What Did We Learn From SXSW 2015?

Now that the crazy whirlwind of activity is behind us, it’s time for a bit of reflection. Here are a few key takeaways from the 2015 installment.


Between the panel sessions, keynotes, networking, barbeque, live music and parties there was no shortage of things to engage the senses at SXSW Interactive. Now that the crazy whirlwind of activity is behind us, it’s time for a bit of reflection. Here are a few key takeaways from the 2015 installment.

Meerkat-ing is officially a “thing”

Prior to SXSW, I asked if Meerkat was poised to be the festival’s next big break out app. The answer was a resounding yes. Everyone at SXSW was using or talking about Meerkat and the company announced late last week that it had upwards of 120,000 users and growth was continuing to peak. Now, some are even predicting that Meerkat will kill live TV. I’m not willing to go quite that far, but still stick with my initial take—the app feels like it has the staying power that many previous SXSW darlings have not. 

Wearables continue the march to maturity

Wearable technology has been a topic at SXSW for several years—really getting started when Google Glass burst on the scene. This year illustrated how the industry continues to expand and mature. In addition crowds gathering to get a look at new wearable devices for children and pets, the conversation was largely about how technology and fashion are quickly merging together. What we consider “wearable” technology today will be invisible tomorrow—embedded into the very fabric of the clothing we wear. Expect the industry focus to shift to what to do with all the data being produced by such innovation and how it can be used for personal betterment and the collective good. 

It’s harder than ever to stand out

There is so much content generated on a daily basis that rising above the noise has become extraordinarily difficult. As marketers, we can take solace in knowing that great stories still matter and there are an increasing number of avenues through which to tell them. The more we are able to hone our storytelling skills, the better off we’ll be. Two themes that emerged at SXSW in regards to content were emotion and data.

Like it or not, data should be an extremely valuable tool for informing storytelling activities. Those on the bleeding-edge are using data not only to analyze the performance of their content, but to predict what content will resonate best with a specific audience. Similarly, evoking emotion and delivering content that people can relate to in a human way were oft cited mantras from brands and publishers alike. Sure, this is much easier said than done, but makes for a good roadmap to follow. 

Scaling social takes time and real investment

For all the talk about amazing social media campaigns and break out moments, there was some excellent levity shared throughout the festival. For starters—the need to attract and retain talent with multiple skillsets (social, copywriting, analytics, video production, etc.) is immense and competition is fierce. In terms of scaling social within an organization, Alice Wilson of Southwest Airlines shared some interesting data points. Roughly one year ago, Southwest had 3 part-time staffers running its social customer care. Today, there are 22 full-time employees focused on social customer care and that number is expected to jump to 30 in the new few weeks. In part, this growth was achieved by consistently showing management the missed opportunities—that and the fact that Southwest views itself as a customer service company that just happens to fly planes.

What did you learn at SXSW Interactive this year?

Trevor Jonas is vice president of digital strategy at Access Communications, where he develops and implements digital strategies for clients in the financial services, consumer technology and food and beverage industries. Say hello on Twitter and Meerkat @TrevR.

Top image courtesy of John Rodriguez/SXSW.

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