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Trends at SXSW Interactive

- March 13, 2011 - 2 Comments

Cisco Media Solutions Group is at the SXSW conference as our colleague Scott Brown blogged about right here. Before we got to the expo hall booth 322 and got ready for the Killers Lasers Papers showcase Thursday 3/17 at SXSW Music, we tried to get to as many SXSW Interactive panels and events as we could.

I looked back to my blog post on SXSW Interactive 2010. I wrote in 2010, SXSW Interactive attendance was up 40% from 2009. Well can imagine it’s up another 40% in 2011 – I haven’t seen the latest statistics yet. Long lines dominated my first day attending panels at SXSW Interactive.

Also, the conference is much more spread out this year – with interactive panels spread out in hotels and other venues across Austin. No matter how hard you try, it’s not easy to get to all the panels you want to see. When it come to media and entertainment – SXSW Interactive has plenty of panels to offer about how digital and social media are changing experiences with content. The two trends I noticed right away for SXSW 2011 are:

1. Mobile applications seem to have the share of attention at interactive – and many of them are focused on ‘getting together’ around interests – nightlife events, food, photos, fashion.

2. Content creators are focused on extending their brands across digital platforms and in the real world – this trend was highlighted by the term I kept hearing at the conference – transmedia.  You can follow the term on Twitter via the hash tag to learn more – #transmedia.

While I was at the blogger lounge sucking up all the bandwidth I could get, Cisco colleague Jeff Marusak was out in the field taking notes. He attended some panels on how to mine social media for customer insights and we’ll share some takeaways from those panels in this post.


Encouraging Fans to Participate

Panel on HBO's 'True Blood' and the fan community

On the first day of Interactive, I attended a panel featuring the digital marketing team at the cable network HBO titled ‘Fan to Fanatic – True Blood’s Marketing Hook’. Zach Enterlin, SVP of Advertising and Sabrina Caluori, Director of Social Media Marketing, both from HBO, discussed how they embraced the fan communities cropping up around their vampire drama series ‘True Blood’. HBO allowed fans to tweet in the voices of ‘True Blood’ characters, and the network embraced the fan created communities that popped up online – there are several: http://True-Blood.net , .  Since HBO has its official site for the program, I do wonder if the cable network wants to drive fans back to that site versus the fan powered communities. I wasn’t able to get that question answered before the panel wrapped up. It seems like the ‘True Blood’ fans are more active on the unofficial communities versus the HBO official site, and maybe that’s a lost opportunity for HBO to connect more directly with the audience. Are you a fan of ‘True Blood’ ? Let us know in the comments which site you prefer to visit – the fan pages or the official site.

Another panel discussion regarding content creators embracing fans was titled ‘Star Wars Uncut: The Force Of Crowdsourcing’. The creators of – allowed fans to remake parts of the sci fi classic. Short clips from ‘Star Wars’, 15 seconds long, are remade by fans in all kinds of ways – animations, with action figures, or are acted out in hiliarous comedic styles. Then the clips submitted to the site by fans were ranked by the entire community on the site. The highest rated clips make up the finished film which you can watch here.

One of the pro tips for attending SXSW is to be involved in the continual conversation (more tips here), and not be so into your mobile, laptop or tablet device that you lose your chance to participate. So I’m off soon to check out more interactive panels. I’m sure social media and fan involvement will continue to be part of the discussion. For instance, as I was trying to get this blog post up, I was trying to get to a panel about how social media has impacted the comedy field. I didn’t make it, but because every SXSW panel has it’s own Twitter hash tag, I can follow along with the  panel conversations. For instance, the hash tag for this panel was #SMComedyFYeah and here is some advice the panel offered for practicing comedians.

Also at the intersection of comedy and social media, actor / comedian Rainn Wilson joined a SXSW Interactive panel to talk about his new dark comedy ‘Super!. He and director James Gunn discussed the importance of social media in marketing the film. Wilson says one of the hard things about being an actor active in the social media space is separating his own voice from the voice of his most well known character, ‘Dwight’ from NBC’s ‘The Office’. By the way, his TV show character has his own web site on called ‘Schrutespace’.

Weirdly though, I couldn’t find an official web site for the movie ‘Super!’ itself.  If you find it, please comment below.

Mobile Applications

Everyone is pitching a mobile application at SXSW Interactive this year – you hear the cries on the street – ‘download this application to get a prize’ or to get ‘free food’ or ‘into an event’. I haven’t yet checked out the latest update to ever popular ‘check in / location’ application Foursquare, but Billboard believes updates to the application will impact the music industry (article).

At one of the many SXSW networking events, I ran into Gretchen Fox from Live Nation. She’s the VP of Social Media marketing and manages the concert promoter’s presence across social networks. Gretchen mentioned Foursquare as one of the applications making her SXSW Interactive experience, and she briefly discussed other trends she’s picking up on here at the conference.

I too am using the SXSW mobile application Gretchen mentions to stay up on all the latest events as the interactive portion is truly overwhelming. It keeps me up to date on the latest events at any given time. Many of the applications are focused on utilizing your mobile phone’s camera. A popular application for photo sharing being utilized here is Instagram, while another that allows for private sharing of photos is called Path. Outside the convention center there is a food event sponsored by the food photo application FoodSpotting. I ran into the founder of Pose, an application for sharing your latest looks and shopping for fashion. is an application being used this year by many to set up private text messaging groups. I’m still looking out for new applications that will change the way that we consume and interact with professional content as most of the applications I’ve interacted with to date are oriented towards user generated content.

Social Media Marketing tips

Jeff Marusak attended 3 panels on social media marketing:

1) Chatter Matters: Using Twitter to Predict Sales
2) Customer Experience: Future Trends & Insights
3) Keynote with Chris Poole, Founder, 4Chan

Here are some takeaways from those panels Jeff shared with us:

o Mine social to uncover what really generates sales. In traditional market research, people often say what they desire, and products are built with attributes that target those desires, but those attributes don’t ultimately move business. Mining social can help you uncover what people really care about when they are expressing themselves without a filter.

o Mine social to predict sales once a product is launched. Chatter Matters showed an analysis that directly correlated volume of positive tweets to revenue of movies during theatrical.

o Mine geo-data to cluster where your product may be most receptive. Example: a tech company could see lots of chatter about the Interactive festival in Austin and decide to open up a pop-up store here during SXSW.

o Understand when people are talking about your brand. You can use that as a way to target ads.

Again, our Cisco team is here through the entire SXSW conference – from interactive all the way to the end of music and even if you aren’t here at the conference, you can watch the Atlantic Records music showcase Cisco Eos is sponsoring at the site


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  1. Great post, Chuck. The Rainn Wilson movie website is (I browsed around in IMDB and there it was)

    • Hmmn. Thanks Shifra - that site though seems not current. I can't find an up to date, active site for the 'Super' movie.