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VLOG: 5 WAYS TO BEST UTILIZE INSTAGRAM STORIES

One of the latest and greatest methods for engaging your audience is Instagram stories. 

More than 500 million people are daily active Instagram story viewers. It’s a great way for businesses to increase brand awareness, get on the top of people’s feeds, and drive engagement with their followers.

Stories allow you to connect with people in a more impactful and engaging way, and they help build that trust that makes people want to work with you.

In addition to video production, our company also manages several social media accounts in Knoxville, and we’re excited to share with you our top 5 ways to best utilize Instagram stories for your business. 

Let’s go! 

 

1. Use Them Regularly

Active posting is crucial because the more recent your story is, the more likely the content will appear first on top of someone’s instagram feed. If you’re wondering what types of IG story content works best for businesses, some of our favorites are: 

  • Behind the scenes – show people the inner workings of your business or life; it makes you more relatable
  • Teaser – if something big is coming up, get some hype built up around it by teasing it on your story
  • Polls – helps you learn about your followers, and is one of the primary ways to actually get them to engage with you through stories
  • Questions – a classic Q&A sesh allows your followers to ask you questions about yourself or your business, and  be sure to actively respond to them
  • Go live – this allows you to respond in real time to comments from viewers -nothing is more real than that

2. Encourage Engagement

Iphone with IG poll feature displayedIG stories are a great way for you to interact directly with your loyal followers and gain insights directly from them. Use polls to learn about your audience, whether it be the type of content their looking for from you or their favorite taco place, it’s a great way to engage your followers. 

 

Also, a Q&A session really allows your followers to engage with you as they ask questions about you or your business. You could even go live to respond in real time to their comments or questions.

 

 

3. Run Instagram Story Ads

75% of instagram users take actioniphone with IG ads interface on it – like visiting a website or making a purchase – after looking at an instagram ad. 

You can create story ads directly through the Facebook Ads Manager, or you can use the “promote” button on an existing story post to turn it into an ad (like boosting a Facebook post). 

These allow you to send viewers right to your profile, DM’s or your website. Make sure to use an active visual, like stop-motion, animated text or a regular video to capture the attention of your audience right away as their swiping through stories. This is a great way to get people to a certain webpage if you don’t have that swipe up feature that comes with 10,000 or more followers.

 

 

4. Utilize Instagram Story Highlights on Your Profile

Your Instagram profile is really like a landing page for your brand (business or personal), and using highlights allows your audience to view the content they’re most interested in. It also allows new visitors to your profile to get to know you right away. 

Use highlights to introduce your brand, your product or services, and show what it’s like to work with you. Make your highlight covers cohesive and branded to have a more polished look. We  recommend using Canva, which is a free online design software to create some awesome covers. They even have IG story templates already created that you can adjust to fit your brand.

photo of IG story highlight covers from the Peaceful Side of the Smokies account

Highlight covers on @PeacefulSmokies

5. Don’t Be Too Salesy

You’ll lose followers if you’re constantly using stories to make sales pitches. While you can definitely use them to convert followers to customers, stories are best utilized to show authenticity and create brand trust.

We hope these points gave you some ideas and inspiration on how you can best use Instagram stories for your business. If you ever have any questions about social media management, be sure to slide into our DM’s or contact us here. We’d love to help you out!

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Big Slate Media Team
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BSM GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA VIDEO SPECS

Visually engaging content is the best way to attract audiences’ attention and drive brand awareness – in today’s world, that means video. 

Compelling video can be used in a variety of ways across your social media channels, and it’s important to ensure the viewer’s experience is fully optimized. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation – each platform requires its own unique set of video specs and sizes. 

You shouldn’t have to Google every time you need to create a channel-specific video. 

That’s where we come in. Here are the most important social media video specs you need.

You’re gonna wanna bookmark this. 

FACEBOOK

Facebook offers this as a general rule-of-thumb for optimizing your videos: “Use custom settings when you export your video: With editing software like Final Cut Pro, Avid or iMovie, we recommend you try H.264 video with AAC audio in MOV or MP4 format, an aspect ratio no larger than 1280px wide and divisible by 16px, a frame rate at or below 30fps and stereo audio with a sample rate of 44,100hz.

