No Home For Old Folks.

Early this morning I wandered through an old, deserted warehouse watching the dusty cobwebs drift lazily on an invisible zephyr. My three hundredth sneeze echoed in the empty silence and rattled the mercury vapour lamps hanging from the ceiling like grimy grey stalactites. I rubbed itchy eyes with the knuckle of my right index finger and completed my last walk-through of the man-made cave. After thirteen years it was finally time to go.

In 1987 I began working for my family business. It was my second job out of high school and only my third in total. I was a salesman and graphic art supplies was my specialty. Vertical cameras standing six feet tall, diffusion transfer silver-bromide paper, panchromatic lith film that had to be handled in complete darkness – these extinct products were highlights of my price list.

Base camp was the suburb of Marrickville in NSW, an ethnically diverse community with the best Yeeros and Pho soup I have ever tasted. From here I serviced a client base that ranged from Newcastle to Wollongong and as far west as Katoomba. Long hours alone on the road, excellent customer hospitality at the other end. I drank good coffee, bad coffee and something that resembled coffee in a previous life. My favourite was Turkish coffee, so thick that the teaspoon stood straight up in the cup instead of resting against the lip. That was a buzz!

We moved twice in the ten years since I began working with my father, finally settling down in the 290 square meters we would call home in 1998. Rusty racks laden with printing plates lined the walls of the warehouse. A colossal cool room kept photographic film at the required temperature. The gas powered forklift rumbled along the driveway moving pallets of chemicals from articulated lorries as people busied themselves in the Hardiplank offices above.

Unit 6 was alive!

In the dawning decade of the twenty-first century the business grew, and changed. The desktop publishing revolution was well underway when inkjet evolved into a serious solution for proofing and poster production. Apple, Epson and HP were encroaching on the realms of Agfa, Kodak and Fuji; usurping traditional print and photographic processes in their path.

Aluminium plates were gradually replaced with large format paper.

Photographic film went the way of the Dodo.

Pots of printing ink became cartridges of toner.

Lithographic tape became memory modules.

Folks Graphics became Creative Folks.

Unit 6 was thriving!

Staff levels increased, stock levels decreased and the focus shifted. The consumable division was sold off to make way for better IT support facilities and the old building watched helplessly as the oxidised iron shelves were recycled and the rumbling forklift drove away. A roaring silence permeated the atmosphere when the cool room generators were turned off for the very last time and I’m sure I heard Unit 6 sigh as the removalists relocated its family east of the Cooks River.

I said goodbye to my old friend one last time this morning. The roller shutter door squealed a final farewell as I slid the bolts into place. Fluorescent lights flickered upstairs, and then became dark.

My eyes watered. I swear it was the dust.

Social Media Commentary

Should you be embracing social media?

There’s no argument that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress etc are growing in popularity day by day but to what extent are Australians getting involved? According to Nielson’s 2010 Social Media Report released in March there were 9 million Australians interacting regularly via social media with Facebook as the main platform. Twitter’s audience expanded by more than 400% in 2009 but perhaps the most important statistic to come from this report is that nearly two in every five online Australians are interacting with companies via social networking sites.

So who’s out there?

The ABC News site reported in February that Australians were leading the world with an average of seven hours per month spent on social media sites. Source ABC News

Nielsen’s online site NielsenWire noted in March 2010 that mobile social networking was predominantly used by the 35 – 54 age group (36%) and the 25 – 34 age group (34%) with a further 16% of participants in the 18 – 24 bracket. Source NielsenWire blogsite

That’s a lot of disposable income investing their time online.

Print budgets shift to social media.

AdNews reported in April that almost half (47%) of businesses have shifted marketing spend from print to social media. The online survey of 347 Australian businesses found 70% intend to conduct some form of social media activity this year, compared with just 40% in 2008. And it is not only print taking the hit. The survey found significant proportions of businesses are diverting funds to social media from direct marketing (33%), online/digital (26%), TV (15%) and radio (14%). Twenty-one percent of big businesses and 40% of SME’s will expand their marketing budgets in 2010 specifically to fund social media. “In the past year, there has been substantial growth in the number of consumers engaging with companies via social media,” Nielsen online research director Melanie Ingrey said. Australians lead the way in social media adoption with 86% reading online consumer product reviews and 75% belonging to some form of social media. Two-thirds (61%) of businesses already use social media to achieve brand building, however, 29% do not measure ROI from social media activity or don’t know how to. This lag in measurement is a barrier to entry for many businesses, however Ingrey said it is an “easy fix” and predicts a huge rise in adoption rates of social media in the next year. Source: AdNews Online, 21 April 2010

Social Networking On The Road

The Australian newspaper reported on June 8th that global smartphone shipments are tipped to more than double in the next four years from 246.9 million in 2010 to 506 million in 2014. Apple reported on June 22nd that they had sold over 3 million iPads in 80 days. Source Australian IT and

The exponential uptake in mobile technology will have a profound effect on the way products and services are researched and consumed.

“Incredibly, nearly nine in ten Australian Internet users (86%) are looking to their fellow Internet users for opinions and information about products, services and brands, and Australians’ engagement with online word of mouth communication is going to increase in coming years as social media plays an increasingly important role in consumer decision making” states Melanie Ingrey, Research Director for Nielsen’s online business. Source NielsenWire article Australia Getting More Social Online as Facebook Leads and Twitter Grows.

The proliferation of smartphones has lead to a surge in mobile social networking. Nielsen’s report found that over one quarter of social networkers (26%) participated in mobile social networking in the past year. Facebook is the most popular site accessed via a mobile (92% of mobile social networkers have visited Facebook), followed by YouTube, Twitter (18%) & MySpace (9%). However, Twitter sees the most frequent mobile usage, with half of its mobile users visiting the site daily. In comparison, Facebook saw 36% of its mobile users visit the site daily, while 22% of MySpace users and 16% of YouTube users were making daily visits.

Back to the question, should businesses be embracing social media?

With almost 7,750,000 wage earning Australians currently engaged in some form of social media the answer for most people should be a resounding ‘yes’. Like all marketing activities though, you need to develop a strategy. Make sure you ‘tweet’, ‘blog’ and update your Facebook status regularly. Set measurable objectives such as increasing traffic to your website or improving your ranking in search engines. Share your news, views and knowledge with your audience, don’t just go for the hard sell. Most importantly, be honest. The global social network is an incredibly large organism and the old adage that ‘bad news travels fast’ is especially relevant.

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