A Canadian in Texas: South by, So Far…

‘A Canadian in Texas’ is a series of posts leading up to, during, and post South by Southwest. South by Southwest (#SXSW) is an annual conference held inAustin, Texas. I will be attending SXSW Interactive which has attracted a strong following among web creators and entrepreneurs. Its focus on emerging technology has earned the festival a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. According to festival co-organizer Louis Black, SXSW Interactive “has probably been the biggest of its kind in the world” since 2007.

What a busy (and soaking wet) few days this has been! I arrived in Austin, Texas on Thursday – and everything has been a whirlwind since then. It was a total of 9 hours flying to get here from Ottawa, and it was my first time on a plane (I actually had to take 3 flights). It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and Continental (United?) Airlines were great support!

So, when I booked this trip in January there were no hotels left available in the downtown area. I had a choice between the super pricey Hilton and Super8 Austin University/Downtown. I chose Super 8 because it was close, and relatively inexpensive for my 6 day adventure. I must say I absolutely made the right choice – the people at this hotel are fantastic and accommodating (even when I disable my room key 12 times because I had it near my iPhone in my purse).

Now… On to the good stuff. Registration was a breeze for me because I went to get my badge at 9AM Friday morning before the rush. From what I saw on Twitter, by mid-day the wait was around 2 hours so I’m insanely happy that I chose to go early.

The first session I went to was Vic Gundotra and Guy Kawasaki’s Fireside chat discussing Google+. In the past, I have been very critical of G+ and Google’s intentions with the social network. In my honest opinion, I felt as though it was a television commercial for G+ and why we should all drink the kool-aid. Vic discussed the ‘metrics’ behind the social network – 50 million daily active users, when asked by Guy why G+ seemed like a ghost town at times. The problem with this metric is that it does not mean that 50 million people participate in the social network, just that 50m people were signed in on a daily basis (this happens when you sign into your Gmail, YouTube, Search, etc. as long as you have registered for a G+ account). Another big revelation at this session was Vic’s announcement that Google did not plan on opening up their API to developers any time soon – because they don’t want to “screw over developers”.

I found the worst part of this session to be Vic taking numerous low-blows at Facebook. While talking about the fact that Facebook serves ads in your social activities on the network (specifically, photo albums), Vic noted that G+ had no intention on doing this because they “hold themselves to a higher standard”. To be honest, I don’t think it was necessary to point out what you don’t like about Facebook – because the reality is that it doesn’t change the minds of the Facebook users (ex: “I hate that FB shows ads in photo albums”). No one really cares, it’s like Blackberry’s insistence of Flash on the PlayBook. Yawn.

My FAVORITE session so far had to be today’s “Y Rappers R Better Marketers Than U” presented by Bill Pauls & John McHale. Not only were there some interesting discussions happening in that session, but the boys made some very good points. The basis of this session is that Rappers, in general, have some of the best marketing out there – and brands as a whole can learn a lot from them. Everything from creating a persona, staying true (or as they called it “legit”) to your brand, expanding your audience, name-checking, mastering social media, and of course, innovation were covered in this session. A true darling of SXSW.

So that was some highlights from the last two days – today mostly consisted of waiting… waiting for cabs, waiting to be seated for lunch, and waiting for more cabs.

Stay tuned for more!



I have Klout

You know, I learn a lot about people based on their judgement of “hype”. Klout is one of these social media hype tools. People either like to qualify it or disqualify it as they see fit. The fact is, there is no magic number that tell you how influential someone is. This is not a problem with the tools, after all they are just an algorithm – scraping platforms like Twitter & Facebook for the number of times your content is acted upon. In short, Klout is almost like a popularity contest: some people just get it, and others have to try really hard.

I recently read this article explaining why Klout scores are bull – and while he makes some valid points, I disagree with some of his arguments.

His points were that Klout is a number that marketers can use to impress people – and that the Klout score is not a real measure of someones influence. Someone can manipulate their score and have no influence in the “real world“. I do agree with his point that Klout is really only for Twitter (especially since you can’t sync up your score with a page, rather, only with a personal Facebook account). It also is a little bit of an ego/Twitter self-importance thing, no one can argue that.

Now, while this can be true in some instances, there are also reasons why Klout can be extremely valuable. I don’t necessarily think “influence” is the right word, rather – it shows how active you are & how likely you are to generate conversations and put out sharable content.

Let’s go over what is of value here:

  • Network Influence: It is important to build a valuable community of like-minded people on Twitter. I think this is important because you should know who your followers are, and what value they can bring to you (& vice versa). The details are also important here: Unique mentioners & unique retweeters. These numbers show the “sharability” of content & also serves as a measurement of conversation.
  •  True Reach: I find this number extremely important. It lets you know how many of your followers actually remember that they follow you (or, subsequently are robots). The higher this number, the better.
  • Topics: With the introduction of +K (a human influence product), Klout has improved it’s topic influence tool by leaps & bounds. I will admit their algorithm was a bit off previously, because it just grabbed the most used words of the most retweeted tweets (tongue tied, anyone?). By adding an element of having people contribute – they have really improved the accuracy.
  • Klout Style: I think that the matrix they have created for “style” is in most cases very accurate, and valuable. Knowing where you stand in this matrix allows you to adjust the content that you post. For example; I am a “specialist”. Klout describes this as: “You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience”. I like to think this is true as my ‘community’ on Twitter is all focused around Social Media, Marketing, and Tech/mobile and this is the subject of almost everything I post.

While I am categorized as a specialist, key-note speakers/authors/all around cool people such as Scott Stratten (who is influential about unicorns – he uses that word a lot) & Guy Kawasaki  are “curators” – True. Scott has a Klout score of 81 and Guy has a score of 85.

Tech blogs/publishers/superheroes such as Mashable & TechCrunch are qualified as “celebrities”. This makes sense since they publish, but rarely acknowledge the little people. Mashable’s Klout score is an 88 and TechCrunch has a score of 85.

Now notice that the above mentioned “influencers” all have Klout scores that are similar in numbers, but they qualify under different quadrants in the Klout matrix. This is because while they may generate equal numbers of RT’s, @ mentions, etc. they publish very different content & are very different entities on Twitter. This is valuable to observe.

Overall, Klout can be kind of innacurate iffy at times. But any mathematical algorithm tasked at identifying human behaviors will never be 100% correct. And while it can be gamed (RT contests and the like) like any other form of measurement – there is truly some value for individuals and brands alike to pay attention.

Maybe you’re influential in “real-life” – you get free samples in the mail. However, us Twitter influencers, we get Klout perks and have slightly bloated social egos.