If it’s March, it’s time for South by Southwest in beautiful Austin, Texas. This year’s experience was nothing short of amazing and full of great speakers, great food, software updates, new apps, new connections, and tons more. After getting situated and adjusting to the 70 degree temperatures and noisy sounds of the grackles, I headed to the Austin convention center to pick-up my SxSW badge, grab a taco for lunch, and take a look at the overwhelming amount of sessions available over the next 6 days. This year, SxSW was broken down into the following tracks, all of which were available to badge holders…
Let’s review some of the key Interactive and Convergence sessions I attended…
The very first session I attended was a conversation with the founders of Imgur, a simple image sharing website. It all began in 2009, when Internet users had to register accounts, photoshop images, create a webpage or hosting plan, etc. It was a very long process, so Alan Schaff created Imgur as a student at Ohio University and the Internet community quickly grasped onto his idea. He only spent $7 on the domain name and raised about $40mil from a venture capital company named Andreessen Horowitz.
Imgur uses voting, comments, the interactive community, and social media aspects on their website thanks to Sarah Schaff, Alan’s sister and Imgur partner. Imgur allows its users to break outside of their friend’s list — In Facebook, you’re talking to mostly people you know, but Imgur is open in the same vein that Reddit is open to a larger community, not just people you may know. You can talk to and communicate with anyone. Users 100% power the Imgur space that also features the “most viral” image each day/week. (i.e. AnewbadlyphotoshoppedphotoofMichaelCeraeveryday). There have been community rules from the very beginning of its existence and the self-policing community has always worked from both old and new users of Imgur. Anyone breaking the community rules is banned from further use.
How does Imgur make money? Through very strategically placed advertisements. The ads are displayed as promoted posts and Imgur partners with certain brands to help them get in touch with the Imgur community, so most ads are relatable to the community. The founders said the future of Imgur is all about mobile. They also see the community trend reversing back to how the Internet was in the 2008 era. Other social platforms, like Facebook and Snapchat lock you in with people you already know, but Imgur breaks outside of that box and it seems to be working. Imgur has an updated iOS and Android app to go along with their web presence.
It’s worth #UNHSocial looking into Imgur for helping us with ideas for memes, GIFs, and expanding our brand to the Imgur community through subtle, but branded content that has the potential to go viral…
Next, I visited the Hyatt Regency just across the Bat bridge and Colorado River for a standing room only session on consumer neuroscience in the advertising industry. The title of this talk was, ‘This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain On Ads.’ The panel included Aaron Reid, chief behavioral scientist at Sentient Decision Science, Dr. Manuel Garcia Garcia, Vice-President of Research and Innovation: Global and Ad Effectiveness at the Advertising Research Foundation, and Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight US Inc. Talk about a room full of smart people… this was a slightly advanced session, but something I’ve been very intrigued about, since I’m working within the digital marketing world and why not find out more about neuroscience and marketing. The ARF, or Advertising Research Foundation, concludes that traditional ad testing + neuroscience = better sales predictability. I learned about the Kicker Effect, which is a unified creative strategy across all platforms that leads to enhanced memory of a brand or product. Studies showed this method does a lot better than a non-unified, different creative strategy. Having a unified strategy for a campaign works 95% of the time, whereas a non-unified campaign is almost destined to fail. Another great statistic I learned was that today’s consumer is easily distracted, up to 65% of the time, so advertisers are using the power of sound to snap people back into their ads on digital displays, like television. When watching TV, do you often turn to your iPhone during ads? I know I’m guilty because who really wants to pay attention and watch the ads???
Another existential threat to digital advertising is ad blockers. About $41.1 billion was the global cost of digital ads in 2016, but there with over 380 million ad blockers, which is a 50% growth in 2016. What can advertisers do? That was Dr. Garcia’s question for the audience, but he’s working on solutions.
Next, we watched the Budweiser ad showing the immigration of Adolphus Busch. It was originally shown during the Super Bowl and it went viral. By Monday morning the ads had over 20 million views on Facebook alone. When tested, the heat map shows where people’s attention is focused at the end of the commercial – right on the Budweiser label. This session helped me to understand what drives people to stop, look, feel, share and buy products. Neuroscience helps marketers better understand the non-conscious aspects of decision making by consumers. It’s expensive to have this type of research performed but it’s a growing industry and who knows, someday perhaps #HigherEd will be involved?
