FollowBlast Allows Twitter Users to Connect Based on #Hashtags

It was the greatest thing at Blog Indiana 2010: someone on the stage mentioned BlastFollow.com as a way to follow a lot of people who were all using a specific hashtag, like, say #BIN2010. Everyone in the room immediately went to BlastFollow on their laptop and started using it.

Unfortunately, BlastFollow went away after Twitter upgraded their system, not allowing non-OAuth access to the API, blocking 3rd party apps that let you mass follow and unfollow people, and insert other geek mumbo-jumbo here; I can’t recall everything. TweepML.org was a suitable replacement for a while, until they shut down in October the site to make some repairs, promising to get the system back up two weeks later. It’s early April, and they’re still not back up.

FollowBlast.com is the new hashtag find-and-follow tool from my friends Noah Coffey (@NoahWesley) and Chuck Gose (@ChuckGose), and is something they just completed earlier this week.

I had a chance to check FollowBlast out right after the Indianapolis Social Media Brekafast, using the hashtag #indysm.

FollowBlast.com lets you find and follow other Twitter users based on their #hashtags.

FollowBlast.com lets you find and follow other Twitter users based on their #hashtags.

The way FollowBlast works is that it pulls up the 50 most recent tweets that used that particular hashtag, and it lets you follow those people, either selecting them one at a time, or allowing you to mass follow those 50 people. (That’s how they get around the limits Twitter has placed on mass following/unfollowing.)

While the product is still very new, and has a few bugs to work out, it’s a great tool, especially if you go to a conference or event you’re not familiar with. It’s ideal for people who have newly joined Twitter and have an interest in a particular idea or event.

My one word of caution to FollowBlast users is that you do not use the Follow All link until you have checked out the results first. The first time I did it, I unintentionally followed someone I did not want to and had to go back and unfollow them.

The tool is supposed to filter out people you’re already following, but that wasn’t the case for my results, as most of them ended up being people I was already following. However, knowing Noah and Chuck, I’m sure that will be fixed soon.

FollowBlast has a promising future as a very useful tool for special event and conference attendees. It’s filling a very big hole that BlastFollow and TweepML have left, and as FollowBlast grows and improves, it’s going to become indispensable.

Success Isn’t Showing Up, It’s Sticking Around

“80% of success is just showing up.”

I’ve been thinking about Woody Allen’s quote for the last few hours, after a rousing night at the relaunch of Social Media Club Indy. We heard Jason Falls speak, and I got a chance to hang out with him and a few other people at Yats Cajun Creole restaurant afterward.

Jason Falls in Indianapolis

Jason Falls models his new t-shirt. That’s me behind him.

I think Woody only got it half right. You can show up all you want, but if you don’t stick around, you’re missing out.

It was a lot of fun to just sit and talk about connections, past relationships, families, search engine optimization secrets, and food. I learned where the New York and Boston accent comes from. I learned a secret about Twitter lists. And I got a nice big plate of chili cheese etouffee with crawfish thanks to Duncan Alney and Joe Vuskovich (owner of Yats).

I’ve been writing and talking about the importance of face-to-face networking as a part of personal branding a lot lately. And last night, I realized that success isn’t just showing up, it’s sticking around.

It’s sticking around for dinner or drinks after the main event. Not to pick someone’s brain, but to share ideas, talk about family, tell stories, and learn more about each other. (Keith Ferrazzi talks about this a lot in Never Eat Alone (affiliate link). It’s my new networking bible.)

If I want to build solid relationships with people I trust and who trust me, I need to spend time with them after special events, not during.

If I want to build solid relationships, I can’t do it in a crowded room with people who only have a few minutes to talk.

If I want to be a valuable resource, I can’t shout advice over a loud crowd and louder music.

I need to hang out with people in a quiet place. The best place to do it is when everyone is happy, excited, and talkative. The best time to do it is after the big event that got people talking excitedly.

Unfortunately for those who didn’t stick around, they missed out on this opportunity. By not sticking around, they missed the chance for deepening relationships that lead to bigger success.

Now, I completely understand why people had to go. They have families to see and take care of. They have work that needs to get done. They have personal lives that mean they can’t stay out until 10:30. I don’t blame them, because 9 times out of 10, I do too. I don’t stick around because I haven’t seen my family since the night before, or I’ve got a client deadline the next day. I couldn’t even stick past 10:30 for drinks, because I had to finish a presentation.

However, there are times that I get to do it, because my family understands my insatiable need to talk with people about things I’m passionate about. And those are the times that I see my personal brand and my relationships leap ahead. (Of course, my family couldn’t care less about whether I’m a big deal to other people. I’m a big deal to them, and that’s who gets most of my attention. So for those who had to leave, I totally support you.)

But if you can arrange it once or twice, stick around. Be the last one out the door, and talk to the event organizers who are sticking around to hang out with the Big Name From Out Of Town. Stick around, and join them for drinks or dinner. You’d be amazed at what will come your way as a result.

So success does come from showing up. Anyone who came and met someone new last night was successful (and will be moreso if they can follow up with some one-on-one networking). But the bigger success, for me, came from sticking around just a little while longer.

Photo credit: Andy Huston

Paid Consulting or Free Advice? A Moral Conundrum

A story.

Pablo Picasso is sitting in a restaurant, when a woman approaches him, gushes over him and his work, and asks him to sketch something on a piece of paper for her.

Picasso takes the paper, and does a quick-but-beautiful sketch. He hands it back to her and says, “that will be $10,000.”

