London Jazz. Laura you're marketing manager for the 606, and you've just been to a conference?
Laura Thorne. Yes, Social Media Week London, a twice-annual conference about social media.
LJ. What happens there?
LT. It takes place across at a series of venues sponsored by big brands including Nokia, Virgin and Facebook.
The strapline for Social Media Week is “Open and Connected: Principles For A Collaborative World”. At its essence, that is what social media allows the user to do: connect and collaborate with others.
I was there among the faithful to absorb the latest intelligence about developments and best practices in the sector. As might be expected, I spend a considerable amount of my time – both professionally and as a “private citizen” – on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google + and so on.
LJ. What are your general thoughts about social media?
LT. I try to remember what the word social actually means; there are several variations but let’s take the first definition: “pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations”. On a more philosophical level, I also wonder whether social media has an intrinsic, useful value, or is just another bandwagon for the impulsive and restless masses to jump upon, driven by profit-seeking corporate overlords.
LJ. And your conclusion on that one?
LT. As someone who is innately sceptical yet deeply committed to progressive ideals, I would suggest it is both.
LJ. And its relevance for marketing music?
LT. I've been in the business of music marketing for over fifteen years - connecting with others is what my job is all about, and that hasn't changed. I am here to reach people, so whether I use Facebook, email, or leave a stack of flyers at the local music shop, it’s basically all part of the same continuum.
LJ. And what are some of the key principles you heard at this or other conferences?
LT. One of the sayings one hears around marketing conferences is to “go where the fish are”. The first question for any person engaged in marketing outreach – whether as a business, or an individual – is, where are my fish?
LJ. And the world has changed? .
LT. Too right. I remember when one could pick up a copy of Time Out at the newsstand and all of London’s vast plethora of events would be there for your consideration. Those days are over; even before Time Out stopped being available for sale, they had long since ceased to publish a comprehensive listing of events. One no longer wanders through the vast retail music emporiums of Virgin, Tower and HMV, looking at displays of new releases. It’s a much more fragmented world now. So reaching an audience is commensurately more complex.
LJ. But surely it's all about budgets and the lack of them, right?
LT. There is a sophisticated array of tools available to those with a budget that will provide insights into the nature and behaviour of your particular chosen demographic (translation: your fish). Because of their cost, many of these platforms are only available to large enterprises, and their implementation may take on an ominous undertone that has broader implications. In my world, the powers that these new technologies afford us should only ever be used for the greater good; you have to think through the ethics of what you're doing. Marketers don't have quite as bad a reputation as bankers, but there is a perception by some that marketers are snake oil salesmen, carpetbaggers, collectors of Big Data who invade your privacy, spam you incessantly and value profit over people.
Except any marketer who does that is getting it completely wrong. The primary motif repeated over and over at Social Media Week is that it’s about relationships.
LJ. So the conference has made you think about what social media is, and how you yourself use it?
LT. Yes it's made me go back to the fundamentals, to consider the initial premise of what social media is and why it is important: it helps us connect with people who are interested in what we want to communicate. People seek information. Social media (and their corollaries, web and email marketing), provide that information. Anyone can use it. Simple as.
Of course, in the context of online communication there are the issues of who, what, where and how, but the commitment to developing and maintaining an online presence has to come first. Everything else springs from that decision.
LJ. Are you the medium or the message?
LT. What I think is secondary. I am merely a conduit, a link in a chain of communication between the artist and the listener. That’s the part of my job that interests me most.
LJ. And it's also a 2-way process, a conversation right?
LT. Yes, absolutely. The point ultimately is that we can use social media as a vehicle for communication with people we choose to interact with. It’s a way to get information about things that are important to us, whether they are about a friend or relative far away that we don’t see as often as we would like, or an artist whose music we enjoy who is letting us know about their upcoming show. I think it’s kind of fabulous, that we have the technology to deliver this information right to our tablet or smartphone.
LJ. And everyone is moving at their own speed towards it, some a lot slower than others?
LT. Some people are reluctant to get involved in social media (or promotion of any kind for that matter: you know who you are). Of course that’s fine, but are you getting the results you want? I say, total respect for whatever is achieving the mission, but if it isn’t, perhaps it’s time to take a second look at what needs to be done? The horse and buggy did the job just fine for a while, but then they were replaced, and a whole other world of possibilities - including the carbon economy and the destruction of the planet - opened up.
LJ. You're starting to sound a bit preachy Laura!
LT. Alright, that last bit probably didn’t help my case. I acknowledge, along with the advent of these new technologies came the inevitable downsides. We can’t become slaves to whatever bright shiny object comes along. However, we can evaluate the options and adapt to the opportunities that come our way, and I suggest that social media is one such opportunity.
LJ. Maybe it's British innate conservatism. I guess you must come across that quite a bit!
LT. As someone who spent much of their adult life in the United States I can confirm that there is a reluctance in the UK on the part of some to engage in self-promotion. That’s good in some ways, America is an example of what can happen when one’s worst excesses run amok. Yet that restraint can also be a problem.
LondonJazz. Thanks for talking us through all this.
Laura Thorne. A pleasure. And see you at the club soon we hope!