Why no Wifi?

I took an overnight trip to London last month, I stayed in a nice hotel, not far from Trafalgar Square. A hotel that uses “classic luxury” as a descriptor. They wanted to charge me to use their wifi, in fact on check out they tried to charge me for 3 minutes internet time.

Opposite the hotel was a Costa Cafe, with good coffee, nice staff and free wifi. So I wandered across the road, ordered a large latte and used wifi there.

So why couldn’t the hotel provide free wifi? I pondered this as I sipped my coffee. To start with I was a bit annoyed and was working up to a good rant, but on reflection it makes sense.

The cafe has a lot of competition, several other cafes in walking distance and a bookstore with wifi. So if providing wifi attract more customers, or encourage customers to stay longer – and order a second cup, it’s well worth the costs. It’s a matter of beating the competition.

Hotels with a large proportion of business travels have customers who are less price sensitive since it’s often their company paying, and not funded from their own pocket. The extra charges for wifi will be picked up by expenses.

I predict a change; free wifi is becoming an expectation in any public space and I know one Asian-based businessman who includes it as criteria in selecting a hotel. No free wifi, no booking.

On the Social Media Fail

The lure of successful viral marketing campaigns seems to cloud the judgement of marketers from time to time. This week’s example comes from Facebook and includes a love story of Mark and Audrey.

An insurance company created a story of Mark, a 23-year-old, and Audrey, a 47-year-old and their fight to be together against society’s expectations. They gathered a lot of support leading up to their “wedding day” last Friday, the number of followers today stands at more than 3,000.

Then came the big reveal, a video showing the preparations of a wedding which culminated in a car accident. After which the campaign tagline comes up “Unexpected Things Happen in Life; Be insured to have your loved ones assured”, which is followed by a disclaimer stating that it was a campaign.

The reaction on facebook has been swift and severe, and the company seems to have been overwhelmed by the negative responses, one of their last comments was;

Some posters see this as a great use of social media for a campaign, but most see it as dishonest, trust-destroying and a betrayal.

Walmart faced a similar backlash in 2006 when they sponsored bloggers to travel the country in an RV. In that case Walmart came clean and reveled their sponsorship of the bloggers, they’ve gone on to blog successfully and now list official blogs on their corporate site.

In this case the company hasn’t yet taken ownership of the campaign; making it a whole new level of social media fail.

Starting with Social Media – The Discussion

I had the opportunity to be one of the experts in a round table discussion on Social Media last Friday with young artists as part of the Realisme event. The other expert, with more claim to the title then me, was Martijn Verver.

At the end of the round table sessions the advice we had could be summarised in to two phrases; “just do it” and “tell your own story”. So much for expertise!

But the discussion was really interesting and some of the questions were really pertinent and I’ve tried to summarise the answers here (with links I hope are helpful).


There is a real and understandable temptation to focus on the technology, to go straight to the tools. But it’s worth keeping in mind that social media is about how you behave online; it’s about connecting people.

1) You need to be yourself online.

2) You can connect to others – even people you haven’t met before. You can ask them to also “friend” or “follow” you. It will take time to build a following.

3) Should it be in English? If your target audience is international then you probably need your content to be in English; but you can rely on visual content, you don’t need a lot of written content.

4) I’m not comfortable promoting myself, how can I use social media? (This came following a discussion of how social media can be your “marketing department”) You don’t have to describe your work in glowing terms; you can just post pictures of progress or inspiration, and say what you’re working on – let others praise you!

5) You may get negative comments – they will probably be outweighed by the positive ones – but be prepared for it. If you have a mature following your followers may defend you, but you may have to decide whether, or how to respond. Generally speaking discussion is a good thing.


Perhaps the most questions were about the tools themselves – here are the most interesting.

1) Should I use facebook if my audience doesn’t?

Probably not – at least not to address that audience but you, or the gallery you work with, might want to use it to promote an exhibition.

If you’re using facebook think about setting up a separate fan page for your art, rather than using your personal page. ING Art Management has a fan page for example. This means that you won’t be promoting your new exhibition right after lamenting that you burnt the spaghetti.

