As someone who went to SXSW for the first time in 2009, what’s struck me over the past few years (other than how well Austin does breakfast tacos) is how much the brand spends have grown.

Every Spring, local homeowners and businesses rent out their houses and venues to startups, visitors, and big brands – and prepare to cope with an influx 100,000 people while trading tweets and texts on where free food and drinks can be had without a conference badge. This has become a normal part of the Austin lifestyle, but it’s still a novelty for me to be walking through a residential neighborhood in the early evening (we being a company that rented a local’s house), hear someone who sounds eerily like Adele singing from the neighborhood bar, walk to the front entrance to see who it is, and be met by a black t-shirted hipster holding an iPad who says, “I don’t know who it is, but this is an Uber party. If you just register right here you can come in and find out.”

Thanks, Uber. And well done on that email capture.

I’ve been measuring the chatter on SXSW for the past 3 years, and this year one of the main surprises for me is on the brand side: the word cloud on parties & lounges was not only almost all brand names, but talk of those spends far outperformed anything else. That includes Grumpy Cat, who nonetheless shows up in the parties word cloud along with the word “bacon” due to the Friskies “Haus of Bacon.” It turns out that combining two of the internet’s most favorite things (cats + bacon) is a great way to get folks tweeting. Not to be entirely outdone, Newscred (a B2B content marketing software) brought Instagram sensation The Fat Jew out for their brunch, and the amount of chatter he garnered puts him squarely alongside the United States Chief Technology Officer and Grumpy Cat in the data.

And that pretty much sums up the internet right there.

I actually did an experiment this year, wherein I ran an awareness data sample by walking up 6th street with a camera crew, and compared my results with the social engagement data I pulled from our media intelligence tool. I’ve summed that experiment up in a video that’s coming soon to this blog near you… in the meantime, here’s the social data in this year’s SXSW infographic:

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