Every year, thousands descend upon Austin, Texas: music geeks, film geeks, and then the rest of us – tech and marketing geeks. After hearing stories of this event for years, I decided to embark upon my first SXSW Interactive.

My first day was a bit of a culture shock. I’ve attended in many conferences, usually focused on a particular niche, and I expected the same sort of dynamic.

Lesson #1: SXSWi is a beast unto itself.

I got lucky. Being an early riser, I made it to the first sessions, on digital marketing and mobile, quite early. Those sessions are held way across town. SXSW is huge – and therefore, it is quite spread out.

Lesson #2: Get there early.

Long Lines in the Rain

I hung out in the mobile marketing sessions from 9:30 until about 11. When I walked back outside, I was shocked. There was a line down the stairs and out the door to get into these sessions!

Lesson #3: Dress for wind and rain.

It was also pouring the rain. I waited in the rain and crowded onto a shuttle back to the convention center. For the rest of the afternoon,  I failed at attending sessions. There were lines wrapped around buildings – lines that continued long after the electronic cigarette benefits sessions had begun.

Lesson #4: Think outside of the session box.

So with 20,000+ people attending SXSWi, it’s a basic fact that I won’t get into all the sessions I’d like to see. My new strategy is to pick two, maybe three sessions, and strategically plan around those, understanding that I’m losing a part of my day to standing in line and making friends with those around me. But, it’s not all about the sessions at SXSWi. Companies and groups have set up tents everywhere, and there are exhibits and food crawls and start-up events. It’s time to think outside of the session box and explore everything else SXSW has to offer.

What I’m noticing is that everyone fits in and everyone is friendly and excited. The attendees are very international and everyone is willing  to discuss the latest tech and the craziest marketing ploys.

Today I’m better planned out and, and an hour early, I’m sitting here typing outside a  venue. I’m ready for all weather and have backup plans for everything.

SXSWi is an experience. It reminds me of CES, in that it is overwhelming and a bit of a behemoth. A lot of information, a lot of smart people, and a lot of crazy marketers trying to launch the next big thing.

It’s been windy and rainy in the Texas capitol, but there’s still 24,000 people huddled together for SXSWi. Day One of Interactive (for me) was about mobile marketing. Tim Reis, the head of advertising for Google, kicked it off:

Mobile marketing/advertising is now about weaving into the consumer’s device. It’s about having a conversation with the consumer. The device is used for dialogue, and marketers now have to do more than just throw banner ads out there. The real opportunity is to learn how people use their devices and interact with them to build a relationship with them.

Mobile is the signature device of the 21st century. It will also interact with the device of the 20th century: the TV. The second screen experience is where your primary focus should be for mobile advertising.

What is mobility and context? New patterns are emerging as consumers integrate multiple screens into their day. Context used to mean placing an ad next to content. Now it means where the consumer is and what they’re doing, and what mood and mode they’re in. You need electronic cigarette usa to focus on how the consumer moves across multiple screens, and their ever-changing context is.

Consumers weave seamlessly through context, doing what they do at any given moment. Devices are blurry — phones are getting larger and acting like tablets, tablets are getting smaller. The device itself is no longer important. Context is what it’s all about. We used to think about intent. Intent is a powerful signal. Combine intent and context, and you see the direction we’re going in.

Five years ago marketers thought of social, local and mobile as buckets. As new tech emerges, we tend to box them into buckets we can understand. Consumers don’t see these buckets, however.

Contextual opportunities are the essence of mobile. Consumers take their digital life with them.

Friction is also key. Eliminating friction in the process empowers your connection to your consumer (stop asking someone for their city and state when you’re also asking them for their zip code). On a phone, that friction is big. Bigger than on a laptop. Think through the friction points. Erase friction.

Ikea announced today that they will partner with Marriott to create a new budget “hotel brand” based on their prefabricated furniture model. The hotels won’t include Ikea furniture, but instead will be built based on new construction methods that stress lower-cost materials. Prefabricated hotel rooms will be built in a central location and placed wherever needs arise. This is a similar model to what some retailers are doing with popup stores in areas that swarm with large groups of people for specific events. Kind of like what Apple did at SXSW during its iPad launch the electronic cigarettes — quickly create a popup store to sell items where people are gathered, and then take the store down after the event is over.

Popup hotels could be quickly assembled in areas where events bring large amounts of people together. Even here in Austin right now, it’s virtually impossible to get a hotel room, and if you do, it’s easily $400 a night. Popup hotels could offer some relief to the need for rooms, and will attract a younger, more budget-conscious traveler.

Ikea and Marriott will launch their first popup hotel in Milan this year.

I picked up a Microsoft Surface RT, as I’m trying to extract myself from the Apple ecosystem. I’m discovering it’s difficult to traverse the different OSs out there, but I’m trying very hard to use an iPhone with my Google Calendar and Contacts and a Surface RT.

