COMM0011-Blog Post 6: The Christmas Miracle – High Flying Viral

More than 250 travelers flying from Toronto and Hamilton to Calgary were treated to early Christmas presents by a western Canadian based airline. A video to “document” the event was posted on-line. The airline had hoped to get 200,000 views. The last time I checked it had over 19.5 million views.

If their only goal was to surpass 200,000 views, then I would suggest it was an extremely successful social media campaign.

Apparently, the video wasn’t intended to be an ad for the company? My understanding is the concept was created by the marketing department. The video starts off with a shot of the plane (logo clearly identifiable) and corporate “elves” wearing the corporate colours and a Santa dressed in the corporate blue asking what the passengers would like for Christmas. The entire production had a well planned story and a Hollywood movie quality.

This was not the first time the same airline created a social media viral video. Last year they produced a video of their staff flash mobbing a Christmas Carol to weary travelers.

Can someone please explain what part of the video wasn’t an ad? Did you think it was an ad?

Only time will tell who got the biggest Christmas gift, the passengers, or the airline.

As one person commented on-line, “Aaaaand cue in the tears. That’s a wrap everyone.”


COMM0014 – Blog Post 7: You Are Who You Type…

As a photographer it was very easy for me to relate to the story in lesson # 7, Focus on the Wide Angle View. The photographs I create are urban landscapes – wide angle views of buildings. One of my good friends and colleagues also likes to photograph buildings, but he gets in close. His particular interest is to photograph graffiti others have painted on the walls. Dennis uses a micro lens and gets in so close the original graffiti is transformed into a new artistic vision.

The main take-away lesson I’ve learned from this course is to tell my story. I’ve tried taking similar pictures as Dennis, but it never felt right to me. Dennis has also tried to emulate my work and it too didn’t feel right to him. To create my personal brand I have to tell my story. I can’t be another Dennis.

A point Mitch Joel was trying to get across in his blog post Personal Brand R.I.P., is you can’t be someone else, because we are who we type. How can we be unique and powerful if our voice is a mish-mash of other people’s work.

I suppose an argument can be made when I photograph someone else’s building, or when when Dennis records someone else’s graffiti, we are repackaging someone else’s creation – the architect’s or the graffiti artist’s visions. Maybe, but we are also bringing a new perspective and new context to the work. Effectively, our voices are creating a new vision.

Do your posts or tweets reflect who you are, or as Mitch Joel put it, are you expressing your personal brand “in ways that make them look more like sterile plastic TV news anchors than original thinkers”? Have you brought a fresh perspective to the conversation?

COMM0011 Blog Post # 5: How Many Are To Many?

A blog I visit on a regular basis is David Hobby’s Strobist is dedicated to using strobes, which are flashes photographers mount on top of their cameras.

I used to visit the site daily. For the last year or so David has only been publishing two or three times a week. This week he has announced he will only be publishing once a week. As a regular visitor I am a bit disappointed, because I always appreciated his insight into using those marvellous speedlight flashes. However, I have to agree with him. It’s a lot of work to create regular new posts that are truly new and not repackages of previous work. By reducing the frequency, David will be improving the quality. I can only guess, but I think in the long run he might be able to keep his audience longer, because there are only so many different ways to use speedlights and eventually he could run out of new and interesting ideas. At some point he would have to start refreshing older ideas and posts. As more posts become similar to old posts, it is possible regular users will decided it is time to try another blog.

David has got me thinking. At what point does the volume of our social media posts become just noise?

In Dan Zarrella’s book, The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog and Other Proven Strategies, his research has shown that you can easily tweet 22 times a day before there is any slight fall-off in your audience. 22 times a day!!! Whoa, that’s a lot of posts. There are people that tweet significantly more than that. Even at 22 tweets a day, that would work out to almost two an hour if you are working a 12 hour day. When would someone find the time to create 22 new tweets a day? Even if a lot of the tweets are retweets with a sprinkle of your own opinion attached to them, where does someone find the time to read, add relevant opinion, retweet AND do their actual job? Yes, some people do have social media jobs which requires them to create buzz for their employers, but at what point do their tweets, posts or status updates just becomes noise?

What would be the optimum number of tweets, posts or status updates you could create?

The follow-up to that question could be, what is the maximum number of tweets, posts and updates that one person can send you, before you start to ignore their noise or un-friend them?

COMM0014 Blog Post 6 – I Would Like To Do That!

In my childhood home there were two constants, my mother playing solitaire and Max Ferguson on CBC radio.

