xsf2LAS VEGAS – A panel of new media producers and promoters convened Thursday at the XBIZ Summer Forum to engage in a seminar discussion on social networking, the next generation of marketing, and, like all such endeavors, they struggled valiently if in vain to explain the meaning of the paradigm shift that everyone assumes will define for the foreseeable future the place where media and marketing intersect, and consumers congregate.

While the subject itself left a handful of the panelists almost incoherent with awe at the immensity of the totality of the sea change, even those on the panel – and in the audience – who were less clear about the actual effectiveness of using Twitter to market adult content, were quick to admit that anyone today who is serious about marketing can ill afford not to do it, even if they don’t know what they’re doing, or why.

The trick, as Burning Angel’s Joanna Angel (pictured, above) explained, is to not appear to be marketing to anyone, which seems obvious enough even to old coots like me, except that the real point being made by the amazingly media-sensitive and savvy Angel is that one underestimates the complete and utter sensitivity to direct marketing of the youngest media-bred generation at one’s peril. You really only get one shot at these skittish ponies, she seemed to say. With more and more tools that allow and almost encourage a hair-trigger determination of banishment (i.e. ignore), is it any wonder that professional marketers currently have a life-span of about 40?

xsf1Gram Ponante (pictured), America’s most beloved porn journalist and nowhere near 40, is a dedicated user of social media, but even as he posted up messages during the panel (“Someone has to do it”), he expressed a decided irritation, almost an antipathy, toward these tools of the trade. He didn’t like them, he said outright, even though he felt compelled to use them, and they certainly were slow as molasses to translate into life-sustaining sales.

For solo-producers such as Ponante, poor time-management can easily spell the difference between survival and taking a job at AVN; deternining how much time to spend generating content for social media networks, not to mention tending to responses, all in an way that doesn’t appear inauthentic, is serious business, more a matter of faith then science.

Other speakers were Kim Kyser from Pink Visual, Kimbirly Orr from Viral Media West Michael Terpin from SocialRadius and Pete Housely from Naughty Tweet Network. The panel was deftly moderated by Brian Gross of BSG PR, who himself has embraced social networking, but with a sort of professional wariness as to where it really fits in the revenue stream.

For the pure evangelists, like Orr, Terpin and Housely, the numbers generated during various marketing campaigns they had been associated with had proven to them the life-altering nature of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. They spoke in religious terms even as they remained vague about the world that will evolve out of this somewhat destructive evolution in communication, consumption and interaction. The digits being thrown around thus far reflect numbers of eyeballs, and not dollars. The faith the true believers espouse tells of eyes being turned into money, somehow, someday.

In the end, only Joanna Angel seemed completely at ease with the pace and flow of the changes underway. As befits a genuine crossover queen, her effortless comfort with the ubiquity and unpredictablity of media generation and marketing comes out of her acceptance of its limitations. Her entire demeanor suggests a resigned sense of inevitability combined with a urgent need to put it out there and deal with whatever comes back. The engagement seems to be the point.

In an age when the streams of communcation are so plentiful and the value of what comes back can be so frustratingly ill-defined, the lesson seems to be to engage but go with the flow, which sounds like a life lesson as well as a master-class in healthy social networking.