The Power of Google in Social Media Marketing

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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Hannah.pixOn March 7, Google knew it was my birthday and served me a birthday Google Doodle. When I left work, my Android phone told me that it would take me 32 minutes to get home, that an Amazon package was waiting on my doorstep, and that a new episode of my favorite show would be on TV that night. I didn’t set up any of these alerts; Google just knew to tell me.

Since Google implemented a new design and Single Sign-On (SSO), requiring Google Plus accounts for all users, it knows what I search for (Google Search), where I’ve been/where I’m going (Google Maps), and what I buy (receipts in my Gmail). Google Plus ties this all together to create a database of information to deliver custom digital experiences.

As a user, I love this integration. It makes my life easier and makes running errands more efficient. And I am happy to let Google learn more about me and deliver these custom ads and experiences if it means that this wonderful service will remain free for users.

As a marketer, it’s exciting to think about how this will impact the work we do for our clients. Google is tracking loads of behavioral data on what consumers are doing online and offline every single day, creating an opportunity for incredibly innovative and targeted marketing.  For example, if we know that our target consumer is reading reviews of pet food during a lunch break, we could potentially send them a coupon when they’re about to pass by our pet food store on their way home.

Users’ experience on Google Search is becoming more custom, as well. Based on variables like a user’s connections, friends, search history, and location, Google Search results are unique. As a marketer, I want to give consumers a voice and a platform to publicly talk about and review my clients’ products and services to help insert them into more search results. I want to make sure our clients have a strong, optimized presence on all things Google – from Google Plus to YouTube – since Google social channels are the only social channels indexed in Google Search, unlike Twitter or Facebook.

Google is becoming a foundational platform on social, and the brands that win will be the ones who are harnessing its influence across platforms.

The Power of Google in Social Media Marketing

On March 7, Google knew it was my birthday and served me a birthday Google Doodle. When I left work, […]

Why Google Has the Best Shot at Making the Killer Smartwatch

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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Saw this on Wired and had to share.  I’m only massively enamored with “wearable tech.” First watch the video, then read the article. I think you’ll want this too!

Why Google Has the Best Shot at Making the Killer Smartwatch

Last week, Google unveiled its vision of the smartwatch, the elusive Next Big Gadget. It takes the form of Android Wear, a new version of the mobile operating system designed specifically for on-the-body devices. It’s a good deal more sophisticated than the smartwatches we’ve seen hitherto, relying on the company’s unparalleled voice recognition for registering simple commands and promising to serve up the “info and suggestions you need, right when you need them” thanks to the same predictive, personalized algorithms that power Google Now on Android phones.

Amidst speculation that Apple’s long-fabled iWatch might in fact be a health-specific wristband, Android Wear is clearly aiming for something much bigger. And that makes sense. If there’s any company today that has a chance to make the multipurpose smartwatch we’ve all been dreaming of, it’s Google. But it’s not just heaps of data and algorithmic might that make Android Wear promising. It’s also Google’s approach to the endeavor–its willingness to let third-party developers deeper into the stack and, potentially, to let users define the experience for themselves–that could help make it a hit.

Context Is King

Context is the holy grail of wearable devices. With the limited real estate of a watch face, knowing what app, service, prompt or data point a person needs at a specific moment becomes paramount. The shiny promotional videos Google released this week show how context plays out in Android Wear in a number of situations. On the bus, your smartwatch might show you the next few stops; if there’s a meeting coming up, it’ll remind you who it’s with, and offer directions for how to get there. The video suggests a few less obvious use cases, too. If your Android Wear watch feels itself shaking around and its microphone hears music, it might figure out that you’re dancing, and tell you what song’s playing.

But context isn’t just about using sensors to intuit your environment and activity. It’s also about tying your scattered digital existence to your actual, physical self. It’s about looking at your calendar, your inbox, and your contacts in concert, cross-referencing them, and coming away with a more human understanding of your schedule, your to-do list, and your circle of friends. When it was released in 2004, Gmail did away with the hassle of organizing email by letting you search through your inbox. At its best, a contextually-savvy operating system like Android Wear takes the next step, doing away the hassle of search by surfacing the stuff you need automatically when you need it.

