Almost 300 turn out for SMWiFairfax, a look at social media today and in the future, presented by the FCEDA

Contact: Alan Fogg,, +1 703-790-0600 (office) or +1 571-213-5065 (mobile)

Interactive event spotlights Fairfax County as a hotbed for digital growth and emerging technologies

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fairfax County, Virginia — The two-way street that is social media ran through the heart of Fairfax County yesterday, with almost 300 turning out for a robust give-and-take at SMWiFairfax, an event presented for the first time by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) at Capital One headquarters in Tysons Corner.

Held in conjunction with the worldwide Social Media Week independent, the audience engaged with well-known social media experts and panelists representing a broad spectrum, including business, politics and government thought-leaders.

“This county has the brand, has the technology and the people. It’s now about amplifying that social media message and sharing the lens. That’s what this event does,” said podcast host Brian Fanzo, CEO of iSocialFanz and a self-proclaimed “change evangelist” who served as the morning’s keynote speaker. “It not only highlights what’s going on here but highlights a desire for us to come together and continue to innovate.

“This area is [generally] looked at in terms of government, some tech and some enterprise. But digital media is booming in this area and, to have an event like this to highlight that is a game changer.”

Fanzo said he was “amazed” by the energy, not only in the auditorium but in the atrium where multiple exhibitors set up shop.

 “I see all this buzz, and that’s a testimony to the people who were on the stage, but also a packed house – which for a first (social media) event is very rare,” Fanzo said.

In addition to panels on how social media is changing business, government and politics, companies exhibited new technologies.

“We had a lot of people come by our booth,” said Kreston Shirley of T.A.G. Technology and Gaming Labs, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that teaches youngsters how to produce video games. “They got to learn about our mission and got to play some games. Super Mario World had to be our most popular.”

Across the room, attendees took advantage of the opportunity to interact with Amazon Echo technology, asking Alexa questions about Fairfax County and SMWiFairfax. The exhibit was courtesy of Big Parser of Reston, which employs artificial intelligence (AI) to collect date and disseminate information – a perfect fit for the “Language and the Machine” theme of SMWi.

Inside the auditorium, the voices were all human, beginning with Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the FCEDA, who followed welcoming remarks from Capital One’s Kaleen Love with a few facts and a message about Fairfax County’s role in technology.

“This is a place where technology grows, almost quite naturally,” Gordon said. “One in four people in the county is a technology worker and 78 of the nation’s top 100 technology companies that the federal government employs have operations here. This is a place from which new ideas have emerged – new ways of doing business. It’s not only about what’s being done but what’s coming in the next iteration.”

In his keynote remarks, Fanzo emphasized the importance of bringing the message to the consumer.

“Field of Dreams marketing – if you build it they will come – doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “You have to bring the content to the audience. Give your fans and customers the access they want.’

Christopher Dorobek, executive editor at GovLoop’s DorkbekINSIDER, moderated the first of four panel discussions.  “The New Rules for Citizen Engagement” panel included Carolyn Reams, social media lead for the CIA; Aries Keck, social media team lead for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; Julie Parker, director of media relations for the Fairfax County Police Department; and Lt. Col. Vinston Porter, public relations and outreach at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“We protect what we must and we share what we can,” said Reams, summarizing the policy of a government agency charged with disseminating information while protecting classified information.

Parker said that efforts to “humanize” the police department, while generating the kind of timely information the public wants to see, have paid off in an increase of nearly 125,000 Twitter followers since she took over last September. “It’s our story and we should be reporting it first,” she said.

Anthony Shop, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Social Driver, moderated the second panel, “The Next Big Thing,” which included Shannon Jones, senior director marketing at Capital One; Dana Stirk, digital marketing director at Booz Allen Hamilton; Patricia A. Davis-Muffett, senior leader, global public marketing, at Amazon Web Services; and Chuck Ghoorah, president of worldwide sales and marketing for Cvent.

“The idea of community is one of the most important for us,” said Jones, discussing her company’s Capital One Café concept, which will invite customers to enjoy a cup of coffee, participate in financial workshops and receive money coaching at local bank branches.

Ghoorah indicated that more is not necessarily better when it comes to sales leads and suggested new ways of measuring results will be the wave of the future for marketing campaigns.

“Power of Podcasting,” moderated by Fanzo, was both a panel discussion and live podcast, featuring Sarah Fraser, host of the Hey Frase podcast; Lauren Ober, host of NPR’s The Big Listen; and Natasha Che, founder of Soundwise and host of Founders Nextdoor podcast.

Fraser suggested that podcasts presented an excellent opportunity for women and minorities to become leading voices in social media, but all agreed that effective podcasting is more difficult and more time consuming than it appears.

Che cautioned that a “podcast bubble” could be forming with a saturated market. Among Che’s suggestions for prospective podcasters: “Be a guest on other shows. Let other people do the hard work of editing and distribution.”

Judy Kurtz, columnist for The Hill, moderated the final panel of the day, “Politics in 140 Characters or Less.” The roundtable included Hadas Gold, correspondent for CNN Digital, Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for New York Magazine, Tom Cochran, chief digital strategist and vice president of Acquia; Paul Brandus, White House correspondent for West Wing Reports; and Ben Jacobs, political reporter for The Guardian US.

Touching on a range of topics -- from the last presidential election to “fake news” to journalistic travails and integrity -- the panel consensus agreed with Brandus that trusted newspersons must convey that integrity, authority and intelligence. “Two out of three is not good enough,” Brandus said.

“It’s incumbent up on us to make sure the information out there is accurate, said Cochran, who joked that “I only speak in 140-character sentences and try not to sleep with my phone.” In a more serious vein concerning social media he added: “There is value in being able to capture someone’s attention for 10 seconds.”

Sponsors of SMWi included Capital One, QBurst, DC Inno, InsideNoVa, Potomac Tech Wire, WeWork, Swingspace, Notion Theory, T.A.G., Big Parser and Akyumen.

The award-winning Fairfax County Economic Development Authority promotes Fairfax County as a business and technology center. In addition to its headquarters in Tysons Corner, Fairfax County’s largest business district, the FCEDA maintains marketing offices in six important global business centers: Bangalore, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Seoul and Tel Aviv. Follow the FCEDA on Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn.