Is SXSW for Business or just a Boondoggle? That’s the wrong question.
More than ever, I heard more folks debating if SXSW was good for business, or just a big party. Those who have attended the event for over a decade swear the soul has been stolen, and local Austin denizens often leave town and rent their place on AirBnb for a pretty penny, there’s no shortage of critics.
Looking closer, the components for a unique petri dish are present, including: 1) Big brands, 2) software vendors who are trying to sell to them, 3) device manufactures who are trying to reach influencers, 4) digerati and A-List tech celebs (which means they are D-List celebs in real life), 5) mainstream media celebs including actors, sports stars and more, and perhaps most importantly, 6) an engaged set of over aprox 25,000 interactive attendees ready to trial new technologies. (see demographics)
Here’s the arguments both for and against SXSW as a business event vs a boondoggle.
Business Goals: The Upsides and Downsides of SXSW
Unique Interactive Experience
Concentrating over 25k people into a a few small blocks enables unique social and tech interactions
The chances of you experiencing a unique breakthrough moment are rare, as the event is dispersed.
Quality Speakers and Panels
The keynote speakers are grade A quality: Al Gore, Elon Musk, Wholefoods CEO, and others, deliver earth shaking insights.
The crowd influenced panels are hit and miss. Most panelists are not professional speakers, and quality is a crap shoot.
Many of the tech influencers are present, launching books, on stage, hosting parties, or milling about.
They’re overwhelmed with requests and trying to get their attention to pitch them is very challenging.
Learn about new trends
Historically, new technologies have gained grown here, from Twitter, to a rash of location based apps.
We’ve not seen any major breakthroughts in the last few years, with the exception of Grumpy Cat memes.
Network and expand connections
One of the best ways to quickly become immersed with the digital and interactive scene.
For the first timer, this is a daunting festival, there’s too much to do, events are sold out, and there are many crowds and often bad weather.
Accessibility and Logistics
The entire festival officially and unofficially spans the entire city, walking or pedicab rides enable quick access to most events.
Yet due to headcount increase, the event is straining housing, and unless you book 9mos early, you’ll be paying an expensive travel and expenses bill.
Grow your business
A strategic company can host an event, attract prospects, engage customers deeper.
This requires significant planning, knowledge of the venue, budget to cut through clutter, and extensive influencer outreach.
Socialize and Have Fun
This is a fantastic event to see live music, eat great Texmex, and drink from bottomless bar tabs and dance all night.
Perception of being a party can spill over to workplace, and not everyone will uphold the privacy code to not sharing online.
The Right Question: What are your Goals at the Festival?
At Altimeter Group (I’m a partner/owner) we funded nearly half of our small company to attend, to both conduct research, network with clients, and have fun. Staff members have specific goals, and will be reporting back the trends that they saw with an event report, and pass on business contacts to the right internal teams. To me, it’s an investment well made as much of our industry descends into a single location for a few short days.
So to put this topic to rest, I’m going to assert that SXSW is a festival, which includes both business presentations, networking get togethers, and downright riotous all-night parties. There’s so many options for any individual to partake in whether you’re a first timer, a corporate executive, a new media innovator, or just someone who’s interested in interactive technologies.
If you’re going to go, or are requesting your boss to attend, or are sending your staff, it’s important to set expectations with everyone around you. SXSW isn’t a normal business conference, it’s a social activity. Make it clear to those around you the opportunities of the event and the goals of your specific participation.
The Bottom Line: SXSW is what you make of it, but whatever you do, don’t call it a conference, it’s a festival.
Left Image: Startup Alley features 200 emerging startups, I talked to as many as I could.
In my quest for ABR (always be researching), the Three Web Strategy Spheres, I had a day to focus in on the technology sphere (the bleeding edge of it) to connect with a handful of the 200 emerging garage startups at Techcrunch Disrupt yesterday.
Trends: Emerging Startups Show Innovation –Despite Most Will Fail:
It’s been fun attending the Techcrunch events emerge from Michael’s backyard in 2006 to the now international events where thousands descend, here’s the high level trends:
The air smelled like “opportunity”. with many entrepreneurs filled with passion bring forth their projects, some who travelled from around the world (there was even an Israeli row) to share their work. It smelled like geek. What’s that? A bit of bad breath, body odor, within this male dominated scene.
