It’s that time a year again

Springtime is coming. And besides some brave flowers starting to push through the soil there’s something else in the air. Yes, springtime is congress time. For some reason spring and autumn are famous for congress organizations to do their stuff. Also this year we’ll be Sponge Bobbin’ on several inspiring congresses.

First off is our annual trip to the US. “Huh? Didn’t you guys just get back from this place?”. Correct. But since we need to re-evaluate the seemingly endless offerings on new media congresses in the States we decided to head over to the biggest one on this continent: South by Southwest.

“The South by Southwest Conference Festivals offer the unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW is the premier destination for discovery”, according to their website. We’ll be focussing on the emerging technologies (although the independent films and music sound tantalizing as well). For sure the program looks pretty overwhelming and with so many speakers it will give us a hard time choosing. The event wil take place in Austin, texas from March 12 to 16.

One day prior to South by Southwest our friend Shwen Gwee is organizing ‘Social Health 2010‘, the social pharma unconference. This year Shwen had the idea to bring all those pharma marketeers a bit closer to the ‘real’ social media space. So after the ‘serious’ stuff of pharma and social media they can all head over to South by Southwest to be inspired by cases which do not involve FDA regulations. Brilliant. We’ll be sponsoring the event and doing video shoots and interviews. Register here.

One week after our return to the Netherlands it’s flying off again, this time to Berlin where EXL is holding their annual Digital Pharma Europe event. This time they got Bayer Healthcare on board for organizing the congress in their impressive headquarters. Good luck, Len. DigiRedo is again sponsor of this event and as we speak we are finalizing details. For sure it’s going to be an inspiring two days, full of networking and new insights. As spearheaded in the US, EXL is now also bringing the ‘unconference’ method to Europe:

Digital Pharma is leading the way in the industry by incorporating “Unconference” ideas into the framework of the event. The traditional format of having speakers talk “At” the audience for 40 minutes followed by an uninspired, brief Q&A is over. People simply do not communicate that way anymore. Openness, collaboration, free flowing, listening before talking—attendees will learn how to bring these concepts into their communications in both theory and practice—by learning from the best practices of peers and by sharing and listening within this new format.”

For those of you who are interested, please register and use the discount code P621SOC.

Next up is the Mobile Convention in Amsterdam, the event for mobile marketing and business on April 1st. With about 15 confirmed speakers it offers a “platform for vision, information, discussion and new contacts”. We’ll have to see. It’s the first time they organize such a convention and due to the strategic focus we have on mobile it is worthwhile checking out.

April 6 and 7 we’re moving to Paris where we join the Health 2.0 Europe congress. After 5 successful years in the US (San Francisco, New York) the organization is now trying out the European market for health 2.0. According to the website it will provide answers to questions like:

  • How does specialized Search relate to Health 2.0? Is there life beyond Google in Europe?
  • Are online patient communities different in Europe and across European countries?
  • Have European doctors gone 2.0?
  • Are personal health records being adopted by health care systems in Europe?
  • How do European hospitals, payors and governments relate to Health 2.0?
  • What opportunities exist for Pharma to play a bigger role in Health 2.0?

Health 2.0 is the umbrella concept for many things we are currently active in. Mobile, video, communities, etcetera. It’s very broad, very interesting and it’s good to see that this movement is also coming to Europe. I’m most keen to learn how far we are here.

On April 26 we get in the plane to London, to the DevDay for iPhone. Although we’re not developers (yet) this space is intruiging us. With the aarival of teh iPad we believe so much is going to change. On the DevDay for iPhone we’re gonna “join for a dedicated and interactive one day event for software developers and business professionals who want to learn how to successfully build and market iPhone applications.”. Sounds good…

For the final conference we’ll go back to home soil again, Amsterdam. From April 27 to 29 The Next Web will be holding their yearly conference on all things Web 2.0. Last year we were not able to participate and regretted in immediately after a friend told us the performance of Gary Vaynerchuck. Hopefully they’ll have something similar up their sleeve this year.

We’ll, what a better time spent on a Sunday than to pack my suitcase. I might need it soon, for a long time…

Enterprise 2.0 – Not if, but when do you start?

“My products have hashtags”, as Ramon de Leon -the brilliant pizza baker from Domino’s Pizza indicated. Ramon was the true rock star who shook up the congress “Enterprise 2.0 – RIP or ROI” in Amsterdam on January 27 and 28. But there were more oneliners on this congress we attended:

“Know what ROI means? Return on Ignoring”,
“You’re best Social Media tool is as good as the person sitting behind the keyboard”,
“I have a click-and-kill behavior against newsletters per email”,
“To whisper works better in social media than to shout”,
“Let people love you, that’s all you gotta do”,
but the best remains: “My products have hashtags.”

