It was my pleasure to host the second meeting of the LA chapter of the Social Media Club. This month’s meeting featured a panel of social media rock stars. The goal of the evening was to get everyone on the same page with a working concept of what social media is and how it can be used in various aspects of communication. Panelists included Brian Solis of FutureWorks PR, Nicole Jordan – PR guru with Rubicon Project and Clearstone Venture Partners, social media consultant Robert Richman and Michael Dorausch – a chiropractor who regularly uses social tools to promote his business. The meeting was held at Mahalo HQ in Santa Monica. Done SEO was kind enough to bring in the wine, which helped liven up the event.

The panelists shared their thoughts and experiences with the audience regarding the definition of social media, it’s place in the world, it’s influence on markets and it’s impact on brands. The question of “who owns social media” was brought up. Many departments and disciplines are hopping on the social media band wagon, there’s lots of hype floating around in all directions. But which department within an organization should be responsible ultimately? IMHO it needs it’s own department. But for the time being, until that gets sorted out, most panelists seemed to agree that it belongs more in customer service than anywhere else. This is because of the element of human interaction that is so vital within the social space. An audience member brought up the fact that companies are now writing computer programs to simulate a live chat, with automated conversation responses. These computer programs are designed to detect when the conversation is not going all that well and at that point redirects to an actual live person, the person on the other end never has any idea. I’d hate to see anyone try to pull something like that in the social space, but it could happen.

Brain Solis brought up the point that social media was a real game changer for brands. We delved into that statement a bit further to get to the meat of it. What makes social media a game changer for brands is the bottom-up versus top-down nature of the platform. In all other forms of brand communication, other than possibly WOM, the brand is in control of the message, the brand issues the message and people are either receptive or not. In the social landscape it’s up to a brand to participate with the community in order to become integrated into the multi-dimensional communication streams that are flying around the interwebz faster than you can imagine.

[A note: I got a few comments re: preaching to the choir and not getting into things deeply enough at this meeting. My only response to that is that this meeting was billed as a “primer” – with the goal of getting all of our attendees on the same page so that when we get into deeper stuff in the future we can all have a common understanding. That said…]

I’m really looking forward to the next meeting, possible topics include: the anthropology of the social web, digital discovery and distribution, politics on the social web, or possibly using the social web for social change. Let me know what you’d like to learn at our next meeting!