The Ladder

Things I think about when I'm not talking or listening

How Artificial Intelligence will change gaming forever

Gaming is ever more popular all over the world. In some countries, like South Korea, it’s a national sport. In the US, more people are watching video games then national sports – in October last year 18,000 people bought tickets to see the League of Legends Season Three World Championship in LA. As gaming becomes more and more popular, the profits to be made are accentuated by the ever-growing technological capabilities of tech companies. In the future, when Artificial Intelligence develops further and becomes more widespread across the planet, gaming will be completely transformed, and in many ways.

Once companies are able to use AI bots to independently create game content on a consistent basis with minimal or no human involvement, they might be able to create huge game environments in which the objectives, characters and gameplay change constantly, reacting to players and the sandbox-like game environment. The storylines could be written and executed by AI bots operating within the game, which would be able to autonomously integrate intelligent marketing campaigns, targeting users with specific sales offers, auctions or promos.

In time, AI bots may develop into digital entities that are almost indistinguishable from humans – they might increase in complexity to the point where they are able to display a whole range of personalities, skill levels, temperaments and appearances. In time, perhaps they would learn to display very subtle but specific and relatable behaviour, and be able react to player behaviours – speech, play style, humour, etc. Maybe they’ll be able to simulate human behaviour to the point where collaborative play is possible, using speech to communicate, not just text.

After AI bots are introduced to game worlds, they could have the capability to relate real-world characteristics and events to the gameplay and storyline. So, maybe, they would be able to create storylines and execute them on the basis of a player’s likes, brand alignments, location or gender. The AI bots could craft individual game content for each user – however it would be have to be subtle enough to entirely convince players. Additionally, a huge amount of data would be gathered from doing this and would contribute to a huge stream of valuable big data.

The companies that end up creating these huge, online and immersive playing environments would be able to measure a massive range of things, if they create the infrastructure to actually collect, store and analyse it properly. Specific behaviour patterns, eye movements and reactions to certain in-game sales promos would be a huge source of data that could be sold to third parties. Just as Google and Facebook’s databases are so valuable, so would one belonging to a gaming conglomerate of the future.


Africa – the Internet’s final frontier

There is arguably no other place on Earth with so much promise as Africa. While the continent is infamous for its extreme poverty, the world’s richest countries look to it for its resource wealth – it is home to one third of the planets minerals, a tenth of its oil, while two thirds of the world’s diamonds are produced there. Like a lot of the developing world, the continent has an extremely young, if deprived, population. Combine this youthful population with a flair for entrepreneurship and a catalyst like widespread Internet access, and you have the potential for serious economic growth. And it’s not just Internet access alone that will induce a sea change: smartphones are already changing the way Africans communicate and do business drastically. Recent research published in the Guardian has indicated that “70% of Africans in the countries researched browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers”.

While countries like Iran and Cuba are effectively locked out from the riches the Internet has to offer, Africa is just sat there ready and waiting. Several companies have been building the infrastructure for high speed broadband connections in parts of East Africa for years, and Google has enjoyed a lot of publicity for its proposal to bring internet to the developing world via a global network of high-altitude balloons. Mark Zuckerberg also champions the cause, and late last year Facebook revealed it was in talks with satellite operator Avanti to bring free internet to millions of Africans.

It is impossible to know how high speed Internet access would change a continent as large and diverse as Africa. However, it’s something that I think about a lot, so I decided to write about it here.

