Interactive Austin Conference Overview

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Interactive Austin LogoThis week was the second annual Interactive Austin Conference. Focusing on the value of social media for business, AI09 convened a broad spectrum of experts, locals and practitioners to share, debate, network and learn about how to take advantage of social media for the benefit of business.

Keynotes

Starting off the day was industry leading strategist and Social Computing Journal Editor-in-Chief Dion Hinchcliffe. In a talk on one of this season’s hottest topics: How Social Media Can Enhance Enterprise Profitability. Covering both internal organizational and external, customer-facing examples, Hinchcliffe’s examples set the tone for the ubiquitous message of the day: social media is a set of tools. Their value is found in the behaviors and interaction of the people using them, not the technologies themselves.

Keynotes by Sam Lawrence and “whurley” followed, with common messages. (See SCJ’s coverage of Sam Lawrence’s Keynote.) In a talk comprised of crowdsourced topics, whurley covered everything from the long-term value of LinkedIn, Twitter and Friendfeed, to data portability, semantic web and HTML5 with predictions and expectations regarding what’s coming and what’s on the brink of going.

Sessions and Lessons

Session topics covered a range of topics from the Obama Campaign’s use of social media and Interactive Government, to social media marketing and community management, to how to bring the vibrant and diverse set of interactive communities in Austin together into a cohesive, collaborate “scene.”

In “Designing the Experience,” panelists discussed everything from Information Architecture and multi-variant testing, to de-mystifying complex and intimidating processes such as filing taxes or small business accounting via good user design.

Another session entitled “The Human Cloud” provided panelists with an opportunity to debate both human and technical aspects of “cloud computing” — ranging from the value of the term itself to the role of face-to-face interactions in “cloud-based” relationships. While no consensus was reached about either the human or technical aspects of “the cloud,” one thing was clear: everyone has different expectations, understandings and visions for what constitutes “the human cloud” and how much value it can ultimately provide.

As part of “Communication Trends that Matter Most in Social Media,” industry specialists from Dell and Southwest Airlines discussed everything from public relations, internal communications and organizational change. Lessons ranged from “talk like a real human being” to “you need a change agent who isn’t afraid of losing their job to break down walls.”

And the consensus among panelists is that companies who want to leverage social media can’t just look to one company that is doing something well. Instead, we need to look at several companies that are each doing one thing well. Cherry-pick different approaches and solutions to craft an over-all strategy to fit your organization.

Case Study: Southwest’s Rapping Flight Attendant

A social media phenomenon (heading to Jay Leno tomorrow night) that occurred via social media (YouTube) and which was only shared via social media (Twitter).

Goals and Plans

During “Experience City,” panelists kicked off “The Austin Interactive Initiative,” designed to harness the power of Austin’s youthful, energetic creative scene for the purposes of cultivating a cohesive community around the local interactive market.

All in all, Interactive Austin has been a tremendous opportunity for Austinites to connect, network and exchange ideas, while working towards a more unified sense of community. Even with tight budgets and elevated productivity demands, attendance is good, and the local participants in the various interactive spaces have come together for a day of collaboration and communication — precisely the two qualities most often associated with social media.

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