15 posts categorized "Social Media Breakfast Burlington"

03/23/2011 Why #BTVSMB?

We had another great Burlington Social Media Breakfast last Monday. Nicole Ravlin of PMG put together Bill Gerth from Comcast and Morgan Johnston of JetBlue to talk about social media and customer service. While we got lots of press attention around the event, no one asked the question I was expecting:

Why #BTVSMB? Why are you doing this and what’s the purpose of these events?

Instead we got a lot of the same questions: Who’s doing social media? Who’s doing social media well? Why do you think social media is important? Good questions, but they tend to incur the same responses over and over again.

Back when I kicked off the first #BTVSMB I had some specific hopes for the event. I was lucky that Nicole, who partnered with me to organize future events, had the same hopes. They included:

1) Great Speakers – I don’t travel a lot and I don’t go to a lot of conferences. That means I don’t see a lot of the big speakers around the country. There are people in Burlington who do, but I think most of us are too busy in our jobs to do that regularly. I wanted to be able to see the top speakers without having to travel so much. That was my first hope.

I also wanted to bring in speakers who would set the bar high in the discussions about social media. I wanted people to leave inspired and thinking about things they normally wouldn’t in their day-to-day jobs. I find that those types of talks make me better at what I do, even if I can’t always do everything that we talk about.

We have received a lot of feedback asking how come we don’t do more practical hands on training about Twitter and Facebook. We’ve received those questions after almost every event. My thought is that there are lots of places to get that already and you can get those easily online. I’m more interested in ideas than training for these types of talks.

One other thing about bringing in some of the smartest people from outside of Vermont: I don’t want this to turn into a sales event for the speakers. I see lots of local speakers at various events (and there are still a lot of them) where the talk is in some sense a veiled pitch. It raises all sorts of issues and raises a lot of why them and not me questions. I’m too busy to deal with that kind of stuff.

2) Community – One of my great disappointments in moving back to Burlington was the lousy digital and creative community we had. I came from Boston where I was involved with MITX (and still am for that matter). What a great community that is! Up here, though, it seemed like we didn’t really want to talk with each other.

Social media, it turns out, is the one digital topic that everyone wants to connect around. I love that we’re able to bring together at all of the events some of the biggest companies and brands in Vermont and some of the smallest companies and brands. Big agencies and marketers show up and freelancers show up. Politicians and people from non-profits come to learn. I love that we’re able to bring together such a diverse group of people around one specific topic.

To be honest, I think the networking and connections are by far the best part of #BTVSMB. I’ve met more people in the last two years than I did in the previous nine! And I’ve pushed business towards those people as well. The community part is an economic accelerator for everyone.

3) Promote Burlington – Finally, my hope was that we’d start putting Burlington on the digital map in a more substantial way. I’m completely biased here, but I’d like to see Burlington’s digital community drive the economic development of the region (or at least contribute to it more substantially). I think we’re a perfect place for this type of thinking, for this type of business, and for the types of people who work in the industry.

One of the great responses we get from speakers is “I had no idea there were so many smart people up here. I knew it was beautiful, but what an amazing turnout!” They’re surprised to learn that companies like Gardners Supply is based in Vermont! When the outside speakers come here, we start showing that Burlington is a digital and social hub, especially when we outdraw events in New York and Boston.

My big hope is that those speakers will decide to open their next shop or satellite in Vermont. That’s when I’ll know we’ve succeeded.

Here’s what #BTVSMB is not:

It’s not a moneymaking business. I’ve never made a dime on these events, nor do I intend to. All ticket prices cover costs for food, venue and speaker costs. Maybe that’s stupid of me, but I’m not in this for the money.

It’s not a full-time job. It has to fit between my business and client needs. Neither Nicole nor I have employees assigned to running this. We bring in people based mainly on our relationships.

It’s not just us. Anyone can do an event, and we hope that if you have an idea for a social breakfast you want to organize, go for it. The more the merrier. Just don’t expect us to do it for you.

When I look back on Monday’s event, I think it hit all of my criteria. It doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. But it sure made me think about a number of new things.

What are your expectations for #BTVSMB?

