Goodbye Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region! Thank you!

Tomorrow is my 24th Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region (smbWR) event since I founded it three years ago–and my final one. smbWR shall continue but I’m moving on.

My vision for smbWR

Here’s a short video taken at an event on International Social Media Day (June 30, 2010) where I outlined my plans for the nonprofit community organization.

I believe that’s exactly what I with the help of others over the three years have delivered.

The origins of smbWR

In 2010, I attended the World Conference in Toronto of the International Association of Business Communicators. The day before the conference began there was a social media unconference that was organized by a team that included Bryan Person who founded Social Media Breakfast. I learned there were 30 – 40 of them across North America but nothing in or near Waterloo Region. So I tweeted that I wanted to start one and immediately got a couple responses of interested people.

As I was launching my business, I saw smbWR as a great way to demonstrate my interest and knowledge of social media. But it was and remained important to me that it be operated as a nonprofit community organization. In fact, we’ve gone even further and donated hundreds of dollars over the three years to local charities.

The first year of smbWR

The first official event occurred in September 2010 at the Kitchener Marketplace. Nearly 100 people including the city’s director of communications and Mayor Carl Zehr attended. Our first speaker was Kitchener native Joe Thornley whom I had gotten to know via Twitter and met at the IABC World Conference’s unconference. Joe gave a great introduction to social media. The event was extra special because his business partner Terry Fallis was in town because his book Best Laid Plans was the One Book, One Community selection and being celebrated the same week. Terry’s use of social media including a podcast to promote his book was a true social media success story so Joe convinced him to share his story.

The next event was our first in Cambridge. We held it at city hall and featured Kneale Mann who has many local connections. We later had Cambridge native Josh Muirhead return to talk about the connection between telling a story and online engagement. He was the first speaker that we recorded.

Having panels of local people talking about their first hand experiences of using social media especially to build relationships and community was important to me. The first featured Juanita Metzger, Brock Hart, Hilary Abel and Joseph Fung. We had another later in the year featuring small business users: Benjamin Bach, Tricia Mumby, Trevor Herrle-Braun and Pam Salisbury.

I knew we definitely had something special when Dave Fleet presented at our first Waterloo event. A large crowd turned out to see a certified expert share his vision of where social media was going.

The year ended with a bang with Waterloo Region’s own Julia Rosien making the connection between search engine optimization and social media.

Year two of smbWR

By the second season, smbWR benefited from great word of mouth. The events were high energy and filled with large crowds of enthusiastic people who were interested in what each other were doing. People often came expecting a small, quiet sleepy event and left beaming with excitement.

The highlight of the year proved to be a debate on the importance of ROI (return on investment) between Alan Quarry, defender of the unicorns, and Chris Eh Young, unicorn slayer (not really though he did risk the wrath of Scott Stratten aka unmarketing). About 170 people packed the St. Jacob Playhouse for an entertaining and informative discussion.

Quarry Communications supported smbWR by hosting a couple of events at its new St. Jacobs headquarters.The season started with Lisa Middleton who gave a fascinating look into how a nonprofit organization like the Stratford Festival effectively made social media social in support of its marketing efforts. Waffles made that event memorable! We returned at the end of the year when Kelly Craft shared the foundation of the why, what and how of measuring social media.

One panel featured journalists Kevin Swayze, Ashley Csanady, Nadia Matos and Natalie Thomas discussing how social media has changed their profession and the nature of media relations It has the most views of any of our events on video. Mike Farwell made a special guest appearance via video.

Also very popular both in person and on the smbWR Youtube Channel are presentations by Paul Nazareth on using LinkedIn(see video) and Jeff Pulver on finding meaning through using social media (see video). I originally would never have expected Jeff Pulver who founded the hugely success 140 Conferences to speak at smbWR.

We had a special after hours event so that we could talk food and enjoy it at the Cambridge Mill. The panel featured Nick Benninger, Paula Costa, Andrew Coppolino, Stephanie Tanner and Trevor Herrle-Braun. We saw how there was a food community online that had many different users but who were connected in a way that they weren’t before. It was a model for how social media could be used for other sectors. See the video.

Another sector had plenty of lessons for everyone’s use of social media. Claire Kerr and Clare MacDowall shared lessons from the nonprofit sector including a look at the implications for major changes at Facebook. Here is Claire Kerr on video.

We also had an All Day Breakfast–part unconference where the attendees set the agenda and were responsible for the conversation but anchored by great presentations by Shum Attygalle, Natalie MacNeil and Jeremy Wright.

Year three of smbWR

The learning has continued in year three. Being so recent, it’s hard to get nostalgic but I’m pleased that the quality of the events has continued. There have been many new faces attending this year too.

Danny Brown shared his expertise on using blogging as part of your marketing strategy. See video. While Martin Waxman shared his reading of the “social media barometer.” See video.

Jason Shim and Shubhagata Sengupta shared how to engage youth. Leslie Hughes spoke about the opportunities of having a LinkedIn Company page. And Donna Papacosta spilled her secrets to successful podcasting.

We had panels looking at how to make video a part of your content marketing strategy and another on how the arts and culture sector uses social media.The video panel was an optional parr of a day long Social Media Summit organized by the Waterloo Region Small Business Centres–a first for that kind of partnership. Video experts included Duncan Finningan, Nelson Dunk, Dwight Storring, Von Darnell and Peter Shannon. Naturally, we have a video recording. The arts and culture panel featured Derek Weidel, Shannon Markle, Jennifer Gough and Mike Elg.

We’re finishing off this year with the fab Dee Brun better known as the Cocktail Deeva. She’ll be talking about her personal branding and sharing insights for others to use. I’m sure it’ll be memorable with Dee’s trademark humour keeping folks entertained!

I hope to see you there! And next year, I hope to sleep in a bit longer and sit beside you to continue my learning from great speakers, panelists and the great folks attending.

What made smbWR successful?

In short, the people made smbWR successful. Check out my earlier post that looked at some of the other factors that contributed to smbWR’s success to date.

Thank you!

Thank you very much for a memorable three years! Without the 900 or more folks who have come out, none of these great events would have been possible. Once again, thank you!

How many did you Make? do you have any memories or highlights to share?