With an audience of about 50 people and on stage quiet a few remarkable names (i.e. Google, Vodafone, Philips, Airbus, SWIFT, SAP, Lego, Nokia, Kodak, Roger Smith Hotel). A small but intimate setting with a promising program. And they delivered the promise. The intention of this event wat to give insight in new and innovative strategies for better performance within the organization by using social media engagement.These strategies, not only focussed on the external customer or as part of the promotion of product, but also for communication internally.

Vodafone kicked off with a presentation by Eva Buschkrei (VP Entertainment, Communications and E-Commerce) about the social media campaign around their new service Vodafone 360. At the introduction Vodafone first aimed for users via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, causing the initiation of the conversation. “It’s more about the people, than about the products”, said Eva, embracing the importance of Word of Mouth for Vodafone.

Mobile is going to play an increasing role, as Eva indicated. Georges Edouard Dias (L’Oreal) adds later: “If you don’t use mobile, then you’re an idiot! Use mobile in your brand conversations and you’ll find the way to the heart of the customer. It’s as close as you can get!”. Vodafone still has no clue about how to measure the ROI of Social Media (wow, where did we hear that before?) and has thus introduced Social Media Currency. Five questions which should offer immediate answers on why you are recommended by other people:

  • Social Authority – who is talking about you?
  • Social Conversations – with whom do they talk about you?
  • Social Sentiment – how do they talk about you?
  • Social Network Valuation – positive versus negative?
  • Social Conversation and Referral – how can you benefit from that?

In my view this provides a rather good insight into ROI, especially if your goal is to bring your product or service under a broad attention.

Return on Investment. Each and every congress it’s a topic. And never somebody was able to answer the ultimate question satisfactory.ROI is difficult, especially for communication-activities. “What you really shouldn’t do is looking at the number of HITS”, said Matteo Rizzi from SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). “HITS means ‘How Idiots Track Success'”. For SWIFT the use of Social Media is more aimed at reducing costs than to increase revenues. The value is also much more in teh ‘intangible benefits’ and much less in the ‘tangible’. Last year SWIFT has introduced their platform for innovative collaboration, Innotribe. Innotribe makes use of the power of the community by bringing together customers, vendors and partners to share knowledge and ideas. Innotribe makes this possible by facilitating in crowd-sourcing, mash-ups and cloud computing. “It made the dinosaur move”, according to Matteo. As we speak Innotribe has 1,712 members. That doesn’t seem a lot but in this industry it’s certainly an indication that there is a need for collaboration. It has also resulted in the development of Mindtagger, a nonpublic concept, by which people with the right expertise connected through tags.

Kees Mulder prefers to speak about Return On Ignoring. He hints to the more than 1 billion active users on social networks which an not be ignored anymore. Kodak, almost had to shut down themselves (revenues in traditional photofilm from $15 billion to $300 million in 10 years!) just realized the changes on time. They appointed a ‘Chief Listener’ which had the task to listen to what was said about Kodak online, as a kind of airtraffic controller. Based on that, ways were sought do profile the new Kodak – especially through these new media. An example of this was the ‘eyecamera’ which created a lot of buzz – not in the last place because it was an April’s Fool-joke. “It’s all about the 4 Social Media E’s: Engage, Educate, Excite and Evangelize. Key here is to use OPM; Other People’s Money. That has saved Kodak from a certain death and since then the brand went through quiet a shift.

Co-creation Classic
Lego already understood end of last century how important it sis to listen to your customers. In 1998 one of the robots of the just launched Midstorms was hacked by a few students from Standford University, to ‘improve the product’, sort to speak. Lego had two choices; sue or listen. They chose the latter. “We knew we owned the trademark, but we realized that we didn’t own the brand. Our customers do”, said Tormid Askilsen who was working for the company around that time. Lego realised that there are many users feeling connected to the brand which are more than willing to help designing new stuff. The essence of Lego is: ‘being able to express something that I see in my head so that other people can see it.’ The story of Lego obviously is well-known, but still nice to hear from first hand.

Phillips is still struggling to implement social media in their marketing activities. Hugo Raaijmakers and Marco Roncaglio gave a surprisingly smooth presentation about the development of a Social Media strategy within Philips. The current initiatives such as for example Facebook are too fragmented, too much ad hoc and inconsistent to be effective. Especially if you compare it with competitor Samsung. Besides that, there are no guidelines and there’s not team directly responsible for Social Media. Time for a strategic plan, Hub & Spoke, which is strongly based on Forrester’s POST method. Philips has chosen for a combination of ‘bottom-up support’ and a ‘top-down steering’. This means that local social media activities are being stimulated but streamlined through guidelines and at the same time creating awareness at senior management level. Especially the latter is important because without this support each social media activity is doomed to fail. What was surprising however was that Philips only focussed on social media for external activities and not at all for internal usage (they later wrote us an e-mail explaining that they do have internal activities)

