More CultureHive blogging about digital arts and marketing

I’d just like to flag up a couple of posts within the CultureHive Digital Academy blog – one that I wrote about baking marketing into the production of art, and another one by one of the fellows that I have been mentoring, about developing social media content strategies.

Both are useful insights into the use of digital within the arts 🙂

How should arts companies use digital? Lessons from SMI: Arts

Over the six years of NativeHQ’s work, we’ve been developing our approach to delivering the best social media learning and development process for our clients. We aim to improve our clients’ own capacity to deliver good quality online social media communications that actively serve their mission.

We have developed a method that helps them to understand relationships with their networks, think through their digital strategic goals and develop skills and knowledge for turning their ideas into reality. We call it our Social Media Insights (SMI) programme. It takes place over a series of half-day sessions, which are scheduled between two weeks and a month apart.

Social Media Insights: Arts

Between 2013 and 2014, we worked with Arts Council Wales to trial this method with five arts companies at different stages in their development, working in a range of art forms across Wales in both English and Welsh. This post is about that project, and the lessons that we learnt through the work.

The SMI process starts by exploring the networks of people and organisations the company works with, who has relationships with them and how those connections impact on work. We then pin down their artistic and business aims within each set of relationships. This is the basis of a creative ideation process that helps us to develop ideas about how specific uses of digital media could improve the effectiveness of the work they do.

From this set of possibilities, we draw up a shortlist of initiatives, and the training and launch processes they need in order to start. The company picks the initiatives they want to prioritise and we plan a bespoke programme for them to take place over the remaining sessions of the programme.

NativeHQ’s work with Arts Council Wales

SMI: Arts Applicants Map

SMI: Arts. Applications

Arts Council Wales was interested in learning about how we support arts organisations in this way and commissioned us to deliver this service to five arts companies in Wales, and to learn from the experience.

We announced the project via social media and our call for applications received 45 applications from a variety of companies all across Wales.

There were many high quality applications and only space for five (MOSTYN, Dawns Powys Dance, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Hijinx Theatre and Response). We then set about delivering our service to them between October 2013 and June 2014.

Responses to the programme

Here are a couple of the positive responses to the programme:

“Social Media Insights came at just the right time for Hijinx. We were in a period of change as a company, so it was the right time to stop and reflect on who are we, what we do, and how digital and social media could help us do that at a foundational level. NativeHQ have helped us to take a holistic approach to digital and social media as a company: to see digital’s potential for serving the company’s entire mission, rather than just as part of the marketing strategy.”

Vanessa Morse, Hijinx Theatre

“When we embarked on the Social Media Insights I really had not anticipated quite how the project would touch on every aspect of what we do and how we operate. Instead of some glib, generic advice on what to do / what not to do on social media, the project went so much deeper than that and required us to unpack who we are, how we do things and how we want to be and do. It was very, very bespoke and accommodated everyone’s’ skills and needs as well as the organisational needs. As a result of the SMI Arts, we now manage our projects; communicate within the team; manage our time; market ourselves; make and edit films and of course, use social media – much better than before!”

Amanda Griffkin, Dawns Powys Dance

Learnings

While writing our report to Arts Council Wales, we reflected on some of the lessons we had learnt. We are constantly learning and updating our methods and have now adapted our programme to incorporate them. Here are a few:

Blocking of essential internet services

Many arts companies, especially those working within the public sector, are struggling to access consumer web services (e.g. Facebook, Google Drive) that are being widely adopted by collaborators and audiences beyond their firewall, often because of IT security concerns. We now work with clients to help them tackle these issues within their company.

Need for strategy and the centrality of social media

Many people are still unclear about why they are using digital media and social media, which is increasingly a normal and central aspect of their network’s communications landscape. A result, they struggle for clarity about what their learning needs are, or how to manage their competing digital priorities. We start by helping them to think through their strategic priorities before we begin to plan a training programme.

Broadcast approaches

Many people take a broadcast approach to their social media presence, continually pushing information and talking at people. As this approach often fails to develop the potential of the medium, we work through alternative communications patterns, such as listening and conversations, collaborations, research and investigation. We seek to think through the possibilities of these digital patterns within their work objectives.

