This is a guest blog post by Kallie McConkie, social media marketing training specialist at Constant Contact

This year was my first trip to South by Southwest, and now that I’m back, I can safely say there is no way I could have prepared for the experience.

I was overwhelmed, amazed and overall thrilled with the nerdtastic conversations happening all around me.

Before I completely recover, I wanted to share the five things that will stick with me from formal sessions, informal conversations, and general observations:

1. Brands have to learn to engage in multiple kinds of relationships.

Not all of your fans want to engage with you. Chloe Gottlieb, senior vice president and creative executive director of interactive design at R/GA, spoke to this in her session, “I May ‘Like’ You, But I’m Not in Like with You.”

Brands have four different types of fans: Spectators are fans who want to watch what you do. Collectors are value hunters; they don’t just watch what you do, they like what you do. Curators rate and critique what you do and have a steadier stream of involvement with your brand than spectators and collectors. Influencers help you co-create content. These are the fans you love. They post content on your channels, repost your content on theirs, and share their passion for what you do with their networks.

Communication with these groups will happen differently, in terms of content, frequency, and engagement.

2. “Fail forward, fail fast, fail better.”

I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Digital Leader, while I was in Austin.

When I asked him what one piece of advice he would give small businesses using social media, he encouraged them to not be afraid to fail. We all learn from failure; the trick is making sure the next attempt we make uses the lessons from previous failures.

Small businesses and organizations aren’t always going to get it right the first time. It’s ok to fail a few times before you get it right.

3. Food trucks are killing it at social.

The mmmpanadas food truck promotes its Twitter handle

Austin takes tremendous pride in their amazing collection of food trucks.

And food trucks are using social media in phenomenal ways. They are using Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook to run specials, communicate their menus and location, and portray the personality that is behind these unique restaurants on wheels.

Not only are they using social to their advantage, they are using mobile applications, like Square, to make payment a breeze. Not to mention, they are making delicious food and serving it to thousands daily!

4. We are living in perpetual beta.

This also came from Chloe Gootlieb’s presentation. The social media and technology space is changing daily. We can never get too comfortable with any one network, way of communication or hardware. We all have to be agile and open to the change that it is inevitably coming.

5. Best practices should be flexible.

Josh Mendelsohn spoke about this in his post a couple days ago, but I think it is important that we remember that although best practices are great guidelines, they aren’t always what is best for every organization or business. There is no magic formula that works for every business or organization to find social media success.

Now it’s time for me to catch up on my sleep. SXSW was a great time, but I am exhausted!

Were you at SXSW this year? What were your top takeaways? Share your thoughts in the comments field below.