Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | July 9, 2020

Live Streaming, Part 2

Live Streaming Your Brand!

If you want to use social media to generate leads, build brand awareness or drive traffic to your site, have you considered live video streaming?

Over the last few years, live video has taken over social platforms and created a new way for brands to connect with their audiences. Small businesses working their way up can more easily attract and engage new prospects and persuade them to convert with live streams.  Here is some information that I love engaging my mind in and thought I would share with you. More than ever live streaming will help your marketing and your brand.

Why use live streaming?

Today’s consumers want to connect with the brands they invest in. Due to the rise of e-commerce, it’s now easier to pick and choose which businesses to engage with. Customers can afford to be picky about where they spend their money. If you don’t give them reasons to choose your brand, they’ll be quick to leave and go with your competitor.

Marketers are constantly seeking new ways to catch their customers’ attention and keep it. People consume a lot of media on the go, which means they have more opportunities to use social media and interact with brands. 

But how can you make people want to engage with your business? You need to earn their trust, which you can do with live streaming. Because there are endless ways to use it, it can become a regular part of your conversion optimization strategy.

Today more than 45% of marketers use live video. With the recent pandemic, that number continues to go up. It’s important to take advantage of its benefits since it’s popular with users and keeps them engaged.

Through live streams, you can show prospects who you are and what your brand stands for. It’s essential to personalize the experience so customers feel comfortable buying from you and returning for more.

These are some things you can do with live streaming:

  • Host Q&A sessions
  • Respond to users in real-time
  • Tell people your business’s backstory
  • Personalize interactions with viewers
  • Announce new product launches
  • Improve customer service

Now that we know some of the countless benefits of live streaming for your business, here are a few helpful tips to improve your strategy.

1. Research your audience.

For any business to succeed, it needs to know its audience. If you don’t know who you’re creating content for, you can’t expect to move prospects through the sales funnel. Your strategy will be all over the place and won’t cater to anyone, leaving you back at square one.

A recent study showed that nearly 45% of viewers of content want to see more video from marketers, and that includes live video. But you won’t know what kind of live video to make unless you understand your target audience and their needs.

When you know your audience, you can easily find out other useful information, such as the best time to go live and what topics to discuss. The last thing you want to do is go live without preparing for your streaming session. This will lead to disorganization and a drop in viewers. You need to look professional and give every Livestream a purpose.

These are some possible purposes of your Livestream:

  • Introduce your brand to new consumers
  • Increase your engagement
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Build your email list

Whatever your primary goal is, use what you know about your audience to achieve it. For example, if you want to increase engagement, you could hold a live Q&A session. People can submit their questions beforehand, and you prepare responses and then answer them during your stream. When you use a viewer’s question, it makes them feel heard, increases their interest in you and encourages them to further interact with your brand on social media.

Look at your existing social media followers and customers. You can tell a lot about them by looking at where they spend the most time and what they spend the most time on. Both your social media and website have analytics that can show you what works for your audience and what causes them to bounce. 

2. Choose the right platform.

At first, you may think you need to use every livestreaming platform available, but this is far from the truth. With any strategy, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. If you try using every platform there is, you will connect with fewer followers and won’t meet your goals.

The latest stats show that close to 80% of businesses use Facebook. Not all of them keep their content up as they should but they use it as a way to attract new members, while 35% rely on Twitter, making them the most popular platforms for lead generation. But that doesn’t mean you need to go live on these specific platforms. It’s still essential to use live video on the websites that are relevant to your brand and audience to drive the most traffic. 

It’s important to understand which social media platform best serves your audience and your purpose. These are the most popular platforms and the use cases they serve best:

  • Facebook Live: Facebook is known for its video content, so it’s no surprise that it’s great at attracting large audiences. When you want to reach a lot of viewers or send a marketing message, Facebook Live is a great option.
  • Instagram Live: Live videos on Instagram disappear when they’re finished, increasing urgency in users to act quickly. Instagram Live content should use vibrant colors and works best in small, casual segments.
  • Twitter Live: Twitter content is short and spontaneous, and its live video should be the same. Live content on Twitter works best for brief messages and for broadcasting events and launches.
  • YouTube Live: YouTube is a versatile platform and gives brands endless ways to use video marketing. Its live streaming service is great for brand update announcements, Q&As, storytelling, and more. 

With enough research and testing, you’ll be able to determine which platform is right for your brand and its audience. 

3. Pick a relevant topic.

Typically, stats show that around 45% of buyers look at 3 to 45 pieces of content before making a purchase decision? It takes time for them to trust your brand because they don’t want to spend their hard-earned money just anywhere. Livestreaming reduces the need for them to consume other content about your brand and makes it easier for you to turn viewers into paying customers. 

However, it’s only easy if you engage your audience with a relevant topic. You wouldn’t write a blog post about how to fix a tire if you run a cooking business, and the same goes for your live streams. You need to make sure the topic interests your viewers and makes them feel excited to attend. 

So how do you figure out what your audience wants from your live streams?

The simplest way to find out is to ask. You can create social posts asking users for their input, and even make it fun by turning it into a poll. You can also email your existing subscribers asking what they’d enjoy seeing from you on live video. 

Look at what social media posts have garnered the most attention, likes, and shares on your profile. What questions do people ask the most? What content receives the most traffic?

