Get visual for “The Year of Video Marketing”

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In an opinion piece in Forbes earlier this year, technology writer, Aj Agrawal, called 2017 “The Year of Video Marketing.” Certainly, video content has seen tremendous growth and expectations are for that to continue. According to a recent report by Hubspot, this year, “video content will represent 74% of all Internet traffic.” For book promotion, authors and publishers have been using video in the form of book trailers for years and in that time, the trailer format has gained fans and detractors.

But digital storytelling can take many forms – and there are many tools now to make video creation – animations, topical timelines, interactive maps, slide shows and advertisements – easier than ever and they’re often free. I’ve written in the past about some of the timeline and animating platforms like Dipity, PowToon and GoAnimate, but there are a number of new tools and formats that offer additional formats worth experimenting with and imagining what might fit well into your plans for marketing books you write or illustrate.

One format is the cinemagraph, which you’ve probably seen even if you aren’t familiar with the term. These are seemingly still photos, but have one video element that moves and will repeat in a loop. To create a cinemagraph, with a program like Cinemagr.am or Flixel, you start with a short video, you then highlight, extract and save a small portion of the clip and that will then become the static element that the rest will play against – either in forward motion, reverse, or alternating forward-reverse. Once your cinemagraph is created, you can then add filters and hashtags and post on social media. Biteable is a very easy-to-use new online tool that can be used for free or an upgraded $100/yr. to create a mini presentation, slide show, intro piece or “explainer” video in just a few minutes. Claiming to be “The World’s Simplest Video Maker,”

Biteable provides templates that include scenes – either as animation, footage or still images, and then gives options for selecting a color palette and music – or you can upload custom colors or your own sound file. You can then add images, text and hashtags – and then Biteable will email you a finished file – mine took less than 15 minutes.

Fast forward to the next wave: A little over a year ago, Facebook announced the launch of 360-degree video, a format that bears watching as an outgrowth of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift and their aggressive push in virtual reality technology. With 360 video, the film that’s produced allows the person filming to capture what they’re seeing in a full 360 degrees and the viewer can look at that video and by dragging their cursor, see in what the videographer saw in all directions – in front, all around and behind. This allows the viewer to share the full experience of that moment. The 360 cameras, like Samsung’s Gear 360 cost several hundred dollars, but that’s likely to come down as more enter the field.

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Influencers –Where to Find Them and What to Do When You Have?

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Influencers –Where to Find Them and What to Do When You Have Influencer marketing has grown in popularity over the last several years. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute recently named it one of the top content marketing trends for 2017. What is it, and where did it come from?

You can think of it as the offspring of social media – and what in simpler days we called word-of-mouth. But today it’s more strategic and more viable in terms of reaching influential people you might not have had access to before. In our field, there are of course the people who are industry influencers – book buyers, key librarians and educators, and others who are opinion-makers about authors and books. They can be found speaking at conferences, attending publisher events, and on the award committees at the national and regional level. They’re also often reviewers, bloggers, and active on social media about education, publishing, and children’s and young adult literature.

But what if you want to reach key influencers outside the field? You should think about doing this because books for young people are also topical – and each topic has influencers of its own. Whatever the topic of your book, look at ways you can reach the people whose voices carry weight in those fields. Betters still, find influencers tied to both that topic and education or children. It’s even more important if many of your books focus on a particular genre or topic area. The value of cultivating these people is that they can introduce you to a broader audience – and commend you to others who respect their opinion.

The simplest place to start is Google Search. Type in related keywords and phrases and see who has written on the topic, what organizations relate to that, and which names you see again and again. You can also check Twitter to see who’s tweeting about your topic and how many followers they have. To come at it from the top down, you can use AllTop to find the most influential bloggers and reporters on a given topic. They aggregate thousands of sources and update hourly to provide links to the most trafficked sites covering hundreds of topics from adoption to zoology. Other sites, like Social Mention, BuzzSumo and the newer EpicBeat will curate social media to tell you which content has gotten the most shares, likes and feedback – and can tell you who are the key influencers in that topic area.