First internally, then externally
Not starting internally is a missed chance according to us, because a company devoted to external use only may oversee crucial parts or -even worse- damage itself severely. Next to that, in many organizations little attention is given to the communication with the internal customer, the employee. Especially when compared to external communication. An interactive platform for internal communication is a win-win:one gets experience with social media and improves internal communication.
“If you don’t have an Internal Communications Department, start one tomorrow”, said Sean MacNives van SAP. Sean has followed this principle, with success. Within a year SAP developed a strategy and a social media platform which is used intensively by the employees. Guidelines were desgned and adapted according to the dynamics of the platform. In this case a lot of experience is gained which can be utilized externally as well. “When you start Social Media internal before external you’re as authentic and real as possible.”

The mouse that roared
That there’s no need being a multinational to be successful with Social Media proved Adam Wallace from the Roger Smith Hotel. This hotel based in New York used to be small and unknown. But now it has grown to a hotel with true fans which make the Waldorf and The Four Seasons look at it with envies eyes. How did they achieved that? By being open and transparent showing people what’s happening around the hotel. By being active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube. By speaking to potential customers directly. Because they will start talking about you, such as Chris Brogan and iJustine. No smushbags in the Social Media space. “The biggest ROI is to look back and look at everything as if we were the customer”, said Adam Wallace, head New Media Marketing. Also the employees of the hotel play an important role. “The people that provide our service are the ones creating our brand, not me”, outlining the authenticity of the Roger Smith Hotel.

A congress needs to end with a big bang. Something sticky, something impressive. More often than not this doesn’t happen, and many congresses fade away in the darkness of our day to day business. Intentionally planned or not, Ramon DeLeon was that big bang. Franchise entrepeneur from Domino’s Pizza in downtown Chicago knew how to turn

the audience upside-down. With a overwhelming presentation he showed the audience how he, as an owner of 6 pizza shops, knows how to deal with Social Media. Just before his presentation he placed this on his Facebook wall:

“AWESOME Pizza Deal!! To the 1st person who responds to this status update, how ever many minutes it took you to answer “ME”, that is the price you pay for Two Large Pizzas with anything on it plus any Two Side Items (my stores only).”

Within two minutes people responded. Nice deal for $2. This is Ramon. Ramon ‘gets it’. “We need customers to tell a friend about us. We want to wow our customers”. And the proof is in eating the pizza ..eehh.. pudding. When a rather distasteful video is placed on YouTube by two (now former) employees of Domino’s negative publicity takes over.Everywhere in the US Domino’s sees revenues falling. Except in downtown Chicago. On teh contrary, more pizzas were sold! “That doesn’t happen at Ramon’s”, said his fans, and continue eating truckloads of pizzas. What is his secret? “Passion”, Ramon told us afterwards, “passion and love for my customers. I don’t have to promote my pizzas. I make contact with my customers and they will find out I make pizzas”.

After two days it’s clear to us. For companies it’s not the question if, but when are they going to start with Social Media. Start with a sound strategic plan, convince management and start internally to gain experience. Then go play outside. Doing so might provide yet another advantage: loyalty from young employees. This is the way they communicate, and providing these possibilities for them might become important in a time where switching jobs is getting easy again. Because after we crawl out of the misery called Recession and after all those babyboomers are spending their hard-earned money on their retirement activities, who’s gonna work, still?

The need for sharing content – a survey

Throughout the year we visit a lot of conferences, seminar and the like, varying from big and top-end meetings like Blogworld and New Media Expo and SXSW in the Social Media space to more industry specialized events like Digital Pharma, Digital Pharma Europe and DigiPharm for the pharma industry. But we’re still surprized how little of the content is actually being shared. Sure, if you’re there, you can experience it live: great speakers with sometimes even greater stories. But a recap of what has been said when you’re back home? Or what if you weren’t able to attend but still are very intrested to that specific story of Mr X? If you’re lucky, you’ll get the powerpoint slides, but a good Powerpoint presentation doesn’t give you the heart of the story. If a congress organizer offers the content in audio or video, it’s most of the time all or nothing. Against a premium price. And what if there are parallel sessions, where two of my favorite speakers are performing at the same time? How do I get both stories?

What’s your opinion? Please join our survey where  we’re interested in your need for obtaining conference material (either pdf, poweroint, audio, video) after a conference or of conferences that you were not able to attend. As a token of appreciation we will give away 10 Amazon gift cards of $25 in a drawing for all completed surveys. Please fill in your email address in order to participate in this drawing. Completing the survey will cost you less than 10 minutes. Here you can find the survey.

Thank you very much for your participation.

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