Welcome to Social Media Club New Hampshire, where innovators from across the Granite State meet for monthly events to share, engage and collaborate with the community on the issues of social media and technology. We launched in February of 2010, and already have had more than 150 people attend our first event, with our Facebook group connecting nearly 400 individuals, our Twitter feed reaching 800, and weekly Twitter chats Sunday nights at 9pm EST under the hashtag #SMCNHchat . Our leadership board includes Justin Herman, chapter president, as well as Brian Dekoning and Jeffrey Vocell. For more information, please visit our website or Facebook group and say hello.
While participation in our weekly #SMCNHchat has been beyond our initial expectation thanks to your participation, many have said the 9pm start time is too late for them. So this week week we are going to start an hour early at 8pm EST to see if this time works best for everyone.
With that said, our topic for tonight's #SMCNHchat is NH Startups, moderated by Jeffrey Vocell (@JVocell) - lead writer at http://NewHampshireStartups.com and our new Director of Sponsorships.
For those of you who don't like surprises, our three topic questions tonight will be:
T1: What are some of the common Social Media pitfalls you see NH startups fall into, and how can they be prevented?
T2: For those startups already using Social Media, what are some innovative strategies you have seen which they could use to leverage the tools more effectively?
T3: Who are some local examples of those "doing it right," and what can other learn from them?
T4: Bonus question, because what is life without surprises.
See you at 8pm EST tonight!
Its been a busy handful of hours since the last post, which attempted to open a dialogue on something going on in the NH social media event community that many feel is negatively affecting the community’s development – that as new groups, tweetups and programming arises in NH, conflicts are arising that amount to territorial claims on what should be open and accessible to all.
There have been passionate responses flooding in, mostly positive, some rightfully seeking clarification, and one unfortunate gentleman who just went on the attack. Its because of these responses that we need to have this conversation. Last Sunday on our #SMCNHchat we discussed another hard subject, social media scammers, but tonight we opened a dialogue on something closer to home to us all. But when a subject becomes so intensified and widely debated in real life, if we don’t discuss it as a community online then what is it we are doing at all?
It must be made straight – the post was not an attack on @WoogyChuck, who has a long record of support for NH social media communities. Nor was it an attack on those who have been working for years to bring us to where we are today. Yes, an unfortunate situation had occurred when two events appeared to overlap and regretful things said, as was used as an example in the post, but who hasn’t Tweeted out of frustration before? Getting frustrated is what happens when you care. He and others have been working hard to put on RocknBowl April 28 in Manchester, and by all accounts its going to be a great event that we recommend you all attend. I’ll go if I don’t get hit with a bowling ball in the head.
The example was used to ignite discussion, however, of a well-known issue in the NH social media event community that has real consequences beyond our bowling ambitions, and notably one that besides the one example I have never known Ian to be part of: that the way our state-wide community is “managed” turns people off from wanting to or being able to participate as partners and not just attendees.
If you’ve been around long enough you’ve heard it: “I wanted to get involved with such-and-such, but it turned out the organizer is just about promoting themselves,” or “We had a great idea to start up such-and-such, but that person said it was their territory.” Even in SMCNH we struggle as we grow to maintain our strict ethics policies that are designed to avoid these pitfalls that naturally occur when you have a relatively small but rapidly growing professional community.
But heck, if we or another other group did what was recommended of us to not conflict with other people’s “territory” in NH the only time we would be allowed to hold a meeting would be on Monday nights… that occur on leap years.
The message stays the same: we must strive to do better, avoid the petty infighting that keeps our community fractious, segmented, and lesser able to fulfill the achievable goals we have set. Its not just a handful of people, and its not just in NH, but here right now we are in a transitional stage where we either adapt to maintain accessibility and openness, or revert to a social media oligarchy.
We know that times are tough economically, and right now in NH there is a relatively smaller market for social media services, but we must remember why we are doing this and that by putting on programming aimed at developing the community through education and engagement – rather than conflicting over who’s name is atop what marquee – we help create a NH where we may all find opportunity. That opportunity is better government, healthcare, education, business and technology – not just the perpetuation of selling our community fish rather than teaching them to fish.
For our part at SMCNH, we have no territory. In fact if someone wanted to start their own local chapter of SMC in a part of NH they feel is being neglected then we would not only support them but help them get started as our partners – not vassals. Each year we will switch up the leadership to reinforce that the group is about the community and not individual members. And besides, we always have leadership positions open because if you have an idea and want to contribute it, we will create one to help you do so.
The debate tonight has been passionate indeed, but as most agree, its these serious discussions that will help us grow. It would be regretful if someone used that to deride the community, as when we face tough things we become more vulnerable to warring factions, but for that to occur would be the very reason we must confront it.
Please don’t let the conversation end here – if you are interested in the discussion, and how we can leverage to fulfill the promise of the NH social media community, then by all means please contribute. If you’re just mad lately that what you think is your territory is encroached upon by folks applying the very principals you probably had a hand in teaching them, well then, can we interest you in something less controversial like a game of bowling?
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.
Two New Hampshire communities celebrated International Foursquare Day April 16, turning on local businesses and social media users to this up-and-coming mobile service that uses geo-mapping to connect friends while earning points for “checking-in” to businesses and other locations.
Portsmouth, NH’s Foursquare Day was organized in less than a week by Social Media Club NH, the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, Vital Design, MicroArts and The Wire (which amounts to a handful of friends), and skyrocketed the community to the #1 ranked city out of more than 150 internationally. One local business, @TastePortsmouth, offered a Red Sox versus Yankees boxseat giveaway and revealed to me what I found to be the most delicious sandwich I’ve had in ages – a win-win, which is what Foursquare does on the best of days. More than a third of participating businesses represented SeacoastLocal.org, a local group with a mission that will only be furthered through adoption of social media tools.
Manchester, NH’s Foursquare Day started off with no less than a declaration from the mayor himself, with dozens of enthusiastic businesses participating. Strangely, however, they did not register their event on the main website, and by not fully using the online tools missed out on much of the purpose of such events: focusing on the local, while connecting with the larger community. Had they, the participants would have at least enjoyed seeing the community recognized as a leader in digital civic involvement. Still, the effort and community unity was clearly there.
I’m going to let you in on a secret though – the success of NH’s Foursquare Days have nothing to do with FourSquare. It’s just a new service, one of many in the social media tool box, and one that many people don’t even like based on principle. Some would argue its not even the best, as Gowalla has its own merits that outweigh its competitors. Next year FourSquare as an application may not be the big thing – it will be something we haven’t thought up yet.
The real success of NH’s Foursquare Days is that businesses around the state made a decision to learn about a social media tool they probably had not heard of, enthusiastically adopt it, and in cases like @TastePortsmouth leverage it to made deeper connections within the community. People say the “NH Advantage” is low taxes, or perhaps the freedom to not buckle your seatbelt, but on Foursquare Day we showed ourselves and others that the real NH Advantage is our ingenuity – that Yankee ingenuity we pride ourselves on is indeed alive and well today.
We must continue with this spirit, to work within our communities to help nonprofits, schools, government agencies and businesses to leverage social media tools in order to provide New Hampshire the cutting edge that we clearly already have the will to hone. We in fact owe it to our communities, as in these difficult times the agile adoption of online strategies can be the difference between hanging on and being a proactive part of the recovery.