Culture is our Business and Social Media is the Method of Communicating It.

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Let’s just call is year end and holidays shall we? I must admit I have also been busy observing the effect of social media on Canadian Culture through the lens of #idlenomore. As a social media specialist I would have to be living under a rock not to see the hash tag trending many times over the last 42 days, and yet, oddly enough, I see very few of my “fellow” social media” peers in Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto mentioning it at all in any way, shape or form. I find it a bit odd but then again I often wonder what they think it is to be engaged in social media communications as an “expert” for businesses. For now, I have to assume that like the status quo of Canada, they choose to ignore Idle No More, thinking that it will soon go away. For now, anyhow, it’s  just business as usual.

Which makes me laugh as that idea of Business as  Usual has already been shattered by Brian Solis in his book “NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL”. This title makes clear the effect of Social Media on the culture of Business.

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I was educated in Canada’s finest Art Colleges and then did what I consider to be my Masters of Business Imagination by hanging out at the McLuhan Centre for CULTURE and Technology at the University of Toronto for several years in 1993-94 while working at the Art College as a Corporate Fundraiser, as part of team that raised one million dollars, to create the First New Media Lab at OCA — so I am attuned to not only Canadian Social media and business but Canadian Art and Culture.

As McLuhan said “Culture is Our Business”. For all those so called social media specialists in Alberta, Toronto and Vancouver who have not mentioned or weighed in on this movement, which is now a part of  Canadian “pop” culture – here is some advice —go back to school and study McLuahn, his Laws of Media along with studies in art and culture. These provide a foundation for critical thinking.

For those who think that culture is not our Business and who instead think that the business of the white European Settler, of our grandparents, including my family who settled in PEI from Scotland four generations, that is over 100 years ago along with the fathers of confederation and who signed those treaties with the First Nations of Canada. Those fathers included men from the British Crown, the Scots and the Irish. If you think for one minute that they were not focused on their own self interest in the form of European philosophy and culture over that of the diametrically opposed collective culture of First NATIONS  — please do me a favor and update your consciousness as soon as possible. There is a reason that McLuhan chose the pirate eye patch to be worn by the white business man on the cover of his book Culture is our Business.

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While the effect of Idle No More has yet to be felt in the Canadian business community per say —it’s effect on Canadian Culture will be with us for decades to come. As First Nations move steadfastly towards updating Canadian Culture on the importance of their inherent treaty and collective rights —- business, aka the corporate body—- in Canada remains, at present, cool, calculating and unchanged. Ironically it is social media that has now imposed the elephant that will dominate the board rooms for decades to come. Lucky me I happen to work through this new communications channel and have my ear to the ground, it affords me to remain informed on the new and the NOW.

One day, many moons from now, I look forward to an open conversation with my peers on this matter, until then I will keep my left eye and ear open to the winds of change and try not to get blown away down here in Lethbridge, Alberta by the total lack of media & cultural literacy that has faced me every day since my return home to Alberta from the “big smoke” of Toronto over one year ago. Even though I was born and raised in Alberta the only word that comes to mind with respect to this attitude is one I learnt in art school. The word is “provincial“. A dangerous place to be for more reasons than one.

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Re-Imagine. The Power of the Personal Brand.

Let me begin by saying that I love the new WordPress blog interface that I accessed via the new home page. Sweet. Looks and feels alot like Tumblr and yet I am glad I do not have to post only in that totally crazy mad world of the Creatives – I can still remain respectable and hire-able by posting to Word Press. 🙂 Thanks WordPress for being cool and creative and for still seeing the creative writing on the wall!

It has been a busy summer. mostly doing websites and managing some social media properties. As of late I have been away on yet another one of those client journey’s. It was the classic scenario. To begin they love that I am so creative and want to know what I think—even went so far to claim that they are “obsessed” by me. Not a good sign as obsession leads no good… but hey for the first few weeks I felt like I had just won a shot at the Olympic good metal round in Fencing, my favorite sport, and that someone was actually listening to what I had to say!  Then suddenly the honey moon was over and I am assigned to what feels like the position of “employee” as all my creative ideas are swiftly, with no explanation, swept under the carpet and we return to BUSINESS AS USUAL — even though we have not signed anything to that effect and I have from the start been no other then what my Twitter Profile states.

