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Gear Up for SXSW: A Look Back at 2013's Top Themes

Highlight at SXSW 2013

It’s that time of year again—the annual startup, technology and social media industry pilgrimage to Austin, Texas is just a few days away. The South-by-Southwest Interactive festival kicks off March 7th and promises to be yet another assault on all five senses. As the preview stories begin to appear, let’s take a quick look back at four big themes that dominated in 2013.

Hardware, 3D and Wearable Technology

Not only was Google Glass a hot topic, but the unveiling of an early 3D prototype by MakerBot created a notable buzz during the festival. One study collected more than 11,000 social media mentions related to wearable technology in 2013 and we can anticipate significantly more in 2014.

Emotion Is The Key To Standing Out

BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti gave a fascinating talk about his company’s success, which he attributed to several things. Among Peretti's keys were utilizing data science and human analysis to surface the most engaging content in real-time and focusing on content that creates an emotional connection with readers.

Meanwhile, Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff suggested that brands looking to break through the massive volume of noise at SXSW should work to "…figure out some sort of innovative way to do something that connects emotionally to people, but also connects to your brand or product…"

Brands Seek Control, Consumers Get Platform Fatigue

Multiple panels discussed a rising consumer fatigue with new social media platforms. Panelists suggested that people were already overwhelmed with options like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine and others. The message for startups looking to build the next big thing: the barrier to entry had been raised significantly. Meanwhile, brands like Southwest Airlines were focused on building digital content hubs they fully owned and controlled.

Big Data: Still A Big Opportunity

Everyone from Nate Silver to journalists from the Wall Street Journal to brands in marketing, advertising and enterprise technology were talking data in 2013.

While much had been done, the consensus was that there was a long, long way to go before anyone began to fully extract the value of the massive amount of data being created by consumers every minute of every day.

What to expect in 2014?

Despite the buzz around wearable technology in 2013, I expect the topic to get even more traction in 2014. Why? The technology continues to mature and innovators are really starting to flood the market. In addition, the rise of the so-called anonymous social network will surely be a major theme as apps like Secret, Whisper and others continue to gain momentum.

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