TLF @ SXSW Interactive Day 2: FAIL HARD and Make People Happy

Happiness  and love were the buzzwords today. From Zappos Tony Hsieh to the comedy stylings of John Gruber and Merlin Mann, there was a lot of talk about making your social media audience happy, delighting them, about blogging out of love and obsession for your chosen topic, and about really connecting with whatever social media audience you serve.

There’s a lot of discussion about control when it comes to marketing and social media: controlling your message, controlling your audience, etc, and I think for a lot of corporate communications/tech folks (and frankly, non-profit and education folks ) too, the idea of measuring love and relationships sounds like a bunch of hippie crap.  But there’s truth to a lot of this mindset and it will definitely filter out the social media tourists from the folks who are in this for the long haul.

Anyway, I started with  Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused? , a panel that included Danah Boyd and Siva Vaidhyanathan, who are pretty much rockstars on the topic.  It really put into perspective our shifting ideas of privacy, and  just how much of it we all are abondoning when we use Facebook, Google, basically any free social media/online service. Too late to freak out about it, and delete your Gmail/Yahoo email account and Facebook status. What’s done is done. But we can, as consumers become more proactive and aware of it, especially as we use these services over the years. I  talked to two other conference -goers who didn’t attend the panel. Their answer to the issue? “oh just change your privacy settings!”

So it’s clear that the discussion of privacy is one that a lot of us don’t really interrogate too deeply, and it’s clearly changed for many of us who live our lives online.

Still, I just want to go on the record as STILL LOVING GOOGLE.

I went to a panel on what you can learn from the social media strategies of the Dean and Obama campaigns, and I was all ready to roll my eyes and be bored. At this point, you can’t read a social media-focused blog (including this one) that doesn’t lose it over how awesome the Obama campaign was. I figured there was nothing new to learn, and I was wrong.

The big revelations from these insider strategists weren’t necessarily in the strategy itself, and not at all in the technology, but in how the strategy was conceived and tested. FAIL HARDER,was the mantra I took away with from this panel.  Experiment, knowing that a good chunk of what you do may not work.

Again, many organizations won’t want to hear this, as they are struggling for a magic bullet to monetize and define social media success, but that’s why the political sphere and the indie music world – two fields that have recently had to deal with some serious back to the wall urgency, have the guts to experiment boldly with social media.

After doing some wandering and talking to folks for a few hours, I went to the tail end of the simulcast of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. It was cool to hear his approach to relationship oriented consumer relations and social media (he’s the one who really made a point of the “make people happy” thing) because that is going to be such a hard sell for folks, but to hear it from a CEO will probably be a lot more influential to execs than hearing it from the office  geek who runs their  Twitter feed. So thanks, Tony!

The 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility! panel seemed like more of a diss on problogging than anything else. But it was a hilarious and much needed diss. Rather than going on and on about personal branding and messages , Gruber and Mann really stressed to bloggers the importance of writing about what you’re enthusiastic about/obsessed with. Sounds basic, but let’s face it there a lot of boring problogs out there because there are people who haven’t  figured that useful little nugget out.

The Suxorz 09 panel was prettty cool.  Of course lots of discussion about Skittles, and whether their social media campaign was WIN or FAIL.  FAIL, seemed to be the general consensus, but KFC and I think I’ve had my fill of social media related panels though, I am really looking forward to getting my geek on with some usability- related panels today.

A bad run-in with a taco ended my night at the Dorkbot party early, and I missed karaoke night, but that’s OK. I’ve got three more days.

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