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I was an avid viewer of LOST for six seasons (yes, even season three).  And for six seasons, I grappled with electromagnetism, smoke monsters and tropical polar bears in both fascination and frustration.   The day after a new episode, I read blogs and articles that attempted to explain, predict and understand the show (special thanks to Washington Post’s excellent dueling analysis).  I was patient, and, when the series finale came to a close, I was disappointed.

As has been well reported, answers to many of LOST’s questions went unanswered.  For years I had been relying on the wisdom of others to explain the show’s biblical, mythological and philosophical references and the scientific aspects, so I turned to those same sources to gain greater understanding of the finale.

My quest for information and resolution felt vaguely familiar.  As I scanned blogs, Twitter, and columns, it felt a lot like my search to understand social media.

Social media, like LOST, is a complex and mysterious island that reveals itself only incrementally.  To be meaningfully on this island, you have to want and try to get there.  Once you’re there, every breakthrough of understanding is confronted with new questions.  And, just when you think you’ve got it pegged, a new tool is introduced.

I was able to make peace with LOST (thanks in large part to Lauren J. Rivera’s insightful perspective).  But social media has no finale, and I accept and appreciate that it will be a continual learning process.

Much like LOST, the joy of social media is in the journey and, ultimately, that journey is about people.  I have become a part of countless communities, established connections that would have otherwise been impossible, and found “teachers” who help me with everything from professional development to a firm grasp of celebrity gossip.

My advice?  Become a Social Media Island castaway.  I promise, no smoke monsters.

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive (@katiefoxdenis)

The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.

Social Media.jpgI was an avid viewer of LOST for six seasons (yes, even season three).  And for six seasons, I grappled with electromagnetism, smoke monsters and tropical polar bears in both fascination and frustration.   The day after a new episode, I read blogs and articles that attempted to explain, predict and understand the show (special thanks to Washington Post’s excellent dueling analysis).  I was patient, and, when the series finale came to a close, I was disappointed.

As has been well reported, answers to many of LOST’s questions went unanswered.  For years I had been relying on the wisdom of others to explain the show’s biblical, mythological and philosophical references and the scientific aspects, so I turned to those same sources to gain greater understanding of the finale.

My quest for information and resolution felt vaguely familiar.  As I scanned blogs, Twitter, and columns, it felt a lot like my search to understand social media.

Social media, like LOST, is a complex and mysterious island that reveals itself only incrementally.  To be meaningfully on this island, you have to want and try to get there.  Once you’re there, every breakthrough of understanding is confronted with new questions.  And, just when you think you’ve got it pegged, a new tool is introduced.

I was able to make peace with LOST (thanks in large part to Lauren J. Rivera’s insightful perspective).  But social media has no finale, and I accept and appreciate that it will be a continual learning process.

Much like LOST, the joy of social media is in the journey and, ultimately, that journey is about people.  I have become a part of countless communities, established connections that would have otherwise been impossible, and found “teachers” who help me with everything from professional development to a firm grasp of celebrity gossip.

My advice?  Become a Social Media Island castaway.  I promise, no smoke monsters.

toolsComes an article in today’s (6.4.09) NYT titled, “Small Businesses Are Taking Tenative Steps Toward Online Networking” (by Mickey Meece), discussing broader acceptance by small businesses of social networking as a marketing tool.

Lots of good stuff here for professional communicators.  The eye-catcher for me was a comment attributed (kind of) to the president of the International Council for Small Business, Charles H. Matthews, regarding social networking sites … “the key was to view the sites as tools, not toys.”

Pardon the self-promotion, but we just published (6.1.09) our monthly newsletter, March Forth, and the topic was “Social Media Strategies … Managing Business Relationships.”  “Tools, not Toys” would have been a perfect title.

Basically, the NYT article and our newsletter say the same thing.   Here’s what we said (in part):

One Size Does Not Fit All

Chances are you don’t need it all – every online gadget or gimmick that some friend is using.  What works for some businesses might not suit yours.  What works now might not work in the future.  This is not a time to play, “keep up with the Joneses.” 

Your social media strategy should be tailored towards the business goals of your company.  If integrated with your traditional marketing activities, social networking can support and enhance your efforts to achieve important business objectives.

It sure feels as if the applications for social networking, initially considered super hot for direct-to-consumer business activities, may be evolving for small businesses and, particularly, for business-to-business use.

Makes sense that this evolution would occur.  Finding the right application for your business is worth the effort.

Post by Nick Vehr – 6.4.09

I was gobama-posteretting ready to post this morning about matters of interest for professional communicators – crisis communications, branding, use of social media, you know, that kind of stuff.

Then I read this article in this a.m.’s NYT (“How Obama tapped into social networks power” – David Carr), and I just had write about politics again. 

Well, sort of.  It’s still about what we do as communicators … how we use tools available to us to develop and manage reputations, build and strengthen relationships, all to deliver results that matter. 

Importantly, it’s also about how social media will help, and can hurt, just how we do that.  The Obama/Biden campaign was a tutorial, an open classroom, for all of us.  The article raises the specter that an Obama presidency may be another tutorial as well, but of a different sort.

Read this article.  We all know that the Obama/Biden campaign used social media to forever change presidential campaign politics.  It is expected that President Obama intends to use social media to govern as well.  

As we all know, relationships in today’s online world require nurturing, attention and speed.  Today’s online crowd can turn quickly on President Obama if promised change doesn’t come fast enough, at least fast enough for impatient online enthusiasts who signed on to the Obama/Biden campaign juggernaut.

“The mob, flush with victory, is at hand, but instead of pitchforks and lanterns, they have broadband and YouTube.  Like every other presidency, the Obama administration will have its battle with the media, but that may seem like patty-cake if it runs afoul of the self-publishing, self-organizing democracy it helped create – say, by delaying health care legislation or breaking a promise on taxes … That’s the thing about pipes today: they run both ways.”

In closing, and with deference to the Pogo cartoon of an earlier, pre-Internet era, “Yes, we have met Big Brother, the one who is always watching.  And Big Brother is us.”

NOTE:  After reading the NYT this morning, I sat down this afternoon with today’s WSJ.  In L. Gordon Crovitz’s Information Age column (“Can We Trust Anyone Over 30?”), he made essentially the same point as David Carr in the NYT article referenced above.  Among other insights, he adds, “…young people’s expectations also reflect digital values, which can include fast rejection of anything that smacks of spin or hypocrisy.”

This is all going to be fun, and educational, to watch.

PR is all about developing, building and strengthening the relationship between the product/service and its consumer, whether a person, a business or a community.

Social networks and their pervasiveness, speed and ability to personalize, are like performance-enhancing drugs for the practice of PR. 

In today’s NYT, an article by Brian Stelter explores how media companies are trying to make it easier to share links with friends, add comments to articles and extend users’ online identities.

Media companies are clearly figuring out how to develop deeper relationships with readers, listeners and viewers.  It reports how CNN will be connecting “The Forum,” its site for political expression, to Facebook enabling users to talk about the presidential debates and see what their friends are writing.

Fascinating stuff.  I’m happy to pass it on and encourage you to dig deeper and learn more about how social networks enable PR practitioners to enhance client relationships with people, businesses or communities. 

That’s precisely what we are doing.