Daily Marauder

SXSW 2011: TOP 5 TRENDS by Marauder



This year’s SXSW was the largest interactive event in the festival’s history. An estimated 18,000 participants joined the conference this year up 30 to 40 percent from last year. This is my fourth year in a row attending SXSW and I consider it important both for the aggregation of innovators in the digital space, but more importantly, what that aggregation of folks causes in terms of behavior.


For example, based on the mass of digi-nerds with smart phones and a suite of applications, Foursquare was the clear winner last year in terms of what the audience was using at the conference to connect with friends and find the next drinking location (cough), I mean panel. This year, I watched carefully to see what the masses were doing, and by participating in those activities with a mass of folks, try to figure out where we’re going next in the digital marketing space.


Five trends emerged.


1) Group Texting


Group texting allows a group of people to text each other exchanging information to organize groups. The main competitors of the group texting wars at SXSW were GroupMe, FastSociety, Beluga, & Kik. Above, you can see an infographic tracking online mentions over SXSW from March 11 – March 15th indicating the winner by share of conversation.


GroupMe, the winner, launched first in August of 2009 with a simple premise of allowing a group of people to text each other. They have since added features to allow sharing of photos and location along with allowing users to join groups.


In second place, Beluga, allows users to send group messages with photos and location as well. Facebook also acquired it in March.


Finally, Kik, commenced operations as an instant messaging application but announced a group messaging feature last week and picked up a new round of funding.


In my own experience at SXSW, I started the conference using Beluga with a group of other digital folks so that we could organize our plans throughout the day both at panels and throughout the night. As I had not turned the SMS notifications off, I found my battery was severely drained as the group texted each other about every panel and party they planned to go to. I promptly turned it off after a day but noted the value in organizing a group around events like this.


2) Social TV


Social TV made a splash at SXSW with a panel devoted to the topic becoming packed 15 minutes before it even began. Jennifer Preston from the NY Times quickly organized a panel next door to the panel room dubbed #rebeltv. The panelists re-convened the following day at the CNN Grill to discuss the topic and again the panel was packed to capacity. Informally, I grabbed drinks with the CEO of Miso, the CEO of ClipSync (technology that runs the social aspects of Showtime, Epix, and CBS, and some other folks from the Social TV space.


In addition, I attended one of the most interesting panels I have seen in 4 years: Social Media in the Middle East coordinated by reporters from the NY Times and attended by MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeera and others.


Above all, I think the message from both avenues boiled down to the fact that information and conversation is being aggregated across the web on television and in print/online news media to empower the message and the experience. Some highlights:


· People are conversing in real time while watching TV. How do TV networks access those conversations making those moments engaging like the stories on screen? Chloe Sladden weighed in on how Twitter has been integrated with TV on MTV, CurrentTV and others to promote the community conversation.

· What amount of information should be visualized on the second screen while someone is watching TV? The answer is somewhat complicated. A mobile application that will go unnamed has being doing covert tests with its audience and has found that synced content can easily become distracting from the original goal: watching a TV show.

· In essence, TV networks will continue to practice and test with their audience to figure out what works but it is clear that these conversations have a part in the TV watching experience.


3) Anonymity (Canv.as) vs. Personalization (Facebook) on the Web

While waiting for the launch of the rumored Google Circles, Google’s coming social network, the conversation swirled at SXSW surrounding the anonymity the web was founded on vs. the personalized tagging that Facebook has made popular. In other words, the 90’s were about anonymous posts on message boards and the like. Facebook, through its interests in aggregating all of this personal data, has created a network where everything is identified by the person who said and/or posted it.


Christopher Poole, the founder from a site called 4Chan, gave a keynote on the subject discussing the popularity of his site 4Chan but also the social network he’s building (Canv.as) meant to create a social network founded on the principles of anonymity. The site is still in closed beta but Business Insider offers a preview of the site.


4) Social Shopping


Social deal sites have blown across the Internet in a fury, taking with them a path of discount destruction. Groupon, Scoutmob, Livingsocial, & Gilt Groupe were all discussed in this particular panel. In addition to these sites, which create a groundswell around the time-limited deal, the “qualified recommendation engine” otherwise known as friend opinion is of primary importance. Technologies which empower the social shopping concept through mobile or online platforms include QR codes or other mobile tags, near field technology (rumored to be included in the iPhone 5 launch) and location-based services like Foursquare and others.


5) Location-Based Meets Discounts

Location-based platforms like Foursquare and others have rushed to integrate deals within the fabric of their applications. Foursquare launched an AMEX integration days before SXSW. For users who link their AMEX card to their Foursquare account and check-in at participating locations, they will receive $5 back when they spend at least $5 or donate $1 to Grounded in Music. This represents location-based gone loyalty program.


As quickly as deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon work to integrate location, location-based sites like Foursquare and Gowalla work furiously to integrate discounts. In essence, location and discounts have become interwoven as principal reasons users integrate with these platforms.


Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, spoke to Mashable’s Pete Cashmore in a keynote at SXSW on the topic as well as the additional features in Foursquare 3.0. Those features included an updated UI evoking more information for users when they check-in, re-enabling the gaming dynamics, and adding a recommendation engine. For example, when I checked in at a location with my friend Dan Berger, founder of SocialTables, I got a message saying that I hadn’t checked in anywhere with him in several years. Interesting data.


With all of these features, it is clear Foursquare’s ability to surface deals in a way that is organic to the user is most important. Crowley takes a different stance from a Groupon strategy in that he thinks the most important function of the app is the friend recommendation rather than the deal. I think that is true for many folks who happen to use Foursquare but not for many others.


In this same keynote, a girl from the audience asked Dennis Crowley for a hug on stage. This proves that Dennis Crowley is the Justin Bieber of SXSW. It also illuminates the digerati empowered at this event in Austin.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great post, couldn’t have said it better myself. I missed the social tv panel but will continue to follow the convo. I read the Fastcompany article a few months back good stuff, I have a google tv and while the idea of twitter tv isn’t there yet, soon for sure.

Comment by David Yousling

I would love to see Google TV come to true maturation as well with the ability to search across DVR information and link from TV to internet. It’s all coming…

Comment by Marauder

Thanks for a great overview! I’ve tried to make an overview myself:

Comment by Richard

Interesting and looks like we have some similarities on the group messaging side of things. As I am friends with the Neighborgoods CEO, glad to see your notes on Accelerator in there!

Comment by Marauder

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