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SXSW 2011 – How to Use Web Personalization Without Being Creepy


Web personalization takes many forms today. Using information provided by users can improve the user experience by allowing companies to deliver more relevant content to that individual. But when does it cross the line from being useful and convenient, to being flat out creepy?

How to Personalize Web Content Without Being Creepy

How to Personalize Web Content Without Being Creepy

From targeted Facebook advertising, to Foursquare restaurant suggestions to personalized web content, the key elements to think about is how this information about a user is obtained, how it is used and how this process is explained to the user.

 

Some main points that seemed to surface from the SXSW panel on Web Personalization were:

 

– Relevance in web content is becoming increasingly more important as the web gets more crowded. Users need to, and will appreciate, the ability to filter things out that are relevant to them. Life is too short to see a generic website.

 

– When asking for and using user’s information, trust is important – and extremely fleeting if you violate it. Users are providing information to a site for a reason. Make sure that it is clear to those users what they will be getting in return. It’s all about setting expectations and living up to them; transparency is key. Explain to the user that their information is being used to perhaps, purchase a product, but that it also may be used to improve their future site visits (think YouTube’s “We know you watched this video, so you may like this one.”) Make it obvious why contributing your data makes your experience better.

 

– Consider the subtle difference between customization and personalization, and utilize each appropriately. Customization allows users to choose what they want to see or not see to improve their experience on a site. Personalization implicitly or explicitly takes some information then automatically uses it to drive the user experience in a different way. Both are effective, but maybe suited to different situations.

 

– Give people an out. As Facebook connect and other personalization services are allowing for quick and highly integrated personalization, some people may not be comfortable with it. Why force them into a situation they may not be happy with? A simple “off” button on a feature or application may be enough to preserve that level of trust with an important customer.

 

While it may seem like most of this is somewhat common sense, it’s good to review these mental checks to ensure that the trust and benefit of the user is kept at top of mind. Personalization can then become a strong, mutually beneficial tool for the user and the company when relevant content, products or services are more easily delivered to an individual.

SXSW 2011 – Augmented Reality for Marketers – 10 Cool Examples

March 29, 2011 3 comments

Augmented reality: overlaying a digital experience on top of our real world. The panel on this topic consisted of two people: Lynne D. Johnson of R/GA and John Havens of Porter Novelli.

According to Juniper research, the current global revenue for augmented reality (AR) is currently less than $2 million, but is projected to be around $1.5 billion globally by 2015.

The presenters laid out the current state of AR as such: one side of the spectrum starts with basic applications like QR codes, moves into a bit more complicated applications that require you to hold a piece of paper in front of a webcam to see a 3D hologram on your photo viewer, to similar POS applications and location based smart phone apps to real world applications, like ski goggles that show the elevation of the mountain, etc. as you’re skiing down.

Johnson described many of the current applications to be quite “awkward” – you have to hold up your phone to see these things, or print out a piece of paper and wave it in front of your webcam. The future of AR, the panelists said, is working AR into the everyday, via glasses/goggles or even AR contact lenses.

The presentation was rich with visual aides – which is really the best way to see the current state of AR or imagine the future of AR. Here are some of the augmented reality examples that they highlighted:

1 – QR codes – for Zoo Records were hidden around cities for users to scan and hear hidden sound records from local groups.

2 – Tissot watches – sit in front of your computer and virtually “try on” the different styles.

3 – Location based augmented reality:  Stella Artois bar finder on your smart phone.

4 – POS augmented reality application: LEGO augmented reality kiosk shows what’s inside the box.

5 – Real-world application: GM Augmented reality windshield technology.

6 -Tagwhat – you tag the world. Think “outernet” vs. internet.

7 – iPhone RFID: object-based media – location-based urls with your phone – wave your phone by an object and it tells you something about it, drives you to a URL.

8 – stickybits – Scan a barcode on a product, then leave a comment so that the next person that scans that will read the comment, too.

9 – Kraft / Anonymous Video Analytics (AVA) – recognizes demographics about you from scanning your face/body type, then serves up ads/products to you that it thinks you’d be interested in.

10 – Future concerns – privacy, marketer’s virtual air rights. Will we have augmented reality overload?

SXSW 2011 – A Discussion on Social Photo Sharing


Sam Odio, PM of Photos & Video at Facebook, and Yan-David Erlich, start up veteran behind mopho/Happiness Engines, led a “core conversation” about social photo sharing. Basically, we had circle time, sat in the round and talked about whatever came up about sharing photos online. Here’s how our conversation went:

 

Pictures are Emotional, Make us feel good

Sitting with two very young, successful guys, the conversation naturally started with start up talk. After they answered the questions about start ups with some basic how-to-succeed talk (simply a mix of luck, sacrifice and KISS (keep it simple, stupid)), some interesting conversation about the nature of social photo sharing began. According to Odio, the main drive behind the Facebook Photo section is helping the users “tell the story” of their lives.

