Burn Some Time Or Engage People: Flipbook And Disqus

The Internet isn’t exactly brand new anymore, but many people still don’t have a firm grasp on just how effective it is in terms of enabling people to be creative and engage with one another.  Sure, everyone checks email and does some browsing on a regular basis, but the sheer volume of ways to connect with other people is mind blowing.  In this post, we’ll discuss two of them.  

If you have a creative streak in you or want to dabble in animation, this could be a great discovery.  A traditional “flipbook” is a book of static images that, when flipped flipbookquickly with a thumb or finger, blend together to create a movie.  Flipbook is the digital equivalent of the traditional entertainment tool.

This clever app allows the user to create a series of pictures one at a time, then automatically strings them together into a video that the user can share with others.  With multiple layers, the user can modify the background frame by frame while leaving the main character in the foreground alone, or vice versa.  Each layer can be manipulated to seamlessly tell whatever story the user wants to share.  Flipbook makes it dead simple to save the video for later viewing or share it with others.  A companion website provides a centralized location for users and visitors alike to view other people’s flipbooks, vote on the ones they like, and share them with others.  The only major downside is that it is not currently available on Android, the biggest smartphone and tablet platform in the world.

Still, a brief spin through Flipbook’s archives shows the kind of enormous variety you’d expect from a multitude of users unleashing their creative genius.  Most are short, topics are as numerous as there are grains of sand on a beach, and the quality of the art varies widely.  For some, Flipbook is just a fun way to pass some time; for others, it’s a serious medium to develop and share some serious digital art talent.

Disqus

Maybe words are your thing more than pictures.  Maybe you like to engage directly in dialogue rather than simply share a link to something you like.  Maybe you just can’t hold back from a lively conversation.  If any of these things come close to describing you, take a look at Disqus, one of the biggest commenting platforms on the Internet today.

disqus_logoDisqus is primarily a commenting system for blogs and online communities who wish to include discussions on their sites.  Currently, it serves roughly 75% of all such websites that use a third party system for comments, and has almost 150 million unique monthly visits in the U.S. alone.  A single Disqus login can grant you access to conversations on a myriad of websites, with no fuss whatsoever – if you’re on a website that uses Disqus for its comment system, just login and join the fun!  There is a system of upvoting that carries the best and/or most helpful comments up to the top for even more exposure, so it could be a great tool for business owners trying to drive discussion on a certain product or topic.

But that’s not all – graphically, it’s very satisfying, as well.  Take a gander at the Disqus website, and you’ll find a mesmerizing synopsis of all of the conversations currently taking place on Disqus, organized by categories like Games or Celebrities or Sports.  Each category is floating on the screen like a bubble, with the number of comments registered to the category attached to the bubble.  You can watch as new conversations pop up on the bubbles, and old ones fall off.  A simple click will give you the most recent comment on the subject, but you can drill into it even more and be taken to the article being discussed.

Website owners can harness the power of this phenomenal level of collaboration for their own site, and in conjunction with other social media sites, Disqus can be a fantastic tool for not only keeping up with current digital discussion trends, but also in driving them.

engage_with_customersThese sites will appeal to different people for different reasons, but both are well designed and achieve their missions with style.  Whether you’re looking to just burn some time on the Internet, or looking to engage with people for one reason or another, both are worth checking out.

 

Advertisements

UnMarketing, UnBlogging, UnAdvertising and UnPodcasting: How to really reach people these days

We’ve all had this happen to us. You finally get the kids settled down at the dinner table, a long day of work is drifting away to the land of forget, your spouse is in fine spirits… it’s time to enjoy an all too rare occasion, sip some wine, and listen to the kids’ day. Then the phone rings. Your spouse looks annoyed, but you’re thinking of your Mom’s promise to call you last week, so with a cheerful “I’ll get it,” the phone is quickly snatched up before you can check the caller ID. “Hello sir, you have been selected to try the best product of its kind! How many can we sell you, three? Four?” Oh why hadn’t you looked at the caller ID! You don’t want to be rude, but you don’t intend to buy one of whatever this is, let alone three or four! How do you get on that “do not call” list? “No thanks, we’re not interested!” you practically yell, as you furiously jab the off button, since you cannot slam the receiver these days. Phew. Now back to dinner and the family.

