If you've been keeping up with where in the world our team is, you know we just got back from Ragan Social in Orlando and wrapped up SXSW here in Austin.
We thought we'd share some of our takeaways from both events, and maybe we'll catch you at one of our upcoming events! (Like our April 9th event in SF with PRSA and AMA on better pitching.)
Our Content Manager Sarah A. Parker spoke on social data in the presentation ‘Anyone can cook’ a delicious social media strategy with the secret sauce: data.
If you're looking for a social conference to attend, we definitely recommend Ragan; the speakers shared valuable advice and insights beyond the oversimplified introductory information often found at conferences.
The Mickey-shaped ice cream is a nice bonus, too.
Right after returning from Ragan, our Marketing Manager Rebecca dove into the annual madness of SXSW.
Here are her takeaways:
Day 1 | Influencer Marketing in 2025: The Future of Human Media
Influencer marketing is already changing the way brands reach consumers. This particular panel featured Ryan Berger of Hypr and Sarah Flynn of Thirty Five Ventures, and was moderated by Courtney Spritzer from Socialfly.
Why influencer marketing? 92% of consumers believe that their recommendations are more authentic than a traditional ad. In essence, individuals have become walking, human media and their ability to spread messages via word-of-mouth is happening faster than ever thanks to technology. Social media has created a new environment that lets consumers have authentic connections with celebrities and influencers. For this reason, brands need to incorporate the authenticity of influencers into their marketing campaigns.
Beyond working with brands, influencers are going the extra mile stand out on social. They’re creating content, distributing it and even gaining notoriety from it— so they’re not only disrupting the production and media world, they’re also disrupting the celebrity world. That’s why it’s important to think about a partnership with an influencer as more than a one-off social post. Think of influencers as potential partners to your brand and be sure to make them part of your everyday content. Does the influencer have similar ideals and values as your brand? The influencer knows their audience and what works best, so be open to their creative ideas rather than providing copy.
And don’t dismiss micro influencers! They often have a more dedicated audience on specific topics and generally have much higher engagement. They’re great for longterm strategy because they can create content cost-effectively which can then be repurposed for paid ads. Plus, you can look to see how fast their channels are growing to decide if you want to lock in a longer contract, so you’ll have that relationship once they have a bigger audience. Just be sure you have a good understanding of their audience and if it aligns with your brand’s.
Influencers are usually very willing to share their metrics with brands to show how they can contribute. However, recent negative press (fake followers, FTC regulations, Fyre Festival and GDPR to name a few) reminds us that brands need to do their due diligence and vet influencers before entering a contract. Once you find an influencer that aligns with your brand, pay attention to the traffic, engagement, coupon code redemptions, and other activities that they’re driving. Then you can decide which influencers are the best for your brand.
TrendKite offers a robust influencer management platform to help PR professionals manage contacts and track pitches, if that's something your brand is interested in.
Day 2 | Can Brand Advertising Survive In the Era of 1:1
This panel from the Advertising Research Foundation was a discussion on how to balance traditional advertising tactics with growth; a crossroad that every company encounters at some point in their lifetime. How can we continue to personalize our advertising strategy but at a rate that can scale and grow the business? Data. Brands need to have a larger data strategy for growth.
Most advertisers and marketers are already leveraging data, especially when targeting audiences. But this approach narrows audiences, slicing them into smaller pieces, making the stories that brands tell very narrow too. This is why personalization isn’t scalable. Yes, it’s proven higher conversion rates, but how much personalization is necessary?
One panelist from Google went through a series of experiments and played several ads with small content changes. And what they found was that changing copy/visualization for shorter videos didn’t matter much. For long-form content, consumers tend to be more responsive to customization because they’re taking time to watch it. For timely events (i.g. just had a baby) customization is also extremely important.
People don’t look at ads, they look at what’s interesting— and sometimes that can be an ad.
The 2 main takeaways:
- Promise to be more interesting: Throw yourself into those hard-working asset ideas
- Don’t forget about mass: We can do great stuff 1:1, but you’re giving up the collective experience for your brand if you don’t pay attention to the mass with mass advertising.
Day 3 | The Death of the Clickable Ad
Here's a unique format for a session: 5 conversations, 10 minutes each. This one covered:
There is a shift in control between the consumer and the advertiser. Right now, it’s all up to the consumer to click on the ad, giving them all the control. Content consumption is so linear that it’s hard for ads to interrupt. One day, they predict the ad will be clicking on us, interrupting us from our daily lives.
An example: The not so far-fetched idea of a consumer walking to party, wearing something like a pair of Google glasses. Siri chimes in telling them to stop at the 7-Eleven a few blocks away to pick up some beers. BAM! Interrupted.
There’s a blurry line between the ad story and the content story— the creator often wants to mimic what the ad is and vice-versa. The line should be more defined so that consumers get what they expect when they click an ad.
The tip: Don’t let business people build creative. Instead, think about the experience for the consumer. You can still make money but without using crappy ads at the expense of the customer.
There's no guarantee that something could go viral and virality isn’t always the most important thing for successful ads. Successful ads are usually well planned out, clear and concise, and not attempting to be funny. But ads aren’t what build relationships between brands and consumers; it's creativity. So try to find a balance.
There’s a profound gulf between 2 viewpoints: The consumer that wants to buy things and the advertiser that wants to sell things. How can we bridge this gap? The consumer as the creator is going to bridge the gap.
New platforms emerge all the time and ad agencies are typically the last to embrace them because they're more focused on keeping their clients happy. But with AR on the rise, agencies and brands should start thinking about how they can incorporate new platforms into their longterm strategy.
The big question here was if context makes an ad perform better. And the not so simple answer is: not necessarily, but it does help. Basically, the argument is that if an ad is good, it doesn’t have to be the *perfect moment* for it to work. BUT, you can’t just put a great ad anywhere an expect it to work. So again, it’s all about balance.
Did you attend Ragan Social or SXSW? Let us know your takeaways!
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