Social media is facilitated by computers, the internet, and applications that allow us to create, publish, share and engage others in a manner never possible in the past. It is a phenomenon that has had an impact around the world unrivalled since the introduction of television. It has become so ubiquitous that it’s a rare TV commercial or show that doesn’t have some mention of Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter, and it has changed the way we think about relationships, both personal and business.
Because of social networks, we connect and follow the lives of larger numbers of individuals than would have been possible previously. Through Flickr, Picasa and other photo sharing sites we can share photos with people in an immediate and compelling manner. Podcasting and video sharing sites also help us share the minutia of our lives and our family’s experiences, as does blogging. Through social bookmarking, lifestreaming and RSS readers we share our news, opinions, and educational activities. And yet we still don’t reach our potential if we get caught in the maze of computer applications and limit our interaction to the computer.
While we create real and important relationships online, they really grow when we get away from the computer and actually get to meet in the physical world. Think about the prepared meals available in many gourmet-style supermarkets around the country. These meals are thoughtfully cooked and ready to take home to eat, but reach their greatest potential when you take them out of the package, heat them up just prior to eating, and serve them in a manner that creates a pleasant presentation. Social Media benefits from face to face interaction in much the same manner when relationships go to a new level face to face meeting. Even after that initial event the social media interactions have a new depth and meaning.
In business relationships face to face interaction is one of the more important goals of social media activity. After all, people may not need to meet with you to actually use your goods or services, but as you are building your relationships with people in your communities, face to face interactions will accelerate the process. The best blog post in the world doesn’t trump a warm smile or a welcoming grin.
The most common interface moving people from the virtual to the physical worlds is the ‘tweet-up”. This social event, born of the social media space is just what is sounds like. A physical meeting of people that have met on Twitter. Tweet-ups are casual, fun, inexpensive (everyone buys their own drinks & food) and easy to organize – just tweeting out a time and place to meet up with a group of friends on Twitter. Some of these have become more formalized like the #EVFN (East Valley Friday Nights) meetings in Phoenix, home to an active social media community. The interesting thing about this event is that Twitter is the social object bringing these people together, but the conversation, once they arrive, is not focused on Twitter.
The Social Media Club , an organization started in San Francisco by Kristie Wells and Chris Huer is a also place to interact with people interested in social media and social media marketing. Chapters have formed in various cities across the country and meet regularly to discuss social media issues and ideas. These monthly meetings are a great opportunity to interact with people who are in the space as professionals , as well as businesses and charities that are seeking information. All of these people have a great deal of insight to share.
Meetup.com is an online rallying point for hundreds of different communities that use this space to organize their meetings and solicit people with similar interests. Possibly the least interactive of the online spaces, it is a great way to meet people with similar interests, or groups that you want to interact with. You can either be an organizer or a participant, but once again, the virtual world is the place where the physical meeting is organized.
In any case, if you want to increase the range and depth of your social media efforts, be ready to bust out and actually meet some people – it can be pretty rewarding.