Insta-LOVE: How We Leverage Instagram to Make Clients Shine

This post illuminates how a creative digital marketing strategy can find meaningful opportunities to shine a positive light on a client’s value.

A recent, fun example of how this kind of content marketing works is the way we brightened the Instagram feed of our client, Marin Airporter. In this case, we used passenger produced photos (also known as “user generated content” or UGC) to leverage the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Beyond our recent website redesign for Marin Airporter (described here), we now help this client stay connected with its passengers (and potential passengers) with engaging social media content.

How the Golden Gate Bridge Became a Social Media Asset

It’s not unusual for small companies—many of whom struggle to engage successfully through social media marketing—to still be playing catch up with regard to leading edge social platforms like Instagram. Nonetheless, every company’s customers are already on these networks, and often they are communicating in ways with which any business would want to interact. Marin Airporter offered us this kind of “golden opportunity” because, prior to working with us, they had no Instagram presence whatsoever.

Once ComBridges got involved, we noticed that many passengers on Instagram were sharing an exciting aspect of riding on Marin Airporter, a memorable trip across the iconic, world famous piece of art deco architecture known as the Golden Gate Bridge! They were even sharing videos in the rain, at night, and in the dark.

The passengers themselves made it clear that the Bridge crossing is an important part of the Marin Airporter experience. So, we decided to celebrate these customer posts by compiling some of the best videos and pictures of their buses’ Golden Gate Bridge crossings into a blog post on the Marin Airporter website. As you can see, it showed just how special the Marin Airporter route is. Check out the full blog post here.

Content Marketing Meets Customer Listening

Through this example, you can see how well-conceived content marketing leverages customer awareness to create content that shines a spotlight on our client’s value.

In this way, ComBridges opened another door for our client to connect and communicate. With our support, Marin Airporter now reaches and interacts with its passengers in a 21st Century way. Because social media is a two-way medium, these messages also provide critical feedback, questions, or moments of gratitude from happy customers. And, thus, they are a form of customer service that needs attention.

In today’s world, this kind of creativity is a critical dimension of successful digital marketing. Done correctly, it is also an important branch of customer service and customer listening.

If you are ready to shine online and make better connections with your customers, please let us know.


5 Reasons NOT to Hire an In-House Digital Marketing Manager

Shine Online with Less Stress & More Profitability

The need to create an effective, engaging and profitable online presence can present serious challenges, and many organizations struggle to find appropriate resources that help produce meaningful results. A frequent mistake is to think that hiring an in-house digital marketing manager will make things easier.

Nagging Questions

Do you have a nagging feeling that your customers are out there on social media or searching on Google, but you don’t have the expertise to get your company or organization the visibility that it needs? Do you hear about other organizations profiting from online/digital marketing but feel like you’re missing out on opportunities?  Do social media, email marketing, blog posts and other kinds of content marketing just feel like a waste of time and a money sinkhole?

Making this situation even more frustrating, you would like your in-house staff to take care of this for you, right? Perhaps you could hire a low-budget young person? Don’t all young people understand how to use social media? Well, from the point of view of results-oriented strategy, no, they don’t.

Warning: A Word to the Wise

This blog post is your warning. Be careful. Hiring new in-house staff might not really save you money and, more importantly, you might not get the meaningful results you want and need. And if you don’t get the results you need, what’s the point?

Before you interview for a new team member, take a breath, pause and consider the key benefits of working with an affordable, talented digital marketing agency like us.

Yes, no doubt, we are making a self-serving point here. But don’t let that hold you back. We are ONLY interested in win-win relationships. Your success is our success. Seriously.

So, if you are considering an in-house digital marketing manager, here are five reasons why we think that we can do a better job at a comparable cost while saving you a ton of frustration and stress:

1. Simpler, Powered by Experts

Hiring a new employee who you have to manage in an area that’s not your expertise takes your focus away from your other responsibilities. If online marketing isn’t in your particular skill set, chances are you don’t want to manage a new hire and clutter your day and your mind with things you’d prefer to leave—and that would be better off leaving—to someone else. Why not be guided by experts?

