This is the first year that I have attended the SXSW Interactive Festival, and so far it has been enlightening. Most interested has been to get to know the people behind the online personalities.
I arrived Sunday afternoon and went to a blogger dinner organized by RichardatDell at the Salt Lick – an amazing BBQ spot just outside of Austin.
I had a great conversation with Hugh McLeod about the theory of social objects, and how that feeds into the formation of a community. He further elaborated to discuss the evolution from social gestures, to social object to social markers, and the importance of that to marketing. He explained that if a person is an engrained member of a community, you can name just a few markers, without context, and they would instantly understand what you are talking about.
The goal would be to make your product into a social object and to have social markers build up about it.
One of the best examples of this is (of course) Apple.
Social objects would be things such as the iPhone, iPod, Mac Apple. Steve Jobs, Leopard and other items would serve as social markers. Taken together, Apple becomes a lifestyle and a community that further evangelize the product.
This conversation was followed by another with Charlene Li from Forrester, where we talked about the importance of objectives when setting up social media measurement programs. She says that her new book Groundswell with co-author Josh Bernoff focuses on the formulation of objectives. I look forward to reading and reviewing the book for Communication Overtones. I will also be joining the knowledge community Forrester has set up around the book.
I was also able to have a great conversation with Jim Long, a cameraman with NBC, about the future of mainstream media and how social media fits in. If you are on Twitter, be sure to follow @newmediajim for some insightful commentary and the chance to bring the news of the day alive. Since Jim often can be found in the press pool with the President, his Tweets are above average in interest and quality.
Also at the party were Maggie Fox, whom I was delighted to finally meet in person, as well as Stephanie Agresta, Shel Israel and Jeremiah Owyang.
Photo by Jason Falls was taken at the AMD BlogHaus at SXSW 2008. Pictured from L to R are me, Jim Turner, Aaron Brazell (technosailor) and ShashiB