What Will the Next BIG Thing Be?

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a group of interactive, film and music festivals/conferences that take place every spring in Austin. The interactive portion has become known for being the launch pad for startups that really revolutionize the way we communicate. Think: Foursquare…Twitter…just to name a few. SXSW 2011 begins next week and the buzz is really starting to build.

Last year was all about location, with location-based networks and apps dominating the conference. There are many predictions as to who the break-out star may be this year, but I’m hedging my bets that a big focus is going to be more on local vs. location.

We’ve seen the popularity of concepts like Groupon and Living Social really grow this past year, bringing you deals localized to your area (and even gender). I think the next evolution will be apps that further localize your online experience – connecting you with people in your area, local marketplaces that let you borrow or rent gear/equipment/supplies from people within your network or neighborhood, etc. It could be all about the hook-up. 

Mashable did a great write-up on the 13 potential breakout apps to watch for at SXSW. Within that, some of my favorites that focus on localization include:

1.       Yobongo: Places nearby users into a chat room with each other, where you can see other’s avatars, talk to the group or start private conversations. Great for networking opportunities and it seems like this could have some pretty interesting applications at industry conferences.

2.       Hashable: A check-in service where users can broadcast who they are #meeting, #raninto or had #lunch with. This can be put out on Twitter or just to a set group of individuals. It also builds a database of “relationship records” so you can see who in your network is connecting. Would also be interesting to try this one at a conference to keep track of connections you are making.

3.       Lanyrd: Lanyrd is a guide specifically for conferences. You sign in with your Twitter profile and it automatically shows you what conferences people who you follow are speaking at or attending. Your contacts don’t even need to be Lanyrd users in order to be included, which is a great feature.

From a marketers perspective, I like to keep an eye on SXSW trends to help give some indication of the way our strategies to connect with customers and prospects will need to evolve in the upcoming months/years. Would love to hear if anyone else has heard other predictions for what may be trending at SXSW next week.

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