2. Fewer Hassles, Fewer Expenses

A new hire costs you both time and money. But with ComBridges doing your online marketing, you don’t have to pay benefits, employee taxes or overhead costs. There’s no need to find space in your office, nor do you need to do employee on-boarding. The HR staff will save time, too. A new member of your in-house team can also affect company culture and morale in unpredictable ways. Simpler can be better.  

3. More Scalable

Your success is our success and we are built to grow with you, without you ever having to invest in increasing overhead expenses. As long as what we are doing is working for your organization, we keep going; and as appropriate, we keep growing with you. In other words, we will grow our efforts as you achieve new levels of success. All along the way, our work together will never create space and cost challenges for you.

4. Talent You Can Trust

No matter how carefully you check resumes, no matter how thorough your interview process, there’s no certainty that your new hire will meet all your requirements and be a good fit for your culture. Why struggle with a newcomer who may still be trying to figure things out, when you can work with experienced experts? We produce results that you can trust.

Our company has a 34-year track record with results-oriented marketing communications. We have an already-established “tool kit” and systematic strategies that we use to customize social media presence and to implement digital marketing strategies that we know work.

5. Consistent Results

In-house digital marketing managers often take a hit-and-miss or shotgun approach. On the other hand, we understand that online marketing is about building relationships. We will customize a strategic approach that is designed to build authentic, sustainable relationships with your customers and prospects.

That’s what we do.

Recommendations to Help You Make the Right Decision

  • Be clear about your goals for social media and digital marketing. Focus on real results.
  • Choose resources and virtual team members that you can trust to make your investment in marketing more profitable.
  • Consider all of the possible pros-and-cons of hiring in-house.
  • Aim to make your work easier rather than more complicated.
  • Build your team with empowering collaborators who can help take your company to the next level

If you can see that this approach may have benefits for your company or organization, we would welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have.

Click here to schedule a free consultation.

Create Authentic Connections: Website Video Production Insights

Anyone doing online marketing faces the challenge of how to engage and inform visitors, while also communicating clearly enough that people get the intended message. Without the human face of a home page welcome video, most websites miss a crucial opportunity to engage with authenticity.

At the end of the day, at least in my opinion, there’s no point in digital marketing, if you don’t make an authentic connection with website visitors. Given the fact that website visitors, in general, have the “attention span of a gnat,” the power of video has become paramount. (For more on this, I produced this video in 2010 that’s still relevant: Why Online Video is Now a ‘Must Have’ for Internet Marketing)

Videos Starring You Are Essential

One of the best ways to grab people’s attention is video.  I am fond of reminding people that a video is starring you, has the added advantage of making a virtual human connection that only a human face and voice can deliver. Video does this quickly and in the exact way that brief home page visitor encounters require.

For more on why a human face should be in videos and not just hidden behind a whiteboard animated video, I recommend Wistia’s recent post, Your Business’s Videos Should Include Faces. Here’s Why.

The authenticity of human connection in video is one of the main reasons that I’ve been promoting video for years. I love opportunities that help my clients tell their stories by producing “welcome to my website” videos. Recently, I’ve produced two of these videos for clients. I’m offering them here as examples of how to do this, including some detailed production insights.

Helping an Expert Witness to Testify

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Mark Levy, a forensic psychiatrist whose firm provides expert testimony for legal matters. His new company website for Forensic Psychiatry Associates Medical Corporation, fpamed.com, needed a new video for its home page. Mark was clear that his earlier “do-it-yourself” effort didn’t represent him in with a professionalism that reflected his services. This collaboration took the form of a low-budget video shoot with my Canon DSLR camera.

As you can see in the video above, Mark is an excellent speaker; however, one issue with his earlier video, was that it ended up being a bit unfocused. Without wanting to toot my own horn too loudly, I was pleased to be able to add value, as a director and performance coach.  I’m not just a cameraman who sets up the camera and records “pretty pictures.”

In this case, I felt more like a “crafter of communications” because I guided Mark in ways that ensured his video had a structure, a beginning, middle and end. Now, he has a website welcome video that includes an engaging and direct welcome message and a call to action at the end.

