Social Media Week Fairfax delights crowd thanks to media strategies, cooking videos and a bit of ‘Scandal’

Fairfax County, Virginia –More than 400 turned out for Social Media Week Fairfax, presented by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) on Thursday, October 18, and the second annual event truly offered something for everyone.

Featured speakers from National Geographic, The Food Network and the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture joined media personalities, strategists and business leaders on stage at Capital One headquarters in Tysons Corner, sharing knowledge, advice and a bit of humor with an equally diverse group of attendees.

  • Photos from this event are available upon request from the FCEDA

“It was hard to one-up last year when I left here feeling that Fairfax County is leading the way when it comes to innovation and digital marketing,” said Brian Fanzo, a change evangelist, millennial speaker and CEO of iSocialFanz.  “I wasn’t sure how this year would top it. But I feel that the brands, the vibe, the conversations – even the questions people asked from the audience – really showed how people are pushing the limits here, and I was excited to be a part of it.”

Like Fanzo, event emcee Sara Fraser, media personality and host of the “Hey Frase” podcast, was back for a second year and equally impressed.

“There’s so much buzz about this area,” Fraser said. “When you go to other cities, you realize there are never as many construction cranes as there are here in Northern Virginia. (People here) want business and are not stopping. That’s what I love. I love entrepreneurs – people who are thinking where to be – and for that, northern Virginia is it.”

In his welcoming remarks, Gerald L. Gordon, president and CEO of the FCEDA explained why Fairfax County continues to be the logical site for Social Media Week, a leading news platform that curates and shares the best ideas, innovations and insight into the ways social media and technology are altering the business and cultural landscapes.

“There are 600,000 jobs in Fairfax County and one in four are in tech areas,” Gordon said. “There are 8,900 tech companies in the county. That’s more tech companies than anywhere in the U.S., save for Silicon Valley – which is made up of 16 contiguous jurisdictions.”

As much as the Social Media Week Fairfax event presented a forum for high-tech companies – some of whom showcased their latest products and services in the SMWFairfax exhibition hub – it was also an event for marketers and professional communicators to share advice on the best ways to deliver a winning message through today’s media.

Crisis management expert Judy Smith, who was the inspiration for the hit TV show “Scandal” and has served as a consultant to celebrity and entertainment clients including Monica Lewinsky, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., actor Wesley Snipes and the family of Chandra Levy, was among the keynote speakers.

Smith’s message to the audience: “Response has to match the crisis. Be aware of the landscape/backdrop in which a crisis occurs, be swift in determining what the response will be and don’t be afraid to call it and make a decision. … “To the extent that you can, you want to control the narrative (but) things are moving faster these days. You have to react,” Smith said.

Tammy Abraham, vice president of corporate partnerships, and Amanda Waas, vice president of client solutions, explained how their company, National Geographic, has become the No. 1 brand on social media with 420 million followers.

Lanae Spruce, manager of social media and digital engagement for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, was joined by Laura Larrimore of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Joseph Galbo of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for the discussion, “Hug Your Haters: The Art of Dealing with and Defusing Negativity Online.”

Jonathan Aberman, managing director at Amplifier Advisors and host of the What’s Working in Washington podcast, moderated the discussion “Future Tense: How Leading Companies Embrace Innovation,” with Caitlin McKenna of Hilton and Brinda Sen Gupta of Booz Allen Hamilton.

Washington Post reporter Aaron Gregg moderated the panel “Playing with Matches: Does Digital Media Fuel or Burn Startups?” with Joe Falit of Yombu, Amelia Friedman of Hatch Apps and Ajay Kori of UrbanStems.

The Food Network’s segment, devoted to short-form videos, stirred up a lot of interest. In the session entitled “A Recipe for Business Success,” Debra Puchalla, senior vice president of digital programming and video for the Food Network and Cooking Channel, and Sara Levine, senior managing editor of the Food Network, listed 14 “ingredients” best involved for cooking up a viral social video.

“We are in the infancy of video and I think Food Network and the Cooking channel really brought it home,” Fraser said. “Short-form video is the (staple of) the next five years of social media. If your business isn’t thinking about getting into the three-minute-and-under video, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. You can see all the brand collaborations that come from it and their audience eats is up. That’s so important.”

This year’s sponsors included Capital One, QBurst, Microsoft, Zoomph, Amazon Web Services, Hilton, Yext, Booz Allen Hamilton, Axios, Hatch, TransitScreen, UrbanStems, Big Parser, The Bridge, LSMP Video, DCVR, WeWork Labs, Yombu, National Geographic, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, Fifth Tribe, Hey Frase, MGTA, the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, Northern Virginia Community College, Technology and Gaming Labs, BYT Media, iSocialFanz and Reston Limousine.

Media sponsors were  DC Inno, InsideNoVa, Potomac Tech Wire and NextGov.

The award-winning Fairfax County Economic Development Authority promotes Fairfax County as a business and technology center. The FCEDA offers site location and business development assistance, and connections with county and state government agencies, to help companies locate and expand in Fairfax County. 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, Twitter and LinkedIn.