It’s also important to track trending topics in your industry, as hot topics attract more views and engagement. Practice social listening by using relevant tools and searching for hashtags and keywords related to your brand. 

-Roy

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | June 11, 2020

Explainer Videos Do Work!

We’ve all heard that the average human attention span is less than 20 seconds or even less when surfing through content on a mobile device. For most people, that is a “So What Moment”.

But for marketing teams, that statistic is the stuff of nightmares. Here is some great information I think you will find useful I found.

Competition for your audience’s attention has never been higher. And with people cutting the cord on cable or satellite TV, companies are now fighting for top spots around the digital watercoolers where people spend most of their time.

In other words, social media is the colosseum where companies battle for supremacy. And unless you’re operating with a million-dollar marketing budget, there’s no way to guarantee you’ll become the top brand in your industry.

Small businesses need every advantage they can get these days. Video marketing is a great way to establish your brand on social media, and it’s a flexible strategy to explore. But one of the clearest — and best performing — winners is explainer videos.

To help you make the most of your video marketing, here are 5 reasons why your company (and any small or startup business) needs explainer videos.

 Capture Attention Quickly

Very few people want to sit down and read a wall of text. Even if that content is a walkthrough, guide, or tutorial, it’s hard to commit to a 1,000+ word piece when a 3-minute video would be faster, clearer, and more enjoyable. That’s why most of us look for videos first.

Explainer videos meet all of those needs. But perhaps best of all, this style of content has a proven track record of capturing and holding — someone’s attention. The steady flow of information and some ambient music will put the audience into an almost meditative state.

Explain Complex Ideas

If you bombard people with statistics or complicated topics, you’ll lose their interest. That might mean skipping your video, closing the tab, or marking your ad “Not relevant.” And that isn’t just a missed opportunity — that is a lost customer.

A core piece of video marketing is using the time wisely, and whiteboard/explainer videos exist for the sole purpose of helping us do that. The combination of a simple animation, calming music, and sound effects create a calm tone that research has proven as an ideal learning environment and a simple and great way to boost your conversion rates.

And if you are trying to highlight the value of the product or service you are featuring, using an explainer video allows you to tell a story, create an experience, and show off what your company does.

Create Some Engagement

A key piece in creating engagement is choosing the right content. If you are producing videos that are relevant to your audience’s needs and interests, you are meeting their expectations and providing a benefit to them. That’s an important measure of success for any marketing platform.

Different businesses prioritize different statistics when it comes to engagement. But explainer videos give you a slight advantage, whether you’re interested in views, subscribers, or reactions.

Once you’ve caught someone’s attention and created a focused environment for that person, you’ve taken the right steps to make sure they’ll get to the end of the video on screen and take the steps you want them to.

Strengthen Evergreen Content

No, your explainer videos probably won’t be evergreen content. But that’s okay. One thing they will do is provide an additional resource that is easily digestible for both customers and leads. Explainer videos are generally considered closer to the type of content you would share on a blog, Facebook post, eBook, etc. And that means you can create a tutorial, tell a story, or highlight a new feature through the product/service your company provides.

It might not open up new opportunities for you, but this type of video presentation serves to add support to bigger parts of your content strategy. Coordinating video content with topics you’re focusing on in other platforms will provide a boost to your SEO rankings as well. And any extra push you can give to evergreen content you want to draw attention to will be an extra benefit.

Reduce Production Costs Of Your Video

Explainer videos don’t require building a studio or renting $20,000 in video equipment. (In reality, all you need is a graphic designer with some animation know-how.) And when it comes to producing video content, the only cheaper option is using a smartphone or your computer webcam.

Production costs play a big factor in determining how to allocate your budget. Video has proven to have some of the biggest upsides for marketing teams in any industry, and the benefits of that more than compensate for buying software, licensing music, or learning an animation program. Also coming into play is which social platforms you are going to use.

And as an added benefit, the best explainer videos tend to keep things simple. Your content might not go viral, but any traffic or engagement it creates will point people to your brand and hopefully motivate you to keep developing more videos.

If video marketing isn’t a big part of your strategy — or if it’s not something you can budget for right now — then a short explainer video might be an opportunity to get your feet wet in this sort of channel. The most you’ll need is some royalty-free music, sound effects, and animation, all of which you can produce yourself or license for much cheaper than you’d pay for a studio full of videography equipment.

Why Your Company Needs Explainer Videos

Explainer videos are a part of internet culture now. Some companies specialize in that sort of content, creating YouTube channels or Instagram accounts with millions of followers. And while that probably isn’t your goal, it’s a proof of concept that this type of video works well.

Viewers love clever content in small doses. And if you can find a way to leverage that into your marketing strategies, there’s a good chance that your audience will respond to it.

We’ve all watched a handful of explainer videos as work tutorials, educational videos, or random clips on YouTube and social media. The good news is that there’s no such thing as an “expert” in this field — with the right software, anyone can make a successful explainer video. So are you ready?

-Roy

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | May 27, 2020

Messaging Apps Are Growing! For Business!