Beyond YouTube for Online Video Delivery

Another capability that I provided and applied to Mark Levy’s videos was optimizing them for YouTube search. Behind only Google, YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world. If you aren’t already aware of this fact, let it sink in. Many small businesses consider SEO optimization for their website, but most don’t think about optimizing their YouTube video clips to be found in search. This is a very common mistake and often overlooked by a video novice.

In addition to YouTube for attracting new viewers and potentially new website visitors, for Mark, I also recommended and implemented video hosting on Wistia.com so that when Mark’s video clips are embedded in his own website, they can be customized to match his website’s colors; and, more importantly, so that YouTube doesn’t have the opportunity to “steal” traffic away from Mark by pushing other psychiatrist’s videos to his viewers at the end of his clips.

Bottom line, Mark’s website is his own “owned” virtual real estate. Why let YouTube leverage it for their objectives? Owned media is a thing and we should all maximize this kind of control on our own websites as much as possible.

Wistia’s call-to-action and other integrated features within the video are more robust and attractive than YouTube’s. Because of this, videos look more seamless as they are integrated into websites.

Giving Wistia a try is easy given that their free introductory level includes three videos hosted on their video delivery platform. Beyond that, it’s $99 a month. This pricing may not work for every small business, but I recommend it for companies that have a serious commitment to video marketing. The image to the right is how this video looks embedded in Mark’s home page.

A More Scripted Approach & Cool Piece of Video Tech

I would also like to share a second video client case study. The second home page welcome video that I produced recently was for physical trainer, Adam Hirsch of adamhirsch.net. A significant difference, in this case, was that before the video shoot, Adam and I collaborated on a script.

Truth be told, while Adam is extremely knowledgeable about his expertise with physical training, his expansive perspective of this subject can also result in him being a bit verbose. Because of this, we needed to find a way to help him be more concise, especially given the online environment where, as I mentioned, holding people’s attention is at a premium. By collaborating on a script, we were able to co-create a straightforward and concise description of what Adam offers.  

However, this creates a different challenge. I didn’t expect (nor was there time) for Adam to memorize and deliver this script like a professional actor. So, while Adam’s new home page video was also shot with my Canon DSLR camera, we used a nifty little piece of technology in the form of a small affordable teleprompter that uses an iPhone for the scrolling text.

Another example of how advanced small electronics are becoming, the Parrot Teleprompter costs only $115 (plus shipping) and fits virtually any video camera. I loaded the written script onto my iPhone before the shoot, and used the voice-activated PromptSmartPro ($19.99, free version also available) so that the text scrolled right along with Adam’s pace of delivery. No teleprompter operator required.

Not only was the hardware a small fraction of what it used to cost, personnel costs were also significantly reduced. The use of a teleprompter, when appropriate, has become remarkably accessible!

I believe the result is a clear presentation, well-articulated and precisely-focused in a way that would not have been otherwise possible. Take a look and see what you think.

At Your Service

Bottom line, I approach online marketing as relationship building. The quality of communication, when done well, enables authentic connections to be built via whatever medium is at play and regardless of what technologies are used.

Sure, innovations like Wistia video hosting and the Parrot Teleprompter help make this happen, but there’s no substitute for quality content and that’s what we do.

I believe that the human beings who are such a crucial part of every forward-thinking organization or business needs to be “front and center,” right from that first nano-second that a web visitor spends on your website. After all, if you don’t engage with them in a personal way, right away, you will lose them.

Please let me know if I can help you or your organization. Thanks!

 

My 6 Favorite Digital Marketing Apps. Webinar Video + Free PDF

Researching, testing and figuring out “what’s the best app for that?” is part of my job.

I also LOVE sharing information and being helpful. Recently I hosted a video webinar where I shared the six digital marketing apps that I use daily for myself and for my clients. I’m writing this blog post to share this webinar video recording with you.

Also, please scroll down, because there are links below to the apps themselves as well as to other resources that I mention during the webinar. Enjoy!

FYI, the initial presentation with demos and info about all six apps is about 30 minutes in length. It is followed by about 15 minutes of edited Q&A.

