The Best of My SXSW Interactive 2015 Experience



This post is 1/4 obligatory to show value (hi, finance team!) and 3/4 because WOW I feel like my brain expanded multiple times over and if I don’t share these learnings – I won’t be able to integrate myself into non-SXSW society.

For those that haven’t gone, there are many ways you can ‘do’ SXSW.

  • Every vendor in your field is there and wants a piece of you – and is willing to host huge parties/concerts to get 15 minutes of your time; there are also multiple off-site suites with free food and product demos (plus, biscuit bars! massages!). This can be super fun and, hey, vendors offer the technology to turn ideas into actionable campaigns. But, meeting after SX can be just as productive as meeting during the conference. Often, 15 minute intro meetings are all you need to know if there’s a need to follow-up.
  • There’s, obviously, the incredible official programming. Experts come from all over the world to share their case studies and insights and you can choose a diverse menu of topics. This year I listened to talks ranging from how to program robots so they understand slang to how to use data driven analytics to inform your content. Oh, and there was one about using hypnosis to see how brainwaves change when a healthy body becomes ill (or thinks its ill).
  • Dear goodness, the networking. I typically find 4-5 talks as “CAN’T MISS’ and then make a handful of contacts that are fantastic – leaders in my field who I know have a direct line of contact to for questions, inspiration, you name it. It’s the networking that is truly invaluable and hard to find anywhere else.

But, since it’d be awkward to share my contacts with you, let me share some of the key insights from my fav talks (including two by Refinery29)

1) Data Driven Newsrooms That Don’t Drive Off Writers w/Refinery29 and NPR

Refinery29 SM Director Lexi Nisita and NPR Editor Wright Bryan led this talk and it was interesting to see how analytics dictated content for each brand. Refinery was 100% numbers. They get 2 emails daily on stats sent to all employees, noting whether traffic was up/down from goal and the expectation is that if it’s down – everyone needs to pitch in. For anyone who thinks blogs aren’t serious businesses – think again. Writers and verticals also get their own reports. A key point, though, was recognizing that each post’s goal isn’t the same. “Gross beauty fixes” is going to get more site traffic and far less shares than “The best tinted moisturizer ever.”

Millennials exercise extreme caution when curating their feed. The key is to have a mix of stories all working towards the holistic picture. CrowdTangle and Chartbeat were shared as useful analytics tools that fed data-driven story-telling.

NPR…is more along the lines of what you think an older pub would do. Weekly analytics and encouraging old school writers to care more about social but…still a ways to go. Interestingly (and happily), analytics are only part of the puzzle for them. They are still all about¬†hard-core news.

2)  Free Speech and Social Media.

Monika Bickert, Head of Global Product Policy for FB, Matthew Zimmerman, Sr Product Counsel for Twitter, and Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center BLEW THE HOUSE DOWN. Bickert and Zimmerman are essentially more powerful than the U.S. Government in terms of what and how content from over 100+ nations is shared. As it turns out, Twitter’s policies are the closest to the U.S. Constitution, allowing hate speech that does not directly threaten. Facebook has more stringent policies. However – both noted the importance at looking at a user’s behavior/motives vs. solely their content. Graphic content may be posted to spread awareness of atrocities – or could be shared to celebrate. You can guess which motivation leads to the content staying live. Really fascinating to hear them discuss how they try to bridge cultures/expectations in one platform.

3) Millennial Data from Refinery29

If you can’t tell – I adored the talks by Refinery29. They were smart, stat-focused and very thought-provoking. Check out some of the best nuggets of info below:

  • 70% of millenials want balanced, well-rounded lives. 3/4 are looking for well-balanced life and how to attain it.
  • Saving money for the future is very important. At the bottom of the list? Finding a husband. The shift is about mindful living and owning your body and choices. The millennial woman wants to be as powered and as informed as possible.
  • 8 in 10 want to see beauty image of someone they can relate to.
  • 70% of women want to learn about brands from a trusted source. 85% prefer ads that provide valuable information – and aren’t just trying to sell you.
  • Expectation of consumers is high. Over sharing is over. 91% are thoughtful about what they share.
  • 8 in 10 only share if they are passionate. 20% of women 18-34 have their own blog but Refinery29’s readers are more often taste makers 33% have their own blog.
  • 63% say they will buy something they love even if it’s out of budget but they need to know more. Why is it expensive? What is the craft? Shoppers are aware of ‘timeless investments.’ If cost per wear is good why not invest? 68% of millenials match high-end with low-end gear to show versatility.
  • Sunday night is great for career content.