web

Creating a Video Series on Social Media

Producing video on social media has been getting easier and more popular, over the past few years. We’ve talked about how short videos are a great way to market for businesses and nonprofits, but another trend that I’ve noticed lately is how “shows” are becoming more popular on social media, too. (I mean, we were fairly on trend with Tech Thursday).

These aren’t quite the same caliber as a good Netflix binge, but it’s still interesting to see the ideas people and brands are coming up with. One recent example I can think of is Kristen Bell’s Momsplaining, which she does through Ellen DeGeneres’ YouTube Channel. Each episode is only between 4-7 minutes long, they’re produced but not with a set the way Law & Order is.

These video series aren’t just on Youtube. On Facebook, there are “shows” like Charlene’s World, which share fairly hilarious videos of a young girl and different personalities she’s invented including Bossy Boss Lady, Classy Jen, and Blaze.

Betches just started a new web series called “Please Advise with Aleen,” which is a guide to corporate life for 20-somethings. They also have other videos that live on their website but get shared on their social media channels.



It seems like from established celebrities and brands to “Joe Schmoe down the road,” the preferred new way to share not just one video but a series of videos is through social media. The fact that Kristen Bell & Ellen are sharing Momsplaining on YouTube instead of trying to make it a full t.v. show might signal that they’re trying to meet their audience where they are- on social media.

In terms of social media that supports very short term video content, this article, which talks about experiments creating a Snapchat-only show and an Instagram show (back when Instagram only supported 15 second videos). Since the article is from 2016, I’m guessing the Snapchat attempt at a series wasn’t very successful (Instagram has since extended it’s video length allowance to 60 seconds). A lot of celebrities will post Snapchat stories, but it doesn’t seem like the “Snapchat series” has made a comeback just yet.

Of course sometimes a web series will eventually air on t.v., like Derek Waters’ Drunk History, but for now, it seems like video series are sticking to social media for the time being.

So when you have some things to say but can’t fit it in one video, consider doing a series on social media. You may be surprised at how large the audience is there… and how many other people are making series too.



Why Buzzfeed Has Us All Addicted

Why-Buzzfeed-AddictingA semi-alarming predicament: whenever I get on the internet, even if the goal is to pay a bill or respond to an e-mail, I enter some wormhole and realize I’ve just been perusing Buzzfeed for the past twenty minutes. Every. Time. How does this happen? Buzzfeed is ranked the 40th most visited site in the U.S., and in the past couple years has seen a substantial growth in traffic. Here are six reasons why Buzzfeed has become an addiction for me, and probably you, too:

1. Audience: Buzzfeed writers successfully reach a broad audience (basically, everyone who uses the internet). No one gets left out: for every post geared toward females, there is a corresponding post for males. If there are “27  Problems Only Introverts Will Understand,” there’s also “25 Frustrating Things About Being an Extrovert.”  Most websites tend to have a narrower target audience, but the idea here is understanding who they are and what they want to read about.

2. Content: Pleasing an enormous demographic requires generating some serious amounts of content. Generally, posts lean towards humor (after all, laughter unites), but social issues are also a powerful presence. Lately, quizzes are trending, such as “Which Power Ranger Are You,” “What State Should You Really Live In,” and “What Classical Author is Your Soulmate?” (apparently, H.D. Thoreau and I make a great couple). Most seem ridiculous, but then, one can’t help but wonder…really, though, what kind of cereal am I? At the end, results can be shared with Facebook friends or followers on Twitter, encouraging even more people to discover their cereal identities.

3. Images: Buzzfeed nails visual content, from the homepage to the actual post. Images on the homepage tend to be recognizable in the pop culture arena, which grabs attention and compels readers to check out the related post. Within the post itself, images and GIFs are used to enhance the content (although, once in awhile there’s something random thrown in).

4. Layout: There’s a lot going on on the Buzzfeed homepage, but ultimately it is organized in a way that doesn’t totally overwhelm users. The color scheme is simple, there’s a menu with clear categories, and a sidebar with most visited posts and links to other sites. For a site with crazy amounts of content, everything fits in a way that isn’t visually offensive. In other words, we tend to appreciate simplicity, and Buzzfeed makes mindless browsing easy.