  • Networking and collaboration: the Internet makes networking, debate and collaboration between people in different parts of the continent easier. Likeminded Africans will be able to work cooperatively with a common goal in mind, regardless of distance or state boundaries. Small businesses or groups of people would be able to unite around a common interest or goal. The ease of communication and collaboration will help small companies expand nationally and even continentally. Start ups are much more likely to be successful and profitable.
  • Minimising wastage, increasing pragmatism: companies with more than one location could be synced and as a result be more efficient. In industries such as logistics, energy generation and distribution, the status of transport routes and other factors like the weather can be tracked, allowing companies to be more prepared. This in turn will teach them how to be more adaptable and pragmatic. Internet-based communication will also ensure minimal wastage and loss – think “just in time delivery.
  • Transport: as with logistics, transport companies, and ultimately African people, will benefit from regular, real-time updates from bus, train and air travel companies. Tickets will be purchasable via a smartphone, and companies can be rated and evaluated, increasing competition between different transport providers. Competition will inevitably drive up standards.
  • Education: one cannot overestimate the Internet as a learning resource, particularly in a place with literacy rates as low as Africa. Today, anyone can almost teach themselves how to do anything on YouTube, or Quora. The Internet could be used in schools to facilitate learning, but also in some cases instead of them. For those children that live too far away from a school, online educational resources could mean they are able to be home schooled at very little cost. Teaching standards would be easier to maintain and engaging content is easier to produce. Another example of how useful the Internet could be as a learning resource would be when someone needs to be taught a simple, vocational skill like mending a bicycle or repairing a mosquito net.
  • Healthcare: websites will help people in remote communities without a doctor to diagnose themselves, reducing strain on overburdened health services. ‘Big’ data generated and gathered from any future national or continental healthcare service’s website will allow doctors to identify trends. The combination of accurate GPS coordinates and symptom logs could a) increase efficiency by helping to judge where to concentrate resources, and b) stop the spread of diseases like Ebola.
  • Exporting culture: Africa is home to a wildly diverse plethora of tribes, ethnicities and religious groups. The Internet will unleash the creativity of an entire continent as small craftsmen are able to easily export their music, art and literature to the world. Africans will also be able to use social media channels like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest to market themselves to a global audience effectively. Not only will sellers connect with the rest of the world, but the middleman is effectively cut out, meaning the poor will get a fairer price for their goods.
  • Politics: people living on the continent will become even less satisfied with the slow, corrupt and bureaucratic governments when they are able to see (on global news and social media channels) the full democratic rights those in other developing countries have. Using social media, they will become more proactive in criticising the government, and use it to organise protest groups and the opposition. Information is easier to distribute and obtain, so Africans will be able to criticise and hold their governments to account more easily. Africans will use the Internet to engage in international politics – supporting NGOs, individuals and charities from around the world.

Some of the above is applicable to other countries, particularly India. Both countries have young populations and a huge amount to offer in terms of culture. I accept that the above bullet points are extremely optimistic and rely on a lot of progress in terms of international investment and the continent’s ability to feed its people, but nevertheless there is huge promise for Africa. I am excited for the millions of people whose lives stand to be changed drastically – albeit over quite a length of time by widespread Internet access. There will always be a risk with respect to Internet freedom: just look at places like China and North Korea. Many countries in Africa suffer from endemic corruption and poor leadership. While the power of the Internet can help to alleviate these problems, repressive regimes like that found in Ethiopia, Sudan and The Gambia are infamous for their tendency to limit internet freedom. But, look at Nigeria. Look at Kenya. They stand to gain huge amounts from widespread high speed Internet access.

It cannot happen fast enough!


Disruptive innovation: Estonia will do to citizenship what Uber is doing to taxis

A term that seems to be thrown about in the technology sphere, and indeed in the mainstream press these days is ‘disruptive innovation’. It’s the thing that every start-up, entrepreneur and venture capitalist strives towards. In the never-ending quest for convenience, consumers wholeheartedly buy products and services that save us time. So, when Uber came along and started providing a quicker and more efficient way to hail a taxi, the only people who properly objected were the cabbies themselves.

With the growth of the internet, distances are shrinking, the level of consumer choice is many times what it was twenty years ago, smartphones have made computing truly ‘mobile’ and information is largely free (providing you have an internet connection, of course). This creates an environment where disruptive innovation can happen very easily, as communication is both simplified and enhanced.

