5 SXSW Trends that Will Change your Digital Marketing Strategy

Every year, SXSW offers marketers and digital innovators of all stripes the opportunity to discuss what’s next. This year, discussion centered largely around realities of our digital lives, touching on topics from privacy to personalization to how to actually get people to pay attention to the content you’ve worked so diligently to make. We’re kicking off our Smart Social blog coverage of SXSW with a list of five great conversations we overheard, both in our Social Suite and out at the festival itself. Read up today for the inside scoop on tomorrow’s digital marketing trends—no badge required.

From the Social Suite round-table on social care…

1. Automation offers brands serious opportunity—but people still need people.

I met a bot last week, and her name was Abby. And to be honest: I didn’t like her very much. I asked Abby for some recommendations at the festival, and after just a few questions, she came back to the same rote answers: it appeared to be all she was capable of. (Plus, she got a little sassy with me. See below.)

The truth is, no matter how much it’s on the tip of tongues, bot technology is still nascent, and the Spredfast roundtable on the subject underscored how much brands still value the human element of care—and highlighted the limits, at least for now, on what bots can and cannot do.

Attendees chatted about the four main areas of potential bot focus. Table consensus was that bots can be designed for:

  • Information retrieval (i.e., can you tell me what the flight times are for Saturday?)
  • Transactions (can I place an order for this flight?)
  • Promotion (Enter this contest to win a free flight)
  • True customer service (Help, I can’t get Wifi to work on my flight)

Attendees agreed: for now, in the use case of true customer service, where problems often get complicated quickly, brands usually fall back to people in place of bots. But the true bottom-line potential of bots is actually in freeing up a service team usually mired in routine requests to dive more deeply into surprise-and-delight efforts or complex problems.

From the Social Suite panel Return on Inclusion…

2. To drive change at work, be your authentic self.

Our Return on Inclusion panel covered a range of topics relevant to anyone working in tech—and collected from a seriously impressive five generations of women. Led by our VP of Marketing Sarah DeRocher Moore, one of the questions the panelists worked hard to answer was: How can you be an agent of change as a woman working in tech? The unified answer across panelists and generations: be your authentic self, call out problems where you see them, and don’t apologize.

Ada-Renee Johnson, staffing lead, Diversity SWE++ and Tech at Google, explained that she was hired at Google to change things: her job, in fact, is to make sure the company has a fair and equitable workforce. “I was hired to make sure everyone can see themselves in our products,” Johnson explained. That means that her team answers tough questions and tackles complicated challenges about unconscious bias, diversity, and more. But, Johnson says: “I don’t apologize for doing the work I was hired to do, and I don’t allow my team to apologize for the approach they’re taking with their work.” She added, as a pro tip for all women: “Don’t apologize. It seems minor, but just don’t say it.”

Note: For a full recap of our Social Suite Return on Inclusion panel, check back with the blog later this week.

From the official SXSW session Social is More Than a Metric…

3. Make Use of your backstory and behind-the-scenes content.

Every product, brand, or media company has a story. But every product, brand, or media company also has a backstory—likely several—behind that story, too. Spredfast CEO Rod Favaron explained the power of this backstory for driving engagement on social during his official SXSW session, Social is More Than a Metric.

Every product, brand, or media company has a story—and a backstory.


Why does this tactic work? “We all want to be on the inside, and these channels let marketers let people on the inside,” Favaron explained. “They give us a way to build an audience—so when you have a story to tell, also tell the backstory.”

Note: For a full recap of Favaron’s Social is More Than a Metric session, check back with the blog tomorrow.

From our CMO's SXSW panel, "When the Sharing Economy is Taken Away"

4. Sex doesn't sell anymore, activism does.

When you look at the spectrum of options that exist, we have a more selections than Ben & Jerry's has flavors. No industry is exempt. Unless your product is exponentially cheaper than all alternatives, your brand is faced with the big, hairy question that has stood the test of time. How do I get consumers to pick me over my competition?

Brands should always ask: how do I get consumers to pick me over my competition?


RideAustin Director of Community Engagement, Joe Deshotel, says that it all goes back to the altruistic aspect of the consumer. The Austin ridesharing company has upended the normal way of doing business in that they have a giving component where you can round up the total cost of your trip to the nearest dollar, and the difference is donated to a local charity of your choosing. At this point, it’s common knowledge that younger generations like millennials and generation Z prize values over products: RideAustin has found success through understanding that truism and shaping their business model around it.

From the social suite roundtable on content marketing:

5. When it comes to content, consider value over volume.

The title and topic of our content marketing roundtable centered around a trend noted by PepsiCo president Brad Jakeman recently: 20 years ago, brands might create just four big-budget pieces of content a year—today, by contrast, they push out anywhere from 400 to 4,000 pieces of content, and on a much smaller budget. Roundtable participants chatted about this explosion of content, what it means for brands, and made a compelling argument for the attention brands should be paying to the value this content brings, rather than the sheer volume of it.

Brands should pay attention to the value, rather than the volume, of content.


In a world in which we have a higher volume of content that also comes to us at a greater velocity and an audience lives moment-to-moment across platform, brands have a unique opportunity to build affinity and therefore solidify value among their fans. Attendees agreed: as a brand marketer, you can’t only sell product or services all the time. “That’s the difference between advertising and content,” one attendee said: “With content, you’re writing a story that leads through purchase to an outcome, as opposed to just promoting the purchase.”

So what story do you have to tell—and how will you tell it?

March 8, 2017
Return on Inclusion: Why More Women Equals More Money
March 14, 2017
Why Social Media is More than a Metric
Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.