Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Social Media

Last week’s New Media Atlanta summit on Social Media was billed as an exploration of the business application of social media tools. This was an event I was not going to miss, but I did not expect the one-two punch of awe and befuddlement I carried out the door.

Walking into the conference center I immediately pinned that I was the only person in the room without a high-end laptop or mini and the cords and cables that go with them. Mac ruled the house. The scene was akin to the taper's section of a Grateful Dead show. Two rows ahead of me was a guy wearing Sennheiser headphones hooking up a preamp(?) to his computer to connect his digital camera.

The day itself was a blitz of marketers, technology experts and pundits addressing the permanence and future of social networks. You can view a few of the presentations from the event here.

The highlight of the session for me was a panel discussion with the social marketing leadership of Turner (Seth Miller) and Newell Rubbermaid (Bert DuMars) along with Peter Fasco from marketing firm mass+logic. The discussion centered on how Seth, Bert and their teams use Twitter, Facebook and other resources to connect with their customers, address service issues in real time, and provide intelligence and consumer insights back into their organizations.

Checkout the Sharpie blog and the brand's Twitter and Facebook communities for a great example of how a major brand is interacting with its customers in the digital realm.

Three big takeaways from the day's proceedings:

  • Your organization and its brands must have an active voice in the world of social media. You are already in this game rather you know it or not.
  • There is a direct correlation between mobile Internet connectivity and the use of social media applications. The coming explosion of mobile Internet access foreshadows the ubiquity of social media as a communication vehicle.
  • Social media is a unique tool for businesses to listen to their customers. Learning from customers, enhancing their brand experience and meeting their needs can not be lost in an effort to advertise and promote.

The closer for the event was Chris Brogan, the Terrance McKenna of social media and author of the new book Trust Agents. Chris's amazing, PG-13 presentation offered a visceral, no B.S. examination of the opportunities and expectations associated with the Age of Social Media.

Watch the first few minutes of the video to see Chris address the BackNoise for the conference. During the course of the conference my neighbors in the back row were engaging in an anonymous Twitter-type exchange about the speakers, their lunch plans, and a variety silly topics.

Chris displayed the BackNoise narrative behind him for the entirety of his talk. While his ability to confront real time gossip was impressive, I left the conference thinking about the down side of all of this new technology. At what point do we begin to sacrifice real though and meaningful human interaction for instant electronic exchange?

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