When Social Media, Advertising, and Consumers Collide: SXSW

Have you ever heard of SXSW or South by Southwest? It’s a massive arts festival in Austin, Texas that runs every year for what seems to be a random number of days and typically garners big names in emerging genres and a lot of people. It has also been the venue for the release of some pretty major social media websites and prototype technologies. You probably never considered where you were when Twitter launched, but if  you had been at SXSW in 2007 you would have been one of the very first people with a Twitter handle. Once all the people at SXSW joined Twitter and invited their friends, they started turning to other forms of social media to tell everyone about Twitter. The consumers became the advertisers. The Twitter showcase and launch at the festival wasn’t just the inception of a major social media tool, it was also a clear sign that festivals and other such venues that targeted and attracted social media users could be utilized as “proving grounds” for new and experimental forms of technology, websites, and a multitude of other forums and platforms.

Consider the obstacles that might limit or hinder the launch of a new piece of technology fifteen years ago. The Internet was underutilized for advertising, so most companies were restricted to print, television and radio ads which are costly and ineffectual at reaching specific consumer markets. Trade shows and tech conventions were popular venues for these types of release, but they typically drew tech-oriented people and most companies were attempting to target the mass populace. Who knows what useful or novel technological innovations were passed on, simply because they couldn’t attract a large enough consumer base due to limited resources.

Social media has essentially changed the game in terms of advertising. No longer are companies restricted to their financial resources, but to the way they market themselves on the Internet and how they reach their consumer audience. This past year SXSW carried the release of some pretty major innovations and developments, like advancements in artificial intelligence and the first round of consumer 3D printers. A few days into SXSW I saw some of my friends posting about 3D printers and new apps that were launched at SXSW and they weren’t even there, they had seen others tweeting and posting about it. That’s free advertising and those companies only had to to pay for their own research, as well as a booth or stage at the festival. The shift from commercialism has begun, now all we have to ask is — what’s the next big thing? Tweet about it.

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