Leadership, sustainability and resourcing

While many organisations leave the work of social and digital media to the communications manager, digital media impacts on the whole organisation and is best tackled by a group that includes wider leadership and a breadth of team representation. While many organisations are worried by the resourcing requirements of a good social media presence, there are areas where more efficient communication skills can win time for them to make the work more sustainable.

The need for bespoke training programmes emerging from strategy

Having started with a focus on strategic aims, the training programmes that we delivered to the organisations involved in the Social Media Insights: Arts were unique to each company. Over the programme, we delivered training sessions on a very wide range of topics.

Training types chart... SMI Arts NativeHQ

One interesting statistic was that 58% of the training topics we worked on were delivered to just one organisation, and only a minority of topics were prioritised by more than one of them. The lesson from this was that there is limited value in “general” social media training, because the training needs of organisations are unique to them, if you pay close enough attention.

We have taken encouragement from this finding that our approach of focusing on thinking about strategic priorities first with our clients will result in a bespoke programme that will accurately prioritise their development priorities.

Programme adjustments

We learnt lessons about the programme, which we delivered as an eight-session programme over eight months. During the strategic development process, we have found value in compressing the sessions so they’re closer together to concentrate the thinking and creative process. Our training programme remains one in which sessions are spaced out by at least three weeks (preferably a month), so that new learnings have time to be embedded into working practices. Our current Social Media Insight programme is now structured as follows:

The programme’s impact

In our evaluation of the programme, we asked each company if they had experienced a change in confidence in their ability to:

  • understand how their work on digital platforms contributed to the company’s mission;
  • develop tactics for projects and initiatives;
  • how they resourced social/digital media;
  • innovate and develop new approaches;
  • run their own media, with existing skills and knowledge;
  • evaluate their own digital work effectively by knowing what metrics mattered to them.

Across all categories and organisations, there was an increase in confidence of 45%.

Dig deeper

If you would like to know more about this programme, our approach, or how we might be able to help enable your organisation, please leave a comment, or question, or get in touch.

Blogging for the CultureHive Digital Academy

DMA-logo1I’m currently working for a new project run by the Arts Marketing Association called the CultureHive Digital Academy, which is an initiative aiming to innovate in digital learning. It’s run by Carol Jones, recently of Chapter, who also teaches the RWCMD in Cardiff.

The Academy’s model is to encourage its fellows to learn through rapid innovation, experimentation and reflective learning. They are encouraged to develop initiative ideas, implement and evaluate them, then reflect on their experiences through the Academy blog. This participatory education programme consists of online action learning sets and regular sessions with a mentor, and I was asked to be one of those mentors in the summer of 2014.

From September 2014, I’ve been meeting with fellows via Google Hangouts and Skype, helping them to think through the programme and develop their learning from the programme.  So far, I’ve been working with; Amy Rushby, who works in digital marketing for the Royal Shakespeare Company; Ruth Catlow, a digital artist and leader at the digital arts collective Furtherfield in Finsbury Park, London and Jamie Eastman and Jamie Wooldridge, who work at Live at Lica, a University based multi arts venue in Lancaster.

The programme leaders have asked me to reflect on my experience as a mentor through the programme’s blog, and today I published my first post, which is about establishing the purposes for setting up a digital media initiative, and ideation, the process of generating and combining ideas for solutions. You can read my post, Thinking through digital innovation before you start creating initiatives on the CultureHive Digital Academy website.

I’m chuffed to have been asked to continue being a part of this exciting initiative when the next batch of fellows join later in 2015, and I’ll continue blogging about my insights into what the fellows have needed to tackle during their mentoring sessions with me over the next year and as long as I’m involved with the programme. You’ll be able to access an archive of my posts into the future. Enjoy!

9 ways social media can benefit your business

We were invited to speak about social media and business at the launch of Coleg Morgannwg’s new Nantgarw campus. Here are some notes.

Serve your customers

Three, the mobile service provider, are particularly good at customer service (as far as we’ve experienced). Look at the Three Twitter account which they use to respond to queries and post service updates. Note how they identify the people who are running the account on behalf of the company. Giffgaff are another mobile service provider service making use of social media tools and principles. They are networking their customers so they can help each other, earn points which are added to their credit and ultimately keep costs down. There is a Volkswagen cult-like feel to the brand. It’s a bit of an experiment but the idea of allowing customers to talk to each other is a recurring one.

