March 25, 2011

#SXSWi 2011 Key Takeaways

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 2:09 pm

The annual South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) festival wrapped up over a week ago and I am finally starting to feel caught up on sleep and missed work.  I have had the time to reflect on the experience and learning with a semblance of organized thought.  Here are the themes and my key takeaways from SXSWi 2011.


Gaming is more than just entertainment.  The extensive gaming topics at SXSWi were really all about game mechanics and incorporating those into work, play, education and general problem solving.

Seith Priebatsch, the founder of location-based game SCVNGR, made the point that game mechanics can be used in any situation to drive results from the targeted audience: incorporating a different rewards system, involving team/communal aspects and instilling time limits all are ways of changing the way people engage in various activities, thereby making them a game rather than a chore.

Gaming is being talked about even outside the uber-techie audiences of SXSW: the March issue of Wired magazine, in an article titled “How Games Make Work Seem Like Play,” Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken says:

“‘Games are the future of positive psychology’…Games, she says, bring out our better angels: When we play a game, we think creatively, collaborate, and persist. ‘You can apply game design,” she adds, ‘to anything.’”

It is time to start thinking about game mechanics and how those can be leveraged in marketing communications and outreach.

Location, Location, Location

Location-based services will continue to evolve.  It is no longer just about finding your friends and announcing to your friends that you are at someplace that is cool. It is going to be about discovery and expanding the users’ worlds. Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, believes that users will ultimately want recommendations through location-based applications rather than the coupons or promotions.

Location-based services will continue to grow.  More users are joining every day.  Foursquare has 7.5 million users. SCVNGR has 1 million users.  There is an assumption that Gowalla has approximately 1 million users. Facebook has 600 million users and the approximation is that 30 million of those have tried Facebook Places.

Businesses need to be exploring and experimenting with these tools.  Their customers are already checking in and leaving tips and recommendations.  It is time to become part of those conversations and even enhance the experiences.


Marketers talk a lot about social networks and social media.  And many tend to erroneously think of social networks as another channel for “pushing” messages to a target audience.  But what social networks are really about is community: groups of like-minded people coming together to share experiences.  It is time to remind brands that this is what consumers want and stop social media from becoming just another advertising channel.

Social Behavioral Norms Applied to the Social Web

One of the most interesting presentations I saw at SXSWi was done by a design team from Frog Design that used a dinner party as the analogy for social media and our interactions through those social channels.  The point was this: we understand how to behave at a dinner party with varying types of audiences and relationships, but we have no idea how to translate those behaviors to social media.  And brands are especially bad at this.  Their advice was to humanize brands and think about social media interactions as simply social interactions:

  1. Pull back the curtain and give people access to the information they want and need.
  2. Stop selling and start sharing.  Self-promotion is awkward in social situations.
  3. Stop talking and start listening.  What are people saying about you and what can you learn from that?

This seems so obvious, yet no brand is doing this really well yet.  It is time to consider the space and act like we would act in a social world in which we were physically present.

Trans-media Storytelling

Trans-media storytelling is about taking the viewer through a story in a more interactive way, jumping from channel to channel across video, mobile applications, websites and even print.  These channels are used both simultaneously and independently.  The varying channels can work together while playing to each of their individual strengths to make the user/viewer experience richer and more entertaining.  Many brands and storytellers are already doing this; now it has a name.  For those that have yet to dip their toes into this method of storytelling, it is time to start experimenting.

Keep the User Experience in Mind.  Always.

Marketers, designers, developers, and people in general are too inwardly focused.  We all tend to think about what we want and what we understand and what we need.  Yet, we are typically communicating, designing and developing for others.  We all know, intellectually, not to do this.  But, practically, we do it any.  It is time to stop that and consciously make the effort to consider the end user.