My mother’s deck of cards were used so much, she probably knew what each facedown card was by the wear marks. Today, physical cards have given way to my smartphone and tablet. The first app I usually download for any new device is the game solitaire.

Unfortunately, there is no app for Max Ferguson, but I clearly recall the day he inspired me to work in radio. I must have been six or seven. Max was a staple in my home. In those days our car radio only had AM, but that was all we needed, because Max was on CBC 940-AM. It was a warm sunny summer afternoon and I was on the back seat of the family car listening to Max as my mother drove around town. As the car was about to turn right on to Decarie Blvd from Snowden Road, a thought crossed my mind. One day I would like to work in radio and be like Max.

Years later I attended Champlain Regional College in Sherbrooke, Quebec. While working at our campus radio station, I became friends with a couple of guys who worked for 900-CKTS. By the summer I was working weekends for CKTS. I was on the radio.

Eventually, CKTS led to jobs with CKOY and CJSB in Ottawa. In 1987 I left CJSB to pursue non-radio interests, but I always knew one day I would eventually be behind a microphone again.

Just as technology has changed the way I play solitaire, it has also changed the way I can broadcast. Today I am the host and producer of my own podcast, Photo Kibitz. Instead of being limited to an audience of Montreal, Sherbrooke, or Ottawa, my reach is all over North America, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Sweden, Australia and many other countries.

As I prepare and do research for my shows, every now and then I think about my inspiration, Max Ferguson and the idea that popped into my head all of those years ago.

COMM0011 – Blog Post 4: Where’s the Party?

Once upon a time not that long ago, there was a social media site that ruled the land called MySpace. Founded ten years ago, MySpace was the space for social networking. In 2006 they surpassed Google as the number one most visited website in the world. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. purchased MySpace for $580 million in 2005. In June 2011 Specific Media Group with entertainer Justin Timberlake purchased the once venerable site for a mere $35 million.

You read correctly – the once venerable site. The party didn’t last. By 2006 fickle teens began migrating to another site called Facebook. Today, according to Wikipedia, MySpace lists 50 million active users and Facebook has over a billion active users. Alexa, the web information company which ranks websites lists MySpace at #739 and Facebook’s at #2, just behind Google. An interesting sidebar, back in 2005 before MySpace was bought by News Corp., MySpace placed an unsuccessful offer to buy a smaller competitor – Facebook, for $75 million.

Looking back, it seems 2006 was a pivotal year for MySpace, because as I noted earlier, that was the year they surpassed Google as the number one website in the world and teens started to leave.

Should Facebook be worried? Fickle teens are once again feeling the urge to fleet – this time Facebook is in their rearview mirror. MySpace was at the top of the world when teens started to leave them. Yes, it will take a lot to whittle-down a billion users. But history has shown us, it doesn’t take much these days to watch a company worth billions of dollars go from hero to zero in record time.

Small businesses will most likely be able to float with the ebbe and flow of social media’s current waves and flavours. But what about bigger corporations and especially government? Will they be able to quickly change course as members switch from one network to another? Should they change?

The take-away lesson for social media practitioners is the importance to always pay attention to where your audience is and where they are going.


COMM0014 – Blog Post 5 – Personal Brand

Is Mitch Joel right, has personal branding lost its way?

As a child I was enthralled by the magic of radio. In high school and college I was an active member of my campus radio stations, which eventually led to paying jobs with stations in Sherbrooke and Ottawa. As I was getting ready to make my mark in life, once or twice I thought it would be cool to one day own a radio station. I do like to dream and fortunately I was also born with a little bit of common sense. The cost and the mountain of regulations kept that dream a dream.

To quote the immortal Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin”. Somewhere along the superhighway of dreams, the internet is now allowing my fantasy to become reality. It’s not exactly a radio station, but it is close enough and the opportunities are even greater than what I could have imagined many years ago.

One day while I was chatting about photography with one of my customers, it occurred to me other people might be interested in both listening to and participating in a similar conversation. One thing led to another and I am now hosting my own podcast where I chat about photography. The distribution system is not radio, but the process and the product is the same.

Last night I came across an interesting post on Google+. A new member to a podcasting forum went out and bought all of the equipment needed to host and produce his own podcast, but he needed help coming up with something to actually podcast. I asked what was his motivation to start a podcast? In his work he was asked by local media to participate a few times in radio interviews. To help him find his niche, I suggested he start with what he knows, because its true what they say, you should be you. Apparently that was not good enough. He wants to maybe do a bit of news and maybe some sports. How about some local news and sports interviews with people in his community was my next suggestion. Nah, there was no one around he felt would want to be part of something like that was his reply.

