The South by Southwest Festival officially ended yesterday in Austin, Texas. I was in Austin for SXSW® Interactive which featured five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology and tons of exciting networking events. This year’s festival brought out record crowds for the interactive, film and music tracks drawing in web developers and designers, bloggers, mobile innovators, content producers, programmers, widget inventors, new media entrepreneurs and social media consultants from around the world. The five-day interactive festival showcased the latest ideas, the brightest minds and the coolest innovations of the future. Yet, I couldn’t help be a little jealous when the energy changed as SXSW kicked off with the music track, bringing in thousands of artists that totally changed the energy to something that was just magical to watch.
My old music days aside, SXSW Interactive met all my expectations and in some cases surpassed them. I was able to meet many of the geeky, techie folks I’ve been communicating with online over the past year. Clearly one of the highlights for me was meeting Dave Grossman, one of the founding members of Amplify, which has become an addiction of mine. Mostly I was able to learn, engage and connect with so many people on a variety of subjects from app development and monetizing your blog to privacy issues and protecting copyrighted material on the Internet. But if I had to sum up my SXSWi experience in just five takeaways it would be this:
- Some of the hottest apps and tools are made at SXSWi. Last year Twitter was the buzz during SXSWi and now they are getting over 17 million hits per day. This year Foursquare was the favored app and they received 300,000 hits the first day of SXSWi alone. If you have a product, SXSWi is the place to roll it out and if you have an iPhone you will be able to get the coolest apps around. By the way, The Foursquare guys were the coolest, nicest fellas.
- SXSWi puts the “social” in “social networking”. You have to get from behind your keyboard, unplug from your computer and move away from your laptop long enough to actually engage face-to-face with people to get the real SXSWi experience.
- Privacy remains a hot topic for the technology community. One thing I will walk away with, however, is fact that how much information you do or do not share online is up to each individual and under the users control.
- There is still a place for good story telling online and it is the foundation for communication. However, online, good stories are a three-way street; they include the storyteller, the audience and in third place, a shared experience together.
- Don’t be afraid of negative responses. People are going to talk about you anyway so you might as well know what they are saying. Then ask yourself, are you willing to change when you get feedback, be it negative or positive?
Good story telling, seeking feedback, talking to people face-to-face and taking control of your privacy… not something you would expect to hear from a group of people who live, work and play online, as I do. How refreshing to know that the human element is not dead in Social Media. In fact, we need humanity in order survive in the digital space. I would have never drawn this conclusion before SXSWi but I’m glad to know the humans are still in running the show and are still in control. Let’s see what next year brings!