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Heavenly Welcomes "Snowcial" Media Innovators

Sixty or so tech enthusiasts traveled from all over the country--and as far away as London--to convene in Stateline this weekend to discuss the evolution of social media at the second annual Tahoe Snowcial summit. Bay Area native and music mogul MC Hammer, an innovator himself in the online realm, came out to speak as the keynote on social media's promising future.

"My wife says, 'you are always 24 hours a day online, whether Facebook, YouTube, etc.' So I told her I was going to Tahoe for the weekend to relax. What I didn't tell her is I was coming here to speak on social media!" Hammer exclaimed. "If there's a cure for [social media], I don't want it. Being able to communicate in real time is the greatest invention of the last decades."

Hammer went on to discuss how social media can be used to solve problems and cited YouTube as the big milestone for social media. "That was the paradigm shift," he explained, detailing how the responsibility is now in the user's hands for the first time. "People were finally getting to see and do what they liked, and Hollywood was finally seeing what people wanted. If you embrace the opportunity, you'll see that Hollywood's no longer in charge."

He continued: "I choose to roll with innovation. Creativity dies...when the soul dies."

Conference goers were both moved and impressed by Hammer's in-depth knowledge of the social media sphere. "Who knew MC Hammer was a tech geek? His comments on the power and necessity of social media, on letting people say what they like and don't like, in music and everything else, completely flipped the way I thought he'd be. Plus, he said he was going to ski Heavenly with us--that's pretty cool," said Harriot Manley, an independent content provider for clients including Sunset and the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

Other speakers to take the stage were Harrah's Monica Sullivan, who discussed destination and entertainment marketing; Rob Sandie of Viddler.com, who talked about video-sharing platforms; Digi Dave Amirault, editor of Freeskier Magazine, on how snow sports media and technology can be further integrated; Christine and Christian Loredo, Orbit Media and iLoop Mobile, on the future of mobile media; and Nielsen Online's Pete Blackshaw on social media and communities.

"Our vision is to make Snowcial the Sundance of social media," said David LaPlante, senior vice president of sales and marketing--and the event's emcee--from One to One Interactive.

Harrah's sponsored the conference, putting guests, dubbed "snowcialites," up in their casino hotel Harvey's, which hosted a poker tournament on opening night, as did Heavenly Ski Resort, giving conference goers lift tickets so the weekend wasn't all work and no play. ("Snowcialites" will easily admit they spent more time on the slopes than in the classroom.) On Saturday, the attendees participated in a heated, all-day ski scavenger hunt atop the mountain that resulted in some hefty prizes (ski gear, of course).

Saturday night saw Hammer bring the house down with an energetic show in Harrah's South Shore Room, featuring both his son as a dancer and his daughter as a back-up singer. He even invited the audience to come up on stage and bust a move with his closing number ("Can't Touch This," naturally).

The weekend concluded with a round-table discussion on how to better Snowcial's exposure and make it even bigger and better in 2011.

"The social media landscape changes every two seconds, so it's good to ride up a Heavenly chair lift with the tech geeks from Google and other hot companies to find out what's working, where the trends are," Manley concluded.