Facebook had just 100 million members around August of 2008. That is just a little less than the population of Mexico at the time, which would have put it at fourteenth in the world. The number of Facebook users has recently eclipsed 1 billion people, putting it at third in the world in terms of world population, just behind India. That is a massive amount of eyeballs looking to connect to something: entertainment, information, conversation, the list is endless. Since that explosion, everyone from major companies to small businesses have been trying to harness the power of this ever expanding opportunity to connect. It has become a source of innovative campaigns and beautiful disasters. It is a new frontier, and everyone is still looking for how to make it work for them.
David Bowman was one of those people. He had just come back to Dayton from seeing a presentation from Chris Brogan, and was discussing the experience with Sara McCatherine over lunch. The idea was to bring the top speakers from all over, at the edges of the fledgling explosion of social media, and bring them here. Thus the seeds of SummitUp were born. Through plenty of work and hustle, the first SummitUp in Dayton (2009) was brought to life. Every year it has been growing as social media grows, and this year is no different. David took some of his precious time in the final weeks before the Tuesday, October 16th event to answer a few questions about social media for us.
DMM: Your first degree was in political science. What attracted you to marketing from there? Did you see it as a natural extension, or did your interests change?
David Bowman: In college I was drawn to political science, as it was something that was inherently interesting to me. I did well in Political Science classes, so decided to major in it, as I really had no idea what I wanted to do professionally. I had considered becoming an attorney for a while, but ultimately the law did not appeal to me. Instead I went to work in the business world, where I migrated into sales. From there I came to discover the field of marketing and have never looked back. Eventually I got my MBA with a concentration in Marketing, where I began to get a deeper understanding of the field. In the end, Marketing and Political Science are both based in understanding needs and influencing human behavior. The principles I learned in Political Science are directly applicable to my job, and probably give me a bit of a different perspective on things.
How have you liked your teaching experience so far at the School of Advertising Art (SAA) ? What are some of the things the students are teaching you?
Teaching at SAA has been amazing. It is one thing to believe you understand something. It is something else entirely to have to understand something well enough to explain it to others in a way that is clear and compelling. I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to teach Marketing at SAA. It is making me a better practitioner of my craft and the energy, creativity, and curiosity of my students is inspiring.
DMM: What is the biggest challenge to creating an event like this, where you will have a significant cross section of new users and seasoned veterans looking for something to take away?
DB: SummitUp is challenging in that we want the event to be appealing to early adopters of technology who demand complexity and bleeding edge information while at the same time delivering content that is accessible to newcomers too. Compounding things is that fact that the event is a collaborative volunteer effort with a focus on keeping prices low so that we can attract and educate the largest number of people possible. The goal of the event is not to maximize profits, but rather to maximize the potential of those who attend. We do our best to attract exceptionally talented speakers and presenters to the event, often at a fraction of their typical speaking fee or for free. We then pass these savings on to attendees in the form of very affordable ticket prices. Ultimately, the event has an incredible team of volunteers who work very hard to make sure that those who invest the time and money to attend get value from coming to the event.
DMM: What do you think is the biggest hurdle people have to understanding the value and potential of social media?
DB: People get lost in the incredible amount noise and dizzying pace of change. Author Clay Shirky describes media as the “connective tissue” that holds us all together, which is a great way to think of it. Social media is simply about people communicating with one another, and all media is now social. If people keep things in the perspective of finding ways to use communication to build real and lasting relationships, social media is fairly simple to understand.
DMM: What brands are the best story tellers in the social media realms?
DB: Starbucks, Zappos, Amazon, and Southwest Airlines are some great examples of national brands that are using social media successfully and in very different ways. Locally, brands like Dorothy Lane Market, Olive, and Dayton Children’s are all great examples.
DMM: What do you see brands or people doing on social media that frustrates you?
DB: Not listening, participating, or considering the opportunity to use social media as more than just a push marketing tool.
DMM: How do you see social media platforms evolving over the next five years?
DB: More mobility, more video, more speed, more content, more noise, more people, more, more, more. Hopefully, what brands choose is to more carefully integrate social media with marketing strategy. A recent Duke University Study cites that over 16% of organizations describe their social media efforts as “not at all integrated” with their overall business strategy. This is something that must and will change, as brands begin to understand the real value that strategic integration can deliver.
DMM: Will social media become more integrated into the media department, or is this a new entity?
DB: They will become one in the same. Traditional media is still alive and well, but it is becoming ever more social. As best practices are established and technology matures, social media will become the tradition. Anytime you have disruptive technology changes it takes a while for people to make sense of it all. Eventually people begin to figure it out and then shift their focus to execution. This is currently happening right before our eyes. It is an exciting time to be a marketing professional.
DMM: Social media professionals are still wrestling with how to prove the value to CEO’s, CIO’s, and other C-suite people. Are there certain numbers that offer more proof of value than others? It is ROI, or something else out there?
DB: It is ROI but that has to be framed in the context of customer equity. Social media has the ability to strengthen relationships. The ROI is less about the platforms and technologies and more about the actions and responses created through them. Ideally, marketing professionals are moving toward an integrated approach to marketing. This is more akin to systems thinking as opposed to trying to compartmentalize things. The revolution in technology requires a paradigm shift. It is no longer only about impressions or mass attention. Now it is about connections, loyalty, and long term brand equity that can only come from focused, ongoing communication.
DMM: Are there any social media platforms out there that you can see emerging as a major player over the next few years?
DB: Certainly Pinterest has already shaken thing up in the last year. Google+ will continue to evolve and grow, particularly as Google continues to integrate it with organic search. There are countless other projects and platforms emerging to solve niche problems and connect niche audiences. I will not pretend to have a crystal ball, but I can tell you that we will likely be talking about a whole new mix of tools by this time next year.
David has once again helped to organize an amazing event, bringing talents like Todd Henry, Rohit Bhargava, and Tim Schigel as keynote speakers, and a diverse group of other professionals to run a wide range of breakout sessions. SummitUp tickets are available by phone only, so call and make sure that you have yours. This is going to be a great opportunity to learn about the basics, meet and connect with new people, or refresh and recharge your batteries with new insights. We look forward to connecting with you this Tuesday!