SXSW has come to epitomize so much of what is wrong with web marketing in 2014.
I gave up on the idea of attending SXSW every year after things took a turn for the worse (in my opinion) back in the 2009-2010 timeframe. We saw the first real takeoff of Twitter at SXSW in 2007 then Foursquare hit it big at the show in 2008. Since then, it’s been a place to “find the next Twitter” or “improve your brand marketing.”
As an agency person who cares deeply about social media and about marketing in general, I just can’t bring myself to go see this spectacle. That might make me an elitist hipster or whatever, but the truth is I have taste (again, in my opinion). That taste doesn’t correlate with things like fashion but I do have good taste (imo) when it comes to marketing.
I’ll keep doing what I’m doing with our agency here in sunny SC and leave the “idea vomiting” and “hashtag highness” surface level approach to “marketing” to my friends who go to SXSW from the larger agencies with insane expense accounts but a shallow grasp of tasteful marketing.
Given SXSW’s status as a birthplace of social media, the festival attracts an outsized number of self-styled gurus leading panels to educate the less savvy. Attendees flock to standing-room-only sessions with names like “Idea Vomiting” in the hopes that beyond the bluster, the social media ninjas and rockstars in attendance will share some pearls of wisdom. “Eighty percent of it is useless,” confides a man who is attending on behalf of a large American company. “You’re looking for those diamonds in the rough.” We are sitting next to one another at a session named “High On Hashtags”. A colleague of his, overhearing us, raves about a session she attended the previous day called “The Digital Cronut”. “I heard that was awesome,” her colleague says.