SXSW Interactive: The Industry Event Where Buzz is Born

The 19th annual SXSW Interactive Festival will take place March 9-13, 2012 in Austin, Texas. Will you be there? Last year’s conference saw a dramatic spike in attendance – up by about 40% from the previous year. What started in 1994 as a gathering of “cutting edge visual creatives” has now transformed into something larger, slightly more corporate (with sponsors such as AT&T,  Chevrolet, and Pepsi), and a little more all-encompassing with approximately 20,000 attendees from a cross-section of industries, but most notably from the digital media, marketing/communications, and music/entertainment sectors.

At the same time that SXSW Interactive is running, the SXSW Music Festival and SXSW Film Festival overlap, creating a perfect storm for key individuals within these creative industries to share ideas, learn from each other, discuss trends, mingle, and blend. SXSW Interactive is the largest festival of its kind, and also the highest revenue-producing event for the Austin economy, which in 2011 resulted in an estimated economic impact of $167 million. Below is a short video overview of the event (begin the video at 2 minutes and 13 sections to learn specifically about SXSW Interactive):

Why Should You Attend?

From the perspective of marketing, there are certainly many worthwhile reasons for a marketing professional to attend. A common theme is learning. From this series of video interviews, you can listen to digital analyst and prominent blogger Brian Solis, as well as representatives from Southwest Airlines, discuss how they find the conference valuable from the perspective of picking up knowledge. Founder of Hubspot, Dharmesh Shah enjoys mingling with people from his industry. Similarly, Shelly Kramer of V3 Integrated Marketing (recognized by Forbes as one of the “Top 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter”) attends to not only keep up on industry trends, but to meet the people she has collaborated with online in person.

As for lessons learned from attending the event, you can read more from marketing consultant and Rutgers professor Mark Schaefer in this blog post entitled “Eight Scintillating Lessons from SXSW.” Similarly, in 2010, author and social media strategiest Jay Baer provided “13 Observations from South by Southwest” on his blog.

The 2012 SXSW Interactive Lineup

One of the intriguing things about SXSW Interactive is that the content for the conference is largely crowd sourced, making the event a truly participative one. SXSW provides a “Panel Picker” functionality whereby one can submit potential speakers to talk about an issue, concept, or idea. Based on popularity, the best ideas get picked. Below is a video overview outlining the process:

This year’s SXSW Interactive lineup will feature such interesting marketing panels as “The Promise and Pitfalls of Real-Time Marketing” with Abby Klanecky, the Director of Digital & Social Media at Dow Chemical, Jeff Beringer, the EVP of Digital at GolinHarris, Jim Dowd, the National Media Relations Director at GolinHarris, and Rick Wion, the Director of Social Media McDonald’s Corporation; “Your Marketing Sucks: Why You Need to Think Local” with Mike Merrill, the Director of Marketing at ReachLocal and Tiffany Monhollon, the Digital Content Manager at ReachLocal; and “The State of Social Marketing” with Brad McCarty, the Managing Editor of The Next Web, Jesse Thomas, the Founder & CEO of JESS3, Joe Chernov, the VP of Content Marketing at Eloqua, and Tyler Willis, the VP Business Development at Unified .

Some of the interesting featured sessions that stand out include “Rethinking Civilization for the Social Age” with Don Tapscott, the Chairman Moxie Insight; “Content As a Means for Social Change” with Biz Stone, the CCO and Co-founder of Twitter and Brian Sirgutz, the SVP of Social Impact at AOL/Huffington Post; “Making the Real World Easier to Use” with Dennis Crowley, the CEO and Co-founder Foursquare; and “Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas” with David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist at Freshspot Marketing.

What’s compelling about these marketing panels, featured sessions, and keynote speakers is that the subject matter being discussed covers the types of topics that people within the industry are most interested in learning about, which immediately not only identifies trends and patterns, but unifies attendees around the issues that matter most to them.

For anyone just learning about the event or who might be planning to attend in the future, you can click here for a “First Timer’s Guide.”

Now it’s your turn: If you’ve ever attended SXSW, what are your perceptions of the event and how did you find it to be of value compared to other industry conferences and events you’ve attend? Would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Great post, Tiffany – and very resourceful. SXSW is my favorite conference of the year. It’s not only a gathering of the “brain trust” it’s my annual vacation with all my “little Internet friends” (as my husband likes to refer to them. Thanks for such a comprehensive overview!

    • Shelly – Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts! I’ve never been to the conference myself before, but it sounds quite exciting, and it will interesting to see what “industry buzz” is generated from it this year. Have fun!

    • Jay – Looks like there is going to be tons of great information coming out of this conference, and I can’t wait to hear what everyone is talking about in the blogs that follow after-the-fact. Have fun!


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