In 2016, it should be no surprise that many doctors have translated their offline influence into social influence, sharing health information with colleagues and patients. While HIPAA and the need to maintain patient privacy are well understood by physicians, what is less understood is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidance on social media. In order to protect the general public and ensure that online influencers are transparent about payment and gifts, the FTC issued Endorsement Guides. The FTC suggests that this be accomplished using hashtags such as #ad, #paid, #sponsored or #promoted in posts.

STATNews recently highlighted a few physicians who did not make their relationship with biopharma companies readily apparent when commenting on the company products. When we work with physicians to educate them on using social media, central to this effort is how to use it appropriately, including an explanation of the FTC regulations. The FTC notes that “if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”



What’s a Physician To Do?

If a physician is working with a biopharma company and is being compensated for their expertise as a key opinion leader (KOL), we recommend that this be disclosed. One way is to add a hashtag with the name of the company and the acronym KOL (#CompanyKOL) to social posts. This makes it clear that the physician has a relationship with the company. In order to provide this clarity, one of our clients requests the healthcare professionals use #spokesperson in their posts. And, because the relationships between healthcare professionals and biopharma companies can be multi-faceted, another way to highlight the connection is for the physician to add a link to in their bio that explains the details, such as involvement in clinical trials.

It’s also important to note that, similar to bloggers, the physicians are not being paid for their positive opinion, but for their expertise. Consumers want to hear from physicians and learn from them. It’s just important that the context is apparent.

Always Keep Fair Balance in Mind

Many physicians also aren’t aware of the complex Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on promoting drugs. This includes the need to include “fair balance” (i.e. if you feature the benefits of a medication, you need to equally feature the potential risks). The FDA is clear that this requirement needs to be maintained even when there are only 140 characters on Twitter. A link to the important safety information does not suffice.

When working with influencers, whether patients or physicians, we always share the FDA and FTC guidelines so that they can make educated choices when sharing on social. No matter who you are, authenticity and transparency are essential to building relationships via social media.



It is that time of year again… South by Southwest (SXSW). Once again, our company will be hosting some awesome events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. For those not familiar, SXSW is a giant conference/festival comprised of three parts: Interactive, Film and Music. Given the importance of Interactive or “digital” to our clients’ business, we take this opportunity to invite many of our clients and partners to town to learn, network and celebrate.

Recap video from our awesome 2015 events

Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on Thursday, March 10 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like Bayer, Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Medtronic, Intel and We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, Politico, NewCo and Crowd Companies providing a look at what the future holds in store. This event focuses squarely on innovation and its fast-paced formats (10 to 20 minute TED-like talks, power panels and pithy fireside chats) allow for learning on steroids. And of course there is the networking.

This event will be attended by about 450 plus customers, partners and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow with special WILCO side project, Autumn Defense. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public.

In addition to PreCommerce, we also host a digital brunch at our swank offices located in East Austin. If you like food trucks, cold-brewed coffee, music, cocktails, cool demos and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this. We have also ordered sunny weather so this is a good opportunity to work on your tan.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in the world of  business. This year, we’re planning to host an event called “Movers and Shapers” (formerly GeekFest) on Saturday at CB’s (the new VIP event space at Stubbs) from 10:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M. Speakers include senior level marketers and thought leaders from companies like Intel, AbbVie, Galderma, Techonomy and Bayer. Featured speakers will include Ray Kerins, SVP Comms. & Govt. Relations at Bayer and Robert Scoble, Futurist at Rackspace.

In addition to these three amazing events, we will also host our seventh annual Geekacue Saturday night at iconic Stubbs BBQ on Red River. This year, we’ve booked Red Bull Sound Select artist, Not in the Face along with new festival darling, Black Pistol Fire (check out their video below).

If you need more proof that these events are amazing, check out my 2015 wrap up post.

You can find information on all of our events here.

Thursday, March 10th: Sixth Annual PreCommerce Summit –  It will be a series of 10 minute TED-style talks, panels, and fire side chats.

  • Eventbrite here (password required – email to request invite)
  • Zach’s Theatre: 1510 Toomey Rd, Austin, TX
  • Sessions run 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
  • Cocktail Hour from 5:00-6:00PM featuring band, Autumn Defense
  • Live stream available for those not able to attend coming soon
  • Complementary but invite only.

PreCommerce 2016 Speakers Include:

Friday, March 11th: Digital Brunch (350+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (no password required)
  • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX
  • 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
  • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
  • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am

Saturday, March 12th: Movers & Shapers Summit (150 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required — email to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ — VIP area called CB’s — 801 Red River St, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers Speakers confirmed include:

7th Annual Geekacue: Saturday, March 12th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required – email to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ – 801 Red River St, Austin, TX
  • 6:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M.
  • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
  • To RSVP contact (space is limited)

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

We are over-the-moon excited to have Bayer and SysomosDynamic Signal, Synthesio as our sponsors this year (2-3 more to be announced shortly). We greatly appreciate their support.

We are excited to be participating in the NewCo tour and welcome folks into our offices to share a deeper look into who we are, what we practice and our philosophy. Bob will be sharing insights on trends within the digital marketing industry and how we fit into the ever-changing landscape. Below are some high level takeaways which he will discuss in more detail at the event.

Aaron: When building a website, we regularly hear how important “responsive design” or a “multi-device friendly approach to design” is. What is your view on how clients should approach “responsive design or responsive experience” for their owned content and web properties?

Bob: Most content today is consumed by mobile phone. This will only increase in importance, so our first impression matters more than ever. As a result, we are shifting from responsive design, which is old school, to responsive experience. We need to provide the right content the first time to the customer visiting our site, based on what we know about them pre-visit.

Aaron: You’ve talked a lot recently about the fact that “influencer relationship management is more important than traditional CRM to shape markets”….can you expand on that a bit more?

Bob: You could have two million customers in a CRM database, but does this matter? What we are finding is that understanding who drives your audience (the 1% and the 9% of the 1,9,90 model) is the key to influencer relationship management. Volume isn’t the answer to gain the right reach. Precision of who you reach leads to the right volume/penetration of the market. A very simple and profound change in how we market is happening.

Aaron: The last trend emphasizes how one of our new processes – the creation of deeper audience insights through something we call audience architecture. Can you explain that a bit?

Bob: Audience architecture relates to how we identify and then listen to the right audience to understand what content we share, what keywords we use and what time of day we share content by channel. If we are tracking the right audience online, they will teach us what to do. The clues to success are right in front of us.

Aaron: Can you share an example of how audience architecture works?

Bob: Let’s say you want to find health conscious customers who are millennials, live in 15 specific cities and like to have an occasional burger. We can build a profile that leads to a panel of representative people online matching this group. We then watch what they do and say and can develop a highly targeted strategy. Basically, we’re starting to evolve how media planning and engagement occur.