The number of entrepreneurs, authors and innovative people in general present at SXSWi was awe-inspiring.  Through the power of the internet and technology, starting a business is easier than ever before which, of course, leads to a flooded market.  But there are some great ideas floating around.  I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

In addition to all the education and thought-provoking sessions that contributed to the experience, I also had some learning about how to manage my days and log my experience at SXSWi.  These are my notes to myself when planning for next year:

  • Don’t carry computer and accessories around all day; the iPhone and iPad are more than sufficient for taking notes.
  • Pack snacks.
  • Get a good camera and learn how to use it to document the experience in photos.
  • Figure out how to document the experience via video.  More video, less words.
  • Take a wingman.  A week at a conference is more fun with a friend, preferably someone you can riff with.
  • Buy Red Bull for the hotel fridge.

March 15, 2011

Goodbye & thank you, Austin/#SXSWi. It was awesome. See you in 2012.

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 9:20 pm

The South by Southwest Interactive conference is officially over. I am sad that it is over; the learning has been stimulating, the people have been fascinating and Austin has been a gracious host, once again. Conversely, I am so glad it is over, because I don’t think I could have physically or mentally lasted another day. My “day one” excitement was completely depleted by about 3 PM today, at which point I became a zombie. Hotel room service, a bottle of wine, a bag of M&Ms, some good friend conversation later, and I am ready to begin reflection on the week’s learning. I use the word “begin” deliberately, as I know I will not stop thinking about the things I have heard and learned for some time. I can’t wait to start applying the education to our agency, our clients, and our community.

Just at the beginning of this reflection however, I believe it is surreal to have been here.  Among the brightest, most curious and most innovative audience for interactive communications, I mostly felt somewhat inadequate and inferior.  But, then I saw droves of this audience stand in line for the new iPad 2 at the Austin Apple pop-up store, missing at least a day of the conference they paid a significant price to attend, just to have the latest technology, immediately. At that point, I felt superior.  Why would anyone sacrifice learning from those smarter than them, just so that person could appear more up-to-date than his or her peers? Don’t get me wrong, I desired the new technology enough to set an alarm to wake up at 3 AM so I could place my online order as soon as it became available for order; but that is really not a sacrifice seeing as how I sleep very little and I missed none of the conference that happens to be one of the highlights of my year.

This conference is one of the highlights of my year because it overwhelms me with opportunities for learning.  I love to learn.  I am that girl that willingly and proudly sits on the front row of lectures and actually pays attention. I am, admittedly, both a geek and a nerd. For those that don’t know, they are two different things: A “geek,” according to Wikipedia is “a computer expert or enthusiast.” And a “nerd,” also according to Wikipedia, is “a person who avidly pursues intellectual activities, technical or scientific endeavors, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests, rather than engaging in more social or conventional activities.”  This Interactive conference is full of both geeks and nerds. And I think I fit in according to those definitions.

But, the South by Southwest Conference/Festival actually has three parts: Film, Music and Interactive.  It is both odd and interesting that these three co-exist.  To a distant observer, it is odd because Film and Music seem so distinctly entertainment-based, whereas Interactive seems so distinctly intellectually-based. But, this is not true at all anymore. There is a recognition that each is now integrated in every single way and that the SXSW team had the foresight to see that years ago. The SXSW site makes sense of it all with their mission statement:

“Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW is the premier destination for discovery.”

But, it is more than “discovery.”  The hot term of this year’s conference was “transmedia.” And that term definition really brings it all together:

“Transmedia storytelling is a technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats, recognized for its use by mass media to develop media franchises.” — Wikipedia

Film, music and interactive are all ways of telling stories and communicating information.  It makes sense that communicators would use a combination of the three to reach their audiences.  The three now work in tandem, communally and in mutuality.

As with last year, the day the Interactive Conference concluded was the day the Music Festival attendees were arriving this year. I will never forget last year, on the last day, as I was riding on the shuttle back to my hotel, overhearing an Interactive female attendee as she gazed out the window at a group of people walking toward the Austin Conference Center say, almost breathlessly, “Look at that girl, she is so cool. She must be here for the music.” This year at the conclusion of the conference, and as I waited for the elevator at my hotel, I noticed that the crowd at the elevator looked significantly “cooler” than the crowd I had been waiting with in the days prior. Indeed, upon closer inspection, they all had the distinctly silver “music” passes around their necks compared to the orange “interactive” pass I had around mine. A year later, and the Music attendees are still cooler than the Interactive attendees. And, I am okay with my geek status.

