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Social Media Club of St. Louis is back. Let the chatter begin.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 8, 2009 - Thanks to a blog post from Riverfront Times, I came across a group that lives by the mantra, “If you get it, share it.”

The Social Media Club began (where else) in Northern California in 2006. The St. Louis chapter was born last year but started up in earnest last month with a re-launch event at Atomic Cowboy. Some members of the group work in fields like marketing and advertising that require a familiarity with Facebook, Twitter and Digg. Many are avid bloggers who want to become part of a larger network. Everyone shares an interest in keeping an eye on what’s happening in St. Louis, says Reem Abeidoh, managing director of the Social Media Club of St. Louis.

“You’ll see that St. Louis is increasingly becoming an active community of social media users,” said Abeidoh, who’s also the social media strategist at Outrider. “People who chat back and forth online don’t often get a chance to meet each other.”

That’s why the group is planning on holding monthly events (over drinks at various St. Louis restaurants and bars) that feature a panel discussion on different social media topics. This month’s event, June 18 at 5 p.m. at the Pepper Lounge, covers social media ethics.

To get a sense of what drew some of the group’s board members to social media and what keeps them interested, I asked a series of e-mail questions. I quickly learned that their introduction to social media predates Friendster and MySpace, and that Twitter is -- to quote one of my favorite comedies -- so hot right now.

Here’s a condensed version of the group Q&A:

What was your first social media experience and how did you eventually get hooked?

Lisa Young, manager of organic search at Outrider: My first experience with social media was probably bulletin boards or chat rooms. However, the experience which got me hooked was a listserv that I belonged to when I was pregnant with my first child. This email list was the platform which supported a community of moms-to-be from all over the world who were due in the same month. This online community shared an intense experience. The group shared several miscarriages and a stillbirth as well as our individual birth stories. We spent many months trading questions, fear and advice. Members who lived close geographically arranged real-world meet ups. Even after our babies were born many moms stayed together online or formed playgroups.

Melody Meiners, marketing director for Social Media Club of STL, owner and managing editor for GirlsGuidetotheGalaxy.com: I shed my social media naivete back in 2006 when I sat down and stared my own blog and MySpace page one night. I didn't really understand what social media was or what it meant; to me all of this was a way to write and self publish. I didn't have a writing outlet at the time because my hand started cramping (I didn't want to look totally brooding) by writing in a journal.

Chris Miller, promotions director for the club and a blogger (TheSocialNetworker.com): Wow, these few years have been a blur. I know I started heavy in instant messaging and then blogging. It grew quickly from there testing multiple social sites.

Brad Hogenmiller, recruiter/client manager at Technology Partners: My first experience honestly would be back in the #irc chat (an early chatroom system) and BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) days of DOS... The bulletin boards and forums were a great place to learn and grow from real people free of marketing speak. In its modern iterations my first experience would be MySpace... It wasn't until more recent tools like Linkedin and Twitter that I realized the business value in social media.

Todd Jordan, programmer and frequent blogger: My first social media experience was really before the official things like Twitter and Facebook. I was an early adopter for Twitter. Initially I was not that interested because there wasn't a critical mass of people using them. What really hooked me were the people... not the big names we think of today but some of the other regular people who were early adopters.

Which platform do you spend the most time on now?

Young: I spend the most time on Twitter. 

Meiners: I am on Twitter, Facebook and my blogging site at least 10 hours a day, simultaneously. I may have a problem... I even bought a phone that is smarter than my dog in order to have access to these sites whenever and wherever.

Miller: While my main stream comes from Twitter (through filtering), I do utilize TripIt for travel, FriendFeed for aggregation and Google Reader for news. I spend the rest of my time doing reviews and testing new products before most people see and use them.

Hogenmiller: Currently I'm on Linkedin and Twitter more than anything else. I find the speed of Twitter irreplaceable and the business research value on Linkedin unmatched. Together they offer me a great embodiment of using social media to streamline efficiency in the office, without being overwhelmed by distractions.

Jordan: Spend most of my time these days with Twitter and Facebook. There was a strong period last year were I focused a lot of time on Utterli, a multimedia social networking/media platform. 

How do you use social media?

Young: Grow my personal and professional network, communicate with individuals with shared interests worldwide, ask questions, find old friends.

Meiners: I use social media to stay in touch with what is going on in technology, local events and just to meet new, like-minded people.  I have actually met a lot of the folks in person over the last few years, and, despite popular opinion, there are some very interesting, attractive and fancy-pants local people who use these social media technologies for personal reasons on a regular basis.

Miller: I utilize social media to actually stay on top of current trends as well as give and find knowledge. While some of the material is not always social media related, once you learn how to manipulate the stream of information, most everything is there.

Hogenmiller: My goals with any social media tool are branding, interaction and monitoring.

Jordan: #1 use of social media and networking is to connect with folks. I enjoy meeting new people and learning new things. It's a great way to find out news and keep tabs on people.

What's your biggest pet peeve about people who abuse social media?

Young: People who see the medium as a numbers game and seek to game the system. Twitter is seeing a big surge of those type of individuals now. But this is really no different than email spammers and those who spam the search engines. These people miss the point that social media is about relationships. They gain nothing from their efforts.

Meiners: I really, really get my panties in a twist when people start preaching about the way social media is "supposed" to be used... [People have] their own motives for creating and consuming the types of media that are out there, and with the recent advances in technology people have become more selective and personal in their media choices (social or not). I say live and let live. If you don't like someone in real life then you don’t go to their birthday party, and if you don't like what someone is saying on their Twitter account, don't follow them. Simple as that – I think. 

Miller: Not understanding how to flow their output of information. A social media distribution flow is important not to overwhelm followers/friends as well as to reduce duplication of postings and effort. Also someone who reposts the same link or information consistently to drive traffic. If I need the information or if it is valuable, I would have already found it myself or been pointed to it by someone else.

Hogenmiller: Impatience... The impatient who follow 10,000 people (then drop those that don't follow back) and immediately market their product or service only looking at their follower count rather than the value they provide to their audience... it gives the field a bad name.

Jordan: My biggest pet peeve is folks who treat social media as just another way of broadcasting advertisements. Lots of the folks joining today are signing up and just start sending out links to their site to sell something.