The Goldfish Dilemma: Social Tools

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I’m not sure how you measure the attention span of a goldfish, but those who know have determined that as of 2013, our average attention span is less (8 seconds) than that of your average goldfish (9 seconds).

Fortunately, Vine is within range with six-second video and Twitter, of course, keeping it brief with 140 characters. Web lore had it that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and while that’s not necessarily the case, a team of neuroscientists from MIT recently found that the human brain can process entire images the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.

There are many ways to tell your story to engage your audience with illustrations, data, video and text. Here are some free or reasonably-priced tools and some formats you can use for presentations and for social media:

  • Quotes Cover, www.quotescover.com, is easy to use to make a quote eye-catching for e-cards, wallpaper, prints, posters and social media. Just paste any quote into the toolbar, select fonts and colors, and design using the program’s drawing tools. Then you can share on social media or download the image.
  • Loupe, www.getloupe.com, lets you make a shaped collage using your photos.
  • Piktochart, http://piktochart.com, provides templates; an image gallery with icons, maps and charts; and editing tools to create appealing, searchable infographics. You can incorporate your own photos and art and, once you like it, you can link, embed, email or share it.
  • IMGFlip, https://imgflip.com/memegenerator, is an image generator that allows you to position one or two lines of text on top of a photo to make a meme that can then be shared.
  • Common Craft, http://www.commoncraft.com, uses cut out character videos to explain a broad range of complex processes simply, including: how we elect the U.S. President, plagiarism, how to prepare an emergency kit, and what augmented reality is all about. You can also download their cutouts and create your own how-to videos.
  • Tiki-Toki, www.tiki-toki.com, and Dipity, www.dipity.com, are tools to create illustrated timelines. Tiki-Toki also has a group version upgrade where you can create a timeline that then allows students or others to add to and interact with the timeline you’ve created.

Another visual technique that you can use to engage your audience is visual note-taking where you combine drawings, doodles and text to illustrate a concept or process. This can also work well for an online contest where fans submit an illustrated panel about an aspect of your book to show what they thought about as they read about an event or character.

These, along with YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest will provide opportunities for using images for creative branding. And, of course, keep in mind that using text is also good, given that the 8 second attention span we now have is only down from the 12 seconds reported for humans in 2000. Goldfish, I believe, remained constant given that they rarely use the Internet.

 

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Crowdfunding and You

14 Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding and crowd promoting is on the rise, and whether you’re creating an app, a book, a game; launching a series of events; or even just cultivating a fan base; you should learn about these platforms and campaigns.

Kickstarter recently reached its $1 billion mark in pledges and named Newbery Medalist Neil Gaiman it’s most influential user both for projects he’s funded and for backing hundreds of others. Started in 2009 and considered the granddaddy of crowdfunding, Kickstarter brings in more than $1 million per day. And while the site; which focuses on design, the arts (including publishing), gaming and technology; is the best known, it now has lots of company. There are the large players like IndieGoGo and RocketHub, which take projects from around the world, whereas Kickstarter accepts from the U.S., UK and Canada.

According to the Crowdfunding Industry Report, campaigns raised at least $2.7 billion last year. Crowds Unite, which reports on the space and a good place to learn what’s new, estimates there are more than eight hundred sites as of early 2014 and projections are for substantial growth particularly of niche-specific platforms.

Barriers to entry will vary, and the amount of support you get from each platform will as well. RocketHub, for example, has an excellent “Success School,” filled with information on how to structure and run a campaign. They also provide a breakout of how many backers you’d probably need to reach a given goal: for $1,000-10,000 expect 40-200 backers; $10,000-$100,000 150 or more; and to raise more $100,000, you’ll want at least 1000 backers. To get specific examples of the funding process, you can look at Kicktraq, an analytics tool that monitors details of Kickstarter campaigns where you’d be able to see how many similar projects funded successfully at a given level, the arc of the campaign via graphs that show how much was funded on each day (typically most in the very beginning, a lull in the middle, and a push again at the end); and you can see what media coverage and offers may have impacted activity.

Pubslush and Unbound are book-centered crowdfunding sites that offer the real benefit of understanding the nuances of the market. Pubslush has an Author Assist program and works closely with clients, according to Development Director Justine Schofield.

“We’re geared to the needs of people in this niche, and we work to help them structure a campaign that will reach their target audience,” says Schofield. “I think crowdfunding is ideal for books and particularly for children’s books. We’re often asked if non-fiction or fiction do better and if some genres gain more traction, but the truth is that what really drives the campaign is the author. The passion they convey about the project, the drive to make the campaign work, and the work they do to market both before and after matter.

“Key factors are to have a clear goal for your campaign and effectively brand yourself as an author. People will be more likely to back you, if you tell a compelling personal story, help them understand why the project’s important, and explain what will be done with the money once it’s raised.

“The goals structure is also very important. Think about giving backers experiences not just gifts. They want personalization and a connection to you. You can offer autographed copies, Skype visits, personal appearances, and also special group rates and incentives.” Creating a video is also very important. In fact, Slava Rubin, co-founder of IndieGoGo is quoted as saying that crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than pitches without videos.”

