Echoes of Digital Surrey

Leafy, sunny, and sleepy Surrey… it’s a hub of digital excitement and innovation, don’t you know!

On Thursday evening I spoke at the third Digital Surrey meeting over in Guildford. The venue for all of the meetings of the group so far has been the brilliant Bench bar at the new Surrey Sports Park, and as usual it didn’t disappoint. There was a nice crowd, a little smaller than previous months (not entirely surprising due to the sunshine, holiday period, and sporting excitement), but again there were new faces and the group continues to evolve

What is Digital Surrey all about? Well, it’s not my brainchild (that award goes to the tireless @AbigailH), and it doesn’t have a mission statement as such, but if I was to describe it, I’d say that it’s a group of people interested in online and offline, mostly digital… “stuffs”… Web 2.0, publishing, creativity, new technology, communications, community… all kinds, really. It’s a very diverse crowd – from PR, marketing, journalism, web development, from startups to corporations, musicians, academics, researchers, and those into politics. Quite a fascinating group of people to explore from month to month, and the best part is, it has been growing and changing all the time. It all started last year when some wonderful people from a PR and communications company called thebluedoor, based in Farnham, started a series of irregular tweetups in the area… and it sort of snowballed from there, with the excellent folks from iBundle (home of, SocialSafe, etc) helping to get things off the ground with very generous and much appreciated support. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to take part, nor do you have to be from Surrey… so I sneak across the border on the occasional, uh, reconnaissance mission! 🙂

So, fundamentally, it’s a great mixed up, jumbled group of people that meets once a month. Some willing volunteer gets up to say some stuff for half an hour or so somewhere in the early-to-middle section, and then discussions, chat, and networking go on into the evening. See? Surrey really is a hub of digital excitement and innovation!

My theme was essentially all around how organisations need to be more outward-looking… that by blocking off the outside world and constructing an “echo chamber”, they will stagnate and lose touch. I told the story of how I’ve been successful making myself social inside a large corporation, and then talked about how that use of social tools has extended beyond the firewall. I also said some things about how I’m beginning to thoroughly dislike the term “social media” and I don’t believe in the efforts of marketeers to manufacture “viral”, but those are probably rants for another time and place. We had some brilliant conversations about what challenges companies face in enabling their people to go down these paths and enabling a more trusting culture. There’s a brief write-up on the Digital Surrey site, along with some of the lovely tweets that people posted while I was speaking!

Sound interesting? If you want to get involved, there’s a LinkedIn group where we have ongoing discussions, and the website is in the process of being shiny-fied. Next meeting is on July 22nd and I’m assured that Chris Green will have some great thoughts to share on the importance of content. Can’t wait! 🙂

[oh, and if you’re interested in meetups of this nature, I also have to put in a word for the great Thames Valley Social Media Cafe, aka #tvsmc, aka Reading / Thames Valley Tuttle, aka a nice cup of  coffee or tea and a natter about the latest happenings… it is sometimes partly populated by folks you might also meet at Digital Surrey… It’s twice a month, alternating between Reading, Farnborough, or a.n.other venue, in the daytime, also on a Thursday, under the excellent stewardship of @BenjaminEllis, @caalie and @JimAnning. Take a look!]

8 thoughts on “Echoes of Digital Surrey”

  1. Hi Andy,
    Although I’ve been in touch with Abigail for a while, this was my first Digital Surrey event.
    I have to admit I rather misconstrued the title of your talk. As a journo / PR / copywriter I am especially interested in the ways in which companies can use social media tools – blogging for example – as a means of reaching their younger and increasingly more web savvy customers in new and innovative ways.
    But your talk was very good and threw up some interesting points. As a former employee of a large media corp, it was fascinating to see how these kinds of tools have moved beyond the virtual noticeboard we used to post jokes to in idle Friday afternoon moments.
    Anyway it was a great evening and good to meet people finally. Am looking forward to, and hoping to make, Chris’ talk next month.

    1. Hi Siobhan, thanks for the comment! You mention the title – sorry if it wasn’t sufficiently clear, I didn’t make the best choice there maybe. I certainly can talk to some of the issues you’ve mentioned, so maybe we can discuss at another meeting.

  2. No, I’m sure the fault was entirely mine. Having been self-employed working from home for so long it just didn’t occur to me it was about interior corporate social media!
    Very blinkered of me!

    1. I hope I tried to make some comments about outreach and external use… in fact one of the very powerful parts of using tools internally is (and was for me) as a training / skills development / confidence building space before people “step out of the echo chamber”. Definitely a corporate angle but I hope I showed that the company is very much outward-facing… and we’re keen to learn from outside and share what we can. That’s my feeling, anyway 🙂

      Here’s an anecdote. I’ve been following @welp on Twitter for some time… probably through having been pointed at him by a colleague, possibly through a search term (e.g. I tend to have a persistent Twitter search column related to “Hursley” to detect folks talking about my place of work). He’s been at university until recently. At some stage recently he asked me to help with some research and we ended up chatting on IRC… and then I discovered from him that he was due to join IBM, which he’s now done … and we’ve met in person.

      In terms of the reaching new younger markets… as a technology company maybe mine is not one which makes so much sense to discuss. I can point at cool “young” companies like MOO the business card folks, who have essentially grown as an entirely online endeavour, with no physical media marketing that I’m aware of… they spread through word-of-mouth through social tools like Flickr and blogs, have a young outlook, and have been very creative. I can think of other examples – like I said – happy to discuss further 🙂

  3. Hi,

    I attended the connections event yesterday where you briefly mentioned this and peaked my interest.

    I’ll have a closer look and you may see me turn up to a future event.

    ps – good talk you gave btw.

    1. Thanks, Steve. The Digital Surrey events are open to everyone and have been pretty diverse so far. You’d be absolutely welcome!

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