Real“ism” at 2011 South By Southwest Interactive #SXSWi #SXSW

17 03 2011

Did you need to go to SXSW to find out what’s been happening in the last 12 months? Did you need to attend Clay Shirky’s keynote or hear about the gamification aka. Game layer of social media? –  Just think for a minute about how you feel about Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Quora…etc these days. Overloaded?

No you didn’t need to attend. Nor did I. But I still had a great time there because SXSW is casual and people are still very approachable. I went to hear, discuss and exchange thoughts and words about what matters. And those I did find. No, the latest gimmick wasn’t there and launching anything in such noise would probably be a mistake. Social Media Tech is only a servant for those who want to make meaningful change happen. The revolutions happening in the Middle East are what’s important; much more important than any another location or photo app. I have ultimately come to the conclusion that I didn’t go to SXSW to see more technology, and if Leo Laporte or Jeremiah Owyang didn’t find enough (see tweet). I think it was predictable since buzz usually builds up before but none had risen before.  To quote Valeria Maltoni, “people will always outlast tools.”  Yep, we’re living it.

Let’s keep doing real work which impacts real lives. The superstar ego-system is fading away and the time of “the next killer app” has passed. If an app is really good, it will come to us no matter what. Startups don’t need SXSW to make or break it. We’re all too networked to miss the really good stuff. Yes, we’re still in a recession and it is keeping people realistic. In that same vein, Google was rumored by RWW (before retraction) to announce a new social network (Circles). Let’s not create hype when ‘we’, the industry geeks, shrinks and new media people, want real apps that add real value and do not waste the user’s time. So what did I see at SXSW?

1. An -Ism or separation between being entertained and meaningful changes. That’s right, the point of this blog. We are experiencing a real separation between the hordes of people who want to use technology, the web and applications to turn people into uber consumers or seeking fame and the OTHER hordes that believe that those technologies should serve societal change for the better.  2011 is certainly showing strong signs of an increase in both populations.

2. Gamification, aka the ‘game-layer’: The Seth Priebatsch keynote was quite interesting, as it made the case for re-creating experiences (like education) through gamification. Boredom and disengagement have been long standing problems in education, and elsewhere in our lives. Nevertheless, we are human beings with cyclical needs, not computers. Creating genuine experiences and learning is not something that should be only solved through more gaming. Being a parent myself, we ought to let people learn outside of pre-deterministic tracks like those computers and the game layer will impose.

3. Location is trying to grow up: LocalMind was quoted in many blogs as being a great step forward when it comes to location based shopping discovery. But location applications are going to have to become much smarter than they are today. Foursquare fatigue, ‘nuf said. I have, like many, subscribed to Groupon and other deal sites to experiment, and I am slowly… unsubscribing. They’re only filling up my inbox.

4. Healthcare is only getting bigger:
I spent a substantial amount of time at the OVERcrowded health track as Extanz is increasingly working in the healthcare space alongside its sister company, Sterena.com. We simply couldn’t fit any more people in each session. The health track was an unconference at 2010 SXSW and is overflowing already. This year, it was overflowing as well as a main track. Last year, I had heard way too much marketing/PR discussion during the sessions. This year, sessions were focused on the flourishing possibilities between healthcare, new media communication and community improvement.  Asthmapolis was mentioned as a breakthrough example of such possibilities. The apple app store accounts for 8000 health or healthcare related apps. Here are few take aways:

- Users’ first apps should be to connect with their doctors.
– Change has 3 main levels by Dr — epiphany (the rare case); change of context (more feasible)’ and baby steps (needs a feedback loop)
– Recurring use and measured behavior change are key for any app to have a hope of surviving. Too many apps are asking too much from users without giving data back quickly, or even better, first.
– Information VS. Prescription: The government will probably step in very soon to define the line between a simple app and a ‘device’ (where regulation will be imposed (FDA)) Information apps, however, will face less regulation as they are ‘prescriptive’ (via Jane Sarasohn-Kahn)
– Data people vs health people – “I ran two miles but I can’t visualize that” (Jon Richman) along with Roni Zeiger, argue that “all the healthcare data in the world is useless if it is not meaningful to the patient.”