Develop your products

Again, in a different field but still in technology, Dell computers have a platform called IdeaStorm. So far they have incorporated over 515 ideas from the community into various products. You can see some examples of ideas in the screenshot. The ethos: your customers, when connected meaningfully, know more about your company than even you do.

Starbucks have My Starbucks Idea, a similar platform.

TĹ· Siriol are famed in Swansea and surrounds for their high quality pork sausages. In conversation with them recently they told us they’d saved a lot of money and effort by asking their customers which products they would favour. In response, rather than develop a range of different flavoured sausages they are focusing on one traditional sausage. Ask people what they want through social media, use polls etc. Nowadays, market research can be more affordable and quicker than ever before.

Inform yourself

The screenshot depicts Netvibes for a National Theatre Wales production called The Passion. Social media can be used to monitor mentions of the company, brands and products (maybe competitors?).

You probably should also monitor keywords from your industry and news from relevant sources.

Netvibes is still a decent tool, as is a feed reader like Google Reader for persistent searches.

It’s not egotistical to monitor your own name, it’s just taking an interest in your media profile.

Share your stories

A big part of Bulmers’ brand is their long history. They are telling the stories on their Facebook timeline. It’s consistent with their advertising and other publicity.

Often people want to hear about the process and the history behind your company. Illustrate it.

Promote your products

Rachel’s organic dairy products also come from Wales. They are using a Facebook app to offer recipes, ideas, competitions, offers, cross-promotions with other related firms and so on. They have a big following and can go direct. These days, every company is a media company.

There are questions about relying on Facebook for this in the long term. It seems to be working for them now though.

Find your team

This is about recruitment and being recruited.

We focus on LinkedIn here as a means of getting work opportunities. It is particularly good for freelancers.

Your web presence more generally is probably more important than ever before (e.g. introducing ideas on a blog or regular videos).

If you’re planning a career there is a new definition of literacy which includes digital. If you can express your ideas and converse with visualisations, video, images, audio and multimedia, then that is bona fide literacy. It’s important that we develop this in Wales, from early on.

Work smarter

Wikipedia is the supreme example of collaboration using social media. Wikipedia‘s project is to produce an encyclopaedia, it’s the example of the biggest wiki in terms of users and content. But there are many other collaborative applications of wikis.

At NativeHQ we have tools which we use every day: Trello (for our to-do lists) and Google Drive (for all kinds of documents, including reports and presentations).

Fund new initiatives

Gwilym Deudraeth’s 1929 book of poetry, depicted in the slide, is a superb example of ‘crowdfunding’ in Wales before the web. More details about Gwilym here.

Now we are observing the growth of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms which help you propose a project and raise money from a number of contributors. Very often the most successful attempts use social media, especially video, to make the case and promote the project. This is a social media phenomenon – it’s much cheaper to form groups than it was before.

Redefine your business

What could you offer now that you can network your customers? In a bold move for an airline KLM are introducing people on their planes. They have a scheme called ‘Meet and Seat’ where you can share a certain amount of info from your LinkedIn or Facebook profile – and then meet other people who are interested in meeting you. They are keen to emphasise that it’s networking rather than dating.

BBC and other broadcasters do this with their Twitter hashtags, to varying levels of success. Question Time has been successful with #bbcqt and the accompanying account for the show @bbcquestiontime. The key realisation was that audiences don’t respond to ‘have your say’ (with its connotations of centralised broadcasting, using only one account) nearly as much as the offer to ‘talk to your peers’ (one hashtag which is used by thousands of decentralised participants).

Thanks

That’s it. We had so much we had to cut out – this was intended to be a general presentation.

(Video of our presentation to come soon.)

Coleg Morgannwg panoramic pic by Tom and his new iPhone

Timeline for Facebook pages – the key changes

If you run a Facebook page, the changes announced this week are important for you to know about. In a nutshell, the swanky new design led Timeline display that we’ve been seeing on personal profiles has come to Facebook pages. Some of the changes will be a bit annoying (work you’ve done previously could become irrelevant now) but as with most Facebook changes, these guys know what they’re doing and it’ll almost certainly result in better experiences for your fans.

