08/29/2011 12:30 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2011

From Social FEMA to Social VMAs

This week, FEMA is called the "real disaster" by Ron Paul but displays awesome social media chops regarding #IRENE and disaster preparedness. True, Hurricane Irene didn't cause as much trouble as some feared, but look at the social tracking of individuals, politicians, disaster preparedness, shelters and the like, and it's quite impressive.

The storm wasn't as big as expected in some ways, but the social platforms were storming hard. And getting results. People heeded the call for caution and preparedness.

On Sunday night MTV launched their Social VMAs -- wall-to-wall social connectivity, analytics, engagement, polling, streams and feeds -- in real-time and live. Folding in the social element isn't that new for MTV. Last year MTV tracked more than 1.5 million tweets during the first three hours of broadcast. According to MTV, more than 5.7 million tweets relating to the VMAs had been sent since Aug. 22.

I did notice one common activity on the live audience cam: everyone -- stars, fans, grips, handlers, everyone -- was watching their phones.

As the summer draws to a close and we approach Labor Day 2011, we can look out on the horizon and see that social is becoming, well, social. It's everywhere, if you know what you're looking for. To many, this is totally awesome. To others, it's just distracting.

The adoption curve of new technology is well-documented. In Italian digital strategist Vincenzo Cosenza's latest research on the social networks adoption life cycle, he writes:

The diffusion of new technologies follows a classic normal distribution or "bell curve" and, according to Everett Rogers' studies (Diffusion of Innovation, 1962), anyone who engages with a given innovation fits into one of five categories: innovators (2.5% of the potential population of adopters), early adopters (12.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), laggards (16%).

He also observes that "Facebook the social network that has conquered the masses seems determined to hit the one billion users mark."

While numbers and size do matter, most of social media literati agree that they're looking for quality connections, influencers and "adding value" to the conversation to be the main metric we pay attention to in measuring success.

If the arc between FEMA and the VMAs -- all in the same week -- is showing us anything, it's that the social layer is becoming more and more a part of people's everyday lives. I'll call this "accelerated adoption." We're moving the needle, but we're not there yet.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the co-author of "The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing." She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Email her at