News and notes about the South Florida social media and blogging scene, with a little tech thrown in for good measure. And maybe some other random events, too.
I know I haven't posted since Blogalicious, but as most of my followers know, I've been busy chasing pirates. Now that we're into February, here are some thoughts on the state of social media in South Florida. I'm probably going to piss off a lot of people by being honest, but hey, everybody knows I have a big mouth, not just a big ass.
OK HERE WE GO, TAKE A DEEP BREATH
I've been around the scene since the first pilot meeting of Social Media Club South Florida back in 2008. I have witnessed the community evolve and grow. I even wrote a column for Miami New Times about local media called Silicon Beach (just a reminder, in case you are new to Silicone Bitch). I personally know many of the folks who make it happen and I'm proud to be part of this community. Although I am not on the board of Social Media Club South Florida (I can't be if I'm going to write about it impartially), I support that group one hundred percent.
But here's the thing -- I think we've gone a bit astray from that original meeting in 2008. Some newcomers have piggybacked on those original efforts, which is fine -- new and fresh blood is good. The problem is that I've been noticing a trend away from the original message of Social Media Club: "if you get it, share it." And let me emphasize share while I bring up the corny phrase, sharing is caring.
You know what? It's true. Any one person or company who comes to me acting like they care when they don't, using social media to further their own agenda, will be labeled as a poser in my book.
Why? Because I'm not interested in the snake oil you're selling. I'm interested in the relationship you have with me and the relationships you can facilitate for me with other people. And if you can do that -- if you care about me -- I'm most likely to buy your snake oil or at least shake hands with you in mutual, professional respect.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not being naive here -- we all have an agenda of some kind. Just by being alive and breathing, we each are a "brand" ... but the big difference is in intention and the transparency of that intention.
I'm tired of events that are called tweetups when really they are just traditional networkers, office warming parties, fundraisers, commercial sponsorships, travel writer fam trips or whatever. Just call a spade a spade, and then use social media to promote it. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is posing as a social media event.
I'm tired of people who shake my hand and tell me how many Twitter followers they have. Honestly, I don't give a shit, and that puts you automatically in the category of Social Media Douchebag.
I could go on and on, but I'm going to leave it at that.
BUT MARIA YOU ARE ALWAYS PARTICIPATING
Not so, not so, grasshopper. I've shied away from many events recently. Why? Because they don't seem genuine to me.
Now, some of you are going to raise your hand and ask: "But what about Pizza Tweetups? What about Chevy Crawls?"
Folks, it is a fine line, I'll admit. But not so fine that you can't tell the difference between a charlatan and an honest enterprise.
Events like Pizza Tweetups and Chevy Crawls are great examples of how you can bring people together who are already connected in social media to discuss a common, shared social object. What makes these events successful is that they are never about pizza and never about Chevy. They are about sharing and connecting. This is VERY different than your traditional networker or party.
As more companies reach out to bloggers and social media types for exposure, they should really keep this in mind. It is never about your agenda or your product. It is about the person you are essentially "engaging" to communicate for you and more importantly, the individuals connecting with each other because of you.
WHO'S ROCKING IT
Do I remember each slice of pizza I had at any of @lapp's pizza tweetup? Hell no. Would I eat at some of those restaurants again? Maybe. But what defines loyalty for me is that I remember the interactions I had with other people at those pizza tweetups -- the community that was formed and solidified; memorable moments that had nothing to do with pie.
Here's another example of good social media strategy courtesy of Toby Srebnik, who designed events for Tilson PR and has now moved on to a new firm. Do I eat at Dunkin Donuts everyday? No. But thanks to Toby, I was able to bring my readers some interesting content that had nothing to do with donuts and so I have consumer goodwill toward that company.
For the Truly Nolen campaign, I had a blast hanging out with Twitter friends at Butterfly World. Where was pest control in all that? Just a faint glimmer in the horizon. And yet it was, by all accounts, a great corporate social media campaign.
What made my participation in the Ford Fiesta Movement so fun? Because it was never really about the car when I blogged about it. Brad and I wrestled alligators. We geocached through Dade County. We spoofed Scarface. We shared what we learned about Miami graffiti with our readers and got messy spray painting a wall with a hundred people. This and so much more ... the car was always an afterthought.
