Attending a meet up is a great way to meet people in-person who are interested and involved with social media in the Tidewater Area. It also reminded me a bit of the time I spent internet dating…

When I embarked on my social media exploration I began following people with knowledge and expertise in several fields of interest. The great thing was I was not bound by their locality. I could follow, friend, and learn from anyone any where. At first, being such a newbie, I didn’t know how to find the local social media people.

Little by little through involvement with various groups like The Hampton Roads Marketing and Technology Group, New Media Conventions and Now Social Media Club Virginia Beach, I’ve met some amazing people who have taught me so much in just a few short months. (Don’t worry I’m still not an expert nor a guru, but I am quite a bit more informed)

Some local people I know in person, like @socialsonya of Wave Marketing — I’ve learned buckets from her! Other people I’ve only followed through true SM channels such as facebook and twitter.

Social networking MeetUps and TweetUps remind me a bit of the 3 phases of online dating.

Phase 1: The Detective – You find out about people in online dating the same way you would in SM networking. Most people use some variation on the list below to decide if they are worthy enough for you to follow, friend, learn from…or date?

  • A Picture – Funny, goofy, serious, or otherwise this is what we picture when we read posts, write responses etc. This is the vision we are talking to in SM.
  • A Profile – Entertaining, intelligent, professional, intriguing…depending on what we are looking for profiles help us decide if we will fan, follow, retweet or contact.
  • Sources – Once we make contact we may use different media outlets to see if people are who they say they are. Remember, Google is your friend. People do research.
  • Followers – Do friends, fans, and followers overlap our own? Often times you are judged by the company you keep in the REAL world and online.
  • Do Things Match Up – Does your language and the way you carry yourself online match the bio, profiles, and information on the web for public consumption? Or are you a stack of contradictions?

Once you narrow down the pool with the techniques used above, reading profiles, finding similar interests a couple scenarios unfold. In both SM and in online dating, you may find the person lacking and unworthy of your attention and energy. No harm no fowl. Or you may want to move on to phase 2 Getting To Know You.

Of course in both online dating and in SM we meet in virtual spaces first during the getting to know you phase. And for many reasons in both situations we never meet in person.

Phase 2: Getting to Know You – With online dating, through trial and error I devised these 3 rules, almost in complete contradiction of social media networking.

  • Rule 1: Keep Your Emailing And Online Chat To A Minimum (I know sounds crazy! Aren’t we talking about socializing online?) But back in my internet dating days, when I sent too many emails and had too many chats with people online before talking with them on the phone, I’d put my own intonation on their words. It is very easy to read your own ideas into other peoples writing. Good in social networking…maybe not so good in dating.
  • Rule 2: Talk On The Phone But Not For Hour Upon Hour, Weeks And Weeks – Putting a voice to the words and really listening to how they are spoken is important. But still there is the trap of pouring your heart out when you can’t even see a person’s face. You are missing a key element of communication. Body Language. It may be easier to bare your soul like that…but not really wise. Again you build up an image in your head that may not match upon a true in-person meeting.
  • Rule 3: Meet Early On In The Online Dating Relationship – Okay so you’ve sent a few emails, had a few conversations, now it’s time to set the online dater’s MeetUp. While in social media and networking this 3rd rule really never has to happen it is essential for the internet dater. This is where you find out if all the words, both spoken and written, fit the body language and are compatible.

In social media you aren’t necessarily preparing for phase 3 The Meeting. The point of SM is to have these rich dynamic trust filled online communities with people you may never meet. Ah if dating were only that easy, trusting, and we never had to meet in order to be fulfilled…in SM you can be caught in this euphoric loop in rule number one, never talking on the phone and never meeting.

But phase 3 does take place in both situations.

Phase 3: The Meeting – The MeetUp, TweetUp or Date can have similar — great…or disastrous — results.

Things we can find out pretty quickly when meeting in person is were the pictures real. This will give us the first indication as to how seriously, or truthful we take people. Then we watch their body language, do actions really match online words. In MeetUps and TweetUps this is where you know if they’ve just been regurgitating other people’s information all along, or if they are real innovators. In dating you really find out if they are genuine.

In all reality TweetUps and MeetUps are far less pressure than online dating because there isn’t that Is He Or She The One factor. In online dating you can build up so much significance upon this one meeting and that’s why so many online dates fail. At TweetUps and MeetUps, unless you are coming in with an agenda, it should be a relaxing learning sharing environment. Are you there to meet people so you can sell them your stuff? Are you trying to figure out how this can make you money? Then it will show on your face and in your body language.

Most important is, that if you are who you say you are from the very beginning stages of phase one, if your message is consistent and genuine, and if you aren’t afraid of letting people in you’ll be successful in MeetUps and TweetUps and it won’t feel at all like online dating.

But hey, even that’s not so bad, 3+ years later I’m still with my match.com online MeetUp!