Season’s Greetings from BreakThrough Communications

Martin Livingston and Paul Sullivan of BreakThrough Communications hope you have a joyful holiday and offer our best wishes for a Happy New Year. May it be your breakthrough year, whatever your endeavour.

Social Media Magic

By Paul Sullivan of Breakthrough Communications

Magic is in the air these days. Harry Potter is making magic at the box office, the magic of Christmas is upon us, and my inbox is full of emails promising to help harness the magic of social media.

Sadly, a lot of social media wizards should take lessons from Harry or Santa. Many of them hail from marketing and are a little stronger on form than they are on content.

The magic of social media is pretty simple. There is a potential audience of millions lurking out there, unrestricted by time or place. If your YouTube video, FaceBook page, blog or Tweets make the magic connection, you could be like 26-year-old Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, who has 300 million video views, a million subscribers to her YouTube channel and 1.2 million followers on Twitter.

What kind of magic does iJustine perform exactly? Simply, she’s a 21st century news channel for 13-24 year-old girls and women. While publishers are knocking themselves out trying to figure out the secret incantation to make the Internet pay, iJustine just goes out and covers Justin Bieber. And gets paid by GE, Intel and Mattel.

In a world where there are almost as many online marketing consultants as there are online surfers, iJustine cuts through the mystery. She’s a trusted source who provides relevant news to self-selected audience that has an insatiable appetite for what they like.

Don’t get me wrong. There is much technical knowledge required for successful social media: search engines, aggregator sites like Digg and Reddit, conversion rates, spammers, flamers, trolls, freaks, etc. But all of the social media savvy is meaningless unless you have killer content, like iJustine, who started posting her quest to live a healthier life, and now takes followers inside the Mattel secret toy factory or the Intel secret chip factory.

And it’s not all about the kids. Gary Vaynerchuk has transformed his father’s local New Jersey wine shop into a $50 million online business with his video blog called Wine Library TV, which has 150,000 viewers per episode, and it pretty much sticks to the basics – news about wine.

The magic spell, if you like, is that if your content isn’t news, who cares? Which is the same magic spell we’ve always had to weave. “What’s the news?” is not a new question.

However, the answer to the question, “Where’s the audience?” is no longer “Reading the paper at the breakfast table”.  More and more, the audience is at YouTube, Google, Gawker, FaceBook or Twitter. If you haven’t heard, everybody is online. According to Internet World Stats, 266 million people, 77.4% of the market, are online. As of August, there were 150 million FaceBook users, a 43.3% market penetration. Everyone has a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone, and they know how to search what they’re looking for.

But you’re not going to rely only on Google to get people to your news. You’re going to send out bulletins, (also known as tweets), to your followers so they know about your news. And the tweet better be newsworthy. It’s exactly what our forebears did when we sent newsboys out to the streets to shout “Extra!” Twitter is the new newsboy.

Unless you are one of those wizards we were talking about at the outset, keep the tweet simple, a 140-character headline link to the story, which is on your website, blog, podcast, or YouTube video, etc. This is in addition to your daily email update to your email list, but the great thing about Twitter followers is that they’ll get your tweets, even if they don’t have a smart phone, as a text message.

FaceBook is a destination and a billboard combined. It’s also more complicated than Twitter, with so many dimensions that the time required to build an active, interactive page takes longer than Twitter. So I’d recommend becoming a Twitter magician first.

Before I was a consultant I spent three decades in the newsroom, print, broadcast and electronic. Wherever I was, it was always about the front page, the lead item, the cover story or simply, what comes first? And that’s what social media is about. It’s the first thing you want to share with your followers. It’s the story you know they’ll want to share and talk about. Whatever else you do today, that’s job one. If you think of your tweets as the new banner or cover story, you’ll always have an audience.

Smug BC Ferries CEO makes good case for a causeway

Urban Compass by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Vancouver

Does it ever seem that sometimes “they” go out of their way to make us crazy?

What other explanation can there be for the ridiculous salaries at BC Ferries? CEO David Hahn makes almost one million bucks a year, and when challenged, issues the following brain-exploding explanation: “I think people have to decide if they want the old, dilapidated ferry system or if they want what they have today.”

