President Obama opened the first official day of South by Southwest (SXSW) with a plea for civic engagement. “This group is primed to make a difference,” he said. “This gathering brings together people who are at the cutting edge.” He came to Austin, Texas, “to recruit all of you.”
According to USA Today, nearly 2,000 people were in attendance - all of whom won their ticket in a lottery. Mr. Obama spoke for about an hour with Evan Smith, Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Tribune, before taking a few pre-selected questions from the crowd. The interview was broadcast throughout the Austin Convention Center and streamed online.
Mr. Obama wants to apply technology to three areas: government efficiency, medical research, and civic participation. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms have already been streamlined, but he says there’s more work to do, especially across agencies. “Our government isn’t working. Our politics isn’t working. The only way we’re going to solve that is to bring in citizens.”
This issue came to a head after passing the Affordable Care act. The government-created website did not work. Mr. Obama created a “SWAT” team from Silicon Valley and Austin to come to Washington and fix it. At that moment, “we realized that we could potentially build a world class technology office inside of the government - the US Digital Service.”
Mr. Obama added, “folks that are working in this Digital Service are having a great time. They’re using their skills for a greater purpose - to help millions of people.” The cultural differences between Silicon Valley and Washington are large, but there are “different ways for people here to get engaged. We want to create a pipeline for a continuous flow of talent.”
Mr. Obama wants to use technology, data, and social media to solve problems. If the private sector, nonprofits and government work together, “then there’s no problem that we face in this country that is not solvable. It’s not enough to focus on the cool next thing. We need to use the cool next thing to fix problems.”
In typical SXSW fashion, Maggie Schneider Huston, Senior Content Manager for Oracle Social Cloud, saw Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, standing near the bookstore and approached him for a quick interview. (Watch the whole thing here.)
Gary missed the President’s speech because he was giving his own keynote. After hearing a summary of Mr. Obama’s message, Gary said, “I support every American President. It’s the toughest job in the game. But I think that the government needs to do a better job to be entrepreneurial if they want real winners… It’s on Washington to adjust to technology people, not us to adjust to politicians.”
Oracle’s Social Relationship Management (SRM) tool picked up nearly 200,000 snippets of conversation around #SXSW. People were most frequently using words like, “attend,” “Austin,” and “Obama.”
In an overstimulated, oversaturated world, one author used an innovative approach to publicize his book, “Look At Me When I’m Talking To You.” Every day, Jason Sperling published one page from his book as an animation on Instagram. Even though he hasn’t made a cent from this book, it generated job offers, speaking opportunities, and industry awards. Here are the lessons he learned from this experiment:
1. You can take something familiar and make it fresh. For example, a book + Instagram + animations = new and different.
2. Take your time until you have to hurry up. Execute in best possible way, but don’t let someone beat you to the market. Done is better than perfect.
3. Constant revision: publish your content early and tinker with it.
4. Be open to opportunities you didn’t see coming: Gauge what’s happening and react.
5. A great idea still needs great marketing: We are in the golden age of content. It’s tough to break through the noise. Even great ideas get ignored.
6. If you build it, they will come - once. That first experience matters - you have to give them a reason to come back.
7. There are no barriers between you and your audience. How you choose to engage with them dictates the relationship.
8. Preheat the oven and set the timer: do as much as you can ahead of time, and then, “set the timer.” Have a turn off date.
9. You can’t do it alone, and that’s okay. Find the right partners.
10. There isn’t money in marketing books, but there is in marketing jobs. Take creative ideas and share them with the world.
That’s all from Friday at SXSW. Don't miss Sunday's Periscope with executives from GM, Cummins and Oracle at 7.30pmET/6.30pmCT. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, the Social Spotlight blog, and Facebook for highlights and behind-the-scenes memories.