February 01, 2010
Social media featured at Family and MWR Symposium
By Rob McIlvaine
FMWRC Public Affairs
|Bryan O’Rourke delivers a session on “Leveraging Technology and Social Media to Impact Military Community Wellness & QOL. (Photo by Rob McIlvaine, FMWRC Public Affairs)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Less than fifteen years ago, the commercial Internet didn’t exist. It now serves 1.5 billion people, with adults making up 70 percent of the users. But this new form of communicating with customers has its pitfalls, leading one SFAP attendee to quip, “think before you tweet.”
To help get employees past the generation gap, the SFAP 2010 Symposium offered a Mobile Scavenger Hunt, where participants used texting from their mobile phones to answer questions that could lead to prizes for their installations. Following the plenary sessions, attendees could also text their opinions on how the conference was run and whether certain aspects should be offered next year.
“The Internet is wherever you are, whenever you want it,” said Bryan O’Rourke, chief strategic officer of Fitmarc, a company that educates, trains and delivers solutions to fitness and wellness professionals and a variety of organizations.
According to O’Rourke, the Internet, Social Media and merging biomedical technology are converging to create a powerful platform to support exciting new opportunities to impact larger and broader populations, from youth to seniors.
And technology is accelerating the use of this new media with mobile devices-- now owned by 56 percent of adults-- getting faster, smaller and more powerful. Voice recognition, now in use, could eventually make knowing how to type obsolete.
Jay Patel of Bluefire Digital, contractor for the SFAP symposium’s Mobile Scavenger Hunt, assists Nicole Wallace, Army Reserve Survivor Outreach Services coordinator at Ft. Hood, Texas, understand more about texting and answering the questions for the scavenger hunt. (Photo by Rob McIlvaine, FMWRC Public Affairs)
“Social media requires new thinking on how to communicate your mission,” O’Rourke said. “With 300,000-plus businesses now having a place on Facebook, it has become more effective to get people talking about a product on social media than producing slick TV ads.”
O’Rourke mentioned the research of Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester and his breakdown of the future of the social web into five eras.
In the beginning of social media, social relationships gave people the opportunity to connect with others and share. Two years ago, the era of social functionality allowed people to work together. Currently, Owyang said, we are just entering the era of social colonization where every experience can become social, such as what friends think about a movie or a restaurant. In the future, we’ll be able to choose to share personal information so we’ll be instantly recognized by institutions, allowing personalized information to be sent, such as educational or social opportunities or a new sushi restaurant opening nearby. Finally, we’ll enter the era of social commerce. This will become a time when communities can define future products and services, such as working together to bring down prices, or allowing companies to bid on a new product, or even help design it.
“We are in a rapid technology change that isn’t going to stop. Companies and institutions, such as the U.S. Army, must engage in social platforms,” O’Rourke said.
“But there are challenges. Technology is not about building fences, it’s about vision and leadership and understanding how social collaboration can benefit,” O’Rourke said.
One member of the audience spoke for many of the Family and MWR employees in the room.
“When the government took away our ability to use USB portal devices, we took a huge step backwards.”
“Leadership is here at this symposium,” said John Keegan, marketing director at Ft. Jackson, S.C. “Talk to them.”
Out of the 1,200 participants at the SFAP symposium, 248 teams, consisting of one to four people, competed in the “social media experiment” to win prizes for their installation.
“Texting, or instant communication, is getting a lot of traction, here” said Jay Patel of Bluefire Digital of Santa Clara, Cali., the company running the program.
“Each day, a clue is sent to each phone. When the team answers it, another is sent. About five or six clues are sent each day and they have to work together to find the answer and text it back to us.”
“The teams are really competitive,” said Doriann Fengler of Family and MWR Command. “And it has become a fun way to learn about programs, other than their own, as well as a fun way to introduce the power of social media to program managers and senior leaders.”
According to Fengler, a surprising number of people participating in the contest had never texted before, and they really enjoyed getting the chance to learn about technology.
“In fact, Gretchen Luongo, the coordinator for the Healthy Choice Room, was inundated with people trying to find the answer to one of the questions. And Maj. Gen. Reuben Jones enjoyed having the opportunity to tell hundreds of people they could follow him on Twitter, an answer to one of the questions,” Fengler said.
Over pizza, the 1,200 attendees gathered in the grand ballroom to explore the lighter side of social media with David Pogue, a New York Times’ blogger, who helped make sense of the explosively expanding realm of Web 2.0 and the kinds of ‘casting, or texting, available.
“What do YouTube, MySpace, eBay and Craigslist have in common?” Pogue asked. “They’re all part of Web 2.0, in which a Web site’s material is supplied by its visitors. They are all new ways for individuals and corporations to express themselves online.”
Within Twitter, where only 140 characters can be displayed, a creative user can tap into the minds of those who follow him and get back loads of information.
“I was taking my kids to an amusement park, so I announced it to my thousands of followers. Almost immediately I got back, ‘dude, go to this place for the best lunch.’ Another one advised me to hire his hot air balloon to take everyone up in, which I did, although it was kind of expensive,” Pogue said.
This got Pogue’s wife thinking he should write a book of all the creative posts he gets back from people.
“I started posing all kinds of crazy questions, like, ‘I need a cure for hiccups.’ I got back the most creative and hilarious comments that easily created my book. ‘Simple,’ said one. ‘Hold your breath until Windows 7 is released.’ Another advised me that ‘I take sips of bourbon. It doesn’t cure the hiccups but I’d stop caring.’
“I asked my followers to make up Chinese proverbs that would actually make sense. ‘The pit is always smaller than the plum,’ and ‘the pig with a cold still makes good bacon’ were a couple of the responses.
I also asked people to make up a prequel for a famous movie. The most hilarious one was, ‘We’re running low on Mohicans.’ These people are geniuses, so I wrote the book,” Pogue said.
Pogue encouraged everyone to consider ways the U.S. Army could harness the power of social media.
“I’ve heard lots of reasons, such as ‘don’t know how’, ‘fear of the rabble’, ‘too expensive’, ‘don’t have the manpower’, and ‘security issues’. These are all legitimate concerns, but Web 2.0 tools will open up amazing opportunities for institutions,” Pogue said.
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