Thanks for your time Bob. We look forward to hearing about these four insights and more at the upcoming event on Friday, May 29th 12:30-1:30.


W2O Group, an independent global network of leading marketing communications firms, today reported another year of growth and progress with a 10 percent increase in revenue to nearly $83 million in 2014 from $75 million in 2013. W2O Group companies, comprising WCG, Twist and Brewlife, now employ more than 425 people in 10 U.S. offices and a growing London office and EMEA presence.

W2O Group Pragmatic Disruption Ad copyThe company also announced key senior management promotions designed to enhance client service and delivery, foster continued innovation of software-enabled services grounded in state-of-the-art analytics and insights, and position W2O for future growth and evolution internationally. Exemplifying this evolution, the firm’s digital health ecosystem and insights platform, MDigitalLife, stores more than 500,000 unique digital footprints of the world’s doctors, patients and health systems. This resource is used by numerous global clients, including nearly 70% of the world’s top pharma firms.

“2014 was a purposeful year of well-managed, profitable growth that will enable us to further diversify and innovate with our clients on a more global scale,” said W2O Group Chairman and CEO Jim Weiss. “We focused on getting the right systems in place and people in the right positions to ensure that as we expand into new regions and industry sectors, our teams are optimized to deliver flawlessly for our clients and that our infrastructure is aligned to support international growth. The moves we have already announced in 2015, including the acquisitions of ARC2 and VinTank and the hiring of Dorinda Marticorena to lead our Entertainment practice demonstrate how we are continuously evolving the firm to partner with clients in the most productive way possible. We will do all of this while staying true to our foundational #GoAhead #MakeItHappen culture that values and respects quality results and achievement, intelligence, independence, curiosity, courage and a #ChooseHappiness mindset.”

Key management promotions include the following:

Bob Pearson, President of W2O, will now also serve as Chief Innovation Officer to accelerate the firm’s software and technology offerings and facilitate and incubate new practices, offices and game-changing talent.

Jennifer Gottlieb, formerly President of Twist, which has more than doubled in size in the last three years, will become Chief Operating Officer and Head of Client Service for W2O Group and will run its three integrated marketing and communications firms.

Annalise Coady, who has run W2O’s London office and EMEA region, will become President of Twist, expanding the firm’s global footprint to accelerate and facilitate international expansion.

Aaron Strout, who has led the exponential growth of the Technology practice in the last few years, has been promoted to President of WCG. He is moving from Austin to the company’s Silicon Valley office to further focus and grow this area of expertise.

Carolyn Wang, who has been with the firm for over a decade, overseeing investor relations and corporate communications capabilities for life sciences and digital health clients, has been promoted to President of BrewLife to grow that firm in much the same way Jennifer Gottlieb led the growth of Twist.

Paul Dyer, who pioneered the firm’s social media, influencer analytics and digital capabilities, will become President of the firm’s centralized, yet-to-be renamed Analytics and Insights company and shared SaaS capability, which will serve W2O clients as well as its own client base. Seth Duncan, who has been integrally involved in creating the firm’s well-respected, industry-leading Analytics and Insights offering, has been promoted to Managing Director. He will work closely with Paul Dyer to enhance the current offering and develop a differentiated market research and influencer audience targeting sciences business.

Paulo Simas, formerly President of BrewLife, and Gary Grates, formerly head of W2O’s Global Change and Corporate Reputation practice, will now lead and grow a Global Business Design practice. That new practice will comprise those existing capabilities and expand beyond them to bring a differentiated branding and reputation offering to clients that will leverage the firms’ collective integrated analytics, insights, creative, digital technology and strategic media planning capabilities.

Mike Hartman, Chief Creative Officer of W2O Group, will expand the remit of that shared service to include strategic account planning and digital agency services such as customer user experience, e-commerce and social CRM planning and execution. He will also enhance the firm’s media and engagement and entertainment offerings with agile content development through W2O Group Films.

“Bob Pearson and Jenn Gottlieb will work together with this amazing group of people, who are stepping up into new roles and responsibilities, and their capable teams to deliver services, software and solutions that will exceed the expectations of our clients,” added Weiss. “We are expanding our healthcare offering, building technology into a practice as important to our future as healthcare, and developing our capabilities to create unique advantages for any brand in any industry. I have never been more excited about our future than I am today, and remain committed to making W2O Group the very best it can be for our clients and our people.”

Click here to view the press release.

Hard to believe after three full days of events that we could bring more education, networking and fun to our clients, sponsors and friends, but via our newest SXSW event, Geekfest, we once again delivered. This post will focus on the Future of Tech and Marketing portion of the event with speakers Zita Cassizzi of Toms Shoes, Becky Brown of Intel and Pete Blackshaw of Nestle.

Here is a little more background and some key take-aways for each:

Zita Cassizzi is the Chief Digital Officer at TOMS.  She joined TOMS in 2012 and is currently the Global Chief Digital Officer. She is responsible for all things digital including the P&L, social, mobile, customer experience, web development as well as building out the digital international presence. Zita is a dynamic leader with over 20 years of experience in creating and leading global businesses, marketing and global e-commerce. She loves creating global strategies, solving complex business challenges based on data and analytics, and building high-performing teams and businesses as a result. Zita is passionate about women’s issues. During her 16 years at Dell and now at TOMS, she serves as a co-founder of a women’s networking organization.

Zita Cassizzi

Zita opened up by talking about taking technology and leveraging it for the sake of better customer service. And even that starts with some basic grounding tenets:

  • You don’t own your brand.
  • Your customers thoughts and emotions about your brand are more important
  • You must inspire and collaborate with your fans in co-creating brand stories and content with you, making them participants and leading stars
  • You should empower via site, social media to create and foster a sense of community and belonging both online and offline

One of the lenses Tom’s uses for curating their customer experience is via #travelingtoms and #tomsholidaycheer via photos. Online storytelling at its finest.

Another major component of tapping technology to empower the service of their customers is through creating events and moments (experiences) that connect their fans to the brand online and offline. They also leverage diverse online and offline touchpoints (stores, Instagram, installations) and ultimately through technologies like augmented reality.

My favorite point the Zita made is her stressing of the importance of delivering “memorable moments”  thus inspiring and motivating their customers to take action. This should create a dialog in the physical and online world.


Becky Brown is the vice president in the Global Marketing and Communications organization and director of the Digital Marketing and Media Group at Intel Corporation. She has overall responsibility for Intel’s “connected customer” experience, which encompasses the company’s digital marketing and advertising investments and strategies. Brown leads a global team defining Intel’s roles and investments in a breadth of media, developing relationships across the advertising and digital ecosystem, and building marketing capabilities and solutions to connect the customer journey.

Becky Brown

I love the fact that at an event called “Geekfest” where many of the speakers drilled down on how technology was helping us/changing us, Becky asked us to take a step back and think about the importance of People and Process versus being overly focused on technology and tools.

