Silicon Valley v Silicon Alley We were eased slowly into the SXSW madness by a session organised by Chinwag entitled "Doing busines...

SXSW Day 1 - The future of social, fitness mapping, tales from the trenches and doing business in the US


Silicon Valley v Silicon Alley

We were eased slowly into the SXSW madness by a session organised by Chinwag entitled "Doing business in the US" which was hosted by Hermione Way from Newspepper and included noted tech blogger Robert Scoble. The start featured a feisty and thought provoking discussion re: where to establish a business with proponents arguing in favour of NYC, San Fran, Chicago and, of course, Austin. The considerations ranged from the obvious - from rents (business and personal), talent and investors to the more obscure but important elements such as relationships, long term goals and quality of life. There were no real conclusions, as neither side was prepared to give in, but they did agree that cost of living was a major factor and that SF and NYC were unsurprisingly the most expensive.

Jefffrey Dachis - what marketers should ask themselves about social

Austin is an almost perfect venue for SXSW as everything is walkable (assuming you have time and energy) so I headed to a session in North Austin about the future of social and marketing for brands. This was given by Jeffrey Dachis - founder of Dachis Group - a data driven social marketing agency with locations across the US and Europe. The discussion focused on the broken nature of traditional marketing and the need to fully embrace social or die. Perhaps most intersting was the discussion about how to create scale in social - Jeff's assertion was that the only way to achieve this was to mobilise the mass of communicators including employees, partners, vendors and customers to create advocacy based communities.

Bob Garfield - can't buy me like

Bob followed Jeff with a very similar message from his book "Can't buy me likes - how authentic customer connections drive superior results". Bob's book focuses on what he calls 'The Relationship Era" and identifies four forces that drive this - the collapse of mass, increase of transparency, rise in social connectivity, and increased interest in brands. He clearly identified that the businesses that had achieved real growth in the last 15 years (1,706% v 50% for others) are those that achieved genuine connections with their customers. These "firms of endearment" included Zappos,Apple, Subway, Amazon and Target - while conversely United Airlines, Dow Chemicals and Citibank were cited as the worst offenders.

Panel - The Power of Social Advocacy

The panel that followed was hosted by Dan Clifford of Victoria's Secret who knows more than most re: how social can drive real WOM - just ask the 21.8m likes on Facebook. The panel revealed key trends in fostering brand advocacy through social media engagement and left us with five essential strategies they can immediately put into action: find a green light zone, make it shareable, social media metrics are the means to drive real business growth, there are at least two ways to scale conversations and don’t obsess over specific channels or tactics.

Map My Fitness Open Day

SXSW is all about random serendipitous meetings and in 2012 whilst waiting to charge my phone at one of the many charging points I met Kevin Callahan, the founder of Map My Fitness. Being a keen cyclist and runner we had a fascinating chat. I followed up with Stephen this year and visited their HQ in Austin - the company has come on leaps and bounds and it was really interesting to see the real time mapping and hear about the developments the most interesting included a 'race others' integration along the lines of the Strava app that many of my friends use and the ongoing partnerships that they are developing with brands - we discussed a few Clients who would be interested in working together and agreed to keep the conversation going.

Panel - Tales from the trenches

I returned to the Chinwag "Doing Business.." event after this to hear directly from companies who have recently moved their business to the US and their trials and tribulations. The panel included a mix of businesses from app developers - Jess Butcher from Blippar to software companies - Joe Braidwood from Swiftkey and design agencies - Jules Ehrhardt from Ustwo. The issues ranged from legal help, costs, visas, communication, resourcing and cultural differences - as well as lots of hints and tips for the future - watch this space!

We were then invited to meet the local Chamber of Commerce including the Mayor of Austin at a local bar for drinks - this certainly set the tone for an exciting next three days.

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