It’s this second, more intimate type of context that Google is so uniquely poised to conquer, according to Nick de la Mare, principal of design consultancy Big Tomorrow. De la Mare, who worked extensively on wearable projects as Executive Creator Director at Frog, sees Android Wear signaling a move to contextually-driven simplicity over the “maximalist,” computer-on-your-wrist approach of watches like the Galaxy Gear.

“There are very few companies that have that repository of data to provide that simplicity,” de la Mare says. “Google is one of the only organizations that can take the management away from you and provide something meaningful.”

Revisiting Our Assumptions About Apps

Image: GoogleContextual awareness is the key to a functionally robust smartwatch. What will make one truly useful, however, is how easy it is to use. The metric for success is simple: for a smartwatch to make sense, it has to let you do things more quickly than you could by pulling your smartphone out of your pocket.

This is where a lightweight user interface is key, and it seems like Google’s got a promising foundation, mixing concise, swipe-able cards with optional voice commands. From one perspective, it’s the logical continuation of the card-based UI that took root with Google Now. From a different viewpoint, however, it’s something considerably more radical: a reinvention of mobile apps as we know them.

The Android Wear UI is based on two core functions: “suggest” and “demand.” Suggest is the term Google uses for all the notification cards that make up the watch’s “context stream.” These could include urgent notifications, like text messages, that buzz your wrist when they come in, or morsels of data that get silently added to your stack, like scores of sports games.

But these aren’t “notifications” in the smartphone sense–hollering flags that pull you back into a third-party app. On the watch, they serve as the apps themselves. Google lays out strict guidelines for how these should work: “Omit needless text from your notifications. Design for glance-ability, not reading. Use words and phrases, not sentences. Show, don’t tell: Where possible use simple icons, glyphs, and visualizations to convey your message.”

A smartwatch has to let you do things more quickly than you could by pulling your smartphone out.

Notifications can be supplemented with additional “pages,” which people can access by swiping sideways on their smartwatch screen. These can add additional information or actions users can take on the data. The example Google gives is a reminder for a picnic. The notification itself reminds you that you have a picnic scheduled with a friend; the next page tells you that you’re responsible for bringing bread, cheese, and wine; and the third gives you a button for navigating to the spot.

It’s worth reiterating: This is Google’s idea of a smartwatch app. Timely notifications and relevant actions, all bundled up in a relatively strict visual language. Apps, in this vision, become much more homogenized; they’re about utility, service, information and action more than anything else. In this new model, you don’t tap icons to summon apps. Instead, they just pop up when you need them, triggered by contextual cues like location, time, or activity.

The other part of the Android Wear interface is “demand,” encompassing something Google refers to as the “Cue Card.” This is a list of commands that can be spoken or tapped on screen. From the look of things, it seems like these will include a preset list of actions for calling cabs, taking notes, sending messages, setting alarms and the like. These can either be triggered by tapping the screen, or by saying the command aloud. In Android Wear, apps aren’t to be thought of as discrete programs but rather as actions you can take.

Here’s an important bit: Google’s developer documents state that users will be able to choose which app corresponds to these demands. This is where Google’s willingness to let users choose could be a huge boon to their smartwatch efforts. Presumably you could pick whether saying “call me a cab” triggers Uber, say, or Lyft.


Compare this to Siri, where Apple decides which third-party services get folded in and dictates what information you receive. Think about what happens when you ask Siri what movies are playing that night. You get a few seemingly random movie times, with zero opportunity to fine-tune the results, sorting by reviewer rating or by a preferred list of movie theaters. Hypothetically, with Android Wear’s more flexible model, you could map that same “what movies are playing tonight” command to whichever movie times app worked best for you.

We can say little with certainty when it comes to what we’ll want from smartwatches and the apps that run on them. But the approach Google’s seemingly taking with Android Wear–to let third party apps in, under strict UI and UX guidelines, and to let users choose which they want to rely on–seems like a smart compromise.

Humility and Flexibility

Android Wear is a compelling vision for smartwatches. But for now, it’s just that. Google and its partners have been mum on hardware details, and much remains to be seen about how they’re planning to power a full-color, always-on display. Even if they do figure out the hardware, there are many ways in which Google’s smartwatch efforts could falter.

