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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Last night I attended my second meeting of the Phoenix branch of the Social Media Club. The first meeting was utterly useless and I gave the club three strikes before I was done with it entirely. After last night's meeting, I'm going to say that's it out. (I couldn't give it the second strike because it conflicted with a holiday party.)

I have a pretty high standard for organizations and meetings. If I'm not getting something out of them that I can't get elsewhere, then I'm not going to bother. I'm not into any sort of networking because it generally devolves into a sales pitch coupled with feigned interest in my life and work. I've got better things to do; even watching Law and Order reruns is a better use of my time than that sort of thing.

So last night's meeting was on some drivel called the New Media Release. It's supposed to be Press Release 2.0—boy am I glad they didn't think of that—with the ability to get past blogger's bozo filters in a single bound. As far as I can tell, it's a press release littered with graphics, movies, links to post to social bookmarking sites, and a litter of buzzwords. The example from the club itself is decidedly underwhelming: it looks like a press release embedded in a blog entry. Ho hum.

That was pretty bad, but the deciding factor for me was Francine Hardaway. She just wouldn't stop talking, a problem she herself noted in her entry on last night's meeting. But that's not the big problem I have with her: there were several annoying sorts there that loved the sound of their voices. She's one of those insufferable types that is so self-absorbed and pretentious that it made me want to leave mid-meeting. From the name-dropping ("As my friend Scoble said", "As so-and-so said, you do read so-and-so, right?") to the tedious anecdotes (Paraphrase: "Social media is everywhere ... I was attending a real estate conference ... My daughter, who own's her own company, was reading Engadget ... sent me an email with photos of the new iPhone ... All the real estate professionals around me were agog over the pictures and asking questions ... See it's everywhere because they weren't reading blogs during the presentation.") to the elitist pretensions ("Us tech people", "Of course this is baby stuff for us", "I've been in PR for 17 years", "I've been blogging since before it was called blogging", "And they said that Phoenix was too small to have a social media club") to the constant stream of buzzwords ("background himself"), she just rubs me the wrong way. I couldn't imagine attending another meeting of Francine's klatch.

But don't get me wrong, it's not just an issue of personality. The entire notion of the club strikes me as missing the point. It is dominated by marketers whose sole goal appears to be penetrating through to and using the fora of user-generated content producers. How can we get our stuff noticed by bloggers? How can we get our "viral" video onto YouTube? How can we adapt our current way of doing things to the real-time, no-holds-barred new media?

At the same time, however, it's aiming for those interested in social media who don't know much about it. (Its aim is errant because I think that type probably doesn't even know SMC exists and wouldn't attend even if they did.) So it becomes a social media for dummies forum. Let's talk a bit about Let's have a meeting about how to get your blog recognized by search engines.

The missing party in this is the social media producer: the blogger, the podcaster, the vlogger. But that's where it's at, man. These people could really stand to meet each other, bounce ideas off each other, and get acquainted. That is what I hoped this club would be about, but it'll never happened if it's dominated by marketing flacks. There were a few bloggers there, but I couldn't get a read on whether they thought it was a waste of time as well. Oh, apparently, a couple of them liked it.

The social media producer, however, doesn't need a club for tutorials or acquiring knowledge. The producer is, by definition, comfortable with the Web and there are far better resources on the Web than could ever be assembled in an over-crowded wine room at La Madeleine. So it's not about the presentation by Francine (that would have to stop); it should be about sharing information or advice with people you've never met in person. That's the only advantage a geographically-based meeting has over a virtual one.

If I were changing things (and I don't care enough at this point to even bother trying), I'd have each meeting have a theme relevant to the producers: getting traffic, best services, thinking up content ideas. And then people ask questions, get answers, and share knowledge in a freewheeling conversation. Or announce the topic, have people introduce themselves, and then end the meeting while people gravitate around to talk about the theme.

And for chrissakes, get a meeting room without a substantial table taking up 90% of the floor space, relegating people to the walls and outside the room.