These 8 Brands and 3 Tech Topics Dominated the Social Buzz at SXSW

Snapchat, Esurance and VR blew up

Another South by Southwest Interactive is in the books, and so much of what happens at the conference every year reverberates on social media. So we asked Sysomos to look at which brands shined brightest during the five-day tech festival and suss out SXSW's hottest topics in 2016.

The social media analytics company found that a few of the winning brands—Snapchat, Google and IBM—were not official SXSW sponsors. At the same time, sponsors like Samsung and United Airlines generated a huge number of impressions and mentions.

From March 6 through March 16, Sysomos analyzed brand mentions across digital media and the following social platforms: Facebook, GooglePlus, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, Weibo, WeChat and Twitter. The company also looked at the number of Twitter impressions the top brands and topics generated. 

You can see how the eight most successful brands ranked below—then scroll down to see the topics that garnered the most SXSW buzz.

8. Sony (non-sponsor)

The electronics company's research and development "Future Lab" pushed a projector that turns any flat surface into a digital screen to play on. The interactive table employs depth sensors and motion tracking that allows it to know when objects are placed on it. 

o   Twitter impressions: 25.6 million

o   Mentions: 3,282

7. IBM (non-sponsor)

Big Blue's Watson was in town, headlining the company's tech at the IBM Cognitive Studio, an immersive showcase that included an Internet of Things-powered foosball table that sent personal tweets for players via the Twitter handle @foosbuzz.

o   Twitter impressions: 35.6 million

o   Mentions: 6,212



6. Marriott (sponsor)

The hotel marketer been pushing its loyalty program during SXSW in an effort that spans the interactive (March 11-15) and music (March 15-20) portions of the festival. While it's already generated huge chatter, Marriott's partnership with Twitter and Periscope to livestream its sponsored music this weekend bears watching.

o   Twitter impressions: 42.8 million

o   Mentions: 2,055


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5. Esurance (sponsor)

The online insurer also had a visible spot in the convention center while also offering downtown Austin passersby a place to recharge at the Esurance Lounge. It also reprised its successful Super Bowl 50 effort with a giveaway strategy, pitching complimentary tech products to people on social media who visited its IRL spots.  

o   Twitter impressions: 60 million

o   Mentions: 34,749



4. United Airlines (sponsor)

The airline had a presence at the festival's host building, the Austin Convention Center, as well as at a nearby JW Marriott, showing off the high-tech seats it's rolling out as well as other bells and whistles. 

o   Twitter impressions: 61 million

o   Mentions: 3,152


3. Google (non-sponsor)

The search engine held VR happy hours, cloud parties and hosted a fiber space, not to mention its participation in panels about self-driving cars and digital marketing best practices. 

o   Twitter impressions: 64.3 million

o   Mentions: 9,589


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2. Samsung (sponsor)

The electronics brand released a 4-D VR headset as well as an Android app called Waffle & Hum. And it didn't hurt that Samsung held a three-day "Galaxy Life Fest" with several notable musical acts including Public Enemy, Lil Wayne, The Strokes and The Arcs. 

o   Twitter impressions: 86.7 million

o   Mentions: 8,800  


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1. Snapchat (non-sponsor)

The ephemeral app didn't throw a party, hire a popular band or even give away cool gadgets—it didn't have a branded presence. Instead, it was a topic of conversation on nearly every marketing panel and was constantly used by attendees to document their SXSW experiences. Indeed, all Snapchat had to do to win SXSW 2016 was just be Snapchat.

o   Twitter impressions: 192 million

o   Mentions: 6,703


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The top 3 tech subjects at SXSW

It was a conference where it seemed that if virtual reality didn't come of age, it definitely matured a ton in the eyes of the tech and marketing worlds. But two other topics weren't too far behind. For this section, Sysomos only pulled Twitter impressions. 

3. Mobile apps

Messaging apps such as Snapchat, Kik, Viber, Yik Yak, WeChat, Facebook Messenger and others were constantly mentioned on digital marketing panels. The figure below makes that fairly obvious.

o   50.6 million Twitter impressions


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2. Robots/robotics

South by Southwest's first Robot Ranch likely drove conversation on Twitter around robots. And numerous speeches—particularly from Hiroshi Ishiguro (below), professor at Osaka University—about how bionic helpers will eventually impact our lives probably also played a role.

o   53.6 million Twitter impressions 


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1. Virtual reality

A number of brand activations—including NASA, Samsung and McDonald's, among others—generated VR chatter.

o   140 million Twitter impressions


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