Upload the highest resolution video available that meets file size and ratio limits.

aspect ratio guide for Facebook

from Facebook

Facebook Feed Video

  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum width: 600 pixels (length depends on aspect ratio)
  • Aspect ratios: 16:9 (landscape), 9:16 (full portrait), 2:3 (vertical), 4:5 (vertical), square (1:1)
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 120 minutes

Desktop News Feed Link Video Ads (Landscape, Square & Right Column)

  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum dimensions: 600 x 315 (1.9:1 landscape) or 600 x 600 (square)
  • Aspect ratios: Landscape is 16:9 | Square is 1:1 
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 240 minutes

In-Stream Video Ads

  • Recommended dimensions: 1280 x 720
  • Minimum dimensions: 600 x 315 (1.9:1 landscape) or 600 x 600 (square)
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 recommended
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Video length: 5 – 15 seconds

Facebook Stories (& Story Ads)

  • Minimum dimensions: 500 x 500 
  • Aspect ratios: 1.91 to 9:16, with colored gradient bars rendered above and below videos under 9:16
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 15 seconds

Facebook Cover Video

  • Recommended dimensions: 820 x 462 (min. 820 x 312)
  • Required length: 20 – 90 seconds

Sources: 

INSTAGRAM

Like Facebook, Instagram’s recommendations are similar and you’re urged to use the highest video resolution possible.

aspect ratio chart for instagram

from YouTube channel Javier Mercedes

Instagram In-Feed Video (& Video Ads)

  • Recommended dimensions: 1920 x 1080; 1080 x 1080; 1080 x 1350
  • Minimum resolution: 600 x 315 (1.9:1 landscape); 600 x 600 (square); 600 by 750 (vertical)
  • Aspect ratios: 16:9, 1:1, 4:5 (& 1.91:1)
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 60 seconds

Instagram Stories (& Story Ads)

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Minimum dimensions: 600 x 1067
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16 (and 16:9 to 4:5)
  • Max file size: 4GB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 or .MOV
  • Max video length: 15 seconds

(Consider leaving roughly 14% (250 pixels) of the top and bottom of the video free from text and logos to avoid covering these key elements with the profile icon or call-to-action.

Instagram TV (IGTV) 

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Minimum resolution: 720
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16 (and 16:9)
  • Max file size: 10 minutes or less is 650MB. Up to 60 minutes is 3.6GB. 
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4
  • Max video length: 15 seconds to 10 minutes (Larger accounts and verified accounts can upload videos up to 60 minutes long, but they must be uploaded from a computer.) 
  • Recommended cover photo size: 420 x 654 (1:1.55 ratio)

Sources: 

YOUTUBE

Youtube video sizes graphic

from learn.g2.com

Video Player (Standard YouTube Video)

  • Recommended dimensions: 426 x 240 (240p), 640 x 360 (360p), 854 x 480 (480p), 1280 x 720 (720p), 1920 x 1080 (1080p), 2560 x 1440 (1440p) and 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
  • Minimum dimension: 426 x 240
  • Max dimension: 3840 x 2160
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 (auto adds pillarboxing if 4:3)
  • Max file size: 128GB or 12 hours, whichever is less
  • Video formats: .MOV, .MPEG4, MP4, .AVI, .WMV, .MPEGPS, .FLV, 3GPP, and WebM
  • Max video length: 12 hours

YouTube Video Ads

Ads follow the same dimensions as the non-ad videos, but differ in video length

  • Skippable video ads: maximum length of 12 hours, skippable after 5 seconds
  • Unskippable video ads: max length of 15, 20 or 30 seconds
  • Mid-roll video ads: minimum length of 30 seconds
  • Bumper video ads: maximum length of 6 seconds

Sources: 

TWITTER

graphic of computer and mobile twitter video dimensions

from Zubtitle

Twitter Landscape & Portrait Videos (& Video Ads) 

  • Landscape recommended dimensions: 320 x 180 (256K bitrate), 640 x 360 (768K bitrate) and 1280 x 720 (2048K bitrate)
  • Portrait recommended dimensions: 240 x 240 (256K bitrate), 480 x 480 (768K bitrate) and 640 x 640 (1024K bitrate)
  • Minimum dimensions: 32 x 32
  • Maximum dimensions: 1280 x 1024
  • Aspect ratios: 1:2.39 to 2.39:1
  • Max file size: 512MB
  • Recommended video formats: .MP4 for web and .MOV for mobile
  • Max video length: 140 seconds

Sources: 

SNAPCHAT

snapchat longform video specs listed on phone

from SocialPilot

Snapchat 10-Second Video Ads

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Max file size: 32MB
  • Video formats: .MP4 and .MOV
  • Max video length:  3 – 10 seconds

Long-Form Video Ads

  • Recommended dimensions: 1080 x 1920
  • Aspect ratios: 9:16 or 16:9
  • Max file size: 1GB
  • Video formats: .MP4 and .MOV.
  • Minimum video length: 15 seconds (no max)

Sources: 

LINKEDIN

photo of three phones displaying Linkedin videos

from eDigital agency

Shared Video

  • Maximum size: 4,096 x 2,304 
  • Minimum size: 256 x 144 
  • Aspect ratio: 1:2.4 to 2.4:1
  • Max file size: 5GB
  • Video formats: .ASF, .AVI, .FLV, .MOV, .MPEG-1, .MPEG-4, .MKV, and .WebM
  • Minimum video length: 3 seconds (max: 10 minutes)

 

