ImageSouth-by-Southwest attracts social media and technology enthusiasts from all over the world for a variety of reasons. One of the coolest tings about the interactive portion of the festival is the collection of brainpower that descends upon Austin every March. With that in mind here are four insider tips for brand marketers that were gleaned from various SXSW sessions.

Focus on advocates not just fans or followers

On several occasions different panelists talked about focusing efforts on identifying brand advocates rather than constantly worrying about growing the number of fans or followers. The idea is that the value a brand gets out of having fifteen or twenty million fans on a social network is dramatically less than it gets from interacting and building relationships with a thousand or even a hundred true advocates.

Ekaterina Walter from Intel suggested that brands shouldn’t be worried about engaging only people with a massive footprint on social platforms because the long-term volume and quality of content those types of people tend to produce for an individual brand is very limited.

Stay abreast of the macro-trends in media

Media continues to evolve at a rapid pace—everything from focusing on visual content, to using data to tell compelling stories, to optimizing for mobile consumption was deemed critical by journalists, technologists and marketers at SXSW this year.

BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti aptly compared media today with a Paris café where people sit down, read news, pet the dog at the table next to them, socialize, laugh with friends, consume more content and so on. Marketers need to understand that such an environment is more conducive to short-form, visual content as opposed to lengthy, mostly text-based updates. Keeping tabs on how media is consumed and shared will be a key to staying ahead of the pack.

Recognize that emotion matters, a lot

It may be something very difficult for most brands (and us men) to comprehend, but when it comes to influencing people to pass along a story, photo, video or app to their friends and families, emotion matters. In fact, Peretti suggested that the emotional quotient (EQ) is a more important factor than having a smart and insightful piece of content when it comes to creating the much sought, yet seldom achieved viral lift. Marketers should seek to find ways to inspire their audiences, make them laugh or generally connect with them in a more human manner.  

Analyze and be prepared to adjust accordingly

Many of the most successful media and digital properties are running some incredibly complex and robust analytics on the back-end and are using insights from those systems to inform their strategies. Everyone from Major League Baseball to BuzzFeed shared data from algorithms that are used to identify how content is performing in near real-time and talked about being able to adjust on-the-fly in order to maximize results. While a proprietary algorithm and in-house data analysts may be unrealistic for most brands, paying attention to if and how audiences are reacting to the content they produce is critical.

What tips do you have?

image: austin/shutterstock