South by Southwest, or SXSW, continues in Austin, Texas this week, and while I am looking for a new hot product or idea (and there are announcements slated for later today), it’s the people and the evolution of social media that remains the story. And then there was the New York Times booth.
This wasn’t the NYT interactive team who brings the news to the web (who was on a panel). Here was this booth, among the bleeding edge social and technology companies, and they were selling newspaper subscriptions. Hard sales. Old school sales. Why? They told me bluntly, “there is heavy traffic, these people are smart, and they read.” Maybe not newspapers except on Sunday. As one entrepreneur told me, “it leaves ink on the touch screens of their phones.”
Companies from around the world are making some very senior people available with this group of influencers who attend “South-by.”
In a conversation with the Global Director of Social Media for Pepsico, Bonin Bough shared advice to businesses of all sizes with regard to social media. Remember, this is the guy who was responsible for making the social media program work when Pepsi didn’t advertise on the Super Bowl – and did it.
“There’re a lot of smart people out there. Read. Get familiar with the approaches and get your head in the right place, it’s not necessarily tactics and tools.” At Pepsico they talk about the shift from web impressions to connections. And ‘read’ I’m sure meant books AND blogs.
This led to one of the most concise reasons why your company needs to be involved in social media:
“If you have a community of your consumers, customers [or] partners … that potentially want to have a conversation with you, the value of that is unmatched by anything else. Listen to hear what they are saying. This is the best unaided conversation that you will ever be able to have to understand what your customers are thinking about, the market that you’re in, their views, other brands – the wealth of information that you get. But if you go one step further and turn it into a feedback loop, wow, how powerful [is that]!”
I’ve written on how the Pepsi RefreshEverything.com project replaced the multibillion dollar ads during the Super Bowl. How has that worked for them? Bough explains, “It went from ‘I love Pepsi’ … to ‘Wow, Pepsi is helping me bring my passions to life. Thank you.’ They’re a brand I align myself with.”People return to the refresheverything.com site and they are actively campaigning in their communities, virtual and otherwise to get a part of the some $25-million that Pepsi is giving away to community-based projects.
Who would not want this for their own company? If you are a small, local shop or a multi-national business, this works.
More companies are recognizing they need to have people like Bough at visible events to continue the conversations. After all, this trade show is growing each year, unlike many. And for those who don’t have the right people here… the term for that is “Epic Fail.”
There is a track called “The Common Good” – one of the roughly 33 tracks in the interactive show alone. But even those not on that conference track are integrating a number of socially aware options in their business plans. This includes new companies like Giiv.com that allows you to text a message with a special code that can be redeemed locally for a real gift. Or it can be used to make donations to non-profit organizations, and be confirmed by text message to your cell phone. They are literally to numerous to name.
As it was pointed out to me, this community may not be able to afford to give the amount they want to the charities that excite them, but they are the social people active in their local and online community and found a way to give back.
They are also building our future.