Social Media at its best is a communications model of Mutual Understanding

Visualizing New Media (ART & Telecos) Meta Data from 2 decades ago —- still relevant today!

Last night I was offline going thru old papers in storage when I came across a saved article from 1991. Back then Artists interested in technology were reading about New Media from the likes of MIT’s magazine called Leonardo. We were contemplating what the future would hold with the inevitable convergence of Computers, Telecommunications and Video and we were not sure what the new model of communications would look and feel like once they came together…

In my sorting I found an xeroxed copy of a 5 page article entitled: Art and Telecommunications – 10 Years On. I immediately stopped, got my ipad and googled the title and author with this question in my mind – Would the article I held in my hand have been relevant enough to be mentioned 20 years later?

Not only was it mentioned it is archived and for sale online for $16.00 USD!

I began to re -read the article for relevancy sake, curious to see how the caliber of thought around the issues of Art and Telecommunications two decades ago would hold up in the light of Social Media. This is a knee jerk reaction due to the fact that I am constantly told that I bring nothing to the table as an Artist – except some crazy notions about design…and while I try to argue differently I see eyes glaze over when I mention media theory. What people fail to realize is that it is the artists who inform the great thinkers on communications and thereby contribute greatly to the thought leadership that trickles down to the scientific community, hackers, IT and Marketing consultants and eventually into popular culture. McLuhan said that everything he knew about Media was informed by the poets and the painters.

I learnt alot about Social media 2 decades ago from the Artists who were exploring technology and communications and writing on it. My mind is well prepared for the quantum shift we see today in business, technology and culture.

The biggest take aways? The adoption of the convergence Model of communications AKA – Social Media and the Call to Artists of the urgent necessity to “enter into a dialogue with, as well as a critique of, our technological culture”:

“to avoid embracing contemporary technology is to opt for voluntary cultural fossilization: an an art practice that becomes quaint and irrelvent to all but a “cultured” few. To embrace technology is to live and work in the real world, to grapple with the forces that are shaping our world, perhaps to some productive end”

Forget Facebook & Twitter-Small Canadian Businesses are still waiting for Google

Today is Google’s day! When I re-branded myself last fall (2010) as a SEARCH & SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST after 10 years as a Sales and Marketing Consultant with a background in New Media I thought long and hard about my offering and arrived at Search & Social Media. For me it was never an either/or scenario like so many of my peers….rather it was about helping small businesses with the Social media basics and working over time to develop an online marketing strategy that embraced both Search & Social Media.

Since then I have heard very little talk about Google in my discussions with clients about my services. Those who are savvy are fascinated by social media and then shocked that I would actually charge anything more than minimum wage for my services for engaging, listening and monitoring their social media pages. This of course following their confession that they have no time or inclination or skills to engage online themselves – but admit that there is “something happening there” that they need to pay attention to, but they cannot identify what. It is called a new way to communicate, people. IBM calls it Social Business – it requires experimentation, investment and williness to take a business risk and exhibit leadership. The banks call it Innovation – but will NEVER lend to you, so I feel your pain–they will continue to hoard their funds and look to small business to mortgage their house instead…. A real catch 22, eh??

No sense dilly dallying over the Economics of the old school media world — I then move on to talk about Twitter or Facebook and there is more shock when I tell them that Facebook is “the” space in which to build a community or customer service portal – but since one needs to drive potential clients (traffic) to the FB page and engage them to like it before you gain access to their news feed the suggestion that they invest in online advertising in the form of Google AdWords goes over like a lead balloon even though I tell them it is a great idea as the typical user is actively seeking information on select keywords and the potential for a good lead or purchase is much higher they clutch their hearts and ask how much THAT is going to cost? I say the more you spend the more leads you get. Sales 101. In the sales world we call this a qualified lead. I see their eyes glaze over as they long for the day when they could hire a sales rep based on commission only. It is a different game online – they call it Marketing something that small business never really did. So, even though Google ad leads are much warmer than Facebook ad leads – at least for now….they don’t get it…

Over the last few days Google has re-positioned itself. Now that Larry is at the helm announcing that they will embrace social media, synchronizing themselves with the consumer who are currently using Facebook and Twitter type tools to connect with friends, family and oh yeah — ambitious innovative businesses…. They will also reach out to specific markets in an attempt to meld Search & Social Media with a new product called Google PLUS one.

