Creative Blog

Issues important to discern and creatively explore!

Looking back over 2011 and beyond…thinking forward to 2012.

Have you sat back and thought about what has truly defined you both personally and professionally? Can you think about one point in time that has truly changed who you are and how you approach life and your career? There is not a better time to do so than at the end of calendar year…a time of reflection. I have numerous moments in time that have defined me, and a few have pop-up in my mind.

1) Defining moment in 2011 as a person.
It was January 1, 2011 and we were driving back from the Christmas cabin in Georgia. We had just finished enjoying a week of vacation in the Georgia mountains and it was time to make the treck back to civilization. As we were coming through Atlanta, Sarah asked me if we could stop to get a drink. I was sitting in the car waiting for her and she opened the door and hopped back in with tears rolling down her face.

I began to think of the many reasons why a female would come back from a restaurant crying. She looked at me and said…”I am pregnant and I am scared!” The past three years we experienced three miscarriages, not making it past 10 weeks. She was happy that once again she was pregnant, but upset and scared she would loose another pregnancy to miscarriage.

What I did not realize is that Sarah had been carrying pregnancy tests around with her for the last six months…testing on a regular basis. For those of you that do not realize…those pregnancy tests are expensive and she was carrying around a bunch. I would be willing to bet she had a half dozen in her pocketbook…we invested in a lot of those little things.

We immediately called our reproductive endocrinologist (RE)…we had made an appointment to talk about what were the next steps in getting pregnant again. We left a message that we were pregnant and we were wondering if we could reschedule the appointment. They immediately called back and wanted us in the office to run tests ASAP. January 1, 2011 was the day that we began thinking about Rose Frances…that little miracle was born on September 6, 2011. What a way to start 2011.

2) Defining moment in 2011 as a professional.
Have you ever had that one project that defined you as a person and professional. That one project that made you think harder and deeper…pushed you to work harder and see life through a different lens. Well, that happened to me in 2011. I received a phone call in January about a project The Duke Endowment was pulling together, one that was still on the drawing board.

They had the vision of telling stories surrounding individuals who are making a tremendous impact in their communities. These individuals are special people who lead organizations/initiatives that are supported by grants from The Duke Endowment. This project is called Profiles of Service…one that would allow me to practice all my journalistic skills of documentary storytelling. Over the next 8 months, I was able to work alongside The Duke Endowment, capturing stories of four individuals in both North and South Carolina. People that were and still are making a tremendous impact in their communities, leading initiatives that bring change.

Each story was located in a different part of North and South Carolina, allowing me to travel from the mountains of Western North Carolina to the low-country of South Carolina.  Four individuals, four stories of dedication and service, and hours of interviews captured and shaped into a final product for people to enjoy.

3) What I am looking forward to in 2012.
I am really excited about 2012…two projects that I am working on for this upcoming year. The first is a project with Greenville Hospital System, telling stories from inside the walls of this healthcare organization. There will be more to come over the next year…but I am really excite about this project!

I am also excited to be partnering with Safe Harbor in Greenville, SC. Six months ago, they came to me in the hopes to produce one video as a multi-purpose tool from fundraising to sharing their story online. After spending a few days with them, I realized that one video is just not enough to really share their story. Over the course of 2012, we will be sharing some amazing stories, from those who been impacted by domestic violence to those who are trying to create change in the community. We have already been working together for the last 6 months and we are looking forward to sharing some amazing perspectives.

It is my belief to look back and reflect and to look forward to something amazing! I am excited to be embarking in my third year of business!

BR

3DTV and Why??? Or Why Not???

Ok, ok…I have had more people ask me about what I think about 3DTV and the production of 3DTV. Mainly, people have asked me about two separate topics, first being whether I will be producing 3DTV projects and what do I think about 3DTV as a consumer based viewing option. OK, strap in and let’s go! This is a long post, so get a drink and a snack and maybe some Ibuprofen?

3DTV Production and Workflow?
First, let’s tackle my thoughts on creating 3DTV based productions. First of all, it is a whole new workflow to invest when the creation of content that has yet to find a true market. My customers have yet to show interest in this offering, mainly because the type of groups I work with do not necessarily have the target audience that consumes this type of offering.

Yes, we can go purchase a camera and the editing software and hardware upgrades to manage this workflow…but it would mainly have a purpose of forcing a market into this offering.

When we converted from SD video production to HD production, lots of the production skills changed and how we deliver this product. From the cameras, software, hardware, and the end consumer.  Then there was the creative element, what do we do with roughly 26% more screen real estate. A lot of people think this is not a big deal…but this is a huge workflow decision and how to creatively produce content to fit 16X9 screen resolutions in a still evolving 4×3 screen world (the old television screen size). Yes, more and more people have HDTV’s but it still is not the industry standard, yet!

Given this context…there is a lot to consider when producing 3D content. Do you want to make everything look 3D just to do it or do we want to produce content that leverages the style of 3D, exposing the audience to new visual cues. Also…do we want to produce content that requires people to take one extra step…put on some strange “looking” glasses. Yes…imagine the boardroom setting showing a video, hey…pull out your glasses to watch this video. Oh, I forgot mine…that is ok, just watch the weird colors overlap.

So on the production side…I will sit back and see how the market evolves *AND* when and if clients join the 3D TV conversation. Then I will decide if that will become a client offering.

Now…let’s attack the consumer side. Specifically…will I purchase a 3DTV for the home and what do I think about watching 3D content at home and in the theater.