There was marketing everywhere, even in the urinal. From street teams, phamplets handouts, ninjas, and other circus acts, the one that stood out was how one startup Fee Fighters put branded screen urinals with their logo and saying something like “you’re pissing away money”.
PR Opportunity: Their positioning from startups needs lots of help. I strolled down the aisle with one VC friend of the 200 startups, we noticed they had ridiculous company names missing vowels and cutesy logos. The biggest set back, is the lack of positioning or even tag lines. A majority of the banners lacked a descriptor of what the company did. This is a big opportunity for PR firms to assist this early market.
Lots of companies doing the same thing. I saw many startups that did the same thing, with just a slight variation on which data element they will push on. I asserted that strategic marketing and early influencer adoption will be key to push them over the edge. However colleague Christine Tran correctly suggested that several sites have gotten early influencers on them such as Quora, EmpireAve and Google+ and have not received mainstream attention.
Bubble? Not this part of the market. It’s not a bubble (over-inflation despite lack of revenues) as entry costs are so low. The NYT asserts that Disrupt felt like a bubble, but as someone who worked at Exodus in 2000 I don’t think so, why? Startup costs for these emerging startups are so low, with many just needing 50k seed fund they can get up and running. However, if we’re discussing valuation for the established startups, that’s a different story.
Most will fail. Overall, many of these will never make it, and few would be considered by enterprise class buyers due to volatility and lack of service, support and security.
Startup Gems: What Caught My Eye
Despite that I’d guess less than 5% of the 200 startups will make it, here’s a few that caught my attention:
Over Saturation of SoLoMo Startups
Feature sets are a mobile application sorting data based on proximity data and immediate social graph:
Sonar.me finds who’s near you and prioritizes by your social graph, (people you know) and recommends what to do. (pic)
Holler is social network for local events by @allnick who recently sold his Facebook blogs. This startups focus on finding spontaneous events from friends, which I imagine could work in an urban setting. (pic)
Similarly I met Doweet (pronounced “Do it”, see what I’m saying about company names?) which was founded by at 15 year old Israeli, Unlike plancast, which is public data Doweet is prioritizing mainly by your primary social graph (pic)
Lastly, I also met Smolk Signal (again with the misspelled names) which has more public data offers a similar feature yet is situation on Google maps as an overlay to find hot spots of popular local events.
Startups for Bigger Business Rare But Unique
It’s important we look at both B2C and B2B technology and here’s a few that are for businesses to use, with a focus on enterprise class (companies with more than 1000 employees)
Datasift, also more established, aggregates social data then provides a toolkit for data modeling, and output. think Pipes with far more features for modeling and output. (pic)
Mancx offers a unique feature that enables sales teams to post public questions (likely anom) where they can put a bounty on an answer and crowd source answers. Common questions could be around competitive data, suppliers, contacts. (pic)
Established vendor Badgeville (i’ve done a webinar with them) was a winner from the previous Disrupt, and continues to integrate gamification features with enterprise class clients.
Assorted Sundries Keep it Interesting
Here’s a few interesting things I saw, or got tours of to watch
Former Digg founder Kevin Rose discuss his upcoming startup Oink which will provide ratings and reviews for all consumer products, then sort by location priority likely with contextual marketing. Oink is one of the companies to come out of his development garage called Milk. I joke that Beef and Leather will be the next product set.
Are you struggling to measure the ROI of your social business efforts? Can’t get more resources? Unable to link your social media efforts to where your ecommerce is already happening? Have you been asked by management “How does social media impact the top line?”, chances are, you’re being asked that now.
We’re just a few weeks from Altimeter’s first conference “The Rise of Social Commerce” where we’ll be exploring first hand with brands on stage how companies are going to use social media to actually drive revenue.
Please join me, and other pioneers at “The Rise Of Social Commerce”, taking place October 6-7th at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto, we’ll hear about best practices from expert practitioners like Best Buy, Dell, Hallmark, Nielsen, Newell Rubbermaid, Virgin America, and Zynga, amongst others. Here’s the agenda, where you’ll hear Altimeter’s vision and framework on this space, and learn from the top brands that are doing it now.
