Had a great time presenting at Social Media Breakfast Montreal yesterday evening, and playing a short set of music as well.¬† ūüôā¬† I hope everyone who participated had fun and learned something along the way.¬† Thanks to Jeff Taylor and Jamie Taylor for doing all of the organizing and feeding me beers!¬† I’ve uploaded my PowerPoint presentation to SlideShare.

I was in New York City this week this week and had the opportunity to attend a couple of sessions at SES New York, which is one of the most popular conferences dedicated to search engine marketing.¬† I didn’t take any fun pictures, so I had to whack their logo up onto this post instead (I know, lame!).

I work for NVI, Canada’s frontrunning online interactive marketing shops, and this was my first chance to attend one of these events in person.¬† I attended two sessions and while I certainly didn’t learn any great new strategies or ideas to bring back to Montreal, I did learn something perhaps equally as valuable.

Working in an office is a relatively insular experience, even with regular phone calls and visits to client offices in the “outside world”.¬† I – and just about everyone in online business I’m quite sure –¬† spend all work day every work day staring at a computer monitor looking at web pages.¬† In large part we base our strategies on what we see on web pages, and the numbers that flow into Analytics accounts and such.

It’s easy to lose perspective on the fact that all the numbers, and all of the websites, search engines, competitors, client competitors and various other providers and companies are people.¬† It seems like common sense when you say (write) it, but I’m sure that anyone in this industry can relate.¬† Even when you read industry blogs and news often, it’s still pretty easy to lose sight of what’s really going on out there in the wider world of business and online marketing.¬† The interpersonal dynamics, deals, and driving factors behind everything that’s going on.

Although I was only able to show up at the pre-conference networking event at the Hilton bar and see a couple of sessions on Monday, I still feel like I was able to get a much better idea of where I – and NVI – fit in within the industry, which to me is the most valuable thing that I can get out of these types of events.

That said, I’m very curious to know what others see as their biggest takeaways from marketing and search engine conferences.

I busked one time, about 10 years ago, and I hated it so much I never did it again.  But this video almost makes me want to do it again.  Well maybe not, but it warms the heart and it has made quite a buzz around the net.  

Got to love these kinds of creations though, like the Where The Hell Is Matt videos I blogged about a few months ago.  To me these little videos are some of the best things to come off the net, the ones that really celebrate bringing people and cultures together.  

That’s what the internet is all about after all, and it’s the age we are living in.

 

I like to think I have decent taste in music and that I’m not too much of a trend follower where that’s concerned. ¬†I’m not particularly a fan of No Doubt but their ska-pop sound was pretty awesome back in the day and, I have to admit, I would totally go to the show. ¬†Just look at how awesome they are in that promo photo. ¬†It’s 1995 revival!

No Doubt is playing in Montreal on June 17th.  Anyone want to go?

One of the most important parts of blogging is consistent, regular posting. ¬†In fact, it’s probably the #1 most important part of blogging and all too often bloggers just either get lazy, tired of writing, busy with other things in their lives.

I, dear people, am a terrible blogger as I am guilty of probably all three of those at one point or another. ¬†But I’m sensing the dawn of a new personal era of blogging coming on, and a new vision for this poor little neglected site.

Since I’m also a full-time internet marketer, a part-time semiprofessional musician, webmaster, and I have a life and ambitions, I find it a challenge sometimes to justify putting time into a blog. ¬†

If you’re a blogger, how do you fit blogging into your life?

In the ever-moving and changing landscape of the internet, one this is for sure: every day, new websites are being launched by the thousands, probably more. ¬†And as the world wide web becomes more crowded, naturally most site owners are being forced to target smaller and smaller niches. ¬†And so we end up with a lot of great, fun sites that each cater specifically to a certain hobby, pasttime, or industry we’re involved in. ¬†

info-overload

New social networking sites are popping up like mushrooms.  The internet is a digital oil rush where, instead of digging a well and hoping to strike a vast reserve of fuel, entrepreneurs are setting up a website framework and hoping that members start flocking in droves, adding content as they go.  And it does happen.  And just like the oil rush of early last century, the resource seems infinite.

