Friday, May 24, 2024

Panelists discuss social networks Tuesday at Ryles jazz club in Inman Square at an event called Media Branding 2.0. (Photo: Marc Levy)

There were mentions of such things as newspapers (as “old media”) and fax machines (as in “don’t fax me”) Tuesday at a panel discussion called Media Branding 2.0, but the focus was on social networks — Facebook, Twitter and the like — and how entrepreneurs can best use them to promote themselves and their businesses.

Advice was strong, direct and sometimes even contradictory, and it was delivered to an audience so broad it included college students professing to know more than the panelists and older people wondering “Can I use social media to promote my business?” (Answer: Yes.)

Parenting columnist and Boston Globe editor Lylah M. Alphonse warned those new to social networks to beware posting without thinking. Reckless, regrettable posts, tweets or status updates join “a river of information” where “if it’s out there, it’s out there, even if you deleted it.” Audience members were warned to keep their personal life far from their business promotion.

Forget it, said broadcast personality and life and business coach Mel Robbins.

Since her personal Facebook page was inadvertently shared with the world — in her words, she “opened up my kimono” — she has “made the decision that there is no distinction between personal and private. We all know Zuckerman or Zuckerberg or whatever his name is has decided all our privacy is gone.”

That would be Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, which has made repeated offerings of users’ private data to other companies, either by policy or apparent error.

There are no mistakes, or maybe there are

Robbins reinforced her brash take on social media when assessing whether basketball player LeBron James had damaged his public persona  — his “brand” — with a lengthy dance over which team he would go to. It ended with an hourlong cable television special July 8. Alphonse rolled her eyes over the event by asking “Does it take an hour to say ‘Miami’?”; fellow panelist Ted McEnroe, director of digital media for New England Cable News, agreed, saying, “I’m passionate about sports, and even I avoided it. It was over the top.”

Robbins, though, offered comfort to James and those who might follow his example. “Everything is recoverable in 2010,” she said. “There are no mistakes.”

The only mistake in promoting your business or self is failing to do so, she said.

But of course there are other blunders to make.

Lisa van der Pool, a staff reporter at the Boston Business Journal, warned entrepreneurs seeking media coverage against using fax machines to do it; leaving endless voice mails; or CC’ing e-mail to an editor, which she said would be taken as a threat and an insult.

Alphonse advised attendees, “Forget about MySpace, unless you’re a band. If you’re trying to build a brand, it’s just going to dilute it.” The MySpace social network has been far outpaced by Facebook, and is now used mainly by bands, youth and lower-income people.

Think about and research which reporters and media outlets can actually use your pitch by considering who is reading their content, panelists said. And be there to provide content when they might need you. Cable television producers might be desperate for an expert talking head as they look over the news at 4 a.m. and plan coverage for the day.

Sites such as Facebook can be used to crowdsource, meaning to gather ideas from online “friends,” and to network, so those people can help promote a business.

The interplay between panelists and audience members with questions tended toward the quirky.

When one man asked about  the best way to market a Christian consulting firm, panelists asked him what a Christian consulting firm was and advised him not to advertise himself as Christian, since it could “alienate” potential clients.

When another man asked about marketing his business connecting workers with green jobs, a panelist asked what “green” meant.

Reinforcing, reaffirming

Cynthia Andre, a student at Babson College, was most interested in learning how to use social networks to encourage coverage of the businesses she plans to start, but she left unsure of the panel’s value to her.

“It reinforced a lot of the things that I’ve been reading up on. There’s a lot they didn’t talk about. I felt that they themselves are still learning,” Andre said, citing content-sharing sites such as Digg or Reddit as a next step. “Some people might have found this useful. It was a very diverse audience.”

Chuck Latovich, an older attendee who described himself as a consultant in diversity and positive psychologies, asked the panel about “packaging happiness for social media” and said afterward that, like Andre, mostly what he got was “a reaffirmation of tactics I’ve been hearing about. There were occasional insights that were sometimes new. There’s always one or two little nuggets you get from people that you might want to apply.”

“I didn’t know what Twitter parties are,” Latovich gave as an example. “I have to figure out what Twitter parties are.”

(Twitter parties are online gatherings of people who talk for a while on one topic in more or less real time using — grouping their “tweets” by sharing an agreed-upon identifying term. Since the term is used by everyone participating, searching for that term filters out everyone else’s tweets that aren’t on topic.)

Latovich was also advised that it was okay for him to post other people’s work about happiness online, mainly if he added analysis.

“There is value in curation,” McEnroe told him. “Curate good content and present it in a way that is valuable.”

Robbins, as usual, was blunt in her conclusions.

“There is no new information,” she said.

“Let’s end on this note,” said moderator Barbara Quiroga, who runs a marketing and public relations firm, “that there are no original ideas.”

It was an interesting conclusion to a panel focused almost solely on technologies that didn’t exist six years ago.

The discussion and question-and-answer event took place at Ryles, the Inman Square jazz club. It was put on by Millennial Branding LLC, which ran a Music Branding 2.0 panel at Ryles in March.