As Director of Strategy at Sprinklr, Esteban Contreras is a Vancouver-based expert on enterprise-level social media solutions. Learn more about this expertise when he speaks at the 2016 SXSW Interactive Festival.
Learn more about this expertise when he speaks at the 2016 SXSW Interactive Festival.
SXSW: What is your vision of how the social media world evolves over the next few years?
Contreras: I think we’ll see large social networks continuing to diversify as meta-platforms, becoming even more deeply embedded in our operating systems across screens, including wearables and cars. I can imagine more diverse M&A than in the past, and we may also see some re-organizing as holding companies in the vein of Google’s ‘Alphabet.’ New apps and networks will continuously emerge, seeking to differentiate with technology, content and design — perhaps solving the problems that we struggle with today, like privacy, live broadcasting and ad-hoc communities. It will be harder than ever to scale a new social network to 100 million plus users, but there are always opportunities to optimize and disrupt existing models. Identity has become essential to our experiences online and we’re now seeing communities becoming central to many of the sites and services we frequent — from Airbnb and BuzzFeed to Product Hunt and Spotify. I think this trend of seamless social functionality will spark new ideas and possibilities. For example, ‘market networks’ are interesting because they combine aspects of social networks, marketplaces and software-as-a-service (SaaS). AngelList, Houzz and Movidiam are early vertical-specific examples of a new kind of community. From a corporate perspective, social media will become more of a primary touchpoint for customer support, brand engagement and personalized content. It will be increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd among social networks. Smart brands have already developed social infrastructures – teams, budgets, technology, creative, processes, etc. Having that infrastructure will be very important as social media platforms expand into new areas; things like transactional messaging and social commerce in the short-term, and new environments like VR in the long-term.
SXSW: Virtual reality is projected to be one of the biggest tech trends for 2016 and beyond. Do you believe the hype? How do you foresee VR will impact the social media strategies that you currently work on?
Contreras: VR may not be a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’ While VR may be seen like a futuristic, slightly nerdy technology today — one that Star Trek and Ready Player One fans alike cannot wait for — that will certainly change. My guess is VR will be quite common in our homes some day. Mobile phones were once large, bulky one-feature products for wealthy early adopters. VR is much more complicated, and always has been, but it also needs to get past that awkward stage. Thanks to Moore’s Law, high-speed connectivity, and heavy investment from large tech companies, the hardware and software can finally start delivering on the promise of seamlessly immersive experiences. VR + AR may also facilitate new ways of interacting with the physical world.
SXSW: Your blog “Social Nerdia” covers the intersection of technology and marketing. Do geeks and marketers speak the same language? At events like SXSW, how is the best way for geeks and marketers to connect?
Contreras: Creativity is as important as ever, but marketers are now also finding themselves using technology and doing a lot of analysis. It’s essential to understand things like customer experience management, user interface design, A/B testing, ad retargeting, hypothesis validation, journey mapping, audience profiling, etc. The job is a geeky one these days, and that’s why you’ll find marketers describing themselves with technically-oriented titles like “growth hacker” and “full stack marketer.” In addition to being curious about the basics of how non-marketers work and think, I think it’s important to be genuinely and passionately care about what you’re doing. This helps you learn from and collaborate with other people. South By is like a giant global community with an awesome tradition of getting together each year to celebrate all things geeky — simply showing up is a great way to connect IRL.
SXSW: It has been about 18 months since Sprinklr acquired the Dachis Group out of Austin. In your mind, has this acquisition been a successful one?
Contreras: Absolutely. Sprinklr is on a mission to transform how brands and consumers interact in the future. We believe brands can build and facilitate more meaningful experiences with customers. Elevating customer experience management is at the heart of what we do, and the acquisition of the Dachis Group — and our other recent acquisitions — has been key to accelerating our roadmap. Austin is very much a key city for us and we’re thrilled to be part of the tech scene there.
SXSW: From a marketing / social media strategy perspective, what’s your take on the current field of Democratic and Republican presidential candidates?
Contreras: Social media amplifies who you really are. I think we’re getting to see candidates in a way that was impossible before because everyone has a smartphone and everyone is closely connected to friends and family. These days, political candidates all over the world need to be more creative, authentic and innovative, and they need to be able to understand the high risk that comes from underexposure and negative virility.
SXSW: You are currently based in Vancouver. The tech / startup scene there seems pretty strong. What is your take on the Vancouver ecosystem?
Contreras: I moved here from NYC three years ago. British Columbia is absolutely beautiful and Vancouver is a great place to live. The tech scene here is young and with lots of potential. Big tech companies have offices here and local companies like Recon Instruments and Plenty of Fish have had successful exits. Slack was started in Vancouver – and they still have an office here. MetaLab, which helped design Slack, is a great UI firm out of Vancouver Island. And conferences like TED are coming here. There’s a lot of potential for this young tech scene and there are ways to get involved including coding bootcamps, hackathons, and early stage startups.
SXSW: What is your favorite food and why?
Contreras: Guatemalan butterfly-cut tenderloin steak, handmade corn tortillas, ‘queso fundido,’ corn on the cob, grilled green onions and a ‘limonada con soda.’ It tastes like home.
SXSW: Who do you admire most in the technology world and why?
Contreras: The desire to make the world a better place. I’m really inspired and challenged by people who are smart and experienced enough to know how difficult it is to make meaningful change in this world – and they go for it anyways.
SXSW: What is the last best place you have traveled and why?
Contreras: Barcelona is amazing. Fútbol, art, history, and beach. I can’t wait to go back there.
SXSW: You went to college at SMU in Dallas and lived in various US cities before re-locating to Vancouver. Has living in Canada been an adjustment? If so, how? What do you miss about the US and / or Texas?
Contreras: Texas and New York City will always have a special place in my heart. I’d been coming to Canada for over a decade so it wasn’t much of an adjustment. I must admit I miss the food, including Tex Mex and New York pizza. Oh, and also a spot called Plucker’s Wings. I’m fixin’ to get me some when I land in Austin!
SXSW: What do you like to do for fun? How do you relax?
Contreras: I’m a big fan of side projects and I usually have one just for fun. I also like to read and listen to podcasts as I’m a bit of an infovore; always consuming, curating and sharing information. I like to play soccer and I enjoy running, especially around Stanley Park Sea Wall with my wife and dachshunds (yes, they are small but mighty). More than anything, I enjoy hanging out with family and friends.