Highlight Geo-Social App, Multi-Screen Engagement Star at SXSW

SXSW Interactive, which brings digital influencers, developers, the media and PR pros together under one (large) roof in Austin, Texas, has become a tentpole event to discuss and unveil new ways through which brands and communicators can learn about, reach and engage consumers.

With that in mind, Michael J. Lamp, social & digital media strategist at Hunter Public Relations, which specializes in publicity/social media and influencer outreach for consumer brands, shared with PR News three hot trends coming out of SXSWi that PR pros should follow.

  • The biggest buzz out of SXSWi surrounded the latest and greatest location-based app, namely, the emergence of Highlight. In short, Highlight mines a user's Facebook profile and sends push notifications when other users with similar interests—or mutual friends—are nearby. Raising Highlight's profile at SXSWi made perfect sense; conference-goers already share many interests, so an app that takes the extra step of introducing you to these people provides a nice opportunity to broach a conversation without having to tap someone on the shoulder while waiting in line for coffee. It remains to be seen whether or not mobile users will adopt this technology in broader circles, but it was certainly the app that garnered the most chatter (and press) in Austin. The larger trend story here is that the next generation of geo-social may be more reactive, with apps pushing news to us, while also encouraging connections with non-“friends.”
    Michael J. Lamp
  • Social TV and the concept of multi-screen engagement is another topic that gained major traction at SXSWi. The creative team behind Bravo's Top Chef hosted a popular panel discussion on transmedia, which refers to storytelling across multiple forms of media, with each element making distinctive contributions to a user's experience. The most recent season of Top Chef included a Web-only series called "Last Chance Kitchen," which pitted the  losing chefs against each other for a chance to reenter the competition. The content was streamed exclusively online and lured 26% of the show's television audience to the Web. In regard to the larger theme of social TV, several panelists challenged marketers and PR professionals to create content that enhances the first screen experience and encourages interaction between both the entertainment property and its viewers, but also among the viewers themselves.
  • The explosion of Pinterest was also palpable at SXSWi, with many panelists and attendees raising questions about copyright infringement and the broader theme of interest graphs (data that illustrates the relationship between people and things) and social curation. Facebook has also gotten in on the interest graph craze with its recently introduced “interest lists.” The aim of both Pinterest and Facebook to bring users together by common interests provides brands with an attractive opportunity to observe and learn about target demographics from a distance, and then enter the space with content that adds value to user experiences. Beyond simply creating a brand page and asking fans to follow, the most compelling opportunities will allow users to take brand content and showcase it on their own, personal pages among their original content.

SXSWi is a fertile ground for discovering (and in some cases launching) innovative products and services that may have a lasting impact on the communications world. So it can be argued that, while SXSWi may be coming to an end, the work has just begun for PR professionals to stay on top and take advantage of what’s new and what’s hot.

Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel