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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Scoble #SXW2O

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Andrew Soucy Classroom Photo

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

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

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

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

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Jim Breakfast Photo

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

Dave Samson, General Manager of Public Affairs, Chevron

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

Scott Kramer, Group Director, Content Engagement, W2O Group

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

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

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

Colin Foster, Managing Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

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

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

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

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

 Hollie Noble, Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

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

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

 Andrew Soucy, Director, Technology, W2O Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured topics and presenters include:

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

Facebook is like family to today’s millennials.  It is relevant in our lives, it’s sometimes annoying, it doesn’t always do what we want, but we know it will be with us for the long haul and we want it to be there.  For those of us who are parents, it sure sounds like us.

Millennials will always try what is new/hot and they know that Facebook will still be there at the end of the day ready to be of help.  Here is what our latest Millennial discussions led us to realize.

#1 – We shape our behaviors in middle school and high school – the majority of millennials make the choice to get on Facebook in middle school or high school.  When we think about it, we make a lot of choices that stick with us forever at this point in time.  Our favorite music, the languages we speak, our set of friends, how we consume content, what we eat and much more.  Social channels are part of this mix.  In this case, Facebook is “who we are”.  It’s grown up with us, so even if we criticize it now and then (like our parents), it’s going to be hard to let go of it.

#2 – We use Facebook to track friends, families and groups – millennials use the channel to track what their important groups are doing.  This means that Facebook is more a place to see a group notification or check out your family members who are not on SnapChat or to see if anything is interesting in your friend group (personal news feed).  This only takes 1-3 hours a day tops, so usage is less.  What’s important is that it is the only place where all of our people are available to track.

#3 – Millennials text or Snapchat more than FB Messenger – it’s more difficult to use Messenger since you need to go all the way onto an app, rather than just use your phone…and then you have to go all the way to Messenger, rather than just text…..and then you can’t turn off the read receipts on Messenger.  That’s the equivalent of boomers having to get into the family station wagon and drive to their friend’s house to see if they are home, rather than just using the phone to call them.  It may not seem like a burden to boomers to use Messenger vs. text or Snapchat, but to millennials, this is an unnecessary mountain to climb.  So they don’t.

#4 – Facebook is less relevant in the “now”, more relevant as “historian” – let’s say you go to a concert tonight.  A boomer will share a photo and a post.  A millennial will share updates from Snapchat during the concert and later in the evening after the show is over, they’ll place a collection of photos on Facebook.  Boomers see Facebook as relevant now.  Millennials see Facebook as their historian.

#5 – Controlled and/or private networks are the trend – you can control who gets your texts.  You have significant control on who receives your Snapchats.  On Facebook, the trend appears to be moving towards more privacy their as well.  The millennial perspective appears to be “if my other channels are essentially private or focused on who I know, why can’t Facebook be the same”?  So a major shift is occurring towards private and controlled networks.  Habits formed in new channels shape our overall habits.  Overall, this is good to prevent “creepin”, but bad for advertisers who prefer data being more public.

#6 – Friends define who friends are more than the individual – back in the “old days”, boomers had this antiquated idea that they would be friends with people they really knew, but not much more than that.  In today’s Facebook world, many millennials have between 500-2000 friends.  This happens because “who you are friends with” becomes the open door to becoming a friend.  This reliance on “mutual friends” as a qualifier is leading to much larger friend groups.  Mutual friends can be classmates, teams, companies and other groups.  The good news, from the boomer’s perspective, is that millennials do seem to want to know their friends…..they don’t just let anyone in and they rarely meet someone for the first time via Facebook.

#7 – Decorum sets in after high school – yes, Facebook trash talking occurs in middle school and then starts slowing down in high school.  That makes sense.

#8 – Millennials want Facebook to succeed – Millennials want Facebook to enable products to be bought directly similar to Amazon.com; they want to live stream movies from their account like Netflix; they want to “do it all” in one place, e.g. Snapchat, videos, messaging and more; they want to find a job within Facebook ala LinkedIn; and they want to be able to create media to tell their own story from within Facebook, like we can via PC software.  Basically, the message to Facebook is “bring it on”.

