NOTE: This post is cross-posted here and on the Social Media Club Louisville site.

In January, Todd Earwood and I officially founded the Social Media Club’s Louisville chapter. We had about 35 people show up for our first meeting. Since then, we’ve met monthly and had a great time learning and growing our networks together.

[flickr style="float: right"]photo:2510810016[/flickr]Last night was our May gathering and the format was an open discussion. I started the group of 25 folks off with a general topic: What do you want to get out of the Social Media Club?

What ensued was a vibrant and involved discussion from some amazing people, some new to social media wanting to learn, others deeply nested in the web social computing can tangle you in. I told them the informal steering committee I’d put together for the club was challenged with coming up with programs for a wide net of folks. Our audience ranges from complete noobs who would struggle to even define social media, to experts in the field; and from developers, programmers and software engineers to marketers, PR folks, to small business owners and venture capitalists. Bottom line: It’s hard to figure out what’s best to cover.

But last night opened our eyes to a great deal of clarity. We have a mission. We have a purpose. And our group, I think, defined it.

The Social Media Club Louisville’s mission is to educate the community about social media and social media tools to improve and enhance its member’s productivity, connectivity and online experience. In doing so, we also evangelize the use of social media for both business and personal success.

That is what I heard last night. Those in attendance (below) can certainly chime in via the comments to ensure we all contribute to that definition, but evangelizing social media seemed to be the consensus. And, even if you are trying to look at SMC involvement as a business opportunity, it makes sense. If more people adopt social media, there’s more of an audience to reach, more potential clients to recruit and the like.

And what a convenient time to get this message from the members! Social media enthusiasts in Indianapolis and Charlotte have contacted me recently wanting to know what I did to start SMC Louisville. Andre Natta, Ike Pigott and my former peeps in Birmingham are dreaming up un-conferences and WordCamps and the discipline is growing elsewhere also.

As we sit here today, we are all on the forefront of what I believe will be an explosion for the social web in the next five years. More and more case studies are going to come down the pike to give even the most fearful and conservative of businesses the value proposition they need to say, “yes,” to what we are recommending. As social media thinkers, enthusiasts or even just interested parties, the time is now. But that time is what we make of it.

Today you should show someone how to use RSS feeds. You should explain the usefulness of Twitter. You should illustrate the value in sharing bookmarks socially to someone who still uses browser favorites. You should help someone find their ideal blog topic.

Teaching social media benefits you. It gives you a broader network of individuals to choose from, brings expertise in areas outside the bounds of our own to our friends lists, our communities. It provides greater depth and breadth to conversations. It might even connect or reconnect you to old friends, classmates and even family members.

And for those of you in the social media business, it puts you in the position of expert to people who might one day be in need of more experienced thinking or strategic planning for social media programs.

Part of our discussion led us to wonder what nursing homes would be like if we could teach all those patients who go through life with a sense of loneliness how to use social media to connect with each other or their families. Imagine how impactful we could be!

But we only can be if we stop talking to each other and start showing the rest of the world what social media is. Get out of the echo chamber and show your mother how to find you using tweets and “@” signs. Find a friend and show them how to cut down on surf time by subscribing to RSS feeds.

More importantly, join the Social Media Club in your area. If there isn’t one, start one. If you want to know how, ask. Or check out the national organization’s blog or wiki.

Educate + Evangelize

It’s going to take an army of us to push this ball up the hill. But there is a summit and the other side is going to be fun to see.

Those in attendance in Louisville last night included:

Out of town guests Kathy Isenberg of the National PreCast Concrete Association; Jim Brown of EverEffect, Josh Mitchell of Riakt Studios and Kelli McLemore, Jacob Leffler and Brian Phillips of The Basement Design + Motion, all of whom were from Indianapolis; Mainstay Doug Petch from Winchester, Ky.; Ashley Cecil of the Louisville Visual Art Association; Beth Blakely of VibrantNation.com; Nick Moorman, an intern at CNET and his lady friend Kyle; Holly Johnson and Peter Stone of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival; Michelle Jones of ConsumingLouisville.com; Aaron Marshall of ChurchSMO and TechSMO, Mike Foster, Clay Marshall and D.B Wright of DBS, Veronica Combs of MedTrackAlert; John Hicks, a local web developer working with Brick House; Rande Swann of the Fund for the Arts who graciously provided us with ArtSpace as a venue; and Brad Sidio, Heather O’Mara and Sarah Bevin from the Kentucky Opera and Louisville Orchestra. (Brad and Heather also helped us set up and tear down the space and served as hosts … much appreciated!) Kentucky Opera and Louisville Orchestra.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.thewayoftheweb.net Dan Thornton

    Sounds pretty similar to the outcomes of similar gatherings under the Measurementcamp, and Mediacamp banners in the UK.

    A large part of Measurement camp is dedicated to finding ways to share case studies in a manner which encourages input from stakeholders – whether that’s anonymous for example, and what data is needed.

    And I totally agree about going outside the early adopter echo chamber as much as possible.

    It’s essential for spreading the message, and even has some selfish personal benefits, as you can be reinvigorated by seeing someone experience the likes of Twitter for the first time, and you’ll have positioned yourself as an expert to a whole range of new users…

  • http://www.SocialMediaBreakfast.com Bryan Person, Social Media Breakfast founder

    Great post, Jason. Playing with all the tools is fun, but teaching others how to use them and apply them in their own lives and in their own businesses is imperative. We’ll all be far better off for it!

    Social media education is part of the reason I founded the Social Media Breakfast series, which I hope you’ll add to your stable of events in Louisville sometime soon, too. Have you ever hired that assistant yet? He/she can help!

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/ Matthew Chamberlin

    “But we only can be if we stop talking to each other and start showing the rest of the world what social media is.” Bingo.

    As a high school English teacher once counseled us in a creative writing class, “Show, don’t tell.”

    It can also be gratifying when you see someone’s light bulb go off when you show them how cool GoogleSync is or why RSS is no different than a magazine subscription.

    We’re doing the dirty (but fun) work down here in Miami…

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Dan – Thanks for the overseas perspective. Interesting to know we’re both moving down similar paths in our respective markets. Thanks for stopping by!

    Bryan – It’s on the offing, sir. And with this educational push from us, I sense it will happen sooner than later. Thank you!

    Matthew – Keep up the good work and we will too. Hopefully, we can all buy in to the teaching track and grow this thing huge.

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