for every W2O Group employee and I encourage all who get the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

 Christina Khoury-Folkens, Senior Manager, Media & Engagement, W2O Group

“The Center for Social Commerce provides incredibly valuable experiences for these students. In addition to learning their core curriculum, which is innovative and thought-provoking in its own right, these students are able to see how we are applying what they’re learning in real life situations.

Participating in Social Commerce Days was such a joy, and I believe we’ve inspired these students to persevere in their careers and follow through with what they aim to accomplish to ultimately #makeithappen. It was an inspiring experience for us as well to collaborate with colleagues and bring fresh ideas just by picking the minds of these students.”

To learn more about the Center for Social Commerce, visit socialcommerce.syr.edu and follow @SocCommSU. Check out additional Social Commerce Days conversation from students and staff at our hashtag, #SocCommDays.

Every quarter, investor relations professionals spend hours preparing press releases and conference call scripts to provide updates on their company’s recent milestones and financial status. Sometimes even that is usually not enough to tell the whole story, with most public companies also conducting a Q&A session during their quarterly calls. With all of that work going into fine tuning your messages and providing a comprehensive vision, how can you possibly be expected to condense that story into a 140 character tweet?

The short answer is, you can’t. As an upcoming SXSW panel (140 Characters, Zero Context) will discuss, the character limitations on Twitter can make providing context to your story difficult, to say the least. But since you can’t just ignore a channel that is rapidly being adopted by the media and investors alike, you need to find a way to work within those limitations to make sure that more than just your stock price gets shared.

In starting this conversation, the first question I typically get from CFOs is, do investors really care about social media? The answer to that has been shown to be unequivocally yes. You could easily look at the number of followers of major financial media (Jim Cramer from MadMoney has nearly 1 million followers) for an answer but recently there have also been some studies showing how investors use social media and the impact that it can have on their behavior and opinions.

Greenwich Associates conducted a survey of 256 investors from the US, Europe and Asia and 80 percent say they use social media as part of their workflow. Nearly a third of these investors stated the information obtained through social media directly influences investment decisions. The other interesting tidbit from this study is that while investors use Twitter to track breaking news and company updates, LinkedIn is the most popular platform for work-related purposes.

This may lead to the question then of why even bother with Twitter, why not just move to other platforms that are less restrictive. There are several reasons why Twitter should not be ignored. First, it generates a significant volume of conversation. So far this year, Gilead ($GILD) has been mentioned in nearly 50,000 tweets. Even smaller companies can see a lot of traction on Twitter. In a nod to SXSW, let’s look at an Austin-based company – Luminex ($LMNX), a small-cap company that develops and markets biological tests has been mentioned on Twitter over 1,100 times so far this year.

The second reason not to ignore Twitter is that even with the character restrictions, Twitter is one of the best ways to engage directly with your audiences. You can convey a sense to trust and transparency and truly build a relationship with people in 140 characters. This is supported by a study from the University of Illinois that showed that when a tweeting CEO shared negative news from their personal handle, 46 percent of investors perceived the poor financial results to be a one-time event, compared to those who learned of the information from a CEO letter on the company website (eight percent), from the IR portal on the company website (nine percent) or through an IR or corporate twitter handle (12 percent). Having the CEO engage in what felt like a personal level on Twitter was shown to actually help buoy the company’s stock price during difficult times.

This leads us to the foundational reason why having a comprehensive social media strategy is so important: the channels are used differently. Even when you cannot tell the full story, Twitter can be an extremely effective channel to provide quick updates and teasers to where to find more information, to guide people to blogs, webcasts or LinkedIn posts where you do have the real estate to provide context beyond 140 characters. Think of Twitter as the guy on the airport tarmac directing planes where to go. You are guiding your audience to another platform where they can read about your whole story rather than just see the most recent update on your stock price. But Twitter is also an excellent opportunity to humanize your news, to build trust with your investors. By showing that your management team is invested in building the best company possible, you are providing that intangible context that doesn’t always shine through in a press release or investor presentation. That context can be just as valuable as anything beyond 140 characters.

Together with panelists Steven Overman, CMO at Eastman Kodak, Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel, and Steve Milton, Consultant and Former Corporate Communications director at eBay, Bob Pearson investigates whether evolution is enough to stay relevant in the new digital economy.

There’s a clear need to embrace digital, but do we need to learn more about it before we start our digital agenda to ensure we do it right?

For Bob’s panelists digital is actually something that needs to be part of the mindset of an organization in order to be successful and impactful. Since the nature of the digital world is dynamic and not stable, we need to start acting, but also remain nimble to be able to respond to changes in the future.