First…let’s talk about how it effects the eyes.
I come from a long family history of bad eyes and those who have a “lazy eye.” I am the abnormal person in the family with 20-15 vision…I was at one time recruited to join the Navy since I had great vision, I am 5’9″ and my undergrad was in Mathematics. I couldn’t enlist because of my Asthma. But…everytime I watch a 3D production in the theater, I get a headache. Yes…I take the glasses off and my head hurts and it takes a while for my eyes to re-adjust.

In December 2009, Avatar was released in theaters in 3D…many people took to the “airwaves” to react to 3D production. The British Telegraph wrote this article in January 2010: “Do 3D films make you sick?“:

“But no matter how advanced the technology, a significant minority of the population cannot sit through a 3D film without experiencing discomfort. More than three million people in the UK have eye conditions that impair ‘stereoscopic vision’ – normal, two-eyed depth perception – making it difficult, or even impossible, for them to experience 3D.

When watching something in 3D, our eyeballs rotate inwards, with accommodation as the goal. But if that happened, the viewer would be left focusing on a spot in front of the screen, rather than focusing on the screen itself. But this confuses the brain because the eyes have converged without accommodation. Instead, the eyes oscillate between their natural inclination and the artificial state demanded by the film. This can cause extreme eye strain, migraines and nausea.”

During the summer of 2010, TechSpot.com wrote that Sony updated their Playstation 3 Terms of Service Agreement statement:

“Sony, no doubt preferring to play it safe, has issued a warning saying these problems are not to be taken lightly. The latest Playstation 3 Terms of Service statement advises that anyone who experiences ‘eye strain, eye fatigue or nausea’ should turn off 3D immediately. Players can begin using the technology again when discomfort subsides, however.”

But in January 2011, NYTimes wrote an article saying that many eye-specialist fired back by questioning Nintendo’s new warning.

“Nintendo said several days ago that children under 6 should not look at the 3-D screen on its new 3DS hand-held device because it could harm eye development. The admonition raised skepticism and eyebrows among a group that knows a lot about eye development: eye doctors.

Some of the world’s elite pediatric ophthalmologists said the Nintendo announcements surprised them because it seemed to have little basis in science. ‘The fact you’d watch 3-D in a theater or a video game should have zero deleterious impact whatsoever,’ said Dr. Lawrence Tychsen, a professor of pediatrics and ophthalmology at Washington University in St. Louis.”

Based on this research, it made me start thinking whether my little nieces should be going to watch movies like “Alice in Wonderland” which was released in 3D at the theaters, especially since they are showing signs of “lazy eye” and they are under the age of 6. Now this has nothing to do with Nintendo, but it does draw health concerns for me as an uncle and parent.

Now let’s talk about those gamers!
I have many friends that are gamers…I am sure you have friends that sit hours and hours in front of the television playing their Playstation, Wii, XBox, etc. With the advent of Playstation and Nintendo with 3D games, how can one sit with the glasses on and play games for hours. I would have a migraine and want to sleep for hours. As I was surfing around, doing some research on this topic, I found this blog post by Jason Weissman titled “3D Gaming is Doomed to Fail.” Hmm…that is a big statement, which perked my interest.

“The biggest barrier for this technology is that using it for more than an hour (or in some cases even less time) causes tremendous eye strain and headaches. If you are like me, you likely have lengthy game sessions. I tried several games in different 3D modes on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and while the games generally looked great, the experience was not one I’d often seek to repeat.”

So if people in theaters are feeling this way, and the gamers are sharing the same concerns…I am starting to wonder if this makes sense for the house. Once again, here is is Jason Weissman:

“Many people have asserted that 3D will never take off in the home because gamers would need to wear 3D glasses. That is why the 3DS is not typically denigrated in the same manner and why many people say they will wait for glasses-free 3D televisions.”

Now let’s talk about the glasses!
Yes…those pesky things that we have to wear to watch 3D content whether in front of a television or in a theater. I have many thoughts about the glasses. Why do I want to wear glasses in my house to enjoy content? Now I understand there is not a lot of content out there, and I would have to subscribe to 3D programming…but I am not sure I would want to put on those glasses to watch ESPN’s College Football in 3D for a 3.5 hour game.

I like to drink beer and eat food that usually is not healthy during these games…so imagine wearing the glasses, getting a headache during the 4th quarter when the game is getting good. Then proceed to the bathroom because the 3D effect has set-in and it is time to puke. I understand this is a bit extreme, or is it? Especially if you are like me on Saturday’s and like to watch HOURS of college football.

Good3DTV.com reported that in ESPN’s initial study/research with 3DTV, eye strain can be reduced with frequent breaks. Hmmm…interesting.

“The network has stated that a wide range of 3D TVs were used, including passive and active 3D TVs to conduct the study. Most of the complaints about headache came from the viewers watching active 3D television. Most people watching passive 3D TVs were almost not affected. Duane Varan, executive director of the Disney Media and Advertising Lab, further stated that the passive 3D TV viewing was much more pleasant owing to the viewers being able to interact with other people watching in the room due to the lighter set of 3D glasses they were wearing.”

Those glasses can be costly ranging from $25 to over $150 dollars. Ok, let’s buy a television for close to $1200 and then purchase glasses to watch the content. And then make sure you hit the Walgreens or CVS for migraine medication…oh do not forget the Tums.

Let’s wrap it up!
Another interesting note from the ESPN research study…“According to Varan, advertising for products in 3D is much more effective. The desire to buy a product that has been advertised in 3D format has increased from 49 to 83 percent compared to an advertisement in 2D.” 

