• Marketing Department hosts first social media conference

Bridging the Gap Conference


“Is Social Media a fad? Or the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution?” That’s the question Erik Qualman posed in “Social Media Revolution 2,” the YouTube sensation that welcomed guests to the Department of Marketing’s sold-out social media conference on Friday, February 18th, 2011. The conference, entitled “Bridging the Gap: A Mashup of Academic Frameworks & Business Applications” sought to explore “the connection between the frameworks preached in schools and the practical applications being used in organizations,” according to the description on Suffolk’s website.

Qualman, creative mastermind behind the infamous video montage, and author of Amazon.com best-seller, Socialnomics: how social media transforms the way we live and do business, was the academic keynote speaker. He was one of thirteen guest panelists who spoke about social media’s undeniable impact on marketing. The speakers ranged from Harvard University Professor of Business Administration John Deighton; to Social Media ROI expert Paul Gillin; to Social Strategist Julia Roy, dubbed “the Twitter postergirl” by Forbes Magazine. Brought together from different fields, the panelists provided their own unique perspectives in the day’s discussions.

The day-long conference featured expert panels that addressed the most burning questions businesses face when taking the plunge into the realm of new media. For example, during his panel on the ROI of social media, Paul Gillin spoke about marketers’ tendency to use the push strategy in their social media. “They try to sell their product too aggressively, and the audience ends up tuning them out entirely,” he said. “Instead,” Gillin continued, “businesses should follow a 7:2:1 ratio. For every 10 posts, 7 should be helpful advice or interesting facts, 2 should be about what the company is doing, and only 1 post can be an advertisement for your product or service.”

Bridging the Gap came together thanks to three young MBA students with an unmistakable passion for social media. Pam Sahota, Sean Zinsmeister, and Paul Schmidt understand the intricate strategies behind creating a marketing plan. They also grew up witnessing the evolution of social media. Their passion and experience made them the perfect people to plan the conference. They realize the impact new media has on marketing, and the potential developing technologies have to become valuable tools for marketers.

Sahota, Zinsmeister, and Schmidt worked closely with Associate Professor of Marketing Meera Venkatraman to turn their conference plans into a reality. Venkatraman was the driving force behind the development of “The Business of Social Media,” a brand new Marketing course which made its debut in Fall 2010. The new elective is offered every academic year to both undergraduate and graduate students with separate curriculums specifically geared to each group.

The takeaway that all students get from “The Business of Social Media” is that marketers need to learn how to use new media in order to stay relevant in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. Venkatraman says, “The overwhelming value of using social media as a marketing tool is its ability to reach people where, when, and how they are. Social media is a chameleon. It can be whatever people want to make it. Social media marketing reaches consumers when they are present and engaged.”

When asked about Suffolk’s increasing involvement with social media, Professor Venkatraman said, “There is a dramatic change in the way marketing is being done and we need to understand it. The change is being driven by practice, not by academic learning. It is important to bring these two together. It’s also important to have the students do it because it is their game. They’re the best to bridge the gap between both worlds because they have studied the academic philosophy, and they understand the technology to make the connection.”

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