For one, let’s not forget, these are the people that make Google Glass. The scene in the promotional clip that shows a guy on a crowded bus talking to his watch says it all. Google continues to live in a world where wearables are an inevitability, cyborgs are cool, and talking out loud to your gadgets is as normal as striking up a conversation with the person next to you. “Google is sometimes a little bit tone deaf in terms of the social mores,” de la Mare says. And wearables, as much as anything, are devices can live and die with social acceptance.

There’s also the question of balancing utility and personalization. Google’s already working with a number of hardware partners, promising a diverse range of looks for potential Android Wear devices. Watches, at day end, are accessories, and having different styles will be a big draw. But is Android Wear itself going to be as flexible? Will users be able to pick what watch face is showing? Or to tweak the predictive powers of the “supply” stack? A mainstream smartwatch won’t likely be a one-size-fits-all solution, and having software that can accommodate different types of users and use cases will be important, too.

That gets to the more foundational question, of how much people really need a smartwatch in the first place. Is a wearable screen, as Google shows it, viable as a mainstream product? The video shows many of the vanilla use cases we’ve talked about for years: reminding you about appointments, showing you how long it takes to get to work in the morning. But not everyone has a packed calendar and a potentially gridlocked commute. Right now, Android Wear is a purely utilitarian endeavor, leaving little room for the do-anything magic that sparked the smartphone’s huge success. “There’s definitely some poetry that can happen with a smartwatch,” says de la Mare. “That’s something they’re not really exploring.”

Of course, the fact that Google is exploring at all, and inviting developers to explore with them, seems like a shrewd course. Where the multitouch wonders of the smartphone were quickly obvious, it stands to reason that finding the perfect fit for a smartwatch will take a greater level of trial and error. Apple will refine and rework its wearable device, whatever it may be, until it feels like it’s figured everything out. Google, it seems, is more inclined to do that process out in the open–like they’ve done with Glass, for better or worse. That willingness to feel things out, to see what makes sense, could be the key to its success. “If they tell everybody what the answer is, they probably will fail,” de la Mare says. “But if Google does this with humility, there’s every possibility of it becoming ubiquitous.”

Why Google Has the Best Shot at Making the Killer Smartwatch

Saw this on Wired and had to share.  I’m only massively enamored with “wearable tech.” First watch the video, then […]

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Pinterest Seeks 7-Figure Spend Commitment from Advertisers 
Pinterest hasn’t brought its ads to market yet, but it is asking for a hefty spending commitment: between $1-2 million from prospective advertisers and it’s looking to price CPMs between $30 and $40. The pricing makes it clear that Pinterest intends to have a premium ad offering – similar to Instagram. Pinterest began testing promoted pins on the web and mobile apps almost six months ago with a set of undisclosed businesses.

Facebook is Ending the Free Ride
Facebook is in the process of slashing organic paid reach down to 1-2%. This will impact all brands – meaning companies will have to pay to reach their Facebook fans moving forward.  Expect the changes to take place in the next month or so.

Viacom is Taking Tumblr to the Upfronts
Tumblr has struck a major ad deal with Viacom ahead of this year’s upfronts. Per the exclusive deal, Tumblr plans to host content from MTV, Comedy Central and other Viacom properties, while the network will offer ad partners the option of extending their campaigns across Yahoo’s social network. Last year, Yahoo paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr. Tumblr now claims an audience of more than 300 million unique visitors per month.

Will Twitter Be Removing @Replies?
Twitter is experimenting with a new version of its Android app that removes @ replies entirely, hinting at the possibility that it will phase out the communication feature sometime in the future. Twitter’s Head of News recently told an audience that hashtags and @ replies are “arcane,” and hinted they would be reworked to provide a more streamlined approach to the service to help new users understand the concept of Twitter.  @ replies may be replaced for Facebook-like mentions, although it is only an experiment at this stage.

