By Rebecca Hansen
LOGAN–Walking into Club New York, your eyes have to adjust to the almost non-existent light. The only lights illuminating the corridor and snack area are blacklights, making any white surface glow. At the end of the hallway is a cozy room with a small stage where half a dozen people are setting up chairs, all the while talking, laughing, socializing. This is the Social Media Club of Cache Valley (SMCCV).
While social media make it convenient to network and interact over the Internet, problems arise when making the transition to a club that meets in person. That’s why, for the time being, the SMCCV will be meeting at a different location each month until they can find a more permanent home.
At this SMCCV meeting, local blogger Loralee Choate shared her experiences with social media. Earlier this year Choate wrote a blog post about her conflict with her insurance company when it considered her high-rick pregnancy a pre-existing condition. In this post she said “the overwhelming anxiety that has been building and building for a long time erupted and I burst into wracking, sobbing tears to the insurance coordinator.” She sent out a link to her post on Twitter, which was reposted by other people and eventually it was “read by the right person.” Choate said this got her an invitation to attend a luncheon in August with Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s senior advisor, to talk about health care reform. She and her husband both got to talk with Jarrett about their opinions on health care.
Choate said she couldn’t believe she was getting this sort of opportunity. “I’m nobody,” she said. “I blog about my life, my children, my ‘ta-tas’. I didn’t think anyone cared.”
The SMCCV is a chapter of the Social Media Club, which was founded by husband and wife team Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells in San Francisco in 2006. The Cache Valley chapter launched in July 2009 and is one of the more than 35 active chapters all over the world. According to the club’s Facebook page, their mission is “to become the voice of social media technology in the Cache Valley area” by educating people on social media and promoting ethical social media standards. The club focuses on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as personal and business blogs.
Choate isn’t the only one who has learned to use social media to her advantage. Nancy Williams, SMCCV’s communications director, said that’s the whole point of the club: to help people learn to use social media beyond just staying in touch with their families without having to take a class. Williams said her involvement started when she got an e-mail from Preston Parker, a public relations professor at Utah State University who was trying to put together a board for the Cache Valley chapter.
“He asked me if I’d be interested and I said yes,” Williams said. “It was really simple.” The only other Social Media Club chapters in Utah are in Salt Lake City and Utah Valley, which Williams said was a little far for people in Cache Valley. She said she, Parker and a few others who had been attending the Salt Lake meetings decided “that it was a cool thing that we could do.
“There’s always been a group of people (in Cache Valley) who used social media,” Williams said. “It just took Preston getting us all together.”
Parker said the reason Cache Valley is the perfect place for this type of club is because it’s full of college students and the perfect place for entrepreneurs, and both “need and use social media.” The SMCCV gives people a great opportunity to learn from other’s expertise.
“Nobody knows everything about social media, but together we know it all,” Parker said. “So if you have a question, there’s someone there who knows the answer.”
Parker added that with technology today, everyone has an online reputation, and it’s important to know how to manage it. Williams said there’s no denying social media have changed the way people look at a lot of things, particularly the mass media. She said it’s similar to the change that television brought about. Television changed the mass media drastically, and social media is doing the same.
Williams said the advantage is that it gives people instant access to news events and the people who are involved with them. She related the story of the Hudson River plane crash last January. “The best pictures of the crash were from people on a ferry in the river using their digital cameras and cell phones,” Williams said. “The first reports were Twittered. It took the Associated Press a good hour before they moved a story on it. That’s the first time I really understood the power of Twitter.”
The SMCCV meets on the second Thursday of every month. For more information visit their Web site, www.smccv.net, or search for Social Media Club Cache Valley on Facebook.