Part of our digital transformation should also be a reevaluation of familiar questions: How do global brand behave in local markets? Do we position ourselves as the known and trusted international brand or do we adapt to local needs? Navigating between the waters of global and local has always been a challenge for companies, but when it comes to digital the core question actually diminishes – there is no local. However, we have to think through more tactical implications such as various languages, servers or how we handle e-commerce fulfillment. We are trying to behave in a unified way, but have to figure out how those things can actually be executed.

Another key question in digital is whether or not e-commerce is becoming channel and platform agnostic by integrating the ability to sell and buy into our social channels. It is actually not a question of if, but rather when we see this development, thinking about markets like China, where the integration of the marketplace into the social world is already reality.

So what can online marketing tech companies do to be more relevant and valuable? With a lot of change we need to have a scientist’s mindset, being curious, trying out new things and failing fast, which is not failure, but a way to gain new insights. Most importantly we need to listen of what people care about and can no longer assume we know.

We are living in a time where we are ‘always on’ with multiple devices providing us with information but also distracting us and exhausting our time. Technology has become a natural part of our daily life, where having different multiple online personas for work, life, and play is common. It has also become a source of angst.

With an influx of new information and online digital platforms almost daily, the digital landscape is evolving and consumers are now more empowered than ever. Brands can no longer fully control their narrative and need to find and understand the people who are most relevant to their future determining how they consume and share information as well as how they listen to each other as individuals.

This rapidly changing world can sometimes feel both like a massive headache and an incredible opportunity for marketers and communicators. C-suite leaders must be able to adapt to these changes if their organizations are to survive. Staying nimble and being able to predict how the industry will evolve before it happens is all part of the job. What we see from working with our clients and helping them stay one step ahead of competition is that regardless of which industry you are in or who your audience is, we are all facing similar challenges when it comes to digitalization. Being so imbedded in our client businesses is what allows us to build the community where innovators and leaders can come together and share their best practices and learnings.

Breaking away from your everyday routine and meeting those who are walking in the same shoes as you, is a proven method to generate new ideas or new solutions. Following on the success of last year’s Social Intelligence Summit we are excited to host our second annual thought leadership event – PreCommerce Summit London 2015.

The event, coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, will bring together experts from across industries to discuss how we work, live and create in the digital world. We will be considering the impact and opportunities of the mobile generation and will provide perspectives and host panel discussions with key leaders, such as:

I’m hopeful you are able to attend this important forum. Don’t miss the last chance to register to attend the summit on the 14th of September in London via livestream or in person!

More information on the event and the speakers can be found here www.w2oevents.com.

Navigating the future takes more than just educated guesswork. It combines knowledge, adaptability and a willingness to garner new inputs from new sources.

The W2O Group Pre-Commerce London Summit is your personal GPS to succeeding in the future!

As a marketing analyst, my day is governed by digital media. My nights are equally dictated, as I am guilty of sleeping next to my phone, just like 83% of other Millennials. Tech-dependant as we are, I’d expect this “generation of digital natives” to be very fond of online experiences. In fact, according to statista, 85% of UK 16 to 34-year-olds used Facebook in 2014. Can we infer from these numbers alone that digital experiences are always the preferred choice by us Millennials? As you might have guessed, I intend to make it a tad more difficult by contrasting some digital vs. offline experiences:

Education: While traditional education has undeniable benefits such as direct peer and teacher interaction, over 6.7 million students were taking a minimum of one online course in 2011 – an increase of more than half a million year-on-year. Online education will enable people from poorer families or rural areas receive valuable skills. Interestingly, print reading is highest among 18 to 29 year old US students, according to a Pew study, as the text book layout benefits comprehension and distractions and skimming are less likely.

Work: Similar to traditional education, being physically present at work has huge benefits, such as your boss knowing what you are up to. However, home offices will be an important factor in juggling work and family, as a survey in the Microsoft whitepaper points out. Further benefits of home office are a less stressful environment, a quieter atmosphere, commute elimination and increased environmental sustainability.

Dating & Friendships: Dating apps allow us to roam potential partners whenever and wherever we want. Some portals such as EHarmony and OkCupid ask personal questions that supposedly match you to people with similar opinions and interests. Therefore, online dating is a form of offline speed dating, as you don’t have to waste precious minutes getting to know someone to figure out later that their love for cats doesn’t match your allergies. Digital, in this case, gives you a wider range of opportunities, while you will most likely want to meet your online encounter in real life before getting married. Regarding friendship building, technology also works as a facilitator. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 57% of US teens have met a new friend online, with 30% having made more than five. Due to their love for video games, boys are more likely than girls to make online friends.