As part of her thought process, Becky talked about the fact that she turned over 30% of her team last year. Some of the new skill sets she is acquiring include:

  • Expertise vs. generalists
  • Trained vs. acquired
  • Strategic hires (data scientist, customer experience, operations)
  • Comfortable with data and technology
  • New vocabulary
  • Deepen partnership with IT

Becky also noted that she loves hiring Millenials because of their curiosity and the fact that they are really good at asking questions (inquiry mode).

During her talk, one of the visuals she shared really hammered home her message of there being an overabundance of tools (below).



Pete Blackshaw is the the Vice President of  Digital and Social Media at Nestlé, S.A. Leading global digital strategies for the top FMCG. Pete established the Digital Acceleration Team (DAT) and the Silicon Valley Innovation Outpost (SVIO). DAT is an 8-month digital immersion program for 12 aspiring leaders around the globe, that has now been replicated in 10 markets in Nestlé. SVIO is Nestlé’s connection to the innovation ecosystem in  Silicon Valley, tasked with identifying and leveraging leading digital partners to enhance the health and wellness of consumers. Pete previously served as CMO of  NM Incite, a  Nielsen-McKinsey social media research venture, and earlier, helped Procter & Gamble win Ad Age’s “Interactive Marketer of the Year” distinction. He is the author of  Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000 (Doubleday), founder of, co-founder of  the Word of  Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and former Chairman of  the Board for the National Council of  the Better Business Bureau. He  was awarded the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) “Great Minds” distinction in 2010.

Pete BlackshawPete’s talk focused on his company, Nestle’s Innovation Trifecta which talked about:

  • Digital Acceleration Team’s (DAT) model and programming
  • Silicon Valley Outpost
  • Enterprise social media

Pete’s talk created an interesting juxtaposition to that of Becky’s (a technologist talking about the fact that we need to focus more on people and process versus tools and technology). As the head of digital at one of the largest consumer package good companies in the world, he sounded every bit technologist talking about speed, agility, start-ups and digital acceleration.

Pete did echo his belief in the importance of many of the same values and skill sets that Becky mentioned during his talk with a premium being placed on sharing.  In particularly, he stressed sharing across global markets.

Lastly, Pete made a request from the group asking them for help working with Nestles to bring new, innovative solutions into the enterprise. Sounds like a good bridge to the PreCommerce panel on adopting and scaling innovation, Josh Kampel of Techonomy, led the other day.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

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

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

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

Jim Wins In2

Back in October our CEO and Chairman, Jim Weiss, was awarded Innovator of the Year by The Holmes Report. As stated in the 2014 Innovator 25 post announcement by Aarti Shah of The Holmes Report, “We launched the In2 Innovator 25 in 2013 to celebrate those who have contributed great work or ideas that have pushed our industry forward. The 2014 Innovator 25 now takes another glimpse at our industry’s future, shining the light on those individuals who are shaping what influence and engagement will look like tomorrow.” Our fearless CEO has done just that.

Jim has been relentless in pushing our industry forward by hiring the best in the business, and transforming the agency from a strictly healthcare PR and IR firm to an integrated firm grounded in marketing and communications across health, tech and consumer, underpinning these offerings with analytics and software. Most impressively, Jim has done this without taking in any outside money, working on client (and new) business and maintaining one P&L even after splitting the firm into separate companies.

Jim’s passion for the business shows through not only his work, but also through the way he interacts and cares for his employees.  He is always encouraging and enabling people to maintain their personal brands at the firm whether it is through writing books, blogging on our company blog, teaching at schools or internally, or speaking at events. He even offers employees a  five week sabbatical program after 5 years of service (I can’t wait to take mine next year)!

For anyone that saw our recent announcement about W2O Group’s acquisition of boutique (and award winning) communications and media agency, ARC2, understands that Jim has an uncanny ability to spot, support and partner with fellow entrepreneurs. To that end, three of W2O Group’s clients — Becky Brown of Intel, Andrew Bowins of Mastercard and Mark Stouse (formerly) of BMC have all won this same award. Birds of a feather!

If that wasn’t enough, Jim has also partnered with leaders like Bob Pearson and Gary Grates to launch the W2O/Newhouse Center for Social Commerce (funded by Jim and his wife, Audra), which is the best and largest communications school in the country.

Congratulations again, Jim! This award is well-deserved.

p.s. The “IT Came from Syracuse visual was created by our Chief Creative Officer, Mike Hartman as an homage to Jim’s legacy. This cover was on the back program of the In2 Summit’s program.

For any of you that have seen our Live from Stubbs video podcast series, you are familiar with our format. Our guests include CMOs, book authors, innovators and other movers and shakers in digital. We ask them about business, music and BBQ. Our original vision for the show was to also include musicians as part of the series. Well, that day has finally arrived and we are honored that legend in the making, Lord Huron, was our special guest.

BUT… this time around, we decided to focus on the music in the video formats and kept the interview in text format for you all to read. We do have video of the original if you would like us to share it with you privately but in the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy the interview and more importantly, four songs that the band played for a small audience at historic music venue, Stubbs BBQ here in the live music capitol of the world, Austin, TX.

Aaron Strout: Hello, welcome to a very special edition of Live from Stubbs, we are here at Stubbs at the inside stage today and were really excited to be here with the band, Lord Huron. We have Ben Schneider who is the lead singer, founder of the band and guitarist. We also have Mark Barry who is the percussionist and producer and then I am joined by special guest today, Jim Rudden, CMO of Austin-based Spredfast. I am Aaron Strout of W2O Group and we’re going to have fun today talking to these guys about their music, some BBQ, and what they’re doing these days to engage their fans.

Jim Rudden: I’d actually like to start with the art… I read online that a good way to think about Lord Huron is as a visual art project supported by music. Would you agree with that characterization or how do you all think about it?

Ben Schneider: If you want to enjoy the music, that’s cool. But there are all these other elements that you can kind of dig deeper and get into if you’re so inclined. Beyond music, there’s art to look at, there’s videos to watch, there’s other ways to engage and live inside universe if you can.

Aaron: Mark, you joined the band about three years ago. What did you think when this guy said… ”Here’s my vision”

Mark Barry: We grew up together in Michigan and I’ve always known him to be such a creative guy and he put the first EP together and played it for me while I was in Nashville. I thought it was crazy amazing so I called him up on the phone.

Ben: Yeah, he was session musician in Nashville and luckily had a pretty flexible schedule.  I had been offered a couple of shows but didn’t know any musicians in Los Angeles really because I wasn’t in that world; I was more in the art side of things, at first. So he was the only guy I knew to call… the only one I knew that had the skill to help me get this thing going. He helped me get the band together and found some really great musicians right off the bat, thanks to him, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Jim: I want to go back to the experience you mentioned. You know Aaron and I come from a digital media/ social media world so we’re fascinated by some of the things you guys are doing. In particular, the post cards, can you talk a little bit about the genesis of that idea and how it’s played out… maybe what’s next there.