Here’s a summary of some of the biggest changes:

Cover photos (the big photos on the top of the page 850 x 315 px) give you the opportunity to create a strong visual identity to your page. Here’s some inspiration from Mashable if you need it – 20 Facebook cover photos to inspire you.

Custom tabs have changed position, size and the number that are visible above the fold – instead of having a load of tabs running down the left hand side of the page, you get just four large tabs at the top of the page underneath the cover photos. This is going to be annoying for page admins that have developed a lot of content on their Facebook page, and it’ll force you to think carefully about which are the most important.

Custom welcome pages for non-fans are gone. Having a friendly page incentivising people to like your page has been important for the last couple of years, but they are no more – users will now land on your timeline, and there’s no choice about it.

Content layout has changed – those familiar with the Timeline will know about the two column layout, with the line in the middle representing time. This will provide some challenges as people learn how to use the layout effectively. You can add deep history to your Facebook page if your brand has some serious history – you can add milestones to give the timeline depth.

Sticky posts it’s now possible to keep a post at the top of the timeline by pinning it to the top of the page (where it’ll stay for a week) – this is going to become a critical space for pages to post their key message.

Messages – something people have complained about for years with pages – you can now message your fans – but only if they message you first. So it’s something you can use to encourage people to get personal responses from you. You can turn this option on or off in your Page edit menu.

A new admin panel which appears at the top of the page gives a snapshot of recent activity, messages and even gives tips (we’ll have to see how useful these will be).

These are the big issues you need to think about immediately. All in all, this is quite a significant change, so if you run a Facebook page, it will be well worth your time getting to grips with how things now work.

There are a very useful posts from some of the big social media agencies in London that are well work a look – here’s my top three:

  1. Blog post on Mashable about the key changes you need to know about by Victoria Ransom, CEO of Wildfire Interactive
  2. Katie Glass from FreshNetworks posts about Facebook page changes
  3. We are Social post about how they redeveloped Bulmer’s Facebook page and the lessons they learnt.

Think Digital Cardiff: some notes about Platforms & Practices

Here are my slides from my talk entitled Platforms & Practices at the first Think Digital Cardiff event.

This was a bit of a freeform talk about social media. There are no bullet points! Its purpose was to inspire people to think about creative use of digital media. Some quick notes follow.

Platforms & Practices: the general point was that it’s not enough to say you’re using tool X, a platform such as YouTube or Twitter or the web itself. I want to highlight the question of practices – what are you doing and how is it benefitting your work? If there is no practice then you are just playing with the platform, which is fine as long as you’re aware of that. The two need to be there together if you have a hope of any work-related strategy.

Collaboration: I deliberately began with Google Docs as a suggested improvement over email attachments for some situations. It’s an example of online collaboration with colleagues on documents, an easy thing that gives us a hint of what could be possible with bolder forms of collaboration. (At the bar afterwards someone mentioned that true collaboration is about working with people from different disciplines which was a good point. I could have added here that it’s about the practice as well as the platform of Google Docs. But we had to start somewhere.)

The cloud: it just means servers. I’m personally uncomfortable with the term ‘cloud computing‘.

Wikipedia: another glimpse of what is possible when people use social software to collaborate. Also available in Welsh, Spanish, German, Japanese, etc.

Ravelry: a social network for knitting enthusiasts. But we know that hobbies are big on the web.

Here Comes Everybody: recommended book by Clay Shirky, about easier group formation

giffgaff: just one example of a business which nurtures an online ‘community’ to fix problems and cut customer service and marketing costs. Some of the community members know more than the staff about aspects of real world use. I really wanted to emphasise that this is not merely Social Media Marketing. Mobile phone networks are an interesting area – they play to the network, including friends and family deals. The network effects keep people using the system and give value to people according to their connections/friends/etc.

National Theatre Wales Community: we worked on the strategy and trained the team. A very interesting project, with some unexpected outcomes in terms of how people participated.

1 / 9 / 90 guideline: there are wisdoms around online communities and participation. You can gather metrics on many things that are important to you, much more than just member count.