Do you text often? Kelly McCarthy from Nike, Amanda Hecinger from Mindshare, and Nick Dunham from Dunkin Donuts made up the next panel all about iMessage, the next marketing goldmine. The session was led by Vivian Rosenthal of Snaps, who help brands create stickers, emojis, and keyboards in the iMessage store to better connect with consumers. Stickers, which are made up of branded keyboards, digital stickers, and emojis have a 98% open rates on messaging channels and some will soon integrate with Apple Pay, like Dunkin Donuts. Here’s what Nick Dunah had to say about iMessage and Dunkin Donuts.
The DD mobile app is growing and large part of the business, it’s also a social brand. Millennials engage on this channel, so it’s a great place to play and tie in commerce. The iMessage content is different, as it allows Dunkin Donuts to be more conversational and fun — it’s designed for mobile only. Distribution wise, it’s the same as any social media campaign. Texting a friend to meet for coffee? Dunkin Donuts wants to be there everyday at every digital exchange of words — always on holidays and special days, providing tools to talk about the brand while at the store. i.e. National Donut Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Etc.
Everyone on the panel said you can bring a horse to water… but can you make them a customer? Creating paid posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is great, but with iMessage you can chat more on an intimate level and be more tuned in. That’s the power of dark social. Brands who are doing the best in this space are the ones who look like your friends posted it. Chat can help with making a connection feel more personal. Social is measurable, but iMessage chats are not …as of right now, but hopefully someday. In the meantime, Snaps recommends using Comscore and Quantcast. Both are powerful analytics and statistics applications that are industry leaders.
So, how do you advertise the stickers and iMessage apps? Through Instagram stories, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. All are powerful tools to help relay the message. Nike also said to use language that your customers are using. Think about how people are communicating, like the term ‘BAE’ for an unfortunate example…
This session had me asking how #UNHSocial can use the dark social space better — How can we represent the UNH brand and design it, be authentic, etc.?
For Dunkin Donuts, they tie into more of the emotional side and take their stickers to the next level by sending your valentine a message to make it interactive, also sending DD gift cards via iMessage. It gives people a voice even if it’s just for one day, one moment. It’s a personal connection and it’s culturally relevant and it’s fun.
The hard work ahead is that iMessage is still a heavy lift for users, but it’s getting better with stickers packs and keyboards as they become more popular. Getting someone to download the sticker pack is still hard and still campaign based — it’s not native yet and that’s the biggest hurdle right now.
We must focus and start simple, know what our users want and why they want to use it. We should talk to students, alumni, staff, and more stakeholders, as it’s not obvious to many. Do one thing really well, first. Make sure we are achieving one goal at a time. Having a robust mobile app can help bring more users to your sticker store. People are already mentioning our brand, so assist them with more content to use. Drive awareness. Give them quizzes, tutorials, a drive to an offer, or a unique experience. We’re still in the awareness phase in N. America. WeChat is more way more advanced and is more connected to consumers in Asia. Overall, this was one of my favorite sessions at SxSW.
While waiting for my next session to begin, I spoke with a developer at Facebook in line and he told me that Facebook, KIX, Amazon’s Alexa, and soon to be Google Home all have opened up an API for brands to use and customize, which mean consumers can interact directly with their favorite brands. It’s basically a chatbot as a customer service agent, right?
Chatbots are not at a place to take over human interaction right now, there is a lot more algorithms and testing needed.
Lines are getting blurry between customer service, branding, and marketing. Will #UNHSocial be a part of this for aiding our admissions office in the future? He told me to watch the Facebook F8 Conference in April and we might learn more about what’s next.
The next session was led by Ann M. Mack, Director of Consumer Insights Marketing at Facebook. It was very informative and helpful for me to understand Facebook’s outlook with regards to video. Ann started out sharing information about the progression of images in the age of the Internet with text leading to photos, which then lead to videos, to where we are today with VR / AR (virtual reality / augmented reality). 48% of video watch time on Facebook comes directly from shares and 20% of overall time spent on digital is watching video. Mobile has surpassed desktop in views of videos and it’s no longer a question of when, but a question of how are you changing to keep up? The time spent watching video on Instagram increased 150% over the last year. She concluded that 78% of all mobile data will be video by 2021.
Facebook has partnered with Salesbrain, a neuromarketing agency, to help identify how people respond to video on mobile vs. desktop.