Oh yeah, those ad dollars…we will get back to that in a second. Or, let’s tackle it right now. Television networks are in dire straight…need to find another way to generate ad dollars. Yes, just like when HDTV was originally created in Japan in the late 80’s. They needed a new revenue stream, so they gave the consumer a reason to buy a new television… because all content was going to be released in HD.

Bottom line, you have to buy the right television and wear glasses to enjoy the experience, and only for a short amount of time.  Maybe if this technology pushes into wide acceptance, more people will spend less time watching television, because headaches will detract from prolonged couch potato syndrom.

So, what will I do with 3D content? I will not produce 3D content quite yet…I will wait to see how the market reacts this year (2012). I do not think that 3D TV has a place in my living room, it does not make sense to watch content with glasses in the comfort of my home. The theater experience will remain the 3D experience for me. I do not mind paying to go watch certain movies in 3D, because I believe that the movie theater still has a place in our American fabric. The movie theater is a time to take the family to watch something special, and 3D content is still considered special to me, not everyday.

BTW, here is a GREAT article by TVPredictions.com called “10 Reasons Why People Won’t Watch 3DTV” and here are the list of reasons. Note, this article was written this past summer…so some of the reasons might be evolving. But, I found it interesting.

  1. 3D TV Interrupts Your Viewing Experience
  2. It Makes You Sick
  3. Millions of People Just Bought New TVs
  4. There’s Not Much 3D to Watch On My Cable or Satellite
  5. There’s Not Much 3D to Watch On Blu-ray
  6. People Hate the 3D Glasses
  7. The Glasses Are Too Expensive For a Family
  8. 3D TV Is Not HDTV
  9. 3D TV Is Not Easy to Use
  10. 3D TV Has Lost the Culture War

I would recommend reading the explanations for each point, I think you will find it interesting. CLICK HERE to read the whole article!

***Image at the top from Think Like Maxwell blog…CLICK HERE to read!

 

GoPro makes Wide Angle and Fisheye Cool


***Video is from GoPro’s YouTube account.

For years I have been shooting with wide angle and fisheye lens. Whether it is with my still image cameras or video cameras, I have always purchased wide angle and fisheye adapters. If you have ever worked with me, you will notice me constantly using this look whether for interviews or cool, interesting shots. I have purchased many different wide angle lens adapters for my broadcast cameras, prosumer cameras, and even my Canon EOS digital cameras. I am willing to spend more on the glass than the camera itself…whether it is Century Optics, Canon, or Sigma lenses.

From the earliest days of my career in broadcast television as a photojournalist, I have always used this perspective…to me this makes the picture warm, visually interesting, and intriguing. Most people react to the style with strong opinions…you either like it or you don’t. Trust me…I have many mixed reviews, regardless I love this style and look. These perspectives sometimes bring a sense of curvature to the image.

So I just purchased my first GoPro camera, which is a small compact camera with the ability to capture HD 1080p images using a standard wide angle lens. This perspective gives an 170 degree perspective. These cameras have taken on the extreme sport scene, providing a rich perspective as they are mounted in places like the front of a surf board or the wing of a plane. But…what you will notice are the wide angle perspectives in the videos captured, giving a complete viewpoint of the whole “subjects'” surroundings.

If you watch the video above, you can see all the different ways people are using these cameras…making the wide angle look and interesting, appealing, and widely accepted practice of capturing images.  I love this look and love the warmth it brings to the screen.

I also like what GoPro is doing on the digital/social media front. Their website is rich with lots of product descriptions, images, and YouTube videos showing how customers/professionals are using these cameras. They also have a place for people to submit videos they have shot with their GoPro cameras for use in future promotions. Even better, they have the Daily Giveaway where people sign-up to win their products daily.

If you go to their Facebook Page, it is nothing extravagent…just fans submitting videos and pictures shot with their GoPro cameras. “Simple” must work for them in the social media world…they have over 1.3 million “Likes” on their Facebook Page.

Bottom line…GoPro is making the wide angle and fisheye look cool, innovative, and mainstream. I am a fan of the look and the camera!

Do you notice these types of shots in videos? Do you like the fisheye look? Love to hear your thoughts!

Christmas Gadgets: GoPro, Olloclip, and Kindle Fire

This holiday season was filled with another round of cool gadgets. If most people know me…I love gadgets and love playing with new toys. So this year, the three presents that come to mind are the GoPro Hero2 camera, Olloclip lens adapter for the iPhone4(s), and the Kindle Fire. Sarah gave me the GoPro Hero2 and the Olloclip for my iPhone4s and I gave her the Kindle Fire. So here are some first thoughts after having this gadgets for a short period of time after the Christmas gift exchanges.

GoPro Hero2
This is a great little video camera for those of you video enthusiast. You can purchase this item anywhere from BestBuy, B&H Photo Video online, GoPro.com, or numerous other places online or brick and mortar stores. This will be the one gadget in my “Go Bag” for video shoots this year providing new perspectives as a second camera during interviews and/or when trying to grab interesting shots. GoPro is most famous for being used in extreme sports like surfing, sky diving, snow boarding, and even on planes for interesting shots.

What I Like:

  1. LOVE THE WIDE ANGLE – 170 degree view!
  2. This is a compact camera about the size of a D Battery and can capture video and still images.
  3. Records video at 1080p 30 frames per second and numerous other smaller resolutions.
  4. Captures still images with at 11 megapixels.
  5. I love the waterproof case (up to 197 feet), perfect for recording white water rafting.
  6. The mount with sucution cup…already used it on the front of my car.(CLICK HERE to watch)
  7. Comes with built in microphone.
  8. Has an audio input.
  9. Has a built in HDMI out.
  10. The digital still camera can take pictures in intervals over a period of time for time lapse.
  11. Makes for great second camera in video shoots for wide angle perspective.