Ben: Yeah, you know a lot of people started to lament the loss of physical copies of music. You know a lot of people think that’s gone because nobody buys albums anymore in that way. The reality of it is now there’s a whole other sort of playing field we can use which is the internet. For me, it’s just another way to expand the universe that we’re trying to create. Every little bit of content that we can get out there and express our point of view and our aesthetic and hopefully get people excited about it… we take that opportunity.

Aaron: You’ve opened for Dave Matthews Band, you’re opening for Alt-J now, you were on the Leno Show, and we heard that your song was on the show Nashville’s premiere the other night. This has got to feel pretty exciting. How do you guys take that in? What do you make of it and how do you keep grounded in all this coolness?

Ben: We’re just moving so fast that its hard to really gauge. All that stuff you’re talking about is great but we don’t even think about it that much because we just keep going.

Mark: Since we’ve been playing music together since we were 12 or 13, it’s what we’ve always wanted to do and now it’s happening…so we’re just riding with it.

Jim: So have you evolved a specific song-writing process?

Ben: We’re still sorting it out to be honest, since it started with just me, I tend to be the one that starts all the songs and gets them sort of into shape at first and then I share it with the guys. Mark helps me arrange stuff and all the guys contribute different parts so it’s really just a work in progress. We did that one record and before that it was just me doing the EPs by myself so we’re kind of just letting it grow naturally and be what it wants to be. There’s no set prescription for how any of it works, at this point.

Aaron: That’s cool. Inevitable there’s always a favorite song and then there’s the song that you really feel passionate about. Is there a song that you guys have written recently that either may be popular or not that really speaks to you?

Ben: A song like “She Lit a Fire” which wasn’t a single at first but we noticed people at shows were really responding to it. That was a cool feeling. That was one of the first times where I saw someone singing the lyrics in the audience. That’s a surreal feeling- first time you see that it’s very odd.

Aaron: What do you guys listen to? What’s on your iPhone or your MP3 player these days?

Ben: There are definitely some common influences for us. I think all of us are pretty big Paul Simon fans… you know the classic American stuff like Bob Dylan. Everyone listens to a lot of country and we let that all in but world music is big too. I know Miguel is really into Indian music and I’m into African and Middle Eastern stuff. I think what’s been cool about this project in particular is I haven’t allowed myself to deny any of my even somewhat guilty pleasures. I just let all of the stuff that I like influence the music so I think that’s been one of the reasons why its been success. We’ve just accepted all of that, not trying to be cool or anything just try to make music that we like.

Aaron: Well and I think you’re being somewhat timeless if you’re able to do that, right. You’re not pinned to a particular “oh this is what was hot in 2013”…

Ben: Hopefully not. And we occasionally get lumped in certain genres that are happening right now that in some ways I see the connection and some ways I think wow “we seem totally different from that” in my mind. In an ideal world, people are listening to music without any pre-conceived notions at all but I understand those things help us. I’m sure they’ve hurt us in some ways but getting anyone to listen to the music is really all we want people to do.

Jim: We’re here at Stubb’s BBQ, one of the capitols of BBQ in Austin, TX. You guys have been out on tour there’s St. Louis BBQ, then there’s Memphis BBQ, then there’s Texas BBQ…. do you have any favorites?

Ben: I’ll take it any way I can get it to be honest. I do like Texas BBQ… every now and then I feel like a dry rub or St. Louis stuff too… but I think Texas is my favorite.

Aaron: Want to thank you guys both for being here today. We have Mark Berry and Ben Schneider of the band Lord Huron, we have Jim Rudden who’s the CMO of Spredfast, Aaron Strout of W2O Group. This has been a blast and I look forward to keeping an eye on you guys.

If you would like to watch the entire four song set, check it out here. Special thanks go out to my colleague, Michael Westgate, for getting Lord Huron to agree to do the interview with us and local video production company extraordinaire, UPG. They are awesome.

14 Posts to Take You Into 2014

A year ago my colleague Aaron Strout did a nice wrap up of the most interesting/appealing posts of 2012 on this blog. As Aaron noted, reviewing which posts resonated over a period of time can be informative to better understanding the interests of customers/employees/followers. By collecting the top performers in one place, I’m hoping to provide you with some relevant content you may have missed during the year. Like last year, you’ll notice some themes here – rankings, how-to’s, and analytics-based posts, in particular, continue to resonate.

In 2013 we’ve seen a marked increase in the frequency and number of colleagues contributing to this blog, which is great. And, with 50+ posts having over 2,000 views each, we had to be more restrictive with this wrap up than in the past. As a result (and with a goal of keeping it to less than 15), this year’s list is ranked based on the number of post views – with a minimum of 3,600 views required to make the cut. Of course, there are a ton of other great posts and I encourage you to go back and read these from Bob Pearson, Jenn Gottlieb and Jim Weiss. (Selfish plug, you might also want to read my post-ASCO blog post.)

This year’s list brings us some familiar faces – like Chuck Hemann and Brian Reid as well as some new comers to Common Sense such as Michael Brito and Michael Westgate.

So here it goes – our top posts from 2013 to take you into the New Year:

And the number 1 post of the year – with over 35,000 views…

#SXSWPickUpLines by Aaron Strout (35,847 views!)

I hope you’ve found this list helpful and that you’re looking forward to more engaging content in 2014!  What do you think? Are there topics you’d like us to cover? Interviews you’d like to see?  If so, please let us know in the comments below.

Just about three years ago, I sat down with my good friend and fellow location-based services nut, Mike Schneider, to write a book titled, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies. The book was decidedly before its time and was hard to write because the space was still evolving rapidly (in fact, it’s still evolving rapidly). But for that very reason, it was a fun, rewarding and challenging exercise — not necessarily in that order.

Fast forward three years and Mike and I are both still passionate about mobile and location-based marketing. I work for an agency and mainly focus on digital and social strategy but stay current by writing a monthly mobile column on MarketingLand. Mike took a different path and ultimately became the head of marketing for a company called Skyhook Wireless that focuses solely on mobile and location-based solutions. To that end, I thought it was about time the two of us sat down and compared notes (with me as writer and Mike as marketer).

Aaron: You recently took over marketing at Skyhook Wireless. What does your company do and how long has it been around?

Mike: Skyhook is location. We have been around since 2003. We are constantly reinventing how location is obtained in apps, devices and online and then we go to great lengths to add context to make it useful. We care about providing the means to capture and then use massive amounts of location data to give developers, devices, advertisers and more the ability to create and optimize awesome user experiences.

Aaron: A lot of marketers are trying to figure out what the future of ad-tech looks like. Obviously your view will have something to do with mobile/location. Can you give us some of your thinking on how those two connected forces will change marketing?

