Today, I made my ResumeBucket tech friend Paras' day when I gave him one of the Facebook promo cards worth $50 in ad space on Facebook and one of the orange t-shirts they were giving away at the recent San Jose Search Engine Strategy Conference held last week. (He's my Starbucks "office mate". lol)
(For those of you who don't know, "Search Engine Strategies (SES) is the leading global conference & expo series that educates delegates on search engine marketing (SEM), including optimization (SEO) and advertising strategies, tactics and best practices. SES Search Marketing Events provide instruction from the industry's top Search experts, including representatives of the Search Engines themselves.")
Back to Paras and his t-shirt. This is bad, but my mind just went blank on what the t-shirts were promoting! You know the one don't you? It says, "No Magic, Just Method". Remember? Sorry company, but know Paras is wearing it proudly in the tech community within Los Angeles so you're getting some buzz down here even if it's not on this blog. :)
I, personally, am loving my "best of the web since 1994" t-shirt that Best of the Web Directory was giving away. If someone doesn't read the back where it gives the company name I kinda wonder if people think I'm a porn star or something else to earn this title.
Oh baby. LOL
In any case, on a more serious note...
I was so happy my good friend Erica suggested I attend this tech conference because I finally felt like I was around "my people". There were people blogging during the sessions, walking around tweeting, talking on their phones, checking email, social networking on Facebook and LinkedIn, you name it, they were doing it and it was great to see.
All my professional career as a public relations specialist I've always focused more on a client's online presence - helping them create websites, blogging about their activities, making press releases Search Engine Optimized, and everything else this conference discussed as part of Search Engine Strategies.
The only problem is I was doing it in a vacuum. I didn't have any tech people to compare my experiences to and didn't realize it was a viable pursuit. I knew what I was doing was helping my clients, but because I was billing myself as a traditional publicist where media relations is king, not someone with diverse tech skills and background like I have, it was always frustrating.
When I would talk to other publicists their world revolved around getting hits in mainstream media and it was like we were talking a foreign language. They didn't get what I do and I didn't want to do what they did. I loved the challenge of spreading my client's name throughout the web organically through social communities and all the other ways I use the web to increase Search Engine Optimization.
I would be thrilled when I got my clients to the top ten searches of Google (every single time) and yet they wouldn't understand (or appreciate) the value. To be honest, perhaps I didn't either back then, but I still knew it was good. I just didn't understand how I made it happen, but after attending this conference now I do (which I'll go into in more detail later.)
Everything I've been doing intuitively because I understand the tech side of marketing on the web was affirmed by the speakers of such a well-respected tech conference. Finally learned there are actual interactive agencies that specialize in this style of marketing. I finally feel like I'm not crazy for valuing a service I was offering to clients that they rarely valued!
If only I knew then what I know now! So as I told Erica, it was worth attending the SES Conference just to gain this affirmation that I wasn't crazy. It felt really good to be around smart, like-minded people, learn new things and have other information confirmed that I was doing it right even when I didn't realize it.
This trip was such a spur of the moment decision I ended up driving up to save money and was happy to have my car to explore once I arrived in San Jose. The first couple of nights I stayed at a bargain hotel, but then I was treated to a night at the Hotel De Anza which made all the difference in my whole experience.
When you're in a conference listening to speakers all day, walking the expo floor and attending parties, your hotel room becomes a haven from the real world. This hotel was no exception. Allow me this small detour before I get into the body of the conference because this was a special treat and deserves some attention.
If you've never been to San Jose, CA, it's a completely different experience than San Francisco. It also has the beautiful old architecture intermingled with modern, but there's just a different feel to the air that's hard to explain - kind of like "brains grown here." People are relaxed and casual, but also extremely smart. (At least the ones I met.)
Granted I was attending a conference, but even exploring the city prior to the start of the conference gave me that impression. I arrived around 8:30pm and by the time I found Santana Row, a popular shopping experience complete with numerous nice restaurants and Hotel Valencia, I was bummed to learn all the restaurants closed at 10pm!
That was the only downside of my trip because I was looking forward to a really nice meal that night after driving so long, but had to settle for a roadside diner (which shall go nameless to prevent anyone else from ever going there. Yes, it was that bad. lol)
Which is why it was such a treat to stay at the Hotel De Anza. Pure class. Private and intimate, just the way I like it. That's what you get when you stay at a hotel built in the 1930's. I loved all the special touches and art deco art work displayed elegantly throughout.
Here's some pix to give you an idea why Paul McCartney has stayed here twice and numerous other celebs have too (too many to list actually! I was really surprised on one hand, but on the other... this really is a haven from the world):
My Tour Guide, Stephen. He's been at the Hotel De Anza for eleven years which is rather unusual in the hotel industry, but as he explained, he's held a wide variety of jobs here.There's always something new to learn he said which I appreciated.
These pix are a mix of the Penthouse suite (can you tell which ones are the Penthouse and where I stayed? I'm not complaining though, trust me!) and my room which I lazed in all evening rather than go out like all my friends. I needed some chill time and this was perfect.
If my hair hadn't been so mussed from my jacuzzi tub experience and my robe so comfy, I might have wandered downstairs to the free pantry that was open from 10pm till 2am if you want a late-night snack. Isn't this the coolest architecture and decoration? I just love places with a history.
Some of the pix are from the jazz club area which apparently is very popular. Again, relaxing in my room and missed it.:) This hotel is very popular site for weddings and the Penthouse is often used by the bridal party. Can you see why? They also host a lot of special events.
However, what I like about their hosting special events vs. a larger hotel like a Marriott (where I've never had a good night's rest due to their thin walls, loud guests, and uncomfortable beds), this is a boutique hotel which makes the guests a little more inclined to privacy and discretion.
