Every business today knows the value of having a strong web presence and more commonly a strong social media presence. Whether you use it as a way of keeping in touch with your customers, or obtaining feedback, or promotion, social media is becoming increasingly important. The time taken need not be intrusive on your everyday business activity, a quick tweet or Facebook update may be all that's required.

But what if you want to engage further, or build a deeper relationship with your customers, potential customers and readers? A blog may be the answer, with opportunity for you to show off your knowledge and skills in a particular area and also to show off your business personality. This requires a little more effort and time though and can be especially costly for small businesses. KD writing is now offering a new business blogging service. Get rid of that nagging thought that you should really be writing more often, that your blog is neglected and that you just don't have enough hours in the day. After an initial consultation, I will get on with the research and writing so you can get on with what you do best.

Why blog?
Here's just a couple of reasons, from Spinweb's paper on 'Why nobody reads your corporate blog'
If you think you could benefit from KD writing's new business blogging service get in touch and we can discuss how it can work for you.

So apparently, learning is changing. Of course, everyone knows that, but what does it now feel like to be a student? It makes me weep to think about it but it has now been 14 years since I graduated and I'm guessing a lot has changed. Maybe, although maybe not. What I do remember from my graduation ceremony was the excellent choice of soundtrack chosen by the Student President, an apt choice which set the tone for us all as we headed into the unknown. 

So now I've decided to take my first proper online course, or rather MOOC, (Massive Online Open Course), in particular, the University of Edinburgh E-Learning and Digital Culture MOOC. Learning online is not new to me, particularly since Twitter came along. I quickly found it the perfect way to follow business leaders and thought leaders in every little niche and genre I was interested in. I discovered whole fascinating industries and areas of research that I didn't even know existed. I was fortunate to move from a marketing career to a library role and librarians were early adopters and heavy users of Twitter and its kind. I saw marketing and librarianship as more similar than perhaps is at first obvious. Both seek to share and disseminate information, both wish to promote their service or goods and both would like a big wide open market with plenty of footfall. And that is precisely what appeals to me about e-learning and the possibilities within digital culture. Within education it is the same idea, opening learning to a greater audience, meeting needs these consumers didn't even know they had. This isn't as negative as it sounds, as I said earlier, the personal learning network I built up on Twitter, LinkedIn and more recently Google + were mostly igniting inspiration in me in subjects I had only just realised were out there. 

The Utopia/Dystopia discussions of week 1 of my #edcmooc were fascinating and surprising in terms of the responses I felt to each of the resources. Even those with the most negative outcomes and connotations did not overwhelm me enough to give up on the pull towards the utopian possibilities and the thought that scaremongering was holding us all back from embracing future technology. The 'Sight' video was one which stuck with me and made me feel most uneasy, mostly because I already recognise the distraction that mobile phones, tablets, apps and games can bring into a conversation or relationship. 

The break in real true human communication is certainly one which needs to be feared and defended against. You need only watch one episode of Catfish to see how the human relationship side of things has been distorted with thousands of people believing they are in a dedicated formal loving relationship with someone they have often never once met face to face. Their concept of reality has become warped and in other contexts this is a common fear of bringing virtual reality into our everyday lives as seen in the resources the course examined in 'Being Human.

It would appear that the constant distraction issue is one that concerns not only individuals and their interpersonal relationships but also the education establishments themselves. 

"But not everyone is enthusiastic. The online classes, some educators fear, will at best prove a distraction to college administrators; at worst, they will end up diminishing the quality of on-campus education."

Carr, N. (2012). The Crisis in Higher Education. MIT Technology Review, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/429376/the-crisis-in-higher-education/ 

To counter the anti human argument though I again refer to the MIT technology review, "With a data explosion seemingly imminent, it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the MOOC architects. Even though their work centers on computers, their goals are deeply humanistic. They’re looking to use machine learning to foster student learning, to deploy artificial intelligence in the service of human intelligence." (#EDCMOOC Week2 Resources)

In a lecture at Oxford in 1928, the eminent American educator Abraham Flexner delivered a withering indictment of correspondence study, claiming that it promoted “participation” at the expense of educational rigor.

