Looking for a job? Businesses turning to digital marketing meetups to find talent
The monthly gatherings began in Holland, then expanded to Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Lansing. In 2018, there are plans to add them in Kalamazoo and Chicago.(
HOLLAND, MI — Samantha Hill is glad she accepted an invitation to attend a "Drinks and Digital" meetup in Holland in early 2017.
She left the event with a job offer to do photography for Next Door Photos, a real estate photography firm.
"It’s nice because it worked around my class schedule," said Hill, a Grandville native and Hope College senior finishing up a degree in sociology and communications.
Hill isn’t the only person who has landed work from the free gatherings held across West Michigan in brew pubs and bistros.
Tim Haines, owner of Symposia Labs, has heard of other people making similar connections. His firm hired three people from the events.
"We want people invested in the community to be part of our team and if they are coming to these events that is a sign," Haines said.
His 5-year-old digital marketing firm specializes in email marketing, Facebook advertising and Google Adwords. The staff includes seven employees and two contractors.
Symposia Labs operates out of a second floor office in downtown Holland office, at 35 1/2 W. 8th St., and plans to open a second location in Grand Rapids’ Heritage Hill neighborhood in February.
Symposia Labs started the Drinks and Digital meetups three years ago as a way to connect with other digital marketing professionals in West Michigan.
The monthly gatherings began in Holland, then expanded to Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Lansing. In 2018, there are plans to add them in Kalamazoo and Chicago.
The focus of the event is creating community for those in or interested in breaking into the digital marketing industry.
"We’ve decided a casual format works best," Haines said. "Usually, we’ll have a discussion topic. It’s very informal. We have a topic and just chat."
Not only are the meetups free, they are no sales zone.
"We try to keep them commercial free as well. It’s meant to be a community. No one is there to sell anything," Haines said.
While Drinks and Digital’s membership list snowballed to more 1,000 people, the monthly meetups have remained intimate, with 15 to 25 people attending each one.
It’s organized through Meetup.com, which manages the informal membership. There is also a Facebook page where members discuss issues and share job opportunities. A list of the upcoming meetings is on Drinksdigital.com.
"The goal is to stay small," said Haines. "The loose format and passionate attendees make for an untraditional networking experience fostering more organic connections."
The gatherings tend to attract primarily marketers, social media managers, photographers, videographers and designers.
Usually, the focus at the gatherings is on sharing best practices in digital marketing.
"We are in the midst of a major transition in the way we shop and sell," said Steve VanderVeen, a Hope College business professor, who encourages his students to attend.
Some of his students recently completed a project on how to draw more students to the meetups.
"One of their key findings was to mention that drinks don’t always refer to alcohol," Haines said. "They had a list of suggestions at the end of the semester. I was kind of blown away."
Along with adding new locations, Haines wants to see the meetup community create an educational conference or something similar.