Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Austin: The Social Business Hub

with 3 comments

When I moved to Austin some ten years ago, I figured career-wise, I was cutting my own throat.  I had been with IBM ten years at that point, but for six of those I had been centered around the beehives of Somers and Armonk, NY, and the general New York area, which was where the nerve center where IBM’s marketing teams lived and breathed.

But I’d had enough of life in the big city, so when an IBM opportunity presented itself here in Austin, I lept at the chance, even as I thought it might limit my future Big Blue career options.

Actually, the move opened a range of other doors.

Austin, despite having had some negative blowback from the dot com boom, still had several anchor technology tenants (Dell, IBM, AMD, Vignette, Applied Materials, etc.) that helped feed both talent and technology into the Austin business community.

The creative sector was also thriving here (GSD&M, frog, Toquigny, Razorfish, Ants Eye View, Fleishman-Hillard, UT-Austin…), and certainly the great weather and live music didn’t hurt (and did I mention the  world class Tex-Mex and new international airport?).

Probably just as importantly, the tech trends were playing to my favor.

What we came to call Web 2.0 and, later, social media (and now “social business,” a sobering term that suggests a maturity far beyond its still nascent adoption in the enterprise, but leaves the door open for widespread and mainstream adoption) took root early on in IBM.

IBM was one of the first major players to issue social media guidelines, and we also used the technology to conduct our own business, creating a whole new set of company values through an IBM internal “jam” online that elicited responses from over 100,000 IBMers around the globe.

I’d be remiss in not pointing out that we were also enjoying investments in emerging markets around the globe (India, China, Argentina, Brazil) which, no matter your nationalistic perspective on “rightsourcing,” required new ways of working and time zone adjustments, not to mention a more astute and tuned in sensibility to cultural variance.

We were IBM, and we were living up to the “international” part of our name in ways I had never imagined possible.

You couldn’t just think global, you had to act global.  And me, I had to do it from right here in the middle of Texas.

But, I could, primarily due to some of the technology we were developing, along with my ever-umbilical broadband connection and always on phone line.

In the meantime, the Web 2.0 snowball blossomed into a social media juggernaut.

New terms, tools and technologies spread like wildfire.

And new approaches to communicating and marketing were happening literally underfoot, leaving a range of carcasses along the way for those who didn’t “get it”: Dan Rather, Kryptonite locks, even Dell during their “Dell Hell” regime (but to their credit, they now have a world-class social media infrastructure and staff and even a newfangled social media command center introduced to the world by none other than Michael Dell).

Out with the old, in with the new.

Austin was poised to take advantage of and capitalize on this new wave in a big way, and for a variety of reasons:

  • The young, smart creative class that had been borne both from the great universities and through interstate (and even international) migration.
  • The business friendly (and very green) climate offered by the Austin municipal government, as well as the low-taxing and right to work environment of the great state of Texas (no state income tax).
  • The ongoing SXSW Interactive, Film, and Music festival which, though originally more music than film, is now more interactive than both film and music, and which kick starts here this Friday with an expected attendee base that will likely sound an alarm with the Travis County fire code.  (SXSW has brought more creative and business talent in and out of Bergstrom airport than no amount of stock options likely could.)
  • And, of course, the Austin venture capital community that has long cultivated and invested in content, media, and, most recently, social software.

There’s a culture of optimistic innovation that transpires here, which feeds back into the tech and creative community, but which is also fed by it.  People here are passionate about the opportunity social media presents, but also grounded in the reality it will take to help bring it to bear for businesses and individuals.

Some examples: Our friends from Coremetrics (which IBM later acquired), BazaarVoice (founded by the same co-founder of Coremetrics, Brett Hurt), Powered (later acquired by Dachis Corp.), and, yes, social business consultancy Dachis Corp., co-founded by digital and social media marketing veterans and led by Jeff Dachis, original co-founder of leading interactive shop Razorfish. (Blogger’s Note: IBM is a co-sponsor of the Dachis Social Business Summit tomorrow here in Austin, and also to be held in other cities around the globe).

So, that’s a long way of saying, the future’s so bright in Austin social media, you gotta wear shades…preferably some 3D shades that make that big ol’ Facebook “Like” button for the “City of Austin” get so large it jumps right OFF the page and nearly scares you back to Silicon Valley.

#winning #TigerBlood…sure, all that and then some.

Because, if you’ve spent any time here at all, you know our longtime unofficial mantra is “Keep Austin Weird” (Go rent Richard Linklater’s “Slackers” for the back story).

I’d like to suggest we rename it: “Keep Austin Weird…And Social.”

Very, very social.

(Blogger’s Note: See some related perspectives on Austin leading into SXSW and the Dachis Social Summit from my friends [and IBM’s own] Kathy Mandelstein, Ogilvy’s Virginia Miracle, and Dachis’ Peter Kim, and ALL Austin residents.)

Written by turbotodd

March 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm

3 Responses

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  1. You know I’m wildly jealous of the Austin-social business experience. I’ll make it down one day for SXSW…


    March 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    • We’ll leave the lights on for you. They might be outmoded, blinking Christmas lights from the classic Robert Earl Keen song, “Merry Christmas from the Family,” but we’ll leave them on for ya.

      And if you don’t know who Robert Earl Keen is, you’ll have to first learn that before you can come visit Austin, SXSW or otherwise. : )


      March 9, 2011 at 7:23 pm

  2. […] “Turbo” Todd Watson of IBM Tags: Austin, Recruiting, Social Business Capital of the World, SXSW, whyaustin Related PostsBack to the Heart of Texas5 Desired Traits for Digital PR Pros4 Takeaways from SXSW 2010 Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback […]

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