The Underestimated Power of Serendipity in Personal Branding and Marketing

The Underestimated Power of Serendipity in Personal Branding and Marketing

24th April 2017

Gianluca Fiorelli is the organiser of the successful new conference The Inbounder. Within only a few years, he has been able to build up an event that attracts great speakers and attendees. In this post, Gianluca explains how that success happens and what you can take away from that for your own (personal) branding and marketing.

Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know
The one to finally lift you off the ground
Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go
If you’re the someone ready to be found

(Someone In The Crowd – La La Land)

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an ever-growing presence of virtual conferences.

Some of them, for instance, Digital Olympus, are really good.
Some others are just a long sequence of webinars.
Both, though, lack of a fundamental component that makes attending a conference something worthwhile: face-to-face networking.

I know what you are thinking:

Gianluca, you organize The Inbounder conferences, that’s why you are telling us this.

You are right!

However, let me offer you a personal example of the influence of serendipity (and after I will also tell you how to make the most of serendipitous events).

2010, or when for the first time, I decided to attend an SEO conference in the U.K.

In 2010 I was the classic average SEO.
I had clients offering me the opportunity to live a decent life, some personal projects to add to my wages and I was quite active in blogs and social media.

Until then, though, I never went to any conferences, both because of the economic cost and because I am more of an introvert than an extrovert.

However, in 2010 I decided that I needed to go out of my comfort zone and attend at least a few conferences and meet with other SEOs.

For that reason, I attended the ProSEO Training in London, now known as SearchLove.

The night before the conference, I was alone dining in a restaurant when I started hearing people talking loud and laughing. They were Rand Fishkin and the Moz team plus the other speakers at the event.

I moved to say hi and I ended up spending the evening with them.

At that dinner, I had the opportunity to meet in real life people like Will and Tom Critchlow, Richard Baxter, Jane Copland, Martin McDonald and Rand Fishkin, with whom I had previously only chatted and shared ideas virtually.

That was my first serendipity-moment.

2011, or when Rand Fishkin, Hannah Smith, Avinash, Geraldine DeRuiter and I all were in a hotel in the middle of nowhere.

A few months after the ProSEO Training, the organizers of an Italian conference asked me if I could put them in contact with Rand Fishkin. As a form of gratitude, they invited me to attend the conference for free.

That conference – the Be-Wizard – was held in a beautiful, but literally in the middle of nowhere, hotel.

That kind of situation naturally meant that Rand, Geraldine, Avinash, Hannah Smith, Marcus Tandler and I shared almost all the time together, and what was a knowledge turned into a real friendship.

2011, Mozcation Barcelona and my first attempt at conference organization

Since the very beginning of my “international” career as an SEO, I wanted to organize a conference.

In 2011, I had the first opportunity thanks to the Mozcation; a series of events that Moz was organizing around the world when it was still SEOMoz.

Moz asked me to invite another “local” expert to speak with me in Barcelona and, to be totally honest, I had no idea who to invite.

Then, I remembered I met a very smart SEO who was talking at a small SEO conference in Valencia, where I live, and so I asked her to join us speaking at MozCation: that young woman was Aleyda Solís.

I almost suspect that the Mozcation Barcelona was one of her first serendipity moments because a few months after Barcelona, Moz invited her to speak at MozCon.

2012, or when the first non-English speaking SEO was asked to be a Moz Associate

Sure, at that time I was a very active member of the Moz community, but I am quite sure that if I didn’t force myself to travel to London in 2010, and so starting all of the “casual” events I described before, I probably I would not have become a Moz Associate (or at least not so fast.)

Being an Associate, apart from the obvious duties that that role has attached, was indeed of big help for my own professional career, because very soon I started:

  1. Having leads from bigger and better clients from all over the world;
  2. Being invited to talk at more conferences;
  3. Writing as a blogger for this website, State of Digital (at that time State of Search).
  4. Having better clients which gave me the freedom of not needing to look at every penny when thinking about attending conferences around the world. This led me to meet even more people in the industry and improve my knowledge of SEO.

Talking at more conferences has helped to create my own personal brand and – again – meet some of the most interesting professionals in the Search Industry and obtain better leads.

Writing for State of Digital put me under the focus of the British SEO Community and – again – has meant getting to know more amazing people.

2015, when Rand came to visit me in Valencia and I invented The Inbounder

The Inbounder, the conference that I organize, is totally a consequence of serendipity.

