The March 2016 SXSW Interactive event was host to tens of thousands of participants – either in person or online. SXSW (South by Southwest) is held in Austin, Texas held annually during March. It began in 1987 and has grown every year to become what it currently is – a set of conferences, music festivals, interactive media, and film. In total, it lasts nine days though not all of those four areas happen for the full nine days.
In 2014, the music festival part featured more than 2000 acts and had as many as 51K registrants. The film part welcomes all levels of filmmakers and is five days of conference panels, workshops, mentor sessions, and more. In 2015, the film section held over 250 sessions and featured 735 speakers. The interactive section is focused on emerging tech. Groundbreaking ideas and creative tech are credited as having its beginning at SXSW Interactive. That part has a start-up generator, conferences, speakers, parties, and a trade show of new or updated tech offerings.
Maybe one of the biggest stories of the 2016 event was that President Obama chose to miss out on attending the funeral of former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, so he could attend SXSW as the keynote speaker. And to highlight how big that news was, Breitbart’s reporting of his choice earned the most views during an eight-day period while SXSW was happening (March 7-15) – racking up a total of nearly 33K views in those eight days. But the White House took video of the President’s speech and divided into smaller videos before posting them on Facebook, along with comments. The FB page brought almost another 80K interactions during that week from the SXSW content. That’s a big win from a marketing standpoint.
Keeping in mind that SXSW Interactive is a techie event, it might not be all that surprising to learn another winner for marketing there was Game of Thrones. Over the last several years, the HBO series used fun ideas to remind their fans about the show including one year bringing Iron Throne pedicabs – basically bicycle-driven open air cabs with the customer’s seat looking like the Iron Throne, and for 2016, they brought a recreation of the Hall of Faces allowing fans to recreate some of their favorite scenes. They created a special #SXSWesteros and asked fans to take pictures and share them on their social media accounts. Those posts brought in over 35K interactions during eight days.
One of the largest sports entertainment brands, WWE chose to approach SXSW Interactive this year in a more low-key mode. They personalized their presence with appearances from their Chief Tech officer and also their Chief Brand officer (Stephanie McMahon) using their FB page with 2.5 million followers to focus all those fans on the SXSW event. They posted a photo gallery and shared thoughts and comments. They also participated as panel members in some of those discussions.
If your company is tech or tech related, you should be working to be a part of this annual event.