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March 07, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Schaefer helping drive “Social Slam”

The cover of Mark Schaefer’s latest book, Return of Influence, describes him as an educator, business consultant and author, but you learn quickly after talking with him that his passion today is about social media and its impact on marketing.

Earlier in his career, Schaefer worked for more than two decades for ALCOA, the aluminum company giant. He worked in a number of ALCOA locations before moving to Knoxville in the 1990s. His last position with ALCOA was as Global Director of E Business.

In a recent interview with, Schaefer discussed his love for Knoxville, his robust consulting business that keeps him on the road several weeks each month, and his passion for the upcoming “Social Slam 2012” that will bring hundreds of people from numerous states to Knoxville on April 26 and 27. There will even be speakers who will talk about the use of social media to promote spirituality and healing.

“We moved here from Los Angeles and (quickly came to) love Knoxville,” Schaefer said. “It became our home.” Yet, continuing to live in Knoxville is challenging because of his travel schedule. Schaefer’s most frequent destination is the New York-New Jersey area where he teaches in the Rutgers University Executive MBA program and consults with companies like Johnson & Johnson and AT&T.

In 2008 Schaefer started his own marketing and communications firm just as “the whole social media phenomenon was taking off.” When he started his own blog ( a year later, “I was one of the few people blogging who had deep business experience,” Schaefer said. The blog, named as one of Advertising Age’s “Power 100” blogs, is focused on “applying social media in a very practical, understandable way,” he added.

Schaefer’s pioneering work on the use of social media in marketing attracted the attention of Rutgers which asked him in 2010 to help develop the marketing curriculum for its new Executive MBA program. He travels to New Jersey three times a month to teach in the program.

In less than two months, one of Schaefer’s latest passions – “Social Slam 2012” – will be held in the Knoxville Convention Center. Schaefer coordinates the program, while the Social Media Club of Knoxville handles logistics. The inaugural event in 2011 drew a more than capacity crowd of 430 people from 17 states, and planners are preparing for 600 attendees on April 27.

“Social Slam” grew out of Schaefer’s belief that “the people who need to be (at social media workshops) the most are pushed away” by registration fees that are in the $600 range and high cost venues like New York City.

“They always had the same 10 people (speaking) for too much money,” he said. “Young voices did not have a chance to be heard.”

Schaefer said that he drew inspiration for “Social Slam” from Tennessee’s nickname – the Volunteer State – and a 2010 event where a small group of social media pioneers from around the country convened in Memphis.

He posed the following question to those who participated in the Memphis event: “If I can put together a little event, would you come to Knoxville, rather than Atlanta, and share what we experienced in Memphis?” The response was overwhelming positive.

In the interview, Schaefer talked about this year’s line-up of speakers including Mitch Joel, a Montreal digital media executive, and Gini Dietrich, a top 10 blogger in marketing. He noted that breakout sessions have been added where Jay Baer, a nationally-known social media strategist, will focus on how social media is being used for new product development and another session with a panel talking about best practices in the use of LinkedIn and Facebook. There will also be presentations on the use of social media in spirituality and healing.

Schaefer said that the one-day “Social Slam” event costs $89 per person and more than one-half of the registration slots have already been reserved. To register, visit

“I can’t explain it, but something magical happened” in 2011, Schaefer said. He expects an even bigger “happening” in 2012 and no doubt is already thinking about an even more impactful “Social Slam” in 2013.

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