Video Ads

  • Required dimensions: 480 x 360 (360p), 640 x 360 (360p wide), 640 x 480 (480p), 960 x 720 (720p), 1280 x 720 (720p wide), 1440 x 1080 (1080p), 1920 x 1080 (1080p wide)
  • Maximum file size: 200 MB
  • Video format: .MP4
  • Max video length: 30 minutes (LinkedIn’s guidelines state most ads perform best at around 15 seconds)

Sources: 

PINTEREST

aspect ratios of Pinterest videos on a phone

from Pinterest

Shared Video (& Video Ads)

  • Recommended dimensions: 600 x 600 (square); 600 x 900 (vertical)
  • Minimum video resolution: 240p
  • Aspect ratios: 1:1 & 9:16
  • Portrait recommended dimensions: 240 x 240 (256K bitrate), 480 x 480 (768K bitrate) and 640 x 640 (1024K bitrate)
  • Max file size: 2GB
  • Video formats: .MP4 and .MOV
  • Max video length: 30 minutes

Sources: 

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Big Slate Media Team
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VLOG: TIPS & TRICKS FOR MARKETING YOUR EVENT

Some of the work we enjoy most is helping our partners out with their incredible events! From elegant award galas, to multi-day, action-packed music festivals, to educational conferences and seminars – we love diving into event social media marketing and video production. 

There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing strategy, but we wanted to share some of our basic tips and tricks for creating some buzz around your next event.

Here’s the vlog with Lucas to get things going: 

PRE-EVENT MARKETING

You gotta pay to play on social media to get noticed. Run ads on channels your target audience uses – we recommend Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. These can be general ads that simply provide event details, or a video ad with sponsor interviews, a hype promo video or ticket giveaways. If we’ve learned anything about pre-event social media marketing is that people LOVE free stuff. 

Seriously, they go nuts. 

The integration between Facebook and Instagram makes it super easy to manage your marketing budget and content for both platforms in one place – the Facebook Ads Manager. You can create custom or Look-Alike audiences to target the exact people you want at your event. 

If this is a first-time event without any prior video footage available, don’t worry! It’s still possible to create an awesome promo video with stock footage, animation or interviews with your talent or emcee. Just be sure to snag some video at the event for next year’s promotion.

 

 

DURING THE EVENT

The most important part of live event coverage is actively engaging with your attendees on social media and making people at home wish theywere there! 

Go live on Facebook or YouTube, get some shots of people having a great time and post it on your Instagram story and comment on posts about your event. Also, make sure your event uses a singular, memorable hashtag for all posts, and encourage others to use it as well. This provides you with user-generated content to repost, and increased engagement will ensure your hashtag is more visible on people’s feeds. 

Check out this Instagram highlight from one of our most recent events, Brimstone White Knuckle, to see some of the live event social coverage. 

white knuckle logo

 

OTHER RESOURCES

A great way to thank your sponsors and showcase your successful event is to create a recap video to post on all your social channels. These are some of our favorite videos we get to create because we’re able to share some incredible experiences and show off just how awesome our partners are. 

Recap videos can also be easily reworked to make a promotional video for the next event. That’s some great double-dippin’ for all the video footage you capture. 

If you’re working on a shoestring marketing budget and have to choose between pre-event coverage or a post-event recap video, we recommend focusing on pre-event marketing (especially for the first year) – because you want people to actually show up, right? 

Here’s the recap video for the Brimstone White Knuckle event mentioned above! 

 

If you’re planning your next event and need some help with social media strategy or video marketing, give us a call! We’d love to offer suggestions and partner with you.

OTHER RESOURCES

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Big Slate Media Team
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The Importance of B-Roll: Painting the Whole Picture

We have a rule here at Big Slate when it comes to any video project – commercial, company overview, event coverage, you name it – OVER SHOOT. This becomes especially true with pick-up shots or B-roll.

We talk about and utilize B-roll a lot. So, we wanted to share our thoughts on the importance of this footage and how it can be best used in your next video. (Roll that beautiful, B-roll blog…

What exactly is B-roll?

BSM team shooting b-roll

When shooting a video, shots of your primary subject are called A-roll. Therefore, any extra footage you capture in addition to the main subject is referred to as B-roll. “A” comes first, “B” comes second… makes sense, right?

Although B-roll is considered secondary or supplementary footage, it definitely should not be considered secondary in importance. Both are necessary in conveying a powerful message. While A-roll tells the story, B-roll provides necessary context.

No Film School has a great analogy for it. “A-roll is the hotdog and B-roll are the fixins. You have a full meal with just the hotdog, sure, but what kind of freak would eat a plain hotdog?