Family: Most of us can speak from experience that being around your family in person is superior to a Skype call, where the video quality is sub-par. Nonetheless, apps and platforms allow us to reach out more often and share little, yet important moments as well.

The endless list of things we do online includes mobile banking (enabling female farmers in Africa build their own businesses) or sharing hobbies, such as cooking, sports, art and photography. Due to Instagram filters, everyone can now be a “photographer” and we can share our successful or not-so-successful cooking experiences with the entire world. We can also share calories burnt after our first mile or half-marathon and make our Facebook friends envious. Most of all, we can find people who share rare hobbies such as a fondness for pigeons. It’s much easier to find like-minded people online or strangers to talk to confidentially. Privacy goes both ways online: you can be anonymous and share fears and thoughts, but at the same time, you can gossip and insult others without being identified. Negative factors seem to increase online where it is also much easier to voice your opinion to a greater audience. The latest incidence being the refugee crisis in Europe, where a lot of celebrities voice themselves supportively online, but allow fans with negative sentiments to comment and reach this wide audience as well.

As it turns out, the digital landscape is widely complex. Deciding on what experiences are more enjoyable online is further hindered by factors such as your audience’s background, preferences and motivations. As the recent Economist article “Myths about Millennials” points out, “individual differences are always bigger than generational differences.” One should not make assumptions about a group of people just because they were born in the same time period.

Generally speaking, however, digital is always better. Not because we replace real experiences with digital ones, but because digital adds options to our means of communication. Every communication tool in history has had its pros and cons, but the tools have been improving over time. Improvement meaning enhancing communication, bringing us closer together. We started with smoke clouds and can now communicate with people on several continents at once and in colour. We want to share information and experiences – sad moments, achievements and joy. Yes, there are still many improvements to be made, technically and personally (be it privacy issues or us constantly looking down on our phones while walking in the streets). Ultimately, communication is what we’re all about and digital communication is a further added benefit along the way – and not just for Millennials.

After this peek into the facets of digital, I want to invite you to join W2O Group’s PreCommerce Summit that is part of London’s Social Media Week, to further expand your knowledge. Hear industry experts talk about marketing’s future and share your opinion on whether digital is always better. You can RSVP here: http://w2oevents.com/

In the past six years, I can count on one hand — one finger, actually — the number of times I’ve attended a conference and not been an active participant in the Twitter conversation onsite. It was 2009, my laptop was at the office, and I did not yet have a smartphone. You can bet that was the last time I traveled without multiple devices, a smartphone being one of them.

As a millennial — yes, one of those — I began my career at a time when Twitter was only for the tech elite, Facebook was still “The Facebook,” and LinkedIn was a glorified resume. Now, similar to how no one can remember a time when anything got done without email, I can no longer fathom — nor want to — a world where social media wasn’t a driving force behind how business gets done, and done well.

In my past life as a healthcare conference producer, social media wasn’t yet the widely adopted medium for communication and collaboration that it is today. Speaking faculties and conference agendas were created from research and whatever publications and articles were available online, and events were publicized via mass email campaigns and cold calling. Just a few years later, the landscape had already changed drastically.

In my next role as an editorial content producer at a technology publisher, hashtags were the new sources for news stories, LinkedIn was the first point of contact, and QR codes were all the rage. To stay timely, topical and relevant was to keep up with the rate of change in social media adoption and use. Today, that thinking still holds true. Only now, the cost of not participating is something that individuals and brands alike can no longer afford.

We’ve all heard that “content is king,” and from a content generation perspective, Twitter is one of the most valuable — and all too often, underrated — sources. If someone had told me back when I was putting together conference agendas that there would soon be a channel that would provide, in real-time, insights on the topics and trends that your target audience cares most about, I might have traded an arm or leg for access. Now, that information is just a screen tap away.

But the wealth of benefits that Twitter provides goes well beyond social intelligence — topic and audience targeting, influencer analysis, idea generation and the like. While it’s true that the incredibly rich data that Twitter provides — when paired with the right analytics, active listening tools and analysis in place — creates an unmatched opportunity for social optimization and ROI-inducing initiatives, to me, the most valuable aspect of the channel has been the relationships that is has allowed me to cultivate. And for that, I could not be more appreciative.

