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The Geek Girls Share Their SM Smarts with Editors

By Jim Tarbox

It's all about social engagement these days, as about 30 of us learned at MMPA's April editorial roundtable (free to MMPA members). And when the presentation is as engaging as this one was, it's pretty easy to wrap your arms around the concept and the conversation.

Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker—aka the Geek Girls (—are president/CEO and managing director of Minneapolis-based Clockwork Active Media Systems, a web-development and design firm that specializes in resolving challenges to online commercial success.

Their bottom line is: If you're not online, you're not onboard.

Lyons and Wilker spent most of their 90 minutes both defining the various forms of social media and defending their use—especially the seemingly ubiquitous Facebook—as a viable platform for commerce. “Facebook gets a bad rap as a business tool,” Lyons said. “But you have to go where the people are, and Facebook is the social media outlet most people are using.” She noted that when you consider the population currently on Facebook, it amounts to the third-largest country in the world. Her chief observation: “Don't dismiss Facebook.”

Lyons and Wilker were equally fervent in their defense of Twitter. “You just step in and out of Twitter,” Wilker said. “You catch what's there, engage with what's important to you, and move on.” Every message is not for every reader: “You don't need to respond to what you encounter. It's not like email; you take what you want and keep moving.”

The point for publishers is to make social media “work for you,” the pair said. But they cautioned against selling, per se. That will simply turn off social media users. “You're not there to sell, but to add value to the conversation.” If the value is there, the users will pass it along.

To that end, the Geek Girls enthusiastically defended the myriad—and occasionally dizzying—social media outlets to be found online. Rather than being put off by the number of outlets, which the marketplace of users will filter to its own ends, businesses should embrace the multiplying opportunities to get their messages out. Social media users will find what they're looking for, and if they like what they find, they'll share it with their respective networks. And since those networks are linked in a variety of combinations, successful messages will be spread.

The bottom line, Lyons and Wilker said, is to keep engaged and keep putting out new information. “Search engines are constantly looking for new stuff [content], and the more new stuff you post, the more frequently those search engines will find your site.”

So where will all this social engagement lead? “Who knows where we'll be in five years?” they replied. “Facebook and Twitter might not even be around by then. But social engagement is increasingly necessary for business.” The constant change on the Internet and among social media outlets is what terrifies business, they say, because that means businesses have to change. But change is the game these days, and embracing that change is what will allow businesses to retain control of their messages—so they have to participate.

“You have to contribute to the community where they live,” Lyons said. You can create that community by engaging the members with new and relevant content. That will drive them to your website where you have more control over the conversation.

MMPA's next editorial roundtable will be held July 14 at 8:30 a.m. (location to be announced); we'll be talking about the latest developments in mobile platforms and what they mean for editors and writers. Roundtables are free to MMPA members, but you must register in advance (so we have enough coffee!) at