All the best, Brittany Pearson (millennial) and Bob Pearson (boomer)

Let’s begin with an oversimplified summary of marketing macro-trends from the past five years. Advances in technology have led to rapid innovation cycles, an open door to startups, and greater competition in virtually every major industry. Increased competition places greater pressure on marketers to successfully position, target, and reach new (fickle) consumers, thus leading to increased budgets but greater scrutiny. Concurrently, channels of distribution and social media proliferation have reduced the overall effectiveness of traditional paid media (TV, radio, print). Investments in digital media continue to rise, but these tactics run the risk of becoming just another billboard until a standard measurement scheme is adopted…impressions no longer count, folks. Marketers find themselves faced with too many options but the same old dilemma…how to reach the right eyeballs with a relevant message to drive funnel activity? Relax, you don’t have to do it all alone…

Your Brand is No Longer Yours

As mentioned above, the proliferation of digital media has become an open invite for informal journalism and product critique. Consider your personal news feed, anyone with a Twitter handle, Pinterest page, or YouTube channel can pose as a resident authority for a given topic. Combine this with a human tendency to seek recommendations from trusted networks at the speed of “fiber”, and all of a sudden pay-for-play review services like Zagat, Forbes, and Michelin become a little less relevant. Similarly, a brand’s ability to tell their own story objectively is in itself oxymoronic. Consumers yield more power than ever in curating brand experiences for rebroadcast with greater organic reach than any single brand or network can provide. So how can you make heroes out of your customers and are you comfortable with passing the mic?

beck song reader site(ex: Beck’s Song Reader)

Never Discount Vanity

We are all a few clicks away from becoming professional storytellers, kickstarters, and journalists…and some clever folks make a pretty good living doing so. Since we all now have the ability to live in bits and bytes, we also own digital brands to build and protect. Consumers tend to curate the best of themselves in photo, video, and text, and if advocating your product or service can help them in their quest, you just earned more efficient advertising than you could ever pay for. Yes, altruism still exists and deep-down most of us share information with the hope of helping others. But there is also selfish pride in being viewed as a source of discovery for news, humor, products, or deals, which can double as brand sponsorship. Do you have the ability to locate your top advocates, make them feel special, and hand off something exclusive enough to share? Does this help them build their individual digital brands?

warby parker 2

(ex: Warby Parker’s Home Try-On)

Just Cause

If traditional media effectiveness is in perpetual decline, you no longer own your brand, and customers control their own path to purchase, how can you win? The most progressive brand marketers recognize that modern consumers, specifically digital natives, want to elevate beyond the transaction and require their share of wallet contribute to more than corporate profits. This can be a win-win for both brands and consumers, with corporate cause efforts (CSR) are perpetually constrained by resources and priority, when aligned with marketing they can build brand equity and also contribute to customer acquisition. As mentioned above, if this also helps consumers attach altruism to their digital profiles with minimal keystrokes, they will support your cause through commerce.

toms

 (ex: Toms Improving Lives)

In the grand scheme of advertising, digital media is still in relative infancy. This is precisely why I find it so valuable to study patterns of communication and subliminal intent to predict behavior. One thing is for certain, no single brand can afford to continue feeding the diminishing returns meter, a.k.a. traditional paid media. In order to scale your brand message in the most organic way, you must enlist your customers (and their respective networks) to participate. Word-of-mouth still happens largely offline, but online sharing platforms are fertile ground for brand advocacy. However, this must be a true value exchange, whereas if a consumer offers you a piece of their digital real estate, your product or experience must deliver incremental value in their personal brand building campaign.

Google cause

 (SOURCE: LBGT Advertising, How Brands are Taking a Stance on Issues)

 

Recently, 8 W2O Group employees descended onto Syracuse University’s campus to visit classes in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for Social Commerce Days. Social Commerce Days, as part of the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce, offer the opportunity for employees to guest lecture in classes, hold workshops, review student’s resumes and more. It’s an opportunity for students to hear about the evolution of our industry and ask questions as they prepare for their future careers.

Below, some of our colleagues who participated in Social Commerce Days have reflected on their experience. Check out their thoughts!

Meredith Crowder

Social Commerce Days at Syracuse was a great experience and I was so happy to be a part of it. This is an exceptional program for W2O Group to put on for both the University and staff. As a recent college graduate myself, it was great to bring my knowledge from the working world back to students who are eager to get a job and get their career started. I was thrilled to see how enthusiastic the students were to learn and immerse themselves in the program, especially the keynote speaker and their thoughts during the workshop. I believe bringing tangible, real client examples and thought processes to students is extremely important to their learning – so glad W2O sees the value and brings that to such a well-respected communications program.

Michael Brito

I was inspired that the SU students were so passionate to learn about real life marketing programs and how open they were to applying analytics in the process.  Students were curious, assertive and asked really smart/strategic questions. Since the Social Commerce Days, I have talked on the phone with three students (one grad, two undergrads) about their vision for what they wanted to do after graduation. I am sure that I convinced all three to join W2O.

