The Geek Hipster Guide to SXSW

South By Southwest Interactive attracts all types of digitally inquisitive people from all over the world. Still, wandering the halls of the Austin Convention Center and the streets of downtown Austin, it’s impossible not to notice a significant representation of the black beard, black glasses, check shirt and baseball/flat cap brigade (amongst the men anyway). Better known as the Geek Hipster set, or Geekster, this tribe has congregated from the near and far flung diasporas of Williamsburgh in Brooklyn, Hoxton in London, The Mission in San Francisco and hometown East Austin.

In honour of this gathering we’ve conducted our own social anthropological study and dipped back into an old meme of LEGO love to create The Geekster Guide to SXSW.


Where to spot them: SXSW Eco Meet Up


Where to spot them: Hacking the Hackathon


Where to spot them: What Social Media Analytics Can’t Tell You


Where to spot them: Cause Tech Startups - The Opportunity in Good


Where to spot them: Actively Participating in the Big Data Revolution


Where to spot them: In their bedroom following everything online


Where to spot them: Penicillin 2.0 - Sensor Driven Health


Where to spot them: The “Real” Crowdfunding Investment



Where to spot them: SXSW Gaming Expo


Where to spot them: Dachis Group + Sprinklr Party of course….


Where to spot them: Maker to Manufacturing session


Where to spot them: A Virtual Conversation with Glenn Greenwald


The KONY effect and why it’s a big deal for companies

It’s been just over two weeks since the aptly named, under-the-radar NGO Invisible Children released to YouTube a classic piece of agitprop video, KONY2012. And what a two weeks! The video has been viewed more than 100 million times and Invisible Children have been lauded for their actions in shining a spotlight on the atrocities carried out in central Africa by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army. At the same time the very success of KONY2012 has shone an equally bright spotlight on both the finances of Invisible Children and the factual accuracy of the video. [Read more…]

Twitter storms may be overblown but social reputation is a big deal

Twitter, twitter, blah, blah,blah.

Be it Kevin Smith’s fatman rant against Southwest Airlines (LUV), Eurostar’s public roasting or UK retailer Paperchase’s purported design plagiarism, the media seemingly cannot get enough of another corporation caught short by the outraged tweeting masses.

But should company executives really be concerned by this digital populism? Does yet another story of a little (or not so little) guy sticking it to big business really affect the bottom line (or even the general reputation of a company) or is it just an easy way for news sites to attract eyeballs?

Sorry to say it, but it is a big deal. Three makes a trend in journalism and the trend of Twitter customer complaints isn’t going away. Of course Twitter isn’t the issue here - it’s just the latest social media messenger of the fundamental changes taking place that are reshaping the relationship companies have with their customers. And if your customers’ habits are changing then business leaders and the companies they lead must change too.

The tools, platforms and culture of social media have been asking questions of the way companies do business for nearly a decade now. Yet it has taken the rapid growth of Twitter - an instant viral publishing tool that just happens to be closely followed by the so-called mainstream media - to explode the customer complaint horror stories companies previously suffered just at the hands of irate bloggers (think Dell, Kryptonite) to potentially devastating effect.

Customer gripes play out on Twitter in what you could call hyper-real time for not only is a complaint/accusation posted almost instantaneously but it is quickly amplified by a connected community and often by an aggressive social media corps eager for any new Twitter story and under pressure to publish now and ask for company comment later.

The combined net effect is that companies find themselves reading attacks on their reputation (whether warranted or not) in the social media sphere before being able to check on the merits of the complaint or how and if they need to rectify it. Sometimes those complaints appear blown out of all proportion (Motrin Moms anyone?) while other times they simply shine a very bright light on a company’s incompetence in a crisis.

If the arbitrary nature of this online customer movement seems unfair well get used to it. After all, Paperchase might feel aggrieved at attracting a firestorm of media criticism while similar allegations of design appropriation by TopShop go unnoticed but what the Twitter events of the last week demonstrate is that this adverse publicity can affect any company in any sector at any time.

How companies succeed in the future will depend on how they embrace and navigate this new socially-empowered customer culture. The answers don’t lie in having a company Twitter account (though there are legions of social media experts out there eager to sell you one) and they definitely can’t be solved purely through social media monitoring. After all these are just the tools of listening and responding - it’s what a company learns from intelligence it receives from listening, how it applies those learnings and then how it communicates those learnings to its customers that will rescue its reputation and make it a stronger company.

So should Southwest change its policy because a large celebrity complained? Should Paperchase change its sourcing of designs in light of artists’ allegations? And should Eurostar change its emergency operating procedures in the light of catastrophic failure that stranded hundreds of passengers to up to 15 hours? Ultimately only the company in question can determine the merits of complaints and whether adapting its practices will make it a stronger company (the Eurostar example might be a bit of a no-brainer). Just don’t shoot the messenger.

Guest Column: Successful Marketing in a Contracting Economy

It’s the question that is keeping the management of all companies awake at night: is there a single, cost-effective investment that can help grow a business even as the whole global economy is contracting?

[Read more…]