Global Social Media

Twitter Blocked in Turkey
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced during a rally in Bursa that he will “eradicate Twitter.” Following his announcement, the Prime Minister’s office issued a statement saying that Turkish officials had “no option” other than to ban Twitter. Shortly afterwards, tweets and screenshots began to show that Twitter (and possibly Facebook) was being blocked in the country. Many users were sharing a forum on Wikileaks with advice no how Turkish users can still access the site. #TwitterisblockedinTurkey and #DictatorErdogan were the top trending hashtags worldwide by Thursday afternoon.  There are 10 million Twitter users in Turkey.

Here Come China’s Tech Giants: Weibo, Alibaba to IPO in the U.S.
Weibo, China’s Twitter, filed for its U.S IPO last week. The service, being spun off its parent company Sina Corp. is looking to raise $500 million from the public offering. Although Weibo’s 241 million active users are nearly all inside China, the company listed a variety of international services as its rivals including Facebook and Twitter.  Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Alibaba is looking to file an IPO as soon as April. If that pans out, it could be one of the largest tech IPOs in recent U.S history. It is worth roughly $150 billion. Yahoo owns a quarter of Alibaba.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Delta Wants to Put You on a Flight With An Inspirational Business Leader
Delta Airlines has teamed up with LinkedIn for an initiative called Innovation Class. The campaign is offering customers who are LinkedIn members, the opportunity to meet and fly with select industry leaders on designated Delta flights. The first winner was CEO of Patten Studio, James Patten who won a seat next to Pebble Technology CEO Eric Migicovsky on a flight from Salt Lake City to Vancouver for TED, and now stars in a brand video for the campaign.  The airline will host three other Innovation Class flights throughout 2014, including one en route to The James Beard Awards in NYC on May 5th with Sean Brock, finalist for outstanding chef the year.  The Innovation Class site  asks users to submit ideas for more mentors to offer flights with, hinting that the campaign may continue on beyond the initial four opportunities.

Headlines & Stuff

Here are some cool things we read about this past week: Pinterest Seeks 7-Figure Spend Commitment from Advertisers  Pinterest hasn’t […]

Stats of the Week

Written by: Jackie Mendez
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Every week we compile lots of interesting stats here at Fanscape and we try to share a lot of what we learn with you in these posts. With March Madness in full swing, this week’s post takes a deeper look into how people plan to keep up with the wins, losses and bracket breaking upsets of this year’s tournament.

Over 50% of US Mobile Users Plan to Check Mobile Apps to Keep Track of March Madness

March Madness lovers who want to follow the games both day and night can breathe a sigh of relief—thanks to mobile apps. According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive for SOASTA, mobile users are turning to their second screen during the workday to keep up with this year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament.

March 2014 polling found that just over half of US smartphone and tablet users planned to check mobile apps during the workday to keep track of March Madness. Nearly three-quarters said they would take a peek at their mobile device when they took a break from work, and about two-thirds planned to check in on the games during downtime. Lunchtime appeared to be another popular time for catching up with the tournament, with over six in 10 saying they would do so while eating.

Part of the appeal of mobile apps are the live updates they provide: 41% of respondents said that these improved the March Madness experience. Being able to access and manage brackets on the go ranked second (29%), and easy access to team and player information was also popular (27%).

The fact that fans use mobile apps for easy, quick access to information may be why July 2013 research by Informate Mobile Intelligence found that US smartphone users who used sports apps spent little time with them, launching the apps 1.4 times a day and spending 3.7 minutes with them daily. With 41% of respondents to Harris Interactive/SOASTA’s survey planning to check for March Madness updates on their app more than once a day, usage may see an increase over the next few weeks.

Source: eMarketer

Stats of the Week

Every week we compile lots of interesting stats here at Fanscape and we try to share a lot of what […]

My Visit To The Natural Products West Expo

Written by: Allie Wester
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NPEW logoEarlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending Natural Products Expo West, which is THE trade show for everything natural, organic and healthy. This year, there were over 67,000 attendees and 2,600 exhibitors. To put that into perspective, SXSW Music/Film/Interactive has about 72,000 attendees.

Our client Blue Diamond Growers had a presence at Expo West to show off their new Honey Cinnamon Nut Thins, Honey Mustard Nut Thins, Hint of Honey Almond Breeze Almondmilk and Hint of Honey Vanilla Almond Breeze Almondmilk. (They were all delicious, by the way.) In addition to Blue Diamond, there were many other great brands there from Cabot to Seventh Generation to Burt’s Bees.

expowest copyOne of the best parts about Expo West is all of the free food and samples. It’s like grocery shopping at Whole Foods… for free! This year, there was lots of kale, chia seed, non-dairy and gluten-free products. There were also some interesting items – like protein bars made out of crickets. (Did not sample those.)

