Archive for the ‘Multimedia Storytelling’ Category

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The Arts & Social Media: Instagram (Part 2)

October 15, 2012

With my first post, I wrote about social media and the arts and how to effectively start using Instagram for your arts organization (especially for performing arts centers and companies).  My post relied heavily on explaining IG and its simplest functions and subsequently gave ideas on the type of image content to use as opposed to the capabilities of the actual application.  With Instagram slowly becoming a powerhouse platform with exceptionally high usage, it’s important to make sure you are using it to it’s maximum potential.

These are a few really quick ideas and tips on how to creatively use Instagram for the arts, outside of simply posting pictures.

  • Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag!
    • Instagram allows for hashtags to be incorporated in captions and are actually searchable by users.  Therefore, if you can effectively hashtag your picture, do it!  A simple hashtag can go a long way (#dance #theatre #Sondheim #Ailey #Gershwin) and getting specific can yield some great results.  A simple #LesMiserables hashtag can put your community theatre production’s photo in the company of content from past professional productions and other current productions.
  • Start a photo challenge
    • A lot of IG users are finding pleasure in participating in monthly photo challenges that call on users to follow a set guideline and post a photo a day based on that’s guidelines content request.  These challenges pop up monthly but can be adapted for weekly challenges, if a month proves to be too strenuous.  Check out a general photo challenge outline and think of how you could potentially adapt it to fit your own organization.  Perhaps think of incorporating the challenge into a contest, with its completion yielding a prize.

  • Follow your peers AND your devoted patrons.
    • Much like Twitter, IG can and should be a platform for two way communication.  Nothing reads quite as badly as an organization who has tons of followers but chooses to follow no one.  Social media is exactly that, social and should be taken advantage of in that way.  Therefore, interact with IG users and followers, whether they are other organizations or fans of your organization.  Follow them and don’t be afraid to interact with their photos, if relevant.  This builds a relationship and is likely to increase loyalty to your cause/brand/content.

More to come in future blog posts!  I’ll be hitting on best practices for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms as it relates to the arts.

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Fashion is… [Photo Project]

April 17, 2012

I took to downtown Greensboro to do a photo project with my best friend, Perrine DeShield.  Under the theme of fashion, we explored four different looks (retro/quirky, glamorous, tribal/ethnic print, edgy/hard).  Check out the final products below.  (Disclaimer:  I’m so not a photographer!)  Enjoy.

 

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Going Viral

April 12, 2012

Videos go viral every single day.  They pop up on our Twitter feeds and Facebook walls.  They make waves on news programs and blogs.  What exactly makes a video go viral overnight?  No one really has a definitive answer, however, there are some principles that pop up in a lot of these viral phenomenons that could be really helpful in creating a video that can go viral for your company or organization.  eModeration did a great breaking down a list of viral characteristics that are both observable and measurable.

Instant attraction Can the first 10-15 seconds create curiosity? The “pay-off” must come quickly or otherwise be communicated clearly; users don’t want to waste time! 

Audience hook Is there something in the video that will give it extra mileage with users and webmasters? A celebrity, and awesome soundtrack, exclusive footage, sex appeal or just an intriguing title. 

Storytelling It must be interesting; something the user hasn’t seen before or simply better than previous content in same genre, Storytelling also relates to the flow of the story and the creative concept behind it. 

Shareability The content needs to contain a meme. Content that deals with topical subjects or characters of importance to people in a cultural context is more likely to be shared and discussed. Ask yourself if your content relates to anything people already talk about?  Additionally, make it easy to share: the execution needs to be done in a format and tone that users feel like sharing. 

Production Relates to video layout, authenticity, production value and overall flow of the video. Is the video pleasant to watch, does it evoke emotional response with the target audience or simply – is there consistency between layout and story? 

Overall Campaign The user journey and depth of a campaign has a lot to say for engagement and organic media. Do we have multiple content and many channels in place?  

Often times the most captivating videos are ones that show things going wrong, unbelievable things, uncover truths or depict things that are just bad.  Check out my three examples of viral videos and how they made an impact whether they wanted to or not.

1. Rebecca Black’s Friday

This is a simple case of a video going back off of the shear ridiculousness of its content.  The song and video are both highly cheesy in nature and caused people to question whether someone would create and promote a song and video that were so utterly horrible.  It gained millions of viewers, trended for days and days on Twitter and gave Rebecca Black a few minutes of fame.

2. Mary J. Blige/Burger King Commercial

This recent viral video was meant for television but was pulled after fan backlash.  The video quickly hit the internet and has spawned parodies and blog debate.  The video shows Mary J. Blige singing about a new chicken wrap at Burger King.  Fans found the video offensive and many called Blige into criticism for promoting Mammy-esque stereotypes for singing about chicken over a hip-hop beat.  This is an example of when viral videos can hurt your brand.

