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.

Designing Data. “Help I am drowning in data and I can’t get back up!”

According to John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, “who laid out his view of the future challenge facing leaders now that social media and technology have overturned the traditional company hierarchy. Fortunately, the solution to that challenge appears to be a applying good design to a lot of data.”

“He implied that this opens up opportunities for creative people to become leaders, but he directly stated that creative people could help make any leader in this new heterarchical structure more effective.”

Thanks to Social media and technology, it’s a level playing field in the business world today. Good news for Creatives. Good luck pitching a Canadian business owner on this one, still, as they don’t want to “re invent” the wheel any time soon, even though they are drowning in data. Looks like I have my work cut out for me when it comes to convincing them that the creative management of their data via Social Media will, indeed Enrich their business and save them from the pool of tears….

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

Activate Your New Customer Service Channels Today!

This weekend I attended the Oakville Networking Un-Conference on Social Media and engaged in discussion on Social Media and Customer Service. In an attempt to communicate the benefits of Twitter and Facebook in a simple manner I positioned them as new customer service channel which, as Jay Baer & Amber Naslund note in their fabulous book “The Now Revolution“ have replaced the telephone as a communications channel!

These days when I am asked by a small business owner “When is a good time to get active with social media?” I reply – “If the phone rings in the office, when do you pick it up? First ring, second, third? Who picks it up? Your receptionist, your assistant or you? Imagine that the tool you choose to manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts with, be it Hoot Suite, Social Scope or Post ling is your new telephone. How will you respond to its data?” Naturally in order to connect with a potential client in the past you listened for the ring and answered it. With Twitter and Facebook you must both create the content and manage the response that arrives in the form of mentions and re-tweets, comments and posts. Like a new phone that has just been connected in your office – you will make your clients aware of your business phone number by some form of marketing be it a business card or print ad. When it does finally ring you will strive to respond in a manner that creates trust and credibility in order to move towards a point where you can offer up your service with the intention of making a sale. This occurs, of course, once you have determined there is a need for your offer. If no need is apparent you can continue to educate the potential client on your area of expertise with the hope that when the time is right you will be top of mind.

Below are two reasons why Social Media is here to stay and not just a “fad”. Both are essential to business success in today’s rapidly changing world. The Social Media “figures” of Facebook and Twitter that dominate your new customer service are framed against a ground based on
1. MEDIA – The platforms of Facebook and Twitter both reside in the cloud connected to the internet. This media is not new we have been utilizing for at least a decade, first with email, then with a website.
2. USER CENTRIC PHILOSOPHY – The internet has evolved to place where the user – customer, consumer, client is at the centre. This shift was driven by search engines – in particular Google. Now social media based on networks have arisen to allow your customer to build their own profile and connections and if they choose – they can include you in their network. If you win their trust and crediblity, if you engage with interesting content and insights that same user can easily share your posts, updates and SMS –(real time micro-blogging) to their networks..

These key factors allow for real time conversations powered by social media. When fully utilized this new division of your business can generate leads, engage customers, spearhead campaigns, provide market research and gather consumer insight – all through the simple acts of listening, engaging and conversing and is a must have for all wise leaders “looking to work on their business rather than in their business.” If you find you do not have time to manage these channels then it is smart to outsource it. Hire someone to do it -even on a part-time basis who is media savvey and knows how to sell. An hour a day is a great start and the long-term benefits will serve you well.

  • BACKGROUND to Your new Customer Service Channel
  • The history of advertising began in the late 1880’s with the basic assumption that the product for sale would give you what you need. For almost one hundred years that concept was delivered as a one way message through various media like print, radio and television. While big businesses used the services of large agencies most small businesses have relied on “word of mouth” to get the word out. It was not until 125 years later that marketing began to take on the role of helping businesses to grow by providing services that were accountable, interactive, integrated and targeted.