What just happened? A company still pays to have a telemarketer cold call you because of a one-in-a-million chance that you’re a pushover and will buy something just because you feel sorry for the person on the other line? It’s a little unbelievable that advertising like this is still considered viable (especially when you study the tips and tricks of the trade), but it happens… a lot! Not only telemarketing, but popup ads still popup in our screens, lead generating gizmos still ask questions and tell us someone will be calling us about this unrelated product in order for you to get more coins for your virtual reality game, and we still get “trash” mail ads telling us we’re buying the wrong kind of toothpaste. Does it really work?

Scott Stratten, author of the very popular and entertaining book, UnMarketing, says this system is proven to be broken by the very fact that we as a society tend to hate telemarketers, furiously click the close icon when we get a popup ad, and automatically pause by the trash can on the way inside from collecting the mail to offload the junk mailers before they can clutter up our kitchen counters. Instead of berating people into buying a product, Stratten’s strategy is “all about positioning yourself as a trusted expert in front of your target market, so when they have the need, they choose you.”

How does he accomplish this? The man who has guided big brands like PepsiCo, Cirque du Soleil, and Adobe through the vast, intimidating world of social media marketing just… un-does it! Recently named one of the top 5 social media influencers in the world by Forbes.com, and boasting a current list of Twitter followers of 165,000, Stratten seems to have hit on a great un-idea. In his UnPodcast, Stratten constantly dissects what makes videos go viral, why some ads inspire people to actually watch them for entertainment on YouTube, and other aspects of un-friending and un-influencing people. The key element? People actually LIKE the videos they make viral. Something about a quirky joke that everyone enjoys, something that hits home with everyone and makes everyone want to share it with EVERYONE. How can you capture that essence and use it towards your advantage? You “stop marketing…start engaging!”

No one wants “buy this now!” shoved down their throat anymore. Did anyone ever?  Stratten repeatedly reminds us that we are dealing with consumers that are more educated than ever before. Easy access to the internet, hundreds of reviews and product comparisons has made buyers wary, and a dearth of real people interaction has actually opened up an opportunity for people with a dynamic personality to swoop in and win (um, un-win) potential customers longing for a personal relationship with their salesman!

Stratten himself is funny, engaging, and many people read his UnBooks, UnBlog and listen to his UnPodcast solely because he is a likeable guy with great stories and funny jokes we can all relate to. It’s small wonder that he is in great demand nationwide for his speaking engagements. Potential consumers are sucked in completely un-aware they are going to be consuming something because they are too busy laughing and nodding their heads in agreement. Who wouldn’t want to read a book entitled, “QR Codes Kill Kittens-How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground”?  Is this brilliant or what? It is certainly timely.

I can heartily recommend reading Scott Stratten’s books, easily found on Amazon.com Currently in publication are his very first book, UnMarketing-Stop Marketing, Start Engaging, followed by a flipbook (yes, a flipbook for grownups!), The Book of Business (UnAwesome), and then, my favorite, QR Codes Kill Kittens… it’s a picture book… for fedup business people. A fourth book, UnSelling, is due sometime soon. This un-customer will definitely be pre-ordering it.

But you can’t blog for us: we’re too specialized!

Some time ago we wrote about one of the services we offer: blogging for clients.  In that article and in other places we’ve made the point that while you or one of your staff might be the ideal person to create content, your current schedule may not allow for it.  You’re allowing the “we really should be blogging” turn into the “I thought we talked about blogging six months ago – why isn’t it getting done?”  But you might still hesitate and say: “Stephen, I’d love to outsource this but our industry is just too darn specific.”

I hear you.  May I turn your question around a bit?  Why do you think we enjoy working with “specific” industries?  It is the age of the niche.  As Google morphs over time from an analog search tool to a sophisticated partner that can process orally-asked questions, those blogs and that content which have pre-answered the most important questions will have the edge in being found by info-hungry potential customers.  No matter what the industry of our client, we always have to think small in order to think big.

