Social Media + Breakfast = What???
I “met” Donna McTaggart during my earliest foray into the Twittersphere several years back. A Twitter virgin for the most part, I re-tweeted links to articles and followed everyone and anyone who followed me. I don’t remember how I became connected to @donnamct and @SMByyc. I don’t remember who connected with who or how we connected, and it doesn’t matter. The seed was planted.
Donna invited me to Social Media Breakfast Calgary (“SMByyc“) via Twitter. I checked out the website and read about it. I didn’t get it. What would an accountant get out of sitting in a room full of social media junkies? Over breakfast no less?
Needless to say, I was always curious.
Donna and I had never met in person, but we had been connected on Twitter for a while. I wasn’t even really sure what she looked like. Her profile photo had been the same for a while. A small image on a larger background of someone in a Calgary Roughnecks jersey (Donna is probably the biggest Roughnecks fan in Calgary).
Fast forward to October 2013. I had just started my business a few months prior and was doing the networking thing as often as I could. Having worked desk jobs for a lot of years, networking was never part of my routine. I didn’t particularly enjoy most of the events I attended in the early days (outside of a Meetup I now co-organize). I am not the “elevator pitch” kind of guy. I rarely hand out business cards.
I attended a pretty good event at Hotel Arts. I got to see Brett Wilson speak which was cool. He gave us all autographed books. I met a lot of people that day. I saw many others who were already in my growing personal network. I was about to meet someone else who had been in my network a while.
Nature called in a big way (too much coffee and too much time standing around listening to elevator pitches). I bee-lined to the loo when I heard:
I looked back, thinking that the voice was calling out to someone else. I frantically tried to make my way to the facilities again when I heard:
“Brad, you look just like your photo!”
“Brad, it’s Donna McT”.
Big smiles and hugs ensued. Little did I know my whole way of networking was going to change in a few months.
My first SMByyc. January 24, 2014. Shaw Building in NE Calgary.
Back then I always felt a tinge of nerves before a networking event. I walked into #SMByyc48 and immediately recognized many people and was introduced to several more. I got some breakfast and took it all in. All around me people seemed to know each other and it was like a big family gathering. Very inclusive.
The show began with Donna’s familiar introductions and not long after the live-tweeting began. It was fascinating to watch. Almost impossible to keep up with, but it was fun trying.
I could learn to love this event.
And I do.
I have missed only one SMByyc since then (and two if you count the “Buckshot” edition held on a Sunday in December, instead of the traditional Friday). Ironically it was because I was attending the same event that I met Donna at the year before, that I had to miss SMByyc56. I followed along on Twitter using #SMByyc56. It was like being there except for the pizza, and the energy and the people and the cool technology they were tweeting about. I missed SMByyc56 with regrets.
When I explain to others who don’t have a clue what SMByyc is, they seem to have the same “deer in the headlights” expression I probably had when Donna first told me about it. SMByyc has to be experienced live. It has an energy, a vibe and once experienced, you may become an addict like so many of us in the SMByyc tribe.
SMByyc62 came and went this past Friday. Donna takes an informal poll at the start of each show to determine who are the veterans and who are the newbies in the crowd. It was a pretty close split for SMByyc62. The veterans applauded the noobs. It was cool. As if to say:
“Welcome to the tribe folks”.
A few weeks later, I come across an intriguing tweet by Donna.
Another trademark of Donna is that she rarely shares details with the public of upcoming events before the press release the week before the next SMByyc. I knew it was pointless to try and pry it out of her.
A few weeks later, she asked me if I would be interested in guest-blogging after SMByyc62. She also tells me that she will share the top-secret details of SMByyc62 with me before the press release. How could I resist?
My business has gained traction. I can attribute much of this to networking efforts I make. Networking increases visibility. Networking increases the likelihood of someone in your network looking out for you. Networking can also improve your SEO if you are strategic with your social media presence. The “social” in social media is key. I am a firm believer in marrying the online and offline worlds.
Networking does not mean signing up for every event around or joining every Meetup group in sight. To me, it also means not joining commercial networking groups. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those may work for some, but for me, I like to forge long-lasting, meaningful personal bonds and that means being selective where and when I network.
Attendance at networking efforts needs to be consistent. Pick a handful of events you like, put them on your calendar and schedule client work around those events. I personally attend the Calgary Business Professional Meetups (I am a co-organizer), Calgary Chamber “After Hours” and “Fast Growth” events, and Capital Ideas YYC events. I do my best to attend Vince Fowler’s “TMD” event every two months as well.
Obviously, near and dear to me is SMByyc. The room may or may not be full of potential clients. I have found clients at SMByyc. I have discussed business alliances at SMByyc. That is not why I attend. I attend because the room is always full of bright, resourceful and passionate people. SMByyc always has a “reunion” feel to it. This is my tribe. These are my friends. Any business which may come from attending SMByyc is icing on the cake.
I attend SMByyc every month to feel the surge of passion that comes from the crowd, to learn something new from the speaker(s), and the live-tweeting is fun to do. It’s a pretty good way to share your brand with the room, the city and Twitter in general. Keep in mind that the hashtag for the event almost always trends nationally.
I know why Donna wanted to tell me about SMByyc62 in advance. It was about to become the first SMByyc WITH BEER after we had joked about it all of a month earlier.
It just goes to show you that anything and everything goes at SMByyc. Donna assembled some of the biggest brands in the Calgary craft beer marketplace and she convinced Molson to attend as well. On top of that, the venue was none other than Crowfoot Wine and Spirits, one of Calgary’s best known home-grown success stories. They now have seventeen locations across our great city (just learned that during the trivia contest on Friday). They also assembled an amazing breakfast spread.
The place was packed.
Last, and certainly not least, we got to sample some of the amazing products put out by local beer legends Big Rock, Tool Shed, Village and Wild Rose. My day was complete. SMByyc was in fact fun with beer. Who knew?
I have the next SMByyc on my calendar already. You should too.
See you at SMByyc63 on April 24.
Thank you, Donna, for introducing me to this amazing community and thanks for all you do to make SMByyc, SMByyc.