    With the new media of computers, mobile phones and the internet connecting people and extending their reach – a new way to communicate has emerged. Over the last three years the rise of Social Media is radically changing the way in which business is conducted. Social Media brings with it a quantum shift in HOW we connect and share information with customers, suppliers and other businesses. Ironically this new form of media amplifies the power of “word of mouth” as people share electronically with their friends, family and business acquaintances (their social networks) information that is relevant to them.

    The good news is that the era of very expensive one way mass marketing is no longer effective. It has been replaced by online marketing which is the most cost effective way to connect and creates the greatest return on investment. Investing in Social Media is a wise decision and highly recommended. The bad news is that social media is so new that many business owners are frightened by the change that it brings. Giving up the phone for a piece of software that manages tweets in hard to fathom. One of the first topics up for discussion at the UnConference was “Social Media is nothing to Fear”. Just as the phone and fax transformed the way business was conducted in the past social media is doing the same right now. As a business leader it is wise to position yourself ahead of the curve. Have no fear, for this time around it is the consumer who will benefit the most – keep in mind that people like you and I are also consumers who seek better access to information on products and services we buy. The more we participate in this experience the more we reconginze how this new type of customer service and its responsiveness is good for the consumer. It is no longer about the one way messaging of large corporations and the frustration of waiting in line for hours to return an item or on the phone to resolve an issue. With new tools in place consumers expect and demand real time resolutions from business. Below is an example of twitter being used by Best Buy as a customer service portal.

    Your customers live in one of the most connected areas in the world. For most people in Canada the internet is the first place we turn to search for information on whatever it is that we need to buy or want to research. In addition consumers can now use their social networks for “shopping” referrals. Our social nature is such that we like to share our opinions and thoughts on various topics and services daily whether offline or on. Your customer has already figured out that they are in control of the conversations around what they buy, where they eat and where they can shop and know that they can easily share with others their reaction to each and every business transaction. Instead of fearing this real time interaction wise businesses should embrace the tools afforded by this new media and use them to their advantange by implemeting solid social interactions and real time relationship building.

    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

    The writing on the Wall – Social Media and the Crisis in Egypt

    After nine days of protesting in Egypt which began with large crowds taking to the street organized by youth using the social media tools of Facebook and Twitter we are NOW seeing images of people throwing stones at one another while a strange group rides through the crowds on horseback and camels brandishing whips and sticks…a grim reminder of the reality of the pace of change when it comes to its implementation…

    Danny captures Facebook on the face of ancient Egypt

    Danny captures Facebook on the face of ancient Egypt

    I am reminded of the metaphor of cars driving down the road. The fastest car belongs to the young tech savvy man – let’s call him Mark Z. The slowest car on the road (a camel special??) belongs to a government worker, who, in this case, works for the Egyptian regime. These are the two extremes. When worlds collide – moving at two different speeds in two different spaces…empires can fall. The blogger Danny Ramadan took the picture above on February 2, 2011 on his way out of Egypt… For me it sums up the reality of Egypt written on the face of a sculpted lion’s pedestal – Facebook – the social network…the global citizen. As Mcluhan said “In the electronic age we wear ALL mankind as our skin”

    Without a doubt the use of Social Media was a key strategy in the organizing and exchange of information for the initial protests. The government then shut down the Internet providers in order to stop the expotential growth of protesters and its world wide amplification. Within a week Twitter and Google and a team of engineers joined forces to create Twitter Speak. as an alternative work around so that protesters could continue to connect and express themselves. This demonstrates the “speed to market” in which social media platforms can serve their users – one unparralled by those who maintain a business as usual mindset in the face of social change.

    One of the hardest lessons for those of us who are “agents of change” in the field of technology, art and business is that change does not happen NOW, it takes time. Humans are creatures of habit and old forms of behaviour die hard. Yesterday, the ruling dictator of Egypt asked for 7 months to pack his bags while The President of the USA said change “should begin NOW”. The gap between the two timelines will be filled with chaos.. sticks and stones, broken bones and loss of life.

    The good news is that technology speeds up the flow of information and the change in Egypt will happen much quicker then ever before in the recorded history of mankind.