  • The number of people who use instant messaging will grow 9% to 4.3 billion this year as the coronavirus pandemic boosts demand for mobile communication according to a recent article I read from Juniper Research. Digital payments will be key in maintaining growth as the pandemic subsides, giving people a reason to stick with instant messaging apps, the researcher said.
  • WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat are among the apps that are predicted to develop into e-commerce channels as digital payments let retailers extend their omnichannel strategies into messaging. Retailers can broaden their services from messaging alerts to payment authentication and processing with improved support for transactions, Juniper says in their recent post.
  • The number of smartphones equipped with rich communication services (RCS) technology that supports media-rich content and payment services will jump 45% to more than 740 million in 2020 from a year earlier. Despite that growth, RCS will only be available in 16% of smartphones worldwide this year, per Juniper.

Insight:

Instant messaging is a popular feature on smartphones with growth dependent on expanded capabilities like digital payments, Juniper’s study suggests. Payment support would give mobile marketers more ways to convert passive users into active shoppers and to maintain an ongoing relationship with their most loyal customers who opt-in to receive alerts and notifications about special offers.

Marketers should develop strategies specific to instant messaging, Juniper recommends, with 84% of smartphone owners using communication apps this year. Apps like Tencent’s WeChat that is popular in China demonstrates how messaging can be transformed to offer a broad range of services including digital payments, shopping, travel booking, and food delivery, among others. WeChat lets marketers create “mini-programs” that work inside the app, expanding the capabilities of Android phones that have limited to SMS or MMS text services.

It is stated that marketers should not wait for RCS to hit the mainstream — despite it being a major upgrade to messaging services on Android phones — to expand beyond its current limited user base before developing a marketing strategy for instant messaging. While RCS isn’t supported by Apple, which has its own media-rich messaging app for iOS devices, the technology is likely to become more popular on Android devices with the support of the mobile industry. Mobile marketers need to prepare for the possibility that RCS may become more popular among consumers, opening up a sales channel that supports digital transactions and media-rich communications. With all this said, I found this study to be really amazing as we turn more and more to mobility and chat to communicate not only with friends and associates but through business as well.

-Roy

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | May 7, 2020

Using You Tube To Expand Your Brand! Videos Work!

Have you ever heard the phrase “show, don’t tell”? Well that phrase is the exact reason that YouTube is the secret to your branding success. You just need a little creativity and patience.

Branding for small businesses revolves around two trains of thought. One is that your brand should be representative of who you are completely and be very straight forward and to the point. And the other is that your brand should tell a story. YouTube is a really way to reinforce whichever avenue you prefer.

Because YouTube is a great way to engage your audience with your company brand. Everything from company culture videos, product reviews, thought leadership videos, webinars, or skill sharing videos can be a great way to reaffirm who you are as a company. Show people who you are via YouTube.

5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day, which is a lot of people and a captive audience. A lot of your existing customers will already be on YouTube as well. It’s widely reported that the average attention span on consumers viewing videos is 8.25 seconds which isn’t very long at all. But those 8.25 seconds will be much more effective if you’re using them to engage your audience in a video, as opposed to plain text on a website.

Using videos to reinforce your branding is something that the biggest and the best businesses already do on a regular basis. Take a company like Nike. They use their YouTube platform to provide workout videos – featuring their equipment and clothing. By providing this additional value for Nike customers, the company is branding itself as the “go to” for fitness.

And it’s not only the content you create that can help reinforce your business branding. Your YouTube channel features a channel banner image that you can use to promote your other social networks, or as a way to share your business tag line. There’s also an “about” section where you can include links outside of YouTube, and really share more information about who you are as a brand.

Most Social Platforms Are Free To Use

YouTube, of course, isn’t the only place that you can use video marketing as a branding tool. Most social media sites allow native videos. Native videos are ones that have been uploaded directly on to the social media platform, as opposed to being shared via a YouTube link. What’s more is that sites tend to love native videos and will prioritize them in the algorithm. After all, if people are watching videos you’ve uploaded on LinkedIn, people are spending more time “on site” on LinkedIn. And LinkedIn’s main goal is to get users who spend a lot of time on their site.

One of the main problems’ companies face when trying to develop or establish a brand is it’s very difficult to get audience to buy in to your brand. The easiest way to overcome this problem is to explain to your audience why they should trust you. Creating videos is one of the best ways you can do that

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | April 30, 2020

Doing Virtual Meetings Without The Stress!

Virtual Meetings For Business

As the world transitions to more remote work from home, companies are feeling growing pains. Whether you’re new to the concept of working from home or not, we’ve all been a part of failed virtual meetings that wasted time due to technical and logistical difficulties. 

Using remote meeting or virtual meetings set up with the help of conference calls or video chats, are hypothetically good substitutes for in-person meetings, but they tend to be riddled with issues. Someone keeps glitching out. Someone else has screaming kids and barking dogs in the background. And the delay between speaking participants rivals space transmissions, ultimately resulting in people talking over one another. 

Remote meetings are necessary right now, but business leaders can’t pretend that all of them are going to go off without a hitch. They typically don’t.  It’s a chaotic mess. But there are some helpful methods that can iron (most of) these issues out and ease those remote work growing pains. 