5. #140conf – looking for inspiration? This is it.
This was my first opportunity to attend Jeff Pulvers’ year round conferences. Time flew by me, with short presentations from people using social medial or technologies to make big differences. The stories of Erik Proulx (@eproulx) with the lemonademovies.com project as well as Melissa Leon @melissaleon and Aj Leon @ajleon telling us about the extendedvillage.com project are all about such change.

6. Curation is the ever coming wave even for online shopping:
The more we curate, the more we produce, the more difficult it is distinguish between noise. Flipboard, My6Sense, and Paper.li all promise more signals and less noise. I was surprised to see this trend growing in social shopping. The web has diminished one thing, the ability for brands to share emotions as they do through print or TV had built. We learned from @willotoons that many new sites are trying to recreate both emotion, but more importantly, the curation of the shopping experience, like blippy.com, followstyle.com,  everlane.com, pinterest.com, pixazza.com, polyvore.com …etc.

So…My wish for next year: Sustainable / Cleantech will finally get a track in proportion to the magnitude of the problems they address. I think we can fill up rooms but it’ll take some bridge builders. I

sincerely thought that after last year’s unconference tracks on the subject, it would have been much bigger. Clearly ‘people’ lack data to know realtime what their consumption behaviors are. Just like healthcare, step 1 is the feedback loop. We all think our houses run like a Prius, while really they are more like Hummers. Cleantech will become big at SXSW when the early data collection players (Tendril Networks and other Power Tagging folks) come and meet people who can build cool apps. Or renewable energy folks like these best sellers should get invited. I want my phone to give me real time power consumption analyses of everything around me. The “internet of things” revolution will be much bigger than “social things.”

Anyway I hope to see you next year! I’ll go for longer, be picky, do more panels, continue to attend parties, ride a bike to get around and bring my power strip to be charging at all times.

@YannR



About these ads




Influence & Industry, the many axes about building a community

13 05 2010

Writing this blog on influence and taking the cycling industry as an example has been great. I was really impressed with the level of feedback from everyone which you can read on the blog or on LinkedIn. I feel that putting some clarity on the discussion which followed was important. It’s certainly applicable to other industries.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

- Defining Influence: I was asked how I had defined influence in the context of this ranking. Influence in this day and age is crowd based (the crowd is a complex system of agents). I think no brand or agent should assume where influence is coming from or can be exercised from, except that each of us has a ‘home base’ — the blog — and using it as a base for influence is pretty fair. Bloggers who commented on this blog mostly see their influence directly tied with their readership and less a function of their relationship with other bloggers. We think that reference from other influencers is a very good benchmark. For many bloggers, blogging is an extension of their passion, more than a ‘business’ like a media outlet. Clearly most comments tended to agree that influence and topic specialty are very important. For most marketers, influence is solely what moves products into consumers hands. There is clearly a disconnect between both worlds which could be solved by the smarter brands. It’s a bit like both haven’t met each other yet… kinda.

- Communities: Like influence, ‘community’ is an overused word that means many things to many people. The cycling blogsphere is highly networked and therefore constitutes a community. Bloggers know, refer to and influence each other. Communities come in many shapes, and form wherever you can find come CUTE (Common Unit of Transferable Experience).

- The path of influence is not a straight line like marketers would like to believe. Web 2.0 has enabled the shift from Mass to Micro-influence to the disarray of the PR industry. Each of us and especially ‘creators’ of content, generate thought leadership according to our specialties. Traditional media used to be the middle man between marketers and consumers, but as we know, the internet tends to eliminate middlemen. The pipes used to be clear and choices were made for readers. It’s no longer this way and engaging the many layers of the community (consumers, industry groups, interests, influencers…) is the only way to gain mind share. Readers and consumers are now in the driving seat. Classic advertising is often too hard to measure

- Passion drives: Most bloggers are doing this for pure passion and are aware of their influence from a reader’s perspective. They are very aware of a dedicated readership and clearly most of them understand traffic and how much they move.

