Kevin Urie – Taking Social Media Offline

by Rasmus Rasmussen on February 15, 2010

Kevin Urie

Kevin Urie is a go-getter. I got that feeling even before setting up an interview with him. He is a marketing man who just over a year ago made the decision to learn more about social media. So he formed the Seattle chapter of the Social Media Club and was blown away by its reception. The rest is history and today the Seattle Social Media Club is one of the most popular networking groups in the city.

I met with Kevin downtown, making sure to show up 15 minutes early and still not getting there first. This did not surprise me. I found it more surprising that he drinks tea instead of coffee (this being Seattle, that’s almost considered a sin by some). In a matter of seconds, I was drawn in by Kevin’s curious nature and warm personality. Obviously both a great talker and listener, I came away from the interview uncertain as to who really asked the most questions.

AP: You founded the Seattle chapter of the Social Media Club, which is now very popular. What made you invest the time and energy to do this?

KU: Ignorance at first. 12 months ago when I started Social Media Club Seattle (SMC Seattle) I had no idea what I was getting into. I’m a learner, and believe if you are not moving forward you are moving back. I wanted to take on a new challenge and learn something new. In the months leading up to me starting SMC Seattle I started to dive into social media, and really enjoyed it, and wanted to learn more.

So I reached out to Kristie Wells from Social Media Club international to see if they had a Seattle group I could connect with. I learned there was not an active chapter in Seattle, so I asked if they would like me to start one. Considering the other Social Media Clubs I knew about at the time, had around 30-50 people at a bar talking social media, I thought it would be no big deal.

Well at our first event we had over 150 people and I was shocked and wondering what the heck I got myself into. Lucky for me a great group of board members surrounded me, and have made working on SMC Seattle fun. Not to mention I have learned more than I would have ever thought, and have made some friends I don’t know what I would do without now.

AP: How has Social Media influenced your own way of life? How much is personal, how much is business?

KU: Social media allows me to get outside both my personal and business silos. I think this is a key to both personal and professional growth.

We learn more from those around us than we do in any book or blog, and with social media I am able to surround myself with some of the best and brightest. I am able to connect with people I would have probably never met through traditional channels.

Think about how many people you typically come in contact with on a daily basis, at work, coffee shops, gas stations, etc. Really it’s not too many people, and it’s a lot of the same people every day. These connections are important but they limit us, and we tend to make us all start thinking the same way.

By using social media I have been able to escape this silo. I am now able to connect with thousands of people every day. Hear what they have to say about topics, see what they think is interesting. Then with SMC Seattle I am able to meet some of these people in person, and take these relationships to even the next level.

So to answer your original question, in my personal life, I am now exposed to more ways of thought than before, and I think it makes me a better friend and more complete person. These social connections work the same way for my professional career. I bring more info and experience forward to my clients and employer than I ever did before.

Social media is like the Borg from Star Trek, but in a good way. When a bunch of people share and learn together, everyone benefits.

AP: You talk about social media as a ‘communication philosophy’. What is that about, and could it be applied to offline life as well?

KU: It’s a little pet peeve of mine. I hear people and companies say I need to get on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Those are tools, they really don’t matter, they are just a vessel for communication. Heck in some cases they might not even be the best vessel.

What social media is about to me is about communication. It’s about connecting with people, establishing relationships, and learning together.

For companies this means listening, sharing and working with your customers/employees to improve your product/service and social media tools provide a great way to do that. If you don’t believe in the listening and sharing part however, the tools are going aren’t going to help you.

Offline is no different. Take a networking event. Some people are there to learn, but others are just there to make connections, give out business cards, and make a sale (lucky for us, SMC Seattle doesn’t have many of these). The networking event is a tool, how you choose to use it determines the value you get out of it. Same thing can be said about friendships, jobs, or pretty much for anything if you think about it.

AP: I know from experience that it’s easy to waste a lot of time on things like Facebook and Twitter. How do you engage in the social aspect and still stay productive?

KU: I won’t lie, it’s hard. The more connections I make the harder it is to step away. I feel like I am turning my back on my friends when I do.

Most of the community understands however, because they go through it as well. We are not all Chris Brogan and can be connected at all times, and going 1,000 miles an hour. I’ve got a family, a busy job, and not to mention SMC Seattle which ironically takes me away from social media at times.

I think with anything you need to find your balance. I remember when I got my first smart phone it was a bit overwhelming to have access to my email at all time. Every time it beeped I freaked out, but over time I learned to live with it, where now it’s to a point I stress if I don’t have it.

I think the younger generations have a huge advantage over us in this area. They can multi-task better than me. They can IM, TXT, and carry on a conversation all at the same time, and give everyone the proper attention they deserve. I can do about two, but still have trouble with it at some times.

ADD is our friend beyond 2010.

AP: I’ve heard some critics say that social media will eventually drown in spam and marketing. What do you think about that?

KU: I agree that people will try, but don’t know if they will succeed. The community on these networks must understand that they are in charge, not the brands. It’s not like TV or Radio, where business decides what airs and what we see. In social media we determine who we friend, what we pay attention to. If we pay attention to the spam and marketing and it works, it will be there.

Let’s hope we are all smarter than that.

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