The Ladder

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

Pissed off with gentrification? Got money? Get lost.

A lot of people living in London (and other cities across the UK and the world) like to live in desirable places. Depending on what type of person you are and how much money you have, the areas vary. When I was a student living in Mile End, I wasn’t aware that Shoreditch was the place to be, and that people were gradually migrating up towards Dalston and Stoke Newington. It soon became apparent, and that’s where we started going out.

Alex Proud

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

So this is how it goes – a kind of creep of rising house prices, pop up shops, expensive pints and bearded men on longboards. Obviously some people who’ve lived in the area for years are affected in a very negative way – if they don’t own the house they live in, the rent goes up, their friends and neighbours move further out into the suburbs, and they have to dodge pissed hipsters on fixies who have decided that pavements are a fantastic way to overtake buses.

BUT. For those who have money, or the Hipsters themselves who ‘found’ the next new place (recent reports have indicated Walthamstow, Camberwell and Peckham are the new hotspots), moaning incessantly about influxes of people exactly the same as themselves – just shut up would you?

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(s?) like an army of squatters. Mate, buy a helicopter and a mansion in Cumbria, because you’re basically asking the sun not to shine.

Olsoweir

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.

Before

  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.

During

  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.

After

  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

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 ;-)

Olsoweir

How a UK architect practice uses social media to increase brand awareness

Always fun to learn how companies in different industry sectors use social media!

Making the most of your colleagues

This week I started work at a recruitment company called Project Resource – dealing with white collar construction professionals working on projects throughout the UK. There are three things that I’m already really happy and enthusiastic about:

  1. The office atmosphere and company culture is just… exactly what I wanted. Boom.
  2. My predecessor has laid a solid foundation for me to work upon and handed over very well – this has made a hell of a lot of difference.
  3. Construction and Infrastructure are both subjects that are current and intrinsically linked to the well-being and health of the UK’s economy. It’s an exciting time for the industry and to be part of an operation like Project Resource in a marketing role is a fantastic opportunity.

This last point is the most important one for me. As a marketing executive with a very basic knowledge of the construction and infrastructure industry sectors, I rely on my colleagues for information and opinions so that I am able to create quality content and not just sit on my bottom and curate content written by other people.

Construction in Central London

I think in any in-house marketing, communications or social media role, the relationships you build with your colleagues are critical. You need their help much more than they need yours in the early days – and it pays dividends to get people on your side!

Reading around a topic is a very helpful exercise, but talking to people on the ground who know what’s happening out there in the market is crucial if you are to gain some kind of a handle on the subject matter that you need to be dealing with and extracting valuable articles and blogs from.

Olsoweir

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 ever met; Rebecca Hossack. Let’s just say you really have to meet her to fully experience the energy reserves she possesses and her passion for people, philanthropy and art.

Anyway, 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 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 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 their while their Twitter feed was reasonably active with a decent number of followers, it was mainly a series of ReTweets. The potential for social media making a difference to the gallery’s marketing and communications strategy was immediately obvious.

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

  1. Utilising social media to educate their prospective customers about artworks and artists,
  2. Driving traffic to their websites,
  3. Engaging with artists and individuals or groups with the same values as them
  4. Complimenting the physical element provided by their gallery space with a parallel stream of attention paid to ensure the gallery’s message and content are spread to as wide an audience as possible.

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.

Olsoweir

What are human beings evolving into?

I watched an incredible talk by a guy called Juan Enriquez a week or so back, in which he talked about the “next species of human”. Fair enough – no one can stop us evolving. But Juan blew my mind when he laid out some pretty convincing reasons why the next phase of human evolution will happen over the next 200 years.

He explained that technology is advancing at such a blazing pace that as well as being able to grow brand new organs, these organs will be, in some cases, improved beyond their natural state. For example, a blind person will be able to undergo surgery to enable them to see light. Then soon after that, black and white outlines. Then colour vision. Then they will have the same standard of vision normal human beings possess. Then, in the not too distant future, humans will have the option of infra-red vision, as well as zoom capability and nightvision.

Juan calls this evolution the latest in a series of 22 evolutions of Hominids. He then goes onto predict that we, as Homo Sapiens, will evolve into Homo Evolutis; “Hominids that take complete and deliberate control over the evolution of their species… and others”.

This prediction really excites me. I think it will scare a lot of people – but to me it seems inevitable and something that should be embraced. It’s already evident across the globe – look at the couples who are choosing the sex of their babies, or those who are undergoing sex changes or having cosmetic surgery. This is exactly what Mr Enriquez is talking about!

I strongly advise you to watch the video of his presentation at TED below.

Olsoweir

Fleeing Italy: a Generation Lost?

Everyone always moans about immigration – British people tend to say they either don’t like it or loathe it. Just take a look across Europe and far right anti-immigration political parties are gaining ground and winning seats in government.

My girlfriend is half Italian and half Palestinian, and perhaps 50-60% of her friends from home (a relatively affluent area of Italy – a suburb of Milan) have left the country for places all over the world – primarily London and Australia. Maybe just take a moment to think about that in terms of your own friendship group – its a lot of people.

Sforzesco Castle, Milan

Sforzesco Castle Main Courtyard in Milan

They come here with skills British companies need, they speak decent English (in my experience) and also because they enjoy parts of our culture. Someone even claimed that there are 500,000 Italians living in the UK at this moment – I can’t find any proof to back this up, but in 2011 there were 133,000 so it wouldn’t surprise.