Don’t be the freak with the plain hot dog.

hands holding hot dog with ketchup and mustard on it for b-roll blog

Types of B-Roll shots

Really, the possibilities are endless in terms of what types of shots make good B-roll. Depending on the type of video, location of the shoot or the client, it can really be anything that adds to the video flow. This could be:

  • Establishing shots of the room, building or outdoors
  • People working on day-to-day activities (on a computer, machine, etc.)
  • Signage
  • Interviewee smiling, nodding, etc.
  • People holding awards, framed photos, etc.

You can see several of these types in this video we created for Helen Ross McNabb Center:

Why is it useful?

Beyond providing context and setting the stage for the primary story, there are many other practical uses for B-roll footage.

It can REALLY help during the editing process. Odds are, you won’t have perfect shots all the time, especially when shooting long-form interviews. It could be as simple as a sneeze that you need to cut out. If you want it to flow better than using a quick-cut to remove the shot, overlaying some related B-roll makes it a much smoother transition that no one will think twice about.  

Will Ferrel as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman sneezing gif for b-roll blog

Speaking of long-form interviews, a video can quickly become pretty dull if you’re just watching someone talk on camera for several minutes. Switching the shot over to some B-roll related to what they’re talking about makes the video much more engaging.

Check out this video we made for Sonny Brooke Stables, and imagine if we just kept the shot on Krystle the whole time… not nearly as fun as watching horse jumping (No offense to Krystle, she’s awesome)!

Make it part of the process.

Now that you have some perspective on the importance of B-roll, make sure it’s integrated into your pre-production process. Consider your primary shot and what supporting visuals could make it stronger. When scouting locations, also consider what pick-up shots and angles you should incorporate into your shot list. Be thorough.

It will definitely take your video to the next level.

If you ever need help with any facet of video production, or have more questions about B-roll, you know who to call.

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Big Slate Media Team
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4 Types of Content We Love Shooting in Studio

In case you haven’t heard – which would be incredible considering we’ve been BRAGGING for months – we built a studio near downtown Knoxville!

Besides having a new, controlled space for our hilarious internal video ideas, we’re super excited to have a location to create even more engaging, meaningful content for our clients. *Please note hilarious content below* 

 

There are so many possibilities when it comes to in-studio video content, and we wanted to share some of our favorites that work for any business across all industries.

1. INTERVIEWS/TESTIMONIALS

This type of content is the best way to tell your overall story. Interviewing staff members to talk about company culture, what you do and why you do it is the foundation of every great company overview video. Similarly, recording client testimonials allows you to talk about your products or services through the experiences of people who are already utilizing them!

 

Both can be easily managed in a controlled studio setting. It provides the ability to ensure high-quality audio/lighting while allowing for multiple camera angles, making the video much more engaging for viewers.

2. VLOGS

Vlogging (or video-blogging) has truly blown up in the past year or so. They are simple videos, typically involving one person, just talking about what’s going on. A video studio is the perfect spot to shoot these if you’re like most people who don’t want to be doing this kind of stuff in public (You know, like the random guy vlogging his day around town? You’re not a celebrity dude, just give it a rest).

Describing what’s happening with your company – new products, events coming up, staff introductions – is fun, interesting content for your current/prospective clients because it can really show off your personality. Vlogs can also be used to discuss industry topics and position your business as a thought-leader.

Quick-cut edits, personable subject matter and tone-of-voice, and fun use of text and animation in post-production can make vlogs fun and engaging for all viewers.

P.S. This type of content can easily populate a YouTube channel.

3. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

This one’s easy. If you have commonly asked questions regarding your company, products or services, answer them on camera! It’s way more engaging than having an FAQ accordion on your website. You can even display and manage products when answering specific questions, which leads us into our final content type… 

4. PRODUCT SHOTS/DEMONSTRATIONS

NuCanoe Product Shoot in Studio

A bright, shiny studio can be an amazing setting for some stellar product shots or demonstration videos. It is so much easier to show customers how a product works through video content rather than explaining it in a body of text on your website. This can also provide great, bite-sized videos for social media and an archive of b-roll for future videos.


Now that you’re full of some awesome ideas for your own video content, book some time with us in our studio. We’d love to help you out with your upcoming projects! 

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Big Slate Media Team
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Picking an Interview Spot that Doesn’t Suck

You know those interview/testimonial videos where you can’t hear anything? Or see anything because it’s too dark or super pixelated? Or that are just really distracting because it’s on a train track or something?

Those videos suck.

Wether you’re using your iPhone or professional video equipment, an important factor you can control to improve quality of your video is the location. When choosing the best interview spot for the shot, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Reduce Noise

Reducing “noise” – both audible and visual – is key in finding a great interview spot. Make sure to choose a place that is relatively quiet without a ton of loud activities occurring around it. This will make it more difficult to hear the subject, which is the entire point of the video.

Also, a shot with a ton of visual “noise” – random objects, people walking in and out of frame a bunch, piles of trash in the corner – is distracting to viewers and should be avoided. You want people to be fully engaged with your video content, and distractions could draw them away from the message you are trying to convey..