So, in reminding you that the scope of our articles often leans niche, I’m happy to say, we like “niche” firms too.  Is there a bit more uptime as we learn your industry through blogs, white papers, videos, and other content that you boot-camp us through?  Yes.  Is hiring us and taking the time to teach us about you still cheaper and more efficient than using your time or your staff’s time to do this?  Yes.  Does the very act of starting to create content – even through an external source – get the wheels turning for you so that you can start to contribute too?  Often.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of conversations about your industry happening on the internet right now.  Are you doing everything you can to be part of those conversations?  If you have any doubts, send an email to info AT wordworksinc.com and let’s see if we can make what you’re already doing even better.

Augmented Reality

matrix_neo In the blockbuster movie trilogy “The Matrix,” the computer world and the real world are merged in the main character, Neo.  Just as he learns to project his human consciousness into the computer construct that is the Matrix, his nemesis, Agent Smith, learns to project his computer consciousness into a human mind.  The end result is a series of explosive, action-packed thrillers that also contains a surprising amount of depth and philosophy.

While we don’t need to worry about sentinels or the nefariously complex creations of The Architect just yet, we can already see the beginnings of a blended world made up of both the real and the virtual in a technology called augmented reality.

Simply put, augmented reality — AR for short — is a type of virtual reality that duplicates the real world in a computer environment and then overlays it with enhanced sensory perception of that reality.  If this seems far-fetched, perhaps some examples would help simplify things.  Think about the last time you watched a football broadcast on TV – remember the ever-present first down line?  That’s a graphical overlay on the television broadcast that doesn’t actually exist in the real world.  The combined product you saw on TV was a virtual reality that duplicated the real world…but with some added visual enhancement.  Your surround sound home theater system delivers an auditory version of the same concept.  If you think about it, there are lots of examples around us every day, even on something as small as a smart phone.  In fact, many apps that harness the effectiveness of augmented reality already exist.  There are a number of apps that let you wave your phone around the night sky to see the locations of the stars and planets.  There are apps that overlay the names and ratings of restaurants as you walk down a city street.  Apps can overlay distance or light measurements for construction or photography, put an arrow on your screen to indicate where you parked your car, or even show you where to point your satellite dish.  Google Glass is one of the first commercially available augmented reality devices on the market for consumers, and despite its drawbacks is a signal of much more to come.  Augmented reality is already here, and you probably already use it in one form or another.

The exciting — and scary — thing about it is that AR is only going to get more effective.  The latest generation of gaming systems are pioneering the way.  For example, take a look at this concept video of a Microsoft Xbox converting the entire room into the player’s screen:

Entertainment seems to be a big early adopter of AR technology, but there are many other industries experimenting with it, as well, from commerce to military to medical to science.  This technology can be so effective in part because of how real it is – if real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.  As the video above demonstrates, even the most basic AR can fool the brain rather easily.  Thus, in the coming years, as software becomes more sophisticated and hardware becomes even more powerful, AR technology will continue to become more effective and pervasive.  It will shrink in both size and cost until it becomes commonplace and therefore almost invisible, much like our smart phones are to us now.  At some point it may actually get a little bit tricky to determine what is real and what isn’t.  While that will certainly make for some incredible entertainment and life improvements, it is not something to venture into blindly or foolishly.  Any time the real world and a virtual world are indistinguishable, there is great potential for harm.  We must take care to shepherd this fantastic new technology along a path that is enjoyable, helpful, ethical, and safe.

After all, there is no spoon.

 

system_failure

Brought to you by Word Works, Inc…

Wordsmith is happy to present to our listeners a forerunner in the world of social media marketing, James Hahn II, of TribeRocket.com. Formerly a technical writer for DrillingInfo, James has invested years of research and practice into developing some unique strategies designed to maximize potential in the vast digital marketing scheme of things. He has generously agreed to share some ideas with us today; we’ll hear great advice about building connections, to networking etiquette, to maximizing brainstorming sessions and more. Wordsmith is a new monthly podcast on the AMDG Radio network  and is brought to you by Word Works, Inc.

The Art of Storytelling for Business

onceuponatimeA presentation from NewsCred reported that 78% of CMO’s think custom content is the future of marketing, and 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing. These are pretty impressive numbers, but regardless of the exact numbers, we know that content marketing is important. (You’ve read our other blog posts, right?!) So the next questions is: what kind of content works? What should you spend your time working on?

