sxsw asia trends

SXSW 2014 trends from Asia – Pacific: lots of music, little digital

So, SXSW Interactive has been and gone for 2014 – and no, I was not there so don’t expect any namedropping and bragging about party antics  snippets of digital wisdom from me this time. I have been following the event mainly on Twitter on the #SXSW hashtag, and occasionally tuning into a live streaming.

With over 1,300 sessions going on (check out this cool infographic on SXSW 2014′s numbers by the folks at Simply Measured), “death by content” wasn’t an unrealistic scenario at SXSW; also, you would expect the average attendee to have an above average level of activity (and for some, influence) on social media. Result: over 2 million mentions of #SWSX on social platforms over 10 days (source: Synthesio).

SXSW creates an insane amount of noise – on the web and in the real world -it’s very easy to get lost in it all. The place is swarming with freaks and geeks, one in ten of whom are panelists, all of whom have LOTS to say and aren’t afraid to tweet about it. Keynotes, panels, hashtags, conversations, demos…it’s a 5-day content bender.

(Scott Woodhouse, Campaign Brief)

Being the analytics freak I am, I have read a few roundups and summary pieces (I recommend the one quoted below from Campaign Brief) and then turned to my favourite social media listening tool* – for some  data-based evidence.

Looking at the social media mentions of #sxsw  from 7th to 16th of March period, here’s a few pointers:

SXSW has become a global event but its social footprint it’s still America-centric

The volume of buzz generated by Asia-Pacific countries (including users localised int hose countries, including those travelling to Austin), although not small at over 100k tweets over a week, still only accounts for a fraction (around 5%) of the overall buzz.

What has Asia been talking about the most during SXSW?

sxsw asia trends

Data courtesy of Synthesio

Unsurprisingly, NOT about amazing innovation, revolutionary technology and cultivated debates about digital: CATS (ok, pets) and RAP MUSIC were the hottest buzz topics.

Music acts from the iTunes Festival, and especially Australian acts got the most attention alongside Lady Gaga’s and a rapper called Tyler, the Creator who allegedly incited a mob at his gig and almost caused another fatal accident.

The feel good factor went through the roof thanks to the exposure given to Austin’s local pet charity APSCA campaign for visiting and resident geeks to adopt a pet. Cue doe-eyed puppies and adorable cats next to tattooed and bearded tech types, as featured in Mashable - Australia went literally abuzz.

homeless pets rescued sxsw

SXSW collateral events drive buzz in peripheral Asian markets, tech & innovation in more mature ones.

Indonesia, the single biggest country after China in the region, accounted for the highest share of SXSW buzz followed by English-speaking Australia , Japan,  India and the Philippines. China is not even on the top 10 (!). These figures seem to reflect closely the estimates on social media penetration for APAC in the We Are Social  “Social, Digital and Mobile in APAC” 2014 report.

interestingly,  users in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia were mostly retweeting celebrity news whilst the bulk of conversations about the “serious” stuff happened from India and Australia.

Was Asia a topic at SXSW?

Looking at which Asia-related topics have surfaced in the SXSW buzz, well – on a macro level, none. Entertainment at SXSW, rather than discussions about digital trends in the region, had the lion share again. The highlights:  a concert by Japanese classical music act Yoshiki getting a big wave of support amongst local fans, and the gig by Side Effect – the first Myanmar band to ever play at the event.

On the actual content side of SXSW, a few topics which made (small) ripples on social media buzz included mobile apps from the Korean contingent.

korea startup sxswOrigami, the ancient Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes, is getting a makeover for the 21st-century. A new puzzle game for mobile called Let’s Fold made its debut at SXSW in Austin [,,,]. The startup behind the game, South Korea-based FiveThirty, was part of the Korean startup delegation dubbed Geeks from Gangnam (source: Tech in Asia)

A talk about “How Overcrowded Asian Cities Inspire Innovation” by SIngapore-based marketer and researcher Tara Hirebet did not seem to generate significant media buzz, although the topic seems most intriguing and the speaker very qualified. With the sheer number of official and unofficial events going on over 10 days at SXSW though, this is probably unsurprising.

Now that the dust has settled over an edition of SXSW which someone has defined as “an orgy for brands“, I am looking forward to  in depth wrap-up pieces with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region- hopefully without annoying  music and psychedelic backgrounds like this ambitiously titled “The SXSW Wrap: Lessons for Asia” (I am kidding- good try, guys).

 *Disclaimer: Synthesio is my current employer. But they are awesome. Promise.


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