South by Southwest feels like the party of the year, especially when you’re thousands of miles away watching your news feed overflow with non-stop SXSW buzz.
The conference’s Interactive (SXSWi) track wrapped up yesterday, leaving marketers, entrepreneurs, and techies wide-eyed after four days of innovative talks, ideas, and introducing new technologies. But don't worry about hiding behind your martini glass this weekend because you missed it all -- we reached out to influencers on the ground in Austin for marketing insights and dug into some of the most-talked about moments at SXSW to put together this handy checklist of must-know topics from the Interactive track and beyond:
Uber Offered (Joy) Rides
The Austin government published a post on their website on Thursday urging SXSW attendees to only use permitted transportation vehicles and services to get around the city to avoid “inadvertently breaking the law”. When asked if Uber rides were permitted, @Austin_Police tweeted back ‘No they are not.’ Uber operates in 30+ cities in North America, and Austin is not one of them. Still, Uber brought in non-permitted drivers from neighboring states to meet SXSW’s demand for ride, regardless of the city’s regulations making Uber rides a minimum of $55 and at least a 30 min. wait time from ordering a car to getting picked up. Sounds like Uber also got the memo that SXSW is the party of the year.
Mashable Brought Viral to Life
I thought2013 was the year of the selfie, but scanning my Twitter feed this past week confirmed that iPhone self portraits made a comeback this year at SXSW thanks to the Mashable House. Mashable brought all of our viral favorites offline so attendees could snap photos with famous meme characters like Grumpy Cat, channel their inner Miley Cyrus by hopping on a wrecking ball replica from her hit music video, and pose by a larger-than-life Doge wall.
Of course Mashable wasn’t the only company pulling out all the stops at SXSW. Scott Porad, VP of Product Development at Rover.com, said "I saw a lot of brands doing large, expensive activations, and thought ... wow! It's hard to break through the noise even with mucho dinero! I need get back home, put my head down, and get back to work!" While a good idea is always more memorable than a loud idea, attendees soaked up Mashable’s clever take on virality this year.
Airbnb Stole the Show
Airbnb surfaces rooms and apartments for rent in over 190 countries around the world, but their success in Austin this past week would make you think they only operate in Texas.
CNBC reported that Austin has around 30,000 hotel rooms available, and with over 100,000 people pouring into the city for SXSW, at least 11,000 were expected to find accommodations through Airbnb. Not only did Airbnb step up to the plate and mediate between thousands of renters and rentees throughout the week, but users raved about the company’s service. One user tweeted that their apartment was unfurnished and within two hours Airbnb delivered a whole new set of furniture, while someone else tweeted that Airbnb was taking care of her “hair dryer need.”
With all that attention to detail and responsiveness, it’s safe to say SXSW wasn’t Airbnb’s first rodeo.
LIVR Fooled Everyone
SXSW is the messiah of innovation, so much so that even faux technologies have a place at the conference. LIVR, a mobile app for users to play games and meet people when they’re drunk, generated buzz this past month thanks to a product video demonstrating how LIVR can only be accessed by blowing over the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit on a breathalyzer hooked up to your phone.
It didn’t take long for media and even potential investors to take notice of the edgy app. LIVR was set to debut at SXSW this week when the team behind the app announced that LIVR was actually one big hoax. The elaborate campaign and product mock-ups were designed to poke fun at the tech community. Check out this product video from Jelly, a crowd-sourcing search engine app, and then watch LIVR’s spin on it. I dare you not to laugh.
There Was No Shortage of Rookies
It’s pretty rare that new technologies and startups have the opportunity to get on over 100,000 people’s radar overnight. SXSW sets the stage for entrepreneurs to shake hands and woo potential investors and partners, media outlets, advisors, and even future customers. With possibility bursting at the seams in Austin, you’d think preparing for any conversation, with any decision-maker, at any time, would be on your packing list as an entrepreneur headed to SXSW.
Peter Shankman, founder of HARO and host of The Mistake Podcast, suggested otherwise when he said “I saw too many companies with reps who simply couldn't explain what the company did in clear, concise terms. Also, five of six startups that met with me for potential investment couldn't answer the simple question of how they planned to generate revenue. Seriously? Get it together before you announce to the public.”
Nonprofits Got a Marketing Facelift
SXSW is filled to the brim with brands fighting for attendees’ attention with exclusive parties, flashy gimmicks, sleek design, and clever swag. It’s tough to stand out in such a scene, especially for nonprofits.
David J. Neff, a digital engagement strategist at PwC, hosted a SXSW session ‘What is the Future of Nonprofits?’ that dove into how nonprofit organizations can stay relevant and use social media strategies to engage millennials. Beth Kanter, master trainer, author, and blogger, shared some takeaways from the talk. “There is an emerging segment, "Philanthroteens," and nonprofits need to think about new ways to incorporate them as champions.”
She added that this segment is all connected to and by physical devices, and “nonprofits need to become more informed about privacy issues. On the positive side, the data provides a major opportunity to customize and deliver more efficient programs to our stakeholders.”
No One Had More Fun Than Guy Kawasaki
If it were up to me, Guy Kawasaki’s next book would be a guide to making SXSW your playground. Every time I checked my newsfeed, the author was in the middle of some exciting, delicious, or luxurious moment at SXSW.
For starters, Guy led one of the most popular SXSWi sessions where he interviewed Mark Cuban on everything from insider trading to underwear; I don’t know about you, but putting one of America’s wealthiest entrepreneurs in the hot seat sounds pretty fun. Speaking of hot seats, Guy hitched a ride on this Iron Throne pedicab fit for a king, and had a BMW on call thanks to Life360, a locator app. But the most envious moment of all was when Urbanspoon delivered barbecue to his room, about which Guy told us, “I will promote almost anything if the company delivers Franklin Barbecue to me." No shame in that game.
Mark Schaefer Almost Broke My Twitter Feed
I guess it’s no surprise that a social media expert like Mark Schaefer knew how to take over Twitter during his SXSWtalk ‘Content Shock’, which looked at how the sheer volume of content online today is overwhelming audiences and brands need to accept that just creating content isn’t enough anymore. Marketers and brands alike were hanging on to Mark’s every word as he dove into how companies can develop content that breaks through the noise, and sharing sound bytes left and right.
Word of Mouth Made a Comeback
Wharton professor and bestselling author Jonah Berger challenged SXSW’s digital breeding ground by putting some tried and true marketing jargon back on our radar: word of mouth. Jonah’s session, ‘What Drives Word of Mouth?’, had Twitter on its toes with attendees live-tweeting his insights and non-attendees jumping in on the discussion. At a conference so driven by cutting-edge technology and never-before-seen ideas, Jonah’s emphasis on the importance of offline word of mouth was a refreshing crowd-pleaser and provided valuable insights for marketers, including how thinking about social currency can drive a successful word of mouth campaign. The most tweetable line of the presentation appeared to be that only 7% of word of mouth sharing happens online -- I can only imagine the chatter offline at SXSW.
Whether you were at the Mashable House in Austin, on your couch in Boston, or at your computer in Seattle, SXSW 2014 was inescapable. Marshall Kirkpatrick, CEO of Littlebird, put it best: “Some people say it's gotten too big -- but people have been saying that for ten years. Many of the most influential people and interesting people in the world of tech marketing can be found at parties and panels throughout the week.”
This checklist outlined some of the most popular marketing trends, moments, and topics from the conference over the past week, but with that many attendees, events, and tweets going on at once, we need your help sharing some other buzzworthy SXSW happenings that we missed. What were the most talked-about SXSW highlights in your news feed?
Originally published Mar 12, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017