- Industry take: The discussions on LinkedIn were very interesting as well but here ‘influence’ was mostly understood as ‘how can it move product off the shelves’ vs. some thought leadership or experiential influence. Other thoughts were that some brands are actually pretty good at inbound marketing and community engagement. This was not taken into account in this study but very true and some clearly understand the power of ‘customer suction’ (Gregg Bagni) or what we refer as ‘Inbound Marketing’ when trying to explain brand’s social media strategy.

- Professionalism: No doubt all of them are professionals (even if some wouldn’t want that qualifier) at what they do but in general, their ‘own brand’ is unclear as they probably haven’t intended to be where they are today. Blogging is a way of life. On the Branding side, only ~35% are actually using their own URL (http://brand.com) and not a subdomain (http://brand.blogspot.com) which to me is branding 101. Increasing influence may start with thinking more like a brand less like an individual. Funny also that Blogger is definitely the platform of choice vs. WordPress. A few are clearly are seeing themselves as a new media outlet are doing it well and using a wide range of tools to become ‘micro-journals’.

- The changing media landscape: Some have jumped on Facebook but most haven’t. I agree that blogs are still more powerful than social platforms when it comes to moving traffic. For most cycling bloggers, it is both philosophical choice and mostly if they have the time to maintain another place for discussions. Some also are still confused about the difference between a ‘Personal page’ vs. a ‘Brand page’ (‘Like’) on Facebook, which makes sense since their personal brand is very close to the blog brand. Twitter on the other hand, is perfectly understood and used by most — it’s an extension of their blog.

All in all, I believe there is a great opportunity for more collaboration between the cycling industry and bloggers, as all pursue the same enjoyment for this industry. This is also an interesting blueprint for other communities we study.

What’s your take on influence? From Mass to Micro influence, where do you think we’re headed?

@YannR





Socializing Media, can you stand the heat?

14 04 2010

If you’ve started your own social media program, you’re ahead of millions of other companies. Kudos to you. But it’s a reflective path. The most recurrent question we get is  “what are the tools you recommend?” Give them a hammer … everything looks like a nail. Tell them ‘blogging’ and they mostly melt. Whether you hire an ‘expert’ to give you all the keys to social media or you believe that your marketing department can actually integrate these activities into your existing public relationship framework, it mostly becomes another thing to do in the day.

Over the last few years developing and managing social media programs, we have had, of course, some customers who have said: “that’s it, we understand what you’re doing, we’ll integrate this back in house” … guess what? They mostly fail. Social Media tools and ‘copy paste’ behaviors will not solve the ultimate reason why social media is ripping through business and friendly communication. A social media strategy is integrated with every bridge you build between people and vice-versa. The ‘heat‘ is what I believe is a deep cultural change within a company and its constituency.  Social media champions are the humanizers of a company and its constituents.  Take every chance to make a warm connection. It’s easier than it looks. You know who actually has value in your community eco-system.

So what are social media agencies (most :)) good at?

- Augmenting your social media intelligence and bring best practices to ramp up quicker and avoid pitfalls or an all too common waste of energy.
Bringing the constituent voice out: It’s not about you or your brand (rant…). Too often, I read a post starting like “here at ‘brand name’ we blah blah blah….bam! you just lost 50% of your readers right there. If they come to your blog or your facebook fan page, teach them something. Make it worth their while. Your discount coupons maybe creating some instant buzz, but they suck at creating a meaningful relationship with your constituents.
Perfectly geared to be an outsourced journalist for your brand: Marketing departments are good at creating ‘case studies'; they do less well at bringing conversation. The most enlightened companies actually learn to let the message go…because it’s not about the message. It’s about curating and creating great content which empowers the user or customer. It’s a lot easier to craft these stories from outside of the company.
- Helping identify and build relationships with who matters: Inside the community (the best fans or just finding the right followers) and outside (influencers, bloggers, journalists, independent writers)…
Looking outside the marketing department: All too often, marketing is in plain control and it’s becoming one of their channels. Social media is NOT another advertising channel and an agency can help foster conversation with the constituency, including other departments or locations inside the company.

