5 Takeaways from Content Marketing World 2015 (Friday5)

This post was collaboratively published by Katey McGarr (Chicago) and Matthew Cannington (New York).

Having recently returned from attending this year’s Content Marketing World, our brains are filled with ideas on how to make our content work harder for clients. In addition to networking with potential clients and vendors from all over the world, we were able to spend time speaking with other content nerds about which influencer network gets the best bang for your buck, the various ways to measure content marketing, how to find the most compelling story for our brands, and how to tell that story in the most compelling way possible.

Here are five takeaways from Content Marketing World that we hope will inspire you and give you a glimpse into the world of content strategy and content marketing:

1. Write It Down

Seems like a no brainer, but this point has been reiterated over the past two years at Content Marketing World, indicating that brands are still operating without a written content strategy in place. Here’s what we know: documenting your content strategy makes your content 4X more effective; having a documented editorial mission makes your content 3X more effective. The act of articulating your strategy on ‘paper’ forces you to think about it, get stakeholder alignment and make strategic adjustments to optimize along the way. Planning content is just as important as writing and editing it.

2. Go Bigger, Braver, Bolder in 2016

Fair warning: we could write a whole article dedicated solely to author and Marketing Profs Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley, whose brilliance and insight are always a highlight of CMW. Ann’s rallying cry for content marketing in 2016: “Bigger. Braver. Bolder.” While we all try to push ourselves and our clients to do bigger, braver, and bolder work every day, Ann’s recommendation took that one step further and clarified the need:
– Bigger Stories
– Braver Marketers
– Bolder Tone of Voice

Ann’s point of bigger stories really challenges us to go beyond the expectation of typical storytelling and disrupt what she called “industry fairytales”: look past what you are being told to find what people actually want. Being a braver marketer is all about taking those bigger stories and doing something different, whether it’s finding an interesting distribution channel or simply doing something unexpected with the content (in one instance, a B2B brand gave away their digital assets so that others could learn from them.) It’s about taking chances and having passion for what you are doing. Finally, we have to encourage clients to use a bolder tone of voice in all of their content, because it’s not just what you say, but how you say. A brand’s tone of voice is its “gutsiest asset” and, developed correctly, can be a crucial component to a consistent communications and content strategy. The tone of voice must be competitively differentiated while still delivering on the brand’s promise, and its why. Creating great content requires part brains, part heart, and part guts. Because, as Ann succinctly says, “The biggest missed opportunity in content is playing it too safe.”

3. Quality + Promotion

Fact: there’s a lot of crappy content out there. And seriously, companies are looking to create even more. Seventy-six percent of B2B companies said they plan to produce more content in 2016, with only 51 percent saying they plan to do so with more money. It’s the old quantity over quality argument on a national (and socialized) scale without assurances that people will even see it. To create quality content you need to attract people with stories they love. Companies that connect with consumers on an inspirational level are the fastest growing and most profitable. It’s also important to look at data and find out what your customers are searching for, calling about, tweeting about, then address these issues with meaningful content. You also have to ensure that people are able to find this content by amplifying and promoting it to the right audience, in the right channels. But we can only do that if we have the money. Consider this: 40-60 percent of Hollywood film budgets are spent on promotion. We need to reevaluate how we’re creating and distributing our content so that the quality content we create can be seen, shared and amplified to actual people and not demographics, because people are the ones who are buying our products.

4. Audience is King

We’ve all heard that “content is king,” but since audiences are the ones consuming content daily, they now hold the power. Audiences decide what content to engage with, promote or tear apart. In the past five years, their actions (or inaction) have dictated platforms to adopt a pay-to-play model, yet most brands continue to market to consumers as they always have – demanding attention. Yes, businesses need to advertise, but they need to provide value first in order for people to pay attention. Before creating content, understand how, when and why audiences engage to ensure content persuades and activates as intended.

To do this, brands need to become what their consumers are interested in, not the other way around. Think about the identity of the person you are trying to reach – Who is she/he? What does she/he want? What impresses her/him? Why would she/he buy what you’re trying to sell her/him? In order to effectively create content for your audience, you need to understand the person.