Here’s what they found in their most recent study:
TV & Desktop viewers respond worse than mobile device viewers. The small screen isn’t really that small. Think beyond dimensions and the distance from our eyes. We perceive TV as smaller, since it’s further away from us, but we perceive mobile as larger, because the periphery narrows, the device is closer to us and it’s perceived as larger.
Mack said that every new technology is prisoner to its predecessor. Early TV ads were still images. i.e. Bulova ad for watches in 1941 was the first TV ad and wasn’t great because it was the same ad on TV as it was on radio, but showed a photo — same audio track. The message? Don’t just slap something from TV and put it on mobile, because consumers behaviors on each platform is inherently different.
Mobile is more frequent, faster, and you can watch with the sound off or turned on. Adults check their mobile devices nearly 30 times per day and Millennials check 60 times per day. Facebook makes up 1 of 5 mobile minutes, which is incredible. Mack shared that most people consume mobile content on Facebook faster than on a desktop (1.7 seconds vs. 2.5 seconds). Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook also found the scrolling speed varies by age with younger people moving much more quickly through feeds. The younger you are the faster you scroll through and it’s also retained quickly. Only .25 seconds, or ¼ of a second of exposure is all it takes now for it to be memorable on mobile. Astonishing results!
Next we discussed having the sound on versus having the sound off on Facebook Mobile. Mack said that 24% of ads were understandable without sound and that less than half the people surveyed had identified brand cues. Three times more people were engaged with the video when the brand and message were presented within the first 10 seconds.
Measuring the impact on video: 47% of campaign value is driven in first 3 seconds, 74% in first 10 seconds. Build for mobile feed for the start!
Mack said that marketers should capture, design, frame, and play. Play with targeting, sequencing, and the new formats. Integrate campaigns accordingly. She says it’s not always possible to build for mobile first and that existing video assets may be a tv commercial, for example… but think mobile first.
An optimized version of a video with text overlay in the mobile feed is important, but it’s also on TV these days.
One example was for Finish dish detergent. The original video was longer and poorly reviewed, so they cut it down to 15 seconds, starting with a smiling couple, moved the brand mention 25 seconds earlier than it was originally shown. The new video was simple, fast optimization that increased views, sentiment by 10 fold.
The larger question is, How do we get scrolling thumbs to stop on our ads?
Facebook’s Ann M. Mack left us with a quote from David Bowie that tells the future brilliantly:
“The actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can envisage at the moment — the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in simpatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.” – David Bowie, 1999
Another key session for me was all about Instagram. I waited in line 45 minutes just to get a seat! Michael Hondorp, product marketing manager at Instagram led this session and showed us some great things to come with the mobile app. Craig Brommers, CMO at The GAP also joined him on stage. He began with the philosophy of Instagram: “Instagram is a place to come and feel inspired.”
Hondorp said that technology is bringing us closer together, maybe not face to face, but we’re still closer than ever. He goes on to talk about three massive, human shifts. The first shift is from desktop to mobile. It took television 67 years to get 1 billion viewers. It took only 5 years for mobile. The next shift is using web search for discovery. We use search engines, but we’re inspired to explore new things. The third shift is from text-based to visual communication through shared images and video. It’s the third shift that closely ties to Instagram’s mission, which is ‘Strengthen relationships through shared experiences.’ Be immersive. Don’t tell us what you did, show us what you did with Instagram.
Instagram currently has 650 million monthly active users (MAU), 400 million daily users, with 80% of users beyond the United States. Instagram has over 500,000 active advertisers, 150+ million active insta-stories, and more than 5 million businesses on the platform.
70% of Instagram users follow businesses with 60% thinking mobile first. Hondorp showed some great examples of businesses using Instagram include, ‘Thumbdrive by Volvo’
Instagram will soon unveil a new piece to the app called Shopping. It’s brand new and launching soon to Instagram, starting with The Gap. The new app is beginning with clothing and jewelry companies, but then on to other types of businesses, too.
Another new feature is called, Save. It has just launched and it’s available within the ribbon icon. Now you can save interesting photos to visit later and reconnect.
The most successful feature Instagram has launched in the last year is called, Stories. There are over 150 million Instagrammers using Stories every single day and there has been a massive spike in messaging from Stories, making it more engaging and adding another layer of customer service. Each story slide lasts 24 hours, same length as another very similar app. Did you know that verified Instagram accounts can swipe up to see more and visit the businesses’ website? Instagram is bringing ads to Stories and it’s launching soon. AirBnB is their test partner.
