Connecting the Stream with Action: Business Becomes Social

GenConnect SxSW interview

This is the third theme or trend I observed at SxSW 2011. I could have easily titled the post re-connecting business to people. While technology and humanism meet, and media embraces real time, business is finally showing signs it is becoming social again.

As I said in the interview with genConnect right after my session, the biggest opportunity for companies in social media is that to transform buyers into customers — to increase the number of transactions people have with them from one to more than one.

In that sense, the big winner at SxSW was a brand everyone brought in with them to the convention center and waited in line to support: Apple. It was once again the most ubiquitous brand you saw people using, despite the conference being much bigger than the early adopters this year.

As Jackie Huba reported, Apple created a 5,000 square foot pop-up store in three days to coincide with the launch of the highly anticipated iPad 2. Lines began to form ten hours in advance of launch in front of a blacked-out storefront in downtown Austin.

I also thought Chevy integrated better with the conference than it did last year by making its cars available to conference attendees and providing a place to plug in at the Lounge. Jackie didn't mention another brand present inside the hall — Samsung.

I thought that while these brands made strides in helping people connect in and around the conference, there is still room for the brands themselves to connect with people at the conference.

Here are three major areas of opportunity I see for organizations and brands to help business become more social.

(1.) Situational Awareness

This is about putting resources toward helping people become better customers in the stream. That means being the go to resource for finding or connecting with a certain kind of experience at a conference like SxSW, for example.

It was great that Samsung sponsored the bloggers lounge. I counted at least four occasions when a person was looking around for a representative of the organization to ask questions about its products. So that was a missed opportunity.

Beyond that, though, I contend that the lounge would have been better with a more involved Samsung. How about owning the conversation on video reporting and helping people find all kinds of resources during the event? Literally out-teaching the rest of the tech companies there by making us better video technologists.

(2.) Ambient Congierge

As Nick Carr pointed out in a recent post, the cause of ambient overload is too much signal. He writes, "we're surrounded by so much information that is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the neverending pressure of trying to keep up with it all."

That was certainly the case at SxSW this year, when the venue had become too big to navigate to all of the events. Chevy had the perfect navigator on site. One that could have provided focused access to content for groups.

How about being the content GPS for the social graph sessions, for example? This would have required more planning and thinking, yet it would have provided a better way to connect with attendees — and their friends — on purpose.

(3.) Adaptive DNA

By far the biggest asset an organization has to navigate social is its employees and envagelists. And this is not about marketing or sales anymore. The advantages of being present at an event such as SxSW include exposing a business to ideas and executions in its totality.

Which in turn means that having a cross representation of the business in conversations about operations, IT, customer support, and more can help a business understand the changes it faces more effectively.

Engineers to engineers, scientists to scientists, and so on. Connections at the peer level cut out dependencies on information brokers and disconnects in execution due to intuition and insight lost in translation. This gives a totally new meaning to presence in social.


Becoming more social for business means helping people do what they already want to do, instead of trying to take their attention away from those things. This includes employees and evangelists. Have you ever noticed how someone becomes ready to listen to you when you listen to them first?

Can organizations create opportunity for themselves by developing situational awareness, becoming ambient concierges, and encouraging adaptive DNA? I'm curious about your take.


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