Mobile is advertising’s best friend because nobody knows a consumer better than their phone. The future of advertising delivered by ad-tech is “relevant content delivered everywhere”. When consumers makes their location known, publishers, brands and ad networks need to be ready to provide them with the best possible experience. The difference between now and then is scale. Getting precise location and tying behavior context to venues is easier than it was when we thought it all up because of the amount and quality of data we have. Concepts that everyone loves to talk about, but have been traditionally more challenging to implement, like geofencing and geo-conquesting can now be done through mouse clicks instead of lines and lines of code.

Aaron: It’s been said that the future of computing is wearables/the Internet of things. Can you tell us more about what this means and why they are so important?

Mike: Let me address them as two separate entities.

  • Wearables
    The wearable market is the collision of technology and fashion. Consumers are going beyond our phones to make “the quantified self” easier by wearing things that capture information about us that we can analyze. You’re a runner, Aaron, and you and I both use MapMyRun and RunKeeper and Nike+ to track our progress and tell our friends how amazing we (or you, I don’t do much more than 3 miles to your 10-15!) are. We then use this to analyze our progress, set goals and push ourselves to be who we want to be. A person’s activity level is a really interesting piece of context. Add this to moods, interests, foods and location and we have some really rich context around a person at a given time. The promise of wearables is that we get all of this information from a low powered, good looking, less noticeable device that means we can leave our phones at home and still capture and use the data we care about. Right now we track steps and calories in most devices, but the future is the addition of exertion and location.
  • Internet of Things
    Human behavior plus connected devices means a greener planet, better customer service and more reliable products. Warehouses are using indoor location to track human behavior and optimize lighting and heating. Thanks to location tech, products that could communicate with beacons and sensors so we know when they are entering a cart and leaving the aisle or the store. They also could know what’s in the cart with them. The communication with other things that are nearby allows us to build profiles of product behavior, attach that to venues for content creation purposes, optimization of energy consumption, finding lost items, inventory optimization and a lot more.

Aaron: Will marketers ever be able to detect users location when they are offline? If so, how do they use it?

Mike: We can do this today. A phone doesn’t need to be online (all of the time) to capture location. We can capture location and then based on where the device moves, capture further data points and trigger geofences or decode them and use them later. Devices like the Eye-Fi card can capture access points when a photo is taken and then attach location to photos in cameras that are not connected. Add this ability to armbands or clothing and we can capture your running route when the device doesn’t have GPS and isn’t connected to a wireless or cell network.

Aaron: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel just wrote a book called The Age of Context. Tell us more about the importance of “context.”

Mike: It’s all about context and context comes from people, places and things that share their data. The collision of people and things data makes place data incredibly rich which allows us to create better experiences for people without knowing exactly who they are. Time makes things extremely interesting. Who we are and what we need on a weekday morning where we might be a “coffee drinking, business traveler obsessed with Spotify” is different than a weekend afternoon where we’re a “coffee drinking, dad of three coaching soccer and looking for baked goods”. Aaron, we are always drinking coffee.

There you have it. Some wise words from a wise man. It’s been a while since Mike and I caught up but it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. By the way, you can see what Mike and some of my other mobile/location-based savvy industry friends predicted for 2014 here.

I am thrilled to welcome Michael Brito, former Senior Vice President of Edelman Digital to WCG as one of the senior leads on our Media and Engagement team. Michael brings a wealth of knowledge to the team that will strengthen our technology practice, social commerce and digital strategy offerings. Not only is Michael a friend but he is one of the most respected guys in the business. Oh, did I mention that he wrote two books (details in the image capsule below).

To help you get to know Michael better, we decided to revisit our interview series from this summer (during the series, we interviewed new employees Mike Hartman, Lionel Menchaca, Dean McBeth, Annalise Coady and others). We hope this will give you, the reader, a better sense of who we are and the type team players that make up the W2O Group family.

Click here to listen to my full interview with Michael

Thank you, Michael. For more information, join his 100,000 followers on Twitter.


It’s no secret that our parent company, W2O Group, has deep ties to Syracuse University and their Newhouse School of Public Communications. It all started with our CEO, Jim Weiss, who is not only an alumni but who was also inducted into the Newhouse Hall of Fame last fall along with notables such as foursquare co-founder, Dennis Crowley and Sports Illustrated writer, Pete Thamel.

Given the synergies between our two organizations, Newhouse and W2O Group went ahead and launched a Social Commerce Center last fall and celebrated the creation of the new center with a Social Commerce Day” on campus earlier this spring. The purpose of the Center is for W2O and to Newhouse to train and cross-pollinate learning among professors, students and W2O employees and to ultimately impact the curriculum for future members of the school and to teach one another about the future of social.

In light of our relationship with the bright minds at the Newhouse School, we are excited about their recent announcement that they were now offering social media training via 15 self-paced lessons in partnership with social media engagement tool provider, Hootsuite. This is in response to the fact that so many companies — large and small — are in need of better skill sets for applying social media to their marketing and communication efforts.

The course is taught by Newhouse Social Media Professor, Dr. William J. Ward, and participants will have the valuable opportunity to engage directly with Dr. Ward through personalized feedback and assessments. Upon successfully completing the course, participants will earn a Advanced Social Media Strategy Certificate.

Course topics will include:

  • Situation and Environment Analysis
  • Strategic Planning Process
  • Content Strategy
  • Information Management and Threats
We here at W2O Group would like to congratulate Dr. Ward, Dean Lorraine Branham, Professor Maria Russell and Adjunct Professor, Kate Brodock and the folks at Hootsuite on this endeavor and look forward to growing our partnership over time.

It’s that time of the year again. Time to pour through the thousands of South by Southwest (SXSW) conference panel submissions and decide which — if any — you want to vote for. This year, we here at W2O Group are fortunate to be a part of 10 different panel submissions either as participants or submitters on behalf of our clients/friends of W2O Group. To that end, we certainly do not want to bombard all of our friends, family, employees, partners, customers, etc. with dozens of disparate asks. Instead, we have tried to make it easy but providing the titles, descriptions and suggested panelists for all 10 of our submissions.

If we are lucky enough to earn your vote for any/all of the panels, simply click the “vote here” link next to the panel titles. That will take you to the full description of each panel. Once you get there, you need to create an account/login to vote. It may seem like a lot of work but it only takes about 45 seconds and once you do, you stay logged in for any other panel you wan to vote on.

HINT: If you’re looking for mine, I’m in the mix on numbers 6 and 10.

1. Community-Building: Better Than Chemo (vote here)

On Independence Day 2011, the first-ever #BCSM tweetchat for those affected by breast cancer took place. Less than two years later, the group had attracted thousands of participants, spawned a website and a YouTube channel and earned an extensive feature in USA Today. Not bad for a group of tech novices in a space hardly wanting for pink-ribboned advocates.

#BCSM isn’t a prototypical breast cancer organization. It’s not your usual support group. And it’s not the kind of online community that makes headlines at Mashable.

