Editor’s note: Writing today’s Skinny and filling in for LTW Editor Rick Smith this week is Noah Garrett. You can reach Noah directly at noah@thinkngc.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Marketing has evolved rapidly over the past decade, with traditional media declining in importance as the Internet and social networking achieve meaningful scale.

Jim Tobin is president of Ignite Social Media, which is based in the Triangle and helps companies understand and utilize social media marketing to drive business results. He also is the co-founder of the Triangle Social Media Club and author of the recently released book "Social Media Is a Cocktail Party: Why You Already Know the Rules of Social Media Marketing."

I had a chance to sit down with him recently to learn a little more about marketing in today’s interactive environment.

You mentioned during a recent presentation that we are “entering a land of authenticity. The difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is that you get to talk back.” What does this mean?

Social media marketing is different than advertising and PR precisely because people can talk back. So, it really becomes an amplifier. If you’re a bad business and have shoddy practices or products, it’s going to get amplified. Even if you’re participating and trying to control it, it’s still going to get out there and get amplified. If you have a product that people have some sort of affinity toward for whatever reason, you can facilitate a way for them to talk about it and can amplify their affection for it, too. So, the power has really gone away from the marketer. You just can’t create an ad anymore and shove it down somebody’s throat, because the power shift is so dramatic now. Marketers really need to change their game and create content that people genuinely want to talk about.

Do you see a challenge in trying to monitor people’s reactions and responses?

This is a common question, especially from companies who have a brand to protect. However, the damage examples are very minimal. Typically, the damage occurs when a company is doing something wrong. For example, the Kryptonite Lock. You can pick a lock with a Bic pen, put it on YouTube, and that’s not because they allowed it to happen or were unable to monitor it, but the product itself had a fault and people responded to it. Another example is the recent Motrin Mom’s ad. People felt the ad was wrong and they responded to it. But, usually it’s not a big problem.

There’s a term called the Living Room Rule for social media. Can you elaborate?

The idea here is that you can disagree with me in my living room but you can’t insult me or call me a nasty name in my living room. Basically, that is how we monitor and moderate comments on a corporate blog. However, if they can’t say it on your site, there are thousands of other sites where they can, and all of upper management needs to be aware of that.

How do you see social media impacting consumer behavior?

Social media [are] the best segmentation tool ever. These kinds of conversations are just so much more natural than mass media. It’s amazing the amount of businesses that still are not actively involved in this space. I think a year from now, we will finally start getting a reasonable level of penetration. Will Twitter be around in the next years? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. The fact is that people want social media, and they want to talk back about products and services. So, whether or not a particular tool goes away or not, it’s irrelevant. The phenomenon won’t go away.

So, your new book is out. What’s going on with that?

The book is called "Social Media Is a Cocktail Party," and we’re trying a little social media experiment around that as well. I’ve got a couple hundred Facebook friends for it, LinkedIn connection, etc., and what we’re doing is activating those networks to spread the word about the book. It is one part social media experiment, one part blatant self-promotion, and one part fundraiser, with some of the proceeds going to the Make A Wish Foundation.

What’s it about?

People get so focused on the technology with social media. I can start using Twitter, Blog, Perk and use all of these terms that don’t make sense to normal people, and they get hung up on the technology. What really has struck over the last year or two is that people would ask me, “Can I do this on a social networking site?” And, I kept coming back to, “Would you do that (at) a cocktail party?” Have you met them before, do you have any creditability in this space, have you listened to the conversation yet … and sort of take the rules of how people behave offline and apply it online. The subtitle for the book is “Why you already know the rules to social media marketing.”

Bottom line, how do you make money using social media?

Social media has a pretty big tool kit. It has blogging, video and so much available. A good example is Dell. Dell has sold $500,000 worth of stuff on Twitter with Tweets. That’s a good example of a company taking advantage of the resources that are out there right now. Most social media exercises rely more on brand building, which will then hopefully increase sales and create a movement around your product.

Going forward, what is the biggest trend you see?

I think a lot more companies will get involved in social media marketing and start allowing these kinds of conversations to happen on their Web property instead of other locations. I think it’s just better that it happens there instead of somewhere else.