SXSW: Home from the Hive

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Note: some of this post is also on 360i's blog. Here, you get a few more anecdotes, plus lots of pictures in a subsequent post. You can find more pictures on Flickr and on Facebook here and here.

It’s hard to properly describe the South by Southwest
experience, but the best way I can summarize it is that it’s the embodiment
of a hive
(maybe it’s because I’m influenced by the upcoming Hive Awards
for social media – http://www.hiveawards.com/
).

This hive mentality wound up heavily informing a talk I gave
as part of a panel at ThinkMobile on Thursday (see some coverage from Peggy Anne Salz). Everyone at SXSW Interactive was
on Twitter, had at least one mobile web-enabled device on them, and regularly
used these channels. Here are a few ways people used them:

  • Sessions – instant feedback on what was working,
    and often what wasn’t

  • Parties – what are the lines like, how are the
    bands
  • Restaurants – where’s a good BBQ place? Just
    check Twitter (or brightkite, or Whrrl, or Foursquare, or…)

  • Meeting – people just trying to meet up with
    others would often do so publicy
  • The standard updates of what anyone’s doing in
    the moment without any particular commentary

While the use of Twitter wasn’t new, it’s unusual to see an
entire community connected through mobile media, sharing updates, posting
photos, and otherwise interacting. Consider how hard it is for marketers to
monitor social media now, with arguably only one channel – Twitter – that
really requires immediate (<12 hour) intervention. Now consider the sparks
that feed Twitter, Facebook, and ultimately Google’s search results coming from
a dozen or two wildly mobile apps and sites.

Maybe none of them will reach tens
of millions of users, but a few million users here and there can start a
tidal wave
. If someone shares something with 10 friends on Whrrl that gets
syndicated to a Twitter feed with 200 followers and a Facebook page with 1,000
friends and a blog with 2,500 monthly visitors, it’s not hard to see how things
can spread so much more efficiently, all with the power of immediacy that
mobile brings.

Here’s another example of how SXSW worked:

I met the CEO of Kyte, Daniel Graf, for lunch. We wandered
in the first place we could find a table, a crepe shop a block from the
convention center. Daniel went to order the food, and I started talking to the
woman at the table next to me who turned out to be a) someone from Salesforce,
b) who I met previously at the Social Ad Summit, and c) an author of the new
book The Facebook Era. At her table was a McKinsey analyst who
worked at Google, and a political blogger. And one of them was a big fan of Kyte
and got talking to Daniel more when he rejoined. This was one memorable meal,
but it was routine to see this web of connections unfolding.

Of course, there was lots of partying. And eating. And
drinking. And it helped that I was able to keep a flexible enough schedule to
keep late ‘office’ hours to keep up the relationship building while taking it
easy in the morning. Austin’s a
pretty cool town, and if you’re ever there I’ve got some good restaurant
recommendations for you; I’d love to see if any blog readers here would agree that the Niman Ranch ribeye at Lamberts is one of the
best cuts of meat ever put on a plate.

What SXSW really is about is a connection incubator.
That was the point of spending afternoons at lunch and in the blogger lounge, and
then evenings following the word of mouth and twitter buzz to wherever the most
interesting people were in the environments most conducive to having a good
conversation (okay, and a good vodka tonic).

I’m still digesting everything, following up with contacts,
and reading blog coverage of sessions I missed, so I’ll have more to share, and
I look forward to discussing any of this more with you.

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