Remember Stormhoek Wine's highly successful blogger dinner campaign, led by genius cartoonist Gaping Void? Hell, it was never really about the god damn the wine. They didn't give a shit if you blogged, tweeted or facebooked about it or not. They just wanted you to enjoy some wine with your friends, no obligation.
RELATIONSHIPS DON'T EXIST IN A VACUUM
It doesn't hurt that Toby treats me like a person and not just another blogger he can pitch to. Ditto for Stephanie Camargo, aka blogger Midtown Chica, who is transparent about her work with Chevy. They have both taken the time to develop a real relationship with me. And as for @Lapp, I have broken bread with him and his family. Again, it's never about the pizza!
I also have to mention Steve Roitstein from the band PALO! -- a true expert at his own social media who humbly never claims to be. But why is he an expert? Because he gets it. He shares it. He cares. I met him on Twitter and the man made me chicken soup before I even became a fan of his band. Talk about organic. I would have loved his music anyway, but he had me at bouillon.
WEARING TWO HATS
I have even been on the flip side, getting hired to do social media outreach directed at other bloggers. Weird huh? But why not hire a blogger to talk to other bloggers, right? Who best knows what a blogger wants than a blogger herself?
In those campaigns, you know what makes me profoundly uncomfortable? When I can't pick up the phone and chat with that blogger like a friend I'm inviting to my birthday party. I can't stand to be a poser.
This is the bottom line: you cannot become a social media "pro" overnight; you can learn tools but that won't make you an expert. It requires practice, patience, commitment, loyalty, diplomacy, finesse as well as social and rhetorical skills -- all wrapped up in organic relationships with your audience. But most importantly, you need to be the real you.
As more people plan events and conferences, well, I encourage everyone to follow suit. Be totally transparent. Transparency, honesty of intention and centering around the social rather than the commercial agenda is what's going to last after the gold rush is over and the snake oil sellers have moved on.
If you preach, teach or do social media as a living, keep it real. Is that too much to ask?
SO ENOUGH BITCHING
What am I not tired of? The savvy people I've mentioned above (there are more, but sorry I can't get to everyone) as well as the wonderful group of people I've met who are genuine, many of whom are part of the Miami Rat Pack, for example, which has the potential to do some good in this city and already has.
And I love that someone like Liza Walton can have a casual conversation about croquetas and create a whole, socially driven event around a simple fritter.
There's a lot of good stuff out there around us ... but we need to remember how this all got started. Again, keep it real.
And so without further ado, here are some events to keep on your radar for the coming weeks:
- Miami's own Startup Forum is hosting Are You Serious? on February 10. This inaugural Miami event is based on Hatchery events elsewhere, described as "a fast-paced, live pitch-event for startups and entrepreneurs that provides public, live feedback from experts." Only 5 startups can present to 4 judges. This should be hot. Even Paris Hilton would think so, trust me.
- That sexy Russian geek from Long Island, Craig Agranoff, and his business partner Herb Tabin, are broadcasting on the boob tube in West Palm Beach with a TV segment called the ProTECHtors on CBS 12. Visit Agustina Prigoshin to see a video interview.
- No woman in South Florida should miss the 2nd Annual Health, Wealth and Entrepreneurship Conference at Ana G. Mendez University System in Miramar on March 10. I went last year and can't wait to go again. Expect a day of inspiration listening to the stories of entrepreneurial women from all walks of life. This is not a hokey, stroke-your-ego kind of conference. It's real women talking about real issues. No BravoTV housewives here!
- I know I'm a Blogger chic, but if you're thinking about using Wordpress for blogging, self-publishing or running a business website I highly recommend Wordcamp Workshop with Refresh Miami on February 19 as well as Wordcamp 2011 on March 5.
- Oh, just for fun, yours truly is hosting an Old Skool Tweetup at Lady Marmalade on February 19 in South Miami.
- Some of you have been inquiring, so here you go: plans for SxSe 2011 are in the works for sometime in the summer ... stay tuned. We are deciding on a location in Florida possibly away from Dade or Broward, but we will definitely do some kind of tweetup in Miami at some point.
And finally, though not an event, I thought you might like to know about ALike Places which was revealed at Refresh Miami last month. It's a beta web and mobile application, designed by a group of Miami geeks, that finds restaurants, bars, lounges and other places based on things you already like. Though not curated by human editors yet, it's definitely an interesting application. Check it out.