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SxSw Geek Yearbook: 5 Lessons Learned About Social Media Games

Lucia Mancuso, 03 April, 2010 0 Comments

South by Southwest Interactive 2010 has come and gone, so now it’s time
to don our beer goggles and rose colored spectacles to relive the hazy
memories of our time in Austin. This year, The Blog Studio decided to do
something special at SxSw, to encourage everyone to make new friends
and have a good time. Towards this end we created an interactive game,
SxSw Yearbook. Although we’re experienced in the social media space, and
we’ve run interactive games several times before, we learned some
valuable lessons. We’ve created this blog post to share what we learned,
so that everyone else playing in the social media space can make their
next project more successful.

Tip #1: Be Fun

The concept was simple. Since SxSw is a lot like high school, we decided
the conference needed a yearbook, and you can’t have a yearbook without
superlatives. Throughout the conference we buttonholed people into
taking photos of their frenemies, and nominating them for dubious honors
like Most Likely to be Found in the Gutter, Prom King and Prom Queen.

In order to nominate someone, you had to take a photo, then share that
photo via Twitter with the hashtag #sxswyearbook. Once your photo
appeared on Twitter, in order to maximize the honors bestowed upon your
nominee, the photo then appeared in the correct category on our fabulous
SxSw Geek Yearbook website.  Each photo was subjected too a
gauntlet of voting, and the four photos with the largest number of
votes were crowned with laurels and declared the winners.  We kept
the categories light and funny, and we weren’t afraid to laugh at
ourselves, our industry and the people we work with.

Throughout the week we spent in Austin, the question we heard the most
(after “Have you seen Quentin Tarantino”) was: “Why are you doing this?”
We were expecting to rake in a few million bucks off this brilliant
idea, so we could fly home via jet pack with Steve Jobs. Since that
didn’t happen, we needed some other explanation for SxSw Yearbook in
order to save face. We were doing it because it was fun.

The Blog Studio Team was comprised of SxSw vets, and we all realized
that having a bit of a distraction that had absolutely no serious
element to it was a valuable commodity. We envisioned creating a bit of a
sideshow distraction for our fellow geeks, for when they’ve reached the
point where hearing the phrase ‘key influencers’ or seeing one more
ironic t-shirt that says ‘Follow Me On Twitter’ will make their heads

When we’re working, we spend a lot of time creating ways to make
messages standout and cut through the noise. Through years of trial and
error, we’ve learned that showing people a good time is the best way to
get your point across.  Depending on your age you can probably
recite the rules to ‘Clue’ verbatim, hum the ‘Legend of Zelda’ theme
note for note, or name every single Pokemon in alphabetical order.
People love games.

Tip #2: Be Flexible

We arrived in Austin a few days early to start getting the word out.
Armed with SxSw Yearbook stickers, iPhone magnets to bribe people into
playing and the bottomless supply of wit and charm. Our plan was to find
willing geeks, explain the simple rules of the game, and fill the
yearbook with beautiful nerds.

This is easier said than done. The 2010 edition of SxSw was more crowded
than ever before. The amount of marketing types, street teams and
people giving away free trinkets made Austin look more like a gypsy camp
than a geek convention. In order to cut through the noise, we quickly
adapted our strategy. We originally began by meeting people, explaining
how the game worked, and handing them a piece of swag with the URL and
encouraging them to play later. This wasn’t working.

We decided instead of explaining the game to people, we would just show
them how it works by submitting entries right in front of them. Since
this was SxSw, there was no shortage of photo/internet/Twitter capable
devices (The most common injury at SxSw is probably a concussion caused
by tripping over a power cord). Our team took advantage of this, and got
people snapping photos, and uploading them right there. We were
implementing another lesson we learned: out of sight, out of mind. While
people might have the best intentions to play your game, read your
brochure or check out your site later, they will probably forget. It’s
always better to show it to them, and give them an action step while
it’s fresh in their mind. The most memorable new projects we saw were
ones where the creators pulled out their phone or laptop, and gave us an
impromptu demo right where we stood.

Once we switched tactics, the entire game started to pick up steam
quickly, and we had multiple photo entries for each category. The second
phase of the game required people to vote on their favorite entries for
each category. The entries with the most total votes, regardless of
category, became the winners. Overall, it was much simpler to get people
to vote, because it doesn’t require anything more than visiting the
website and clicking.

We learned another useful lesson here, that can be applied to all types
of social media projects. People are their own best promoters. After
examining the analytics, we discovered that most of the votes came from
the entrants sharing their link with their friends, and asking for their
votes. They let people know via Twitter and Facebook, that they were
playing SxSw Yearbook, and their friends could help them out by voting.
Encouraging people to utilize their own online networks to promote
themselves, and your game, is a smart strategy that really works. Taking
advantage of the tangental networks connected to your project makes
ideas spread quickly.

If you’re running a game, or project that revolves around an event like
a conference or a concert, structure it so participants have a bit of a
chance to interact with your project after the event is over. Although
we closed submissions for SxSw Yearbook, when the interactive conference
ended, we kept the voting open for another week. We ended up getting
the most votes and traffic to the site after the conference ended.
Giving people a chance to take their time, look at your site and play
your game after the event is over lets you get people’s undivided
attention. You don’t have to compete with the event, and people are back
on their regular schedules, with a bit more free time.

We consider SxSw a success on many levels. People played the game, and
they talked about it. The site got a lot of traffic, and the entries got
quite a few votes. We were actually able to make a small marketing dent
in Austin, despite the crazy level of noise. For The Blog Studio, the
best part of the whole experience was what we learned about running an
interactive promotion. The next time we do this, which will be soon,
we’ll be that much more prepared.

We can boil down our hard earned lessons into 5 easy tips. If you keep
these in mind when you’re creating something interactive, you’ll really
up your chances for success.

1. Be Flexible

2. Be Fun

3. Out of sight, out of mind

4. People are there own best promoters

5. After the fact

We hope you find our writeup helpful, and use what we’ve learned to
improve your own work. We’d love to hear about your interactive
successes and failures, so drop us a line in the comments. If you’re a
business, and you have an idea to promote, we’re happy to whip up
something fun and creative to help get your point across. We’ll even
incorporate what we learned at SxSw.

Comments are closed.


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