Twitter made a big deal out of SXSW for this first time since launching here
South by Southwest Interactive’s claim to fame includes being the place where companies like Meerkat, Foursquare and Twitter have gotten their start.
Unfortunately for SXSW, most of those companies have struggled. Meerkat’s gone. Foursquare? Viewed as dead, but is in fact alive and embraced a new data business. And while Twitter is mentioned every day on national television, essentially leading our news cycle, it continues to have a tough time on the stock market and finding new users.
But Twitter’s trying to make a comeback— at the place it first rose to prominence, no less. This year, Twitter organized its first consumer push since launching at SXSW in 2007. They’ve always been here, but for the first time, Twitter had a house on Rainey Street (alongside Pinterest, Intel and CNN).
They’re inviting not only business partners, but other SXSW attendees, to experience and learn about what’s happening on Twitter.
There were major events happening every single day of SXSW Interactive and into SXSW Music at Twitter House.
Last Saturday, Twitter held a casino-themed party with Warner Bros ("The House Party"_ to celebrate the movie The House.
On Sunday, people could watch the NCAA’s Selection Sunday, and have a Wendy’s Frosty (Wendy’s is very good at Twitter).
On Monday, Twitter and NYLON held a happy hour and a party for Hulu’s upcoming show, A Handmaid’s Tale, as well as a live viewing of The Bachelor finale.
And finally, on Tuesday, Twitter kicked off the music portion of SXSW with a concert with SoundCloud.
I sat down with Nola Weinsten—head of influencer engagement and experiential marketing at Twitter—between all these events (which she planned) to learn why there was so much happening for Twitter this year at SXSW (yet, sans- politics).
We met up in the backyard of the Four Seasons, where PureWow was hosting a brunch next door, and where we could finally enjoy the sun after days of rain.
"Our strategy?" Weinstein said after we watched about her job. "Twitter is the place for what’s happening. It’s what’s happening in the world. It’s what’s happening in culture. We had a roster that focused on our core passion points, like elevating our super fanatics of The Bachelor."
Super fanatics, like my colleague, Mashable’s digital entertainment reporter Saba Hamedy:
The Twitter House itself was an intriguing venue.
"The space was designed to be very conversational, without barriers, standing outside or mixing outside. We had a photo booth, t-shirt printing," Weinstein said. "The space itself we chose because it felt sort of like a clubhouse."
Last year, Twitter’s much smaller presence at SXSW featured only a house a little far off the path of the main SXSW action. But they had a panel discussion with Ted Cruz’s digital director, among other political figures. The event was coordinated by Twitter’s policy and government team.
"That was not run by the events team," Weinstein said. "At the time it was what’s going on. The theme is it’s what happening. We’re focused more around pop culture."
Twitter did a host a somewhat political event, a brunch titled #SheInspiresMe with powerful female leaders.
"It’s about driving action, coming together. They are collectively supporting movements, passion projects on Twitter," Weinstein said. "This is a chance for them to meet. It’s kind of like Twitter in real life."
Throughout the day at the Twitter House, they had a live studio with various celebrities coming through to air videos. For example, Jon Hamm and Octavia Spencer both talked about their new movies.
So, yeah: It was a big event. Still, big names in the tech industry are boldly speaking out against Twitter. Big Twitter investor Chris Sacca said Wednesday he sold all his stock in Twitter. Jason Calacanis spoke on CNBC’s Squawk Alley calling for CEO Jack Dorsey to step down, and to bring Twitter cofounder and now CEO Ev Williams back.
For now, Twitter is still explaining—one week before its 11th birthday—who and what it is, at the place it all began.
"We wanted this to provide clarity around who we are," Weinstein said. "The side of our house here, the questions and answers and excitement. It’s really incorporating our brand identity, catching people’s attention in new ways."