Spring break in Austin means SXSW, an exciting celebration of music, film and web creativity. I spent the last few days at SXSW Interactive – the portion of the conference that’s dedicated to social media and web 2.0. Here are my top 10 takeaways:
- People expect conversations online. Regardless of the industry/type of site, end users expect to engage with brands and with other users on-line. It’s not enough to provide information to your customers, you have to allow them to interact with your site, with your brand, and with other customers. Of course, tools like Ratings & Reviews, Ask & Answer, and Bazaarvoice Stories build customer engagement and interaction.
- Customers expect brands to participate in the conversation. There was lots of discussion at SXSWi about the importance of building relationships with customers, rather than simply focusing on transactions. Responding to feedback (both positive and negative), answering questions and taking action on feedback are an important part of building credibility and trust with your customers.
- Customers want authenticity. Several panelists emphasized the value of brand representatives talking “like real people” not robots (or corporatebots), even (or maybe especially) in industries where we’ve come to expect corporate jargon and legalese (like financial services and insurance).
- Online identities are converging. OpenID and Facebook Connect are enabling greater portability/sharing of online abilities between sites. Profiles are important – people are invested in their identities online and want to build their reputations and leverage what they’ve done in one community in the other places they hang out. The most social media savvy customers are aware of their personal brands and welcome opportunities to build their brands on the sites where they shop.
- Mobile and web are converging. Many people access the web primarily from their phones, others switch back and forth with the expectation the user experiences will be identical.
- Online and offline are converging. GPS technology brings the real world into the mix in a big way (for example, your phone alerting a social networking site of your physical location, which allows your online friends to join you in the real world). Users are less likely to draw a hard boundary between their on-line and off-line lives. MobileVoice brings online UGC into the brick and mortar store, allowing customers to view reviews on their phones.
- Filtering and aggregating the massive amounts of data online is critical. There are too many inputs and the most valuable technologies on the web are those that allow people to personalize what they see or provide rolled-up summaries. Filtering by tag or attribute and summarizing data in tag clouds or histograms allows customers to process large amounts of information and make a decision quickly.
- Twitter is everywhere. Some of the most compelling and interesting conversations were happening “back channel” via twitter during the panels. Panelists took questions and responded in real time to comments that were made on the twitter stream for each panel. Fast and pithy user-generated contentin real time is incredibly appealing to many people.
- Bazaarvoice is ahead of the pack. Admittedly, SXSW Interactive is a social media conference, not one focused specifically on e-commerce, but our ability to measure the success of user-generated content and deliver proven ROI for our clients stands out in an environment where many panelists were unsure about how to monetize UGC or how to measure results.
- Bazaarvoice has a great culture! Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) gave a fabulous speech about the culture at Zappos which was very reminiscent of the Bazaarvoice culture. In addition, Bazaarvoice CMO Sam Decker, hosted a core conversation on building a great corporate culture, which got lots of buzz and positive reactions.
This was a great conference; I look forward to seeing what next year brings!