SXSW 2016 – Day 3
It was an early start and felt even earlier (thanks, day light savings time). First on the docket; “Analytics for Social Media.” We truly expected this one to a be a more intimate affair since all the social folks likely were running late after a fun Saturday night at SXSW and would fail to remember DST. Well we could not have been more wrong. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, this room was packed #SocialSardines. The host was Amber Armstrong, Social Marketing Leader for IBM. She shared some valuable opinions on social analysis, listening strategies, and advertising approach in the social space. There were some standout comments that are truthful when looking at the analysis. “Even the best sentiment monitors are still flawed. Until these monitors can sense sarcasm they are fundamentally flawed.” Never really thought about sarcasm being such an issue in the analysis but she is correct. That will never be exact. On the subject of social listening, she pointed that brands are not listening to their competition. Social needs to be able to pivot to the competition and then engage on the same subject matter with their own voice. This point was not a profound strategy from our perspective but it does point out the lack of execution from lagging brands who are still running against a traditional plug and play content calendar. Listening is a strategy play. She added “We (as social marketers) should also parallel listening key words with paid search keywords.” This, again, is lost on most brand strategies. Agreed, and point taken. Another thought provoking issue is that employee advocacy is carrying brands much further that any of our well thought strategies. “The lower the employee in terms of hierarchy, the more authentic the voice becomes. Hearing your CEO advocate product or services, has no authenticity and will never be as trusted as your lowest employee’s advocacy.” If you think about who you believe more, that makes complete sense. Once excused, we burst out the exit like a can of biscuits.
We needed some space so we walked the health care exhibit hall. SXSW Interactive plays host to over 70 health exhibitors (mostly tech startups) looking to meet with professionals in the field. A good deal of those startups are diving head first into wearable technologies (literally in some cases). The potential of these technologies is greatly profound to ultimately allow providers to assess the patient health and well-being remotely based on data collected from the worn technology. Imagine if that information was placed against an algorithm to prevent predictive illness or disease. Healthcare is about to change. You can feel it. We mingled with some of the vendors, exchanged a few cards, and then kept the train moving.
We’d heard about a Star Wars Tie Fighter from the actual film on display here at SXSW and this was one of those “that would be cool to see” moments that deserved a detour. We walked a few blocks to check it out. Pretty cool if you are nerds like us. We grabbed a quick bite for lunch and then ventured into the main convention hall.
The convention hall is the primary hub of SXSW. The main floor appears to be an endless space filled with tech vendors looking to showcase the latest and greatest. There was a lot of discussion leading up to SXSW that hyped virtual reality and augmented reality and we had no idea how much presence it would have here. Almost at every turn there was someone with a headset partaking in the experience. People were geeking out about it. We were privileged to try out virtual reality at the McDonald’s loft on Day 1. It was cool. Amazing? No. But everyone in the city was fascinated with virtual reality. There were even pedicabs that biked patrons through the city as they sat back in the carriage with headsets on experiencing virtual reality. It was crazy.
The other glaring observation today was that the attendance jumped up dramatically. The music and film portion comes at the heels of interactive and now those people were showing up. By the afternoon, there was no escaping the crowds. People lined the walls huddled around any power sources charging whatever devices they had on-hand, probably writing blogs with similar observations. The troubling part of increased attendance is that digitally connected attendees tend to keep their heads down, glued to their mobile devices likely tweeting, posting, or navigating the city for the next conference. We bump into each other all day long! Luckily all the people are cool and we’ve been able to bumper-car our way to the next conference.
Keynote speaker, Anthony Bourdain, is notoriously profane and an unapologetic foodie and story teller. We really wanted to hear his address to the interactive folks at SXSW for the very reason that he is unconventional and a no holds barred creator of content. He was interviewed for almost an hour and half and held back nothing. “My best advice to developers, creatives, film makers and whomever else is here: STOP GIVING A F*&%! The moment you let go of trying to please everyone is the moment you are free to create.” Damn, Tony! Just drop the mic and leave now. But he continued with many additional inspiring lines throughout the interview carrying on that theme. His success came blind. He approaches every project with a “who cares if it fails” attitude and knows he can simply just go back to whatever he was doing before. Sometimes things go sideways, but always just address the elephant in the room move on. Don’t try to sweep things under the rug. Just push it out there and don’t look back. This Bourdain prophecy resonated with the crowd with a standing ovation and we all left feeling a bit more confident in making things happen. And if they don’t, who cares? On to the next thing. For us, that next move was a food truck dinner and more mingling.
Casey Floyd – Exec. Digital Director
Tommy DiGioia – Exec. Creative Director