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SXSW final wrap-up: transmedia, mobile & making it through crowdfunding

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By Kaye Blum

My final wrap-up of SXSW Interactive and Film sessions below. SXSW Music reports will soon be published on my music blog eyeswideclosed.com (in production).

SXSW13 Hipster warning

SXSW13 Hipster warning: If only they read the signs…

My main areas of interest at SXSW Interactive (and Film) 2013 were social media, transmedia and mobile. There was a huge range of sessions and workshops on social (of which I attended as many as was physically possible), hence it gleaned the majority of my report coverage.

SXSW queues for mobile

The queue for a session on mobile at SXSW13

SXSW13 mobile session queue blues cured by Chevy

SXSW13 queue blues cured by getting mobile in a Corvette

As mentioned in my first post from SXSW, there weren’t a lot of mobile themed sessions. Of the few they did have, most were held in a small venue called Wanderlust, which was a yoga studio with around 100 seats (if that). With the huge growth of mobile it was a surprising choice of venue. Consequently there were queues stretching around the block for these sessions and I missed out on both (one just after the opening night party which I’d forfeited to ensure I could get up early enough the next morning to attend). I consoled myself by taking a test-drive of the latest Corvette around the block (what a great branding exercise from Chevy).

I was also keen to attend any SXSW Film sessions featuring transmedia, interactive or cross-platform projects. Given the Film sessions overlapped between Interactive and Music, it was a challenge making the five or six I’d highlighted in the schedule. I managed to make it to two. The first, Exploring place with cross-platform storytelling, included some excellent speakers providing insights to their projects (Michel Reilhac, Liz Nord, Danny Harris and Mike Knowlton).

The second, 10 things I learned fro Kim Jong IL to make an interactive doc, featured Ann Shin and Hannah Donegan from Fathom Film Group; plus Media Ridha and Adrian Bellna from Toronto-based Jam3 (who made the award-winning Bear71).

They presented some great insights to the making of their interactive doco The Defector including spreading the word, doing your research, finance options, pushing boundaries, and the importance of testing.

I also attended a session on crowdfunding called Hacking the crowd – artists as entrepreneurs featuring musician Kim Boekbinder (The Impossible Girl) and

Molly Crabapple, Founder of Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. Both have built careers through crowdfunding and on their own, no management or labels or galleries involved.

They provided informal yet detailed accounts of their lives, creative drives, and how crowdfunding provided a powerful platform to launch their careers. Key take-out was a comment from Kim: “What we used to call art, photography, writing and music is now just called content. I make my living as a creator – it’s not about the content I’m putting out… I’m really really lucky, and I’d like a world where everybody’s that lucky.” Hell yeah.

Overall, SXSW Interactive was a full-on, intensive and pretty exhausting experience – but I still got a lot out of the sessions I attended and found it an enriching – albeit information-overloading – experience.

Being a first-timer, I learned some valuable lessons on how to make it a better experience next time. These include getting to Austin a few days before the conference actually starts to get your bearings on the many conference locations spread across town and to get over the jet-lag. I flew in from Australia via LA the day before it started which was almost two days in transit – I think it took me the whole first week to recover.

SXSW transport alternatives

Quicker than the bus? Smart SXSW transport alternatives.

I also recommend securing central accommodation at any cost (if budget is not an issue as it was for me this time) to avoid time-consuming bus rides or relying on the virtually non-existent cabs. City hotels start booking out in August, so be quick.

Plus, make an effort to go to as many of the social events that your liver can handle: it’s a great way to meet peers (I spent too much time running from panel session to workshops to more sessions, not wanting to miss out!).

Most importantly: accept that you can’t do everything on offer (and there were  over 1,000 interactive sessions to choose from this year). Try to choose a few sessions that are completely unrelated to your chosen topics – these are the sessions that can provide the most inspiration.

Would I go back? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure it provided enough bang for buck, with the cost of travel thrown in. It seemed to be over-subscribed, too much going on at once and too many people (there were 30,621 Interactive participants, plus 16,297 for Film and 25,119 for Music, although some of these numbers could have attended all three – the stats provided don’t specify).

However I fell in love with cowboy boots, duck tacos and the city of Austin itself; so I’d like to return one day and see it in its usual state without the 70,000 or so SXSW punters jammed into the city. For now, Austin, it’s over ‘n’ out.

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Community Managers, data and storytelling – the key themes of social media sessions at SXSW Interactive 2013

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By Kaye Blum

It has taken me months to get around to publishing the remainder of my SXSW posts…that’s down to bouncing from Austin to LA to San Fran to Melbourne then driving 1,800km to where I am now; plus three trips to Sydney and one to Brisbane since the drive. Excuses done; now on with the posts! 

The Austin Motel - embracing the Austin weirdness for SXSW2013

The Austin Motel – embracing the Austin weirdness for SXSW2013

Unsurprisingly, this year’s SXSW Interactive had a heavy focus on social media, in the form of both panels and workshops. Community Management was one of the buzzwords – or should I say phrases – and it’s a rapidly growing occupational title in the States. I attended three workshops and several panel sessions to get the low-down.

Social media panel sessions

 The first panel session I caught was presented by OMMA (Online Marketing Media Advertising), titled What marketers should ask themselves about social.

