Tuesday, November 20th, 2012...8:06 am

My and ContentMango’s Adventures at SVC2Baltics

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Those who know me in person have probably heard me mention that since speaking at SEMDays in Romania earlier this year, I’ve been toying with an idea of doing something similar in Lithuania for the local SEO community . Well, I’ve finally got a great chance to do it at the Silicon Valley Comes to the Baltics, an event for the Baltic startup and tech community.

Within this event, I did an introductory SEO session for students and a few business owners interested in figuring out this whole SEO thing (slide deck here) – I believe everyone in our industry should do one like that every once in a while, it helps you connect with the real world and explain what you do to the outside people. Sort of a reality check and a good exercise.

Another thing I did was run a workshop for 20+ Lithuanian SEO professionals. This is still a young community with hardly anyone in the industry longer than 3-4 years, but I have seen their willingness to learn and we had a great session and covered a lot of burning issues worrying SEOs worldwide, like the latest Google updates, the ways SERPs are changing, international SEO, best tools for all kinds of tasks etc. I am really happy to have met you all guys and hope we’ll get to do this once again some time.

In the meantime, the organisers have surprised me by offering to showcase ContentMango as part of the startup pitches session. That was really cool as I got to speak in front of about 1,500 people and I tried to fit the format of my pitch to the rest of the session: here is the problem, here is the challenge, the solutions that exist now and why they are not very good, what we came up with and why it will be a win for everyone  concerned, how we got an investor because they faced the same problem. Here is my tiny deck of slides that was done literally in five minutes on my iPad Рbut the whole pitch had to fit into 5 minutes as well.At the top of Vilnius TV tower

Among the highlights of the event were the opening speech by the Lithuanian Prime Minister (and all the speakers got to get a photo session with him :-) ), many wonderful speakers such as Gigi Wang the mom of startup events, Diane Bisgeier from Mozilla, Bowei Gai, Samuel Pavin from IBM, funny as hell Tim West the Silicon Valley chef, Jonathan Nelson, Stefano Cutello of PastBook, Nicholas Sadron who did an incredible trick with the 4 eggs and 4 glasses and many others, lots of great startups talking about their ideas, a reception at the city council at the end of day 1, going to great places for dinner with other speakers, making friends with some wonderful people…

But the organisers surprised me once more at the end of day 2 when they asked me to be one of the mentors at the Startup Weekend the next day on to of Vilnius TV tower! This alone was worth going to Vilnius – this is the most brain intensive thing I’ve done in a long while. There were the best startup teams selected on the previous days working on their startup ideas, and the mentors had to give them different tips/consult them. We got 10 minutes per team, and to me this basically meant I had 10 minutes per team to understand what it is they do, figure out the need for online marketing there and work out a mini online marketing strategy for them. My result: 7 teams, 70 minutes, 7 online marketing strategies! My brain was smoking afterwards but it was a very cool experience.

Some notes on the striking difference between a typical SEO conference and a non-SEO conference like this one:

  • Social media, while making its way into non-SEO industries, is not quite as popular as what we’re used to seeing. At SEO conferences, the hashtag is trending in the first 30 minutes or so – here, I tweeted like 5 times and people already were telling me “oh, I’ve seen you tweeting about the event – you tweet a lot!”
  • This is a logical result of the first observation but people are less concerned about their social accounts and how many people will follow or friend them. I think I was the only person with my Twitter account mentioned on my slides.
  • There has been some discussion in the SEO industry recently if then talks at conferences should be in the TED format or not – while at non-SEO conferences a bigger % of talks seems to be TED-styled, it seems more logical (at least to me as an outsider).
  • At SEO conferences, regardless of the facts that often we all know each other for ages and many of us are friends even outside of the professional realm, you cannot get rid of the feeling that you are surrounded by competitors, hence you end up kinda self-censoring what you say/share (at least until you’ve had a few drinks ;-) ) – it feels totally different at a non-SEO conference like SVC2Baltics. Even the presenters speak about the openness in the startup community (would have made @madeale completely happy). There are reasons of course – to us, SEO is THE business model, to startup people, their business model is not being a startup but whatever it is they actually do, but it still does feel great.

Overall, it’s been a very enlightening experience to me. I never expected to see even half of what I have seen, and surely never expected it all to be so intensive and me being as involved into it as I ended up, coming over only to do two SEO sessions but finding myself doing so much more. I’ll make it a point now to attend non-SEO events every once in a while.

2 Comments

  • Thanks for the recap!

    I’ve been once to Vilnius, and I really enjoy that city. And I strongly believe that Baltics are really interesting countries because they have an open mind approach that now is taken for granted in the rest of European countries.

    The fact they are independent since few time brings a lot of new opportunities, and I’m sure the attitudes there is something worth seeing and living.

  • Glad to read that (besides the flight…!) it’s been a great experience. I hope to attend (soon) a conference you’ll be speaking at ;)
    G.