Secret Handshakes & Social Media Clubs


I believe in openness. I believe that all are welcome.

I am a little uncomfortable with the idea of creating social media clubs.  I smell rules and policy. Closure.  It feels like the echo chamber is getting bigger.  This can lead to groups becoming clicky-er, that the walls this social media theme park are getting higher – rather than opening up.  We should have more voices in this conversation.

I understand that clubs create a sense of unity, simultaneously however, exclusion.

Updates: mUmbrella citation, SMCSYD response

And aren’t we all enjoying theme park for its openness and authenticity?  I don’t want to have to play by a set of rules in the theme park — I want to build my own rides. I want other people to build rides too.  I want to build rides with other people. Well, you get the point.

Networks and communities are strongest because of the people who make them up – but clubs require members.  What do you need to be a member? Or is everyone automatically a member? But then why need a membership.  What does membership cost? What happens if you aren’t in the club?  Do we need secret handshakes to signify our membership? Am I assigned a number based on the order that I join or Twitter followers I have?  (For the record followers do not give you rank or achievement. Simply might mean you can build a good bot).  Do I need to remember the oath of social media? Remember the 111 commandments of social media?

Even the term social media has an interesting stigma around it.  On the one hand clients and the people standing and watching the theme park grow are excited by it — they’ve heard so much about it and it might be the push to make them move.  On the other hand, social media is getting a bad rap from too many snake oil salesmen.

I do not believe the term social media is an orphan strategy — I simply believe that it is the first steps of a next evolution in digital media.  And yes, we have to start somewhere, so for now at least, it’s been carefully looked at and planned for.  As Gavin pointed out social media is business area enabled by new technologies, rather than an on-going discipline like knowledge management.

Let’s keep being open.  Let’s work together.

I don’t want to be known as a social media guy – I just want to get to know all the passionate people who like doing stuff.  I will of course, do whatever I can to support the people and their valuable communities.

S.M.E.B.S – The Documentary from Marcus Brown on Vimeo.

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 25 comments for this article
  1. Gavin Heaton at 9:51 am

    Great post, Jye.

    The thing is, by having a ‘name’ and a ‘club’ you are defining something. This will both attract people and keep them away. That is the power of a name.

    For example, no matter how many times I say ‘all are welcome’, there is still a perception that Coffee Mornings in Sydney is an exclusive event – and focused on social media. As you know, it is not. But perceptions are hard to crack.

    For better or worse, clubs and groups and gangs define where we belong. But there is always a choice!

  2. Jye Author at 10:06 am

    Thanks. This was one of the harder posts to put together. Because I honestly do see all the valuable points of groups of people working together in this space.

    As you point out, perceptions are hard to break and shift. Social Media itself plays an important role in doing so — so it’s important we get it right at the same time.

    Coffee Mornings is a good one — where Tim Longhurst pointed out he felt like ‘an imposter’ and yet he’s been a great source of expertise and knowledge in just about everything because of his different perspective. And we all know I love perspectives.

    Agreed — we are defined by those around us. That’s why I get such excitement working with all these great people.

  3. malkuth damkar at 6:02 pm

    I’m unsure I agree about social media club, being a secret org. as the only one I’ve been to so far – STUB seems kinda cool, and easy.

    I have far darker thoughts about “lobby groups” such as aimia and the iab. These PAY UP to join groups seem to be the secret handshake orgs in my eyes.

    I do agree with Gavin about coffee mornings — I had someone ask me about that as well in regards to “whats the deal”.

    We apply our own agendas and bias to everything we see. Half full, Half empty or as Woody Allen would say – Half full of poison.

    With something having a name, gives it a label, “club” to some sounds like the masons as you seem to think Jye, whereas to me its just seems to be a group of enthusiasts like Max Fisher in Rushmore and his number of clubs he sets up at college.

  4. Jye Author at 6:36 pm

    Hey Mal,

    Long time reader, first time commentator? :)

    Ah see, that’s why I like STUB because of it’s community aspect across so many different industries, disciplines, and walks of life: it’s not targeted at anyone community, but brings lots of satellite communities together. As I said in my adtech preso — new innovations through technologies are new ways to connect people. It’s the openness factor I admire so much.