 

“I feel like I’m in the business of dopamine delivery,” he said. When you see that photo of your nephew, some tweak happens in your brain – you get a rush of emotion. You feel good. You want more. That “tweak” is what brings people back.

 

“Of course I remember that…it’s on Facebook.”

A photojournalism professor in the audience brought up an interesting thought: The normal human brain is meant for memories to fade with time; this is the natural way the brain processes the past and moves on. Is Facebook and photo sharing changing this? For the worse? The panelists argue no – quite the opposite in fact. Erlich said that there are certain memories he made a point of remembering from his childhood, knowing it was important and that he should be able to recall them. Now, he argues, he has an “external memory” – somewhere he knows he can check to retrieve that important moment. And now that his mind is freed up, who knows what that saved brain space can do or accomplish? Now I love photo sharing, but in the end, the jury’s still out for me on this argument. Very interesting.

 

Picasso, Schmicasso….everyone’s an artist

Instagram and filters are making everyone an artist. Technology like Instagram gives the normal person power to easily edit their photos by applying simple filters. They feel good/proud about their work and are more willing to share, the panelists said. Does this water down the artistic process, or is it a renaissance of sorts? The bottom line is that people are feeling better about their pictures and they want to share. For companies, leveraging this boldness and readiness to share may be leading to a more vocal and active consumer base, more willing to participate in photo-driven initiatives.

 

The Future of Facebook Photos

A couple of insights came out on the future of Facebook photos. Nothing is set in stone, but we may be seeing new ways to “tell our story” through Facebook photos. This may be through event-based tagging and photo organization. So instead of just being able to sort through yours or others’ photos by tagged people, you may sort photos by tagged events or subject matter.

 

The Undeniable Global Hold

One of the last participants in this core conversation was a man who had just arrived from Japan. This panel occurred on Friday, March 11, 2011 – the day the devastating earthquakes occurred in Japan. With broken English, he marveled at how he was able to see Facebook and Twitter take over during the crisis as a means of conversation and news sharing. Something that TV and other means of communication couldn’t do because of downed power grids or local resources. Odio from Facebook started by sharing his condolences with the man and his family, and then simply saying how humbled he was to be a part of something that really has become a ridiculously powerful social tool and means of human communication. It was a sobering moment, but quite apropos for the session. The power and reach of Facebook and the social sharing network we’ve all built is undeniable.

SXSW 2011 – App, Schmapp – Pointers for Moving from Web to App


Aaron Forth, from mint.com, shared his experience taking his financial planner web application and building a successful app that people actually use. Mint.com has seen huge user adoption for their app for iPhone, Android (and soon to be iPad). According to Forth, right now 67% are using the iPhone app, and 33% are on Android – but this is growing. Total app downloads have grown 200% in just the last couple of months. One interesting point is that 20% of mint.com users actually only use the app and don’t even go to the site. Something, he argues, isn’t a bad thing.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

– Pick platforms carefully. You want to consider device adoption, how apps are available to the consumers, what support you can get when building apps for different platforms, and look for low fragmentation. Yes, one of your potential consumers may be surfing on Blackberry, but you’re going to open up a whole other can of worms for UI, development, QA, support, etc. that just may not be worth it.

– Make your app a companion for your website, not replacement. Think long and hard about what features the App is best suited for. How do people use those devices? Make “on the go” utility – don’t try to cram everything in the phone that the phone isn’t really meant for. Think quick overviews, easy on-the-go decisions and actions, and notifications that require the user to go back to your website to complete more complicated tasks.

– When approaching your app development, think what can you reuse from the existing site? (Answer should probably be, not much.) Then, think about what you’ll need to rethink.

  • Leverage things like branding, data (financial data from financial institutions in this case) and user profile information.
  • Things you need to rethink will most likely be:
  • UI & visual design (gesturing, one button controls)
  • Mobile security features – (mint.com allows you to go to the website and disconnect the mobile app connection in case you lose your phone, and thus important personal financial information.)
  • Skills/development resources you’ll need to code
  • Service layer & architecture (different APIs than using on the web – bursts data, instead of stream)
  • Authentification (encrypted cookie where it times how long you want it to remember your login before you have to login again, ~ 2 weeks – allows for some security, yet ease of use for consumer)
  • QA build & release

Bottom line is this: When thinking about an app, think about use cases and design from there. Gimmicky apps may not stand the test of time and copying your entire site functionality probably won’t suit the device. Consumers are simply looking for something that will make their lives easier. It’s your app’s job to deliver.

