Open Sourcing Social Media Consulting

Of late, I’ve been increasingly surprised and impressed with the variety of disciplines I’ve been tiptoeing into–a natural side-effect of reading about intellectual property, remixing, and the changing face of writing. It’s great fun . . . but I also get the impression that we rhetoric/composition folks dip into our friends’ pools more than others drop by to swim with us and see what we have to say. Is that just me? Not to get all defensive or anything. . . .

This morning, for instance, I found myself for the first time at Harvard Business Publishing’s “Conversation Starter” blog, thanks to my Google News alert for “intellectual property.” (It wasn’t really that long ago that, as an undergraduate English major, I would push my ponytail aside and scoff into my espresso if people told me they were studying business.)

I was directed to a stellar post, “Will Social Media Consultants Practice What They Preach?” by Alexandra Samuel, CEO of Social Signal, a social media consulting firm. (“Hey business X! Be hip! We’ll help!”) Basically, she’s announcing that she’s tired of social media consulting firms touting the importance of freedom, openness, sharing, etc., without actually stepping up and being free and open themselves. To that end, Social Signal is going to start giving away their intellectual property under Creative Commons licenses, sharing their ideas and previous work for free, as long as people agree give credit, not turn around and sell it, and use a similar license if they post it at their own site.

What I especially like here is the group admitting how terrifying a process this can be, but going ahead and doing it anyway. I mean, look at me, a graduate student in (at least at my university) a subdiscipline of English studies. I’ve never had the need for social media consulting, but all of sudden, because of this choice of theirs, I firmly have their company’s name hovering in my brain. The first time I come across someone needing this kind of service (and my wife, working in the nonprofit arts sector, surely knows lots of groups who could use some serious consultations), Social Signal will come up in the conversation. This business move is a recognition of the natural way ideas move; it’s not a replacement for making money, but a more real way of making money. I love it.


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