I read an article recently about how Estonia, a tiny European country of just over 1.3 million people, is pioneering digital citizenship. Every Estonian over the age of 15 is given a smart ID card, which they can use for thousands of online services like booking doctors appointments, online banking, online shopping, paying parking fines and voting. Every new-born baby is given a digital birth certificate – it’s easy to see that the country takes the idea very seriously.

While this is brilliant in its own right, even more brilliant is the fact that anyone in the world can apply for ‘e-residency’ in Estonia. Called ‘satellite Estonians’, these people are not full residents, but (among other things) they are able to set up a business in the country and hold a fully verified ID card (which is used to access the web securely). The ID makes doing business online safer, quicker and more convenient.

As more and more people around the world get access to the internet and connection speeds get faster, distances and state boundaries will become less and less relevant to business. For example, a driven, bright, African entrepreneur with a great idea could set up her company in Estonia. While her company would provide for Africans and have African employees, she pays taxes to the Estonian government, and that is where it is registered. For someone like her, having the business registered in an EU member state is beneficial for two main reasons: firstly, while Europe is by no means a perfect place to trade, the business infrastructure is highly developed and red tape and corruption are often less of a problem than in many African countries. Secondly, after a new EU rules comes into force soon, member states will be forced to recognise each other’s digital IDs. This further enhances e-Estonians’ ability to do business with other European governments.

What Estonia is doing is visionary and very clever, and potentially disruptive to international business as we know it. If this is a taste of the shape of things to come, governments around the world will have to work hard to remain attractive to a new breed of businesspeople. Making things ultra-convenient for people will become really important; great schools and a generous welfare system will mean nothing to someone who has no interest in emigrating to that country. Primary concerns will be focused on the business: cost-saving and being able to run a business as freely as possible are two.

Uber has shaken up taxi drivers around the world, just as AirBnB is disrupting the hotel industry and fast downloads have disrupted DVD rental shops. Admittedly there is a lot of money to be made with these innovations. But breaking down state boundaries and attempting to change the concept of citizenship could, in the long run, be a real force for good. As governments in Europe become more and more hostile to immigration from inside and outside the EU, Estonia is setting a wonderful example. Let’s just hope that the idea catches on!


What’s next after Facebook? Another ‘social network’?

Trying to predict the next big thing in social media land is a popular topic. Investors, marketeers, celebrities and pretty much the rest of the world stand to gain in some way from being early adopters (or investors). Are we all wasting our time waiting for some bright spark to design and build a revolutionary new social network, or for Facebook to die a sudden death, forcing everyone to migrate to other platforms?

While waiting for a brand new network to pop up and gather anywhere close to Facebook’s near 1bn daily active users is probably a bad call (just think about Ello), looking at the evolution of tech companies is easier, wiser and probably more interesting. This year, Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19bn. Then, in an extraordinarily clever business move made its Facebook Messenger mobile app obligatory if people wanted to use the messaging function. This gave it a huge share of the world’s instant messaging by morphing Facebook messaging into free, effective and mobile communication. While SnapChat is becoming more and more of a contender in this area (it is currently the fastest growing app in the world), this dominating approach by Facebook shows how, in the future, even just two or three companies could effectively control and own online communications. Just the other day I was discussing the tendency to distrust the big tech companies with a German colleague in the wake of revelations that governments had siphoned off chat logs via their ‘back doors’. While my colleague said she was loth to use Facebook Messenger because of the somewhat creepy terms and conditions, we communicated via Whatsapp. I asked her why she used Whatsapp, as I told her it was owned by Facebook, and her face sank. This monopolisation of communication could become more commonplace in the future, to the point where the only conversations that aren’t logged and owned by companies are those you have face to face, away from other people.

