The curtains have officially closed on another SXSW. As always, the event was chock full of inspiring keynotes, thought provoking panels, Twitter chatter and, yes, device charging woes aplenty. The Taylor Digital team was onsite at SXSW Interactive attending panels, absorbing keynotes and walking the tradeshow floor. Though many topics and technologies were discussed – from social media influencers to evolutions in mobile – a few key themes rose to the top for our team.
- In recent years, SXSW has evolved. What was once a launch pad for Twitter and Foursquare has evolved into a hub of knowledge sharing for brands and marketers. Though the splashy and flashy launches aren’t as prevalent, many important trends and technologies were discussed and challenged by some of the best minds in the industry. And many brands took advantage of the event to engage onsite, online – and make a few headlines in the process.
- 3D printing – You might not know it, but 3D printing has been around for a long time. As a panel on the topic noted, every in-ear hearing device and select parts for unmanned aerial vehicles are 3D printed. Its accessibility to consumers, however, is an evolution of the industry. In Austin, 3D printing companies displayed the technology in panels, at parties and everywhere in between with nearly portable devices. As CNET notes, though the immediate impact and value of 3D printing is not totally clear, it’s obvious the technology will change production in the coming years. In the meantime, the consumer-level printers can be utilized at events to create unique items that tie directly to the brand campaign (cups, figurines, bottle openers, jewelry). Consumers can literally watch the construction and have a chance to take the item home.
- Big data and the convergence of physical and digital – Harnessing data to assist or customize your physical world made its way into many discussions at this year’s SXSW. If you attended even a few panels at SXSW, odds are you heard discussions of digital technologies playing a larger role in just about everything you do, and not just within the standard digital devices we often associate with your digital life (laptop, mobile phone, tablet, iPod, etc.). No matter what the session you were in was titled, it seemed inevitable that the topic would turn to the convergence of digital, physical and the role big data played in that. This included gesturing technologies to aid presentations or gaming, responsive athletic gear that could visualize data to aid technique or performance, and augmented reality concepts like Google Glass that can access mountains of contextual, local data that can turn the world into a hands-free, voice enabled web browser.
Facebook News Feed Gets a New Look
Overview: Facebook recently announced a major update to the news feed aimed to reduce clutter that will affect both users and brands. Content is now the visual centerpiece of the news feed and the overall Facebook user experience, with photos and videos being front and center. While the redesigned news feed has begun to roll out, it’s currently only available to a limited user-base as the company is continuing to gather feedback to make any necessary changes before the overhaul on web, mobile and tablets. This is also timely with YouTube’s roll out of new channels, to adjust images to fit with increasing desktop screen sizes and to be more mobile and tablet friendly. This roll-out does not appear to have any impact on current age-gated pages.
Impact on Consumers: CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg referred to the redesign as becoming a “personalized newspaper” for Facebook users. The new look and feel will allow users to have more control over what appears in their feed – giving them the ability to subscribe to different feeds – from friends, music, games, and brands they follow.
Opportunity for Brands: Brands will now be able to have their own news feeds, which fans can opt in to subscribe to. Currently, a fan who “likes” a brand page may see as few as 1 out of 5 updates that brand sends. Now brand updates will appear in users’ news feeds like those of their friends (consistently), making it a massive change from the current system of “liking” a brand’s fan page and then seeing only some of the posts that brands share, so this is a huge opportunity for brands to engage with their Facebook audience. On the other hand, the changes also makes it easier for consumers to segment brands from their feeds, which potentially means that content may go unseen. Content is more important than ever, so this is something the brand teams should keep in mind when planning updates and creating branded images. Part of the experience will be a “test and learn” with brands, but overall, creating solid branded content is key. Currently, we do not know how this will directly impact brand metrics and measurement, as well as advertising on the platform, but will follow up as more information is released.
- Pinterest has just introduced their web-based analytics tool, allowing site owners and brands on Pinterest to get a better look at the site content that is giving them the most visibility on Pinterest, and in turn driving referrals to their site. The tool is free and allows owners to track different elements of their page and content, including pins, impressions and reach. With the update, administrators can see what does and doesn’t work for their brand.
- Google continues to modify their product lineup, and recently made announcements regarding two of their platforms, Google+ and Google Reader. For Google +, a platform update reveals larger cover photos, revamped local reviews and the new About tab. The new look makes the interface more simple, and easier to navigate. Google has made strides to become a premier platform for its 400 million users. They have also let the world know that Google Reader will be shut down on July 1st, sending the internet into an uproar.
- RUMOR MILL: A new iPhone app called Mailbox has been a buzz on the market. The app has earned great reviews for being very simple and best of all it keeps your inbox clutter free. Just one month after launch, Dropbox acquired the app. It is on a first come first serve basis, so get in line!