Context As King…and other Lessons from SXSWi 2008…

guitar hero at SXSW 2008Four days at South by Southwest Interactive   (SXSWi) yielded many lessons for this recently appointed Vice President of New Media.  Apart from ubiquitous guitar hero contests and a ride in a simulated racecar that was so real I got carsick,  the panels and discussions at the annual interactive and gaming festival taught me alot.         Guitar Hero at SXSW Interactive 2008

Here’s some insights:                                                                                  

1. The Geek Nation can be brutal.   The audience at the Mark Zuckerburg keynote was vicious in  attacks on Sarah Lacy, the hair-twirling valleygirl journalist whose interview with the Facebook founder provoked an unforgiving backchannel on Twitter, the microblogging and social networking service.    While Lacy deserved criticism for misjudging her audience and a flirty approach, the ambush seemed a bad fit for her “crime” of being lame.  As Catherine B. Taylor of Social Media Insider pondered:  “…is this…the punishment we can expect…for a particularly bad day at the office?”  The episode has made me reconsider Twitter.

2.  With new and social media it’s all about YOU.  Kathy Sierra’s presentation, “How to Create Passionate Users,” explained that what customers think of you or your company doesn’t matter.  What’s important is how your products and services make customers feel.   A tad Maya Angelou, perhaps, but Kathy’s example of the typical Help Desk experience provoking either an accepting “Ooops!” or angry “You bastards!” from users proves her case. 

3. Social media will have it THEIR way (an extension of Insight #2 above), OR they will leave.   One FAQ: what to do when the boss “just doesn’t get” that social media takes time?  In four separate sessions, social media marketers bemoaned the “glacial” pace of change in their companies, wondering how to convince the boss to be patient with social media initiatives.  

 Advice from the experts: “Life’s too short.  Go work for somebody who understands.” 

4.  Content or Context as King?   Multiple sessions touched on the back-to-the-future notion that once again, content rules.   Valuable content, well written, appropriately distributed reaps audience.   When Social Media Club founder Chris Heuer and I debated this over beers at the Dell Lounge, Chris pointed out, “No, Monika.  CONTEXT is king.”

Chris may be right.   What do you think? 

5 Responses to Context As King…and other Lessons from SXSWi 2008…

  1. Mack Collier says:

    Monika it was great to meet you at SXSW and glad you enjoyed your trip! From my blogging experience, community has been more important to me than content or context. I have seen countless bloggers that produce excellent content, but their reach and influence doesn’t grow, because they don’t make a point to engage their audience. Mike Sansone once had a great point that ‘Content might be king, but if so, Community is the kingdom it serves’.

  2. Kami Huyse says:

    Monika; It was great to see you at SXSW. As far as content vs. context, I would have to say that is isn’t an either/or proposition. It is content in context that rules. Meaning, the context has to fit the context, but it also has to be great content too.

    Also a word about Twitter. The viciousness existed pre-Twitter on other backchannels like IRC and others. It was also pretty heated on Meebo. In the same vein, Twitter also has had amazing WOM benfits for the good. Witness the “Frozen Pea Fund” (google it) for example.

    The unruly mob has always existed. But sometimes the mob rises up and makes societal change happen.

    That said, I am MUCH happier when people sit quietly and talk behind your back than when they rise up DURING a session. By the time I spoke on Tuesday, I must say I was a bit apprehensive.

  3. It was great seeing both of you in Austin. Mack, love Sansone’s apt quote. We agree that it’s not an either/or proposition. Kami, the Frozen Pea Fund IS a great example of what CAN happen. But I find that’s more about the people than the technology. The Lacy incident was my first “mobisode” (emphasis on “mob”) so perhaps I’m a bit sensitive.

    Thank you both for your thoughtful comments.


  4. About the bit on content or context, I would say that both are essential in a blog. However, having both in a blog isn’t enough. I say, both content ad context should appeal to the readers for the blog to work.

  5. moonstudio says:

    Also a word about Twitter. The viciousness existed pre-Twitter on other backchannels like IRC and others. It was also pretty heated on Meebo. In the same vein, Twitter also has had amazing WOM benfits for the good. Witness the “Frozen Pea Fund” (google it) for example.

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