The woman is taken aback. “But it only took you a few minutes to do that. Isn’t $10,000 a lot for just a few minutes work?”

“it may have taken me just a few minutes to draw, but it took me a lifetime to learn,” said Picasso.

I frequently think of Picasso whenever I’m asked to provide free advice and knowledge.

“Can we meet for coffee?” someone will ask me at a networking event. “I want to pick your brain about blogging.” Like my brain is on display, with a lot of other brains.

“Mmmmmmm—that one!”

I’m usually happy to share as much information as I can. I try to be friendly and willing to teach people, as an homage to the people who shared so much information with me when I was first starting out.

This bothers people. Most notably my business partner, Paul, my wife, and any professional consultants.

“You need to charge for your time. You’re giving away information. Information that’s taken you months and years to amass. Even if it takes you an hour to teach them, it took you years to learn it.”

Hamburger with fries. That's the extent of my paid consulting fees.

Will work for food. For now.

“Cool!” I think. “My time is worth money. I have years of knowledge and experience that people think is valuable.” And I feel really good, and I promise that, this time, I’ll embrace my inner consultant, and say I’m more than happy to teach them everything I know for a pre-determined hourly rate. Like Picasso did.

But then someone asks me again, and I’m afraid of looking like a money-grubbing a-hole, so I compromise.

“Tell you what. I’m supposed to charge $100 an hour for this kind of information,” I say, rolling my eyes as if to say “they” told me to ask for money. “But if you buy my lunch, I’ll be happy to tell you what I can.”

The other person readily agrees, we meet, and I share whatever I can to help them out. Of course, when I get back to the office or come home that night, I feel like Jack did after he told his mom he traded the cow for some magic beans.

I know I’m supposed to make money from my work. I’m a professional who is hired by companies to actually use my knowledge and skill to help them be successful. That is paid consulting. I’ve raised the bar (and my rates) even higher in the last year by co-writing two books and working on a third. (At the very least, I think, I should be getting dessert with lunch, but apparently that’s still not good enough and now I have to watch my cholesterol.)

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. Pablo Picasso scribbled on a piece of paper between courses, and charged a woman $10,000 for something that took him decades to master. I’m sharing many years of blogging and writing wisdom in 60 minutes, and I should be able to look someone in the eye and ask for $100 an hour without stammering out an apology.

I’ve talked with other friends who face the same conundrum. Some are happy to charge, while some are not. I don’t know who to believe. Even the experts aren’t sure.

On one hand, Seth Godin says if I want to be a Linchpin (affiliate link), I need to participate in the Gift Economy, and give this stuff away for free, because then I’m valuable to a lot of other people, and the benefits (and money) will shower upon me. Chris Anderson says that if I give knowledge away for Free (affiliate link), I’ll show my value to others, and the benefits and money will shower upon me some more.

On the other hand, there are hundreds and thousands of professional consultants who make their living getting paid to share their knowledge and experience, which took years to amass. Why should they get paid obscene amounts of money to share their knowledge, when I’m settling for a damn hamburger? (To be fair, it’s a really good hamburger, and I order bacon on it, which usually costs extra. Because I’m worth it.)

What should I do? Should I embrace my inner capitalist and charge people to give them my knowledge? Or should I continue to believe in puppy dogs and rainbows, and share my knowledge for the good of mankind and the benefit of the planet? What would you do? Leave a comment and let me know. I’ll discuss the answers in a future post.

Not Every Social Media Consultant Knows What They’re Doing

I was tweeting with my friend and fellow social media consultant, Dana Nelson, a couple nights ago about a business presentation she was sitting in, when she quoted this piece of advice from the presenter.

“Posting your business on other business sites is lame – tagging business/ cross marketing does not work.”

Wait, what? Who said that, the business professor from Back to School?

Cross-posting doesn’t work? Creating visible partnerships is lame? Creating a referral network is ineffectual?

Look, there are a lot, a lot, a loooooooot of social media consultants out there. And they don’t all know what they’re talking about. It worries me that these people are spreading poor information out there. It’s like a volunteer sheriff’s deputy telling people you can’t be arrested for drunk driving if you’re wearing your seat belt. (Caution: You can be arrested for drunk driving, even if you are wearing your seat belt.)

And this 16-word piece of misinformation is a doozy, and so wrong in so many ways.

  • It’s a widely accepted fact in search engine optimization circles that promoting a business site on another site is going to give me some big search engine juice. Anyone who understands basic SEO knows that backlinks are what give your site a high search engine ranking.
  • Coke and McDonald’s would disagree with your views on cross-marketing. As would Pizza Hut and Pepsi. Or any movie studio with Happy Meal Toys and Burger King Kids’ Meal Toys. Or BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon. And any sponsors of any NASCAR or Indy Car racing team.
  • People buy from people they like, and accept recommendations from people they trust. If Dana recommends a good restaurant to visit, I’m going to believe her. Why? Because I like her and trust her. It’s the same with businesses. If a business I trust recommends the services of another business, I’m going to believe them. The smart thing for small businesses to do is to team up with allied businesses.
  • There are more business networking experts than there are social media experts (as hard as that is to believe). Nearly all of them will shout the praises of networking, referral sharing, and cross-promoting. And I’ll believe business networking experts who measure their experience in years and decades, not weeks and months.

This is just one of many reasons why you need to screen your so-called social media “expert” before you hire them. Especially if they blather on with inane bits of advice like this.