Wish list for improvements:

  1. Wish the LED Screen was not an ad-on but a standard part of the camera.
  2. Wish the actual camera had a mountable connection, instead of having to put camera in case to be mounted.
  3. Low light is always going to be an issue with these small image processors. But it still does a decent job.
  4. The waterproof case does not allow you to plug in a a microphone into the audio input.

If you would like to look at the complete description of the camera, CLICK HERE.

Olloclip for iPhone
For you camera/video enthusiasts, the Olloclip is a great addition to your iPhone4 or 4s. This attachment allows you to take the iPhone camera to the next level. It is a wide angle and fisheye adapter that allows you to take images and capture video from a wider perspective. I have been searching for something like this, then I found it in my stocking this year.

What I Like:

  1. Easy slide on and off of the attachment.
  2. Two lens in one attachment. You can flip the attachment around from wide angle to fisheye.
  3. Clear images with this simple slide on attachment as a lens.
  4. Makes the iPhone4(s) a great second camera in video shoots since it acquires the image at 1080p.
  5. The wide angle lens can be removed to make provide a macro lens.

Wish list for improvements:

  1. You have to remove your case of choice to use this attachment. Love to see this company make a case where this attachment integrates as a part of a bigger offering.
  2. Easy to accidentally grab the iPhone in a way where you can get finger prints on the lens.
  3. The adapter slides around sometimes which can distort the image and/or create some artifacts.

You can check out the FAQ’s about the Olloclip by CLICKING HERE.

Kindle Fire
I bought this e-reader for Sarah this Christmas, she loves my iPad but wanted something smaller to read books. Bottom line, this is and e-reader built around reading books from Amazon. If purchase as a tablet like an iPad, you will be annoyed. The tech community might “root” this device and install the complete Android platform, but for the non-tech users…this is not built to be a tablet. I would say this is similar in size to the Samsung Galaxy Tab. So here are some of Sarah’s first impressions. By the way, many of her comparisons stem from my “original” iPad3G.

What she likes:

  1. Size – she likes the ability to hold it in one hand.
  2. Convenience of being able to buy/purchase book and read immediately.
  3. The rewards program – Her Amazon Prime membership allows her to “borrow” one book a month which they term as the “The Lending Library”.
  4. It is backlit to read book at night with no bed side lamp.
  5. It comes with install apps like Facebook, Amazon, and Pulse news reader.
  6. When you go to the “store,” it provides recommended books across the top…similar to the Amazon.com experience.

What she dislikes:

  1. Battery life seems to dwindle fast.
  2. The power cord is not that long (4 feet long). Need to be close to an outlet if the battery dwindles down fast.
  3. The power button is on the bottom, so unwanted bumps cause it to shut off.
  4. The power cord plugs in the bottom and can get in the way when holding.
  5. Not as responsive as the iPad when touching hyperlinks.
  6. Web browsing is not as responsive as the original iPad.

So there ya go…love to here your thoughts!

Social Media as a barometer for success in higher education

In an article by the Orange & White, Clemson University’s President James Barker looks at Social Media from a different position. He is looking at the strong tie between academics and athletics by using the main university Facebook fan page growth during the football season.

Question from reporter: “Are athletics and academics at odds?

“We are not going to choose between one or the other. We are going to be strong in both, and, in fact, where one is strong, it helps make the other strong. The number of applications this year are up and hopefully attributed to our success academically, but I’m fairly sure some factor in that is a result of the football team. Applications are up five percent. They were up last year, too, but not that much … Our Facebook fans number at 84,000 and increased 1,000 per week during football season. That gives us some idea of the exposure football gives to us … I think success between the two is linked together.”

Interesting comparison especially when you are looking for ways to show success in numbers. Facebook here is the barometer of measurement for some indicator of success.

CLICK HERE to read  the complete article by the Orange & White.

CLICK HERE for Clemson University’s Main Facebook Page.

Pinterest for the Holidays!

I am not sure if you have checked out Pinterest, but it is a cool, new, and emerging social network. I love it and finding quite useful this holiday season. I have so many different wish lists on so many different websites. From Amazon.com, BandHPhoto.com, Apple.com, and on and on and on…I wanted to have one place to share Christmas list with my family. Pinterest just made sense.

I started checking out Pinterest about 8 months ago when Sarah was using it for Rose (our little girl). She was using it to store ideas for  the baby room, decorating ideas for showers, and also look through other people’s ideas when thinking of ways to get ready for a new baby. Pinterest is a place for Sarah to visually bookmark or “Pin” a link that she might want to refer to at a later date. Pinterest was also a place to look at other people’s “Pins”…to see their ideas.

You can organize “Pins” in categories or “Boards” grouping based on your idea of themes or content areas. So how does Pinterest define a “Pin”?

What is a pin? A pin is an image added to Pinterest. A pin can be added from a website using the Pin It button, or you can upload images from your computer. Each pin added using the Pin It button links back to the site it came from.

Does this make sense yet? Well this is how Pinterest describe their social network:

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes.

So back to how I am using Pinterest this holiday season…to create a board of ideas and wants for Christmas. My “Christmas Gifts” board is a wishlist to share with everyone…everything in one spot. Then I have a link to share with my family and friends. I do not have to send them to four or five different online retailers to see my different ideas. I can just pin each idea here, each link here, a link directly to the item I would like…then share this board with others. I can even share this link on other social outlets like Facebook. Pretty cool?

