Back in August we attended Social Media Masters in Atlanta. We had the opportunity to meet Kristie Wells, Co-founder and President of Social Media Club. We reviewed the event, but we wanted to advocate SMC and the SMM conference and gain Kristie’s expertise in choosing your very own social media master. She graciously took some time to answer a few questions for us!
Nao M + C: Share the background and goals for Social Media Club.
Kristie Wells: The original idea for Social Media Club originated in the Fall of 2005 following the first Barcamp meeting. This led us to create the non-profit organization, BrainJams, to promote the idea of unconferences and ad-hoc collaboration to a broader audience of non-geeks. BrainJams has brought us together with people from all over the world, and as a result of thousands of conversations since, we realized that the passion we have for social media was the real purpose of what we were doing, so we launched Social Media Club to host the conversation about the future of social media.
We felt there was a need for a neutral third party platform in which people can share best practices, support ethics and standards, and develop programs to promote digital media literacy. We discussed forming as a ‘for profit’ vs. ‘not-for-profit’, but it was clear the new organization had to be a not-for-profit organization. Money could not be the driver (and isn’t). We didn’t want to own it. We wanted to nurture it. We wanted to guide it. We wanted to support it. We knew ‘it’ was Social Media Club.
Our goals are to help people get access to low cost or free baseline education around the use of social media in this ever changing digital world. We do this primarily through our website and in one of over 300 monthly meetings in Chapters that gather around the world.
We launched with lofty goals to build a community hub for all things social media related, and while we have made some headway along the lines of education for the masses, our work is far from done. In fact, I think Social Media Club is just getting started. Our website is a good starting point, but we finally have the means to go deeper, to help extend the conversations that are happening locally and give them voice on a global platform. As an unfunded not-for-profit, it took us five years to get to this point, but I look forward to releasing some of the programs we have had in the beta stage shortly.
NMC: How do events like the Social Media Masters help the professional social media community? and the social media challenged?
KW: Our local Chapters have done a great job on educating the community around ‘social media 101’ and helping everyone get started. Our community knowledge continues to mature, so we realize there was a need for a more advanced educational series. The five events we are holding in 2011 are the first of its kind for us, and we will use feedback from these events to build a more robust curriculum that will be visiting more cities in 2012.
NMC: What was your strategy for securing speakers? and sponsors?
KW: It was important for us to go outside the normal conference speaker circuit and give a platform to new voices. Some of the names are known, most are not, and we like that. We understand people want to see ‘internet celebs’, but we felt it was more important to focus on the topic and do something different. We invited speakers we knew from our various circles based on areas of interest and will continue with this for the 2011 series. In 2012, we will open it up to speaker submissions and a vetting process.
On sponsors, we reached out to some of the companies we knew, but we had such a short time frame (less than 2 months from time of event announcement to day of event), that it moved down the totem pole of ‘must haves’. Thankfully, the non-pushy sales route worked and we were able to secure some supporters who are helping us throughout the series.
NMC: For businesses wanting to add social media to their marketing, advertising and/or PR strategies, what advice can you give them for choosing an agency, contractor, or in-house strategist and how to build that relationship?
KW: Best advice is to ask for a body of work to review before hiring, and do a proper interview process to make sure the person understands your market. Most anyone can tweet or set up a Facebook page, but you want someone who can digest what it is your market is saying about you, help you dig the insights out of that data and then take action as needed. You should also set clear goals, metrics and expectations and keep dialogue open. I like weekly review meetings to go over impact, reach and needs to ensure everyone is clear on what is or is not working.
NMC: Who’s your favorite music artist?
KW: Foo Fighters.
Upcoming Social Media Masters:
Toronto: October 7, 2011
Kansas City: October 21, 2011