Posts

Five Reasons You Should Learn Online

, ,

While I’m out at NAB Show, I thought I’d share a guest post by Matt Barker, a self-described tech geek, filmmaker and entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of getfilming.com, where he manages the online course production and the filmmaking community.

By Matt Barker

As the owner of an online start up, I spend a lot of time online. Some would even say I spend too much time online (my wife, mainly). I have to admit, staring at the screen all day long can become a little tedious but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love what I do and I love how the tech and the internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. A particular favourite innovation that the online world has brought with it, is online education.

Gone are the days when you’d enrol for a course at your local college or university a year in advance and just wait for the learning to start. You can learn anything online from coding to filmmaking, from algebra to cake decorating and the best part is, you can learn from anywhere in the world, instantly and on your own schedule.

Lots of people reading this post will have enrolled in lots of courses online already. They would have learned a ton of information from expert tutors both on sites that house a plethora of courses like Skillshare or Udemy and from more specialist sites like Team Treehouse or GetFilming, an online Film School. I urge anyone and everyone to at least try online learning but if you still need some convincing, here’s five reasons why online education will help you succeed.

Expert tutors

Unlike traditional learning, when you enrol in an online course you get to choose who you want to learn from. There’s such a huge demand for online courses that there is an endless supply of new tutors, courses and schools opening every day. What this means is that working industry experts are realising that they can make a lot of money selling their knowledge. In some cases, they can make more teaching a subject online than they can make practising it in their day job – but this also means there is a lot of competition. To make decent money from teaching online, they have to produce a complete course for a specific topic that is better than any other course online. Having experts compete with each other to provide amazing education for us, is a great thing.

On Demand

Netflix and other streaming services introduced us to the world of on demand video. We’ve been spoilt and now everyone wants everything yesterday. Fortunately, it means if you decide you want to learn any topic, you will be able to find a course straight away and start learning instantly. If you’re thinking of a career change you can find a relevant eLearning site that caters for your topic and find out if that career is for you in a few days. How many people have spent years in education only to realise they don’t actually like the career they have invested so much time in?

Community of Learners

When you learn online, you don’t just get an expert tutor teaching you what they know. You have a whole community of people learning with you. This is great for motivation, for help if you get stuck, to find recommendations on other courses and it’s also great for networking. That all important element of any career path. It’s all about who you know and by learning online, you instantly connect with a community of people studying the same topic and who knows, maybe that person who helped you with your course can also be the person to give you your big break.

Evolving Courses

The real beauty of learning online is that the curriculum isn’t static. Let’s take creating websites as an example. If you go to college to learn how to code a website, chances are that by the time you finish your course, the technology you have learnt will be outdated. With online courses, it is not just important but necessary for the tutors to keep the content up to date. Any new technology that replaces old technology will be updated in the course to reflect the changes, almost in real time.

Something for Everyone!

The more you look into online education, the more you will find courses in topics you didn’t even know existed. Every single person can find a course that suits them to either learn a new hobby or to completely change their careers. Some eLearning platforms like Skillshare try to cater for every taste (and they do a very good job). Skillshare is more for the casual learner, someone who perhaps wants to develop their skills or make themselves more attractive to their boss. There are subscription learning portals such as Lynda.com, which started out as a platform for office software learning, but has rapidly expanded with hundreds of courses on Photography, Video Production and more. Then there are sites like GetFilming, which is an online film school and community. They specialise in teaching you everything you need to know to pursue your dream career as a filmmaker, whether that’s as a director, screenwriter, VFX artist or any other job in the Film and TV industry.

Conclusion

There are many reasons to want to learn something new. Personal development is a privilege we now have at our fingertips, so I say let’s take full advantage of it. Traditional education for years has been an exceptional way to teach and to learn, there’s no denying that. But if you are thinking of learning a new topic, I would highly recommend looking into online learning.

 

Taking a Page from Downton Abbey

, , , , , , , ,

labyrinth copyright B.DeLouise120 Million viewers worldwide. It’s an enviable demographic, let alone for a PBS show. Downton Abbey has proven to be the most-watched Masterpiece series in history, with fans from China to Norway to Brazil.  What makes it work? According to creator Julian Fellowes, who won the screenplay Oscar for Gosford Park, it’s the universality of its themes. While factually British, “most of the stories are about emotional situations that everyone can understand” he told the New York Times in a recent story.  

When I’m asked what videos work best for social web (and also for live events)—I say the same thing: bring the audience into emotional situations they can relate to, even aspire to. Whether you are promoting a charity or a membership association, a corporate enterprise or a commercial product, your video needs to connect to your viewers/donors/buyers on a personal level. Videos that get the most shares, embeds, likes and forwards are usually those with a first-person storyline, authentic voices, in relatable situations. They don’t include “an introduction from the CEO,” nor are they heavily branded with logos and taglines.

So here are a few Do’s and Don’ts for your 2013 video projects, based on the wildly successful Downton formula:

  1. DO use the number of characters people can follow for the length of viewing. Downton has about 15 characters, but it is a weekly, 90-minute drama; so if your video is only 90-seconds long, don’t include 5 interview subjects! Try no more than 3 people per 120 seconds, for a max of 6 in a 10-minute show (which is too long anyway).
  2. DON’T use your CEO, Board Chair or other head honchos on camera unless they are funny, or willing to be seen in an unconventional or even unflattering light (a la CBS’s “Undercover Boss” or the IBM spoof of The Office “Mainframe: The Art of the Sale”).
  3. DO find compelling “plot lines” that show your organization’s effectiveness in real situations or highlight the reason your product or charity exists.
  4. DO be willing to let your viewers contribute their own ideas and provide opportunities for them to follow your “characters” in other online and offline venues.
  5. DO put as much production value (i.e. budget) into your video as you can possibly afford—people notice, especially in HD.
  6. DON’T be afraid to be traditional—just do it well!

