The Spirit of the Real-Time Web

September 17, 2010

“How can tweeting and posting on Facebook or LinkedIn benefit me or my business? I sell XYZ, and my customers aren't on social media; it's a waste of time.”

This is something we hear too often.

Listening to teachers and school administrators speak on a panel at the 140 Characters Conference this week about social media really resonated with me because we consistently educate our clients on the importance of these tools and answer these questions daily.

At Metis, we specialize in launching and working with startups and emerging companies. Our passion is taking these companies to the next stage of development in business and in marketing. Doing that involves taking traditional marketing and PR tools and integrating them with social media engagement, as well as developing and distributing content. Because this is such a priority for our company, we decided that this conference was perfect way to hear more about what others are doing in the industry.

At the conference, I had the pleasure of listening to Kirsten Olson (@bhsprincipal), author of “Wounded By School” and the principal of Old Sow Educational Consulting; Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal), principal of Burlington High School; and Sandra McCarron (@sanmccarron), a high school science teacher. They expressed the need to educate school districts – everyone from teachers, parents, students and the board about the importance of social media for education. In education, there is a challenge to unlock the assumptions about these tools, get teachers to commit and then unleash the full experience to their students. These educators are in an industry not so familiar with technical innovation. Most teachers are still relying on overhead projectors and working with ridiculously limited budgets when it comes to upgrading technology. They are traditional; they like face-to-face meetings or talking with parents via phone to tell how their child misbehaved or got a gold star for the day. They aren't thinking about how their students and their parents are now getting information via Facebook or Twitter.

During this panel, it occurred to me that we face this every day – the continued lack of social media education, providing the reasoning behind why it IS beneficial to businesses, consumers, the government, the journalism community, school systems and more.

We as marketers are here to promote change, educate our clients to help them grasp new marketing concepts, get them to understand and commit to integrating traditional techniques with new media channels – and the reasoning behind doing so. Students, teachers and school boards can do this to communicate and engage with their community – figure out what's working and what's not, brainstorm with parents in real-time and voice concerns without parent-teacher meetings twice a year.

This is the exact same lesson that businesses that are not taking advantage of the real-time web need to learn. Imagine if companies use a portion of their marketing budget to hire someone to comment on forums, blogs and social media outlets, actually engaging with their target audience to figure out what their customers need and want to be successful in their marketing techniques. What if?

My point: Embrace the internet's reach. Express yourself. Engage. Join in the real-time spirit and let others see it, whether you are in education or business to gain customers or educate students about out-of-the-box learning techniques. Because realistically, the students are the ones that will grow up to be the entrepreneurs with whom Metis deals on a daily basis. We welcome and challenge school districts and every entrepreneur out there to commit to social media. You might actually learn something…or…increase your customer base, raise awareness of your brand, recommend brands to others and obtain market feedback.

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