Those 100 early adopters that attend will build deeper relationships with each other, have intimate conversations, and yield insight in how others are doing it (and where they have overcome challenges) and meet some of the technology and solution providers that will help you.
Our First Conference: “The Rise of Social Conference”
Altimeter Group is hosting our first conference The Rise of Social Commerce. We focus on disruptive technologies to business and see how consumer technologies like social and mobile are starting to influence commerce, supply chain management, and demand for new products and services.
Shoppers want to belong. They want to be heard. They want to feel valued. They crave a better buying experience. Power is shifting from the retailer to the shopper. Social commerce is filling the void between clicks and bricks to deliver a personalized experience. Join us to understand how to leverage these shifts to improve your brand.
Theme: The push for customer advocacy. Reinvent your brand through the Rise of Social Commerce
The Altimeter group will be leading the discussion, from Charlene Li focused on leadership, Lora Cecere who’s leading this effort focused on supply chain management, Michael Gartenberg focused on mobile, Ray Wang focused on enterprise software, Deb Schultz focused on innovation and design, and Alan Webber focused on Government, data, and user experience, we aim to lead the industry discussion forward, see the evolving agenda.
Below, in the comments, I’d love to hear what topics you think should be discussed at at Social Commerce conference, shout out what you’d expect to hear.
This week, an audience revolt happened at the Higher Education Conference, you can read about it here, here, here and here. Although I was miles away, I was watching it unfold in real time on Twitter search –I felt horrible for that speaker who likely didn’t even know what was happening till someone posted his phone number on Twitter and people were texting him how horrible he had done. Ouch, the audience was vindictive and felt injured and wanted to get back.
Savvy Speakers Will Engage With Audience In Real World –and In Digital
Critics would suggest that monitoring the backchannel is counter intuitive to what a speaker should be doing: focused on presenting. Yet, I’d argue that some power has shifted to the audience –and with that comes responsibility of the speaker to respond to the power shift. As a speaker (I’m now represented by Monitor Talent), I feel empathy and at the same time am scared this doesn’t happen to me. The best way for speakers to avoid this revolt is to make sure that they be aware of the changes in power shifts and develop a plan to integrate social.
How Speakers Should Integrate Social Into Their Presentation:
Prepare More Than Ever. This is baseline. I could give a long list of speaking dos and don’t but there’s been books, classes, and private coaches that provide that (something I’m going to continue to invest in as I grow). It boils down to: know your audience, have strong content, practice, repeat. The change here is that the audience will scrutinize you, grade you, for all to see.
Know Your Audience’s Social Technology Adoption. While the first audience revolt was at SXSW, a new media tech conference, where adoption of new communication tools is likely. The Higher Education conference wasn’t focused solely on technology (update: in the comments, I learned this was a technology conference), so this revolt has moved out of the technology scene. You’ll need to pay attention to this more at conferences where social is active, first gauge the discussion in chat rooms or twitter using search tools. Find the conference hashtag (if there is one) to determine level of activity.
Monitor the Backchannel While Speaking. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Guy Kawasaki keynote a large conference, he monitors the body actions from the crowd and commands attention of the audience, he’s making micro-tweeks to his presentation to engage and react. Just as speakers do this in the real world, they must be monitoring the verbal, explicit reactions in the backchannel like Twitter or a chat room. Ask coordinators to display a monitor on stage facing you to see hashtags, use your mobile phone, or have your computer on stage to quickly see the stream.
Develop Backup Resources to Monitor. Some speakers have told me this is nearly impossible for them to do as they are focused on presenting content, here’s two tips for you. Speakers who are unable to monitor the backchannel should have a buddy attend the speech, sit in the front row, or off stage, and indicate if there’s something out of the ordinary they need to respond to. If your speaker content is rehearsed –it should be second nature to present it. Scoble is known for taking “Twitter breaks” during his presentation every 15 minutes to gauge the audience feedback.
Interact with the Audience: If your speech is going well, a majority of the tweets will be echos of what you’re saying then retweets. However, some speakers should monitor and look for questions, comments, or interesting new information that would add to the presentation. For example, at the Web 2.0 expo, I saw an audience member say my panel was boring on twitter, so I immediately shifted to Q&A which kept the audience interest.