What really hit home for me today is the fact that they will focus on the Canadian market as they have long identified it as being underserved with respect to the number of small businesses who do not even have a website. Some 1.2 Million — who are doing what? — “waiting for Godot”….

Note: A Tragi/Comedy in 2 ACTS

Having worked as an Account Executive some 13 years ago selling the “concept” of having a website to small businesses I have been down this road before. After the tek crash of 2000 I had to sell a lot of stuff besides “technology” but it allowed me to hone my sales skills and learn the sales process like the back of my hand. So now here is the Sting – about a month ago Google ran an ad on Craigslist (for FREE) for Sales Reps and I applied cause hey small biz is simply NOT getting it in spite of my brilliant White Paper download entitled – A 21 C guide to Online Marketing for Canadian Business.

Living in the most expensive City in Canada while waiting for the Search & Social Media Boat to come in is no JOKE. I have been literally and figuratively treading water for 13 years!

Reflections by Robert Freeman

Treading Water

Now I am going under and the only offer I have is to work for a Chinese Insurance Start Up company in a Management role….yes, Toronto is all about BAY Street. So I bit the bullet for the second, yes second time and applied to Google in the most creative manner I knew – I submitted my white paper as I never graduated with a MBA, a high GPA in the USA. I am Canajun, eh?
Did I hear back from Google? Of course not. Having a background in ART and Media and high-tech sales, excelling in B2B business skills that are very attractive to Chinese Entrepreneurs in Toronto is NOT what Google is looking for….

Pray tell, what might they be looking for? A piece of the Canadian small business market for sure. What could I possibly know about those 2.2 M small business owners mindsets? Google is proposing that they will assist small Canadian businesses set up their websites. Good Luck and Heads up guys as you will be competing with the high school kid who does it for fee in his basement….lol. But seriously, may the force be with you – because the sooner you get em set up the better for the both of us. In the meantime I am going to continue to educate and hold the hand of the small business owner who does not understand why they should pay a professional any money to set up their Social Media channels. AMEN.

Social Media, Creativity and Innovation in Canada

I was watching the Lang O’Leary exchange last night from my comfy berger chair with my laptop connected to a twitter tool – when I heard the CEO of the Canadian Business Development Bank — discuss the dismal failure of small and medium sized businesses to innovate and it dawned on me that I could be facing a tough market for a long time simply due to the prevailing Canadian business mindset which is very conservative and risk adverse. As a single entrepreneur, I am not going to be able to shift that anytime soon. I did not do the survey or write the report that says Small & Medium sized Canadian business gets a D for Innovation. The fact that we are ranked 14 out of 17 worldwide for our lack of creativity and innovation is however, shocking. “Yikes”, I said outloud. The cat jumped up. I almost dropped my laptop. Could it be that bad? Way worse than what I had thought but totally in line with what a good friend, who works with Google insiders, said to me some time ago about the state of Canadian business – “They are doomed on their own local markets, if in the next 5 years, they don’t get connected with their consumers online”.

While Marketing is an integral part of business- its first role being to determine if there is even a market for a product – it never fails to amaze me the number of businesses who still think that they can rely on word of mouth as a viable long term strategy for marketing their product or service in a high technology city, province and nation.

Technology of course is the most innovative of industries as it relies on that “analytical computing machine” which has now connected the entire globe in a web of communications. Technology, Communications and Media have now merged in cyberspace and for the most part small Canadian businesses are nowhere to be seen along the information highway (remember when we actually called it that here in Canada?) while the virtual social media space is becoming more and more crowded with consumers, your friends, family and business associates, all piling on in search of information on health, wealth, love and stuff to buy – Canadian businesses are nowhere to be found….not in search, not in the social networks. They are lucky if they have a website, out of date, static, boring with a contact phone number.

I have been blogging on this topic for some time now. In fact, over a decade ago I was in much the same position trying to sell business owners on the idea of having a website. At the time they could see no advantange to cutting print costs or being found on the new medium of the internet. It was a hard sell. Much the same as it is today.