Here are some key trends from the show this year, straight from Natural Products Expo West themselves:

Health & Wellness Consumers: The healthy eating movement is spreading across all demographic groups. Five distinct consumer segments, differentiated by lifestyles, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs about health and wellness have been created for the industry.

Convenience & Accessibility: The importance of making nutritious, clean food more accessible and convenient across multi-dimensional demographics and how will it affect the health and wellness of all Americans.

Labeling Transparency: Consumers are asking for transparency with regard to food/product labels, claims and certifications, including non-GMO and organic.

Food Tribes: The growing gluten-free, vegan, paleo and other special diet communities are fueling the healthy eating movement and changing the way people view food and community.

The Future of Personalized Health: With nutrigenomic advances and the rise of food intolerances and autoimmune diseases, we are learning that one person’s “medicine” is another’s “poison.”

Triple Pundit wrote a great article on Expo West, which pointed out that, “Healthy food has leaped from a marketing niche to a revenue growth engine for the food service industry.” Truer words have never been spoken – the food industry is undergoing a massive shift and the size of Expo West (which grew by 5% this year) is a prime example of that.

Now pass me the kale chips!

(Photo Credit: @gwynethmademedoit)

My Visit To The Natural Products West Expo

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending Natural Products Expo West, which is THE trade show for everything […]

Scotch Facts

Written by: Justin Runyon
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If you know me, then you know I enjoy the occasional cocktail after work. I’m specifically a fan of whisky, with a preference for Scotch whisky, and I consider myself our team’s whisky expert. Weekly I share what I call, “Scotch Facts: Your Weekly Dram of Whisky Wisdom” with my office friends and I thought you might like to see it too. Cheers! – Justin

Whisky Fact of the Week:
Canadian whisky is considered the lightest of all whisky because it traditionally consists of a blend of two components: a base whisky and a flavoring whisky. The base whisky is usually made from corn and the flavoring whisky made of a high rye content.

Drunken Vocabulary (Words and terms to impress your friends while drinking):
Clean: term used to describe the whisky being free from off-notes of any source. Different from “neutral”, though.

Lagniappe (a little something extra):
Do YOU have a whisky hoarding strategy? Be prepared:

Got any Scotch Facts you want to send my way? Just tweet me @justrunyon.

Scotch Facts

If you know me, then you know I enjoy the occasional cocktail after work. I’m specifically a fan of whisky, […]

Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
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Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Facebook Updates Design For Business Pages
Only days after debuting a new look for the News Feed, Facebook this week began rolling out an updated design for brand Pages. Among the changes, all posts now appear on the right-side column of the Timeline, so all updates appear the same on a brand’s page and in the News Feed. The left-hand column will feature information about a company’s business, including a map, hours of business, phone number and website, as well as photos and videos. Also noteworthy –  Tabs are now hidden behind the “More” option, which is yet another step towards Facebook’s quest to focus entirely on the News Feed. Apps are still present but are featured on the left-hand side and are much less prevalent.

Tumblr Lets Bloggers Dial-In to Add New Content
Tumblr’s latest feature allows you to call a toll-free number and record a short audio message that becomes your latest blog post. The feature is easy to use – just add a telephone number to your Tumblr settings that you want to be able to record a message, and then dial 1-866-584-6757. As soon as you hang up, the message will get posted to your Tumblr account. Watch the fun video explaining how it works here.

Facebook Introduces 15-Second Video Ads
Facebook just introduced 15-second video ads, which will start playing without sound as they appear on screen and stop if you scroll pass. If you tap the video, it will expand into full screen view with sound. Users can expect to start seeing these ads over the next few months.

Pinterest Debuts Gifts Feed
Aiming to boost e-commerce activity, Pinterest this week introduced a new Gifts Feed showcasing all things that users can buy through the platform. This feed only shows Product Pins and includes pricing and availability details. The new feed also indicates price range through a system of one to four dollar signs.

