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WanderlustWe ended up at a collective total of ten presentations in the first day. Ambitious? Maybe. But there’s always more than you can take in at SXSWi. The lines were Friday-typical long, the pace was fast, and if we had to pick a theme it would probably be “Know What Your Audience Wants.”  Here are our takeaways from the first day of South by Southwest 2014:

Jim’s Take: 

This is the first day of four years of going to SXSWi that nearly every panel stressed the importance of including your audience and their opinions in all of your marketing and communications plans. And as such, I had a great day.

  • In “The New Digital Age” Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen discussed the Digital Age’s impact on countries in the middle of a revolution, information leaks and breaches, and government censorship. My favorite sentiment came from Schmidt, “All of today’s problems are being solved by today’s nimble startups and entrepreneurs. Everything from access to food to how you and I commute to work.”
  • For a session titled “What social media analytics can’t tell you” there were an awful lot of analytics shared. Namely, 68% of all Facebook users are fairly invisible, or producing less than 25% of the content on Facebook. Typical analytics only measure those who are active. The key for brands will be finding ways to engage and activate those “invisible” communities.
  • The last session of the day was a “Future 15” format where four presenters each talk for only 15 minutes. This was also my favorite session of the day. In “Memes with Meaning,” the discussion revolved around how as kids there were never any limitations on creativity. Kids can have a tea party with Barbie and Godzilla without anyone telling them its a bad idea or could never happen. The beauty of the visual web is that its done the same thing for adults. Openness, rule breaking and collaborations are not only allowed, they’re encouraged. We can all use more of all of those things.
  • The final of the “Future 15” sessions discussed how brands become “cult-like.” How do companies like Harley-Davison, Lulu Lemon and GoPro all have such a cult following? The session was summed up wonderfully with this, “These brands weren’t born great, they became great through a series of difficult decisions.” Those decisions are things like sacrificing profits for doing good, or putting your employees first. People want to buy from companies who are willing to do those kinds of things.

Jon’s Take: 

Day one was highlighted by some difficult session decisions and a few disappointing speakers but all in all it was a great start to the conference.

  • The first session that I took in for SXSWi 2014 ended up being my favorite of the day. “Building relationships through real-time relevance” was a presentation from Team Detroit, an agency that gave some great talks last year, and that centered around the one-on-one social media conversations that real-time media allows. The first portion of the session focused on the increased use of co-branded content and involving fans and influencers in the creation of that content. In one great example, which I’ll come back to in a bit, Ford Motor Company tapped active Vine users, with already engaged fan-bases, to help them create fun videos that helped their popularity on the platform explode in a very short period of time.
  • Later in the same session someone in the audience asked “but how do you know if your audience even cares about the content that you’re creating?” One of the panelists responded with a thought that really stuck with me. She said that it’s important to measure your brand’s share of advocacy against it’s competitors. In other words, which brand has the most positive conversation happening on each social media platform? If it isn’t yours, that should be your first goal. If it is yours, begin to look at ancillary industry categories and go after that leader.
  • Another great session on Friday was a little bit different than the standard – a conversation around the merging of content and commerce. While the discussion was more aimed at media companies than brands, the lines between the two are quickly become so blurred that they are no longer visible (think Red Bull, which is now more of a media company than it is a product). The fact of the matter is brands are now publishers. New, direct mediums (specifically the owned social media channels) allow for direct communication with consumers. No longer is a media company required to be a go-between. Take the time to understand audience on each of the platforms you’re using, and give them what they want AND need.

~Jim Licko and Jon Woods

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