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A 6 Step Plan to Event Management Social Media Success

Our event clients generally have one thing in common: they have a lot on their plates. Events take time, energy, and there is usually a smorgasbord of moving pieces. Many times, we have filled the role of creating engaging social media content and then managing these social avenues for the duration of the event. Social media is such a useful tool for your events. It affords an exciting build-up, live interaction with customers, a platform for effective promotional deliverability, meaningful follow-up with your audience, and educating insights.

Our events come in all shapes and sizes, but the approach is always the same. No matter the size of your event, here are 6 steps to make sure your social media brings life and money to it. And all of these steps are useful whether you are spending money on social media ads or just running an organic campaign for your event.

(According to 857 event managers)

Oh, wait, before you get there…

Before you ever set foot on the social terrain, till the fields first. Figure out your audience and what social media platforms to use. Your audience is unique, so define it. Then, find out where those customers are. How are you engaging with them now? If you’re not, find out where they are. Possibly research other events similar to yours and explore how those events reach their audience. Once you’ve smoothed out the soil, then you’re ready to strategize.

 

[Pre-event Steps]

STEP 1: Timeline and Budget

A good place to start is with the timeline. We recommend a couple weeks to a month before the event, but honestly, the earlier the better. It’s ok if you are posting before then obviously, this will just be the real diving board that springs your hype train into action. The length and frequency of your event may change this as well.

Then, how much are you willing to spend? Speakers, performers, caterers, venues and staff are all important, but getting people there is how you will make money, so set a budget. When it comes to boosting posts for events – which we always recommend – the more you spend the more you reach. A budget with wiggle room is a healthy budget. In the end, you get what you give.

 

STEP 2: The Set-Up

This step will help you so much in the long run. It’s like leg day. Don’t skip it. Get your social avenues ready. With Facebook and Instagram, make sure you set up Facebook Pixel and Business Manager. These will help you see tracked results. Set up the main page on platforms you will advertise on with fluidity. Each page should look virtually the same unless they have different goals. You want people on LinkedIn to be able to visit the Facebook page and not feel lost. Check ticket and website links, descriptions of events, important details, etc.

Another crucial part of this set-up is getting drafted posts ready for any emergencies you might have. Have a rainout post ready, a time change post ready, any other emergency plans, and definitely, definitely, definitely set up an instant reply in the direct message field. Lead people to your website for the main hub of info. This will cut down on time spent answering mundane “what time are you open” questions. The “Set-Up” step is commonly overlooked, but I promise, it will keep you from ripping hair out later.

 

STEP 3: Generate and Organize Content

This is where you get to use those creativity skills. Make some written content ready to publish. Think of unique ways to interact with users via polls, promotions or a fun video. This is the time to create any content, including pictures and videos that you might need. Make a mark next to the ones you think are exceptional and consider boosting those. When you have all this, put it in one, organized place, like Google Drive, Dropbox or a hard drive.

The written content needs to be kept somewhere safe for STEP 4, but physically creating it is where you make your money. Good, quality content is a must in any marketing effort, but especially in social media. Social media is the pilgrimage of short attention spans, so make your content good and true to your brand. Some of the best content we’ve found builds attention through giveaways. Everyone loves free stuff. Need post ideas?

 

STEP 4: Schedule

Pronounced “shed-jewel,” this is paired nicely with STEP 3. After you have organized photos, videos, gifs, etc. that you will use, schedule the posts you know you will have for your entire campaign. This is optional if you have the manpower necessary to do it on the spot or week-to-week, but we have found that when you can hash it out in a few hours, you are more likely to be creative than if you had to cram three new posts in at 9 AM one morning.

We have created our own Google doc that we put the copy in, a link to the picture or video for that post, a time stamp, and the amount we will boost it for. This is the most streamlined solution we have found. We can copy and paste it over to the platforms in an hour or two. It also allows us to be transparent with clients, getting to show them every post before any take place. This can be mundane work, but it pays off when you don’t have to post day-to-day. Here are some awesome scheduling apps.

