From Influencers to Media Distribution and M-Commerce: What I Learned at #SXSW

After spending five action-packed days at panels and parties, networking and exploring in the beautiful city of Austin, my first-time experience at South by Southwest has come to a close.

As I unpack my bags and think through all of the things I’ve learned this past week, I want to share a few highlights.

Although I left New York with my eyes set on beacons, mobile payments, and sports marketing, I was lucky to attend some panels on social influence, media distribution, and mobile commerce.

On Saturday, I went to “Changing Face of Fame: Social Media Celebrities” where a panel of individuals from Charity Water, Ad Council, Maker Studios, and Niche spoke about how brands can be successful in implementing an influencer-driven campaign.

Much of the conversation revolved around the importance of pairing influencers with the right brands—by looking through the lens of authenticity and an influencer’s connection to a shared audience—versus selecting by maximum impressions.


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Social influence was a popular topic at Sx this year. On Monday, I witnessed a gaggle of squealing teenage girls at the same hotel waiting to meet Bethany Mota and Tyler Oakley.

Meanwhile, my interest was in another influencer.

In hopes of meeting the legend himself (swoon), I attended a panel called “Neymar: From Brazil Soccer Star to YouTube Creator.” Put on Losbragas, the session focused on three season docu series, “Life Outside the Fields,” which was nominated for an international digital Emmy.

What I found to be most interesting was the evolution of people’s perception of Neymar. As a young man thrust into the global spotlight, Neymar, prior to this series, had yet to establish his own voice. Through observational-style filming, Lasbragos was able to capture a more genuine side of the soccer player, sharing aspects of his life that had been unseen by broadcast stations and marketers, leading up to the World Cup. (Interestingly, Lasbragos claims the docu series helped influence the Beats by Dre spot here, which rolled out last summer.)

Overall, the discussion exacerbated the importance of brands and influencers working together to create co-created, co-branded content that feels fresh and has a unique POV.

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By far, my favorite panel of the week was one called “Getting Men Comfortable with Mobile Shopping.” According to the panelists, getting men comfortable with shopping on their smartphones and tablets (whether it be via online retailers, like Amazon, large corporations like Wal-Mart, or mobile-driven businesses like Twice and Threadflip) is a challenge.

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When it comes to the fashion vertical, men’s needs are often overlooked. Men face unique barriers when shopping, including defining their own style and finding clothes that best suit that style.

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The product at the center of conversation, Zold, is a mobile shopping app in Beta that leverages the iconic Tinder swipe in efforts to help simplify the shopping experience for men and deliver personalized content to each user. The app comes after the success of similar female-oriented customization models like JustFab.

Brands and start-ups can’t afford to turn a blind eye to this group, especially in the mobile shopping space.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 56% of men who responded said they go beyond browsing on their smartphones to actually make a purchase, compared to 45% of women. Separated by age, 76% of men ages 18-34 say they typically make a purchase from their smartphones in a given month, compared to 59% of women in this age group.

Last but not least, at “The Future of Distributed Media,” Summer Anne Burton spoke about how content publishing platform, BuzzFeed, has found success with certain types of content, providing insight as to what processes and testing go into optimization and how that influences future content.

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For example, this video on “Weird Things All Couples Fight About” performed exceptionally well on Facebook, from a ‘shares’ perspective.

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Food, animals, and emojis are all considered “winners” for BuzzFeed and continue to be top performers.

One qualitative indicator Summer and her team look for when publishing new content is the comments.

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In all, I found the panels to be engaging for everyone in attendance. Social influence, digital media and content distribution, and m-commerce are still relatively uncharted territories.

Next year, I am excited to see how these conversations transform. In the meantime, I’d like to hear what you thought of this year’s panels (including any of the aforementioned). Tweet your comments to @AllyssaKaiser to continue the conversation!


Where to find us at #SXSWi2015