Internet World expo

The Internet World exhibition  was held at Earls Court from 10-12 May. This huge event comprised five shows: Content Management, Social Media, Digital & Mobile Marketing, eCommerce & mCommerce and Connectivity & Hosting.

A quick scan of the floor plan suggests there were about 204 stands. Exhibitors were doing what they always do at this type of show, handing out leaflets, lollipops and sweets and scanning visitor badges to enter competitions.

I was amused at the sight of two representatives of a company specialising in SEO (search engine optimisation) looking rather lonely and unloved as the visitors passed by their stand. If only they could replicate their online expertise in the real world.

In addition to the exhibitor stands, there were six presentation theatres, each seating an audience of about 100. Each of the them hosted 23 half-hour presentations over the three days, so there were 138 to choose from. Many were over-subscribed and I can confirm that the standard was high. They were well-organised and well-presented by confident and authoritative speakers, often with real case-studies to back up the theory. It was refreshing to see slideshows created with alternatives to MS PowerPoint. Some of them were so dense with data that it was impossible for the note-takers in the audience to keep pace, so I hope that they will be published online shortly, as some speakers promised.

To give you a flavour, here are a few points that I jotted down:

  • In the last 12 months, there has been a 100% increase in the time people spend on social networks;
  • Facebook report that online interaction between friends has doubled in the last 6 months;
  • Facebook also point out that every 50 fans a business has give it potential access to their 6,000 friends;
  • 84% of people seek recommendations prior to making a buying decision and those from their friends carry more weight;
  • 78% of internet users conduct their product research online;
  • 86% of people think positively of a business that addresses a problem, even if they are unable to resolve it to the satisfaction of the complainant;
  • 68% of brand websites have seen a decline in traffic in the last year;
  • Only task-based sessions will confirm whether users behave as they claim to, in other words, they are not to be trusted!
  • Eye-tracking technology, intended to demonstrate how users behave on a website, confirms that men have not evolved much in recent millennia, as keen on cleavage as ever. No surprise there, then.

There was also a Keynote Theatre and numerous bars and lounges typically associated with this type of business expo.

Busy networking

The keynote speakers included Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, ebay, LinkedIn and many more from the world of big business. I missed Duncan Bannatyne’s presentation, but you can see that, and much more at moviecom.

I spent two full days at the show and attended seven seminars. I must admit that I am not at all interested in the technical details surrounding hosting and connectivity, but I can list the overriding impressions I came home with:

  • Social media is here now, to stay, with over 30 million Facebook users alone in the UK. It represents an unprecedented opportunity to small and medium-sized businesses and a threat to any big businesses that don’t get it right. Big companies that recognise the full implications of social media may need to restructure their business to take full advantage of it;
  • The future is mobile. In some countries, smartphones already account for over 50% of web browsing. We all need to make sure our websites work on mobile platforms because that’s how most of us will be viewing them soon, according to the relentless and well-documented trends. Mobile applications offer another raft of opportunities, which can also link up with social media platforms;
  • Content management systems should be able to manage not only websites, but email campaigns, social media, print and customer feedback. Workflows and procedures need to be established, to include validation and ensure communications are coherent, consistent and on-brand. This has implications for a typical corporate’s ‘silo’ structure – e.g. where does customer service sit in this new model?
  • Indications are that the amount of online video content is about to explode;
  • There is a buzz around live video communication, offering business a new way to manage customer services, for example;
  • Cloud computing is very much in vogue. This is more great news for small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have the infrastructure or in-house expertise of their larger competitors. The implication is that you can lease software, data storage and all the other necessary IT services that are not core to your business. A year ago, I wondered if security concerns would smother this trend, but that seems not to be the case.

A busy stand at the show

I was pleased to hear the message that ‘content is king’ is still in currency, which must encourage traditional publishers that there are opportunities for them to grasp, as well as the obvious threats to counter.

I left the show with the impression that many businesses are waking up to the relentless and inevitable trends that are sweeping through their world, though many of them are not sure what to do about them. Big business has most to lose and the biggest changes to make to ensure it is not left behind. Can an elephant learn to dance?

Small and medium-sized enterprises can react more quickly and stand to gain most from engagement with their customers, but many of them lack the expertise or resources to plan a strategy and put it into effect. Doing it badly would be as bad as not doing it at all. There has to be a strong case for consultancy and outsourcing as a matter of urgency, to help them take steps in the right direction before they either lose touch with their customers, or see their competitors start to engage with them instead.

© 2011

A well-earned rest

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