Tag Archives: blog

a musician who puts social media to good use.

Canadian singer/songwriter Matthew Good is probably one of the more progressive practitioners of social media in his field. So it was really cool this weekend to meet him in person and ask him questions … because of a contest he ran via social media.

Good recently created M+, a sort of uberfan community where, for a $25 annual subscription, one receives access to bonus content — demos, videos, events, etc. It’s not dissimilar to how The Damnwells are using pledges from fans to finance their new record, which I blogged about a while ago. A few days before his show in Rochester, he posted the following:

Fig. 1: A Special Opportunity for M+ Members!

The reaction was swift and enthusiastic, some fans offering to drive several hours for the opportunity. As luck (and perhaps persistence) would have it, my brother and I both made the cut for the 10 fans for the soundcheck and Q&A. He played a couple of tracks (“Great Whales of the Sea” and “It’s Been Awhile Since I Was Your Man,” which they had not played in, er, a while and repeated the ending a few times), talked a bit and then threw the floor open to questions.

I asked a rambling question about his use of social media (it sounded much better in my head!) and his use of it to get straight to the fans. He responded that while he finds it a handy promotional avenue, it would be a mistake for up-and-coming acts to hitch their fortunes to social media in a vacuum. Good said touring, physically connecting with fans from town to town (which he’s done for 20 years), was key. Bands who bank on mainly spreading the word via social media without touring would just get lost in the “white noise,” he said. In short, it’s about selling the steak, not the sizzle. For Good’s full answer, see this video. (Also see more photos.)

While Good refers to his activities as promotional, it’s worth noting he doesn’t use it completely one-way. He is fairly responsive on his blog — which he updates feverishly — sometimes replying to comments and overall keeping the discussion lively (and occasionally intense). On Twitter, Good tweets regulary, but doesn’t reply often (his most regular @ replies include Pete Yorn, who ranks among the top musicians in overall social-media use). His Facebook page is more a place for fans to interact, as Matt closed down his personal account a couple years ago because he could not keep up with the raft of friend requests and comments from fans.

From left, Colin, our new friend Travis from Canton and Matthew Good's guitarist Stu Cameron talking after the soundcheck.

From left, Colin, our new friend Travis from Canton and Matthew Good's guitarist Stu Cameron talking after the soundcheck.

So while he’s too busy to take full advantage of two-way communication opportunities, he certainly has more of a plan and earnestness than the Oprahs and Ashtons who jump on Twitter for trendiness or ego fulfillment. Matt’s tweets generally point readers toward his blog or feature observations about the town he’s visiting (or the occasional odd story such as the guy in NYC who somehow thought he was Brandon Flowers of The Killers). Instead of chasing a social media outlet because it’s trendy, Good has sound reasons for what he uses. Or to use a popular mantra: Goals first, then tools.

The experiment in Rochester is, I hope, the start of a new way of giving his fans a window into his life in a face-to-face way. The important lesson is that social media, to him, is not an end in itself but a means to build and better engage audiences. And for a guy who plays and tours hard, the live interaction, even if just a half-hour, between the mercurial artist and his band with the fans likely does all parties some good.

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hashtagged to death: will social media kill conferences?

Watching the stream of tweets from this week’s EduWeb Conference (hashtag: #eduweb) brought back a debate I see percolate from time to time in social media: When everyone live-tweets and blogs the details from a conference, does that take away the appeal of attending in person? Or do 140-character summations only provide a tiny peek at a bigger picture?

The debate gets downright heated sometimes, as some folks on Twitter and in the blogosphere have declared the live-tweeting of sessions foretell The End of Conferences. If you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on travel, registration and hotel and still read the most important lessons, they argue, why go?

And while this is an acute observation, it’s a chicken-and-egg argument: If conferences ended, how could people live-tweet from them? Then how would new information be disseminated from experts and studies? And would that come free? Not likely. Sure, Webinars could still exist, but they come with a fee, and ultimately the collective cost could still mount to conference level.

I would also argue that not only do live-tweets fall short of telling the full story of any individual session, but they only represent one piece of the puzzle. Conferences are, as much as anything, a social function. Sure, we can network on Twitter, sharing ideas and commiserating, but only 140 characters at a time. Is tweeting back and forth with a friend the same as having dinner and a conversation with them? Absolutely not. Same goes with conferences: Meeting face to face with people in the same line of work, sharing questions, frustrations and solutions IRL and in real time makes even the best Twitter interactions pale by comparison.

While others may fret the end of the conference as we know it, I feel fine. I’ll go out on a not-so-fragile limb and declare that while conferences may evolve, they are not at all headed for the ashbin of history. I’ll book my calendar if you invite me to discuss a historical perspective on the Era of Conference Concern at any conference in 10 years. I’m confident the worrying over the end of conferences, as a meme, will pass. Conferences themselves will remain.

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blogging: a new path to journalism?

I’m currently securing student bloggers for next year, and found it telling that two of them expressed an interest in blogging because they plan to go into journalism and think learning to blog would help in this field.

I took a step back and realized they were on target. While blogging doesn’t replace existing skills such as news judgment, finding/evaluating sources and basic newswriting ability, what we once called papers have migrated online and journalists increasingly double as bloggers. What a change from a few years ago when many news organizations discouraged their writers from keeping a blog!

Now journalists have learned how to incorporate blogs into their storytelling. One of my favorite writers, Sean Kirst, complements his excellent Syracuse Post-Standard columns with short blog entries. On the other end of the spectrum you’ll find folks like Seattle Times baseball writer Geoff Baker, who live-blogs games (using excepts for his game stories) and also pens (types?) longer statistical-based pieces that would bore the average reader if they appeared in print but excite his stathead-heavy online fan base. Blogging is still a fairly new tool in the journalistic toolbox, so reporters use it in countless ways.

But the skills of a good blogger mirror what it takes to become a good journalist. You need to write well and concisely, and blogging can help you practice. You need to find good stories and tell them in a compelling fashion. You need to gain a sense of your audience. Unlike traditional journalism, blogging creates a nearly instantaneous feedback loop, where others can offer views on your story that sometimes can help you explore or consider additional aspects. When I worked in journalism, the only time I learned what readers thought about our product came when they called and complained (too often) or when they dropped a note of praise (too rarely). And while commenters (especially the trolls under the bridge at newspaper sites) don’t always offer an accurate view of what readers think, feedback can help underscore the importance of an issue to a community and the different points of view worth considering.

So should journalism students consider blogging? Absolutely! Not only will it make them more marketable in a world where more reporters are expected to blog as part of their overall arsenal, but I believe the practice can make them better writers. Whatever the state of the newspaper industry, anything that creates a better crop of young journalists benefits us all.

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