Plugging into social media across Cincinnati

Technology creates a profound effect on the ways in which we communicate both personally and professionally. The pressure for a denizen of the Greater Cincinnati region to keep up and stay connected can be daunting during these exponential times. Consider the fact that it took the radio 38 years before reaching a market audience of 50 million listeners. Television took 13 years to hit the same goal. The Internet? A mere four years. The iPod only three and Facebook reached 50 million users in just two years following its release to the general public.

Change is upon us and coming at a faster rate than ever before with the amount of new technical information doubling every two years. That means, according to a team of teachers that pulled together a whole list of interesting facts like this, half of what students starting a four-year technical or college degree learn in their first year will be outdated by their third. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist using technologies that have yet to be invented in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet. The Department of Education reports the top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn't exist in 2004 and the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that today's learners will have 10 to 14 jobs by the age of 38.
Communities that embrace and innovate around these changes are better off than those that dismiss social media trends as merely "new ways to waste time." An event held by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's HYPE (Harnessing Young Professional Energy) initiative called Building Your Online Buzz, recently sought to bring this conversation to the forefront of local thought leaders.

The event was an insider's introduction into the world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Yammer as well as local blogs. Judging from how fast the event sold out, it appears our region is more than ready to merge onto the social media lane of the information superhighway.

"We had pretty much right above Amish to people I'd like to take out to lunch and learn a thing or two attend the session," says guest speaker and COO of Game Day Communications, Jackie Reau about the diverse crowd.

"People are so hungry for this kind of thing but most don't know where to start."

This observation was confirmed seven minutes into the presentation as a collective moan escaped the standing-room only crowd following the discussion of an impressive list of available apps, programs and new technologies currently on the market.

"It's too much," whispered one participant.

Reau offers hope, however. "Start small. Just get into the game," she encourages.

She should know. An early adopter of social media, Reau made the commitment last year to invest both her time and energy into understanding who is doing what on the local and national social media scene and what it could mean for her business.

"I realized that the news hole where I pitch my stories was shrinking and that everything was tying back to the Web." She organized what she learned and now finds herself in high demand as a consultant on the subject. She delivers at least one talk a week to various groups and institutions around the city.

Joining her at this particular session were Adriane Broili and Brian Meyers of the LPK Trends Team as well as the man Reau considers to be the "Godfather of social media in Cincinnati," Kevin Dugan of FRCH Design Worldwide.

Part of the scene since 2002, Dugan started out as a blogger which helped him to stay current. He soon realized he was quickly gaining a network of contacts not only around the block but as well as around the world. "These were people I never would have had the opportunity to meet," he says while admitting that he's "grown smarter as a result of that networking."

When asked about the separation between personal and professional lives, Dugan is quick to point out that the line dividing the two is quickly blurring. "Conceptually people are used to having separate personal and professional lives, but the Internet, and distinctly Google, has changed all that."

Businesses are using Google as well as Facebook and LinkedIn as interview tools. "So take advantage of that fact," suggests Dugan. He also suggests being smart about what you put online but not to be afraid of revealing some personal information. "If there's less of an iron curtain between the two then it gives your professional life more depth. Businesses now expect to know more about you as a person."

More than just letting your closest hundred friends know what you're thinking about while standing in line for coffee, social media has practical applications that, with some creative energy placed behind them, can deliver significant returns on investment as well as help businesses stand out among their peers.

"The election was a great way to see the power of something like Twitter," says Reau. "There are dozens of interesting applications of social media that can apply to anyone."

She gives the example of a developer who at the end of the day can email or call his out-of-state client to deliver a progress report on a project.

"What if instead of an email, the contractor recorded a 30 second flip video of the new roof that was just installed, uploaded the footage and demonstrated why the client made the right choice in choosing this developer?"

Dugan takes it a step further and suggests the world of social media is a great way to target your message to the people who are most open to hearing it. For a long time conventional wisdom told us to get your brand out in front of as many people as you can. With social media, you "might only be hitting 100 people, but if it's the right 100 people it doesn't matter. Relevance factors heavily into getting to the top of the pile on a search engine."

For neophytes, Reau suggests Facebook and Linked In as the places to start. "Linked In is essentially your online resume. If you're in any kind of profession, you need to be here."

Being the COO of Game Day Communications, a public relations firm specializing in sports and entertainment, Reau recognizes the benefit the immediacy of this technology brings to her clients. Eventually she would like to secure funding to hire 10-15 trained social media enthusiasts to capture, edit and publish content for her clients.

"Sometimes a 20 second video is all you need to tell a complete story," she says.

Dugan challenges the notion that social media is the playground of only the young and the professional.

"We have this assumption that the digital natives growing up with screens in the backs of mini-vans can roll out of bed and create a Facebook page. We also assume that technology knowledge after 35 starts to wane. It's just not the case"

If anything, Dugan thinks we need to do more on the college level to help prepare the next round of talent entering the workforce. To that end, he helps fill the curriculum gaps by giving lectures on creating personal brands both online and in person at NKU as well as schools in Atlanta and Akron.

Photography by Scott Beseler

Brian Meyers of the LPK Trends Team

Kevin Dugan hanging out with Boosty Collins

Jackie Reau, Game Day Communications

Kevin Dugan, FRCH Design Worldwide

Adriane Broili of the LPK Trends Team, provided by HYPE

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