So thank you, Austin, for embracing my geek and nerd status and allowing the geeks/nerds to interact with the cools of music and film, and recognizing that we can be mutually beneficial. I can’t wait to see what next year holds for us all.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Flexible Morality of User Engagement & User Behavior

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 12:28 pm

These are my raw notes from this session.

Predictably Irrational – book. Second session today here this book has been mentioned.

LinkedIn Maps

When we have an opportunity to cheat, we all do a cost/benefit analysis. People have a fudge factor. Senates level of dishonesty that we are willing to engage in. A a range of immorality. Lots of people cheat just a little bit.

When you remind someone of their morality, they are less likely to cheat. For example, signing an honesty policy before taking an exam.

“What the hell” effect: I am already cheating, might as well go all the way.

Most people cheat a little, few people cheat a lot.

If women cheat on anything, they cheat consistently on everything. Men are inconsistent; just because they cheat one place doesn’t mean they will cheat everywhere.

Being creative is the personality trait that is most connected go people’s ability to cheat.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Beyond Word Clouds: Analyzing Trends with Social Media APIs

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 10:58 am

These are my raw notes from this session.

Hashtag for this session is #beyondwc

APIs bridge the gap between marketing, IT, and customer service.

(Interesting idea: add Twitter handles to CRM databases)

Correlation is not causation. Go back into the database and figure out what is driving the context of the data. Decaf coffee example: retweeted link bait tweet skewed results. has an API

There is really no expense to store a lot of key words. So cast the net wide to build the archive of data and be sure that you have the data to pull. You might not know what you need until you start searching.

Twitter’s API limits each query to 1500 results.

Facebook API lets you pull data on a page as far back as you want to go.

#SXSWi Session Notes: Unwritten Rules: Brands, Social Psychology and Social Media

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 9:16 am

These are my raw notes from this session.

Speakers from Frog Design and are designers. Hashtag is #dinnerparty

Authority relationship, don’t mess with me. Like when a police officer pulls you over. Packs of dogs and military are organized this way.

Exchange relationship. like buying an airplane ticket. Keeping track of fairness is important in these relationships.

Communality relationship. About sharing and not keeping track. Social media is governed by this set of rules. Spaces for friends.

Very few of our relationships are in one category, they overlap each other. It can become awkward: gaffe, awkward, taboo, faux pas. Which set of rules to follow when situations and relationships overlap?

Dinner party analogy for these situations. If you boss brings a bottle of wine to your dinner party, they move from an authority relationship to a communality relationship. And we use language to help navigate: it would be great if… (Pinkeron book).

Online, all of these relationship rules fall apart.

In social media self promotion is awkward. You vantage outset be friends with a brand, but you can have a meaningful relationship.

We spend our days thinking about creating experiences for people. Social media is a great tool for doing this. It is hard when you don’t have a tangible product.

Brand building through behavior.

Brands do a lot of communicating and talking, but they don’t get to do a lot of behaving or be effectively humanizing.

1. Pull back the curtain. This is all about access. Best Buy’s Twelpforce: allow individual employees to use their own Twitter handle to answer customer questions.

2. Stop selling and start sharing. Self promotion is awkward in this space. Design Mind, platform of content for Frog Design. Need to give someone the experience of our brand to those who haven’t actually met us. Generate original content and then participating in conversations.

3. Stop talking and start listening. Southwest Airlines is a good example of this. Bravo is the best example. They tweet the story lines and features and use input from social media to decide what shows to create, like Bethenny Getting Married?

Large healthcare client wanting to do social media:

Video series of doctors having conversations with each other to pull the curtain back.

Still under campaign development, so guarded in revealing the campaign elements.

