Is social media the new arts gallery?

Artists have always looked for a place to display their work. But in the widely-connected world of social media, expensive galleries to house paintings and a stage within a name-brand theatre aren’t the only ways for artists to show off their endeavors anymore. Free social media platforms that cater to visual imagery such as Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest are quickly becoming an important way for artists to showcase and sell their work. Diving into the theme of social media and the arts industry, this week I spoke to Kendra Ainsworth, a program assistant at the Burlington Arts Centre. So why is it important for artists to showcase their work online anyway?

Well, according to Ainsworth, it’s the much wider audience reach that is appealing, as well as the opportunity to easily collaborate with other artists. She said that Pinterest or Tumblr are two good examples – they allow artists to showcase images. If an artist has images on the web that can be re-blogged to those sites then that’s getting their aesthetic out there – and giving them credit.

Looking at how the industry uses social media from the arts institution’s point of view (those aforementioned theatres, galleries and museums) Ainsworth has seen how the industry has been using social media and has some good ideas on where it should be going.

Right now, according to Ainsworth, the arts industry has largely jumped on the social media bandwagon because it feels like it should, and not necessarily because it’s the best avenue to reach out to others. While the early adoption of social media by arts institutions was kind of slow, she said they “need to take the initiative and really engage others.  They’re trying to, and need to, think outside of the box.”

So what does this mean? Ainsworth mentioned an example of the AGO – which has hired their own social media coordinator who runs a blog and Twitter account. The key for art institutions is to not only publicize their own exhibitions, but generate a buzz of publicity for arts in general, according to Ainsworth. If they AGO sees something interesting, they get out it out there to get people in engaged in the arts.

She said that institutions need to figure out how people are choosing to participate in the arts world through social media and why. Ainsworth mentioned that institutions need to look at the 90-9-1 one rule, which shows that out of 100 people who use web 2.0 applications, only one person is creating an original content, nine are commenting and 90 are passive readers. Personally, I think that’s an interesting  concept for anyone (whether a blogger, a corporate company, or artistic institution) to  apply to their social media strategy.

Ainsworth gave an example of a really innovative program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Several years ago, they created a program which spread art through mobile devices. Notable individuals like writers and actors could write their own responses to works of art in their collection. Anyone interested could download the writing in their handheld devices, and it “provided people with another interpretation of art.”

On that note, one example of a great artist who is taking advantage of social media is the YouTube star, HennessyYoungman, who creates critiques of contemporary art in an outlandish style. Ainsworth said his videos have gone relatively viral and “he’s now being invited to speak at art institutions. More traditional institutions are looking for innovators within social media to galvanize what they do.”

The key point of social media execution for the art institutions is in the planning stages of the institution’s own missions. “They have to see their social media strategy fits with their mission. It’s really from the ground up planning, audience research, what social media their target audience uses, how to reach out to them,” Ainsworth said, “they need to do advance research before they implement strategies.”

For further reading about arts and social media, check out Nina Simon’s book “The Participatory Museum,” which focuses on how cultural institutions can become more dynamic and relevant public spaces. Simon is also the author of the  Museum 2.0 blog.


Is it possible to leverage social media for financial trading?

Using social media for financial trading?

Could Twitter posts affect the stock market? Could my photos on Pinterest cause the DOW to plunge? Well, maybe not but the financial wizards at Thomson Reuters are currently developing a new service to scan the general posts of many social media sites to get a feel for how the stock market might react according to public sentiment and current events.

Historically, investors and traders relied on a lot of fundamental and technical analysis to help them make their investments. While online financial investors have relied on social trading (using Web 2.0 content applications as an information source for making financial trading decisions) for a while, it’s the first time a financial provider will analyze social media data. Mixing in the sentiment displayed on social networks provides a more transparent and real-time financial analysis.

The Toronto-based Thomson Reuters’ new service will analyze not only official posts on millions of websites to figure out trading trends, but corresponding comments as well.  About 50,000 news sites and four million social media sites and blogs will be scanned.

Previously, data providers like Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones and Bloomberg used similar services just for searching news sites, but this is the first time a financial provider is expanding into social media. It’s hoped that by providing info from the social media channels, the service’s feed will help to trigger trading strategies.  The service will rely on data given by Moreover Technologies, and it will be filtered according to country, stock, market and sector.

Back in 2009, researchers from the University of Indiana created an algorithm for Twitter which could guess the rise or fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The accuracy rate was 87 per cent, 3 to 4 days ahead of time.

According to a Thomson Reuters press release from March 7th, Rich Brown, who heads the quantitative and event driven trading solutions for the company, investment firms are investing in new techniques to understand a lot of unstructured data that is available over the Internet.

“When properly analysed and understood, this data can complement a firm’s trading and investment strategies and give it a competitive edge,” he said. Just three years ago, only two per cent of firms used the machine readable news feeds. According to Aite Group, that number is up to 35 per cent.


On a similar note, law enforcement is becoming increasingly complex and the FBI have realized that simply tapping someone’s phone won’t be enough to catch an associate of illegal monetary transfers when they have so many ways of creating communication networks.

The FBI has launched a service called Perfect Hedge Investigations, which will monitor social networks to help weed out insider trading and securities fraud.

Richard Jacobs, an FBI special agent, told ComputerWorld that they “will go to whatever lengths we have to, to keep up with changes in technology.”

Kony 2012: Using social media for a social cause

Well, Invisible Children has set out to do exactly what they wanted to do. They’ve made Joseph Kony famous. More than 52 million people have watched their 30-minute video since it debuted on Youtube earlier this week.

