Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Include or not include yourself in videos?

David Amerland is an author, speaker and analyst, and just posted on video as The New Voice of Social Media.
Video, has emerged not just as the primary means of visual communication in the 21st century but also as the new voice of social media. This is a critical distinction. We do not easily associate video with social media and this is a mistake. Social media is characterised by the triptych of:

- Transparency (often at a deep, radical level)
- Accountability (it puts a very human face in front of every possible situation)
- Authenticity (you can no longer fake anything long enough to make inroads in marketing)
YouTube and Hangouts are the primary drivers here and Google controls them both.
It's quite a thoughtful discussion on Google+, so have a read.

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In light of Amerland's points, the following questions arise:

  • In whatever video you create, how much, if any, of yourself ought to be in it and what other content should you include?  It depends, of course, on what you're trying to accomplish with your video.  Building transparency may mean more of you, for example.
  • If you decide to be part of your video, how should you convey your messages:  scripted or unscripted?  There is some optimal balance of polish (cinematic quality) and realness (reality-TV spontaneity) vis-a-vis your purpose or aim, so take the time to think it through.
  • Finally, with what means and on what platforms should you draw on to create and show your video?  From videocams on smartphones, to simple editing tools, to live formats, there are plenty of choices for you.  Google is a big player in this, but Skype, Vine and Snapchat are platforms to consider.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Building a community around your blog

For bloggers, one challenge isn't just to draw readers but also to engage them and build a community.  To me, Blogger remains the best, most functional, largely because it's a Google platform and therefore part of its enormous social ecosystem.  Still, I work at that latter effort via social media, such as Google+ and Twitter.

Here's another one to consider, as TechCrunch just reported - SETT Is A New Blogging Platform That Has Community At Its Heart.
From the start, when new users sign up for an account, SETT refers readers to your site. It has a word-matching system internally that compares posts to one another. If a reader happens to like a post about one topic, the platform will recommend other similar ones to them.
So SETT aids bloggers more actively in building a readership community.

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Still, keep these points in mind:

  • Enjoy blogging for the sake of blogging about something important to you or something you feel passionate about.
  • Clarify your purpose for blogging, optimally before you start blogging.  What are the things you're trying to accomplish?  
  • Join a broader network online and in-person, so you avoid relying exclusively on any one platform or community.  
  • Engage others actively, and to do so you must engage yourself with them.  For example, read their blogs, comment on their posts, and ask genuine questions.  
I'd be hard pressed to refer to Arianna Huffington as a blogger, but The Huffington Post started off as a blog that pulled (aggregated) news stories.  It's become a media success story.  

But to my points above, Huffington actively engages her community on Google+ and Twitter, for example, and looks be an active presence at networking and speaking events.  She's a bright, attractive and engaging lady indeed.      

The human story of social Media

No one would wish this for you or anyone in your organization.  But if, heaven forbid, you or someone you know is affected by this, then social media may be a community for you.

I'm talking about cancer, and that community is about sharing and support.  This story is about Lauren Smith, better known as "Lola," who is dying of cancer and has turned to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to post, among other things, her bucket list.

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It is heartbreaking to know that she is so young (16) and that she is part of an age group (15 - 39) for whom cancer is least understood by physicians.  Through its efforts, it's taken the American Cancer Society 100 years to get the numbers to 2/3 survivors among patients.  So it's a painstaking effort to advance understanding and treatment.  But for this age group, survival rates apparently haven't improved in 30 years.

Even two of Lola's inspirations on YouTube - Talia Castellano (13) and Zach Sobiech (18) - passed away in the last two months.

If you run a business, lead an organization, or manage a brand, you may have a personal story and you may see genuine reason to share it, learn more about it, and get support for it.  Social media is a community to consider.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An awesome website is yours for the taking

This article is How A Website Can Enhance Your Storage And Removal Business, but it can be a good guide for any business.  I've distilled, and commented on, Natalie Diaz's advice.

