Dear Social Media gurus, ninjas and jedis’ – SXSW Interactive has been around since 1994. Long before Twitter, foursquare or your blog. In fact, this year’s topics were crowd-sourced – so stop with the complaining that the sessions weren’t what you wanted and go meet someone in the hallway, blogger’s lounge or trade show.
Why are people complaining?
Well, one reason is because people like to complain. But there are legit reasons as well. This year, SXSW crowd-sourced some of the sessions topics and speaker choices, so people voted on some of the sessions and we ended up with some weird titles and topics. That’s ok though, because with 10 or sessions going on simultaneously, you always have a lot to choose from.
Apparently a lot of these weird titled sessions sucked. I don’t know, I didn’t attend any of them. I think the problem is actually a little deeper, it’s with the audiences that attended them and what they are trying to learn.
The tale of two conferences…
Interactive / UX / Design Conference
This was my first time attending SXSW and I had a great time. I learned a lot and it was a whirlwind of amazing activity. If registration for next year was open right now, I’d book it. Yes, I was that impressed. I attended several great sessions, one or two good sessions, and one truly awful session.
First and foremost, I’m an interactive director at Spoke, I manage design, brand and user experience for the sites and campaigns we build. Being a geek, I attended tech, interactive, user experience and designer type sessions that appealed to my geeky nature. Overall, my goals in attending SXSW were:
- To learn things I can use for our clients at Spoke, both in interactive marketing and social media.
- To meet people that I’ve only talked to through twitter and deepen relationships that were established online.
- To recap my experiences on this blog and drive traffic to this site.
I had a great geeky time and from a random sampling of comments on twitter and friends there with me who do what I do – I think they did too.
Social Media Conference
I’ve read and heard complaints from people who attended social media discussions, panels or crowd-sourced sexy titles that failed to live up to the hype.
I think there is an obvious reason that the Social Media sessions suffered – the people complaining are probably doing it right to begin with. They have either heard the content before, or they think they know it all already. Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of new tricks in social media day after day. Some general rules apply (and don’t change very often):
- Engage with people.
- Don’t be a jerk.
- Don’t use it as push marketing tool.
- Have compelling content.
- Have a consistent brand voice.
- Gain an audience, not just followers.
- Try to get stuff to go viral (those sessions always crack me up, because viral usually happens organically and no one can predict what will and what won’t and every expert I’ve met has said the same thing).
Do these sound familiar? They should, because interaction on social media is pretty much the same as interaction in the real world (make it personal, develop relationships, don’t just yell at strangers and hope they listen).
Sure there are case studies to learn, funny stories to share, adversity to deal with and plenty of other reasons to go to social media sessions, but these topics can be less compelling if you’re a professional. Maybe experienced social media session gurus, jedis and ninjas don’t get as much out of the sessions because the content is often just preaching to the choir?
A few friends who purely work in the social media world went to SXSW to meet people, make connections, blog and party and didn’t attend any of the sessions. Guess what, they got exactly what they wanted to out of SXSW, had a great experience (unless they got turned down for a VIP party) and will be back doing the same thing next year.
So if you find the content of sessions not up to your high standards, blow the sessions off and go to the blogger’s lounge and meet some people. Hopefully you’ll gain some new insight.
As for me… next year I’ll be learning about some geeky new way to control your mind using only a browser… and at the end of the day we can meet up at the next party.