Choose the Appropriate Platform 

First, you need to choose the right platform. There are hundreds of conferencing and collaboration options available to businesses, and not all of them make great options. For example, you could host a simple conference call using your phones, but this can be unreliable if the connection isn’t great. Zoom has become a popular video conferencing option, especially in the most recent boom in remote work. There’s also Happeo, a collaboration tool designed for remote teams to work together more efficiently. And, of course, the G Suite has several built-in options for communication, such as Google Hangouts

But at the end of the day, there isn’t a single “right” option. You’ll need to choose a tool based on the needs of your organization and your specific team members. Give all your options a free trial, when possible, and evaluate them in terms of ease of use, connection reliability, and accessibility. 

Designate a Meeting Leader

Next, designate a meeting leader who will be responsible for not only setting and enforcing the meeting’s agenda, but also leading the discussion. In free-for-all meetings, people are allowed to speak up whenever and however they want, and the functional “leader” may change frequently throughout the discussion. This might work fine in a live environment, where immediate feedback and body language can dictate the flow, but remote conferencing does have different demands due to the technology.

Things tend to flow much smoother when a specific person is put in control. He or she will be asking the questions, directing the conversation, and (when necessary) muting people to maintain productivity. 

Set a Clear Agenda

It’s always been important to set a clear agenda for your meetings, but it’s even more important now that you’re meeting remotely. If you’re just meeting for the sake of having a meeting, people either won’t know what to say or will lead a conversation dictated by improvisation and rambling. 

You can save time and cut the fluff by giving each meeting a specific purpose. What specific questions are you trying to answer? Which problems are you going to solve by the end of this discussion? Make sure each meeting attendant understands these functions before the meeting begins, and make sure everyone understands his or her role in reaching these goals. 

Minimize Attendance 

Speaking of attendance, one of the easiest ways to cut down on chaos in a digital meeting is to reduce the number of people in attendance. Again, this is a great technique for those in person meetings but it’s even more important in a remote environment. Each person in your meeting is another variable to account for, another voice that could potentially disrupt the flow.

By minimizing those voices, you reduce chaos. Before inviting a new person, ask yourself: What is this person going to bring to the table? Why is this person, specifically, necessary to the discussion?  If you want more people informed by the meeting, rather than actively participating in it, you can send a recording of the meeting after the fact. 

Encourage the Use of Muting 

There are mixed opinions on the efficacy of muting during conference calls. On the one hand, muting cuts down on background noise and reduces the possibility of an embarrassing slip of the lounge. On the other hand, excessive personal muting can stifle the otherwise valuable natural spontaneity of conversation. Still, if each meeting participant is vigilant about controlling his or her personal muting, meetings can generally run much smoother. Like everything in the professional world, Getting the most out of virtual meetings is something that takes time and practice. Your first team conference call is probably going to be a mess, and as you experiment with new tools and techniques, you’ll likely find dozens of strategies that don’t work (or make things actively worse).

It’s important to remain patient and optimistic, trying new approaches and evaluating them for productivity and effectiveness. In time, your teammates will move past the chaos to make the most of meetings — even when they’re not together.

-Roy 

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | April 23, 2020

Business & The Upcoming Recession About To Hit!

A global recession beginning in the second quarter of 2020 is now a near certainty. What is unknown is its severity and duration. Managing the extraordinary challenges ahead will place unprecedented demands on leadership of small to large corporations. This is a fact. In the short-term, business leaders need to focus on crisis management, managing the immediate impact on staff, business operations and financials. Over the next 12 months, leaders will need to develop scenarios and plans to manage through the recession. Almost all forecasters have stated that this will begin in the second quarter. Beyond this time frame, leaders will need to craft a post-crisis/recession strategy revision that includes scenarios to deal with the lasting effects of the crisis and recession.

Once the crisis subsides and its consequences become clearer, companies must update their strategies in ways that help them adapt to new realities. Leaders will need to reconsider possible changes to their supply chain design to limit future disruptions, as well as global strategies, particularly if political and public sentiment changes due to the pandemic. Again, almost every professional in business strategy agrees with this. Companies will also have to be more agile and possibly accelerate structural changes to the operating model, including “agility-improving digital transformation. Leaders, managers, and or CEO’s will also have to plan for other factors, including:

  • M&A: Acquisition opportunities for the strongest companies and a need for divestitures among the hardest-hit will change the competitive landscape.
  • Financing: Possible bailout conditions, uncertainty about financial markets, and access to both debt and equity financing may require structural changes in financing strategies.
  • Talent: Downsizing in most industries during the coming recession will involve hard decisions about which staff to retain and which to let go. Choices made will have a permanent impact on companies, so should be made very deliberately and strategically.
  • Business continuity: Companies will need to fundamentally reassess their risk exposure and business continuity plans.
  • Government regulation: It is highly probable that new government regulation will come out in the aftermath of the crisis, most of it industry-specific. Depending on industry, this may force a revision of business strategies. For example, restrictions on global trade may require supply-chain design changes, and environmental health and safety regulations may force updates to labor policies.
  • Political landscape: Permanent change to the political landscape and institutions will occur, including the European Union, resulting in far-reaching strategic consequences for companies operating in or trading with EU member states.

While business leaders must manage through the immediate crisis, they must also start developing or updating scenarios and contingency plans appropriate for the mid- and longer term. In fact, the crisis may trigger a chain of events that result in a meltdown of financial markets, major social unrest, or any number of other unparalleled challenges. In this case, crisis conditions will persist after the virus has been brought under control,” they write. “We are in uncharted territory, so while hoping for the best, management must also be prepared for the worst. I fully realize many factors can change this scenario, but let us be realistic as well.