Instead, the group has been, since its founding, focused on attracting a diverse and inclusive group who shared not only cancer, but a set of shared values — particularly a commitment to evidence — that created a sense of authority even as it built community.

Those are lessons that can and should be adopted by those looking to connect with similarly isolated communities, and the founders of #BCSM look forward to sharing what they have learned. (vote / learn more)

  • Organizer: Brian Reid, W2O Group
  • Speakers:
    • Jody Schoger
    • Alicia Staley, Staley Foundation
    • Deanna Attai, Center For Breast Care
    • Xeni Jardin,

2. Hacking your life for better health (vote here)

Every healthcare organization must evolve its commercial strategy within a transformed health system that rewards prevention and punishes waste, and patient engagement is critical to this shift. Additionally, with more patients covered by insurance under the Affordable Care Act, an already strained healthcare system will become even more stretched and organizations will need to figure out how to activate and empower the most prevalent and available resource for patient care – at home caregivers.

For every engaged patient, there are far more who are ambivalent about their care, or lack the necessary information or encouragement to get involved. This panel features speakers representing the payor, big pharma, enterprise IT enabler, and e-patient activist perspectives to discuss relevant digital tools and services that are gaining traction or still to come that could bring to life the vision of the actively engaged health consumer. (vote / learn more)

  • Organizer: Carolyn Wang, WCG
  • Speakers:
    • Rick Valencia, Qualcomm Life
    • Michele Polz, US Sanofi Diabetes
    • Dr. Charles, Saunders Aetna, Inc.
    • Fred Trotter, O’Reilly Radar

3. What Happens when Health and Tech Meet Up? (vote here)

For the first time in 50 years, the health care industry is facing a major disruption and is moving toward an at-risk/ACO model where opportunities are driven by transition. With the growing aging population and increase in chronic diseases in the U.S., health service providers are focusing on collaborated and coordinated care to create efficiencies, reduce readmissions, and ultimately, lower costs. Innovative medical technologies and big data will play a key role in the continuum of care, providing a real-time and holistic view of the patient’s health history to better inform decisions and help manage care.

As health and technology continue to merge, investors have become more interested in funding digital health, giving startups a great opportunity for growth. In this panel session, some of the most prolific investors in digital health will discuss what excites them about the future of health care and why now is the time to reinvent the industry through innovation and collaboration. (vote / learn more)

  • Organizer: Jennifer Davis, WCG
  • Speakers:
    • Jack Young, Qualcomm Life Fund
    • Nina Nashif, HealthBox
    • Ted Maidenberg, The Social + Capital Partnership
    • Christiaan Vorkink, True Ventures

4. Forget big data, it’s all about individual data (vote here)

Through digital health, near real time patient data is generated from individual medical devices and securely aggregated. The insights generated from this data drive more efficient and effective care as health providers are presented with a more holistic view into a patient’s health and can identify patterns across patient populations.

UCSF has undertaken an ambitious registry that rivals Framingham Heart in scope, leveraging mobile health tools to track biometric information, and social media to observe personal communities of care. The findings of the registry will ultimately drive population-based predictive models and individualized strategies of care.

Helius, the first commercial product from Proteus Digital Health, leverages ingestible and wearable sensors developed by Proteus to provide insights about patients’ actual behaviors and how their bodies are responding; enabling more informed therapeutic decision-making to improve patient outcomes.  (vote /learn more)

  • Organizer: Robin Suchan, Proteus Digital Health
  • Speakers:
    • David O’Reilly, Proteus Digital Health
    • Dr. Michael Blum, UCSF

5. The Secret Weapon of Mobile Marketing: Photos (vote here)

Every day 500 million photos are shared online – and that number is expected to double by next year.
On the surface, the reason for photography’s exponential growth seems obvious: with smartphones, snapping and sharing pics has never been easier. But the real reason has almost nothing to do with ultra-modern technology, and almost everything to do with something far more primal: our insatiable need to connect, and our innate desire to share stories.

As such, mobile photography has confidently joined ranks with the most popular, most efficient communication mediums of our time – and advertisers are scrambling to understand where they fit in. Do brands have a role to play when it comes to smartphone owners, their cameras, and the stories they tell through them – and if so, what are the rules of the game?

In this panel, we’ll dissect the surge in mobile photography through the lens of real-time culture, creativity and commerce, with a takeaway of how-to’s and best practices. (vote /learn more)

  • Organizer: Dorothy Jean, dorothyPR
  • Speakers:
    • Carmel Hagen, Aviary
    • David Fossas, W2O Group
    • David Teicher, Advertising Age
    • Leigh Lucas, Path

6. Brands, be journalists – errr vice versa? (vote here)

Should journalists be more like brands, or should brands be more like journalists? In order to make social media more human, it’s about telling good stories. Brands can learn this from journalists, but at the same time, journalists need to carve their niche and define their credibility — like a brand. Where is the happy medium and how has social media, especially with the use of video, changed the delivery of a concept?  (vote /learn more)

  • Organizer: Colleen Hartman, Mitsubishi Electric
  • Speakers:
    • Rick Kaplan, Kaplan Media Partners (former president of CNN)
    • Jeben Berg, Google, head of Youtube Brand Lab
    • Aaron Strout, W2O Group
    • Colleen Hartman, Mitsubishi Electric

7. Social Disruption (vote here)

What does the world’s sixth-largest pharmaceutical company have in common with one of the most respected multinational mutual fund and financial services groups? A ton of regulatory roadblocks.

While companies everywhere have jumped head-first into 21st century technologies, regulated industries have been slow to dip their toes in the water – with health or money at the center of business, every @mention is a liability. But with big risk comes bigger reward. Channel by channel, these companies are convincing their legal counterparts to take the leap – neon floaties and all.

So, you think you can’t innovate? In this presentation, two women living in a corporate, cubicle-filled world discuss how they are breaking barriers and overcoming conservatism in the name of customer engagement – one tweet at a time. (vote /learn more)

  • Organizer: Vicky Lewko, W2O Group
  • Speakers:
    • Stacy Burch, Sanofi US
    • Lori Johnson, Fidelity Investments

8. Supercharging HC Funding (vote here)

When we think about the best examples of crowd-funding, Kickstarter rises to the top. The technology community has arguably given Kickstarter a ringing endorsement ever since its launch. The result? A gathering place for entrepreneurs to gain funding for projects that might otherwise die on the workbench.

The projects, while creative, don’t typically solve for the biggest problems, and that’s where Kickstarter can fall flat. For all its success, Kickstarter can’t provide all the entrepreneurial opportunities, especially financial ones, that health care offers. This is particularly true with respect to involving online and offline communities to solve tremendously difficult health care challenges, including the clinical trials that are essential to drug approvals. (vote /learn more)

  • Organizer: Christian Clymer
  • Speakers:
    • Christian Clymer, PhRMA
    • Stacy Burch, Sanofi US

9. Crowdsourcing Physicians in Digital Health (vote here)

Changes in the Affordable Care Act are now placing an emphasis on insurance compensation for the relative health of patients instead of the decades-long practice of paying for illness. The Accountable Care Organization (ACO) is emerging to address these changes in the law. 95% of physician organizations intend to become ACOs, and will be incentivized to leverage remote monitoring and digital tools to stratify and prioritize patient care. ACOs will be accountable to the patients and the third-party payer for the quality, appropriateness and efficacy of the health care provided.

