ImageAs a social media professional, I am always trying to find websites that have information on latest industry trends and studies for social media. Unfortunately, it seems like many social media news sites are actually infomercials for the latest social platform or company.  There is nothing more frustrating than reading through a lengthy article only to realize that you just read through a 3 paragraph advertisement.

While many social news outlets seem to be moving in that direction, there is one website that has done its best to remain for the people and by the people, SocialMediaToday.com. I am a huge fan of Social Media Today and I thought it would be extremely interesting to find out about the growth and development of this great website, so I reached out to co-founder and CEO Robin Fray Carey who awesomely agreed to answer a few questions. The following are some of the questions that were on my mind and I hope that they are interesting to you as well.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

My background is in B2B ad sales and business development for major business magazines and traditional media companies.

What made you want to create it Social Media Today?

I had always wanted to start a magazine of my own, but never was able to find the funds and time to get started. When social media came to be, the price of online technologies went down so I saw this as an opportunity to break away and try something new. I wanted to create something that could improve upon what was already out there and be more transparent. In 2007, Social Media Today was launched and just kept going.

Can you tell us a little bit about the development of SocialMediaToday.com from a newly launched website to the knowledge resource that it is today?

We approached content creation from the editorial standpoint and really focused on customer service. We see our bloggers as customers, so we wanted to make sure that we provide them with the best experience possible. Our whole team is tasked with participating in the discussion, so everyone is expected to be interactive, responsive and always remember where it all started. The development of Social Media Today has been due to hard work, attention to detail and a great staff.

What are some areas of opportunity that you see in today’s social media landscape?

I think that there are two big areas of opportunity. First off, there is major opportunity in terms of content creation. The need for good, quality content is huge for both B2B and B2C organizations. Next, we have to find ways to leverage the enormous amount of social data that is available to us. We have to give it all a purpose. I’m not just talking about at a campaign level; it has to go beyond that. How does your community serve a purpose? Does social media extend past the brand and the sale? These are all questions that we need to be able to answer using social data.

Do you have a favorite social media channel? If so, which one and why?

Well, I certainly spend a lot of time on LinkedIn as I am actively involved in the Social Media Today group. I love participating in the conversation there. If I had to choose an overall favorite, I would have to say Twitter. I feel that it is truly open social media and it is the promise that was made years ago. Twitter is simple, has stayed simple and has become integral to communication today. If you think about it, Twitter has enormous social implications all over the world. For the longest time, it was like Twitter was everyone’s mobile strategy and now its so much bigger. I just love Twitter, it is amazing. I also love hashtags and I think we will see some interesting new tools for hashtags from an analysis standpoint.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to social media community management?

First off, if you are a social media community manager, you have a great job. It is definitely a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. Be sure to always be respectful and human with your community. Let that humanity shine through.  Always stay on top of technology as more and more tools are coming out and they will help you do your job more efficiently. As your community grows, identify key influencers that can help you and reward those who are the most active in your community. People like to be recognized and rewarded!

Where do you think social media marketing is headed?

The easy work has been done in terms of understanding online and social behaviors. There are a couple big trends to take note of though. First, companies will begin to take a deep look at how to form a good customer service organization. They will begin to find ways to empower the person who is closest to the customer. Social strategies will begin to allow more trust and authority for community managers as well as customer service personnel. Good examples of this are the Obama campaign and the Oreo social team. The Obama campaign gave clear parameters to their social staff, but allowed them the freedom to engage in significant ways in real time.

The Oreo social team was able to hit a home run during the Super Bowl because they were allowed to respond to the blackout situation in real time. There was trust and empowerment within their social team. The next major trend I think is coming for social media is the rise of a new kind of brand that is the authority in media. Studies have proven that recommendations trump messages from traditional brands. Soon, your friends will default to some kind of institution of authority for quality information. There will be a go to source to validate information and this will be the start of media brands becoming popular again.

I hope you enjoyed this discussion with Robin Fray Carey. If I can add my own two cents, I truly think that SocialMediaToday.com is one of the last social media news outlets that is truly social. If you think about it, they have created a fully self-sustainable social ecosystem in magazine form. The community members create content, the content goes through moderation by Social Media Today staff and then the content is served to the community for discussion. I said this to Robin in our conversation and I will say it again, Social Media Today and its staff truly practice what they preach when it comes to social media.

What is on your mind? If you could ask Robin one question, what would it be?