School of Business and Robertson School hold forum to discuss social media impact

Chip Lauterbach
Contributing Writer

In addition to cultural influence, social media has altered modern business practices and military conflicts, according to a forum hosted by the VCU School of Business and Robertson School of Media and Culture Oct. 24.

The 24th annual business forum, “The Global Influence of Social Media in Business, Politics and Culture: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” featured several speakers from all over the world. Van Wood, an international marketing professor in the VCU School of Business, has moderated the forum every year.

IBT Online — an online service that helps small businesses expand their global influence — CEO John Worthington spoke on the ways social media networks have contributed to the rise of international business markets.

“Look at where the growth is — 30 percent worldwide over the last 10 years in terms of social media users,” Worthington said. “The growth is really interesting because you can dive down and see where the markets are expanding. Look at places like Africa, you can see what’s happening in Europe and what is happening in the Far East. And it is clear to see that social media is leading the digital growth.”

Emerson Brooking, a Washington D.C.-based writer and defense policy research fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, pointed to the recent use of social media by various criminal and terrorist organizations — most notably seen in the spread of the Islamic State organization.

“The interesting thing about the Islamic State, is that by using cutting-edge editing and by spreading their message on various social media sites, they were able to recruit fighters not just from the Middle East, but from countries in Europe such as France and the United Kingdom,” Brooking said. “That is what is fascinating and alarming about the reach of social media, and how it can be utilized by terrorist organizations and international drug cartels.”

Butch Sarma, director of the VCU executive MBA program and an adjunct professor of digital marketing, spoke briefly about students and their impacts on the business world through social media effectiveness.

Diana Jabbour, a VCU graduate student and volunteer at Apex Systems — an information technology staffing and workforce solutions firm — said she was impressed by all the information shared by the panel members.

“Social media is a huge part of what we do at our company and how we build our brand,”  Jabbour said. “It is really interesting to see what some of the other companies discussed in the panel are doing — and for [Apex] we are discussing going international — so hearing about the opportunities for how to share our business across the world and in other languages was really interesting.”

The final speaker was Christina Dick, VCU advertising professor and founder of Tiramisu For Breakfast — a social media marketing consulting firm with a client list including Sonabank, Patient First and the VCU Brandcenter.

“A lot of people think that we have become a nation of people who are constantly staring down at our phones and not paying attention to the world around us,” Dick said. “But social media is allowing us the capability to reach people not just on the other side of America, but also to spread ideas across the globe.”

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