Day 4 at SXSW 2017 did not disappoint.  The CJRW team got a glimpse into the future of real-time marketing, Augmented Intellegence and how to turn inspiration into action on Instagram.  Below are a few of the key takeaways from those sessions and more.

Turning Inspiration Into Action on Instagram

CJRW SXSW Instagram

In this session, Michael Hondorp, the retail lead for Instagram, discussed the most innovative ways brands are driving impact with Instagram. From using ad formats in unexpected ways, to developing ideas customized for the feed, attendees left inspired to think differently about creating for the platform. The session also included a fireside chat with Craig Brommers, Gap Inc.'s Chief Marketing Officer, to share his marketing perspective.

Instagram’s Michael Hondorp discussed the social media’s rise in popularity, content best practices and how businesses can best use features to sell. 

Three massive cultural transitions happened to drive Instagram’s popularity:

  1. Desktop to mobile
  2. Search to discovery
  3. Text to visual

When talking about the shift from desktop to mobile, Hondorp noted that it took television 67 years to reach 1 billion users and took mobile phones only five. The adoption of phones and the rapid pace of change fuels Instagram’s usage and addition of new features.  Secondly, users are not just Googling anymore. They are discovering using platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. Users are consuming and creating content at a greater rate than ever before. A third transition is the shift from text content to visual. Visual transcends cultural and language barriers and is an easy way for information to be conveyed. 

Instagram as a platform has impressive statistics:

  • 600M active users
  • 400M daily users
  • 80 percent of users are outside of the U.S.
  • 55k active advertisers
  • 150M+ active stories
  • 5M users are businesses

Instagram’s community profile highlights its ubiquitous and highly active fan base. Instagram’s mission is to strengthen relationships through shared experiences. 

Businesses did not just sign up for Instagram when it launched ads; they have always been on Instagram since the beginning. At its core, Instagram is a creative platform and an easy, quick and effective way for a business to highlight their core brand messages. Businesses are a fundamental and crucial component of Instagram.

As Instagram continues to release new features, Businesses will need to pay attention to and be mindful about the different content they publish. Hondorp noted four key points to move people to take action.

 

Take a Thumb Drive through the bustling streets of #NYC in the #VolvoXC60

A post shared by Volvo Car USA (@volvocarusa) on Apr 2, 2016 at 6:23am PDT

First, businesses need to think mobile first.  It is time for brands to upend the traditional creative processes. Brands should talk to users like they are on their phones and not simply repurpose print or TV ads. In the example above, Volvo promotes the XC60 in a mobile and Instagram-specific interactive video experience. Moving further down the purchase funnel, brands can use shopping features on Instagram to drive sales. Instagram also has a new feature for organic brand content; like on Facebook, brands can tag specific products in their content with links to purchase. 

Second, brands must be immersive. When creating content, simply don’t show brand content, bring users into the brand story with interactive content. Instagram stories is a great way to do that.

Bacardi used Instagram Stories to launch its Instant DJ campaign. Not only is the content highly entertaining, but it has an ephemeral quality that encourages interaction and sharing. In addition to organic efforts, Instagram is testing its first full screen ad experience in stories. Currently, Instagram reports 150+ million users on stories every day. It is a great way to take your content from epic posts to everyday, behind-the-scenes looks at your life (or your brand’s life). Hondorp stated that Stories is a great way to keep reach and brand awareness high.

Third, brands must highlight the benefits of their products or services. Give users a reason to purchase with your brand and not another. Differentiate yourself from the pack. Hondrop said that Beltology saw a 2x return on ad spend and 50 percent reduction in cost per action using Instagram ads coupled with Stories content and posts telling its story. In addition to selling products, it also gave the users interesting content.

Fourth, brands must tell their story with emotion. Hondrop discussed Love Your Melon’s success on Instagram. Love Your Melon has a great story to tell – it gives half its proceeds to fight childhood cancer and also gives one hat to a child with cancer. The brand uses a combination of product ads with posts telling the charitable story. Love Your Melon realized a 66x return on advertising directly attributed to Instagram. 

As the democratization of brands continues, we will see more and more brands living their content in real time. Most important is to utilize the tools Instagram provides fully. Do not just post to Stories or to your feed. Experiment with and use all of the features.

Augmented Intelligence: The Next-Gen AI

Melanie Cook, Strategy and Consultancy Lead at Sapient Razorfish, took attendees to her SXSW session through a presentation titled, “Augmented Intelligence: Designing AI to augment, not overtake us the workplace.” The presentation focused on the fact that robotics and AI have integrated human and mechanical capabilities at work, resulting in jobs being lost and human skills being condensed to a keystroke. But, in Cook’s estimation, human intelligence is far from obsolete.

