Day one of South by Southwest was wet and rainy but the first set of sessions still brought an energy and excitement that was amplified by the presence of President Obama. While the GFM team wasn’t chosen to see him there were still some great, unique sessions to see.
- Based on my personal history with and love for animals, I couldn’t have picked a better way to start my first day at SXSWi than with a talk from Joel Sartore from National Geographic’s Photo Ark Of course, I loved learning about Joe’s work and the highly endangered animals he photographs, but as a parent I was particularly intrigued by his observation that our kids don’t get outside as much as we used to. As a result, they are less connected to nature and, when it comes to endangered species, have less reason to care about saving them than – perhaps – older generations do. This is a fascinating intersection of “real life” and social media. While I wish everyone could have the experiences I’ve had of touching an okapi’s unbelievably soft fur or holding a bottle for a baby black rhino, the truth is that most people will never have that experience in real life. Thus, leveraging National Geographic’s highly visual social media properties like Facebook and Instagram, for example, sharing photos and stories and statistics over social media may be the only way to ever inspire them to step up and make a difference. The team talked about their social media approach of fostering curiosity while making content accessible and fun, and they emphasized their filters of making content timely, relatable and relevant. I loved the nod to our own Platform POV® process. It feels pretty good to be in line with National Geographic!
- Switching gears entirely, I enjoyed attending “The 170-Year-Old Startup: AP” talk by editor Kathleen Carroll. She shared quite a bit about the AP’s history and how the company has been on the cutting edge of innovation since its founding way back in 1846. Particularly interesting to me were her insights regarding what it takes to stay relevant a) for so long and b) in an industry that seems to be drowning in its own traditions. Much like our founder’s approach to GroundFloor Media’s culture, Kathleen indicated that key to their growth and innovation are their people. The AP hires people to ask the tough questions – and that sometimes means asking tough internal questions of the organization and its structure, too. She also advocates creating “corners where people can play with stuff – and just see what happens!” We’re honored to work with the AP from a variety of angles, and look forward to seeing what the next 170 years brings!
- Finally, I attended a workshop called “Digital Parenting: Raising Balanced Innovators” that was hosted by the founder of Torch. As a parent first and foremost who deals with the world of social media on a daily basis, I find social media to be the most amazing and also the most terrifying landscape ever. I found a great deal of camaraderie in this session learning that I’m not the only one who finds it hard to model the behaviors I want my kids to take with technology and social media (no technology at the table during dinner, no sneaking peeks at my phone while at stop lights, etc…) I also took a lot of comfort from learning that teaching your kids good “digital citizenship” looks a lot like good, old-fashioned parenting. Engage with your kids and take an interest in what they’re doing with technology. Be curious, not controlling – everyone wants to resist when someone’s trying to control their actions, adults, kids, everyone! And – most importantly – technology/social media is here to stay, so let’s look at the positive opportunities and embrace them. Encourage your kids to get outside, give them alternatives to spending too much time on technology, but also help them learn how to make the most of these new and amazing technologies. The future is bright if we work together!
- Today started and ended with sessions from the Facebook Insights team on parenting, mobile moments and the learnings that the platform has generated about its users. While there weren’t the actionable takeaways that I hoped there would be, the statistics about how social media and mobile devices have changed family and parenting roles were striking. I was also very impressed by the design of Facebook’s presentations, easily the best I have seen in my four years at SXSWi (not to mention countless non-SXSWi meetings).
- Messaging platforms and the unique ways that marketers are starting to engage with them were bound to be a big theme at SXSWi this year, and it didn’t take long to get some great takeaways. Millennials and younger generations are using messaging apps more than they do traditional social media platforms, and brands attempting to “meet them where they are” have to follow a different set of rules. This is true “opt-in” engagement that requires great content and utility. Check out the Dove “Love Your Curls” emoji keyboard for a great example of a brand meeting a true audience desire.
- “Go Native or Go Home” was an interesting session on native advertising because the panel included both publishers and brands discussing the key success factors for creating great sponsored content. The VP of Marketing for West Elm shared a great example of a brand finding a unique way to work with content creators to showcase their products in a non-traditional way. Doesn’t the Splat Series make you want to take a road trip (and buy a new chair…)?
Day one is in the books!
~ Carissa McCabe and Jon Woods