Austin's music, film and tech festival SXSW came and went this year with much fanfare and documentation. One of the parties following along was Pepsi. The soft drink makers spent its second year tracking social media at SXSW with something called Pepsi Zeitgeist.

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Flickr updates were all sent to Pepsi's tracking interface, built by Slash7. The results from the event show both the potential for listening in on social media and how much room for growth there is in this burgeoning medium.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media mavens traveling to Austin in March had overwhelmingly positive things to tweet. Of about 250,000 tweets that the Zeitgeist tracked during SXSW, about 10% were explicitly positive, and only about 7% were definitively negative.

Zeitgeist's tracking also concurred with the general consensus that interactive is overtaking the film and music sections of the festival. This was the first year that attendance for the interactive portion surpassed attendance for SXSW Music. Of course, social media oversharers are more likely to participate in the interactive festival and that habit might account for some of the Zeitgeist's numbers.

But if you folow Pepsi and Slash7's results, the social media peaks and valleys of the first weekend began to taper off during the week and come closer to flatlining toward the end of the fest.

According to Joshua Karpf, manager of digital communications, at PepsiCo:

"It reinforces our belief that this is a place where technology breaks. We are proud that the Zeitgeist helps enable the digital discussion by highlighting themes and trends on Twitter; and serving as a tool for conference attendees...and those who wish to follow the conference online."

It also proves how much room there is for listening and analysizing social media. In aggregate, it's hard to draw too much from the most popular terms during the week. The top ten most used words were "day," "people," "party," "today," "love," "panel," "night," "video," "show," and "make."

Words like "love" and "make" aren't going to give us too much insight into what went on at the festival, but it says a lot that "party" is in there, considering that many criticize the tech festival for being more than a social gathering than a learning experience. But for many of the digitally connected, the two objectives are one in the same.

Says Karpf:

"The attendees of SXSW are at the core of digital culture, they are talking about things that will effect digital consumers in the future. We are glad to be a small part of that."

And while the tools to properly analyze this data may be as yet undiscovered, aggregating it all in one place may increase its value down the line. Pepsi's Zeitgeist was in place last year, and the company is planning to continue this project in 2011. Meaning that when they know what data to specifically look for and how to get it, they'll have a lot of SXSW info at their fingertips.

Meghan Keane

Published 12 April, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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