SXSW and Going Where Everybody Else is Going

South By Southwest, aka SXSW, hit Austin with a groundswell of enthusiasm this weekend, with thousands of musicians, techies, and people looking for a party. Everyone is swamped with places to go, bands to see, digital gadgets to use, and new tech startups to checkout. “Who is having the best launch party,” “Who is giving out the greatest swag?” and, “Where can I recharge my iPhone?” are probably thoughts on a lot of people’s minds this weekend.

Many artists and tech startups come to the promised land of digital overload to get a piece of the action. But is this the best place to go right now? Regardless of whether you break out at SXSW, you’re probably going to have a solid time and make some good contacts, but maybe it’s not the time to put your hopes and dreams into the hype. 

The geolocation app Foursquare that took SXSW by storm just a few years ago took advantage of the situation in the best way possible. They had a location-based app that allowed people to show (and show-off) where they were in real-time. It was perfect for SXSW because it created value while also making for the best possible launch—a ton of people all in the same location trying to find places to go. In music, Janelle Monae, The White Stripes, Foster the People, and The Strokes all got some extra PR from their performances at the fest.

These cases are all outliers. They found a good thing and took advantage of a situation before it was everybody trying to take advantage of a good situation. Perhaps there’s nothing to lose by going to SXSW, but the lesson might be to strike while things are just about to get real hot because then once the secret is out everyone will be on the bandwagon. Time to find the next hot place and cleverest tactic to get discovered.