We know sometimes it’s unavoidable to shoot in a noisy area – like when you’re shooting interviews at a horse stable – and in that case, you would turn to some quality audio equipment, and a whole lot of patience, to help out.

interview at Sonny Brooke Stables

Light it Up

When picking a location for an interview, try to find an area where you have some control over lighting.

Indoors: Rooms should have shades over the windows in case of harsh sunlight, and you should have the ability to turn off any overhead lighting.

Outdoors: Consider shooting during the “Golden Hour” – either the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset – when sunlight is more soft. This could prevent harsh shadows on the subject from direct sunlight. If you can’t shoot during that time, an overcast day works great as well!

Lighting is a huge reason we LOVE shooting in our new studio. Complete control of lighting makes for a beautiful shot, like this one of Kelly:

3to99 studio interview

Choose a Space with Options

The best interview locations are spacious areas with plenty of options for various angles and set-ups. Larger areas allow for a shallow depth of field – keeping the subject in focus with the background blurred. You don’t want a massive, echoey room, but there should be enough space for your entire set-up and team.

You also want the ability to change set-ups, especially if you’re interviewing multiple people in the same video. Changing angles keeps the viewer engaged and allows for a more dynamic flow.

Knoxville Chamber interview

Knoxville Chamber interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These three simple things can drastically affect the quality of your video interviews, and keeping them in mind during pre-production can ensure your final product is stellar. Picking the right location with minimal “noise,” controlled lighting, and plenty of room for options can truly take your interviews to the next level.

Want to work with us on your next testimonial video or use our studio space for an interview? Hit us up!

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Big Slate Media Team
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Powerful Brainstorming: The Do’s and Don’ts

Generating ideas is the lifeblood of the creative professional. As a content creation agency, we are no strangers to the importance of a good brainstorming session. We understand the necessity of it, the fun of it, and the dangers of it. Every sports team must devise a plan to execute on the field in order to win and often times, allowing players to bring their skills to practices can be where these plans develop. Most games are won and lost on the practice field. Brainstorming sessions for us are a much more fun and much less sweaty version of sports practices. “Brainstorming” shouldn’t be foreign for you either, however, it’s important to make sure you are efficient and successful in your sessions, so let us step in and offer some tips.

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a popular idea that dates back to 1939, with a guy named Alex F. Osborn. He was an advertising professional that outlined this idea in his book, Your Creative Power, under the chapter title, “How to Organize a Squad to Create Ideas.” What a great word – “Squad.” Brainstorming should definitely feel like a “squad” effort. Everyone contributing, collaborating and creating.

  • Quantity over quality of ideas
  • Withhold criticism
  • Welcome ALL ideas
  • Combine and improve

These are the foundations of Osborn’s formula, and frankly, they haven’t changed much in today’s powerful brands. Take Forbes or Disney for example, who both still preach many of these ideas in their brainstorming processes. Like many things in the creative sphere, brainstorming can look different for every company depending on the situation or problem you’re tackling.

 

Big Slate’s Do’s and Don’ts of Brainstorming

 

Valiant effort Michael Scott, but whatever this monstrosity is (although hilarious!); DON’T allow it to happen. We have appropriately come up with brainstorming guidelines that work for us under the acronym – S.Q.U.A.D. 

 

S – Simplicity

  • DO: Have a meeting leader that sets rules and a time limit on these meetings – (we have found that 30 minutes is a sweet spot for us). People get tired and it’s ok to cut a meeting off and let ideas simmer so you can come back to them later for a more finite meeting.
  • DON’T: Allow people to come in with no idea of the problem at hand. Give them a heads up to prepare ideas so the meeting can offer value.

Q – Quantity

  • DO: Allow any and all ideas. Even if an idea is far off, let it be a casting point for branch ideas that might be awesome.
  • DON’T: Cut the ideas off at just a few. The more the merrier, because once you sit down with the client or upper management to make a decision, it’s better to have a hierarchy of 100 ideas to present than to only have one that you love and watch it get crushed.

U – Understanding

  • DO: Understand each other’s ideas, and if the leader says that your idea is out of scope, understand that it’s ok. You aren’t bad at ideas, you just need to change your approach.
  • DON’T: Be mean. First grade 101. Treat people with respect and have fun creating.

A – Ask and Apply

  • DO: Ask people to extrapolate their ideas so you can start analyzing the ones that will work best and try applying these answers to other ideas.
  • DON’T: Narrow perspective. Let people be creative when you ask questions. [“I don’t see how that works.” – Not constructive or helpful.]

D – DEMOCRACY!

  • DO: We put it up to a voting system for people to pick the best thought-out and creative solutions so that we have a system of choosing the best ideas. It allows for fairness to the approach and it’s AMERICA’s founding principle, so naturally, we like it.
  • DON’T: Allow someone to “iron fist” the session. That should be a rule set at the beginning. It’s about a collaboration of everyone’s ideas, not just one person’s.