Get Yours: Free PDF, 6 Recommended Digital Marketing Apps

Leland combridges marketing app infographic small

This PDF has Jon Leland's recommendations for his six favorite digital marketing apps in one easy-to-read, one-page reference doc. Get yours now.

To watch the video webinar where Jon Leland explains these recommendations, click here.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

For your convenience, here are the direct links to the applications that I talked about during this webinar:

Squarespace for Websites:
Blog Post: http://www.combridges.com/small-business-website-design…/
My 15-minute (recorded) webinar on Squarespace https://youtu.be/eOjMgce2E2A

ConvertKit for Email:
Affiliate link: http://mbsy.co/convertkit/76357
Blog Post: http://www.combridges.com/email-marketing-conversations…/

Canva for Social Media Graphics:
https://www.canva.com

Soapbox for Low Budget Video Production:
http://www.wistia.com/soapbox

Zoom for Video Webinars:
http://www.zoom.us

Thinkific Online Classes:
https://thinkific.com
https://combridges.thinkific.com/

If you have any questions or suggestions, I would love to hear from you via any medium you choose including this contact form or via any of the social media networking links at the top of this page.

Thanks for reading and/or watching! 🙂

Digital Marketing Content Strategy: Why Social Media VIDEO is The Next Big Thing

Facebook Live Social Video: I Gave It a Try. Here’s What Happened.

IT ALL STARTED ON INAUGURATION DAY…

I traveled from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to protest during Trump’s inauguration and to be part of the Women’s March on Washington. I did a number of Facebook Live webcasts and the response blew my mind. One of the videos in that series (the second one below) has had well over 4,000 “views.”

How did that happen?

I got “high” with some help from my friends. Well, one friend in particular, Jeffrey Grimshaw who used a technique called “social bookmarking” that he learned from me. Go figure. 😉

Here’s our conversation recorded using Zoom Webinar and webcast via Facebook Live:

Here’s the Facebook Live video from the Mall in Washington, D.C. immediately after Trump’s Inauguration:

I’ll share more soon. For now here are two significant outcomes from this experiment:

  1. There’s been so much enthusiasm for social media action in response to Trump, including two different requests for educational programs about “Social Media for Social Action” that I’ve created a quickie website that includes those two course descriptions. Please contact me if you’re interested in a course like this in some form, in some place, or virtually.
  2. I’m doubling down on “Social Video.” It is going to become a major focus, including in some form on my Patreon channel (hint: this channel/community/tribe is a place where you can support my work if you are so moved.)

Much more to come. Stay tuned.

Six Key Strategic Priorities for Better Online Marketing in 2017

It’s a New Year, and the online marketing landscape is ever-changing. So I took to the video “airwaves” to share what I think are the six most important areas where your efforts online can bear meaningful “fruit.” Watch now:

I am putting the full text of this video below for your convenience. If you’re interested in considering being part of my Tribe, my Patreon channel is now live here: http://www.patreon.com/jonleland

My Recommendations: Six Online Marketing Priorities for 2017

Happy New Year everybody, and welcome to a brand new year of online marketing. My name is Jon Leland and I’m an online marketing mentor and strategist, and I’m committed to your success online. I’ve got six priorities that are my priorities and they might well be yours for the new year. Let’s get to them.

#1: Consistency

I have to tell you that this has not been my strong suit in the past, but everybody says that this is what you have to do, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m going to be walking my talk this year to be consistent, to do weekly videos, to do regular blog posts and to continue a strong online social presence. Without consistency it’s too hit and miss and you don’t establish a real connection with your audience. That really is a key priority.

#2: Intimacy vis Mobile

We all know that websites need to be mobile-friendly these days, and responsive design has been a main thing for a number of years, but I’m saying you need to be more than mobile-friendly, you need to be intimate. What I mean by that is really thinking about the mobile experience as a primary factor, not just to have Google rank you better but because more than half your visitors are now visiting on some kind of mobile device, and your experience, what you’re communicating and how you’re communicating in a mobile environment, is really a primary factor in how you’re connecting with your audience. Get it together in mobile. Get your website truly mobile-friendly in you could say an intimate kind of way.

