Groupies: They’re not just for SXSW Music anymore


Several of the topics I was interested in at SXSW Interactive this year were set up in what they called the “Core Conversations” format.  The (good) idea appears to have been round table discussions among colleagues, rather than an audience being spoken to by panelists.  I really like that idea.  However, the execution left me less than satisfied and, if you were following me in Twitter one day you saw, sometimes quite frustrated. 

The tables were all in one big room, with different topics being discussed at each, and there were usually way more people interested in the topic than would fit at a table.  So, you ended up with concentric circles about four people deep around each table and a cacophony of conversations bouncing around the room.  It made it hard to hear anyone speaking that was not within three feet of you.

That said, I returned to that room several times because I really did want to participate in these conversations.  The first one I attended explored status symbols in social media worlds and was facilitated quite well by PhD candidate Alice Marwick. We talked about how every community, from your kid’s school PTA to Amazon, has a hierarchy. In every different internet community, there’s some way to measure status and the measures are often very different from each other.  As some people seek more friends or followers to increase their status, others take pride in the number of such requests that they turn down. 

We also talked about microcelebrity and how Internet celebrity doesn’t really translate into other arenas of fame. One blogger, Kathryn Finney, shared how after appearing on television, she suddenly had a new group of people that connected with her and how that group didn’t really connect with her original online fans.  I know I’ve often noticed that when I mention someone like Robert Scoble to my friends or family that aren’t as into the web as I am, they have no idea who I am talking about.

I was amazed and a bit disappointed at the number of people in the group who said they came to SXSW to meet people like Scoble who are “internet famous”, rather than coming to learn about emerging technology. But, as the group seemed to agree, social networking tools have moved much faster than our social skills. And there remains some innate human desire to not only be famous, but to also be near those who are.

About the Author: Laura Pevehouse

Laura Pevehouse was profiled as one of five “social media mavens” in the March 2009 issue of Austin Woman Magazine and named an AdWeek’s TweetFreak Five to Follow. She has been part of the Dell organization for more than 15 years in various corporate communications, employee communications, public relations, community affairs, marketing, branding, social media and online communication roles. From 2014-2018, Laura was Chief Blogger/Editor-in-Chief for Direct2DellEMC and Direct2Dell, Dell’s official corporate blog that she help launch in 2007. She is now a member of the Dell Technologies Chairman Communications team. Earlier in her Dell career she focused on Global Commercial Channels and US Small and Medium Business public relations as part of the Global Communications team. Prior to that, she was responsible for global strategy in social media and community management, as well as marcom landing pages, as a member of Dell’s Global SMB Marketing, Brand and Creative team. When she was part of Dell’s Global Online group, Laura provided internal consulting that integrated online and social media opportunities with a focus on Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. She managed the home page of, one of the top 500 global web sites in Alexa traffic rank, and first brought web feeds and podcasts to the ecommerce site. In her spare time she led Dell into the metaverse with the creation of Dell Island in the virtual world Second Life. Laura has earned the designation of Accredited Business Communicator from the International Association of Business Communicators, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana State University. Before joining Dell Financial Services in 2000, she worked at the Texas Workforce Commission and PepsiCo Food Systems Worldwide.