OnePeople documentary: commissioned to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence. A superb example of remix and social video. Maybe the fact they’ve booked Kevin MacDonald to edit the DIY videos is the most conventional

Remix by Lawrence Lessig, another recommended book

YouTube: there is a culture of YouTube. It can be about you and your DIY video, made on a phone camera or Flipcam. It can be a mistake to hire an expensive crew with professional editing. It doesn’t have to be about broadcast quality or production values.

It’s all about your second video: just a thought that you should probably go through the process of making a short video (maybe just a conversation about your subject or industry, forget about overt marketing pitches) and uploading it. Then you have gone through the ‘initiation process’. It’s the beginning. You might get a comment, etc.

Platforms & Practices is also about play. You can experiment on a personal account. This informs your practices as a company.

There it is, there wasn’t much time to elaborate further but a lot of hints that people will have found useful – I hope.

Talking about digital media at Think Digital Cardiff @tdcardiff

Next week I’m doing a talk about digital media.

I thought I’d put the emphasis on what I think of as ‘all the other important applications’ of digital media like collaboration, online communities, forming groups, user-generated content and so on. If you want an accessible introduction to some of these things then you should consider coming along.

It seems to me that sometimes people automatically associate digital media and social media with publicity, PR and marketing. I think marketing is a legitimate use of digital media, depending on how you do it, but it would be limiting to think of it exclusively as that wouldn’t it? What about all the other useful stuff people are doing online?

So hopefully the talk which I’m working on now will complement the talks by the other speakers. And I think I have a way to tie it all together.

The event is primarily aimed at business owners in south Wales who want to know more about online. It’s called Think Digital Cardiff and is organised by Big Eye Deers who specialise in creating ecommerce sites and web stores for people. Now, there are probably loads of companies who claim to offer these services. Big Eye Deers, while well established, are new to me and would be the Highest New Entry on my chart of favourite companies – if there were such a thing. What I like about them is their eye for detail and their use of open source software.

At the time of writing there are still spaces at Think Digital Cardiff for small business owners and all proceeds from the event go to charity.

A musicians’ intro to digital media

On 2nd July 2010 I did a presentation to some Wales-based musicians about digital media, online and music business. The host was the Welsh Music Foundation (thanks to them) and our venue was Chapter in Cardiff.

It was an introduction to digital/social media with some practical tips and points for discussion.

Here are some notes which summarise my presentation and our discussion. These are mainly aimed at the musicians who attended but you might get benefit from this if you’re a musician who earns from your music.

Definitions

What do we mean by digital media?
“the creative convergence of digital arts, science, technology and business for human expression, communication, social interaction and education”
from Digital Media Alliance Florida / Wikipedia

I’ve purposefully used the umbrella term digital media, which covers social media, social networking and categories like live streaming. An expert may quibble with my definitions here but let’s say we’ll err on the side of the practical.

A useful metaphor is:
People having conversations online

This takes place with text, video, photo, audio, slides and other images. Because of the public nature of these conversations it’s important to note that it is:
People having multi-way conversations online

Examples of digital media

Technologies include:

Blogs, e.g. WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr
Social network services, e.g. Facebook, Myspace
Wikis, e.g. PBWorks
Link sharing, e.g. Delicious
Collaboration tools, e.g. Basecamp, Google Docs (a very important use of digital media)
RSS (allows you to subscribe to multiple blogs and other time-based feeds and read them all in one place)
Live streaming, e.g. Ustream.tv
Streaming/hosting services like YouTube for video and Flickr for photos

History of media and media revolutions

Printing press
Telegraph
Telephone
Photography
Film
Radio
Television
Internet and web

The main point here is to think about how society, culture and business changed as a result of these new technologies being widely adopted.

Characteristics of digital media

It is easier to form groups online, according to shared interests, campaigns, fans and so on, with all kinds of fascinating outcomes.
Recommended book: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky – about the ease of forming groups online

People like to remix, re-use, re-create, re-version their culture, not just music. Go to YouTube and look at fan videos as just one example. Some musicians release their music under a licence which allows this to happen legitimately, within the normal legal framework of copyright.
Recommended book: Remix by Lawrence Lessig – about the culture of the remix and challenges to our traditional ideas of copyright

“Every company is a media company”
Rick Burnes, former NYTimes.com editor

Online tools every musician should know about

YouTube

I call it the most popular online music discovery service – because it can stream music in video form. Are you on it? If not, why not? There may be a legitimate case for not being on YouTube but you need to at least consider its potential reach.

