I was going bananas. I had been looking for work for three months, and as luck would have it, there was an opportunity in social media marketing. But except for the time I had spent tweeting, I thought I had no applicable experience.
Everything I had done as a professional artist was weighing in on me. I had been a producer/director for the past five years. I had created another company that lost its only client. The last time this happened I was a print graphic designer. That business failure led me to the Internet. It was 2001. We all know how that year ended. Business tanked for us print creative directors. I was back at my computer reinventing myself.
Before I was a digital production artist, I had been an advertising photographer for a decade, specializing in beauty/faces but also working in fashion and tabletop photography. I reinvented myself as a performer in 1995, diving into comedy and producing one-woman shows in New York City.
Seems like a few lifetimes ago.
Ok. I’m not a man. But Renaissance Man fits. It turned out that everything I had ever done actually prepared me for this adventure in marketing.
Who knew that in my lifetime I would see the creation of a new medium. I was enthralled. Everything digital was making the impossible possible but even back in 2001 I suspected that we were on the edge of something revolutionary.
I put everything I did previously up on the Internet. I created my first website in 1999 and by the end of 2001 I had created my first Flash website. I was putting it out there in this Brave New World. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if anything. But then the phone rang. This is how I met Michael Birch.
Michael jumped on the social networking bandwagon in its early days. He created Ringo.com in 2002 after he discovered Friendster. Ringo was sold in 2003 giving Michael the resources to develop his site Birthdayalarm.com and he recruited me to help him create a catalog of premium ecards to monetize the site.
But Michael knew the next wave on the Internet was social networking sites. He went on to create Bebo which he sold to AOL in 2008. I had the privilege of getting a peek at the service before it went live. I have to admit that I didn’t see the value in such a site back then. I watched as technology took center stage. Content became secondary to distribution and user-generated content was beginning to take off in a substantial way.
Although e-cards together with e-mail had been the first successes on the Internet, the advent of Facebook changed the market for my products. And still I had yet to see anyone do anything but distribution on the Internet. My gut told me there was something new to create that only could be created because of the Internet.
My path was clear now. First it was everything content. Then it was everything digital. I went to work everyday on the Internet. Then “Social” happened but it didn’t happen for me with MySpace or Facebook, or YouTube. Twitter was the socialization of Kat Caverly and it took me by surprise.
As a visual artist I made the mistake of thinking that blogging was only for writers. But as a short-form writer — comedy and greeting card sentiments — Twitter not only made sense to me, it helped shape me as a writer. I had the opportunity to “go to work” on Twitter full-time for a couple of years for my company, Greetums. I ate, slept, and breathed Twitter. Tweeting turned out to be so different from Facebook-ing. It was performance, out in the open. More than just a conversation (how can you have a conversation with thousands of followers?), tweeting was the ultimate in terms of putting myself out there.
One thing became crystal clear: the blog is the very essence, the very foundation of social media. And the power of the blog is words + visual art. As social became an important part of search when Google started indexing tweets in late 2009, the value of words became paramount. Remembering my training in keyword research and search engine optimization, I had an epiphany.
Search Engine Optimization is a powerful part of social media, not because search is most important, but because the discipline of SEO has at its roots the power of words. The question has always been, “How are they going to find you?” This is most important for any business.
But Twitter is only part of the social media process. And it is not even the first step.
The first step in the social media process is content creation. This could be words, video, photography, illustration; all of the above. This is your product; your service. The second step — the foundation of all of your social media strategy — is the creation of a blog. In movie production — animation or live action or some combination — the critical part of the production pipeline is pre-production. Here is where you decide WHAT to do. The best advice I ever got about production is to stay in the pre-production phase as long as possible. Once you make a decision about what you are going to do, then you don’t look back. You finalize the “script”, you cast the characters and you break down what you are going to do in a day-to-day calendar. The beauty of creating such a “pipeline” is that there is a completion every 4-6 weeks.
If we think about online marketing campaign goals as an ongoing TV show, we can produce 8-10 episodes per year. I believe there is a market for the “re-runs” too. So we are creating a library of assets, which we can begin to link together. These are special times where all of my skills can be brought to bear. Social media is made for the distribution and marketing of content!
In an interview I heard Garrison Keillor say that you never know what you think about something until you write it down. I have done so many things in my lifetime; in many industries, with many job titles. The Internet as it is becoming represents a new Renaissance. It is the artist who knows how to wear many hats (even Banana hats) who can best swim in the stream of the coming social web. And I learned to swim when I was 8 months old. In California. But that’s another story.
I’d like to hear your story. Please comment below and tell me — what did you do before social media?