"Social media reminds me of the story of the five blind men and the elephant. Asked to describe the elephant, one said ‘it’s long and thin’, because he could feel the tail. Another said, ‘no, it’s flat and thin’, because he was feeling the ear. Yet another said ‘you’re crazy! It’s like a tree trunk, thick and round’, because he was feeling the leg.
"They all could see different aspects of social media, yet none of them could see it in its entirety. That’s the same kind of situation we’re in now – there’s a revolution beginning and we haven’t begun to see all the potential effects.
Yet on this panel we have some of the most expert elephant gropers in the world. They’ve been feeling the elephant for years. And they’re here to answer your questions."
That’s how I introduced the panel of speakers – Sharon Crost , Stephen Johnson , Jim Stewart , David Meerman Scott and Chris Brogan – in the final session of Marketing Now. It was an action-packed session, with almost as much commentary from the audience as from the speakers. Here are some of the highlights.
Greig Buckley, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau , had a very interesting question about the future of ad-supported online services. To paraphrase his question, how will paid advertising online survive if marketers are shifting their efforts to free social media marketing ? (In fact, the word he used was "parasitic", but he was at pains to point out he implied no judgement in using that word)
The answers from the panel tended to say the same thing: we don’t see the solution yet, but it was strongly in the interests of media owners (and the owners of services like YouTube) to figure out a solution soon. None of them are in it for love, they are all in it for commercial reasons, but at the moment we are at an experimental stage.
Another question was about how to start an online community . One audience member had budgeted $25,000 to develop a Facebook-like community. Another audience member recommended Ning.com , pointing out that it did most things an online community platform needs to do, for free (or US$25 a month for an ad-free service). But that’s only half the story.
The other half of the story is the need for a community leader or manager. The technology is just the beginning; communities need nurturing and leadership, and that can only be done by a person. So the panel’s advice: invest that money in a person and/or people to lead that community .
The last story, and by far the most common question we hear at iJump, is "where do we start?"
Of course, there is no one answer, so the next best thing was to ask people in the audience to share their plans and next steps. Most next steps included an exploration of Twitter and Google Alerts , as well as developing buyer personas (as per David Meerman Scott’s presentation ).
This session was also the beginning of the NZ Social Media Network – where socialising means business . Established by Siobhan Bulfin and ourselves, this is a place for business people to learn from each other about social media, with a New Zealand focus.
Even if you weren’t able to attend the conference, we’d love to see you at the NZ Social Media Network .
(Thanks to digitalART2 for the fantastic Elephoto)