SoCon07 :: Social Media at Kennesaw State University

Saturday I had the privilege of speaking at SoCon07 at Kennesaw State University. Speaking is kind of a strange term to use, since this was an un-conference. Actually, I led a discussion on social media use in education. Only a little over half of them seemed to actually be from schools and universities, so it was a bit different.

SoCon07 logoAmong the people I had the chance to meet with are: Josh Hallett, “The Diva” Toby Bloomberg, Gavin Baker (who tipped me off to thinkwell), Sandi Solow, and Betsy.

Some people I missed, and wish I hadn’t? How about Jeneane Sessum, Grayson, Jeff Haynie, and one that I’m sure is quite funny and interesting – Amber Rhea. Sadly, I was kind of a “drive by” participant and just drove in for a few hours, then went back home. (Update: Dummy me. I actually did meet Sandi, at the end of the conference. She was very nice and even asked about some of my student’s activities in social media after leaving school. So, I’ve edited to make it right.)

Betsy, and her friend Tia, were fun to meet. They are new to all of this social media fun. Betsy was amused by one of my comments at the conference. She writes, in “Don’t get punch drunk on the Kool-Aid”, about my appeal to “remain rational” when jumping into the social media mix.

Hey, I’m all for embracing new ideas. However, if someone ever listens to your communication problems within your organization and says, “Just use a blog” … run away, don’t walk, run away from them very fast. That outlook is just too simplified.

Especially frightening is when enthusiasts provide a wholesale “use blogs (solely)” and forsake traditional PR and marketing practices. I don’t say that to defend what some call antiquated PR/marketing practices, either. No, I say that to save you – and your business or organization. I think it is just too soon to jump in to social media and forsake all traditional practices.

I feel a rant coming on. Do you? It is targeted to the PR ABC out there. No, that’s not a certification tagline. I’m talking about the PR school “alumni by choice” that have never practiced or studied PR, yet they’re sure they know all about it. These are the ones that think blogs and social media will replace PR practitioners and practice.

There are actually laws to deal with in many instances of the diffusion of information. No, this isn’t another SEC Reg FD post.

ShelHoltz writes of a conversation we had at the recent FIR geek dinner. Shel offers, “A debate on my and other blogs has rumbled on for a few weeks over the role of the press (or news) release and whether these venerable old and maligned tools of PR can be replaced by blogs.”

As we discussed at the dinner, there are some tasks that cannot, as of yet, be replaced solely with a blog. A lot of them, actually. One area is the many public notice laws that business and government must comply with in daily practice. This is beyond the usual SEC Reg FD example often referenced. I shared that “there are more than 30,000 public notice laws in the U.S. that require the distribution of a news release” or some form of public notification. Some of them are represented at the Public Notice Resource Center, “founded in 2003 by American Court and Commercial Newspapers, Inc.(ACCN). ACCN is the professional organization of court, legal and commercial newspapers.” (Source) I do not know anything about the organization, but I can easily imagine all sorts of public notice laws – particularly stating that the notice is required to be in a newspaper, on TV or radio, and be shared in a specific format.

Other examples? There are “18,000 state and local police agencies” that have specific reporting standards. Do we expect them to use a blog to issue crime reports and statistics updates? How about BOLO warnings and Amber alerts? No, I mean do we realistically expect them to use a blog? OK, perhaps you get my point.

How about the approximately 20,000 “incorporated places” in the United States? See, I used a politically correct blog-speak term. Those places (not mediums) are places where people still rely upon print and broadcast. Those are cities, towns … and that doesn’t even count the counties and parrishes. Just imagine the health departments, school districts, planning commissions, and all the other entities that must make public notice of various types. Now are you getting an idea for the vast amount of information that must be shared with newspapers and other media outlets – often in specific manner prescribed by law?

Remember. Most PR is local. Most PR is informational in nature, not necessarily persuasive in intent. Look at the whole world, please. Anecdotal references may cause you to be myopic in your beliefs about the power and reach of social media.

So, I’m all for social media. I’m all for the discussion and debate. But, until you get those laws changed to address the use of a blog for public notice purposes, I’m not going suggest that they be used. Remember, many of those laws state – specifically – the manner and target audiences for these notices, or releases. They don’t mention blogs. They mention newspapers, television and radio. And, those “audiences” aren’t always people. They can be software and computers. Think search engines, link rank, page rank and more. Now those might find blogs useful.

This isn’t to say I don’t read and embrace all the conversations about social media I can find. An interesting post, from way back in 2005, can be found at Creating Passionate Users, regarding the Koolaid point. Kathy Sierra wrote, “You don’t really have passionate users until someone starts accusing them of ‘drinking the koolaid.'”

OK. I can see some clarity in her views. But, I’m one of the passionate ones speaking up for social media. Too often, I see detractors of the total buy-in to social media explained away as antagonists that – “just don’t get it.” Oh, how that phrase has become such a lame cop-out for those that seem unable to provide clarity, and practical explanations, for their dogma.

OK. Rant off. I feel better. Do you?

The conference was fun. In the two sessions I could attend, there was some good conversation. They were about “edu blogging” and “social media in PR and marketing”. Same is true for the good people I saw, like Betsy, Tia and Toby Bloomberg. Kennesaw is a very nice campus. Lots o’ trees.

Many thanks to Josh Hallett and Prof. Leonard Witt for the invitation to participate. More good people.

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0 thoughts on “SoCon07 :: Social Media at Kennesaw State University

  1. Pingback: infOpinions? · Blogs are Soma to So Many

  2. Toby

    Robert – Meeting you was a highlight of SoCon 07 for me! I must admit I’ve had a drink of the social media koolaid .. well maybe 3 or 4. But as I tell marketers and clients .. not all your customers or prospects are online all the time. MSM and traditional marketing tactics may still be critical to reaching your audience. Sure, social media, is an important component .. but .. of an *integrated marketing plan*. Guess I’ll step off my soap box now too! Looking forward to when next we meet.

  3. Robert

    Hey Toby,

    I enjoyed meeting you very much, too. Seems like forever that we’ve known of each other via blogs. Maybe that’s the best aspect of blogs, for me – at least. All the people I’ve met and then met in person.

    Hey, I’ve sipped the koolaid, too. I guess it is all this latest goofiness about press releases and social media et.al. that set me on that thread. But, I have been telling the students to seek balance all the while.

    You’re exactly right, I believe. It is the integration into an overall plan where it “may” work in the right instances.

    Take care.

    Robert