With correspondence a kind of precursor to e-learning, the concern is similar to that expressed by those in education who resist the gamificaction of learning. But surely what is a distraction in some ways can also be harnessed by educators and by encouraging 'participation' it achieves what every teacher is seeking - learners who are engaged! Going back to the 'Day made of Glass' video what is striking is how much interaction there is between the classroom and the pupils, and how they are actively participating rather than being taught at. As a mother of young children I find the possibilities of how this could spark their own creativity very exciting.

Throughout the #EDCMOOC course one side has not been examined but is crucial to my personal learning journey and how I have perceived the materials and resources, and that is the place of religion. In the short film Robbie we meet a self aware robot who has friends, feelings, ambition, a lifespan and has adopted Catholicism as his religion of choice on Earth. Why would this be so? How will this play out?

"Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have." (Transhumanist Values NICK BOSTROM Oxford University, Faculty of Philosophy, [in Ethical Issues for the 21st Century, ed. Frederick Adams (Philosophical Documentation Center Press, 2003); reprinted in Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005)] The idea is to somehow better ourselves "to achieve a greater degree of control over our own lives." This is in contrast to many religious beliefs, in particular Christianity. To have belief in divine providence, submit to higher authority, to take our hands off control and live in faith, is surely in contrast to transhumanism. Yet the picture of a wholly different, complete human is precisely the story told through Christianity. Biblical promises include a restored body, and a new earth in which everything that is currently flawed, broken or diseased or dying, will be made new, complete and eternal. It is often a criticism of religion that it is holding back human progress, yet perhaps it is not so irrelevant or backward. Perhaps it holds some similarities with current (and future) thinking that many would find surprising?

Read my conclusion here or watch the video below to hear Robotz version..
A stroke of genius to use the 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?' article as a summary to the #EDCMOOC course. It brings together so many of the concerns of the dystopian future we looked at at the beginning of the course. It causes us to examine learning and how our brains may be constantly being rewired by changes in the technology around us. It challenges the wisdom of the crowds. It reminds me that all I have learnt on this excellent course is to be met with some caution. Indeed the time I have spent working on this assessment, my digital artefact, may well have been time that has made me more technologically aware, but less social, less communicative and less free to do other things. Will spending too much time learning about learning make me stupid?

All I can say is that my first experience of a MOOC has been a fantastic one and will no doubt lead to other avenues of study. And at least now if it makes me more stupid, I might have the awareness to recognise it when it comes.

So after 6 months training, assessments and volunteering I have successfully completed my ITALL PDA (Introduction to Tutoring in Adult Literacies Learning). I have really enjoyed the course and have met some great people already through it. The Scottish Survey of Adult Literacies 2009 found that overall the Scottish population has a good level of literacy skills in line with international expectations. While around 25% of the adult population would benefit from improving their literacy skills, around 3.6% of the Scottish population has very limited capabilities. Low literacies are often linked to poverty and are likely to adversely affect people's health and well-being, financial status and ability to participate in society. This is no small matter. It impacts on every area of an individual's life and consequently in their communities.

I intend to play a very small part in improving adult literacy levels in the area where I live and work, Fife. However, it pained me today to read about my homeland which according to a new report has 40% of NI pupils leaving school without basic reading, writing and numeracy skills. I am shocked by this, and confused as to the reasons. Only 2 months ago, BBC news reported that Northern Ireland was 6th in the world for primary teaching standards in maths! Something (or someone?) does not add up correctly. Either way, I like to believe that many opportunities exist for those who wish to improve their literacy levels and increasingly we must offer easy access to these opportunities. Technology offers new ways to engage learners and explain things through new and relevant methods. And that leads me onto my next step in my lifelong learning journey.. 

