maturation of social content

The biggest tech gathering of the year, South By Southwest, introduced, shared and tested new ideas earlier this month. That’s where companies try to make a big splash and gain staying power.

But, not all the ideas can survive and most of them fade into obscurity. I reached out to Shashi Bellamkonda, senior director of social media at Network Solutions, who has attended SXSW for the past five years, to get his scoop on what’s hot right now – and where technology and content are headed.

(Bellamkonda and I first met while en route to SXSW in 2010. Literally. We sat next to each other on the Southwest flight from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Austin, Texas. Our fellow travelers dubbed our flight #thenerdbird and a hiring manager took over the in-flight mic to announce job openings. Crazy things happen when you’re talking about SXSW – especially when content is involved.)

What’s your biggest takeaway from this year’s conference that you’re sharing with your content marketing team and clients?

A lot of knowledge and experience packed into a few days. As you know, SXSW is full of early adopters and creative marketing displays. As you recollect a lot of us met at the airport and had a plane full of SXSW attendees a few years ago. The experience continued this year, and I met a lot of people on the flight. Many entrepreneurs offered rides to attendees they wanted to meet, like my friend Keith Casey of Twilio – it was a mutually interesting networking time to discuss business. The company Tagged hired limos for SXSW attendees. Chevy had demo cars taxiing people all over the convention venues and drivers demonstrated OnStar. Media was present in a big way, and American Express had a great offering in combination with Foursquare for $10 discounts. CNN renamed an entire restaurant as CNN Grill.

I was so happy to see professional organizations like IEEE participate, and they had Dean Kamen – the inventor of Segway – speak at SXSW. This year, the conference had an entire track in collaboration with Startup America and companies like Dell.

What were the hits and misses at this year’s conference related to branded content?

I was happy to see content marketing form a good part of the conference topics. Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, had an interesting panel on brand journalism in the real world. My friend Rohit Bhargava had a very engaging panel on strategy by brands to be likeable. One trend that I am seeing very much is that content marketing as a brand function is now being looked at very seriously. It is no longer about marketing collateral; web 2.0 communication tools like blogs and social networks are now being adopted at a faster pace.
What new digital toys should content managers get their hands on and why?

I recently gave a talk to professionals of the Washington Women in Public Relations and gave them some examples of new and upcoming tools. (See the presentation.) Social media is mature enough for companies asking for a good view of the data and its integration to traditional data within the company. So Social CRM tools like Nimble, Contax.io, and Batchblue are going to be adopted more.

Another new category of tools that got some attention were near-presence tools (tools that show you a list of people on your network that are near you). Some of the apps that got attention were highlight, glancee, ban.jo, and Sonar.

How can content teams wrap their heads around the massive and overwhelming social toolbox?

My advice for an equation to adopt new tools is to evaluate time, audience, prominence in search results, and support resources. To address the overwhelming social media content, there are many curation tools that filter the content from your networks and give you a summary like paper.li, Xydo, and Curate.me. I recently came across a new service called newsle.com that alerts you when news about you is published and can be added as a widget to your site or blog.

Publishers are now relying on their readers sharing the articles and content using social readers of the type that The Washington Post and USA TODAY have.