Meetup to learn and network

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I’m not big on networking events, never have been. But a talented blogger I met out there in Blog-land and in person at a career networking event recommended I use Meetup.com. The site lets people find others with similar interests and then organize meetings with them in the real world. (The MTV group, for example, lets beautiful but vapid and annoying 20-somethings gather in a lavish house in a hip locale to talk about themselves.)  It’s like platonic group dating for hobbyists, and the idea has caught on.

It turns out I was already a lapsed Meetup member, having joined SEMPO New York – a search marketing group – months before. I tried once to sign up for an event, failed, got frustrated and stopped trying. My computer probably just timed out processing some rote task. I was employed then (ah, memories), so personal bandwidth was at a premium. The thought of following another website seemed akin to an earwig burrowing into my brain at the behest of Carlos Montalban. But just as death by Khan has its upside – getting to yell “Khaaaaaaaan!!!” with good reason – so too does Meetup.

Based on my contact’s recommendation I decided to give Meetup another chance. A few weeks ago I signed up for the following groups…

Then nothing happened. To be precise, events were organized and then canceled, netting out to nothing.

Yesterday evening was my first actual event – Brandhacker’s “Twitter for Business.” Twitter, for those of you who call under a rock home, is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that lets users send and read other users’ short updates. The gathering took place in a bar located in the shadow of the Empire State Building, home of my former employer. I went stag, partly because I have no friends, and partly because I expected to run into ex-coworkers… this being a social networking gathering and them being online marketing people.

The event started off with a networking period. I knew no one and wasn’t much in the mood to mingle. People sat in little groups chatting and tweeting about chatting on their PDAs, which is really ignoring and being rude rather than chatting. I held up a large pillar and sipped a four-dollar soda. The presentation portion of the evening started mercifully soon after I arrived.

David Berkowitz, director of emerging media at 360i, started things off. He walked us through his vacation in Texas and his in-laws’ new-found affinity for Twitter. Greg Galant, podcaster and creator of the Shorty Report, talked through some business cases for companies using Twitter as a PR and customer service tool. Sprint and Comcast apparently monitor Twitter for mentions and respond accordingly. Whole Foods even has an account to promote itself and answers questions.  The key takeaway is this: tweet about any problem you’re having with a major company and name names. Make a real stink about it. Corporate America is paying attention, and you may get the results you’re after.

The two presenters then rattled off some of their favorite Twitter tools. MrTweet, which recommends users to follow based on current followees, is one. Hootsuite, which helps manage multiple accounts, is another. Then they dove into attendee questions. These revealed more about the questioners’ lack of knowledge than anything else. I was pretty surprised that a room full of professional marketers contained so many people so ignorant of Twitter. The service isn’t new, and it gets more press than the naked popstar du jour. Marketers should be up on these things. I am, and I don’t even have a job. To their credit, the ill-informed were there to get a handle on things.

I didn’t learn much about Twitter from this meetup, aside from the names of a few tools and resources. Maybe my knowledge is already too advanced, me being a superior life form and all. I also didn’t make any decent contacts. But the power of Meetup became abundantly clear. Like-minded people gathered around a common interest should provide some good learning and networking opportunities. And who knows, maybe there’s a job to be found somewhere in all this.

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4 Comments

  1. manda wrote:

    I love your blog! Your encouraging and positive tone is really inspiring and I love the resources you put up. Meetup.com is awesome btw 🙂

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink
  2. It’s so important to meet up in the real world. I understand your frustration with meetup.com events being canceled, but it’s still a great idea for a website.

    I’m actually trying to form a group here in NYC to meet up somewhat regularly and help each other out with our blogs/businesses/job searches. Interested? E-mail me or hit me through the contact form at my site.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink
  3. Tim wrote:

    FYI – see the link. There is a job fair in Essex County, NJ tomorrow.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  4. Rhoby wrote:

    WoW man, I’m glad you went, meetup’s breath life back into you! Knowledge and human contact is pretty cool right? Thank you for the plug! I always like to stop by over here and see how your do’in! I’m really glad you followed the meetup tip, It only leads, if you follow.

    -Rhoby

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink