Dispatches from SXSW part 2

Dispatches from SXSW part 2

Some people see SXSW as the place to spot the next big thing in social media (Twitter and Foursquare both used it as launch pad into the mainstream) however the real value for me is in the cross-pollination of ideas that happen. The event attracts not only tech and social geeks but also music, film, foodie, marketing and fashion geeks (and yes if you’re not a geek before you arrive you officially are one when you leave).

The really interesting thing is seeing how ideas from different industries and cultures bounce around. It’s also fascinating as a social media marketer to see inside the headspace of the people creating the platforms we use for storytelling and communication on a daily basis.

These are some more things that caught my eye/thoughts:

The most interesting social/tech people aren’t tech people

Some of the most inspiring people at SXSW stumbled into using digital/social media whilst they were trying to do something else and found it a great way to tell their story or market their business.

Some examples:

The Twitter Betty Draper is a (i assume traditional background) copywriter who was curious about the storytelling abilities of Twitter check out Adbroad.com.

Anthony Bourdain is used to making career jumps (chef>novelist>food writer>TV presenter>transmedia type person) and is using Twitter, Tumblr and other social channels to fill in the gaps between shows.

There there are a bunch of other foodies using social channels to support their small businesses in Brooklyn: @fleishers,@onegirlcookies@luckypeach@brooklynbrewshop@momomilkbar

It’s about storytelling first and technology second

A point illustrated by the guys above is that the best campaigns and work comes when the focus in on telling a compelling human story rather than just finding a gimmicky way to use technology. This was a continued theme retold by everyone from cookie makers to Intel (their focus is on curating stories about how people use their products not so much the product themselves).

A great example is Google’s Project Rebrief which re-imagines campaigns from decades past for the digital era with some really innovative results. Watch out for a documentary on the project from the same director as Art & Copy shortly.

Think before you jump onto the next bandwagon

A related point and one that came up several times was that too many people jump onto the next trendy social media platform without thinking through how it will be used or what they really have to say on it. Pinterest was picked on as the example that social media marketers are getting pressured to use (personally think there are some good opportunities there but does require thought and commitment before using it). On the flipside of this argument if you can be an early adopter and use a new channel in an innovative way you can capitalize on the buzz surrounding it (Burberry used as an example of a brand that regularly does this).

The results of cross-pollination

As I started this post by saying cross-pollination is one of the key strengths of SXSW compared to other events (such as Cannes). One of the important areas of crossover is happening for me is the web start-up scene and ad agencies (also the Maker scene and advertising as Deep Local illustrate nicely). Movements/schools of thought which began in the web start-up scene such as Lean Start-ups and Agile development are now being used to describe new ways of approaching advertising. Both of these could have a profound impact on how marketing is approached in the digital age.


Most of the usual suspect social/web blogs have covered SXSW but also worth looking at is Slideshare which have many of the presentations.

- Dan -