5 Themes from SXSWi and the Takeaways for Marketers
The Social Media Link team recently returned from another year in Austin, TX for South by Southwest Interactive. This year’s conference drew more than 30,000(!) people to discuss the hottest topics of our interactive world (and eat some barbeque). Each session and panel illuminated a variety of subjects, and through the lens of a marketer, there was an abundant amount of valuable lessons to learn.
The Definition of “Real-Time Marketing” is Changing and For the Better.
We can all agree that the demand for instant brand response is at its absolute highest. This expectation has caused many brands and agencies to construct elaborate war rooms and news centers dedicated solely to acting on breaking news or public events. “Culture jacking” was a term coined by Capital One’s Senior Director of Social Media, Noha Abdalla, when speaking about her team’s strategy. “We’re not about the hot conversation, we’re about the right conversation and what makes sense for our brand.” To echo this, Natanya Anderson, Director of Social Media from Whole Foods, posed that real time marketing should be looked at as a community management tool, not as a PR stunt competing to get attention. “Real time marketing is about one-to-one interactions everyday. The point of social media is one individual connecting with another. Brands need to remember this.”
One can see this as a sign that Real Time Marketing is maturing and it’s putting its focus back on the consumer’s interest versus the brand’s interest. It’s about taking the effort to listen to consumer conversation, and timely acting upon it when it makes sense – rather than desperately attempting to insert your brand into every pop culture event. RTM should be about organizing a team of people that feel empowered and educated to make smart decisions quickly. To accomplish this, Bryan Jones, VP of Marketing at Dell, spoke to his strategy of creating a company that is integrated entirely with social. Jones says, “Build a social organization, not a social team.”
Content, Trust, Transparency: the Keys to the Future.
Not surprisingly, many panels discussed the democratization of content led by social media and the resulting clouded and desensitized attention of consumers. From the session “Are We All Producers Now?” we listened to Dana Brunetti, Executive Producer of such shows as House of Cards, The Social Network and the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey movie, stress the fact that everyone has the capacity to produce content, and that digital and social will continue to become a monstrous distribution channel. Brands need to remember that not only do they have to compete with other brands for visibility, but they also have to compete with consumer content creators. So how do brands break through?
In the session “The Future of Marketing: Advocacy” we learned that consumers receive up 4,500 commercial messages a day and the vast majority are untrusted and carry no action. The content of the future needs to not only be relevant, unique, timely, entertaining (which is difficult enough, right?) but also it must rely on credible sources sharing it. Undoubtedly, consumers bring the most coveted trait to spread content: TRUST. Brands must rely on consumers, notably their advocates, to relay messaging to the masses if they expect their content to have any chance of staying power.
Big Data, Personalization and Privacy – Can You Have One Without the Others?
While attending many panels, one could interpret a few dueling notions. On one hand, sessions addressing “Wearable Technology,” or 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki’s Keynote “Genetics in our Everyday Lives,” and sessions on personalized retail experiences in “Accelerating Innovation in Retail” preached the coming era of data being leveraged to provide personalized experiences. From health/fitness to medicine to the shopping experience, people will increasingly demand that the data they are constantly providing to companies deliver some type of convenience and relevancy to their lives. Brands are not immune to this expectation. Brands have to stop just collecting Big Data. They need to act upon it by giving the consumer a real benefit.
Conversely, data privacy was on the forefront of many conversations, notably culminated by an interview with Edward Snowden. The amount of data we as consumers share, both actively and passively, is insurmountable. The debate over privacy continues, and smart marketers will be on the proactive end rather than the reactive. The takeaway is those who will win are those constantly thinking about the personal data that they collect, and whether it provides a real benefit to the consumer in return.
Earned Media. Staying Power? Predictability?
It should come as no surprise that a session on ‘The Science of Predicting Earned Media” would attract an absolutely jam-packed room of people. Earned media is the crown jewel for marketers. As Kate Sirkin, EVP of Global Research at Starcom MediaVest said “Anything with a consumer endorsement works better than paid media.” Furthermore, choice-based (earned) impressions pale in comparison to passive (paid) impressions. But earned media is often the biggest challenge. Seraij Bhawarni, Chief Analytics Officier at Visible Measures, said, “earned media is a new animal because we are completely at the mercy of the consumers” and Sirkin’s comment “there is a lot of promise and disappointment in earned media.”
To effectively execute an earned media strategy, the important lesson is recognizing that while earned media for a marketer is about making media work harder, to consumers, it’s about what’s sharable. And ultimately, the most shareable content is the content that matters. Brands can no longer rely on their content to organically reach their consumers on social channels. Hershey’s Senior Manager of Digital Content, Marty Baker, told the audience that of his 12 million Facebook fans, he can only reach 8% organically. The lesson is if brands want to organically navigate through consumer’s newsfeeds, they must rely on the consumers to do it.
Haven’t You Heard? Science is Cool Now. Takeaway for Marketers: Spark Curiosity.
Two of this year’s keynotes, Dr. Neil DeGrass Tyson, astrophysicist and host of the new COSMOS series, and Adam Savage, host of Discovery’s Mythbusters series, would most likely proudly wear the phrase “Geek” or “Nerd.” And if you think those traits are synonymous with being unpopular or disliked, you are sorely mistaken. During his keynote, Dr. Tyson spoke mostly to the curiosity of the human spirit, and that science, space and the like are enormous avenues for our inquiring nature. Moreover, Adam Savage reiterated the union of Science and Art and that investigation, questions, failure and creativity are what drives our civilization to expand and grow.
What’s the takeaway here for marketers? Brands have an enormous opportunity to foster curiosity, wonder and inspiration. We live in a day that embraces inquisitiveness and pushes boundaries. We can’t be afraid to mirror this sentiment in our content and communication with consumers. Perhaps it’s time that consumers and brands alike embrace their “nerd” side proudly.