Four years ago, Chris Cornell ran a picture framing gallery and didn’t know what social media was, or how to set up a WordPress website. Then, in 2008, he found his platform.

“I became a Twitter evangelist,” said Cornell, who created the first Westchester ‘Tweet-Up” in 2009 and who is now social media director for Thompson & Bender, and a columnist for Westchester’s Examiner News.

New Media panelists (l to r) Chris Cornell, Robin Colner, Paull Young and Constantin Basturea.
Photo by Janet Sassi

Five years ago, Paull Young saw a Tweet asking those who cared about clean water to request donations for charity:water in lieu of gifts on their birthdays; he set up an account, blogged it out, and was able to raise enough on his birthday to finance the building of one well in Africa.

Cornell and Young were part of an expert roundtable, organized and moderated by Lance Strate, Ph.D., professor of communication and media studies, that helped launch the Fordham School of Professional and Continuing Studies’ (PCS) new program, Professional Studies in New Media, on May 31.

Panelists were unanimous in their view, which was, as social networks proliferate and the cyber universe expands, businesses and institutions need to do one thing to stay competitive: dip in and be there or risk being left behind.

“A lot of people are naysayers to social media, and they don’t see the benefits and refuse to get into it,” said Cornell. “The only way you can really see the full opportunities that social media present is to look at them from within. Every time you take a step, it brings new opportunities to leverage and magnify.”

The PCS’ new program, housed at the Westchester campus, focuses on developing new media expertise through courses such as Digital Design for New Media, Social Media Marketing, New Media Metrics, and Issues and Ethics in Cyberspace.

With the recent IPO of Facebook, and the exponential development of new networking platforms, organizations have untapped opportunities for selling products, tracking customers/followers, raising funds, and building brands, panelists said.

Young, who is now charity:water’s director of Digital Engagement, said the non-profit company does 75 percent of its fundraising on line. The organization, dedicated to bringing clean water to people worldwide, is planning to raise $25 million this year.

He described the power of social media, referencing a blog that was posted recently by a mother who was proud of her daughter for raising $362 for charity work: the girl wrote “Giving up my presents was really easy . . . I don’t need all that stuff.”

He reposted the girl’s comments, and people donated even more.

“That’s a movement. And that is social media amplifying word-of mouth,” said Young, who helped charity:water become the first non-profit to have one million Twitter followers.

Niche platforms, said panelists Constantin Basturea, vice-president for Strategy, Converseon, and Robin Colner, president and founder of DigiStar Media, are likely to become more valuable resources in the future. Pinterest, said Colner, offers a market that is 87 percent female, between the ages of 24 and 45, and whose time on site is an hour and a half, whereas time on a mass platform like Google Plus is “maybe three minutes?”

The cyberworld will continue to be “very fragmented” said Basturea, which is another reason why keeping abreast of new media is important.

“Is this madness going to end? No. Are there going to be less platforms? Yes, if you consider less being 500 versus 1500,” he said. “You have to figure out if there is value for you or your clients in a platform, and at what point in your client’s development, or the platform’s development, it makes sense to jump on the bandwagon.”

Strate, who directs the Professional Studies in New Media program, said the program will sponsor more roundtables in the fall. For more information on PCS ‘ Professional Studies in New Media, visit the website.