Being a SXSW (read South by Southwest) newbie, I was equally excited yet neurotically anxious about what I would learn about what I am or am not doing in the digital space. By all accounts and research my imagination led me to believe where I was going was the promised land of digital, a Mecca of sorts. Yep, pretty much. So, when asked what are the three takeaways from SXSW, they are actually questions for you because we won't know what we’ve got until we answer them.
1. Crowdsourcing: Can we get out of the way of our own campaigns?
I'm pretty sure crowdsourcing is the next buzz word. It's nothing new but it's a great concept. Crowdsourcing is simply giving up an action normally handled by your organization over to your users or audience. When I first got into this profession of community engagement, what drew me to it is the ability to get people involved in their communities. A session with HootSuite’s VP of Community Dave Olson, dressed in no less than Antebellum Southern garb, took a chapter out of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. But sidebar: he first hilariously described Mark Twain, pen name for Samuel Clemens, which apparently is some riverboat nautical term, as a really retro Twitter handle and his popularity as the "Justin Bieber of the 1800's".
The lesson came from the part of the book when Tom Sawyer gets his neighbors to paint a fence for him. If you recall, Tom never explicitly asked his neighbors to paint it for him. They just watched at first, he showed them something about it that appealed to them and in the end they begged him to let them do the job. Olson, shared many recent case studies where this phenomenon was successful that I will share in a future post but we ask ourselves as engagers, interacters, mobilizers, what jobs can we hand over to the public? Once we do, they will get it done with passion and enthusiasm. Kind of like me sharing this concept. What can I say I am a sucker for historical costumes.
2. Is the proliferation of social media a fad or signs of a transformative societal shift?
On Monday, Vice President Al Gore and Facebook’s Founding President and Napster Founder Sean Parker assured us it needed to be the latter, though cynics would say it's somewhere in between. For one, SXSW Interactive far exceeded projections and is rumored to have had anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 participants, and not the usual tech guys with the start-up T-Shirts either. Many said there was a heightened level of sophistication and signs of one thriving part of the US economy. I often heard a theme of altruism emphasized from everyone from Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone to Ben Silbermann for Pinterest of all things. There was definitely a sense of purpose in the air, but what is that purpose?
3. Which one is the real penny?
Design, design, design. It is not just something we do to make things look fancy or "consistent with our brand". The geniuses at SXSW are talking about it from a psychological and neurological perspective. More digital communicators need to start communicating in a way that humans like to communicate. For some reason, we get online or create a print piece and start making up new rules about how people engage.
According to Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. also known on Twitter as @thebrainlady; "People expect technology to follow human to human interaction rules." We can't help it. Now, only take this advice if you want people to read, comment and act on your content:
Don't do this.
Or this either.
Weinschenk also gave some examples of why your call to action is not being received. People only retain what they need from what they see and forget about the rest. Pay attention to that because it may give you clues on whether you are designing with unnecessary clutter. For example, from the first photo, which penny was the real penny? The answer is A. You may have gotten the answer wrong but don't feel bad, it was because as @thebrainlady says "when you're comparing a penny to other coins what do you look for? Size and color. Is the rest really necessary for you to tell if it is a penny or not?”
So please answer the questions above in the comments section below. I will continue blogging here more about what we can take from SXSW. Let us know if there is anything else of interest to you.