Live from PubCon South: Fireside Chat with Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki
This is my site Written by Alora on March 11, 2009 – 11:40 am

Guy KawasakiWhile normally the idea of a “fireside chat” in Austin, Texas would be a little warm, today’s unusually chilly weather brought all new appeal to the idea. So, in honor of the rainy weather and the keynote title, Chris Brogan obliged by pulling up a fireplace video on his laptop, and placing it on the table between his chair and Guy’s before getting the conversation started.

Covering everything from the strange funding requests that come to VCs to the weaponization of Twitter, social media business strategist and blogging maven Chris Brogan led a “fireside chat” with venture capitalist, entrepreneur and Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki onstage for an eager audience of SEO/SEM professionals at the opening keynote of PubCon South.

Search vs. Content Marketing

guy_kawasaki_quote_pubcon_seo_strategyGuy’s work with the American Express Open Small Business Forum – and their future plans to grow the community – are a particular source of pride and interest for him, for several reasons. During the discussion, Chris noted the modern trend towards content-driven advertising value is promising to further undermine historical advertising strategies.

When given advice about how to better search engine optimize any of his websites, Guy’s philosophy is unwavering: focus on valuable content. (He quite amusingly refers to SEO as “witchcraft,” and is first to admit that he doesn’t actually know anything about it.) And though this does pose some interesting questions – not the least of which is, how many sites can exist before good content sources start drying up – for the moment massive content consolidation has not completely changed the landscape yet.

Blogging

In the early days of the blogosphere, Guy deliberately refused to blog. His take on blogging at the time was that it was too narcissistic to be of interest, and had no value if you were not interested in talking about yourself.

Once he started blogging, he found the first year to be very easy. Content flowed regularly and without tremendous effort, as he used the experiences of his career for material. By the second year, though, it got more difficult. Material was getting more scarce and requiring more effort. By year three, he “hit a wall.”

Rapidly dispelling any notions that he was a highly structured, well-planned writer (for either his personal blog, or the blog he writes on the American Express Open Small Business Forum), he admitted that blogging for him now is an asynchronous, interruption-driven activity. And, if he feels the pressure of a deadline or a need to produce content, he often looks to Alltop for inspiration – newly published studies are often what he needs to jump-start his writing energy.

Chris Brogan added that, for him, a good source of new writing inspiration is photography. He takes pictures all day, and then finds interesting things in them that inspire him to write.

Twitter

Kawasaki Quote: Sincerest form of flattery is RetweetingThe difference between blogging and microblogging, in Guy’s case, is all the difference. As he says, “I was born to Tweet.” And even though it took a bit of time (about two months or so) before he really started to get the hang of Twitter, once he got into the swing of things, he fell in love with the format.

“One hundred and forty characters is just perfect,” he said. “I wish I had an email client that only accepted 140 characters. Do you know how much better life would be if email were limited to 140 characters?”

But anyone who follows Guy on Twitter knows that the bulk of what he posts are Alltop stories he finds interesting and wants to share. He refers to Twitter as “a weapon,” and uses it accordingly. He describes his “mental model” when it comes to Twitter as “PBS plus QVC.” Provide quality content that people will enjoy, and they will be more willing to forgive shilling your product.

And while he laments that he cannot exercise his fantasy of saying “I quit!” to the blogosphere in general, he describes himself as still being “in the honeymoon phase” with Twitter, and not at all eager to give that up.

Twitter Tools

The three tools that Guy credits with his Twitter addiction are:

And while the recommendation of TwitterHawk came with a caution about judicious use, it also came with some good examples, including some valuable usages for brick and mortar businesses that are able to leverage the geo-targeting capabilities to find a local market.

Responding to Criticism

Kawasaki Quote: Marketing vs. SpamAs with any high profile figure, Guy has learned not to take criticism personally. His philosophy is that if, out of more than 50,000 followers, he has less than a dozen people per day upset with him, then he can roll with it.

And what does he say when the feedback he gets is that he’s doing too much shameless self-promotion? “UFM.” What does that mean? “Unfollow me.” Noting Twitter’s opt-in nature, Guy dubbed “Twitter spam” as an “oxymoron.”

The New Book

Guy’s new book, “Reality Check” is, in his words, a “Chicago Manual of Style” model that aggregates his prior works – other books, blogs, presentations, etc. – into a reference broken down by topic. His vision is not that someone will “take it to the beach one weekend and read it cover to cover,” but that as need for advice on a specific business issue arises, his book can serve as a quick guide to someone flailing in unfamiliar waters.

He quickly admits that there is not a lot of new material in the book, but that it’s a much more concise reference than lugging around several years worth of blog posts, printed up and stuffed in a three-ring binder.

Being a VC in a Recession

Kawasaki Quote: Funding Stupid IdeasWhen asked by a member of the audience if recently laid-off professionals who’ve been wanting to start their own business should use their current unemployment to do that, or if they should focus on finding a new job first, both Chris and Guy were in agreement: find a job first.

Chris, who will be on a panel at SXSW this weekend on called “Dad is the New Mom,” was emphatic about having a steady source of income before trying to build something from scratch.

And, while not as emphatic as Chris, Guy agreed: unless you are “a trustfund baby,” a person with other responsibilities (especially a family) is usually better off focusing on re-establishing a source of income capable of meeting daily obligations, and building a new business after hours. He also suggests that is a better sales pitch for getting your project funded once it’s on its feet.

As a VC, Guy’s advice in this area is very direct: build a product, develop a user-base, show value/demand, and THEN go to a VC for funding. Coming to a VC with just an idea is a much harder case to make, and one that the current economic conditions will not support. Guy eagerly champion’s a strong sense of entrepreneurship, but he recommends a healthy dose of pragmatism, particularly in a market where even the VCs are tightening their purse strings.

After all, he noted, his VC firm isn’t called “Garage Technology Ventures” for nothing.

Cross-posted on Social Computing Magazine.