Geeks don't hide behind their Twitter accounts. And they do often come out from behind their computer screens. In the last three years the tech and social media communities have grown fast. There are all kinds of get-togethers for brainstorming, networking and yes -- just plain socializing.
Two of these meetups take place on a regular basis every month, so count on them for getting your geek on.
Refresh Miami, held the last Wednesday of each month, was founded by local web developer and entrepreneur Brian Breslin. It is part of an international network of "refreshing cities" where tech and social media pros gather to share ideas, discuss trends, network, and socialize. Refresh Miami began humbly but now meets at the top-level ballroom in Coconut Grove's Doubletree Hotel, which accommodates nearly 200 attendees every month.
If you decide to attend, don't be surprised if it's standing room only.
Pretty much anything goes at Refresh Miami; the atmosphere is casual (the cash bar and free pizza doesn't hurt, either). Geeks present and share ideas, which range from someone's work on an iPhone app to another geek's passion for microformats to some web producer's killer new website.
It may sound stuffy and geeky, but it's not. The drinks and social time take the edge of a long day of work and it's a good time to catch up with folks.
Social Media Club, held on the second Tuesday of each month, is another international national network whose motto is: "If you get it, share it." "Get what?" you ask. It's getting how we create and consume new media, and making sure that this ever-evolving world doesn't become one big circle jerk. Nothing could be more annoying than a snooty, high profile geek who thinks he knows everything and doesn't care if you do. Social Media Club makes sure we all know it, get it and share it.
In 2006, former Miamian Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells founded Social Media Club in California. The South Florida branch, spearheaded by Alex de Carvalho, took flight here last year. (Alex also co-organizes Refresh Miami.)
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Social Media Club is pretty much just like Refresh Miami, except that you talk about social media instead of geek stuff, though the groups definitely overlap. This gathering has also grown exponentially in a very short time. Every month, new faces pop by, eager to learn about how to use social media for their own large or small businesses. Even if you're completely clueless, the point here is to promote social media literacy. You actually don't have to "get it" right away to benefit from the interaction.
Last month, the topic was "hyperlocal storytelling." Over a hundred people showed up at the Doubletree Hotel to learn about how car manufacturers are using social media. Yours truly presented about the Ford Fiesta campaign, Chevy presented about its Latin American outreach and a local Ford dealer talked about how they use social media.
You won't find Twitter 101 at Social Media Club South Florida meetups, but it's a great place to ask questions. Like Refresh Miami, it costs nothing to attend. Always bring plenty of business cards and plan on socializing over drinks and food afterward.
Other Social Media Clubs are popping up elsewhere in the tri-county area and the west coast. Stay tuned.