ATLANTA — Forget the term “media” — for today’s wave of digital consumers, marketing is all about the social aspect.

That was the key point Kelly McDonald, owner and chief executive officer of Dallas-based McDonald Marketing, drove home during “The Brave New World of Marketing: Meet the Digital Consumer,” an Oct. 14 session at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2011.

“I hate the word ‘social media’ because when top executives hear the word ‘media’ they think it means ‘advertising,’” McDonald said.

She advises companies instead to view digital media marketing as a social or business relationship that happens to take place online.

“It’s not about pitching” your message, she said. “It’s about engaging the customer.”

Part of that engagement, McDonald said, is fostering a sense of community via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs or YouTube videos, where consumers can not only interact with your company but also with each other.

McDonald said asking questions that require a yes or no answer or a short response were good ways to get conversations going. She also said it’s important that companies take time to respond to consumer feedback in real time.

“There’s nothing worse (than) to have people talking to you and feeling like they’re talking into a black hole,” she said.

“You want to be human and authentic,” McDonald said. “Authentic is cool and it’s dorky.”

To reach consumers effectively, companies should avoid using industry-specific jargon or acronyms in marketing messages. Instead, find out how the target audience thinks and interacts and communicate that way, she said.

“The average consumer doesn’t speak your language,” McDonald said.

McDonald also gave attendees a run-down on tools for making the most of social media and making it easier to keep up with, as well as a look at what technologies could make the next major waves in digital marketing.

“Not being (in social media) anymore, folks, is almost like not being on the telephone,” McDonald said.