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Panels vs. Parties: #SXSW by the Numbers

sxsw__recap_fbOver the past few years, The South by Southwest Interactive Festival has seen a shift in focus. If you were there this week, then you might have caught a glimpse of that shift through the bottom of your pint glass.

There are still amazing panel discussions, keynote speakers, and a huge event space, but big brands weren’t inside the event space…they were inside the bars.

Every major brand, agency and digital service seemed to throw a party, and saying “every” isn’t too far of a stretch. It was the largest collection of folks from the digital space that I’ve ever seen.

So why the shift?

The Simple answer: Social people want to be social. The value of interaction and networking has become integral to the SXSW experience. While involvement in panels and discussions is an important part of this, crowds are being drawn to more social  extracurricular activities at crazy rates.

At Simply Measured, we’ve been tracking #SXSW on Twitter. When you take a look at the activity across the network, the shift becomes even more obvious.

#SXSW By The Numbers

panels vs. parties

Parties Vs. Panels: We broke down the keywords within the #SXSW Tweets, looking at some party related terms and some conference related terms. The word “party” alone doubled our list of conference keywords, racking up nearly 60,000 Tweets. At the conference, “panels” were the biggest driver, surprisingly outshining “keynote” and further driving home the point that people were focused on the conversational and networking aspect of the festival.

Annual Volume Comparison

Year Over Year: The 2013 Interactive festival saw almost 200,000 more Tweets than in 2012, with the biggest spike on Saturday, with two 20,000 Tweet spikes during the afternoon. Tweet volume has steadily increased over the last three years, and 2013 activity is more than double what it was in 2011.

Interactive Tweets & Popular Content

Tweet Types: Over 66,000 photos were shared with the #SXSW hashtag this year. Over twice what we saw last year. The most interesting shift was in the “check-ins” column. Last year, check-ins drove more than 25,000 check-in tweets with the hashtag, and this year, that number dropped significantly.   In fact, Foursquare checkins dwarfed Instagram posts during the 2012 festival. 2013 saw an entirely different story, with over 44,000 Instagram photos shared on Twitter with the hashtag.

South by Southwest is an amazing collection of innovators in the digital space, with outstanding speakers, panels…and yes, some awesome parties. As it grows and evolves, it’s interesting to see the ways that people engage. What are your predictions for the 2014 festival? Will we see the party craze continue? Will Instagram continue to dominate the shared content? Will Justin Bieber give a keynote and completely alter the data?

If you have an event you’d like to track, Simply Measured can help. Take a look at our website, and sign up for a free trial.

Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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