Perhaps because I am now a resident in Mr. Jefferson's home town, references to the sage of Monticello abound, but last week I was in New York as the guest of Advertising Women of New York, the nearly 100-year-old organization founded to support women who make their careers in the world of Mad Men, which hosted a breakfast about the role of social media and brand in the 21st century.  

My panel was superb and encompassed just about every aspect of social media: the very smart John Bell who heads up Ogilvy360, Marisa Thalberg, VP Global Digital Marketing, The Estee Lauder Companies, Pepper E. Roukas, Vice President, Online Content & Community, American Express, Adam Christiansen, Social Media Communications Manager, IBM (and blogger at our sister site, SustainableCitiesCollective), and Natasha Stevens, Senior Director of Insight Practices at Cymfony.

The audience was also totally engaged: lots of people taking notes and asking excellent questions, about F8's announcements, about what constituted success in social media, and about how to use existing platforms.

While it's always more challenging for yours truly to wrap her head around “business to consumer” there was some terrific insight from Marisa, Pepper, and John about what is going on with event-, cause- and place-based social media … from Amex's events in which they give their brand over to performers like Alicia Keyes and benefit from those performer's and their audiences willingness to share the brand as well… to Estee Lauder's transitioning an offline, years-in-the-forming sponsorship of Breast Cancer Awareness month to a social strategy…to the limitless possibilities of Four-Square.

Adam Christiansen always has something interesting to say about what IBM sees as value in its huge commitment to planetary sustainability with the Smarter Planet effort … and its move from measuring success in terms of impressions to a more significant yardstick of “engagement.”  Natasha noted as well that Cmfony's clients are starting to look at how to measure, and price, engagement in this new world.

Key takeaways… we've come a long way since the early days of social media with its unproven “ROI.”  Big brands like Estee Lauder, American Express and IBM are fully embracing the new platforms, tools, and strategies, helped in no small part by leading advisors like Ogilvy360 and validation consultants like Cymfony.  The loss of direct control over brand is inevitable, but the rewards of “letting brand go,” are huge.  Finally, there was a discussion about the implications for leadership, where visibility and the need for speed trump a closed approach to management  (giving me a chance for a small plug for Charlene Li's new book “Open Leadership,” which launches today.)