 Of course, if you don’t want to go project by project, you could take a look at Patreon, which enables fans to give ongoing support to their favorite artists – love it! And if you get that to work, get your crowd to shout it out with Thunderclap!

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Marketing Authentically via Storytelling and Story-doing

14 Storytelling, Storydoing

Storytelling and storydoing are the new “it” words in marketing, advertising and pr. No longer are we focused on, catchy phrases and attention-grabbing headlines. From tech to tofu, we want more than just concepts, we want to bond over our products and the people who create and sell them. But think carefully about positioning, because with storytelling’s new marketing sibling, “storydoing,” we are being asked to live the brand we create.

 With storytelling, it would seem you couldn’t dream up a better scenario for writers and artists, and it’s true, we have great stories to tell and the skill to drive them home. But, as Colin Robinson, co-founder of OR Books, pointed out somewhat kiddingly, I think, in an article for The Guardian,if writers today are ubiquitous, readers seem an increasingly endangered species.” Robinson was alluding to book authors, but the point is the same. We have tons of content, what we need is to have an audience that cares to read it.

With marketing, that means cultivating the right audience and finding ways to get your story heard. To brand in a meaningful way, you must identify the connecting strands that run through your work, your own story, and how you want to be known in the marketplace and give your audience good reason to identify with you.

What works? Take a page from what corporations do for their brands. Look at your body of work as though you were the head of a company – what would your mission statement be?

Doing this brings your target audience into focus and informs the role you intend to play.  It also provides the underpinning of your marketing communications strategy and the tone of your messaging. A corporation would then go deeper and look at what content, information, and experiences it could provide that would be consistent with the brand and voice of the company and appealing to its audience in an ongoing way.

Content can be practical – giving tips on what you know, and what consumers want to know; personal – providing an opportunity for them to get to know you better – and for you to know them; experiential – offering ways for them to connect directly with you, which could be via events, contests, or other activities; educational – video works great for that, or humorous.

Humor’s worked perfectly for Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, which figured if they couldn’t be at the top of the city’s list of hotels, they’d stake a claim for being best at the bottom with the slogan, “It  Can’t Get Any Worse”. Their website proudly offers a list of amenities the hotel doesn’t offer: No Tennis, No Room Service, No Bellhop, etc. But that messaging’s proved perfect for attracting their audience of students, backpackers and others who, instead of seeing any of this as a negative, pride themselves on surviving a stay at the world’s worst hotel — and they brag about it to others.

Storydoing is about exemplifying what a company stands for and connecting over that with customers. The outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, does that by producing environmental content campaigns and materials that focus on issues of concern to the outdoor enthusiasts who buy from them. But they go beyond what other companies do by taking a long view of the commitment to the topic they and their consumers care about, and they believe this will be to long-term success.

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Co-ideate, Co-fund, Co-produce: The Growth of the Sharing Economy

co-ideate art

America is the land of ownership – we like to own our house, our business, our cars, our tools and our tech toys. But more and more, that model is being challenged by new ways of thinking about products, property and what works today and what may work in the future in business and personally.

Examples are everywhere – from crowd-source funding entities like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to share-a-bike and share-car companies that we’ve come to appreciate like Bike Share and ZipCar,  we’re becoming accustomed to thinking about how convenient it can be to have others help us shoulder the load, particularly in a tough economy.

It’s fun to explore what you can share and to think about how that might apply to your life and to your business. While the idea of couch surfing or house swapping may have seemed a stretch for a lot of people, AirBNB has made the idea of renting someone’s extra room for far less than the cost of a hotel, seem very appealing and quite do-able. In fact, an artist I spoke with recently said AirBNB made a big difference in making it viable for her to travel to teach around the country for an affordable speaking fee because she had the benefit of earning extra income while people stayed at her home. For help with work, there’s the concept of virtual offices and virtual service providers. Like them or not, Odesk and  Elance and other companies can connect businesses with specialized workers at competitive rates. For help at home, there’s TaskRabbit, which you can turn to for help getting errands done.

There is a growing number of sharing business models challenging the traditional ways we think about consuming. There’s Feastly, where you could go to someone’s house for great food rather than to a restaurant, and Leftover Swap, if you don’t want to eat your own leftovers, but think others might. Will you need a place to park? There’s ParkatMyHouse for parking spaces at homes here and abroad.

Perhaps you have tools you rarely use, but are willing to share, you can think about starting a tool library in your community as other places have done. KitchenShare in Portland and the recently launched, The Kitchen Library, in Toronto do the same for kitchen appliances.

There are complications to be sure, as discussed in an October Chicago Tribune article by Ameet Sachdev in which he interviewed New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor Arun Sundararajan, who is a leading expert on the subject. Furthermore, giants like Hertz and Avis (which now owns ZipCar), large hotel chains and others are doing corporate acquisitions and launching sharing programs of their own to compete with companies challenging their space.

But for business owners and consumers, this is still a very interesting time to consider new options and opportunities both for shared services you need, and for considering the skills and products you have that you could share. To learn about more companies pursuing this space, check out the collaborative economy master list compiled by Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group.

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