Phil Soffer is Vice President of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies. He has held a number of positions at the company influencing the direction of the platform, most recently running Product Management.
Now that a full week has gone by and we’re no longer basking in the afterglow, it's time to reflect a little bit about LiNC, our recent customer conference.
First, as Paul Greenberg, Jeremiah Owyang, and many of our customers have told us, LiNC was a great conference. For those of you who weren't there – imagine a room big enough to do maintenance on a decent sized passenger plane, filled to overflowing with customers, prospects, and industry luminaries, all passionate about Lithium and Social CRM. Standing in front of that crowd was an invigorating experience – you could actually feel everyone’s excitement, rippling forward through the audience! As I half-joked up on the stage, "This thing is getting big. This is really public speaking now!"
We wanted all of our conference attendees to understand that they are part of a movement. To help create that feeling, we enlisted the aid of two great keynote speakers: Paul Greenberg, who is known as "The Godfather of Social CRM," and Gina Debogovich, the social media strategist for Best Buy.
Paul provided the context that many of our customers were looking for. What they're doing in their communities is part of a larger trend toward greater participation by consumers in the creation of value, and companies that recognize that and learn how to profit from it are going to be successful. Gina showed what that actually looks like from the inside. Best Buy encourages its employees to participate socially, actively seeks innovation, deals forthrightly and honestly with public criticism, and adapts quickly to change. Gina's own story, as one who started in the Geek Squad and is now globally recognized as a social media innovator, was deeply inspiring to me and to all of the customers I spoke to.
Gina - everyone at Lithium is both proud and a little bit awestruck about the work that you're doing and the role that we're playing in it. Thank you so much for speaking so eloquently at our conference. Everyone here who heard your talk is working just a little bit harder -- and we got you on tape, so we've got the ultimate employee motivation video!
A second goal of LiNC was to introduce our customers to the Scout Labs platform, and more broadly to encourage them to think beyond the community and become social media evangelists within their organizations. The indefatigable Liza Sperling demo'ed the Scout Labs product over 20 times to positive reviews. Customers were impressed that they could identify advocates in forums other than their own, but sometimes shocked to find that their people were out there on Twitter telling people to contact support, without providing a URL or phone number. It's quite amazing what you can learn in a few minutes with Scout Labs.
I think we've made grade strides in moving our collective thinking from "web presence" to "presence on the web" (thanks to Brent Leary for the elegant turn-of-phrase). One of our customers told me that after a year of meditating on our famous "galactic diagram," a few minutes with the Scout Labs tool made the vision for Social CRM much more concrete. I hope we can make that even clearer in the days and months ahead.
Of course, since this was a customer conference we wanted to recognize the achievements of our customers. To that end, we had a contest for best deployments in various categories. A couple of highlights: in the "best community story" category, a dyslexic member of the Knights of Ni with 10,000+ posts on NI’s community out-dueled a couple of horse-racing enthusiasts who met on the TVG/Betfair community and subsequently got married. Not content with placing, Betfair came back and took the cup for the best ROI award by showing that people who join the community end up betting more than people who don’t. HP won the first annual "they are using the hell out of our stuff award." They also won the informal award for most attendees: over 25 HP employees were there, including a long-last college friend of Matt Thomson’s who turns out to be a social media evangelist with a taste for screaming infants. (I resisted the temptation to invite her back to my place to indulge that.)
A nice byproduct of having all of these social media types in one place is that we got to take over Twitter for a little while. So much so, in fact, that they rate-limited us thinking we were a spam bot (to the tune of 2,000+ tweets on Day 1 alone!). In addition to Jeremiah’s aforementioned Tweet, some Twitter highlights included a recent congratulations from Steve Graff, kudos from Juniper’s Anton Chiang, a note about how we create community among our customers from Dave Kim, thumbs-up on the direction from Kevin Ryan and anyone who uses our admin tool, and FutureShop Laura’s plaudits for my MC’ing (or, read differently, her dismissal of all of the stuff I otherwise do for a living).
Next year we're going to integrate Twitter more fully into the conference. We'd better warn them ahead of time.
People had a great time at the Disney Museum, though Dan Ziman reports that at least three non-employees were walking around with almost empty wine glasses for a couple of minutes – a serious breach of customer conference etiquette for which the event management company was summarily reprimanded.
And so another customer conference ends, and we look ahead to next year – if not (per Jeremiah's suggestion) at Moscone then surely at some place bigger and grander. Congratulations to all of our customers who made the event so great, and to all those too numerous to name who helped create content, organize the event, and make sure everyone had a good and edifying time. It's an honor to work with all of you, and I hope we will continue to be worthy of your trust and hard work.
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