Top Trends, Campaigns and Platforms of SXSW 2015

sxsw 2015Despite the drone-free skies at SXSW 2015, there is still plenty flying around Austin this weekend. While this isn’t a statistically valid analysis of what’s trending at SXSW 2015, here’s my rundown of the trends, activations and platforms that made the most noise in Austin this year. It’s an exciting time to work at the intersection of marketing, technology and communications.

Trends

Big Data – well, “big data” is here to stay in our marketing vocabulary. By far, the most common buzzword I have heard at SXSW so far has been “big data”. The longest lines for sessions have been for topics revolving around big data. Every vendor seems to now be in the big data business, and it’s clear everyone wants a piece of the “making sense out of data” pie. By and large, I think this is a great thing. For too long, we’ve made business decisions with limited and dated research – or hunches. The better we get at using accurate (and if possible, real-time data), the better informed and productive these decisions will be. The challenge for most organizations will be selling the value of big data internally, as it’s costly to fund the tools and people required to be successful.

ibeacon sxswProximity – while there have been a few failed attempts at leveraging proximity-based mobile applications at past SXSW events (Highlight or Banjo come to mind), practical applications of proximity-based messaging technology – most-notably through the use of iBeacons – have utility. SXSW is using iBeacons at the conference this year to alert users of its app to interesting things going on at the conference. When you carry your mobile device around with you, you’re essentially telling people where you are. Privacy concerns aside, this is the future of location-based marketing – pushing content to users in the moment is one step closer to realizing those scenes out of Minority Report. I’m most-excited about seeing the adaptation of iBeacons for driving proximity-based engagement in retail and event applications.

egg minder internet of thingsInternet of Things – EVERYTHING is going to be connected to the Internet in the next couple of years. That’s the general theme of the dozens of Internet of Things sessions at SXSW. There are too many products out there in the Internet of Things – or IoT – sector to mention in this post. Just know that every for every product you own that plugs into the wall (or recharges), somebody is working on one that connects to the Internet. Honestly, there are a lot of products that you don’t currently need that will connect to the Internet too – like a device you can put your eggs in that will tell you if they’re still fresh. Don’t put all your IoT eggs in one basket, I guess?

There are surely some follow-up trends of note to be on the lookout for when it comes to the IoT. First, there are some considerable privacy and security issues that will emerge (opportunities for smart entrepreneurs to capitalize on). When everything is connected to the Internet, it brings with it the same risks and vulnerabilities of any other device on your network. Than there is the issue of overwhelming your home network with too many devices competing for a connection – there are limits here that will need to be addressed. Finally, it makes sense that we’ll see common aggregators emerge that enable you to manage all of your Internet things from a single interface. My guess is Google will emerge as a leader here, as it’s in line with indexing all of the world’s information – and yeah, back to that big data thing… there’s a lot of data behind all of our things being connected. Anybody making a product today needs to consider how that product will connect to the Internet – that’s a mega-trend if I’ve ever seen one.

uber sxswGetting From Point A to B – personal transportation is an interesting trend I’ve noticed at SXSW. From the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, to tap-and-go Smart Cars you can see all over Austin, to similar applications for hailing taxis and pedicabs, it’s clear that smartphones with their GPS and mobile payments capabilities have made it easier than ever to find a ride than ever. Look for developments in ride-sharing to be a trend in coming months, as Uber recently announced its plans to enable you to team up with other users to get where you’re going.

Read more about the brand activations and platforms making a splash at SXSW 2015. [Read more…]

8 Tips for Getting The Most Out of SXSW

SXSW 2015I shared my perspective on why I attend SXSW earlier, as a response to those people in my network that decided not to make the trek out to Austin this year (for reasons other than more important work or personal commitments, which are always acceptable excuses).

If you did decide to make the trek out to Austin for SXSW this year, and provided you’re not an eight-time veteran like some people I know, here are some tried and true tips for maximizing your experience at SXSW this weekend (and beyond into Monday and Tuesday should you last that long): [Read more…]

Why Do I Attend SXSW?

why attend sxsw 2015When I tell people I’m headed to Austin for SXSW, I tend to hear the same responses. I either hear, “cool, let’s connect there” – which is less common – or I hear one of the following responses:

  • We were thinking about launching our [insert thing] there, but decided not to because there’s too much noise
  • I hear SXSW has gotten too big and it’s not what it used to be
  • I knew this guy or girl that went and didn’t get a lot of value
  • I went back in [insert year], and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be
  • Or some other excuse why SXSW isn’t worth the time or money

For me, SXSW is just like everything else in life. You get what out what you put into it. You can either be one of the people above making excuses, or you can take the approach of most people attending this week and make opportunities. Sure, you can come to SXSW and party the entire time, but you’ll just wake up in strange places, have a killer headache and have nothing to show for it but some digits and a bigger-than-expected expense report.

If on the other hand you invest some time and energy into planning out the content you want to experience, and the people you want to connect with, you can get far more value out of the conference than the investment of time and money you put into it. [Read more…]

Networking Online and Offline

Networking is a topic near and dear to my heart. Every single opportunity I’ve had in my lifetime to date has been born out of a relationship initiated by me or someone else. You can probably say the same. In my case, maybe it was a connector who introduced me to my former employer. Maybe it was me extending my hand for the first time and finding the next person I would decide to work on a project with. Maybe the relationship was born out of small talk waiting in line somewhere. Those of you that read this blog, and know me in real life, probably have an interesting story about how we met.

I found myself thinking about the topic of how networking has changed in my recent trip to SXSW Interactive. Think about the startups generating the most buzz coming out of SXSW the past couple of years. There’s Highrise, GroupMe, Twitter, Forecast, Plancast and Foursquare (this list could easily be 50 companies long, but you get the point). What do they all have in common? In one way or another, they help us to connect easier with one another. Isn’t that what social media is all about?

For the social media-savvy group, which I consider myself a member of, it’s helped us to develop hundreds (if not thousands) of new connections that wouldn’t have been possible using traditional networking. By traditional networking, I mean getting out there and meeting people in real life. It would take a lifetime of traditional networking to make the connections we can make in a few months using social media. Would you have known that the woman you work with went to school with your best friend’s fraternity brother? Nope, not without LinkedIn. How about the dozen or so people in your city you know through Twitter now? How long would it have taken to meet them the old fashioned way? You probably would never have met them. [Read more…]

10 Things I Love About SXSW

It’s that time of year again. No, not time to spring ahead… well, actually, it is time for that on Saturday, but I’m referring to the annual nerd pilgrimage to Austin for the mega conference SXSW Interactive (eh hem… Spring Break for grown-ups, disguised as a interactive marketing conference). This will be my third trip to the conference and while I’m no longer a SXSW virgin, I’m hardly giving lessons yet. However, I am entitled to an opinion, so here is my list of the top 10 things I love about SXSW:

1. The Energy – there is such a good vibe at this “conference”. Maybe it’s the free booze everywhere – but I’d prefer to think that the people who go share a passion for learning, and they realize that comes from meeting and talking with people.

2. The Friends – there are people I run into at SXSW that I can’t manage to catch up with in Atlanta or San Francisco (where I spend most of my time). Despite my efforts the past few weeks to broadcast my intentions to attend SXSW this year, I know I’ll see a dozen or so people there that will surprise me. I can’t wait.

3. The Content - if you can’t find sessions you’re interested in at SXSW, you shouldn’t be going. There are always three things going on at the same time – the conference forces you to make tough decisions every hour. [Read more…]