Friday, 10 May 2013

KOP: Choosing Your Media

Digital Video
If he can do it, you can too! Courtesy of Keenan Milligan at stock.xchng

You're a writer, and you want to start a blog, so obviously it's going to be written, right?

Well, slow down just a bit. Written blogs are just one of many options, and a blog that is just text with nothing else is a little bit boring, even if your writing is great.

So, today I'm going to go through some of the different media options you can include in your personal branding. You can go exclusively one but I'd recommend experimenting and adding a taste of most of them for a more pleasurable and multi-sensory experience of your brand.

Written Blogs:

These are by far and away still the most popular. Why?

Well:

- They are very easy to do.
- They don't require complicated equipment, just your computer.
- It is still the medium most people think about the internet in (even if that is changing).
- Very quick and easy to get your message across.
- And as a writer, posting regularly is great practice.

However, there are some down sides to having just text:

- Chunks of text look boring, putting people off before they even start to read.
- In text it can be more difficult to connect with your reader than say with a photograph.
- People who don't speak English won't appreciate it. (And yet nearly everyone loves Gungnam Style, well maybe except me.)
- You're only appealing to readers who are visual learners. A lot of people have better recall and associations with other senses, such as hearing.
- Finally, text blogs rely on search engines such as Google, which is the largest search engine yes, but it totally ignores the other quickly growing engines. YouTube and iTunes are quickly becoming important engines through which people can find you, if you let them!

Therefore, while text is probably going to be the base of your online presence, if you try incorporating some of the following, you will find you will be more easily found and have more engaged readers. Score!

Vlogging:

Video blogging is becoming an exciting (and not that new) way to present your information on the web. It allows your readers to really get a feel for your personality and is great for 'how to' posts. Just imagine me trying to describe to you how to do easy ballet exercise compared to just showing you?

Along with being a better way to get some messages across, it can also increase your exposure and reach. While the video can be loaded onto your blog, it is also available on YouTube. YouTube is a giant search engine and the backlink also gives your blog more authority in Google's eyes. 

The downside to vlogging for most people is that it can require spending money on equipment. Though, most people don't realise that they probably have everything they need to make a simple video. It might not be the greatest quality, but it's still a great place to start!

Vlogs can be recorded using your webcam, which is installed already on a lot of laptops these days. I didn't realise that I could use it, but ended up shooting my welcome to the Buffy Group website on mine. (Check it out at www.thebuffygroup.com, or on my YouTube Channel). Now it is a little dark, and I think it has done weird things to my eyes, but for the first time people can get a feel for me and realise what a funny accent I really have!

You can also record reasonable videos on your smartphone, which allows you to get out and about to shoot. Background noise can be a bit of an issue and the quality is not great. However, people are watching smartphone footage all the time now. So just get out there and experiment. They don't have to be done regularly, they can just be a fun extra that you add in to give more value to your reader.

The other difficulty most people face with vlogging is they are just afraid of seeing themselves on screen. To be honest, it is pretty weird and I shoot my videos about 100 times, each time thinking 'Seriously? When did my voice get so low?' or 'Why on earth do I keep wiggling my shoulders like that?' I've also become super conscious of how much I blink. But once you get into it, it becomes rather fun.

My big suggestion is to help you relax, take a few silly ones first.

Just for your amusement, here's one I shot while I was trying to do my newsletter thank you. (if you want to see the final approved version, then you'll have to sign up for the newsletter at www.thefivedaywriter.com :D):



Photos:

You probably don't need me to tell you that blog posts become a lot more interesting if you chuck in a few photographs. But I will, just in case :D

A picture tells a 1000 words. So if you are short on time, chuck in a photo!

They are great to have in among your blog text and at the beginning to help people instantly get what you are going to be talking about. However, they can also be the main point of discussion. If you can't think of anything to give your readers that day, why not give them a great image and ask them what they think about it? Or challenge them to write a short story inspired by it.

Moreover, with sites like Pinterest, this is another way to open up your readership. People are searching just for images, so if your image is labelled well, Google Image search will be sending people your way.

Some tips on photos:

I started (and still use) stock images from free websites for a lot of my posts. However, I'm being encouraged to start taking more and more of my own photographs. If you are using other people's images, you do have to be careful about copyright and appropriately sourcing your images. Just stealing them from a Google image search is not the way to go.


Podcasting:

To be honest and upfront, this is not something I've gotten into yet. However, the buzz on the street is that this is going to be the next big thing for making a rock solid platform and getting noticed.

iTunes is another really strong search engine, and the field (compared to blogging or YouTube videos) is still rather small so its easier to stand out.

Also, being able to listen to your posts frees your readers to connect with you at times when they aren't just sitting in front of a computer. They can download your session and take you for a walk with them.

My man Pat Flynn has a series of video tutorials taking you through all the steps necessary to set up your own podcast which are well worth checking out if you're interested. (I've just sent the link to my dad who is starting out on blogging and podcasting. Go Dad! If you want to support my dad, check out his blog Life, The Universe and God. He's an Anglican minister, so knows what he's talking about when it comes to God, though I think he's still a bit hazy on the life thing :D). 

Some difficulties with podcasting:
Again, like vlogging, to do it well does take equipment, and I think that people are more forgiving of bad video footage than they are of bad sound quality. Also, unlike videos, it's not so easy to just do one little talk here and one there. People want podcasts to come out regularly and be on a consistent set of topics. Videos, on the other hand, you can make them about anything and people would be happy to watch!

However, if you love to talk, you will find people who love to listen!

Conclusion:

I don't want you to feel overwhelmed. For a while I was trying to do absolutely everything and it just made me feel stressed. This is a project for a couple of years, not a couple of days.

And don't forget that these do not always need to be done in addition to your blog posting. Videos and podcasts can be uploaded and linked to from your blog and make up legitimate posts. They just add more interest and get you much better search results. And hey, what more can you really want from the internet than that?

Anyone got any other great tips for using multimedia? 

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