This is an amazing program for W2O. It allows leaders at the firm to influence university curriculum in a way that is so relevant to the market and the demand for analytics-drive marketing/communications pros.

Chris Nardone

As a recent graduate of Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, I was thrilled to connect with students on a personal level and prepare them for an entry-level position. We spoke candidly about day-to-day life as an associate and how they can attribute what they learn through schooling and internships and apply it to real-world agency life. I even had the opportunity to lead a writing course discussion on content creation. I presented a case study I worked on and gave real-world examples on how important it is to maintain your writing skills throughout your career. I was proud to guest lecture in a classroom I sat in as a student just three years prior.

Lauren Hougas provided her thoughts based on W2O Group’s company values.

#letshang:  We were able to spend hours networking and socializing with students

#whysuck:  we were able to showcase our case studies to demonstrate just how far we can push ourselves to ensure A+ work every time

#makeithappen:  This was my actual job seeking advice to students.  Don’t apply on a job board and hope your resume gets read… make it happen! We taught how to create their own jobs and stand out

#dealwithit:  We had examples of clients changing the direction of projects midway through, but they saw this best in how we flowed through our days there.  Schedules were changing, clients needed us, technology failed… and we continued without a hitch.

There is a saying… “if some is good, more is better.” Often, this saying is meant ironically because it is rarely true. But in the case of our 2015 events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive, we here at W2O Group were extremely pleased with the results. For the Readers Digest version of our events, you can check out the content capsule below (it includes a few select videos of our speakers, our PreCommerce Spotify playlist, speaker presentations and pictures from numerous events). We also led up to our events with some speaker interviews which I recommend checking out here.


We kicked things off this year with our second annual VIP Round Table — an event reserved for speakers and some of our more senior level clients. Held on the 55th floor of the prestigious Austonian building, the 40 person event was led by W2O Group President, Bob Pearson and tech mogul, David Kirkpatrick of Techonomy.

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The two and a half hour, facilitated discussion touched on topics such as innovation, the future of apps, security and mobile advertising. The day rounded out with an appearance by none other than one of the hardest working men online and on camera, Al Roker (Below is the episode of Live from Stubbs Jon Harris and I filmed with Al).

One of our two signature events this year was our fifth annual PreCommerce Summit. And while each of our past four summits have gotten better than the year before, this was the year where we really stepped up our game the most significantly. Not only was the venue a cut above (thank you Austin City Music Hall) but our event production team (huge props to Erin Disney and Team Clink) took our game to a new level. And then there were the speakers. I’ve pulled out some key quotes below but I would highly recommend spending some time reading the recaps/watching the videos for each.

 

 

 

Here are the speakers (note links to their blog recaps and a link to their presentations to the right of each name):

On Friday, we held our second annual digital brunch. This is technically our third or fourth but the second in our new office with food trucks and music. This is a great time for our clients, neighbors, partners and employees to mix and mingle, enjoy some breakfast tacos, Bloody Marys, take in a demo or two, all while basking in the warm Austin sun.

Here are a few pics of the festivities:

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Brunch

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This year, in addition to our PreCommerce Summit, we decided to take a page out of our earlier SXSW days where we had a smaller, more intimate room. At our first ever Geekfest moderated by Bob Pearson and our CTO, John Cunningham, we featured 16 speakers covering topics that ranged from the Apache Project to resonant charging to the importance of diversity in tech. It was a lot of good food for thought in a power packed four hour span. We will have the videos for these talks up soon but in the meantime, you can thumb through the blog recaps below.

Last but not least in our string of events this year was the Geekacue. It’s hard to believe bu this was our sixth annual Geekacue and also the first year we didn’t host our event at an actual BBQ joint. For the last three years, we had the good fortune of taking over Franklin’s BBQ (owner and chef, Aaron Franklin, was recently named as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award). This year, we made the tough call due to space constraints and took our party over to the elegant confines of the Charles Johnson House. This of course meant that we needed to find some great BBQ and likely that we would need some entertainment as well. Mission accomplished on both fronts as we were fortunate enough to land new-but-not-so-new, Terry Blacks BBQ, as our bearers of brisket. The short version of the story is that twin brothers, Mike and Mark Black opened Terry Black’s in Austin in late 2014. However, the namesake of their new establishment is their father, Terry Black, whose father, Edgar, opened now legendary “Black’s” in the BBQ capitol of Texas (Lockhart) over 83 years ago.