Although Google arguably failed to make Google+ as successful as they’d hoped, as a company it is probably the closest to providing a pure version of what is known as ‘unified communications‘. Google owns so many different companies that it now has a notable impact in almost every area of our lives in the developed world. It is pioneering driverless cars, it bought connected device company Nest for $3.9bn, it owns the Android mobile operating system, and of course, it has almost 70% of global search engine market share. This is a small selection of the areas of business Google is located. As the search giant grows and figures out new ways to link up all of its services, it will gradually become as necessary to our daily functioning as the mobile phone has become. In the words of Fast Company’s Mark Wilson:

“In the very near future, Google will exist, not as something you need to understand as “Chrome” or “Android,” but as a conduit of information that’s on just the right screen at just the right time.”

So, what comes after Facebook? Not another Facebook, is what I’m trying to get at. The company that wins big will be the company that manufactures your phone, drives you to work, looks after your house while you’re on holiday. It’s far beyond a social network, and if that scares you, fine – remember – you’re only human.


Israel and Palestine: the bullied will bully

After hearing the Director of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) deplore Israeli targeting of UN buildings on TV in the aftermath of an attack on a UN-run school in the Gaza Strip, my opinion of the Israeli government shifted from pretty bad to resolutely abhorrent. While Hamas is clearly a very real threat to Israel, and has mismanaged scarce resources, watching the effects of disproportionate and indiscriminate force used by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on TV has been hard.

In my eyes, the Israeli people seem damaged, fearful and defensive in a broad range of situations. But, who wouldn’t be like that after such a brutal history of abuse? As people get older, they generally become better at identifying those that have had harder lives. People see those that have had abusive or absent parents, or even partners. The personalities of neglected or abused people varies widely; sometimes they are extroverted, sometimes introverted. Sometimes, though, they are bullies. This character trait – damaged, scared and, arguably resultedly a bully – is what strikes me whenever I try to work out why Israel is so severe in its treatment of Palestinians.

Child psychologists have developed many theories dealing with bullying behaviour and what causes it. One interesting article was on the subject of bullying in Israeli schools, written by Dahlia Scheindlin for +972. She discusses in general the “awful dismissal of fellow human beings” by Israelis and the way in which their children are too often brought up bearing the psychological scars of war and conflict. I’ve never been to Israel or Palestine, but I lived with three Israelis during my time in Melbourne, Australia. While they were perfectly pleasant, there was a palpable air of guardedness about the two girls, even slight hostility. I was only 19 at the time and not fully aware of the situation in Israel and Palestine, but I can remember them displaying a kind of resentment towards conscription into the IDF. In my opinion, this indicated that whatever they had seen or however they were brought up, they are in some ways irreparably changed by these experiences. Surely that guardedness wasn’t a result of ideology in this case, seeing as the two girls came across as almost guilty or ashamed of their time spent in the military.

Feelings of guilt and shame are often cited as common feelings in bullies, which is why I found Ms Scheindlin’s article so interesting and relevant. The psychologist June Tangney once said that the more ashamed we are, “the greater our anger and the less we are able to feel empathy – because we so want to stop the painful feelings of shame that we realign our perceptions of the world so that we are not ashamed.” Is this shame that was so evident in the Israelis I met in Melbourne more widespread? Are a lot of Israelis unable to deal with feelings of shame?

I feel like I have to say that while I find this point about the parallels between the behaviours and feelings of bullies and the character and attitude of the Israelis I met and the current government, I think it’s that these are two among a very small number of Israelis I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk to, and I’m in danger of making very arbitary observations about the Israeli government.

The lack of empathy and disconnectedness mentioned above rings so true for Israelis in my opinion. It is a Jewish state slap bang in the centre of the Middle East. It’s about as geographically isolated as it gets on a religious and political level. No wonder, therefore, that this particular country feels like it needs to lash out and get big international powers involved (fussy parents!). Elan Baruch, the former Israeli ambassador to South Africa once said that “Israel doesn’t look for allies, it looks for partners of convenience”. In other words, it looks for its parent with supposedly unconditional love and support for everything it does, i.e. America, and goes ahead and commits horrific acts.