08/14/2010 BTVSMB - Mitch Joel Video

My friend Seamus Walsh from VAZT has done it again and recorded another BTVSMB for us. He's recorded all of the #BTVSMB events I've put on, including C.C. Chapman & Todd Defren, Adrian Ho, and now Mitch Joel. I'm still digesting the event and will have a blog post in a day or two with some thoughts.

In the mean time, enjoy the show, especially those of you who couldn't make it.


02/07/2010 BTVSMB - The Movie

Well, would you believe the video? Thanks to my friend Seamus Walsh from VAZT, we have Adrian Ho's presentation online. Seamus filmed the first video as well, and he's got a very cool thing going on around online content. If you missed the breakfast, enjoy Adrian's talk; it's a good one.

Personally, I haven't watched myself on video for a while. It's making me realize I have to dust off my presentation skills notes from Pam Erb-Melville! I'm obviously out of practice.

02/05/2010 Disappointing Alice.com

While it was great to see everyone at the Burlington Social Media Breakfast on Monday, and it was amazing to listen to the brilliant Adrian Ho (who tried to deliver twice the value, according to one of his tweets), there was one conspicuous absence: Rebecca Thorman from Alice.com. Rebecca emailed me late in the day on Saturday to let me know she wasn't flying in on Sunday to speak to her Burlington audience on Monday.

It got me thinking about something Adrian Ho said in his talk: People don't want relationships with companies; we want relationships with other people.

He's right. I wrote a blog post about buying $60+ worth of packaged goods on Alice.com because Rebecca asked me too.

Well, right now this is one company I really don't want a relationship with. Here's why:
  • Saturday at 5 PM is late in the game to cancel. We had 175 disappointed people who had been promised an experience they never got. It might be me, but you have to have some very serious excuse to cancel at that point. And if some catastrophe does happen, that's when we see what people are really made of. You know, when the going gets tough...
  • No help in finding a replacement. Even though it was a long shot, I had people helping me in NY, Boston and Burlington to come up with a replacement. In several cases, I barely knew the helpers, but they were willing to do what they could on the weekend. Alice.com did zip. When you have a following of thousands of people, saying "I don't know anyone" doesn't really ring true.
  • Only communicating through email. Despite many attempts, I was refused even one phone conversation. E-mail is a great tool but it's also a great place to hide behind. With all of the planning and publicity for this event, the least I would expect is a phone call for something this serious. If I had ordered toothpaste at Alice.com and they kept sending me hemorrhoid cream, would they keep refusing to talk to me over the phone?
Shit happens. I get that. But by association, I let 175 people down because one speaker couldn't live up to her commitments. If a company can't keep its word, then why would we want to trust it or do business with it?

I'm sure Rebecca would think I'm being terribly unfair and mean, if she ever read this. I can understand that; I can empathize with it. Maybe that's what I expected back. I'm not at issue with Rebecca getting sick either; I'm at issue with how she handled herself afterwards.

And it's not that I'm feeling Faustian in trying to make someone keep a bargain. I'm not looking to get anything out of this. My only hope is that this won't happen again to some other audience.

Sorry Alice.com. All the fancy social media work doesn't amount to a hill of beans if you talk one way, and then act another. I'm one customer who won't be coming back.
02/01/2010 A Morning with Adrian Ho

The February 1st  Burlington Social Media Breakfast featured Adrian Ho from Zeus Jones. Aside from a very last minute cancellation from Alice.com, the event was one of the more interesting talks I've been to. We had a good turnout of about 175 people who came to network, eat the yummy breakfast by Sugarsnap, and to hear Adrian challenge a lot of our marketing and social media assumptions.

He started off by saying that people aren't really interested in a relationship with a brand; they're interested in relationships with other people. If I had a penny for every time I've heard the phrase "we're building relationships" I'd have retired already.  Okay, so if social media isn't about relationships, what is it about? According to Adrian it's about delivering more value. The more value you deliver, the more social you'll be and the more buzz you'll create. It sounds almost too easy.

