Rescuing Under-exposed Images

Smartphone cameras have revolutionized the web,and particularly social media. For SMBs using social media to market their goods and services, engaging and relevant images are vastly more effective than text in attracting attention. Research has recently proven that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words – and more. Occasionally a picture you’d like to use might be disqualified due to insufficient light. It’s just too dark to work. But it’s a digital image and that means there’s way more there than meets the eye. Here’s a case in point. This image was taken at a function I was engaged to shoot and edit for the client of a client. I took some still images with a tablet camera. Some of them came out looking like this one, screen captured as it actually appeared in an older version of PhotoShop:
It’s murky, no one is recognizable, just not something you would use to illustrate something about your business, your employees, your events. But remember, there’s more here than meets the eye. There are a number of tools inside a number of image editing applications that can draw detail from the shadows. Naturally there are limits, dependant on how much or little light was available at the time the image was created. In the image below I’ve used the curves tool in PhotoShop 6.5 (ancient but like an old sweater you can’t give up) to seemingly re-light the scene. PS has been seen as an expensive app with a long learning curve. But this and many many more tools are available in PhotoShop Elements, which I also have installed on my editing system and it, bundled with Adobe’s video editing app, Premiere Elements, (which is a wondrous thing) cost me less than $100, from B&H Photo in Manhattan (bought online of course) a couple of years ago. And by the way, this same option is available to digital video. I once saved the first twenty minutes of a live event using the levels option to relight the scene. So, let’s have a look:
Impressive, no? I might have been able to push this a bit further, but the patchiness I’m seeing on the wall with the “Exit” sign tells me that I’m pretty close to the line with this image. Is it now a great image? No. But if a caption or description gave it relevance to your message we’ve taken it out of the garbage can and put it to work. If this post leaves you with any questions please go ahead and use the comment option and I’ll answer as best I can.

Twitter Advertising – “Quick Promote”


If you’ve ever promoted a post on Facebook you’ll get “Quick Promote”, new to Twitter advertising. You may not know it but Twitter offers an analytics service that is at the heart of this new option. Here you find the activity and engagement performance for all of your tweets, according to the date range you select. Using it you can identify what tweets are doing best organically and choose to promote one or more, set a budget and await the results. You can read about it here, where a short video illustrates the process and gives you the url to the analytics page. If you run Twitter on the computer you use to visit, and if you’re signed in,your information will default automatically. For more on social, mobile, video, 3-D printing and virtual/augmented reality, click the image.

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Making Good, Affordable Video & Audio

I’m linking here a post I wrote on my website video blog suggesting that a video photo booth is now a relatively simple and inexpensive option for creating social media video content on premises. The larger story is that creating any video content of good quality, and importantly, with good audio, has become extremely cost effective. Folks already interested in making video are likely to know something about the series of goPro wearable cameras that made a billionaire of their inventor. Originally gobbled up by extreme sports participants, their use has spread far beyond thanks to the portability, versatility and video quality. Attached to a drone, a helmet, a car, boat, worn underwater the goPro is a game changer. I was looking for a solution to the ok but not ok enough native audio quality from the camera and came upon a video that clearly demonstrates one path to accomplishing the goal. It might even make you want to go out and buy the gear, or at least check out the affordability given the quality. There are tons of video samples from goPro shoots on YouTube if you want an idea of just how amazing the product is. Here is the video I found. Before you view it I should mention that neither the mount or the mic demonstrated are the only options available. I have an “L” bracket for my tripod on which I mount a shotgun mic and it would serve equally well in this configuration, as would my shotgun, or any of a number available.

What’s on Mark’s Mind

Zuck's first public Q.&A.

Zuck’s first public Q.&A.

Mark Zuckerberg spent about an hour recently, engaging with Facebook users from company headquarters, answering questions gathered in advance. If you have the time you may watch the video here.
I apologize for losing track of the site where the following excerpt of his remarks appeared but I guarantee the content is exactly as copied from the site. So here is Mark in his own words:

“So, with that said, the…and I think it’s also important to kind of keep in mind that Facebook is this huge service, and more than a billion people use it. So even though there are these shifts on a day-to-day or a month-to-month basis, and you’ll find that your business might get more or less traffic, it’s probably still overall a very good, organic and free way to reach and communicate with your customers overall. So I don’t want to lose track of that.”