Once you identify people, you have to have a meaningful way to engage. Simple ways to start can be to comment on their posts and share their content. But lots of people are doing that, so it’s hard to stand out. But if you create online content of your own via a blog or other platform, you can try to interest them more directly. One way would be to quote them and link to their material and then let them know via Twitter that you’ve done so. Taking that a step further you can crowd source an article and ask for quotes from a number of people whose opinions you value and who you’d like to connect with, and then share the story back with them when you’re done. As you begin to develop a relationship, you can invite people to provide a guest blog for your site, do an interview with you for a feature, and perhaps later, gain an endorsement quote for your new book.

The results will be that you’ll broaden your base of connections and benefit from associating with people you admire. Your research and time spent following social conversations will also make you better versed in what’s trending on topics you care about. That’s something you can bring back to conversations you have at conferences, publisher events and with literary luminaries who will value your expertise and may also be interested to connect to other influencers you know.

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Indiegogo Aims to Take the Lead in Non-Profit Crowdfunding

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In a major strategic move in the crowdfunding arena, Indiegogo has just announced the rebranding of its charitable crowdfunding arm, “Indiegogo Life,” to a new platform now called “Generosity.” The intent is being seen as an effort to try to unseat the current “leading platform for personal causes, GoFundMe,” which reported in September that it raised $1 billion in donations over the previous 12 months and $1.6 billion since its 2010 launch,” according to Forbes.

Other cause-based platforms referenced by the New York Times in their coverage of today’s Indiegogo news, are YouCaring, GiveForward, and Fundly. These sites “are a popular choice for funding, “memorials, educational projects and other charitably minded giving,” according to the Times. The new move by Indiegogo, according to VentureBeat, will also broaden the scope “to include nonprofit organizations” and they also noted that it’s a “milestone in Indiegogo’s evolution, as it’s the first time it has launched a service outside its main Indiegogo domain.”

According to the New York Times, Generosity, “is designed to be a cheaper alternative to traditional crowdfunding sites, including its parent. Indiegogo, which levies a 5 percent platform fee on money raised through its site, a 3 percent payment processing charge and 30 cents per donation.” GoFundMe charges a 5% fee for all money raised plus additional credit card processing fees.” Generosity.com, like its predecessor Indiegogo Life, “has no platform fee, but processing charges will be deducted before funds are disbursed.”

Forbes’ article names cause-based campaigns as “crowdfunding industry’s largest vertical,” and said that Indiegogo, “has totaled pledes over the course of its nearly seven-year history of about $750 million for projects ranging from personal robots to fitness trackers to disaster area aid.” Forbes reported, that while Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin declined to address GoFundMe when asked about the company,” he did say “that Indiegogo was ”the first to offer personal funding and nonprofit funding.” He was also quoted in the New York Times saying, “the main difference between Generosity.com and its predecessor was that all nonprofit campaigns would now be hosted on the site.

“We’ve seen the impact that a group of people coming together to support an important social cause can have and our commitment to support nonprofit and personal funding has literally changed lives for the better,” explained Rubin in an email to FORBES.

GoFundMe CEO, Rob Solomon, in an email statement he sent to Forbes said, “In their time of greatest need, people don’t need a cheap platform, they need one that works.” He’s also said, “that Indiegogo’s presence has had little impact, with users flocking to GoFundMe to find campaigns.” Now, the question is whether Generosity can change that.

At Indiegogo, aside from the differences in fee structure, the two sites will operate very similarly. One change is that “Indiegogo has done away with time limits on Generosity, allowing a campaign to be an open-ended amount of time similar to what is allowed on GoFundMe. Generosity also provides integrations so that users can run their campaigns on their own personal websites.”

Indiegogo launched in 2008 and which is most often seen, “in competition with its top rival, Kickstarter, facilitates fund-raising for creative and entrepreneurial projects.” As the Forbes piece points out, a challenge for the company going forward will be to differentiate between “the kinds of cause-based campaigns that Generosity.com is designed for and those that should be on Indiegogo proper. “Mr. Rubin said he was confident that campaign organizers would choose the right site for their endeavor. Indiegogo has more robust tools for campaign marketing and tracking, while Generosity.com’s interface is stripped-down and simpler.”

“Existing Indiegogo Life listings will be transitioned into the new platform, while Generosity is also launching with four new nonprofit campaigns, including Khan Academy Lite, an initiative aimed at bringing Khan Academy education to people without internet connection, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is raising funding for 100 Bay Area blood cancer patients.”