 

[During-event Steps]

STEP 5: Engage

There is no such thing as off-time in social media management during events. Interaction with customers during events can be just as important for your brand as anything else. It’s a wonderful avenue for timely updates, news on the event, or calls to a specific part of the event. This can be one of the biggest hassles for an event manager as well.

Every major social platform now has ways to generate live content, which is a huge added bonus for events that use social. You can update people creatively, and it’s a sure-fire way to draw attention to something. Everyone who likes your page or follows you will get a mobile notification about you going live. This is something that is commonly overlooked, but we love offering it to clients as a unique engagement point.

Last, it’s important to be checking the comments on your posts daily and filtering negative comments, responding to poor reviews, and getting excited with people. This type of engagement is what could separate you from the competition. People love when brands interact with them. Wendy’s twitter account is the perfect example. They started interacting with comments often and grew in popularity tremendously. But, you probably shouldn’t roast people as much as them…

STEP 6: Analyze and Correct

We keep an extremely close eye on the accounts we manage. Treat it like your baby. Each day we are looking at interactions and comments, pinpointing hot areas of engagement both with content and geographically. These highly important analytics can help you narrow down the good versus the bad content and also expose under-marketed groups in your strategy. If you use Facebook, integrating Facebook Pixel can be a great way to denote how clicks are getting from Facebook to your site.

From a timeliness standpoint, we operate at a weekly report and then post-event report. This allows Facebook’s algorithm with ads and general posts to take effect each week before we make adjustments and after the event, we can make notes on what to change for the next year. Make notes. If you are like us, you won’t remember all of it without having it written down.

 

SO WHAT? 

Some event managers like to take on the task of social media and feel they have the capability to do it well. That’s awesome. Some understand the value of social media in marketing their event but are simply too busy to give it the attention it deserves. So, they outsource it to an agency or someone on their team. That’s awesome too. Bottom line is that social media can boost an event tremendously. It can be the Big Mac sauce that draws people in, or it can be the thorn in your side that never gets the attention it should.

If you choose to take on the task at hand for your event, recognize the vast opportunity it has to bring valuable customers to you and positively impact your brand. If you feel overwhelmed by the idea, that’s why companies like us exist. We love taking on new challenges and showing event managers what social media can do for them. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s important, and it’s the real “foot-soldier” type work we love to do. Give us a call and we’ll help grow your event! – 865.291.0005

Check out one of our event social media clients – The Charlotte Fair

A story from social media coverage at Brimstone Paragon

Our Social Media Services

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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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The Tricks of Email Marketing Magic

Alla-Khazam! Welcome to Big Slate Media’s reasons to email market. Since the dawn of the internet age, emails have been part of humanities’ second nature. In fact, 91% of people check email daily. That’s outstanding. In today’s magic show, we will make all your email marketing fears vanish.

For starters, if you are reading this and haven’t ever dabbled in email marketing because you think it’s too hard, or it doesn’t work that well, or “I can’t afford it”, then I’m here to say – FAKE NEWS.

The Escape Artist

Escape the straightjacket of “I can’ts” and “should’ves”. It’s really more simple than you think. For starters, if you aren’t collecting emails, then you need to create an opt-in form for your website or a form in your store for new customers. The people that opt-in are the ones that will buy more from you. Imagine a dating world where every person that was interested in you could give you their number… It’s streamlined dating, and this is streamlined sales. If you don’t have a website or don’t have a way to receive form submissions (you should really fix that), guess what… you still have a list. All of your existing customers! Surely you have their emails and they are a great way to start building a list of people that are already familiar with your brand.

If you have an email submission form already running on your website, go use a free email service, like MailChimp to put that list to use. It is free for up to 2,000 subscribers, has great templates, and you can track all kinds of useful data. MailChimp also has very useful tools to create those opt-ins, as previously talked about, if you still need to do that.

