I’m flying at 30,000 feet (thanks for the free wifi HP) thinking about my week in Austin. It was a week filled with meeting new people and forging deeper relationships with Boston’s social supa-stahs! It was a blast. It was a warm cocoon of acceptance where people can stand together in a crowd checking their smartphones, and not feel super-guilty for it (only slightly guilty). Also a big Texas “thank you” to the SXSWi veterans that took the noobs under their wings to make sure they had a good time and didn’t get lost (figuratively and literally).
But for me, it was also about the technology. Truthfully, the top technology is still social. It’s going to take years for the world to extract the full power of social technologies. It’s going to have as big an impact on people as e-mail and the web – maybe bigger. It’s going to take years for this to fully play out and you’ll know it’s happened when social disappears into your life. It will just be how we connect as people.
So beyond social, here are my top 5 take-aways from SXSWi:
1. Group messaging
Mobile apps like Facebook’s recently acquired Beluga and Groupme allow users to create mini-communities among their connections. Whereas social media platforms are typically broadcast, these mobile apps allow users to quickly and easily connect and share text and pictures. I see a few reasons for the rise of this technology:
Hyper-connectivity comes back to roost: Those that have thousands of connections on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook no longer receive the benefit from these platforms they way the once did. There’s just too much noise and not enough signal. These are people that have had to create Twitter lists and Facebook groups to sort friends and followers into contextual buckets. Grouping allows people to cut through the clutter and focus on specific people.
Privacy: There’s somethings you just don’t want to share publicly, like the fact the Foo Fighters are playing at Stubb’s. You want your friends to know, but you don’t want EVERYONE to show up otherwise the lines become long. Individually DM’ing all your friends or SMS’ing them takes time. Grouping, I think Mike Schneider called it “meeping“?, let’s you share without broadcasting.
Awash in e-mail: There’s too much and it’s too formal. Group messages rise out of the clutter of e-mail because they a) aren’t buried with the rest of your e-mail and b) typically have a more effective mobile notification configuration like sounds, LED flashes and/or vibrates (yes you could do that with e-mail buy why would you).
Beluga was a great way for the Boston posse to connect on what was going on during SXSWi. We set up connections, organized meetups and planned our days/nights.
2. QR codes
QR (Quick Response) codes, while not new made a big splash at the conference. Frankly, I didn’t see anyone actually scanning them though I’m sure some did. While hot now, I expect this technology to be eclipsed by something less obtrusive in the future. Codes should become buried in the logos or product trademarks and not so gosh darned ugly.
3. Slide Rocket
We all hate Powerpoint. Prezi, while cool, is seen as jarring for many. Slide Rocket amps up your presentations and can be inserted within your site. Interesting features include video integration, polling, and lead generation. Check them out.
4. Location Based Services (LBS) continues to grow
Foursquare launched a new release at SXSWi that really stepped up the value. By including explorer features a user can see what locations are popular at the moment. You can also see where your friends are on the map (or at least their last checkins relative to you). My prediction is that we will see a Yelp or Where type recommendations to be created integrated in the future. LBS is still for early adopters, but I think we’ll start moving into the early majority phase in 2011.
5. Gary Vaynerchuk’s Thank You Economy
I don’t know if it’s because the nice people of Texas made conference people more polite, but everyone seemed nicer than normal. I can’t help but think that Gary V’s new book the Thank You Economy has something to do with it the general politeness of the crowd. Gary says the “media” part of social media has been interpreted by Marketers as PUSH. But being social isn’t about pushing, it’s about giving. It’s about appreciating those that help you and participating in a community. If you’re a Marketer and you’re PUSHing. Stop it. Value your customers and make them lifelong brand champions by understanding who they are, at an individual level, and thanking them for their business in a hugely personal way. Being appreciative can be a competitive advantage. You can stand out by drawing your customers to you.
Umm…yeah, there’s a new browser. ‘nuff said.