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    There was a buzz; it was the sound of 100+ people pulled together by social media guru. Will he go viral?

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    Margaret Lindsay Holton, an award-winning writer and mid-career Golden Horseshoe artist found herself fascinated with a form of social media intended for the business crowd and reports on her experience for Our Burlington.

    By Margaret Lindsay Holton

    BURLINGTON, ON  March 8, 2012  Chatter about ‘social media’ on the web is all pervasive these days. It is no longer enough to just have an email account. To be in the thick of things one must also have a Facebook and Twitter account.  Generally, the latter two sites are for personal ‘interface’ with other like-minded types. However, in the business world, the pre-eminent ‘social media’ site, LinkedIN.com, is mandatory to stay within the business loop. Like it or not.

    If you weren't at this event - you missed the buzz. Burchill, the social media guru behind this "social media" gathering is in the upper left with notes in hand.

    Recently, I was doing my daily ‘check-in’ to that account, when I noticed that a few associates of mine had joined a group called ‘BusinessInBurlington’. Hmmm:  what’s that?, I wondered, and within a few clicks of the mouse, I found out.

    “The Business In Burlington open networking group   started online in 2008 with a simple mandate – help connect, promote and support local Burlington businesses.  If you’re a business in Burlington, do business in Burlington, or simply want to connect with local Burlington business owners and other entrepreneurs – THIS is the place to be!”

    I was amazed at the size of the group, over 800 members. Wow. How come?  Burlington, unlike Hamilton or Toronto, does not really have a unified City ‘identity’. Burlington is made up of six very diverse Wards spread out over a very large geographical area with a total population of only 170,000 +/-. For long-time residents, the City is better split into two distinct groups: those that live ‘above’ Dundas Street (formerly known as Highway 5), and those that live ‘below’. This divide is often expressed through contentious differences of opinion about the strategic growth of the City. It is built on fundamentally conflicting life values. Those above Dundas Street live in a predominately rural setting, while those ‘below’ live in suburban or urban clusters. Diverse, yes, unified, no.

    So, WHO are these 800+ ‘like-minded’ business people of Burlington? And WHY do they feel the need to ‘join’ this group? (as I just did).

    In answer, under the group discussion page, was a link for the third MeetUp on March 7th.   There have only been two other MeetUps, in January and February of this year. Each had 60-70 attendees. As of March 7th at 3pm, 148 members have signed up. These are, by any standard, LARGE social events.  People are coming together at a one physical location under the banner of ‘BusinessInBurlington’ without any specific agenda in mind. Again. Wow. How come?

    The founder of Business in Burlington, (BiB), James Burchill, is naturally very enthusiastic about the response to his third event. In his own words, he is considered a “social media guru & an online marketing expert” (with 15,000 followers on Twitter to boot). He is also Founder/CEO of BusinessFusionMarketing, a Social Media Marketing (SMM) Advertising agency.  I emailed and asked him WHY he thought there was such keen interest at this point in time for ‘Business in Burlington’?  He first answered, “Good question!” He then promptly posted the same question on the LinkedIn ‘BiB’ discussion board. Over the next week, a few members responded with positive shout-outs for James, their inspiring BiB leader. But, more importantly, all comments exhibited a sense that ‘we be comrades in arms’.

    Meanwhile, back at “BiB HQ”, James began offering a “video marketing” opportunity to some who intended to attend the next MeetUp event. A video booth, run by him, will record short introductions by participating members that will then be edited via his ad agency and posted on the BiB YouTube website with a URL linked back to member’s own websites. The strategy, according to James, is to maximize participants “SEO’d” exposure via YouTube, the “2nd most searched site on the net”. “Smart businesses”, he claims, “don’t have the time, the energy or the know-how to do proper video marketing on YouTube.”

    “Businesses have no clue” James Burchill,Social Media guru. Further to this, James is now offering a special opportunity for those who want to “learn more about using video for email marketing”. Ask him about ‘Codename TF”.

