COFFEE VIA WIFI: What makes a Social Media Cafe work?

 “Given enough coffee,” someone famous once wrote “I could rule the world.”

Bet they weren’t drinking Mellow Birds, though.

There’s something brilliant about a good cup, convivial company and the caffinated exchange of ideas.

It’s no surprise that Social Media Cafes have sprung up across the globe as the rise of social networking spreads. There are more than 20 in the UK inspired either consciously or unconsciously by London’s Tuttle Club and Lloyd Davis.  They are listed here.

Aside from the general social media coffee drinking government (local and national) in London provide the quite marvellously titled Tea Camp. 

Birmingham has an inspirational Social Media Cafe, but then again Brum is a hugely inspirational digital place with a vibrant grassroots community. I like the way it’s monthly cafe describes itself as: “a place for people interested in social media to gather, get acquainted, chat, plot, scheme, and share.”

But what makes a good one? It’s not always enough just to do it Field of Dreams-style ‘build it and they will come.’

Twelve months on from the first meeting of the Black Country Social Media Cafe a few thoughts struck me.

Of the 20 who came to the first meeting in Costa Coffee, Wolverhampton organised by David Stuart three remain regulars including David, yet far more interesting people have come along to take their place.

We’ve met in six venues in three towns sometimes daytime, some times not.

 

Here are some thoughts which are by no means a definitive list ….

You can’t please everyone all the time.

Twitter people seem more receptive to Social Media Cafes.

There’s people who can’t come to events in the daytime. Ditto evening.

Big cities with creative sectors can support a ‘turn up and chat’ Social Media Cafe. Small towns have less chance.

Smaller communities respond better to events with some networking and speakers.

People with jobs who need something to show for disappearing out of the office for two hours respond to speakers.

A Facebook and a Twitter presence are a must.

Don’t rely on old media for publicity. The BCSMC were told by one reporter that they wouldn’t publicise the event since: “this was a competing medium.”

Online polls to decide venues don’t work. Ask David Stuart.

 It’s better to have a leading figure who is not anti-social – particularly when meetings are arranged around online polls (only joking, David).

Somewhere close to train or bus links helps.

An arts centre or a place where creative people hang out is a good place to hold a cafe.

If you’re looking to cover a region or a county a big, big section of people just won’t travel. The prospect of some Stourbridge types travelling to Walsall, for example, is on a par with Mars exploration.

Get somewhere that sells good coffee. It’s more important than wifi.

The law of 4th XI cricket applies to this the same as other voluntary organisations. A few people do a lot. If 40 people say they’ll come, 10 will.

Creative commons credits

Laptop lass, cafe – Scott Beale Laughing Squid

Coffee montage – Nick Bilton


3 Comments on “COFFEE VIA WIFI: What makes a Social Media Cafe work?”

  1. Sarah Lay says:

    Absolutely bob on, in my experience of getting the Derby and Derbyshire Social Media Cafe underway. We’re a bit younger than you guys but headed in the same direction – a bit more focused with a mix each meet of a topic with speakers and then some informal networking for the plotting and the general re-charging of creative batteries.
    I’d urge everyone who is interested or works in digital or online to get along to their nearest Social Media Cafe at least once – even if the format isn’t right for you for whatever reason taking and expanding your online networks into an offline space can do wonders for work and soul. Give it a go!
    Another great piece Dan🙂

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by danslee, Rachel Simmonite, diana smith, Jamie Summerfield, Nick Hill and others. Nick Hill said: RT @danslee: Just blogged: Coffee via wifi: What makes a social media cafe work? http://bit.ly/dAxFxl […]

  3. Good points, Dan. You are right: you can’t please all the people all the time and different tacks have to be tried.

    I haven’t yet managed to get to a BCSMC because of the times they are held (and yes, I am one of those people who would not travel to Stourbridge for a cup of coffee and a network because it is too far from where I live when I am already overwhelmed with other commitments!).

    I have been to a few in Birmingham and they are incredibly useful for picking up new ideas, chatting through some issues and actually meeting people that you have only ever conversed with online.

    One day, I will make it to BCSMC (and that’s a promise, not a threat!)


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