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Rawking Selection Sunday…in Austin, Texas

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Sunday was a curious SXSW day for me. I got a true sense for the community that is the event. I started the day by leaving my iPhone in a cab. Those of you who own an iPhone probably just a had a slight jump in your tummy thinking about losing your most prized possession. Those of you who funded my iPhone probably just called me an unfortunate name.
Not so fast! This story has a happy ending, thanks to SXSW. I called my phone until a lovely gentleman named Alex picked it up. A fellow iPhone owner, he was highly sympathetic to my plight AND a SXSW registrant! What luck! I met up with him shortly after and retrieved my phone, missed calls and texts intact! YAY! If I had been virtually anywhere else in the world. I probably could have said a hearty sayonara to that little treasure.
I spent lunch with The Bouv and three guys from Louisville – funny how we have to go all the way to Austin to hook up with fellow Louisvillians! It was interesting to hear what our compadres from the River City are doing and how all of our capabilities could compliment one another. Very stimulating conversation took place (better than any of the panels that day) and we ended up with a free meal because it took an hour and a half to get our food! Overall, a successful lunch!
After lunch, we ducked into the SXSW trade show, a series of booths and demonstrations of various interactive products and services. Lots of “alternative inbox” solutions that seem to believe I need something beyond my Google filters, folders and spam mechanism. The coolest thing about the trade show was seeing Guy Kawasaki casually sitting among about 15 people, talking nonchalantly to the group. This is a guy who draws huge crowds and is an inspiration to the online community worldwide and he was lounging in a plaid (I think flannel) shirt and jeans, talking with a group he treated as personal friends. That’s really the whole vibe of SXSW in a nutshell. Relaxed information overload (oxymoron?).

I started the first afternoon panel with “Marketing and New Media.” The only complaint I have about SXSW so far is that the descriptions of the sessions do not often reflect what is ACTUALLY going to be discussed in the panel. This causes many people to get up and walk out early in the discussions. Saturday, I was afraid to do that because I didn’t want to hurt the presenters’ feelings. I was not so delicate on Sunday. I left this panel after just 10 minutes – it wasn’t that the panelists were bad, just that the content wasn’t suitable for our use.

So, I skipped down a floor into the Social Media session. Much better! There were panelists from H&R Block, Carnival Cruise Lines and JCPenney. I very much enjoyed several points made by these panelists. Like all other panels, there is time at the end for audience questions. One question was from a Proctor and Gamble representative, who asked about how these companies measure ROI on social media, a question with which we struggle every day at CurrentMarketing. I loved the H&R Block speaker’s response. She said that rather than call it Return on Investment, she calls it Risk of Ignoring. That risk so greatly outweighs the potential downside on Return on Investment that she virtually disregards the return aspect. All three panelists confirm that social media is currently a brand reinforcement mechanism and that soon, the true Return on Investment will be tangible in that consumer will migrate AWAY from brands that don’t have an effective social media presence. Lots more great points were made, but I loved this one the most.
We hit ScreenBurn after that, an interactive gaming “trade show,” for lack of a better name. I learned something interesting in this room. If I ever put on a trade show like this, I will not place the gigantic booth handing out free samples of Mountain Dew JUST adjacent to the head-to-head gaming consoles. Wow. Those guys were hopped up on the Dew, slaughtering each other in aggressive Call of Duty madness. It was a sight to be seen, but not for long. It did make me wonder about the effectiveness of product placement in video games, though. If the kids are so juiced up, can they really focus long enough to notice the products? Probably not.
The Bouv and I hit the Social Media Club’s Pool 2.0 event after hours and ended up talking at length with two guys from Zappos, one of which has followed Tony Hseih through three companies. They confirmed a lot of what we heard in Saturday’s keynote. It’s good to hear that he wasn’t just full of it! We played short game of Mortal Kombat (I beat The Bouv!) and headed back to the hotel after the long day of the SXSW experience.
Quick recap: iPhone lost/returned, lunch with great company, ROI defined (finally!), caffeine-fueled gaming madness and catching up with the Zappos folks. All-in-all, not a bad day, even though I missed the Selection Show! ;(
Now, on to Monday – I want to see three panels in each session, so I’m not sure how I’m going to be in three places at once! Maybe some of that Mountain Dew Code Red will help…

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Ed Sharp

Ed brings 15 years of traditional and digital media sales experience to the agency, giving us a perspective most agencies don’t have. When he’s not working or seeking new knowledge, Ed hangs out with his wife, two kids, two dogs, one cat, and a hamster. And yes, the cat and hamster are best friends.

Chaney Given

Chaney is a talented and accomplished designer and illustrator, who has expanded his skill set to include motion graphics and video editing. With nearly a decade of experience, his client work includes Waterstep, Baptist Health, the Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Schools, First Harrison Bank, and many more