Takeaways for tourism and travel pros from SXSW Interactive 2013

Facebook Analog Lab slide from Ryan Bigge preso SXSWi 2013
Yes, Facebook has an Analog Lab. Slide from Ryan Bigge’s SXSWi 2013 presentation.

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to “let it cook” as Liz Strauss would say, here are a few thoughts from the 2013 SXSW (South by Southwest) Interactive tech conference in Austin.

Yes, I could have posted this more quickly, but part of the reason I didn’t is tied to an overall vibe at this year’s “geek Spring Break” nerdfest;  that it is time for humans to control technology, not let it control us.

Did I want to think for awhile, or did I want to rush to post because that’s what everyone else insists I must do for maximum page views and the chance to “go viral?”

Phooey, I say. Phooey is my new favorite technical term.

This 30,000+ person conference is my professional Super Bowl and I never miss it. 2013 was my sixth SXSWi and the third time that I was honored to host the conference’s Travel Meet Up. As an Advisory Board member I review and evaluate hundreds of panel proposals, plus attend some SXSWi social events throughout the year (not that this helps to get my own proposals selected – I’ve only spoken at South By one time, although I keep pitching.)

This year’s event experience was similar to my first one in 2007; lots of panels, almost all of the keynotes, very few parties, occasional spontaneous meetups and a good bit of trade show floor wandering.

The Latest and Greatest is …. Paper

The “next big thing” related to tech and social media is what I’ve hollered about for awhile; quit chasing your tail plus Facebook’s latest rule change and Google’s latest algorithm, and spend more time thinking about how these tools integrate with your overall communications strategy.

Tech-based platforms are a key part of your destination marketing toolkit, but do not think of them in isolation, or as a bolt-on to your offline marketing efforts.

This year I had a harder time than ever suppressing an eye-roll when anyone tried to show me a new app that is all about “sharing travel experiences with friends.” Geez, I already have that covered, thanks.  No one needs one more network to maintain; we need integration and synthesis.

Humans Re-learn to Appreciate Analog

Hey, you know what?

Digital isn’t the answer to everything.

Digital tools aren’t always the best tools.

Digital stuff is merely a part of all other stuff going on around the planet.

Well, DUH.

Except that it’s not so “duh.” Plenty of people get so wrapped around trying to jump onto the next thing that they forget the basics: it’s not about the tools, it’s about what you can DO with digital tools, or any tools, to further your personal or organizational goals.

Travel and tourism are a great fit for social media and mobile communications (especially social photography like Instagram) but what about hard-copy preservation of travel experiences? What about “collaging the physical and digital worlds,” as Ryan Bigge discussed in one of my favorite SXSWi sessions, “Creating Great Analog Souvenirs For a Digital Era.”

Ryan talked about the growing popularity of saving bits of our digital world as analog items.

There are several examples of tools that straddle the digital and analog air gap, like Polaroid camera printouts of your computer screenshots, and his own company’s creations “Txt2Hold” and “Tweet2Hold” which preserve either a text or tweet in a PDF that includes different colors based on the text/tweet sentiment (using Lymbix software) and is printed with directions for origami folding.

Txt2Hold origami at SXSWi 2013
Txt2Hold origami at SXSWi 2013

“Paper holds a memory.” John Guppy, Toronto Origami Society

I was intrigued by the possibilities for tourism organizations to provide ways for visitors to capture those moments that you want to save someplace besides “the cloud” or the phone that gets dropped, lost or broken.  Why not paper? As I often joke, it always boots up.

Could your CVB or DMO use something like Txt2Hold or Tweet2Hold to help visitors turn their digital memories into physical ones?

There are three other services I can think of that also could do this, and they’re all tied to photography:

**  Postagram lets you mail a physical postcard with a photo from your phone, Facebook, etc.,

**  Cocoagraph makes chocolate gifts out of photos, and

**  Casetagram makes custom cases for iPhone, iPad and some Galaxy devices out of Instagram photos.

To flip that, Ryan also mentioned physical/analog objects that connect to the digital world, and not by using QR codes, either. How about the Evernote smart notebooks by Moleskine?

He noted that there were at least six other speakers and panels at SXSWi 2013 talking about “physidigi” topics as a trend, including Embracing Analog: Why Physical is Hot.

“….people tend to utilize digital tech for its ease, speed, convenience and cost. But the more we embrace the format, the more we miss the emotional qualities it has a hard time replicating.” From the follow-up blog post from Why Physical is Hot.

I’m so glad that I made it to this session; it made me want to spend more time thinking about integration and ways to combine online and offline experiences in tourism and travel.

Ryan’s slides are below; just below it is a direct link to the deck on SlideShare if you can’t see the embed box.

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2 Responses to Takeaways for tourism and travel pros from SXSW Interactive 2013

  1. David Bourne says:

    Great post that got me thinking, Sheila.

    I remember the stack of maps I just brought home from Big Sky, Mt. I love them, and get so much from pouring over them; thinking of what I did there and what I want to do when I go back.

    But if I had to choose those maps over a single digital picture of one of my kids, the kid’s pics would win every time.

    Thankfully, I dont have to choose. But some combo of the two would be nice, like a picture book offer. (I went somewhere recently that offered a free resort-themed book from Shutterfly.)

    But you are right. The tools are never the experience. We just get so caught up in the shiny-object-syndrome, sometimes.

    Thanks for the reminder that we, and the people we want to help, need to find and walk the balance between the tools and the actual experiencies.

    Cheers, David
    David Bourne´s last [post] ..Why Your Facebook Account is Killing Your Website

  2. Sheila says:

    Thanks, David. The resort’s Shutterfly memory book is a cool idea too; thanks for mentioning it!

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