This was my first year at SXSW - big shout out to the Gods at Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence Group for sending me down to the Lone Star State! I originally intended to write two "wrap" posts on SXSW - one from me, and one "round up" featuring insights and takeaways that I solicited individually from some of the best and brightest in the social media space over email and Twitter. However, as I was working on both simultaneously I discovered that - as usual - 15 social media brains are better than one (even though I like my brain). So, I decided to write one post and share out the four biggest insights that I culled from my own experiences and the wisdom of the masses.
Social Media - Evolution After the Big Bang
The future of social media is going to be a big, ever-evolving cluster. We're moving at warp speed away from siloed platforms. Everything is becoming portable - you can pipe in content from any network you belong to on to your blog. Tumblr's on the rise. Facebook is redesigning to be more like Twitter. Open ID and Facebook Connect allow you to transport all your networks to wherever YOU are online. Each evolution of a major platform seeks to integrate the best of what's around. I believe we're going to see fewer moves to new innovative, break through platforms as people start looking towards "mega sites" that do everything for them in one place.
Trends that others picked up on support this hypothesis (though were emailed to me individually - not in reaction to my own idea above.) Mack Collier noted, "I heard people saying that they don't want more tools because that just means more information, they want better ways to organize and manage the information they have now." Jason Falls emailed to me that he felt, "Too many start-ups are trying to become the next big thing. They need to start collaborating with others. The next big thing won't be a stand-alone anything." Bill Beutler shared that he, "didn’t see anything new and amazing: there was no “this year’s Twitter” and my guess is most years there won’t be. Relatively big announcements, WeFollow and Foursquare, are extensions of or applications for Twitter. I expect the same at SXSW 2010." Is this good or bad for social media - will integration increasingly supplant pure innovation?
Twitter, By Any Other Name
The power of Twitter blew me away at SXSW. It made me wonder what people did at conferences before Twitter existed, because it played such an integral role in not only planning my own experience day to day in real time, but in connecting with friends new and old, and gleaning information and insights from panels going on around me that I couldn't attend. Paul McEnany felt the same way sharing with me that, "Twitter to SXSW is like email to corporate America. I know it existed before it, but I’m not really sure how. It’s a concept too big for me to wrap my head around, like God or the sound of one hand clapping."
In thinking of this I recalled my take away from Charlene
Li's panel on the Future of Social Networks - which is that while Open
ID and Facebook Connect are great, I just can't see them being really
and truly widely adopted until Gen Y and Millennials come of age and
this sort of privacy based hyperconnectivity becomes the norm. Is
Twitter the same way? Shaq is on there. It was in Barack's tool kit.
Pepsi used it as the basis for their SXSW Pepsi Zeitgeist. Increasingly people have "heard of it" - but it's a hard platform to
experiment with. What will it take for Twitter to truly be considered
Real Life, FTW
We all know the importance and power of face to face experiences and interactions with our social media colleagues and peers - but events like SXSW reinforce the necessity of coming out from behind our screens every once in awhile. Peter Kim summed it up best to me when he said, "In person is powerful. The value we create by participating in virtual ecosystems is best capitalized upon when we make face-to-face connections. After all, social media is all about people, right?" This fact was definitely the largest reoccurring theme from the crew I solicited SXSW insights from, and one of my own biggest takeaways:
- Jason Falls: SXSW is off-line Twitter. You walk into the big room of people and can jump into any conversation you'd like. The vibe is very open, the networking is very genuine and the connections you make are very enriching.
- Greg Verdino: For all the focus we place on our beloved social media tools, nothing holds a candle to real live face-to-face interaction. Don’t look for insights in the sessions – if you’re in the social media space, you’ve heard it all before. Spend your time in the hallways, at the parties and in the blogger lounge if you really want to get value out of SXSW.
- Lauren Cook: If anything, I learned more from the people around me than from the panels. That’s the power of SXSW.
- David Alston: Quality face time in a fun atmosphere with folks I know and folks I didn't.
All Hat, No Cattle - AKA the Best Little Off Schedule Event In Texas
If you somehow missed all the buzz about the All Hat, No Cattle event organized by David Armano and Richard Binhammer from Dell then... actually I think that's impossible. Between the Tweets, the blog posts, and the 20 or so new sepia toned "hatvatars" being rocked by many in the social media world I think you'd have had to be in a coma to miss this one. This was easily my favorite event of weekend - and was the definitive "in real life" moment for many. Lauren Cook emailed me, "I will never, ever skip the #allhat extravaganza again. You’re nobody at SXSW unless you’re wearing a cowboy hat." Jason Falls commented that, "Social media thinkers look better in cowboy hats," and David Alston not only wrote a great blog post on All Hat but told me that his biggest take away from SXSW was, "my new black Stetson cowboy hat :)"
Props to Chris Brogan, Beth Harte, Rohit Bhargava, Amanda Gravel, Cappy Popp and Qui Diaz who also sent me some great take aways I'm going to tweet out next week. SXSW 2009 officially ends with an inspirational quote from Paul McEnany, "The key success in social media is doing cool things. The key to failure is doing bad things. The key to obsolescence is doing no things." See you at SXSW 2010, cowboys.