 

Above all these guidelines we use, our number one is to HAVE FUN. A brainstorm space should be a safe place for creative people to laugh, build and imagine together to create awesome solutions. When you leave with that feeling of “wanting more,” that’s the good stuff. When it doesn’t feel as powerful, back off the table for a little while and come back later. It’s ok. Plenty of world-famous chefs had to try recipes multiple times to make it perfect. So, get back to the stove and whip up something fresh and new!

Other Sources of Brainstorming Fun

12 Brainstorming Techniques – HubSpot

Brain-Writing

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Big Slate Media Team
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Net Neutrality is in Danger (and it WILL Affect You)!

We’re hoping that by now, you’ve heard of net neutrality. It’s a big deal, and it’s a principle that protects many of the liberties we currently enjoy online. Repealing net neutrality can only yield unfortunate and oppressive results for anyone who actively uses the internet. We’re going to break down what it is and why repealing it is a bad idea. We’ll detail what you can do about it, and why you should. This is extremely important. But first, please read one of the recommended letters from Battle for the Net you can send to your representatives, as it thoroughly explains the threat at hand. There’s also a brief explainer video below if you don’t have the time to read this.

I urge you to stop the FCC’s plan to end net neutrality *before* the FCC’s December 14th vote.

I don’t want ISPs to have the power to block websites, slow them down, give some sites an advantage over others, split the Internet into “fast lanes” for companies that pay and “slow lanes” for the rest, or force me to buy special “tiers” to access the sites and services I choose. But that’s exactly what the FCC plan would do. Please read it here.

Blocking & throttling by ISPs is a serious problem. Comcast has throttled Netflix, AT&T blocked FaceTime, Time Warner Cable throttled the popular game League of Legends, and Verizon admitted it will introduce fast lanes for sites that pay-and slow lanes for everyone else-if the FCC lifts the rules. This hurts consumers and businesses large and small.

If some companies can pay ISPs to have their content load faster, startups and small businesses that can’t pay those fees won’t be able to compete. This will kill the open marketplace that has enabled millions of small businesses and created America’s 5 most valuable companies. Without strong net neutrality protections, Internet providers will effectively be able to impose a tax on every sector of the American economy.

Moreover, under Chairman Pai’s plan, ISPs will be able to make it more difficult to access political speech that they don’t like. They’ll be able to charge fees for website delivery that would make it harder for blogs, nonprofits, artists, and others who can’t pay up to have their voices heard.

If the FCC passes their current order, every Internet user and business in this country will be unprotected from abuse by Internet providers, and the consequences will be dire. Please publicly support net neutrality protections by denouncing the FCC’s current plan. Do whatever you can to stop Chairman Pai, to ensure that businesses and Internet users remain protected.

 

What Net Neutrality Is

Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs (Internet service providers) such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T shouldn’t be allowed to control what we do and see when we’re online. It says that ISPs shouldn’t be allowed to speed up some websites and slow down others, depending on who’s willing to pay up. Major critics say this could be detrimental to innovation and would make growth for start-ups even more difficult. This principle protects the interests of everyone – people and small to medium-sized businesses alike. Repealing net neutrality is a massive threat, and it only serves to benefit the financial interests of ISPs by granting them the ability to control the Internet.

 

The Threat of Repealing Net Neutrality

This battle has been going on for a long time now. In most recent events, the Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai (formerly Verizon’s Deputy General Counsel) announced the FCC’s intentions to repeal regulations (with a BUNCH of technical errors and inaccurate information) established in 2015 that limited ISPs from throttling traffic, charging for various service packages, etc. They could charge companies higher rates to become a “premium website,” offering faster speeds to those visiting. Comcast, Verizon and AT&T could begin charging you extra for additional packages to your plan (ex. For $5.99/month, you can get the social media package included in your Xfinity plan, which includes Facebook, Twitter, etc.). This plan would even allow ISPs to decide what they can censor. Entire websites could be blocked off, all at the discretion of the ISP. The proposed plan is hilariously titled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” but it will do anything BUT increase or maintain your current online liberties. Seriously – do you want that?

Comcast “throttled” Netflix, until they came to an agreement in 2014. And voilà – Netflix paid up and their video quality increased. Now imagine this, but on a much wider scale.

