It’s difficult to know where to start talking about social media. The concept is shiny, the tools are ever-changing, and the success stories are still young and shadowed by the doubts of new users. So perhaps it is a little odd that I choose to begin talk about social media by talking about the “dangerous” part of social media: social media in real life (IRL).
There are those of us who have been taught to fear the web. For many of us who made it online in the early days of AOL, Netscape and chatrooms, we knew to be wary of people online and to question who, where and what they said they were. The idea of meeting an online buddy in the real world? Dangerously stupid.
These days, we’re all online. Ok, obviously not everyone, but an awful lot of us, and our grandmas, too. I bet most of us would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of our close friends and family who aren’t yet represented on Facebook, Twitter, or some iteration of Google. Most of us have avatars and descriptive screen names that identify our hobbies or hometowns and we’re proud to share these facts. The only people lying about who they are online these days are the ones with dating profiles. As for meeting IRL? Today the Internet has become the place to meet new people and increasingly, social media tools are making meetings happen… and suggesting some great spots for those meetings to take place.
Anyone who is using social media without investigating the local component is missing a huge piece of what this technology has to offer. Location-based tools like Foursquare have clearly shown that social media provides value in the way we get to know our communities and companies like Groupon and Living Social are getting us deals on our local adventures. Twitter is no different – there are many local groups who have routine “tweet-ups” to facilitate connections in the community. Whether you’re new to town or just want to learn a little more about the area, staying connected with these groups is a great way to make new friends and expand your networks.
I’m going to profile two of those groups today: the Triangle Social Media Club (@SMCTriangle) and the newly-created NC Girls Pint Out (@NCGirlsPintOut).
If you’re reading about social media, chances are you’re interested in hearing and talking more about it and if so, you need to know about the Triangle Social Media Club. Started way back in 2007, when “Web 2.0” still meant something, the club aims to get folks together to chat about all forms of social media. And make no mistake, you’re chatting with the people who know and use social media. The club meets somewhat irregularly but you can track them them with Facebook or of course, Twitter. Feel free to show up and meet the group at their the next location (they float around the Triangle area) for their next topic (I believe food trucks are on the agenda).
The NC Girls Pint Out group is new to the area but serves as a great example of why social media tools are so perfect for effective networking. Girls Pint Out is a national program that only recently made it to North Carolina. I discovered it through generous retweeting by some of the folks I follow who also have an interest in beer. The first meet-up of this group was an unqualified success, bringing together ladies from the Triangle and beyond for our first introductions and a chance to hang out and give thanks for good beer. Plans are in the works for future meetings, hopefully monthly, plus additional celebrations of major beer events in the area, such as Raleigh Beer Week in September.
So if you’re a social media fan who hasn’t yet wandered away from their keyboard, give your monitor a break and get out there. Put a face to that screen name and see what else you have in common beyond your incalculably valuable ability to squeeze meaning into 140 characters. Sure, you should be safe about it; please don’t meet anyone in some downtown Raleigh alley (do we even have alleys in downtown Raleigh?). But don’t ever let your concerns stop you from the tangible experiences that social media can provide. Have fun!