In addition to some amazing BBQ, we also had the luxury of not one… not two… but three bands. Some of you may have only seen Monte Montgomery who opened or Black Joe Lewis who was the feature act. But for those lucky enough to stick around, we also had the red hot blue grass band, Whiskey Shivers, upstairs at the after party. All three were amazing and left us wanting more.

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terry blacks

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geekacue-whiskeyshivers

During the Geekacue, we also kept our clients, partners and friends-of-W2O entertained with a dance party booth (video below).

We also brought back one of the staples of our Geekacue, the photo booth. We’ll have all the photos available soon on our Facebook page but in the meantime, here are some gems to give you a flavor.

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Key stats across all our events:

  • We had over 5,200 tweets tagged with our hashtag #sxw2o (I encourage you to scroll through the content there — it will make you smarter… and hungrier, I promise).
  • W2O Group held eight different events this year — our most ever. Look for that number to be closer to ten next year.
  • There were over 3,300 registrations for our events. Somewhere between 40-50% of those folks showed up plus walk ups. Subtracting out overlap, we had roughly 1,000 unique folks not including our employees attending our events.
  • There were over 60 briskets consumed at our Geekacue. Okay, I’m making that number up but it was somewhere in that neighborhood.

Last but not least, none of this would be possible without our wonderful partners/sponsors. They not only help fund (or in the case of alcohol, provide in kind donations) but they are also integral parts of our events as speakers, attendees, photographers and avid Tweeters. We appreciate you all and thank you for your support Sysomos, Clarabridge, Bayer, Datasift, Sprinklr, Business Wire, Synthesio, Sullivan Wine, Deep Eddy Vodka and Thirsty Planet.


Sponsor Block_Updated

 

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




mike marinelloAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Next up is Mike Marinello, Head of Global Communications, Technology, Innovation and Sustainability at Bloomberg.  For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Michael is a member of Bloomberg LP’s corporate communications team, currently responsible for a cross-platform positioning and reputation effort that he created for the Technology, Innovation and Design organization at Bloomberg (R&D and Office of the CTO). He recently also created and now leads Bloomberg’s Brand Integration efforts, working more strategically and pro-actively with the entertainment industry. Before moving to Bloomberg LP, Michael managed the brands and created the communications operations and social and digital platforms for both Bloomberg Philanthropies and the C40 Cities Climate Group (at the time Chaired by then NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg). Prior to that he was at Microsoft for four years, working in communications for Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), and then running communications and analyst relations for Office (enterprise).

Now onto the interview:

You’ve had an interesting journey career wise including stints working in politics and a VERY large software company. Can you tell us about your journey?
It has been an interesting journey. I never started out with a specific plan. Well I actually had one initially. From the time I was in seventh grade I wanted to be an architect. I took private study and all types of classes and went to Lehigh University as an architect major… But when I actually started to study to become one – for real – I didn’t like it at all. So I dropped it and moved to International Relations. Yeah, that was the last time I ever had a real defined career plan. But I digress… Seriously though, while my path does not look linear on paper, each experience led to the next either directly or indirectly. So for me it has felt like a natural career path from the US Senate, to a Microsoft consultant, to building my own agency practice at GCI and then head of Corporate Development, to starting the corporate PR function for Becton Dickinson, to being in-house at Microsoft and now my transition from creating and running comms for Bloomberg Philanthropies and C40 to my current job at Bloomberg LP. While not initially intended, the one constant has been creating, building, growing and expanding a communications operation. Those experiences have really taught me the business – and business value — of communications. Not a lot of people get that chance. But I have led a professionally entrepreneurial career, love that part of my work and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. My Mom once asked me why I do what I do, and I told her “because I get paid for being me.” Which doesn’t suck. (That was her response…)

Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on turning communications outcomes into business values. Can you give a preview?
Well, it goes back to what I was just saying. Having had a long history of building and running communications operations, I have learned great lessons about the business of and business value communications brings to a company, a brand or a client. And I think that gets lost a bit. I stumbled on it, so trust me I’m no genius. Maybe just fortunate to have learned it early. Our discipline – primarily those new to it – should think of ourselves as business units not strictly service centers. So I hope some of what I talk about will get folks – even if just a few – rethinking their approach to creating business value, not just communications outcomes.

