I've been a very active participant in the social media community in Des Moines for five years. I've made tons of new friends, dozens of business connections, and had lots of laughs with my fellow CIBers over the past few years at a gathering casually named CIB. CIB started as a small gathering of people who got together at Panera in Clive to chat, network and do their actual work, too. People just kept getting invited to join the gathering, until it eventually took on a life of its own. Now it's a bonafide destination for Central Iowa networking on the first Friday of every month.
Last month, a new Panera store opened in downtown Des Moines, much to the delight of coffee and danish deprived downtown denizens. The new downtown store's marketing guy, John Chattman, reached out via Twitter to the CIB crowd and invited us to check out the new store for one of our meetings. Since the two franchises are owned by the same person, it made no difference to John, he just wanted people to see the new store.
A few people mentioned on Twitter that they would be supportive of that meeting, since they were never able to make it to the Panera in Clive. The week of Nov 15, Jared Bernstein put together a poll and the two largest segment voted for holding CIB downtown. Katie Ketelsen and others commented that trying the downtown location would be a good idea. Granted, 25 participants is by no means a majority of attendees, but it was clear that at least a few downtowners were very excited to have at least one event held downtown.
So on December 3, CIB was held in two different locations. Here are some photos from the downtown event.
Since there was a vocal contingent of people who wanted to try out the downtown Panera, I made the decision to post the event on the Social Media Club Des Moines website and our weekly email went out with the changed location. Many stated that they simply could not attend the downtown relocated event, and that they would stop by the original CIB location.
There has never really been a CIB owner, it was always an organic group. It's about as informal as you can get. It has always been word of mouth, and a few of us regulars have simply tweeted that we would be at CIB, most always the night before or day of the event. There is a CIB website, but it has also been run by volunteers, and not well promoted within the CIB group. Also, it has been overrun by non-CIB spam.
When the Social Media Club Des Moines started, one of the best features of the Ning site SMCDSM President Mike Templeton created was an events calendar. We felt it could truly be a community calendar for all the social media events in Central Iowa. As soon as the Ning events calendar was up and running in April, 2010, I started adding CIB as an event on the calendar, even though it was a totally open calendar. Anyone could have added their own version of the event. In fact, for a while, there was a "Artists on the Rise" CIB event on Tuesday nights, at a different Panera, that caused quite a bit of confusion for people who didn't know the difference. I noticed that the world did not come to an end.
Friday November 26, I created an event for CIB and tweeted about it a full week in advance. The following Monday, Tom Brazelton, our SMCDSM newsletter guy, sent out the newsletter including the location change, to all 530 or so members.
By Tuesday, several CIB regulars had voiced their concerns about changing the location. Many others expressed excitement about finally being able to attend (some for the very first time). All the conversation about CIB attracted the attention of quite a few others who had never heard of it, and wanted to check it out.
The downtown CIB was held, and by all accounts very successful in attracting new people. I also had heard many harrowing predictions of snarled traffic, lack of parking options, not enough space...etc. None of those things transpired. The only person who had a problem was Phil James, but only because he did not plug the meter! D'oh. (Smiles, Phil, it's all in good fun.)
Many people mentioned that they loved being included and a few even walked over from their downtown offices. The downtown Panera is the biggest one in Iowa, so space was not a concern. There was plenty of room. When I left for a meeting in Ankeny at 11:00, there were still people chatting. "@PaneraDowntown" John drove in from Cedar Rapids to meet us at CIB, and the manager came out to greet us too. It was a nice change from the (sometimes) grouchy and indifferent service I've noticed at the Clive store on occasion.
I heard a few snarky remarks on Twitter, and I understand, a few people were upset. I really don't know what to say to them. For such an organic group to suddenly be held to a Rotary-like schedule and protocol is a little beyond the pale to me. There were no rules to be broken. My friend Jon Thompson's tweets about being "at the real CIB" and that "the execution of the event was poor" were not helpful or constructive.
BTW, Jon, I'm still waiting for my check to come in the mail for pulling it together. I'm a volunteer with the SMCDSM, and I have a day job. Next time, you can have the job of letting everyone know. By the way, if I were being paid to plan the event, one of my success metrics would have been attendance. The downtown CIB attracted at least 50 people over it's three-hour run. Not bad.
By having a lively discussion, the group has discovered that perhaps we need to broaded the discussion on what to do about CIB. Maybe it's time to have one downtown and one in Clive, or even mix up the locations even more. I have no horse in the game. Both locations are convenient for my flexible Friday morning schedule. So now, it's up to you people. What are your ideas? What shall we do? Anyone? Bueller?