Lessons Learned from SXSW 2013

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, TX has emerged as one of the leading annual conferences for digital and social media experts and enthusiasts. Thousands of attendees from across the United States and all over the world gathered over the weekend to attend hundreds of sessions that covered a wide range of topics. New trends emerged, new thought leaders hit the scene, new marketing techniques were revealed, and new best practices were established.

But like everything in life, all good things must come to an end. Here is what we will always remember about SXSW Interactive 2013.

 

1. Visions of an Innovative Future 

Amidst the chaos and all the huge parties, there were actually many meaningful conversations about what’s in store for the future. Google’s search guru Amit Singhal told us that the future of Google search is to become a ‘Star Trek’ computer that will anticipate what users search for.

“These are some of the best times in search,” Singhal said. “All the technology is coming together: speak recognition, knowledge graph, natural language understanding — there are new devices coming out, so when you marry all this, tomorrow is looking bright.”

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2. Real-Time Marketing

We were able to use real-time marketing to constantly monitor social media channels for trends about SXSW, and then quickly act on insights to get included in the conversation. This helped in the relevancy of marketing by allowing our brand to reach the right audience at the right time with the right message in the right location.

Between live-tweeting during sessions and events, and posting photos and updates to our Facebook page, we noticed a significant impact in new followers, retweets, faved tweets and new ‘likes’.

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3. Facebook Graph Search Isn’t Doing Much…Yet

Still in beta, the implications of Facebook Graph Search for marketers remain largely unknown because so few people are using it and no one really knows how people are going to react to it and how they might use it once it’s opened up for widespread use. About half of the people who attended the session about this topic actually use Graph Search, and less than one-third of those individuals found it to be useful.

Predictions from the panel suggest that Graph Search is a huge opportunity for marketers in the next six to 12 months, but that it still has a long way to go before there are any immediate benefits for the consumer.

 

4. Marketing Madness 

It’s no secret that SXSW is a haven for marketers and advertisers looking to make more people aware of their companies and products. But a tent and a sign don’t exactly cut it. Some companies went all out (or they certainly tried to) with some fairly crazy marketing stunts.

Hootsuite put together an owl bus and had it rolling through downtown Austin.

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And Central Desktops had a man dressed up as an angel wearing a tutu, who was rocking out during the Interactive Trade Show on Monday morning. These are just a couple of the bizarre stunts we saw during SXSW, but the list definitely went on.

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5. Humans Aren’t the Only Celebrities

Besides the fact that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk was the biggest name among keynote speakers, there was also Shaquille O’Neal, Google search guru Amit Singhal and Guy Kawasaki to make the list even more impressive.

However, the biggest celebrity at SXSW 2013 wasn’t even part of the official interactive programming – it was in fact viral Internet star Grumpy Cat, who posed for photos in the Mashable House and drew lines of fans around the block.

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So why did people wait in line for up to three hours to see Grumpy Cat? Simple. It’s because everyone else was waiting in line. The “fear of missing out” is a persistent phenomenon, where every decision to attend something is usually a decision not to attend several other compelling options. Despite the fear, people gravitate toward what they think will be most memorable, and most social.

If I wasn’t deathly allergic to cats then maybe, just maybe I would have waited in line to pet this famous feline – ok, let’s be honest. I wouldn’t have regardless.

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