People are using Pinterest in so many different ways…I would love to hear how you are using it!

Here are a few articles about Pinterest:

Mashable.com – http://mashable.com/2011/11/27/niche-social-marketing/

USAToday.com – http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2011-10-28/pinterest-Ben-Silbermann/50979542/1

Peeling back the layers of the social story…

Each time I meet with a new group, another organization, a different business…I am so encouraged by the opportunity that is in front of them. The social space provides us the most unbelievable opportunity…the ability to truly share our story.

Our story…our perspective is one of the most powerful voices. We now have the tools to share this story in a way that allows our audiences to truly see inside our slice of life, our organization, our company, our institution…through our eyes.

The social space allows us to paint the picture for others to enjoy. We share information, pictures, real time information in way that large traditional outlets could not achieve a few years ago. With the ever increasing audiences using outlets like Tumblr, Blogger, Facebook, YouTube and other social outlets…we create our own social space. We can create a message that allows people to connect on our terms, creating the viral effect that repeats our message.

Storytelling is powerful. Whether if it is the use of video, a blog, a Facebook group, a hashtag chat…our excitement can translate for others to enjoy and share.

We will never be able to measure the social space…NEVER. We can create metrics to measure hits, growth in followers, likes, +1’s, and other bean counter important pieces…but nothing can measure the human effect. We are moved by pictures, stories, and the human elements that drive us to connect.

Just today I noticed Mack Collier’s update on Google+ and it had me thinking…

I have to agree…I like the 2nd lesson learned: “People respond better to ideas and experiences they can relate to”…YES! We are humans and we want to connect, so we are telling our own social story. Now we have the tools to reach so many more people in a shorter amount of time. If we spent less time equating the social space to the technology and more about sharing our story…we could really create some tremendous movements.

We want people to pull back the layers of our story…to see life through our eyes!

The social space is changing our web presence…are we lost at sea?

Traffic…Traffic…Traffic…we want some traffic!

We do not want a bottle neck…we want consistent traffic across our web platforms. Guess what, we have lots of them…lots of web platforms. I think back to 2001 when UXD was centered around how we move the eyes around a page…now it all about moving people around based on how we want them to click. The social space is redefining the way we create our web presence. It is no longer just a website…it is a host of social packages included in this online investment.

It was just the other day I was sitting in a leadership meeting with a medical group talking social media outlets, physician practices, speciality groups, web, and a host of other ideas. Everyone wants a Facebook page, everyone wants to have a social presence, everyone wants control of their message. Individuals inside organizations that have a special touch point to their “customers” want to connect and the “website” isn’t providing that interactive experience.

Let’s look at the web/social space over the last ten years. Here is part of a great infographic from the Search Engine Journal:

Look at the social growth starting in 2005 with MySpace and then the tremendous surge in 2008. So where does that leave us with our “traditional” website? Did you notice I called the pre-2008 website traditional. Yes…what happen to this space in 2008. Well…it was about this time we started to see a open source movement to create a web presence on platforms like Joomla, Mambo, and other PHP based content management systems. These allowed us to create content dynamically online, moving us away from the “post card” websites.

These content management systems allowed us to integrate Facebook and other social outlets into our website presence. These social outlets forced us to create more dynamic content in a more expedient fashion. Now we have a Twitter, Facebook, Blog, YouTube Channel, Google+, Email Newsletter…on-top of the website. WHY?

We want traffic to flow to our sites, we want our followers to grow, we want more likes, we want more YouTube views, we want more comments on our blog…we want more traffic. We want people to walk around, completely connect to their devices so that they can consume and engage with us online. We are a bit egotistical…aren’t we?

This is a great representation of how much time people spent online in May 2011 via Nielsen’s Social Media 3Q 2011 Report:

Let’s take a hard look at these numbers: US Internet users spent 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook, 9.1 billion minutes on YouTube, 723 million minutes on Blogger, 623 million minutes on Tumblr, 565 million minutes on Twitter, and 325 million minutes on LinkedIn…all of this in the month of May 2011.

These stats above should tell you about where you should invest a portion of your marketing/pr/new media dollars…but it does go back to audience. If you are connecting with the consumer…enough said. If you are a B2B organization…need to critically think about how you can leverage the social space.

But…is it about traffic, traffic, traffic? A consistent flow of traffic to your web and social properties? Why should you have a Facebook page and how should you communicate differently than your website? I am off the belief, right now in 2011, that the main website presence is still the home base. This is the place you are driving audiences to capture your delivered information. The social outlets are for building community relationships.

Yes…we can create campaigns for the social outlets to build followers and friends, but after the campaigns expire…do you still give those same people a reason to stick around? What are you doing after the give-away, after the chat, after the Facebook event.

The social space has become the biggest marketing tool and community is slowly disappearing. We are spending just as much time hiding and de-friending people as we did actually accepting the invitation. How can we create our online presence in a fashion that builds community instead of segmenting our brand…lots of properties and little purposefule engagement. Or is just a way to have tons of ships out to sea in the hopes we will continue to keep on connecting with many islands of friends.

We race to create a Facebook page, a new Google+ brand page, a Twitter account each time we have a new product, brand, or idea. But are we confusing people to the point they have no idea where to find us…the real us.

***Photo from Photobucket and seraiwallpapers account.

Are social media outlets are loosing the “socialness”, somewhat?

Social media outlets of 2011 are just loosing the “socialness.” Twitter is turning into the AP Newswire for the consumer, Facebook is turning into free websites for businesses, and YouTube is turning into a barrage of content all competing for attention. Yes…48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.

