Exactly one year ago this week, I wrote a blog post called, “I Want My Golden Ticket at SXSW.”
I was on the cusp of attending the conference for the first time, and had many glorious dreams of what the experience would hold in store for me.
As I explained in the post, as a born and bred “Charlie Bucket” (a la “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”), I had been struggling for months to find my voice in rooms full of “Veruca Salts” – people who might have had less ethics, talent or dedication than I, but still tended to get all the attention…simply because they demanded it.
So did I get my “Golden Ticket” at the 2009 SXSWi conference?
When I got to Austin, the joint was fairly crawling with Veruca “Twitterlebrities,” basking in the glow of real-time groupie love.
Me? I wandered around in a daze, making connections with people who were often too drunk to remember my name the next day and forming deeper bonds with the people I already knew.
Oh sure, I learned a lot. (To be honest, I could sit in a closet for an hour and still come out with an insight or two.) While not bowled over by the sessions I attended, I learned from the people I observed, the conversations I participated in and the ideas I chewed on in my free time.
A new year…a new bar of chocolate.
So now it’s one year later, and I’m looking back at that blog post with some nostalgia.
I’ve spent the past year learning, training, presenting, teaching, consulting and reading, but none of that has changed my inherent Charlie Bucket-ness.
And instead of finding myself on more equal ground with the Verucas, I’ve actually been overwhelmed by new hordes of them.
In the past year, my market has been flooded with unemployed marketing and communications professionals launching new careers in social media. (My personal favorites are the ones who come to my training camps and then add “social media expert” to their LinkedIn profiles the next day.)
The marketing tool of choice for the “social media Verucas” is also the bullhorn they use to market themselves, transforming some of the social tools I love dearly into echo chambers of posturing and promotion.
In short, the social space has become crowded, brutish, competitive and often just plain nasty.
But like Charlie, I’ve chosen to stick it out, cause really…what else am I going to do?
I was in marketing and communications for more than a decade before I had social tools to work with. And I’ll be here another decade after today’s newly self-anointed “social gurus” have moved on to “the next big thing.”
Cheer up Charlie. Just be glad you’re you.
So where does this leave me as I’m packing my bags to head down this week to “Geek Mecca?”
Well, I’ve been waiting patiently for over a year for the “social media Verucas” to fall down the “bad egg” chute, but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.
So like Charlie, I plan to just keep chugging forward anyway, simply because I’m doing something that I love, I love the people I’m doing it with and I believe that life’s too short to toss away a gift like that.
Maybe I’m just naive, but I truly believe that hard work, innovation and honesty are the true “Golden Tickets” for success. I just need to keep my eye on the prize and my focus on the future…
If I can just outlast these other kids, I’m going to own this stinkin’ chocolate factory.