Coming late to the social media party

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” -Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan’s Tetrad is a four-sided look at the simultaneous impact and effect any media (each a social process) has had or will have on the way society communicates, receives or distributes information. In his book Laws of Media: The New Science he illustrates his thinking by using the introduction of the radio as an example.

The radio is a medium that once enhanced the distribution of news by delivering it into the home, over the airways and through a human voice. At the time, it was more effective than a newspaper, which was slower to get the word onto the printed page and delivered to the doorstep.

At the same time, radio madethe public’s dependence on print and visual means of communication somewhat obsolete, elevating the way news, information and entertainment was delivered and received. It became the medium every household needed and other ways to communicate were on their way to becoming old-fashioned, bringing the spoken word to the forefront, retrieving or restoring what might have been lost. While newspaper were still relied on for information, and still are today, it’s important to point out that McLuhan’s Tetrad, all the observations are happening simultaneously yet not all at the same rate. It may take a significant amount of time for some ways of communicating to be come obsolete, a phenomenon becoming apparent with the decline of today’s newsprint, which slowly crawls to obsolescence.

When pushed to its useful limit, the need for better ways to communicate took over and acoustic radio reverted or gave way to television, where sound mixed with visual offered for an even better, more social experience.

When this thinking is applied to today’s Internet and social media experience it follows the same pattern that McLuhan offers for the introduction, growth and change in all media.

Internet and social media platforms greatly enhance the ability to communicate, create, and respond to through interaction. They’ve created a convenient and speedy way to gather and distribute information. They are easy to use, free, always on, and offer an amazing amount of diversity in the people someone can engage.

Social media and the Internet reduce the need for more traditional media. Radio, television and movies can be streamed through the Internet. Hundreds of news services make the act of fishing the newspaper out of the bushes and the carrier with poor aim obsolete. Both the Internet and social media can also bury the user in data and information and either make one very public, reduce their privacy as well as promote their message—the perceived good and bad of social media. Compared to traditional ways of communicating, the Internet and social media create more opportunities for dialogue leading people to instant access of information or personal exchanges about anything.

Today, Social media makes it obsolete for someone to not be engaged. It can also make the person resisting its use “obsolete” or out of touch. It creates every opportunity for people to be drawn into very broad conversations and reduces dependence on limited ways of communicating where there typically is no interaction, exchange of ideas, such as in newspaper, print media, radio and television.

But predicting and speculation is tricky business. What will today’s social media become when pushed to its limit? What is the limit and what will it revert to? Perhaps having to sift through useless, baseless, wrong or misguided information? Who emerges as definitive authorities? Will the concept of “friendship” lose meaning? Social media seems to be in the control and hands of any individual who engages in its use so when pushed to it’s extreme (and it will, just as every medium before it has), does it revert back into the control of the next company or person to create the newest social media platform which provides newer, more organized, logical, concise or broader opportunities to communicate? And what will that be? Could it be Google+?

Pondering McLuhan’s thinking made for a restless night. Should I be expected to predict or even guess the next step in how the world communicates and complete the McLuhan’s Tetrad as it relates to today’s Internet and social media? I’m still working on Facebook. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see a series of Tetrads on media and communication beginning with how prehistoric society used cave drawings to convey a story or message to those stumbling upon them, all the way to today where we rely on the Internet to communicate. That would illustrate McLuhan’s thinking fluidly and beautifully and demonstrate that his principles are indeed timeless.

…and for those you who need to know more there is a McLuhan for Beginners.



It’s personal.

I confess. I’ve often felt that “socializing” through a social media platform was about as warm as snuggling up to a cold and lifeless body. How could this possibly trump a glass of wine shared in the company of friends enhanced by lively conversation, the sound of their voices, the rising or falling inflection in their words? I couldn’t comprehend the popularity and rampant use of online marketing tools like Facebook and Twitter. As they grew in popularity, I felt myself digging in my heels refusing to be dragged into an impersonal and perfectly flat world aglow from my laptop screen. My totally linked-up son-in-law rarely hesitated to mock my resistance. Defensively, I argued that those who totally immersed themselves in social media lacked social skills and that hiding behind all the popular platforms was easier than getting out there and mixing with the world. Why couldn’t they just find dates the old-fashioned way—like hanging out in dark, dank bars. It was good enough for my generation, wasn’t it?

But that’s my age talking.

Today, I find myself slowly responding to the siren song. My recently launched Facebook page Cleveland’s West Side Market: 100 Years & Still Cooking continues to steadily build a “Liking” audience, and that gets me excited about the possibilities of social media. Although we’re still feeling our way around, my coauthor, Laura Taxel and I have embraced this particular platform as an almost effortless way to put the word out and rely on others to spread it around about book signings, events related to the release of the book as well as those surrounding the West Side Markets’ 100 year celebration.  

Just like being social in the real world, being social in the virtual world requires some skill building, often learned through making mistakes. Scott Kleinberg of the Chicago Tribune points out some of the most egregious mistakes people make while trying to be social. I’m happy to say that I’m not guilty of any of them because I’m that new to social media. But my days are numbered.

Professor Zeller’s shared interviews with those who rely on social media to promote their art, product, business, or social cause reveals that between them there are some recurring themes when it comes to being a social success.

