By Megan McMahon I was lucky enough to attend SXSW in Austin this year for the first time and the takeaways and inspiration that I got out of the conference were almost overwhelming. However, I've narrowed it down to 5 key themes that I think should not be forgotten even though SXSW 2011 is over. So without further ado, here are my favorite SXSW themes from 2011... 1. Brace yourself for the “game-layer.”
I don’t think anything dominated SXSW more than game related apps. From the highly coveted SXSW exclusive Foursquare badges, to Whrrl (who was really just trying to keep up with the heavy hitters) enticing people to download the app with the chance to win a car, everywhere you turned on the streets of Austin people were “checking-in.” But outside the city limits of Austin, something bigger is brewing as Seth Priebatsch (CEO of SVNGR) discussed at his keynote speech. The game-layer is coming and it’s going to change the world, or so says Seth and I have to agree with him. It’s human nature and part of society to think of life as a “game” sometimes, and the apps that encourage this are only going to boost the game-layer.
2. Foursquare is serious about your privacy.
At almost every single panel that I went to, the topic of Foursquare and people’s privacy being violated was brought up. And at almost every single panel where it was brought up, there was a Foursquare employee there to defend the fact that they’re serious about your privacy. Two things here: (1) Foursquare employees mingle with the masses. I played actual foursquare with them, rocked out to Big Boi live with them, and sat in the audience with them at panels. They’re just like you and me, of course they care about your privacy. (2) It’s the people who DON’T use Foursquare who are worried about privacy. As Dennis Crowley said in his featured SXSW interview with Pete Cashmore, you use the app for 3 minutes and you’ll see how easy it is to block who sees what about you and still actively participate in the Foursquare app.
3. The world can’t escape Team Coco.
I may be biased as a Coco addict myself but you’d really have to be crazy to deny that what Conan and the masterminds behind his “brand” did on social media over the past year was truly incredible. Even though Conan might not use Facebook personally, his presence on Twitter proved to be award winning at the 2011 SXSW Interactive awards. Team Coco proved to be a social media force strong enough to beat out even the Pepsi Refresh Project. Recently on Conan, Biz Stone was a guest and even he admitted that Twitter uses Conan O’Brien as a key example of the best way to utilize Twitter. Even though Team Coco can now call themselves award winning, I don’t think that Coco fans needed any recognition to know that they were/are part of a social media revolution.
4. Have you tried GroupMe?
Another award winner at the Interactive Awards and among people (the Likeable group included!) at SXSW was GroupMe. The beauty of GroupMe is that it’s an app, but you don’t need an app to use it…all you need is a phone that texts. GroupMe won Breakout Digital Trend at SXSW, which was voted on by users at the conference through the SXSW GO app. GroupMe is the perfect group chat program that comes in text message form. It was perfect for SXSW to figure out where your group was, where you wanted to meet up next, and what you wanted to do later. I highly recommend that you get on GroupMe the next time you need a group chat going!
5. Young people are taking over the world.
I can proudly say that the very first panel that I ever went to at SXSW was perhaps the most inspiring and enlightening for me. It was entitled “Being Young and Rocking It” and it was a core conversation led by the 19 year old prodigy and founder of Kiip (his own startup focused on mobile in-game advertising), Brian Wong. Not only was Brian a powerhouse when it came to his ideas, he inspired everyone in the room to speak about their challenges as a young person and more importantly their successes. It’s easy to say that my generation is a force to be reckoned with but even better when we can prove it. Two cases in point: (1) 23 year old Ted Livingston, founder and now President/CEO of messaging app Kik, who was in the core conversation room that day and (2) 21 year old Seth Preiebatsch who undoubtedly stole the spotlight at SXSW and inspired the minds of young entrepreneurs in Austin and around the world.
What was your favorite takeaway or theme from SXSW 2011 that you think should not be forgotten? Let me know in the comments!