Obviously things are a great deal more complex than this. For a start history is extraordinarily complex, but vastly more important is the fact that every single human individual reacts to history and any given situation differently. How a person is raised, what they have experienced, their own view of history, the present and what they want in the future is fully influential on how they act. An Israeli that has lost family members to Hamas rockets and friends during military exercises may participate in pro-peace demonstrations, just as a 16-year old from a liberal Jewish family may turn to right wing extremist groups. Everyone is different. Like most people across the world, but most crucially Palestinians and Israelis, want to see people living side by side in comfort and harmony. Depressingly, at the moment anyway, this seems like a long way off.

Hashtags are a wonderful invention. How to use them at events:

The use of hashtags at events is nothing new, but most people just stick them up without any thought a month or two before the event, and then forget about them during the event. What a waste!

The clever individuals and teams are doing the following three things:

  1. Crafting a hashtag that is short, easily linked to the brand or the event it’s being created for, and on top of all that funny is hard. Of course, it’s easy to get a lot of engagement with the more obvious hashtags at large, regular events like sports competitions – just think #SuperBowl, #USOpen, #WorldCup2014… your challenge is to get people engaging with the hashtag before the event so that a certain level of buzz is built. Attach the event hashtag onto the end of a question – “If you could ask XXXXX one question at #XXXXX, what would it be?” While the respondent might not use the hashtag, you’ve reached someone and touched them with your brand and your event hashtag.
  2. Where should hashtags be used? By Andrij Harasewych

    Where should hashtags be used? By Andrij Harasewych

    At the event, keep a constant eye on your event hashtag on Instagram and Twitter. If anyone mentions anything – shoot something witty, upbeat and entertaining back ASAP. Why not even include a call to action? For example, tell them about the speaker currently giving a social analytics workshop in Hall C!

  3. After the event, use a tool like Hashtag Tracking to see ALL the engagement your event hashtag garnered. There are SO many different tools to track hashtags, and many are free. Twitonomy, Tweetdeck – the list is long. You can even do it inside Twitter’s website. Some of the more expensive services are very cool, and have ways of tracking conversions and lead generation. Hubspot is one – Social Report is another. They are expensive, and are only worth paying for if you a) have people who know what they are doing and b) have a marketing team with multiple campaigns going on at once and a need to measure the effectiveness of every single action. You should look at the people who engaged using the hashtag and follow up – they could become a customer! Follow them, Tweet about how great their blog is and Reweet a couple of their Tweets.


Everyone seems to hate gentrification, even the rich.

A lot of people living in London (and other cities across the UK and the world) want to live in desirable places. Depending on what type of person you are and how much money you have, these areas vary. During university, I lived in Mile End. Full of anticipation and excitement, I didn’t realise that I’d landed in one of the more interesting parts of London, so I took it for granted.

Alex Proud

“This ‘Shoreditchification’ of London must stop!” How do you propose we do that, sir Proud?

Now, I know that this is how it goes in large cities all over the world. The steady conquest in the form of rising house prices, pop up shops, expensive pints and bearded men. Those who’ve lived in these newly desirable areas their whole lives are affected in a negative way – if they don’t own the house they live in, the rent balloons, friends and neighbours are forced further out into the suburbs, and waves of young, upwardly mobile people move in, bringing artisan coffee shops and bicycle shops with them.

Quite often, and I’ve heard it first hand, those who were quick to recognise gentrification in its early stages (recent reports have indicated Walthamstow, Camberwell and Peckham are the new hotspots) start banging on about how mainstream their kooky hideaways have become. Hipsters start complaining about… hipsters. According to a friend who is studying Architecture, there are three phases of gentrification:

  1. The artists move outwards into an area where the rent is cheap enough for them to be artists and pay the bills.
  2. Those with the money and the desire to be at the forefront of something new follow, bringing their fixies, flat whites and as a consequence push up the rent.
  3. The middle class realise what’s happening, and either follow because it’s fashionable or buy property to let. More often than not, this is a good investment.

