South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) is one of those events I’ve been hearing about for years and wondering when I would get my chance to experience it firsthand. Luckily, opportunity came knocking this year.
The Chevrolet team asked me to participate in its second annual SXSWi road trip challenge, and I humbly accepted. I couldn’t have asked for a better team (we choose the name Team Motown to properly represent our Detroit heritage). While the road trip was exhausting, spending three days creating content on the fly was a challenging and rewarding experience. I had so much fun!
Once we finally made it to Austin, I had two main goals I wanted to accomplish during the conference: Meet some of the PR/social media contacts I had connected with online and attend sessions that would equip me with more knowledge about being successful at my job as a social media strategist. I’m happy to report that I accomplished both goals.
I was beyond excited to finally connect in real life with people like Justin Goldsborough, Mike Schaffer, Jeff Esposito and Ramon DeLeon at SXSWi. It’s impossible to meet up with everyone on your “must meet” list, but when you do connect with some of those people, try to spend more than five minutes with them. I learned the blogger lounge is where a lot of the magic happens.
While it was a lot of fun hanging out with new and old friends, in my opinion, your SXSWi ticket is a waste of money if you don’t take advantage of the presentations. Here are some takeaways from two of my favorite sessions:
- Employers need to be cautious about hiring people with very recognized and followed personal brands to ensure the brand never takes precedence over the job.
- Back up your personal brand by showing results (empty promises mean jack) and always asking questions because it’s good to admit you don’t know it all.
- Your end goal(s) will determine whether anecdotal or mathematical measurements are most important when it comes to a personal brand.
- Jenn mentioned that not all PR people are created equal. She is more likely to look into a story idea/company if the recommendation comes from a reliable and trusted source.
- Companies display a variety of personal brands online. Look at how different the end results and follower reactions were when someone sent an oops tweet from the Red Cross Twitter handle in comparison to the oops tweet from the Chrysler Twitter handle.
Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote
- Content isn’t king. What’s king is creating real context with the end consumer. Always focus first on the customer.
- To get ahead in business and in life, work legitimately hard to care first.
- People in social marketing act like a 19-year-old boy. They try to close too fast. Focus more on experience rather than the sale.
While SXSWi was a fantastic experience, it’s also an overwhelming conference for a newbie. I have a few lessons learned for those of you who have yet to attend:
- Map out what sessions you want to attend ahead of time. I did this, but I could have done a better job at it. There were a few panels I completely missed that I would have loved to attend. Research and review the panels beforehand and create a schedule for yourself so you aren’t scrambling to figure out what panels you want to attend while you’re in Austin.
- Take really good notes. I opted to tweet the nuggets of wisdom I took away from the panels I attended versus taking notes. I wish I would have taken notes instead because it was cumbersome to go back and gather all the tweets. I think my notes would have been more thorough than my tweets were because trying to listen, tweet and read other people’s tweets at the same time was overkill!
My friend (and competitor from the other Detroit Chevy road trip team), Shauna Nicholson, did a great job of capturing notes from the panels she attended. She graciously shares them in her SXSWi session notes post.
If you attended SXSW, what were some of your favorite panels or sessions, and what did you learn?