    Interesting points around AIMIA and IAB Australia – AIMIA has been around for 16 years now and again, I feel it tries to encompass a wide range of ‘interactive media’ people — but what is really interesting to note is how that definition has changed over time (started off including any cd-rom stuff!).

    The IAB Australia I feel plays a role in policy etc. and I think ADMA is actually putting together some social media guidelines/policy around this already — so there is the risk of double in this regard.

    But I do take your point.

    Love your take on the word clubs there, it is all a matter of perception.

    Thanks so much for joining in, Mal.

  5. malkuth damkar at 10:32 pm

    Jye, u seem to forget I started in multimedia I worked on multimedia projects back years ago, WAY before aimia.

    I felt compelled to comment because I dont understand the weirdness towards SMC when it hasnt even started, seems to stamp something out before its begun. Doesnt seem very social and why cant it be like stub, or KMforum.

    I just hate the massive fees charged to join an org, esp. when there doesnt seem to be any huge benefit or change.

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  7. Mark Pollard at 8:57 pm

    I need to set me up a club but Tip’s intentions wouldn’t be anything but positive with this.

    She’s too nice to do otherwise.

  8. inspiredworlds at 11:58 am

    we’ve actually mentioned the coffee mornings meetings at work (seems like word does get around in the digital /marketing industry). we might just have to shake off any inhibitions that we have and just come down and have a coffee!

  9. Jye Author at 12:03 pm

    Matt, definitely! Give me a buzz if you need directions. If not, look forward to seeing you next week.

  10. Jye Author at 4:57 pm

    Mark: as I said, it’s nothing personal at all — and is more a remark about clubs in general. Tip knows she’s my favourite ;)

  11. Jye Author at 5:38 pm

    Hi Kate,

    Thanks for sharing this. Just to clarify: are you guys affiliated with the US organisation?

    I thought it was interesting to note you didn’t mention the term club until the very end. Nor ‘social media’ kind of slant.

    Quick questions: do you find this is more closely related to our coffee morning meet ups or the Social Media Club Sydney?

    I think that’ll offer light to the new readers here.

    Interesting to note your ‘no sponsorship’ comments. While, SMCSYD first heading is ‘sponsorship wanted’ — what’s your opinion on this?

    I hope to get down to Melbourne very soon to take part — love all your melbournites ;)

  12. Kate Kendall at 6:04 pm

    @Jye – did you check my post header? It says ‘the first rule of social club…’. :-P

    Regarding official affiliation with the US org – yes and no. Yes in the fact that we promote the breakfast (or your ‘coffee mornings’) through them but no in that the breakfast are not all that happens in Melbourne regarding social media. I actually posted here today (in the Mumbrella link about it) –

    I think ‘club’ is a bit of an old-fashion-Americana-type word. I definitely don’t think it implies the sort of ‘Gentlemen’s club’ ethos of the past, just some sort of banner to tie in the meet-ups under.

    Regarding sponsorship… I think fair enough if you have expenses and need to provide things to attendees such as chairs and projectors, etc. but for casual coffees and meals then why? It would only be for the organisers to take control and either profit, or formalise the event by having a treasury. And from my perspective, there are plenty of formal events already on the circuit – the beauty of social events are that they are intimate and collaborative.


  13. Kate Kendall at 6:06 pm

    Oh yeah and Jye, the first rule of Melbourne Club is that we call ourselves ‘Melburnians’ not ‘Melburnites’. :-P

  14. Tiphereth at 6:07 pm

    Hi again, the sponsors wanted is part of the template of the Social Media Club Wiki, some of which I changed and deleted but we left that in, just to see whether anyone would come forward (i.e. alcohol brand sponsor) which is what Doug is working on longer term. Initially though, Toby from The Supper Club is our primary sponsor because he is giving the venue and the bar to us at no cost. So we’ll see what happens.

  15. Jye Author at 6:16 pm

    @Tip: nice, alcohol is important. As is coffee. I’d sell my soul for both.