#3: Video Proliferation

I’m sure that you’re aware that Facebook Live has become a big thing, but I’m surprised how many people think that online video is still just YouTube. You need to upload your videos native to Facebook, run-and-gun videos on Instagram. Video is everywhere, and not just at the top of the funnel either. It’s frequently thought of just as something that you attract people into your funnel, but at every stage of the funnel you really want to have video be there and create this kind of one-to-one, eyeball-to-eyeball connection that’s possible with video. Think about video through your entire funnel. Think about video on every platform, and do it more often, the way I’m starting to do now.

#4: Be Agile

With mobile technologies, with the ability to shoot video on a smartphone, you can do video anywhere, anytime. I also mean be agile with your websites. I’m doing more and more Squarespace websites because I can do them quickly, I can collaborate with clients, it’s far less complicated than a lot of other platforms. That kind of do things quickly, do them simply, do them well. Don’t turn them into big elaborate game-stopping productions like the way print brochures used to be, or even that websites used to be. Keep it simple, be agile, keep moving, keep creating.

$5: What Happens Next?

A lot of people talk about you get Facebook likes; what happens next? How do you actually engage? I’m thinking about it as a strategist, that conversions are really where the rubber hits the road. Not enough people think strategically in terms of that intention. How do you move from whatever you’re doing in terms of content, from whatever you’re doing in terms of being creative, move that through the channel, move that through the funnel so you truly engage, truly create authentic relationships, and at the end of the day have conversions that you can literally take to the bank?

#6: Build a Tribe

Number six is probably the closest to my heart. I really am going to be engaging with community. I’m going to be creating a Patreon channel. I’ll put that in the description in YouTube or in Facebook or wherever I upload this video ( http://www.patreon.com/jonleland ). Those of you that have heard me speak or have done any of my workshops or playshops know that the bottom line as far as I’m concerned is creating authentic, sustainable relationships. It’s not just about selling stuff, it’s about creating community, about generating a tribe. I’m trying to be as valuable as I can be for free. I want you to give me your feedback, tell me what you want to hear more of. I look forward to your comments and feedback. I hope you’ll become part of my tribe, my virtual community, and I really encourage you to build your own.

And, In Conclusion

I’m wishing you the happiest, most successful 2017 possible. May all of your marketing bear real fruit and may you keep going and keep generating and have fun every step of the way. I’ll be back with more. Thanks for watching.

 

Social Media Strategy: So Much More than Tips & Tactics

Have you been seduced by promises of “get rich quick” formulas? If so, you are not alone. However, the truth of long term success is more of a “road less traveled.”

I wish I was here with a quick fix, but I’m not.

My experiences as a social media strategist and web marketing mentor tell me that if you want to make a real difference—both for our world and for your business—it’s going to take a commitment to a process, a journey involving experimentation and missteps, and perhaps most of all, a willingness to do some serious inquiry about why you are in this game in the first place.

Finding Marketing Inspiration

On my own journey to online marketing “well-being,” a couple of things have inspired me recently. They also inform the nature of the journey to meaningful, long term success.

The first inspiration came via a podcast that is also a Creative Live video. In this episode shown below, host and Creative Live founder Chase Jarvis interviews one of the true Internet marketing thought leaders, originator of the term “permission marketing” and author of 18 NYTimes best selling books, Seth Godin.

The part of this interview that jumped out at me is where Seth says at the end of the segment (15:51-21:09):

“We are living the most crowded creative universe in history… You are NOT entitled to ANY attention. You are NOT entitled to ANY leverage. BUT, if you dig ever deeper into the stuff that truly matters, you may EARN some attention.”

Ah, I love that phrase, “earning attention.” More noise, more content or even following some supposedly “magic” formula will not cut it in today’s marketplace.

Digging deeper in order to determine, over time, “the stuff that truly matters” is pretty much the only thing that will create authentic engagement.

In other words, if you’re not offering a product or service that is truly valuable and/or if your content doesn’t stand out as something exceptional, then it’s virtually impossible to be successful—no matter whose formula you follow. Even the most brilliant tips and tricks will not win you meaningful success.

Making Social Media Marketing Meaningful

The second inspiration that has uplifted me recently is the book, Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace.com and the “how to learn to meditate” app with the same name.