Indiegogo, according to Breanna DiGiammarino, senior director of Generosity outreach, commenting in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, sees a number of benefits to the launch. She said they’ve observed that, “nonprofit users like to have their crowdfunding efforts rubbing shoulder to shoulder with other cause efforts, including individual campaigns,” and that donors also like “a one-stop shop for a wide range of donation opportunities.” For Indiegogo users overall, she says, they can now see these causes “all in one place.”

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Diversity is Critical to the Success of the Arts—and Arts Education is the Key

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Calls for increased diversity are no longer episodic or quixotic; they are regularly heard across our business and cultural landscapes. And, if trends we see currently with Millennials continue, the need to cultivate diverse arts audiences will increase.Advertising Week this year identified the need to focus on diversity as a main theme, pointing out that while Millennials represent our “largest (and most diverse) generation, most marketing decisions and campaigns are run by alarmingly non-diverse groups.”Science News reported, too, that Americans are growing more genetically diverse, “choosing mates with ethnic backgrounds different from their own.”

In the arts, the desire for change bumps up against a number of challenging realities. One is that there are fewer non-white artists and organizations in traditional areas of the arts, such as classical music, and it takes time and a commitment to arts education to effect a change. Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, president and artistic director of the nonprofit Sphinx, and her husband, Aaron Dworkin, who is a MacArthur fellow who served in the Obama administration, have been working to change that for quite some time. Sphinx, headed by Ms. Dworkin as president, operates programs that reach “over 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of over two million annually.” Last week, for example, Syracuse, which has “the highest rate of concentrated poverty among black and Hispanic communities” in the U.S., benefited by having the Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble perform at schools throughout the city and at the Red House Arts Center at Syracuse University.

Dworkin, whose organization is based in another struggling city, Detroit, and who runs yearlong programs there, has seen the impact arts education can make, providing “a place of refuge and a place where [children] can feel confident, where they can have fun and have a break from their everyday challenges.”

As in other traditional areas of art, “classical orchestras tend to be overwhelmingly white. According to a 2012 report by the League of American Orchestras, only 4.5 percent of orchestra musicians are black or Latino—hardly representative of the general population, which, according to the 2010 census, was 13.6 percent black and 16.3 percent Hispanic or Latino.” Sphinx has been responding to that in a variety of ways, including providing free violins and lessons to elementary students in underserved communities, hosting a summer camp to work with aspiring young musicians who “demonstrate aptitude toward classical music but lack resources and access,” and by sponsoring an annual national string competition for Black and Latino youth. Red House Arts Centerhas worked similarly on the local level in Syracuse, to help underserved populations by “creating opportunities…and bringing the arts to students in struggling Syracuse elementary schools reaching 2,200 kids each day.”

“In the Syracuse City School District, about 10 percent of students in kindergarten through eighth grade play instruments, and about 65 percent participate in choral ensembles. In high school, students generally choose one or the other, or participate in art classes,” according to the Syracuse New Times. Sarah Gentile, supervisor of fine arts there, has been working had to improve that, but that type of change requires funding, parental and community support.

A big part of the equation is the value placed on arts education and the arts by the society overall. According to Americans for the Arts, “In America, the arts are often seen as a luxury. They are the first thing to go when school boards cut budgets, and successful arts policy is seen as the exception, not the rule.” As Creatiquity, a research-backed news site that explores issues in the arts, said in an article entitled “Why Don’t They Come,”

People with lower incomes and less education participate at lower rates in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less ‘elitist’ forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting events.

Jennifer Swan reported on this for the NPQ Newswire at the beginning of this year,outlining findings from three National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) studies. The article concluded with a quote from NEA Chairman Jane Chu:

“The implications from this research are significant. The findings show that there is great diversity in how people engage in the arts, and this gives us a framework to use our creativity to innovate new ways to reach these audiences.”