3. Kony 2012

This longer-form viral video hit the internet and has been one of the premiere examples of 2012 viral videos.  Celebrities hopped on the bandwagon, only strengthening the power of the Invisible Children-produced video in opposition of Joseph Kony.  Check out this article for perspective on how this particular video went viral.

For non-profits and arts organizations, the importance of a viral video may not be as heavy as a start up dot com business or a food product line.  The best bet for these types of organizations is to pull at the heart strings much like the Kony 2012 video which generate a fury of emotions from viewers.  Lining up with a cause and producing a short shareable video is the key to getting noticed by the masses.  Above all else, don’t force the content to fit into the viral box.  Viral videos, most times, were not intended to go viral.  Keep true to your brand and organization first and let your video creation reflect that even if it does or doesn’t go viral.

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Iconic? Says who?

April 12, 2012

Iconic imagery is entirely subjective.  Some images pop up in books, on t-shirts, on the news because they have been wildly heralded as being iconic but there cannot be a simple set of standards that makes images iconic.  Martin Kemp, an author of books on imagery, is often referenced for his breakdown of the definition of iconic imagery.  His arguments, while rich and valuable, are not always lined up with everyone else’s definitions.  Every culture, subculture, discourse community, neighborhood, nation, race, age group could find imagery iconic or empty.  Showing a picture of the sailor kissing a woman in the streets after returning home means nothing to an indigenous culture who has little knowledge of American history.  That’s the beauty and curse of it all.

My breakdown of iconic imagery therefore is split into three sections and each has a specific example.

1. Stirs Natural Emotion

Some of the most iconic images as deemed by experts do one thing above all else, they make us feel something. They make us sad, angry, depressed, happy.  Take for instance, the Nick Ut photo of a young girl in the streets of Vietnam after a napalm attack.  It won the Pulitzer.  Yes it captures a time in history but above all else is makes us sad and emphatic with the people in the photo who are in clear danger.

2. Startle/Confuse

Iconic photos sometimes have no explanation and make us wonder what is going on contextually that would result in such a photo.  Diane Arbus, one of my favorite photographers, often shot bizarre instances with people who could be deemed strange by social norms.  Her images are iconic because they make us wonder and confuse us.  They sometimes even make us uncomfortable resulting in us turning away or staring for hours.

3. Make people remember

Iconic images also harken to a time or place or period that is important or relevant to a group of people.  For Americans, September 11th’s attacks are etched in our memories partly due to the images that were shown over and over again on news and in print and online.  Those images became iconic and makes us remember a specific day.   My mother always refers to the picture of JFK Jr., as a child, saluting his father during his funeral procession.  She remembers that time and that place when she sees that image and that in turn makes her feel specific emotions.

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Social Media Mad Men

April 12, 2012

The word ‘traditional’ is so hard to find these days.  When thinking about social media and its emergence as a full force of nature in business development, it’s weird to think that just fifty or so years ago, advertisers and marketers were eerily similar to those depicted in show like Mad Men, stoic men in suits drinking and figuring out lies to get people to buy things.  Now, it seems that social media and its gaggle of uses has ushered out the suits and amped up the transparent.  The power in social media is that it directly relies upon the consumer beyond just purchasing a product. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Bing, Pinterest, Instagram all allow followers and fans alike to voice praises as well as concerns within an instant.  That’s scary and brilliant.

There’s a great article on three powerful young people, all social media managers at large companies, who the NY Post calls today’s Mad Men (and women).  The article provides a lot of perspective on what it means to be a social media professional and where the future of the industry is going with respect to the various platforms and the people who engage with it for a paycheck.

Social media managers are the new Mad Men, making creative content to convince their audiences to spend, spend, spend. Except instead of dapperly dressed men swilling through three-martini lunches, these are earnest, sometimes nerdy kids who were always the smartest in the room, if not always the most popular.

We are no longer just selling people things.  We as social media professionals are responsible for keeping up with what they want, how they view our products and organizations, what they enjoy outside of what we promote and how to use that to use all that information to continue our success.

There are some really simple rules that I have learned in various roles over the years that every social media manager should utilize to be both effective and interesting:

1.  Transparency

Social media users want to know what’s going on in and out of the company/product.  Giving users an inside look and access to information that may not be in a commercial spot or a YouTube clip makes users feel like they know your company and can eventually be loyal to it.  Behind-the-scenes videos are great examples of this.  Addressing crisis on social media is important.  It’s not just about when things are going right, it’s even about when things go wrong.

2.  Do it both ways!

Don’t just feed your followers information.  Actively engaging users by asking questions, taking polls, allowing them to share content, etc. not only keeps you at the top of a Facebook feed, it makes users feel like they are included in the conversation and can make an impact.  It’s as simple as going from a tweet that says “Today is National Sibling Day!” to “Today is National Sibling Day! Tweet us a picture of you and your sisters or brothers!”.

