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

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

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

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

Now, a little more detail about the events:

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

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

Confirmed speakers include:

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

Saturday, March 11th

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

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

Confirmed speakers include:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Scott Kramer & Franco Galimberti

PreCommerce Summit London

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

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

·         Marvin Chow, Senior Director at Google

·         Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer

·         Anna Gruebler, Artificial Intelligence specialist

·         Dina Rey, Head of Digital at Roche

·         Kriti Sharma, VP Data Strategy at Barclays

·         Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel

·         Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF

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

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

See you on 14 September!

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

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

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

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

Credibility Builders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few quick examples:

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

Google Trends - Trump vs. Jindal

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

Google, Facebook and Twitter on Google Trends

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

US Supreme Court - Google Trends

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

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

The Column

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

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

Areas of online Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our next column will be on Facebook.

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

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

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

Enjoy, Bob




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Gioglio

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

1) Embrace Visuals to Tell Your Story 

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

2) Content Personalization – Personalize, Don’t Spray

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

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

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

4) Create Content with Brand Advocates

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

5) Surprise and Delight

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

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

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

Mason Nelder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Judith Williams

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

Several types of bias:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALRoker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Windows 10 details

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

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

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

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

Android 4.4 KitKat on Techmeme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What you need to know in October:

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

For more detailed information, please view our deck

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon and Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Co-authored by Blaire Borochoff and Kelsey Carroll)

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

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

Core values serve four distinct purposes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some companies whose values inspire you?

Here’s a few of our favorites:

Google

Zappos

 

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

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

CONSUMERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRANDS

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

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

2.  Increased interactivity –> bigger data

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

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

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

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

(Check out the video here)

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

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

Social Commerce Summit

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

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

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

 

W2O Group Open House/Live from Stubbs Video Podcasts

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

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

Geek-a-cue

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

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

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

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

Digital Brunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How is social media and analytics transforming leaders?

Are managers grasping the significance of a workplace where information is democratized and expectations for open, transparent, authentic relationships are now the norm?

This issue of CommonSense…for the C-Suite delves into the new construct reshaping how organizations lead and manage people.

We hope you find it informative and useful!

Pew Research Center on Getting News Online

If you are in communications, you need to stop immediately and read Pew’s new, extensive annual report about how Americans get their news, which has almost every fact about current news consumption habits you can imagine. Want to know which outlets are preferred by those who say they want fair and balanced news? Pew has the answer (Colbert). How about the most knowledgeable? Ditto (Maddow). Same with how many people are getting news from radio (33 percent) or from a online source (39 percent).

The key takeaway from the report, as many were quick to point out, is that there has been a huge spike in the consumption of news in a digital format, and an even more enormous spike in the consumption of news on mobile devices.

As extensive as the Pew data is, it has an enormous blind spot when it comes to online: it talks in depth about where we go for content and how we consume that content but spends very little time explaining where that online content actually comes from. With traditional media, knowing how you get your news says a lot about the actual information you consume: newspaper readers get newspaper stories; radio listeners get local news, talk radio or NPR; TV viewers choose from a finite set of news programming types.

But Pew doesn’t know what people who get their news online are receiving. Is it New York Times stories? Tweets from CNN? Web video of last night’s Daily Show? It’s a black box. Yes: we’re all consuming more news on our smartphones. But what does that mean? What kind of news are we consuming? There are ways of knowing with more precision, but you don’t get that from the Pew report.

(In Pew’s defense, it does ask people where they go for news online. But the top two answers are “Yahoo” and “Google,” neither of which actually creates much of the news consumed on their sites. And the details on what news we’re gobbling down on social networks is even more opaque.)

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are powerful tools and experienced analysts who can sift through staggering amounts of data and give increasingly precise answers about where people get their news, and WCG has doubled down on both those tools and those analysts. So over the course of this month, I’ll be working with Andy Boothe, a software developer, social media analyst and incredible thinker here to look at thousands of pieces of social media to determine exactly what’s driving news (and what we, as communicators, can do to maximize our opportunities in that world).

I’ll share what we learned when that analysis is complete. Stay tuned.