4 Content Marketing Insights From SXSW Interactive
Just about everything I’d heard about South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) turned out to be true: the five-day festival is crowded, overwhelming, exhausting, and inspiring. If you’ve always wanted to go but couldn’t justify the commitment, I say do it. Between the innovation on display and the energizing conversations with fellow attendees, it’s well worth the chaos.
The scope of the event is comprehensive, covering everything from digital tools to the lifecycle of an Internet meme. So I tried to take it all in with a content marketing filter, both to keep my experience relevant and my sanity intact. Following are my four key insights and takeaways.
1. Online communities are becoming smaller, more exclusive
Some pundits are already positing that Facebook has hit its peak and is headed toward an inevitable decline. Meanwhile, the online media world is fragmenting into more platforms and content streams owned by more creators. The result seems to be a move from one-social-platform-fits-all toward more contextual communities focused on specific concerns, interests, geographic regions, and so on.
In a panel discussion, “The Rise of Contextual Social Networks,” Sarah Leary, founder of NextDoor, said that smaller networks were designed to solve specific problems. Rather than simply “staying connected” in a general way (Facebook), users are parsing themselves among smaller groups that have similar goals, concerns, or interests, like a private, neighborhood-specific social network. The result is more meaningful and productive engagement.
Knowing your audience has always been a fundamental online marketing principal. But now, rather than passively attracting your audience, brands need to work harder to discover where their niche audiences are congregating online so they can meet their informational needs within those contexts.
2. Everyone should pay attention to social micro-video platforms
What the what, you say?! I know. I just had a several-minute conversation with my colleagues to figure out what to call the latest platforms like Vine and Tout. Whatever you want to call them, these tools for creating short, social videos seem poised to become the next big thing.
Why? These platforms provide an opportunity for users to express themselves or share relevant information in a more digestible way. Plus, they’re all mobile friendly and frictionless in that once you’ve downloaded the app, you can record and send a video within a few clicks. Bottom line, social video platforms are visual, easy to use, and easy to consume—all stuff that Web users gravitate toward.
Ultimately, though, users will be the ones to determine what’s relevant about social video platforms, so smart marketers should pay close attention to how they’re used and consumed. They should also think about these platforms as strategic assets to their content marketing efforts rather than outlets to broadcast more meaningless noise.
(Speaking of engaging social micro-video use, Shaquille O’Neil has a delightful Tout feed, which includes some posts from the conference itself. Also see my blurry Tweetpic of Shaq on the show floor. [Editor’s note: That’s not all that blurry, and actually quite close. Well played!] As a funny aside, I happened to snap the photo right before Shaq was pitched by two brothers at the Speakerfy booth. Shaq must have been serious when he said he liked the product, because Speakerfy was one of the Pitch Shaq contest winners. Well done guys!)
3. Enterprise social media is still experiencing growing pains
The “Large Enterprise Social Media Meetup,” hosted by Noah Kuttler of IBM, produced an engaging conversation among the agencies and in-house practitioners who attended (myself included, of course). I came away sensing that large enterprises still face challenges as they integrate social media into their marketing efforts.
Some of the discussion points included:
- How can I give my bloggers freedom to engage while also maintaining brand guidelines?
- What are some best practices for dealing with negative social media?
- How can I get more executive buy-in for my social media plans?
- How can I encourage more of my team to participate in social media?
- How can I maintain control of our messaging across social media platforms?
Any of this sound familiar? It certainly did for me. In fact, every challenge I heard was something that we at Tendo have faced at some point with our clients. It was clear to me that social media within enterprises is still somewhat green as a practice.
But to that end, I see a great opportunity for content and social media strategists to work together to help large enterprises overcome their social dilemmas. (In fact, we’ve written on the enterprise social media topic quite extensively.)
4. The digital world is bleeding into the physical world
I heard some describing SXSWi 2013 as “the year of hardware.” The 3-D printer demos were buzzing strong, as was the Leap Motion tent demoing its motion sensor device that allows users to interact with their screens using hand motions.
Outside of the featured devices, a strong theme throughout the conference was how can technology help solve real-world problems, like renewing a prescription (Walgreens mobile app) or copying text between devices (Clippick)? Clearly, mobile is a driver here.
What does this mean for content marketing? Customers aren’t online simply to pass the time or engage statically. They expect convenience and optimization; they want to get things done using technology that interacts with their information and devices. Brands creating digital content should look for ways to marry the physical and virtual worlds.
(Listen to a replay of the Leap Motion presentation.)
Did you attend SXSWi? I’d love to hear what you thought or if you had any specific content marketing insights.