But that was my big take away from what Adrian talked about. Traditional marketing is about making things harder: We have to come up with the grand insight and then we have to create an expensive and complex campaign. Social marketing (a term he uses more than the term social media) is a lot about looking at how your organization provides current value between real employees and real people, and amplifying that through social media. Of course, Adrian says it much better, and with a better accent to boot, but it boils down to this:

Social marketing is a way to do something for people.

One of the most powerful things about social marketing is that you don't have to spend gobs of money on focus groups to find you what customers want to do. You either have to listen to what they say online, or listen to your customer facing employees. The knowledge exists in the system or in social media; the question is whether you have an organization that can act on that information.

As Adrian says, in almost every category you can figure out what people want.

Here's the tough part for us marketers: we love tools and new things. We want a Facebook strategy or a Twitter strategy. Taking the time to figure out what customers say and want is sometimes messy and unglamorous. Implementing a listening culture internally takes a lot of effort to break through ingrained habits.

But its possible by simply using the same approach inside that you would outside. The quote of the day may be: "If you want to change the way someone thinks, change their behavior first" rather than the other way around.

I think Adrian made a lot of people stop and think. I think a few of people in the audience still just wanted a tool guide to tell them what to do.

But for me, these breakfasts have two purposes: To network with other digital marketing professionals around Burlington, and to challenge us to get better at what we do by bringing new ideas and ways of thinking to the table.

The social media breakfast event with Adrian Ho did both.

And it was colossal fun to see everyone there and to follow the Twitter stream on #btvsmb. What a great way to start February.

P.S. This was the first time Adrian and his family had been to Vermont. It sounded like they were impressed. Big thanks to Trapp Family Lodge for sponsoring.

01/22/2010 Three Questions for Rebecca Thorman

This post was removed, due to user feedback. Sorry.
01/15/2010 Three Questions for Adrian Ho - #btvsmb

The Burlington Social Media Breakfast series (#BTVSMB) resumes on February 1, 2010 with speakers Adrian Ho and Rebecca Thorman. To register visit http://btvsmb4.eventbrite.com.

Adrian Ho is a founding partner of the award winning digital agency Zeus Jones in Minnesota.

 Q: When did you start getting involved in social media?

I'd like to think I never got "involved" with social media. Honestly I try to avoid thinking about it - are you sure you still want me to come? ;)

Q: What's the most interesting or fun social media campaign you've either been involved in or watched?

The most fascinating stuff for me tends to be the application of social principles to a company's business. I'm inspired by a lot of the stuff that Best Buy is doing here in our market as well as some of the stuff we're working on with Nordstrom right now.

AdrianHoQ: What social media trend is, for you, the most interesting to keep our eye on?

As I alluded to above, I think the really interesting trend is the move of "social" away from social media and into all parts of a company's business and marketing. The themes and structures that social media have exposed us to like participation, transparency, collaboration and so on are far more interesting when removed from the "media" anchor. The most interesting and innovative social marketing probably won't involve social media.

10/05/2009 An Evening of Annarchy

This Thursday October 8, Ann Handley, the chief content officer of MarketingProfs is coming to Burlington to schmooze with social media peeps. We're having a Tweetup at 156 Bistro from 5 PM to 8 PM. You can RSVP here.

Why should you come to this Tweetup? Well, all of our VT Tweetups have been a blast, from hanging out by the waterfront at Splash, the amazing Round Barn localvore extravaganza, to trying out the new bakery at August First.

Annheadshotsmall But if that's not enough, we're fortunate to have Ann with us on Thursday. For those of you who don't know who Ann is, she writes the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog, which right now is number 11(!) at the AdAge Power 150 rankings. She also contributes to the Huffington Post.

MarketingProfs is one of those great collections of smart people all working to make us digital people smarter. For example, they just hired Beth Harte, a social media heavyweight, as its community manager

Before that, Anne was a co-founder of ClickZ, a great resource for online marketing.

So mark your calendars and we'll hope to see you on Thursday.

A couple of notes:

Big thanks to Andrea Learned for helping to pull this together. Andrea's got some serious juice.