Practice Two-Fisted Speaking. In the future, we may start to see presenters with two devices in hand: the presentation clicker in right hand, and cell phone in right hand, monitoring the flow of conversation. Despite the presenter having great control with the clicker controlling the flow of conversation, ultimately the audience has more control as they scrutinize, talk to each other, and shape a complete other conversation. Speakers should practice integrating input as they output in real-time first in private, then integrate into their performance.
I’d love to hear from you how speakers should respond to the power shifting to the audience, I know there’s a lot I can continue to learn in the craft of speaking. What should speakers do?
I’ve been invited back to Hawaii on Nov for [Re]Think Hawaii summit in Honolulu, Oahu, speaking on the panel for the Social Media Business Summit. If you want to attend, use the discount code “jeremiah” and receive 35% off the week pass. The focus of the summit is to focus a week is about “connecting entrepreneurs and investors during a series of panels, lunches, excursions, dinners, cocktails and aloha style exchange of ideas and relationship building in Hawaii.”
In particular, I’m interested in exploring how social impacts the tourism industry in Hawaii, both from tourists sharing, making decisions, to the actual experience using mobile devices and digital capture devices during and after their experience. You too are encouraged to come, this event hosted by Christine Lu and others, will feature a wide variety of business topics focused around Hawaii, entrepreneurism, sustainability, and island culture.
I’ve an incredible affection for Hawaii, and have recently set a personal goal (called Operation Bluewater) to spend at least one month per year in Hawaii in a net positive experience. Personal goals are important to me, I’ve set some for my health, for my blog, for my career and a few for personal lifestyle. Net positive indicates that the overall experience isn’t a financial loss, but instead I’ll figure out how to conduct business in a profitable manner in Hawaii –or work remote with my existing responsibilities. This event aligns with my goals, as the conference organizers are paying for my travel and hotel costs.
I’m open to suggestions, proposals, and other ideas on how to achieve my goals but also encourage you to spark up your own personal goals –regardless of how wild they may seem. How do you decide, plan, and achieve your personal goals?
Disclosure: As a professional courtesy, [Re]Think Hawaii has invited me as a speaker and is covering my travel and expenses.
It was so fun to live blog this event, something I rarely get to do now. I just love in taking all this information from the world’s largest brands, this is a raw capture. Read the live tweets #ISF09 here at the Internet Strategy Forum in Portland.
Katherine Durham VP of Marketing, who I just met this morning is responsible for many of the consumer facing product lines at HP, Imaging and Printing Group, view her LinkedIn profile to learn more.
Topic: Integration of digital median and conversational marketing
Trends that HP sees:
The more things change the more they stay the same, reaching the right customer with the right message at the right time, and in the right place.
Digital is getting marketing what it used to be. Talks about the old corner store, how relationships were built in real life, digital is doing the same now.
“If content is king, context is queen” Jeff Berman, MySpace
14hours per week are spent online by consumers (40% of time) however companies only spend 5% online.
5 years ago only one of the 10 top sites were social (myspace), now there are several in the top 10 youtube, facebook, wikipedia
Social media isn’t just for kids, many are not accessing it from twitter.com but are using mobile devices.
Talks about forkfly.com a mobile social network that enables customers to show restaurants coupons while at the table.
77% of Americans watched a video last month
The importance of reviews are important as they give credibility. 87% of customers would rather ask a friend and trust them than see a critics view about that product.
Negative reviews can convert
Gives a customer reference to BazaarVoice, who helps increase results.
The mix still matters, traditional marketing tools still matter. She breaks it down in three different stages: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure, and shows the mix changing. See below image.
Click on image to see my notations
HP success factors:
Maximize Online to In store integration
Breaks down in three cross channel shopping opportunities from online, in-store, and on-ad.
96% research online, 79% purchase in store from consumer product line
Key message: Integrate your strategy cross-channel
Integrate social media
Everyone wants to have a say, so listening is good, consumers want to share their opinion
Social networking has become important within the employee culture.
These tools are about relationships and trust with ‘friends’ and that helps to deliver that with HP
Mom is a key target for them, talks about the Pioneerwoman blog –as great example of a blog that demonstrages a customer using printing products in her life. http://thepioneerwoman.com/ Gave a case study how the blogger Ree drove more conversion.