What impressed me about this book was the way that Puddicombe talks about what it takes for people to learn meditation and develop a meditation practice. I made an immediate connection to the way people try to learn social media marketing. Just like with meditation, people often give up quickly. In both cases—learning online marketing and learning meditation—people are required to become engaged in a process, take a journey. Again, no quick fixes, no “silver bullet.”

Usefully, Puddicombe breaks this process down into three stages so that people know it’s not a “one and done” kind of thing. First, he talks about learning how to approach learning mediation. Kind of like learning how to learn, but more explicitly he encourages people to think carefully about how they want to approach this kind of learning.

Then, in a second stage, he talks about how to develop meditation as a practice, how to implement it. And finally, he pulls it all together in a third stage, which is how to integrate your learning into your long term way of living.

In the case of social media marketing, this would be analogous to learning how to integrate your blogging or your social media posts into your ongoing business practices.

As a social media mentor and strategist, it seems to me that this kind of  three-stage, realistic approach makes very good sense. Especially because I see so much of what’s going on as being based on an expectation that goes something like this, “Hey, here’s a strategy (a formula etc). I’ll just sign up for this program; and before you know it, I’ll have a six figure income.”

That’s clearly bullshit, but even more than beyond those kinds of bullshit offers is the idea that we are committing to a process. It needs to become a practice. For example, Seth Godin recommends that people blog daily, and pretty much everyone says that meditation or exercise needs to be practiced regularly.

So, how do I recommend that you approach learning to do social media marketing?

I believe that ONLY with this kind of approach, will you be able to be who you truly are, communicate on a sustainable basis, and build the authentic long-term relationships that are necessary for meaningful success.

Inspired by Puddicombe’s approach, here’s my first draft of the three stages of how to develop a social media marketing practice:

  1. Learn How to Approach Learning Social Media & Your Messaging:
    • What really matters to you?
    • What meaningful value can you offer?
    • How is what you are doing different and an expression of your unique gifts?
    • Work with a coach or mentor to get started on the right foot, inspired by your own Authentic Voice.
  2. Get to Work by Experimenting Consistently So Content Creation Becomes a Practice:
    • Experiment in ways that nurture and develop your Authentic Voice.
    • Explore ways to enhance your value. Try blogging. Try video production. Experiment with webinars and video chats such as Facebook Live or Blab.im.
    • Develop a content calendar, a schedule and stick to it. Consistency is key.
    • Get feedback. Make requests of your audience for feedback via surveys. Develop a community or tribe of supporters you trust to give you useful input.
  3. Discovery How to Integrate Content Creation into Your Business Processes:
    • Allow content creation to evolve into a team effort.
    • Create alignment amongst your team—virtual or otherwise—so that your online marketing efforts are sustainable, easy and fun.
    • Establish business systems, “playbooks” and processes so that the high quality of your content can be maintained and continually improved.

The Marketing Road Less Traveled

As Robert Frost famously wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My commitment is to your success, not just more money (that too), but most importantly the invaluable opportunity to make our world a better place.

May all of your success be well-earned with the icing on the cake of enjoying the journey.

I welcome and appreciate feedback via my various social media accounts. I look forward to hearing from you.

Bringing Business Inspiration & Marketing Motivation to Mill Valley

Every small business person that I know sings a similar song: “I’m overwhelmed!”

Furthermore, for most of us, whether you are an entrepreneur or founder of a small business, the “rules” seem to keep changing. These days, there’s more to having your own business than just figuring out how to make money. For example, motivation matters and the whole meaning of “marketing” has changed. And that’s just for openers…

That’s why I’m honored, delighted and (no exaggeration) super-excited to be bringing my beloved friend, the extraordinary business coach, author, and leader, Andrea J. Lee to the SF Bay Area for a one-day workshop called “The New Rules of Business and Social Media Success.” She and I will be co-presenting an uplifting, informative and highly interactive “Playshop” that will include everything from decision making and relationship building to creating online video and social media marketing. All of this will be live and in-person on Monday, January 25th from 10am – 5pm in Mill Valley. You can register here. And, I even created this special video invitation just for you 😉

 

Please let me know if you have any questions whatsoever.