While conferences and networking events might have previously been where industry colleagues would be introduced to one another for the first time, now, these onsite interactions are simply an extension of the relationships that began through a series of 140 character posts. The number of times I’ve approached — okay, ran toward — industry colleagues with whom I’ve connected on Twitter first, and recognized solely from their profile picture, is a bit embarrassing. But the amazing opportunities, incredible learning experiences, professional connections, and friends, that I have made, simply because we were engaged via the social medium first, makes it all worthwhile.

Case in point being earlier this year, at W2O’s #HITsmCIO event at HIMSS’15 in Chicago, where provider innovation, information and technology chiefs gathered together to discuss the proliferation of social media in healthcare. UPMC’s chief innovation officer, Rasu Shrestha, M.D., one of the Twittersphere’s most active — an quite frankly, awesome — digital health leaders, shared that when it comes to hospital and health system use of social media, “it’s less of a question about whether you should do it; it’s can you afford not to.” I would have never gotten the opportunity to meet, know, and most importantly, learn from, Dr. Shrestha in the same capacity if not for Twitter, where his perspective perfectly echoes what we advise our clients, friends, and ourselves, regarding social media engagement.

For House of Cards fans, during one of his infamous first-person narratives to the camera, Frank Underwood noted that “imagination is its own form of courage.” For anyone who has yet to take the leap or see the value in social media from a personal perspective, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. Imagine yourself interacting with and learning from individuals you had previously only read about, fostering relationships with an unmatched network of thought leaders, and carving out a voice for yourself in the space. It might take a bit of courage to put yourself out there, but just imagine the possibilities.

And for those brands who have yet to harness the power of social engagement and intelligence — from healthcare and digital health, to technology and pharma, through B2B startups to well-established B2C staples — the time to imagine how these social channels can drive opportunity and incredible value for your business is now. Remember, it takes imagination — and courage — to see innovation and opportunity where others cannot, and social media engagement is no exception.

For more information on how social commerce and SoMe intelligence is driving change, enabling opportunity and creating a competitive advantage across the marketing and communications landscape, be sure to follow #PreCommerce on Twitter for updates and notable information from W2O’s EMEA annual PreCommerce Summit, taking place in London on September 14, 2015.

Please see here for more information on the event. In the area? Come join us – registration is free!

Something about changing one’s environment — whether it be in a different city, state or country — always has a way of impacting perspective. It could be the architecture, the food, the temperature, different dialects or foreign languages. Some of it is psychological as we are bombarded with new stimuli that our brain isn’t used to. Often it is a combination of things but at the end of the day, it can lead to new breakthroughs.

Photo Credit: Simon Ling, W2O Group
Photo Credit: Simon Ling of W2O Group

Recently, I had the luxury of spending the better part of two weeks in London. For several of those days, I worked out of our 45 person London office. While I had met most of the folks from the office at least virtually and another handful in person, I had never had the chance to hunker down and interact with them in their native environment. Nor had I had the chance to break bread with them, drink coffee with them, visit clients, grab a pint, sit through team meetings or listen in as they tried to explain to one another the exact meaning of American phrases like “navel gazing.”

While I knew that the team there was exceptionally smart and hard working, I didn’t realize to what degree this was true until I had the luxury of invading their space. Fortunately for me, they were kind hosts and went to great lengths to make sure I was able to get the most of my trip there. The good news is I did… and then some.

If you’ve been to London before, you know just what a global city it is. Our office is a true reflection of that. With members from Spain, Lithuania, Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia and a dozen other places I’m leaving out, there is a real international feeling to the office. Most of the conversation happens in English but occasionally you can hear French, German and Russian spoken — sometimes to colleagues, often to clients. I occasionally caught myself listening in… not that I could catch much of what was being said (my french is decent as is my Russian but I only know about 20 words in German so I was dead in the water there). It was fascinating.

During my London stay, there were numerous lessons learned. Some were inferred from my time in our London office, others were taken from interacting with clients, friends and colleagues while I was there. In no particular order, here we go:

