Social Media Week Chicago advisory board member Q&A: Billy Dec

Social Media Week

Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.

In this Q&A feature, Social Media Week Chicago introduces local online media users and Social Media Week advisory board members to explain, in their own words, the role social media plays in their lives, personally and professionally. Local restaurateur and Social Media Week advisory board member Billy Dec kicks off this ongoing series.

Q: What was your “ah-ha moment” with social media?

I got pooped on by a bird on the way to work! I tweeted about it and my replies went through the roof for the first time. I spent six months [after that] working hard at tweeting all about cool celebrity, red carpet, VIP events I was trying to promote at my venues. No one cared like they did when I got pooped on. It baffled me. I mean, really baffled me.

No one I knew at the time could help since it was relatively early on [in Twitter’s popularity], so I immediately went to Twitter and asked my followers what I was doing right and wrong and what they want more or less of and began to hear things I never expected. They wanted to know the bad, the good  and everything in between; what I do and what I go through as just another human being. Basically, they wanted the truth. They wanted reality. And they wanted all of it.

It seemed really awkward because I was in charge of marketing, PR and branding for my businesses for years, and that meant I made sure we controlled and communicated the final product in its finest form. But my gut told me that organic, instantaneous communication of reality was now the wave of the future, or the present, so I tried it.

Immediately, when I began to tweet my “behind the scenes” work– pain, happiness, confidence, creativity, confusion, obstacles, solutions, passion– personal and business, people began to recommend me to others who worked hard to create, love and enjoy the same things. And before you know it, I not only have 18,000+ followers, I– more importantly– have a ton of new relationships that I can share real things with. Guess the old saying is right, it is good luck to get pooped on by a bird!

Q: How do you measure success in social media?

A: For Twitter, I’d be lying if I didn’t say, “by numbers of followers, retweets and replies.” I just think it gives you some indication of positive response to your efforts to communicate, [the] value [of] having a relationship and demand around the things you care about and share. I consider it successful when [people] are having fun and being active, giving, honest, relevant.  All of which positively effects the numbers of followers, retweets and replies.

Q: What does “transparency” mean to you?

A: Transparency is like nudity: The fact is, you pretty much always need a some sort of clothing when it comes to interacting with others.  There are very few people in this world that should see you without it totally, and only then is it OK when done at the right time and in the right way.

People require less clothing in certain circumstances, more in other circumstances.  Sometimes you have to approach a situation with a very specific kind of clothing you may not like but others require it. Some situations allow you to just be you and you can wear whatever you want. It’s an important decision, because whether completely nude, or way over and inappropriately dressed, if at the wrong place at the wrong time, you could really be exposing yourself to a very bad look for eternity.


Billy Dec is an Emmy winning entertainment TV contributor, restaurateur (owner of Sunda, Rockit, Underground), attorney alum of Chicago-Kent Law and Harvard Business School and shares entertainment, events, arts and culture news in Chicago as @BillyDec on Twitter, on Facebook, his blog, A Chicago Thing and Live on ABC TV’s “Windy City Live” every Thursday at 9 a.m. This feature is part of an ongoing series of brief Q&A sessions with Social Media Week Chicago advisory board members.  


Amy Guth

Social media manager, Chicago Tribune Media Group

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