Google Changes Search Results
Google is rolling out a new design of search to desktop users that includes changes to both organic search results and ads. The new design removes underlines, increases font size and changes the way ads are labeled in search results. Google’s AdWords-targeted ads no longer have the pink shading. Instead they are preceded by a small yellow box labeled “ad.”

Vine’s Hottest New Trend: #Whaling
Vine stars are looking to get in on the platform’s newest trend: #whaling. Whaling has even enticed news anchor teams to join in. Much like planking, whaling involves contorting your body into a shape resembling a real-life creature: in this case, a whale. More specifically, a breaching whale.

Global Social Media

China’s Sudden WeChat Crackdown
The social networking app, WeChat, also known as Weixin in China, fell victim to a very abrupt and unexpected crackdown this week, with dozens of politically active accounts deleted. Politically active users driven from censorship on Weibo, are finding the relative oasis of WeChat not as safe from the government as previously thought. Some of the squashed accounts had hundreds of thousands of followers. Some new sources were also shut down.  WeChat is slowly approaching the 300 million user mark, but if censorship like this continues, it may have a huge impact on the app. China’s crackdown on Weibo resulted in a 10% decline in users last year.  37% of those users that left Weibo flocked to WeChat.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Starbucks Begins Testing Mobile Orders, Payments
Starbucks plans to begin testing a service that lets customers place orders ahead of time via smartphone at some of its U.S. stores later this year. The coffee giant plans to let customers choose coffee or food while inline or before entering an outlet through the Starbucks mobile app. The step would build on Starbucks’ mobile payments business and loyalty program. The company currently processes almost 5 million mobile transactions a week through its payments app, which boasts 10 million monthly active users.

Headlines & Stuff

Here are some cool things we read about this past week: Facebook Updates Design For Business Pages Only days after […]

Stats of the Week

Written by: Jackie Mendez
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Every week we compile lots of interesting stats here at Fanscape and we try to share a lot of what we learn with you in these posts.

56% of Twitter Mobile Users are Influenced by Content on the Network when Making Purchases

Almost all (94 per cent) of Twitter users are engaging with mobile commerce, recent research from the social company has discovered, as part of its research with Nielsen.

The research, looking at the role Twitter plays in influencing consumers’ shopping behaviour on their mobiles, discovered that the Twitter users who engage with m-commerce span different phases of shopping: research and looking at product reviews, visiting a website and adding products to the basket and purchasing.

Nielsen found that 56 per cent of Twitter mobile users say they are influenced by content on Twitter when they are buying a product or service, while a third said something they have seen on Twitter has ‘contributed directly’ towards a purchase made on their mobile.

Twitter added: “While many (79 per cent) do follow brands for special offers and discounts, the research shows that Twitter users also follow brands because they are genuinely interested in what they have to say: Two in three of this user group follow to keep up-to-date with the brand.”

The research also stated that Twitter users engage in 40 per cent more shopping sessions than non-users and spent 31 per cent more time shopping.

Source: The Drum

Stats of the Week

Every week we compile lots of interesting stats here at Fanscape and we try to share a lot of what […]

Fanscape March Newsletter

We published our monthly newsletter today. Check it out below and if you want to see it in all its […]

SXSW Interactive 2014: A Recap

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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sxswI am sitting in the Austin airport, slightly hungover, and I figured it’s as good a time as any to jog my brain and try to remember everything I just experienced at the 2014 Interactive portion of the South by Southwest conference (SXSW).  This is my 6th year attending SXSW Interactive and about my 16th year attending SXSW if you include my days as a music nerd.  And I have to say, this year was as good, if not better, than any to date.

Yes it was crowded and yes it rained for a solid day.  But amidst all that I managed to see what I wanted to see and stay invigorated the whole time.  My personal focus this year was to learn about wearable technology and self-improvement, and gain insight from successful entrepreneurs and groundbreaking innovators.  I attended about 10 sessions which only scratched the surface of what SXSW had to offer.  I took copious notes and as you read this, know that I could have easily shared two or three times as much as what you see here. I’m hoping that by browsing my musings, you’ll be able to sense a little bit of the kinetic energy that I felt this past weekend.

