No secret handshakes at Social Media Club Sydney

social-media-club-sydney1It’s been a weird couple of weeks for social media.  

We’ve had grumpiness over the plans for Social Media Club Sydney; grumpiness over last week’s #beachmeet; grumpiness between old skool and new.  

One of the more sensible pleas for everyone to chill out a little then came from Kelly Tall, who pointed out that things were turning into an online feral sandpit.

I suspect that some the testiness comes from those who got onto Twitter before it got big.  Much like when you love a band before it suddenly gets famous, it can be a bit annoying when your private passion is taken over by everyone.

And some of it comes because it’s very easy to express yourself in a tweet in a way that you probably wouldn’t to somebody’s face.

I also take my share of responsibility on Mumbrella when I write about these things.  It would be easy to claim that once something’s in the public domain, it’s fair game, but of course, with a bigger audience you can throw fuel on the flames. But equally, just because you don’t write about something, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

I’m not sure where that thought process will lead me, but I think that ultimately I’ll choose, rather than writing about them, to leave some tweet rows I witness on Twitter, unless they raise a wider issue.

Yet when social media folk get together in the real world, it’s usually an entirely charming experience.

Last night it was the first meeting of Social Media Club Sydney. I wasn’t involved in the organising, but did do the Q&A with Adam Ferrier of Naked and Leslie Nassar, aka Fake Stephen Conroy. So as a result of being on stage, the two things I can’t claim to be are a) neutral and b) in possession of any notes.


Authenticity and Transparency in Social Media Part 1 from SocialMediaClub Sydney on Vimeo.

Authenticity and Transparency in Social Media Part 2 from SocialMediaClub Sydney on Vimeo.


But my impressions are this.

First, there’s clearly an appetite for that sort of event. There were probably about 300 people there – most crammed in the room, with more having it relayed to them in a second lounge.

Incidentally, it’s also apparently the first time anyone has been able to successfully overload the wifi at Will and Toby’s. Little wonder #SMCSYD was the number two trend on Twitter last night behind swineflu.

Leslie Nassar was, as expected, both funny and popular as he told the story of his Fake Stephen Conroy persona.

But what may have surprised more people was that Adam Ferrier won over a fair few people with the story of Witchery’s man in the jacket campaign. Although there was still scepticism  about whether it’s okay to lie to consumers, there was a sense that he moved that debate on last night. And he certainly got credit for fronting up what could have been (although in the end it wasn’t) a very hostile audience.

He was also provocative – although many seemed to agree with him – on the nature of the social media community.

it felt like an event worth having.

I’ll add a few links to blogs from last night as I spot them.

Lexy Klain has already put her take up.

And here’s her video of the first part of Adam Ferrier’s conversation:

You can also see, via Twitter Search, what was being said about #smcsyd

(Social Media Club Canberra is on Friday, by the way.)

This view from the stage shot was taken by Heather Ann Snodgrass:













Tim Burrowes


  1. Doug Chapman
    28 Apr 09
    3:50 pm

  2. Thanks for your support Tim.

  3. Des Walsh
    28 Apr 09
    4:02 pm

  4. Tim
    Thanks for the writeup. Some consolation for not being able to be there. Sounds like it was a great kickoff for SMC in Sydney. Very interesting to hear about how Adam Ferrier went, even though I still feel uncomfortable about the implications of the lying.

  5. Jemma Enright
    28 Apr 09
    4:18 pm

  6. Damn, I missed registration. Sounds like a great positive event. Can we please not have registration for these events on the weekend in future. I know it’s probably a way to weed the beach bums out from the hard core tweeters but hey everyone needs a break sometimes.

  7. Linda Johannesson
    28 Apr 09
    4:26 pm

  8. Kudos to the event organizers and those of you brave enough to take the stage. I agree, definitely an appetite for this sort of thing. Events like this remind us that there are actually real people behind these ideas, campaigns criticisms and comments – with their own points of view and beliefs and it’s okay to challenge them. Maybe these social events will also remind us to play as nice in the online sandbox as we would in person when discussing the same issues.
    We’re always free to disagree, but let’s try not to be disagreeable.

  9. Leslie Nassar
    28 Apr 09
    5:10 pm

  10. It was an outrageously fun night.

    What really struck me was how passionate folks who attended were; everyone I spoke to afterwards were either doing something cool in the space, or were planning to. There was none of the usual dick-waving power-plays. Nobody claiming to be the holder of the one-true-way to Social Media Nirvana. No faux experts. Just a bunch of people having a good time bouncing ideas off each other.

    Thanks again to the SMCSYD crew, and Tim, and the audience who didn’t lynch me for not being the articulate (fake) Minister they expected from the Twitters.


  11. Chris
    28 Apr 09
    7:00 pm

  12. Thanks for last night. As a long time user and promoter of social tools, but someone not in “the industry”, I found the discussion interesting.

    Here’s a couple of photos taken from my vantage point in the audience…
    and a little bit of live stream that I sent out on Qik…

    One observation I’d make… I spend most of my time immersed in a different subset of Twitter users (most teachers and educational technologists) and they seem to use Twitter and other tools very differently. My education-based Twitter community has a more sharing (less cynical?) disposition. I was also struck by how much of an echo chamber there is amongst the group who attended last night… the number of RT’s flying around was amazing.

    Horses for courses I guess.