  • If you work in London (or EMEA for that matter), you work a long day. While the mornings may start off a little more casually than in the States, people are generally in the office between 8:30 and 9:30 and then are often expected to be on calls until 8:00 or 9:00 PM at night to accommodate New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It gets worse if one’s book of business includes clients in Asia.
  • To the last point, there ends up being a weird lull in the first third of the day in between the 30-45 minutes of email cleanup in the morning until about 2:00 PM when the east coast starts to come on line. It took a couple of days to get used to this lull but once you do, it is an incredibly productive time that can be used for local meetings, client work and thought leadership. The closest thing I’ve seen to it is on the west coast around 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM where ET and CT have wrapped up and the UK still sleeps.
  • I mentioned the international piece before when I was describing our office but I am truly amazed at how international London is. And it’s not just tourists. Business people on the Tube, street vendors, waiters. You hear a dozen different languages and can see from the clothing, hair styles and culture that you are living in a true melting pot. I know NYC is similar to this but to me at least, it feels like more of this is driven by the service industry and its natural employment of so many immigrants. If you want to be global, a London presence is a must have gateway into EMEA.
  • The Subway or “Tube” as it’s called is the lifeblood of the city. While NYC is similar in its dependence on public transportation, I was amazed at the profound impact the Tube strike had on my first couple of days in London. Part of the problem is that the roads in London are so narrow, traffic is bad even with most of the commuters using public transport. When one of the major people movers shuts down, traffic grinds to a halt. Worse yet, estimates show that the shutdown causes £50 million in lost business revenue. Ouch!
  • Due to the “global” first approach (particularly in our office), better thought through frameworks and processes seem to arise. This is a necessity as any work done needs to potentially scale into dozens of other markets and languages. If the process is flawed out of the gate, it only gets worse through iteration and repetition. A great example of this is an easy to understand statement of work (SOW) template that my colleague, Laura Mucha, put together that clients love AND it contains a staffing plan making it easier for teams to kick off new projects.

There are easily ten other things I picked up on my travels but these were a few of the more obvious ones. I should be back in the UK in September so keep your eyes open for more observations then.

Eric_Smith_photo Guest post by: Eric Smith, Pharm.D., Director, Safety Evaluation and Risk Management, GlaxoSmithKline

Currently, post-marketing drug safety surveillance relies on data from spontaneous adverse event reports, published literature and observational databases, such as medical records and insurance claims. Unfortunately, these data sources have limitations, including significant under-reporting (some estimate that less than 10 percent of adverse events are reported), lack of geographically diverse data (most data come from the United States and Europe) and time lag (most commercial data sources lag 9-12 months). Safety stakeholders are always looking for additional information that can complement existing data sources, with social being a rich medium whose potential we have only just begun to utilize.

It took 38 years for radio, 13 years for television, 4 years for the internet, and only 1.5 years for Facebook to reach 50 million users. As you can tell, social media is an evolving communication channel that is shaping how people communicate across the world. A recent study found that 3-4 percent of adult internet users have posted on social media channels about their experience with healthcare service providers or treatments in the previous 12 months.

Can monitoring these posts — or, employing social listening in healthcare — contribute to post-marketing safety surveillance? Can it be done in an efficient manner? If so, what are the potential benefits and risks, and what governance is needed to ensure regulatory compliance and protect patient privacy?

I look forward answering these questions and engaging with attendees at the Social Media Data Workshop at Health Datapalooza on June 3, 2015, in Washington, D.C.! Please see here to register and below/here for more information.

Be sure to follow @GSK, @W2OGroup and #HCSMdata on Twitter to learn more! Full speaker and session line up is below.

Social Media Data Workshop at Health Datapalooza
June 3, 2015  * 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Washington, D.C. * Marriott Wardman Park

Featured topics and presenters include:

  • Project CRaWL: How Social Listening is Improving Healthcare Product Safety at GSK
    • Eric Smith, Pharm.D., Director, Safety Evaluation and Risk Management, GlaxoSmithKline
  • How the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is Using Social Data to Improve Public Health
    • Jay H. Dempsey, M.Ed., Senior Health Communication Specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • How IBM Watson Health is Transforming Healthcare Innovation
    • Kathleen McGroddy Goetz, Ph.D., Vice President, Partnerships & Solutions, IBM Watson Health
  • Learning from Physician Social Engagement: MDigitalLife’s Social Oncology Project
    • Greg Matthews, Managing Director of MDigitalLife, W2O Group
  • How Merck and Boston Children’s Hospital Characterized Sleep Issues Using Twitter
    • Jared Hawkins, PhD, Research Associate, Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School
  • Innovations in Social Media Application at Mayo Clinic
    • Lee Aase, Director, Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media
  • Use of Social Media to Identify Foodborne Illness
    • Jay Bhatt, D.O., Chief Health Officer, Illinois Hospital Association
  • How Social Sentiment Analytics Reflect Hospital Quality
    • Garry Choy, MD MBA, Assistant Chief Medical Information Officer for Advanced Technologies, Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, Massachusetts General Hospital; Co-founder, CredSimple
  • Measuring Patient-Perceived Quality of Care in U.S. Hospitals Using Twitter
    • Jared Hawkins, PhD, Research Associate, Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School