5 Big Ideas from SXSW to Uplevel Your Digital Marketing

The SXSW conference can be a lesson for brands in how to blend a face-to-face event with social, music, and film. The organizers, panelists, and attendees create an experience, lots of content, encourage ongoing social participation and promotion, which all leads to it being an entertaining and educational experience for attendees.

You have to understand, however, SXSW is huge. To get the most out of it, you have to go with a plan.

Then, you have to come back and organize your notes and mine slideshare for the panels you missed in order to get real value from it.

Here are the 5 Big Ideas I (re)learned and want to share from SXSW Interactive 2011.

1. It’s critical to uplevel focus on content and content marketing

  • People try to fix a web presence in one or two ways: add new technology or redesign; no focus on content.

From panel: Not My Job: The Ultimate Content Strategy Smackdown (click through for audio)

  • A discussion about content strategy should come around to how you leverage the content you have. The content is raw material, some of it good or great, some of it perhaps less so. But how you use it, package it, distribute it … can all add value and ensure a valuable asset, a value to both the audience and to the company.

From Blog Post:

  • By giving content away, you enable the ability to dramatically increase your global reach, ability to inspire, spread ideas, and engage a passionate user base.

From: TED: Radical Openness (click through for audio) http://www.slideshare.net/jessedee/south-by-southwest-2011-recap-3-7309997

2. It’s critical to create many different types of content.

  • It’s not just text. It’s convergence. Think apps, games, infographics, PPTs, PDFs, video, FAQs, etc.

From panel: Future 15, Convergence, Dan Shust

3. Learn how to create great content for the right context: Or, Say it short and make it a story.

  • The less you say, the more they’ll remember.
  • Our brains are wired for stories. Make it a short story (even though it takes longer to create because it’s more difficult).
  • Data isn’t a story. Data: the king died. Then, the queen died. Story: The king died. Then, the queen died of grief.
  • Successful communication is not about technology. It’s about story.

From: Saying It Short Writing Workshop with Betty Draper (click through for audio)

4. What are the necessary elements of a content strategy? OR, Cultivating relationships and building trust matter.

  1. Creation: the trick to marketing is having something so cool that you want to talk about it even if you weren’t in the business. (Hugh MacLeod)
  2. Curation: Brands have the expertise, the time, and the money to be great editors and curators of digital content. It seems reasonable to conclude that one part of being a great brand is now also being a great curator. (Steven Rosenbaum)
  3. Cultivation: We have entered a new era in which developing strong consumer relationships is pivotal to a brand or company’s success.(Gary Vaynerchuk)
  • The creation and curation of relevant content, coupled with the cultivation of a relationship, leads to trust.

Ok, so this panel wasn’t at SXSW 2011, but it’s a preso entitled Creating, curating, and Cultivating the Social Web, by Esteban Contreras, Social Media Manager at Samsung for the Marketing 2.0 and Social Media Conference 2011 in Paris on 3/28/2011, and it’s based on SXSWi 2011 so I’m including it here.


See slide 9 for tips on how to create.
See slide 26 for tips on how to curate.
See page 40 for tips on cultivation.

5. Rest/renewal breaks, game play, and doing social good can make us better more engaged people.

  • We’re more productive when we build in intermittent renewal along the way
  • We’re not meant to operate the way computers do – at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time
  • Your sense of purpose–to serve something greater than yourself–is a source of great energy
  • 4 nights in a row of 5 or fewer hours of sleep = functionally intoxicated.
  • The critical issue is the value you create, not the hours you work.
  • Myth: One hour less of sleep will add one hour of productivity to your day.

From panel: The 90 Minute Solution: Live Like a Sprinter (click through for audio)

  • Gaming unleashes our natural ability to be the best version of ourselves.
  • Our generation will achieve 10,000 hrs of gaming by the age of 21. We can harness that for good instead of escapism.
  • The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression.
  • 3-4 hours of Call of Duty decreases PTSD response in veterans. vs. 6 hrs of gym time for the same response.

From panel: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How they can change the world (click through for audio)

  • For every pair of shoes that are bought, Tom’s Shoes gives one pair away.
  • The best thing you can give your employees is the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.
  • You don’t need advertising: just focus on giving and that story will be told by your raving fans.

From keynote: Blake Mycoskie, Toms Shoes

Create Your Content Strategy: Bring your dish-to-pass

Potluck Dish-to-PassI attended my first SXSW this month, and I am intrigued by various sessions about creating and marketing content that seeks to inspire, entertain, and educate an audience, be it an audience of consumers who have grown more skeptical about what you have to offer, students who have become more and more disengaged by coursework and classrooms, and even some SXSW attendees who are less than enthralled with the size and spectacle that SXSW interactive has become.

