The OnMediaNYC2011 annual conference was held at the Paley Center for Media in New York City last week, featuring debates on how the Internet is disrupting the world of marketing, branding, advertising and public relations. The epitome of the event was a discussion titled “Socially Network or Die!,” which was a coming together of Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley type panelists who hashed out whether or not companies need to be involved in social media in order to make money.
The discussion started from a VC’s point of view that every company needs to have some significant social networking strategy. “There are 1.5 billion people on social media around the world, and the average person has more social networking accounts than email accounts,” said David Parkman of Venrock. He continued saying that, “I think Zuckerberg is totally right: Social media impacts just about everything and everything is becoming social. This is because it makes the experience for users more relevant and more personal. It allows them to engage in what the Internet has become — a mechanism for fast and relevant sharing.”
Another panelist was Henry Juszkiewicz, chair and CEO of Gibson Guitars. He explained why his traditional, established business grabbed onto the social media boom. When asked about his “social networking moment” and how he built on it in terms of his business, he said: “I think social networking is very old and what we’re really seeing is a transition from a period of time in which another technology was overwhelming but was actually antisocial — and that was broadcast technology. Now that technology has allowed us to jump in, we’ve done it. We actively deal with a lot of individuals, as well as some bands, on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. The technology is not the issue to me — it’s the company actually reaching out to individuals. From January 1st until today, we have increased our fan base 10-fold by adding 90,000 Facebook fans, compared to our biggest publication, Guitar Player Magazine, which had a total circulation of 140,000.”
On the subject of how companies leverage people on social media, Paul Sinclair of Atlantic Records said, “We do this by making sure we access our fans, talk with them and provide them with a great experience. Then we push them back to special websites where there is special content and offers. It’s a more trusted way for a band to interact with its fans. Social companies, Facebook especially, are allowing us to personalize beyond anything we’ve ever been able to do before.”
The youth market is also being tapped in other creative ways. “Younger people don’t look at their lives as being offline or online,” said Phil Guest of Sulake, a social entertainment company. “For them, social is a key part of growing up. When people get to 10 years old, that’s when they really start to expand their awareness of other people and begin to be hyper-social. They have massive groups of friends, but when they get to 17, 18 years old, they start to narrow that down to a specific group. So services like our Habbo Hotel, where they can decorate their own space, are a way for them to express themselves. And that is huge.”
So do companies have to socially network to make money? The panelists’ conclusion was yes, they do. Their reasoning is that people spend so much time on social media that companies do have to be social, and companies that are social can be made more relevant, interesting, personal and active.