Google+ gave everyone hope that this new social outlet would provide a closer-nit experience…with less amplification and more connection. But people forgot about Google+ as fast as we ran to jump on board.

The friends I used to connect with via Twitter now do not respond to @replies and emails…so sometimes we connect…maybe?

So here is what I think…the people that drove the Social Media Revolution got jobs. Yes…those people that advocated this social space over two years ago were the same people looking for work and business opportunities. They now have a routine and it is not about connecting online.

More and more people are just broadcasting. Just pushing brand information through their personal social channels. Now we have individual faces that represent brands without the individual conversation the brand is hoping to utilize. Influencers…what is that in the social space. Maybe those who have large numbers of followers are not really influencing the right audiences online…just influencing people that really have no influence at all.

Just chalk much of this social experience to the infiltration of the marketing minds spamming consumers with too much information. For heavens sakes…we are having to re-think how we connect with our families online. Each time we log on to another outlet, we are tracked and recorded as marketing numbers…providing rich information about our purchasing practices. The digital divide is slowly “filling in” with those individuals marginalized based on access to technology now have access with faster connections over the telecom networks.

We are striving to find closed spaces that we can connect with friends, yet not share who/how/when we are connecting and building relationships.

The one thing that gives me hope is the world of blogging. It is still a place to share our thoughts and minds in a potentially low profile situation..even though it is a public space. It is a lot easier to manage an anonymous blog than an anonymous Facebook or Twitter account.

Another place that gives me hope are practices and communities created through hashtags on Twitter. This allows individuals to join a conversation surrounding a simple word/phrase instead of having to follow a particular brand or person. There is still levels of influence built into digital conversations similar to those using hashtag communities, but this movement is still growing.

Word of mouth is still king in the world of marketing and the world of print is starting to find value again. Maybe we will see a swing…not sure. Well, privacy settings are supporting these offline movements like traditional outlets and word-of-mouth. The leaders in the industry like Facebook are creating more and more privacy settings. What does that mean…people are demanding to be more and more private. The larger the audience…the more people can see your socialness…the more people want to protect their information.

We marketers are taking the social out of the media…and making it just another measurable outlet.

Why are we doing “Like” campaigns? Why?

I have one question…why must we do “Like” campaigns? Why?

Maybe I am little skeptical of this practice….but I have found more and more organizations creating “Like” campaigns for Facebook and that is it. So here is my next question…what happens after the people “Like” your page? Do you spend the same, if not more, time invested in the longterm conversation as you did trying to get them to click the button.

So many gimmicks,  so many ploys, so many promises, so many give aways…but what are people going to “Like” after the “Like” button is clicked? Are you going to push your marketing campaign, your consistent updates that bring no value you the feed? Or do you disappear once they do “Like” your page?

We work so hard on numbers…let’s get those numbers up. But what about the community and the long-term conversation. This is a social space right? Do you overload people with your updates that as soon as they “Like” they click “Hide” the next day?

“Like” campaigns are the same Opt-In campaigns for newsletters and blogs. Get people to give information or commit to receiving content.  But is your content “King” or do you build online relationships that lead to digital word-of-mouth?

Do you have a monthly or quarterly newsletter. How did you get the email addresses? So how many people open your newsletter emails? 30%, 20%, 10%, or even 5%? So why are you not getting a larger percentage. Why are the other 70% – 95% not reading? Are you just delivering content or are you engaging a conversation? The “Like” campaign is the same thing…we do everything possible to get people to “Like” our page but have a hard time keeping people engaged?

Yeah…Yeah…Yeah…I know there is case-study after case-study showing the success of “Like” campaigns. Just get them to “Like” your page and all is solved. But what happens after the “Like”? Do they hide you or forget about you? Or did they just “Like” you to get that 10% off coupon they might remember to use?

***Image from VerticalMeasures.com

Legacy Day at Clemson University – Series of Short Films

One of my favorite projects to work on over the years is the Legacy Day Project at Clemson University. Legacy Day is an event dedicated to sharing Thomas Green Clemson’s legacy. It started a few years ago when Clemson released the new book “Thomas Green Clemson” exploring many aspects of the life of Clemson University’s founder.

The book was released in 2009 and shared for the first time during the first Legacy Day in November that same year. Many special donors were invited to the lawn of Fort Hill Mansion to interact with students, faculty, staff, and general public as an opportunity to share the life long legacy of Mr. Clemson.

Clemson’s Marketing Department wanted to create a video campaign to attract students to the event in November 2009. So we tried to capture and share the spirit of Thomas Green Clemson in these short films, showing Mr. Clemson helping students around campus. The theme was to represent Mr. Clemson’s determined spirit, how it was and still is all around us. Each short film was produced with student… and delivered via Facebook by students across campus. Each week, a new film was released showcasing the many ways Mr. Clemson is all around us.

This year, Clemson Marketing Department wanted to produce another series of short films to continue this storyline. The first film released shows Mr. Clemson helping Tanner Smith, a Clemson Basketball player, struggling during a weight lifting exercise. At the end, you will see Tanner getting excited giving Mr. Clemson a hug after being spotted during his bench press routine. Mr. Clemson stepped in to help.

More short films will be released over the next two weeks leading up to Legacy Day on November 11, 2011. The best part of this project, students were involved in the creation and execution. They are also a major part of the distribution of these short films using Facebook and YouTube as a way to distribute these videos across their network of friends.