As I complete my Literacy tutoring course, I have embarked on something entirely different. An online course on E-learning and Digital Culture. My hope and intention is to somehow figure out a way to converge the two. Would love to hear from those who are further down the track than me.
I have recently spread my wings a little and started a new study course. It's a PDA in ITALL (Intro to tutoring in adult literacies learning). It involves some volunteer work with the Adult Basic Education department with the local council. It may seem a departure from my usual focus on digital marketing or whiling away the hours in my college library, however, I actually don't see it as very different to the core of my work. At the centre of everything I have worked on or been interested in is an enthusiasm for communication.

This has (hopefully) shone through in my work in contributing to local music magazines, websites and blogging. It has been the reason why I developed an interest in self-publishing, proofreading, copywriting and copy editing.  It was where I found the desire to help other creatives bring their writing to the market through Vine Arts Publications (a small publishing venture, now with 4 books successfully published and one new poetry chapbook released this very week! Follow @vineartspub for more information on this project.) It has fuelled my interest in marketing in general, working in educational settings, the food industry, and eventually my freelance work for KD Marketing. 

A passion for words is at the heart of all I have worked on, in its many different forms. Even with digital marketing, I have discovered that strong writing skills are essential, even in the skills required to consider web copy or keywords for Search Engine Optimisation. My time spent working in an educational library has given me another insight into how literacy and digital literacy can open doors and give people opportunities.

And so now I am starting on a journey of encouraging others in their reading, writing and basic IT skills. Not because I feel led to suddenly become a teacher, but because the world of words and communication has been so central to all I have worked on and been involved in that I cannot imagine my life without it. I have been fortunate to have great teachers, mentors and opportunities to learn and I'm excited to pass on any little knowledge or enthusiasm I can. The reality of the course is the volunteering starts now so I will post back (hopefully with my enthusiasm in tact!) when I've completed some more of the course. Thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me through years of many and varied random, or perhaps not-so-random projects. 
Following on from last post, this one is for those musicians with an extra level of thick skinned perseverance, precisely what it takes to get anywhere in this industry.

So let's begin with a few websites you need to make use of. If you've followed the earlier advice about spreading your music far and wide on facebook, soundcloud etc., you may be struggling to fit all those web addresses into your email signatures or the bottom of your business cards (?). And that's where an aggregator such as Onesheet comes in. A simple and quick way to bring all your web presence together into one handy place - could also be good while you're waiting on that elusive 'official band website' getting completed.

Once your onesheet is ready to go, why not use it like a press pack? Get it tidied up and ready for approaching all the influencers in your musical genre. Get the correct and most appropriate email address for every promoter, radio DJ, blogger you think might be interested. Do not spam, do not ask your fans to spam on your behalf. Email someone new every day (or delegate this task).

Take a look at websites and radio stations willing to accept dropbox submissions of new music, for example check out freshonthenet (in association with the legendary Tom Robinson.) Lots of additional music marketing tips on there too.

Networking isn't a bad word, it's not so much about who you know, but about who can hear you. For my Scottish readers, events such as Born to be Wide and goNORTH could be valuable places to meet people who can help you get heard and get gigs.

Finally, I address the issue of being put in a box. Any true, talented musician full of integrity will naturally crave to stand out, be different, be new and unique. And you should be, no matter what influences you have or bands you've been inspired by, no-one likes to labelled, or treated like a copycat. But remember the Search Engine Optimisation lessons of before, if you want to be FOUND then you might just have to climb into a box or two. At the very least you should aim to be genre specific (even if it means making up a new genre name of your own in the hope it will catch on.. eg. I once created the genre ApocolypticPop but alas it just never seemed to go far...) You should also consider your local fanbase, and make your location clear, not to limit your reach but to give a clear starter for those music fans out there just dying to find the next 'jazz punk' hero from Fife...

Good luck my friends, onwards and upwards.
Today, the average major music label foists an unhealthy number of samey, middle of the road pop acts upon us whose work has become so commercialised-beyond-recognition as to not actually resemble any real form of music as such. Thankfully though independent DIY musicians and retailers are demonstrating the power of the niche, and the long tail of ‘alternative’ music choices is still frequently coming up with ways to punch above its weight.