Make a campaign about actual people when the product or service is challenging.

A blog can very easily become a series of news releases about yourself. You don’t show up to a dinner party and just talk about yourself or you don’t get invited back.

What do you write about? Well, what do you think about? Write about that.

Take exchange relationships and turn them into communality relationships. Like Gary V with the wine and jersey.

In social media, most people are choosing go be in these relationships with you. You are not spamming them, but you want go make the relationship worth their time and yours. A lot of this is intuitive.

#SXSWi 2011 Day 4 Experience

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 7:24 am

Day four of South by Southwest is now complete. It was another long, but good day. The theme from today’s attended sessions was: always consider your end user; stop designing/developing/marketing for yourself.

Today, I attended the following sessions:

  • How to Personalize Without Being Creepy
  • Games: Tools for Mass Communication
  • Enabling New Experiences and Creating Serendipity through Check-ins
  • Felicia Day, Monday Keynote
  • The Thank You Economy
  • Anatomy of a Design Decision

Once again, I posted my raw notes from each session to this blog.  Here are my key takeaways from each of today’s sessions.

How to Personalize Without Being Creepy

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes.

Key takeaway: Ultimately, the user will appreciate and more customized and personalized experience; but the providers must be explicit on the front end as to what kind of information people are releasing and how it will be used.

People are comfortable with personalization when they can intellectually connect the dots to the origination of the data.  For example, if you buy a house and then start getting Pottery Barn catalogues, you can assume that Pottery Barn bought a list of new homeowners.  But, if you can’t make that link in some way, then it feels stalker-ish and creepy.  We have reached a new level of comfort with relinquishing control of data; users understand tools like Facebook Connect that follow them across the internet and are okay with that.

Games: Tools for Mass Communication

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes.

Key takeaway: People are playing games.  They really are.  And, if a brand creates a game that is fun to play, people will most likely play it.

If we can create places where people can play, have discussions, learn and engage, even if it is in a simulated environment, they will do it and spend time engaging with your brand.

Enabling New Experiences and Creating Serendipity through Check-ins

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes.

Key takeaway: The key to location-based technology is going to be discovery of places and experiences you might not otherwise have found either through proximity to your current location or referrals and recommendations from friends in your circle.

Location-based services will continue to evolve.  It is no longer just about finding your friends and announcing to your friends that you are at someplace that is cool.  It is going to be about discovery and expanding the users worlds.

Felicia Day, Monday Keynote

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes.

Key takeaway: If there is something you dream of doing, do it yourself.  Don’t wait on someone to invite you to do it.  Learn from your mistakes and make yourself better.

Actually, there was a lot more to Felicia Day’s keynote interview.  Day created an online web show that has taken off and grown arms and legs, thereby allowing her to create even more web shows and a production company.  And she did all of it by jumping in and figuring stuff out.  Along the way, she became great at online communications campaigns.  In her opinion, effective communications come from revealing a personality: online personalities are getting a ton of hits because people emotionally connect to the people.

The Thank You Economy

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes.

Key takeaway: With social media we are increasing one-to-one human interactions and it is time for marketers to stop using it as a “push” channel.  We need to engage in human activity.

This was by far the best presentation of the day.  Gary Vaynerchuk is a highly dynamic speaker: smart, funny and successful.  I promptly purchased his book after the event and will probably be recommending it to all my co-workers and clients.

Quote of the session:

“Everyone in social media today acts like a 19 year old dude: they try to close too fast. You have to build a relationship and build context. There is no such thing as a social media campaign. A social media campaign is a one night stand. You have to build the relationship.”

Anatomy of a Design Decision

Here is a link to the official session description and here is a link to my raw notes.

Key takeaway: When designing, style guides don’t work.  Style guides prevent thinking and the best design includes thinking.

The speaker walked through several different styles of user interface design (Self Design, Unintentional Design, Genius Design, Activity-Focused Design, Experience-Focused Design).  He noted that all are valid, depending on the the end use of a site.

