Four days at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) yielded many lessons for this recently appointed Vice President of New Media. Apart from ubiquitous guitar hero contests and a ride in a simulated racecar that was so real I got carsick, the panels and discussions at the annual interactive and gaming festival taught me alot.
1. The Geek Nation can be brutal. The audience at the Mark Zuckerburg keynote was vicious in attacks on Sarah Lacy, the hair-twirling valleygirl journalist whose interview with the Facebook founder provoked an unforgiving backchannel on Twitter, the microblogging and social networking service. While Lacy deserved criticism for misjudging her audience and a flirty approach, the ambush seemed a bad fit for her “crime” of being lame. As Catherine B. Taylor of Social Media Insider pondered: “…is this…the punishment we can expect…for a particularly bad day at the office?” The episode has made me reconsider Twitter.
2. With new and social media it’s all about YOU. Kathy Sierra’s presentation, “How to Create Passionate Users,” explained that what customers think of you or your company doesn’t matter. What’s important is how your products and services make customers feel. A tad Maya Angelou, perhaps, but Kathy’s example of the typical Help Desk experience provoking either an accepting “Ooops!” or angry “You bastards!” from users proves her case.
3. Social media will have it THEIR way (an extension of Insight #2 above), OR they will leave. One FAQ: what to do when the boss “just doesn’t get” that social media takes time? In four separate sessions, social media marketers bemoaned the “glacial” pace of change in their companies, wondering how to convince the boss to be patient with social media initiatives.
Advice from the experts: “Life’s too short. Go work for somebody who understands.”
4. Content or Context as King? Multiple sessions touched on the back-to-the-future notion that once again, content rules. Valuable content, well written, appropriately distributed reaps audience. When Social Media Club founder Chris Heuer and I debated this over beers at the Dell Lounge, Chris pointed out, “No, Monika. CONTEXT is king.”
Chris may be right. What do you think?