5. Follow the Consumer Purchase Journey

Content marketing is about answering your customers’ questions. The consumer purchase journey is nothing more than a series of questions that need to be answered. Understanding buying decisions and the people who make them is crucial to a strong content strategy. A key theme heard in multiple sessions at Content Marketing World is the need to map content to each stage of the buyer journey. Consumers have questions at each stage on their path to purchase, so giving them content that is relevant and helps facilitate a purchase is essential. As notable strategist and author Jay Baer puts it, the content we create should be “a bridge between commerce and the consumer,” meaning we should be reflecting the needs of people and how our product delivers on their need. The content we create should be used to tell stories, not stories about the brand necessarily, but stories about people and how our products answer an unmet need. Spell it out and make it easy for people to get your product or service afterward. It should never be content for content’s sake.

How can you make your content work harder in 2016?

Image credit: Search Engine People Blog

How Hispanic Millennials Influence the American Experience – Hispanic Heritage Month Edition (Friday5)

This post was collaboratively published by Reynaldo Delgado (Miami), Andre Iturbe (Los Angeles) and Melissa Quiñones (New York).

September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. This week’s Friday5 focuses on Hispanic millennials and their influence on the American experience.

Hispanic millennials comprise a hyper-engaged segment of the U.S. population that is rapidly growing, driving change and diversifying several pillars of American life as we know it. These ambitious individuals should not be overlooked – they are 22.7 million strong and represent 21 percent of the U.S. millennial Generation. Hispanic millennials are diverse and embrace their Latino culture yet are acculturated individuals who believe in the “American Dream.” This group is at the forefront of change and defining how the U.S. moves forward.

Here are five ways that Hispanic millennials are changing several aspects of the American lifestyle:

1. Politics

In 2015 alone, over 993,000 Hispanic-Americans will be turning 18 – that means that every month, 66,000 more Hispanics attain voting age. This merits much attention for the 2016 U.S. presidential election as up to one million Hispanic millennials can be registered as new voters. U.S. political parties will have to be strategic when selecting their presidential nominee as their support of the Latino community will be significant come November 2016.

2. Economy

Multicultural consumers now drive both population and economic growth in the U.S. This “Big Shift” is led by U.S. Hispanics at $1.2 trillion dollars (the equivalent to Mexico’s entire GDP), and the Hispanic market showed a gain of 155 percent since 2000. According to Nielsen, Hispanics are “Super Consumers” that can influence the general population, and have about 20 more years of effective buying power over non-Hispanic Whites.

3. Education

Hispanic millennials are enrolling in higher education at a greater rate than other American minority students. As a result, more Hispanic-Americans are working in traditional white collar jobs than in the past and are more inclined to become entrepreneurs than other minorities. This surge of educated Hispanic millennials is reflected in Hispanic owned business, which increased 43 percent to 3.22 million between 2007 and 2014, more than twice the overall growth rate of all U.S. businesses during the same time period (18 percent).

4. Social Media

While all millennials use social media networks relatively equally, Hispanic millennials are at the forefront with nearly 66 percent more likely to connect via mobile than their non-Hispanic counterparts. According to Pew Research, Facebook stands out as the most widely used platform with 73 percent of Latinos connecting while Instagram is emerging as more engaging among Latinos (34 percent). What differentiates Hispanic-American millennials is that culturally relevant content continues to be key when engaging this demographic. Univision and Snapchat have partnered to create unique content (via Snapchat’s Live Stories) around Univision events to reach young, highly digital Hispanic-Americans who consume the networks content on mobile.

5. Technology

Multicultural consumers have paved the way for new technologies, especially in entertainment. Hispanic-American millennials spend more time consuming digital video than the national U.S. average, and nearly three in four Latinos own smartphones (72 percent), close to ten percent higher than average in the U.S. Hispanics are also starting to “Cut the Cord” and are live streaming entertainment and sporting events. According to Horowitz Research, 51 percent of Hispanics are spending more than 20 percent of their total TV viewing time watching live-streamed content and have the highest penetration of being able to stream to TVs.

5 Takeaways from Dreamforce 2015 (Friday5)

Dreamforce marks the point in time each year when nearly 170,000 marketers, sales professionals and technologists descend upon San Francisco to learn more about the trends, products and solutions that are shaping the future of business for the next year and beyond. Keynotes and sessions were dominated this year by how that the Internet of Things is changing the ways in which we operate and communicate.

