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So many sessions, so many people and so much to do! It's important to slow down here at SXSW, and take it all in. So I decided to give a 10,000 foot view into some of the things I took from a couple of my sessions and experiences over just the first 4 days of a 9 day trek.

It is a realization by many I have spoken to that the word of the year is "authenticity"....what it means, what it stands for and what it can be in the marketing and social world. Getting raw video, live streaming and breaking down the once filtered face and images.

Parallel to that authenticity is the notion that not caring what others think outside in the world but holding true to yourself and your inner circle (family, friends and your company) is where the real magic happens. Writing content that is not necessarily a complete different view from everyone else but true to you, your brand, and your beliefs - not trying to impress with things you don’t have heart in but rather remaining in a positive and hustle like mentality.

As always Gary Vaynerchuk is off the charts awesome with a Q&A session. Questions from the audience came in like wildfire and he treated each one as important as the last. Delivering value and answers to those seeking a little bit of affirmation from him. I have to say, seeing him in person was pretty surreal and he motivates people like no other. Giving several guys bro hugs and mentioning the lack of women in the line were additions to what Gary brought to the stage.

Funny to note, the first question a man asked; “what questions do you want to be asked”. Needless to say, Gary was most interested in giving value to the audience – he even mentioned how repeating himself in every session would be fine with him as long as the audience and the people asking were getting value from him.

Carlos Gil (thecarlosgil) was accompanied by Danny Berk (dannyberk), Shaun Ayala (shaunayala) and Cyrene Quiamco (CyreneQ), this had to be my favorite panel of the week, discussing Snapchat and influencer marketing. The knowledge and understanding about what is going on with influencer marketing from this group energizes the crowd and truly lays the foundation for many successes. Influencer marketing has hit a stride and is truly in full force. This panel was spot on with its understanding of a millennial generation (13-34 on Snapchat) that is truly more interested in this one on one contact than any other form of media or advertising out there.

Between the four of them, they dove into the conversation that content is about the story and the audience, not about the product. Once that is understood by marketers and brands – the story will drive the purchase and intent to buy from that brand. Connect through that content and through that story and that will be the best communication you have with your audience. You will resonate with them on a higher level than just serving them up an ad and walking away.

Someone in the crowd asked, how can the right influencer be found for the right brand? The answer was pretty seamless across the board, in order to find the right influencer for a brand, an influencer that will make sense and be able to go out and truly gain the respect from the right audience, brands need to listen to who is talking about them and what is being said. What does that audience love? What is important to them? Where do they spend money and time? What intrigues them? What gains their attention? What pisses them off? Not just thinking you know your “target” but really understanding who is paying attention to you.

Cyrene says, “if a brand wants to work with me, I know they have done their research on me and know what type of content I have and I think those are the most effective brands that I work with.”

Another topic that this all-star panel touched on was the way in which you grow your Snapchat following. In order to build a strong Snapchat you need to use your other channels and funnel people over from those platforms. Tell your followers, friends, etc. on other platforms your Snapcode – help them find you on Snapchat, this is one of the hardest platforms to grow on, you must be saying something that people want to hear.

Danny Berk talked further about growing and engaging with your audience by doing “something nobody else is doing, make people smile and laugh” -Danny Berk. What a great message from someone who truly gets this platform and is truly making this platform work for him. Danny also goes on to talk about Jack in the Box and how for him that has been a great brand to work with. Way to go Jack in the Box, you are a brand that seems to really get it.

Next, I was able to squeeze my way into a packed ballroom where Mark Cuban would be – the line started 2 hours before the event and it wrapped from the 4th floor down the stairs and all the way down through a 3rd floor hall.

Mark Cuban exuded confidence and zeal as always, with his awesome facial expressions and excited smile to the crowd, and was joined by Adam Lyons of The Zebra as they gave us some insight into the need for disrupters within the world. Michele Skelding did a great job of asking them some questions and keeping the banter going. Mark Cuban says to work through the naysayers and then "that is when you really need to fight". There was lots to say in the way of Trump and their long standing relationship---as entertaining as that was many in the crowd ended with “Cuban 2020”. Mr. Cuban said that it has never been his dream but who knows what can happen.

At the end of the day he followed that trend of not caring what the entire world thinks of him and even threw some colorful words in for effect.

As I roll into the next five days of this experience at SXSW, I have no expectations and realize this is no place for someone who cannot live moment to moment. You cannot have preconceived notions of who you will meet or what you will learn. Gary Vaynerchuk, Snapchat and Mark Cuban were just three standouts I have from my first four days at South by Southwest but they are definitely worth talking about.

Did you go to SXSW? Do you have stories to share? Just want to connect with others that have gone? Send us a message or connect with us on Facebook and we would love to share our stories.