What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
Well you know me, and I have always been a huge fan of storytelling so it is not new to me or more important than say a decade ago. However, what is exciting to me is that we have so many different ways to tell stories and reach our audiences directly and unfiltered. That is exciting and something that constantly challenges me and my team – to be more creative and innovative in our approach because we now have so many tools and outlets to tell our stories. The trap to avoid however is telling the same stories on multiple channels, or at least trying to tell them the same way. What works on Twitter, might not work on our blog or Facebook, or it might work but it needs to be retooled for that audience and platform. That is the challenge we face every day – what’s the platform, what’s the audience, how do we tell the best story keeping both in mind…

How do you see the world of communications evolving over the next five years.
Wow. No idea. Really… What I’d like to see though in five years is a whittling down of social media platforms. There are too many right now, and I think there is a lot of noise and activity and not a lot of outcomes. So I’m hoping in the next five years we have a shake out of the platforms that really matter and those that don’t. Sure there will always be disrupters. I love that. But I just don’t want to see more of the same… Honestly though as practitioners –no matter the number of platforms– we still have to understand the different platforms and utilize the ones that are most relevant to us either because of audience or business objective. So even though I’m hoping to see fewer platforms (does that make me lazy? old? both?) our need to understand them and utilize them accordingly won’t change.

I know you attended SXSW last year since you were at a number of our events. What was your biggest takeaway?
My biggest take away – and I’m serious here – is that the Pre-Commerce event proved to be a great “community event” re bringing like-minded comms professionals together to listen to and learn from one another. That was great.  So I would love to see a “comms startup” community spur from this year’s event. Quarterly maybe? Bloomberg/W2O sponsored? Also, my biggest takeaway was that I should have paid more attention to the gaming thingy going on in the room. I paid no attention and ended up coming in like second place. Had I actually paid attention maybe I would have beaten that dude from Coke. Did I just say that? Is this mic still hot? Wow, I’m just riffing now and failing miserably at everything I ever taught in media training classes… Next question.

What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
Not sure, but I just pray it isn’t “Big Data” – I’m “Big Data-ed” out quite frankly…

chuckAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Third up is Chuck Hemann, head of analytics at tech giant, Intel. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Over the last 10 years, Chuck has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining Intel, he was Executive Director, Analytics at Golin where I was responsible for leading digital analytics across the agency. Before Golin he was Group Director, Analytics for W2O Group where he was responsible for leading teams in New York and London, in addition to key client relationships with P&G and Verizon.

Now onto the interview:

[Aaron Strout] How did you end up in the field of analytics?
[Chuck Hemann] Probably like a lot of people in the field of analytics I ended up in it sort of by accident. My undergraduate and graduate work is all in political science, and during graduate school I did do some of that work both in DC and at home (Cleveland Rocks!). If you love the study of human behavior, you would love to witness the political environment every day. What I realized, though, is that profession had a limited shelf life for me. Twenty hours a day for weeks on end didn’t sound like much of an existence. When I moved back home I sent my resumes to a bunch of communications firms thinking there were some natural parallels between the political world and communications. During that process Dix & Eaton brought me in for an interview and said they were looking for a research assistant for their media research team and, because I needed a job, I took the opportunity. Two years later is when the social media listening boom hit and the rest as they say is history…

[AS] I’ve heard you’ve written a book. Tell us about that? Anything you would go back and change if you could?
[CH] It is true. I have written a book. Ken Burbary and I set out on the journey to give marketers an analytics book that they would feel comfortable reading. To that point most of the analytics books on the market were written for people like us and while they were valuable, they weren’t terribly useful for the marketer who wont be diving into Google Analytis and doing deep web analytics anytime soon. It’s a great question on whether or not there is anything we would go back and change. If I had to answer I would say there is probably two things in particular: 1. We had to talk about tools but discussing digital analytics tools in this sort of environment is a crapshoot. Most of the tools we talked about are still around but in varying degrees of stability; 2. I wish we would’ve talked more about digital media measurement. We do have a few chapters on it, but I think we could write a whole book on that subject – how to develop the framework, how often to measure, what should you measure, how should those insights be applied, etc… (No, before you ask, we’re not contemplating a book on this. My authoring days are over).

