SMXQ: Mark Cahill

Over the last 13 years, Mark has worked with major corporations such as Dell, Airtricity, Trinity Biotech and Johnson & Johnson. Mark is one of the founding organisers and speakers at Bizcamp Limerick. He is also a member of Engineers Ireland (IEI), the Irish Internet Association (IIA) and the MBA Association of Ireland (MBAAI). Mark is also a guest lecturer in the University of Limerick, Ireland, in entrepreneurship and marketing, with a focus on social networks and social media. Mark is also a co-founder of Social Bits, an Ireland-based consultancy firm specialising in the application of social media and Semantic Web technologies. You can follow him on Twitter at @markcahill.

1. Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?

My background is in engineering and information technology. I have a BEng in Computer Engineering, and I have always had an interest in anything computer related. I worked with Dell for over 11 years before leaving to work for myself. Before leaving Dell, I commenced my Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) which I completed in 2008.

2. What was your route into social media?

As part of my MBA, my thesis was titled “To what extent have online social networks changed business to consumer marketing”, so it looked at how the marketing landscape has been disrupted by online social networks. I had already started to use Twitter in January 2008 and I was fascinated with how you could communicate with so many “like-minded” people. 

3. Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.

Late last year we started Social Bits, which is going from strength to strength, and I also lecture to university undergraduate and postgraduate marketing students, as well as MBA students in the field of marketing via online social networks.

4. What social media services do you use regularly and why?

Twitter is probably my top one. The reason I use it is to stay informed. The real-time nature of Twitter is incredible, when something happens you usually hear about it on Twitter first. If there is an event worth going to you hear about it on Twitter. If there is an event you can’t make it to you can usually “listen” to the live tweets to get an idea of what is important.

5. If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?

Twitter again, but this is cheating, because Twitter is linked to so many other services such as Plancast. It is hard to separate Twitter (or most other social media tools for that matter) as they are all interrelated to some extent.

6. Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?

I think the development of location-based social networks are very important. Location-based social networks enable brick and mortar businesses to build customer loyalty in a new and exciting way. It is also a good way for someone who is a stranger to a town or city to locate what they need to find, whether it is just a coffee or some type of service. I can also see the relevance of layering the Semantic Web on top of, or integrating it with online social networks, as context gives more accurate information: this is good news for marketers and good news for customers.

7. What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?

Talk to lots of like-minded people.
8. What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?

Privacy it the big one. Because you are not paying for the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter to name a few, you don’t have real control over what is put out there. The best rule is, if you don’t want anyone to know, then don’t put it out there.

9. What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?

Learn about the social media tools, and start to listen, observe and lurk, once you feel comfortable with the conversations, then jump in and participate. Like learning a new language, the best way is to immerse yourself in the language and the culture, therefore you need to immerse yourself in the language and culture of “social media”.

10. How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?

  • More transparency.
  • More accurate advertising.
  • Better internal communication within businesses, and better communication between businesses and their customers.
  • Better communication between people.

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