Posts Tagged YouTube

What’s Your Story?

We write a lot about the power of storytelling for business. How your story is the foundation of all of your marketing communications. There are a zillion tools for telling your story. Some are easy to use, others require a lot of skill, time, practice, or money.

One of the more interesting tools is Xtranormal, a web-based service that lets you create animated movies. You type words; cartoon characters speak your dialog. Simple enough. As with many technologies, from chainsaws to video editors, just getting the tool is not the same as learning how to use it well. Good results take time and effort.

Here’s a little movie we made with Xtranormal. It’s our first effort, so we’re naturally just a bit proud of it. We created 80 seconds of content, starting with the words we wanted our stick figure actor to speak. We added some movements and one simple sound effect. And we experimented with a number of camera angles to keep it interesting. Getting everything to synch up was a bit of a challenge. It took a lot more time than expected.

Video is a very powerful tool. It’s easy to produce; not so easy to produce well. Mostly, it takes time. Fortunately, Xtranormal is fun to use. We quickly got caught in the time-suck vortex of trying to make our little movie just a bit better. Those 80 seconds of video took several hours to create. If you are thinking about using this tool for your business consider the value of your time. And compare that to the value you could create by spending those hours doing your real job.

Anyway, here’s the result:

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Social Media Strategy, Bursting Bubbles, and Companies that Suck

Social media is just one of the tools in our toolbox. It is not a strategy. It should not be run in a silo, segregated from the rest of the organization. I have believed that, strongly, since at least a decade before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube came along.

All of these vehicles, venues, and platforms are just tools we can use to tell our story. If our story sucks, if we are not a good company, if our products are lousy, then the last thing we need is tools to help more people learn about us faster.

If we have a strong story, make good stuff, sell it at fair prices, and treat our customers, our prospects, and our competitors with respect, then using social media to tell that story far, wide, and fast can help us succeed.

Social media is not social selling. And it is rapidly moving away from social marketing. It is just a very efficient way to have conversations with people who might buy our products, or not buy them, or influence others who might or might not, or interact with a million other people who might have some effect on whether or not we succeed.

And so it must always be focused on the people outside our organization, as they ultimately determine whether we live or die. When we get a tweet that is essentially a customer service question, it is a fatal error to think, or to say, that the question needs to be directed to our customer service department, which is not on Twitter. Either we have good customer service, or we don’t. How the question comes in the door is irrelevant, unless we don’t really care about our customers. And if that is true, then we are irrelevant, or soon will be.

I see social media following a similar trajectory to the web, although much more quickly, with much sharper climbs and probably a faster descent. It really wasn’t that long ago that just having a website was a novelty. It didn’t need to be any good, or do anything useful. Just having a URL meant you were a sexy company. That lasted about three years. Then people started to demand that the website add value to the customer experience. So good companies began to install online help systems, and answer their email around the clock. The best ones began to see their online help system as a sales tool. Customers could now decide to buy from a company because they could clearly see how much support they would get after the sale. And they could see that before buying. Before even showing up on the company’s radar.

A bunch of groovy new startups arrived on the scene promising to take companies that suck, put them on the web, and magically turn them into great companies. Companies that suck, and some that don’t, bought into the hype, made a few people rich, the web collapsed, and a zillion internet gurus were out of work. This entire scenario played out between 1995 and 2001. The web didn’t go away. But the people who didn’t know how to make use of it did. And the web is a better place today.

Fast forward to today. You have to be a company that doesn’t suck. That’s always been true. Just two years ago, just being on Facebook meant you were a cool company, and you felt all sexy and warm inside. But if your company sucks, now it sucks on Facebook. And Twitter, and YouTube, and the other next best things to come along. And your customers, former customers, and competitors have yet another way to share the story of your sucky company. And leave you in the weeds. Lots of people claim to be social media gurus and sell a lot of snake oil. I think that we’ll see the social media bubble burst in two years or less. Social media won’t go away, but the hype will. The gurus will be unemployed. Meanwhile, the people with good storytelling skills will remain successful.

So, be a company that doesn’t suck. Have a great story. Tell it well, meaning listen more than talk. And use social media tools to help share that story with more people faster.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Around the World by Bicycle: A Few Words with Rick Gunn

“The hardest part of the whole journey was the first 25 yards out of the driveway.”

Rick Gunn spent nearly three years traveling around the world by bicycle. He pedaled 25,000 miles in 33 countries on four continents, wearing out three bikes along the way. Now he shares that experience with others via a multimedia show that he calls “Soulcycler.”

We caught up with the Lake Tahoe resident, adventurer, photographer, and writer for a few moments in between trips.

American Sahara:
So one day you decided to get on your bicycle and ride around the world. After you made the decision, how long before you actually hit the road?

Rick Gunn:
Most people don’t really give much thought to the preparation phase of my journey. Often they think I just randomly jumped on a bicycle and set out to ride 25,811 miles around the planet. It took me two years to prepare for, as I tended to list after list. This included financing, bikes, equipment and supplies, camera gear, medical vaccinations, insurance, house and dog sitters, and on and on and on. The truth was, as I say during my show, the hardest part of the whole journey was the first 25 yards out of the driveway.

And that still remains the truth. Imagine working at the same job for 10 years, then suddenly deciding you’re going to venture out on a brand new life–one in which you will see a different horizon night after night for three years straight. There is no real planning for a trip of this magnitude. There were only the things I tended to before I left, and the things I failed to tend to after I’d launched. The true decision to go was really 90 percent of the planning.

American Sahara:
Would you do it again?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Building Brand Enthusiasts

Yesterday, Chrysler demonstrated eight factory customized Jeep and Dodge vehicles at the 44th annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. Five of the trucks are one-off hand-built concept cars that show what might be possible. The other three are modified production vehicles designed to showcase select add-on parts. All of them are very cool and show some unique thinking.

What’s most interesting to me is how these vehicles were introduced. Chrysler had a big event, invited a bunch of media folk, and sent out press releases. Standard procedure. But backcountry vehicle enthusiasts have known about these trucks for some time. More importantly, they’ve also been talking about them. Why? Because Chrysler started the conversation and gave its fans the tools to carry it forward.

Rumors and occasionally images of the vehicles began to surface weeks before the official launch event. A couple of weeks ago, Chrysler released some concept sketches of some of the vehicles. These began to circulate and appear on blogs and in online forums and got folks talking about what might actually show up at Moab. A day later we saw some spy photos of one of the trucks, a Ram Power Wagon concept, out on the public roads in Michigan. The volume of the conversations in the forums went up several notches.

On March 27, several days before the official launch, the JP Magazine blog published pictures of a till-then secret Chrysler concept truck. The photos were taken in a dark parking lot and delivered more of an impression than any real details. But the copy mentioned some technical information that could not have been seen just by looking at the truck. The forums were filled with talk about this secret new truck.

Of course other blogs and media outlets picked up the story and it began to gain a lot of momentum.  For the next couple of days JP Magazine continued to release more dark teaser photos of additional Chrysler concept trucks saying things like, “Yet another Jeep we weren’t supposed to see ’till Wednesday.” The title of that blog post was “Mopar Project Left in Parking Lot.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,