Is Social Media bringing back our sense of community?

voucher presented to winner of SEC training coursesI’m writing this post from an aeroplane, winging my way home from Sydney after a speaking gig and general geek catchup at Online Marketer Bootcamp today.

I’m a regular speaker at these Bootcamps and SMX shows across Australia and New Zealand, but despite being a 10 year conference veteran, I always learn something new. (By the way, the photo is me handing over a voucher for Search Engine College training to the value of $1,495 to a lucky Bootcamp attendee).

Today’s event was fairly small compared to the larger SMX-branded events, but I actually found the smaller crowd both switched-on and highly engaging. I’m not sure if it was because many of them were small to medium businesses rather than staff of large ad agencies or marketing departments, but these guys were truly interested in what we had to say and how they could use the information immediately.

Many audience members made the effort to track me down during the breaks or after the show to ask questions or simply let me know how much they took away from my session.  Quite a few of the attendees run their own companies and (like me) are responsible for all marketing, advertising and management aspects of their business. They desperately needed SEO, PPC and Social Media explained to them in 30 minutes grabs, minus the industry jargon and in real actionable terms that they could implement NOW. As impossible as that sounds, I think we actually delivered that today.

I spoke about one of my favorite subjects, How to use Twitter for Business (watch this space for a summary) and it was rewarding to see a few light bulbs go off in the crowd as they worked out how they could apply some of the case studies I presented to their own businesses, whether they were a one person company or part of a multi-national corporation.

But what really struck me about today was that the attendees were really keen to share what they knew about the subject matter (whether learned today or in the past) with other attendees. There was genuine excitement in the break out sessions where people were just completely open and honest about their own experiences in the marketing space, the successess and failures, and a willingness to share and learn that I haven’t witnessed at a conference for a couple of years.

At larger shows I’ve been to in the past, attendees tend to be quite secretive about what they do, who they work for, what agencies they use and what methodologies they employ. Not today. Today was all about connecting, engaging and sharing as much as possible. I’m convinced this is a by-product of our increasing involvement with social media. I sense that sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on are encouraging us to talk to each other again.

I overheard lots of conversations that began with “I follow you on Twitter” or “I saw your Facebook post the other day” or “I heard you ask for information about X – here’s a link that might help”. Despite the generational hype that we have lost our ability to communicate without a modem, I actually think our sense of community is returning.

Bring it on I say.

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