Wow. 4 years. Really? It seems like only yesterday I was preparing to exit a wounded industry still morning the loss of Billy Mays when Dalton approached Daver and I about helping to organize the tweetups with him and a small crew. For Daver, he was looking for life beyond a radio show and with more sugar and spice than the Mortgage industry.
Down Memory Lane…
At the Valpo BW3s during an early December luncheon we agreed to come aboard. Our first tweetup was the Christmas party – I think. I’m not exactly sure because back then there wasn’t a website, email addresses, a Facebook page or a Google Plus page to keep track. The aforementioned crew never manifested too – though Dalton has always made sure we get hydrated at the events so it has balanced nicely.
…past old haunts…
From there, Daver and I took #NWITweetup for quite the test drive. We did weekday events, weekend events, lunches, dinners, breakfasts (just kidding). We’ve sampled cuisine from the most iconic restaurants on this side of Lake Michigan. We’ve been there as the brewing craze in the area launched, tasting the finest concoctions from Figure Eight Brewing – on their opening day to as recently as this past spring in their new location on the Square. We also hit up Crown Brewing with Harrison Painter, Brickworks Brewery in Hobart (RIP), and finally making it out to Shoreline Brewery with the Figure Eight Crew just off the shore in Michigan City. We celebrated Social Media Day at Pepe’s in Valparaiso using UStream presentations simply because that’s where my supervisor and I had lunch on Wednesday. We sampled what was at Lincoln + Main in Valparaiso before it was Lincoln + Main. We cooled off at Coldstone Creamery as well as legendary Valpo Velvet / Browns Ice Cream Parlor. It’s almost amazing our diets aren’t more successful, but we couldn’t be any more thankful for those who’ve invited us into their places of businesses.
…and the people who stopped and waved at us…
We also had some of digital marketing’s industry experts come on up for a spell. My bromance, Douglas Karr of DK New Media, braved a lake-effect blizzard to come speak about his book “Corporate Blogging for Dummies“. It took a tweetup at Blue Chip Casino to get Kyle Lacy (“Twitter Marketing for Dummies,” / Senior Manager of Content Marketing and Research for ExactTarget) to come out (just kidding). Robby Slaughter of AccelaWork taught us the value of Failure at Cornucopia Coffee Company (RIP) during a beautiful Indian summer night. Erik Deckers braved a cold December night to give quite the delight presentation in the days before him and Jason Falls took the Bulls*** out of Social Media – literally.
…through stops and starts…
We’ve had incredible successes and hard-luck failures. The crowds grew, split off to form other groups, and from there we grew again. We’ve done tweetups weekly, monthly, bi-monthly… We’ve had great experiments such as celebrating the end of summer at a pool party at Karl Tatgenhorts’s house – one of my fav events. We’ve endured ice storms like the one we had a BW3s in Portage back in 2010. The storm we fought through in January 2011 to get to Northwoods Dining in St. Johns, Indiana was so bad that Eric Carter of Cartronix drove me out there in his Jeep Wrangler or I would not have made it. We found out that Tweeps don’t like to do poker runs to get to final destinations and never, ever split the event up at two locations in two counties, even if they are Albanese Candy and Zao Island – then again, I’m being hard on myself. The families who showed seemed to enjoy the fact they could run off the sugar rushes on the mini golf course. I’d do the Albanese / Zao again in a heartbeat. I just need to know it’s 20 minutes apart instead of 10 between the two…
…as we raced towards the Finish Line…
And still all the while we’ve finished nights off with aftertweetups and afteraftertweetups. And what would a Tweetup be without the DaverTweetup 30 minutes before the action starts.
…to Victory Circle
With the support of Jenny Craig, Chris Mahlmann, Brett Fuller and the crew at Ideas and Motions, we took #NWITweetup a step further and built it back u to the biggest successes we’ve seen. The first one they helped with at Catch22 came with no strings attached. It was brilliant. Form there we packed the place at Industrial Revolution with 5 area mascots including the Valparaiso Crusader. Then, this summer at Railcats Stadium on exceptionally short notice we packed out the suite – them burgers were good. Even our last one at Zao Island last week between Thanksgiving and Christmas…now people know the place is for more than kids. Incredible.
Now that Jenny, Brett & crew have full freedom to shape #NWITweetup in their image, I’ll excited to see what they’ll be able to do without our curmudgeon butts in the way. I hope I get invited to the occasional white board session to see what they’re planning – just to be a fly on the wall.
I don’t even know how to thank everyone
Where to start? Do we start with Dalton and crew for giving us a chance? Do we start with Mahlmann, Brett & Jenny for giving it the much-needed shot in the arm? Do we thank all the establishments? From Uban, Neil and Lahti at Figure Eight to Cathy Brown Brown at Valpo Velvet to Rich at Lincoln + Main to Karl’s wife for letting use the pool…to the Indy crew for coming to visit…I really don’t know. I’m a bit overwhelmed. And I don’t want to do a cheap catchall thank you but in the same breath I don’t want to miss anyone. So in one simple breath a say, “Thank You,” in a simple prayer.
