Showing NH Social Media's Elephant-in-the-Room to the Exit
We need to talk about the elephant in the room in NH social media that everyone knows about but rarely talks about openly.
It’s been a couple months since we’ve launched Social Media Club New Hampshire, one of more than 160 chapters around the world, with the mission of promoting social media literacy, sharing lessons learned, encouraging the adoption of industry standards and promoting ethical behavior. Through our programming, from monthly events to our weekly #SMCNHchat on Twitter, we are striving to provide free, openly accessible ways for New Hampshire innovators to collaborate and put those ideas to action – by the community, for the community.
The best spirit of this can be found in the case of our April event, which we planned as an evening symposium on how our local schools can use social media to improve classrooms. We had a venue who approached us as supporters of our NH community, said they could host the event at a price befitting an event that is free to all, and after we promoted it turned around and tacked on nearly $1000 in additional fees. As we are not charging you $1000 to attend, we instead found ourselves in a bind to find a new venue on short notice.
Our Nashua Community Liaison Casey Cheshire, who organizes the popular #NashuaTweetup, then offered earlier this week to partner up for their April event, combining the two communities and having what we hope will be one heck of a good time at the #NashuaBowlUp. Its this spirit, where we look to support each other and together raise NH innovation to new levels, that exemplifies all the best qualities of social media itself.
But we know this is not always the case.
Not a day later a company in Manchester was railing on SMCNH through Twitter accusing us of a “#communityfail” by organizing a bowling event in Nashua when they themselves were holding a bowling event a half hour away the day before. They were not terribly interested in the fact that we had not even planned the event but were graciously invited to combine our networks to make the event even better for the community.
It was then claimed that because they had registered their event on a privately owned NH social media event calendar that somehow their territory had been breached. When I spoke with Casey about it, he said he looked at the calendar, saw there was nothing planned that day, and made the best of the opening without knowing a company had another event planned with the same theme – but quite frankly, should it have even mattered?
As NH Hampshire’s social media community grows, so too will the number and diversity of programming and events offered to us. We cannot have our events organized by a “I was here first” mindset that makes groups scurry to an event calendar to claim their plot of land, stifling the opportunity of others to think up and implement new ideas. In most cities, you’ll find there may be multiple social media events going on in one night – this is called opportunity.
However as we know, what some consider to be new opportunity, no matter how transparent and good hearted, others consider to be threats.
It may have been the case in the past that social media events in NH were co-opted by a handful of people. Now, however, there are enough of us involved in the scene that we need not fall into this feudal system of local Twitter celebrities and gurus that tell us how it is, because we know enough now to tell them how its going to be.
And from diverse local programming, like the good times of #NashuaTweetup or the Sunday morning collaboration of New Hampshire Media Makers, we together put the keys to NH’s future in our own hands.
For our part, while we have a number of talented speakers amongst our ranks of the Social Media Club NH organizers, we have a rule that none of will be a presenter at one of our events for at least 6 months. The reason is that it is that important to us to illustrate that the best ideas don’t have to come from us, and in likelihood will not come from us but from the community.
Also, we hope this self regulation demonstrates through practice that a social media group on this level in NH can be formed truly for the community and not out of self-interest.
So here we have the elephant in the room – the often petty realm of some NH companies using social media events primarily for self-promotion. It turns the podium into a pitch for services and prestige. And if you try to apply the very principles of social media – openness, collaboration, accessibility – then you encroach on what is viewed as their territory.
Well, if you subscribe to this envision of NH innovation, where your engagement is a commodity to be negotiated, traded upon and compromised, then please let me be the first to tell you we are happy to disappoint.
We are going to provide free events for the entire community, and when we have the opportunity to do as #NashuaTweetup did and support our mutual cause we will do just that. If we have a program in mind that will help you grow NH social media innovation, but somebody already planted their flag on the day just because they were the first ones there, we are still going to do the best we can even if it means there’s two events in all of NH in one night. Such an occasion is not a threat but the fulfillment of our combined potential.
In short, no few people own social media in New Hampshire – we all have the keys in our hands, and only together as partners will we grow.
Coming down the pipeline in coordination with the national Social Media Club we are going to unveiling Education, Health and Government initiatives aimed at raising the issues and ideas from you that are so critical to advancing the state of NH. But we need your help to do this, whether you are a member who has a passion that other people need to experience, or a venue who can host 100 or so of us for one night that could be the start of something special.
If you’re on board for this vision, we look forward to meeting you whether its at a Social Media Club New Hampshire event, another event sprung from the community, or where it actually counts: in our daily lives.
This is an extremely exciting time to live in, with the potential to create real change. Its a pleasure to be doing it together with you.