“Now, in terms of what’s going on here, there are two primary trends that I think are affecting the organic reach of fan pages. The first is that as time goes on, people are just sharing more things on Facebook, so each person who’s consuming content in their News Feed, they might read a hundred stories from their friends and pages that day, and as their friends share more content, and as they follow more pages, and as those pages share more content, there’s just more competition. The average person – there are about fifteen hundred stories a day that they could see in News Feed, and they only see about a hundred, so that means that less than ten percent of what people are posting, the person will actually get to in their feed. And that’s important in terms of thinking about how we design News Feed and how we give people the best experience, but it’s an important thing to keep in mind – just that there are these two trends: one is that the population of the community on Facebook is growing, so you’ll reach more people that way, but there’s also more competition for what they see, so only the highest quality content is actually going to get through and shown to those people, so you really need to focus on continuing to make sure that you’re pushing out good content and communicating effectively with your customers.”

That point about people only seeing the highest quality content is certainly debatable, and there is plenty of high quality content that never gets the reach.
Zuckerberg continued, “The other thing is a more philosophical way that we think about the products that we build. So News Feed – our goal is to build the perfect, personalized newspaper for every person in the world. We think about the way the newspaper media industry has evolved over time, and there are lots of different newspaper or media channels that people can plug into, and they tend not to be personalized. You can read your local newspaper or a national newspaper or a TV station, and they’re kind of showing the same thing to hundreds of thousands or millions of people. What we’re trying to do with Facebook and News Feed in particular is personalize it, and show you the stuff that’s going to be the most interesting to you whether that’s global news through Pages that you might be following or things that are really personal to you, so updates about your friends. One of my friends just this morning had a baby, and I learned about that the baby is healthy on News Feed, and it made me really happy. And that might be relevant to me, but not relevant to a lot of other people in the world, and that’s one thing that we try to deliver through News Feed.”

“So there’s this inherent conflict in the system though, which is are we trying to optimize News Feed to give each person – all of you guys the best experience when you’re reading or are we trying to help businesses just reach as many people as possible? And in every decision that we make, we optimize for the first. We’re making it so that for the people who we serve, who use Facebook, and are reading News Feed get the very best experience that they can. And that means that if a business is sharing content that’s going to be useful for them, then we’ll show that, but that means that if the business is sharing content that isn’t going to be useful for them, we may not show that because it’s probably more important that they learn about their friend who had a baby and their baby is healthy.”

Of course, those two scenarios are pretty much the opposite ends of the spectrum, and there’s a lot more that comes into question in the middle.
“So that’s an important guiding principle for how we think about this stuff,” he continued. “And as the products continue to develop, there’s just gonna be more people sharing more things, and we’re going to continue to try to do our best at showing the best things that we can, understanding that there’s no way that a person will ever take the time to go through every one of the 1,500 things that are shared with them every single day. That’s kind of how I think about organic reach, and there are a lot of pages that are doing quite successfully, and their organic reach is growing quite a bit because they’re delivering content to people that they really want.”

“So if you’re a business owner and you’re thinking about how to use your free Page on Facebook, I would just focus on trying to publish really good content that’s going to be compelling to your customers and the people who are following you.”

Economical Video from Audio

I was recently approached by a client with two audio files in mp3 format that he wanted to upload to a Facebook page. I explained that Facebook doesn’t offer support for audio but that I could create video from audio, resulting in a file format welcome to upload to Facebook.
Converting audio to video
In this screen shot from editing software the process is revealed. The audio file is imported to the audio track. In this case the client provided a high resolution still image intended to become the visible element of the final product. Just as a widescreen television displays a certain aspect ratio so the video frame must be sized to fit the project settings. In this case the finished video was intended to be 740 pixels by 1280 pixels, entry level HD. The image provided didn’t share that aspect ratio so I created a background to that size and brought the image into it. I shifted it to the right, leaving black background over which to lay text in a title.
In this project the audio files were from two separate radio interviews, conducted as is often the case with the DJ taking a phone call. But audio source may be generated in many ways. What contributes most to the low price of this solution is the fact that all of the components can be delivered to the editor as digital files, attached to email or deposited in something like to be pulled down to the editing computer. No travel, no on location set up so no additional cost. Here is the result in this case, a brief comment from a store owner on Canada’s version of Black Friday sales. Click the “full screen” icon (the double arrow heads, bottom right) to view the original visual quality:

Facebook Advertising

Readers of our blog are almost certainly aware of the Facebook “Edgerank” algorithm, the arbiter of what posts reach whose newsfeeds. Facebook wants its base to spend lots of time on the site. They know that what a user sees in the newsfeed has to be relevant to that individual and that too much content that doesn’t engage will turn users off. So you see posts from people you regularly interact with, and you don’t see posts from people you largely ignore. EXCEPT when the post is advertised/promoted. For a few dollars any business can promote (boost) a post, getting it into the newsfeeds not just of fans but of friends of fans. Not all friends of course, just the ones the fan regularly engages with. But that’s ok because it’s people who matter to the fan who are most likely to be interested in what comes from him or her. DH_0000s_0000_a09
An interesting aspect of this paid promotion is that the post content is quite often not about a product or service. One of our clients promoted a post announcing the birth of a child to a popular retail salesperson. It reached hundreds of people who weren’t then fans of the store’s Facebook page and made a connection between the business and the real people representing it. Since that first experiment we have successfully promoted more posts, including photos and video clips, reaching thousands of new newsfeeds and adding to the store fan base. All for less than the price of lunch. Add to this option the new metrics Facebook provides to site admins (data in likes, reach, visits, posts and people) and you have a powerful tool for building engagement with near immediate feedback.

Online Video for Small Business

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is credited as the founder of the foodservice merchandising profession in North America.  I’m honoured that she asked me to write a guest post for her newsletter (Feb. 2013) on using video in a small restaurant/food service business.  We agreed that including a demonstration video made sense.  The one I chose was done for a south-eastern Ontario family resort, to promote their get-away options, showcasing the property, its amenities and food services.  If you have any comments or questions about either video in your business or the blog post (available to download below) call me direct at 416-823-3100 or send an email to

Online Video in Your Small Business

According to a recent 3M study on Facebook, videos are shared more often than photos, status updates or links. Sharing builds your fan base, so the more the better. And video is unique in its ability to communicate information and personality at hyper speed. According to the same 3M study we process visual information 60,000 times faster than text. In an age when grabbing someone’s attention in an instant is critical, visuals work, making video a stellar idea…. (View the post in PDF).

Picture Power

In a recent edition of our Friday Digest we revealed the result of a study by 3M which found that images convey information sixty THOUSAND times faster than text. Now HubSpot has published the results of a study they undertook which found that images on Facebook generate 53% more likes than text.This factoid comes from a year-end blog post on 16 resolutions for better marketing in 2013. Blogging twice weekly, producing video and giving your website an audit are three suggestions near the top of the list. Our advice is to read the rest of them!

Google says it’s costly to be mobile-unfriendly

…non-mobile friendly sites actually damage a company’s reputation: 36% of respondents said they felt like they’ve wasted their time by visiting those sites, and 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company. Almost half felt that a site that works poorly on a smartphone indicates a company that does not care about their business.

“Those findings are from a Google survey conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger in July of just over 1,000 US smartphone Internet users. Fully 96% of consumers reported they’ve encountered sites that were clearly not designed for mobile devices. 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly. Conversely, of those who have visited a mobile-friendly site, 74% say they’re more likely to return.” This information comes from an article available here.

A separate study conducted in early 2012 by DudaMobile concluded that nearly 20% of visits to small business sites led to an immediate call to the business (e.g. with click-to-call), with some local businesses skewing much higher (e.g., pizzerias at 32%, car services at 27.8%). But businesses have to earn that call with a mobile-friendly site that puts that phone number above the fold and clearly visible.