Platforms are integrating, the cloud is connecting data and systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is fueling an “intelligence revolution.” These changes have some key implications for how marketers need to evolve how we do business and tell stories:

1. The Internet of Things and machine learning create major opportunities

Smart devices, connected equipment, sensors and wearable technology are getting more sophisticated and more prolific. By 2020, the average person is likely to have 26 connected devices. Businesses can use IoT to harvest and produce massive amounts of data that can then be analyzed and interpreted for many different purposes. Within a company or database, processes can be automated and algorithms allow machines to get smarter based on the data they are analyzing. This means number crunching and technical work can be handled by software. Actions executed by either consumers or other technology can trigger other actions without people involved. All of these systems are then connected by the cloud, allowing for the seamless flow of data from one platform to the next.

2. Figuring out what to do with data is a core challenge for the immediate future

All that data generated by IoT creates opportunities…but the learning curve is steep. 90 percent of the world’s data was produced in the last year alone, which means that we are only scratching the surface in terms of what we will have to work within the next 5-10 years. But there’s an incredible gap between the data available to us currently and what we do with it. According to Salesforce less than 1 percent of customer data is currently analyzed, which means it is being underutilized. We need to make sure we, and our clients, are equipped with the right tools to process data and use it to glean actionable insights.

3. Data-driven decision making means we tell can tell stories differently

It’s not just that there’s a new imperative to turn data into insights. We need to think about how to use those insights to drive our strategy, inform our planning and feed the stories we tell on behalf of our clients. In a creative newsroom, our clients are already starting to use data from online conversations, web traffic, social content performance, email marketing and consumer insights to inform content creation. We use those same insights to inform creative strategy for program planning. But, beyond the inputs we currently use, we should be thinking about what else we can do to tell new and innovative stories about companies and our client’s target audiences.

4. Consumers expect personalized experiences

Consumers increasingly expect companies and technology to learn from what they do and meet their needs accordingly. Of course they want a personalized browsing experience on the websites they visit and emails should certainly include personalized content. But they want more – they want their experience to be seamless from the sales rep in store (or online shopping cart), to the recommendations they’re sent and the customer service chat a year later. This desire for personal attention underscores the value in collecting data from consumers along their individual journeys, and letting those inputs trigger personalized communications and care tailored to their needs.

5. All of these changes impact the future of work

Understanding and evolving to accommodate the new opportunities provided by the Internet of Things and the technology that’s emerging to manage it requires a lot of organizational change. As processes are automated, job functions change as well. We have to prepare our clients to think differently about how they do business, but also how to manage those changes among employees. It’s not just about getting the right technology and tools in place, it’s also about creating the environment to make it work. We heard loud and clear at Dreamforce that the executives driving this intelligence revolution recognize the need for culture development and change management in conjunction with workforce development, process change and technology platform updates.

Ultimately, the intelligence revolution presents us new and exciting challenges and the landscape is changing at a rapid pace. It’s important for us to think holistically about how our clients can evolve to meet the needs of their internal and external audiences as they navigate these changes.

Image credit: Michelle Prieb

Letting Creativity Inspire Your Instagram Story (Friday5)

In recent years, the increase in popularity of visually oriented online services such as Instagram have paved the way for brands to exhibit new kinds of visual creativity. Though the latest updates allow users to think outside the box (literally – Instagram’s latest update now supports landscape and portrait images), the creative use of the service can help distinguish content even further and add new life to an Instagram page. Especially with the recent rollout of Instagram ad availability, it’s more important than ever for brands to distinguish themselves in a crowded newsfeed space.

Inspired by recent examples, here are new ways companies have been raising the bar on Instagram by harnessing its mobile-first visual approach:

1. Standing Out as Soon As They Click Your Profile

The shift from image templates to borderless, filtered images on Instagram allow for squared images in the preview to seamlessly blend together. This offers brands the opportunity to experiment with the creation of larger cohesive images to appear when one navigates to the profile page. Recognizing the popularity of food-related images on Instagram, Reynolds Wrap has created an “Endless Table” using this feature, which highlights different recipes as a piece of a larger visual puzzle. Taking it one step further, users are able to click on an image’s tags and navigate to a separate profile which houses the entire recipe, along with visual instructions.

2. Taking Followers on a Journey

The service’s tagging functionality can go beyond simply tagging influencers or other users with which the brand interacts. The ability to direct followers to an entirely different account allows brands to ease navigation and create a flow for creative content to bring their stories to life. Leveraging this feature to tap into the nostalgic element of childhood literary favorites, Old Spice recently developed a cheeky, sci-fi world within the service. By dedicating the corner of the image to a “tap here” call to action, users were prompted to learn more and interact with the content.

