SOCIAL MEDIA IDEAS FROM SXSW
BY MADDIE GRANT, CAE, AND LINDY DREYER
What’s the pinnacle of cool in the world
of events? South by Southwest (SXSW)
— the annual Austin, Texas-based
music, film and interactive festival that,
according to the National Post, “reflects,
discusses and showcases trends in culture and media but also often creates
them.” So what can an association learn
about cool from SXSW? We can’t emulate the subject matter. We won’t attract
the hipster audience. But we can learn
from the way SXSW uses social media to
build an engaged audience before, during and after this month’s event.
On behalf of FORUM, we recently
interviewed Chris Bucchere of The Social
Collective, the platform powering the
SXSW online social network and registrant
directory, my.SXSW (
Here are his insights:
FORUM: Tell us about SXSW — what
makes it cool?
Chris Bucchere: SXSW is one of the world’s
largest music, film and geek festivals —
more than a thousand bands, hundreds of
films and some of the best and brightest
people from the tech industry descend
upon Austin for 10 days every March. The
chatter leading up to the event is remark-
able, too. More than six weeks out, I already
was seeing 1000+ Twitter posts (we Twit-
ter users call them Tweets) per day about it.
Any conference with good chatter on Twit-
ter meets my standard of cool, but SXSW
takes it to another level altogether.
FORUM: How does SXSW plan to create
engagement for conference participants
before, during and after this year’s event?
Bucchere: Like a lot of great events, SXSW
has a community of people who come
every year and have great things to say
about the experience. The organizers were
listening to SXSW fans chatter in the
blogosphere and in other social sites like
Twitter and Flickr. The goal was to bring the
community together in one place where
conference-goers could meet people online
before they get there, add people to their
networks, join interest groups, send public
and private messages, and build their
schedules. We’ve been able to accomplish
that with my.SXSW. Combining the schedule component with social networking has
been powerful because if we’re mutually
following one another, I can see what
events you’re attending and vice versa.
Also, since SXSW fans are so active
on Twitter and Flickr, we wanted to
aggregate that activity into my.SXSW so
the social sites could energize one another.
We publicized an SXSW tag that people
can use on Twitter and Flickr to have the
content “automagically” embed in the
right place in my.SXSW.
FORUM: How does SXSW take advantage
of mobile technology at its event?
Bucchere: SXSW has its own shortcode,
and attendees can sign up for mobile alerts
to bring things like schedule changes to
their attention. People can turn this feature
on or off through SMS or on my.SXSW. Not
every conference can afford its own shortcode, so there are other alternatives such
as Twitter and Tatango. For phones with
semi-decent Web browsers — BlackBer-ries and iPhones, for example — we also
have a mobile interface for my.SXSW. See
Mobile Tool Talk in the sidebar.
FORUM: How might you adjust these
strategies to an association event where
the audience is not as tech-savvy?
Bucchere: That’s a tough question! If your
members are not active on the social Web