Key Takeaways from the 2013 SXSW Conference

Posted on March 20th, 2013 by True Media

This year I was lucky enough to attend my very first South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. It was also my first time visiting the Lone Star State. SXSW has been the launching ground for some of today’s social media giants, Twitter and Foursquare to name a few. But this year was not about social’s next big thing, it was about how brands need to mature their approach to social media. Below are my top five takeaways from the conference.
5. Ambient Location: The Future of Social Media?
Highlight was supposed to be the break out hit at last year’s SXSW and while it has grown steadily over the last year it’s still practically unheard of by people outside of the industry. Highlight is an ambient location based app that allows you through a digital platform to connect socially to people who are physically around you. It takes social media one step further by taking it off screen and into real life connections. I don’t think ambient location based apps are passé; I think Highlight and others are just ahead of their time. Before they can be adopted on a larger scale we need to get over the “creep factor.” Social norms for the technology have not yet been established by society. How will we use this technology? Is it acceptable to walk up and start a conversation with someone just because they are on Highlight? What about privacy and stalkers? Since the beginning of the internet society has always had its’ concerns about privacy and safety with online platforms, but once society reaches a tipping point and the benefits out way the concerns they will be ready to adopt ambient location based social apps. And when that happens it will add a whole new dimension to the social media landscape.
4. Social Media is NOT a Tactic
The world has caught on! Social Media isn’t a fad and it isn’t going anywhere and if your brand isn’t there then you are missing out. Don’t get me wrong not every brand should be on every social media channel, but with the diversity of platforms and ways to connect to your audience there’s a platform that is right for you. So now what? The really smart companies are integrating social media into their whole business. You may say, well I’ve been doing social for a while. If social to you is having a Facebook page or a Twitter account that you post to twice a week, then you are missing out on some great opportunities. Some big brands are using social media as their main outlet for customer services, using it in place of focus groups and studies to collect and analyze consumer insights and data, making it a part of their company culture and internal communication, integrating it with traditional media and marketing tactics and utilizing it in their Public Relations efforts. So don’t pigeon hole social media as a single tactic to raise brand awareness, it’s a strategy to improve your overall business.
3. A New Approach to Social ROI
First off when it comes to ROI you need to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Social media has a lot of great metrics we can use to measure the success of a campaign, impressions, click through rates, follower acquisition, engagement, etc., but when you compare social media with the rest of your marketing mix to evaluate its’ success make sure you aren’t comparing TV impressions with follower acquisition. And don’t just report on the social media impressions you paid for make sure to include earned impressions and organic activity in your end of campaign ROI analysis. Another way to measure the ROI of social media is by seeing how much money it is saving you, can you save some research costs by using your Facebook data and fan engagement to gain insight into your consumer instead of conducting a focus group? Also approach your advertising ROI holistically, can you get more lift and earned impressions from a commercial by adding a clever hashtag. Social media isn’t done in a vacuum, it is part of your whole marketing strategy and you can’t accurately quantify its’ ROI by analyzing it independently of your other marketing efforts.
2. Real Time Marketing: Social’s Shiny New Object
2013 will be the year of Real Time Marketing. Brands will be looking to set up their own Social Media Command Centers for big events and everyone will be looking to pull the next Oreo. Social Media Command Centers are great for brands that find themselves in the middle of a big event and have a dramatic increase in the amount of social conversations. These could either be an event sponsored by the brand like a music festival or a national event like the Super Bowl. I anticipate a lot of international brands injecting themselves into the online conversation during the 2014 World Cup. These events are easy to prepare for, you can make sure all the right people are in the room to make quick decisions and take advantage of opportunities since you know they are coming and you know people will be talking about them. What brands need to not lose sight of is that all social media marketing is in real time and they need to have the proper systems in place to act upon unexpected opportunities in a timely fashion. Too many brands are joining the conversation too late; you can’t talk about the lights going out during the Super Bowl three days later and expect to get any traction. A few reasons brands are arriving late to the conversation is because their social media managers work nine to five, they have to go through lengthy approval processes and the creative is done by someone else. Brands need to develop an ongoing social media system that is nimble and efficient so that they can advantage of the social conversation as it is taking place. They need to be prepared for the unexpected as well as plan ahead for the scheduled events.
1. Bring Value & Act Human
Big brand corporations are dead, long live the socially conscience business. Well they aren’t actually dead or gone, but the way big businesses are portraying themselves is changing. People no longer trust corporations; just saying your product is the best using clever advertising ploys is no longer cutting it. People more than ever are responding to the brands that have a conscience. And one way they are revealing this new found humanity is through their social media channels. They are doing this in two important ways bringing value and acting human. They recognize that social media is not about the hard sell and they are paying attention to why their audience is on that social channel; are they there to be entertained, to get information or to engage with others, and they are crafting their messages to meet those needs. The voice they are using to engage with their consumers is conversational, relaxed and very human; they aren’t writing press releases and official statements. And by bringing value and acting human brands are creating brand affinity and cultivating brand advocates, which is just as valuable as the hard sell because consumers are more likely to trust the opinion of a friend or family member about products and brands.
There were so many great speakers and panels at SXSW this year and not enough time, so let me know what was your key takeaway or favorite speaker in the comments below.