Is this podcaster wanna-be the “sterile and plastic TV news anchor” without an original thought the inspiration for Mitch Joel’s blog post Personal Branding R.I.P.? Aside from possible legal and copyright issues, if all he is going to do is regurgitate the news someone else gathered, then what could he possibly say that would add anything different than anyone else? What would inspire someone to listen to his podcast over a paid professional working for a traditional media channel?

I have to agree with Mitch Joel, “to bring personal branding back from the brink of a world where everyone is not being themselves…then we should encourage everyone to be themselves.”


COMM0011 Blog Post 3 – As One Door Closes, Another One Opens

Is this what it was like to have lived in the industrial revolution? As a child studying the industrial revolution in school, I never imagined one day I would be witnessing the modern day equivalent. There have been hints and talk of the digital revolution, but until recently I haven’t had any first-hand experience similar to the major life changing upheavals experienced as workers migrated from farms to factories.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview author and photographer Robert Burley at the opening of his exhibit The Disappearance of Darkness, at National Gallery of Canada. Robert documented with his film camera the closing and implosion of Kodak, Ilford, Polaroid and Agfa film factories around the world. It was ironic as Robert was photographing the implosion of a Kodak plant, he was the only one there using a film camera. Everyone else was using either a digital or a phone camera. Many of those in attendance were former employees of the factory which was being torn down.

Colour film as we know it will most likely be gone in about a year, maybe two. According to Robert, the movie industry will make the final switch from film to digital by 2015. When the movies no longer use film, it will be uneconomical to produce.

The astonishing aspect of the end of film as we know it, is the speed that it was replaced by digital cameras. It took the automobile 50 years to replace the horse and buggy. It took less than 10 years for digital cameras to replace film cameras.

I don’t doubt camera manufacturers very happy when consumers made the switch from film cameras to digital, because it gave them an opportunity to make and sell more cameras.

I wonder if camera manufacturers are as excited today as they were when the world practically switched overnight from film to digital, because it seems as though consumers are in the mood to switch again. Facebook is considered to be the world’s largest photo album. Some estimates suggest there are 208,300 images uploaded to Facebook every minute. That’s almost six billion (yes, with a B), images uploaded every month. How many of those images were taken with a traditional camera? Probably not many. The new face of photography is the phone.

Traditional compact camera sales, that trusty point-and-shoot camera, have been rapidly declining for a few years now. Last month it was revealed the the king of cameras, the DSLR, sales are now starting to drop. So far this year, Nikon’s share prices have fallen 33% and Canon prices have dropped 7%. Just as the introduction of digital cameras has disrupted the film industry, mobile phones are disrupting the camera industry.

I found it very ironic the very first item in Robert Burley’s exhibit in The National Gallery is an iPhone 1, streaming pictures from Facebook.


COMM0014-Blog Post 4: The Case of Harry Nowell

Who’s shooting what in Ottawa photography this weekend? What is your favourite camera? What was your first camera? Are simple questions asked by Ottawa photographer and instructor Harry Nowell. They may be simple questions, but they keep his friends and clients engaged in his photography business.

Harry Nowell Photography offers group workshops and private lessons. Recently, he has expanded his business to include online learning. Students can login each week at a time that it is convenient for them. Weekly lessons include a video demonstration and an assignment which is posted for other students to view and comment on.

Questions are only part of Harry’s social media mix. He posts tips and techniques on how to improve your photos. He also publicizes other peoples events and blogs – yes other people’s photo related blogs are well used to keep his friends, followers and subscribers aware of his business and photography in general.

Another great social media tool Harry uses are contests. Most are quick and easy. For example this week’s contest is to enter your favourite selfie. The winner gets to attend his Selfie Photo Workshop for free. These contests which are posted on his blog, Facebook and Twitter, invites the public to enter, view and vote. All of which are great for building an audience, engaging them and getting them to return to his site.

Harry Nowell’s use of social media is, well, sociable. There are no hard-sell posts. I know about his son “Q”, his two dogs and the camera he is making in his garage (way cool Harry!). In very short regular posts we have gotten to know both him and his business.

Is his strategy working? I regularly comment on his posts, which is then followed by my circle. I have seen some of my friends comment on the posts too, which means he is able to grow his audience through other people’s connections. And as a photography teacher myself, I might sign-up for some of his workshops too! So yea, I would say it is working just fine.

COMM0014 – Blog Post #3 – Who in the World isn’t a Photographer?

