SXSW So Far: Meerkat Mania, Snapchat Skepticism, Data Dork-Out Sessions

It’s Sunday morning at SXSW and everyone is talking about the weather. No seriously, they are. After two back to back years of rain and overcast skies, we finally have sunshine at SXSW and with that the crowd seems to be smiling a lot more, perhaps drinking a lot more, and the place generally feels more upbeat. This has been great as executives from TV networks, the technology companies disrupting them, brands and the influencers they chase are all being rather candid about the changes impacting their respective businesses and the ecosystem in general. Oh, and everyone is Meerkat-ing everything.

Meerkat Mania

Yes, everyone is Meerkat-ing. From capturing over-the-hump rappers performing at agency parties, to front row paparazzi-like panel streaming, to slightly stalker-esque behavior, “how about I Meerkat this entire mixer and make people really uncomfortable?” The Meerkat frenzy is in full effect and those following are quickly realizing they need to disable Meerkat notifications on their phone or face a home screen that consistently looks like this:

Admittedly, it’s fun to play with and at an event like SXSW, it takes the spread of FOMO inducing social media to another level. Aside from watching a jumpy stream of a panel you’ve been shut out of, it’s been interesting to see some of the green room streams — BRaVe partner, Gary Vaynerchuk was Meerkat-ing, taking questions from fans as he prepared for his keynote with Jack Welch. The classic “behind the scenes” look combined with the live, “anything can happen” nature of it, is what’s resonating most. It’s also what most of the TV execs and social teams are planning to use it for. As for agencies and brands — one word keeps coming up, “Legal.” Yea, so there’s the whole “we are just getting Legal comfortable with approving our (near) real-time-posting guidelines, they are going to lose their minds with Meerkat.” Good luck with that. On a related note, it was amusing to see that the official @SXSW social account joined Meerkat Saturday afternoon — a full day and half after probably 50% of the panels had been live streamed.

Snapchat Skepticism

One BILLION video views?! No, not really. There was a consistent theme of cautious skepticism about the audience engagement numbers Snapchat is claiming. This was coming from both media publishers and agencies. Even those with deals in place with Snapchat were expressing come concern: “I’m just waiting to find out that the way they are counting views is flawed,” and “the agency is telling us the brand doesn’t believe the numbers — we’re not entirely sure we believe the numbers — but hey, they’re stilling willing to pay for it.” Perception is reality and while no one expressed even the slightest interest in ramping down their use (and monetization) of Snapchat, everyone wants to see Snapchat ramp up transparency of its analytics and work with third parties to make this data accessible and verifiable. In the meantime, BRaVe’s own Nick Cicero provides a great primer on Snapchat analytics in this post.

Data Dork-Out Sessions

If TV execs, agencies and brands are concerned about Snapchat analytics, perhaps it’s because they’re finally getting a better handle on all the other social and audience analytics they’ve been craving. I spent some time with two well know companies in this space, that also happen to be based in Austin and happen to be responsible for throwing two of the biggest parties of SXSW. TV, brand and agency social teams were flooding the Spredfast office on Brazos street getting demos on their latest attempts to take big (social) data, make sense of it, visualize it and make it actionable. Conversations in and out of the office circled around the use of this data in the branded content creation and optimization process — ultimately helping publishers and brands find the right audience and deliver the right content, on the right platforms, at the right time (something we recently wrote about here). We also ran some real-time queries looking at the use of Meerkat — we could drill down to find out exactly when people were Meerkat-ing and how popular their sessions were. Here’s a shot of BRaVe co-founder Gary Vaynerchuk’s activity leading into SXSW

Similarly the team at Umbel, are helping publishers and brands better understand who their social and digital audiences are, what they look like from a demographic and behavioral standpoint, and where there are overlaps between brand and publisher audiences. They showed me some very powerful case studies of leveraging this data to build audiences and ultimately drive purchase activity. And they did this the morning after their SXSW kickoff party — well, done. Nothing like a Data Dork-Out Session after a long night at SXSW.

Plenty more SXSW left to tackle. No shortage of conversations about the evolution of TV. And of course, it’s Austin, so no shortage of good food to fuel the conversation, but this food truck certainly takes the prize for innovation.

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