Okay, let’s be painfully honest here. South by Southwest just isn’t what it used to be. Oh, sure, for a while it was amazing, but over the past few years, it’s been the victim of its own success.
Gone are the days when you could uncover the newest digital marketing technology in a hands-on, roll-up-your-shirtsleeves environment. Today, SXSW is a cattle call with too many people, too many corporate sponsorships and too many roped-off parties for the digital technorati.
The bottom line is that, for most people, SXSW is a waste of time and money. (Unless you have so much cash that spending it on a tequila-infused lost weekend is an acceptable way to blow a few grand.)
The World Needs an Alternative to SXSW. Wouldn’t it be great if there were an alternative to SXSW where you could mingle with social media rock stars like Mari Smith, Amy Porterfield, Sally Hogshead, Jon Loomis, Dave Kerpen, Lee Odden, Melanie Duncan and Guy Kawasaki. (Not to mention Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, Chris Brogan, Andrea Vahl, Jeff Bullas, John Jantz, Brain Carter, Ekaterina Walter and Mitch Joel.)
And wouldn’t it be great if there were an alternative to SXSW that emphasized connecting, collaboration and community rather than party after party after party. (Admittedly, the parties at SXSW are pretty good, but after the first two, I always feel like it’s time to go home.)
The bottom line is that SXSW has reached its peak and is on its way out. And it’s time for someone to come up with a replacement.
Good news. There is an alternative and it’s called Social Media Marketing World. It’s run and organized by the team at Social Media Examiner and their founder Mike Stelzner. (If you were watching Google Trends yesterday, you may have noticed that the hashtag for the event — #SMMW13 — was trending towards the top.)
What makes Social Media Marketing World so good? For starters, it’s really well-organized. And I mean organized down to the last detail. I speak at events around the globe and can say without question that Social Media Marketing World is the best run conference out of them all.
But to focus on the organization of the event wouldn’t do justice to the best aspect of it, which is the connecting, collaboration and community. The Social Media Examiner team didn’t cram the event with wall-to-wall meetings. Instead, they set it up with plenty of time to mingle and get to know other like-minded people in the spaces between the meetings.
At the end of the conference, I came up with several reasons why Social Media Marketing World will replace South by Southwest as the new “must attend” event for the digital marketing world. I thought I’d share them with you in the hopes that they’d give you a sense of what makes this event so special.
- SMMW has Better Speakers. Admittedly, it’s difficult for any event to compete with the celebrities that show up for SXSW these days. But after you get past those celebrities, the quality of speakers at SXSW can get kind of sketchy. No so at Social Media Marketing World where, with very few exceptions, the speakers were top-notch and extremely engaging.
- SMWW has a Better Hype vs. Reality Ratio. Part of the challenge with SXSW is that, well, it’s SXSW. The result is that SXSW has a huge hurdle to overcome on the hype vs. reality ratio. At Social Media Marketing World there’s very little hype because the focus is on the collaborative environment instead of who’s going to what party. The result is a roll-up-your-shirtsleeves environment that really helps people learn new tips, tools and techniques.
- There are no Exclusive, Roped-Off Events at SMMW. Don’t you get annoyed by the exclusivity of SXSW? You don’t have to worry about that at SMMW — every event is open to the entire audience which results in a much friendlier and engaging environment.
- You Can Have a Beer with Someone Famous at SMMW. Because SMMW has an all-access atmosphere, you can join just about any conversation or invite just about any speaker over to chat for a few moments. (For proof of this, just ask my friend Ian Cleary who, in addition to running Razor Social, became best friends with all 1,100 people at the event.)
- There’s a Spirit of Giving at SMMW. If you know Mike Stelzner, you know he’s a fan of servant leadership. His business and life philosophy pervades the event, which is one of the things that makes it so special. It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give, and that makes SMMW different from a wide variety of other events I’ve been to recently.
The Bottom Line About Social Media Marketing World. In the end, any good event comes down to the quality of the speakers, the quality of the organization running it and the quality of the people attending it. It’s safe to say that SMMW gets an A+ on each and every one of these criteria.
I spend much of my business life speaking at events in every corner of the world and can say without question that this event rocks and it rocks big.
(Disclosure: Jamie Turner made appearances at both SXSW and SMMW. Also, the 60 Second Marketer was a winner of Social Media Examiner’s the Top 10 Social Media Blogs Award.)