“Despite purchasing transit on all available routes into Comcast’s network that did not require direct or indirect payment of an access fee to Comcast, the viewing quality of Netflix’s service reached near-VHS quality levels. Faced with such severe degradation of its streaming video service, Netflix began to negotiate for paid access to connect with Comcast. Netflix and Comcast eventually reached a paid agreement. Within a week of that agreement, viewing quality for Netflix streaming video on Comcast’s network shot back up to HD-quality levels.” (Source: https://goo.gl/8joU13)

Repealing net neutrality is a threat to anyone that does business online. That’s exactly why big companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, and eBay (all members of the Internet Association) support net neutrality. In fact, there’s a chance they’re going to be proactive in response to these changes:

Members of the Internet Association could band together to fund an internet service provider that would guarantee neutrality and offer service to every American at affordable rates. Google Fiber could build out its existing services nationwide with funding from these other companies who have a huge interest in protecting open access to the net. Even if the effort is costly, it would be less expensive than the potential alternative of customers being unable to access their sites. (Source: https://goo.gl/LFoFn5)

The Opposing Argument

So, what’s the argument for repealing net neutrality? The FCC claims repealing net neutrality will open up a free market. They claim that most Americans have access to multiple options (a competitive market for providers) when it comes to choosing an ISP. This isn’t the case. Roughly 50{2869b4d23c008b413905409cba06ef793120d76f1e6c5c92f0f4cb5a7ec0d5a3} of Americans live in an area where there is only one option, usually provided by a major ISP like Comcast. Ajit Pai argues that the rules need to be repealed because there’s been a noticeable decline in broadband investment – but the numbers don’t support his assertion. Instead of a massive decline, it’s actually been fairly consistent since 2013. This is not defending a free and open internet. This is killing it.

 

What You Can Do About It… And Why You Should

50,000 net neutrality complaints were excluded from FCC’s repeal docket. Senators asked the FCC to delay the vote scheduled for December 14th, saying that “A free and open internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding…In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting that your proposal is fundamentally flawed.”  The FCC ignored them and said there will be no delay. As a government agency, we’re seeing a lack of public service here – they are currently maneuvering to benefit major ISPs instead of being open-minded and addressing a major public concern. On the same day the FCC announced the repeal, Comcast deleted their net neutrality pledge. Their current “open internet” pledge no longer mentions paid prioritization or promising they won’t block/throttle websites – something that is, as of right now, outlawed by the standing net neutrality rules. This is terrifying stuff. Companies shouldn’t have this kind of power. They shouldn’t stand to benefit from a scheme like this with such a massive public outcry. Portugal doesn’t have net neutrality – check out what they’re having to deal with. This could be coming to the U.S. very soon if we don’t speak up. Major ISPs can split the whole internet into packages and charge us for each section. It could look like this:

Call and email Congress. This site makes it so easy to reach out to them.  Individuals and small businesses have nothing to gain, and only more to lose if this proposal is voted into effect. The internet is our public commons. A place for discourse and discovery. Net neutrality is free speech. Please do your part in defending it. If phone calls aren’t your thing, you can even text your representatives.

We believe in a free and open Internet. We’re making calls and sending emails and we’re asking you to join us. The vote is in one week, on December 14.

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Do You Know About the Search Function?

The Big Slate Media team recently had the privilege of attending a lecture by Dr. Dan RussellGoogle’s Über Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness. Quite the title, right? One of Dr. Russell’s prime goals at the moment is to understand how Google users tick. He works at Google. He’s given a Ted Talk (below). Lifehacker had a chat with him about how he works. We didn’t want to miss out.

The lecture lasted roughly an hour. It scratched the surface of just how insanely in-depth Google’s search functions can be and the curiosities of search users. But there was something he mentioned earlier, a statistic that knocked our socks off. It blew our minds. But before we mention this ground-shattering statistic, we’d like to ask you a question.

You’re on any web page – reading a scientific article on gambling plants, a PDF for school, a relatable article, whatever – and you’re looking for a particular word. You’re pretty sure it’s on the page, you’ve just got to find it. So… What do you do?

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘DUH! Use the search function, you knucklehead!’ That’s what we were thinking until Dr. Russell said roughly NINE IN TEN people don’t know about the search function (CMD+F for Mac, CTRL+F for PC). Nine in ten. 90{2869b4d23c008b413905409cba06ef793120d76f1e6c5c92f0f4cb5a7ec0d5a3}. What. We are literally in pain with this knowledge. It ain’t right. It can’t be!

If you’re reading this – we sincerely hope you’re already familiar with the search function. But keep that number in mind. 90{2869b4d23c008b413905409cba06ef793120d76f1e6c5c92f0f4cb5a7ec0d5a3}. Look to your left. Look to your right. It’s 2017 and some of the wretched souls you just looked at might not know how to find a word or phrase on-page – the easy way. Needle in a haystack, some may say dejectedly, eyes spinning from speed-read-scrolling pages, phantom words flying behind the eyelids with the same effect as a Guitar Hero marathon. So much time spent searching. Wasted time. This is a digital-age tragedy.

Image result for i've wasted my life

Going through life not knowing CMD+F is not okely-dokely.

Try to imagine the precious collective hours wasted by paid employees who don’t know about this shortcut. Dr. Russell said Google went through and made sure all of their employees were familiarized with the search function and other shortcuts. Guess what? They saved a ton of money afterward, and things became more efficient. So, maybe it’s not a bad idea to bring this up in conversation with a family member, friend or coworker. It’s clearly far larger of a problem than we would have anticipated. Dan said, “the tools you know change the way you think about information.” G.I. Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.” You get it.