3.  Know your voice and audience

In the same way that it is important to keep a consistent dialogue, it is also important to not bombard users with content that has little relevance to them or to your product/organization.  Keeping things concise and relevant will keep users coming back to see updates as opposed to posting randomness that only a few may enjoy or even find worth checking out.

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Close Your Eyes & Listen

April 12, 2012

Audio is much more powerful than we give it credit.  For most of us, audio is predominately attached to a visual.  Whether it is someone speak while utilizing facial expressions, seeing a fire while hearing it crackle or seeing a door close and anticipating the sound it will likely make.  Audio is absolutely integral to storytelling in that respect.  We process audio with the same amount of intensity that we do video and still imagery.  Therefore, an advertisement or an effective web video will be able to standalone in many respects outside of its visual component.  Below are some examples of online videos that do a great job of creating audio stories.

1.  Battleship

The upcoming film Battleship is a great example of an action film that totally encompasses audio storytelling.  Mixing natural sounds that are familiar to us, with futuristic effects and nicely sliced voiceovers, I can hear what is going on without having to actually see it and that alone makes me want to find where the visual is so I can experience it again.  Action films do a superb job of mixing audio types to build anticipation and create tension with their use of explosions, intentional silence and boisterous voiceover.

2.  Political Ads – Obama 2012

Political advertisements and YouTube clips are great examples of audio effectiveness.  This particular YouTube clip features the voices of many Obama supporters as they speak on his reelection and how they and others will be involved.  The voices of normal citizens, and not professional voiceover actors, paired with an unidentifiably pleasant background song makes this advertisement strong audibly.  The variation in voice keeps it interesting and the song keeps it consistent.  It’s very effective and the video doesn’t have to be seen at all.

3.  Coca Cola Nature Commerical

This commercial for Coca Cola uses almost entirely sounds that are found in nature.  While it may be difficult to get the idea of what is going on without the visual, I think on a close listen the sound effects give all the necessary clues to understand what is going on strictly through audio.  A listeners can hear the various bugs individual sounds, the sounds of falling and dropping objects, the sound of a Coca Cola opening and pouring.  It it so rich in audio that one wants to automatically picture an image in their mind that accompanies the audio.

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Reading on the Web

April 12, 2012

Writing and reading on the web is becoming more and more difficult that many would imagine.  For a reader, we are looking for quick information or a simple gist of what we are looking at because we are likely to find something that catches our eye and takes us away from the subject matter that we previously found important.  As a writer, we want to keep those people who may be reading our blog, for example, engaged enough to look at the article, nonetheless continue on to read the entire piece.  It has been suggested that a web page should contain no more than four paragraphs of content.  That’s really not a lot if you think about some of the topics that people may be writing about so web writing could be more complicated and laborious than long-form writing.

There are some best practices that I’ve noticed around the web, as well as some examples, that have helped me to see active writing that has kept me engaged.

1.  Write for your audience and not for search engine hits

It’s important that web writers don’t get caught up in writing in a particular way that will get them higher in the ranks of search engine optimization.  Plenty of times writers do this and find that they’ve written a piece that gets them in search results but the piece itself has lost its voice and no one really wants to read it.  One source said that if you write for humans first and then search engine bots, you will increase readership.

2.  Keep it short and concise

The common tip for web writing is that it should be short and sweet.  There’s a reason why this makes everyone’s tip list.  It’s true.  No one wants to read a blog post that is takes four scrolls or more to get through, no matter how interesting the content may be.  Reducing scrolling is a great way to increase readership.  If someone feels that they can get through your content quickly, they may be be more likely to read it and read more.  It has been suggested that web writers put the most important information in the beginning as to promote the gist and then go into further detail.  Web readers are scatter brained.

3.  Keep readers waiting or anticipating

While keeping it short is helpful, there can still be an air of mystery to your writing.  I love pop culture blog posts that utilize this kind of guessing game.  A music blog called That Grape Juice, which reports on gossip and industry information (such as record sales), utilizes this a lot.  A recent blog post on singer Madonna’s album sales gave readers an introduction paragraph that hinted at her second week sales drop but required readers to click a “continue reading” link to finish the article.  It’s a clever way to give users a taste and then let them click to finish.

4.  Give it a solid title/headline or scannable headers

Using a few words to catch a reader’s attention can make or break a web piece.  This is best exemplified by gossip blogs who make their money by sharing hot-off-the-press information that may not be interesting or beneficial to readers at all.  A blog titled “Kardashian caught in sex scandal!” is much more eye-catching than “Kim Kardashian buys a book on sex education!”.  It’s all about how it’s phrased.

5.  Make it interactive, of course

Encourage your readers to respond and give thoughts in a comments section.  Ask them questions in your piece that would be interesting enough for them to answer.  This is so simple and could keep readers coming back for more.  A great music blog that I frequent called Toyaz-World does a great job of asking readers questions and then engaging in dialogue with their readers in the comments section, sometimes resulting in heated debate over silly content.

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