  13. Jye Smith
    28 Apr 09
    9:18 pm

  14. Great night, guys. Fabulous to meet so many of you in person.

  15. Tiphereth Gloria
    28 Apr 09
    10:04 pm

  16. Thanks to everyone who came to the event, we really appreciated the friendly atmosphere which made it such a fantastic evening
    Jemma, FYI there were 2 releases of tickets the first was at the beginning of April and not on a weekend. The registration was neccessary due to the overwhelming demand and the licensing laws of the venue.
    Please follow @SMCSYD on Twitter – we will be sending out links when we open registrations for the next event

  17. Chris
    29 Apr 09
    7:34 am

  18. What’s with the moderation and non-publication of my last comment? It wasn’t offensive and it had some pictures to share… I don’t get it… Are you fltering or censoring the comment feed?

  19. mumbrella
    29 Apr 09
    8:47 am

  20. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your question. Most comments go up automatically. But one sign the spam filter looks for is where three or more links are provided in the comment, as that’s a common sign of comment spam, in which case they are queued for moderation.

    Thanks for your comment – it’s up now.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  21. Anon
    29 Apr 09
    12:50 pm

  22. GREAT kickoff, and kudos to the organisers and all involved.

    One observation I would make–Adam stated that one of the learnings from the Witchery experience was that they need to lose the arrogance when working the media.

    However, it didn’t appear that he has learned that lesson at all, as I thought it was arrogant of him to tell people (paraphrasing now): ‘it’s only advertising, what’s the big deal’ when pressed on whether it was OK to lie or mislead the press.

    There ARE still people who would like to build respect back into the industry, but conversely, an ‘its only advertising’ attitude where the ends justify the means will lead others to follow, with an inevitable call by lobby groups for more Government intervention.

    It may ‘just’ be advertising, but it employs a hell of a lot of us, so maybe Adam CAN not only temper his arrogance, but also change behaviour.

    But maybe not.

  23. Chris
    29 Apr 09
    1:10 pm

  24. Just for the record, I DON’T work in advertising, marketing, PR or “social media”, and I really don’t see what all the fuss is about with the Witchery campaign.

    It was a good idea that went a bit pear shaped. Looking at the original video, the girl who did the acting was pretty crap… her “golly gee” carry on was a pretty obvious flag to the idea that this was not all it appeared to be. Had she been a little more “real” in her approach, and the video quality looked a little more believable for a bedroom webcam, there probably would not have been so many people with their suspicions raised. The fawning over the jacket, commenting on the lining, etc, was over the top, the whole way she told the story was too gushy, and there is no wonder that intelligent people questioned the truth of it.

    The issue, as I understand it, is that Adam’s agency “lied” to the press/public when they were asked a direct question. I get that. I understand that in the ensuing media storm that followed (which was the whole point of the exercise, no?) that a few people asked “is this real?” to which they were told yes. Lies are bad. Sure.

    It seems to me though that this was like a kind of Aprils Fools Day joke… the creators of it were always going to come clean about it, but not until the joke was played out fully. Unfortunately, a few people questioned it and pushed to know the truth sooner rather than later and that was really the nub of the issue.

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if the acting in the original clip was more believable, to the point that it was taken seriously and not questioned. The traditional media jumped on the story thinking it WAS real, and the media storm happened based on what they believed to have been true, regardless of whether it was or not.

    So, just imagine that the whole thing played out as planned, according to the timeline that Adam had in mind. The wizard stayed behind the curtain until the time was right, the media had their field day with the story and at the appropriate moment, the truth was revealed. Would we all still be pissed off at being “lied to”?

    So, isn’t being lied to (and exposed early) or being lied to (and exposed when the time was “right”) still the same thing?

    Seriously, I know I’m not in your industry so maybe I see it differently, but I think those people who feel duped and “lied to” are making a bigger deal about it than Joe Public really sees it as.

    I’m pretty sure we didn’t need a stunt like this to make us feel like the advertising industry occasionally lies to us!

  25. Anon
    29 Apr 09
    1:38 pm

  26. Chris,

    The problem with your ‘play it out’ scenario is that it is hypothetical, and did not happen that way. The issue is did Naked intentionally lie to the press in order to gain an advantage for their client, and the answer is yes.

    So, if a CEO lies to the press about, say, whether or not they are setting up a compensation fund for asbestos victims, because he happened to be caught of guard by a snooping press, that makes it OK, because he was going to come clean eventually once his Board had time to ‘play it out’ as you suspect. And of course, if this hypothetical company was doing it in the best interest of their ‘client’–their shareholders–then all is cool.

    Does a real estate agent who gazumps an unbidder violate a moral clause by taking a higher offer to the advantage of their client? Obviously not by your reasoning.

    The real issue in business, regardless of industry, is–does the end justify the means?

    And the more the industry propagates a culture of lies, the less believable advertising becomes, and the less viable it becomes as an industry, and the more susceptable it becomes to increased government intervention.

    And the arrogance of those driving that agenda makes it even less palatable to those of us who take a long-term view on the industry, unlike those who have sold their shops and happy to wreak their havoc until their payouts are finished.

  27. James
    29 Apr 09
    5:10 pm

  28. Hey Tim,

    I must admit that I didn’t much care the billboard ad at the end of the campaign, announcing the journalists who fell hook-line and sinker for the tactic, but he very much won me over. He helped me understand that it was a successful campaign and worked to the benefit of the client. From the online comments at the time, I remember thinking the client must have been rubbing their hands with glee – they got this provocative campaign which resulting in heaps of coverage and talkability and when online community went hostile it was the agency who fell on the sword. I suppose that’s part and parcel of the agency gig (sorry, I don’t know another more age appropriate word for gig).


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