In an effort to cheer myself up I set about to read some good inspirational stuff on my iPad about what I do best  –which is communications. Early this am I came across a post that lead to an app for a guy who claims to be a MEDIA Futurist. Excited not so much by what he had to say, I am sure I have heard it all before after all I have been in this game for a hell of a long time now, both on the technology, creative and sales side and adore McLuhan but rather by the his method of engaging me I proceed to the Apple Store for a download. For me McLuhan, is still my main media man for 100 years after his birth he is one of the few intellectuals who gave credit to artists saying “I learnt everything I know from the Poets and the Painters”.   AMEN.

Anyhow, I downloaded Gerd’s app onto my ipad so I could experience my first personal brand app, that was the coolest part and I made mental note to blog about it later as it had the same mind blowing effect as a good cranial adjustment — waking up some nerve endings which have fallen asleep in the race to please offer appeasement.

So the guy is named Gerd Leonard — not an American as one would expect but a European – as all white people are anyhow…..a German actually – who lives in Europe, who of course, lived for some time in the United States and advocates – god forbid, some green solutions– probably a fan of that guy who wrote the book called The Solar Economy back in the day.  Thankfully, in the video I watch on my ipad app Gerd talks only about Media Ecology so I don’t have to worry about the thought police knocking at my door…

Alas I am trapped in Canada, a nation of bean counters, who simple don’t get what it is to be Creative when it comes to business —-even though they do try on occasion, which typically means paying lip service to some tired old ad agency in Toronto who still advocates a mix of media even as Gerd speaks to me via his personal app loaded onto my ipad in a You Tube Video posted at his channel about “The Future of Technology”.  He is cool school and apparently advises large fortune 500’s in Europe about change and employs 25 “Change Agents”. While I do feel a connection with him thanks to social media my ipad craps out half way through his talk due to a bad Bell connection.  While feeling uplifted I am quickly forced to go back to the reality of the day, one spent in a country where the dominant network does not know the works of Marshall McLuhan little lone some dude named Gerd who has his own ipad app and recommend that we all  “RE-IMAGINE”. One can only re-imagine what that means for the Future of Canada,eh?

UPDATE: Just went to like Gerd on FB and see that three of my Facebook Friends also like him. Surprise, one is Canadian – Don Tapscott, whose own writings are greatly influenced by McLuhan.

Is it any wonder that 2.5 Million Laptops Later, One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Improve Test Scores [STUDY]

“A new study suggests that 2.5 million laptops deployed in classrooms across 42 countries don’t have any effect on academic performance.”

Ahh…huhh…so…. DUH —it’s not the kids, or the tools, let me guess? that leaves the Curriculum (i.e. Eurocentric, totally rational, with out of dated concepts of rational linear non creative, com·pet·i·tive, dog eat dog dominate ruling class, racist thinking) Yes, that must be it! it’s the way that these kids are taught which, last time I checked was based in Prussian Horse training…breaking the spirit of the child so they DO NOT question Authority.  Is it any wonder that there is no change happening in these classrooms. Was it not McLuhan who said back in the 1950’s – we need “classrooms without Walls”

Via mashable.com

Old Media Fights back in grand old euro-centric style against new Social Media

Considering that the French were early adoptors of the RAPIER sword and that one of their great novels was Les Miserables which was about life liberty and the pursuit of happiness – i.e. the French peasant revolution —the old media guard does not seem to have learnt much from this colorful past when it comes to the new media of today! It could be a European mindset or maybe it is really just the old boys of french media who think that this is a good idea — but when I heard the news flash that the use of the WORDS Facebook and Twitter had been banned from French media while driving in my fossil fool car I hit the gas in fear of a slow down of human consciousness.

Advertising 101 states that if you can grab mindshare first on any new product or service you have positioned yourself above the clouds. Take the example of Kleenex. An established brand name that we go looking for to this day! And if you can’t find it—well you might just be inclined to GOOGLE for it! Oh…there I go again…my bad —–using a brand name to describe a thing we do or possess. Of course we all know that Media controls the world and colors our perception of it. Mass media like Radio and TV – from which Twitter and Facebook are now banned in France has to realize that regardless of what they do the user is now in full control — NOT the companies that create these applications.