Now that a business should have their marketing focused online you would think that the need for those who are creative thinkers, indeed the creative class would to be embraced, employed and hired to work with them to create a new level of productivity and success. Sadly small businesses are missing in action and if you are tying to secure work a larger client make sure that you have a freshly minted undergrade degree in marketing from a University which did not even touch on social media or have you study the history of media aka MCLUHAN in Canada. Even though creativity (dare we say ART/Apple) and TECHNOLOGICAL (electronic/MS) innovation has transformed BIG business culture over the last three decades, heaven forbid they actually hire someone with the knowledge, skills and experience of this history who could base their innovative marketing strategies on the nature of media, someone who could engage in the type of experimentation needed to sail the uncharted waters that are the sea of Social Media.

With a virtual “tsunami” of tools, apps, methods, numbers, metrics, stats, strategies available today where even medium-sized businesses think that being creative means having a personal facebook account with pictures of the last party you went to or a blog filled with some sort of trivia that reminds one of a content farm.

Feeling depressed about the D GRADE Canadian businesses got on innovation, I googled for a quck fix – the phrase “quotes on innovation” for something positive and the search engine pulled up, guess what? — Quotes on Creativity and Innovation. It seems you cannot have one with out the other. Duh? And yet time and time again I am smacked down for being too creative and too innovative…

So while I stuggle to “sell” the idea of social media to small and medium sized business in Canada at least I now know who is to blame for the conflict. It is not me..it is not my problem, I have an ART SCHOOL Education, I know how to innovate, how to problem solve, how to imagine, how to visulize, how to be flexible, be open, be transparent, be engaging. The problem lies with the make money mindset that has no idea how to connect with consumers in the 21st Century when their is an oversupply of goods and a lack of attention from consumers who are now in control!

This time, I am on the side of the banks. While I may have very little capital in the bank since no one wants to fully engage me to execute any serious social media in Canada — they preferring to sit on the fence and watch their customers disappear down the information highway instead….I will do as I have done for decades now. I will ride out the wave working remaining in the moment of the NOW Revolution of Marketing.

It may be too much to ask for a “standard” small business to innovate on its product offering…but it would be nice if they had the vision to innovate in when it comes to their marketing strategy. Same old product, new way to market and sell it. Now there is an idea.

There are only two options here you either adopt social media or you are swept away. Time waits for no man or woman. Above us is the global connected techosphere where the big boys play. Learn the rules of the game and pay to win Canada. FYI, the name of the game is not HOCKEY – forget the pre meditated brain injuries in this game it is all about BRAINS, Creativity and innovation!

Soical Media is Sustainability

After a couple of years of thinking, debating and discussing Search & Social Media and its relationship to small business one thing has become crystal clear – social media is sustainability. In fact, Social Media = Sustainability. This position, if adapted, of course changes the whole game plan for small business who continue to think that Social Media is some sort of…

A. Distraction
B. Add On
C. Time Waster
D. or “yet to be justified” expense…

Pick one, any one…I hear them all everyday….all day. For a moment visualize yourself manifesting your ideal lifestyle – and then, your ideal client. What does it look like? What does he or she look like? Is there a connection between the two??

Does the keyword “sustainability” enter into the picture at all? One in which you have finally realized that a system designed around the idea of PROFIT only at the expense of your health, the people who work for you and the resources that make up your product offering or service is no longer sustainable?

A realization that something is changing in the way that business is conducted in 2011 is growing in the mind of wise business owners. Those businesses who are taking into account the lifestyle choices of their clients have changed their business models and messaging accordingly. They focus on either being

1. User centric, connected – like Google and FB and Twitter i.e. Social media (aka- SOCIAL responsiblity, social entrepreneurial etc)
OR
2. Environmentally conscious – like Whole Foods for real and any number of “greenwashed” corporations that let you decide where you draw the line on what is good for the planet and what is not…(aka – ENVIRONMENT, environmentally aware, from food to home to health care to energy to office recycling)

What is the market price of “sustainability” on Google these days? Pretty cheap according to the Google search below making one wonder why the whining about green being more expensive is really all about? Is there a hidden strategy here? Are you missing a big opportunity? Remember the old school corporate business model is all about competition, deception and misinformation. Make sure you really know your numbers and act accordingly….

