I had a great networking opportunity last night when I was able to meet Chris Brogan, a leading social media marketing professional (and most will say the top person in his field) and author of the book Trust Agents.  My good friend Dave Thomas, Social Media Manager at SAS invited myself and some local social media geeks and gurus to a great evening at The Pit BBQ to meet Chris, Justin Levy and some of his team from New Marketing Labs.  It was a great pleasure to meet them as well as other people from SAS who I know well and others I had an opportunity to meet for the first time.

It’s awesome to meet someone with such knowledge, experience and star power in your field or any person with some degree of celebrity.  At the same time it’s similar to when my good friend Jimmy Shoaf worked for bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine and several others back in the Grunge days.  I had opportunity to meet those guys as well, on tour with Lollapalooza, backstage at the 9:30 Club in DC and even driving Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell to The Five-O on a Sunday night before their first show in Raleigh back in 91!  By the way, nobody knew who they were or how famous they would become, we played pool and it was a low key Sunday night at our favorite bar.

In all of these instances the avid fan in me wants to say, “You’re so great, tell me how you do it?” But I know these guys, especially the rock stars, hear that all the time and get tired of it.  What they really want to do is just be themselves and meet other people.  I know if I had to be “ON” all the time as a public persona I would tire of it too and build a big house with gates and hide out at times!

But the real value I derived from last night was seeing all the people that I interact with on a regular ongoing basis in my local business community.  Several of the people I know from business relationships by working with SAS over the past four years.  Others are former co-workers and marketing peers that I know from my involvement with Triangle AMA.  And there was also a group that I would call my Internet family that I’ve met and engaged with online using social networks that has enabled the opportunity to meet and get to know them.  What I get out of theses connections is solid information, experience and best practices, advice, humor and most of time friendship.

So instead of being the annoying fan I like to meet the Chris Brogans and Jerry Cantrells of the world and just see who they are, tell them I like what they are doing and learn a little bit about who they are as a human being.  The evening was a great event because it was just that.  The conversations centered around what holiday preparations and traditions, our families, events and a little social media strategy.  My takeaway from meeting Chris was that he was a big Beatles fan like me and an extremely engaging and intelligent person regardless of his current position.  So when you meet the bigwigs or anyone else in your field be yourself, engage in a conversation and see where it leads to.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and all the networks are in place for us to engage each other in meaningful conversations, storytelling and transactions.

Social media and networks are a means to an end.  Networking is key in building and maintaining your career.  Take for example my good friend Chris Moody.  I met Chris when he was interning at SAS in 2006.  His team was working on measuring partner engagement and he impressed me and was a really genuine person as well.  His internship ended and we stayed in touch over the past few years, seen each other at events and grabbed a few lunches to catch up.  Recently he called me to ask me to be a reference and he got a great job at Bandwidth.com.  I was happy to help him out and enjoyed seeing him garner the right position for his skills, talent and enthusiasm.  I know that Chris and I will be talking about marketing and other kick ass technology for many years to come because we have a great professional and personal relationship.

I do want to thank Dave Thomas and the team at SAS for engaging with such talented individuals like Chris Brogan and allowing us to share in their experience.  I want to thank Chris and his team for their time and interaction as well.

Are you engaging your local community in your field?  Have you used social networking to find others like you?

Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.