[AS] Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on going global and some of the challenges associated. Can you share some pre-session thoughts?
[CH] One of the big challenges that my boss gave to me was help drive the idea of being a data driven organization. Intel (like a lot of brands) has more data than we could ever reasonably use, but what we needed to start doing is figuring out how we got insights into the hands of people executing media programs on our behalf. And oh, by the way, do it across digital media, paid social, organic social, SEM, SEO and Intel.com. That’s not a small job in and of itself, but it was made even bigger when she said, “everything we do needs to scale to our geographies.” Crap. How do we go about tackling that problem? During the session I’m going to talk a little bit about that problem, a little about how we’re thinking about it, a little about what we’ve already done and a little about the challenges we still face. I wish I could talk more about these things, but I only have 10 minutes.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[CH] I’m not sure I would use the word “rising” because I think Storytizing is already here to stay. If you cannot tell your brand’s story across paid, earned and shared channels then your digital story falls flat. Integration in particular isn’t a “nice to have” anymore. It’s mandatory.

[AS] If you attended SXSW last year, what was your biggest takeaway?
[CH] I did attend SXSW last year and I think the biggest takeaway for me is similar to what many said following the event which was it feels like it’s getting more intimate. Events like PreCommerce are sprouting up all over the place, and I for one am not planning to spend much time at any big parties. I’d rather the networking be more focused.

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[CH] I would love to see the trend above continue as it makes for a much better event experience. To be honest, I’ve not been keeping up with the buzz around SXSW leading up to it (I’ve been busy scaling globally) so it’s a little difficult to answer… My guess though is we’ll see as much if not more chatter around the proliferation of mobile and the (seeming) retreat on the rapid expansion of catch all social platforms. There are new social platforms popping up all of the time, but the ones that are popping up are very niche to fit a very particular use case.

The W2O Group Center for Social Commerce is proud to announce its 2015 student Ambassadors. The Ambassador Program, now in its second year, gives at least two Syracuse University students the opportunity to take on a full-year leadership position within the Center. These Ambassadors are tasked with being our “boots on the ground,” helping promote the Center, its initiatives and its value to students, faculty and the industry. Along with their daily responsibilities during the Spring and Fall semesters, these two students will join W2O Group’s New York City office this Summer as interns. Along with their internship, both Ambassadors will attend W2O Group events at SXSW, an opportunity to truly integrate themselves in W2O Group’s thinking, and get quickly onboarded for their future responsibilities.

Please join us in welcoming our newest Ambassadors! Below, they’ve shared a few thoughts on what this position means to them:

Anna HodgeAnna Hodge

I’m so excited to be joining a digitally advanced team like W2O Group this upcoming summer as a Corporate and Strategy intern. As a junior journalism major at Syracuse University I first came across W2O Group when I was searching the web for articles related to journalism in the digital age. I stumbled across a 2013 W2O Group blog about the evolving journalism industry and the rise in paid online content. As a freshman, I maintained interest in the company and was excited to gain the opportunity to apply to W2O Group Center for Social Commerce program within the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. With a previous summer internship in corporate communications and on-campus experience in writing and social media, I understand the importance of conveying brand messaging.

As a journalism major, I am excited to use my abilities as a writer and social media producer to tell the stories of corporate clients and engage audiences on new and innovative platforms. When asked why I made the switch from journalism to public relations, I always respond that my passion for storytelling has evolved in to one surrounding a brand’s narrative. I’m excited to work with W2O Group in moving brands forward with the combination of new practices such as social media and the traditional practices of effective writing. I view W2O Group as a pioneering brand, molding the future of a more digitally advanced public relations industry, and am excited to be a part of such a progressive and innovative team.

Andrew PetroAndrew Petro

I am extremely excited to be joining W2O Group through the Center for Social Commerce Ambassador Program. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to be a part of such an innovative and forward-thinking agency. After experiencing Social Commerce Days, I can’t wait to give back to the cause that has already impacted me in so many ways.

Last semester, I took advantage of the impressive speaker lineup and other events that comprised Social Commerce Days. It was during those days that I learned exactly what the Center for Social Commerce really does. I learned how big of a resource it is for the students and faculty of Newhouse. I can’t wait to help promote and develop the center so that more people will be able to take advantage of all that it has to offer.

As a public relations and marketing dual major, I have taken an interest in the field of research. This summer I will get to spend 10 weeks interning at W2O Group’s New York City office. I cannot wait to get hands-on experience with analytics and learn from the industry professionals working for this agency.

Overall, I feel overjoyed to be in this role. I am eager to take on the responsibilities of the Ambassador Program and will work hard to take the Center for Social Commerce to the next level.

 

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.

It’s no secret that Syracuse University emphasizes a strong communications alumni network. Whether you call it the “Newhouse Mafia,” or not, there’s no questioning that orange is everywhere.

