Porter Gale, former VP of Marketing at Virgin America, delivered a closing keynote at the Social Shake Up 2013. During her presentation: The Power of Social Capital and the Four Degree Advantage, Ms. Gale presented her new book Your Network is your Net Worth, which attendees received in their conference bags.

This topic tied in nicely with a panel I was invited to speak on the next day,hosted by Maria Poveromo, who runs social media for Adobe, and with Jeanette Gibson, who just moved from Cisco to run communities at Hootsuite. Social selling guru Anneke Seley was our wonderful audience moderator.

Pictures of the #SSUSocBiz Panel at the Social Shake Up 2013The thesis of Ms. Gale's book is that

"Technology has reduced the degree of separation between our contacts from six to four. More than ever, it’s important to invest in our social capital, connections and relationships as a means to enhance our lives. Strategically building a network improves happiness, productivity and return—whether on a business or personal level".

The topic of our panel discussion at the Shake Up was Social Business Transformation Support Group, based on a case study from our own lives. Maria and Jeanette are part of SVESMC, the Silicon Valley Enterprise Social Media Council. A group that I started in 2011, when I worked at SAP and provided social media consulting to internal organizations.

IMG_2429Why a Social Media Support Group?

The point of starting the group was to bring together the intelligence of Silicon Valley social media practitioners, to share best practices, help each other solve problems, and have a good time along the way.

We succeeded on all three counts. Frankly, the first time the group met for dinner in Santa Clara was a #DigitalDistress therapy session (see the recent Adobe Tweetchat on this hashtag), more than anything else.

As social media was still very young, we all faced many challenges and wanted to validate if that was due to our own ignorance, something our organizations weren't doing, or simply growing pains of a new era in marketing. Had anybody else figured out what we had not? We all shared the same pain, and maybe that's what helped us bond so quickly.

No Secrets

The motto of our group is "What happens at SVESMC stays at SVESMC".

This is true for our monthly dinners as well as our quarterly summits. The first summit was hosted by SAP and we crowd-sourced the topics as well as the speakers from within our own ranks.

At the same time, group members met individually, deepening their relationships and providing each other strategic support. It went so far that Cisco and Adobe shared their blueprints for their Social Media Centers of Excellence; completely open and transparent. Simultaneously, Adobe also worked closely with Intel, sharing know how and creating innovative approaches.

During one of our early summits, we decided that we needed to go deeper on metrics and reporting. So we created a sub-group that met weekly for a few months. The members, led by Sudha Jamthe at eBay, shared their current measurement models and hard-learned lessons, with the goal to come up with a metrics model that could serve as a standard.

It turned out that many companies were going over-board with their measurement efforts, creating lengthy reports with tons of useless data. The key lesson from the "task force": Only report things that you plan to take action on. Never measure for measurements sake.

How to Start Your Own "Support Group"

Starting your own group is simple. Somebody, maybe you, needs to step up to be the leader - Phase 1.

I started the SVESMC group from scratch, with a few SAP colleagues on board. My strategy was to attend social media webinars and participate via the hashtag to meet other practitioners. Cisco had a lot of such events at the time and I followed people who looked like a possible fit on Twitter - Phase 2.

One of the first people I "recruited" was Petra Neiger at Cisco, probably THE most talented social media person I have the honor to know, followed closely by Maria. We've since shared our passion for yoga and become friends way beyond social media.

Phase 3 - I started to invite people I met on Twitter for lunch, floating the idea of creating a support group. The response was overwhelmingly positive and when we set up our first dinner, we had over 20 people attend. Then the group grew through member referrals.

Each quarter, we vote in a new president who runs the group and hosts the summit at their company's offices. We've since held summits at PayPal/eBay, Cisco, Wells Fargo, SAP, and Symantec.

So is Your Network Your Net Worth?

Let's go back to Porter Gale's statement that "Your Network is Your Net Worth".

Yes, I fully agree, as Ms. Gale is not just talking about monetary worth but personal worth, i.e. the value you extract as an individual as well as the impact a support group can have on your social business (transformation). As many studies have found, being part of a community and forming social bonds are key contributors to good health and a long life.

So, start your own support group today, or if you are in Silicon Valley, work in social media 100%, and like to make new friends, contact me on Twitter @NaThomson or via my B2B Social Media Marketing Blog.

More from the Social Shake Up: If you'd like to read more, here is a blog summarizing the Shake Up panel #SSUAdvacate: Can Social Media Help You Build a Better Advocate?