Top 10 Data Driven Insights From SXSW Interactive

We've had a busy South By South West. The Social Suite, Flaming Lips, and panels took over our lives for the last week. There is always plenty of commentary about the big things at SXSWi, so we decided to use the data we have available to figure out what we can about Interactive. There’s a lot of noise, but below are ten items that caught our attention.

1. Meerkat

This was the only new application being asked about and even keynote speakers streamed their talks live on the service. 7% of Tweets associated with #sxsw were driven by Meerkat. Between Friday and Tuesday the number of streams being published about #sxsw doubled with the overall peak coming when Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore delivered his keynote and streamed the entirety of it through the service.

2. Conversation Volume is UP

Rumors of South By’s demise have been exaggerated. Conversation on Twitter increased year over year again. The most popular day of the conference was on Monday. At it’s absolute highest there were 22,194 Tweets per minute (TPM) were being published about #SXSW

3. Brands! Brands! Brands!

The types of experiences that brands create are mind blowing during the festival, but which were the most popular?

Over at #sxsWesteros Game of Thrones, for the second year, had a full exhibit and when Grumpy Cat took a photo on the throne it was a combination of two things people love too much not to share.



They were easily the most talked about thing outside of the conference. Second to them was the Mashable House which even featured a polygon lion a la Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance.

4. While You Were Sleeping

When I looked at each night from 12:00AM to 4:00AM I was expecting to hear about Interactive’s other nickname, “Nerd Spring Break”. While there certainly are a lot of conversations around the different parties, when people talk about #SXSW in the off hours they are largely talking about the things they saw or heard earlier in the day. During the off-hours, conversation drops 220% from during the day, but still averages around 345 TPM.

5. A Picture is Worth 1000+ Retweets

Last year the most shared photo at #sxsw on Twitter was this photo taken by Zac Efron while promoting a movie. This year it was these photos of a march done by the Black Panthers:



6. Keynote Speakers and Their Audiences

South By programs their keynote content to be accessible to a more general audience, but they also look for bona fide authorities on all things interactive. For the most part, this means that speakers are early adopters of technologies. For example, the average join date on Twitter for the thirty keynote speakers was around January of 2010. Typically they have a little over 350,000 Followers on Twitter. These are people who already very well known for their work in their industries. All except two of the speakers saw their audience size increase after speaking.

But a Twitter account is not a prerequisite for speaking on the SXSW stage. Martine Rathblatt herself is not on Twitter, but the android version of her partner @bina48 is. Martine was the only speaker who has created a working android.

7. Keynote Popularity

The most talked about keynotes were the talks given by Astro Teller and Martine Rathblatt.  Both had nearly 33% more conversation than the average keynote. In particular during Astros’ Keynote his message to experiment and fail repeatedly resonated.



8. One Party To Rule Them All




Flaming Lips, Nas, Spoon, the list goes on. I won’t list them here, but I looked up each act that played a party or showed up during SXSWi to see who was the most talked about. The results were #soSpredfast. 2X as many people talked about the Flaming Lips at the Spredfast Social Stage than any other show held during the week.

9. To Tweet or To ‘Gram. That is the Question.

I took a look at the posting patterns for both social networks over the course of Interactive. The best hour for Twitter was 3PM and the best hour for Instagram was 6PM. This data is useful if you are trying to connect with a larger audience more easily. If people are posting at those times they’re also viewing content.

10. We Love Our Restaurants, Coffeeshops, and Bars

We know that South By provides an influx of people, but how big is that? For our Snacker Tracker we were counting the number of photos tagged at 40+ Austin Hot-Spots. During Interactive photos were tagged 45% frequently more than in the thirty days before.

And what was the most popular place during Interactive? It was Bangers Sausage and Beer Garden who had 209 Photos tagged there in five days. Typically, our BBQ restaurants take this honor, but not this week!



Ok ok. Guadalupe Honey something something. Accents are hard. #atx #atxbeer Also, Sausage House?

A photo posted by @mattnvryan on


If you were here with us, thanks for making SXSW #soSpredfast. If you couldn’t make it to Austin, we hope you still learned a lot from all of the great coverage of SX sessions. 

Jason Smith's picture

Jason Smith

Jason Smith is a Senior Analyst at Spredfast and works to find the underlying story the data is trying to tell. When he isn’t breaking APIs and making charts he can be found playing music around Austin. Follow him on Twitter for general nonsense and various complaints.