This past weekend, I attended the SOBCon, Virtual Meets Concrete, social media conference. It was my first social media gathering. I was intimidated, because what I’ve done with my blog, twitter, etc. over the last four years has been amateur-intuitive, at best, and not driven by any informed strategy.
But I knew I wanted to take social media to the next level, and SOBCon seemed to fit the bill. I had no preconceived notions of what to expect other than show up, see what happens and learn. What happened? I fell in love. Literally.
Love hits when you least expect it…
As was the case when I met my husband 25 years ago, love usually hits when you least expect it. You stumble along knowing something’s missing but you don’t know what. You date. You meet new people, but nothing seems quite right. And then a friend says, “Hey, I know someone.” You think, “What the heck, why not.” Next thing you know, love. The pieces fit together. That’s what happened to me at SOBCon.
I know I’m verging on the corny and dramatic. But as was the case the last time I unexpectedly fell in love more than two decades ago, it’s very hard to accurately describe the experience in words because it’s overwhelming. In fact, I’m glad my computer stopped working the first day of the conference or there would have been an endless stream of tweets in my Twitter stream that were variations of, “awesome,” and “amazing.”
So what made SOBCon such a transformative love match?
“You never walk alone” Other people get the link between social media and change in business & non-profit
When Terry Starbucker launched the day by singing the song, “You will never walk alone” I almost lost it. For the past 15 years, I’ve simultaneously lived in two worlds that, in the beginning, few people would see as relevant or linked to one another. And it can get lonely.
In business school in the mid-90’s, I was the only person in our class (and perhaps in the school’s history) who wanted to go into work+life strategy consulting. I got lots of “what?” Time has proven me right, but it was lonely then. Same thing happened in the late 90’s when I was the first person in my field who thought it was important to have a “how to” to help individuals manage their work+life fit in partnership with their employers. Again, time and a published book closed the gap, but it was lonely for awhile.
Four years ago, I started the first blog in my industry, and got lots of “Why are you giving information away for free?” Now there are many voices in the blogosphere around the subject of work, life and flexibility, but I still find myself day-in and day-out explaining why social media matters to advancing the cause. Only to get blank stares.
You keep doing it because you have a vision of the potential to make change happen. But, I can’t describe the feeling of being in a room full of people who just “get it.” You move immediately to “what can we do with this amazing thing called social media?” The answer is an unbelievable amount.
Experiencing the power of community to solve problems—fast!
This meeting of 150 unique individuals from social media, business, non-profit, entertainment, and mainstream media ended up providing solutions to a number of business challenges with which I’d been grappling for awhile. And it was unexpected and happened by chance—the topic, the speaker, the panels, the table mates, and the conversations all happened to lead to the answers that I, in some cases, didn’t even know I needed.
Here are just a few examples:
- Better business planning: Ann Michael, of Delta Think, and Susan Radojevic, of The Peregrine Agency, who both have businesses structured the same way as mine, gave excellent advice on how to improve my planning process.
- Sharing proprietary, yet helpful, information: Jonathan Fields, of Career Renegade, and Michael Martine, of Remarkablogger, resolved a content distribution question by pointing out the benefits of giving it away for free.
- Event partnership development: Amy Pietsch, Director of the Venter Center in Appleton, WI, Judy Martin of WorkLifeNation.com and Jeffrey Shuey of Kodak, offered “how to” tips on building sponsorship and support for an event.
- Reaching dads to optimize their work+life fit: Two technology experts who spoke and are also fathers, David Taylor and Jeremy Wright, gave me important insights into my long-running struggle to engage more dads in the work+life fit conversation.
- Creating online training without a huge $ investment: Sheila Scarborough and Becky McCray of Tourism Currents walked step-by-step through the “how to” process of creating and hosting a web-based training.
- Amp-up the tone of my blog posts: Erika Napoletano of RedHeadWriting urged me to get in touch with my inner “Snark-Shark”.
Participating in the power of social media and community to tackle global problems
Again, uncharacteristically, words are going to elude me as I try to describe this part of SOBCon. The last day of the conference that was awe-inspiring.
The best way to describe it is that the group, under the capable guidance of Geoff Livingston of Zoetica Media, “crowd-sourced” online and offline social media-based solutions for four incredible non-profits that included invisiblepeople.tv, Anixter.org, Ashoka.org, and VitaminAngels.org. Become part of the community supporting these terrific groups. Expect much more to come as they roll out the powerful ideas the group generated to help them expand the impact and reach.
Fear is normal, but just “launch the effer!”
These are uncertain and scary times, but also a once in a lifetime moment of opportunity…so, find the courage to DO IT! (Whatever your ‘it” may be) All I will say is sit in a room and listen to SOBCon’s Liz Strauss (“Raise a Barn, not a Coliseum”) Jonathan Fields, of Career Renegade, Hank Wasiak of Asset-Based Thinking, Steve Farber of Extreme Leadership and Chris Brogan of New Marketing Labs and you realize that you just have to “launch the effer.” Or as Terry Starbucker said, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.” Amen.
When you fall in love, you can find yourself…acting like an idiot. Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker, SOBCon’s truly visionary organizers, must think the only words I know are “Thank you.” I wanted to say more, but every time I saw them all I could muster was “Thank you.” And then the awe-inspiring Liz Strauss hugged me. I became so overwhelmed I almost started to CRY!! Yes, cry. (Jeez.) And then I couldn’t talk…at all!
One of many reasons to go back next year is to be able to have a coherent conversation with this brilliant duo. In the mean time, this is my love letter to them and everyone from SOBCon 2010…Thank you. Sometimes that just sums it up.
In addition to following the #SOBCon Twitter stream, here are related posts from other SOBCon-ers:
Liz Strauss–“How to Raise a Barn in a Weekend”
Barry Moltz–“The 20 Best Things I Heard at SOBCon 2010″
Danielle Smith–Extraordinary Mommy-“SOBCon 2010-What I Know for Sure”
Loren Feldman--“SOBCon Thoughts”