One more day to go.  I think I am getting close to information overload, which is a good feeling.

March 14, 2011

#SXSWi Session Notes: Anatomy of a Design Decision

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 5:02 pm

These are my raw notes from this session.

Self Design is when you design for yourself. This works when there area ton of users just like you. And, you, yourself have to use the product everyday. A notion called dogfooding. That means that anything in the design that frustrates you, you will improve it.

Unintentional Design happens when we focus on the architecture rather than the actual use. This works only when users will put up with whatever we give them.

Genius Design. David Potet, specialize in school websites (New City Media). It is about using our own knowledge based on experience. Works when we are solving the same problems repeatedly.

Activity-Focused Design. Has to do with who we are designing for and what do they do. Focusing on the activities and designing specifically for those.

Six Flags thinks about the activities. Disney focuses on the experience.

Experienced Focused Design. When we are designing for the entire experience.

College websites fall under the spell of girls under trees.

It doesn’t matter where the search box is, as long as it looks like a search box. Rules don’t work. Style guidelines don’t work.

Rule based decisions are the opposite of informed decision. Rule based decisions prevents thinking. Design doesn’t work that way. Design wants thinking.

If you got something done, then you had a process. A methodology is repeatable. Dogma is the faith. That certain things have to just work. Techniques are the building blocks that go into every step of the process. Tricks are techniques that aren’t used quite the right way. Trick is a tool that we use probably not in the way it was intended, but if I stop to get the right tool, I would waste time.

The best companies didn’t have a methodology or dogma. The worst did. Rules don’t work. The companies that use techniques and tricks were using informed decision making. The best designers spend 2 hours every two weeks watching someone actually use your design. The design will improve dramatically.

Every design style has it’s purpose. As designers, Ned to understand what it means to use it successfully. The great designers know what style they are using. they use the same design style throughout the process. And everyone on the team used the same style. The more advanced the style, the more expensive it gets. Agencies can’t go beyond Genius Design because to produce a great experience, it costs a lot. It has to come from in house – decisions have to be made operationally. The more advanced the style, the better you get.

What do you want you be as a designer?

#SXSWi Session Notes: The Thank You Economy

Filed under: SXSW — Emily Reeves @ 3:34 pm

These are my raw notes from this session.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Calls himself obnoxiously practical.

Who can create the real context with the end consumer? That is the person that will win. It is all about the end user and the customer. We all talk to ourselves. Do you really have a grasp for the problem you are trying to solve? – have a customer who ordered $20,000 in wine over two months. They know him on Twitter and they know he likes Jay Cutler. Rather than sending him coupons or a free bottle of wine, we send him a signed Jay Cutler jersey and make an emotional connection.

People aren’t looking at the billboards. They are not even looking at the road. They are not listening to the radio, she is on the phone. Mom is going to be impacted at the point of sale, she is going to pull out her phone and look at and compare all the products on her mobile device.

We are about to humanize brands.

Marketers do all the talking. Think about the person that calls every day and talks and talks. Then think about the person that you call to talk to. Love them first.

Everyone in social media today acts like a 19 year old dude: they try to close too fast. You have to build a relationship and build context.

There is no such thing as a social media campaign. A social media campaign is a one night stand. You have to build the relationship.

Old Spice didn’t talk to anyone. All they did was push. No feel. Thinks Old Spice is what not to do.

Content calendars suck. It is like going to a cocktail party with a script.

Throwing up a Twitter logo and Facebook logo up at the end, it is like throwing a phone number logo on the screen. Ridiculous.

It is small town approach again. Interact one on one. Search.Twitter let’s us go into the conversation and its acceptable. You can join the conversation.

We are sharing more in our lives than ever before. We are sharing things that we would have never picked up the phone and called a buddy to say, but you are basically doing that now.

Social media is not a fad because it is human.

Out care your competition.

Effort is grossly underestimated. If don’t naturally care, try.

Retiring from Wine Library TV as of today. Starting a new show: on mobile Daily Grape. Makes content more useful.