In fact, I thought the Surface RT would be the perfect device for South by Southwest next week. I was excited about the Surface.

I was wrong.

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CC-BY-SA, Alexander Drachmann via Flickr

In the time that I’ve owned the RT, I’ve been nothing if not frustrated. First off, Google withdrew support for ActiveSync back on Jan 30. I didn’t realize that when setting up my accounts. The RT/Win 8 still asks if I want to sync my email, calendar and contacts. It turns out that trying to sync calendar and contacts just blows everything up. However, it can sync my many Gmail accounts – just without calendar and contacts.

In order to add the contacts, I had to add them to my Microsoft account via live.com. It was sort of a pain, but you know what? It worked. I don’t know if those contacts will sync or not.

Next I tried the calendar. That was a no-go. Since Google isn’t using Microsoft’s ActiveSync format anymore, I can’t add it. Of course, the RT still gives me the option to add a Google calendar – it just won’t work. Thanks Google.

But my real beef is with Microsoft. CalDAV is an open standard for calendars, as CardDAV is for contacts. Google does use these standards. More importantly, so does my company. I work Electronic Cigarettes for a Really Large Enterprise Company. Seriously large. We don’t use Exchange for our calendars, email, and contacts. We use open standards. For calendars, we use CalDAV.

Microsoft DOES NOT SUPPORT CalDAV (or CardDAV). This boggles my mind. A couple hours worth of researching the problem gets me nowhere other than “MS might start offering the support with no timeline”. Other suggestions include “Migrate everything to Outlook!” Well, people, it’s my Work stuff, not personal, and it’s not on Google. My office uses open standards. Migrating is not an option. There are also no third party apps to correct this. It’s simply a non-starter.

One of the great things about the Surface RT is its seeming ability to enable productivity. I don’t find my iPad productive. It is primarily an entertainment device, but never am I popping open work documents on it. But I can, at least, open my work calendar and contacts. With the Surface, I looked forward to making notations in PowerPoint or whipping out Word docs in locations where I didn’t want to lug a PC. But if I can’t even access my work calendar or contacts, that changes everything.

Microsoft, I think you’ve got a great product and your one-OS-across-devices is a great strategy. However issues like this – not supporting an open standard such as CalDAV – will hinder your ability to thrive in both consumer markets (almost everyone has a Google calendar) and the enterprise. Many of us are looking for one device that allows us entry into both worlds.

I hate to say it, but as soon as I return from SxSW, I’m returning the Surface. Sorry Microsoft!

Ah, Facebook. No other company so exemplifies the adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Back in May, Facebook rolled out an option to promote your own posts for around $7 or so, depending on geographic area and reach. I can see the point of this – if you’re raising money for a charity or have a lost puppy, you want more people to see that post. Of course, you can also use it to promote your more inane posts, such as “Decided to buy a different brand of toothpaste” or some such thing.

Now Facebook is upping the ante. According to TechCrunch, soon you’ll be able to pay to promote your friends’ posts, and you don’t even need their permission. Once again, this is great for the well meaning amongst us. If Joe is running in a marathon to raise money for cancer, I can promote his post to help support and publicize his cause to a larger number of people (his friends + possibly my friends). If Mary lost her puppy, I can promote that post so that possibly more people can be on the lookout for Rover.

TechCrunch cites stats that say only around 16% of people see any given status update or post on Facebook. Basically, if you’re not looking at Facebook when someone posts  a new tidbit, chances are you’ll probably miss it all together. Promoted posts push selected posts to the top, guaranteeing more people will see them.

Promoting a friend’s post will still Electronic Cigarette adhere to privacy standards. Sort of. For instance, if Joe posted his marathon information to just his friends, and I promote that post, it is still see by only Joe’s friends. Hopefully just more than 16% of them.

If Mary posted that Rover was missing and the post was public, I could promote that and the post is still public – my friends, her friends, and anyone else could look at that post.

This sounds great in theory, but I can see where it could go horribly wrong. Not too long ago I wrote a private blog post. However, my blog software automatically shared it out to Facebook and Twitter, where I had to scramble to delete it (and modify those blog settings). Someone with less than good intentions at heart could have grabbed that post and promoted it. Ouch. Don’t want that to happen. Aside from that, people are cross-posting from other sites to Facebook all the time. In a lot of cases, people might not even be aware their FourSquare status is on Facebook. Maybe they don’t want that information promoted.

As far as I can tell, there’s no label on the promoted post saying “promoted by friend”, also giving the post the possibility to look rather self aggrandizing.

I’m not sure about this new feature. Hopefully it will just fall by the wayside as one of Facebook’s more risky ideas. If not, I guess we’re about to welcome in the era of promoting posts for someone else.