I look forward to seeing you there!

[callout title=”The New Rules of Business and Social Media Success” button=”I Want to Learn More or Register” link=”http://www.combridges.com/event” buttoncolor=”blue” target=”_blank”]An Inspiring, Highly Interactive, Experiential Playshop: Monday, January 25th, 10am – 5pm, Mill Valley, CA, USA[/callout]

Having a Blast on Blab: Learnings from the Launch of My New Social Media Video Show

I’ve been doing social media since the beginning of social media and I’ve never had a more uplifting experience of community and connection than the one I’ve had getting to know the new video conversation platform called Blab (http://Blab.im).

I created this graphic to promote last Friday's Blab session and shared across all of my social media accounts.

I created this graphic to promote last Friday’s Blab session.

Getting Started with Blab

Last Friday, I did my first regular Blab show ([email protected]) and it was surprisingly easy to do and successful. Word spread by social media, and we had people join in late in the show who said that they had heard buzz that we were “killing it” and that they should check it out. Unexpected delight. 😉

We had about 280 viewers who watched live at sometime during the 90 minutes we were on, a pretty steady audience of 60 or so more during the webcast; and, as of this writing, this program has now had over 308 viewers counting the Replay on Blab.im. And, as you will see below, I’ve also posted the recording to YouTube and thus the exposure continues to grow.

Those are just some of the reasons I’m excited.

Spontaneous Community

Part of the reason for this success was that I was honored to have author/speaker Joel Comm (“Twitter 3.0” and other books) as my featured guest. It was Joel who first told me about Blab… Well, actually I got the info from a post of his on Facebook. Joel has become kind of Blab Ambassador. If there’s a Blab “star,” Joel would be on the short list of “nominees.”

Then, to my surprise, as the Blab progressed (may I remind you that this was a live session), I was delighted to have blogging business veteran Darren Rowse join us (see image below). Darren is better known as Pro Blogger and has been a social media marketing thought leader for years. Others who just “happened by” included social media strategist Carlos Gil and digital marketing expert Pam Brossman who both offered some really useful insights and tips (a taste of which are included below). That’s the kind of spontaneous community “happening” it was and which the Blab platform fascilitated.

A Truly Transparent Company

Another guest that contributed a lot to my first Blab show was Brittnay Metz who is a Blab spokesperson and I guess you could say evangelist. For example, she’s the one who sends out emails to the Blab members, but she also spends a fair about of time on Blab itself participating, answering questions, taking feature requests, and generally monitoring and supporting the user base.

Brittnay told us, for example, that the company was really committed to staying at only 30 employees. She also talked about the fact that Blab’s engineers are going to be developing very sophisticated video analytics.

Positive Impressions of An Emerging New Video Technology

Both from what Brittnay said and from my own experience, it’s clear that Blab is making sure that their software really works. I’ve experimented with lots of video conversation platforms, and especially considering this is an early “beta,” Blab seems extremely stable. But Blab’s biggest strength is ease of use which, of course, is a very big deal.

All you need is a Twitter account and you’re in with full participation priviledges. Blab is also totally free as they grow their user base and there are no plans for a “premium” version on the horizon. In some ways, I think Blab may be the example of the “Instagram business model.” (Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1Billion.) I imagine that Blab is going to be acquired by a much larger company at some point, but when I asked Brittnay about this possibility, her response was a quite grounded. She said, “What makes you think we want to sell?” I left it at that.

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Minor Limitations, Major Advantages

The only significant limitations of Blab’s video implementation that I’ve found so far are that it does not work in the Mac Safari browser (because of the video format that Safari uses) andthere’s a mobile app for iOS, but not yet for Android. The best web browser for Blab is Chrome and the desktop version is more full-featured (as shown above).

Some of the features that I like most are the fact that it’s a conversation environment with four interactive video windows. It’s easy for people to come and go. The host has the ability to accept or reject “visitors” at his or her discretion, and most hosts are quite welcoming. We had people coming and going all through our program.