What happens when you put the two together? Whether you adopt green or social media as your platform for sustainability – one cannot grow to its full potential without the other. You need to connect to your ideal client, the one that is informed, healthy, educated and empowered by technology, (which means they have BUYING power) in order to communicate your offering.
HINT: the greener, more local and creative it is the longer you will stay in the “most interesting times” game, for if cheap is your only offering you are either buying from or competing with China. Good luck on that front.

Value added is either customer service (SOCIAL MEDIA) or green (QUALITY). Ironically both can be adopted as positions of sustainability for the long-term.

News Flash! – Old media is not where the new consumer lives. At the end of the day this big Q – quantum shift – is all about the consumer, (which includes yourself) — who is “ALWAYS ON”.

Sustainability Search Feb 2011

What is the market cost of key word "sustainabilty?"

I am a SociaL Media expert, OK, so now what?

SEOmoz Social Media Marketing

View SEOmoz’s Social Media Marketing Guide

Over the past few days I have been having a twitter conversation with @AEB_IT regarding the requirements for calling oneself a “social media expert”. He quotes some guy who says it takes 10K hours to be an expert in anything…..

I would like to add to that 10K hours the following – an art/NEW MEDIA education investment of over 50K that spans three decades…starting at the bottom of the pit – so to speak – as a visual artist – mucking about with paint and paper…and going all they way through to classical animation and FLASH only to be kicked to the curb once again by the investment master of 3-D Animation -S. Jobs and locked out of the i-pad world- it never ends…(there is hope as RIM has its playbook on the way to save the flasher’s day…)

My take on it – is this….sure it is a new category – and there are no standards set – yet, and no real degrees being offered – but if one has a background in business art and technology with over a decade of experience in Sales and Marketing theory and has worked in the trenches and seen every kind of good and bad sales scenario while consistently holding ones head high and following the development of new media, the internet, its business models, mentors and heroes, read the NOW books and understands the process of creating and curating content from not only a digital advertising perspective but a down and dirty Wharholian STUDIO Factory …then, it is a pretty safe bet to say that from that knowledge BASE and or BANK – one could quite possibly have the wherewithal to develop “strategies” for Social media success…

If this “artsy” talk is all too much for you – allow me to give you a sports analogy. I am a fencer. I fence because it is a strategic sport. Why? Cause you learn the rules, train the body mind and soul and then faced with a million split second decisions you BUST a MOVE – lunge – and hit the target bang on!

Ironically I found the “badge” above on a site today where, in order to declare to the world that I am a social media expert it seems ALL that is required is the following:
1. Ability to cut and paste code
2. Access to a site or blog to post the copied code
3. Confidence to stand and defend one’s position as an expert just in case you get a call for work or get “called on it” …

Which, by the way – all boils down to SALES…..

You can call yourself an expert in anything but at the end of the day – you are going to have to sell that IDEA, service or product – in a very creative manner in order to engage your post modern technology driven cultural client and get him/her to trust you and believe that you are indeed an expert in said service, product or idea….

Here is the sting. Your client does not “get social media” – that is why they called you in the first place. They then ask for your ideas and because they are the BOSS they will try to put you in your place – cause they wonder “do those ideas really WORK, how can you prove it”? as if any one ever proved what half of the old school ad budget worked! But they are small biz they have always just relied on word of mouth – the problem is the “mouth has gone online, John and Joan…..” Then then tell you how it has always been done and how they want you to do it, even though they have NO IDEA what social media is all about. Now, if they were to followed your strategy their entire world would be turned upside down, that is the real fear factor…. just kidding….we take it slow….baby steps…..get a twitter page….a facebook BRAND page…….blah, blah,…

Chances are this potential client never studied NEW MEDIA or read the all time basic primer called The Laws of Media by Marshall McLuhan. but that is not their business….so they are forgiven…you on the other had are under the gun….
which is when I say the following –
“Try this logic –
People are social.
Social media is about people – not corporations.
It is a “people driven economy”.
People create networks.
Networks are cultures.
People create culture.
and the icing in the cake for social media experts like myself…
“CULTURE IS OUR BUSINESS” – Marshall McLuhan”

Study the graphic below, if you can figure out what Law the bottom right corner of the tetrad resides under you are on your way to understanding the sheer POWER of social media. That, however, is an “advanced” discussion, better left for at least another decade or so…

Do Creative people need solitude?