An article that really made me laugh was by a man called Alex Proud, a “Gallerist, club and restaurant owner”. Banging on about ‘Shoreditchification’, the man fumes over how flocks of hipsters seem to have taken over his whole neighbourhood like an army of squatters. Mr Proud, consider buying a helicopter and a mansion in Cumbria, because you’re basically asking the sun not to shine. Besides, gentrification is the sign of a city doing well.

Olsoweir / George Archer

Five things to do before, during and after university

Ok, so having done it all and now well into my career, I feel like I have some pretty sound advice to give to students. I studied politics because I loved it and still do. But there are so many things students need to do these days to get ahead of the crowd and really make yourself employable.


  1. Think about what you actually want to do. Be realistic – becoming a lawyer is pretty much impossible if you don’t have contacts and the drive to get top marks in every piece of coursework and every exam. It helps to go and see a career coach – they analyse your personality and suggest career paths. I did this and I ended up in exactly the same profession as my career coach suggested.
  2. Once you know what you want to do, start blitzing the extra curricular stuff. For example, if you want to get into online marketing, learn how to use Photoshop, make sure you are comfortable setting up WordPress accounts, and develop an obsession with social media. This last one will really help – social media is the future of marketing (in my opinion).
  3. Take a gap year. Once you get to university you’ll find most people have. It’s something to talk about, and it really does help develop yourself personally.
  4. Research the universities that you think you want to go to. Although it’s great to go to the university that is the best for the course you want to do, if it’s in the middle of nowhere, you won’t enjoy it, and university is extremely fun.
  5. Get those A Levels. Believe me, not only does it get you into the university you want, but it stands out on your CV when applying for jobs. 3 x A grades is hard, but it’s worth it.
Typical internship

A typical internship – but one that can be avoided if you are PROACTIVE.


  1. While it’s probably not necessary to go to all your lectures, don’t miss too many. You will end up revising from scratch.
  2. Make organised notes. Get a proper notebook, write down the date for each lecture and the subject being taught.
  3. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: everyone always goes on about joining university societies. That’s all well and good, but what will stand out even more on your CV is an internship, along with a list of things you achieved while doing it. I know it’s a lot to put on your plate, but having one day a week at a company you would kill to work for after graduating is gold dust. Just do it.
  4. Don’t get into drugs.
  5. Have fun.


  1. You will probably have to do at least one internship. Only accept paid ones, and put every ounce of effort into analysing how the company could be doing things a little better. A lot of smaller companies still don’t have a firm grasp of social media, so if you’re a social media nut then write up a strategy, measure the results and you’re on to a winner.
  2. Register with as many recruitment agencies as possible.
  3. Write a blog – preferably on topics relevant to the job you are angling for. Make sure it’s on your CV.
  4. Make sure you are on Twitter and that you are Tweeting stuff that is relevant to your preferred career path. Also make sure it’s on your CV.
  5. Make your Facebook page private.

Olsoweir / George Archer

Pick and choose the right social tools to not get confused

Too many social tools, too many choices

Too many social tools, too many choices

Hey – check out the title of this blog post. Quite proud of that.

With the growth and then subsequent explosion of social media over the past five to six years or so has come a concurrent explosion in the number and usage of the following:

  1. Social platforms: these are types of services or networks on offer. For example, video sharing websites are a platform (YouTube!), as are micro-blogging sites (think Twitter, Sina Weibo) and social bookmarking and news aggregation sites (Reddit – one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time reading on the web).
  2. Social networks: a catch-all term used to describe a website like Facebook or Pinterest where users are able to learn, chat, listen and share their life online.
  3. BUT – most importantly and perhaps annoyingly, as I will go on to discuss, social tools.