OSyracuseur partnership with Newhouse doesn’t stop at the Center for Social Commerce. It’s a fundamental mindset for those of us who hail from Syracuse. Many of us remember when we were students and the generosity of those who shaped our perception and understanding of the industry. Some of us just bleed orange. Regardless of motive, we are a proud bunch dedicated to sharing our knowledge and experience with new generations of professionals.

Shortly after the holidays, we were thrilled to host two Syracuse sophomores as a part of the Newhouse Alumni Partnership Program. Thanks to the willingness and hard work of Elliot Fox, Lauren Barbiero, Sarah Masel, Richard Wong, Sarah Colgrove, Abigail Rethore, Brianna Quaglia and more, we were able to ensure that Milati Das and Saquandra Heath could experience the breadth of W2O Group’s functions and practices.

It was a fulfilling day for us and we were excited to convey what makes W2O Group so special with two very driven and bright students. Here are their reactions and thoughts.

Hope you enjoy!

Meriel McCaffery & Taylor Carr

Mitali Das’ Reflection

Over my winter break frMitaliDasom Syracuse University I had the opportunity to shadow Meriel McCaffery at WCG (W2O Group), an extremely positive and eye-opening experience. Immersed in the comings and goings of a prominent digital marketing agency, I was able to bridge the gap between my communications education and the realities of the industry. I learned a great deal about the emerging field of analytics, the central role of media engagement, and the integration of practices and functions within the company. While shadowing Meriel, a Corporate Communications Strategist at WCG and fellow Newhouse alumna, I learned firsthand about the inner workings of an agency. I caught a glimpse into the typical workday of a strategist such as Meriel. In between numerous meetings, she was able to balance her individual client-based tasks and communicate with her colleagues.

As a student, I was intrigued by the wealth of knowledge to be gained in an agency setting. I observed as Meriel worked within a variety of disciplines, ranging from technology to healthcare. Though strategy and analytics were at the core of the work, her team seamlessly integrated their research and knowledge to better serve their client. As my day of meetings, tours, and conference calls came to a close, I was left with the impression that WCG, and agencies that perform in methods similar to theirs, are truly the future of public relations and marketing. My experience at this dynamic and progressive company, though titled as a “shadow,” was ultimately a unique opportunity to engage in what will be the future of my chosen field of study. I am grateful to my school, to Meriel, and to W2O Group for this unforgettable experience.

Saquandra Heath’s Reflection: A Glimpse of the Future

SaquandraHealth9:07: I arrived at a beautiful building submerged between peaceful waters of which the sun gracefully shone on, and bustling city goers strutting the busy streets of NYC. I had no idea what my day at W2O would entail, but I was ready for it all. “Ding!” and there I was, instantly on the fourteenth floor. The secretary greeted me with a welcoming smile and escorted me like a special guest to my job shadow host. Not long after greeting and exchanging names with the signature handshake, was I immersed in the daily life of a public relations practitioner, or consultant rather. However, this daily life is unlike any other that one could ever imagine.

When I thought about public relations, the first task that came to mind was writing a press release. Yet, at W2O, press releases are not the trend. W2O tackles a whole new and non-traditional approach to PR. They combine raw data, better known as analytics, mixed with the experience and expertise of renowned public relations practitioners, to create an agency that is operated with a futuristic approach. This non-traditional form of public relations is truly something that excites me—it is energetic, it is innovative, it is new, it is the future—but W2O has mastered it in the present.  My host Taylor Carr was phenomenal and explained this remarkable approach of public relations in great detail. Taylor’s eyes lit up with excitement, his tone screamed enthusiasm, and his knowledge was greatly exhibited, but his passion above all, left a lasting impression. Taylor possesses a work ethic that many strive for, and his passion about his career is so undeniable that it excited me for the workforce.

If one were to ask how my job shadow experience at W2O was, my response would begin with a smile, followed by “have a seat.”

this column first appeared in the January 5th issue of PRNews

The Chinese market is innovating in ways different than what we are used to in the west. Where we see boundaries, entrepreneurs in China envision new ways to combine social media and ecommerce. What I’ve discovered is that “geographic learning” is part of how we build an edge in our home market. Often, the best ideas for what’s next are happening thousands of miles away. This article will describe key lessons learned from China that can be applied to how we communicate in western markets in the years ahead.

1. Focus on one consistent customer experience. In China, ecommerce companies like Alibaba integrate social media fully into their sales experience. They don’t divide social media and sales and they don’t place as high a premium on advertising. Where we see a divide in how things should work (social media and ecommerce), the Chinese find an opportunity to create one continual customer experience.

