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SOCIAL MEDIA

Navigating the New Online Universe

The founders of the BlogWorld & New Media Expo talk about why businesses can no longer ignore social media.

In 2007, Rick Calvert (above, left) and Dave Cynkin (above, right) created the BlogWorld & New Media Expo to help attendees capitalize on a novel new technology—blogs. Now, of course, blogs are just a small part of a burgeoning social-media universe-and BlogWorld has become a twice-annual must-attend event for people seeking to navigate that world. Calvert recently spoke with Inc.com's Tiffany Black about why businesses can no longer ignore social media.

What has changed since the first BlogWorld conference?
The first year, Twitter didn't exist. The second year, people said we should change the name to TwitterWorld. Then, social media became the business buzzword, so we created a track called the Social Media Business Summit. This year will be the first time the conference has a track about mobile media. We are all going to be consuming more and more content on our mobile devices. That is definitely the future.

Given that, do businesses even need blogs anymore?
The blog is the hub and all these other things—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube—are spokes that lead back to the center. The blog is the center of the social-media universe. Do you want your company to be at the center of the conversation, or do you want to be out in the rest of the galaxy? If you want to be a leader, you still need a blog.

How can mastering social media help small companies compete?
Social media is this equalizer. Big companies have the problem of being out of touch with their customers. Small companies have the problem of not being able to reach all their potential customers. Social media helps small companies become bigger and big companies act smaller. I always tell people that social media is just a new way for people to do business the old-fashioned way. If your product sucks or your company is bad, social media is your worst enemy. If your product is great, social media is your best friend.

Lots of businesses either hand their social-media efforts to young employees or outsource it altogether. Good idea?
You have to do this yourself. You can't hire someone to do it for you. Would you take a kid out of college or an intern and make him your CMO? Social media can have the impact of a major advertising campaign. Do you put an intern in charge of that? Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media says, "You are not too old to learn social media; you're just lazy." That's the truth.

How else do you see social media and blogging changing?
Today, social media is a job. In the future, social media will be seen as a skill, like typing. But if most people don't know how the Internet works today, how can they know how blogs work; how can they know how Twitter works? You want to take this leap from "I'm still using e-mail" to Quora? That's a wide gap in between. The only way you can get there is start doing it yourself.

The next BlogWorld & New Media Expo takes place November 3-5 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Go to blogworld.com for more information.

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