Social Media Got You Down? Try a Surgery

Bari Samad
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I am thrilled to see the recent popularity of social media surgeries. While the surgeon/patient language can seem a bit top-down, these informal volunteer events are actually based on a collaborative, community learning model that blurs the lines between the social media “experts” and the practitioners who use or want to use the tools in their campaigns and work. Both are valuable in a social media surgery.

Social media surgeries began in 2008 over in Birmingham, U.K. and have really picked up steam recently, including in the NetSquared community.

According to the folks over at Social Media Surgery Plus:

A social media surgery is an informal gathering of people who want to learn how to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. Surgeries are deliberately relaxed. No presentations, no jargon, no one telling people what they think they should know.

Anyone can participate as an organizer, volunteer (surgeon) or just attend. The Social Media Surgery Plus website has a pretty decent online-to-offline event system that provides the tools and resources to find, host, volunteer or just attend a surgery.

You might ask, what is so special about getting some talented volunteers to answer a bunch of Twitter and Facebook questions? Here is what is different about social media surgeries and why I like them:

  1. Community Collaboration. Surgeons are volunteers who offer their knowledge to attendees aspiring to learn more about the social web and other web/technology related matters. The attendees are equal participants as they share their campaigns, experiences and lessons learned in actually using the social web and tech tools. Yes, it’s about connection and learning from each other. No panels. No presenters. No rule of experts. Brilliant.
  2. Informal Gathering. OK. It is a surgery, but as you are taking apart the insides of social media strategies, tools and tactics, who is to say you can’t have some fun? Our very own Net2 Community Coordinator Elijah certainly did as did the organizers down under at NetSquared Adelaide while they tested the social media surgery waters. More brilliance.

I recently did an audio interview with Steven Flower, a NetSquared local organizer over in Manchester, U.K. He’s been doing quite a few social media surgeries, including a series with the BBC. Steven’s perspective on community tech organizing is worth a listen if you have a few minutes. He talks about the surgeries and how they are creating the kind of space that builds community.

In fact a social media surgery can specifically help those who are:

  • Feeling the “social stress” of being on too many social media channels and not sure how to reach a zen-like social state or at least a halfway decent Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Eyeing the social media pie, but not sure how to get a piece of it
  • Techies who know how social media technology works, but are missing real human connection

Of course if you are really addicted to social media, you may need more than a surgery. But if you haven’t hit rock bottom, you can get started pretty easily.

For organizers, here is a recipe from Nick Booth, one of the original people behind the surgeries. Volunteers and attendees, check the Social Media Surgery Plus website to join an upcoming event near you.

If you don’t find a surgery near you, start one or contact your NetSquared Local organizers and see if they can host one.

Good luck and if you have any questions or comments tweet us @netsquared.

Image: By U.S. Department of Agriculture (socmed) via Wikimedia Commons