Daver will probably do it with a Davertweetup or to.
Time to hand over the keys to Jenny Craig & Co.
I hope y’all treat the 5th director, Jenny Craig and the crew at In Motion Media, with the same respect you showed Daver and I. If you treat them right, they’ll lead you to new and exciting places.
It’s your turn to drive guys. I’m signing off. Check under the hood once in awhile and give her oil when she needs it. If you do that, she’ll drive straight and true and will always get you home.
As 4 years of Daver and I holding the reigns of #NWITweetup comes to a close in a few hours, we find ourselves remembering all the little morsels of memories we made along the way. We’ve been to the openings of breweries. We’ve seen new businesses flourish. We’ve helped shut a few places down. There’s no telling we’ve made the most of our time in the Social Media sun. But of all the things we’ve had the privilege of doing, it’s been the people we’ve met that has kept us going. From those people we’ve met, we’ve spawned incredible friendships.
Like the one I’ve forged with Ryan Wright.
Ryan and I met last spring during a Startup Front event. He heard about the even thanks to the efforts of #NWITweetup, Valpolife.com as well as other area outlets. He had a passion for ideas as did I. He loves sports as do I. And I can go so far to say that, as his friend, I believe he wants to leave Northwest Indiana in a better place than how we found it – as do I.
He’s compassionate, selfless to almost a fault (check out his answer below on mini golf vs me!), a big picture thinker, quiet, charismatic, as authentic as a Duneland sunset and what he lacks in pop culture knowledge he more than makes up for in his commitment to his friends and businesses. He’s truly one of the true great leaders of his industry and this area.
Below is the interview I got to sneak in with him while I was hacking up a lung. Like a trooper, he marched on through. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did conducting it…
What do you think has kept the crowds coming back year after year?
I believe the crowds keep coming back year after year because of how satisfied they are with their experience at Zao Island. We have a vision to be one of the top entertainment centers in the country and I do not believe we are that far away! Our customers are happy with the high level of entertainment we offer along with how well the facility is operated. Every customer is treated as good as we possibly can. Ultimately those smiles and impressions we create led to our strong following.
20,000 facebook fans. That’s more than Dave & Buster’s New York. What do you attribute that to?
For years we have created a lot of positive impressions with our customers. Now all of those customers can “like us” on Facebook. We have put a lot of time and energy into stimulating interest for our customers on Facebook.
Best Pizza in Northwest Indiana. Really?
Valparaiso University students voted us best pizza! The award is hanging on the wall in the restaurant. Most people would not expect our pizza to be so good. The pizza recipe has been in the family for over 20 years and comes from our experience owning restaurants.
Why gets you into Social Media. What keeps bringing Zao Island back to it?
I enjoy the simplicity of it. We have a large following of customers and it is easier than ever before to reach out to them. I look at Social Media as the voice of the company.
Who’s a better mini golfer? You or Finn?
He’s so selfless.
2013 #NWITweetup Holiday part at Zao Island Facts
So we know you’re coming, please give us a quick nod on Facebook.
#NWITweetup Holiday Part 2013 Quickfacts
1050 Horse Prairie Ave, Valparaiso, IN 46385
Specials: Free pizza (whatever Zao decides to share), drink specials. Laser Tag specials
Prizes: drawings: Imax, laser tag…
Prize qualification: donation to a href=”http://www.valpolife.com/community/serving/36545-levin-tire-is-drop-off-location-for-toys-for-tots” target=”_blank”>Levin Tire’s Toys for Tots
Can children attend?: It’s Zao Island! Of COURSE They can!!!!
he’s the one on the left
Along with Dave Woodson, Nat Finn
was promoted as #NWITweetup Director in late fall 2009. They were tasked with building up the web presence and helping
to organize events for two years. The two years few by and grew to four, but nobody seemed to notice.
When Finn started his tour as director, he was the Social Media Manager / SEO Specialist at Livemercial – a once-great Internet Advertising agency in Valparaiso that at one time had up to 75% of the As Seen on TV / Infomercial television traffic websites as well as a healthy market share in the online live event / seminar registration markets. Finn often worked with his now-business partner, Chris Bake, on several cutting-edge industry testing and optimization projects while at “the ‘Mercial”.
During his tour, Finn continued to grow his career, building a client base including #NWITWeetup customers for his digital marketing agency, BakedFinn, and their full-spectrum, DIY website builder, Biziports.
#NWITweetup gave the community another outlet to test the latest social media techniques, tips and tricks with each other without feeling like we were on an island. As Daver would put it, “it allowed us to take the online offline.” From there we were able to not only grow the event and build a community, but we’ve been able to help grow existing and now new businesses through the uses of digital marketing and social media. Most of us don’t know each other without #NWITWeetup. Hopefully, Daver & I left the event better than we found it so the next generation can grow it beyond our wildest dreams.