They have a social media lead that builds relationships with key influencers and bloggers, they gave products to the top bloggers to give to their community –making the blogger appear like a community hero.
HP just recently launched a Facebook page –a bit late in the game considering how large the company is.
She gives the final points that it’s an “AND” not an “OR” use these mediums together with digital and social. Use the data and trust nyour cut, and leave room for innovation and experimentation.
Kathy’s got it right, social marketing, while a different approach to marketing that doesn’t work with traidtional marketing efforts, should not be encapsulated as a silo –it needs to be integrated like an overlay across nearly all marketing efforts. Tip: Rather than talk about social in your marketing strategy plans, instead talk about customers –which will naturally lead you to involve their voices in the program.
Forrester’s Marketing Forum in Orlando Florida, see other photos tagged FMF09
Yesterday’s theme was to take risks and engage in innovation –even in times of economic hardship. Armed and excited with examples from the speakers and panels, the conference was now focused on the ‘how to’, with a focus on engaging your customers to be involved, guide, and lead your company in tandem with your own leadership.
Forrester’s Peter Burris: Engaging the Innovative Customer
First we heard from Forrester’s Peter Burris, who focused on the theme o engaging your innovative customer, he suggested that as you take risks, let your innovative customers be your guide. The conference focus met the needs of multiple industries, and Peter gave data and insight not just how B2C can win but how B2B customers’ reliance on each other –and social tools – changes the marketing game. He referenced IBM’s Sandy Carter’s programs as best in class for bringing community into the forefront of B2B marketing including how they’ve integrated community into next week’s IMPACT event.
Peter brings forth a framework to help marketers plan for innovation: PLOT a path forward, which includes: Persona, Develop customer needs through social interactions, Location: Allow customers to create groups, and gives the example that Adobe hosts 700 user groups. Serena software embeds customers in its development & launch processes. Then Option and finally, Test.
His recommendations were very clear for engaging innovative customers:
Position marketing as a resource that B2B customers can use to drive better business outcomes.
Blend social media with traditional tactics to create new marketing forms –and new levels of productivity.
Align marketing and development to lower the risks
Ending notes: Innovative customers are ready, willing, and –thanks to social media—able to guide your efforts to manage risk.
Case Example: Microsoft’s Craig Dewar on Community
Next, we heard from Craig Dewar of Microsoft, hailing from New Zealand, he discussed how Microsoft has engaged. His first example, Craig gives the example how Microsoft launched a gaming console into a saturated market where Sony was a leader, and they launched the Xbox product. Each Xbox user can establish their own online identity and can interact with others. As each new game came out a new forum and dialog was formed. The second example is Channel 9 an online community for developers. The third example is Microsoft Dynamics Community, a CRM tool. The goals are: learning, networking, support, and feedback.
Even if you build it, they may not come.
Critical Mass in a community is hard and will take longer than you think.
You won’t get community right, so be prepared to optimize.
Want to learn more? Blog Coverage from David Berkowitz
Long time friend David Berkowitz covered the many sessions, and even was adding pictures in near real time in his live blogging. Pretty dang impressive, even if I may say so myself. See all his posts that are tagged “conferences” to get more detailed coverage of the event. You can also see the hundreds of tweets tagged FMF09, and if you live blogged any of the sessions, leave a comment below.
I enjoyed this year’s show, it’s amazing that we had around 500 attendees registered even during a tight economy, it goes to show that now is the time for marketing to step up and innovate. I enjoyed having dinner with clients and drinking a bit too much EJ Gallow wine, heh. I was told that we had a wait list of over 30 vendors that wanted to be in the showcase, it was currently filled to capacity, so the demand for partners who wanted to help brands is clear. It was universally said that Forrester’s Shar stole the show, even with her opening musical rendition (see video from day 1, about 9 minutes in). I quick Forrester factoid, Forrester keynotes are encouraged to rehearse 20 times, many times in front of colleagues. We’ve already several more forums lined up, including the Marketing Consumer Forum in Oct in Chicago, see you there.
Here’s the archive of the live ustream of Day 2 opening keynotes.
Forrester’s Christine Spivey Overby kicked off the conference, first reminiscing on how great innovation comes out of times of economic struggle. Her example, which is so suited for Forrester’s marketing conference in Orlando, is Walt Disney’s creative genius to develop an iconic entertainment franchise. She stresses that now is the time to do marketing differently by thinking differently and embracing innovation.