-Roy

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | April 9, 2020

You Are Working From Home? You Are The Boss? You Need To Communicate!

According to a 2019 survey, 81% of onsite workers thought that the ability to work remotely would make them happier. Happiness aside, however, small businesses now must figure out how to make these work-from-home dreams a reality—and on a severely condensed timeline—in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Here is some information I found that I really think you will find very useful and interesting.

With 45 states to date issuing stay-at-home orders in response to the COVID-19 crisis, more of America’s workforce is working remotely than ever before. But what do you do if remote work capabilities weren’t part of your company’s DNA before the current public health emergency?

While you work through the financial impact that the current economic uncertainty has on your business and the small business relief programs that are available, you’ll still need to keep your virtual doors open and your team productive even when your physical doors may be closed.

These tips can help your small business quickly establish work-from-home protocols, especially if your company has never operated remotely. You’ll find communication best practices, tools for staying connected and tech to help keep your business moving through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Rethink ‘Communication’

In an office or storefront, everything is more visible and accessible. You can stop by a colleague’s office for a quick clarification or rally your team for an impromptu meeting in the break room. Even body language informs your typical in-office day-to-day communications.  As phone calls, chats and videoconferencing replace in-person interactions, the ability to “read the room” becomes more complicated for both leaders and their teams. Communication can slow. Intention and interpretation of messages can become muddled. The shift to remote work demands small-business leaders rethink both how and how much they communicate.These tips can help you rethink the ways and the frequency with which you communicate:s

Set boundaries. 

Establishing a schedule for the workday helps the entire team show up for work when their living room becomes their office. Consider ditching text messaging in favor of email or a work-specific chat app, so that employees feel they can protect their personal devices and time after the workday is done.

Set clear expectations. 

From priority projects, to normal work hours and delivery timelines, don’t leave anything to chance. Clearly stating expectations can help your entire team orient themselves toward a common goal.

Trade in-person discussions for phone calls.

Every time you’d typically go see a colleague to resolve an issue, abandon the tech and go old school with a phone call. With a real-time conversation, you can quickly find a resolution while avoiding miscommunications that often can arise with chats and emails.

Rethink urgency. 

Since remote work removes the comfort of physical proximity, it’s more important than ever to promptly return your team members’ calls and emails and participate on that chat thread about a pressing project. Prompt replies will help alleviate some of the anxiety that comes from not being able to see your colleagues when a concern arises. Promptness also lets employees know you’re tuned in to their dedication to the company’s objectives.

Invest in virtual connection. 

Maybe it’s a video huddle every morning to replace the typical break room chatter or a weekly happy hour to collectively wind down; however, you accomplish your virtual “connections” with your team, know that these routines are important during times where your team lacks a daily physical workspace to gather. Work-from-home orders can’t erase the comfort that comes with seeing the people who show up every day to make your company run.

Double-down on the grace.

 Working from home, especially in the times of COVID-19, means more distractions. Kids home from school, pets excited about a favorite toy, the inevitable leaf blowers and other intrusions are going to invade your conference calls with situations you never encounter at the office. Take a deep breath and remind yourself (and everyone on your team) that people are doing the best they can within their given environments. A bit of grace in the face of unexpected disruptions will bring some much-needed humanity to these unprecedented times.

Now that you’re equipped with practical leadership tools to help you rethink your work-from-home communication protocols, you can tend to the daily business of making your business run remotely. 

Stay Connected.

As you establish priorities and craft a plan for your business to continue operations, you’ll need to keep your team connected to keep goals on track. The good news is that several low- to no-cost tools can help you immediately ramp up your virtual communications.

Chat apps, videoconferencing platforms and conference call lines can help keep the communications flowing and offer a wide range of formality to mimic the different ways you typically communicate in the workplace.

Chat Apps.

Instant messaging and chat apps can help your team stay connected and get quick answers to simple questions that crop up throughout the business day. As you consider which chat or messaging app to adopt, consider your business’s security demands. You’ll want to weigh the security features of each platform with the need for privacy and then establish protocols with your team for topics that should not be discussed via a digital messaging platform.

The messaging apps below are no-cost and among the most widely used among small businesses:

  • WhatsApp. This secure messaging app is owned by Facebook and lets you quickly create group chats and empower your team to connect via a desktop or mobile app. WhatsApp boasts a range of message encryption features, along with videoconferencing, document sharing and more. For questions where a reply is more involved than a single sentence but not worthy of a phone call, voice memos let you record a reply and hit “send” to resolve issues with deft speed. 
  • Slack. Accessible through both desktop and mobile apps, Slack offers a free version that could be a powerful solution if your business has multiple projects with specific team members engaged with each. Slack lets users create “channels” so that they’re only involved in messages specific to that channel. The free version also allows for 1:1 videoconferencing and file sharing within your channels.
  • Signal. If the nature of your business demands a more secure messaging app, you can turn to the choice that journalists use to communicate with anonymous sources. Signal has privacy baked into its DNA, and there’s no need to opt in to its robust encryption. The platform offers options for group chats, video calls, file sharing and voice memos. The only drawback for Signal is it’s only a mobile app and offers no desktop version.