The IC’s 30-minute video explains how Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, has performed horrible crimes to humanity for over 25 years in Uganda and Central Africa. He’s rounded up thousands of children and brutally assaulted and killed them as part of his military regime.

In the video, the IC calls out for viewers to use all social media channels to help spread the message of finding and taking down Kony. What makes it such an interesting phenomenon is how quickly people jumped on the Kony 2012 bandwagon. Judging by its initial success, bloggers and pop culture writers have been all wondering if social media is really the way to go to ‘change the world.’ Residents in countries such as Libya and Egypt started the trend in 2011, when they communicated via social media websites to topple the dictatorship regimes in their country. So could it be possible to really change things with a click of a mouse?

While the immediate reaction to the video was favourable, a backlash began on Wednesday as critics began to ask viewers to take off the rose-coloured glasses and watch the movie with a more well-informed eye. Bloggers, academics, politicians and African news correspondents said the video oversimplified a complicated issue and promoted direct military intervention with the aid of the Ugandan army, which has had its own history of problems.

One of the most widely circulated critical blog posts came from Tumblr’s Visible Children, which detailed the IC’s troubled past:

“As a registered not-for-profit, [Invisible Children’s] finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.”

It’ll likely take some time for everyone to determine the true credibility of the IC and the true impact the group’s video. Regardless of who you agree with it’s interesting to consider the potential power of the borderless ‘social media citizens’ of the world. Perhaps Kony 2012 is just the start of more

How much should a company invest in their social media strategy?

How much should a company invest in their social media strategy?

While most businesses acknowledge that they need to invest in social media for future growth, the evolving nature of the online world makes it difficult for some companies to know how much they should really be investing into their online communication channels. Most big businesses have official strategies and many of the little guys have jumped on the Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn bandwagon.

Social media is based around getting and sharing little pieces of information everyday, whether it’s a Tweet, a promotion for a contest through Facebook, or a new photo on Pinterest. A company needs to think about if they need to be providing the social media content themselves or outsourcing to a third party. Some companies really need to reach out to customers in their own words, while others can get away with hiring a communications agency that specializes in social media. But is it always a good idea for their company to dive in to the social media world if they can’t invest the proper time and funds to pull off a social media campaign? According to an infographic from SocialTimes that was released in May 2011, the average cost of a campaign was $210,000 (this is likely for bigger businesses).

Do the companies who don’t provide daily services (think: funeral homes) also really need to invest in a social media strategy? Is there a point in joining the social media world if the company isn’t going to devote time and resources down the line to their online presence?

To answer some of these questions, I spoke with Laura Townson, an Interactive Project Manager for Toronto-based Blend360 Communications, which specializes in social media, website and design development, and content execution, among other things.

Q: How important is a company’s social media strategy?

Laura: It’s extremely important. We’re seeing companies use it more and more, whether or not it’s a large enterprise or a small business. The numbers are there to that show people are online. Not every company is using Twitter or Facebook, but their audience is online. Traditional media and advertising isn’t being picked up the same way it used to be. But social media is about more than just promoting businesses, but about in engaging the audience. If you are a small or large business, it’s important for your longer term business strategy to engage people.

Q: Could you put a dollar value on the social media for a company?

Laura: I don’t think you can. It changes so much from day to day, company to company. There are a lot of things to take into consideration. How are you engaging your client? A lot of it is not measurable. While there are score boards for Twitter followers, or Facebook followers, people are realizing it’s less about the scoreboard and more about influence. And how do you measure influence? We’re just starting to explore that.

Q: Should companies be hiring someone dedicated to social media or can they get away with tacking it onto existing communication strategies?

Laura: That’s tricky to answer because it goes by a case-by-case basis. In a perfect world, everyone should have a person dedicated to their online community, but that’s not exactly realistic to the small business world. I often see companies thinking they need to be using social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and then they just step back from it. I think it’s okay to post a promotion once in a while but your social media content should be 30 per cent promotional and 70 per cent value content. If you need to hire someone else, it’s okay and I’d recommend an intern to small companies who can’t afford to hire a Community Manager. There are a lot of interns out there with a public relations background, looking for the opportunity to get their hands dirty . Interns are bright eyed and bushy tailed and know the space.

Q: What’s a great example of a company who has invested in their social media strategy?

Laura: Rogers Communications is really doing well with their social media. I [previously] worked for the Agency of Record for their social media team and I love that they are embracing the negative as much as the positive. A lot of people think Rogers and think “I hate being on hold or something was wrong with my bill,” but Rogers really took to the net. They created two Twitter accounts, one is business to consumer, one is businesses to business. Their goal was “I don’t want to hide the bad;” expose us, good or bad. They have a community manager team and you’re guaranteed to get an answer even if you are ripping them to shreds. They’re a perfect example of why they have become a monopoly in their industry, because they built trust with the consumer.

Q: Any industry that social media is especially important for?

Laura: I think a lot more non-profit groups need to start embracing it. The trend is definitely starting, but a lot of groups taking their time with it because they think they don’t have the resources to fully embrace it. Social media is all about getting your name out there and non-profit organizations have an important message that they need to promote and communicate.

One example is the Shepherds of Good Hope in Ottawa. I worked with them and they really embraced social media, especially with Twitter. They would send out a Tweet saying they would need bed linens and spoons, and then it would go viral and suddenly they would get too much. Non- profit groups should really embrace social media.

Q: How do you see companies handling their social media strategy in the future?

Laura: That goes back to what I said before about influence, and about how people will measure their success in social media. People are definitely recognizing that it’s less about the numbers (people can purchase followers now, so numbers mean nothing), and more about the company’s influence.

You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lautow