Here is a link to the Facebook Event: CLICK HERE

Here is a link to read more about the “Thomas Green Clemson” book: CLICK HERE

Social & Digital Platforms – The New Documentary Film Platform

I am someone that loves to tell stories and I love to tell stories through the eyes of people. I like to take that journalistic approach to storytelling, documenting a topic and exploring the ideas surrounding the people engrained in a topic. We see so many great documentary storytellers, bring topics to the forefront…told in a journalistic approach.

Many times, documentaries tell a series of small stories connected by a common theme that make up the documentary. It could be a person or a host that guides us through the documentary, it could be voice over that ties all the pieces together…regardless, there is something that ties the pieces of the puzzle together fluidly. Let’s look at how Wikipedia defines documentary “film making”:

“Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record.”

I am starting to find more and more organizations are creating this in whole new way, using digital platforms as a method of connecting mini-documentaries, shorter pieces as a part of a bigger piece. Instead of having one big 30 minute to 2 hour documentary…I am seeing the opportunity to use blogs, YouTube Channels, and other online mother-ships as a place to connect these mini-stories. They are connecting these stories in a linear historical fashion, delivered over time to tell a larger story.

Here is a few reasons I think we are seeing more and more of this:

1) Reach
2) Time
3) Money
4) The Digital Effect
5) Audience Engagement

It takes a lot of time and money to produce one documentary, one complete video/film about a topic and distribute through traditional means. Organizations that have lots of stories to tell, lots of historical information to share, lots of issues to tackle can do so using online distribution and connection.

An organization can produce shorter videos/films that can be tied together via one simple website, providing textual information about each short film, then share these short documentaries via blogs and other social outlets.

The blog or web presence that house’s these short films creates the theme (or the red-string) that connects the dots between these short films. This allows the organization to tell richer stories over time, documenting a path, and creating an online voice that has a huge digital effect…a pipeline for audiences to find their message. Let me be clear, these series of blog posts in a web presence is the documentary housing the short videos and the text in one evolving documentary.

This concept combines all of the following:

1) The power of rich, visual storytelling using video
2) The SEO and technological power of YouTube
3) The strategic writing of blogs and web
4) Distribution power of Social Outlets

What makes this so powerful to tell a story over time? Well, it is the way to continually engage and build a community. Traditionally, we would produce one documentary film and distribute this one piece in numerous venues. We would spend years documenting a story then wait until the whole story is complete, then share. NOW, we can tell this story as it is unfolding, building a community around a message where ever people have access to online media.

This is the real shift in thinking and production. No more waiting til the end of the story to release the documentary…we can produce and release as the story is evolving, using blogs or web as the means to connect each piece together over time.

Let me share one example: InvisblePeople.tv. Mark Horvath (@HardlyNormal) is a documentary storyteller sharing stories of homeless people across the country. This is how Mark defines his mission, “InvisiblePeople.tv road trip keeps getting bigger continuing to be a catalyst for change in the fight against homelessness.” He has first hand knowledge about this topic, he used to be homeless.

I briefly met Mark in Chicago during SOBCON2011 and was extremely impacted and inspired by his ongoing passion. He has been traveling across the country, meeting more and more homeless people, documenting short videos, and sharing them on InvisiblePeople.tv. His story is linear in time, evolving in scope, and could be diminished by trying to produce one big, final video/film. He used the web and a blog to connect all the short documentaries together helping him build awareness and community. Then he used social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and MySpace to share with his friends and followers. POWERFUL.

***Image from France24 International News where Mark Horvath was a guest contributor.

Blending Television Ads and Social Media Promotions

One of the best ads on television that I feel does a pretty job of promoting their social outlets is “Ask Me” ads from Tempur-Pedic. The whole idea behind this television ad, do not take Tempur-Pedic’s word for it…ask the community about their products. As you watch, you will see the ad challenging you to ask your friends on Facebook and Twitter about their products…encouraging the community to speak.

As we look around on television, we are starting to see more and more organizations promote their social outlets. Even during the MLB Postseason play, you can see a Twitter hashtag in the background (#POSTSEASON)…encouaging people to use this hashtag when on Twitter talking about postseason play.

We are also seeing many television ads adding the social icons at the end of the spot. If you see below, ESPN’s College Gameday is promoting their website, Twitter, and Facebook channels.

So I have a few questions about this trend…I will use this College Gameday television spot as a part of this analysis. So if you look at this add, this is the last 5 seconds of the 30 second spot. It is asking you to do a few things:

1) Tune in on Saturday’s at 9am
2) Visit the CollegeGameday.com website
3) “Like” their Facebook Page
4) “Follow” their Twitter account

So, let me ask this…how do I find the Facebook page or Twitter account for College Gameday? I guess I can go to the website CollegeGameday.com and it will give me a place to click the link to the Facebook and Twitter accounts. But, we are forcing people to search to find this information…don’t we want to make this as easy as possible.  Why can’t they give me the exact URL to these accounts so I can find these outlets faster?

But here is my bigger question…these are a lot of options to choose from in the last five seconds: tune in, visit the website, Like, and Follow. Ok, which one do I do? I guess I pick the one that is right for me, maybe? This is the same as having all those social outlet buttons on a blog post, so many to choose and not sure which one?

Back to my question, a lot of options to choose from in a short amount of time (5 seconds to be exact). I am sorry, we live in a DVR/YouTube age to rewind. But, as a user or social consumer of information, which outlet is going to give me what? Plainly put, what is difference between each outlet? What is different from the Facebook page that is any better/less important that the Twitter account. Also, why should I go to the website? Which one should I choose and why?

As I look through each online outlet (website, Facebook, and Twitter), I am starting to see some interesting things.