Using the search function on a desktop is one thing. Using it on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets is another. Here’s a helpful article on the search function for mobile devices. It requires clicking the share button (not very intuitive…) and scrolling horizontally until you find the search button. Meh.

If you enjoy a challenge or just want to up your search game, check out A Google a Day.  It’s fun and you might just learn something. That, and if your boss says anything you can tell them you’re actively building your credibility as a professional. That might work. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You can find a pretty thorough index of shortcuts here if you haven’t had your fix yet.

Stay tuned – we’ll be delivering more helpful tips and tricks in the future!

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Big Slate Media Team
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WTF Is Up With These Marketing and Web Development Acronyms!?

In the digital marketing business (and many other businesses), acronyms get thrown around. A lot of acronyms. While I may be a writer, I work in a room with a bunch of web developers. At first, I thought my brain bailed on me and I was getting hit with alphabet soup, hearing terms like SQL, UI/UX, PHP, etc. Either that or these developers were just screwing with me. Programmers have their own language; I know they’re speaking some form of English, but I just can’t keep up. I’m catching every other word. It was the same way listening to rock climbers’ jargon when I worked at REI. I had to start asking questions. Almost a year into the job now, things are making a bit more sense than they did in the beginning.

I decided it might be helpful to make a short list. Consider this… a brain snack. A morsel of information for the precious three pounds of meat between your ears. We could go totally overboard and dump 149 acronyms in your lap, but we’ll keep the list manageable. Bite-sized. We’ll dive into ten common acronyms found in both the digital marketing and web development fields, plus some bonus items!

Marketing Acronyms

marketing web development acronyms - PPC

PPC is a great way to take up some real estate on the front page of your customers’ search results.

Return On Investment (ROI)

  • B2B / B2C – Business to Business/Consumer. These two differ on whether they’re selling products and services to other companies or customers.

Web Development Acronyms

  • HTML – Hypertext Markup Language. It’s the standard markup language for creating web pages and apps.
  • CSS – Cascading Style Sheets. It’s a mechanism for adding elements such as font, colors, spacing, etc. to Web documents.
  • URL – Uniform Resource Locator. You’ve heard this one before – it’s a reference (address) to a resource online.
  • UX  User Experience design. From Career Foundry’s article titled “The Difference Between UX and UI Design – A Layman’s Guide“: “If you imagine a product as the human body, the bones represent the code which give it structure. The organs represent the UX design: measuring and optimizing against input for supporting life functions.
  • UI – User Interface design. “…UI design represents the cosmetics of the body–its presentation, its senses and reactions.
  • CAPTCHA  Completely Automatic Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. According to the GIF below, it can be fooled…
marketing web development acronyms - CAPTCHA

And so begins the rise of the machines.

  • XML – Extensible Markup Language. XML is a set of rules for encoding documents that both people and machines can read.
  • PHP – PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, but it now stands for the recursive acronym PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. It’s a programming language for generating websites. 80{2869b4d23c008b413905409cba06ef793120d76f1e6c5c92f0f4cb5a7ec0d5a3} of all websites run on PHP – primarily due to WordPress.
  • SQL Structured query language. It’s a standardized query language for requesting information from a database.
  • WYSIWYG – (pronounced “wizzy-wig”) – What You See Is What You Get. Used when editing content for a document, web page, presentation, etc. Wikipedia’s got some literature on this if you’re absolutely enthralled.

Bonus Round

These are just a couple personal favorites that have absolutely nothing to do with marketing or web development, but they’re pretty cool. How many of these did you already know?

  • SCUBA – Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
  • LASER – Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
  • TASER – Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle. From a young adult novel published in 1911 by Victor Appleton, oddly enough. Has nothing to do with the actual taser, other than inspiring the name.
  • SONAR – SOund Navigation And Ranging.
  • RADAR – RAdio Detection And Ranging.
  • ZIP – Zone Improvement Plan.
  • SIM – (as in SIM chip) – Subscriber Identity Module. Sounds a little creepy when you word it like that.
  • WD-40 – Water Displacement attempt #40. No joke.
  • YAHOO! – “Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle” or “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.”
  • Alcoa – Here’s a local one for you! ALuminum Company of America.
marketing web development acronyms - LASER

“Not another step, or I’ll roast you alive with my Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation gun!”

 

So, there. Now you’re just a little bit smarter. Apply what you’ve learned in your next trivia game. Or use it to fill the awkward silence in a conversation when you’re not sure what else to say. At Big Slate Media, we handle all of the items mentioned above. We manage PPC campaigns, bolster SEO ratings, and much, much more. If you’re interested in taking your success to the next level, let us know!

 

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Big Slate Media Team