With another South By Southwest (SXSW) in the books, Edelfolks from Texas share their biggest takeaways, observations and findings after immersing themselves in the nine-day festival. From Meerkat to artificial intelligence, robots and ISIS’ social presence, here are the team’s takeaways.
1. Spike Jones, Managing Director, Southwest – Where did Social Media go?
My biggest takeaway this year is that nobody was saying the words “social media” anymore. Maybe it’s because it’s now such a part of our everyday lives, but there were no panels on “how to use Twitter” or “best Facebook techniques.” Outside of Meerkat, the social media conversation finally gave way to what SXSW was founded on: smart people collaborating and birthing BIG IDEAS. There were conversations about robots, artificial intelligence, tech and how it’s helping/hindering us as humans. In other words, some really exciting stuff. No longer are we so focused on the what, but focused on the why – and more importantly – the how.
2. Dominic Ybarra, Technology Sector Lead, Southwest – Think global!
Countries from every region showed up in full force – bringing in tow a delegation of global startups to show off innovation, insert an authentic international viewpoint, talk cross-border policy and most of all, lure in top entrepreneurs and big brands with special visa programs and tax incentives. There’s always been a hint of international companies at SXSW, but this year it was evident that SXSW is a global stage like no other. The infusion of the unique cultures from around the globe just enhanced the collaboration, reminding us that the next big thing can (and will) come from anywhere.
3. Deven Nongbri, VP Digital, Houston – ISIS making inroads at… SXSW?
For the first time, the Islamic terrorist organization was a hot topic of conversation across a couple of different panels during the week-long festival. And it makes sense, since they make extensive use of social media to both promote their work and recruit others to their diabolical cause. What we saw in Austin was a close look at how the group was using public social platforms like Twitter and what private organizations, NGOs and governments were doing to track and battle the group online. What’s their secret? Themes included: people being drawn to drama and extraordinary visual storytelling, the emotional outrage that gets so much attention, and why Twitter should use a systematic, big data approach instead of a “whack-a-mole” method for shutting down participants who are using the platform to spread hate.
4. Jennifer Trou, Account Supervisor, Austin – Battling for earned media coverage
Obtaining earned media coverage at SXSW continues to become more challenging as more brands, more panels and more attendees create more white noise. The breakout of Interactive this year was Meerkat, with many media piloting its use to do live streams of the festival. The brands that earned the most coverage were the ones providing a benefit to festival-goers (beyond just a free beer), such as MasterCard’s Priceless Elevator Pitch, which awarded $15,000 to the winner of a pitching contest. To stand out at SXSW, the mandate remains clear – be proactive, be strategic and be ready to think on your feet.
5. Neven Simpson, Account Executive, Austin – Navigating ever-evolving platforms
Reoccurring themes for me all stemmed back to the plethora of platforms that exist for both news outlets and influencers. When Dan Rather states the nightly news won’t exist in 10 years, but Snapchat will, you know the game has changed in traditional media.
Similarly, Mashable’s CEO Pete Cashmore touched on the role of artificial intelligence in content writing in the future. Luckily robots won’t ever be able to provide the “human element” (we hope), but the key to good storytelling, now more than ever, is finding a new voice and leveraging new formats. We saw this first-hand throughout SXSW Interactive with the explosion of Meerkat, which really put a spotlight on in-the-moment audience interaction. While this style may not always be perfect, it makes audiences feel like they’re right there with you.
In a keynote, Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at Google[x], stated, “If you want to make a ton of progress, you have to make a ton of mistakes.” While we may not be inventing Google Glass or Self-Driving cars, the message still applies to us every day: if we’re not willing to take risks, explore new mediums, and push the boundaries of storytelling, we’ll never get ahead.
The biggest question for me coming out of SXSW was what types of platforms will we continue to see evolve and how will they be integrated into our communications strategies moving forward? We have more opportunity than ever to continue taking risks with our brands using new formats to share authentic, credible content.
This post and image were contributed by Neven Simpson