Call me crazy, but I've always believed in paying things forward. I truly believe that talent will only get you so far and that doors need to be opened in order for someone to be successful. In fact, that's one of the reasons this blog exists - to give a voice to those who offer a unique and valuable perspective - and experience - but don't have the platform to do so. I remember several years ago when I was teaching as an adjunct instructor and spoke with a student about her career. She was on the Dean's List and acing my Flash class when I first started up the word of mouth marketing practice at my current agency. The practice was taking off so I asked her for her resume, which was waiting in my inbox when I got home that evening. I hired her shortly thereafter.

I'll be heading down to Austin, Texas later this week to attend and be a panelist at my first South by Southwest (SXSW) conference. I am substituting for a sister agency's social media VP, and after having my panel idea about word of mouth marketing not make the cut it's ironic that the opportunity to sit on this one happened via word of mouth. But I digress. I've never attended but have closely followed SXSW over the past several years, and as an outsider I've developed several preconceived notions of what happens in Austin. Here are three things I'll be looking for.

There's a story on Mashable about a new iPhone app called FastMall that provides maps of malls and even lets people check in, a la Foursquare. As Christina points out, this might be useful if it can scale into other location-based locations, such as amusement parks. That being said, the research I've seen around travel says that people want to have unique and customized experiences like stumbling across a wonderful boutique or restaurant without a map - something that the homogenous mall and iPhone apps can't provide. I'm not suggesting this app will fail (the name implies it is focused on malls only), however it does seem to be quite misguided. Here's why.

If you scan blogs and read MSM for news you would think Twitter was used by everyone under the sun and Facebook was a close second. the reality is that Facebook just eclipses the 400 million user mark - and unlike Myspace, there aren't very many dormant accounts inflating that number. Steve Rubel points out the strategy for Facebook, which is something I've told clients for a while now - they want to own the internet. Twitter, even with all of the hype and media push, is and will always be a "macro niche" tool. (Look at me! I'm a web 2.0 expert who's coining new words! Where's my book deal!? :P)

There's a good discussion going on Twitter right now about social media shilling, aka "please tweet (blog, lifestream, status update, fan, etc.) this for a client" and the big "what if big agencies did this" en masse. Todd Defren started it off with his post called "Slippery Slope". Laurel Hart, an adjunct instructor at NYU, asked if it was unethical to impose said coordination across an entire firm. My response is that it's not unethical for employees to participate in social media on behalf of a client provided they disclose and do it of their own free will. It is unethical if mandated.