I know that David Jones over at PR Works and co-host of Inside PR Podcast has mentioned time and time again about the mass amounts of meet-ups, unconferences, events, dinners, etc_ that fill his social calendar with social media. I also deal with a handful of questions surrounding the idea that with all of these online conversations, are we missing the human element?
With a quick glance at my RSS feeds through Google Reader I noticed that Third Tuesday - Social Media And PR meet-up was set for yesterday night at Live@Courthouse in Toronto. Third Tuesday was set-up to help individuals, "meet other local PR professionals to explore new developments in social media and emerging best practices" and featured the mesh 2007 organizers - Mark Evans, Mathew Ingram, Mike McDerment, Rob Hyndman, and Stuart MacDonald. Mesh started today in Toronto.
From the moment I walked into Live@Courthouse, I started mingling and seeing real friends. Granted, we may have only met in person a handful of times, but these were friends. People whose Blogs I had been reading, Podcasts I had listened to, or had connected with in person at a Geek Dinner or unconference. We were all there (again), in person, to connect. Now, without belting out a chorus of Kumbaya, it is worth noting that we are all connected and connecting through the power of these online channels. There is no other way we would have met, but the real conversations happen in person. Because we're also following each other's content and have similar passions it is, indeed, very akin to finding your new BFF almost instantaneously.
From a Marketing perspective, events like Third Tuesday and mesh enable and empower individuals to get more connected_ and that's the real point/power. Social media does not function if it's infested with keyboard warriors. Social media lives and breathes when people connect. This is the biggest difference between the days of BBS' and message boards and the world of Blogs and Podcasting. You can try, but you really don't benefit by hiding behind a keyboard.
Marketing - like social media - is embracing these connections and conversations and with more events like these, we're all getting smarter not by listening to others speak, but from sharing, laughing and learning from one another.
A special hat-tip to Joseph Thornley, Michael O'Connor Clarke, Ed Lee and Chris "My Little PR Buddy" Clarke for a stellar Third Tuesday meet-up, and a hearty nod to my mesh friends. Although I can't be there in person today, I know the next few days are going to make people's brains melt (just listen to what Austin Hill will present... that should be enough ;).
UPDATE: You can see some videos from mesh over here: mesh - YouTube Group.