3 Key Mobile Takeaways From SXSW Interactive
From Meerkat to location-based ad technology, columnist Aaron Strout takes a look at the hottest mobile trends at SXSW Interactive 2015.
Just like major events such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and TED, SXSW Interactive has become a fountain of innovation. As such, a number of trends come out of it that many in the marketing, tech and digital world pay close attention to — and mobile is no exception.
For those of you who haven’t heard of SXSW Interactive, it’s one of the largest interactive conferences in the world. More than 30,000 digitally and socially minded representatives from companies large and small come to Austin, Texas, to network, attend panels, and catch up on the latest trends.
Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, social media heads, and journalists who report back on who’s doing what in the interactive space. Increasingly, CEOs and CMOs of Fortune 500 companies have started attending the event as a way to network with other execs and to get a finger on the pulse of the digital world.
The following are the three most relevant trends in the mobile space that gained traction in Austin. (If you want to read more about the broader set of trends, here are the Slideshare decks as well as my SXSW wrap-up for a number of presentations from Twitter, Google, H&R Block, the Department of Health and Human Services Design Lab, and many more.)
1. Live Streaming Video: It’s Huge
It’s been a few years since there’s been a breakout mobile app or service at SXSW. In 2007, it was Twitter. In 2009, Foursquare and competitor Gowalla created some buzz by signaling the beginning of the location-based app craze. (Gowalla has since been acquired by Facebook.)
In 2010, group messenger app GroupMe was in the spotlight as a way to connect private groups of people. And 2012 was the year of Instagram (right before it also was purchased by Facebook).
We had a few interesting entrants in 2013 and 2014. But nothing was as big as Meerkat was this year.
Out of nowhere, the live streaming app that automatically connects to a user’s social graph exploded on the scene at SXSW. The day before SXSW Interactive started, Al Roker of the “Today” show and Serena Erlich, head of social for Business Wire, were live streaming sessions at our PreCommerce Summit.
Over the course of SXSW, Meerkat’s live streams covered everything, from keynote presentations by the likes of executive producer Greg Nicotero, to hundreds of bands, to maybe even a sweaty after-party or two.
— Al Roker (@alroker) March 18, 2015
Following Meerkat’s big splash at SXSW, Twitter decided to shut off access to its social graph to Meerkat users, and announced it acquired Meerkat competitor Periscope. In spite of those developments, Meerkat is making changes as we speak, including giving users new ways to follow.
Why is the live streaming trend worth paying attention to? Services like Meerkat and Periscope let not only people, but also companies, spin up instantaneous coverage of live events, product launches, executive moves and more with the click of a button.
And, in the case of Periscope, people who follow a brand’s Twitter handle can see when the company is broadcasting. This will simultaneously scare the crap out of executives while giving them an instant, unfiltered forum to talk to their key constituencies.
What a great way to bring the news to people in a simple fashion. No messy signups or downloads. Just a click of a button, and you’re watching live streaming video straight from your smartphone.
2. Mobile Security: Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid
Mobile security was on a lot of people’s minds this year at SXSW, particularly since we’re connecting devices to the Internet at a breakneck pace due to wearables and the Internet of Things movement.
As TK Keanini, CTO of security company Lancope, noted at our Geekfest, the downside to everything being connected to the Internet is that now everything is accessible to hackers. And given the fact that the bad guys are winning the war, this won’t be pretty.
One of the other security pitfalls that Keanini and others noted is that for most companies, it’s actually more cost-effective to clean up a breach after it happens rather than spending the time, money and effort to prevent an attack in the first place.
This won’t change anytime soon and will likely become worse before it gets better (if it does get better). However, some practical steps can be taken, and just like the proverb about raising a child: “It takes a village.”
Here are some of Keanini’s recommendations to help keep us all secure, especially on the mobile front:
• Be social about security.
• Establish methods of authentication proactively.
• Practice the equivalent of a “neighborhood watch” online.
• Maintain a healthy paranoia — take extra care with online calls-to-action such as “click on this” or “download that.”
• Use two-factor authentication early and often.
• Make sure to pay for security features and demand more from your vendors.
• Remember: The only secure data is encrypted data.
• Security is everyone’s problem, so be sure to “out-innovate” your attackers.
3. Location-based Ad Tech: A Game Changer for Marketers
Brands’ ability to locate, target and communicate with their constituencies is at an all-time high. And fortunately, something can be done about this.
Between geofencing, beacons and other location-aware technologies, companies have an unprecedented ability to connect with their audiences via smartphones, tablets and laptops.
While many SXSW goers were using geo apps to connect to one another, many discussions centered around how companies are using these technologies to communicate with in-store customers.
One of the newer technologies emerging is location-based ad technology. It comes in the form of applications like AdMobilize and Affectiva, which are looking to help marketers by turning location-based marketing upside down.
Instead of relying on consumers to interact with beacons or QR codes, these companies employ sensors in ads or billboards that determine approximate age, gender type, and even go so far as perceiving facial expressions to ascertain whether or not someone is smiling, frowning or looking quizzically at an advertisement.
It’s still early days for these technologies, so they’re relatively primitive. But we aren’t far from some of the scenarios portrayed in the movie “Minority Report.”
How do marketers take advantage of these technologies? Start thinking about testing them and learning as much as possible about how customers and prospects are reacting to current messages.
In doing so, be sure to try to customize messages based on existing information like average neighborhood or highway/road demographics. Think about messages that will evoke a reaction and leverage an A/B testing strategy.
If you didn’t go to SXSW this year, there are lots of ways to catch up thanks to the volume of recap posts from attending companies and press. In the meantime, stay tuned to this column for more insights on the mobile and location-based technology space.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.