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THE EDGE
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Linking into O.C.’s social network

Bryan Elliott has harnessed the power of the social network in business, and he’s helping thousands of others do it, too.

by tina borgattaPublished: February 01, 2011

Bryan Elliott
Bryan Elliott spent 15 years helping companies such as Universal Pictures, Disney Interactive and Yamaha Motor Corp. market their brands before breaking out on his own in 2008 and becoming an independent consultant. He recognized the influence of social networks and how they can be harnessed as a tool in business, and he formed a group through LinkedIn. Five hundred people joined during its first month, and by the end of the year, more than 5,000 professionals had joined the network. It now stands on its own.
   
“I built a simple website using WordPress to act as the hub, and built bridges from other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube back to our website to build and connect our community, Linked 
Orange County (linkedoc.com),” says Elliott. “Since then, I’ve used similar strategies and tactics to build communities for companies of all shapes and sizes to help them market their products and services.”
   
And he’s learned something interesting along the way: Orange County is fast becoming a hotbed for social media. The proof? His Linked Orange County events have drawn some of the nation’s top social networking gurus.
   
“It’s not uncommon at Linked O.C.’s monthly networking events to hear from some of the most respected business and marketing talent in the world, such as authors Chris Brogan (“Trust Agents”), Brian Solis (“Engaged”), David Meerman Scott (“World Wide Rave”) and Gary Vaynerchuk (“The Thank You Economy”),” he says.
   
And on March 2, the group will host best-selling author Seth Godin (“Linchpin” and “All Marketers Tell Stories”). It’s a rare West Coast visit for Godin, whose datebook typically lists engagements with Fortune 100 companies and invitation-only events such as the TED Conference, which fetches $6,000 a ticket.
   
“Godin is to marketing and new media what Steve Jobs is to computers and digital technology – an icon and pioneer,” says Elliott. “‘Unleashing the Idea Virus’ – one of his early books – is arguably the first book on social media before social media had a name.”
   
And through it all, Elliott has become an expert in his own right. In the Q&A that follows, Elliott shares what he’s learned about social media, and how Orange County professionals are tapping into its power.

OC METRO: How do we compare to other metropolitan areas when it comes to social media immersion?
Bryan Elliott: New York City is home to location-based darlings Foursquare. Austin, Texas, hosts the SXSW (South by South West) Conference – arguably the hottest place to showcase emerging technology. And we all know the Bay Area. But Orange County is becoming a hub for thought leadership and new media, not because we have more users. In fact, I’d say most people are still just learning about how to harness its power. But our little county has caught the attention of some big names because a small group of people asked for it.

It’s highly unlikely that Orange County will ever be what the Bay Area is to tech. But you don’t need a million people to create change, just the right number of people who step up at the right time to do things that matter.
   
In the case of Linked Orange County, enough people wanted to get high-quality information from true experts that they took action to make it happen. It’s not uncommon at Linked Orange County’s monthly networking events to hear from some of the most respected business and marketing talent in the world.



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