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Is Social Media Week over already? It went so fast, and we learned so much here at The Blog Studio. We’re just starting to process and make sense of it now. We’d like to take a second and send a heartfelt ‘Thanks’ to all of you who came out to our office for our ‘No Cheerleaders Allowed’ talk. We wanted an honest conversation about social media, and thanks to all of you, we really got one.

If you’ll indulge us for a moment, we’d like to take a quick stroll down memory lane and recap some of the interesting discussions we had that evening, and share what we learned for those of you who couldn’t make it in person. For those of you that braved the Canadian cold to squeeze into our offices, we commend your moxie!

The biggest lesson we learned is that social media means something different to everyone. Everyone in the room had a different opinion on what social media is, how you can use it personally or for business, and what works and what doesn’t. This make a whole lot of sense, because the one thing everyone agreed on is that social media is powered by the individual behind the keyboard. So to all the ‘experts; out there trying to define social media, you’re being shouted down by the rabble. There is no solid definition that everyone in the industry feels comfortable with.

We started the conversation off by asking everyone to discuss the early experiences they had with the web, and with social media. I got the ball rolling discussing how I miss the days where social media was a free for all, and everyone shared their ideas free of charge. Maybe this is a bit of nostalgia, but it still holds true for. Early memories in the room ranged from telnet to Twitter, and I quickly realized the age of people in the room started in the early 20’s and went all the way to people in their 50’s. How cool is that? Social media crushed the age barrier. It isn’t just for young tech savvy whippersnappers.

The hot button topic of the night was definitely using social media to make a buck. Is it OK to do this for profit? The answers ranged from absolutely to absolutely not. Fair enough. The consensus seemed to be we all want to make a living, but it can be very difficult to quantify ROI on social media campaigns. It’s great to hear that people really want to show their clients and employers they can demonstrate real value with social media, and hopefully prove it.

A thorough discussion of tools and analytics followed, and again the room was split. Many of you felt you can use analytics to show success with the numbers. A second camp felt that while numbers are important, you can’t always quantify the intangible way that people view yourself, or your business in the social media world. Personally, I agree with both points of view. In a perfect world a combination of analytics and conversation is able to tell the whole story. That isn’t an easy concept to explain, but we’re trying, and as time goes on we’re getting better at making our case.

This brought up the idea of whether it’s more valuable to target a select group of people on the web, or get your message out to everyone and see what sticks. Here’s one point where just about everyone in the room agreed: the targeted approach is the way to go.  Speaking to your specific audience, in the space where they live, generates the best results and the most clear communications. This is genuine two way engagement. The ‘scatter gun’ approach is headed out the door with the old media world, because it gets in the way of having a real conversation.

This led to a discussion about where people live and hang out online. We all agree that fewer and fewer people are watching television, at a set time, on an actual television. More commonly, viewers are tuning into their favorite shows online. This has a huge impact on the way we buy and consume advertising, or what even constitutes advertising anymore. While online viewing hasn’t eclipsed traditional TV watching yet, it’s coming.

Our favorite loudmouth American at The Blog Studio, Michael Dolan, turned a few heads when he said “Everyone who watches TV will be dead in a few years anyway.” That’s one way to put it. Maybe a more optimistic way to look at it, is you can get great bang for your buck by participating in TV online, either through ads or social media conversations around these shows.

Mr. Dolan gave a quick rundown of one his favorite topics: Social Media Trainwrecks. We discussed the Saatchi and Saatchi Toyota social media campaign, The Motrin Moms Debacle and the Steve Rubel Wal-Mart bloggers screwup. All interesting cases with a lot to teach anyone who gets involved in this space. The takeaway here is to enter at your own risk and be certain to keep things honest. Your audience is as smart as you are, don’t forget that.

The discussion continued with people and brands who are honest, and using social media in a fun and transparent way. Shaq, PDiddy and BlogTO were three names that popped up right away. I agree. They all do it well, keep it honest and make it fun. They also engage with their audiences and don’t use social media as a way to blast out ads.

The last part of the evening focused on Facebook, and opinions were all over the place. Some people love it, some people hate it. That’s the only honest assessment I can give of this discussion. Every person had a wholly different opinion. Some thought it was the future of online engagement, and some thought it’s already seen its’ day. The line of the night came out of this conversation, courtesy of Meghan Warbly of Argyle, “Facebook is the Nickelback of Social Media.” Ha.

We really had a great time, and were extremely impressed with the wide range of opinions and backgrounds that all came together in one room for a smart and civil conversation. That’s why the social media world is a such a great place. We’d like to take a second and thank all of you for coming and sharing with us. A few of you went far beyond the call of duty. Like Crystal Gibson, who shared her excellent great notes with us. Carolyn Van who showed up early to help us set up, and @tourdedufflet for bringing over some yummy dufflet treats.

It was lovely to meet some familiar Twitter avatars in the flesh like Toronto PR gadfly @J_Lab, @interpretivist and man about town @mynameisguygal. We also got a chance to play Smush. CA, and meet the brilliant minds at Atmosphere industries who thought it up.

Also a special thanks to Marijke Daye from Sweet Something Design for her awesome candy table that kept us all hopped up on sugar for our chat.

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Thank you all for taking the time to visit, we’re looking forward to having you over for drinks again soon. 

More at: http://www.theblogstudio.com/single/an_honest_conversation_about_social_media_wrap_up/