Last week, I was on a call Mark Burrell, the co-founder of parenting platform Weldon who I got to know when he was co-founder of crowdsourcing marketplace Tongal. We were talking about community (shocking), and he mentioned how some of the best value of networking through communities comes from serendipity.
This was particularly true of events like South by Southwest (SXSW) that both of us miss this month. The best part of the event was not knowing who you’d run into and where conversations would go.
I countered that in the best communities, you need to qualify that. The best communities and events offer is curated serendipity.
It’s an important distinction.
How many networking events, real or virtual, have you been to where you wondered who was in the room and why you were there?
For me, those events are terrible. I fear that I’m wasting my time and the time of those around me. When they’re live events, I tend to look for one of three amenities: a well-stocked snack bar, a well-stocked bar, or easily accessible exits. I’ll often feel like Jason Bourne at the start of the film series, subconsciously aware of every potential exit in the room (including which balconies I could parkour off of).
Curated serendipity is different. It’s when organizers take care to assemble the right mix of people in the room.
I know of no one who does this better or more intentionally than David Homan of Orchestrated Connecting. Lan Phan of Community of Seven is also masterful. Weston Woodward, Chris Gorges, and Marni Gordon are among the Serial Marketers community members who do this consistently with their networks.
With curation, there is always purpose and intent with the host’s actions.
This is why Upstream works so well right now.
On Upstream, I reject far more people requesting to join the Serial Marketers group than I do people who request to join the broader Serial Marketers community when they fill out the form on the homepage of serialmarketers.net. Upstream events center around speed networking, so if you have four matches and two or three are duds, you’ll wonder why you’re wasting your time. If they’re all at least okay and one or two are great, you’ll come back as often as you can.
On Slack, if someone is too spammy or rude, I can delete a post, talk to them, and kick them out if needed. It’s to the credit of members of the community, as most of whom are responsible for referring other members, that I’ve had to remove about one member for every 700 who join. I expect that rate to increase as the community grows, but we’ve been fortunate so far.
SXSW, like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) before it, has gone through various waves of curation. In the first decade of the 2000s, a marketer like me was out of place, and most of us there had a lot of fun finding our misfit peers.
In the 2010s, there were far more marketers who felt they had to be there. The nature changed. I don’t think it’s some degradation, as if the stuffed suits ruined all the fun. It did make the events feel more like a job, but it’s a job most people would kill to get paid for.
I think the pandemic will reset the crowd. You’ll have some people who feel compelled to get back to finding fellow misfits, and you’ll find some other ‘suits’ who feel like they have to be there. I expect there won’t be as much of an entourage of mid-level folks getting to ride the coattails, staffing up events and blogging about every last session. Again, this isn’t my dream scenario but a prediction. The curation will look different.
As for community and event organizers, what should you do about fostering curated serendipity?
My advice comes down to one word: care.
There are so many ways to get curation right. If you care about who’s in your group and take a genuine interest in your members and audience, you’ll find the right way to curate the community and serve them. That’s true whether you have strict criteria for who gets in or you have a more open approach.
During our call, Mark Burrell and I couldn’t resist riffing on the old Groucho line. I’ve butchered it before in these columns, and I’ll rephrase it here anyway:
I do want to join any club that cares that I’m a member.
And I do care about every last person who takes an interest in being a member of my club.
I may get a lot wrong and I may be able to do so much better, but one thing I’ve gotten right over the years is that I don’t take anyone’s interest, participation, and attention for granted.
Thanks for being a reader, and whether or not you’re part of Serial Marketers officially, you’re part of my community. That means a ton.
PS: The Serial Marketers community now has its own Clubhouse group! The easiest way to find it is to follow me there (dberkowitz) and click the Serial Marketers icon under “member of”. I’ll then make sure to let you in when you request it. You can also check out my ClubLink profile.
PS 2: We have a bunch of new jobs listed below, and also a new resource from Venwise where you can submit your job interests (select “Serial Marketers” where it asks how you found them).——————————
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I’m trying a new experiment here, curating news automatically via my friends at Vestorly. Let me know what you think.