Truth is, after that setup process, the only thing that takes time, is the email creation; and that can be done every week, every month, or even quarterly. Really, whatever you can commit too. So, don’t be afraid. It’s so easy, that there are companies that are entirely built on email lists, like Scott’s Cheap Flights! “Scott’s” uses this as their primary way of communicating about their product (super awesome deals on international flights) to their customers. This is the ONLY way they deliver their product to the customer. That’s how powerful it is. There are 3x more emails accounts in existence than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined, it has the highest ROI of any marketing channel, and it’s not too late or too hard for you to start now.

Email Marketing – Pulling the Rabbit Out of the Hat

Now, once your ready to write your first email blast, use these tools as a means to dazzling the customer.

 

1) You can offer customers something.

If you’ve signed up for an email list at a store somewhere and have received any kind of coupon or special event, then you have been offered something. Once you sign up and receive these offers, you are probably more likely to return to that store because they are offering YOU something unique. This generates quality customers that will come back, but it is also a tool to convince people to opt-in to a list in the first place. “Get a free consultation when you sign up for our newsletter.” “25% off your first online purchase when you subscribe to our email catalog.”

 

2) You can be highly relevant!

We tell clients this all the time. Relevancy is most important to reaching customers. Amazon is a perfect example of this. “Great Christmas gifts under $15”. We all know those categories because usually, they matter to us. When thinking about how to be relevant to your audience in email marketing, think when are we the busiest and why. How can we matter to our customers? Remind them that you have a service or product that they love.

 

3) It can be the Nucleus of your marketing efforts.

Email marketing can glue it all together. Your advertising goals can be email form submissions, or you can track click-through rates. You can even link the form submission page on your Facebook. It simply can be the heartbeat of your marketing efforts, where social media, Google ads, Youtube content, and everything else can come to one main stage. Manage smarter, not harder. If you are worried about people unsubscribing, just remember that you don’t want people in your funnel that don’t have the potential to buy. If they leave, then your list is purer.

The Bow

So, if you aren’t using email lists and marketing to your customers through it, there is no better time than now to add some magic to your marketing efforts. Feel free to call us if you ever need help, but we’ll leave you with some helpful resources that we keep bookmarked.

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Big Slate Media Team
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YouTube Marketing – That Was Easy!

Youtube is a home for both the inspired and the strange, a place where viral videos plant their seeds; and of course, the global archive of first steps, big fails, and cat videos. But that’s not all. Youtube is also a highly effective place to market your business, and it’s easy! You just need the tools.

As a digital marketing agency in Knoxville focused in video production, we work with both small and large clients on creative content and we’ve learned that businesses sometimes devalue how Youtube could help them. So, we’re here to tell you that it can help you and definitely should be part of your 2018 marketing plan.

First, how big is Youtube, really? (2018 Youtube specs)

  • Over 1 Billion users (one-third of internet population)
  • More than half of total Youtube views come from mobile
  • More 18-49 year olds reached on mobile alone than any cable TV network
  • One billion hours watched daily

Youtube is a massive database that entertains a diverse and vast audience. If done well, your business will see a huge increase in Google search rankings, social engagement with customers, leads, and brand exposure overall through Youtube. But how?

 

Local Youtube Marketing Examples:

Mike’s Golf Shop (Chattanooga, Tn):

Time spent: 40 seconds; Views: 700,000

So, you’re telling me that if I’m looking for golf clubs, this is the wrong place?

  • Mike is a character. His brand is who he is, which is one of the most important tools of Youtube. We can show our brand, our company culture, or be informational. In this case, Mike did all three.
  • The viral nature of Youtube has sprouted out of the social media integration abilities of it, making it easy to target a specific audience, especially if you are already using other social platforms (ie. boosted posts on Facebook).
  • Youtube is owned by Google so your Google Search ranking is affected by the title and keywords in the description of the video, as well. Mike’s Golf, for example, is the first organic results on Google in his area.

Let’s take a look at another example, even closer to home for us.

 

Crawl Space Ninja (Knoxville, Tn):

Time Spent: estimated. 1 – 2 hours; Views: 1,000+ (Some videos have over 100K views)

Crawlspace Ninja does some really great stuff on Youtube as well. As you can tell, it’s more information based than Mike’s. Goals are the same, but the path is different.