In order to monitor the relative health of patients and measure improvements over time, ACOs must have the resources to collect data on patients regularly and cost-effectively. Crowdsourcing can improve efficiency, effectiveness and cost by directing physicians to appropriate solutions, reducing the number of unnecessary tests, ineffective treatments and unnecessary office visits with patients. (vote / learn more)

  • Organizer: Tracy Garcia, WCG
  • Speakers:
    • Donald Jones, Qualcomm Life
    • Mark Winter, XPRIZE
    • Jeff Arnold, Sharecare

10. The Social Media Wish Factory (vote here)

What will be the next big thing social media will help you with? This panel will bat around ideas for things that social platforms do not yet do, but could or should do. It will be an interactive panel with the moderator inviting each of the panelists to come up with a short wish list of ideas they would like to see executed and then the audience will be invited to weigh in on these ideas and to offer their own. This panel will be a free-for-all that allows those looking for inspiration to interact with those looking for solutions. (vote / learn more)

  • Organizer: Mike Johansson, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Speakers:
  • Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO Pure Performance Communities
  • Mike Johansson, RIT
  • Aaron Strout, W2O Group
That’s it! If you have a panel you want us to vote for, leave the URL and title in the comments.

With all of the hiring W2O Group/WCG have done recently, we wanted to take a little time to let our partners/customers/employees get to know some of these new employees better. To that end, we are conducting a blog series that asks some of our new employees to answer five questions — some straightforward and some that show our more playful slide. Via this process, we’re hoping to give our readers a little better sense of who we are. In the sixth installation of our series, we talk to our newest Director of Search, Sri Nagubandi.

  • [Aaron] Welcome to the W2O Team. We’re looking forward to working with you. For our first question, talk a little bit about your past experience.
    [Sri] I’ve spent 13 years in the digital marketing and analytics space, most recently at Razorfish where I led Organic (SEO) and Paid (SEM) Search and Social Optimization.  Prior to that, I was a Director of SEO at Rosetta. 
  • [Aaron] What is your “super power?”
    [Sri]  My super power is making the complex simple and the simple understandable and actionable. 
  • [Aaron] If you could work with any company as a client, who would it be and why?
    [Sri] Trek. Would have to be Warby Parker. They enter markets ripe for disruption, are willing to take risks, and they always give back while making a profit.
  • [Aaron] How do you stay up to date on latest trends/industry news?
    [Sri]  I read The Moz Blog, The PPC Hero Blog, Marketing Experiments Blog, and SEO By The Sea
  • [Aaron] Finish this sentence… “The agency of the future is ________.”
    [Sri]  The agency of the future is able to challenge clients, embraces change as a way of life and culturally entrepreneurial at the core.

Thank you Sri. To learn more about Sri, follow him on Twitter.

A few times a year, there are certain publications that do annual directories (and sometimes rankings) of key players in the areas our company cares about — marketing, healthcare, technology, PR, etc. Here at W2O Group, those outlets include the likes of AdAge, PRWeek, Holmes Report, O’Dwyers and MM&M among many others. To that end, while we don’t get too hung up on where we are ranked, we do like to take a step back and “smell the roses” as our CEO and Chairman, Jim Weiss mentions in one of his answers below.

In light of the recent MM&M listings where the editors provided a review of their top 100 agencies (we are on page 184), I sat down with Jim and to ask him a few questions about the past, present and future of our firm:

  • [Aaron] Jim – we’re in our 12th year of being in business. Rewinding back to your early days of just a few of you working out of a single office in NYC, did you ever imagine that you’d be leading a nearly 400 person agency with 7 offices in the U.S. and London?
    [Jim] Well, it was actually only a few folks in San Francisco not New York City when we started over a decade ago — New York only came online as an office around 2005 or so in the second bedroom of Hala Mirza’s New York apartment — and no, I actually envisioned 350 people or so.  So, we are now beyond what I had imagined it to be and will now be working off a next 5-year strategic plan which doesn’t look all that different from the one from the prior 5 years. 
  • [Aaron] What is the one thing that gets you up every day in the morning?
    [Jim] My family and the promise of a new day.
  • [Aaron] What’s the one thing that keeps you up at night?
    [Jim] Real Housewives & MadMen episodes. But in all seriousness… it’s usually about feeling I or we are falling behind in some way vs. Going and staying ahead.  I have a great fear of becoming obsolete or irrelevant.
  • [Aaron] From whom do you get your inspiration?
    [Jim] Anyone who gives it their all all the time usually against the odds or expectations.
  • [Aaron] Seeing where W2O Group falls in the rankings or learning that we’ve made it onto the listing of the top 100 agencies in publications like MM&M every year serves as reminder of the progress you’ve made. Do you use these opportunities as motivation?
    [Jim] Actually the listings/rankings are a “stop and smell the roses” opportunity for all of us to step back and see the bigger picture accomplishments versus day to day minutiae and fire drills.  I am fortunate to sit in a place where I get to see the whole organization and the many ways we have gone ahead, especially in the last few years, where the change and accomplishment has accelerated and compounded more rapidly and markedly than ever before.
  • [Aaron] You’ve talked a lot about building the agency of the future that focuses on delivering “next practices” to clients. What’s next in this evolution for the firm?
    [Jim] Combining the power of our data-driven insights with automated marketing in the cloud with our human expertise and talents as the way the world does business changes.  I feel our business purpose going forward is to help corporations, organizations and brands evolve the way they do business and relate to customers and constituents in the modern digital age driven by mobile and online media.  Integration and collaboration are now the keys to our future with the same goal of becoming the best in the industry at what we do.  We will do this by hiring the best people, doing the best work and working with the best clients as well as through education, thought leadership, flawless execution, co-innovation with our clients and taking calculated informed risks where we fail and learn fast.
There you have it. Inspiring words from Jim Weiss, leader of W2O Group (parent of WCG, Twist and Brewlife). Lots more to come over the coming weeks. We hope you’ll join us in our brief “smelling of the roses.”

You can acces PDFs here of our listing on MM&M and Jim’s recent write up on PRWeek’s Power list.

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics that support it (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach). A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started, third, Creating Content and Engagement for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, and fourth, Managing and Connecting with Your Influencers webinars via the links to those posts.

