5 Lessons For Social Marketing From South by Southwest

Man in black suit showing a tablet pc displaying social media chart.
Man in black suit showing a tablet pc displaying social media chart.

The Austin Convention Center almost had the power sucked right out of it last weekend. Thousands of iPhones and iPads were juicing up through the building's many outlets all hours of the day at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival.

But power was also flowing into the conference -- human power. The conference was bursting with the spirit of entrepreneurship, the positive power of capitalism, and a youthful energy that still believes in the power of an idea.

Innovation and healthy competition defined the hundreds of panels that took place over a five-day period -- everything from technology in the African classroom to Facebook marketing to human spaceflight.

Big data -- and what to do with it -- was the focus of several sessions, all of which were overflowing. Dozens of eager participants waiting in line were turned away at the doors. After the Obama campaign's fascinating success with data in the last election, it seems everyone is hungry for how to translate strategy into action for their companies -- in the political, corporate and tech worlds.

For the social media/marketing professional, there were almost too many topics to choose from, but here are a few takeaways for those who couldn't be there:

1. Target culture, not demographics.

2. Use data, don't just read it.

3. Stop annoying irrelevant people with your ads.

4. Grab them at the moment of truth.

5. Create and empower advocates.

1. Target Culture, Not Demographics

How many times have you heard a company or political group talk about targeting "Hispanics" or "women"? That's just not good enough anymore. The truth is that a Cuban is not the same as a Puerto Rican, and a woman in L.A. is not the same as a woman in New York. These days, demographics should really be called "culturegraphics" because lifestyle is not branded into one's DNA.

2. Use Data, Don't Just Read It

Most companies have more analytics tools than they can handle. You can see who is clicking on what and when they do it. You know how many people are retweeting and what traffic is coming from where. But what are you doing with the Excel spreadsheets and fancy graphs displaying a constantly changing stream of numbers that supposedly defines your brand's users? It's time to stop reading the numbers and develop detailed plans to test, target and deliver.

3. Stop Annoying Irrelevant People With Your Ads (& Save Money!)

Most companies make the mistake of aiming at an extra wide target instead of the bullseye. They pay for ads to 300,000 people when only 1,000 of them are going to click and care. The key is to uncover who the 1,000 people are in the first place and then spend ad money only getting the information to those people. Your ROI will go through the roof, you'll save money and hit the movers and shakers you wanted to in the first place -- creating a much more powerful after effect. How do you locate them? Use your data!

4. Grab Users at the Moment of Truth

Most information-sharing decisions are made in a matter of seconds. Every action you want a user to take should be pretty, packaged and prime time. If you are working on a Pinterest campaign, don't hit the boards with your hot graphic at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. Stats show that Pinterest users are most engaged on Saturday and Sunday mornings. They also pin heavily directly before and after work hours. Think carefully about when the right people are going to see your pins. Similarly, be sure your action items are located at an appropriate place in your app or article. Don't put share buttons the bottom, and make sure your push notifications are targeted correctly as well.

5. Create and Empower Advocates

You can only spoonfeed your supporters for so long. Instead of running side by side, delivering information they will begin to take for granted, start handing it off. Empower users to create a personalized vehicle to advocate for your brand by including them in decisions, asking for feedback, and providing early access to new products. When people feel they are part of the process -- that it's a bit of their spirit infused in the idea or product -- they will gladly tell their friends and followers about it.