Look at the people in the horribly designed banner above, which I used when promoting it in 2015. You can see people that I was only able to know from going to conferences, spending time with and becoming their friends in real life thanks to serendipitous moments.

Only because of those friendships could I organize a small international conference from scratch in just five weeks.

Moreover, serendipity meant that one of the attendees, Giorgio Ascolese of WAM – We Are Marketing, proposed to me that we make that small one-time-conference something bigger: as a result, The Inbounder Global Conference had been officially founded, run its first edition in Valencia last year and, finally in 2017 is going on tour visiting 4 cities around the world.

All of this would not have been possible without that decision I took to attend the ProSEO Training in London seven years ago.

Audentes Fortuna iuvat

“Fortune favors the bold”, says an ancient Latin proverb and boldness (Americans maybe would call it “hustle”) is the necessary ally of serendipity.

In fact, even if fate offers us opportunities, if we do not recognize them and do not take advantage of them, in other words, if we are not brave enough to take care of our serendipitous moments, then they will be just that: casual and curious unrelated facts happened in our life.

Gianluca, you are talking like those inspirational gurus you criticize so much.

Ah! I know, I know… but for once I think it is ok to sound like an inspirational keynote, because – like when you distinguish between a clickbait and a persuasive headline – my own story is a proof of what I am saying.

Many times, it is not the others, it is not Google, it is not Fate… it is us that are our own worst enemy.

If we block ourselves from the opportunities, if our fear of failure stops us, if we let life flow as it is without doing anything, then all the opportunities that fate presents us with every day will be lost.

It is fine to be content with what we have, it is fine to not desire being “visible” and it is fine to attend only virtual events or simply only virtually know people… it is not only fine: it is very much easier.

But if you want to grow, then it is not difficult to force yourself to escape a little from your comfort zone and, like I did in 2010, go to a conference and meet others like you for real, because “someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know”.

Should I stay or should I go? Go… but, please, when going do not let yourself walk in silence when the conference starts: be brave and speak out your presence.

What you can learn from my own experience (and at The Inbounder London)

One of the main reasons why I created The Inbounder was to offer the opportunity to professionals of every part of the world to know each other both on stage and in the audience, and so to offer everybody the same serendipitous opportunities to grow that I had and still build for myself. In this sense, I consider myself a connector-kind of person, because I love to make the right people meet each other.

Serendipity is a nice word and concept, but – as I learned during the years – it will remain just that if you do not create the premises to make it happen.

Recently a Twitter contact sent me a tweet by Antonio Delgado, an important Spanish data analyst, which says:

What you call luck are metrics and data that have not yet been measured

Conferences like the ProSEO Meeting for me, and The Inbounder London for you, can be your data point, which can change your life.

Learn to consider casual events as data and use them to build your own “customer personal journey”:

  1. Start collecting data,
  2. Analyze their metrics;
  3. Discard those serendipitous events that don’t lead you to anything interesting;
  4. Nurture and improve the ones that, instead, may have a meaning for your personal growth, even if it seems a very residual one.
  5. “Test” creating connections between serendipitous moments, as when you create a campaign using random affinities.

You could start collecting your data at the next The Inbounder conference, which will be in London on May 2nd.

The Inbounder London agenda surely is one of the best out of late (yes, I am biased, but I think I am right).

We will talk about some of the most important topics in SEO and Content, like

  • Web Page Optimization and PWA;
  • Machine Learning for SEO and forecasting;
  • Scalable Content Campaigns;
  • Mobile-First Indexing;
  • Social Media and Psychology;
  • Big Links Content Campaign;
  • Content Marketing for boring industries;
  • Podcasting as a marketing channel.

However, I think that the best of The Inbounder London is not only in the people like Jono Alderson, Hannah Smith, Tom Anthony, Kirsty Hulse, Kelvin Newman and the others speakers, who will share their expertise about SEO, Social Media and Content Campaigns, but also and especially in the audience, who will see people like Dawn Anderson, Himanshu Sharma, Paddy Moogan, David Bain, Daniel Bianchini, Ade Lewis, Jennifer Hoffman, James Perrott and many others.

Because a conference is as good as great is its audience. And, you could be one part of it.

State of Digital is Media Partner of The Inbounder, and it offers a 50% discount to the 200 Pounds full price ticket of The Inbounder London.


Written By
Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
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