My SxSW Experience

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about SxSW. Frankly, I’m not sure how I’ll synthesize them all into a longer-form post with a modicum of value (perhaps I should hire one of the unbelievably talented Ogilvy Notes artists).

Starter for 10, I pulled a slightly incomplete word cloud based on my Twitter output from Friday-Monday (courtesy of Wordle).

ian-twitter-tag

What it tells me … I obviously liked it.  Clearly I met a lot of  great, funny people.  Apparently the iPad was on my brain.  Austin made a big impression on me.  I liked a lot of people, places and things.  I responded to @virginiamiracle quite a bit.  My outfit of choice was jeans.  And I crowdsourced a new word for when someone accidentally takes your drink at Starbucks – Starpluck (I am on an Urban Dictionary kick lately).

Again, I’m still trying to sort out what resonated with me.  Broadly speaking, here are the themes that sparked second and third thoughts, and which I hope to explore in the near future:

Video: I sought out and loved a few sessions on video.  How to make it compelling.  How to make it interactive.  How to make it beautiful.  There is some unbelievably creative stuff going on right now on YouTube, and the future promises to blow our minds.  Check out what the Fine Brothers are doing with ‘choose your own adventure’ style videos.  The opportunities seem endless.

Experimentation: Something I heard everywhere – regardless of the topic at hand – was that experimentation wins.  It’s faster.  It’s more agile.  It often leads to bigger breakthroughs.  Idea to execution in the shortest time can be a winning approach.  Duh, Ian.  I know, but hearing it so many times in so few days is very reinforcing.

Humor: Between the Oatmeal and Baratunde I had plenty of laughs.  Humor entertains.  And entertainment can be a form of engagement.  There’s a right and wrong way to be funny in, say, 140 characters.  What intrigues me is the permission (or not) brands have to be funny (or try to be funny) in social media.  Get it right – you’re beloved.  Get it wrong – get the gong.

Relevance: Our own relevance, that is.  Lots of discussions.  How do we stay relevant?  How do we stay passionate?  How do we discover the next great thing?  How do we innovate – for ourselves, our agencies and our clients?  How to we keep learning?  One answer I heard over and over  (and over and over) was delving into side-projects.  Little things with friends or colleagues.  Not necessarily to make a buck, but rather to make something cool and energizing.  The lingering question … how willing are employers to give their people the white space to experiment?  3M and Google have thrived off this model.  Are you willing to follow that path?  Check out Method & Craft for a really inspiring example of passion-turned-side-project.  Wonderful stuff.

Branded Content Creation and Curation: The role of brand as creator and curator of content was a pervasive theme.  Besides one very dogmatic journalist I saw, everyone seemed to agree that brand as content creator is an unstoppable force. Fraught with issues yet to be sorted?  Sure.  But it’s happening and only promises to grow.  The topic of brand as curator wasn’t as widely discussed in the panels I attended, but I’d argue that’s where the debate should be taking place (best-practices, editorial obligations, rights issues, etc.).

That’s all I’ve got for the time being.  By the way, having been on the outside looking in, I know how ‘noisy’ SxSW seems via Twitter.  I can assure you the madness and mayhem of SxSW has been grossly exaggerated.  It’s quite manageable, sane and enjoyable (with a little planning, and plenty of flexibility).

As you’ll likely hear in every wrap-up post, it’s the people that make SxSW amazing.  So many old and new faces.

Dive in next year – I’m happy to hang with you in a quiet bar over a beer and BBQ.

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