At a time when funding and support for arts and cultural nonprofits is on a decline, it is more important than ever to prove their importance to our representatives, communities, and leaders. With reports like these, and other arts advocacy groups like Americans for the Arts, we are evolving from a perspective of “art for art’s sake” into one of “art for business’s sake.” No longer are arts and culture something “extra”—they are an economic driver with an impact on our neighborhoods, our jobs, our employment, and, as always, our creativity.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Meet Your New Customer: The Millennial Parent

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Know your customer is the first rule of business. Millennials, huge in population numbers, are our new generation of parents. While individually, they may tell you they don’t like to be categorized, recent studies have shown as a consumer demographic, distinct patterns are emerging. Millennials are proving to be extremely knowledgeable, discriminating consumers who are more than willing to break with tradition, and who expect a lot from those who sell to them.

According to a new book, “Millennials with Kids” by Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler, these children of the Baby Boomers want products that make their lives “faster, better, easier, and more efficient.” They tend to be price conscious, responsive to special offers, and want a lot of personalization and customization. They also take time to research and network to ensure that they get just what they want. If you’re a company or entrepreneur who gets that right, and you provide great customer service, then Millennials are likely to be extremely loyal to your brand. Get it wrong at your peril because they won’t be shy about voicing their displeasure.

The choices they’re making in their careers and lifestyle are helping us understand them as future consumers. At work, one very clear indicator is that maintaining a work-life balance is of primary importance for this age group, and many are prepared to trade financial gain for pursuing their passions and having more control of their time. Two top concerns according to a study entitled, “Millennials as New Parents,” are about environmental issues and about the foods they give their children. The same study shows that in contrast to “helicopter parents” who raised a lot of Millennials, these young parents want their own children to have more free time for unstructured play.

Often cited as one of the most socially compassionate generations, more than half surveyed by Fromm said they “try to buy products that support causes or charities.” Among the things they want to teach their children is that possessions aren’t important to keep you happy. This is consistent with lifestyle choices being made to choose smaller homes, live closer to cities with better transportation, and opting to share and reuse rather than buying.

In terms of family, a Pew study found this demographic willing to challenge traditional thinking about what a family is – in terms of gender, dual or single parenting, parental roles and even the importance of children over marriage. In fact, fifty-two percent said “being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life; while only thirty percent said the same about having a successful marriage.

But the group is huge and growing – almost at thirty percent of the population, and a new report by Goldman Sachs says, “the rise of this new generation has sent marketers into a frenzy,” anticipating enormous sums they are expected to spend on their kids.

As consumers, preference is for companies or individuals that have “authentic narratives and share their world view,” according to Goldman Sachs. Millennials develop personal affinity for products and brands and this along with the “leveling force of social media, has given a newfound upper hand to smaller, social media-savvy upstarts that are able to use grassroots marketing to push boutique-style products with an aura of social responsibility or healthiness.”

Skeptics contend that this will change when Millennials settle down, but many say they’re playing a new game thanks to technology and social media, that places great importance on ensuring that their voices are heard and that they can effect change to get what they want. “Millennials see technology not just as a device or platform for communication but as a way to improve life, make better choices, and contribute to society….Brands that have a social media presence, manage a user-friendly website, and engage their customers with relevant, fresh content have a greater chance to impact Millennial purchasing decisions,” reports “Entrepreneur.”

“Creating a forum for this group to communicate and share their opinions with each other can create loyal followers and increase sales.” Then hold onto your seat because, as the technology consulting group Accenture concludes its recent report, “we believe retailing will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50.” And the key to success is in providing a consistently personalized, on-brand experience.

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Trends to Watch as Gen Z Comes of Age

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Now that we’ve hit the end of the generational alphabet with Generation Z (mid-1990s-present), we’re in the midst of courting a group born and cultivated with more market savvy than any who preceded them. Forrester Research has found them to be “demanding consumers” exposed to many brand choices. And, compared with their parents and grandparents, they are proving to be more resistant to persuasion and fully expect to have a say in the evolution of products they consume. Further, they’re digitally savvy, constantly connected and experience driven. They’re also looking for ultra-personalization in their buying choices and in how they connect with marketers and companies.

A study published by the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, http://bit.ly/1iRLUh7, found four trends likely to characterize Generation Z as consumers: 1) a focus on innovation, 2) an insistence on convenience, 3) an underlying desire for security, and 4) a tendency toward escapism.