Yet Italians seem to go unnoticed. They look foreign, sound foreign and are often employed in jobs that a British person would’ve been able to do. They’re all over the place; behind bars, discussing football on the tube, coming round for dinner constantly.

Apart from the horrible incident when a young man was killed by a group of other immigrant workers, there is seemingly very little bad will to them at all. I’d love to know why this is.

Comparing this to the extremely unpleasant, incorrect and over the top stories published in the Daily Mail about Romanian and Bulgarian workers and the imminent flood the UK was supposed to be subjected to, and you have to wonder if people in the UK actually understand how immigration actually benefits the UK. We are reliant on immigration and have benefited from it for hundreds of years.

Venice

Venice

One thing I do feel is a pang of sadness for Italy. It’s losing it’s young people, and fast. Apart from there being relatively few jobs, most of my Italian friends cite the government and the world famous Italian mafia as the main reasons for leaving their country.

Italy also has one of the oldest populations in the world – which only compounds the problem of the economy. Germany has more old people, but their crazily resilient and tough economy is able to deal with it. Japan’s young people rarely emigrate – and look after their parents in old age.

Hopefully Italy’s economy will rise from the ashes and people will return, perhaps to start families or just because they miss the food.

Olsoweir

“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” Kurt Cobain

I have not idolised this man for my whole life, but after listening to Nevermind and In Utero as a kid without really listening to either albums, I decided to give In Utero another spin. Like I do with all film and music these days (almost obsessively, admittedly), I read the review of the 20th anniversary reissue of In Utero by Louis Pattison before listening.

Cobain’s difficulties with dealing with his status as a ‘rock star’ seemingly angered him – In Utero was an attempt to counter the misinterpretation of Nirvana’s previous, and hallmark album, Nevermind.

It is a great album, but whether his suicide was due to drugs, depression or just a pure rejection of society is the question that burns me.

Olsoweir

London based? Why don’t YOU cycle to work?

Cycling Commuter in Ottawa

After commuting to work and getting from A to B  on a pushbike in London for the best part of six years (apart from the 10 mile post-pub missions braving sub-zero temperatures coupled with sleet), I have come to the unexpectedly sudden realisation that it could help to mitigate a number of London’s social and economic problems. With enough support from our government and employers to ensure certain initiatives are implemented, cycling to work could become a viable option for many current slaves of Transport For London, and be a force for positive change on several different levels. I’ve listed them below:

  1. Get into work smiling! It’s a well known fact that the UK economy is heavily reliant on the service sector, and nowhere is this more evident than in London. This means a lot of people sit in front of computers all day for five days a week. Obvious point: exercise is good for you. We weren’t built to sit in front of screens for nine hours a day. Some people valiantly go to the gym on their lunch breaks. But why pay for a gym membership when you can cycle to work? A) it’s free, b) you burn a load of calories, c) you don’t have to pay for an overpriced ticket for a tube full of hot, irritable people, and you get into work having released a load of endorphins that improve your mood and cognitive performance. Win win scenario? … Yes.
  2. Help your National Health Service! A lot of people are overweight in this country. Diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer are all either triggered or exacerbated by a poor diet. While a healthy diet is a good start, to stay healthy in the long term people need regular exercise. Humans were built to hunt Mammoths and build huts, not design magazines, answer phones and write press releases all day. We could relieve the burden on the NHS significantly if enough people could be convinced to adopt cycling to work as a central pillar of their effort to get healthy, but more importantly remain healthy!
  3. Reduce traffic and congestion on London’s creaking transport infrastructure! London is one of the most important cities in the world, as well as the oldest subway system in the world. Londoners are all too aware of this. Often the tube network seems to resemble a leaking boat – as soon as one line upgrade has finished, another one starts. Not to mention the mad crush to get on tubes and buses in the mornings. Wouldn’t you trade that in for a breezy, relatively flat commute on a pushbike? Oh, AND if you really want to get a workout / not have to wake up earlier in the morning to allow for a longer cycle ride, put that little bit extra ooompf in and you might find your cycle commute is shorter than your tube journey. I live in Brixton, and I get to Soho around 15 minutes quicker on my bicycle than if I take the tube. WIN WIN SCENARIO!

So, some pretty perspicacious points for you there! ;-)

Olympic Fixed Gear bicycle

One of the bikes whose owner is likely to be loathed by seasoned cycling commuters. Avert your eyes, seasoned commuters.

Of course, helping people to feel comfortable cycling to work on what are some pretty mean streets would require a completely new, and most likely expensive approach to how the capital’s roads work. The widening of existing cycle lanes on busy routes and the creation of new ones will only have an impact if people are told how to use them.

People who haven’t passed their driving test are allowed to ride a bicycle on London’s roads – this doesn’t seem right. Cycling proficiency in year seven at primary school was a joke. People who aren’t familiar with riding on busy city roads need to be shown how, for free. This will ensure people know what they are doing – increasing confidence but most importantly it will reduce fatalities. Boris, that one’s for you!

Employers also need to be cycling-friendly and ensure that people have a secure place to put their bikes, and provide showers or some sort of storage for ironed shirts.

Olsoweir

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