Garrett Tichy, one of Charlotte’s most popular people connectors, enjoys social networking the old fashioned way – engaging face to face over a coffee or a beer outside of the office.
And while Tichy, 31, loves engaging on a personal level with new acquaintances, it’s very likely he has taken advantage of his extensive online social media network to discover and learn about people he’s likely to meet.
Using social media as a tool to accelerate – not replace – IRL (in real life) connections is increasingly popular in Charlotte and across the country. After work “beer-ups,” speaker series meetups and informal gatherings promoted solely through hashtag announcements (online destinations where event information is shared) on Twitter and other social media, are enjoying large crowds and enthusiastic response.
“I see a great deal of emphasis placed on making face-to-face connections, particularly with millennials and younger generations,” said Sherri Elliott-Yeary of Dallas, Texas, an author, speaker and coach on cross-generational issues. “They use their social media network to expand their personal and professional networks in ways that offer immediacy and intimacy. With such emphasis on mobility today and people traveling and moving for work, the need to know and trust each other beyond an online profile is important.”
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Harnessing his energy for real-life connections, Tichy developed #WeLoveCLT.
“It’s an initiative supporting and bringing together a community that isn’t defined by the industry you work in, the people you know or the place you are standing at this very moment,” Tichy said. “I don’t like it when the first thing someone says upon meeting me is, ‘What do you do?’ It’s a lazy way of engaging.
“Each of us is so much more than our jobs,” said Tichy, co-owner of Ready at 7, a Charlotte digital marketing firm. “I’m genuinely interested in what people’s interests are beyond work, and what inspires them. I’m interested in engaging on more genuine, less conventional terms.”
#WeLoveCLT established an online presence with a Twitter account and a website as primary vehicles. There’s a regular newsletter and postings introducing friends of #WeLoveCLT, shoutouts to nonprofits and staffers who are making a difference in Charlotte, and promotion and recaps of recent gatherings.
Tichy holds a monthly speaker series after work at @809, a co-working space on Cedar Street near Bank of America Stadium. Recent guest speakers include novelist Jeff Jackson and critical care nurse Kati Kleber.
“I love when this happens and I’ve seen and been a part of so many occurrences where the online connection has led to in-person friendships,” Tichy said. “I’m inspired by people engaging in this way.”
Tichy found inspiration for his initiative from another wildly popular hashtag event, #instabeerupCLT, founded by Amy Herman and Corri Smith in 2014.
The beer-ups are free (participants pay for their own drinks and food), open to all, with no RSVP required. They’re held monthly at different breweries with no agenda or message other than to come, meet people and enjoy beer.
Dates and information are shared at #instabeerupCLT.
“I was frustrated by conventional after-hours organization- and association-hosted functions which often felt stiff and forced,” said Herman, 29, an artist and founder of Vintage Charlotte, producer of pop-up markets and vintage rentals. “People were aggressive in handing out business cards and trying to make connections without first taking time to get to know me. It didn’t feel like an authentic way of connecting. ”
Smith, 29, noted her goals in establishing the format was to facilitate a true community connection and creating an environment where connections happen naturally.
“So many people want to connect on a community level and be collaborative and supportive of the variety of interests and projects underway here,” said Smith, creator of Black Wednesday Social Co. boutique marketing and events.
While the initial #instabeerupCLT event hosted about 30 people, crowds at recent gatherings average more than 250. Smith and Herman noted the socials attract a wide range of people.
“We see participants from all fields including teachers, artists, trade workers, retail employees, students, newcomers,” said Herman. “Everyone (over 21) is welcome.”
Herman and Smith noted while the age range typically runs from early 20s to mid 40s, #instabeerupCLT should not be defined as a millennial event.
“Our gatherings are for people of any age who want to connect on an authentic level,” Herman says. “We’re interested in interesting people and not being categorized or lumped into a demographic grouping.”
Generational guru Elliott-Yeary said the mobility and global nature of the workplace contributes to the reliance on social media to explore connections that lead to in-person relationships.
“In addition to established social media channels, people connect with co-workers from other offices across the country and overseas through company portals,” said Elliott-Yeary. “When people transfer or relocate, they tap into existing networks to help plug into their new community.”
Smith realized there’s an aspect of social media networking that’s beneficial when meeting someone in person.
“It’s exciting to discover people who you may have followed or learned about online from social media, and find you share many interests or have a feel for their personality and have that confirmed when meeting them in person. I feel like I already know them.”
▪ #WeLoveCLT – Twitter handle - @WeLoveCLT, Website - http://weloveclt.com/.
▪ #instabeerupCLT – Follow this Twitter hashtag to learn of upcoming beer-up details. The next one is 6 p.m. on July 30 at Heist Brewery, 2909 N. Davidson St.