As the days wane on 2008, it is becoming ever more evident that Cleveland and its civic leadership must work with fervor to develop new business and industry. I am constantly reminded of Cleveland’s strong lineage of disregarded life altering opportunities to; instead, stay on the tried and true. Have you ever heard the stories of Cleveland donning serious consideration for NASA’s Mission Control headquarters? Can you imagine the radical change to the NASA campus and its influence on Cleveland if it were to have a mission control here? This could have happened. I suspect you are all aware of Progressive Insurance wanting to build an “eye-opening” corporate headquarters in Downtown Cleveland, only to have the civic leaders in Cleveland politely say, “No thank you.” Shameful.
I am personally reminded of my work in the early days of my tenure as “Tech Czar” at the City of Cleveland, when David Moss (then of the Cleveland Institute of Art), myself and a courageous band of young leaders worked diligently on an Gaming Center of Excellence grant application. I still have the documents and architectural drawings of a living citadel of gaming engineering and programming to be built in Downtown Cleveland. The drawings were gorgeous and the document to the State of Ohio detailed a laundry list of why Cleveland could become a gaming center (and by gaming I mean of course the PlayStation’s, the Wii’s, the X-Box’s and all other commercial gaming applications). I remember David and I being called down to NorTech to meet with its leadership about “this Gaming Center.” (I believe David will support my memory when I suggest to you that the President of NorTech fell asleep during our presentation…so much for NorTech being on the cutting edge of thought leadership and technology). Needless to say, the grant application to the State for this Gaming Center was denied primarily due to “lack of civic support from NorTech.”
That is why I am suggesting to everyone that we cannot allow this to happen to Cleveland’s rich and growing knowledge of social media, especially in the context of growing this expertise into a thriving and fast-growing industry. I was one of the early members of the Cleveland Social Media Club. And I pray that social media becomes one of, if not the most, promising of technology sectors in Cleveland. To accomplish this, I am offering a five-point plan to quickly establish Cleveland as the center of the social media experience. (Not to mention that this is perhaps the hottest sector in the Internet universe.)
I. Cleveland Social Media Speakers’ Guide – Listen, a little self-promotion always does a body good. A strong compilation of experts in the social media expanse with bios, levels of expertise, contact information and a social network design of these experts created and marketed towards the local and national media can only bring the right type of attention to this area’s massive relevance in social media. Every quarter the Speakers’ Guide is updated and sent out to local/national media. All articles and interviews are then logged into a searchable database and promoted through various social media outlets. Reinforce our strength – knowledge.
II. Social Media eBook – There has been much discussion at the Cleveland Social Media Club about crafting an eBook on social media strategies and case studies. I think it is brilliant that we position Cleveland as the Center of the Social Media Universe. Think of Cleveland as the Library at Alexandria for all things social media.
III. The Cleveland Social Media Center – I have been tinkering for some time on the creation of a Social Media Center along Euclid Avenue, preferably in my mind to be built out in Playhouse Square. This Social Media Center would be an open venue for the general public to visit and try new social media outlets (i.e. – Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn) with the help of staff. Lessons to the public on how to use such social media tools would be created. Open terminals and sponsorship from the local titans of social media as well as national social media brands would be crafted at a street level venue along Euclid Avenue. Now we have the physical presence of our social media expertise. As a group, I hope we can craft a strong business plan that we, as a community, can take to the Civic Innovation Lab and Fund for Our Economic Future and get funded. We must create a Center of Excellence that promotes national influence.
IV. Cleveland Social Media Ventures – I believe it behooves us to develop a small but viable venture fund for new social media ventures. Let’s support our homegrown talent and finally have national business plans and social media companies gravitate to Cleveland. I realize it is a trying time for such a fund – but it is IMPERATIVE that we, as Cleveland - as the region, begin investing in such a worthwhile industry. I personally have reviewed at least a half-dozen social media start-up companies in the last six months – all Cleveland based. A fund of $500,000 to $1,000,000 would prove one of the largest wealth creators in Cleveland in the past 50 years. I believe this to my core. To my soul.
V. The Social Media Learning Continuum – What a better way to create deals for the Cleveland Social Media Fund and to generate the next generation of experts than to create an educational plan for the K – 12 universe in Cleveland. There is no greater gift than the resident knowledge we have given to those who could create more with it than we ever could. Let’s connect with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and any other local school district that will work with us to establish a working curriculum for students.
I believe these are all actionable items that can parlay this City’s and region’s growing expertise in social media to an all together new level. I cannot suggest to any of you how all of this will play out but I can tell you it will bring forth a new sense of pride, it will establish new investments and create an industry that will truly be “brain gain” centric. I stand ready to help implement this plan. Cleveland, more than ever, needs a win. Cleveland needs to establish a new sense of that championship spirit that will propel us to national (international) success. There has never been a better industry than social media to make this happen and in the most profound way.