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.

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!

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

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…

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…

Unbounce those landing pages for Creatives

It has been ages since I last blogged….in fact, I am overdue on the promise to write a review on Florida’s  book “The Great Reset.” WHY ? well, dear creatives, but I have been buzy creating – oh yeah….for real….not just the old selling and marketing talk mumbo jumbo…. but creating actual landing pages
for a client based on finally having mastered the sales process. For the last 30 days have been spending all my time on line with UNBOUNCE!

With who you say??

I confess it is a love affair with landing pages, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

1.  Your EYES are WISIWG – This sums up my philosophy for usablity when it comes to apps designed for creatives who have to get it done ASAP and need the freedom to change their minds while under the gun….oh and did I mention the beauty of the “margin of error” which means that you can decide to rearrange a bunch of content at the last minute and and in doing so might just discover that …oh boy…. that just looks so much better over there, why did I not think of that? Well – that is just it —when you are using a product that really engages you in creating you don’t think about where it is that this or that is gonna have to go —- instead you have the freedom to move it around and suddenly one thing suggests another way of being…oh yeah baby we see eye to eye…

2. Your Face is Web 2.0  – the Interface of Unbounce – when you are working all day in an online environment it is nice that it looks so fresh and clean! I Love the look and the feel of Unbounce…

3. Your Name…..unbonce…unbounce….works for me even on a conceptual level… it is not just a physical attraction. The name Unbounce….is…kinda like a double take in animation…..you look one way and then you look the other…you try it one way then you try it another. Trained as a classical animator the imagery that the name conjures is the reverse of my clients worse fear —the user landing on a page and immediately bouncing off it – horrors —-rather I see it play out like a slow mo rewind…kinda like this video 

4. Your excellent Intelligence – Over the last 30 days I have used Unbounce as a educational tool, too. It is so easy to do the mock ups and show the client what may or may not work. As we do the push and pull dance between client’s vision and design reality I can just do the real thing in unbounce and then send them a link …it sure beats sending the client an actual sketch no matter how inspired. What business man can relate to a sketch these days?

a bit of a landing page sketch for client

A bit of a landing page sketch for a client

5. Your Nationality….last but not least I must confess I have a softspot for my art college town – Vancouver.. and well…..Unbounce is a Canadian start up company.  Ironically I left Vancouver over a decade ago to live in TO —  because of its easy access to technology. Still we don’t have anything around here that comes close to your offering. RIM does not count…. too big, telco….and besides, Unbounce offers mobile landing pages too…

My next mission is to find a client who wants one of those so this love affair can continue!