SXSW Preview Day 5: Facebook, Personal Data, and Your Wallet

Every year, SXSW Interactive (aka Geek Spring Break) gets a little bigger than the year before. To make things easier, we’ve combed the list of panels, looking for the best opportunities for affiliates and marketers. Each day this week, we’ll highlight a different day of panels at SXSW and provide an overview of the content.

What’s Social Commerce Got to Offer

We’re more likely to buy something when it’s been recommended by someone we know. So with the incredible growth of Facebook, why hasn’t social-based commerce taken over the world? In the session Social Commerce: Not Yet Taking Off Like Farmville, you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not when it comes to social commerce.

Panelists Craig Donato (Oodle), Greg Sterling (Sterling Market Intelligence), Peter Farrell (QVC), and Tara Hunt (Buyosphere) will explore what actually makes sense when it comes to social commerce and where it fits on the ecommerce spectrum. And since social commerce touches on so many other areas, expect to hear about its connection to mobile, geo-location, check-ins, daily deals, and even local business.

Last year, Donato reflected on what’s required for success:

Succeeding with social commerce requires marketers to act human. Rather than searching for information, consumers are discovering things through trusted referrals and recommendations. Instead of being a marketing medium driven by click-through rates and lead conversion, Facebook is a medium of relationships and conversations.

If you want help finding your social commerce balance, plan to attend this session at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Can You Deliver Customer Service via Facebook?

Facebook has created both opportunities and challenges for businesses. One of those challenges includes customer service. Panelists Bryan Person (Social Dynamx), Eric Ludwig (Rosetta Stone), Mark Williams (LiveWorld), and Molly DeMaagd (AT&T) will look at this issue during the session The Facebook Customer Service Challenge for Brands.

While customers are limited to 140 characters on Twitter in which to vent, they’ve got almost four times as much space on Facebook and they’re using it. But how can a company possibly respond to requests for instant support or address real-time complaints all the time? At the same time, they can’t be ignored because we know how fast memes can spread.

This panel will help you get realistic about what you can accomplish in the Facebook space by discussing staff coverage and frankly, whether you even should respond. Plus you’ll get a better sense of the right tone for different situations. Facebook isn’t going away, so learning to adapt your customer service to excel is a skill worth having. The session begins at 12:30 p.m.

Going Free

I have to admit to a bias on this next one. Doc Searls (Linux Journal) remains one of my favorite writers who keeps asking really smart questions about our relationships with technology and with each other. So I was excited to see his session, Are Free Customers Better Than Captive Ones?

One again, he’ll tackle issues that we still don’t have the answers to, but ones that deserve our time and attention: individuals owning their data. For all that I want to believe companies like Facebook and Google wouldn’t do anything malicious, there’s no question that they want you playing in their sandbox exclusively for their benefit. Does it really benefit us to march quietly into silos?

As Doc notes, with businesses using terms like “acquiring,” “capturing,” “locking in,” “owning,” and “managing” to describe their customers, it’s difficult to feel a sense of freedom online. Yes, the services we use can be very useful, but what’s the tradeoff? Also expect to hear more about Doc’s new book, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge. This session promises to be a thought provoking one, so come prepared to discuss at 3:30 p.m. Here’s a small preview of Doc’s thinking.

Your Wallet Goes Mobile

Few people stick solely to paying by cash or check. It’s reached the point where swiping a card just feels so much easier. But what if you didn’t even need the cards in your wallet? The last three panels I’ll highlight for SXSW focus on mobile wallets and the desire for flexible payment options. While I’m not sure that any of the three have THE answer, they all look to present some interesting ideas.

In the first session, Creating a Mobile Wallet Worth Having, presenter Omar Green (Intuit) will throw light on an issue that he believes some mobile wallet designers have overlooked: creating a solution worth using. Omar’s bigger point appears to focus on the notion that a real solution will take into account what it will require to change how we think about money. To that end, he’ll review the elements he believes need to be included for real mobile wallet success at 9:30 a.m.

The second session on mobile wallets takes a slightly more optimistic outlook. In How the Wallet Was Won: The End of Paper Receipts, Colleen Taylor (TechCrunch), David Barrett (Expensify), Jae Kim (Chi’Lantro BBQ), and Scott Brady (Project Slice) will tackle the question of why we still have paper receipts in a digital age.

So what might that look like? The panel will review what options are out there and the implications that such a switch might have on privacy and the use of individual data at 11 a.m.

The final panel on mobile wallet swings back the other way with a challenge from Sam Shrauger (PayPal). In the session Why a Mobile Wallet Isn’t Going to Be Enough (12:30 p.m. Tuesday), Shrauger plans to throws down the gauntlet and asks why people still won’t prefer to swipe their cards? There’s also the question of what benefit retailers get from digital wallets.

Lest you think he’s arguing for a return to the gold standard, think again. If anything I get the impression that Shrauger plans to argue that consumers want more flexibility, not single-source payments as he described last spring:

What do people want in a digital wallet? In a lot of ways, it’s actually pretty simple. Consumers want security and trust, which are absolutely crucial whenever you’re moving money. They also want convenience — something that is easy to use and saves them time, or money, or both. They want financial freedom and control — the ability to pay the way they want, on their own terms, for any transaction. They want ubiquity — the knowledge that their form of payment can and will be accepted by any other person or business they want to pay.

Given that PayPal released some new payment solutions, you can expect to hear at least a soft sales pitch. In spite of that I do think that you’ll want hear how one of the biggest payment providers sees the future of financial transactions.

This completes the first ReveNews preview of SXSW Interactive. Suffice to say I’m probably better prepared for SXSW than ever before. I only hope that you can say the same, too. Safe travels to all, and maybe we’ll cross paths in Texas next week.

If you missed the previous previews, you can read Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Photo credit: Scott Beale

About Britt Raybould

Britt Raybould has a passion for telling stories and she specializes in helping companies figure out how to tell their own stories. Through her firm, Write Bold, she shows companies how storytelling can define them, both to their customers and within their industry. When she remembers to, Britt blogs on her personal sites at and You can find Britt on Twitter @britter.

Twitter: britter

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