3. Playing up the “♥”

Facebook has the “like” and Twitter has the “favorite” but perhaps one of the most playful elements of Instagram is the ability to ♥ pictures that resonate with a user. Playing off of the uniqueness of this feature, the ARTBEATS Instagram posted a slew of illustrations which use a heart to “complete” the photo. From playing cards to Care Bears, the company found a number of ways to incorporate this element into the broader images.

4. Looping to it

The rising popularity of gifs to express emotion has led to services such as Facebook and Twitter engraining these moving images into their service’s functionality. While Instagram does not allow the direct uploading of such files, a recent shift to auto-play, auto-loop video content allows brands to “hack” this functionality and create their own Instagram gifs via video cinemagraphs. Making note of this, Budweiser served up both a perfectly poured beer and a clever take on a party photo to their Instagram followers.

5. Bringing Quizzes Back

Previously found in the back of your favorite magazine, the ease with which users can share and bond over quiz results online has paved the way for a resurgence in the format’s popularity. Brands have begun following suit by integrating these quizzes into owned properties or sponsored content offered on a digital media hub such as Buzzfeed. Hyundai recently took this onto Instagram, creating a personality quiz housed across 18 Instagram accounts and nearly 400 unique images to help guide users to the SUV that’s right for them.

By remaining constantly curious and simply taking a different approach to currently-existing functionality, brands can break through the noise and stand out from the crowd through content that resonates. How will you stand out?

Image credit: Reynolds’ Instagram

Digital Storytelling Trends for Global Brands (Friday5)

For multinational organizations, telling globally relevant stories is as much a study in consumer behavior as it is in reporting. Implicit in the trend, particularly in the digital age, is a shift towards concise, salient narratives. By their very nature, global brands have a wealth of international content to pull from and are best served highlighting these stories to engage with audiences online.

Here are five ways brands are leveraging international stories to craft compelling content:

1. Employee Spotlights

Forging an emotional connection with audiences comes down to sharing narratives that resonate. At Microsoft*, this takes the form of employee spotlights on the brand’s Stories page. The microsite, categorized by employee, highlights relevant career trajectories, zeroing in on individual struggles and successes independent of the software company. The resulting entries, which read more like a memoir than a corporate feed, go a long way in spotlighting the brand’s standout team members on a global scale.

2. Day in the Life Snapshots

Much like the personal feeds of friends and colleagues, storytelling formats seeing the most engagement online are those that mirror the exclusive spotlights characteristic of social properties. For instance, Coca-Cola taps into global stories with its Day in the Life series, a collection of slideshows offering a rare glimpse into the day-to-day activities of the brand’s social partners. The simple execution lends an intimacy to the conversation, inviting fans to experience its international work as locals would.

3. Trending Hashtags

Equally important is the way multinationals are leveraging trending hashtags and dominant themes to tell a compelling international story. At IBM, global perspectives are featured prominently as part of the brand’s #ViewFromMyDesk campaign. The social play, active across Twitter and Instagram, showcases views from team member desks across the globe. The campaign’s strong reception, indicative of a wider photo-sharing trend, brings to light the power of consumer behavior – in this case, sharing desk photos – to inspire wider audience participation.

4. Standalone Visuals

Images, long considered the bread and butter of social feeds, are seeing a resurgence, and, with new photo-sharing apps cropping up each day, there’s never been a better time to capitalize on the visual trend to tell international stories. At FedEx, this takes the form of one-off Instagram photos, featuring the brand’s iconic logo in an otherwise destination-focused post. In much the same way as Coca-Cola’s Day in the Life series, these visually-rich updates capitalize on existing consumer trends to reach new audiences online.

5. Short-Form Videos

In this digital context, successful storytelling comes down to succinct messaging. Across properties, long-form exposés have given way to snappy sound bites, the majority of which zero in on a personality or city of interest, with little room for exhaustive analysis. For instance, General Electric* spotlights its global operations with eight-second Facebook videos. In this case, engagement rests squarely on the visuals captured in the truncated clip.

Crafting compelling stories in the digital age calls for a tactful approach, one executed with social in mind. Now more than ever, international stories are fast becoming standard content pillars, with multinationals quick to spotlight these stories on their feeds. Here, it’s the international brands capitalizing on follower trends and the tenets of storytelling reaching new audiences online.