You want them to pick up the phone. That's really what the website's job is. So as a stepping stone from word of mouth to making a quote, having a website is essential for attracting new customers, that much is clear.
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I've advised on jobs and career, and common thought on the CV is to make it as informative as possible.  But some pack it with so much detail that the hiring manager will no doubt drown in a sea of information, that is, if he or she were to give it more than one second of a look.  Yet, of course, your CV must give sufficient detail about you, so as to prompt that hiring manager to invite you for an interview.

The same with your website.  If you want your customer prospects to call you, specifically, then make sure there is the optimal balance of detail:  enough to prompt them to pick up that phone, but not too much so as to put them off.  

If you do your website properly and with the expertise of web specialists, then you can make sure your site is one of the first things people come to when they Google a query...  You can also put links on other related websites that will direct people to yours.
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What Diaz refers to, first, is search engine optimization.  To me, SEO is a very curious practice.  It's like strategizing on how to play the slot machine or Black Jack.  Yes, there are good strategies to playing these games, but in reality a good amount is outside the knowledge and control of players.

So, just as the odds are stacked against you, as far as winning in these games is concerned, the likelihood that your business will come out on the first page of a Google search is quite small.  Why?  There are hundreds of other businesses vying to be on that coveted first set of results.

Be mindful of this, and avoid trying to game a system that is not wont to be gamed.  How?  Keep the content of your website as clear and unique as possible and, it goes without saying, directly related to your business.  Include your website link on your social media profile, e-mail signature, and marketing collateral, as Diaz also suggests.

It needs to be generally attractive, eye catching, personable, not too corporate (unless you're gearing purely for commercial removals) but not too artsy either.
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How corporate or artsy your website looks is a matter of choice, and that choice often depends on your style or preference and that of your target customers.  Work with a designer, if you can.  Or at least get some reaction and advice from a trusted friend.

Intuit offers a large set of themes for your website, plus thousands of images to download.  For blogging and social media, Blogger, Tumblr and Twitter offer very cool options as well, many of which are free of charge.

So with time, effort and ingenuity, there is every reason to expect that yours will be one awesome website!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Watch what you share on social media

Some of us may think of social media sites like Facebook as a small party of friends at home or, say, a semi-private gathering at a table in the library.  Certainly we may set privacy to mimic either sort of gathering.

Instead, Facebook may be an unimaginably large public square, where posting or commenting is tantamount to speaking with a bullhorn.  Of course not everyone will hear it or pay attention to it, but chances there are people who will.

Moreover, imagine you're in this public square at night, when you cannot see the people who may be lurking outside the lit area where you and your friends are gathering.

Suppose you actually have a good bearing on your situation and context, and avoid even having a bullhorn in your hand.  Then the question is, How well do you trust that small group of friends, with whom you're talking privately?

They may be well-meaning, quite trustworthy friends, so what gets shared among you stays among you.  But even such friends make mistakes, and slip, by sharing something from that private conversation with another friend in their circles.

Other friends may actually have malice in mind, and deliberately share something they're not meant to share.

So we end up angry with certain friends.  We get taken aback by non-friends who catch wind of what we say or do.  We end up regretting what we say or do.  

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You see, Facebook can easily become the breeding ground for such a mess.  Not only does it have a business model that requires it to share our information, in some form and to some degree, with others (i.e., advertisers).  But also it promotes an aura of connectedness and engagement among hordes of people, which are the conduit for intended and unintended sharing.

Furthermore, the very best and very worst of our humanness don't just disappear as we shift from in-person to online socializing.  We want fine, meaningful and safe conversations, but may end up subject to activities gone terribly awry.

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All of this said, here are the article and the research that prompted my thinking:  When Social Sharing Goes Wrong: Regretting The Facebook Post and “I regretted the minute I pressed share”:  A Qualitative Study of Regrets on Facebook.

I became active on Facebook four years ago, and steadily added LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter into the mix, then Google+ more recently.  Early on, I decided, and have kept to it, that my personal life is my personal life.  Observant or astute friends will note that I rarely, if ever, share any such thing.

