SXSW: Why not me?

The past couple weeks have been filled with valuable and exciting social media events. Last week was Ragan and PRSA's second annual Social Media Conference for Communicators held in Las Vegas. This week brings the much anticipated South by Southwest* festival and conference for the music, film and interactive industries. The festival is being held in Austin, TX March 13-22 and will be the event I kick myself for not attending all year.

But the point of this post (despite it's title) is not to complain about being stuck in dismal Wisconsin where I am excited by a high of 60 degrees. No, the point is to highlight SXSW's awesome use of social media.

SXSW has truly embraced the third component of the conference - Interactive. It is obvious in the blog posts, hashtags, mobile apps and microsites. Here, I would like to highlight a few of the social media endeavors from SXSW that all communicators can learn from (whether or not they are at the event).

1) Blogs
The first is a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Rohit Bhargava. On his Influential Marketing Blog he writes "How To Blog, Party, Learn, Promote & Network Like A Rockstar At SXSW 2009." There are many tips in this post that can be used at any large conference or event. One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom is, "Take good notes. In other words, don't write down everything - just the "aha moments" that come from the session. Those are all you'll really need afterwards anyway."

2) Hashtags - #SXSW
By now creating a hashtag for an event is hardly new, but it is incredibly useful. A hashtag allows event goers to communicate with each other and ask event organizers questions. Since Twitter is all about immediacy event organizers can learn about a problem quickly, and hopefully fix it in time to make sure everyone has a great experience. It's also a good way to keep in touch with media.

3) Mobile Apps
Amid many mobile apps making their debut at SXSW, Mashable has dubbed "Foursquare the Breakout Mobile App at SXSW."

"Foursquare, which offers an iPhone app or mobile browser experience, works by letting you tell the app where you are and then lets your friends know where to find you. All you need to do is check-in via SMS (text to 50500) or mobile app.
Using the Foursquare iPhone app, you can automatically check-in and post shouts based on where you are and what you’re doing. You can also find your friends, search venues, earn badges, and add friends."

I'm sure many will balk at this app as the end of privacy, but really, what is private anymore? As long as you have nothing to hide Foursquare is the perfect way to connect with friends. Still hesitant? Don't worry, Foursquare allows you to log-in and -out, so you won't have to worry about broadcasting your whereabouts while dodging an annoying friend.

4) Microsites
Microsites have also been a large component of SXSW this year. There was a lot of hype built around; launched shortly before the festival. The site allows festival goers to keep track of all the cool stuff they can get for free! At an event this large you want to make sure you don't miss out on the best swag. It also provides businesses with a great way to reach their target market.

The second microsite I found on Kevin Dugan's Strategic Public Relations blog. As a festival sponsor Pepsi went above and beyond the usual in-kind and/or check writing donation with a marketplace booth. To optimize their sponsorship they created a web site that truly provides festival goers value.

Using Twitter, the web site tracks what SXSW participants are doing by breaking activities into six simple categories. The site also tells participants what's popular, where people are, where parties are and what interesting tweets were "overheard." The site accomplishes all this by collecting data from Twitter.

This is one of my favorite SXSW social media examples. Pepsi nailed it. This is a classic example of a company remembering that it's not all about them. It's all about their customers.

*South by Southwest (SXSW, Inc.) is a private company based in Austin, Texas, dedicated to building and delivering conference and festival events for entertainment and related media industry professionals. Since 1987, SXSW has produced the internationally recognized Music and Media Conference & Festival.


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