- Navigating the new media landscape: We used to have paid media, now we more like five ways to make use of media according to Brian Solis: Earned media, owned media, paid media, participatory media & sponsored media.
Providing the Social Media Glue: Most of all, a social media agency is here to glue all the pieces together. It starts with a coherent publishing strategy, taking into account the constituents and moving into fostering community engagement inside and outside (PR 2.0).

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Then let’s make it the top 100 list of best companies to use social media!

@YannR





How’s that ‘feel-good-ometer’ working for you this morning?

13 04 2010

We’ve built an interesting new paradigm with our practice that has allowed some great customers to trust that we could guide them through this new world of conversation. We help them where they fail to think like media companies when they have all the tools available. I still feel that too many won’t stand up for their customers and constituents in the social media space. They want to do the same old thing using drag and drop features. My top least liked behaviors include:

-Monkeys: We sometimes have clients who take over what we’ve implemented and start going after us. It never fails. They start off strong and inevitably their social media activity becomes another thing to do. The tools kill the relationship. If you hire a traditional PR firm, you can be assured to have same results. Social media is (NOT) another line item as part of your marketing plan. You want to try to pick up the phone with fans who interact on Facebook? Do they ask themselves about personally rewarding interactions like a virtual ‘hand shake’? I don’t think so.
-The Numbers Game: “When I go see the big boss, I need to have those numbers up…” anonymous. We teach our children ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but marketers forget their manners. They are sucked into looking good. I even hear that some social media or PR firms get paid by the numbers. Get me a high number of followers on Twitter or Facebook! Like it’s the thing that matters.
-Blogging for SEO: This is too common. Demonstrated leadership is hard to do as it takes a community to start blogging ‘curated’ content. ‘Content’ becomes just another keyword packed house with little substance.
-Fear mongers: You may turn some company employees in social-ites. Nevertheless, every project will have its fear mongers, from the VP of something who wonders if we should turn off the fan pages to comments or the IT manager who sends a note to all employees saying “By protecting your updates, you remove them from the public timeline and hide them from anyone who you do not approve.” Geez… Twitter is meant to be the opposite. Stick with email man…it works great :)
-Arrogance has no place in the land of Grace: The Nestle VS Green Peace case exploded a few weeks ago and once more reflects how self destructive brands are. They live in corporate islands and claim their territory. Every bad sentiment should be eradicated (delete). The same people will pay a fortune to get research firms to deliver them market and customer insights for the next market move. But will they engage their critics? NO.

