It was my third year attending SXSW interactive. My first year I crashed without a badge for a day and was thrilled to eat lunch and talk with people like Chris Brogan and my friend Lewis Howes. My second year, I made sure to buy a badge. I had the best time meeting people, attending sessions, and discovering new startup companies at the Biz Accelerator competition. So the expectations and the bar was set high for SXSW this year.
Well, let’s start off by saying I was not disappointed. When I first arrive at the convention center in Austin, I knew instantly I had made it to the place where everyone has a smart phone, is on Twitter, blogs, and might be known loving to their friends as a “geek”. I immediately spot a long line of people all waiting to get their hands on the new iPad. Across the street are five guys hooting and hollering; swinging their bags with their new iPad. Yep, I had made it to SXSW.
It’s affectionately called “Spring Break For Geeks”, because of all of the parties, free drinks, and free food. And while I can proudly say I didn’t pay for any food or drinks for one entire day, I actually learned a lot too. My absolute favorite session for the second year was Gary Vaynerchuk’s talk. This guy gets it.
When the internet first started businesses jumped in and set up shop and said we’re open 24/7, but instead what happened is businesses became more disconnected from their customers. Bad customer service… who cares? Businesses thought it’s not worth the money or investment, just outsource the call center overseas to save money.
But these unhappy customers started talking to each other through what we now call “social media” (sidenote: Gary is not a fan of the term “social media”). Instead of telling maybe just a few friends, now these customers could talk to possibly thousands through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, and the list goes on. So we have transitioned into what Gary Vaynerchuk calls the “Thank you Economy”.
The concept of the “Thank You Economy” was also a theme in the chat with Pete Cashmore, creator of Mashable, and Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare. Crowley says Foursquare is not just about check-ins it helps businesses with their customer loyalty. Your best customers become Mayor of your location on Foursquare and you can reward them with a big “thank you” and a free meal.
And with Foursquare’s new version out, it’s heading in the direction of personalization. Wouldn’t it be great when you go to the airport, you check into Foursquare, and while you’re sitting down waiting for your flight with twenty minutes to kill a notification comes up on your phone suggesting a place your friend loved. While it might seem a little creepy right now to us when we are still trying to figure out how we can still have privacy, it sounds pretty useful at the same time.
And as everyone leaves Austin and heads out to the airport what’s on their mind? For me it was the amazing people I met or re-connected with, how crazy people got for the new iPad (Apple is great at branding), how businesses who say thank you to their customers will win every time, and Texans sure do like their BBQ. How about you?
Written By: Jennifer Haubein, you can follow her on twitter at @jhaubein