3 SXSW 2014 Takeaways

Austin Convention Center @ SXSW

Though I’ve been to the Music portion of SXSW at least four and a half times, this year marked my first visit to the Interactive side.

If you haven’t been, picture a small urban downtown area full of bars and hotels, then overlay a massive whorl of startup founders, designers and developers, agency types, tech-y VCs, and geeks of all stripes (all in various degrees of taco-and-beer consumption) spilling into and out of conference rooms all day and partying all night at open bars sponsored by mobile app companies. It’s overwhelming. And awesome.

And here’s what I learned from the experience as it pertains to my role as Manager of Interactive Strategy at Summit.

3 SXSW Takeaways

1. Social/Mobile Advocacy Is the New Direct Response Marketing for Nonprofits

Nonprofits with a compelling mission or cause can create change by using fast interactions on social media and through mobile apps as engines for viral activation and acquiring new donors. This is not new so much as something that’s reached critical mass as the mobile experience has become better and more all-encompassing.

  • PETA uses a game-like mobile apps to make it fun and easy for participants to petition lawmakers to crack down on businesses that mistreat animals.
  • Dosomething.org uses content-driven texting campaigns to get teens talking and thinking about pregnancy risks by enabling them to send their peers a “pregnancy text.”

These strategies don’t always lead to direct revenue in the near-term, but they are the first direct-response interactions in an ongoing relationship. They’re designed to hook donors when they’re young, move them up the ladder, while leveraging their friend networks to acquire new supporters. When appropriate, they can be used to solicit direct gifts, as in microgiving or crowd-driven fundraising.

2. Content Is the Gateway to Relationship-Driven Experiences

Customers aren’t just consumers of content. They are readers, sharers, and participants. Brands who are succeeding at breaking through the noise are finding ever more creative, complex, collaborative, and trackable ways to bring customers into their experience. Content is the hook to a deeper, immersive experience with the customer ultimately becoming a curator and creator. Take a look at the experiences Redbull builds. Their website looks at first like a lifestyle magazine, but as you tunnel in, it’s really more than just content to be chewed on and forgotten. Their online reader experience leads to not only sharing in your social stream but doing in real life.

Ultimately, the best branded content leads to a deeper experience, more than just reading. Some marketers have even taken it to the realm of making things.

3. The Best Brands Have the Best User/Customer Experiences

Speaking of user experience (UX) and content… UX doesn’t just refer to the look, feel, and function of a website. It’s about the customer experience (CX) of your brand across multiple platforms.

You can have voice and tone nailed in your emails, but if you’re taking your customers to a crappy website — such as one not optimized for mobile — good luck converting. As new media such as wearable devices (timely) are developed, brands will have more and increasingly complex platforms on which to reach customers.

Conclusion: ContentXTech

All in all, I guess my one big takeaway was essentially this: brands and nonprofits that want to succeed in reaching and moving their audiences must figure out how to leverage two big things, technology and content. Or, to put it another way, storytelling plus social … and mobile … and soon, wearable… media must form the basis of any marketing strategy.

If you don’t have a plan for embracing content and tech in your holistic approach to business, it’s time to get moving. Otherwise, your customers will leave you in favor of brands that are meeting them with the right message, at the right time, on the right platform.

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