Our Blog

Why South by Southwest is Dead and What Just Arrived to Replace it

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.

Here goes:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

Jamie Turner is the CEO of social media and mobile marketing firm 60 Second Communications and is the Founder of the 60 Second Marketer.

(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.)


  • Hey Jamie, great to meet you at Social Media Marketing World. I love social media but you can’t beat meeting someone in person! I agree, it was an amazing conference and I’m sure the conference will be much bigger next year! Ian

    • Great to hear from you, my friend. Glad you had a chance to read the post. What a great experience.

  • Terrific event, and an amazing debut. Not sure SXSW is an apt comparison, however. The scale is so different 20,000 vs. 1,000 that it’s not really apples to apples. And while the speakers at SXSW can be maddeningly inconsistent, there are also some absolutely amazing people there that will blow your mind. I wouldn’t classify anyone at SMMW as “famous” outside the pretty narrow social media and marketing world, whereas there are in fact actually famous people rolling around SXSW all the time. I’m not disagreeing with you Jamie, and I LOVED the event and will make it a point to be back EVERY year unless it jumps the shark. But I’d say BlogWorld (NMX) is a better juxtaposition at this point.

    • Point well-taken, Jay. And perhaps BlogWorld is a more apt comparison.

      Also, I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts about events like this one jumping the shark. Hopefully, with Mike and his team at the helm, it won’t.

      Thanks for stopping by.


      • I think that hotel is pretty much a no-go if the event gets much bigger. Pity, as it’s a nice set-up there. Probably going to have to move to Convention Center, assuming event stays in San Diego, which I believe to be Mike’s plan.

        • I asked Mike about that. Next year, they can move next door to the Hyatt for more rooms. But after that, it gets more difficult without moving to the other convention center.

          So … maybe they’ll be forced to keep it small which in the end will keep them from jumping the shark.

          • Hey @jasonbaer:disqus and @jamieturner:disqus

            You guys will be VERY happy to know that I toured venues today within 5 minutes of the Marriott. I can’t reveal details, but we WILL be able to remain in San Diego (likely for 2 years) and gracefully scale this thing–without the convention center. Our aim next year is moderate growth (1500 to 2000 people vs the 1100 we had yesterday). More soon 🙂

          • Keep us posted, Mike. You’ve got a great thing going. Here’s to NOT jumping the shark! LOL.

          • pretty sure 2000 is very realistic based on the experience everyone had – I do think you have the opportunity to grab “must attend” status in this space Mike – awesome job.

  • Thanks so much for your kind review Jamie, it really touched me

    • It’s well-deserved, Mike. Here’s to humility and generosity — two traits that you have in spades.

  • Noooo!! Say it ain’t so, Jamie! A while back, I tweeted that the next marketer to write an “x is dead” post was dead to me. Guess I’ll have to make an exception in this case. But, the fact is it’s never a zero-sum game. Yes, SXSW is huge, so it’s a bit more difficult to make connections there. And I’m thrilled to hear Mike is going to try and duplicate SMMW’s intimate setting next year. But, the cream will always rise to the top and expert networkers will make meaningful connections, regardless of the situation.

    Nevertheless, it was great to meet you there, my friend!

    • Hi, James —

      Great to hear from you, my friend. Glad you made an exception to your “X is Dead” rule. I’m working on another post called “Why Content Marketing is Dead,” but perhaps I’ll have to evolve the headline. LOL.

      Long story short, thanks for stopping by and it was great getting to know you at SMMW. I’ll be in touch via email.


  • So glad that we two English girls (@thehometruths and @magentacakes) travelled all the way across the pond to see you guys in action. Jamie, you were a gracious host and moderator, and I can’t tell you what a buzz we got from being able to chat to all our fave SM heroes (and heroines) in person. Can’t wait till next year. Here’s to the Hyatt for SMMW14 whoop whoop!!
    Sam Ashdown and Tracy Stonard.

    • Hi, Sam — It was great meeting you at the event. And I agree — I can’t wait for SMMW14!


  • Jamie – I’ll echo Jay and couple other people – SXSW is kind of dead to me because I don’t enjoy the format as much as I did back in 2005-06 when it was a bunch of wide eyed bloggers meeting up, but it certainly has moved on successfully. What I will agree with is that there’s clearly a need for the kind of event that SMMW is at the moment and that point rang out loud and clear from pretty much every conversation that came out of it.

    • Hi, John — I agree, SMMW has the opportunity to become the next “must attend” event, as you stated in your previous comment. The challenge will be to keep the friendly, communal atmosphere as the event grows. But in Mike’s capable hands, I suspect that’ll happen.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  • I had an utter blast there. I didn’t immediately think of it as a competition to SXSW, but it might be useful for people to know that I didn’t bother with SXSW and I flew ON MY BIRTHDAY to Social Media Marketing World. : )

    • Happy birthday, my friend. Who knew you could accomplish so much by age 29? 😉

      Despite my “dead” headline, SXSW won’t be going away any time soon. I do think, however, that SMMW will replace it as the event to actually get some connections made and work done (as opposed to just attending the parties).

      My two cents. Could be wrong.


  • Agreed. Amazing event. Mike knows exactly what his audience wants and delivers every single time. A must-attend event every year! well, at least I hope there is another one 🙂

    • Great to hear from you, Ekaterina. And congratulations on the success of your new book “Think Like Zuck.” It’s terrific!

  • Gloria Buono Daly

    Wish I was there — so many familiar names and all at amazing San Diego Bay. There always so much information and tips for all marketing professionals who need to keep up with the latest social media trends, and what better event than SMMW! Thanks for sharing your networking tips and for this great post.

    • Thanks, Gloria. It really was a special event. We’ll see you there next year!

  • i attended virtually and partied in reality. i was ‘officially’ attending the fund raising conference at SD conference centre but bought a virtual pass for SMMW. still attended the SMMW gatherings at the Marriott bar late evenings and met great people. too bad there wasn’t a social between the two conferences. fundraisers could have really learned something from SMMW.

    • Hi, Gingle Livestreaming — I saw your gang in the elevator on several occasions. Great crowd. And I’m glad you enjoyed the event!

      • thanks. really looking forward to the vids to see in full what i was hearing about in snippets.

  • I agree with you that it was a great event – from the speakers accessibility to the content and the community. Everyone was out to help each other and I really hope that next year if the event doubles in size, we can keep that same “small group” feeling. Thanks to you too Jamie, for being so generous with your time and knowledge!

    • That’ll be the secret, Elena — growing the event, but keeping the “small group” feeling to it. Great input!

  • This event conflicted with other obligations that I couldn’t change or get out of. When the tweets started rolling in, I caught up on the conversations each night but really wished I were there. After reading this post and the comments below, you can count on me putting this on my calendar and booking my travel as soon as it’s possible!

    • Word has it that they’re already planning SMMW14 for next year, so stay tuned!