    All well and good comrades, but hey, WHAT ABOUT THE PARTY?There is no question that having an informal and free-admission ‘MeetUp’ at a familiar watering hole, the Beaver & Bulldog at 2020 Lakeshore Road, differs from more formal or conservative business gatherings that might be initiated by, say, The Chamber of Commerce or by the satellite McMaster University school site in Burlington. Talk about ‘dry’. And therein, to my mind, lies the key to this group’s apparent success.

    Middle Content

    Some of the 100 + people who took part in a "MeetUp"

    Yes, business people from the broad business community are getting together. They are going to have a drink or two at the end of a long work day. They are also finally cashing in on their due diligence re: ‘on-line’ social media networking. Obsessively spinning in and out of e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn, can soon consume many hours of the work week. This ‘business’ browsing may keep us up-to-date on what our like-minded comrades are doing, but in terms of actual productivity,  well, we all know how that works. When all is said and done, nothing replaces a good old fashioned chin-wag, or as James simply puts it, it’s “great to connect in person”.  Ergo, and eureka, let’s rendezvous at the local pub! (By the way, another trending ‘social media’ site, Foursquare.com, has also figured this Old Truth out.)

    Cynics could well dismiss this ‘BiB’ LinkedIn ‘MeetUp’ as just a hybrid ‘pick up’ or a  veiled excuse for a ‘cocktail party’ circa 2012.  However, Jennifer Aaker, Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has a different take. She believes that the role and impact of ‘brand marketing’ has changed so dramatically over the past few years, that brands, especially those gaining traction now, are those who act as “party hosts” aggressively overcoming the ever-increasing public “trust deficit”.

    Additional thoughts on the public “trust deficit” can be found  here and here.

    Recognizing that we are becoming ‘cyborg-ized’ may also explain an increasing need for REAL human contact. Plugging into the internet is now an integral everyday extension of both our professional and personal lives. So, yes, how refreshing it is to just unplug for a bit, and get-together for some good old fashioned gossip.

    To my mind, aside from the business hype, past and present, I think those who attend these ‘BiB’ MeetUps are genuinely interested in ‘down home’ socializing in a way not fashionable in well over a decade or two. In that sense, it really IS a local ‘cocktail party’ where rapid socializing, catching up, flirting, sizing up and business chats WILL happen over a drink or two within a very brief period of time. No strings attached.

    James Burchill, as facilitator extraordinaire, has done Burlington a great service by manifesting this basic human need. ‘Let’s talk. Let’s have a drink. Let’s get to know each other a little bit better. Hey, what’s up with you anyway these days? What’s the BUZZ?’ As a community synergizer, he has effectively gotten people off their computers (and iGadgets), and put them in a convivial social atmosphere to ‘mingle’.

    All of it – socializing in this friendly and informal way – encourages greater civic involvement, deepens an individual sense of belonging, and tangentially, nurtures a heightened civic responsibility by all those already actively invested in the success of this community. And, that, dear peeps, is GOOD for developing – and strengthening – a truly unified ‘identity’ for a rapidly evolving Burlington.

    Turns out, it really is good business to ‘Know thy Neighbour’.  Who knows. Maybe square-dancing will make a come-back soon too.

    Business in Burlington (BiB) meets on the 1st Wednesday of every month from 5-7pm currently at 2020 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, inside theBeaver & Bulldog pub. There’s plenty of parking, on-site and on the street

     © Margaret Lindsay Holton, 2012.  Margaret Lindsay Holton, an award-winning writer & mid-career Golden Horseshoe artist, was born ‘above’ Dundas Street (aka Highway 5), and now resides ‘below’ it. The photography is © M.L.Holton 2012 / http://canadadaPHOTOGRAPHY.blogspot.com

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    1. Viral in Burlington Yes!

    2. KENNETH HOPPER says:

      What a great idea !

      See you there.