All boats float to the top. If you work with me on a project, you will hear me say this, or a variation of it, at least once. It’s my way of illustrating that a group effort often goes farther than an individual’s efforts can to get something done, and that working together well carries everyone to success.
Lately I’ve been thinking of this in terms of meetings, meet ups, and groups. Somehow, somewhen, folks got the notion that starting a group or hosting a tweetup* was a great way to increase awareness of a brand or person. This dramatic increase in self promotion changed the dynamic of those groups and meetups and such dramatically.
One thing I hear often about Social Media Breakfast NH is how much people like the atmosphere. Half the time, people in attendance don’t even figure out right away that I started the group up here – they come in and get coffee, breakfast and knowledge on new topics, followed by discussion, and they like that there is no sales pitch from any speaker. That’s very purposeful. As anyone who has helped me plan SMBNH or sponsored it before can tell you, I am militant about not marketing to the attendees. Yes, you’ll get passive marketing, marketing by association, you’ll see small logos here and there, but no one gets to grab the mic and sell their brand or wares to a captive audience – the focus is on the learning experience.
That’s one example of how not making events branded or promotional can work well, to be sure, but keep in mind that I’ve been doing this a while and I’ve had a lot more time than most to make the organic, solid connections that make that kind of event possible. The problem of having events that are more about the branding than the connections is a bit more recent – growing more prevalent within the last two years. It goes hand in hand with the other issue that seems to be occurring: creating a new group instead of partnering with an existing one.
I’d love it if folks took a minute before planning their next event or tweetup or launching a new group to look around and see if there is already a group in existence or a tweetup planned that they could help with, become a part of or enhance. Not only will this strengthen your community ties and help grow your own organic network over time, it will strengthen the audience for everyone. By not asking people to divide their attention like so many shards of glass, you will start to see a more dynamic group forming around the cohesive whole created when folks don’t have to pick and choose, but feel welcomed into a group that is willing to expand and adapt to include new ideas and people.
* tweetups were originally informal and unplanned meetings of folks you knew on Twitter based around a spontaneous location, but now people use Foursquare to reclaim that user driven functionality