GFM @ SXSWi 2016: Monday Sessions

The final day of sessions is always bittersweet. We’re sad that things are coming to an end, but happy with all of the great insight, conversation and learning that has taken place this year at SXSWi!

Jon’s Take:

  • A weird theme emerged over the early sessions on Monday as I attended “Making Metrics Sexy: Find ROI in the (Excel) Sheets” and “Selling with Sex: Brand Partnerships and Dating Apps.” The first session included a very fun presentation that riffed on the classic book The Joy of Sex to discuss what can be a boring subject (analytics and measurement) in a fun and lighthearted way. The presenters from Edelman and Haven Beauty stressed the importance of creating separate reports and frequencies for each of the important audIMG_0932iences that need the data, defined by them as the social/digital team, then the marketing and public relations team and, finally, senior leadership. Equally important is that the graphics and numbers that are presented need to be custom created and designed for each individual client and product. Copying and pasting images created by social platforms or measurement tools makes your report look just like everyone else’s and doesn’t address the key metrics specific to that campaign.

  • “Brand Partnerships and Dating Apps” talked about how some brands have found great success working with a number of dating apps like Tinder and Bumble to reach customers in new, unique ways. Users offer up the very valuable information necessary to join these apps and that allows advertisers to target in ways they may not always be able to on other apps. One such campaign, from Irish agency eightytwenty, hammered home the brutal reality of sex trafficking in Ireland — with Tinder profiles telling victims’ stories and inviting users to swipe left on sex trafficking. Users would flick through each woman’s pictures and see her transform from a composed, made-up beauty to a badly beaten victim. The final slide read, “Your options are left or right. Sex trafficking victims have no options. You have the option to help end it now.”
  • In “Big Organizing: Digital Tools in Bernie Sanders’s Revolution,” three members of the Democratic hopeful’s digital team discussed how the Sanders campaign has been able to keep pace with candidates on both sides of the party divide that have much bigger teams, experience and much more money. The team uses a vast array of digital tools, many that were custom built in-house, to help organize and communicate with their hundreds of volunteer organizations all over the country.

Carissa’s Take:

  • One of my favorite takeaways from my first session of the day, “Flail or Fail: Marketing to Fandom,” was that fans DO NOT want to participate in corporate structure. The esteemed panel reminded attendees over and over again the importance of finding your most passionate fans and engaging with them where they are. And – if your fans exist on a nuanced platform like Reddit, make sure that you’re fluent in the platform before you try to engage or you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Much of the conversation wasn’t news to me, but I did appreciate the point that fans can’t become fans until you give them something to become fans of. This is especially smart for emerging brands and startups. A final takeaway that I’ve been hearing across sessions all week is that your fans aren’t just fans of your product (duh!) and partnerships can be key to partnering with and elevating your relationship with your fans.
  • Virtual reality (VR) is definitely the talk of SXSWi this year, so I was really excited to get to the VR session, “Virtual Reality: Streaming, Discovery and Monetization.” Not only were the speakers top notch (Oscar nominations, anyone?), but they really laid out the importance of producing good, quality content on VR, and they weren’t shy to say that achieving this goal takes trained professionals and lots of funding. Multiple times the speakers reminded the audience that poorly produced VR content served in a static (aka – just standing there not moving) environment can cause users to feel nausea or dizziness and they’re unlikely to want to experience VR again. For that reason, brands have an obligation both on behalf of their own brand and on behalf of the VR movement to pump the brakes and focus on good, quality content that creates a positive experience rather than just jumping on the bandwagon just to say they’re engaged in VR. I can’t wait to see where VR goes, but I feel like I can definitely wait before encouraging my clients to jump in with both feet. (Phew!)
  • When you find brands like Southwest Airlines and General Motors on a panel, it’s worth taking a listen and “Is Twitter the New Customer Call Center?” didn’t disappoint. While much of their best practices lined up with what we do at GFM, I loved the point from all panelists that “we can’t teach people to be nice, but we can teach them social media.” Forget the quest to find the young person who’s grown up with social media to run your social platforms. Instead, find someone who’s a rock star at engaging, empathizing, and communicating with people and you might have found your next best social media manager. Much like my earlier panel on fandom, they really emphasized the importance of finding people who live and breathe your topic, “teaching them shit” and letting them go. For example, someone who doesn’t live and breathe Corvettes would never survive in a Corvette forum. A little nuanced, but a good reminder that feverish fans need a feverish brand representative or the authenticity is lost.
  • My background with Morris Animal Foundation (a research-based organization) fed my interest in science early, and I’ve always appreciated the skills of any communicator who can boil a complicated scientific topic into something the average person can digest. For that reason, “#SCIENCE: A Revolution in Science Communication” was an awesome panel for me! The representatives from National Geographic, NASA and others talked about how science has gone really mainstream (remember the Pluto flyby?), but how there are also really niche audiences to serve at the same time. Thankfully social media offers platforms as diverse as the community’s interests and these brands are rising to the occasion. I can’t wait to share more at our download event in April.

~ Carissa and Jon

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