After returning from a great trip to Austin for the South By South West Interactive festival, I was just getting settled into work when I got the news. My company has been hit hard by the current economy and I thought I was going to be immune from the rounds of layoffs we had experienced…I was wrong. But getting laid off couldn’t have come at a better time. I came close to thanking them for doing this to me. Close. Let’s back up a bit and I will explain why I took this so well.
In the past few months I had been starting two projects outside of work. One is a site that deals with affiliate marketing. I won’t say more about it, except to say that I am working with a former colleague of mine; Jamie Birch of JEBCommerce. The other one I am much more exited about (sorry Jamie).
The second project I had been working on started out as an idea I had to try to visit all the people I follow on Twitter. I decided to expand on the idea and travel around the U.S. and interview people and companies that are using Twitter in interesting and fun ways. I will also talk with people who have huge followings as well as those who have never heard of and/or used Twitter. Of course, I will tweet all throughout this journey. To help with my travels I will need a co-pilot. I’m still trying to figure out who will be the lucky person for that job. I also intend to partner with companies who are already using Twitter as well as companies who aren’t yet on Twitter who I can convince to make the leap. Partners will be chosen that can assist with the logistical challenges of the project; transportation, lodging, food, you get the picture. In exchange for their support I will tweet my experiences using their products/services on my travels. I intend on being totally honest about what I think of their brand; if I stay in one of their motels and it is filthy I will say so. This is what Twitter is all about, right? The name of this project is Twitter Road Trip. The Twitter account for this is twitter.com/
troadtriproute140 (roadtrip was already taken, although I may still be able to talk the owner into giving it up).
If I was still employed right now I would have attempted to talk my company into “sponsoring” my project in exchange for using it as a case study in social media. Also I would have used the trip as a vehicle (sorry) for increasing my company’s visibility in the social media space. My fear was that they would exert total ownership and control of the project and shut me out. Now I don’t have to worry about that.
Originally I had asked my employer if they would send me to SXSW. They didn’t see things my way and I am SO glad they didn’t. I decided to go anyway; taking time off from work and paying my own way. Because of this I was able to focus my efforts at SXSW on building connections and interest in Twitter Road Trip.
I could tell that this trip was going to be beneficial when I ran into Steve Woolf and Zadi Diaz of EpicFu fame while waiting for my connecting flight in Denver. I talked with them about my project and they seemed genuinely interested. I plan on getting back to them to see what we can make happen.
In Austin everyone I mentioned my project to had positive reactions. This is a tough crowd to pitch to; if they like it you know you have a good idea. I ran into a lot of people from Revision3, home to some of the most popular online shows; Diggnation, Tekzilla and The Totally Rad Show to name a few. Each one of them was very interested in my project, especially Glenn McElhose, AKA Hippy Glenn (This guy is about as sincere as they get). I even was fortunate enough to speak with Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3. If I play my cards right this project could have a very prominent home online.
Things are looking really good right now. I have a lot of follow-ups to do this week. I may also have some freelance development work to tide me over until my projects really get going. If only I had gotten laid off BEFORE I went to SXSW.