SXSW is intense. It’s massive. There’s an opportunity at every turn to make friendships, to make connections that are mutually beneficial for your business, career, or for hitting the parties. This year attendees using the SXSW® GO will notice a new in-app social networking feature, Around Me, introduced by the app’s developer, Eventbase.
“You can connect with anyone, anywhere as long as you’re at an official venue,” said Jeff Sinclair, co-founder of Eventbase. Their goal for Around Me is, “Making the networking between the people that are there much easier to do.”
The Around Me feature sees what topics you’ve tagged in your SXSocial profile, and what sessions, bands and events you’ve added to your schedule. Based on your personal criteria, it will then suggest people to connect with.
“When you walk into a room, instead of walking up to the first person and saying, ‘Hello,’ you can look at the list of people that have checked into that room and you can message them through the app.”
This takes the social nature of SXSocial and networking in general to the next level. It’s a far cry from another attempt at in-person, digital based networking that SXSW introduced years back. That required you to snap a person’s QR code on their badge from within the app, and then they would be added to your connections. But you still had to make the in-person “hello” first, otherwise you’d give off a creepy, stalker vibe. The only other alternative at that time was that Bump app. Yeah, that didn’t take off either, except for the bros.
The Around Me feature makes these connections and engagements happen through the use of over 1,000 iBeacons installed at ALL official SXSW venues – music clubs and bars, session locations including hotels, film theatres and screenings, and the entire convention center – allowing the app to identify those that have checked in and what’s happening nearby.
While this will cover A LOT of ground, Sinclair jokes, “You can’t be at the 7-Eleven and see who’s at the 7-Eleven,” and most times, let’s be honest, do you really want to know who’s in the 7-Eleven at the same time as you?
In 2014 they tipped their toes into these geolocation waters by deploying only a handful of beacons and by introducing SessionLive. This feature, which is still a part of the GO app, recognizes you’ve entered a session room, and then prompts you to join discussions with other attendees and participate in real-time audience polls. It also worked well for the film program, enabling SXSW to capture real-time feedback from film goers willing to participate.
Later the year Cannes Lions 2014 Festival worked with Eventbase to include Around Me in their app. This integrated with the attendees LinkedIn profiles and allowed them to message and connect instantly from within the app. Other client projects include: the three official Olympic apps, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Voodoo Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Dreamforce for Salesforce, Wireless Festival in the UK, Leweb in Paris, and Comic Con San Diego.
For SXSW GO, they’ve gone with Facebook integration for SXSocial, so you can see which of your Facebook friends have also opted into the app and shared their schedules, and then make plans to connect and meet up to share those experiences.
While it’s difficult to receive a push notification that one of the keynote or event sessions on your schedule is nearing capacity, due to the fluidity of the flow of people, there are added benefits for those going to film and music events.
“We have a film status board for the film festival where we’re flagging sessions based on being sold out.” This allows them to meet demand by adding more screenings or move what’s scheduled to a larger room to accommodate everyone interested.
As Eventbase has evolved the GO app, having worked with SXSW since 2011, it has also provided a more streamlined process for getting your badge; something that used to require waiting in long lines that trailed into the hallway.
To make the Around Me feature happen, Eventbase partnered with other solution providers. This included Gimbal for geofencing and Bluetooth® Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacons, Urban Airship for the iBeacon-triggered push notifications, and RightRound to install and support the massive IT and Wi-Fi infrastructure.
As these technologies and applications become more advanced year over year, festivals and live event organizers can capitalize by having a longer, more engaged experience with their fans and attendees.
“A year round nature of the app is something that we’re working towards with our clients,” explained Sinclair. “The use case for before the event is very different than during or after the event. That app transitions through those distinct phases.”
Phase 1: Before the event, using SXSW GO as an example, you download the app that defaults to the Discover view. Here you can learn about bands, films, keynotes and session events you may be interested in, and ‘star’ them to create your schedule.
Phase 2: During the event is about what’s happening right now. Who is close to you, and using the app to better engage with your immediate experiences.
Phase 3: Post event is about reliving your experiences or catching up on anything you may have missed. Due to the ‘million things going on at the same time’ nature of SXSW, you’ll experience a lot and miss a lot.
So when we all return home and are in recovery mode, Sinclair tells us we can, “See videos of the bands you missed, or the bands you saw. The idea of giving you fresh content to keep you coming back is a big thing for our customers.”
For most people who are interested in content where they also appear, maybe at the front of the stage cheering on a band, this could bode well. “Sometimes you want to see the stuff you missed, or what you can’t remember.” Damn those open bars.
For more information on the SXSW GO app and to download it for iOS and Android go to http://sxsw.com/mobile. When you arrive at SXSW this year, if you forget to turn on your Bluetooth to take advantage of Around Me, the app will remind you to turn it on.
SXSW GO FEATURES INCLUDE:
Discover – Visually explore what’s on at SXSW, watch videos and listen to tracks
Lineup – Browse the entire event list category.
Schedule – View sessions by day and create custom filters to find exactly what you are looking for. Access SessionLive to join the discussion and interact with the audience and presenters at select sessions.
SessionLive – At select panel sessions this feature allows you to join a discussion with other attendees and participate in real-time audience polls.
Locations – Find venues by list or map, get directions, browse internal floor plans.
Attendees (SXSocial) – Activate your SXSocial account to network with thousands of other attendees.
Exhibitors – Browse trade show exhibitors and find them on an interactive map
My Favorites – Build your personal schedule and sync with your online account or between devices.
My Friends – See who you know at SXSW and see what sessions they are attending, then share your personal schedule with them.
This article is a sneak peek portion of what will be included in The Connected Festival™ Report, which will be released in conjunction with the SXSW Music session, The Future of Event Tech, taking place on Thursday, March 19 at 5pm.