Rod Favaron Talks Social Media Innovation
For the past six years, Rod Favaron has served as President and CEO of the Austin-based social software company known as Spredfast. Amongst the many accomplishments during his tenure has been the launch and development of the yearly Spredfast Smart Social Summit (scheduled November 5–7), which brings together some of the world’s top thought-leaders in the social media space. At SXSW 2018, he will deliver a solo presentation titled “Social Airbag” at 11:00am on Sunday, March 11 in Room 5ABC at the Austin Convention Center.
You are doing a solo presentation at SXSW on Sunday, March 11 titled “Social Airbag.” How does that title reflect the state of social media in 2018?
Social media was built in an economy of rapid iteration. With innovation often comes unintended consequences. The airbag represents how social media can continue to innovate and connect our world while keeping safety and positivity at the forefront. But you’ll have to attend the session to find out more.
What kinds of people should come to your “Social Airbag” session and what else will they learn by attending?
My session this year is for anyone involved in marketing, digital, or social media. Whether you work in the industry or participate personally on a social network, this session is for you.
How have the ups and downs of the current state of social media impacted your day-to-day operations at Spredfast, the company where you serve as CEO?
We’ve been in the social media industry for nearly a decade, and in that time we’ve had more ups and downs than most industries experience in 40 years. Growing a business in that environment teaches you to be strong in your convictions and beliefs about the future of the space, but willing and ready to adapt when necessary. It also demands hiring smart people to guide the company in the right direction, from product to strategy.
In your mind, what is the next big trend in terms of social media?
I touched on a few predictions in a blog post early this year but one particular trend we’re beginning to see already is “brands taking stands.” Consumers don’t just want to hear your brand’s voice on a cultural issue, they expect it. According to data from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 64% of the mass populace believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the world. We’re seeing companies take action on societal issues — like DICK’s Sporting Goods’ statement on gun control or IKEA’s stance on DACA. It’s inspiring to see brands take part in the conversation.
In your mind, what will we see less of in terms of social media in the future?
I believe moving forward we will see less brands treating social media as a place to talk AT their customers, and treat it more as a place to speak 1:1 with their customers. Social media is so much more than a broadcast medium. It’s a relationship-building medium. When it comes to increasing brand loyalty, there is little content more meaningful than personal interactions. The recent Facebook News Feed changes are proof of that.
Over the years, social media has been a big focus at SXSW. Whether covering social media or not, what sessions are you most looking forward to at the 2018 event?
I am excited about Navigating the Video Revolution in the Digital Age on Tuesday, March 13. Video is the most complicated word in social. Whether it is short form, long form, or ephemeral — it’s all important to your customers, and it takes work. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Wired Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson will discuss the global creator economy, platform responsibility and how originality and innovation are redefining the media landscape. Another session that has caught my eye is The Secrets of Cult Brands on Saturday, March 10. Building a brand consumers don’t just care about, but religiously advocate for is a marketers dream. I’m looking forward to learning how industry-disrupting brands like Glossier, NFL, and Instagram have achieved their cult-brand status.
Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker at Spredfast Smart Summit 2017. What is your favorite memory from her participation at last year’s event?
Besides grabbing a great photo with her [see above], her personal kindness and grace. Our audience was made of nearly 1000 marketers and 300 students from local schools. Mrs. Obama emphasized that businesses have a responsibility to speak up for their principles and take a stand in pivotal moments. She said that when businesses have the opportunity to join public discourse, they have a moral obligation to use that voice for good. Today’s customers expect businesses to lead change in society. Social media gives businesses, public figures and organizations unprecedented opportunity to reach diverse audiences. We’re proud to practice this message at Spredfast. For instance, we’ve taken stands on the Texas bathroom bill, marriage equality, and equal pay.
What were some of your other favorite presentations at Spredfast Smart Social Summit 2017?
My favorite part of Summit is that we get to showcase our smart customers and let them learn from one another. In terms of sessions, one of my favorites was “Can Data Solve the World Water Crisis? We Think So!.” Charity: water showed our audience how they’re using data to solve the world water crisis. We’re really passionate about their cause and have invested in a partnership that we call #SpredWater. We’ve already funded one well in Ethiopia and we’re working on donating a second. Every tweet using the hashtag #Spredwater donates $2 to the construction of that water project in a developing country. I also really enjoyed “Tradition, Interrupted: How to Market in a Disruptive Marketplace.” In this session with Bumble, Airbnb, and True Car, we learned about disruptive marketplaces and what that means for marketing strategies. With panelists from companies that are disrupting industries, we got a look at how they’re innovating, iterating, and experimenting from the inside. Finally, “2020: Your Tomorrow” was also very strong. During my morning keynote on where we see social headed in 2020, I was joined by the VP of urban mobility at GM and head of Maven, Julia Steyn, to discuss how a venerable brand like GM is moving quickly and adapting to the market head on.
The Smart Social Summit gets better and better every year. What are your short-term and long-term goals for this event?
Our goal for Spredfast’s Smart Social Summit is to connect the smartest minds in digital and social. Over the three days, we explore topics like how to prove the value of social and build trust with your consumers. Customers from amazing companies like National Geographic, Facebook, General Motors, and L’Oreal drive the conversations at Summit. We also host Smart Social London and Smart Social New York so that we’re reaching the smartest brands, media companies, and agencies around the world.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.