• One platform does not fit all. This week, I mistakenly created a LinkedIn account and have been bombarded with LinkedIn connections that I don’t quite know what to do with yet. Wish I would have stumbled across Jamie Turner’s blog before I made this mistake. He breaks down the long menu of social media platforms into three categories: networking, promoting, and sharing and provide a description as well as weaknesses in each.    

• How are you going to measure your success? Establishing goals and setting your sights on the prize leads to success but have you created any benchmarks to gauge if your social media efforts are working? There’s no one method but Shama Kabani offers a quick and succinct look at how to track if your marketing effort are paying off.   

• Commit to the relationship. Like any successful relationship, the effort you put into using social media to promote, share, or network will certainly reflect on what you get out of it. Christina Sirabian says, “It takes a certain amount of time and commitment before it shows it’s worth.” From personal experience, I can tell you that the moment I broke up with my own blog, got lazy, and quit posting, my readers moved on to more fulfilling blogging relationships. 

• Be consistently consistent. It’s more than just posting on a regular schedule. It’s about becoming a familiar voice, knowing what you need to say, and staying on course. This blog from Katie Wagner Social Media expands on the multiple meanings of consistency when it comes to using social media.

• It’s not all about you. Or me, for that matter. It’s about being social, engaging other and not just promoting yourself. It’s about building relationships, authority, and credibility. Just because you have a marketing platform that has virtually no limits, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have limits. Posts and announcements should have value, be genuine, and audience your trying to build and engage should always be foremost in your mind.  PC World blogger, Brad Chacos offers an interesting 80/20 approach when it comes to using social media effectively.

A side note: Hot on the heels of saying, it’s not all about me, I will engage in a little shameless self-promotion and welcome you to our West Side Market Book Facebook page. I would appreciate any feedback or insight on how you feel about the page as we move through this class. I’m old(er) and my skin is very thick. Constructive criticism is always appreciated—mlou

Dare to be social

I’m always late for the party—whether it’s a gathering of friends, meeting a writing deadline, celebrating social media, or registering for a class two weeks after it’s begun, count on me to be the last to arrive. At this point in my life, I’ve accepted that fact and encourage others to embrace it, too. Friends are easy to convince. Publishers, editors, and college instructors? Not so much.

These days I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of my third book Cleveland’s West Side Market: 100 Years & Still Cooking which is being published by the University of Akron Press. Twenty boxes weighing 44 pound each should arrive with a giant thud on my front porch in about six weeks but more will be shipped out of distribution centers and other will be stocked and stacked at bookstores. This is the third book I’ve written and the one that drove me to this class. I’ve made weak attempts in the past to use social media to promote my first two books: Farms and Foods of Ohio  and The Locavore’s Kitchen. Weak, indeed. My blog has lain fallow for almost a year and my website is in need of serious updating, although my photo suggests I look much the same as I did three years ago. I never dabbled in social media marketing for either of these books but when I launched a West Side Market Facebook page in a panic moment just a few days ago, 200 people “Liked” it. They really Liked it! Even I know that kind of interest has a way of translating into book sales. I’m here to tell you that being humble about your work and waiting for people to find you does not a paycheck write. Authors are poor to begin with. Those who don’t promote themselves? Poorer still. It’s also important to note that most publishers throw their authors into a deep do-it-yourself pool (filled with their roster of writers trying to promote their own books) and then tell them to swim—or drown. Don’t hold your hand out looking to be saved.

So here I am at the doorstep of Social Media Marketing 245—on-line learning, also known as “going to school in your pajamas.” It’s time to reach out into the world of interconnectedness and get, uh…connected? It should be known that I have completely exhausted the resources of my very tech savvy son-in-law who fields every computer and social media question from extended family in the same way I get all the questions about cooking and recipes from friends and relatives. I should have known better than to lean on him but I do pay well—mostly in bacon and good coffee.

I’m going to use this class to learn about how social media will help promote my book(s) and I’ll post about my experiences, successes and foibles as a way to help others and humble myself. I’ll look for other sources of information and inspiration for getting the word out there and I promise to figure out how to use Yelp, Tackk, Twitter, and Tumblr. I also give myself permission and forgiveness to make mistakes—lots of them. From past experience, I know I won’t disappoint. After all, I’m already late.

To fulfill my first week assignment, here are just a few websites and blogs I’ve stumbled upon that have encouraged me to change my thinking about social media and self-promotion. I offer my humble, snarky, and possibly misguided comments about each. 

Michael Seltzer’s Social Media Examiner delivers quite a bit of useful information. I tend to cherry pick through his suggestions and I like the idea of retweeting on a chapter or an excerpt. I’ll have to think about this but first I have to figure out exactly how to retweet. One step at a time.

Jesse Stanchak’s Smart Blog on Social Media struck a particular chord when he suggested, “Make connections before you need them.” It made me feel good that I’m starting things off on the right foot, stirring up some interest and excitement with Facebook weeks before the book is released.

Honestly, I was drawn in with’s Valerie Peterson’s haircut and pretty colored scarf but as I read her blog about tapping into your audience through social media, I was intrigued with the comment on Google+Circle which is a tool for author networking. I was equally curious about the number of very young and hip people on this home page…with the one token older person. Let’s work on that.

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