The first Future Midwest conference was held in Royal Oak, MI Friday and Saturday. It was a great event with nationally known speakers on the subjects of using digital technology and social media to help companies, brands and individuals migrate through the changing world we live in. There was some serious knowledge dropped into the laps (or in my case, laptop) of all who attended. It was especially good if you are a marketer or business trying to carve out your niche in today's fast-changing, connected world community. I swear I have enough notes to write 20 blog posts from the conference. It was both inspiring and practical. I learned stuff I can use for clients right now stuff I can use to prepare them for the future. There will be more in-depth blog posts on specific subjects from Future Midwest here over the next few weeks (probably not 20 of them, though). But, as a quick overview, here are 12 surprising nuggets of knowledge I picked up over the last two days.
1. Retention is the new Acquisition. The opening keynote speaker, Joe Jaffe, gave one of my favorite presentations, based off his new book "Flip the Funnel." One of the key points in his talk was that rather than spending a ton of money in a medium where only a small part of your audience is actually interested and ready to buy your product, why not concentrate on the few that are your product's biggest fans? Spend your money being helpful to these few brand evangelists and they'll tell others who are interested and ready to buy. But don't try to buy them. Be helpful and they'll do the rest. Customer service is becoming one of the biggest differentiators for companies. The real role of social media is to gain retention and engage your current customers, not to acquire new ones.
2. Talking about your advertising will engage your social media community. In his case study on the Pure Michigan campaign, presenter Tim Schaden of Fluency Media talked about this surprising finding from their social media efforts. One of the things that got more comments and more people interested in their social media was talking about their advertising. People were interested in it. Schaden said they expanded that subject matter to talk about what went on behind the scenes of the commercials and they created content like videos that showed part of the process in creating the advertising.
3. Soon, your car will be able to read your tweets to you. Ford's social media brandprenuer, Scott Monty, showed us a demo of a new twitter app they're developing for their Ford SYNC system. Through voice commands he could get it to read the latest tweets he'd gotten. Hands free tweeting is coming to a car near you!
4. Zombies can be good salesmen. Also, in Scott Monty's presentation, we saw a video ad featuring the new wireless key system for the soon to be launched Ford Fiesta. It was a video created with one of their Fiesta Movement agents. A chained zombie was release to chase three car owners through the woods. The only one who escaped had the new key that wirelessly lets you open and start your car. It was a very funny ad.
5. Having a twitter and Internet enabled phone is changing the way we poop. In their Pardon My Interruption style presentation on all things mobile, Henry Balanon and Damian Rinfelmann referenced this quote. It was to point out that now we can take the web with us anywhere and it's changing our lives significantly. You can't get lost now, because you can use a number of mobile and web tools, including geolocation to get you where you need to go. You always have a camera with you. You carry all sorts of ways for social interaction. And it will only continue to change how we spend our time and interact with the world.
6. Publicly complementing your competitors is good for your company. GM's head of social media, Chris Barger, talked about taking the high road in this always-watching, high transparency world. Do it in terms of dealing with your critics and with your competition. If your competitor is doing something good, compliment them on it. Publicly. Being nice guys really does aid your reputation. Humanizing your company only works if the public likes the humans it sees.
7. Fear is a natural resource. A lot of speakers talked about how companies fear change, fear the new digital and social tools, fear letting the customer have more control of what's being said about their brand, fear being transparent the way you need to be these days, fear failure and others. Jay Adelson, former CEO of Digg gave an inspiring keynote speech on how true innovators do things a little crazy, because they don't fear failure – and that's how success happens. Several speakers talked about harnessing the energy of that fear to spur your company on. Sam Valenti of Ghostly said the scariest thing in the world is not dying; it's that split second before you die when you say, "oh crap, I should have done this"instead of just "oh, crap!" So, use the fear of facing that moment as a natural resource. Do the things you should have done now.
8. My living room will be a powerful computer. Shiv Singh of Razorfish talked about preparing for life in the post digital era – when we don't talk about digital anymore because it's just an everyday part of our life. He showed us a picture of a living room that looked like any living room today. Then he said some day, not too far off, that living room will have more computing power than all the laptops and cell phones in the room – and we're talking about a room filled with 700 computer and digital enthusiasts & professionals here. He said, not only will it be more powerful, you won't see it. It will be ambient and seamlessly worked into the room.
9. Spikes in online conversations align with spikes in sales. In his Saturday workshop on data and analytics, Ken Burbary of Ernst & Young presented a case study where he showed graphs for a footwear retail company. You could see the spikes in the graph monitoring online conversation coincided with spikes in sales. So, there was a direct correlation between online chatter and sales. Also, by monitoring what was being said, they found that 47% of the conversations were about availability and new product releases. Further looking into those conversations revealed that customers weren't able to get the shoe they wanted because it wasn't in stock. Once they discovered this inventory management problem through the online conversations, they were able to fix it.
10. Most presenters are very friendly and accessible. Okay, it's not that surprising, since many of them preach that we live in an age where you have to be helpful. And I have connected to some of them before. But, one good example of practicing what you preach was Ben Smithee. After the conference was over, Yaffe EVP Michael Morin and I were standing in the lobby talking about an upcoming nonprofit project we're working on and how it had some similar issues to one of the case studies that Ben Smithee of Fieldwork had presented in his afternoon workshop. When we realized he was standing about 20 feet away, we went and asked him about some of the issues we were dealing with. Not only did he graciously give us some great insights, he invited us to continue the conversation after he got back home.
These are just a few of he many insights from the Future Midwest conference that are clogging up my head. I look forward to sharing more of them with you in the weeks to come.