BY RYAN BOWMAN
From Facebook and Foursquare to YouTube and Twitter, social media is becoming a popular way for companies to target potential customers. On Oct. 11, more than 100 students and faculty from Conestoga’s School of Media & Design attended the college’s inaugural Social Media Communications Summit to learn how.
The summit, which took place in the Blue Room from 2 to 4:30 p.m., was streamed live online and allowed viewers to submit real-time questions via Twitter. The college’s second-year broadcast television students produced the event from start to finish.
Kim Denstedt, co-ordinator of Conestoga’s integrated marketing communications program, said she pitched the idea for the event because of the ever-growing relevance of social media in marketing. It targeted not only the students in her program, but those in public relations and advertising as well.
Denstedt, who has a background in public relations and organized the event, likened social media to the moving sidewalks in airports.
“Social media is continually moving,” she said. “The ground is always moving underneath your feet, so I think it is something we’re going to have to continue to address.”
The summit featured three keynote speakers who covered everything from how to use Facebook to increase sales to using Twitter responsibly, as well as a panel discussion featuring experts from various corporations and non-profit organizations.
Shaminda (Shum) Attygalle, a digital engagement specialist with Christie Digital, kicked off the event by explaining how Foursquare, an app which rewards customers for “checking in” at local businesses, is revolutionizing experiences as simple as dining out. By using the free application, he said, restaurants can attract customers who never would have heard of them. Attygalle said Foursquare is a great tool because it engages its users and can win new customers without the cost of traditional advertising.
“When you check into a place to redeem a special, you have to actually interact with a member of the staff,” he said. “And in that moment of interaction, businesses can really convert these customers into brand advocates, and perhaps even delight them.”
According to Jennifer Moss, founder and CEO of Spark Plug Consulting, social media can be a double-edged sword. She talked about Twitter’s potential to either bolster a brand or trigger a public relations disaster, depending on how it is used.
Moss, whose firm specializes in reputation management, said responsible use of social media is equally important for hopeful employees. Three out of five employers, she said, check the Facebook and Twitter accounts of job applicants.
“Managing your digital imprint is what could get you the job or not,” she told the room full of students. “There’s a lot of power and opportunity in social media.”
“Don’t have pictures of you doing a keg stand,” added Sourov De, a managing partner at marketing firm StryveGroup and former faculty member of Conestoga College.
De said StryveGroup, which he co-founded in 2008, is among the 60 per cent of companies that check candidates’ Facebook pages before interviewing them.
“Incidentally, we’re hiring,” he said. “And I am going to Facebook-creep you.”
According to De, students should be blogging, tweeting and creating online content while they are in college or university so they have a portfolio to show potential employers.
“You’re going to be separated by your ideas and what you’ve produced,” he said.
“When I’m hiring, I look for initiative in your personal life as well as your professional life,” Moss added.
Lydia Frey, a first-year advertising student at Conestoga, said what interested her most about the summit was the impact YouTube could have on a business.
“It opens up lots of new ideas,” said Frey, who assists her friend in running a catering business. “It got me thinking how to use videos in advertising.”
Denstedt, who plans on making the summit an annual event, said there was a lot of information to take away from it.
“I think the students who were there should have gotten value out of what they were hearing,” she said, adding that the IMC program’s Twitter account gained 20 new followers overnight. “I was really pleased at the end of the day with the speakers and the panel discussion.”
Despite the limited success of the live stream, which drew 27 viewers, Denstedt said they will probably try it again next year.
“It wasn’t as many as I would have liked, but it’s the first year for it,” she said. “I think it has the potential to grow if it becomes known and established.”
BY RYAN BOWMAN