What they are fighting against here is indeed, bigger than the French Revolution. It is a quantum shift in the way we communicate that puts the user right in the center and ultimately obsolesces corporations. Embrace the change guys cause your ship is sinking fast and there ain’t no one coming the the rescue..for you see, the rats, the masses, the unwashed, the unwanted have abandoned it long ago! En Guarde! Alle!

In which a loaf of bread STARS as a form of MEDIA

Tribal KLOUT is in Full Effect

The backlash against measuring influence on Social Media is rising. Before you get up on your soapbox and rant however, I suggest you step back and look at the BIG picture in an attempt to “understand media” and the role that this tool and tactic plays in the evolution of Social Media. As usual I will refer to that 100 year old master of communications – Canadian Marshall McLuhan – born in Edmonton, Alberta under big blue skies and next to a deep river valley, which he said, gave him a perspective on what it is to be human in relation to nature: a dot on the horizon.

Further, I will remind you that these new measures of influence are based on algorithms designed by some programmer and has nothing to do with what you know yourself to be. Then again our entire ECONOMIC culture is based on similar concepts – your credit score for example. This is the tyranny of numbers divorced from the spirit and wisdom of ART. This has been the history of the world for the past 500 years. Get over it.

So McLuhan said that everything he knew he learnt from the poets and the painters. Painting was my first area of study which gives me “klout” with respect to my perception of New Media and its evolution into Social Media…

Consider this:
Marshal McLuhan first noted the retribalizing effect of electric technologies; they collapse space to a point, effectively recreating the continuous, ambient (aural) awareness of the tribe. The tribe is completely connected. All of its members have direct access to one another; there is little hierarchy, instead, there is an intricate set of social relations. Everyone thoroughly understands one’s own place, and that position is constantly reinforced by the other members of the tribe. Tribal society is static, which is to say stable, over long stretches of time – at least tens of thousands of years.

A bit mind blowing eh?? McLuhan is not easy. What he said, to this day, does not sit well with those who do have a firm grasp on the “The Laws of Media”….

Now think about your presence in Social Media. I bet you have already connected with your “tribe” – your family and friends and those who “think like you”. But there is more to it than that, especially if you are conducting “commerce” within that space. Now you have to add the complexity of

1. Connecting with users/consumers who think like you or who might resonate with your offer
2. Building community around your product and or offering – which by the way – better share some of the core values that they hold dear if you hope to attract, engage and build a relationship that leads to a SALE.

Thank Q. Once you have “their” attention the usual social tribal nice-ities are in full effect. The masters of this tradition – our first nations people, in spite of their dismal position in our current economic system, are one of the best role models we have. Study their traditional ways and modern moves —- in which everyone has a voice, everyone can speak in turn for as long as they wish until they have fully expressed themselves….everyone is heard…and everyone is RESPECTED.

As a search and social media strategist I may or may not be asked to show “social proof” of my skills. My knowledge of Media is not consider important – the average Canadian business client wants to know how much it will cost. Typically, they are not even aware of how many fans I have on my fb page, the type of posts I make, how many followers I have on twitter or what I tweet about. They then say in no uncertain terms that they are “too busy” to find out. My response? Time waits for no man or woman. If they choose to ignore the fact that Canada is one of the most connected and media literate cultures on the planet so be it. Their loss both financially and socially….

How can you assign a price to something that you do not even have a value for? The “tribe of Canadian business” owners has not assigned a value to “social media” for the most part they are still trying to figure out search. Further, they do not get the connection between sales and marketing and online world of mouth….still stuck in the idea that they can get referrals from neighbours that they don’t even know…who may be running a credit card fraud operation down their street in their own “nice middle class” neighbourhood…

In the interim, I continue to try to connect to my “tribe” – the CREATIVE and Media Literate. Best described by Derrick de Kerkhove in his book Brainframes as fast paced, flexible, informed, perceptive, ethically aware, technologically aware, environmentally conscious, knowing more than one culture, speaking more than one language, thinking globally, acting locally, ALL with Total artistic perception.