I am so thankful that I am not wont to do or say anything regrettable anyway.

But that's just my rule.  What is yours?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What tone for your promo video?

In conceptualizing your promo video, think about what tone you want it to have.

Tone is the feeling you want to convey in the message and the feeling you want to instill in your audience.  Tone is very much a balance between your personality and values, as a business or brand owner, and the emotional touch-points of your target audience.  Both are important to account for, but the particular balance to reach is something for you to decide.  

Here are some commercials I like, as examples of the kind of tone to take with your promo video:

Natural and lyrical

Morgan Smith Goodwin is an attractive, approachable and contemporary portrayal of the redheaded Wendy on the logo.  Last year she became the face of the Now, that's better! campaign, appealing to women and men in their 20-somethings.  Her rainbow-like salad mirrors the lovely colors she brings to the campaign, both with her red hair and cheerful personality.

Bold and engaging

This is a throwback to the legendary Think different campaign by Apple.  Fortuitously, Steve Jobs returned to the company he founded, which was floundering, and within two or three years as the 1990s ended, he had the iconic company poised for an unprecedented decade.  So this Make it matter campaign by HP isn't exactly original, but it's quite bold and engaging.

Smart and nerdy

The smart and nerdy in me really loves this commercial from Starburst candy.  The driver dude is like "Don't listen to him, Benny.  You're not weird, you're an innovator!"  The passenger guy retorts, "No, he's weird."    The solid-liquid quality of Starburst reminds me of the dual wave-particle nature of light.  So if you have a mind for contradiction and paradox, plus a good dose of wry humor, then this is the tone to take.

So, what's your tone?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

`Ahrvey Digital Services

digital services that matter

Optimizing your promo video

In mathematics, we learn to solve a problem by first understanding what it is we're trying to solve, then by calling upon the right formula to solve it.  In a similar vein, Go! Animate offers a useful strategy on creating a promotional video:  A Proven Promo Video Formula That Sells Like Crazy.
1. Setup a Problem
2. Reveal a Product Solution
3. Call to Action
In 30 seconds, IBM accomplishes all three actions.  Quite compellingly, I'd say.  Even the call to action is an inspiring, engaging one:  "Let's build a smarter planet."

Additional things to consider

If you're a small business owner or organization leader, chances are you won't have the resources, budget and know-how of IBM, as far as creating a promo video is concerned.  So let's map this out a bit:  On one end of the spectrum is a complete do-it-yourself effort, and on the other end, of course, is a full-scale outsourcing to a video production agency.  The former is cost-effective but labor-intensive, and the latter is labor-effective but cost-intensive.  

Which area you play in depends on what resources, budget and know-know you actually have at your disposal.  These are questions to ask yourself:
  1. For what purpose, objective or aim are you creating a promo video?
  2. How well can you draw upon the strategy from Go! Animate?
  3. How willing are you to think creatively about, and thus optimize, what you have?  
  4. What must you learn or obtain to close any gaps between what you have and what you need?  
  5. What do you need to do to get cracking on creating the promo video you have in mind?  
Lastly, I sometimes shudder, or roll my eyes, whenever I hear or see the word "proven..." method, technique or formula.  Mind you, I am glad to know that something works.  But I wonder about two things.  One, as in a resume or CV, the owner has reason to pump up the worth or impact of their offering.  So, how well does that proven method actually work?  

Two, unless he or she has spoken with you, or researched your needs, the owner of that offering has no idea what your purpose, objective or problem is.  So, how well will that proven method actually work in my situation?  Chances are, you will need to modify, revise or tweak it to better suit your purpose.  

It doesn't mean that even with the right strategy, you can guarantee a perfect outcome.  It may also mean that you don't secure all the answers to these questions.  But the thoughtfulness you put into solving your problem and realizing your aim helps a great deal to ensure that you have the best possible, most optimized outcome.