CEO, Chairman & Founder of the Dachis Group, Jeffrey Dachis was also the founder of Razorfish, an innovative digital agency that created the first banner ad and first web animation (the infamous blue dot) 18 years ago (my how time flies).

Dachis couldn’t initially figure out how social media would matter to marketing. Then it dawned on him: DATA. Social could be huge if we could capture all the data.

“The democratisation of the tools of self expression have enabled us to express our ideas in a way we’ve never seen before,” he said.

“It’s a huge shift in the way we communicate our ideas… the largest shift in communications in the history of mankind. We are going to re-boot the way companies market.”

He stated that there is a shift from mass communications to massive communicators.

“With digital and social we have the power to engage audiences… we are shifting from advertising to engagement,” he added.

Author, commentator, and advertising and marketing analyst Bob Garfield concurred: “If you’re using blanket advertising to get your message across, you’re doing it all wrong. The world has changed.” The industrial revolution increased scale; the digital revolution has decimated scale.

I completely agree with Garfield: I believe the traditional model for marketing and advertising has been flipped on its head. We are now operating in an entirely different media landscape – one that keeps shifting and evolving. Social media is still in its infancy and we are slowly feeling our way through, trying what works and what doesn’t.

After doing the rounds of the SXSW trade show, I dropped in on Sustainable storytelling from disposable content to hear how creative people are “experimenting with storytelling across digital and interactive platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr, to tell stories that sustain engagement and evolve as their audiences grow.” It was a great insight to some fascinating work by the likes of Kenyatta Cheese, Paul Octavious and Sarah Kramer.

A cleverly titled session – How to measure social media – pulled in plenty of punters keen for a solution. It was presented by Nicole Kelly who recently published a book on the subject. She raised some valid points:

  • CEOs think marketers don’t have influence, can’t measure ROI
  • We need to redefine ROI – from return on investment to return on influence, or return on engagement
  • While there are currently no tools for measuring social media data available online, the fact that it’s online means it’s measurable.

Using the Sales Funnel diagram, she showed where social media aligns with brand awareness, lead generation, retention; suggesting that it should align with just one of these values rather than all three. She had additional tips on the path to sales conversion, but I wonder if her book will become quickly outdated as tech companies and the major social media players plug away at providing more direct metrics and tools.

Social media workshops

I attended three workshops on social media, including The Community Manager: enter the C-suite, with Lead Social Strategist at LiveFyre Nick Cicero, BrokenOpenMedia Founder & Lead Strategist Natalie Rodic Marsan, and The Huffington Post Community Manager Tim McDonald. The promo blurb claimed there is little support or understanding of the Community Manager’s role; so this session aimed to present a brief overview of the role, then focussed on participants collaborating to create a Community Manager Manifesto. The final manifesto can be found here and below. It was useful to hear how other Community Managers from a range of industries defined their roles, given there is often limited support or understanding of the role across organisations. In Australia, times that by 100(000).

The workshop titled How to get fans to spread your message proposed to walk attendees through step-by-step instructions on how to create, customize, execute and measure a social media program. However when a substantial amount of time (but probably not that long – I’m relatively impatient) had been spent on asking the audience to define an advocate, I took my cue to head off to another session.

The workshop I found most significant was called Storytelling – the next wave of social media marketing.

Panelists included Principal of Big Deal PR Inc. Carri Bugbee and Director of Social Strategy and Content Programming at LiveWorld Mark Williams. LiveWorld is an expert storytelling company for brands. Mark calls himself the “forest gump” of social media because he has been around since 1999, developing online communities and social media campaigns and strategies for Fortune 500 brands.

He explained that storytelling has always been the core of smart marketing. People remember stories, not messages. “The stories customers tell about your product are not necessarily the same stories that the brand is telling.”

Think of a telco or cellphone company – they’re selling their coverage, but customers might not agree that coverage is the benefit (or even that great, especially in regional parts of Australia). What the telcos should be telling is what their service is good for, what the phone or service can do.

He noted that Facebook had recently acquired Storylane, a storytelling platform. This shows the direction that Facebook is heading.

Social storytelling puts your customers’ stories as part of the brand story, he explained. There are solid business reasons for doing this, including raising ROI.

Carri, whose flight to Austin had been delayed and had Skyped into the packed auditorium on the big screen, raised the Old Spice campaign. There were no tracking tools, so the creative team were using basic excel spreadsheets,  she explained. They didn’t know what they were going to do with the data when they started collecting it, just thought it might be important.

They continued the workshop with their top 10 tips for social storytelling, with a couple of key points I highlighted:

  • Use each social media platform to its best advantage
  • Create stand-alone platform experiences that are enhanced by cross-platform participation
  • Ensure you have team members who really know your platforms – tech and community expertise
  • Tell your story in pictures (including video) as well as words
  • If you don’t have storytelling talent on your team, get outside help and develop an internal team (may take a while) or hire experienced writers/storytellers for project work.

The rest of the workshop delved into some of the principles of storytelling, with a valid reminder that social networks by their very nature are storytelling mediums, invented for people to tell their stories. The end. (Almost…)

Personal observations

What I found most surprising after attending these social media sessions was that no-one made a direct reference to social media as the digital evolution of old-school direct marketing – or relationship marketing, as it was often defined. Coming from a background as a DM copywriter, I see distinct parallels. Amongst other things, it’s about fostering relationships with brand advocates – and that’s one of the most powerful tools any marketer can utilise.

 

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