Discussing the New Social Media Order

by Richa Nevatia

Comm Lead held its annual event Comm Lead Connects in March 2024. Every year, the program invites esteemed speakers for a web conference. This year’s Connects was supported by students from the Practicum course – Building Community through Live Streaming led by Comm Lead Alum Richard McLean.

The theme for Connects was ‘The New Social Media Order’. The Director of the Communication Leadership program at the University of Washington, Ekin Yasin and the Associate Director Alex Stonehill commenced the talk with laying the groundwork for the current social media structure and the importance of understanding the new global order of social media interaction.

The first speaker in the event was Professor Christopher Bail of Duke University, who is also the Director of the Polarisation Lab. Professor Bail talked about polarization on social media, and how a few vocal voices from each of the polar ends of contention make up more than 90% of discussion threads. He made the case for depolarization through anonymity through his research with the Polarisation Lab, which highly resonated with the audiences. “Social media has created a perverse kind of social learning. We want to use social media as a mirror to hold up to society, but instead what we see is a very distorted prism of society that gets filtered back through social media.” 

A screenshot of Professor Christopher Bail of Duke University, talking about Political Polarization in the US

After this, the event continued with lectures from the Communication Leadership program at the University of Washington. The first speaker was Kelley Myers, Head of Social for Consumer Brands at Microsoft who dove into Gen Z legacy brands and social media. She talked us through how a 70 year old organization like Microsoft engaged with newer and younger audiences. She talked through lo-fi production for social media and how authenticity can engage more with Gen Z audiences. “Nostalgia should be audience led and not just brand led. When it is led by the audience, it fits!”

The second speaker was Ha Na Teresa Park, Founder of Mujeres del Futuro, a digital safe space of belonging that centers around the potential of Latinas in the digital economy. She talked about authentic communications, engagement and social impact through her work with Mujeres del Futuro. Her insights on experiences in spaces of belonging broadened the horizons of understanding well being, wage gap and the future economy. “Consumption can often give us a false sense of participation. In order to create a true tangible space of belonging, it is essential to move members from being consumers to creators”.

The last speaker of the session was Rob Salkowitz, Author, Strategist and Consultant. He talked about the impact of generative AI, particularly on the creator economy and influencers on social media. He shared insights into the creator economy and how brands are shifting focus on influencers was enlightening in the day of lost consumer trust for advertising and how AI and technology are playing a role in building the brands of the future. “For the content economy, the reason that signals the dawn of a new age of content is that – algorithmic and generative content being put on social media platforms is outperforming human created content, and some of it is done in underhanded and unethical ways.”

A screenshot of Ekin Yasin, Alex Stonehill, Rob Salkowitz, Ha Na Teresa Park and Kelley Myers

At the end, Ekin and Alex led a Q&A session with the Comm Lead professors, talking through the insightful audience questions. The event ended with the audience interacting on Gather, a virtual platform for networking and building connections.

Student Haya Wang, who was one of the participants in the Practicum course orchestrating the event commented, “It was an incredible opportunity not only to explore numerous innovative tools but also to gain hands-on experience in producing a live streaming event! Integrating more tools into our CommLead activities will enable us to disseminate new knowledge to a wider audience, including professionals from various industries and students worldwide!”

A screenshot of the Comm Lead 503 class- Building Community through Live Streaming with Ekin Yasin and Alex Stonehill

Comm Lead Connect 2024 answered some of the big questions on the new social media order for the world. It is through professional events like these that Comm Lead challenges the industry to think bigger and ponder about the impact of current technologies on the future. Follow Comm Lead on LinkedIn at @commlead to keep up with the latest industry led professional events and watch this space for more updates about the program!