2. ROI is easier to answer. When you tie social media and ecommerce, it’s the same customer, so we know his/her purchasing power. Chinese companies don’t have to waste time asking ‘How do you know social media will lead to ROI?’ The more directly we work with our customers, the more we know about them. The more we advertise to them from afar, the less we know. The latter way being much more expensive and less productive.

3. An involved customer is a productive customer. When you interact with customers in a repeatable and trustworthy manner, a breakthrough occurs in the relationship between company and customer. In China, because social media and ecommerce are one in the same, consumers will ask their peers for advice more frequently and provide advice to companies more often.

4. Customer experience refers to positive outcomes. Normally we think of customer experience as how to deal with negative situations.

In China, it’s the opposite. Improving customer experience means more integration of reviews into sites, more forum conversations, more content created on new products, more advice amongst peers on what to buy.

5. Education trumps advertising. New customers don’t know much, if anything, about a brand they discover online. In China, a premium is placed on educating the consumer by directly involving the customer in the purchase.

The company and the community are there to share advice, discuss new options and teach each other. With a rising middle class, this was imperative, but it reinforces the most simple brand-building lessons.

6. Social platform features will match customer need. We think of social platforms doing one thing well, whether it is photos ( Instagram) or Twitter (140 characters) or Foursquare (location).

Does this make sense? In China, firms combine whatever they believe the customer will want into one platform. For example, WeChat has features similar to Instagram (post photos), Foursquare (find people near you) and instant messaging.

Youku has shades of Netflix and YouTubeSina Weibo allows you to act like we do on Twitter and post as we do on Facebook. This makes sense.

7. Instant messaging will lead to new platforms. IM is one of the fastest-growing aspects of social media in China. WeChat and QQ, both owned by Tencent, are two of the largest instant messaging companies. WeChat enables the user to talk live, share images, use geo-location apps and more.

Could the next platform emerge from IM? What does that mean for how we share content in the U.S.? It’s an obvious trend in a mobile-first world. Overall, the lessons from China are those we talk about a lot in the western world, but often we are held back by our habits. There is no magic bullet.

Rather, there is an opportunity for brands to become more involved in the full customer experience, so that we break down our artificial walls of “sales” versus “marketing” versus “communications.”

Our customers don’t think like this and perhaps, based on what we see in China, we are getting an early glimpse into how our online world will evolve in the years ahead.

The Sidebar

Being Conversant in China

As I study how China is evolving, I’m continually thinking of what we, as communicators, can do differently. Here are the ten most important items on my mind for 2015.

1. Identify your communities for your brand. How many communities do you have where they talk about your brand? What do you do to interact with them? What content do you provide to them? If you don’t have any, how will you get them started?

2. Know your customers…really. We should know exactly who has influence online for our brand, exactly who is providing reviews, exactly who is creating great educational content and more. You should have a list of more than 1,000 people where you know their name, what they do for your brand and what you will do for them.

3. Take instant messaging more seriously. How will you provide content that can be easily shared via IM? What will you do with services like Snap Chat that are redefining what an IM means for entertainment purposes?

4. Work closely with Marketing & Sales. It’s time we have one set of metrics to measure how social media and sales work together. China is teaching us the importance of this every day.

5. Measure how often your team interacts with customers. Develop metrics to understand how often you and your team actually interact with customers online and how often the rest of your company does this on a daily basis. Do you do it? If so, how do you know what is working? If not, what is holding you back?

6. Build your second sales force. Obsess over providing your most important online customers whatever they need to be successful in educating their community, which is really your shared community. What is your content plan to provide a regular flow of information to your customers? Is any of this based on their direct feedback?

7. Remember what all customers want to do online. Anywhere in the world, we have three primal desires online—to share ideas, knowledge or solutions to educate our peers. How are you doing this? Are you enabling your customers or are you talking at them?

8. Think of the entire customer experience, not just a single channel experience. Customers travel from channel to channel to learn. We may go from Facebook to Twitter to Search in minutes to learn on the same topic. Take the time to understand what the journey is for your key customers. Don’t focus on one channel at the expense of learning about the path they take.

9. Remember that education trumps advertising. We are all customers and we all want to learn about the brands that we care most about. Remember to teach. Earned media is the perfect way to do this well. Paid media is really meant to accelerate the work of earned in the new world.

10. Keep an eye on what doesn’t work as well. Not everything in China turns to gold. Look at what fails as well. Why did it? Equally instructive for all of us.

And it probably wouldn’t hurt to learn a few words of Chinese. Zài jiàn. —B.P.

This article originally appeared in the January 5, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.