This year, more than 30,000 of us made the trip to SXSW (South By South­west) 2014 Inter­ac­tive. A diverse group descended on Austin to immerse our­selves in all things tech—not nec­es­sar­ily to find the next Twit­ter or Foursquare—but to hear and see what all the hype will be about later this year, when the rest of the world catches up.

Atten­dees like to think that we’re the ones to know first. Luck­ily, we often are. If the big 2014 wear­able tech launch is actu­ally a dud, for exam­ple, or whether drones are just a fly-by-night fad.

There was a lot of com­pe­ti­tion for atten­tion in Austin, a lot of com­pa­nies try­ing to make a big splash to get all eyes on them. This, of course, brings with it the poten­tial for the not-so-great attention-grabbing ideas to get bad word of mouth.

This year, there were over 800 dif­fer­ent ses­sions (includ­ing a dozen or more with Adobe employ­ees), the SXSW Accel­er­a­tor com­pe­ti­tion, Adobe’s own Cre­ative Camp (our annual SXSW pro­gram where atten­dees learn and play with our web tools), in addi­tion high-profile appear­ances by Edward Snow­den and Julian Assange, and near-constant oppor­tu­ni­ties for ine­bri­ated socializing.

The ques­tion for my social team was this: Could we be Adobe product-agnostic and add yet another activ­ity to the already long list to cre­ate some Adobe brand love with the peo­ple in Austin?


Our ulti­mate goal was to get higher share of voice in the SXSW social con­ver­sa­tions com­pared with 2013, span­ning very dif­fer­ent communities—from cre­ative peo­ple in the Web and video world to mar­keters and social media managers.

We needed to bridge our cre­ative and mar­keter sto­ries. To do this, we part­nered with Razor­fish, the dig­i­tal agency respon­si­ble for the infa­mous tweet­ing bikes at last year’s SXSW, and cre­ated a unique social expe­ri­ence for 2014. We set up shop in an Airstream trailer at the #UseMe­LeaveMe Dig­i­tal Camp­ground and invited peo­ple to star in their own Austin-themed videogram.

This is the video invite we posted the day after we arrived to get the word out for peo­ple join us.

When peo­ple arrived at the Airstream, we put them on a sta­tion­ary bike in front of a green screen, and our direc­tor screamed actions for them to play out, which coor­di­nated with the ani­ma­tion (which they couldn’t see) behind them. Our edi­tor then used Pre­miere Pro to cre­ate the final 15-second video right in front of everyone’s eyes on a 42-inch screen. In just min­utes, our actors got the video via email and could share to their favorite social networks.

Did We Break Through the Noise?

We had more than 500 peo­ple come through our Airstream trailer mak­ing dig­i­tal memen­tos, and more than 25 per­cent of the videograms were shared pub­licly on social net­works. The top Insta­gram post was “hearted” 64 times and got 26 comments.

Over­all, there were 115 per­cent more posts about Adobe on social chan­nels com­pared with SXSW 2013. And all of Adobe’s com­bined efforts in Austin cre­ated the kind of brand affin­ity we wanted, with 10 per­cent pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment overall—twice as high as it was in 2013 and many times higher than it mea­sures on aver­age. We reached these num­bers with no paid social media on Twit­ter, Face­book, or any­where else.

The Most Impor­tant Thing We Learned?

Phys­i­cal acti­va­tions at SXSW are a great oppor­tu­nity for brands. We received loads of kudos from just about all of the 500 peo­ple who entered the Airstream because it gave them an expe­ri­ence they hadn’t had before.

In your own efforts, be sure to have a clear social call to action if you want lots of pub­lic shar­ing of your expe­ri­ence. Most peo­ple who cre­ated a videogram said they were shar­ing the videos, but we have to take their word for it because, if they didn’t use Insta­gram, Twit­ter, or share their post pub­licly on Face­book with the right hash­tag, we couldn’t mea­sure it.

Did you go to SXSW and con­nect with a par­tic­u­lar com­pany? Share your expe­ri­ence in the comments.