A few weeks ago, B-teamers Chip, Brian, Holly and Steph headed down to Austin, Texas for SXSWi (South by Southwest Interactive). Though they are still recovering from the social media and innovation education overload, they took a little time to sift through their notes/tweets and share a few highlights from their trip.
Business is becoming more human.
With the advent of social media, businesses are being forced to engage consumers in dialogue and build positive lasting relationships, as opposed to broadcasting canned messages to the masses. Founder of TOMS Shoes Blake Mycoskie and author of "The Thank You Economy" Gary Vaynerchuk, both presenters at SXSWi, understand that being human — that is to say, being compassionate and caring — is good for business.
Social networks are evolving to fit our real-life connections.
Facebook has acknowledged and attempted to resolve the confusion of overlapping real-life networks online through customized status updates and Facebook Groups. However, Facebook users have been reticent to take advantage of these features to form online groups that more closely mimic their real-life networks. Enter group messaging: Startups like GroupMe, Beluga, Fast Society, Kik and GroupedIn are attempting to create true-to-life communication tools whereby people in a specific social group can communicate privately. These more intimate social networks may be the next big thing in social media.
Social networks are the new customer service line.
Whether we like it or not, social media is providing consumers unprecedented access to the businesses that offer them products and services. In lieu of the customer service department, consumers are heading first to Facebook and Twitter to offer complaints, questions and outright rants. Companies must adapt to "social CRM," where consumer concerns are addressed via social networks. If they don't, they can expect social media crises the likes of "United Breaks Guitars" and "Chipotle Cat."
Humans are important. We can't rely on algorithms to create digital media.
Algorithms have placed ads for food blogs (See Slide 80) next to news stories of devastating poverty. They recommend you friend your ex on Facebook, after you've just defriended. Human beings are essential to creating a conscientious digital experience.
Time is a limited resource. Energy is not. We must maximize our energy to succeed.
During his keynote address at SXSW, Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and author of "The Way We're Working Isn't Working," asked members of the crowd to raise their hands if they felt demands on them had increased over the past year. All hands went up. He then asked who expected demands to continue to increase. All hands went up. Tony stressed the importance of rest and recovery in excelling in our fast-paced, technology-driven world.
While I would never have considered myself a spontaneous person, a few weekends ago I decided to get as wild as a 27-year-old with a full-time job and a doting chocolate lab can get. I took a road trip to Austin for 24 hours of South by Southwest Interactive without a badge! Luckily, my coworker Lauren, also badgeless, was willing to join me on my adventure. All in all, I considered the trip a success, so below I’ve listed some highlights and tips from our impromptu crashing of SXSWi.
We’re on the Guest List (Have at least one activity planned before you get there.)
Luckily, we knew we’d be given the red carpet treatment (i.e. we could get in without a badge) at deviantART’s Sunday afternoon get-together at Frank. Thanks to my childhood friend, deviantART’s vice president of marketing, Heidi Chambers, we had a chance to mingle with members of the company’s online art community, chat with deviantART’s co-founders and enjoy a topnotch Moscow Mule, or two.
SMCFW Pride (Reach out to who you know.)
About a dozen Social Media Club of Fort Worth members were in Austin for the festival, which made for a successful last minute, mini tweetup at Maggie Mae’s. Having our established hashtag, #SMCFW, helped us quickly communicate and plan via Twitter and represent DFW in the state’s capitol.
Check-ins Galore (Proof that social services tools are useful for stalking.)
In addition to earning our “SXSW Virgin” Foursquare badges, our use of location-based check-in services (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places) made it easy for us to see where festival attendees were spending their time and therefore, where we should be headed!
GroupMe (Because everyone knows how to text.)
GroupMe is an app that helped Lauren and I keep in touch with our fellow B-Team members. With one simple text, we were able to communicate with our six-person party and stay posted on plans.
Dream Big (Even if you don’t have a badge, you can get stuff for free.)
Lauren had three goals, which I quickly adopted. #1 Meet Conan O’Brien. #2 Get a shirt for free. #3 Get something else for free. While goal #1 didn’t pan out, #2 and #3 were easily conquered. Our favorites – a free shirt from blogads.com and a free koozie from HootSuite’s own mascot, Owly.
Just a Teaser (I’ll be back!)
More than anything, this experience has served as a preview of what I hope to be experiencing March 9-13, 2012. From the speakers and panelists to the networking and chance to run into Conan – I’m giddy about all that SXSWi has to offer.
This year more than 14,000 self-proclaimed “nerds” descended upon Austin to learn what’s next in the online world at the SXSW Interactive Conference.
“Location, location, location” became the mantra for many of the participants. Start-ups Foursquare and Gowalla are the clear leaders in the so-called location-wars – the battle between the companies that have developed new social tools that allow users to “check-in” at places and events using their smart phones equipped with GPS. The way it works: You load the Foursquare or Gowalla application on your phone. As soon as you do, you are automatically given a list of businesses within a few blocks of where you are at that moment. Then, you click to select your business location and simply check in.
What sounds like the nerd version of Marco Polo actually offers powerful insights for businesses in-the-know. Imagine knowing who is inside or near your establishment at any given moment – or even knowing who your best customers are. It’s possible by simply checking these applications. Businesses also get free advertising from these tools, because anytime a user checks in and shares his or her location with friends, the business gains visibility.
Just last weekend I visited Fort Worth bar 8.0’s, and my friends were amazed that I could bypass the cover charge by simply telling the doorman I followed 8.0’s on Twitter. Earlier in the night, 8.0’s tweeted to let people know that if they followed the bar on Twitter, they could get in for free that evening. While many businesses still struggle in the new, social world, location-based social platforms add yet another dimension to the myriad of new possibilities for customer engagement.
It’s possible that reward systems could be replaced with social check-in’s, with even more incentives given to those who share their locations with friends. Tennessee-based frozen yogurt chain Tasti D-Lite designed its entire rewards program around people sharing their experiences on location-based services (Foursquare) and other social services like Facebook and Twitter. The more you share, the more points you earn. The more points you earn, the more free frozen yogurt you can enjoy on a hot afternoon.
While most SXSW’ers are the earliest adopters, the digital conference gave this new technology the opportunity to show its worth. Gowalla or Foursquare users could immediately see which parties and panel discussions were the most popular. Users could easily click on any location and see comments, the identities of people attending the event and photos. These services were so popular that Gowalla had more than 135,000 total check-ins during the SXSW Digital Conference alone.
While most people won’t ever care to “check in” at the gas station or dentist office, if they have the opportunity to get something in return – they probably will start using these location-based applications. Just as most people were slow to use Facebook, these location-based apps may take a while to gain traction. But if businesses and customers truly embrace the technology, it will only be a matter of time until people are “checking in” everywhere they go.
Obviously, businesses that offer face-to-face social experiences, such as bars and restaurants, have much to gain from these location-based services. But the possibilities are nearly limitless. Trade show exhibitors can use these applications to drive traffic to their booths with special offers. Attendees can find out which booths or sessions are the most popular at any given moment. These services also provide yet another channel for instant customer feedback. If this technology gains widespread adoption, businesses will need to keep an even closer eye on what their customers are saying. With services like Foursquare and Gowalla, customers can complain in real-time and their complaints could have an immediate impact. On the other hand, customers can also praise your business in real-time. If a band is awesome at your venue - a customer can share this with his or friends and encourage them to stop by.
Anyone can register their business on Gowalla or Foursquare by using their smart phone. So, what are you waiting for? Download these applications, create a spot and see who checks in. You might be surprised.