See Various Sessions: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, Content First, Everything Else Second, Not My Job: Content Strategy Smackdown, Brave New World: Debating Brangs’ Role as Publishers and No Child Left Inside: Mobile Tech Meets Education.

These days I’m mainly focused on creating content for a large brand. In my opinion, creating and marketing compelling content for a brand can be one of the most important intersections of business, social media and marketing because it gives the brand something to have conversations about and around other than their products — conversations which, by and large, are falling on deaf ears. You can think of this more engaging and compelling content as the dish-to-pass that you bring to a potluck. Like most any meal among colleagues or friends, it’s the object that warms them up and creates an opening for conversation and connection.

Good Content & Good Potlucks
The content you create serves many purposes and can meet different business objectives. Like any good potluck — the event gets better the more different kinds of dishes there are. The types of content we can create may include videos, podcasts, text, slideshares, infographics, white papers, FAQs, apps, games, etc. Because of SEO issues and trying to serve the needs of a diverse audience, creating as many of these types of content as possible is important and necessary. Plus, you can consider how you might aggregate content to invite conversation and build engagement. Of course, when you’re ready to ramp things up, you can ask your users to help create content.

Having worked for several large brands, I know that content development and content aggregation can be one of the biggest challenges facing teams because of all of the different forms that “content” can take. And, from what I’ve seen, not many brands are staffed with expert content developers in all of these areas.

Content Strategy Priorities
Once you have your business objectives in hand and before you begin creating all these different types of content, you should consider the following.

1. Define the target audience
2. Identify the content topics that will appeal to each audience
3. Specify the level of content detail to provide and all associated metadata
4. Create appropriate calls to action to achieve business goals (engagement, sales, etc.)
5. Develop an editorial calendar to guide and prioritize the creation and publishing process

Next Steps
Once you have a content development strategy, then some next steps include:

1. content marketing: as you create the content, you also need to figure out the mix of paid media and social media you’re going to do to promote the content and build engagement around it, as well as how content aggregation might fit into your plans.
2. content measurement: define your plan so you know what content is working and you’re able to fine tune your efforts
3. content management: (not to be overlooked) you need to define the lifecycle of the content and what plans you have to maintain, archive, or delete.

In The Thank You Economy keynote, Gary Vaynerchuk advocated developing strong relationships with consumers and showing them that you care — not in just fuzzy-feel-good-ways — but in authentic ways before, during, and after the sale. As he writes in his book by the same name, “If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond” (ch 1).

Add one more quality to the list of what makes for great content: genuine. People can tell when you’re faking it.

Real social media conversations

In a couple conversations with people yesterday, friends suggested they are attempting to get greater meaning and value from the social communities where they participate.

Real conversations — not imitation, not facsimiles.

One of the people I follow (sorry — I can’t remember who) said something along the lines of — let’s have real conversations, not just collect friends.

Then, I was on the phone with another friend and he asked about getting value from Twitter because the people he follows just post the same things to Twitter and Facebook. In other words — they’re just publishing and not having (or truly seeking) real conversation.

So here’s my call/plea — let’s really connect more.

I am as guilty as the next person. I get busy or something comes up. However, in an ideal world, I would have remembered who made the comment about not just collecting friends and so I could have quoted him or her rather than just paraphrasing.

How do we do it? How do we connect more and have more real social media conversations?

1. Primarily, we should have more conversations and publish less canned content.

2. When we do publish our thoughts, opinions, information, etc., we should publish different content on each social platform so as to create more value for our different friends and followers.

3. We should comment more on others’ posts and in the forums in which we belong.

That’s what I’m going to be doing to try and really connect with the people I follow and in the communities where I belong. I hope to talk with you soon.

Can we do it? We can if we have integrity and value the commitment of our fans, friends, and followers to join us on multiple platforms.

Birthday Wishes Come True

birthday cakeInstead of enjoying a birthday dinner on the evening of my birth (back in May) with family and friends, this year found me traveling west for a job interview the next day. If you’ve been following me in other channels, you know the interviews went well. I started my new job with Intel just after Independence Day.

Living and working in California feels like freedom—not freedom from what I left behind, but in appreciating what lies before me. I feel like I’ve stumbled into a land of endless opportunity in California and in working at Intel.

I love the weather. It’s great for motorcycle riding, and also just for everyday life. In the middle of the day, I can enjoy the warmth and brilliant sunshine, yet the mornings and evenings are cool enough to open windows and enjoy the fresh air. Even though it’s been a month since I arrived, I still marvel at how beautiful it is day after day. My Midwest friends will know how outdoor plans have to be adjusted, summer or winter, on account of the ever-changing weather. I’m free from all that. (I know, I know, I’m not saying the E-word yet. Really, tho, it’s not part of long-time residents’ everyday vocabulary.)

So far the move has been all that I hoped it would be. It’s inspiring and challenging, and I love that.

Life is good. I’m grateful.