“AI is built to make decisions faster and better. To build things better than we can,” Cook said. “Eventually, why have human minds involved at all when you can have an artificial mind do things for one hundredth of the price at 100 times the speed?” She argued that we need to work to make sure that intelligence augmentation (IA), intelligence that augments and helps humans work more efficiently, is promoted and created as opposed to artificial intelligence (AI), intelligence that replaces everyone. Humans and machines working together for the greater good. Not cyborgs! 

Cook stated that, “Economists say we have a 30-year grace period before machines really take over. Let’s help to have machines augment and not take over the workplace. We need human thinking and traits to guide the intelligent mechanical capabilities of machines. It’s an opportunity to design AI to augment our strengths rather than the strengths of machines over us.” She went on to say that in the end we would have IA and not AI if we take this approach.

She also shared a presentation from IBM called “Human + Machine - Man and machine as one system.” This presentation stated that we humans are excellent at some things, like the way we learn and view work. Machines have a very unique set of capabilities, like speed and precision. The combining of the best traits of humans and machines is where the magic lies. Humans working with machines will handle every task one day. IBM Watson, for example, had to be taught by humans. It was able to make giant steps forward when humans helped to guide it. And Watson will help humans to make great leaps forward as well.

Cook shared a video from Andrew McAfee of MIT who studied the impact of technology on the workforce. He said, “The U.S. is a manufacturing power house. Number two in the world. And that is going up steadily. We turn out more stuff with fewer workers every year. Employment peaked in 1979 and has been heading downward steadily ever since. Globalization of the economy is not the reason. Automation is the cause. Automation of routine work. The middle class used to handle these routine tasks – assembly line type work. Technology is good at substituting routine repetitive work. Technology is the main driver of middle class unemployment.”

The goal of AI is continuous improvement of decision making systems. Cook said, “We are moving toward a cliff because we are not looking at the end result which is super intelligence. We are instead looking at the small movements forward, toward creating it.”

Cook closed her presentation by saying, “We have the opportunity to embrace and make AI more human-centered now. Although machines are 30 years away from taking over, that’s not a reason to shirk your responsibility to try and make machines and humans work together. We want beneficial IA,” Cook said. “IA that is beneficial to humans. Not AI that replaces them.”

The Rise of Real-time, and What it Means for Brands

As every social platform evolves, they are all moving into a more immediate and real-time sharing world.  Just as audiences on those platforms learn to expect this real-time experience, brands are having to adjust how they market to keep up.  

Jessica Novak, Director of Content Strategy for “The Zoe Report,” formerly known as the Rachel Zoe Show on Bravo, led a panel of brand and content strategists in a discussion on the real-time topic.  She was joined on the panel by Emily Culp, Chief Marketing Officer of Keds, and Lori Erlich, Social Media Director of IT Cosmetics.

Culp expanded on the sentiment that real-time should be the focus of all marketing directors, saying, “Real-time is everything right now, with connected devices providing a real-time response to consumers, so now they demand that from the brands.”  She says that for Keds, it’s mainly Instagram Stories and some Snapchat.  Things that seem the most ripe for real-time are educational opportunities, when you know that the user will gain some value from it.  She gave the example of event alignment for International Women’s Day and other equal rights events for women.  “With Keds, we are very close to this movement due to Keds being first made for women only,” said Culp.  However, she did stress that knowing the lens of the brand and making sure it’s properly focused is key. According to Culp, “It’s just as important to know when to say no.”

Erlich also made some great points about marketers needing to spend time in the field, talking with retailers and consumers both.  She notes that it’s those conversations that will lead to more clear content strategies and ideas.  Erlich said that IT Cosmetics’ first Facebook Live event was a major retailer announcement. It was risky, but ultimately, it became their most successful post based on engagement.  Culp said it comes down to “taking smart risk.  If it was up to legal and others, you would never do any live engagement. Own it, but be ready to apologize.”  If something gets messed up, all panels agreed that apologizing should be the first step; correct the misinformation and then apologize again.  

Both Erlich and Culp agreed that Live engagement also creates some lower production quality opportunities.  The audience is used to a less polished or lower quality video, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find opportunities to do some high-quality productions.  “It all depends on what you are trying to communicate, when and who; sometimes you need those productions to be very high-end,” said Culp.  Sometimes it’s important to test in a lower production environment and then build upon it with layers of fine-tuning and better production as people engage more.  The panelists also both expressed the importance of having an entity or social manager help expedite those decisions on what to spend time on and what to do quickly, and also to pivot based on the feedback or questions given during a live broadcast.

 

When asked about who was doing it right, Culp was quick to commend her own team, but also noted the efforts of BuzzFeed, Everlane and Refinery29.