Videoconferencing

When your team needs some face time, videoconferencing can help you bridge the gap between working in the office and from home. While many chat apps come with videoconferencing features, you may prefer to use a platform where videoconferencing is the primary function for your virtual face-to-face needs. The features are typically a bit more robust than messaging apps and also incorporate chat features into your calls.

Zoom.

By and large the most talked about videoconferencing service in recent weeks, Zoom offers small businesses a free version to keep your teams connected. While the free version limits group calls to a maximum duration of 40 minutes, you can have a unlimited 1:1 meeting. You’ll also enjoy features like call recording and screen sharing. Before using, be sure to review Zoom’s guidelines for hosting a secure video conference to avoid having unwelcome attendees join your meetings. While Zoom has been in some hot water over this very issue with privacy and unsecured data, it still continues to very popular and they are said to be working out those issues.

Skype.

The most well-known videoconferencing platform, Skype has everything you need to get your team visually connected. With call recording, file sharing, screen sharing and built-in chat functions, your team can easily connect via group calls with no time limits. A bonus? If your home office isn’t in tip-top shape, Skype has a built-in background blur function to keep the focus on you, not your pile of laundry. Skype is accessible via desktop or mobile app.

Google Hangouts.

(yes, it is still around) Like Zoom and Skype, Google Hangouts offers robust videoconferencing capabilities. At no cost, your team can be up and on video in a matter of minutes, and all it takes is a Google account (you already have one if you have a Gmail email address). To stay in touch throughout the workday, your team can install the Hangouts app from the Chrome Extension Store (Note: You must use the Google Chrome browser) to get alerts for new conversations and meetings. Google Hangouts is accessible via desktop and mobile app. There is also Go To Meeting, WebX and others.

Once you find your perfect videoconferencing match you are good to go but let us look at some other tips that can help as well.

Conference Calls

If videoconferencing puts a strain on your at-home internet service, you might discover your colleagues look more pixelated than professional on-screen. If that’s the case, a no-video conference call may be a better solution. These services also can save your productivity bacon if there’s a service outage with your internet provider.

  • UberConference. The free version of UberConference is offering expanded call times and up to 50 participants to help small businesses stay connected in the times of COVID-19. With no tedious PINs or software downloads, small businesses can use either the web-based platform for video or voice-only calls, or a standard dedicated phone number for dial-in meeting access. Even if you don’t use the video capabilities, the web interface allows call recording and screen sharing.
  • Free Conference Call. The long-time favorite for small businesses for no-cost conference calling solutions, Free Conference Call offers dial-up voice-only calls from your phone, and voice and video calling via its online platform. They offer call recording, breakout rooms and screen sharing, plus a mobile app for those looking for a more full-service option from their phones.

Keep Your Business Moving

Now that you have the tools to keep your remote team in touch, you’ll need tools to track productivity and keep everyone at home on task. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers some simple tips for keeping the work at home teams productive like daily check-ins and a recommended dress code. One of the leading tips for small businesses, however, is to leverage the range of productivity tools designed for small businesses. With built-in tasks, reminders and accountability features, these tools can help empower employees to adapt to remote work and remain productive in their new environments.

Trello.

Designed to be a simple project management tool, Trello can help small teams track projects (on Boards) and tasks (on Cards). Trello makes it easy to track assignments and keep track of progress in a highly visual, easy-to-read interface. If your business has never used project management software before COVID-19, Trello can quickly get you organized and keep business flowing.

Basecamp Business.

For small businesses with multiple moving parts and clients, Basecamp Business offers a 30-day free trial to help you get up to full speed during your work-from-home stint. With the power to create multiple individual projects for several clients or business segments, Basecamp is designed to help a single business track productivity across multiple projects from a single dashboard.

BoxDropbox Business and Google Drive.

Remote businesses need collaboration tools, which is where file-sharing comes into play. Box, Dropbox and Google Drive all offer ways to share files with multiple team members without jamming up someone’s email inbox with overly large files. Google Drive offers free storage for up to 15 MB of documents. Box offers 100 MB of storage and a 14-day free trial, and Dropbox offers up to 5 TB of storage and a 30-day free trial before you have to choose a paid plan.

DocuSign and HelloSign.

 Need customer signatures but stay-at-home orders have your hands tied? Online signature services can get documents out to your customers fast. Both DocuSign and HelloSign offer free 30-day trials before you have to commit to a paid plan.  

The above as well as some other out there will help you stay connected and keep previous projects moving. You may, however, want to take a minute to go the extra mile for one of your most valuable company assets: your employees. 

Boost Employee Morale

Tips, tricks and tools aside, don’t forget to spend some time during this work-from-home time to nurture your team—even from afar. While you’ll be skipping the cake and candles to celebrate happy occasions, you can take some steps to make sure your team feels connected throughout the week. 