Finn will still be a fixture at #NWITweetup. You’ll find him in the back, staying away from the spotlight. The community has new marching orders for him: working with Elevate Ventures Entrepreneur-in-Residence Kelly Schwedland and others in building up the startup community in Northwest Indiana. THey are bringing an Up.co Startup Weekend to Northwest Indiana in 2014 and are working on the final details to bring a tech accelerator to the area as well.
And once those are done, then and only then will he be allowed to focus on preparing to wed his so-much-better-half, Katie Bickley. They’re planning a 2015/6/6 wedding.
Good Luck, Finn. And, thank you for your service!
They call him, “The Daver.” He’s the one in the middle. He’s the ebullient voice you hear when you first walk into a #NWITWeetup and he’s the one helping you enjoy your last laughs at the aftertweetup. He’s Dave Woodson. And alongside Nat Finn, he grew up the web presence and social media community at a breakneck speed. Their ability to throw a party while at the same time education folks on practical uses of social media helped Northwest Indiana quickly catch up to the rest of the world when it came to social media, digital marketing and networking in this half of the 21st century.
The event helped launch his realtor and social media strategist career. When Daver isn’t showing houses to visitors who found him through his site buynwi.net, he’s speaking and educating at social media and Realtor conferences throughout the country. And he’s got the pictures to prove it. He owes much of his success to #NWITweetup.
“I didn’t want to go. I was having too much fun. But Finn was right, it was time for fresh blood. He had his agency and platform, I have my realtor network and social media training career in full swing. We couldn’t give the energy the event needed to keep its growth which, in the end, is what #NWITweetup is supposed to do for a Director who gives it their all to the event. Both sides blosssom. And the event will always be a part of me like I hope I continue to be a part of it.”
Like with Finn, you’ll see Daver in the back of the room, cheering on the next line of directors as a community leader much like the community leaders did for him.
“Finn & I didn’t get a playbook. We got a clean break, the login to the Twitter account and guidelines for expectations. So when I think of where it started to now, watching Jenny Craig and Brett take over, I smile. We did good.”
Welcome to Valhalla, Daver. You and Finn earned it!
he made sure we thought of others
It was 2009. Kathy Sipple quickly became in high demand for social media training and coaching. With so much on her plate, she went looking for help to keep #NWITweetup going. She didn’t have to look any farther than James Barath, a Certifed Mortgage Planner and social media early adopter.
Without missing a beat, James took the reins of #NWITweetup, using his vast connections to get the event into the door of some of the nicest establishments in Northwest Indiana. Before we knew it, we were filling up the event rooms at places such as Pestos and Pass Times as well as the coveted Basement at Pikk’s Tavern.
James also brought new meaning to the term, “social good.” Before too long, many of the areas most noteworthy charities and artists were donating goods and services to #NWITWeetup for what became signature auctions. All the proceeds were going to charity. The most famous moment of Barath’s era was when Nat Finn auctioned off an item between his then-current boss, Johnny Mathis of Livemercial, and his then-future boss, Scott Dujmovich of Golden Technologies. The video speaks for itself:
James’ last event was the first-ever Holiday Party at Inmans. Free bowling. Food specials. James went out on a high note.
Without James, people would not have seen how social media could do great things in the lives of others. To that, as well as his overall inexhaustible efforts, we forever salute him!
The year was 2008. Realtor Kathy Sipple had shut down her office and moved to Michigan to tend to her ailing sister. She started to tell her sister’s story by way of social media and blogging. Before she new it, she met a community of individuals across the country going through the same condition. It was in that moment she realized her destiny did not lie in selling homes, but in helping connect people using the latest digital tools and techniques.
When Kathy came back to Northwest Indiana, she didn’t reopen her Realtor office. Instead, she claimed her name on the social media spaces for both “Kathy Sipple” and “my social media coach” and started up her practice.
In the meantime, she startup up a little Twitter-themed meetup group for Northwest Indiana called “#NWITweetup.” She connected good people, small business people and the area Twitter early adopted – who Steve Dalton named, “The Twitteradi,” and the group began meeting once a month at area restaurants and coffee shops. They would discuss the latest Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn news, would talk about the folks with whom they were connecting and began to connect with each other on the offline aspects of their lives as well.
Kathy hit lightning in a bottle twice because before she knew it, #NWITweetup was growing as fast as her practice and she had some hard choices to make. And like a good business person she made it: she started sharing her #NWITweetup directorial duties with James Barath. It wasn’t too long before James had enough momentum to run them himself, allowing Kathy the luxury of being the event’s first Legacy Director.
When Kathy isn’t online or helping clients, she’s tackling a new ventures: 219 Green Drinks & 219 Green Connect – social-conscious social media networking groups.
We’ll forever be thankful for Kathy Sipple for starting up this little event. We’re always happy to see her when she gets a chance to come out and see how the seeds she’s sewn has grown into somethign beautiful.
Keep it green, Kathy!