When I mentioned this at the session several people complained about YouTube’s royalty rates. While true YouTube doesn’t pay much, the main advantage could be in people discovering your music and raising revenue from other sources. Video embedding is a key feature which helps bloggers to introduce their readers to your music.

Ideas: music videos, interviews, tour diaries, live performance footage

Flip have many affordable portable video cameras.

Your blog

A blog is a set of posts organised by time. Every artist and band online should probably have some sort of blog, even if it’s just a news feed of your latest gigs, releases and media appearances.

The way musicians express themselves through a blog varies wildly. Some like to post diary entries and reveal things about their life and work to various degrees, others do not. Both are fine. Some have elaborately designed blogs and others choose minimal design. Either way or something in between is fine. Be yourself. But don’t ignore it – having a blog is like having your own media channel that you control. This is pretty much vital.

Your website

A musician’s website and blog should be on the same domain – in most cases.

Adding a blog post or news item to your website should be painless. If updating your current website is a chore it may be worth spending some money to make it smoother. You’ll enjoy it, which is how things should be.

My favourite website software is WordPress. It was originally conceived as blogging software but has been extended and adapted to run full websites. Many websites around the world now run on WordPress.

Two main ways of running WordPress
wordpress.com
You get a free blog with the name yourbandname.wordpress.com
You can choose different themes.
You can pay fees for extra services, e.g. to have it redirected to yourbandname.com seamlessly

wordpress.org
WordPress is open source so you can download the software for free, run it on your own hosting and publicise yourbandname.com
You have total control over its behaviour and appearance. You can choose different themes or design your own. You can extend its functionality by installing plug-ins. In practice you’d probably ask a designer with the technical knowhow to install it and design/build the theme.

Other people’s blogs

Being featured on blogs can be a key way of growing buzz around your band. Use Hype Machine and Google Blog Search to find blogs already featuring similar artists or your genre. Start reading them and get in touch if you have something relevant.

Facebook

There are three kinds of presence on Facebook.
– individual user profile
– page
– group

The page is Facebook’s offering for brands, companies and organisations. Usually the page is the correct one for a band, artist, label or venue.

Do not get an individual user profile for a band. Facebook may take a dim view of a non-person having a user profile. Even if you’re a solo artist, it pre-supposes a two-way friend relationship which exists in the offline world. So consider having a profile for friends and a page for fans.

In general Facebook’s customers are its advertisers and you play in their garden and by their rules. Be careful about how much time you invest and be sure to evaluate if you are getting value back.

Myspace

In general its value for reaching fans is diminished because attention has gone elsewhere. It’s worth having a page for your music and photos because agents and other music industry people are in the habit of using it. Most bands should not spend too much time on it. Certain genres are stronger on Myspace than others. Know your genre!

Twitter

Some artists are good on Twitter and can use it to update fans.

It’s far more proven as an excellent place to keep up with news, including music industry news.

Don’t necessarily believe what anyone says about it – try it yourself.

Email lists

People still use email. Its value is diminishing, again because of fragmented attention. But it may be worth running one.

Make sure anything in the email address is also on your blog or elsewhere online. People want to search for it and link to it. Don’t limit the audience to the mailing list!

Recommendations: Your Mailing List Provider and MailChimp (both slightly different)

Don’t send email to people who haven’t opted in. Never spam people. Never ever.

Some thoughts about business models

Record business is not the music business

“Disruption” – technology companies like it, record companies don’t necessarily like it

In the 1980s certain parts of the record industry were extremely concerned about home taping – imperfect analogue copies. Now we have perfect digital copies. What now?

Copying is not the same as stealing – they are covered by different laws.

Throughout history, forms of copyright infringement have become licensed uses, e.g. public performance, radio. What we now think of as illegal may become licensed. Whether or not this is true, people WILL copy your music. They might use filesharing networks, they might use the web or they might use memory sticks. But only if your music is good enough.

What could you do if you knew 1,000,000 people had shared your music?

Some will still buy the CD or the vinyl. Some will attend your gigs and buy your merchandise.
Some will buy the digital files because they value the convenience or because they want to pay out of gratitude.