It’s interesting to view these in light of trends recently discussed by Randi Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, at Vocus’s Demand Success conference. Engagement, innovation, and crowd-sourcing were all highly touted by Zuckerberg as critical components to successful marketing in today’s competitive environment. Author and illustrator groups might want to take a turn at what companies like Google and Facebook have done with their hackathon initiatives – where employees are encouraged to take time every few months to stay up overnight, brainstorm and try out new concepts with the group based, not on what employees do in their day jobs, but on their individual passions. Zuckerberg said that at Facebook, many of their most interesting innovations had been conceived in that environment.

Per Gen Z’s second priority, we’re certainly seeing consuming made increasingly convenient and customizable. Purchasing today has much less to do with physical location or availability than with discoverability of products and services. Online shopping has prompted a massive shift, and now we’re hearing about almost instantaneous gratification, with the imminent package delivery by drones (which Zuckerberg believes is something we’ll see from Amazon in the next couple of years), and with 3-D printing of virtually anything you can imagine – and some I hadn’t – from designed-on-you clothing to printed spaghetti and pancakes to (and apparently China is working on this) 3-D printed homes you can live in. This ties-in with Gen Z’s desire for convenience and for products that have been personalized for them, so be prepared to have your customers want to engage more and more in the products they purchase.

Fun and engagement are also paramount to this group, and that’s where gamification fits in – and is prepared to be part of every minute of our daily lives. Having trouble waking up to catch your next flight? Snooze is an alarm clock app that pledges $0.25 of your own money to charity every time you hit the snooze button. Want to visually capture a day in your life as an artist to share with your fans?  The Narrative Clip is a new wearable device that can take and store a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Wondering where your dog or cat goes when he vanishes out of site? Tagg or Tractive, which use GPS technology, give you the chance to virtually “ride along” with your pet as they prowl the neighborhood – good perhaps for authors overcoming writer’s block on that next animal fantasy story. And for sci-fi, it’s hard to imagine what’s next when there’s so much technology we couldn’t have even imagined five or ten years ago cropping up all around us — and which will be the reality for Gen Z. Next up, in the generational nomenclature – a group some are beginning to call Generation Alpha. Terrified to think what that may indicate when we meet them as consumers.

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Rent-to-Own Art – A Potential Boon to Buyers and Artists

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by Andre Smith

Many people linger in museums, longing to bring such beauty into their homes, perhaps dreaming of someday investing in artwork. So, what restricts that wish to a dream? For many art lovers and would-be buyers, the art market seems too complex and daunting, or art prices appear economically out-of-reach.

To accommodate this widespread but largely unfulfilled interest in art acquisition, many major museums and smaller galleries have started offering rental and rent-to-own programs, such as San Francisco’s MOMA.

While art rental has a long tradition, especially among corporate clients, the rent-to-own movement is increasingly gaining popularity. In many cases, the arrangement may benefit the buyer, the selling institution and the artist. Buyers get to see how they like “living with” the painting or sculpture before they commit to a major expenditure. As a result, individuals who would not usually consider purchasing art “whet their appetites” and just might begin a lifelong habit of collecting.

In the meantime, throughout the rental period, the gallery makes artwork available to appreciative eyes, which would otherwise be displayed at considerable expense, or kept out-of-sight in storage areas. In the long run, the gallery and artist also benefit, as the pool of potential buyers increases.

When a work is displayed in a home instead of a gallery setting, it instantly creates the word-of-mouth buzz that galleries usually labor to generate. Imagine that you’ve just acquired a beautiful piece of artwork, and you may only have it for a couple months: Wouldn’t you tell your friends, show it off with a dinner party or two, and flood your social media streams with proud images?

How Rent-to-Own Programs Work

In general, rent-to-own agreements are based around a commitment-free rental period, followed by the opportunity to make a purchase. Beyond that, individual programs can vary widely in the agreement details. According to BBC reports, two or three-month rentals are fairly common. Rental terms of a few months allow individuals to try out living with the artwork without burdening themselves with an excessively long commitment.

Pricing can also vary widely. As an example, the San Francisco MOMA might rent out a piece worth $30,000 for a little over $1000 per month. Taxes and installation charges also apply, and insurance costs will also vary. As with any rent-to-own arrangement, should the renter eventually decide to purchase, the final purchase price will be lowered to partially reflect the funds already invested during the rental period. For example, the Seattle Art Museum lets buyers put half of the rental fees toward the purchase price.