Video Messaging Best Practices

, , , ,
  1.   Connect Your Videos to Your Brand. That doesn’t mean you have to mention your organization or company every 10 seconds in your next web video. In fact, studies show that indirectly branded video content goes viral at a faster rate. But the stories you create should still be meaningful and connected to your overall brand story. If the video lives somewhere other than your website, such as Vimeo or YouTube, be sure you have some kind of tag and call to action at the end, so people know how to reach you/donate to you/take action on your issue.
  2. Know Your Target Audience. Think about sub-demographics and what kinds of content appeal to them.   Also consider the viewing environment for the video. One size doesn’t fit all, so plan ahead to create multiple versions of your content that are most appropriate for each target and viewing situation. If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings, links, and keywords in order to attract the right audience.
  3. Invest Now for More Rewards Later. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item.  To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful, credible, and the source material can be useful downstream. But only if you’ve bothered to a) create it at a decent quality, and b) organize it so that more than one editor/producer can find what they need.  Having transcriptions made of interviews and keeping the PDF’s with the footage is very helpful. So is tagging all “b-roll” with keywords of time, location, and content.
  4. Shorter is Usually Better. In live event or conference environment, audiences can enjoy videos of 5-8 minutes in length. When viewing your video on the web, in a tiny box–most likely while it is competing with other content on the screen–a viewer will only tolerate 1-2 minutes of content. Mobile web viewers actually can be willing to watch content for longer, presumably because they are “stuck” using a mobile device rather than a larger screen. Either way, make every second count, using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact.
  5. Measure Impact. Speaking of impact, measure it! So many organizations produce video content without a handle on whether or not it is effective. Plan a way to find out. It could be counting how many venues you can locate posts with a link to your video. It could be a short email survey to a random sampling of people who received your web link via email. At live events, you can ask people to use a hashtag to tweet something about your content. Or you can drill down into data already provided by You Tube, Google, or other online services.  Number of hits is less relevant than what viewers DID after viewing your video.

Five Tips: Video Content to Support Your Brand

, , ,

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand.  That’s why You-Tpower snackube, Vimeo and other online video tools have become so useful to small businesses, nonprofit organizations and federal agencies who in the past may have avoided video because of the cost of mass distribution. (The cost of quality production isn’t necessarily cheap, but if you are able to get your video 100,000 views rather than 100, obviously your cost per view goes way down).

So what are video content best practices?

After having produced roughly 400 such projects, here are my Top Five Tips for Creating Successful Video Content:

1.  Know How the Video Fits Into Your Brand Plan. You have a great story—someone touched by your organization, or some important piece of information that needs to be disseminated to the public. Great. But know how it fits into your overall messaging and branding strategy. Will your name or the name of a particular product/service be consistently mentioned? Are you trying to promote recognition for your organization, for a particular project or person? Do you need to build support for an initiative or connect viewers to your larger mission? Will there be other supporting media for this video content? (i.e. direct mail and/or email campaigns to drive traffic?)  Do you need other lives for this content after it is first published (see #4)?

2.  Know Your Target Audience. If your audience is “everyone,” think again.  Develop target sub-demographics and learn what kinds of content appeals to them.   If your story has multiple parts/levels, consider breaking into smaller pieces and placing the content with different headings/links in order to attract the right audience.

3.  Buy the Best You Can Afford. Remember what your mother once told you about buying a dining room set?  “Buy the best you can because you want it to last.”   Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that if something is going to appear on the web or in a podcast, it can be produced on a shoestring because it’s a one-use item.  To the contrary, every penny you spend should be powerful and credible.  The production plan should include multiple ways to use your source material after the initial roll-out.  For example, if you have an interview-driven story, plan the interviews so that other selects can be used elsewhere (and make sure your permissions cover this alternate usage!).  Background footage (“b-roll”) can also be re-purposed.  My personal preference is to shoot high definition, widescreen video because it makes a bigger impact even when compressed for the web, since it degrades less.  But whatever your format, a polished production, professionally produced, will also allow you to “multi-purpose” the end-product more reliably, pulling parts for your website, your intranet, an email campaign, or a large-screen projection at a major donor event.

4.  Make it Short and Sweet. When watching television, people can relax in their favorite comfy chair, and even then the average program contains only 22 minutes of actual content.  On the web, viewed in a tiny box, in a show that likely does not contain professional actors and perhaps offers a glimpse of you speaking or some kind of advocacy message, your time-frame for catching attention drops to minutes.  And when you consider mobile video going to iPhones and the like, we’re talking seconds.  So make every second count. That means using visuals, music, audio, graphics–everything at your disposal–to make a message with impact. (Important note on copyright: make sure the visuals and audio belongs to you, or that you’ve licensed it for mass distribution!)

5.  Measure Impact. Speaking of impact, measure it! So many organizations produce video content without a handle on whether or not it is effective. Plan a way to find out. It could be a short email survey to a random sampling of people who received your web link or signed up for you podcast. It could be an audience survey for a live event. It could be simply aggregating the data already provided to you by You Tube or your podcast distributor.  Analyzing and disseminating this information amongst your leadership and communications team will help you refine your approach the next time.