Every year, as a part of the Center for Social Commerce’s Student Ambassador Program, select students attend W2O Group’s annual “SXW2O” events in Austin, leading up the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference. During SXW2O, W2O Group experts, clients and industry leaders convene for a wide array of speaker summits touching on disruptive industry trends, networking events and good old fashioned Texas BBQ. Our 2016 Student Ambassadors, John Thomey and Nicole Sherwood, share their thoughts below on their experience.
Be sure to also check out our SXW2O Storify, which captures social conversation highlights from Austin.
The Center for Social Commerce team had a blast at the SXW2O Digital Brunch. From left: Student Ambassador John Thomey; W2O Group Associate Lauryn Botterman (with a furry ‘Hoppy Hour’ friend named Steve); W2O Group Senior Manager Meriel McCaffery; Student Ambassador Nicole Sherwood.
Nicole Sherwood’s SXW2O Reflection: From ‘Mass Marketing’ to Personalized Experiences
Three months ago, I couldn’t have imagined attending the SXSW Interactive Conference. Flying to Austin, TX and spending time with industry leaders just seemed like a dream. The Center for Social Commerce and W2O Group made it all possible when they appointed me as a 2016 Center for Social Commerce Ambassador.
Right at the start of a busy week, I began to notice common trends emerging from all the various discussions and speeches. Regardless of company or industry, many experts touched on marketing and public relations moving from a mass marketing approach to a personalized one. At the core of many new approaches and tools discussed was the question of how to understand and target specific consumers through very strategic tactics.
W2O Group’s Pre Commerce Summit incorporated short talks from leaders affiliated with top companies such as Best Buy, Visa, Bayer and Sysomos. I listened as influencers in their respective fields urged that companies must cater their messages, products and services to fit audience personal desires and provide an enhanced end-to-end experience.
During Movers & Shapers, Sanjay Dholakia took an even closer look at how a complex marketplace is changing. Technology has been shifting the way we do business by enabling a socially engaged consumer. In the past, everyone was presented with the same advertisements and information. Now, brands create increasingly customized experiences for audiences based on data and analytics insights.
After listening to all of the experienced influencers and speakers at the SXW2O events, I am excited to take what I learned about targeting communications and apply it to my continued studies and professional experiences.
John Thomey’s SXW2O Reflection: Technology’s Potential to Improve Lives
Being a native Texan and a self-proclaimed techie, I always saw SXSW as more of a paradise than a conference. As a new Center for Social Commerce Ambassador, I was able to experience it all in person this March. My biggest takeaway from it all? Even amidst the hype and excitement surrounding the next big app, startup or device, we have to continually be looking for new and better ways to use technology to improve our individual lives in meaningful ways.
The first day set some high-level context around the rest of the speakers and discussions. W2O Group hosted a roundtable for industry leaders to discuss controversial topics in business and technology, like Apple’s battle with the FBI over encryption, the implications of a sharing economy on the role of workers and the effects of cyberbullying. Speakers throughout the day consistently dug deeper into how technology is changing everyday life.
We also joined W2O’s social media team during the PreCommerce Summit, one of the larger events of the week. The Director of SXSW Interactive, Hugh Forrest, took the stage. He has seen SXSW Interactive grow from a little-known event to one President Obama attends. When prompted about who and what does best at the conference, Forrest noted, “The products, apps, startups and services that get the most buzz help users digest SXSW.” Twitter is just one example of a company that used SXSW Interactive as a launching pad.
Julie Borlaug, associate director for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, was another engaging speaker who touched on technology aiming to improve individual experience and lives. By 2050, we have to figure out how to use technology to feed 9 billion people. Technology is even helping to combat the global food crisis!
Attending SXSW got me thinking beyond what’s the next big thing in technology. I really started considering larger scale implications. It’s not just about how technology can make our lives more convenient, but how technology is being leveraged to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. And if there’s one thing I confirmed at SXSW, it’s that there are brilliant people trying to create solutions to make the world a better place every day.
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