    @Kate: ah ok. I see what you’re getting at. It’s really interesting to hear all this views: a number of people have mentioned to me that they thought Coffee Mornings was something exclusive to digital as well or puely ‘social media’ mornings.

    Thanks again guys for your comments. I’m looking forward to supporting in whatever way I can.

  16. tony thomas at 6:26 pm

    jye. some good thoughts. I don’t necessarily think we need rules per se but I do think it’s time to talk about some of the issues that will help substantiate social strategy as fundamental discipline for marketers.
    Subjects like measurement, definition and language are all worthy of a good (constructive) discussion not simply a ‘stand up in front of a big crowd’ presentation.
    Hopefully only good will come as a result.

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  18. Stephen Collins at 6:32 am

    Jye, why open with cynicism? I don’t know who you talked to, but SMC is about openness and learning – especially to those for whom social media isn’t in their DNA. It’s about professionalism, mentoring and the like.

    There’s no closed group thinking and its very point is to not be an echo chamber.

    The American who started it, Kristie Wells and Chris Heuer are both stand-up folks and there are a significant number of international and Australian leading thinkers involved (check their web site).

    The Americans are taking their approach very seriously, and the Sydney guys, who I support wholeheartedly, are taking a pretty serious tack too. In Canberra, where I wrangle the SMC along with Lauren Cochrane, it’s closer to coffee mornings.

    But seriously, it’s good folks, having a good time and trying to get professional knowledge out and about.

    Why not smile and try to enjoy? You’re too young to be a curmudgeon.

  19. Jye Author at 9:21 am

    Why cynicism? To kick-start discussion of course ;)

    I think it’s the perception of a ‘club’ that is needs to be in your DNA – many have expressed their concern with this. Is it a learning ground or a master class? I’ve heard different reports from different people, and Tip was great at clearing that up! I’m very excited to hear about mentoring too — could you elaborate?

    No doubt about the seriousness of it all.

    My age alone does not influence my attitudes. Only my experiences and the environment of those created around me. Had you not known my age — perhaps my feelings would have been perceived differently?

    But after all, that’s the point, the perception of social media, the perception of clubs, and the perceptions of my opinions will be defined by those around us.

    And you know I’m always smiling ;)

  20. Des Walsh at 1:47 pm

    Jye, I am a member of Social Media Club and I can’t get my head around the fact that what you are suggesting about the way it operates is so far from reality that I don’t know where to start. Actually, the first meeting of the first Social Media Club in Australia was a barbecue, no presentations, open invitation to *anyone* who wanted to attend, no entry fee, just from the generosity of one of the people who wanted to help the community and still does, without any fanfare. In a Skype vid session with the Gold Coast group, for which he stayed up till midnight in California, founder Chris Heuer emphasised his vision that SMC can provide a way for the social media people, i.e. those who “get it”, to be able to share the possibilities, the “insider” stuff that we may know, with the wider community. Secret handshakes? Fair go.

  21. Jye Author at 7:48 am

    Hey Des, great to hear from you.

    Before I reply, I really want to point out I hope you’ve read my previous replies and follow up piece of this article which may have addressed some of your frustrations.

    My sense of the formality of this piece came from what I read etc. from the official wiki. Positions for directors etc, sponsorship. Most of my concerns were all addressed personally by Tip in the follow up post.

    I’ve revoiced my support and look forward to doing what I can, spoken to the wonderful Doug and Tip many times, even have the photos to prove it ;) hehe.


  22. Des Walsh at 9:47 am

    Thanks Jye
    I realise you have not been inflexible. But as I haven’t seen anything in this whole discussion about the really nice, very smart people in Brissie and Gold Coast who are doing this Social Media Club thing and how they are doing it, I wanted to inject a bit of that “from the field”, in Oz, element. It’s a valuable comment about what you and probably others have got from the SMC official website and I will make sure that is fed back. I suppose too I was a bit upset because I know so many great people in the US, UK, France, Germany who are giving their time to help share the knowledge. I suppose some teething pains were to be expected with the at first slow and then rapid takeup of the concept in Oz. Anyway, keep thinking, keep challenging – not enough of it :)

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