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Media Bistro Circus centers around the crowd

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Metaphors aside, the real circus at Media Bistro’s Circus media event today in New York is happening in the crowd.

The event was centered around the future of media and one of the key themes throughout the sessions was the idea of social media and the role that it plays in modern businesses.

For Steve Rubel, SVP, director of insights, at Edelman Digital, brands looking to harness this growth of social media should create in-house brand ambassadors. He equated companies to countries, all of which will have an embassy in DC with ambassadors inside, who interact with the community. Say the Brazilian Embassy in Washington DC might have meetings with the US government about business development in Brazil or work with an arts foundation to promote Brazilian artists. Rubel said that brands should act in this respect to connect to their social media communities.

How does a company go about this? “Find corporate All-Stars and activate them as social stars,” he said.

Rubel mentioned Pepsi as a good example of a brand doing this. He also mentioned the technology called Co-Tweet that works as a CRM front for Twitter, and lets brands let multiple people manage a Twitter page depending and engage the community depending on their expertise.

For Jeff Howe, Wired editor and author of Crowdsourcing, it is all about looking at the relationship between producers and consumers. Howe, who admits to hating the gimmicky trend to mash these kinds of words together popular in Silicon Valley, argues that businesses are now about using the crowd to participate in actions that were once outsourced to an employee.

One such company to grow out of this mentality is Threadless, a t-shirt company that lets consumers design and vote on t-shirts. The company, which had $30 million in revenue in 2007 (the last year that as a private company, they shared numbers), lets consumers share their opinions on the t-shirts with the community and share photos of themselves wearing the t-shirts. The community has more than 500,000 members. “People can self organize in the community,” said Howe.

The conference went on to discuss how the future of journalism is being shaped by the community with a panel including journalists from the New York Times and BusinessWeek, discussed the role the fact that newspapers are no longer static, but rather interactive places where communities come to read information and share their perspectives.

Social is no longer a thing to have, it is a way that successful businesses are conforming to become one with their audiences.
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