Expanding the Pool of Buyers

In general, the rent-to-own arrangement appeals to potential buyers for a few simple reasons. It allows them to enjoy artwork, in their homes, without committing to a major investment. Plus, for those interested in an eventual purchase, beginning with a rental significantly lowers the pressure and the risk of “buyer’s remorse.” As a result, risk-shy investors and novice art buyers are especially likely to find the option attractive.
Rent-to-own arrangements also offer a convenient alternative for a range of specific scenarios. For new companies in high-end sectors, acquiring the right artwork is fundamental to creating the office environment that gives clients the right impression. However, the cost of purchasing art outright can prove prohibitive for startups. By choosing to rent, with the option to buy, companies can suit their spending to meet the changing budget of their growing business.

Aiding Artists

Given the increasingly popularity of the rent-to-own arrangement, why should the scheme be of interest to artists? Firstly, by working with galleries that specialize in rentals, artists can massively increase their exposure. Although you may typically imagine your artwork to eventually grace a handsome home, consider how many more people will see a piece that hangs in a workplace. High-end hotels and competitive firms constitute many of the most ardent art renters. Many galleries, such as CKI Fine Art Rental, have specialized services to shepherd such clients through the art rental and rent-to-own process.

As an added bonus, letting galleries rent out your artworks ensures that they will be loved and appreciated. Instead of hanging at the back of a gallery, waiting to be purchased, your artwork will be continuously pleasing viewers. And at the same time, a growing public will be getting to know your name.

Andre Smith is a writer from Brisbane. His great passion is art – he’s an admirer of Ansel Adams‘ work and Asian fine art. You can connect with him on Google+.
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Content Meets Utility Marketing

Wondering how to drive more traffic to your business via your website, blog, and social media sites? Consider these stats on data per minute on the Internet (and that was last year, so of course even more now):

-204,166,667 email messages

-2,000,000 search queries on Google

-684,478 users share on Facebook

-1,300,000 video views

-47,000 app downloads

In the marketing world, the messaging has been that “content is king,” which makes sense given that we know consumers have been getting more and more fatigued and resistant to advertising. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, “more than nine out of ten B2B marketers are using some form of content marketing.” So that’s not the problem, the issue moving forward is in how to create content that will get noticed – and how to engage consumers in a way that will create loyalty to you and your brand.

Very difficult these days, but Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype, and Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Alt Delete and Six Pixels of Separation, are evangelists for the concept of utility marketing, which suggests that content focus and consumer engagement should shift from promoting the value of a product or brand to developing a user experience that is concrete and useful to the consumer. It’s a welcome shift from pumping out quantity messaging to looking for new ways to engage in a meaningful way.

Baer says, “Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote. Three key concepts described in his book are to provide “Self-Serve Information,” which is to figure out what you can provide that can be most useful to your consumers, thus establishing yourself as an ongoing source of information; “Radical Transparency,” anticipating and providing answers to the questions they may have about you; and “Real-Time Relevancy,” which is about being prepared to provide information timed when it’s most useful to the consumer. 

Joel believesthe next five years will be about the brands that can actually create a level of utility for the consumer.” He sees an era of increased personalization that requires different types of messaging not just by knowing your audience, but by media platform.

This is the ideal to be able to engage meaningfully and even specifically, but may feel overwhelming if you’re running your own business and trying to create at the same time. Something like being told to: “do everything, get to know everyone personally, and think outside the box.” However, taking a step back, it’s a way you should already be thinking. First, think in audience segments. What do you know that you can teach them? You can share information on new techniques, how to present, how to research, how to make a story or a piece of art extraordinary. Second, consider how others have shared that knowledge in the past? What new tools are there now, or new ideas you have for engaging them in a different way? What’s particular about your work, and are there specific times when that information can be most useful – at a particular time of the year, for special programming and events, in conjunction with trends or what’s happening in the news?

Third – and here it’s tougher – how can you learn enough about your customers, and how can you engage with them personally? Truthfully, you probably can’t if you’re thinking of them individually, but if you think in segments, you certainly can – and you can use different messaging, platforms and tactics to reach them. The trick is to break the message down in meaningful ways and then customize based on what you know about them.

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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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