Part of Instagram Stories is Stickers. You can add text, location, temperature, funny images, and soon Instagram will be adding filters in which you slide left and right to add more graphics to your images… just like Snapchat.
Finally, Instagram Live is a quick and easy way to share live video through your Instagram account. This new feature is now available to everyone. Instagram Live lives solely within the Stories area and it’s always in the moment, but just after South by Southwest ended, Instagram added a new feature allowing users to save their videos when finished. This is a big deal.
Before the session ended, Michael Hondorp and GAP CMO Craig Brommers talked about ways to make Instagram better for your business:
Another featured session that I swung into featured Donnie Osmond. Since the session I wanted to attend was full, I popped my head in and my first thought was, “Will I learn anything in here?” It turns out that I did learn something, and got re-tweeted by Donnie Osmond, too. The session was about story-marketing and he told us to be memorable if we want our business to be successful. Emotion and memory allows for a stronger connection and it lives in our subconscious.
Osmond told a story about how he likes to set up each song he performs in his Las Vegas show, so the audience can better connect and share a memory, or paint a picture about the song. This gave me ideas to use within #UNHSocial, like more live streaming to show a journey or a story to see how things work, or how they happen, experiences, etc. Authenticity and the element of real and now is key for being successful in story-marketing. In the end, this session was totally worth the time!
Another amazing session was an intimate meet-up with U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ, 9th Congressional District) and U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA, 15th Congressional District). There were 15 people present, besides myself and the two U.S. Representatives and everyone asked the representatives a few questions about how government works, but also what we can do to reach our elected officials in Washington, D.C.. One question I asked Rep. Sinema was how can we, as a university, show how important grant funding from NOAA, NASA, and other government agencies is to our research? She told me to demonstrate the need through the people climate change and the research we do affects voters. Sinema said if we were to talk to the Whitehouse or other government agencies, they won’t listen to us as much as they will listen to voters who have suffered under climate change from the lack of research funding — real people who can change minds are stronger for our argument than sending administration and faculty to Washington according to Sinema.
One other question I asked Rep. Swalwell was, “What’s the best way to reach our elected officials and communicate with them?” Swalwell said the best way to reach Senators and Congress is still by using the telephone and calling when session is in. If calls are made when session is out, they will not know the impact, but if constituents call when session is in, they will know you’re calling whether they hear the phones ringing, or see the stressful, tired look on their staff’s face from answering calls when they return from meetings. Rep. Swalwell also knew UNH was in Durham, New Hampshire and told me toured UNH Manchester last year with other young representatives in Congress. It was great to meet these two representatives and learn more about government and public affairs. It is also great to know that they also do all their own social media and are involved on many platforms.
The sessions I mentioned above had special meaning and were my absolute favorite sessions all week. Other SxSW highlights included meeting with Hootsuite to hear about updates to the software, new products launching, and talking about how our current strategy works within their platform. Something I was excited about was the new Hootsuite Ads platform — demo coming soon! I also met the social media director at Georgia State University and we chatted about each others campus, social media trends, and what’s next. Together, we took a helicopter ride and flew around the city of Austin, Texas for about 15 minutes. I captured most of the ride on my Snapchat Spectacles sunglasses and with my iPhone. It was my first time ever in a helicopter, I was a little nervous, but once we were in the air, it was a great experience and I would quickly do again if given the chance.
Other notes of interest in Austin…
I met up with an old friend and former classmate at UNH, who I had not seen in over 20 years. Adam Voss ‘97, the host of 12 For 12 is doing well and living in Palm Springs, California. We shared some old stories, memories of WUNH and Theater Sports, and I got Adam to sign up and follow the UNH Los Angeles network. #UNHLA — Besides visiting with Adam, I also saw Dave Dupuis ‘98 perform live music one evening with his Los Angeles band Nightmare Air and I caught up with another old friend AJ Tobey ‘03, who’s now living in Brooklyn, New York and working for Bank Robber Music, which places music in TV, film, and commercials.
I enjoyed many tacos and BBQ from food trucks and diners, and some great Japanese / Tex-Mex food over on the east side of Austin thanks to the Portsmouth Herald’s food critic, Rachel Forrest, who now lives in Austin. The food in Austin is probably the second best reason for attending South by Southwest, as the cuisine was simply amazing no matter where we ate.
Lastly, it was great to get to know Loren, Kyle, and Martin better and share our SxSW 2017 experience together …and a lot of breakfast tacos!