Well, I’m waiting at gate 7 to board my flight back to Phoenix from Austin and I thought I’d share a few of my own thoughts on South by Southwest Interactive 2010. Thanks to all the friends, old and new, who made it memorable.
1. Austin is for foodies.
Most of you know I love food. Minus family and friends, there really is nothing that makes me smile more than food. Austin is chocked full of unique, independent food haunts. From street vendors to uber-chic eateries, Austin has something for anyone.
We had the chance to check out plenty of hot spots, but I’d recommend the following when visiting Austin: Frank | Hot Dogs & Beer, Imperia, Pizza Vendor at 6th and Red River, Maria, Maria, Moonshine Bar and Grill,
Ironworks BBQ and Iron Cactus.
2. Mobile marketing didn’t get the spotlight it needed.
2010 has been called the year of mobile. If SXSW is truly a reflection of upcoming trends, then I’m concerned we may have to wait till next year to see a strong focus on mobile marketing strategy. Sure, there were plenty, if not too many sessions on geo-location, mobile commerce and mobile advertising (see my notes on Mobile Advertising), but there was a big missing hole without a session on mobile marketing and based on what I heard from participants it was needed.
3. AT&T’s network can be great.
Contrary to 99.9% of people who enjoy the loveliness of AT&T’s patchy network, it can actually be great when AT&T wants it to be. You only needed to walk around Austin to see the massive investment made to make sure the blogosphere didn’t unite in razing the company like they did in 2009. From massive cell towers atop and around the convention center to mobile tower trucks sprinkled strategically around hot party locations, AT&T made a major effort to ensure the network was solid. They only time I experienced any issues was inside Ironworks BBQ. If only they could replicate this experience around the country, we would have a happy group of iPhone owners.
4. Jay Bear has a twin. We call him Gowalla Baer.
Apparently, the world is large enough for a Jay Baer lookalike. Cindy Kim, Scott Kaufmann, Elizabeth Hannon and I call him “Gowalla Baer.”
5. Where were the social media measurement sessions?
For all the talk about ROI and measuring social media’s impact on business from practitioners, it’s clear that we have a long way to go. I attended several social media sessions (see notes from the Future of Social Business)and none of them focused on metrics.
Even when audience members asked ROI questions, many of the panelists skirted around the answer and didn’t offer specific metrics for different objectives. Major disappoint for me, and I think others too. I hope to see a decent set of panelists from different sized brands that offer specific metrics next year. There a lot of companies that need help in defining those metrics so they can sell the plan up the chain.
5. Foursquare will win the location game.
Location, location, location. Everywhere you went at SXSW, people and panelists were talking about Gowalla and Foursquare, location-based social apps that allow users to check into locations and potentially earn deals and/or virtual goods.
My opinion is Foursquare is going to win the battle of the current location apps out on the market. It has a better user interface, larger user base and will appeal to both businesses and consumers as they roll out some of the upcoming features. Businesses will be attracted to the dashboard services that will offer them a deep understanding of their most frequent and core customers, and consumers will be attracted to the Yelp-like model of being the most frequent user, or “mayor” as they are called on Foursquare. Sure, Gowalla and other platforms, including Facebook, will share a piece of the pie, but I’m putting my money on Foursquare.
7. It’s about way more than the conference.
Like everyone on Twitter, I saw a boatload of tweets knocking SXSW as simply being a conference to go party and have fun. Sure, most of us stayed up into the wee hours of the morning and partied our assess off, but South By is about much more than that.
If you are new to the web space, you can get a lot of value out of the sessions. And if you have been around the block for a few years, chances are you have made some like-minded friends across the globe. SXSW gives you the chance to reconnect with those friends and make new ones. You never know when a conversation is going to lead to new business or when a session will spark an idea for a current client.
Stop bashing SXSW and come see what the hoopla is all about.
8. Phoenix has it better than most.
The number of folks I talked to about what is and isn’t going on in their hometowns was incredible, and their insight has given me a fresh new perspective on the little city I call home. Yeah, we aren’t San Fran or Silicon Valley, nor are we Boulder, Portland or Seattle, but Phoenix has a lot more going for it in the marketing, creative, web development and community space then most towns.
You won’t find me complaining any more about our gem in the desert. We have some of the best marketing and creative minds in the country, one best Ignite’s in the World, coworking spaces like Gangplank and others that most cities don’t have and we all have done a pretty decent job of getting to know each other. Let me know tell you that these types of events, places, organizations and the connected community that we have are not found in many places.
9. Long hashtags suck.
Nothing more to say here, but long hashtags suck. Even if the SXSW committee is going to compile the conversation based on those hashtags and publish them, find a better way. Maybe each session can have a unique number (i.e. SXSWi109). Sure you’d get some rogue tweets or messages, but at least every freaking panelist and audience member wouldn’t be complaining about the excessive number of 20+ character hashtags. Long hashtags mean less context. Less context means crappy conversation.
10. Content strategy is still not getting enough attention.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a few sessions on content strategy, but only one of them was worth the time and that was Kristina Halvorsons’ (see the notes from Mike Corak or read her book). I’m not sure why SXSW and other digital conferences are not this discipline more focus. Businesses with any sort of web presence are going to get bit in the ass if they don’t start paying attention to their own content strategy. Those that do will win.
(Photos by yours truly.)