I usually post about words and editing-related things, but this time I wanted to share a great experience I had the other week. I was aware of the Birmingham Social Media Surgery but didn’t really know what it was and how it worked. Last Wednesday, I saw a few tweets asking for volunteers to help. But I didn’t really know what the parameters were and what constituted an “expert” who could help other people learn about using social media. So I waited until I was in town late that afternoon, and popped along to the Orange Studios on Cannon Street (Birmingham), which is where they are always held.
I met the organisers and explained I was there to help; they took my details and said they’d match me up with a visitor so I could start helping. They even lent me a laptop for the occasion (this was a Mac, which caused me some consternation and could have been embarrassing – “Yes, I know all about the internet; unfortunately I’m unable to use a computer!”) By this time, I’d gathered that the point of a Social Media Surgery is that people who know about social media and how to use it help people involved with community and charitable organisations to learn about blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
I was paired up with a chap who’d come in just after me. We sat down and I found out his background (he helped community organisations promote themselves and their events), established where he was so far, then chatted about how he could use social media more effectively. For example, I showed him how to link his LinkedIn account to Twitter, we chatted about the (lack of) etiquette for posting on Twitter, and I think possibly the most useful thing – the fact that, in this world of New Media and Social Media, if you see someone doing something you think is good, they usually don’t mind if you contact them and ask them how they did it! As I’ve worked for a New Deal For Communities project in the past, and have organised and promoted events, using social media, hopefully I had some background knowledge which would help.
I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences and giving advice at Birmingham Social Media Cafe before now, but that’s more for other entrepreneurs. This is real grass-roots stuff, helping groups who may be digitally disadvantaged grasp the opportunities some of us take for granted or have been fortunate enough to have the time, education and resources to work out for ourselves. I came away feeling great about having been able to share some of my knowledge and help someone who can help people perhaps less fortunate, but definitely less digitally-literate, than myself. I didn’t set myself up as an “expert” but the team there were supportive and friendly.
I’d recommend any entrepreneurs and small business owners out there to “give something back” in this kind of way. It’s so rewarding, relationships can be forged which may well be beneficial to both parties, and I hope I’ll be back every month!