With another SXSW interactive festival in the books, now comes the hard part: reviewing and digesting the information that came from five days and the 21 sessions I attended over that time. Without a doubt, companies are finding new and unique ways to interact with their audiences, many times in a one-on-one manner, that create a genuine connection to brands and causes. Here are my takeaways from the final day at SXSW:
- In “Gen Y&Z Expectations to Transform Customer Experience” the presenters discussed generational differences and how the youngest generation (Gen Z) has never known a world without the Internet. They are big on social causes and collecting (Pinterest was brought up more times that I could count), and have high expectations about how, when and where they should be able to connect to their social networks. Research and insights into your various audiences, and where and how they interact in the digital space is more important than ever.
- John Wuebben’s review of his book “Content is Currency: Developing Powerful Content for Web & Mobile” he outlined several items that public relations professionals have been advising their clients about for years: start with content and build from there, its about relationship building, and becoming a trusted resource to your customers.
- I had the pleasure of rounding out my SXSW experience by attending Anthony Bourdain’s session about his show’s use of social media. Ultimately, they utilize social platforms to provide a deeper audience experience with the show, and further humanize the show’s staff. Even with the foul-mouthed Bourdain, social media is about building relationships.
Ultimately, I came away with two overarching pieces of information that I will be continually sharing with my clients and peers:
1) As search engines and web users become savvier, marketers are less and less able to manipulate the system to get your brand in front of customers. Its about building relationships and credibility with your audiences through relevant and meaningful content. If you’re looking for a social media firm, be sure to ask them about their approach to and experience with content development. At GFM our approach has always been, and will always be – talk about your customer first and yourself second. Or “Content with Intent” as we like to call it.
2) Social media is absolutely different than mass media. In fact, social media is actually micro-media in many ways. Brands can’t continue developing limited messages for the masses. Social media allows us to build deeper relationships with our customers, customize messages and content to meet their needs, and truly make one-on-one niche, and long term connections.
Jim makes many great points in his summary above so I won’t repeat them. Content was definitely king at SXSWi 2012, and I can’t help but realize that there needs to be a shift, or at least a lot more attention paid to, how much time we spend planning versus actually executing when it comes to social media. Planning is critical, please don’t think I am disputing that. But it’s so easy to spend far too long in the strategy spin cycle that you leave yourself little to no time to curate really interesting content, as well as “on the fly” content to deepen relationships when your fans start to talk back to you and interacting in new ways.
- My final day started by attending a Q&A with Pinterest founder, Ben Silbermann. I was surprised by both his humility and genuine surprise regarding the mass adoption for the platform. He is certainly focused on improving the core of Pinterest before moving into a formal monetization program, but recognized the strong SEO success many e-retailers are already reporting. Expanded profiles and video pinning are just two upcoming enhancements to look for soon. I do wish however he would have spent some time talking about future metrics tools (Is something like a Facebook Insights in the works?) and more time addressing recent copyright infringement arguments. All in all though, it was neat to be just a few rows away from the golden child of SXSWi 2012.
- Next I sat in a core conversation called “How to Lead a Social Revolution and Make a Profit.” Core conversations went one of two ways at SXSWi—either no one talked and it was extremely dull or people raised exceptional points and drove the conversation to new levels. Thankfully, this session fit the latter profile. A point that resonated with me is that nonprofits too often lead with the “bad” or the “shocking” of their cause, and in turn do not make interacting or giving fun for their supporters. The session moderator urged nonprofits to lead with interactions that are more engaging or positive in order to eventually pull people into the grittier conversation. This all goes back to Jim and my comments about content—it takes much longer to brainstorm and develop these sorts of messages, but in the end they may move the needle more!
- I also rounded out SXSWi by listening to Anthony Bourdain and his cast of production characters. To say they are pushing the boundaries is an understatement, but I left thinking about how their social media savvy has opened up the show to an entirely new generation of Bourdain users/fans. I loved when he talked about how TV networks care how many people watch his show at 10 p.m. when it airs—but he doesn’t give a [insert expected Bourdain expletive]. Bourdain just wants people to watch the show, whether it be on the Travel Channel, YouTube, Hulu, etc. This reminds us all that content can no longer live in one place if you want to grow your audience. Figure out where they are and bring it to them everywhere you possible can without spreading yourself too thin that you can’t MAINTAIN this good content.
We hope you enjoyed our SXSWi 2012 Austin adventures and look forward to continuing the conversation here on the GFM blog moving forward!
~Alexis Anderson and Jim Licko