Using Social Media Professionally
Rachel Pukall

The Central Wisconsin Social Media Conference, organized by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Continuing Education/ Business Outreach and the Small Business Development Center, took place on Tuesday, March 5 in the Dreyfus University Center.

The conference was designed to help businesses and organizations learn about using various platforms of social media to grow their business and enhance their brands. Presenters who use social media to enhance their businesses were brought in to share their successes and experience with like-minded business people.

Tim Krause, an assistant professor who spoke about the role of social media for small business owners at the event, says that social media is important because it is starting to replace traditional media.

“Some of the biggest news stories lately have broken on social media networks, like the death of Osama Bin Laden on Twitter hours before it was officially reported on CNN,” Krause said.

Dorothy Snyder, the Business Outreach Specialist and coordinator for the conference, also thinks social media is important, especially for smaller businesses that may not have a large marketing budget.

“Business owners or staff can communicate with customers and potential customers without spending a lot of money on traditional marketing avenues,” Snyder said. “Brand, image, and interesting content can be shared and enhanced, as customers or clients are, in many cases, more likely to do web-based searches than look through traditional marketing materials.”

Andrew Stoner, a communication professor who spoke at the conference, agrees but says that there are countless examples of companies and organizations that start Facebook pages with no concept of who will even look at it or interact with them.

“For some companies, it makes perfect sense. For others, it seems rather silly. Figuring all that out can be a challenge,” Stoner said.

Eva Donohoo, assistant to the dean for communication of the College of Professional Studies who spoke about building community through social media, thinks that social media is all about relationships and customer service.

“Professionally, I use social media to share the stories of the UWSP College of Professional Studies with businesses, medi, and national organizations. I also help answer questions and build a community with prospective students, current students and alumni,” Donohoo said. “Personally, I use it to network with other marketing professionals in the state and around the country in ways I couldn’t do otherwise, whether it be because of resources or time.”

Krause believes that there are a lot of benefits from social media, such as how smart phones keep us connected. But he also sees the flip side.

“There are parts of the world that are empowered by more open communication than they’ve ever seen in the past. At the same time, though, social media encourages us to surround ourselves with others who think, feel and act like we do,” Krause said. “It insulates us from others with differing opinions if we’re not careful.”

Stoner remains skeptical that we have become more social as a result of social media.

“It’s like walking across a lake that is only six inches deep. We get our feet wet, so we get the sensation of swimming in the lake, but we don’t fully experience everything that we would in a regular lake,” Stoner said. “We can walk across a lake covering many acres quite easily, but is that experience equal to or superior to a regular lake on a hot summer’s day?”

Donohoo, who has lived in various parts of the country throughout her life, is thankful for social media keeping her connected.

“Staying connected is so much easier with all the social media tools we have. I’m able to see friends and family on a daily basis, no matter where I am or where they are, thanks to social media,” Donohoo said.

Brittany Rossman, the Event Coordinator for University Relations and Communications who also spoke at the event, agrees.

“I am linked into the local newspapers and TV stations through my Twitter account, and that is the only way I really get news now. I think as a society we expect things to happen quickly, and social media allows that to be successful. We communicate with each other at all hours of the day, and interactions are immediate,” Rossman said.

No matter what your major is, social media is probably a part of your daily life and will continue to be after graduation.

“It’s not just for communication or business students. Gaining an understanding of how to communicate is an immeasurable tool for any career,” Donohoo said.