1) The website basically informs the audience where College Gameday will be hosting their show each week during the football season. They also are pulling in their Facebook and Twitter feeds into one spot halfway down the page, below a lot of video content.

2) The Twitter account is a social outlet just for the ESPN Analyst. ESPN is not engaging with their community, they are sharing/chatting/updating between their own sponsored Twitter accounts, yet not engaging with the college football fan community. ESPN is pushing their community as a marketing engine, informing the public of their thoughts and opinions. The @CollegeGameday Twitter account has close to 138,000 followers.

3) The Facebook page is a place to share rich media, specifically video and photos from the weekly stops along with top college football news. Each Facebook post has LOTS of comments from the fans, engaging in conversation about the posted topic. The College Gameday Fan Page has close to 714,000 “Likes” or fans.

So, why am I addressing this issue.

1) Why are we burying social outlets in the last five seconds of a television spot?
2) Why are we not providing direct URL’s for the audience to find these social outlets?
3) Why are we sharing to many outlets to choose from…instead of focusing out marketing efforts on one outlet and what the community will get from this specific outlet?

I want to see these ads explaining to me why should I go find your Facebook page or Twitter account. Why should I take the time and what will I get from this social experience. ESPN does a good job of coming up with creative television spots promoting a topic, show, or initiative. You would think they could show us why to engage in their Facebook page or Twitter account.

We can do so much more than just bury a bunch of social outlet logos at the end of a television spot . We can give our audiences a reason to engage with a community, this might give them more of a reason to search for our social outlet and join our/their conversations.

Here is one of the ESPN College Gameday spots for your enjoyment:

Do you have any examples that you have seen where television ads are putting social channel icons at the end of the spots? I would love to know what you have found or noticed!

“Social Media Return On Investment” – The Mobile Device Industry

With the iPhone4S to be released tomorrow for millions of Americans…we cannot wait to tap into this new device. As we look through the specs of this new, faster mobile device…we see that has the HSDPA technology built in stating that it can leverage up to 14.4Mbps download speeds. Now, there are many that have tested this feature in large, metro areas stating that these speeds in reality are not half this speed. But there are Android phones like the Droid Bionic that are tapping into the Verizon 4G LTE network with faster download speeds.

Yes…our mobile devices can access the network faster and faster and faster. Reading through the OnQ blog by Qualcomm as they address this explosion of social media technologies:

“With all this expansion, one lingering question on everybody’s mind is ‘will the wireless networks be able to keep up with this growth?’ The obvious answer is a resounding YES. As I have explained in these blogs, 3G/4G networks are well equipped now, and evolving in the future, to address the massive increase in the sheer volume of data growth.”

Nielsen release their 3rd Quarter 2011 Social Media Report with some interesting stats on mobile device usage: “The ability to access social media is a commonly used feature among mobile owners. According to a recent study by NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey Company, nearly 2 in 5 social media users access these services from their mobile phones.”

Here is how social media access ranks against other features offered on their mobile devices (from Nielsen’s 3rd Quarter 2011 Social Media Report):

The above statistics suggest we are access social media outlets on our mobile devices more than access the web. WOW!

In Steven Van Belleghem presentation “Social Media Around the World” on slide 140 states, “56% of smart phone users follow a brand on social media.”

What does all this mean…people are accessing information via smart phones. People are heavily using social media outlets on their smart phones, creating data transfer which demands more bandwidth. The more the usage, the more the demand. This demand is fueling the growth of the mobile network. You think you see a lot of advertisements between the major carriers talking about 4G, 4G LTE, unlimited data, throttling…you need to start researching this information. We are data transfer hogs and connecting to others via our smart phones. This is fueling the growth in our networks, which is leading to large investments in the mobile infrastructure and mobile gadgets like iPhones and Droids.

Prakash Sangam, Senior Manager, Technical Marketing at Qualcomm, continues his explanation on the OnQ blog post:

“As has been very well established by now, smartphones are the key drivers for this increase in data demand. When you take a close look under the hood, interesting facts emerge about smartphone usage behavior and the corresponding network resource utilization.

Unlike the connected laptop or computer, smart phones connect intermittently to the network, and generate very small amounts of extremely bursty traffic. For example, when you check for updates from email programs or from social media apps (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), check weather, use location based services, send presence updates for IMs… and many more activites — often described as “chatty apps.”

Every time these apps get updates, the smartphone has to establish the connection, do the data transfer and tear down the connection, which means lot of signaling. Often that means more signaling than actual data transfers. There have been many studies on this, validating the fact that smartphone-generated signaling overwhelms wireless networks. The trend of vastly popular social media going mobile will only further amplify this effect.”

Our smart phone usage combine with our social media usage via these devices is fueling the growth of these data networks. These major carriers are banking on social media usage, connectivity, and ultimately our desire to continue to want to purchase the newest gadget for the faster speeds.

So, why did Apple release the iPhone 4S instead of the big jump to the iPhone 5? Well, many speculate…but here is an interesting perspective from Business Insider:

“If Apple had launched a radically new iPhone 5, more of the folks who currently own iPhone 4 would have upgraded, so Apple would have sold some more 4S units. As it is, the iPhone 4S is likely to appeal primarily to iPhone 3G and 3GS owners, non-smartphone owners, and non-iPhone owners, most of whom (like me) are presumably stoked to buy the iPhone 4S.”

Here is the game…get more people on faster networks, faster infrastructure, and newer technology. These mobile devices, their speed, their apps, and their access  to faster networks fuels consumers to access social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social applications. The real social media return on investment is the mobile technology and infrastructure that supports the connectivity.

*Blog header image from Yugatech.com.