SXSW 2011: Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social: Is It Working?


Panel #1 at SXSW 2011: Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social: Is It Working? Important stuff, right? …So much so that it meant I got to enjoy my first ever SXSW panel seated on the floor behind the stage, huddled in with about 15 other interested SXSWers who found out that being 30 minutes early doesn’t always guarantee you a chair. Easy to make new friends when you’ve got the icebreaker, “Yeah, I can’t feel my legs either…”

A unique angle at the SXSW Social Media Panel

But regardless of the fact that we were hearing the message from the backs of heads, the theme was still clear. The answer to Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social: Is It Working, is not a very clear one.

The panelists represented huge companies like PepsiCo, General Mills, Hershey and Samsung. They admitted that gleaning clear ROI stats from social media is still something we’re all trying to figure out. But, it’s also clear that the piece of the pie in marketing budgets for social marketing has grown, and that this is a necessary growth if companies want to communicate and engage consumers in the way they want to be communicated with and engaged.

Though it’s hard for three knowledgeable panelists to make wholly cohesive arguments in only an hour, there were some interesting stats and anecdotes thrown out:

Rough Stats

According to the panelists (Julie Hamp of PepisCo, Kris Narayanan of Samsung, David Witt of Hershey (formally General Mills))…

– eMarketer says that in 2011, social budgets are expected to grow 60%

– General Mills social budget is about 5% of the marketing budget for all their brands

– Across PepsiCo’s 500 worldwide brands, social budgets run from 10% of the marketing budget to 100% (on big campaigns like Pepsi Refresh). On average, the social budget piece of the pie has increased 30% recently

Mini Case Studies

– Sales soar using a POS social promotion

– A promotion linking Foursquare, Hess convenient stores and Brisk, in which users were encouraged to check in with Foursquare at Hess locations and be rewarded with a BOGO deal on Brisk, resulted in a 200% increase in this social interaction at POS and sales went up 141% during that time.

– Using social media promotions that drive users to purchase

– Promo with Brisk and Instagram, users are asked to submit photos using Instagram and 50 photos will be chosen to be featured on a Brisk can. Did your photo get chosen? Better buy some cans and find out. It did get chosen? Better tell your friends and family so they buy the cans. This word of mouth action and the brand awareness surrounding it will drive people to purchase.

– Use key influencers early on for positive word of mouth in the social realm

– When General Mills Fiber One bar was released, it was advocated for on the Hungry Girl email with the line, Fiber One is better than Snickers. Because the product itself was so good and exceeded expectations of the user, this positive word of mouth from key influencers was huge. General Mills saw online conversation to be the 2nd most important driver of sales here, (only second to the product actually being on the shelves). Though it may not be able to be calculated as direct ROI, there was a strong correlation between online conversation, brand experience and sales for a given product.

SXSW Interactive 2011 – Very Cool.


As winter in Cleveland/Akron dragged along and SXSW 2011 got closer and closer, I began to consume everything I could to prepare myself for my first time at SXSW. I checked out the official SXSW website, read the FAQs, sifted through the panel topics. I read tweets, I read blogs, I Googled. And, admittedly, I started to get nervous. Oh no, I thought, I’m not cool enough for SXSW.

This thing is going to have top digital and interactive thought leaders, panels and parties galore, thousands of interactive, music and film fans mulling about meeting and greeting in what looks like an awesome town, Austin, TX. What would I wear, where should I go…could I fit in and keep up?

About 15 minutes into Day 1, my answer came in the form of a sigh of relief, a huge smile and the thought, “Ok, this thing is awesome.”

Austin Sunshine SXSW 2011

The weather was gorgeous (narrowly escaping a March dump of 10 inches of snow in Cleveland and ending up in a place with high 70s and sun…yes, please!), the town was beautiful (a mix of cool restaurants, shops, trees, rivers, bikes, college students, and friendly people) and the crowd and content at SXSW was inspiring. Conversation starts naturally with the people around you, and new ideas and excitement are constantly floating around you (not augmented reality-style (more about that later…), but the feeling is quite palpable.)

So for anyone interested in SXSW, it’s definitely something to experience that will provide you with new ideas for your approach to web and interactive, and get you excited for what is to come in this digital world.

SXSW 2011, Austin, Texas

We’ll be posting a series of blogs on some of the topics presented at SXSW 2011. There were some panels and talks that were better than others, but overall it was an interesting mix of topics, definitely worth some additional thought and conversation.

So, ok, maybe my worries about my lack of SXSW “coolness” were unfounded. I had a great time and felt totally comfortable. But, at the same time, there is an advantage to not being (or at least thinking that you are) the coolest person in the room – you get out of your comfort zone, get inspired by others and definitely learn some pretty “cool” stuff.

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