For someone like me, it’s of critical importance to know which tools are best suited to my every day work. Before I tell you how to make sure you don’t go overboard and sign up for 1o0 tools and then realise on payday you’re paying for them all (f***ing trial periods!) I wanted to compare individual bloggers like myself and perhaps you to those that perhaps do need a multitude of tools, or prohibitively expensive ones like Radian 6 and Adobe Social.

Someone who works for a busy social media / digital agency and is in charge of multiple accounts is going to need powerful social media tools that allow them to control what is posted to a large number of social media networks and when for a number of individual clients.

Get rid of all those standing orders and be satisfied

Get rid of all those standing orders and be satisfied

These clients will be unavoidably different in their social media and content marketing strategies, so different tools may be required to measure click through rates, engagement ratios and engagement levels across lots of different networks.

Then you look at the in-house social media teams at large corporates like Dell. I can’t find the statistic, but something like 70% of all large multinational corporates have a dedicated social media team today. Dell is an interesting example, and one that I came across when reading The Social Media MBA by Christer Holloman.

Around four years ago, after consistent success in formalising its approach to monitoring customer conversations via the web and social networks in particular, Dell launched its “global Social Media Ground Control team” and then later on that year set up its Social Media Listening Command Centre – with the sole responsibility to “monitor, measure and report on Dell social media activities.” Using a customised version of Radian 6 (just to give you a solid idea of how expensive it is), Dell’s Social Media Ground Control team are able to track more than 25,000 daily topic posts related to Dell, and in the words of Stuart Handley, Communications Director, EMEA, LATAM and Canada: “Being able to track the daily topic posts and Twitter mentions means we are able to listen to conversations that have a reach greater than the circulation of the top 12 daily newspapers in the United States”.

Why would you or I pay for Radian 6 when you get so few mentions a day that you can pick up all of them on your phone? Or even Sprout Social when Hootsuite is a more powerful scheduling tool, and you have Twitonomy, Followerwonk and Manageflitter at your disposal for FREE?

The list goes on. My message is clear: Don’t pay for services unless you’re making the money back from yours or someone elses business!

Go and cancel all those standing orders and start afresh. You’ll feel right as rain 😉


How to Utilise Social Media in an Art Gallery

My partner dragged me along to an art fair about six months ago, and by chance I had the opportunity to meet one of the most interesting, charismatic and dynamic person I’ve met for years: Rebecca Hossack. Her passion for people, philanthropy and art is infectious and she adds a little spice to what can sometimes be a rather inaccessible and perhaps even boring contemporary art world.

At this exhibition I whipped my phone out and started Instagramming some of the work on display. I wanted to mention the gallery and tag it on Twitter and Instagram, so not realising who she was, I asked Rebecca if she had the gallery Twitter handle and Instagram username to hand.

Another exhibition at #Art14_London

A very tall sculpture of the Facebook logo at #Art14_London – the most recent art fair I attended.

What followed next was both a pleasure and a shock –  she became so enthusiastic about my line of work, what I knew, how she and her employees could and should be using social media, and so on. I found out that her gallery wasn’t on Pinterest (shock horror!) and while the Twitter feed was reasonably active with a decent number of followers, it was really just a series of ReTweets. Needless to say, the potential for social media making a massive difference to the gallery’s marketing and communications strategy was obvious.

I think that art galleries have a lot of room for improvement in the following four areas:

  1. Utilising social media networks like Pinterest and Instagram to educate prospective customers about artworks and artists,
  2. Driving traffic to their galleries by manically promoting events and exhibitions across all active networks,
  3. Engaging with artists and individuals or groups with the same values as them to forge online relationships, with the view to convert them to ‘offline’ relationships,
  4. Complimenting the physical space of the gallery by using social networks to constantly shout: “We’re here! Don’t forget to pop by on your lunch break!”

Below are some tips for those willing to experiment and jump ahead of the others in the art world. These are brief points, and I’m fully aware that there will be more, especially as the platforms and tools develop and you find out innovational new was to use them. Let me know if you have any measurable success!