One of the things I really appreciate about photography is how an individual can participate in their own unique and individual way and we still call it photography. As a camera retailer I try to understand why my customers are buying a particular camera or accessory. For example, I have customers that really like buying cameras. Some are collectors and others always want to have the latest and greatest. They don’t necessarily take a lot of pictures, but they have the gear. Some people take landscape pictures, others might like portraits. A friend of mine likes to photograph graffiti art in interesting ways.

There are professional photographers, amateurs, hobbyists, students and teachers to name a few of the groups. For years, men dominated the profession. Women now dominate enrollment in many photography training programs. I teach an introductory course at the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa (SPAO) and the class is made up of seven women and one guy. In my class, the age range is also very wide, from early college age to retired. Some in my class want to start a photography business, most just want to enjoy it as a hobby.

The demographics in photography are as wide and varied as they come. Every year there are millions of cameras bought. Some refer to Facebook as the world’s largest photo album.

Today we take and consume more pictures than at any point in history, because how easy it is to do. But do we do it well? Do we understand how and why we are taking pictures? My blog Photo Kibitz is about understanding photography. The actual target demographic is extremely difficult to quantify in a single number, because anyone with a smart phone, or an interest is a photographer. Photography crosses all geographic borders, nationalities, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, races, and social-classes. It might be impossible to find a single person in the world that has not seen at least one photographic image in their lifetime. My podcast is available on my blog, iTunes and Stitcher Radio on Demand. Anyone in the world can listen to my podcast or read the blog. However, at this point it is restricted to people with an understanding of English and have access to the internet, which does narrow down the demographics a bit.

COMM0011 – Blog Post # 1 – How Long Can a Business Run on Free?

This afternoon there were two articles which caught my eye in the “SmartBrief on Social Media”, a regular (free) newsletter I subscribe to. The first headline was: “IPO filing: Twitter is unprofitable despite strong mobile business”; the other article headline was: “Facebook announces that ads are coming to Instagram”.

There is no doubt both Twitter and Instagram are extremely popular social media outlets. Both companies started offering their services for free. To many, free is good. In my opinion, offering their services for free is one of the many reasons why Twitter has been able to build their user base to 218 million tweeters and Instagram can boast over 80 million users.

Today, Twitter is in the process of becoming a public company and is hoping to raise $1 billion from their Initial Public Offering (IPO). Despite Twitter’s posted revenue of $253.6 million, they still haven’t turned a profit yet. Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion and has yet to see any revenue from it’s purchase. I don’t think it matters who’s bank account the money comes from, a billion dollars is a lot of money. If anyone does or has invested in either of those companies, they are expecting a profitable return on their investment.

Which brings me to my initial question. How long can a company run on free? When I was still knee high to a grasshopper, my mother taught me in this world there are no free lunches. Granted, social media has changed our world, but at the end of the day there are still no free lunches. So how are Twitter and Instagram expected to provide their investors a profitable return on their investments? Advertising. Hmmm, advertising? One problem with advertising is many social media consumers don’t like it. It is possible with the implementation of advertising now, fickle users could switch to the next social media outlet offering their services for free with no advertising; or it could inspire the user to tweet, snap, post, or blog their displeasure at the idea of constant advertising bombardment.

As a social media content creator myself, eventually I would like to get paid for my efforts. Actually, my bank, my hydro company, my equipment supplier, my internet space provider, my wife and a slew of other folks would like it if I also got paid, so I could pay them. Because I would eventually like to get paid for my efforts, I have wondered how will that happen? Once again advertising to the rescue! I will be charging advertisers a fee to latch on to my content. Like Twitter and like Instagram, advertising is a great idea. Provided you can get a company willing to pay for someone else’s free lunch. Both Instagram and Twitter chose to initially offer their services for free and then introduced advertising once they established a large enough user base. I’ve taken a slightly different route with the hope of one day being in a positive position – earning a profit from the content I create ($1 billion would be nice, but I will be more realistic and hope for a return in the thousands). My content has included advertising since day one. Unfortunately, because I don’t have enough subscribers yet, I am giving away the advertising for you guessed it – free. From my listener’s perspective, the advertiser was always there and it will not shock the system once I build enough of an audience to actually make it worth an advertiser’s investment.

What do you think is the best strategy, introducing advertising after the fact, or from the start? Do you tune-out advertising, or are you interested in it if it is relevant to your needs? Or, because it’s on the web, should everything be free – free of charge and free from advertising? Please let me know your thoughts in the comment space below.