Content that tells a story: engage and make emotional connections. 

One of the latest marketing buzzwords is storytelling. Why do we love books and movies? Because they tell us a story, they make us feel something – they make us care. Stories help create a connection, which is powerful in the marketing world. Once a connection is made, your audience could buy something, donate money, or assist with your goal in some way.

Stories don’t have to be daunting – they happen every day. The hard part is trying to figure out how to tell and share that story. I saw a video today about a dog trying to be brought into his kennel and he was huffing and barking what sounded like “no.” Viewers were easily able to understand what was happening and relate to this dog. Haven’t you ever been supposed to get out of bed and do something and just want to say no?

One of the best examples of storytelling to fulfill a marketing objective is Kickstarter or Indiegogo or any of the other internet fundraising machines. These websites force users to tell a story about who they are and what they want to do. They recommend using deals, but also keeping people updating about the process and developments behind the scenes. They are marketing themselves “face-to-face” to reach their goal and many are insanely successful.

Over the past few years we’ve grown accustomed to talking with businesses online. Whether you are writing a long piece of content or a short status update on Twitter, businesses need to share things that will resonate with their audience. Business content is shared on social media within a larger framework of stories and pictures from friends, so when given the chance to share that content, it needs to be compelling and original or it will be swiped to the sideline.

Think of all the TED Talks or speeches that have moved you to action (or want to take action). They have powerful stories in them that create metaphors for change. If you are having trouble creating a story about your business, try out the Pixar pitch from the book To Sell is Human by Dan Pink. The script helps you discover the storyline in your business:

Once upon a time there was _________. Every day _________. One day _________. Because of that _________. Because of that _________. Until finally _________.

 Take some time to discover how that story reads for you. When this narrative begins, your company might not exist, but you were able to discover something that needed to be changed. Then you worked to problem solve and create something out of nothing.

Everyone has a story to tell. Practice telling your story using words, images and video and see what you come up with! If your business has a good story to tell, please share it within the comments.

 

Medium: Blogging Platform for Writers and Editors

We talk a lot about blogging and content creation on this blog as it is important to share your stories through conversational marketing and maintain fresh content on your site to assist with your search rankings. There are several types of blogging platforms – WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, to name a few – but in this blog post I want to spend some time introducing you to Medium.

If you haven’t heard of Medium.com, you aren’t alone. Although the platform, Medium, launched in October 2012, it is still a new platform. Medium is a blogging platform developed by the co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, Evan Williams. Blogging began as a tool for writers to share their thoughts, then with the wave of social networks, like Twitter and Instagram, short social images and messages became popular for sharing. Medium aims to meld both of these ideas and mix writers together with a social aspect.

A place for both amateur and professional writers, Medium organizes the writing within collections and user recommendations. Medium boasts a gorgeous online editor tool and online reading format that is clean and modern. Take a look at one of the posts to see how the story scrolls down the page. It’s a connected and collaborative platform that even tells you the average length of time each article will take to read!

Collaborative Editing

What also sets Medium apart from other blogging platforms is that there are opportunities to ask other writers for edits before and after each work is published. While the author is always in charge of what is seen publicly, readers and other writers can offer feedback and ideas using notes. Created for both positive and negative feedback, as well as general commentary, notes can help writers with their work – either through spelling or through insight into a different perspective.

Content Promotion

Writing is a learning process and Medium places a strong focus on the words on the page, not with how popular you are outside of your work.

Williams writes, “We think great ideas can come from anywhere and should compete on their own merits. On Medium, you can contribute often or just once in a blue moon, without the commitment of a blog… Through a combination of algorithmic and editorial curation, posts on Medium get spread around based on interest and engagement. Some get hundreds of thousands of readers — and not because they were written by famous people. Medium is not about who you are or whom you know, but about what you have to say.”

Get Involved

Medium isn’t a standalone blog that requires you to post every day or every week. You can write on it if you want, but you can also read articles, leave notes for authors, and recommend the works you like. The homepage is a great place to start to find links to editor’s picks of interesting content, as well as what is trending at the moment. Are you intrigued? Did you set up an account yet? I’d love to see what you’ve written – share it below and I’ll take a look!