This week Eliza interviews self-proclaimed king of all trades and Yelp’s Senior London Community Manager, Alex Shebar. Follow Alex on Twitter via @alexshebar.
You’re currently working as Yelp’s Senior London Community Manager. What part of your job requires the most creativity?
You’re going to scoff at me when I say this but it’s keeping London from not being boring. What? London? Boring? Never? Yes! It can be, when you go to the same restaurant or the same bar or the same event week in and week out. There’s so much to do in this city that a lot of times, people start to take it for granted. They begin to go to where they already know over and over. I throw a ton of events that show off amazing hidden gems, new food, crafted cocktails and things people have never seen before. I’m showing off new spots to my entire community, even to those who have lived here all their life. Finding ways to get people out of a rut and routine, that’s what requires more creativity.
Also, it takes some serious creativity on how not to get fat eating and drinking with the yelpers all the time. I’m not sure I’ve figured that part of the job out yet.
As a U.S. transplant and former Yelp Cincinnati CM, what surprised you the most about the event scene in London?
London is insane when it comes to events, and I mean that with love. You can literally be out every night of the week and not see the same thing twice. Hell, you can be out every night of the year and still not see the same thing twice. Also, I’m always shocked how early places close here compared with the US. Most bars shut up shop about 11pm/midnight. In the states, that’s when you’re just getting started, here it’s when they’re sending you to bed.
Having worked with multiple Yelp communities, what do think is the secret to creating a great offline community?
Honestly, the secret to a great offline community isn’t anything people don’t normally do in their daily life. Find fun people and put together fun things they want to do.
People may say they’re too tired to go out or it’s hard to meet new people, but if you can give them an event or a reason that sounds like something they just can’t miss, they’ll step out of their comfort zone, move away from the computer and actually be part of the community in real life. It’s all about authenticity and creativity.
Do you perceive a difference between the attitude towards online community in the U.S. versus the U.K?
When I moved to London, everyone I knew went, “Oh, everything is going to be so different.” Honestly, not so much. It’s like that scene in Pulp Fiction where it’s the little differences that get you (like Where’s Waldo being called Where’s Wally here. What?) But overall, no, a community of people who are interested in great local spots are the same from country to country. In England, people may be a little more hesitant to come out to events without knowing other people there first, but even that is small.
True! I was doing a major year-long project called Watch This where we were screening the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies in a year, two movies a week. The project basically started in the living room and basements of friends’ houses where we would watch the films and invite anyone to join. It grew larger and then businesses started coming to me asking if they could show them. Eventually we were doing screenings for hundreds of people. At the same time, Yelp was looking for it’s first community manager in Cincinnati, Ohio.
They found me on Twitter, we got talking, they encouraged me to apply. That’s how it all began. So don’t ever let people tell you Twitter is a waste of time. Have them come talk to me.
Your career started off in writing and communication. What advice would you give to aspiring members of the tech community who struggle with writing?
Good question. It would have to be the same advice I was given when I was a journalist writing about complicated issues. Start by thinking about how you’d explain it to a child. Write that out. At this point, you’ll have the basics of whatever you’re talking about. Now you can spruce it up and make it sound a little better and submit something worth reading. Really though, people struggle the most with writing at the beginning because they don’t know where to start. Start there.
Tough question! Probably O’ Brother Where Art Thou. I still can’t say why I love that film so much (besides the great story and fantastic music) but it’s just damn good.
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About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.