Well people, I made it. I’m writing to you from the perpetual state of frenzy, fun, and food coma that is SXSW Interactive. I went into the belly of the beast and lived to tell the tales — which in this case are some interesting learnings that I can take back and apply to my work in Seattle. The following are a few trends and takeaways that I picked up in sessions featuring speakers from IBM, BuzzFeed, PBS, Spredfast, and more.
1. Everyone Cares About Data
If the sheer number of SXSW sessions about “big data,” “data visualizations,” or “social data” didn’t give you a clue, let me just say this: everyone cares about data. Around the office, we have a little mantra: “Data or it didn’t happen.” Well, I think every single presenter at this conference would agree. One of my first sessions of the week was “Visual Storytelling: The Power of Design + Data” and the line went around the block.
In the BuzzFeed, IBM, and Team Detroit sessions everyone called out the fact that, “90% of all data in the world has been created in the last 2 years.” When marketers from BuzzFeed or PBS are talking about “success,” they refer to metrics like engagement, reach, etc. Data and analysis were at the foundation of every session I went to this year.
2. Content Visibility Requires Creativity
Hey, it’s no secret: it’s hard out there for organic reach. But don’t worry, big brands aren’t impervious to this either! The PBS team addressed these issues during their panel by offering up solutions such as influencer outreach, brand partnerships, etc. The moral of the story is that it’s hard out there, and it’s probably going to get harder, so we’re all going to have to step our game up and out of the box.
3. Give Away Your Best Content for Free
BuzzFeed’s digital team spoke a LOT this year. They were popping up all over the place — keynotes, panels, sessions, you name it. But, I’m not complaining! Not only is BuzzFeed the go-to listicle AND news source for my generation, and their content + social strategy is pretty impressive. One of my favorite sessions of the week featured Summer Burton, who heads up BuzzFeed’s “BFF” team. Her entire team’s focus is to develop content for the sake of developing content. There are no calls-to-action, no link backs, no nothing. They simply create the content and watch what happens.
It works for Buzzfeed. Distributing content to your audience in the least taxing way possible will give you the greatest return.
4. Social Strategies Must Account for Nuances
Last year, I ran a Tweet timing study and we found that spikes in engagement came around the same time most people get out of business meetings. Granted, this is just a theory (backed up by some interesting data), but even I thought it was a little far-fetched to assume that our audience’s schedule could have that big of an effect on our engagement / traffic. However, Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media at Business Wire, echoed this concept of understanding your audience’s everyday life. Ehrlich preached that you have to hit people with things they can digest when they want to digest them. For example, in her experience, video does not perform well in the morning. No one has time to watch a 5-minute news recap in the morning – we have places to be! Paying attention to these small nuances can produce big returns and save you a ton of time scratching your head.
5. Real-Time Marketing: There Are Only Winners (Mostly)
Often times when we see brands employ real-time marketing, we’re inclined to declare a “winner.” The attitude towards real-time marketing is similar to that of the rap game: You’re either the clear-cut winner or just the first to lose. This is nice in theory, but in reality, Drake is amazing, and so is Kendrick Lamar. I’m getting off topic (sorry it’s been a long week). With real-time marketing, all the brands usually win. Chris Kerns of Spredfast debriefed about his book that he wrote on this subject and presented some very compelling data on the success of these campaigns across the board. In most examples, 9/10 or 12/14 brands that tapped into a pop-culture conversation would see lifts in their per-post engagement. So aren’t they all winners? Not being the best shouldn’t thwart a brand from taking their shot at Dunk in the Dark greatness.
Now, I’ve got to get to bed. I have my final day of sessions tomorrow. Tune in via @simplymeasured!