During the webinar, Getting Started with Mobile and Location-Based Marketing, Stephan Merkens of the W2O Group spent time addressing key trends and best practices on mobile and location-based tools and marketing techniques . Because Stephan had some technical difficulties with the questions module, he took some time to answer a number of the submitted questions below.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also find the transcription here. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube

In addition, the slides from the webinar are below on Slideshare.

As promised, here are the answers to the questions Stephan wasn’t able to get to during the webinar:

  • I have more than one business. Would you suggest trying multiple platforms for testing?
    I would suggest treating each business individually. Each brand will probably have its particular audience that will probably gravitate towards a particular platform. If each business has a separate location, I would set them up in Foursquare and look at how people engage with them.
  • I have a mobile business; I actually have a trailer I take to an event. Any different thoughts from what you’ve already presented?
    Mobile businesses like food trucks have paved the way for other mobile businesses with the innovative ways that they use mobile marketing. Consider these options:

    • Allow users to follow you on your twitter handle along with a link to google maps to update your location while on the road.
    • Use SMS with an autoreply to share your next location
    • Use a mobile payment system with WIFI to handle your transactions and send email receipts to your customers.
    • Also, if you’re looking to invest in something more permanent, take a look at they provide mobile tools for vendors like you who make their living in more than one place.
  • If you are a mainly web based business don’t you think most of this would apply?
    Depending on the business model and product, it might make sense to offer your products in a mobile optimized form if your audience thinks about your product while away from their computers.
  • Are QR codes still a viable mobile marketing tool?
    While QR codes still account for the majority of print to mobile conversions, the desire to use them in marketing campaigns is slowing.

    • Brands are realizing that QR codes take up a lot of valuable retail space
    • Technology has advanced enough where barcode scanning and image recognition that can take the place of a traditional QR code.
    • Content tends to be non mobile optimized and unimaginative, which has led to consumers ignoring them
  • Do I think they will ever go away?
    No, but we will see many more ways for consumers to connect with a brand in more meaningful ways.
  • Can you detail more local mobile search?
    Mobile search is not that different from a typical local search. People do however use mobile search at different times and for slightly different things. Mobile search typically happens when people aren’t at their computers, so evenings and weekends see the biggest numbers for searches. Also, search on mobile typically comes from people that are looking to take action immediately (Google reported that on Mother’s Day, 33% of searches for “flowers” were from mobile devices).
  • What’s your timeline expectation to see that 56% go to 75%?
    1 year ago, the industry projected that smartphone adoption would hit 50% in the U.S by around 2014. I would expect smartphone adoption to hit 75% early 2015.
  • How would you tell a small business to start, from square one?
    • Make sure that your address information is up to date so that people can find you
    • Engage with Foursquare and Yelp to set up small local marketing efforts around your location.
    • If your audience is suited to it, set up a twitter account to communicate with your clients on the go.
    • Buy local search.
  • Can you further explain Nerdwallet? is a site that provides reviews of mobile payment processing as well as credit cards and personal finance options.
  • Why we need an extra apps or devices on the smartphone for payments if we can directly pay from the vendor’s webpage?
    Mobile payment systems like square are for retail locations that don’t want to go through traditional methods of setting up a merchant account to sell their products. While people can still go online and purchase a product, these tools make it easy to take a physical credit card as payment in a retail location.
  • Any pros and cons to using Paypal mobile
    Paypal mobile uses a phone dongle to allow users to scan cards similar to Square and NCR. Nerdwallet profiled the service along with others in the space and had this to say: “PayPal Here is best for merchants who:

    • Do less than five figures or more than six figures in monthly sales AND
    • Have an average transaction amount under $26 and take American Express OR
    • Have an average transaction amount under $17”
    • They also provided this chart listing service fees. As you can see Paypal here falls near the higher end of the spectrum.

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started, and third, Creating Content and Engagement for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, webinars via the links to those posts.

Yesterday’s webinar on Managing and Connecting with your Influencers was an hour long with the first 50 minutes spent addressing key trends, best practices on techniques for identifying and engaging with a company’s influencers. The last ten minutes were spent answering questions. To that end, I’ve included answers to three more questions from the webinar at the bottom of this post.

During the presentation, I (Aaron Strout) was joined by influencer and Syracuse professor, Dr. William Ward. Dr. Ward is a professor of social media at the prestigious Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access slides from the webinar on Slideshare here.

We also mentioned that we would answer some of the questions that we didn’t have a chance to cover during the webinar here. Three more questions and answers from the webinar are here:

  1. Is there one application to help me manage al these tools for the sake of time management?
    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet when it comes to identifying and managing your influencers. However, if you do test some of the light (and free) social influence tools like Kred and SocialMention to identify your influencers, tools like Hootsuite make it easy to follow and track interactions with your influencers across multiple social networks.
  2. Is networking a great way to build your brand?
    Yes, offline and online networking are closely related activities. And if you are doing a good job networking, you should have an easier time identifying and connecting with your influencers. Doing this well will inevitably lead to better brand building.
  3. Can you elaborate on how to identify your influencers?
    Identifying your influencers starts with creating a list of key words (the same words that you might use to optimize your website for search engine optimization or that you might be purchasing as part of a paid search campaign). Try searching on these keywords in places like Kred and even on social networks like Twitter to find people that seem to be relevant and possess some level of reach (reach isn’t synonymous with followers as some people can game the system but often influencers will have a decent number of followers AND a high level of engagement like retweets, comments, shares and likes).

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second webinar, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started.

Yesterday’s webinar was an hour long with the first 45 minutes spent addressing key statistics, best practices on how to create content and engage your audiences on key social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The last fifteen minutes were spent answering questions.

During the presentation, I (Aaron Strout) was joined by small business owner, Jim Storer of the Community Roundtable and colleague/social media pro, Greg Matthews.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access all of the key slides on Slideshare below.

And last but not least, you can access a PDF copy of Greg’s Online Activation 21-Day Plan.

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on getting started with social media can be found here.

Today, we co-presented the second webinar titled “Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started.” The webinar was an hour long with the first 45 minutes spent addressing key statistics, best practices on how to blog the right way along with a couple of case studies. The last fifteen minutes were spent answering questions.

During the presentation, I (Aaron Strout) was joined by SBA blogger, Caron Beesley and small business blogger/digital strategist, Simon Salt.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below.  Here is the transcription for Blogging, Helping You Get Started. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access some of the key slides on Slideshare below.

Note: The next webinar on using social networks is coming up on May 22 at 1 PM ET. We will have a sign up link soon.

NOTE: For any of you looking for the link to the SBA/W2O Group webinar about mobile and location-based marketing, the replay and answers to questions are here.


We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. Today, we co-presented the first webinar titled “Social Media — Helping You Get Started.” The webinar was an hour long with the first 45 minutes spent addressing key statistics, models, and methodologies for doing social media right. The last fifteen minutes were spent answering questions.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access some of the key slides on Slideshare below.

Note: The next webinar on blogging is coming up on May 8 at 1 PM ET. We will have a sign up link soon.