Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Top 5 Trends of #SXSWi

Droves. That's what they came in. More than 32,000 in all. To the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin. Because that's where great things happen. Good things, too, but let's face it. We are always looking for the next GREAT thing. Twitter came out in 2007. FourSquare hit the scene in 2009. 
So it was a little surprising this year that not a single clear winner emerged after a week of sessions and more grilled cheese than anyone should ever experience. 

Unless, of course, you count Matthew Inman from @theoatmeal. He rocked the house with all that empirical Tesla bullshit. 

Here are the top five interactive trends I observed.

Awards programs :: a marriage or one-night stand?
Some were more complicated loyalty programs based on long-term committed relationships and some were simple points-offering for specific social engagements like watching a video, sharing a link, retweeting or reviewing a  product. Fold in the ability to geo-target and all of a sudden global loyalty programs become more localized, more actionable and more social in nature. PeerIndex, glocal and speeker.com invite users to discover, share and shop within an awards-based digital experience. 

Social engagement dashboards & cloud computing :: to systematically moderate & crowd-source or not...that is still the question. Nothing really new here except that the idea of calendaring social media content is still something brands and technologists alike are still trying to figure out. Exact same thing for cloud computing. Winners in this category included Mass Relevance, Meltwater, Resource, Bloomfire and probably a few more.

Mobile payment apps & group chat apps :: From Square to Paypal to Level Up to Google Wallet, mobile payment apps were popular, but not necessarily new. Same thing for group chat apps like Groupme. Maybe it's the grilled cheese talking. I can't be trusted. That lack of trust has kept me from using mobile payment apps as my preferred form of payment. Speaking of trust, I found an app that promises to provide enough privacy and security that users will want to share what they call memories, flirtatious messages between two consenting adults, so really less group chat and more one-on-one intimate communications. It's called the "Between" app and between you and me, I think it sounds gross. Sorry.

Video & music apps :: amping up what Instagram & Pinterest have perfected. A picture tells a thousand words, but really, how many words can you shout within the 6 seconds of a Vine video? Not sure and really don't care, but one thing really surprised me about this new notion of split second video recording. It's actually really difficult to capture SIX WHOLE SECONDS WORTH SHARING, so the ability to edit in Camera Plus and Clinch makes me feel like this trend will continue as technology to support UX needs develops at the same time.

Lounges & recharging stations :: helping conference go-ers make a go of it all. 
CUSP by Neiman Marcus had the most pathetic charging station; a single power outlet strip laying across the top of a glass table in the middle of a mostly empty room. Fast Company + Starbucks + Target + Evite, on the other hand took over a corner restaurant and turned it into a mecca of respite and recharge for weary badge-holders. They didn't crowd the space with business products but instead took the opportunity to build brand affinity while catering to the basic needs of already -overwhelmed consumers. 

One last thing that seemed to be everywhere; hashtags. Hashtag temporary tattoo's, painted on windows, plastered over entire buildings, on cover art and posters that lined every single lamppost, on napkins, cupcakes and large presentation screens. Want to ask the author a question? Add a hashtag and Tweet it. Want to enter to win a fabulous prize? Add hashtags, upload a photo and Instagram it. Want to learn more or be contacted later? Tag us, Tweet us and add a hashtag. 

What do you think? Expect #moretocome on #sxswi & nothing at all about the stupid #grumpycat.