Dave Winslow, the CEO of EpikOne, owns 156 Bistro. It's always good to support the digital community and even better when we can do so by drinking. Apparently, it's martini night at 156, so it should be a fun evening.
08/03/2009 Burlington Social Media Breakfast #2

The second Burlington Social Media Breakfast today was another huge hit. There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm in this town/state to understand and get on top of this. Today's event had a PR focused and it was organized by #BTVSMB club founder Nicole Ravlin of People Making Good. Nicole is one of the best PR peeps in Vermont and she knows that lots of in-house PR people (and agencies as well) struggle to figure out where social media is in their mix.

Today's speakers included Sarah Evans, better known by her Twitter tag @prsarahevans, and Jason Kintzler, founder of Pitch Engine. The two of them did a great job presenting and an even better job at answering the many questions that came their way in the Q+A.

Both of them riffed on the same message: The world of Public relations has changed drastically and the old days of creating a press release and sending it to the media were, if not over, then almost over. One of the realities PR people (and the brands they work for) face is that they can't control the message any more. Both said similar things - It's about starting the story not ending it.

One thing I found very interesting is the emphasis both of them put on search. Over the last several years, a number of people have suggested that search and PR firms should merge. PR ultimately is about Findability. It used to be that you found out about companies through major publications. Now you find them online through blogs and social media, yes, but primarily through search.

Sarah talked a lot about using keywords and incorporating Google Adwords into every PR campaign. Jason talked about adding links and creating short, keyword rich online releases and how all content is searchable.

There were a lot of other good points but these are two of the best for companies and marketers to think about. Social media and online PR not only build relationships with real people, but it's one of the best ways to drive traffic to your brand. The content you create on social media does both.

And as it should, the event did two important things:
  • It got people's wheels turning about how they could use what they learned here today.
  • It made Burlington people want to connect more.
Joe Mescher will set up a TweetChat on Wednesday's to keep this going. In the mean time, make sure you sign up as a BTV social media club member. We're doing smaller, more informal breakfasts each month.

Our next big event is slated for the end of October or beginning of November. Look for details later this fall.

Thanks again Sarah, Jason and Nicole!
06/02/2009 Social Media Breakfast Reflections

Others have done a great job in describing what actually happened at the Burlington Social Media Breakfast on June 1 that I thought I’d take a stab at describing what I took away from a community level.

One of the reasons I wanted to put this event together was that even though Burlington is small, we’ve done a pretty poor job of pulling our digital and marketing people together. There are a few exceptions, but they feel very focused and limited, in some way.

In Boston, for example, MITX (formerly MIMC) does a great job in giving people reasons to connect. I got involved with them in 1998 and stayed involved even after I moved to Vermont. Up here, though, every time someone pulled something together, it was more like “Breakfast and a Sales Pitch.” And because it’s so small here, everyone was worried about inviting competition, lest they try to steal a client. That’s my take, anyway, and I’ve been poking around this issue for the last 10 years.

If you look at what both C.C. Chapman and Todd Defren said on Monday, they both stressed two points:
•    Give people a good reason (excuse) to gather
•    And make sure you’re bringing something enticing to the table (like Fruit Salad)

That’s what happened on Monday. That crowd was exactly who I had hoped would come. There were lots of PR, interactive and traditional agency people there, there were small entrepreneurial business people (we have lots of those in VT), there were people from non-profits (lots of them, too) and there were marketers from some of the biggest and best brands in VT (best brands in the U.S. for that matter).

In short we all came because we wanted to know more about social media, we brought our openness and curiosity to the party, and we partook of something delicious with no strings attached.

The energy of that event and the feedback I’ve received was overwhelming, from all different sorts of people. Some were just happy to meet old friends, others were happy to put faces to Twitter tags, and everyone felt that their marketing wheels were spinning.

What happened on June 1 was a Social Event, even if it happened to have the label social media. That was the most exciting part, that’s exactly what C.C., and Todd talked about. Social Media. Public Relations. It happened in person, and during and after we passed what we experienced on through Twitter, blogs and more.

It was a living, breathing example of what we were supposedly learning about.

And now, it’s time for us in Burlington and Vermont to do more of it, now that we saw how much fun it could be. [Thanks @cresmer for proofing and catching this last miss! I owe you.]

My Web Sites