It’s 2:00 am…

from John Ruskin's Seven Lamps of ArchitectureShouldn’t I be looking at Google Analytics?  This is a sort of a personal joke – I’m forever telling people that Google Analytics is a “2 o’clock in the morning activity”. It’s great to really roam amongst the data and discover new alleyways of information – best left to when you don’t have a specific destination. 

Instead, I’m thinking about a conversation I had a couple of days ago with branding guru, Jim Moran of Co-opbranding.  We share a common issue in that we both have many passions, and thus have a lot of different topics to write about.  Jim had me thinking, though, that the topics we care and write about should be aligned to our brand, which is in turn aligned to our organization’s USP/UVP.  (Jim, apologies if I’m mangling your thinking in the retelling).  This also relates back to a blog post I wrote a little time ago about how we can’t divide ourselves in the online world

I’m at a point where I’m trying to find the underlying thread to much of what I write/think/care about – those threads that span my various roles, and reinforce how that thinking supports the mission and core values of DragonSearch.

The Architect

One of my passions has always been information architecture (IA).  But not in a simplistic usability-sitemap-wireframes-way.  It’s more about helping people move from one place to another, or making choices, or being motivated to act.  It’s funny how the whole conceptualization of the web has been made parallel to the concept of physical architecture – that we have home pages, web sites, that those web sites have addresses, for which we frequently create portals.   Oddly enough, the body metaphor has not gained a strong foothold (no pun), but is instead confined to page part descriptions that in turn have come down to us from the publishing industry – such as “header”, “footer”.  The newspaper metaphors seem to be gaining ascendancy, with “masthead”, and “callout”.  “Columns” evoke both the printed word and physical architecture.

I once hoped that I would have the basis for a good article on Information Architecture by vamping off of Ruskin’s Seven Lamps of Architecture. But the parallels just weren’t there (For Ruskin, great architecture created experiences that generated spiritual experience).   In creating physical buildings, don’t we create spaces where people inhabit – perhaps rest?  On web pages, aren’t we creating environments where users are moving through the environment, perhaps only stopping to consume content?  Or engage in some other interaction?   But then, perhaps resting and contemplating are processes – not unlike other actions.  They just aren’t activities we would do on the web – for those, we really do “unplug”.

IA could be considered in a malevolent light – that the architects are working to manipulate people.  I know, for instance, that when I go to the grocery story, they place those chocolate goodies by the cash register, and the beer in the back, where I have to pass the chips, all in the not-unreasonable expectation that I will purchase more than I originally intended.  Or are they just helping me realize that I just wasn’t considering all the things I really wanted, and if they didn’t lay things out just so, I’d return home with remorse for all that which I had missed?

The Marketer

In this way, marketers are also accused of malevolent intent, always getting people to buy things they don’t really need.  I posit that for both architects and marketers, it’s a matter of “good” marketers and “good” architects as opposed to the “bad”.  In the “good” version, these professionals help people get to where they need or want to go, they help them fulfill their needs, even if those needs are obscured.

Picasso famously quipped, “ I don’t search, I find”.   Some days, I wish I could say the same, but about Google search results.  Sometimes I don’t’ ‘find’.  And that’s often because the creators of content don’t always follow best practices in optimizing their content, making it difficult to find.  As a search marketing professional, my job is helping the world perceive my client’s relevance.

Social Media is NOT another marketing Channel

I forget who, but at last year’s OMMA in NYC, a speaker started out with that statement.  The convention hall echoed with cheers.  In social media, there is this really cool debate/war going on between those that hold that the social media way is about something entirely different – that’s it is about engaging and having conversations. And then there are those business owners/marketing managers who still need us to send someone to chat up the mommy bloggers to help raise brand awareness.

I don’t think we’re NOT going to be using Social Media as a marketing channel.  No way – it’s there, and it works.  At the same time, we can be moving to having more conversations, and empowering more individuals within organizations to become a part of the organizational voice – and to improve communications, product development, customer service, and just overall bridge the gap between business and people?

Common Thread?

I don’t have it yet.  In illustrating the above blog, I’ve used an image of a town crier, the architect and Charon the chthonic psychopomp – a lot of different roles.   The common theme in my work is that I endeavor to help my clients be perceived as relevant to their customers or audience – and to help those people, in turn, find what they need.   In my art-thinking work, though, my passion is the understanding of the bigger issues behind perception (another blog post there!).  While I haven’t synthesized all of this yet, I’ve got a feeling I’m on the way.  But for right now, perhaps it’s time for a glass of warm milk.

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