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How One Woman Used Twitter to Get to SXSW for Free

Posted by Allison Semancik

As part of the way i tweet"The Way I Tweet" blog series, this is a guest blog post from Nadia Payan, a student at Miami Ad School.

In 2009, I was working in paid search engine advertising in NYC and heard about SXSW Interactive through the digital grapevine.

I was in love with all things digital.

I wanted to go.

I was 24, working in NYC.

I had no money.

That’s a lie, I had “24-year-old entry-level job in NYC” money. This meant that I could either afford the SXSW Interactive conference ticket or the plane ticket. Not both. I was also lucky to have extremely generous friends allowing me to stay at their place should I raise the money, so a hotel wasn’t an issue.

At that point I was already on Twitter. I wasn’t trying to brand myself, or stand out in any way. It just seemed like a really cool way to interact with new people (maybe even meet them).

After consulting with my Twitterverse (ahem, my Twitter Universe) about wanting to attend SXSWi, I got some sound feedback from some wonderful people I met through Twitter: Get Twitter to raise the cash.

I needed around $500. It began with just some basic begging and a TipJoy account.

With some Twitter friends’ guidance, my begging became a sponsorship platform. I created a blog called SXSWi Or Bust, where I explained how sending me to SXSW could benefit your company and folks could generally keep up with my progress.

Then a coworker asked the famed social media guru Chris Brogan to help me out. The next thing I knew, Chris had tweeted the following:

 Nadia Payan Twitter

And just like that, Twitter changed my life. A few hours later, I had five corporate sponsors and nearly $700 to experience SXSW Interactive for the first time.

It was a blast. I met people from around the world. Folks wanted to meet with me to chat about how I had managed to get to SXW Interactive. I was being affectionately called a “Panhandler 2.0”.

Twitter is really about being yourself. It reminds me that although there are mal intentioned people out there, the majority are wonderfully good and generous.

Lesson learned: Be yourself and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I’m sure there are people who disagreed with what I was doing, but clearly there were plenty of generous people interested in helping out.

Another (more recent) Twitter story:

This month, Chris Brogan announced that he was going to unfollow everyone due to how much spam he was getting daily on Twitter. For a lot of people, this was outrageous news. I thought it was fair. Everyone knows spamming sucks.

Problem was, I still wanted to be on Chris’ radar and I hadn’t really “spoken” to him since my SXSW Interactive experience in 2009.

I felt like I was asking someone out on a date. I was worried he didn’t remember me. I was worried he’d find my attempt to reconnect dumb. I was scared of being humiliated.

I got over it and tweeted:

 Nadia Payan Twitter 2

Once again, Twitter was kind. Chris is currently following fewer than 400 people – an extremely tiny group considering he’s got nearly 200,000 people following him. And I’m one of the four hundred. He didn’t reply to my tweet, but clearly he decided he did remember me and that he wanted my random tweets in his life. I once again have a direct line to a mentor and friend with lots of social media currency.

So, although Twitter can be overwhelming and intimidating at times, remember that there are humans on the other side. And people are awesome.

Read more about my SXSW Interactive experience here.

Tweet me @nadiapayan

Nadia Payan is a student at Miami Ad School by day and up to creative hijinks at night. She's always interested in collaboration, no matter how crazy the idea and no matter what the medium. She is also a member of the inaugural Behance Student Ambassador program. So get in touch with her already.


Get more insight on how others use Twitter.  Read all of The Way I Tweet guest blog posts.

Twitter For Business

Topics: The Way I Tweet, Twitter Tips