Last night I attended homage2fromage, a Leeds based cheese club. The club was the brain child of two cheese lovers Nick and Vicky, and in the 6 or 7 months it has been running they have gone from a small gathering of 20 or so cheese lovers to a membership of over 80 people. It was a really great evening of learning about and tasting Italian cheeses, it was also fantastically social and I met loads of really interesting people.
The cheese club started and was promoted through the social network Twitter and last night there was lots of people meeting face to face, for the first time, who had already interacted on Twitter. It got me thinking about the social network and how it has impacted on my social life and my involvement in the community that I live in.
There are lots of noises about social networking being the death of conversation and social interaction. There are even some scaremongers who would have us believe that the future sees us all locked in our homes only interacting on-line and becoming socially inept and lonely.
I beg to differ, by using social networks such as Twitter I have found out more about what is going on in Leeds and my local area and I have genuinely felt more connected to the place I live. I have met new people and developed both business and personal relationships.
Last year I attended an event called the Clandestine Cake Club, where people who love cake and baking get together to eat cake and make friends. Started in Leeds the organisation has used Twitter to generate interest and build a network of cake clubs all over the world. I first saw a tweet from Lynn, the founder of Clandestine Cake, and I started to follow her and connect with others with a passion for baking. I have now attended 3 cake clubs, met some great people and had some fab nights out.
Through Twitter I have been to bars and restaurants that I would not have discovered and art exhibitions and events that I would not have known about, all of which have expanded my horizons and taught me something about the city I live in. A year ago I responded to a tweet from Culture Vulture about an opportunity to get involved with Yorkshire Dance as a volunteer. I responded and I am now a volunteer on their marketing committee.
I moved to Leeds about 5 years ago after living in London and Sydney and I was constantly bemoaning the fact that there was nothing going on in the city, I was wrong. I just didn’t know about it and didn’t know how to find out. Twitter has opened my eyes to the wide range of stuff that is happening and more importantly encouraged me to get involved. I feel more connected to the place I live and the people in it. I was speaking to a fellow cheese clubber (Ewan Mitchell) who suggested that Leeds has really bought into Twitter, more than other cities, if this is the case I think other cities can learn from the “Leeds Experience”.
Social Media is a tool that individuals and businesses alike can use to engage, excite and converse with an audience but the real power is translating that into real life connections and relationships.