Let’s step away from the BS for a moment…

-Human relationships are strong: Never underestimate how much good they can do. Every fan, every follower, matters. Especially those who engage with your brand. If they take the time to say something about you, it’s gold. As Solis puts it, “social graphs are forming dedicated audiences willfully connected through context and interest.” Reward them. Being with them may sometimes suffice. If your brand already has a “cool factor”, you may have the impression that you’re doing a great social media job or you may simply think that it’s easy. You’re probably just ignoring its potential.  If you don’t have that cool factor, it’ll take more than one engagement trick to get people to connect. I always say blogging is the mothership of social media as it creates a back bone for the social media strategy.
-Enrich relationships: Getting attention from your community is a rare commodity and wasting their time with discount marketing tricks will keep you at a low perception point. NO ONE in business likes price wars…That’s so last century.  Why manage relationships by its lowest common denominator?
-Businesses are Media: Eloquently articulated by Solis “establishing a presence is elementary, captivating audiences is artful” and to also mention “as brands, we become media” – All the tools are available today to let businesses become an early form of publishing specialty house.
-The constituent voice (rules): If we (Extanz) could, we would get customers in charge of the facebook fan pages, and we would get customers to have free blogging access to the corporate blog and express their own life-cycle experience. I know it’s like a dream. A brand is the sum of its constituents, without all of them (up and down the value chain), there is no brand. Editorially outsourced infrastructure is what we do as it’s the basis for community and influencer engagement.
-A real focus is required: The beauty of social media is that for every person who speaks up, there are 100s who are watching quietly. Call on your own experience. I’m sure you’ve had comments at parties or face to face about a post you made on Facebook. They were quiet on Facebook but face-to-face, they’ll say something. People are watching and keep up with you. The quality of your engagement will keep that lead warm. Once again, in a super-fast information world, attention is a rare commodity.
-Relationships have no timeline: The traditional marketing timelines are wrong and most of the time abusive relationally, so don’t even think about it. Yes, we all want ROI, but positive relationships transcend that. One customer friend at a time is the only way to go if you don’t want to turn into a customer-adverse company.

What’s your experience? How do you feel we’ve evolved in the last few years?

@YannR





What do Engagement and the Value Chain have in common?

12 06 2009

… they are both being rocked by 2.0 – You didn’t think that Web 2.0 and other social web toys were just for pushy marketers, or did you?

Starting with the old and maybe boring Michael Porter value chain allows me to set up a baseline for this piece.  Most of us may have been taught how organizations work. Yep, they add value, every segment of it does or it’s made redundant, especially these days 2.0. We were trained wrong however. There is a beginning and an end to your job, NOT. We’re more and more moving to a river of information in which employees, partners and customers participate.  Think about the news industry or soon to be former news industry. Tipping the journalist maybe the future because all us (we’re the media) are involved, we’re just re-netting the value chain here.  Quality will be rewarded, so why not?

Does the healthcare industry move in any other direction? I don’t think so. The patient and relationship centered care model is moving full speed ahead. The health value chain is a participatory one. Care should be a collective well synchronized effort, no one can claim total expertise and we are all tired of being overly monitored, tested, and analyzed for liability purposes.

Odell's-pollHere is another simple but true product development example (local to me).  Odell Brewery company in Colorado finally got on board with Twitter. They also had the idea to engage their constituents which is probably the most difficult thing to do in social media. Let’s do a TwitterBrew (#odelltwitbrew), they said and then polled their Twitter followers about a new beer and its taste features. They then asked for a new name (TwitterBrew wasn’t as cool as “Blackbird”) and even asked for a new design, getting people again to vote on the design +1,500 voted … Geez ,that was easy and all involving people around them! Ok, if you develop a new Intel chip, it may be a little trickier…. or not, and this is my point. The collective did it and their work is more accurate than anything Odell could have dreamed of.

There is a massive opportunity for everyone across the organization from HR to product design to sales to change the way we work. Here are another couple of examples. CRM (Customer Relationships Management) systems are huge complex systems to empower sales forces. CoTweet (Twitter CRM) is in beta but @Wholefoods and other big names are already using it. Comcast was an early adopter of Twitter as one of their service managers (Frank Eliason) decided to answer customer questions via this system (not a corporate decision). 10 other customer service people later and Frank, they have 20,000 + followers on twitter and are delivering real value.

How to make it work? Check out SocialCast.com They integrate automation and people interaction messaging for corporations. Machines can tweet, hey why not? :)

Engagement is certainly the most empowering behavior that an organization can expect from their constituents. ‘They’ being ‘people’. Being inside the value chain or outside, engagement allows us to deliver and consume value. It’s time to rethink the value chain 2.0 style.

2.0 is awesome.

@YannR








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.