Everything I needed to learn @SXSW I learned from #Foursquare

By Mallorie Rosenbluth

Now that we’ve officially put another South By Southwest in the books, it’s time to reflect on what those days spent in the Austin Convention Center mean for us back in the real world. While I attended numerous panels, participated in core conversations and was inspired by keynote speakers; I have to say the one event that truly summed up SXSW Interactive this year was Mashable’s Pete Cashmore interviewing Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley. Everything I needed to learn at SXSW, I learned in that 60 minutes.

1)      Give your customers what they want – Listening to Crowley discuss the current state and future plans for Foursquare showed everyone that this guy knows what he’s talking about. He and the team are designing a platform that gives people what they want. At one point, Crowley said he didn't think people wanted a push notification to their phone when they walked past a coffee shop that had a deal. Would this be a great selling point for businesses? Would this make Foursquare more profitable? Probably and maybe. But people are showing they’d rather know they’re walking past the coffee place their friend always raves about that they've never been to. It’s about the consumer, not about the businesses.

2)      Brilliant marketing doesn’t disguise a bad product; great products don’t need outrageous marketing stunts – How does Foursquare market at the industry’s biggest event? With chalk. Even with a partnership with Pepsi Max, Foursquare’s core marketing is a piece of chalk used to draw a foursquare court. In 2009 and 2010, when the company was just starting to grow legs, the team drew courts outside the convention center and attracted people to come play with them. In 2011, they had an entire lot a block from the convention center, had Pepsi employees on site giving out free beverages, featured an open bar, and more – but there was still the chalk court.

3)      Surprise and delight – How did I spend my Monday night of SXSW interactive? At a renovated power plant standing front and center for a Big Boi concert. A front row ticket to Big Boi must have cost a lot of money or was the result of a lot of strings being pulled, right? Wrong. Foursquare teamed up with Big Boi and Pepsi Max and randomly handed out Golden Ticket badges to people checking in around Austin. If you unlocked the badge, you got two tickets to the Big Boi concert. Simple as that. Even better, if you didn’t score a ticket that got you in at 8pm, the Foursquare team opened the show to the public just a few hours later via an announcement on Twitter. Thousands crowded into the space for a huge party courtesy of their favorite location-based network.

Whether you were in attendance at this year’s SXSW or were following the action via Twitter, what were your key takeaways? Add to the list in the comments below!