New media, old problems

Click back to 2003. Several people in recession-weary California, including me, were gathered to hear Christopher Cox, then a U.S. congressman from Orange County, speak about business matters. At that time, neither YouTube nor Twitter existed, but Cox — a pro-business Republican — still addressed the effect of the Internet on business.

The federal government, he told the crowd, was not inclined to levy extra taxes for commerce done on the Internet. He explained that the online world is the best thing ever for small businesses, which do more for employment and job growth than do large corporations. An extra financial burden there would do more harm than good at a time when the U.S. could least afford it. (Economic frustration in California then was so severe that it led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and the subsequent election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

Click ahead to 2009. YouTube is now owned by Google, whose market cap ($156 billion) now rivals Microsoft ($227 billion) and dwarfs Disney ($51 billion; Disney owns ABC and ESPN). Several people in recession-weary Atlanta, including me, gather at New Media Atlanta to hear speakers from large and small businesses discuss how online networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can help the bottom line.

And yes, this is no longer a novelty. When the Internet first started reaching the masses in the ’90s, seminars teaching about online commerce were practically on every street corner. Now, “new media” gatherings are the trendy way to pull people in. Networking and knowledge are important, but there’s also overkill.

New Media Atlanta (#nmatl on Twitter), a one-day event in Atlanta on Friday, had some positive attributes. I noticed that the speaker list included officials from large companies, such as Turner Broadcasting, Nokia Siemens and Newell Rubbermaid. That’s proof that even the big boys know that the chatter in the virtual world matters.

The part I liked best was the dollar-sign factor. It’s getting cliche-worn to talk about “building your brand” and “forming relationships.” Businesses are interested for one reason: the bottom line.

So, some helpful names and numbers from New Media Atlanta:

— Mike Mullineaux, Nokia Siemens: Mobility is where the growth is. He notes that 20% of Google’s 650 billion daily searches come from mobile devices, and that’s expected to hit 30% in 18 months … Mobile advertising is now a $572 million market … the biggest next thing will be for mobile operators to get their cost basis to a world-class level and learn about consumer needs.

— Bert DuMars, Newell Rubbermaid:The consumer-products giant (Sharpie, Graco, Levolor) has Rubbermaid devoting 50 % of one person’s time to social media, and two others devoting 20%. Sharpie’s SM budget started at $2,000 annually. Those are small numbers for such a company, but it shows some attention … He points out that retailers have  a huge impact on consumers’ purchase decisions.

— Seth Miller, Turner Broadcasting: The company measures success in overnight ratings … He says there are “lots” of fans of Turner Classic Movies (@tcm) on Twitter.

— Brent Leary, CRM Essentials: Some 80% of Twitter usage is from mobile devices.

— Jeff Turner, executive and entrepreneur: “Charge by the project” in SM consulting, not by the hour.

There are many other fine reviews, pics and videos of New Media Atlanta on Twitter (#nmatl).

 And my own suggestion for anyone putting on such a gig: Offer breakout sessions on various topics, rather than just a “one size fits all” approach like New Media Atlanta. SoCon08/09 at Kennesaw State in Atlanta, for example, had keynote speakers as well as several smaller gatherings.

As one speaker said at New Media Atlanta, there’s no one solution in SM that’s right for everyone. But there are still good tools for almost anyone. And the numbers don’t lie.

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About Steve Burns

I live in the Atlanta area. I also lived for many years in Southern California. I'm into mainstream media, social media, sports, business and politics. I worked for AOL's Patch, but this is my personal blog. I'm on Twitter (@bsteve76), Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. See ya 'round!
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