Inaugural SXSE London helps Tech City find its voice

South-by-South West, held in Austin, Texas, has become an annual tech pilgrimage. Major social networks like Twitter and Foursquare have famously launched there.

Now though, London is fighting back.

Tuesday saw the inaugural South-by-South East London. It was rather smaller scale than its US equivalent, held above The Thirsty Bear pub in Southwark, but what it lacked in size it made up for in energy and expertise.

There were social media leaders from politics, film, TV, and music amongst other industries. Plus, you could have a pint whilst listening to the speakers, and order a burger using an in house iPad.

Tweetminster co-founder Alberton Nardelli kicked off the politics section quite starkly:

“What happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media.”

He’s right. Just ask Diane Abbott.

Nardelli was also really interesting on the use in politics of the data generated by social media. For example, he pointed out that while the Yes and No to AV camps were busy trying to make their respective cases, social media revealed most people weren’t engaged in the first place. The campaigns were a step behind the public, but hadn’t used the data available to find this out and correct the problem.
The section also featured a lively discussion about the way social media boosted Nick Clegg’s profile pre-election, with the Rage Against the Election Facebook group having more members than any of the mainstream political parties. This helped compensate for the Lib Dems only having a two strong social media team.

In terms of marketing, particularly where brands are concerned, all of the speakers focused on quality of engagement, instead of the quantity of your audience in social media. Too often people at the top of businesses are over obsessed with ‘Likes’ and Followers, when engaging properly with who you do have will prove more worthwhile. To this end, we have seen the rise and rise of the community manager, although as the talk on this went I couldn’t help thinking ‘Community Manager’ is rather a bizarre role, typifying much of the nonsense that shrouds the positive aspects of the 2.0 era.

Former Sky News Social Media Correspondent Ruth Barnett gave one of he most interesting talks of the day. She highlighted the fact that previous offline influence often directly translates into online influence – there are few new players made by social media.

I think she is right, but only in the UK. In the US it is clear that some people have become hugely influential due to a strong social media presence. She also warned against using Twitter just to reinforce our beliefs and biases, with media types and polticos all following each other, instead of letting it truly allowing people find their voice.

One thing is clear from SXSE, the London tech scene is increasingly finding theirs.