*Edelman client
Image credit: Latin America for Less

Personalizing your Corporate Brand is Like an Award Show (Friday5)

This past weekend, millions of viewers tuned into the VMAs and even more tweeted about it. While many of us were actually interested in finding out who won Video of the Year, the show proves to be about more than just the awards. Instead, it’s about the experience provided for fans—celebrity interviews, musical performances and usually even a few bizarre moments. All of these components tied together are what make the show entertaining and help viewers feel like they’re part of the event, while also giving people something to talk about online.

In many ways, this is similar to all of the components of building and personalizing a corporate brand presence online. Customers, fans and followers want more than just information about products and services. They want a full experience including a look at the people behind the brand and internal happenings that make the company unique. Personalizing a corporate brand can help a company build relationships with others and create an engaging online community.

Here are five ways that personalizing your corporate brand is similar to an award show:

1. Viewers want a look behind the scenes.

Viewers want to see more than the scripted announcements and on-stage performances. They want to see camera cuts to celebrities stepping out of their limos and stars mingling around dinner tables. Seeing this footage throughout the event allows viewers to feel like they are getting the inside scoop and help make them feel more connected to the event.

Similarly, followers of corporate brands want information that doesn’t come across as general knowledge or something that could be easily found on a company website. To build a deeper connection with the online audience, brands should share information that shows internal events, a behind-the-scenes look into how a product is made or fun facts about employees. Digging into the deeper layers of a company and its offerings allows customers to feel like they have a holistic view and understanding of the organization.

2. Interviews show personality.

Celebrity interviews allow the viewers to see what the stars are like when they aren’t on stage. It gives us a window into their world as they more candidly talk about their personal lives and share thoughts on certain topics. This is what sets celebrities apart from one another and helps viewers imagine what it might be like to actually have a conversation with these stars, making them more relatable.

Just like getting to hear directly from the celebrities, people want to get to know your brand by hearing from the staff. Encouraging employees to do some of the talking is a great way for companies to get personal, allowing the audience to receive information from other people and not just an organization. In fact, the 2015 Trust Barometer results show a company’s employees are more trusted than the CEO when sharing content online. Companies can share digital content that highlights individual employee experiences or shows an executive’s thought leadership on industry topics.

3. The dress matters.

In the world of Hollywood, it’s no surprise that looks matter. Celebrities and stars put a lot of time and money into their appearance when attending an award show. Fashion can sometimes matter even more than other show components. If it’s done right, red carpet fashion can be talked about for days following the event.

For brands, it’s not just about what is being said but how it is being presented. Rich media is now essential in generating interest online. Corporate brands need to show off their content in a visual way to catch people’s attention and encourage engagement. Packaging social posts in the right way can get online users talking and possibly even get them to share content on the brand’s behalf.

4. It’s all about the trends.

Award shows are all about what’s trending right now – the hottest songs, fashion, and gossip. Celebrities want to be relevant and show they have a lot in common with their fans. We’ve seen this done successfully when Ellen snapped the infamous ”selfie” at the Oscars in 2014 and broke Twitter records. It is these moments that get fans excited and provide unique experiences for the viewer.

Likewise, brands need to show they are relevant by taking part in conversations that are timely and that their audience has an interest in. For instance, if a hashtag is trending on Twitter on a relevant topic, the brand should incorporate it into content and join in the conversation. This shows the company is nimble and can have fun with popular topics, while providing an opportunity for the brand to be part of the larger conversation and reach a wider audience.

5. Acknowledge the fans.

In almost every acceptance speech, celebrities acknowledge and thank the fans. They show that they appreciate the support and wouldn’t be receiving the award if it wasn’t for their following. This makes fans feel like they are a part of the larger community that stands behind a specific artist.

Online, it is also essential that brands acknowledge followers on a regular basis. This can be done by opening up questions on social channels to hear directly from the audience or even polling them on brand decisions – showing them that their voices matter. This will allow followers to feel like they are part of an inviting online community and help establish strong connections by encouraging an ongoing two-way dialogue.

Image credit: Anthony Quintano

New Ways to Optimize for Google Search (Friday5)

Google is smart. It knows what users are searching for and which process they go through to find search results. As the Google algorithm is constantly evolving, it is better at understanding user search intent, and in turn, prioritizing content engagement more than ever before.

As we advise clients on how to design online content for their websites, we need to help them understand how to optimize that content for search engines helping them drive more traffic to their content. Traditionally, this optimization focused on variables such as keyword targeting, anchor text, meta data, user experience/multi-device and the like. However, we have to think past these traditional variables of optimization and start putting a bigger focus on how the end user will engage with the content.