Business Development 2.0

In The Three Keys to Social Media Marketing, Hugh MacLeod talks about developing his business based on the concept of gift-giving. Every business day he sends out a new cartoon to the people on his email list. He does this to provide value, or gifts, before the sale.

Hugh writes:

If enough people like the gift, it’ll build up goodwill, they’ll tell their friends, and the list will grow. The more the list grows, the more people discover the trail of breadcrumbs that leads back to the work I actually get paid for.

Bob Pearson uses the term Pre-Commerce to describe the need for businesses to build business relationships in new ways before the actual sale in Why Pre-Commerce is the Next Frontier. As Bob points out, it’s a huge opportunity for businesses to transform their business models from waiting for customers to come to you into actively interacting with consumers prior to the sale and integrating it into your traditional ecommerce website.

To mix these ideas, I think big businesses, and not just independent entrepreneurs, need to consider gift giving as part of their business development plans. However, as Hugh points out, when you do it, it really needs to come across as a gift.

Here are 4 business development 2.0 gifts that companies should consider:

1. informational/educational products — Many entrepreneurs these days are offering informational products in the form of free ebooks. One of the popular informational products on Allstate.com is Bumper-to-Bumper Basics. The tool has interactive video guides that can help people learn more about insurance. It’s two years old now, and while it’s still effective and I’d say enjoyable to use, maybe a new iteration of the tool could combine it with Chat, or the ability for users to add comments to make it more “social” and truly interactive media.

2. casual games — On Vehicle Vibes (Allstate automotive blog) we have four different games that people can play. Within each one is a small call to action to get a quote when users are done playing. The games are fun to play. I’m addicted to Spider Solitare right now.

3. entertaining videos — With YouTube being the second most popular search engine, I think companies need to consider doing more fun and entertaining videos. This past summer I did some fun quiz show type casual videos, called Car Smarts. However, I think the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine is fantastic if you’ve got some budget dollars to play with.

4. Twitter posts — Even if you don’t have budget dollars to work with, all is not lost. One easy way to start small is to use Twitter as a community building tool. Even if you don’t have a blog or content to share, you can still provide small little gifts in the form of links to content that your followers would find useful. In that way, you’re providing value far in advance of when you might ask for something in return.

What do you think? What are additional cost-effective ways that businesses can provide gifts to consumers in advance of the traditional sale?

Big Brands in Social Media

Organizations that can bring humanity and flexibility to their interactions with other human beings will thrive.

Seth Godin, Linchpin

I really believe what Godin is saying in the above quote, and I’ve tried to put it into action in the work that I’ve done. From responding in a personal voice on Twitter, to doing man/woman-on-the-street video interviews myself, to hosting a weekly Internet radio show, these are all projects in which I’ve tried to bring a personal face and greater level of connection to a very conservative Fortune 100 brand. If you work for a large business, then you know that we usually hire out creatives for these types of things. So from that perspective, I’ve also taken risks in my career by doing more creative projects than simply managing the project or content that is produced.

In fact, I think more Fortune 500 brand social media managers, directors, and executives need to actually “do” social media for the reason Godin states, rather than delegating it to agencies or entry-level employees. However, that is not to say I’m recommending that big brands to abandon all caution and do something like the new TV show Undercover Boss, which I think is too risky for most brands, especially those that are already very risk-averse.

Below are 3 ways simple ways the people working for big brands can show a little humanity in the social media world without freaking out their more conservative colleagues.

1. small group events – There are several variations on this theme that start with bringing a small group of people together, treating them well, and asking for their help, opinions, and feedback. I’d also recommend doing social media PR around the event to generate word of mouth conversations in social networks. Also, don’t forget to follow-up with attendees to further build those relationships.

2. conference sponsorships – you don’t have to drop huge sums of money here, and yet you can show up in small but very visible ways that leave social media footprints. One of my favorite sponsorships from last year was at BlogWorldExpo. We sponsored the conference programs every day and I gave out a fixed number of Starbucks gift cards to attendees who found me and shared driving safety tips with my radio show listeners.

3. shoot casual video – One of the first social media projects I managed was back in 2008. We shot a series of eight informational videos that are more casual and friendly than the usual scripted ways we show up in regular TV advertising. It was a small but cautious step forward – we still had a video crew and scripts, but there were no suit and ties nor contrived set. We shot at a crew member’s house in their driveway. I know the customary advice is to interview employees about new programs or products, but inside a big corporation, it could likely involve multiple departments and a more lengthy approval process. If you go with more conservative video, then you also have the option of choosing less conventional distribution options — say on websites where you don’t traditionally appear or even on Facebook.

These are just a few ideas. There are lots of ways conservative big brands can show up in social media. If you’re working for a conservative brand, I’d recommend taking it one small step at a time. You can still find ways to put on a human face and create flexibility for the brand.