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Posted on 10.13.2009

Getting Dirty in the Details of Social Media

I was fortunate to attend a really well-produced conference on social media last week.  Hosted by Mayo Clinic and produced by Ragan Communications, the two-day event was packed with great insights on both proven social media techniques as well as cutting edge innovations.  Great case studies included Dallas Children’s Medical Center’s live-Tweet kidney transplant, Operation Smile’s YouTube channel, and Mayo Clinic’s fabulous patient testimonial blog, Sharing.MayoClinic. It was during a rapid-fire “30 Tips in 30 Minutes” panel discussion that I picked up on perhaps the most valuable and insightful nugget of the entire conference.  Social media guru Shel Holz advised marketers to “know the technology behind social media.” Yeah, right. Then he recounted how impressed he was when, as a young professional, he met seasoned marketers who could look at a piece of collateral and quickly divine it was a four-color over two-color bleed with a spot varnish on 80-pound text, saddle stitched , embossed on the front with a die-cut for a business card. Makes total sense to me. So why do I wince at the idea of trying to understand the underpinnings of an RSS feed, or think that the realities of phishing are somehow not worth my time? Twenty years ago I was happy to spend three-hours hovering over a Heidelberg, trying to spot match an exact Pantone blue while my hair and skin absorbed the cloying chemical smells of a print shop.  Learning social media has proven less cumbersome, but perhaps more challenging (at least for those of us pre-millennials). Like learning anything to its greatest utility – golf, cooking, public speaking, offset printing – we have to roll our sleeves up and get dirty in the details.

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