A Social Exchange Redux: Counter Talk

A while back, I posted about my upcoming social/coffee project in preparation for a conference here on campus. Well, I've got some good news and some bad news. Bad: I didn't get picked as a speaker. 140cuse will have some tremendous names in social media presenting, but alas, Steve Rhinehart is not one of them. The good: My project, officially dubbed "Counter Talk," is really taking off! So I figured I'd come back and update with what I'm doing here, to sortof spread my influence around.

Basically, Counter Talk focuses on the "social exchange" philosophy I touched on before. I brew the coffee, you bring something else to the table. What I didn't realize at te time, though, was that I could use Counter Talk as a sounding board for some really cool people and ideas. While not every meeting will be quite so full of inspired conversation, it's turning out that a lot of folks I'm meeting with are quite driven to do cool things. And there really are a lot of things to take away from the whole idea. The first is that a cup of coffee is a great way to get people to meet with you. I can't help but wonder if that approach would have netted me a job after I earned my BFA, rather than the typical cold call/interview stuff. The second, though, is that being humble and human really helps to build an online presence. I don't flaunt my popularity (meager as it is), but rather thank people for promoting me, and help promote the folks I meet or interact with. This helps build trust in me as a person and a platform, and has done wonders to drive interest. I think being genuine online is extremely effective when you're a nobody, because if you have nothing to sell and nothing to gain, people really wonder what you're about. In my case, I want to spread my passion for coffee, get to know what other people are passionate about, and spread their ideas to a wider audience as well. And thankfully, people really seem to like the idea, I'm blown away with the positive responses I'm getting.

So, I've started the project, I'm meeting with people, and I'm keeping a tumblr to document what's going on. I've been able to have at least one meeting per week so far, but what's the future look like? Well, for one, I'm going to NYC for Coffee Fest in about two weeks, so I'm trying to do a sort of Traveling Counter Talk when I'm there. I'm currently working on a hang-out with somebody I'm very very excited about (keeping it hushed though, until it's actually confirmed). Beyond that, the staff at my school have been super great to me, allowing me to brew coffee at 140cuse in the Networking Lounge, where I'll be doing some "Speed Dating;" in the 4 minutes it takes to brew a cup of coffee for you, we get a shortform Counter Talk meeting. A free cup of coffee in exchange for your passions in brief? Sounds like a good idea to me! I'm also currently competing in something called 140Challenge, where five students who pitched ideas for 140cuse get the second chance to give their 10 minute talk. The winner is picked by a panel of judges, as well as students' votes on the YouTube videos of these talks, and gets a nice little consolation prize. They get sent to NYC in June to speak at 140conf! That's a hell of a second-chance! My submission was last week, and I just got a thoughtful write-up in the school newsroom.

If I get to NYC for 140conf, I'll have a ton more to talk about, I'm sure, as well as some key lessons in promotion and branding on the social web. It's a bit of a full-time job though, keeping these meetings going, blogging about them, as well as other Syracuse/coffee topics, all while balancing school, work, and a girlfriend. Lucky for her, I'm smart enough to remember our upcoming five year anniversary, and I'm taking a hiatus from Counter Talk just for that reason. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, Family First! 

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