Here are three fun ideas to inspire connection while your business adapts to its new work-from-home normal:

  • Virtual happy hours. Whether on a random evening or at the end of the day on a Friday, try using your new videoconferencing solution of choice to host a virtual happy hour for your team. You can share cocktail recipes, create themes (costumes, cool custom backgrounds and, most importantly, have some time to decompress as a team and connect on a more personal level.
  • Bring your pet to work days. While pets may be at your new home office daily these days, why not take a moment to celebrate the creatures keeping your team sane? You can designate time at the beginning of one conference call a week to feature team member pets. A little fur family can lighten the mood and break up the long days inside the same four walls.
  • Viewing parties. If you find your team talking about the same TV shows or movies, try hosting a viewing party for your so-inclined office friends. Apps like Facebook Live, Instagram, YouTube and other make online viewing parties a breeze and can keep the camaraderie levels on high with Hollywood’s nonstop action.

While there’s no time line for how long your business might be working remotely, the tools above—both intellectual and practical—will help you ease your team’s transition and maximize productivity. 

If (or when) you find your chosen techniques and tools aren’t working as well as you’d hoped, go back to communication. Ask questions, collaborate with your team and, together, you’ll chart a path forward that keeps you physically apart for as long as necessary but working together in the best ways possible.

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | April 3, 2020

New to video streaming? Here are some tips!

During the COVID -19 pandemic, some SMBs focus is shifting to remote work. For many small businesses that means learning a new norm including live streaming from home. Small Business owners who are not used to using this media may find themselves at a loss as to what and how to do proceed with live steaming from home to keep their business afloat yet keep their employees safe and the customer flow going. Here are some great tips we found.

Look Good Live Streaming

Start by highlighting some advantages to consider given the pandemic.In the time of social distancing, video conferencing can help you have more open and engaging conversations with customers than simple emails do. For brainstorming with your team, video conferencing can also help you connect and communicate in ways emails don’t allow for, because they are fluid and live.

Choose a Tool

If you’re brand-new to video conferencing, selecting the right tool is the first step. You should pick one that’s popular. Try and use one that other people already have, like Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. And remember to skip free trial versions, as they can limit call time.

Position Your Camera

 Your camera needs to be at eye level. It shouldn’t be above or below you. Lie with big television studios, the trick is you should put your monitor or laptop on some books if you need to so it is in fact eye level so it appears you are looking right into the camera and at your audience. Look at the camera and not the screen. That way it looks like you’re making eye contact. You’ll also need to remember there’s some differences from other technical aspects of meetings. Remember, A live stream is not the same as a conference call. It’s a live video of you doing something. Looking good on camera in a business-related. Live stream can help your customers feel comfortable working with you.

Practice A ‘Script’

With the live stream you need to keep it going and professional. To avoid long pauses, practice your key points ahead of time. And have a simple checklist off camera that you use to organize your thoughts as you deliver the live stream.”

Choose the Right Locale

It’s better to live stream from your computer and not your smart phone. This type of videoconferencing looks more professional from a quiet place. Picking the right location in your home means a place away from pets, the kids and other distractions. You might want to fashion a home office location if you haven’t already.

Play to Your Base

Like any media, the best tip for getting started is, ‘know your audience. As a small business owner, you know your audience. You know if they prefer professional or funky. You know if they’re stay-at-home parents, or on-the-go people. Cater your video content and video conferences to your audience and be willing to test different tactics until you find what works for you.

In Conclusion

Finally, small businesses need to remember the differences between a live stream for national television and one for your client base. A national news appearance is all about understanding different factors like the short amount of time you have.

A ‘live stream’ for your business might go on for two hours while you assemble a car engine. A news segment might be over in one minute. They’re very different animals.

I hope these tips help you get off on the right foot with live streaming. Especially if it is something new to your business and marketing scheme.

-Roy 

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | March 20, 2020

Keep Your Business Doors Open By Going Virtual With Meetings & Marketing!

As more organizations postpone or cancel events to contain the spread of the coronavirus, officially called Covid-19, many companies,non-profits, heck even small business owners are moving their events they had planned entirely online. On March 15, the CDC recommended cancelling or postponing events of more than 50 people for the next two months. The White House has urged people to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. The good news is you can still hold events by bringing them online.

Virtual may be more affordable and simpler. They lack the hassles caused by travel, hotels and dining. However, virtual events present their own set of challenges. Don’t expect that throwing together a few webinars or posting a couple of Power Point Slide charts online will produce success. It will more than likely will bore your followers and you will lose them quickly. So what and how can you achieve any kind of success? Here are a few tips I found and we typically use as best practices with our own customers and clients when they call upon us for digital help.

Test the platforms. In addition to webinar platforms, social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, offer video and live streaming services. They offer many of the same basic features. Selection is a matter of personal preference. Most services offer a free trial allowing you perform dry runs before the event. This allows you to familiarize yourself with their basic functionality and test their services, such as the timeliness and helpfulness of live technical support. Most smaller companies simply go on Facebook or Instagram and do a simple smart phone shoot which can work if you do it right.

Keep Sessions Short.. Holding the audience attention is far more difficult at online events, Many – maybe most – people multi-task during online meetings. A 60-minute keynote or breakout session, standard fare at face-to-face events, won’t work for a virtual event. Shorten time slots by 15 or 30 minutes. Try a “webinine,” a webinar that lasts just nine minutes. This best practice is for larger more marketing oriented companies.