Day 1 – Friday, March 7

I caught a handful of sessions including a conversation with Google’s Eric Schmidt, a few moments with Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, and an inspiring discussion between IDEO CEO Tim Brown and MIT Media Lab Director, Joi Ito.

sxsw-schmidtEric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, co-authors of “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business”  set the tone for what would be recurring topics throughout the conference such as privacy, the future of the Internet, Bitcoin, WhatsApp, and the impact of technology in a globally connected world. The first part of the discussion concentrated on the political unrest around the globe and how the Internet plays a key role in fueling change and turmoil. The privacy discussion was fascinating and the duo claimed that soon we will need to teach our kids about data permanence before we teach them about the birds and the bees.  Schmidt discussed robots and how physical jobs are being replaced by automation, and that we need not be afraid, but rather embrace this and understand that the next workforce generation needs to consider careers in this area. Cohen added a poignant statement that knowing another language is incredibly important,  “During the cold war many people began to learn Russian. After 9/11 we learned Arabic. The next language is Computer.”

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy led a session about how posture and nonverbal behavior can shape confidence and attitude.  She explained that her research has proven that doing power poses for 2 minutes a day, as well as before you walk into a meeting, can greatly empower you and release chemicals in your body that improve performance. If you haven’t seen Cuddy’s popular Ted talk, I’ve posted it below.

IDEO’s Tim Brown and MIT’s Joi Ito discussed The Future of Making and the connection between design and biology. In this absolutely fascinating session, the two showcased how design goes beyond graphics and user-interfaces, and takes the wearable technology concept further than watches and wristbands.  Ito stressed that biology will have a huge impact on computing and that the amount of data that can be stored on a chromosome far exceeds that which can be stored on a chip or hard drive.  Examples showcased through short video clips included fabric that touches your skin that can translate emotions and how human initiated design can be completed by nature. Supporting that last point, they showed a video involving silkworms that explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication in design, which I was able to find online and post below.

Day 2 – Saturday, March 8

This was a day where I poured myself into sessions while it poured rain outside. I was truly privileged to experience these discussions and my highlights below barely begin to express the knowledge that I gained on this day.Jullian

I started my day by attending a virtual interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange broadcast via Skype from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (pictured above).  There were, of course, technical difficulties, but Assange didn’t seem to need much prompting. Each question was met with long in-depth diatribes about conspiracy and irrational governments.  When asked what his life is like, he explained that he’s been a prisoner for 650 days but that he continues to proceed with his mission of exposing injustices and government secrets. He let us know about his team’s involvement in assisting Edward Snowden (who was also doing a SXSW virtual interview on Monday) and that while many of his WikiLeaks reporters are in exile in countries such as Germany, they continue to work for the cause.  He alluded that they were preparing to expose something major very soon.

Simmons.BetterOn a much lighter note, I attended a fireside chat between ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Nate Silver that felt like I was witnessing two friends having a conversation over dinner.  Both guys are funny and incredibly engaging and I found myself wishing the discussion would go on for so much longer than the hour they were allocated.  If you are not familiar with them, Simmons leads one of ESPN’s top content outlets, Grantland and recently scored a major coup by bringing to ESPN one of the nation’s leading data scientists, Nate Silver – predictor of 49 of 50 Senate races and much much more and formerly of the New York Times.  Silver’s blog, will now fly under the ESPN banner.  Simmons and Silver explained that while they are sports fanatics and create sports-related content, they are not exclusive to sports. Simmons’s Grantland is about 50/50 sports and entertainment and Silver claimed his blog will be only 20% sports with Politics, Economics, Science, and Lifestyle being core components and launches on March 17.  I took pages and pages of notes, but the key point that stood out was how ESPN is investing in guys like Simmons and Silver and quietly pulling in some of the most respected editorial forces from top traditional news outlets – NOT NECESSARILY IN SPORTS.  All I could think of the whole time was how brilliant this organization is and that once the cable/satellite breakup comes and we start buying unbundled content on a per channel basis, ESPN will be one of, if not THE biggest winner.

