SXSW Part 2: Following The Conversation Can Actually Help You Lead

March 27, 2015

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Kimchi fries. GMOs. Not necessarily two conversations you would think would co-exist – but SXSW is truly a place where even the most seemingly unconnected ideas and opinions converge.

Food was one of the top three themes that emerged from our Omnicom StoryConnect lounge, which had its pulse on the social sphere in Austin, tracking SXSW conversations daily. We saw more than 8,000 mentions related to food over three days, which ranked only slightly behind chatter around the two hottest topics – video games and Twitch (Amazon’s live-streaming video platform).

The highest trending topics within food were: GMOs, food trucks and cocktails. It may seem like an odd mix, but it’s really not. Technology and tools don’t necessarily drive the conversations – often they follow them. ONLINE conversations generated by OFFLINE activities create relevant, share-worthy content among interested audiences. Even at a technology conference.

For example, GMOs were talked about mostly in the context of the Common Ground mentioned last week where the Ben & Jerry’s activism manager took center stage. A big name and a big brand attracted an engaged audience that socialized the panel discussion in real time, organically, on their own.

Source: Daily Motion

Source: Daily Motion

Donald McRonald, the “evil twin” of Ronald McDonald, leveraged the Golden Arches’ huge presence at the conference to make his point. He was provocative and camera-ready.

And yet so was McDonald’s food truck – I believe the biggest trailer in Austin. It got rave reviews.

Source: Adweek

Source: Adweek

Food trucks, in fact, dominated the other half of the conversation. Everyone was talking about Chi’ Lantro – a Korean BBQ inspired mobile kitchen. The truck’s Instagram strategy, combined with the uniqueness of the food, had people standing in long lines and sharing that “worth it moment” when they sat down to enjoy a plate of kimchi fries. Of note, the Chi’Lantro’s following has expanded so much that it is now setting up a brick and mortar shop.

Kimchi fries SXSW

And of course, with food must come drinks – and this year COCKTAILS at SXSW were more buzzed about than any other “meal” at the conference, from unique mixes to some “overindulgences.”

Here is a total snapshot of what we saw and heard.

The bottom line – even at a “tech conference,” it’s the real, authentic and personal experiences that drive conversations and connect people together in like-minded communities.

Companies often feel that to get their stories and messages shared they need to facilitate a conversation they want people to have. Sometimes listening and following where an audience is going can be a more effective way to lead them in a desired direction. And if it’s to more of those kimchi fries, I’ll be the first to line up.