CenterTable @ SXSW 2017: Monday Sessions

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Art and inspiration are everywhere at SXSW.

The fourth day of South by: When sleep deprivation and too many creative thoughts in your head from the previous three days starts to cloud everything. But the sun came out today and we had an impressive lineup of speakers. Here are our top takeaways from Monday at SXSW 2017:

Jim’s Take:

  • I attended a wide variety of sessions today, the first being “Blending Leadership: Online and Offline,” where presenter Reshan Richards reviewed six pillars of leadership traits from his book. From a professional development standpoint, the main takeaway for me was, “Once you’ve become more efficient and find yourself with an extra 30 minutes or hour in your day, be intentional about how you fill that time. Don’t cram it with busy work. Rather, spend it on something you’d hoped to do from an aspirational standpoint.”

  • Adam Grant (Monday’s Keynote speaker) covered the demographic he calls “originals” – people who are averse to risk, but still entrepreneurial in nature. A couple of points that stood out from his inspirational talk:
    • People who keep their day jobs while getting a startup off the ground are 33 percent more successful than those who quit their jobs and jump right into their new company.
    • Successful companies place the highest priority on culture when hiring – more so than skill or talent level. The only issue on the backend is that you run the risk of limiting diversity. At some point, companies need to assess what diverse thinking they’re missing, and hire for those traits (along with being a culture fit).
    • I particularly liked his idea of having your work team play “Kill the Company” – tasking everyone with pretending they’re a competitor and finding the weaknesses in your own company through that lens. Then, finding ways to correct those threats or weaknesses. Team members are more likely to pinpoint shortcomings when it’s not considered criticism.
  • In an afternoon session titled, “Is Anyone Paying Attention to Video Advertising” the presenters highlighted a ton of data about user behavior when it comes to digital video advertising, including:
    • Video viewership is growing at a pace of 60 percent each year – but that also means there’s a lot of noise out there.
    • The average audience attention gap is 46 percent – meaning most viewers watch less than half of our videos. But that number is much, much better when you’ve created content for a specific audience, and then targeted that audience intelligently.
    • Two minutes or more of viewing time on a video translates to better brand affinity (20% of those viewers identify as being brand loyal) than those who watched for less than two minutes. The correlation between how long audiences watch your videos, and how brand loyal they are is readily apparent.
    • Ultimately, experiential/storytelling, or “equity” videos have a distinct impact, but you must have quality creative and be targeting the right audiences. In other words, “Video is like a Swiss Army knife. It can do almost anything, but not everything at once.”

Carissa’s Take:

  • I had kind of a unicorn of a day and every session I attended lent some kind of helpful wisdom! The day started with “Doctoring Up Your Social Media Advocacy,” a session that revolved around how healthcare-focused organizations can get their medical staff involved in social media. It’s a challenge for sure, considering HIPAA privacy guidelines and the concern about providing any information that could be interpreted as medical advice over social media. That said, there are amazing opportunities to connect with patients for organizations that are willing to take a chance. Of particular interest to me was Mayo Clinic’s robust online social media resource center. Among other uses, the website provides online training opportunities for employees to become familiar with “social media 101,” including how the various platforms work and organization-wide policies. This allows social media managers to focus 1:1 with staff who will (or should) take the strategic spotlight on behalf of the brand.
  • Our work with Be A Smart Ash inspires me every day, so I was particularly excited to hear from the inspirational panel behind “Pathways to Increase Diversity in the Outdoors.” The panel represented Latino Outdoors, Outdoor Afro, and the National Park Foundation, and more than one speaker got welled up talking about life-affirming experiences in nature. A few takeaways I really embraced from this panel included the importance of meeting people where they are. Instead of trying to swoop in with the solution, get to know people first. Understand their challenges, their background and their experiences so you can harness that information and work toward a shared, mutually agreed upon solution. Then, bring those solutions to life and use social media to amplify them and push them to your audiences. I also loved that the panel moderator, Melanie Mendez-Gonzales, took a few minutes at the end of the panel to ask the panelists “what do you need?” So simple, but a few “aha moments” happened and connections were made after she asked the question – a good reminder to slow down and think of others.
  • I cannot tell a lie, in my notes I typed “chatblots” and quickly realized I have a lot to learn – so thank goodness for the panel entitled “Facebook Messenger and the Rise of the Chatbot.” Four areas identified as most beneficial for the application of bots were customer service, transactions, media and branding. It also became quickly obvious that building a super smart bot is a real challenge – therefore if you want to dip your toe in the chatbot pool, just create a simple bot that delivers on its promise. We’re probably not all ready for this technology, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. A couple of good examples of chatbots – according to the panel – come from Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger.
  • Keds haven’t been on my mind since middle school, but I was glad to hear the brand was alive and well in the panel “The Rise of Real-Time & What it Means for Brands”. I was particularly inspired by CMO Emily Culp who shared that just a week ago the brand shared one of its most successful GIFs ever, focused on spring shoe styles. While Keds has many more sophisticated campaigns – including Be Bold For Change – sometimes it’s the most simple content like the spring style reveal that gets the most engagement. I was also really heartened to hear Emily reinforce the importance of a strong PR partner to ensure consistent messaging across platforms. We agree!
  • National Geographic's Instagram approach.

    National Geographic’s Instagram approach.

    Finally, it’s impossible (at least for me) to attend a session by National Geographic and not get inspired. “Letting Go & The New Way to Tell Visual Stories” outlined how the brand leverages Instagram. Can you believe that 105 photographers have the “keys to Instagram” on behalf of the brand? They have full login rights and are encouraged to post regularly. Guardrails include: allow at least 3 hours between posts and individual photographers cannot post more than three times in any given week. Yes, the team is – clearly – creating beautiful photographic content, but they’re trusted to get their text just right and to use their best judgment when it comes to what they post and when. They’re experimenting with Snapchat, too, where they’re actually making assignments and asking photographers specifically to gather content in a specific format specifically for the platform. It’s hard to go wrong on a visual platform when you’re National Geographic, but believe it or not they shared some “lessons learned”, like reminding your platform managers to sign out each time they’re done posting to avoid issues like pocket posts (a completely blank post once received >20K likes…) or security breaches. Even the big guys don’t always get it right!

~ Carissa and Jim

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