SXSWi: We Went, We Learned, We Share

SXSW is a great way to stay connected to the pulse of the interactive world, which is often a difficult task given the constant and rapid change within the landscape. SXSW provides us with a window into the latest trends and ways of thinking that helps keep us, our clients and the industry from becoming stale. By forcing ourselves to continue to evolve we are better prepared for the challenges of always staying ahead of the curve.

Here are some of the key learnings members of our team took away from their time at SXSW:

The Convergence of Tinkering and Business

by Greg de Lima, Analyst

One of the common threads of panels I saw, though unintentionally, was the art of tinkering. When we were kids we always used to tinker (e.g., Tinker Toys, Erector sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ever trusty LEGO). While kids today have their own ways of tinkering, being hands-on provided an intimate knowledge of the way things worked. Today, those kids have grown up. The same kids that were building the crazy roller coaster out of K’Nex are now making their own vinegar for their local restaurants (See: DIY: The New Culinary Movement) and opting to make or source instead of buying. Ultimately, DIY has changed this country in more ways than one. Technology, Social Media, and attitude have led to a resurgence in DIY attitude and is starting to reshape businesses small and large.

Taking Social From Online to Offline

by Claire Colleran, Account Director

There was an interesting theme of taking social from online to offline. An example was from Oreo, having users create a personalized cookie online. A touch screen with a built-in app allowed for the selection of frosting and cookies. The various customizations were based on trending tweets. These users then had the ability to not only pick up their personalized cookie but watch it 3D print. This is crucial because it bridges the gap from online to offline, it delivers a really cool product in the hands of the users and builds very strong brand advocacy. 

The Email Effect

by John Andrews, Chief Marketing Officer

Remember when email had amazing open rates? 30%, 40% even 50%+ was not unheard of in the early days of email. Predictably, competition for the inbox grew, more marketers were sending more messages, and open rates plummeted. The same thing is occurring in social channels and more and more marketers are pushing out more and more content. Engagement rate is the new open rate, and it’s declining.

As the social media space continues to mature, brands are using advanced strategies and tools to manage their social presence, but many are struggling with diminishing returns on their efforts because there is a greater volume of content competing for a finite consumer attention span. As with any media, the challenge is to produce enough interesting, high-quality content, distribute it to enough channels and monitor and adjust based on audience response.Be interesting SXSW

“I’ll be interested if you’ll be interesting,” Victor Lee, Vice President of Digital for Hasbro shared this great shot in his presentation to the Brand Innovators conference at SXSWi with a simple yet powerful approach – be interesting!

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Growing Opportunities within Interest-Specific Online Communities

by Chris Siciliano, Community Manager 

The appearance of niche-style social media platforms like Garage Social, which bills itself as “the premier online community for auto enthusiasts,” suggests that there are growing opportunities within interest-specific online communities. This could be a mixed blessing for social media marketers. As opposed to Facebook or Twitter, which by nature appeal to the broadest possible audiences, social sharing sites devoted to a single interest might respond especially well to coordinated, relevant messaging. However, for marketers with finite resources (i.e., all of us), an ever-growing number of niche sites presents us with a question: How do we pay attention to them all?

Wearables, Virtual Reality, and Really Smart Cars

by Darrough West, Director of Technology, and Craig Carter, Copywriter

All the new tech coming out is amazing. Oculus Rift is an incredible VR experience and it seemed like every other person was sporting Google Glass. Aside from that all the new wearables like rings, bracelets and other things that you can use to manipulate programs on your computer were amazing. In short, I think we are all going to be Cyborgs driving Kit like cars in the near future. There’s opportunity for new types of social gamification, getting better personal data and above all, more fun.

Speaking of fun, we thought Subway had a really cool promotion at SXSW. You would put on the headset seen below. The device is called the NeuroSky Mindwave and it’s relatively inexpensive.

Mindwave Headset

It would make contact with a few key points on your head in order to measure brainwave activity. The more you concentrated, the more you could affect objects on the screen.

As far as promotions go, its strengths definitely lie in live events. People need to see it being used to really appreciate what it can do, and it really gets noticed. The Subway booth always had a crowd around it. People were really intrigued by it.

As far as businesses that could use it. Any type of education/learning/tech brand could easily benefit from it (e.g., Who’s the smartest user?, Who’s capable of mind control?, etc.) It would also be pretty cool if you could have some type of online competition and then the winners would go to a live event to compete and use these devices.

Engagement in Real Time

by Chris Badders, Business Development Coordinator

Though I work at a social media agency, I’ve long considered myself to be in two different groups when it comes to engaging on social media: 1) a Facebook early adopter (and lifer); 2) a lurker.

Three interactions changed my perception on both at the same time.

1. When I attended an event held by Sprinklr, their social media team tweeted back within three minutes of each Instagram post I posted from their party.

2. Hilton Hotels has a dedicated handle (@HiltonSuggests) where you can tweet for city-specific questions, and their hospitality team will answer them for you. My interaction was trying to find a place to watch the Duke v. UNC basketball game. Within an hour of tweeting, they recommended three places depending on what kind of ambiance I was in the mood for.

3. When I was leaving Austin, I ran into trouble with my flight home. The woman at the customer service counter was amazingly helpful and courteous (a rarity in the airport, as most people know) that I tweeted to @AmericanAir my experience. Not only did they tweet back, they asked for her name and which airport it was so that they could tell her managers about her good work.

My key takeaway from these interactions goes beyond “this is cool that a brand is talking to me.” What they did for me was emphasize how powerful and meaningful a person-to-person interaction can be for someone. Some brands do this really well, and some are still figuring out their strategy for doing so. Bottom line, to me, is that if you want to really connect to those individuals that aren’t used to being forced into a social media interaction (i.e. your lurkers), then you need to wow them and make them feel like you’re the only one they’re paying attention to.

Kudos to Sprinklr, Hilton, and American Airlines.


One of our core values at Ignite Social Media is #AlwaysLearning, this is to benefit ourselves, our clients, our agency, and the greater social media marketing community. Many of the panels and discussions held by industry leaders open up communication paths that allow everyone involved to expand their knowledge while never settling for the current trends. Forward thinking is the key to remaining competitive, and keeping up with events like SXSW is important to always be a part of that ongoing conversation.

Did you go to SXSWi? What was your key takeaway? Share in the comments below!

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