Do A Dry-Run. A dry run can spot faulty equipment links and other issues. Even veteran presenters may not understand the nuances of various online event software platforms. Be sure to test the audio. Visitors will leave if they can’t hear, he warns. Do presenter run-throughs in the same room and with the same computer that will be used for the event. Consider sending USB headset microphones to presenters. Seriously, this helps them so much and keeps them on track and their voice balanced as many times you will have a few second delay on live streaming. It is shocking how often presenters at online events just figure they can talk into their laptop, with no regard for room acoustics, background noise, dogs barking, people walking around in a room or if you are outside, it can even be worse. Consider your surroundings. We have also found sadly that many presenters who are animated at in-person events are flat in their online delivery. Record the run-through and let them see themselves as the viewers see them. Urge them to punch up their delivery. Often this can be achieved by simply having them stand for their delivery as they would in an in-person meeting, instead of sitting at their computer.

Publicize the event. Publicize the online event through blogging, social media posts, email blasts and earned media mentions. Encourage social media followers to share news of the event with a branded hashtag. If your budget allows, paid advertising is an option. Make sure session titles and descriptions for your virtual conference programming are fully descriptive and compelling. Tell the target audience what they will learn and how they will benefit from the virtual conference.

Stand out with a specific topic. Narrow the focus to a niche topic such as strength training for women. If you are doing an event for health, Make sure you stick to a single niche topic. A virtual event for everyone is really for nobody.”

Exciting Offers.Create irresistible offers to attract attendees.”

Some ideas could include or be: :

       Audio files of sessions,

       Transcripts of sessions,

      PDF action guides.

     Special offers from sponsors or partners.

Now don’t do the above just to do it. It will backfire on you. Do something special. Even a gift card give-a-way is fun.

Make it social. Virtual events may lack the networking and social benefits of face-to-face events. But organizers can still replicate at least some social aspects with abundant use of webinar platform’s chat and Q&A features. To spark exchanges, ask relevant, provocative questions when sessions begin and while they continue. After sessions conclude, participants can continue interactions in private Facebook or LinkedIn groups.

Monitor internet chatter. Social Media platform listening can reveal what attendees talk about during and after the event. Their comments can provide ideas for new online sessions and other ideas on how to improve your virtual event.

Consider experienced help. OK our selfless plug. If you are considering doing something on line during these difficult times, feel free to reach out to us. We can help your business or organization.

In Conclusion: Virtual conferences and other online events offer an option for organizations postponing or canceling in-person gatherings to stem the spread of Covid-19. But organizing virtual events presents unique challenges. Thorough technical, speaker and content preparation along with strong publicity will make most virtual meetings successful.

-Roy

Posted by: FDMC Digital Media LLC | February 27, 2020

Video Is King And Here Is The Proof From This Report

Although I kind of knew this already, a report I recently came across and read just verifies my though process. Video is dominating mobile Internet use, according to a new Sandvine mobile video report. Video is 60% of downstream traffic and 62% of traffic overall, according to the report, titled Sandvine Mobile Internet Phenomena Report.

Sandvine dug into the details of the nature of the growth. “Instagram grew in the upstream as more consumers share images and videos,” the report reads. “TikTok, Snapchat (video), FaceTime, and even Facebook Live were all in the top 50 applications worldwide on the upstream that are video-sharing-centric. Social networking represented 12.74% of overall traffic and 16% of upstream traffic. Other categories that grew were messaging applications, which were especially strong on the upstream and increasingly are video-based. Marketplace traffic (both for purchases and updates) and gaming both grew.” Global application traffic share broke down in this way among the top ten:

·        video streaming (62.06% of total traffic, 65.5% of downstream traffic, 22.4% of upstream traffic);

·        social (12.74%, 12.9%, 16.8%);

·        messaging (6.77%, 5.9%, 16.9%);

·        marketplace (5.64%, 5.9%, 1.9%),

·        Web (5.46%, 4.2%, 19.5%);

·        gaming (3.29%, 3.7%, 3.3%);

·        cloud (1.80%, 0.3%, 7.0%);

·        security/VPN (1.34%, 0.8%, 7.9%);

·        file sharing (0.86%, 0.6%, 3.8%);

·        audio streaming (0.04%, 0.2%, 0.5%)

Sandvine Mobile Video Report**

The top 10 app traffic generators globally:

·        YouTube (25.49% of total traffic, 27.1% of downstream traffic, 7.4% of upstream traffic);

·        Facebook Video (17.54%, 18.6%, 5.4%);

·        Instagram (7.1%, 7.1%, 8.0%);

·        Facebook (5.2%, 5.2%, 4.5%);

·        Netflix (4.0%, 4.3% 0.7%);

·        HTTP media stream: (3.9%, 3.9% 1.1%);

·        Google Play (3.33%, 3.5% 0.1%);

·        TikTok (3.0%, 3.2% 1.2%);

·        WhatsApp (2.76%, 2.6% 4.4%);

·        Snapchat (2.04%, 2.0%, 2.1%).

The overall top ten mobile application traffic shareholders in North America are:

·        YouTube (39.79%);

·        WhatsApp (10.57%);

·        Facebook Video (6.81%);

·        Instagram (6.59%);

·        Google Play (5.64%);

·        Google (3.38%);

·        Facebook (2.61%);

·        HTTP Download (2.37%);

·        App Stores (1.44%);

·        HTTP Media Stream (1.29%).

(**All figures and information from report)

As you can see, video is huge and if your business or service is not using it, you should.

-Roy

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