What Is SXSW and Why Does It Matter?

What Is SXSW and Why Does It Matter?

Content Writer: Cory Miller Cory Miller Senior Manager of Brand Creative

In the next week you’ll probably see #SXSW just about everywhere. But what is it? SXSW or South by Southwest is an annual music, film and interactive festival that’s hosted in Austin, Texas. The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival was held in 1987 (the film and interactive portions were added later) with an inaugural 700 attendees. It’s grown markedly since. Last year, 376,000 people attended SXSW’s lineup of concerts, conferences, screenings and events. Today signals the kickoff of SXSW 2015 and as usual, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the festival. Or maybe that buzz is from all the booze being consumed?

So, why do we, as a digital marketing agency, care about some crazy, music lover, tech junky paradise in Austin, Texas?

Pushing personal interest in music and film aside, SXSW has become one of the foremost celebrations of cutting-edge technology and digital creativity. Being a participant at SXSW is like being invited to one of Jay Gatsby’s parties. You really have to earn it.

This year, the interactive conference will feature five days of presentations and panels from some of the tech industry’s brightest and most influential minds. For you Iron Man fans out there, it’s like a room full of Tony Starks discussing the newest in technology.

Over the years, SXSW has proven to harbor an unparalleled showcase of emerging technologies, startup ideas and digital trends. It’s like looking into the crystal ball. In 2007, Twitter (TWTR) used SXSW to announce its launch. Foursquare did the same thing in 2009. Apple unveiled the iPad 2 at SXSW in 2011. In 2012, Pinterest won the SXSW "Trend of the Event" award, which is given to the most innovative company at the festival. In 2013, Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, was one of the festival’s esteemed keynote speakers. Last year’s breakout digital trend award winner was Online Privacy and Security.

We’re only looking at SXSW’s recent history, but you get the idea.

As a digital marketing agency, it’s important that we pay careful attention to the ideas, developments and influencers that will shape the digital landscape in the years to come. To achieve success and longevity in our industry, it’s vital that we embrace change and respond decisively. We refer to these moments as pivot points. We’re not traveling down a linear path. Technology will evolve, trends will emerge and new ideas will take hold, which means we need to be prepared. Embrace change or be left behind.

This isn’t about us, though. It’s about those we serve. We’ve made a promise to our clients that, with us, they have a reliable digital marketing partner. We intend to keep that promise. This is why it’s our responsibility to keep a finger on the pulse of the digital world.

What can be expected at SXSW 2015?

This year, startups will be given a more prominent role. This will likely mean a lot more chatter and speculation about SXSW’s next break out app. And the rumors are already underway. SocialTimes believes Meerkat has the potential to be the social media darling of SXSW. Meerkat is a live-video streaming app that operates within Twitter’s platform and allows users to host (and schedule) live streams while interacting with their viewers via Twitter. 

What makes Meerkat special? Live streaming is not new, but Meerkat makes it incredibly simple. Also, Meerket leverages Twitter's power as a promotional platform, which is a huge benefit for broadcasters. And since Twitter is a already an established social media platform it will likely increase the adoption rate for Meerkat because Twitter users can watch live streams without downloading an additional app. Meerkat is hoping it's exposure on Twitter will cause people to say, "Wow, that's cool. I want to try that too." We gave Meerkat a try, and we have to admit that it's pretty cool and incredibly simple to use.

We’re also excited about the amount of attention that content marketing will get this year. A few sessions will look at use of content and how it can become a more effective advertising tool for businesses. See, even the smartest people in the industry think social media and content marketing are important. (Don’t just take our word for it.)

SXSW isn’t just for flashy new startups, sweet apps and slimmer smartphone unveilings, though. The conference also looks at emerging social trends. This year, speakers will examine the heavy subjects of cyber-bullying and the use of social media by terrorist organizations. Both of these issues have made quite a bit of news in the last year, so it will be interesting to see what industry leaders have to say.

And as you can probably imagine, robots, drones and self-driving cars will also be on display throughout the conference. There’s actually going to be a robot petting zoo. No joke.

If you’re like us and would love to attend SXSW, but are stuck in the muddy and gloomy Midwest like us, (sorry, we’re being dramatic) you can stream live events at http://sxsw.com/live. Most conferences will also be recorded and uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo. Stay tuned, we’ll be updating this blog post with videos of the most interesting sessions at the conference.