Bonus: How a B2B Live Event First Made Twitter Famous


Caption: Twitter first gained fame in March 2007 at the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) Live Event in Austin, Texas. Here the founders of Twitter accept a SXSW Web Award in the Blog category. (Photo: Scott Beale)

It was a gathering of geeks where Twitter first got its groove

These days, it’s not unusual to attend a Live Event and see a monitor displaying tweets from the event or from people watching a live feed of the event. But most people have forgotten that Twitter first became popular thanks to a Live Event that displayed tweets (before they were called tweets!) in a similar format.

In March 2007, Twitter had been around for about a year. By then, several thousand users had already signed up. But each of those users described Twitter a different way—some called it a microblog, others referred to it as a group text, and even some called it a waste of time. No one could figure out how to use it.

But it was at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) in Austin, Texas, that Twitter connected with a Live Event—and the rest is history.

Despite SXSWi celebrating its 14th year in 2007, the event had not yet grown into the massive gathering of geeks that it is today. It was a smaller gathering of geeks.

Through a sponsorship with SXSWi, Twitter placed several WiFi-connected computer monitors in the hallways of the Austin Convention Center. Each monitor displayed tweets from people attending the event. While few of the features now associated with Twitter were active (there were no hashtags in 2007), the general idea of a back-channel communication system was grasped quickly by those who attended SXSWi.

In 2007, Twitter demonstrated how participants attending a Live Event can be communicating in two ways: (1) Listening to the speaker or panelists; and (2) A conversation taking place among members of the audience with messages ranging from insightful to inane.

By the end of the first day, it was apparent that something new was taking place.The dozen or so breakout sessions slowly became a game of musical chairs as people from one room would start reporting what was taking place next door. People began switching rooms 10 minutes into a panel, deciding that what they heard about the session next door was more enticing.

By day two, the hundreds of Twitter users who were at the Live Event had communicated with their friends back home and what was thousands of Twitter users became tens of thousands of Twitter users.

Over the past decade, from disaster relief to being a communications platform for presidential candidates, Twitter has changed many things about the way the world communicates.

However, it was at a Live Event where the future was first tweeted.

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