I had just finished writing my presentation for the U.S. Drinks Conference and was reflecting on a few recent conversations I had on social media marketing and it dawned on me that we’ve turned a corner.

Within the past two days I’ve spoken to self-described Luddites or representatives thereof (guy has his secretary print out emails for him), expert practitioners of the craft, and a bunch of folks somewhere in the middle.

That whole spectrum will always be there, but what I realized is that I’m no longer an evangelist having to explain the new thing.  We’ve finally reached a point where at least everyone’s heard of social media. And while they might be a bit hazy on the definition and terminology (social media, social networks, word of mouth, viral marketing etc.) there’s pretty much universal recognition of its existence and importance.
That’s progress.  In spite of the few comments you still hear that “this Internet thing is gonna blow over” I think most people in the marketing business recognize that there’s been a sea change in the way we need to communicate with our customers, prospects and suspects. 
Simply stated, it’s no longer a situation where marketers are shouting at the multitudes and hoping someone hears and maybe even pays attention, but rather a conversation among and between people whose actions indicate they share an interest in a subject.  Whether they’ve become a Fan of a Facebook page, bookmark a forum or newsgroup, read or get an RSS feed from a blog, they…WE… all have one thing in common…we’re ENGAGED.
Engagement, however, is a two way street and has an implicit agreement that the commitment is mutual.  So it’s incumbent on marketers to recognize that at its very core, social media is personal.  Even a brand with a quarter million Facebook fans has to make each one of them feel an individual connection.
Coming back to my intro thought here, we have turned a corner, but we still have a long road in front of us.  The challenge now is how to scale personal communications within larger communities. 
That’s one of the subjects we’ll be hearing a lot about at the USDC…I’m psyched to hear what Gary Vaynerchuk has to say, as well as the folks on the panel I’m moderating on social media.  So Tyler Colman, Colleen Graham, Nora Favelukes and Carter Reum….what do you think?