But how long do we have before the web is supersaturated with niche sites that have only a handful of members? ¬†At some point, the citizens of the web are going to become overwhelmed with choice. ¬†It’s already a huge challenge to keep track of everything you like on the web and manage all of your memberships and passwords. ¬†

It seems to me that those website owners who are most prepared for this kind of shift will be the ones who will have long-term success.

Noise

I ran across a blog posting on SEOBook which argued that a publisher/blogger who regurgitates already-published information adds no value to the web.  The post used this quote from an interesting article about information:

“Blogs that just repeat information already published elsewhere are providing value that can be substituted. To put it another way, these sites are completely dispensable. They lose out when a choice has to be made due to time/attention scarcity. These sites are usually the ones that just regurgitate content released on mainstream media or other larger blogs. Their identity is virtually unrecognizable. A great logo and design won‚Äôt save them.”

While I do agree that directly reposting information found somewhere else probably won’t help a blogger reach a huge subscription rate, I do think that there is value to spreading the word.¬† For example, if a blogger has a niche audience that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily hear of a relevant story, there is value to reposting an article for their benefit.¬† Also, the very fundamentals of social media essentially rely on noise.¬† We all like to know what’s hot, what people are interested in, what’s going on around us.¬† We basically judge how popular a topic is based on its noise level.

So I would argue that, while the regurgitating of information is noise, the noise itself adds value to the web.  In fact, I would go one step further and argue that noise, and the ability to make and spread noise quickly, is one of the main reasons social media and blogging are valuable to our society.

Of all the viral videos around, my favorite for a couple of reasons has to be Where The Hell is Matt? ¬†If you haven’t seen these, basically a guy goes around the world dancing like an idiot in front of famous places, sometimes by himself and sometimes with a bunch of people. ¬†Its hard not to smile and feel all warm inside – yes, I’m a softie.

Another neat aspect of this video is that Stride gum approached Matt, the maker of the series, a while back to become a sponsor. ¬†I found this interesting because you don’t see the Stride logo plastered all over the place, nor do Stride make a big thing of boasting about it like you often see from sponsors. ¬†I don’t exactly know how much benefit the Stride brand gained but I’m sure it has been vigorously studied.

I ran across a posting about why being likeable is a profitable business strategy and it struck me that¬†the concept described in the post is exactly what Stride were embracing¬†by attaching themselves to such a likeable piece of media. ¬†And by making sure they didn’t spam the spirit of the video with logo splashing and such, Stride ensured that they would not lose any of the positive association gained by sponsoring this heart-warming video. ¬†I was also reminded about something Mitch Joel spoke about in a recent podcast, where he advised potential Podcamp organizers to find sponsors who would keep a low profile, in order to maintain the spirit of the event.

I appreciate and respect this type of marketing. ¬†Most of us don’t want to be barraged with advertising but will connect with a brand to which we feel a positive emotional response. ¬†While multi-million dollar tv and print campaigns may better reach the masses, the type of marketing used here by Stride shows that the brand “gets it”. ¬†It also provides a great example on how social media and advertisers can work together for the benefit of all.

The World of Social Media

 

 

I thought I would write a post about my thoughts on the world of social media.  Some things might be a little obvious, but I hope there is some insight as well.  Here goes, my 
5 Best Things About Social Media:

 

  5. Personal Accountability
Anonymity aside, social media encourages personal accountability. ¬†Our name and everything we have ever written or contributed is there online, semi-permanently, for all to see.¬† Fakers, scammers, and deviants are easy to spot, and fairly easy to keep away thanks to anti-spam technology and “peer pressure”.¬† What’s left over is a fairly organic community who pretty much behave themselves.¬† Go figure?¬† Those who misrepresent themselves or act inappropriately simply aren’t given a voice in that particular on-line community.¬† In a way, online communities are kind of like little churches where like-minded people gather in a shared belief and philosophy. ¬†(Insert deep social commentary here).
We also have access to a unique insight into the various personalities we encounter online that we would rarely see in real life.¬† For example, you may have never known that a person you met in real-life has an obsession with, er, the biodiversity of the St. Lawrence Seaway, had you not seen their “Biodiversity of the St. Lawrence Seaway” blog or noticed that they were part of the “Save the St. Lawrence” group on Facebook (not a real group – I checked).¬†
In this way, we’re all accountable for everything we put online, and I think this is a good thing.¬†