5. Updates: New posts come in constantly. Last September, during an afternoon spent staring into the computer screen, a new post popped up entitled, “This is Probably the Most Important Song Ever Written.” Skeptical, I watched the video, which was Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say?”  This was about a week before the song dominated my Facebook newsfeed. Other sites may not require this constant influx of new information, but relevance is key.

6. Sharing Other Sites: On the homepage, Buzzfeed has links to other websites, and often features content from other places, including links to the original post. In other words, Buzzfeed recognizes information its audience will enjoy, shares it, and most importantly, gives credit to these outside sources.

I’ve finally come to terms with the inescapable hold Buzzfeed has on my internet productivity. And my apparent penchant for dudes that live in the woods.

Why You Don’t Need A Web Designer

I love these questions that come the moment you aren’t expecting them. “Isn’t designing a website easy?” a new friend asked me.

“You know, with tools like Squarespace, Wix, etc, do people still need web designers?”

I gave kind of a crappy answer at the time. We were at the beach and I had just hiked for about 2 hours in 95 degree weather so I’ll blame heat exhaustion.

But I’ve been thinking more about it. And here’s the answer I want to give. And I am going to intersperse it with emo ‘I don’t need you’ picture quotes, for your amusement and mine.

Because a web designer is not a needed thing… it’s something you want.

Let me explain, yo.

Lil Wayne, and you, can survive without a web designer. For realz.

Lil Wayne, and you, don’t need a web designer. For realz.

You don’t hire a web designer because it’s the cheapest option.

Let’s do some numbers here  for a sample non-ecommerce site over the course of three years. I’ll use SquareSpace as the DIY option and our sample rates as the web designer option:

SquareSpace A web designer
Year One $192 $3000
Year Two $192 $72
Year Three $192 $72
Totals: $576 $3144

OK so explaining those numbers: Squarespace has a monthly fee of $16/month (if you buy annually). Designing a website with a designer has a lot of up front costs but afterward (assuming you maintain it yourself, which is what you’d do with SquareSpace anyway) you are talking money for web hosting and a domain name (in my case $5/month for web hosting and $12/year for a domain).

There are plenty of DIY website design options. The thing they all have in common? DIY. Do it yourself. In all scenarios, it is you doing it.

If we look at the totals, you aren’t picking a web designer based on costs alone. Then again, not much you do in business is based on costs alone. Proof? For my business sign,  I could have gotten a piece of plywood and spray painted some letters on it for probably about $20, including the hanging hardware. Costs are not the only factor for a sign, for a printer, for an anything.

dontneedmarilyn

You hire a web designer for convenience, service, and good advice.

Alright so what does SquareSpace not include? Well, it doesn’t include some of the harder parts of website design:

  • Ability to make email addresses. They suggest going through Google Apps which, if you have more than one person in your organization, will charge you $5/additional user/month. If you want me to make you 10 email addresses for your company with the hosting package I use, I can do that. You want 50? I can still do that. And yes, if you regularly clean your email off the server, you can likely still use the $5/month web hosting package. 
  • Ability to manipulate the templates as fully as you may want to. See a design you like and want to change x, y, and z about it? SquareSpace (or whatever company you use) will let you do that only to an extent. I can give someone almost exactly what they want in most cases.
  • Ability to have custom features on your site. Here are some things we’ve been able to implement for clients: custom site searches for rental properties, integrating a real estate data feed into the website, make tweets automatically go out from archived blog posts, calendar where you can book appointments, and more. If you want your website to ‘do’ stuff, eventually these plug and play websites may frustrate you.
  • Ability to not bash your head on your desk trying to figure something out. Yes, there are website forums and support tickets but just handing something off and saying ‘You deal with it’ has a surprising amount of relief. Also sometimes I can think of something you don’t even know exists to make your life easier online. Really, I know stuff you don’t. 

youneedme1

Most things in life aren’t needs.

You can cook your own food so you don’t need restaurants. You can grow your own food so you don’t need grocery stores. You can fill out your own forms so you don’t need an accountant to do your taxes. You can drive your trash to the dump so you don’t need a garbage collector. You get my point.

