SXSWi – The Quick Version

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Posted on March 30, 2011

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I was recently given the awesome opportunity to attend this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival with some of my fellow Schipulites.

How did it go? In a word – Overwhelming. The entire experience was a hodge podge of sessions, panels, networking, crowds, conference food and, of course, parties. But considering that this was an exercise in education, I’ll skip the parties and share my major takeaways from my favorite sessions.

The Unwritten Rules of Social Media

Ben McAllister and Kate Canales with Frog Design had some thoughtful comments regarding acceptable behavior in social media.

Three Types of Relationships

Kate and Ben identified three types of social relationships:

  1. Authority: An example of this type of relationship is the relationship you would have with a police officer. There’s pretty much not a question. He has the authority. You do what he says.
  2. Exchange: This is a basic friendship or romantic relationship. A mutually beneficial give/take relationship.
  3. Communality: These are looser relationships basically based on having something in common. Social media relationships rooted in this. An example would be that person you talk to online through Twitter about a common interest, but you don’t really know much else about them.

Each type of relationship comes with its own set of social rules and norms, and we know how to act in each situation. We behave accordingly. When we don’t, it’s very awkward. Example: If I hug (Exchange behavior) and police officer (with whom I have an Authority relationship), it would be awkward. So guess what? I don’t hug police officers. Ever. But life’s not that easy. These relationships overlap a lot. What if I were married to a police officer? What happens when I spend time with my coworkers outside of the office? Things can get hairy, and sometimes awkward.

This happens in social media too. Relationships overlap, and acting out of turn can create an awkward situation with a digital footprint.

Avoid Awkwardness Online

Ben and Kate offer three rules for brands to follow in order to avoid these types of situations.

  1. Pull Back the Curtain: Transparency earns honesty. Let your consumers take a peak behind the scenes. Best Buy’s Twelp Force is a great example of this.
  2. Stop Selling. Start Sharing: Self promotion is awkward. Share relevant content that makes people trust you. Ben and Kate liked one of their own projects as an example.
  3. Stop Talk. Start Listening: Once again, self promotion is awkward. Listen to what your consumer wants and respond when it makes sense for your brand. For example, Bravo heard their viewers saying that they wanted to see a show all about Bethenny from the Real Desperate Housewives. So, Bethenny Ever After was born. (If you watch this I’m judging you.)

Does this interest you? View the presentation, or listen to it online.

Tools and Processes for ADD Project Managers and Entrepreneurs

The first full session I was able to attend was for sure one of my favorites. While I don’t think I have Attention Deficit Disorder or any derivative of it, Jason Ford of FeedMagnet gave organization tips that could be useful to any project manager or entrepreneur. The takeaways:

We have problems with Attention

  • These problems are Hyperfocus and Distractibility
  • We moderate Hyperfocus through consistent scheduling, working in locations that allow us to get our work done and delegation
  • We moderate Distractibility with plain, old will power, lists and any gadget or application that helps us stay focused and organized.

We have problems with Action

These problems are Intensity, Restlessness and Impulsivity

  • We moderate Intensity through shorter meetings, self awareness and transparency.
  • We moderate Restlessness through regular exercise and meditation.
  • We moderate Impulsivity through wise counsel, human filters and boundaries.

What to know more? Hear the full session online.

Seth Priebatsch: The Decade of Games

Seth Priebatsch, 22-year-old founder of SCVNGR, suggested that the next decade will see a shift towards games in most aspects of life: digital, marketing, even school. How?

1.) School

  • School is game. But it’s broken.
  • Grades are rewards for not failing. Grades should be rewards based on progression
  • Cheating is only punishment in this game if you get caught. Schools should create an honor code in which knowing about cheating is as bad as actually cheating if you don’t tell – complicity as a crime.
  • I take issue with some of Seth’s thoughts here, but I like his attitude. He saw something that was broken; identified what was broken, and offered a solution.

2.) Customer Acquisition

Seth described how customers will be acquired through game play with a simple example – Groupon. What is Groupon? Something free + communal game play + a countdown = Groupon.

Why does this formula work?

  • Something free: Sounds too good to be true. So why don’t people think it’s too good to be true? Groupon removes skepticism by requiring that a certain amount of people also sign up for a deal in order for anyone to get it.
  • Communal game play: Since Groupon requires a minimum amount of people sign up for any deal to be valid, Groupon users are compelled to spread the word.
  • Countdown: Groupon creates a sense of urgency and excitement by requiring that said minimum is met by a certain time.

3.) Loyalty

Brands can create loyalty through games based on “leveling up.” American Express successfully uses this method by offering different levels of cards. How does this work?

  • Loyalty allows you to “level up” (get a better card)
  • Leveling up has status associated with it.
  • Status feels good.
  • People stay loyal.

4.) LBS will go Mainstream

While they’re growing in popularity, location-based services like foursquare, SCVNGR and Gowalla aren’t quite mainstream yet, but Seth sees this as changing in next ten years. Right now he sees two main obstacles that these services need to overcome before this can happen.

  1. They’re too hard: The rules are frustrating for users and keeping more people from using them (including me)
  2. Reward schedules: Location-based services and their affiliates  have seen a lot of success through reward schedules (ex: check into Starbucks at XYZ time and get a free coffee), but they only work for a limited time.

Check out Seth talking about his Game Layer on TED.


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