4. Interactive
There is no medium of communication like social media.¬† In a way, interactive social media has been around since well before computers, in the form of letter sections in newspapers, or like the Rant Line¬†in the Montreal Mirror.¬† Today’s social media is like a million newpaper editorial and letters sections available at your fingertips in real-time anywhere with a web connection.¬† It has never been so easy to connect to people all over the planet and hear what they have to say.
I find it fascinating reading the comments on news stories such as the recent Georgia crisis, where you could actually read what real people had to say from all sides of the conflict, rather than only having access to a version of the story that had been filtered through news agencies.¬† If there has ever been a way for cultures to better learn about and understand each other than social media, I can’t think of one. ¬†

3. Viral, Organic Spread of Information
This is an area that is pretty controversial in the new media world where ever-more-popular forms of online communication, such as blogs, are not held to a code of ethics as is the traditional press.  Without a system of control, social media networks can cause the spread of disinformation and non-truths, intentionally or not.  A similar mentality would be the witch hunt, where word-of-mouth spread out of control and caused mass hysteria.  This is a bit extreme, I know, but my point is that as media evolves away from the traditional forms it will be important that a system of control evolves with it without detracting from freedom of expression.  It seems that the responsibility for this is increasingly being put in the hands of the individual which, while a good thing, also implies some hazards.

2. Culture
You could say, information is information.¬† It’s kind of an empty concept in itself.¬† Information without context is worthless.¬† But in the context of culture and the medium of social media, the limits of cultural wealth are endless.¬† Culture can be shared, mixed together, and expanded.¬† Being a big fan of culture myself, this is perhaps my favourite aspect of social media.¬† Anyone, anywhere can share their culture and contribute to it.

1. Entertainment
Last but not least, social media is fun.  Obviously it should not replace a real social life (although it does, sometimes), but it can certainly enrich and expand it.  For as long as you can handle staring at a computer monitor you have access to an unlimited resource of every kind of fun, interesting, curious, weird, though-provoking, intruiging, random stuff.  In a way, entertainment is the root of social media, because why else would anyone bother?  We live a world that is, if nothing else, pretty entertaining, and social media helps bring it all together.

Did I miss anything?

If you haven’t heard about Akoha yet, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.¬† The game, created here in Montreal by Austin Hill & Alex Eberts, calls itself the “world’s first social reality game.”¬† This could either be really scary and over-the-top or really fun.¬† Either way, it will be interesting to see whether people actually catch on and the the game spreads.

Basically, if you’re lucky enough to be a Beta member right now, you’re sent a starter pack containing “mission cards.”¬† A mission can be to, say, take someone out for a coffee, or give someone your favorite book.¬† When this is complete, you pass your mission card onto that person, they register it, and that person then is obliged to carry out the mission.¬† And so on.¬† The path of each card is traced online, adding a whole new dimension to the social media concept.

The concept of tracing something as it travels around the world/country isn’t new of course.¬† Where’s George has been tracking dollar bills since 1998.¬† The difference, obviously, is that Akoha adds a social dimension.¬† It’s easy to pass on a dollar bill because you get something tangible in exchange, like a pack of gum or a little Canadian flag to stick in your car window or whatever.¬† Akoha, though, relies on people recognizing the intangible benefits of giving – something that many will not.¬† Or maybe I’m just being cynical….

One thing is for sure.¬† For those of us who find ourselves stuck in front of a monitor for the majority of our waking hours and find our online life taking over our real life, Akoha is a refreshing way to lift ourselves off of our comfy chairs and go do something nice for somebody.¬† Here’s another take on this.¬† In a culture where our virtual lives seem to be eroding our human connection to each other, it seems like a good time for Akoha to show up.¬† If nothing else, it shows that this underlying cultural issue is being recognized as significant enough to be taken seriously as something to be capitalized on.¬† Boy, I really am cynical!

In any case, I’m kind of looking forward to receiving my first mission card and then “playing it forward” (I didn’t make that up).¬† I look forward even more to watching how it all develops.