Doing things that are difficult, tedious, annoying, or just plain time consuming isn’t easy. And for many people, dealing with online stuff feels like at least one item on that list.

We pay for these things and more to get done by other people because:
1) We don’t want to deal with them.
2) We want them handled well.
3) In our minds, we think someone else can do it more efficiently if not better than us.

People pay a higher fee with a web designer to get what they want and to let someone else handle it. SquareSpace people are not our audience.

So while there is a while group of people not needing web designers, internet marketers, and other online professionals, I know there are plenty more who do.

In short, you don’t need a web designer. But, you may find yourself wanting one.

When Your Post Goes Viral

One of my colleagues is Jim LeClair, who runs the Maine Coast Welcome Center. He’s a mapping specialist who gets businesses listed in GPS units, etc.

I got a call from him last week, asking if I’d mind looking at his Facebook stats.

Because they seemed low? Nope, because they were really really high.

A simple thank you got around 30,000 shares (the photo was reposted and got 1,000 more shares from that). Even Jim, the guy who made it, is shocked.

A simple thank you got around 30,000 shares (the photo was reposted and got 1,000 more shares from that). Even Jim, the guy who made it, is shocked.

Jim thought it might be fun to post a picture thanking the plow people. He didn’t use Photoshop or do anything fancy; it literally took him five minutes. What happened next shocked him.

Over 100,000 people were ‘talking about’ his photo on Facebook and in 48 hours it got thousands and thousands of shares.

“How do I capitalize on this?” he asked.

“Did people like your page from it?” I asked.

He said about 400 people liked his page from the photo.

Sadly that’s the only way to follow up with people is if they like your page. Could Jim take out a Facebook ad with this picture and probably eek out a few more fans? I’m sure but those 30,000 fans will not hang on his every word from now on. And that’s ok.

A few takeaways from this situation:

1) Being positive will get you way farther than being negative. 
This photo generated some discussion, including some back and forth about plow drivers being overpaid. At first Jim was going to delete the negative but then he decided to just let the discussion be discussion. But his positive sentiment thanking plow drivers got him way more traction then being whiny.

2) You can’t plan viral.
Would Jim have made this photo different if he know hundreds of thousands would see it? Probably. But does it matter? This idea that you can plan for something to ‘go viral’ is ridiculous. Things online have a life of their own and you have to embrace that.

3) Some fame will linger in the way of fans who stick around… but a lot won’t.
This is why when things happen, you enjoy the exposure. Some new fans will stick around but not a majority (400 out of 30,000 in this case). And that’s ok.

Jim is enjoying the paparazzi not being outside his door (kidding), it was a pretty cool experience I’m happy one of my friends has had.

Have your own ‘going viral’ stories? How did it change your business? What did you learn?

Marketing Monday: QR Codes

First of all, I was MIA last week because I was sick in a way I still can’t quite believe. After sleeping 14 hours a day and being supermedicated the rest of the time, I’m finally feeling better. In other words, the blog is back on! Thanks for those of you who called or wrote to see where I was. Nice to know someone reads these!

Every Monday, Breaking Even talks about a business, website, or non-profit doing something cool to market themselves.

I first heard a lot about PR codes from this link from Hall Web shared by Marc Pitman.

I had seen one in a magazine a few months ago for a free music or short movie download but I didn’t know how it worked.



A QR (Quick Response) code is a sort of bar code that can hold information like a web address or contact information. It can be read with any smartphone (after downloading a QR reader application). It looks like this (scanning this will take you to the Downeast Learning website):

A QR Code I generated in about five seconds online. Have you seen one of these before?

A QR Code I generated in about five seconds online. Have you seen one of these before?

It has a lot of applications for print media/advertising. Many print companies like GreenerPrinter will generate them for you as part of their services but you can also find many free online QR  generators online. That’s how I made the one, stage left.

Some ideas I’ve read for QR codes are on temporary tattoos at an event, on business cards (holding the person’s contact information), and on flyers/ads to hold additional information that can’t fit on the printed page.

To read more articles about QR codes, check out any of the articles linked above, this Fast Company article, and this Mashable article.

Now if only I can get a client to try this out!