2) Should I be on linkedin?

Linkedin is particularly relevant for business, so if you run your own company, or are a freelancer you should be on linkedin, it’s a question of reputation.

Linkedin offers ways of sharing content; you can connect to your blog, a slideshare presentation or display your portfolio.

It’s also worth looking for connections via the groups function, which does give you the opportunity to have a discussion in a ‘closed’ group, and the chance to email members of the group.

3) How can I share my work?

There are a lot of different tools out there; the easiest and most used one for images is flickr, on the site you can share your photos – including with a creative commons licence if you like – and you can contribute to relevant groups, or start your own.

Other tools worth considering to store your content are tumblr, wordpress or blogger or posterousyoutube.

Look for “post to many” options on tools, for example I can update my twitter and linkedin status at the same time – in fact I could update facebook at the same time but choose not to. Being smart about the content can save you time.


1) What content can I use?

Profile your work, update this often even if you draw on older works, perhaps saying how you’ve developed since creating that works.

Photographs , poems, stories or articles that inspire you.

Progress updates of your work – this is fascinating for a non-artist, particularly if you’re working on a bigger project

Behind the scenes – take the visitor through the creation of a work, perhaps as a slideshow or a video. This is really time intensive for you you but it would create a piece of content that could stay on your site/blog and be re-used regularly as showing how you work.


Mashable – good resource for discussion on the latest tools

Problogger – tips on writing, maintaining and thinking about content

PR squared – tips on promoting yourself online

Etsy – great resource of supplies and artists

Cool Hunting – a group blog promoting great design, get ideas on how to present your content.

Style Cowboys – a Dutch site about design, again with great ideas on presenting your content.

The summary of our advice stands – “Just do it” and “be yourself”. On reflection I’d add “connect”; connect to other artists, connect your content, connect your tools (to be more effective). Have fun!

What other tips would you add? Do you have other questions? Add a comment below.

image connection /Sara Lando/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Building an Online Presence

I’m part of a round table discussion this afternoon, for young artists. I’m there to talk about what they could do online.

I had the impression that young people would be super savvy online and I wouldn’t have much to say so I asked the organisers for a list of participants and did a little online research to see just what sort of presence the group already have.

It varies. Most are on facebook, some are on linkedin, one or two came up in pages from the university profiling a project, or in articles about an exhibition. Few came up in a name search as having their own sites.

I was surprised. So I’ve put together a little list of 7  things to think about.

Take charge of your own presence

You want to be talked about? Start the conversation.

Choose your tools

Because you haven’t got time to do everything, choose the tools that you can work with easily, choose a format you can stick to easily… eg; a photo-based blog with one photo of something that inspired you and one photo of your work in progress each week.

Consistent Story

Design, style and tone of voice should all reflect you, and be consistent. That doesn’t mean the same and it doesn’t mean they can’t evolve as you grow as an artist. It means that people seeing your art and your blog/site/twitter page will understand that it’s all about you.

Test your presence in search

You want to be found – you should be on the first page on a name search, even better if images of your work show up as well. Even greater would be if you come up on a search of your genre or style of work, but that’s a lot tougher to crack.

Remember, everyone is listening

Be aware that anything you do online, including comments can come up in a search. Be aware that comments you make on facebook about a client who has commissioned you might be read by that client.

Be alive

Don’t link to sites under construction, if you’re using a blog – use it – don’t abandon it.


Connect/link your content, use the tools to publish to more than one place, connect to other artists online.

I think that’s enough to start with.

I’ll see what happens in the discussions – I am curious to hear their views on online communication/marketing. I’ll let you know.

Pick a song

I’m sitting in my apartment listing to Jason Mraz singing “I’m Yours” and it occurs to me that I “discovered” him in an unusual way, via this clip.

More recently I discovered Charlie Winston while sitting at an Italian restaurant in Paris, where I’d been speaking Italian with the waiters and the song “Tongue Tied” came on which begins;

Now’s my chance, here in France, I’ve gotta give it a go.
How do you say I’m happy ? Estoy feliz contigo ? No ! No !
Désolé mon français est un petit peu confus
Possible que tout le temps si j’essaie
Hablo poco spanish – another stupid english boy !

