Who won at SXSW? The Hipsters or the Geeks?


I took the liberty of tracking these two very distinct groups during SXSW in an attempt to illuminate the fluctuating crowd dynamics at Austin’s finest conference. Using the Mass Relevance platform to tap into their common communication channel (hipsters and geeks share a mutual love of Twitter), I intended to discover which group was getting the most “South By” attention.

The Groups Explained:

Geeks like espresso, clothes from the dry cleaner’s, and lanyards (a platinum SXSWi badge at the end earns major geek bonus points). They’ve been known to order “just a glass of chardonnay” at an open bar after a long day at the sessions. Geeks enjoy a simple turkey sandwich while waiting in line to see the keynote speaker for the day.

Hipsters are vegetarians who also enjoy bacon. They wear your grandpa’s clothes—your grandpa with the 28-inch waist, prescription-less glasses, and wardrobe full of pricey graphic t-shirts. Once a year, the hipster’s status as the most visible cultural group of the city is put to the test when the geeks pour in for SXSW.

Experiment Structure:

Using my knowledge of these two distinct groups, I leveraged Mass Relevance’s access to the Twitter firehose to populate a leaderboard with hipster and geek mentions. After defining what constituted a hipster mention and what counted as a geek mention, I used a Mass Leaderboard to display the distinct group mentions in a SXSW context.

Mass Relevance clients have access to the same technology: allowing them to build out robust constrained topics to track internally (as I did with the hipsters and geeks), or broadcast publicly across any digital touch point. Leaderboards help make sense of massive amounts of social content by categorizing and arranging topics in a consumable manner. In the past, this technology has been used to visualize popular athlete mentions, entertainer mentions, or top hashtags in a stream. I decided to use it test my geek versus hipster hypothesis.

The Findings:

Before SXSW started, hipsters were mentioned more than geeks by a ratio of about 5:1. But as the interactive portion of the conference started and the geeks continued streaming in from both flanks (New York and San Francisco), the ratio started to turn towards the geeks. By the end of the interactive portion of the conference, the geeks had caught up—being mentioned just as many times as the hipsters on Twitter.

More to come. The hipsters are expected to bring in reinforcements for SXSW music.



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