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Justin Levy

It’s well past midnight on the eve of SocialFresh Charlotte, and I should either be sleeping or going over my presentation for tomorrow, but I’m in a reflective mood. I was talking this evening with Tom Webster, Amber Naslund and Chris Penn and realized SocialFresh Charlotte 2009 was my first real social media speaking gig. I sat on a panel with Kipp Bodnar, Jeff Cohen and Nathan Gilliatt. It seems like a lot more than a year ago. Tom called it “Internet time.”

So much has happened in that intervening year. SAS has gone from having a few dedicated social media explorers to an ever-growing roster of practitioners using social media tools to support bottom-line objectives. People have stopped asking “Why?” and started asking “How?”

It’s been an exciting process, going from a grass roots effort to a company-wide priority backed up by training and educational resources. Plus, we launched SAS Social Media Analytics, using a coordinated social media approach that proved its value in the attention we received and the leads that came in the door.

For me personally, the past year has brought many more opportunities to talk with people about the value of enterprise social media and the ways you can structure your company for social media success. I’ve worked with dozens of SAS colleagues from offices around the world, presented at social media conferences and to groups of SAS customers. I’ve also just handed over the manuscript of The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy, a book I wrote with Mike Barlow, to be published by Wiley in early 2011.

In some ways it feels like this year has been arc. And now it’s time to begin a new one; I’m joining the team at New Marketing Labs, the new media company founded by Chris Brogan, Stephen Saber and Nick Saber.

I first became acquainted with NML when I started looking for someone to help with the Social Media Analytics launch. I knew we couldn’t introduce a social media product with a press release, and NML did a great job helping us define our strategy and outreach campaign. Through that process I got to know Chris, Colin Bower and Justin Levy and saw what a great team they made, from a client’s perspective.

That perspective should help me in my new role as Executive Director. I’ll be overseeing client relations, as well as helping to develop new enterprise products and services. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun. We’re at the point in the growth and adoption of social media where it’s getting harder and harder to impress prospects and satisfy clients. The honeymoon is over. Only bottom line results will keep agencies in business. I suppose that should scare me, but it excites me. New Marketing Labs is up to the challenge.

I know some people will think I’m crazy for leaving SAS, which has not only embraced social media as a company, but is also leading the charge in business analytics. It was the hardest career decision I’ve ever made. I’ve had a lot of great experiences at SAS and worked with so many talented and enthusiastic people.

Like no other company I’ve ever experienced, SAS really does understand the value of treating employees and customers well, and that philosophy is the foundation of their success. It’s also the reason that people treat one another so well. I feel lucky to have been there and made the friendships I did, and I know those relationships will carry on.

I start at New Marketing Labs on September 1, and as much as I’ve enjoyed my visits to Boston, I’ll be staying put in North Carolina and joining the workshifting ranks (which also means I get to go buy office supplies — I love buying office supplies).

I can’t predict what I’ll be reflecting on a year from now, and I’m realizing that’s one of the most exciting things about this. We’re making this up as we go along. All of us. We will do some things right and some things wrong, and we will learn. And in the end, we will all be better for it.

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