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LAist Interview: Tech Marketing Guru Chris Winfield

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Talking tech with Chris Winfield of BlueGlass. (Photo courtesy of Michael Dorausch.)
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For two days last week, Internet marketing experts, SEO specialists and tech nerds from around the world huddled in a darkened conference room at the Standard Hotel Downtown for the BlueGlass LA conference to listen to presentations and panel discussions on the best ways to cut through the online clutter and reach the right audiences.

BlueGlass, a Tampa, FL-based online marketing firm, basically invited their competition to share information, network and learn from each other. In an industry where the bigger players like Apple, Facebook and Google usually keep mum about their next steps, attendees gave away lots of information and insider tips in the open learning environment.

Brian Clark (aka ‘Copyblogger’) and Chris Brogan (best-selling author of Trust Agents) discussed ways to build audiences; social marketing guru Marty Weintraub gave a "spirited" presentation on ways to outsmart Google and collect good data in the age of disappearing keywords; Peter Shankman (founder of Help a Reporter Out) and Sonia Simone of Copyblogger discussed the changing nature of PR and how people aren't using social media to actually listen to what their audiences are saying.

After the dust settled from the conference, we got a chance to interview the man behind the meetup—Chris Winfield, BlueGlass co-founder, and ask him a few questions about LA's tech scene, web trends, how to keep up with your online life and real life, and favorite Internet memes.

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LAist: This is the second time you've put on a conference in LA. (Last time was in 2010.) Has the local tech scene grown/changed/evolved since you were here last?

Chris Winfield: Yes! It’s pretty amazing to see all of the growth and how it has matured. I don’t even think the ‘Silicon Beach’ debate was happening when we were first here in 2010 :)

Four of the speakers that we had at the conference are people who I have really looked at as having helped advance the local tech scene Mark Suster (GRP Partners), Jason Nazar (Docstoc) and Tony Adam (Eventup) so it was important for me to have them at our event even though they aren’t technically in the Internet marketing world.

The fourth is a local chiropractor named Michael Dorausch who happens to be an Internet marketing genius and has done so much to grow the LA Internet marketing scene on a grassroots level.

LAist: So why put together a conference like BlueGlass LA when you can go and just network at others? What's the draw for you and your team?

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CW: We can do everything the way we want it done. Collectively, our team has attended almost every industry conference throughout the years. We saw the shortcomings in both large and small events, and we wanted to create something to fill those gaps.

As far as the draw for our team, we came back to our office with a list of things to implement. The conferences are a learning experience for us, too!

LAist: Why are you open to sharing as much knowledge with other companies—some competitors, too—when the big Internet companies like Facebook and Google usually keep things close to the vest?

CW: Our company was built on openness and community, which is a reflection of our industry. Much of the online marketing industry is propelled by peer education through blog posts, social media and conferences.

Just because you share a process or tactic doesn’t mean anyone will be able to copy its execution. That is something Facebook and Google shouldn’t be concerned about... no one will be able to recreate Facebook anytime soon or rather their audience....

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LAist: Did you hear/learn something from the conference sessions that really surprised you?

CW: I loved the focus on conversions. Hiten Shah and Jason Nazar shared a lot about driving people to take action on your site that made me sit up and listen.

It’s amazing I even absorbed anything since I was trying to make sure it was all running smoothly at the same time!

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BlueGlass LA conference attendees last week at the Standard Downtown.

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LAist: We're connected 24-7 these days. Any tips on how you keep up with email/social media/online lives and still have a real life? CW: I think this is a constant battle for most people these days and definitely not something I’ve perfected but I do have a few tips...

Schedule “no screen” time where you don’t check your phone or email for stretches of time (yes, this may require physically hiding your devices from yourself at first!). This can be as short as an hour a day or for an entire day, like on a Sunday.

Using social scheduling tools helps a lot, too. We really like Buffer, which periodically sends out links on your social profiles throughout so you don’t have to manually update them all day long.

LAIst: What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to Web sites? Social media etiquette?

CW: It amazes me there are still sites that automatically play music. And just as bad are the major news/sports sites that automatically play video. It drives me nuts.

When brands ignore their followers, people who only tweet about themselves or their company, etc. If you’re not contributing something valuable or adding to a conversation, I don’t want to follow you.

LAist: Which do you think has more staying power right now and why? Google+ or Pinterest?

CW:I honestly have no clue. On the one hand you have Pinterest, which has such passionate users and seems to be growing so rapidly. When I hear my friends (that aren’t in my industry) talk about a social network a lot, that’s usually a really good sign (Twitter and Facebook would probably be the only other ones in recent history and much more with Facebook). I don’t hear (or see) those same friends talk about Google + (ever).

The only reason it’s a toss-up for me is because it’s Google. Normally that wouldn’t be enough (see Buzz, Knol, Wave, etc) but Google + is something they have put so much behind and is tied so closely to everything.

LAist: What's your favorite Internet meme right now?

CW: My all-time favorite is probably the Success Kid—he just always works.

Recently, "Mr Ridiculously Photogenic Guy" is a pretty great one.