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”
Tim O’Reilly, technologist and publisher

Examples of perfect digital copies in other industries

Software companies make their source code available for free under open source licences and sell what can’t be copied – services, consultancy, customisation, support, advertising/sponsorship and premium paid features. Examples are IBM, Mozilla, Red Hat and Automattic/WordPress. You could go into competition with any of these companies using their own software.

Consultants and experts are blogging their advice for free. Again, you could go into competition with any of them using their own material and (what were formerly known as) trade secrets. But often these consultants and experts are accruing MORE reputation and MORE work through the ease of access and widespread distribution of their advice.

Despite copying of films, cinema has large screens, good sound and the experience – all of which are uncopyable. Compare watching a laugh-out-loud comedy at home to being in a big audience at the cinema. Recently cinema has been adding 3D to the large screen experience of many films.

2009 poll: people who admitted unlicensed downloading spend an average of ÂŁ77 a year on music – ÂŁ33 more than those who claimed NOT to download.
Poll by Ipsos Mori for Demos think tank

Kevin Kelly says “A creator needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” (Discuss…)

Seth Godin on spam

Any communications medium of any value can suffer from the annoyance of spam, not just email. If you value your reputation, don’t consider spamming in any form.

Seth Godin explains why spam is unacceptable – and unproductive.

… the future of marketing is based on permission. It’s based on sending messages to people who want to get them, who choose to get them, who would miss you if you didn’t send them. It’s not easy and it’s not cheap to earn permission, but so what? This is my attention, not yours, and if you want to use it for a while, please earn the privilege.

The problem(s) with viral

I’ve long had a problem with the word “viral” when used in phrases like “viral marketing”, “viral video” and related contexts. I haven’t always been able to explain exactly why in a succinct way.

Judging from his blog and the work he does, Kevin Marks is a guy who understands the web. He absolutely nails it with this blog post about the scammy connotations of viral. He suggests we retain the word “viral” but use it solely for “exploitatative applications that violate trust to reproduce against the interests of their hosts”. Love it. It’s worth reading in full, as well as this earlier post How not to be viral.

Marks’ emphasis here is on companies who create software, citing the photo sharing service Flickr as a good example of somewhere that supports “fruitful social interactions”.

Our emphasis is slightly different. In my experience the word “viral” is also used for funny videos and other online content that spreads rapidly.

For marketers discovering YouTube and other services, as methods for spreading a “brand message”, the word viral can be seductive because it implies a smaller investment of effort. (Let the viral do the work and go home early!) But of all the viral videos you can name, how many can you associate with a specific company or product? It makes a good straw poll for colleagues whenever they mention the dreaded word.

Viral videos often merely advertise themselves. That is, you remember the video but seldom remember the company. It comes back to another one of my bugbears, which is the over-emphasis on hit count or view count as metrics of success. We’ve never met a client whose sole aim was to notch up a million video views, it might help the ego but it just isn’t an objective in and of itself.

At Native, we recognise the value of good marketing – but what we do seldom intersects with interruption advertising or one-way broadcast videos and the like.

That’s because we hold that good marketing is far more than spreading a brand message. Good marketing is being aware of what people are saying about you, helping customers with problems, meeting them on their terms, making a quality product or service – and providing or supporting spaces where customers can talk to each other. These principles apply offline. Now online we have some great opportunities and tools to do these things in new ways.

Another benefit of online is allowing niche conversations about all the subjects that relate to you and your business. These take place in text, images, audio, graphic visualisations and yes, videos.

“Viral” annoys me because it’s too much of an abstraction of the real human beings you’re trying to deal with. These people become prospects, targets, vectors, hosts. This is actually how I feel I’m being categorised when I watch TV advertising now. It’s too general and it alienates me. Besides, people don’t really talk like that. The same goes for viral videos. Actually the videos that spread most effectively are the ones that have no product or company behind them, like the “free hugs” movement. People are not stupid, they’ll assess your motives and share the videos that smell genuine.

Incidentally, often the memorable and useful videos I find online are straight-to-camera, lo-fidelity, quick, unpolished recordings, not slick adverts. This is a guideline, not a rule, but if it’s a social media conversation people are coming to expect videos that are like blog posts, not brochures.

All this is about as far from a single-message viral video as you could hope to get.