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5 Fascinating Things I Learned About Social Media Marketing at SXSW 2017

Last week I attended South By Southwest® (SXSW), what USA Today referred to as a “cultural juggernaut” and Adweek called, “the greatest environment for creative happenstance and ambitious serendipity” in Austin, Texas. This annual conference brings together more than 72,000 people to experience mind-blowing presentations, performances and promotions from the worlds of technology, film and music, and it was thrilling to experience first hand so much cutting-edge work and information.

Like the conference itself, the hot topics and buzzed about technologies (notably Artificial Intelligence [AI], Virtual Reality [VR] and the Internet of Things [IoT]) were vast and in some ways, overwhelming to comprehend all of their implications for digital marketing. For me, however, the biggest takeaways were small, nuanced insights about the day-to-day online marketing that people like me, and presumably you, deal with on a regular basis.

Here are some tidbits that caught my eye from this year’s SXSW:

  1. Neuroscience should play a conscious role your creative strategy: If you want to harness the power of the unconscious decisions that consumers make about a brand, a purchase and so on, you have to understand neuroscience — this is where the emotion that drives the desired response lies. Cross-platform strategies that feature consistent, memorable creative customized per each platform make the greatest neurological impact on customers. Given that only 38% of campaigns use platform-specific creative, this is a huge revelation and challenges digital marketers to work harder at creating promotions that stimulate those all-important neural pathways and elicit the desired emotional response, which is all about getting a consumer to stop, look, feel, share and ultimately buy.
  2. Storytelling is still the #1 weapon in the digital marketer’s arsenal: Talking about “storytelling” at SXSW was almost a running joke, as it’s been a buzzword now for many years. Still, the bottom line is that the best way to hook people is to tell them a great story that has an emotional imperative at its core. Native stories about the human experience are a tried and true way to deliver key messaging for any brand, product, service or cause.
  3. The social stat that made me stop in my tracks: Did you know that 20% of time people spend on on mobile devices in the U.S. is on Facebook and Instagram? Forget the cat videos or where your old friend from high school just went on vacation — that’s an incredibly important fact for today’s social media marketers.
  4. Video is not one size fits all: Video as a key part of your marketing mix is nothing new; it’s one of the most shared forms of content on all of the major social media platforms. However, the most significant takeaway here is how important it is for brands to edit different video creative for each platform. For example, Facebook users don’t care so much about the talent in your videos; they care more about the beautiful recipe or the hilarious punch line, because they only are watching the video for a few precious seconds. YouTube followers, on the other hand, are much more focused on the people in the videos, and the talent is what captures their imaginations and attention for this longer form content.
  5. Social is more than a metric. Trying to assign a metric like ROI to social media performance isn’t particularly useful, because those old school advertising metrics really don’t apply. When assessing the impact of your social media marketing, you’ve got to look at metrics like growth of your audience, sharing, increase in search and even growth in your direct web traffic. Platforms evolve so rapidly that you are best served experimenting, testing, and refining your strategies in a more humanistic, organic manner.

Each of these tidbits is a taste of what today’s digital marketing thought leaders are chewing on. Hopefully it’s given you some food for thought; let me know what resonates with you in the comments!

A strategic digital agency that believes in putting your bottom-line objectives first. @creative_why

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