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Social Media Revolution or Evolution?

November 11, 2011, 7:15pm posted by  |  1 comments

Posted in: The Media Landscape, Council of PR Firms, Social Media, Leslie Stahl,

Social Media Revolution or Evolution?

When I was invited to attend the Council of PR Firm’s annual Critical Issues Forum this past month for a program centered on “Social Revolution,” I’ll admit I was excited and, more importantly, intrigued.

As a recent college graduate – I’ve been working for a year and a half here at CooperKatz – social media has been omnipresent both in my education and my post-college work life. I was interested to hear what the various industry speakers and panelists would have to say about something I’ve considered a permanent fixture on my personal landscape for almost six years.
 
The day kicked off with a keynote speech by former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who shared his thoughts on how people are using social media to organize movements, what it was like launching the first presidential Twitter account and how he used the platform to get inside the minds of journalists.
 
Gibbs is often lauded for driving the social media political campaign that helped to win the election for Obama. For me this in itself wasn’t groundbreaking; at least not in the way some people see it. Obama ran during the first presidential election in which I and my peers could vote. Using social media to reach young voters immersed in online and social tools seemed obvious to me. But clearly they were the first to successfully execute such a comprehensive and seamless effort.
 
Next was a panel of CMOs whose companies are committed to implementing social media strategies for better interactions with their constituencies. Panelists from EPSN, SAP, Target, Gannet and Petfinder.com (a CooperKatz client) discussed ideas ranging from the openings social media provides for constant, global communication to the very personal, passionate opportunities it creates for people to share their brand-specific experience and knowledge.
 
The most interesting part of this portion of the program for me, was that these very senior people find it challenging to keep up with all of these emerging forms of social communication. They also made the point that life pre-social media, and even pre-internet, had also been a “social” experience – but one key difference is that the flow of information could be more easily managed and maintained. Now consumers instead of executive boards, they noted, hold more power because their voices are heard and amplified at all hours of the day, day in and day out.
 
Twenty-somethings (meaning me!) are now go-to team members for top executives who realize they should be utilizing social media, but don’t know how. It was refreshing for me to hear that in the midst of complaints about rising tuition costs, lower return on investment from education than expected and the lack of jobs available for recent grads, people like me are indeed in demand. Who knew that while those of us in our early twenties were fretting about spending too much time on Facebook as opposed to studying, we were actually learning life skills applicable to big people in even bigger companies?
 
Lastly, Pete Cashmore, the founder of Mashable, took to the stage for an interview discussing his company, his passions and his thoughts on how social media is continuously evolving. Cashmore, like the panelists before him, admitted that being “social” isn’t a new concept. At Mashable, he said it’s innately a part of the work they’re doing, a part of the “plumbing that exists everywhere.” That, to me, made the most sense out of all the takeaways of the day. Social media isn’t really “hot” or “new” any more; it has become another thread (or, more aptly, threads) woven into the fabric of how we communicate with each other.
 
Based on everything that was discussed during the forum, I think the title “Social Evolution” as opposed to “Social Revolution” would have been more appropriate. Regardless of the title, though, what I learned at the event is that not even the leaders or the experts know exactly what’s in store for our industry. We all need to continue working with what we have while looking forward to what will be available in the future, and we must continue to come together as dynamic and diverse teams. Everyone has the opportunity to speak up about anything to essentially everyone, and nowadays it’s as simple as clicking “tweet.”
 
 
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