caseAOL founder, Steve Case, was interviewed by Bloomerberg’s Emily Chang. I saw Steve last year and was looking forward to seeing him this year, and he didn’t disappoint. He covered topics ranging from the regionalization of entrepreneurship to immigration reform. On the topic of whether startups all needed to be in Silicon Valley, he professed his love for the bay area but said that huge innovations were coming out of other cities. He said that places like Silicon Valley have huge populations of talent, but competition for that talent is fierce. He said if other cities embrace startups, then talent will follow. Asked about the state of technological innovation, he theorized that the Internet is in its third wave. The first was when AOL started and only 3% of the US was online and only for 1 hour a week. The second wave was the explosion of social media and the corresponding apps and services that were built on top of the Internet.  And where previously companies like AOL, Facebook, and Google needed to be huge companies to foster innovation and growth, this third wave is made up of companies like WhatsApp and Instagram which have/had small teams (50 people and 12 people respectively) and are being bought for billions of dollars.  He went on to talk about his work in DC and helping to pass laws related to small businesses, investment (i.e. legalization of crowdfunding), and now immigration reform that enables businesses to recruit talent from around the world to help the US maintain it’s competitive edge.

gtdI ended the day by attending an interview with David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” which helps leaders organize their work and personal lives to improve their productivity and their happiness.  I’m a guy who is constantly trying to improve my own efficiency and I found Allen’s confidence and matter-of-fact attitude riveting.  After watching him explain his GTD methodology, I was just dying to re-open my copy of his book which has been sitting on a shelf for years. When an audience member asked him what to do when a meeting is going long and meandering away from any sense of accomplishment he said, “just stand up and tell the room that nothing is being accomplished and leave.” To which the person said, “really?” Yes, really!

Day 3 – Sunday, March 9

By the third day the exhaustion had set in, but I powered through and spent much of the day exploring brand activations all over downtown Austin. oreoOreo was using 3D printers to custom print the filling in their cookies, Cottonelle offered massages and hair styling, AT&T had a massive structure dedicated to art and music, and Samsung basically owned Austin. The Samsung house was filled with the opportunitySamsunghouse to touch and interact with watches and phones and eat, drink, and be seen. I also wandered Rainey street which felt like a row of fraternity houses owned by the likes of Funny or Die, Dropbox, Time Warner, DirectTV, and contingents from Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands.

I watched one session which was a discussion between Venture Capital superstar Ben Horowitz and the rapper, Nas.  Horowitz is half of the power duo Andreessen Horowitz, investors in nearly every successful new company including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Airbnb, Fab, and more. Ben is a fascinating guy and he was incredibly honest. I personally wish he had been interviewed by someone from the news media rather than Nas, but I appreciate that they were trying to do something a little different. When asked about his partnership with Marc Andreesen, he said, “we hate each other.” He explained that they really don’t like each other and that they don’t like spending time together, yet somehow it works and has made them extremely successful. Ben gave incredible advice and provided a whole host of sound-bites including:ben

  • You need someone in your life that you can count on. The person who will tell you when you are wrong and help you get to the root of your problem and solve it. (He was referencing A-H partner, John O’Farrell)
  • Don’t worry about your mistakes, think instead about your next move.
  • Nobody is a good CEO. It’s not like there is a place where you can learn to be a great CEO. My job is to help CEOs and none of them are that good (he referenced how he’s worked with Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page). It’s something you have to learn on the job.
  • The hardest people to hire or manage are the ones that are really rich. When things get hard, these employees just say, ‘Why am I doing this? I’m rich.  And one day, they just call in rich.’
  • Bitcoin is the Internet of money. There is no regulation, just like when the Internet started. And because of that, we feel a responsibility of being a part of something that groundbreaking.
  • Don’t give up. Stick with it. If you do, you will continue to learn and you’ll have the advantage when everyone else comes around.

The festival is still going on.  There are more sessions and parties, but Monday morning is always my planned time to get back to reality. Those of you who get to see Edward Snowden, Jimmy Kimmel, and the iTunes Festival, I hope you have as amazing an experience as I did. And for some of those who were with me and possibly smitten with a certain grumpy feline, these are for you…


SXSW Interactive 2014: A Recap

I am sitting in the Austin airport, slightly hungover, and I figured it’s as good a time as any to […]