While attending art school at SAIT in Calgary, years ago, I read the The Labyrinth of Solitude by Mexican author Octavio Paz….in it he writes:

Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another. His nature -if that word can be used in reference to man, who has ‘invented’ himself by saying ‘no’ to nature consists in his longing to realize himself in another. Man is nostalgia and a search for communion. Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.’

This week I am across a post from the artist’s network Behance which poses the question “What is one of the most crucial commodities for creative people that’s also becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in the 21st century? The answer: Solitude”

Great article with quotes from the poet Rilke who says to follow what is difficult. While I recognize the importance of solitude for soul-searching and creativity – I feel that right now on this planet – it is a time for connecting, especially online. The big question is how to connect to like-minded creative individuals and work together to solve some of the pressing issues that face us globally -that is DIFFICULT.

Increasingly as we will work more and more in solitude, from a home office, winding down on the “great white commute” and integrating our work into our lifestyle we take control of our time and manage it accordingly. As long as technology remains up and running we can stay connected to our networks and the ideas, news and information flowing through them…

This past week, a dear friend in Australia, who works in technology and just set up his own server, posted on Facebook that the floods of Queensland were encroaching on the home he and his wife share. Since he was iPad enabled he remained connected on Facebook while friends commented on his posts with prayers and well wishes. Thoughts are things. The floods stopped literally outside the driveway of his home and his next post was of preparing a camp style meal for his wife….

With the internet keeping us in touch – should we wish to be so – it is the best of both worlds…alone and yet connected. Alone and yet, not lonely.

Today it is heavy snow in Toronto. In the last hour I connected online already with lots of folks…as the snow continues to fall. Now it is time to get out and shovel and in the solitude of that activity I will contemplate my reason for being and the wonder of it all….

Would Art Classes improve Observation Skills for Social Media Managers?

I heard a report on CBC the other night that gave me food for thought. It was about how Doctors in Training who take art classes have better skills of observation – increasing their accuracy by 38%.

This got me wondering how it would impact the role of a Social Media Manager and if any Employer and or Client had ever given it any thought as a pre resiquite when hiring. I have never found it to even garner a mention.

Apparently art teaches you how to LOOK. Gosh, you would never know that when it comes to advising my clients…with 25 years of ART and NEW MEDIA training and studies…over the last 3 decades — NEVER once had my highly trained eye observations taken seriously… They always give me the “crazy, coo-coo” look when I make a suggestion…

I recall in the fall having traveled to Calgary to pitch a client on a Social Media Strategy designed to sell a 10 M dollar Resort in Mexico we ended up at a trade show in Edmonton – after they decided that Social Media had nothing to do with their offering. I wanted to be present to learn more about the “users”/clients/potential clients/buyers – in effect- the target demographic. While setting up, I was allowed to bring in the staging stuff but when it came to decisions on how to set the booth up and make it more attractive – not one of my suggestions was implemented….it was laughable….worse still – they were all guys…..you would think that on female intuition alone – I would be able to participate – no way I was put to work stapling together sales materials…the secretary role. This is just one case – I could go on for ages but it is too painful…

In Social Media one has to posses the skills that allow you to monitor conversations, find and curate content, assess its value and relevancy, analyze data, note big picture changes in the Social Media Space and so on..

Granted not all of these tie into to the “visual literacy” that the doctors in training got from their 6 month course….but ART is about much more than that – it is at its core about PROBLEM solving….Creative problem solving and pattern recongnition..artists deal with media constantly…they observe the world and create -in effect – a communique on it…they are “media literate”.

The result is a group of doctors who are more confident in their own powers of observation and thus more confident in their own skills of diagnosis.

cover of the Book by Colin Wilson called The Outsider

Classic study of the Artist in 20th Century...the 21st is even WORSE!!