See for example the thriving Irish music scene, with bands so against the grain no major would touch them with a barge pole, yet able to tour the world and sell their music in whatever format they wish to a dedicated tribe of followers.

And see the success of Record Store Day to see how independent shops support local and unsigned bands whilst still making money.

With this in mind, many musicians may shun the need for a strategic marketing approach and understandably wince at the thought of parading themselves around in a product demo style fashion. However one of KD marketing’s key aims is to help you be HEARD. And if you’re a musician who prefers obscurity then perhaps this isn’t for you. If however you prefer to make a noise here are some ways to do it that will still allow you to sleep at night..

Once you have crafted your musical genius into a downloadable product, get it online as soon as possible in the following locations. If you don’t want to try all of them, choose the ones you are willing to update regularly and where you think your fans will most likely be found.
  • Last FM
  • MySpace (yip, it still exists)
  • Facebook (use a free App like Bandpage or link to your Spotify account)
  • Soundcloud – ability to create remixes makes it a great place to find collaborators
  • Bandcamp
  • Itunes/ Amazon/ CD Baby
  • BBC Introducing Uploader & AmazingRadio
  • Your own website promoted via Twitter
If you think you don’t have the time or inclination to do this, ask a trusted fan/friend to do it.
  • SEO for musicians: Cynical? Too contrived? Well people still need to find you to hear you. If you are just forming a new band it really is in your interest to give your band a name that will be found when people hear about you and want to Google you. Avoid generic names and names which already exist within another industry. More examples here
  • Branding – Maybe you think style, look and feel and tone of voice are not important, but they are essential in establishing a connection with fans. Read this from Grimes and consider how embracing it might actually be part of your creativity, as long as you are authentic. 
Enough – now go rehearse, record and create the ultimate content.
So recently I was rather inspired by this little lot - Social Media Surgery
The idea was to start social media surgeries up and down the UK using volunteer 'mentors/tutors'  to support their local community and voluntary organisations by sharing their expertise and knowledge. An idea so simple and beneficial to its recipients that it went on to receive the 'Big Society Award' 2012. Now I'm as skeptical as the next blogger about what the Big Society actually is, but this idea genuinely seems deserving of an award. Creating a network of people ('surgeons') freely exchanging their information specifically to help voluntary and charity organisations ('patients') reach a bigger audience and therefore have a greater impact on their local community..well it's just common sense! Many social enterprises, charities and voluntary organisations have benefitted from embracing social media and getting some help and advice from a 'surgeon' might be just what you need to make new progress. 

In the spirit of sharing information and knowledge, I have always had a soft spot for such innovative teaching ideas as:
Ted-Ed and the Khan Academy and Learning Space by the Open Uni.. I have to admire the potential and possibility that can come from unleashing this style of learning and letting it run loose. Maybe just spending some time accessing the wealth of free teaching material online will open a door your business hasn't explored yet. Here's another group freely sharing their web knowledge in an accessible way.. Jump Digital

Are you part of a voluntary organisation or charity that could do with some  hints and tips on using the internet and social media to spread your message? Or are you a 'fellow surgeon'? Get in touch!

So the business plan for my new social media idea is now down on paper. I await decisions on funding and am learning about a whole new world of jargon mostly related to business and money. As with most things though, I have seen that it all comes down to communication, and at least that is an arena I am familiar with. Having recently tried my hand at writing competition entries, award submissions and now business plans, I realise that every project is essentially an opportunity to pitch your story, a chance to say I'm the only one that meets the criteria. 

And now it's time to pitch again.

This time I am challenging myself to the ultimate copywriting challenge, and I have had great fun with it.

Check out the genius that is the Leith agency in Edinburgh and their HOTDESK
And that's official! So having been given a helping hand from RAPP_UK & DPDT organisers it would seem that my idea of creating a brand new online music promotional tool won! I've no idea what exactly I won, but my *now top secret* idea is basically a combination of all a lot of very good things, live music, being kind and the internet. Hopefully coming soon to a social media website near you!