No, Dave, that’s not the choice. We want a good, reliable ferry service without getting held for ransom by its CEO and employees, four who make more than $400,000 a year, four dozen more who make $137,000 to $200,000, and 1,000 who make more than $75,000!   … read full story

Secret is out: The Internet changed everything

Just Saying by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Canada

Julian Assange, first martyr of the Internet?

It certainly looks that way. The founder of WikiLeaks, the man who embarrassed heads of state around the world by leaking thousands of messages written by U.S. diplomats, has been arrested and is cooling his heels in a London jail without bail, waiting to find out if he will be extradited for having sex in Sweden.

Yep, you read that right. The more you read about the alleged sexual molestation case against the 39-year-old Aussie, the more you have to wonder if he’s being set up for tattling on the world.

Accounts in Newsweek, The Daily Mail, AOL News, etc., make it clear he’s not being held on rape charges, but something called “sex by surprise,” and one of the women allegedly surprised by sex bought breakfast after the alleged surprise.   … read full story

The arm that pokes the fire bites the hand that feeds

Urban Compass by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Vancouver

When I think I understand what’s going on, something happens to make it clear I understand nothing.

Like the Fireplace Channel.

Every year during the holiday season, Shaw dedicates one of its apparently endless supply of cable channels to a 24/7 video of wood merrily burning in a fireplace.

Sometimes the logs just crackle in the fire, sometimes Bing Crosby turns up to sing about roasting his chestnuts on an open fire. You know…festive fireplace music.  …read full story

WikiLeaks did little more than confirm the obvious

Just Saying by Paul Sullivan, published in Metro Canada

Monday was supposed to be a day of earth shattering revelations after WikiLeaks, a cheeky web site founded by an Australian, leaked 250,000 diplomatic cables, most of them not-so-diplomatic observations of U.S. diplomats around the world.

I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but so far, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is an “alpha dog” and his hand-picked President Dimitri Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.” As if we didn’t know who was really in charge all along, and as if Putin really cares who knows.   … read full story

A recipe for instant soul in downtown Vancouver

Urban Compass by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Vancouver

If Mayor Gregor Robertson can lift his head from his bizarre obsession for building massive concrete barriers in the middle of city streets (a.k.a. dedicated bike lanes), here’s an idea he should consider that will benefit everyone in our fair city, even the forgotten pedestrian.

The idea comes from the lone opposition voice on city council, NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton, but if the mayor is smart, he will climb all over it and claim it as his own. It’s that good.

Anton wants to launch public consultation on the creation of “a major public square on Robson Street between the art gallery and the courthouse, permanently closing the site to traffic.”   … read full story

Oxford cracks the mysery: Are cats smarter than dogs?

By Paul Sullivan, published in Metro Canada

Stop the presses!

We’ve got the answer to the question that vexed the ancients: Which are smarter, dogs or cats?
The answer is dogs.

Before you cough up a hairball, we’ve got scientific evidence to support this outrageous (if you’re a cat lover) claim.

Oxford University scientists have studied the brains of 500 species of mammals, both alive and extinct, going back 60 million years, and have discovered that the brains of social animals such as monkeys, horses, dolphins camels and dogs have grown faster than the brains of solitary mammals, like deer, rhinos … and cats.   … read full story

The colourful cartoon world of B.C. politics

Urban Compass by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Vancouver

Remember that movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, where real people and cartoon characters live side by side in Toontown?

After the last week in B.C. politics, don’t you feel we’re all trapped in Toontown?

Consider the evidence. There’s Gordon Campbell, the premier, who stands accused of being an enormous bully whose temper tantrums are so extreme his own cabinet ministers have to wipe the spittle off their faces when he’s done.

Sounds a little like legendary cartoon hothead Yosemite Sam.   … read full story

Spike in food bank use is a national disgrace

Just Saying by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Canada

Did you know that last March, 867,948 Canadians stood in line at a food bank?

That’s nearly one million Canadians who either can’t or don’t know how to take care of themselves, and the number is rising.

One in 10 of those people were there for the first time, and that’s 28 per cent higher than 2008.

This in a country where people are giving each other cars for Christmas.   … read full story