  • Both wanted to grow sales by way of brand awareness. They stuck to their own brands and used social media.
  • In this case, Crawl Space Ninja brands themselves on Youtube as a “self-help” channel with videos that will build them a returning customer base that trusts them.
  • They can continue building loyalty while finding more customers along the way by using Youtube pre-roll and SEO tactics.

 

These two guys are just a couple examples of how you can grow your business through Youtube. Block out a day and create some engaging content. Youtube is a huge marketing gold mine and you need to be getting your share!

Give us a call if you need help and check out our most recent work!

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Big Slate Media Team
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Schmoozapalooza Spring 2018 Winner

WATCH THE VIDEO TO FIND OUT WHO THE WINNER IS!

Thanks again to everyone who came by the booth and made the event awesome! We had a great time catching up with old friends, making new ones and learning about other businesses in our community. This was our first time with a booth at Schmooza’ and man did we have fun 🙂 See y’all in the fall!

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Big Slate Media Team

Writing an Effective Blog

It’s More Important Than You Think

Blog articles are the absolute single most important piece of digital marketing. They are the heart and soul of any social media campaign. Oh, and they are the primary way to influence your Google search ranking for particular keywords. No big deal…

Being a content creation agency in Knoxville, we work with dozens of incredible businesses to help write content that makes an impact in their digital marketing. We thought we’d share a few of the key elements we use when writing blog content.

Make It Helpful

Ok, so let’s take this blog article for instance; we’re providing some real, helpful content. We’ve recognized our audience (typically marketing directors, small business owners, etc) and are providing information that we know will help them better their business. At the same time, we’ve thrown in some keywords and optimized the page content for optimal search engine indexing to help with our organic search ranking. It’s a win-win!

Keyword Saturation

You have to be classy about this part. Google Bot reads at roughly a 3rd-grade reading level. Meaning, it’s not stupid. If you throw an article together that’s just a ridiculous compilation of your target keywords and really doesn’t flow, Google will figure it out.

It’s always a good idea to start from a place of helping your customers and sharing information with them. Make the article read pretty, then if you happen to be able to work in some of your target keywords, that’s even better.

Jazz It Up

Let’s face it. While blog articles can be really helpful, they just can’t keep people’s attention. Throwing in a related photo or video will not only help people stay engaged with your article, but it also helps with your Google ranking.

Distribution is the Name of the Game

Once you’ve created an awesome blog article, it’s time to share it with the world. Facebook, LinkedIn, and email blasts are always a great start. We encourage all of our clients to get involved in an online community group or forum for their industry. That can be a great place to share the article.

Each place you share an article creates a new backlink to your website. Building backlinks help build your Google Page Trust as an information source people are sharing and encouraging others to use. This will definitely help your organic search ranking. Again, don’t abuse this. Only post your article on websites or in groups where the information will be welcomed.

In The End, Just Make It Awesome & Make it Yours

Your focus should be on creating something helpful to contribute to the wealth of knowledge on the internet, but do it in your own voice! Remember, it’s YOUR brand that you’re representing, so don’t try to be something you’re not. Find your audience. Talk to them like you are talking to them. Be informational, stay in your style, make it fun to read, make it different, but don’t give away your secret sauce. A magician never reveals his secrets. Just give them enough to come back for seconds. 

All in all, just research, learn, discover and most importantly have fun with it!

If you have any questions about copywriting strategy, content ideas or where to get involved in online communities, talk to us! We’d love to hear from you and we’d love to help.

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Big Slate Media Team
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Google Updates Their Most Important Management App

Earlier this month Google released a MUCH needed update to the Google Search Console. In case you aren’t familiar, this is the application that your webmaster uses to manage how your website is indexed by Google. Being one of Knoxville’s top SEO companies, we were invited to try the beta version of the app and are now excited to see it released to the public.

So What Does This Thing Do?

The management portal was originally called Google Webmaster Tools and was rebranded to Google Search Console in 2015. The app is essentially the secret sauce for how to ensure your website is being indexed correctly by Google Bot. In the past, you’ve been able to configure your sitemap, see analytics for indexed pages, tag featured content for the Google Knowledge Panel and manage many other elements surrounding how Google views your website. This is the central location where we can monitor and address any issues Google might have in accessing your website. Freakin’ important stuff here people.

