SEO, VC & Blogging – Comparing Events, Crowds & Comfort Levels

ML Apr 15, 2007

I attended Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger meetup in NYC a few weeks back, and met almost everyone in the room. And he took over almost an entire floor of a popular New York City bar. I was totally comfortable and in my element, as folks like Keith Levenson of went around popping promo stickers on people’s shoulders. I was like “yeah… I can personally meet everyone in this room.” Keith pretty much set the tone.

Then a few weeks later, I attended a Venture Capitalist event at a prestigious Union League sponsored by Red Herring. It was the Monday before Search Engine Strategies, and I was trying to get into social mode (sometimes difficult for me). High on ProBlogger, I felt it would be a breeze. Brrrrr, was I wrong. The button-down’d VCs were decidedly NOT the same profile as the rabid blogorati of the NYC area. And my education into how to work dramatically different crowds began. Not that it was bad. Just that it’s not “me”. I guess if it was, I’d be a VC and not one of the Web developer / executive cross-overs types that they like to fund.

I struck it off very well with the cross-over crowd, such as Laird Popkin, the CTO of Pando, a P2P torrent-like file sharer, with whom I could talk tech. Equally engaging was Angelo Valenti, an Executive and Entrepreneurial Coach, who immediately identified me as someone needing coaching, and gave the invaluable advice to play the “billionaire card”. Those who look most out of place are often the ones with the best ideas and most money. They don’t know you from a Web 2.0 billionaire. Use it. And if you wanted to play the Sesame Street game “which one of these is not like the other,” there was the aventurista, Sarah Tavel, who turned out to be a VC AND a blogger. So, there were some nice highlights.

And of course, the host, Alex Vieux, the publisher of Red Herring, was an absolute pleasure to meet. But the majority of the room was an inscrutable mystery to me. I guess that’s why I’ve hitched my apple cart to Connie’s wagon.

And finally, there was SES, which while I only attended one day (Thursday), turned out to be one of the most auspicious events I ever attended. It’s amazing the difference between being someone and not being someone can make. If I was a nobody at the VC event, and I was a pseudo-celebrity at the ProBlogger event, then I was half-way in-between at Search Engine Strategies. Fortunately, Danny Sullivan, Lee Odden, and a few of the other panelists knew me. But this mainstream marketing crowd curious about how to use search most decidedly doesn’t know the “in the know cool sites.”

Working the SES crowd was harder than ProBloggers (really our sweet spot), but WAY easier than the VC crowd. There’s no intro like: here’s a tool to build your natural search traffic. Oh yeah, it’s free. The auspicious part was that I was meeting people left and right who I worked years previously to meet. I coincidentally met Neil Patel, “blogmaster” behind Guy Kawasaki’s sites, who I’ve been in touch with on and off for years. This was from a random walk-up intro to a panelist, who in-turn recognized my name! I’d love to go on and name everyone, but let me just shout out to Stan Barett and Marshall Sponder, the look-alike’s who don’t know eachother, but whom I see at the same events, and sometimes have to wait until I hear an English accent before I say “Hi Stan” or “Hi Marshall”.

Bottom line lesson of this blog: every event is like a life form manifestation of the event’s host and their audience. Some you take to, as if they’re old friends. Some are just tough to figure out. And some just take a little warming up to.

  1. Martin Kelley

    Hi Mike,
    Funny stories there. It reminds me of my ongoing period of job interviews. From the moment I walk in with uncharacteristic clothes (suit and tie), I’m selling a version of myself and a job interview can be measured by how much I figuratively loosen that tie over the hour or so.

    Things start with a sense of cageyness, of details better left out. For example, I’m able to wait for the right job (and have turned down two good-but-not-right job offers) because I’ve taken low-pay overnight work at a local warehouse while I write and build up my tech resume. I think it’s an excellent job strategy but I usually leave it out.

    Some interviews are such natural fits that we’re chatting away openly right away–like your Problogger experience while others (most) are frigid professional affairs where I play the billionaire card (in this case, confident master of everything tech). It’s important to go to each interview and I’ve certainly built up my tech vocabulary and skills as I’ve boned up for particular interviews. The biggest lesson has been just how many different niches there are in the tech world and how inbred and inscrutable they often remain to one another.

  2. Mike Levin

    Hi Martin. It’s funny how names sound familiar, then suddenly, as you’re doing something unrelated, you browse across a random Web designer and Internet strategist page (bookmarked due to the HitTail review), and you realize where you know the name!

    Thanks so much for the comment. The whole marketing chameleon thing is one I’ve avoided so far. But it seems, if you’re going to go this route, it’s part of the job description. It’s really stunning how many isolated niches consisting of their own vocabulary and culture that I’m discovering.

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