Here are five new variables to optimize for Google’s changing algorithm:

1. Relative CTR

What is this? Essentially this means getting people to spend more time on our client’s websites than their competitors’ websites. This involves understanding what a user wants to see in a search result and optimizing content to clearly answer their question and compel them to visit our client’s website. Once new content is published, Google often gives a window of testing on page one to determine how effective and engaging content is with searchers. If content is highly engaged, it will likely remain at a high ranking, but otherwise it will drop off of page one results. This provides an opportunity for repeated publication on the same topics/keywords until we can successfully engage with an audience.

2. Beating Competitors on Engagement

Google is no longer gameable. In the past, people have tried to trick Google’s algorithm by driving fake traffic to websites to show high volumes of traffic or keyword stuffing content trying to ensure a high ranking in organic results. Long gone are the days when this was acceptable practice – it now leads to Google punishing your content and rankings. While there are a number of factors that go into beating the competition on engagement, the end all, be all, is to know your audience and create high quality, engaging and interactive content that will capture their attention and compel them to visit your website.

3. Give People What They Need

Google’s ultimate goal is to deliver content to searchers that fulfills their needs and does not require them to return to the search process. For example, is a user searches for “What is SEO?,” the ideal search result would contain the definition of search engine optimization rather than a technical document that details SEO practices. Google’s advanced algorithm is key here because it is able to understand user intent based on related words, phrases and themes and then deliver this content to users.

4. Amplification and Loyalty

The top 10 percent of content receives all the social shares and traffic. From a ranking perspective, Google does not care about raw shares and numbers from social, but overall engagement. They want to see social actions that result in returning visits and loyalty. Understanding what our audience shares and engages with is increasingly important so that we can focus on this content and improve it.

5. Instant Gratification

Google’s end goal is to get searchers to accomplish their tasks quicker. They want to see a user’s search, understand what the majority of those searches lead to, and then deliver that result more quickly. Having a page or website that answers a searchers initial query, but does not fulfill their end search need will lead to a decline in ranking over time.

In the end, it’s not about the number of roads that lead to a destination, but the quality of the destination. For SEO, it’s not about the number of links to/from your website, number of visitors to your website or amount of content that you post – it’s about the quality of the content and its relevance to the visitors. Understanding our audience and their end search intent is more important than ever when developing content. With Google’s mission focused on fulfilling a user’s search intent as efficiently and effectively as possible, we must realize that we now live in a two-algorithm world and optimize for both traditional variables and quality user engagement.

Image credit: Google

5 Things You Should be Thinking about for SXSW 2016 (Friday5)

If your brand is considering a presence at SXSW next March, believe it or not, now is the time to start planning.

Here are five things to consider:

1. Think about SXSW early and often

Sure, SXSW is 202 days away. But hotels are already getting sold out and travel is being planned. The point is that now is the time to start thinking about your plan and activation, looking into venues and developing your strategy.

2. There are more places than ever to plug in

With new additions to the Interactive path (now including Sports, Create, Good and Style) – and to SXSW Film, Music and EDU – there are multiple fronts where your brand can have a presence. Remember that interactive is typically the most crowded space, so don’t forget about the not as obvious opportunities. It could be a great, unexpected way to show up differently.

3. Provide value, not noise

SXSW is large. And noisy. It’s filled with brands that are trying to out scream one another for attention. And because of that, they all get lost in the shuffle. Ask yourself, how can I make the SXSW-goers experience better? In other words, don’t ask what they can do for you, ask what you can do for them. How can you be a beacon in a sea of sameness? The brands that help make the festival experience even better (instead of trying to compete with it) are the ones that win hearts, minds and ink.

4. Think about before, during and after SXSW

Most people are laser focused on the 10 days of the festival (or maybe even just the 4 days of interactive). When you’re developing your plan, it’s important to include a “build” that leads towards the festival, engaging influencers and SXSW-goers long before they step foot in Austin. And after they go home with Texas-sized memories in their heads, how will you keep the conversation going? SXSW isn’t a moment in time, it’s a state of mind!

5. Be targeted, strategic and scrappy

With the thousands upon thousands of people in Austin during SXSW, it’s unrealistic to think you’re going to reach them all. Focus on the people who matter most to you and your brand, and develop a strategy to reach them directly. Also,know that many people come to SXSW to embrace serendipity, so be flexible and scrappy on the ground.

Image credit: SXSW/Diego Donamaria