The role of the artist is to update consciousness. It is not a state that most enjoy. Change is uncomfortable and analysis of what that means with respect to big picture factors is not for the status quo. Give them another five years and they will be all on the bandwagon bragging about how much influence they have in their online communities. Human Nature being what it is, not much changes in the hearts, minds and egos of men and women.

Tribal Revolution 2.0

Tribal Revolution 2.0

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!!

Happy Creative 2010! Get your Search On!

When considering what to do over Christmas I came across a list of best books for 2010

Reviewing the list I was both shocked and surprised to find the top three books were about Creativity and Ideas but happy that I could download 2 of the 3 of these books on my ipad through the KOBO application.

I was shocked because these book are NOT reflective of the current state of the Canadian business world at all – and I would hazard to guess that is the case in small town USA as well. While I am still waiting for the trickle down effect on Richard Florida’s notions of Creative Culture in Toronto, with a new mayor who aims to run the town for profit only and whose first words were that the “party” around the notion of “green” is over it is back to the basic Burger culture with all hopes of a larger sphere of cultural influence extending outside the core of G20 Ground Zero to the burbs resounding like a large methane fart….

For the most part small businesses do not even have a budget for the most creative part of their business plan loosely called “marketing”. Further — they totally miss the tie in between creative sales and marketing, never mind the fact that social media is NOT free, you have to pay someone who “gets it” to do the job of curating all that stuff….

I was surprised because the recessionary mindset loves to bash the Creative even though they are the only ones with the talent to generate ideas in the new knowledge ecomony, witness Google giving its employees 10% raise for Christmas and 26 year old Mark Zukerberg being names TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year”

If I were to sum up the 2010 year with respect to the number one discussion with my clients -sadly it had nothing to do with Search and Social Media always revolves around a struggle over ideas and creativity. This is contrary to the very notion of the creative act, which is about FLOW. Again and again we reach an impasse where my creativity is questioned over their knowledge of their business offering. This encompasses everything from the smallest decision on ad word copy or to large campaign concept. It hurts my head, heart and mind as I never win the duel and it makes me wonder when the 50K I invested in ART school training will EVER be recongnized as having any validity whatsoever…

“Success benefits the body, but failure develops the Mind”

And yet I soldier on, with sword in hand a daughter of ART the Farmer.. I read an article yesterday on the web that asked why Big Business is having so much success in Social Media and the answer is the same as it was in the old days of Advertising – Big companies employ small Creatives, like myself – who have “unique” ideas and who go to bat for them at the boardroom table and argue passionately for their right to execute them in order to engage users with the brand and ultimately drive sales…go figure, what a concept…duh…

It is not the BIG company per say that embraces the idea of Creativity, rather – it is individuals within the organization or those hired by the organization to create ‘buzz”, generate new ideas and execute them. They take the risk and the big company funds it. Win or loose Big Biz has no choice for someone must be reading the books on how Creativity RULES – I would guess it is what McLuhan called the “print bastards”. Creativity is not an experiment, it is a business imperative. Read the top three book on the list above and tell me if this is not the case argued again and again….

What happens with small businesses is that they have the “employee/employer” mentality in which only the BOSS has really good ideas. They may hire marketing “experts” but do not want to surrender even for one minute their vision for their brand…and so it quickly turns into the “I am paying you to….scenario” to which I reply with attitude, “paying me to do WHAT??? the same old same old?” And yet – the expecations at the end of the day are that you will elevate them to ROCK STAR status.

The reality is that small business in Canada is so far behind the times that it is not funny. Not only should they take on a true leadership role and “delegate” the task to those who have expertise in the area of idea creation — in 2011 those BIG companies who are really progressive will be hiring creative types who know how to engage the audience, get them to interact and make applications for just that purpose.

Speaking of creative companies, Google is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary in SEARCH and has created a great little application on You Tube that let’s you get your “Search On” Check it out by Googling You Tube / Search On. Here is my contribution to the Search On Stories…. Time is ART 2.0 Just as it was in the daze of Disney — I believe in happy endings in which good triumphs over evil….lol…