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YPO: Getting Social in Palo Alto


The next wave of growth is upon us.

Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

I spent last week in Palo Alto for the YPO Digital Marketing & Media Network Event, Business Is Social. In typical YPO fashion, the experience was top-notch.

While the agenda itself was outstanding-we met with higher-ups at Google (GOOG), Linked-in (LNKD), Facebook, and Twitter, vibed with the top brass from US Starcom and Engauge, and enjoyed a superb conversation with Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners-the 75 attending CEOs from around the world ensured that the most valuable aspect of the gathering was networking with the attending human capital.

While confidentiality is paramount to the YPO experience-and indeed, NDAs were executed along the way-I was granted permission to share elements of my journey-my takeaways, so to speak-so long as I don't violate expressed parameters of trust.

As such, and in an effort to effect positive change through digital understanding, here are some factoids, tidbits, and nuggets of wisdom that I absorbed in Silicon Valley, in no particular order:
  • If you have business aspirations, you must get social. While portal usage is down (-24%) and search is flat (+1%), the growth in social (+52%) is staggering.
  • Mobile was a persistent theme throughout the week. To quote one executive, "eight-year-olds will never know what a PC is; in their eyes, an Apple (AAPL) iPhone and the iPad is the computer."
  • Strategies in Silicon Valley are shifting from "pages" to "people and social patterns;" connecting communities who search for the same items or have similar interests is the next phase of social. It opens virtual doors to do the things you are already doing.
  • Social is relevant to every business; it's not about technology anymore as much of it is free. The groundwork has been laid for electronic means to serve as a fabric of human-to-human interaction. Growth is about vision, innovation, and implementation.
  • Your customers are all talking to each other; therefore, all businesses require social strategies even if they've yet to embrace it. Social technology is a highly constructive feedback loop; companies must leverage the power of community and the interaction therein.
  • Companies would be wise to focus their advertising at the point of commercial intent (identity + relationship = the point of commercial intent). Social has opened up the world; you, as a CEO, are no longer in "control."
  • "Never misjudge that a small, passionate group can change the world."
  • Use social strategies to address issues head on (example: the Dell (DELL) flaming notebook had the potential to be a public relations disaster but instead served as a catalyst for the company to update in real-time, answer questions, and build trust and transparency within their community).
  • The relationship with your audience requires three dynamics: long-term thinking, loyalty, and be authenticity. This can-and should-include "MLI," or "many lightweight interactions," and you must give up some control to build loyalty.
  • Leadership = Confidence + Humility.
  • Fail fast and fail smart.
  • Align your social strategy with a key strategic goal; examine 2012 and pick a goal where social will impact; start small but start NOW. Make sure you use the right metric and identify your business goals first. Don't oversaturate your audience.
  • Be disciplined about social and create structure; each relationship is important. Create a culture of sharing, marrying the power and value of offline network with digital connectivity.
  • Ask the right questions about value; "we tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot."
  • Avoid sarcasm.
  • There is a difference between a mission, which is measurable and achievable, and a vision, which is your dream.
  • There is a difference between a global network and a global company; create corporate followers to help bridge the gap, and maintain your culture at all costs.
  • Focus is the priority of scale; it is also the largest obstacle. Success is the ability to focus while remaining opportunistic.
  • Founders don't always make the best CEOs.
  • Infrastructure isn't always fun but it's an absolute necessity; you must constantly reinvent and re-architect. You must be able to change the engine while the plane is in the air.
  • You can no longer buy attention; you must earn it.
  • We live in a customer-driven economy; bilateral marketing no longer applies. Establish a presence, target and acquire your audience, engage them, and amplify your message through your network.
  • Social media will surpass email marketing spend in 2012. The media spend has shifted from the "what" to the "who." Connect, Engage, Influence, and Integrate (in that order)
  • Fun fact: The 140-character limit on Twitter was derived from the 160-character limit in SMS messaging minus 20 characters for the recipient identification.
  • Roger McNamee of Elevation partners shared an interactive dialogue that overviewed his Ten Hypotheses for Technology Investing (click here to view). When I inquired about his current take on the markets at large, he offered that his portfolio is comprised of three investments: Apple, Facebook, and T-Bills. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

Twitter: @todd_harrison

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