Trends We’re Watching at SXSWi This Year

A special-edition SXSW “Panel Nerd” badge from Foursquare. I have a full set.

Today some coworkers and I are heading to Austin, Texas – the land of bluebonnets, BBQ and SXSW Interactive.   “South By” is on my list of can’t miss events, and not because of the parties – I have yet in my four years there to be seen out and about much past 10 p.m.   No, I’m a panel nerd. I go to SXSW to learn.  I’ll be blogging from the sessions, and already, some trends are emerging in the gathering noise from the event.

It’s not about you.  It’s about me.  ALL about me.

Personal technology – and personalization of technology – looks like it’s going to be taking center stage this year.   The Interactive lineup includes a bevy of sessions about personal tracking and health technologies, as well as wearable tech.    I’ll be watching what emerges from this trend – personal tech absolutely influences behavior, and as a marketer, I’m interested in that.

Big data, redux.

Big data was big news last year at SXSW, and I’m expecting a reprise of this subject again, albeit with a more practical point of view.  Last year was about the availability and awesome potential of big data.  This year I’m expecting to hear about some interesting applications thereof.

Science.

Science, specifically space, will be a big theme this year, as the speaker and session lineups include a keynote from Elon Musk of SpaceX to a slew of sessions about space-derived science, I’m battening down the hatches for a lot of extra-terrestrial geekery.  What can this stuff possibly have to do with marketing and communications?  I’ll be looking for two angles to these stories – actual storytelling from brands and thinkers (after all, SXSW draws a highly influential crowd, and watching how brands engage with that crowd is always informative,) and where people are finding market opportunities, within those stories one can find good thinking about segmentation. So yes, even though I tend more toward being a life-sciences enthusiast, I’ll be in a science- or space-related session or two.

Moving targets.

Mobile marketing is kind of old news, except that this seems to be the year that marketers are awakening to mobile, driven by the massive adoption of smart phones and tablets.  However,  mobile behavior and motivations are different other online behaviors.  I’ll be looking for thinking around appealing to audiences in the different contexts in which they’re using their devices.

We’ll see how well I stick to these plans.  I have no doubt my plans will be waylaid by crowds, and I’ll find myself in a session about completely new subject, and if history means anything, I’ll walk away with a significant new perspective.  That’s part of the SXSW serendipity.  I’m looking forward to it.

You’ll have the chance to follow along, and see how I do (and whether or not I’m right in my trend watching.   A number of us are headed to SXSW, and we’ll be blogging, Tweeting, Tumblring, Pinning and otherwise sharing as much content from the event as we can.  And if you’re going to be joining the fray in Austin, I’d be curious to know which trends you think will dominate the conversation.  Am I on point, or did I miss the mark?  Let me know what you think.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

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