[Marketers should innovate now, despite the perceived risk]
Why innovate now:
VP/Principal Analyst on the Interactive Marketing team, Shar VanBoskirk spoke next. She indicates that a recent forecast shows that mobile, social, email, display, and search marketing will increase at a CGR of 17% in 2014. She gives some funny examples of some silly Twitter examples from overzealous customers. Risks: we take them because of the thrill, or the innovation.
A marketing program development that you can pursue within your own role in order to solve problems or improve business results. It’s not limited to your CMO or your corporate strategy group. An accessible innovation should have the following traits:
Enhance: Replace incumbent channel with an unproven one.
Include: Incorporate community perspective
Empathize: Relating to your community
Iterate: Speeds developing
Shar notes that BestBuy’s remix is a great example of innovating during a recession. They’ve provided an API for third party developers – I’ve outlined the program – the most unique is GPS discovery tool and Camel. With all innovation comes risk, in Best Buy’s case the risk is letting anyone use brand assets.
7-11 Takes Risks with Simpsons tie-in
Next, we had Rita Bargerhuff, the VP of Marketing, discussing how 7-11 takes risks. She outlines there are four requirements before diving into risk: 1) is it right for your Brand 2) is it right for consumers 3) is it right for internal stakeholders and 4) Is it right for the environment.
Rita eloquently gave a case study of how they aligned the 7-11 brand with the popular Simpsons movie, which while was risky as the show paints “Kwik-e-mart” in a culturally sensitive parody, see a public flickr set. Taking the risk required intensive stakeholder buy-in, which resulted in movie tie-ins, movie product tie-in (squishee), and even creating a Kwik-e-mart store. Did it pay off? Yes, there were lines wrapped around the store to get into the store.
Her closing remarks? “Success leads to success You’ll attract new business partners” well spoken.
I’m sitting in the front row here in Orlando at Forrester’s Marketing Conference. We’re talking about the “M”M world, no not the Mouse but Media. This closing panel is discussing the Future of Media. Moderator is colleague David Card, Annis Lyles, VP Media of Coca Cola, Greg Clayman, EVP of MTV, and David Verklin CEO of Canoe Ventures. David’s not taking any prisoners and is intending to make this a pretty tough panel, rightfully so, media is undergoing some serious changes.
David starts out showing that newspapers is struggling, from NYT, Rocky Mountain, and SFgate. First let’s start with the client side. Coke recalls the day when there were only three major media networks –now there are many. She focuses her strategy on consumers, and first starts with her kids. David, from Canoe has a focus on TV, and says “TV is getting back in the game”. How? to bring interactivity to the TV. He’s extremely optimistic saying that “TV is a platform”, and says he’s going to launch a new product in three weeks. I’m a bit hesitant to his optimism, but hey, I’m open to a briefing.
Annis from Coke brings us back to reality, but suggesting we should first collect information from our consumers. David suggests that we can use data to only show TV ads about dog supplies to dog owners. The panel debated over how to get this data, from a variety of sources, such as panels, existing data sources. I certainly hope they read my upcoming report on the Future of the Social Web, some of the answers are in there. David suggests that “the Internet has really raised our game”, and nods to how the benefits of search, and it’s ability to measure. Yet, he suggests that the accuracy and relevancy of internet ads are very low.
Moderator David Card fires a blow to the panel and says “What happens when consumers skip through advertisements on TV” The panels spins, rebalanced and comes back. David says that we’ve had ad skipping technology for years, called the “clicker”, nice counter. I didn’t hear any epiphanies out of the panel, not sure if they have a strong idea of the future of media, but hey, this is a very difficult topic.
A question from audience: “Why is new interactive ads on TV relevant? It’s still push, interruptive advertising” David suggests that interactive TV will provide new engagements for segments. Cooking shows are entertainment, and chefs are taking notes, instead, they’ll need new experiences to get recipes.
The final question from the audience? When does TV and Internet combine. Coke says “all media will merge” and says “it’s now”. Good answer. David from Canoe says 2011, “in next five years content will come across 3 screens” nice bold statement. Greg suggests 3-5 years.