This year I was lucky enough to attend my first ever SXSW Interactive conference in Austin. While it’s been said there were no game changers to come out of SXSW this year like Twitter and Foursquare of past years, there definitely were some themes that you couldn’t go 10 minutes without hearing about.
To me, gamification and mobile apps were the two big winners. There were also way too many Charlie Sheen and #winning jokes, but that has to be expected at a geek conference.
One thing that did became very clear to me as I sat through all the sessions was social media marketing is still in its infancy stage. I heard a lot of contradictory advice, arguments over what the standards of measurement should be and audience members that were craving more examples of good and bad uses of social media.
While some people like to think social media has started to advance greatly, a lot of brands still find it surprising that asking questions is a good way to start engaging with users in social.
Even though sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have now been around for 4+ years, there are still no sure-fire tactics for businesses and social media. There are no industry standards or success metrics that people can agree on.
In a morning session, a presenter talked about how the myth of failing at social media being ok for marketers should no longer be acceptable. Several hours later in a session, a panelist preached how now is the time to experiment with social media and brands that aren’t afraid to fail are doing the best to leverage this new channel. You could argue both are right.
You constantly hear things like Fan and Follower counts don’t matter, yet we champion the social media efforts of brands that have 10 million Likes on Facebook but have never answered a question a Fan left on their Wall (you know who you are).
Some of the “experts” at the conference were still citing examples of @ComcastCares and the @DellOutlet on Twitter as who is “getting” social. Who hasn’t heard those two case studies a million times by now? People were practically begging for the newest and brightest examples of what works in social media marketing but no panel or presenter I saw really supplied it. And I think things like that are a telling sign of where social media currently is.
Social media marketing is still very subjective. You have to do what works and fits for your brand. You can’t try to keep up with the Joneses in social because you will just end up wasting your time chasing the newest thing you read on Mashable.
It seemed like some people go to conferences like SXSW looking for some cool new tactic or shiny object they can instantly plug into their social media efforts and reap in the success. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
The biggest thing I got out of SXSW was realizing social media is still many different things to all types of businesses. We don’t all need Tumblr blogs or our own Instagram hashtags. Having the CEO tweet won’t work for everyone. Not every brand needs a Facebook Page (that’s right I said it).
Figure out how social media fits into your brand and how at the end of the day it can help achieve your business goals. Evaluate your successes and failures on your own terms. And buckle up because social media marketing will hit its teenager phase one day, just not soon.