In case you're looking for a conference room to host a private board meeting, check this one out. There are others downstairs of varying sizes which are nice too. What's great about this place is that it's only a few minutes away from the HP Pavilion, which apparently is the number one indoor arena in the country where the San Jose Sharks play.
Lots of good concerts and sports coming up so check it out! Hotel De Anza is also offering quite a few special weekend getaways including one in the wine country. I highly recommend staying here if your travels take you to San Jose. And if you're curious about their history - shoot me an email and I'll send over the pdf to you. Fascinating slice of Americana.
Now, for the techies and those curious how I do the things I do with the web, here's some highlights from the SES Conference for your reading pleasure.
What I liked about this conference was the fact that a lot of the seminars and keynotes were open to everyone attending, not just the people who had paid for the entire conference. Also, they had special side tracks that they allowed everyone to attend which I found extremely interesting since some of them dealt with social networking of which I am a huge user.
I have to admit, really, really, really enjoyed Keynote Speaker, Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, because in my mind he nailed it when he said right now everyone uses the internet "in the public, but not for the public" meaning my blog is for my readers, but not really for everyone in the world, they just happen to find me and read it.
Here's a cool link where you can read another person's highlights, although I don't think they capture exactly the essence, but it will give you an overview and an example of a cool tool: http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/020472.html
Here's another blogger's take from a previous conference, but on the same topic with Clay which will give you a deeper understanding called the Fast Forward blog. Oh, and here's one where they interviewed him after his keynote to discuss the shift in Web 2.0 user behavior which is presented by Deon Designs. And here's another business overview by Search Engine Guide.
What I'm finding interesting in all their coverage is that our perspectives on this keynote speech are completely different. From my perspective, as someone actively involved in social media (over 2000 "friends" on Facebook now, almost the same on MySpace, and almost 500 connections on LinkedIn) and blogging (having been a blogger for over five years), I heard Clay's message as someone who is a user, not just a marketer.
As a result, different things resonated with me than I'm finding do with others who are looking at this from a clearly clinical viewpoint. Back to my point of "in the public, but not for the public"... In addition the examples Clay gave mentioned by others, the one I enjoyed and totally related to, was the young fashionista in Asia who normally blogged about fashion.
However, when her country experienced a take-over that the government was trying to keep quiet she began posting pictures of the uprising which drew international attention because she was one of the few covering this "news". To her, it was just part of her life and she was just sharing it with her friends.
When she got bored with the uprising, she posted a picture of her newest Hello Kitty (I believe that was the reference, correct me if I'm wrong) accessory and completely ignored the uprising because she was over it.
Well, that angered her new readers who demanded she post more pictures and news since she was one of the few sources actually sharing information at that point. Clay then posted an image of her blog where she rants about this being her blog and her doing whatever she pleases with it (or words to that effect.)
I had to laugh out loud over that one because I know some of you reading this are waiting for me to blast Obamacare some more, talk Hermosa politics, or discuss my feelings about the Six Man Volleyball Festival, but tonight, I don't feel like writing about that and since this is my blog....:)
Clay totally gets the mentality that we're not writing for others, we're writing for ourselves. As a result, we're going to write about what pleases us, not our readers (much to the chagrin of marketers everywhere.)
He gave this perfect example of a review of the t-shirt- Three Wolves Howling at the Moon. Read the link to hear the story - great explanation and well worth the read.
However, the way I look at it, it's more authentic and real this way which draws readers who will read whatever we write about because they know they're going to hear our truth even when they don't agree with it.
That's one thing about politics and other issues that I may not agree with. I ALWAYS want to hear the other side which is why so many of my previous boyfriends and current friends are DEMS. I'd rather have the intellectual stimulation (even though I probably will never change to their side and vice versa) than only hang out with people who are just like me.
Granted, I've just said how wonderful it felt to be around all the techies this past week, but I'm sure if it was the only environment I experienced 24/7 I would get bored real quick. I love being around like-minded people for the support and understanding, but I crave challenges and interesting new things too much to stay put for too long.
Back to the conference.
One of the things that really surprised me when I arrived at the conference is all the education offered in social media. You can actually get a certificate now on social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc and I had to laugh at that because to me it's bogus and contrived.
Social Media is all about the person's persona, voice and relationships. It's not something you can learn unless you're simply learning how to use the tools, not how to actually function organically. I had to ask Clay's opinion on whether or not he felt there needs to be certification to "legitimaze" someone's social media experience.
He totally agreed with me that in this stage of the game, it's way too early since it's still evolving. To me, it's kind of like kindergarten for internet newbies. You feel better because you have a certificate, but do you really know how to use what you've learned?
Does this make sense? Not to get all philosophical on you, but I hate to think I have to go to school to learn what I and so many others do naturally - build a community.
I think if you're a marketer, you're a marketer and it's something you're born with. It's your personality type. You either get it, or you don't. It can't be taught. Otherwise, it comes across as false and that doesn't ring true in this new age of internet community.
Okay, I'm ranting, but this really is something that bugs me which is why I'm raising this as an issue to think about. Oh, and want to know why it's taking me so long to write everything I've learned? Because I'm very thorough and there's an internet PR workshop one of my traditional PR organizations is offering this Thursday that I pitched myself to as a speaker.
Why should I give away everything I know and have learned to have picked up and shared by those they have invited to speak? I know one man in particular reads my blog because I took his new media class at UCLA Extension a few years back. Maybe he's not a regular reader any more, but still. Got to protect some of my expertise. LOL
So, do you feel comfortable and like you understand Clay Shirky's idea that we're living in a socially connected world which you either join in and participate in appropriately, or move out of the way as others who get it take over?
I hope so. More to come I promise. Just bear with me because it takes me hours to write these blogs and I am job hunting which is also very time consuming.
Enjoy your night!