Silicon Beach: Chris Brogan Interview

Chris Brogan, considered a social media rock star by many, will visit Southwest Florida to speak at a Twestival event in Sanibel this Saturday at 10 a.m. Twestivals are Twitter-based grassroots fundraising events that take place all over the world on assigned dates.

A social media veteran for more than ten years, the 39-year-old from Boston is the president of New Marketing Labs, a new-media marketing agency. He advises businesses on how to use social media and networks to build value, but he also directs his influence for the benefit of charitable causes. Brogan is also the co-author of Trust Agents, a New York Times best seller also penned by Julien Smith (@julien).

Brogan truly practices what he preaches via thought-provoking Twitter (@chrisbrogan) and blog posts that typically beg a question and generate community dialogue. In addition to speaking engagements, he also sends out beautifully written and motivational email newsletters for anyone interested in social media and building relationships.

Though he's a busy guy, traveling from one airport to another, Brogan took a moment this week to speak over the phone with Riptide about himself and Twestival.

New Times: What will you be speaking about at the Twestival?

Chris Brogan: Using social media tools for social change.

NT: You've worked a lot with causes in the past. What do you think of the global Twestival effort?

Brogan: I hate words starting with a "twa" or "twe," but the idea of raising awareness for a cause is extremely important. This is a movement that is powered across a couple of generations but has grown with the millennials. What moves me the most is that these tools allow us to build mass and to motivate this mass in doing good work.

NT: What other charitable social media causes have you been involved with?

Brogan: I once raised shaved my head for charity and raised 75 hundred bucks to help put more computers in schools. I take my influence with big Fortune 500 companies and turn it around to help connect companies with causes.

NT: In the early days of Twitter, you'd really put yourself out there, publishing your phone number for anyone who wanted to chat. Did this help you reach a wider audience?

Brogan: Yes! I love connecting with people still, but the telephone has become my enemy. I almost don't ever do phone interviews. I find that the phone gets in the way of me being with people all the time, which is what I do. I am already active on my blog and Twitter. I receive and respond to nearly 200 Twitter direct messages a day and am the most active commenter on my blog.

NT: What inspired your book Trust Agents?

Brogan: I live in airplanes and am always at an airport. I noticed that executives at airports were sitting around actually reading books and not tweeting from their laptops. Books are artifacts these days, but they're still widely used. It's the way big ideas get spread. I had a need to have more people learn, and I can't be everywhere all at once. I wanted to spread the message to businesspeople about being more human, using these social media tools and doing community-based things.

NT: What are your impressions of the social media scene in Florida?

Brogan: I've been to Orlando and Tampa a few times and will be attending the IAEE conference in Miami this December. Florida cities aren't generally considered a major hub of innovation like New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. But actually it's in these smaller cities all across the country where things are really happening.

Note: Founded by a group of social media folks in London, the first series of global Twestivals took place earlier this year. Miami followed suit in February, organized by Christine M. Adolf and yours truly. This month, our friends in Southwest Florida and Jacksonville are working the charitable efforts in multi-day events. Stay tuned for more tri-county Twestival information.

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Miami native Maria de Los Angeles currently journeys in northern latitudes but is a correspondent for the Magic City. A community advocate, she pens stories about art, culture, good folks doing good things, women's issues, and only-in-Miami moments.