 

Problem → Solution.

In the past, this dashboard has been challenging due to the barebones layout. In addition, there’s been a sort of ad-hoc approach to updating the features to accommodate the massive shift to mobile searching. In short, this thing is a pain in the you-know-what to deal with.

Google has finally overhauled the entire UI/UX (user interface/user experience). This upgrade will make it much easier to stay on top of issues surrounding indexing status. They’ve created a new search performance report and modified the index coverage report too.

 

Cool… Who Cares?

More complete reports and more manageable user interface means two things: better data analysis and better time efficiency. In the end, fixing those two things leads to more successful campaigns. We’re now able to view 16 months of data to make analyzing longer-term trends easier and analyze year-over-year comparisons. This is HUGE since the previous range was only 3 months!

 

Thanks for nerding out with us…

All in all, this probably won’t affect your life at all. But it certainly makes us happy to see Google taking steps to improve this vital tool.

If you have any questions about Google Search Console, how to utilize the new features or need help understanding this update, get on the phone and call our office. Our team loves to help make sure businesses are being indexed for things their customers are searching!

View our SEO strategy and packages.

 

 

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Big Slate Media Team
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Building the Brand of Whitney Buys Houses with Video

The Backstory

Whitney Nicely is a woman on a mission. It didn’t take her long to realize there was a passion to be found in real estate, and she quickly found traction with her own endeavors. We made a bid on her wedding video a couple years ago but didn’t get it. Skip to the last few months – Whitney’s business is booming and she wanted to get even more exposure – she remembered our portfolio and knew the value of hiring professionals.

The Problem: Finding the Right Creative Touch

Whitney was in need of professional video and audio recording for the plethora of sessions she holds throughout the year. The problem was finding a creative agency that was adaptive to her tone of branding. She was holding a 3-day workshop for people from all over the U.S. – anywhere from West Virginia to California – and wanted to produce a series of videos to cover the whole thing.

Whitney’s a real estate mogul, an owner of dozens of houses in Knoxville and the surrounding area. She’s generated a large following through her podcasts and social media (mainly Facebook). Anyone from realtors looking for solid advice to people looking to get into the industry have found value in what she has to share. A little background information from her website:

Whitney Buys Houses

Video Works (and Whitney’s a Believer!)

The series we covered brought in professionals from various backgrounds ranging from pest control to private lenders. The whole idea of the program is to educate these individuals with tips and tricks for buying and selling houses.

We got a lot of great footage and covered all of the sessions, along with a video of Whitney taking her attendees on a tour of her houses and another recap video to promote the whole thing. After a few edits, she was very pleased with the work we’ve done – enough that we’ll be covering her next weekend session (W3 – Whitney’s Weekend Workshop) in Tampa, FL in March!

Big Slate Media filmed an entire weekend workshop for me. The videos are amazing. The guys were a blast… yet professional. I’ve already hired them for another event in Tampa! Thanks again!

We’ll be lining up a Facebook advertisement campaign and setting up some YouTube preroll (the ads you see before the video starts). By the way – do you know about Facebook’s recent video algorithm changes?

When You Have an Agency That Understands You, You Get the Results You Want

That’s the thing about video – even if you’re completely restructuring your company, video is the most powerful way to set the new definition. We understand brand and the things that make it unique. It’s the character you’re always building, and you want it to attract people.You’ll find that when you’re working with Big Slate Media, we communicate a lot better than other agencies can. We’re capable of adapting when plans change and you, as our client, will always know exactly what’s going on.

Video Production – Is it Part of Your Marketing Strategy?

We’re realistic about our pricing – we consider the budget and the value of what we’re producing. Since we’re a small, grassroots company, we totally get content. We know its power. We have major national and international brands in our repertoire because they know our dedication to the craft. We understand small business and we want it to thrive, because we’re doing the same thing!

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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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Big Slate Media Team
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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.

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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