Powerful Twitter Integration

Blab derives its external social media power through its integration with Twitter. And that’s a big part of what makes Blab powerful as an audience or relationship-building tool. Blab engages users via Twitter with the build-in “Tell a Bird” feature that’s to the left of the video windows (on the desktop version). It’s not only a good way to share what you’re doing, but it actually demonstrates a kind of freedom to interact that is not possible on Facebook because on Twitter “friend requests” are not required in order to interact.

Chat, Recordings & More

Blab stays highly interactive as well with a very lively chat stream that runs along the right side of the four video windows.

After you host a Blab session, you get both an mp4 video file and an mp3 audio file of the recording. These files are available for you to download and can be posted anywhere (for example, on YouTube, SoundCloud, or wherever). The video recording doesn’t have the screen names nor the chat stream. You can see the difference between this version and the embed code version that’s also provide via embeds that I’ve included below.

Compared to Google Hangouts, in the production sense, Blab is less robust. For example, at this time (although Brittnay told us that this is coming at some future time), Blab lacks screen sharing. Likewise, the spiffy lower-third ID’s that are part of Hangouts are not on Blab, but you do automatically get labeled during the live sessions with your name and Blab ID (for example, mine is @joncombridges).

As a work around for the absence of lower-thirds, people have gotten into using apps like ManyCam and CamTwist Studio (Mac only) in order to put graphics into their video frame. In fact, Joel was doing was doing just that all during our program.

I also think it’s worth noting that, in some ways, Blab’s ID feature is substantially better than the lower-third Hangouts feature because it’s interactive. For example, if you like what someone is saying, you can simply click on that ID to follow them on Blab. There is also a link to their Twitter profile so you can follow or list them there as well. The Blab ID also let’s you address them directly in the live chat stream. You also can click on the lower right of any video image to give the speaker “props.” So, what Blab may lack in snazzy production features, it more than makes up for with ease of use and authentically interactive tools that enable real people to have real conversations, in real time.

What About Lead Capture?

One of the questions that I asked Joel and the others during my first Blab Show was about lead capture, or lack of those kinds of features in Blab. For example, I use Google Hangouts within the WebinarJam “envelope” in order to do lead capture when I do webinars because I want to be able follow up with the people who attend my programs via email. What I’m learning is that Blab is something completely different.

What Blab delivers, possibly “in spades,” is a completely new way to get exposure. And what’s really important is that that increased exposure is delivered via video so people can really get a sense of you and your expertise or value.

I’m finding that I’m making new friends with my fundamental practice of “Leading with Value” and that’s the most dynamic and perhaps the most important part of Blab. Blab really is about relationship building and making authentic connections. People are doing this on Blab in a way I haven’t seen before on any social media network. I really think it’s worth checking out.

A Video-Powered Way to Increase Your Visibility

As someone said during the program, the Blab experience is very much analogous to being at a party and meeting people. So in that sense, for marketers, Blab is  like a new form of the classic free intro call.

One other important dimension of delivering expanded visibility is, as Carlos recommended and I’m demonstrating below, via YouTube. In the future, I’m also going to upload the audio to SoundCloud. In addition, there are people who are using Blab to record podcasts by taking the recording and distributing it via iTunes and so forth. Bottom line, Blab is a new way to get the word out.

That having been said, I watched a Blab the other day that featured Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner and he talked about specifically getting enrollments for some of their conferences via Blab. Thus, Blab can be used as an on-ramp both to build your visibility and also, in at least some cases, to make specific offers that then people move down your engagement funnel.

I’m recommending Blab because I’m finding it to be a great way to meet and connect with people. There’s no doubt that in only a little over a week, I’ve made new friends; and, equally important, I’m definitely having fun. Blab is so engaging that it’s literally becoming an addictive kind of social media experience for some people and in that way it’s a great social media environment to be swimming in.

I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to keep this kind of energy going, and I hope to see you (literally via Blab video) next [email protected] (PT).

Useful Resources:

For the Convenience of Comparison
Please Find Below Two Versions of This Same Program, My First “[email protected]” Blab Program. The first is the embed provided by Blab and the second via upload to YouTube—are provided below for comparison.

Blab Embed:

YouTube Embed: