Social media morning at the US Embassy in Madrid

I’ve just returned from a lovely morning at the US Ambassador’s home in downtown Madrid. I had the honor to be part of a speaking panel that included Susan Lewis Solomont, the Ambassador’s wife and senior fellow of The Philanthropic Initiative, among other of her worthy and wonderful merits; Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer at the Embassy and Javier Rodr√≠guez Zapatero, General Director for Google Spain, Portugal and Turkey, the “golden boy” of the group. The topic of the encounter, which brought together around 70 professional women from a wide variety of industries, was part of a Women in Leadership series organized by the Embassy: Marketing and Social Media.

This was a wonderful opportunity to talk about MocaMedia and our work before a crowd who previously had neither heard of us nor ever heard about community engagement for film. It’s the litmus test to see if you can engage and interest people in such a subject and that they understand your work. As far as I could see from the responses after my presentation, I managed this successfully. Phew!

It was also an opportunity to talk proudly about our films, their subject matter and messages and, for me, to hone my own language about marketing and community engagement. Not to mention an opportunity to learn a bit more about the social media sphere (the Google+ expert sitting a hair’s breadth away from me; a woman in the audience discussing Radian6).

I of course brought my cheat sheet with me, some printed pages where I had written out my ideas for the brief talk I would give. The quote that came to me as I pondered how I would address the audience was one from a favorite author, E.M. Forster. In Chapter 22 of Howards End, a sermon is prefaced with the command “Just connect!” These are words that I have carried with me throughout my life and career. I’ve used the quote in my doctorate thesis, as a favorite quote on my Facebook page, and I used the words again when speaking about social media and community engagement for film. Because that is what our work is about: as human beings, we want and try to communicate, to connect. We try to forge connections, understandings, within which we can express ourselves as individuals and in communities where we can effect change or have an impact. This is our work at Moca and the work of our filmmakers–we connect the films with their core audience; we create communities within which the film and its message can be seen and supported and perhaps even make a difference. Social media now, today, more than ever, and, according to my co-speaker Javier, tomorrow even more so, allows for these connections to be made, broadly, rapidly and effectively. The key is knowing what message you’re sending, who you are sending it to, how to send out the message and how to keep on message. Ok, that’s part of my take on the matter.

I also enjoyed hearing insights from Elizabeth and Javier. In Elizabeth’s office, social media use has become a way of modernizing and revamping US diplomacy. She especially cited the active exchanges that go on on the Facebook page and on Twitter–a call and response of questions about US culture, about visa entry and even about music and special events. Javier was a bit hush-hush about G+, but open and interesting when it came to discussing the “future is now” concept that social media is not only here to stay but a way of life–awing the audience with figures of mobile use around the world (a case in point is Spain–a country that has jumped from 6 million mobile users to 15 million in the span of a year, according to his notes), and why cell phones are an important focus for his company and for Google’s competitors (who might they be??). We could all concur that social media use has altered how we communicate, to a large degree for the better, and is a changing force in our culture–where we have to be alert about our privacy, we can also be aware of our new power, to reach greater audiences, to make change (such as the Arab Spring) and to define ourselves.