Behind the Hashtags at SXSW: What NJI Learned at This Year’s Conference

Nate Politi

Category: Strategy


SXSW Interactive had many attendees this year, but luckily for our clients, some of those attendees were NJI Media strategists.

We witnessed new technologies and ideas firsthand at the conference that we’ll employ in our strategies throughout the year, alongside other useful developments that we always keeping tabs on.

Coming straight from Austin, Texas, here are a few of the things we learned at SXSW.

Photo of official SXSW poster by Flickr user Niki Dugan Pogue

The Process

We attended many sessions with specialists on everything from attention to branding, including Guy Kawasaki. There were common threads throughout all talks, where we unearthed principles relevant to our process and you.

Photo by Flickr user goodyears

The What, Why and How

When it comes to new projects, How is our business. How we’ll accurately reflect the message and the brand; how we’ll grab interaction from visitors; how we’ll get what you need done. The What and the Why will come out of our discovery process, but How we tell the story is our expertise.

Design & Web Development

However, we can’t start with How. It is imperative to make What and Why decisions early, and use those as are basis for How. We need to start with why our designs work, not how they work.

No client wants to get bogged down in heatmaps, sitemaps, wireframes, style-guides, content inventories, logotypes, and moodboards. But all those assets get us to our final goal. They help us get to Why – why our solution is the right solution, and why it is going to work for the brand.

Sticking to Our Guns

When we make the How choices, we stand behind those decisions. Our reputation is built on making the right decisions, and backing those decisions up, even if it means defending them to a client, or to ourselves when a client questions a decision.

Social Media Truths

When it comes to social, there are a few rules everyone should live by.

Photo by Flickr user Achim Hepp

Be Optimal.

Avatars, cover photos & bios. They MATTER. They tell who you or your organization, are in a very limited, yet public way. Whether for your personal account, or a brand account, optimize your chances of making the right impression.

Be Consistent.

The content beast needs to be fed! Tweets have extremely short half-lives. If you tweeted it an hour ago, most people are NOT going to see it. Your voice needs to be heard every day, and throughout that day. This is not an optional part of a successful brand, it is an integral part of a successful brand. Regardless of size, building a social presence is a business-building imperative, just like sales or marketing.

Be Gracious.

The haters are out there. The haterade flows like the Potomac sometimes. That’s ok. You know what else is ok? Responding! If someone responds to your tweet negatively, feel free to ask them a question, or re-frame the argument. They may respond negatively again, and at that point you can agree to disagree. Always staying above the fray can make your personality seem too sterile. It’s ok to dive-in sometimes.

Be Friendly

No one can feed the content beast with unique work all day every day. Retweet peers, Respond to other people’s work, or share something that you thought was really cool. It will keep you in the conversation, and make people feel more comfortable engaging with you.

Cool New Concepts

Sure, what you learn is valuable. But everybody wants to know what “cool” stuff we saw. New apps, cool brand experiences, new tech, it’s all at SXSW. Here’s what stood out.

Photo by Flickr user Nan Palmero

  • Meerkat. With Meerkat you can Tweet live video. Simple. Meerkat was so popular at SXSW that they just got banned from the biggest tech startup conference in Silicon Valley. Some presenters were “meerkating” their own panels at SXSW, great for the app, but we’re pretty sure conference planners weren’t psyched about the content being livestreamed for free.
  • SXSWesteros. Game of Thrones had a huge presence in Austin. The pedicabs all looked like the Iron Throne, the lines for GoT themed sessions were out the door, and the SXSWesteros interactive expereince had a line around the block all week. Whether you wanted to take a sword-fighting lesson, get your picture taken on the iron throne, or learn more about how the Producers create such an immersive environment on the screen, Game of Thrones did SXSW right. (Less than 3 weeks until the premiere!)
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. When it comes to what brands are doing, most augmented reality experiences are clunky, slow, and unreliable, and virtual reality has been a pipedream. The sheer amount and simplicity of the different AR and VR applications at SXSW shows the coming changes. We can expect QR codes to go the way of the Dodo bird, giving way to AR experiences that rely on the imagery of an ad, rather than a code. And these interfaces are getting slicker, and easier to use. VR applications for most projects remain a long way off, but the prospects are exciting, to say the least.

The SXSW First Timer’s Tips

Thinking of attending SXSW next year? We have an easy-to-remember survival guide.


Photo by Flickr user Nicole C. Engard

1. Stay comfortable.

Don’t just bring comfortable shoes, bring multiple pairs of them. Any pair of kicks will have your dogs crying by the 3rd day of wearing them. Its important to keep it fresh.

2. Stay hydrated.

We recommend Lone Star Beer. If you can’t find that (impossible in Austin), you can probably find water… somewhere.

3. Stay open.

You won’t get into everything you want. Sometimes the most productive part of your day is a 30 minute conversation with a stranger outside of a hotel, or meeting new vendors and getting new ideas in the tradeshow. Fill your schedule with options, not appointments.

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