1. If you haven’t already, set up a Pinterest business page! Even if you haven’t, READ BELOW.

  • WHY? Because 70% of people use Pinterest as a means of getting advice on how to spend their money. If this isn’t enough, the social network are overwhelmingly middle class females. No brainer!
  • These are not hard to set up and are essential for those galleries that want to integrate lovely looking Pinterest boards showcasing all their art with their website seamlessly.
  • Verify your website from your Pinterest page – check out Jeff Bullas’ guide. It’s relatively easy but you will probably need your website developer to make sure everything is done correctly. This is really helpful as it clearly associates your Pinterest page with your website.
  • If you are ok with having little red ‘Pin It’ buttons all over your website – DO IT. You will need your website admin to help you with this, just like when you verify your website with Pinterest (above point).
  • Make sure the Pins that correspond to art featured on your website are properly optimised for search! When you Pin images you can write a little description. Use key words, the artist’s name and the price. This is crucial if you are to be found by people searching, but also as the page becomes more popular your boards are likely to become recommended to people searching for keywords that you have used in your descriptions. Jeff Bullas wrote a decent blog on optimising Pinterest pages – as has Krista Bunskoek from Wishpond.

2. Use hashtags to engage with guests at art fairs and events.

  • While at various art fairs (which I really did start to enjoy), I noticed that it wasn’t just me snapping away and Tweeting photos.What really excited me was that people were doing the same, all over the place. To see these images and who was taking them in real time, all you had to do was tap in the event’s hashtag (#Art14_London), and check out the images and Tweets that came up.
  • As an exhibitor at an art fair, you can really take advantage of this. Having that kind of data is potential gold dust – it’s basically a current list of who is at the event and active on social media. Once you see someone has Instagrammed a picture, Tweet about/comment on that user’s post, massage their ego a little bit, strike up a conversation online and then eventually ask them to come to your stand and have a chat with you or one of your sales team!
  • When interacting with people you don’t know on Twitter and Instagram (the two main visual networks that people tend to post photos on and that are easily trackable using hashtags), it is key to ensure that you ask them a question about their initial post. Agree or constructively disagree (or just discuss!) their viewpoint, say you love the image, and then talk about what your exhibition stand has to offer.
  • So, above I have outlined a way of driving real people (traffic) to your exhibition stand at an art fair – all for free. The more people that come to your stand, the more chances you have to make that sale.
Google+ logo

The benefits of Google+ are almost entirely related to increasing Google rankings, particularly if your Google Business Page has been verified as belonging to your website.

3. Make sure you’ve got a Google+ business page and EDUCATE your prospective customers!

  • While Facebook has got a great deal more active users and perhaps a more relevant user base than Google+, the benefits in terms of SEO are huge.
  • The primary purpose of using social media as part of a communications strategy in an art gallery is to channel traffic to your website. So, when you create a new Pinterest board for the launch of a new artist your gallery is promoting/exhibiting, it is very wise to post that board on Google+, making sure to use hashtags and the link to the board, as well as a few sentences describing the artist, and the exhibition.
Posting Pinterest Boards to Google+

Here you can see what you must include in your Google+ posts to get the best SEO. I have included a link (obviously!), but more importantly a short summary and a skateboarding hashtag. Google is more easily able to categorise the content.

What the Google+ post will look like on the page

What the Google+ post will look like on the page.

Personally, from what I’ve seen and heard, social media is terribly underused in the Art world (world sounds more correct than industry – maybe I’m wrong!) Perhaps it’s because a great deal of art gallery owners and collectors are averse to tainting their brand with social networks which they associate with teenagers and unwanted technological tomfoolery. I think this is naive – social media provides galleries with tools that can connect you with a vast number of people who you would otherwise not have met or spoken to.


« Older posts

© 2015 The Ladder

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