Which seemed so appropriate for my situation, but the album wasn’t yet out in the Netherlands so I kept checking and a month or so later finally bought it.

These aren’t part of any traditional marketing strategy, in fact both men have full websites providing pictures, videos, lyrics and all sorts of giveaways, they run their own blogs (Jason Mraz is very active on his) and have well constructed facebook fan pages (Jason Mraz has a healthy 2.6 million fans).

Both have understood the value of word of mouth marketing, and how to use online tools to leverage it, neither is using (at least not visibly) the machinery of the record labels. Yet they’re getting attention.

Much has been written about the changes in the music industry, the decline of the studios, the rise of the power of individual musicians and the changing ways of distributing music – including U2’s live at the Rosebowl concert which was broadcast live -and free – via YouTube.

But the problem of attention has remained, how can a new artist gain an audience without a studio promoting him? It’s one thing to load a clip to YouTube but more than 20 hours of video are loaded every minute so how does your clip get attention? How can you build a following? How can you reach people like me, who like music, listen to it a lot, but never go in a record store?

The music industry has been through a period of disintermediation – which means the people between Jason Mraz/Charlie Winston (the producers) and me (the consumer) have been removed. They’ve shown that they can still promote their music and get a following using internet/social media tools. A new model for “getting attention” is emerging. How long before someone spots the opportunity to create a new “intermediary” and start providing that service? Well it’s probably already started, and not by the old record labels.

Deep Branding

Recently I spent some time looking at how robots.txt files are used. These are small text files that tell spiders and webcrawlers how to use a site. They’re used to point the crawler towards any site maps, or exclude certain parts of your site from being crawled, or exclude specific webcrawlers. Of course unscrupulous webcrawlers ignore these instructions and it’s not an effective way to “hide” information but it is useful in terms of Search Engine Optimisation.

Guess who.

One company put a little branding message into their robots.txt file. See if you can guess who it’s from. (If you’re really stuck the answer is in the alt text – so just mouse over).

Pretty much nobody reads this text, the only people who do are geeks, and 50% of the geeks I asked didn’t get the branding message. But 50% did.

This says something about the company, branding is so well done internally that the geeks writing the robots.txt file include a variant of the company’s tag line. It also says they are confident about their brand  can have some fun with it, whether or not it’s out there for public consumption.

I’m calling it deep branding.


image robot

Identity on the Edge

Gary Carter begins by talking about his work as COO for FreemantleMedia where programmes are created for audiences identified “by gender, age and social class”. It is marketing 101; segment your audience until you have an approachable target that will still be profitable. He specifies that for the television industry we, the audience, are the product sold to advertisers.

He critiques the mass marketing segmentation by providing a contrasting classification of his son as “slightly under-weight, non speaking, second generation allochtoon child aged 10, with communication spectrum disorder who is co-parented by his birth parents and two allochtoon homosexuals one of whom, in the precise language of colonial ethnography is an octaroon, in other words an non-western allochtoon who is 7/8 white and 1/8 black.” Unsurprisingly there are no programmes for his son, who is also marginalised in society and in the education system.

He challenges us to rethink how we see difference, to interest ourselves in difference instead of looking for similarity. We should see ourselves as united by our differences.

His approach resonates with me; I’m a foreigner far from my home country, I don’t know anyone from my home country here, and I have chosen to be “other” by choosing to live here. I am part of the Dutch community but not Dutch. However because I look like my Scottish ancestors people assume I’m Dutch – until I speak. In a way that’s been freeing as I could forge a new identity in a sense, in another way it’s troubling because I have no cultural history and few common references with friends here.

Gary Carter’s presentation an astonishing and moving performance; rich with poetry, imagery and music. And it poses a wonderful question – what would the world look like if we valued our differences? How would businesses change? How would the entertainment industry change? Will technology every really allow the level of micro targeting of products and content needed to reach some like Lucio Albert Shabaz Shala?