QR Codes Pump Up Happy Hour

We have always believed that the uses for humble QR code, created to track auto parts in Japanese manufacturing, are limited only by the imagination. Here is proof positive. Beer sales at Harry’s Bar in Singapore went through the roof when shy guys could talk to women by programming a QR code and hanging it on a beer bottle sent to the table. Watch it work:

The Rise of Visual Marketing

A 2012 study by ROI Research found that…..forty-four percent of respondents are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media. Pictures have become one of our default modes of sorting and understanding the vast amounts of information we’re exposed to every day.

The quote is from an article on describing the 2012 breakout trend of visual marketing. Read it here.

Helpful Hint: Tracking hits on shortened URLs

There are a number of websites given to shortening long URLs for pasting into email or posts and tweets. If you have any interest in knowing how many times your link has been clicked you need to know about

[Read more…]

“No Video” Video – Storytelling with no camera

Online video made without video camera content is a rapidly growing proportion of online video. It comes with names like “infographics”, some is hand drawn with high speed playback and much of it exhibits what has come to be called the “Ken Burns Effect”. Burns and his documentary-making team pioneered the technique of filming still images, paintings and print work using pan and zoom to animate the material and often cleverly adding sound effects to add realism to the result. [Read more…]

Video in search – proof of claims

Data suggest that video on a web page makes it 50 times more likely to appear in page one search results. We have proven that time and again. Here is a screen capture from Google showing a video from our site (Video Introduction) appearing in the number one organic search position – one day after posting it. [Read more…]

“Newsjacking” – content that rides on a bigger story

We accept that the steady creation of fresh, engaging content is the path to increased web traffic. Why? Because blogging, posting and tweeting that content brings interested parties back to the website. It’s obvious that big stories get big reach. Ask Prince Harry. When nude Vegas pictures of him appeared online, social media lit up. [Read more…]

Facebook (and other) Statistics for Business

Because web activity of all kinds is so measurable there is a universe of useful information available to those of us using or considering the tools of inbound marketing. Social media plays an important role in this effort and of course Facebook is a central player.  So here now some recent information concerning Facebook and more:

  • 1 in 7.7 people in the world have a Facebook account
  • 1 in every 8 minutes spent online is spent on Facebook
  • 70% of Facebook news consumers follow links posted by friends or family
  • 51% of consumers are more likely to buy a product or brand after liking them on Facebook
  • 95% of all Facebook wall posts are NOT answered by brands
  • 17% of company responses to consumer comments on Facebook call the consumer by name
  • 16% of online consumers expect a response within 30 minutes when they ask a question or post a comment on the company’s Facebook page, compared to 13% who expect a response within 2 hours


  •  Video on a web page makes it 50 times more likely to appear in page-one search results
  •  Pinterest will account for 40% of social media driven purchases in 2012
  • Google users click on page-one results 88% more often than page-two results
  • 97%  of online consumers search for local businesses online
  • About 40% of local businesses still don’t have a website
  • 79%% of online U.S. consumers use social media
  • Video on a product page lifts sales by 4% even when the video is not watched. When it is fully viewed the lift is 20%
  • The average budget spent on social media and company blogging increased from 9% in 2009 to 21% in 2012. Businesses are clearly finding value in social media

The Value of Picture Content

Marketo tells us what few of us don’t already know – we’re drowning in content. “Death by text” as they put it. What’s the solution for those of us trying to get our messages found and engaged? Visual content. [Read more…]

Build a Fan Base, then reach their Friends

On Facebook people have profiles and businesses have pages. Profiles have friends. Pages have fans. Fans in the majority were attracted by an offer only available to fans. Become a fan and get a discount. In general terms, when you post on your wall, that content turns up in your fan’s news feed. [Read more…]

Building Landing Pages

Have you ever clicked a link in email to download an ebook, accept a free trial or register for a webinar? If so you’ve almost certainly seen a landing page. They exist to capture a visitor’s information by presenting a form that must be filled out before moving to the next step. [Read more…]

Why Otherwise Smart People Dismiss Social Media

If the only thing after is your first name, you’re one of a kind. That would be true of Gary Vaynerchuk ( entrepreneur extrordinaire, Internet millionaire and bestselling author. Via a startup with his brother, Gary supports Fortune 500 clients in their social media investments. When we had the opportunity to join a webinar he was addressing, on using social media in your business, we took it. [Read more…]