Until Next Year SXSW!

It’s the curtain call for my time at SXSW 2019. And what a ride it’s been! Overall insightful sessions, a fantastic trade show, a great vibe, and the best crowd – Austin, you were an absolute dream!

I caught quite a few interesting sessions in the last 2 days at the festival. I also got to spend some time checking out the shiny new tech at the trade show.

Day 4

Influencer Marketing in 2025

The first session I caught was Influencer Marketing in 2025. Would it, and if so, how much would it change?

The speakers Ryan Berger and Sarah Flynn had interesting perspectives. According to Berger, Instagram is still in it’s early stages. In 2025, it would be normal for brands to employ an army of influencers, about 400-500 of them, and a mix of macro and micro too.

In his opinion, it will probably stay the same, but it would evolve to be a better version.

A Senior Partner at HYPR, the world’s largest search engine and database for influencers, Berger also said that brands will focus more on increasing ROI from influencers. As a step towards that, he announced that HYPR already focuses on the second level engagement and measuring which demographic is most interacting with influencer content, so brands can see their extent of the engagement from influencer posts.

Sarah, on the other hand, pointed out that being an influencer in 2025 would probably be a full-time job. Right now influencers are perceived to live a very relaxed privileged lifestyle. While not all of this will change, some parts will. Influencers will need to be more active in staying ahead of changing algorithms even more than staying ahead of trends.

I loved the story Ryan Berger shared about his kids, his 11-year-old has already built a community on Instagram, one that he engages with daily content and is focused on building his brand.

He was also thoroughly amused when he picked up his iPad one day and found several videos of his 8-year old daughter, talking to the camera like she was talking to millions of adoring fans!

This session definitely put the Influencer marketing scene in a positive light and looks like it has a bright future!

Day 5:

Optimizing Marketing Workflow with AI and Automation

On one hand, I wanted to get more variety into what I was catching but seeing as AI is the tomorrow of everything, it only makes sense for me to learn as much as I could.

The speakers started off the session with a few automation platforms and tools that they used personally. Kit Hughes had some interesting examples, and, in all honesty – personal experiences win over any other kind of presentation. Hands down.

One of the few interesting realizations I had from this session was the fact that “WE” humans in the world of automation, turn into customer ID’s!

These customer ID’s need data to thrive. Where they shop, what they buy, the things they like and don’t like, what they do on a Saturday night, and a Sunday afternoon.

These behaviors can be gauged if we build patterns around actions. And patterns of behavior are being captured in everything we do. I mean, you browse a health video and all of a sudden your social feeds and search banner ads are filled with ads related to that.

As a brand or business, the point is to understand and analyze this data. Build use cases of your customer avatars. Google helps us understand and gather these patterns with a few tools in this regard. But one thing remains very clear.

When it comes to automation, you have to think about your customer. Their day, their likes, their dislikes. Not your product. They come first.

AI and Automation in Tech can be used in a number of ways, but the ones that stuck are:

  • Dynamic pricing (Uber surge pricing being a prime example)
  • Bidding for Ads, finding new keywords, and of course
  • Email marketing

An Anthropological Approach to Reaching Customers

Anthropology is the analysis of culture and context and the impact it has on your audience.  How we can amend communication to factor this is what I mainly learned in this session.

In fact, there were quite a few great points of discussion around this. For instance, do social sites like Facebook change people or does it simply reflect the changes in society? Did people start making song memes because of TikTok, or did the platform enable something that was already being done?

The discussion also brought to light the need to apply Thick Data in a world ruled by Big Data.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Thick data is found using qualitative research methods – as compared to Big data’s quantitative methods – and gives us an understanding of people’s stories and emotions. In many ways, Thick Data is the opposite of Big Data, but it also helps rescue Big data from the context-loss it may suffer in the process of making it usable.

One speaker, Gigi Taylor, narrated a rather interesting story of her 16-year-old son at the check-out counter at Home Depot. As usual, the teller asked if he wanted to subscribe to offer notifications.

What’s surprising though is that he was open to it. He just asked, “What’s in it for me?”

The learning here is that Gen Z and maybe even late Millennials will be open to sharing their data, as long as they find value in it.

So anthropologically speaking – speak to the community based on who they are and what they want.

Emerging Tech Tapas

The simple reality is that new tech adoption is an art. I know all too well what happens when you enter the game too early, but at the same time, you don’t want to be waiting past the Go date, because then you lose the competitive edge.

Take Austin for example. I’ve been here for 5 days and I can already see that scooters are hurting Pedicabs. But what’s amazing is that Uber has jumped (pun intended) at this opportunity with Uber JUMP scooters!

It’s interesting to see how large companies are embracing disruption before a start-up comes along and does exactly that. Take for example the Coke Freestyle machine.

Everyone loves a can of Coke. Well unless you’re a Pepsi person, but you get the point – there was nothing wrong with it.

Yet, the Coke Freestyle Machine claims to have revolutionized the soft drink experience.

In fact, it was Chris Hellman, VP & GM of Coca-Cola’s Freestyle Division, who said,

“When we introduced Freestyle, it was truly a disruptive innovation. Today it’s a billion-dollar business. Choice and customization are not fads—they’re here to stay.”

General Motors changed their communication too, adopting a narrative that plays on the concept of storytelling. It’s no longer the number of vehicles sold, but more importantly, the number of miles enjoyed!

The SXSW Trade Show

I headed over to the trade show next and I’m not ashamed to admit it – I was like a kid in a candy store!

Some really notable stalls I visited were:

  • Empath Inc.
  • Temi (the personal robot)
  • GROOVE X, Inc. (companion robot LOVOT)

Empath Inc:

I was particularly interested in this one as I had predicted back in 2018 that Emotion-Driven AI would slowly but steadily take focus in. Right enough, Empath develops Emotion AI, which can identify pretty much any emotion from the voice in real-time, regardless of the language spoken.


It moves with you and keeps you connected to your contacts and media. Using unparalleled navigation and human-robot interaction technologies, Temi is intuitive and useful – pretty Jetsons-like! The most fascinating thing is the cost! For $1000 i.e. cost of my iPhone X, I can now buy a robot who will follow me around 🙂


Three years in the making, LOVOT changes everything you know about robotics. It’s loaded with advanced tech like Emotional Robotics(TM) and full-body sensors, and a 6-layer eye display. Now I think this companion robot is cute, but I’ve been told the “6-layer eye display” eyes look creepy. Thoughts?

And that was my SXSW 2019 journey folks. Until next year!


Gaurav Mendiratta

Social Media Expert | Moneyball Executive| An Engineer by training, an Entrepreneur by practice | Online Advertising Thought Leader | www.sociosquare.com.