show it to me

Sandy shedding some light on the internets.

a friend pointed some research out to me… The Nielsen Norman Group, a consulting firm whose founder was deemed by the New York Times to be “the guru of Web page ‘usability,’” has done extensive research into what makes websites successful:  1)nothing higher than a sixth-grade reading level on the home page;  2)more “scannability” — highlighting, color-coding, bullet points; and  3)one idea per paragraph.

but maybe the most interesting bit was if you’re trying to reach young people – they don’t have the reading ability, patience or research skills to successfully complete what they set out to do online. kids now-a-days have a very different learning style. they don’t read, they watch – tv, youtube, web video.

my take-way (from reading all those words): the best way to reach your online audience? VIDEO.

no one, if you’re 8 or 80, wants to spend tons of time wading through a boatload of verbiage.  get my attention, get to the point and don’t waste my time.

we tried this experiment with the tweedee productions website. instead of a bunch of words, we did videos, lots of videos. we kept them short, interesting (in my opinion) and entertaining. we tried to eliminate as many written words as possible.

some of our clients have seen the light. they’ve started doing video newsletters instead of emailing newsletters full of words, articles and clip art. the vnl allows them to highlight their important industry news and map out articles of interest that drive clients to their website for all the details.

with the holiday season upon us…. instead of bogging up your snail mail with cards you’ll toss in the trash, we’re sending out this video greeting. no natural resources wasted. its short, sweet and filled with the spirit of the season.  happy holidays.

now if you’ll excuse me, i have to get back to my youtube.

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It’s the people, stupid!

We just had an excellent initial meeting with a potential client here at Tweedee Productions.  As our meeting went on, I began to realize what a great team of people I work with.  I also realized that I didn’t have to do much during the meeting.  I was free to relax, listen to our new friends, react when I needed to, and not think that I had to “make” the sale in the end.  As many small business owners know, this is not always the case.  Usually the owner has to make the sale, perform the work, and then take out the trash at the end of the day.

When I first started out in business 12 years ago, I often thought that being a product driven business would be preferable to a service based one.  I thought that by selling a product I would see immediate results.  How many widgets did we sell today?  How full is the cash drawer?  How many customers came in today?  Immediate results.  Buy product – resell – buy more – repeat.  But, as we all know, selling a product is not always a guaranteed success.  Remember Circuit City anyone?

Tweedee Productions is a service based business.  As such, I’ve finally come to realize that what we sell (or what our customers buy) is “us”.  They buy “us” because we provide a unique service that’s not widely available for one thing.  They also buy “us” because of our unique talents and abilities.  But most importantly, I would suggest that they buy “us” for who we are as people.

It’s interesting to note that our potential client never asked about our technical capabilities – apparently not an issue for them.  I believe that first and foremost, they liked us as people.  Sure, we can provide whatever technology they need, that’s the easy part.  But the most important thing to them was working with a company that can tell their story.  That’s what we do best.  We are a company of individuals with strong storytelling skills and decades of combined video production experience – things that you can’t learn from a book or acquire from a software program.  We are also good people.  A big “thank you” to all of my co-workers for being as talented as you are.  Now it’s time to take out the trash.

The Tweedee Team

Gregg Schieve, Founder, CEO and guitarist, Tweedee Media Inc.

Viral Videos, Thanksgiving, & Turkey Testicles

Anyone who tells you that you need to make a “viral video” is not giving you good advice.  We’ve produced hundreds of videos here at Tweedee Productions and the only one that has truly gone “viral” did so by sheer luck.  A few years ago, we produced a short video feature about the annual Turkey Testicle Festival in Huntley, Illinois.  We posted the video to YouTube and it got about 200 hits in the two years it was up.  Then last November, some national blogger looking for something to write about leading up to Thanksgiving stumbled across our video and posted a link on their blog.  From there, the video started getting passed on, forwarded on, re-posted, etc.  Suddenly, I was receiving e-mails from people in Florida, California, and Colorado with links to our video.  The video has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times (truly a viral video with those kind of #’s).

But aside from posting it to YouTube, we’d done very little to promote this particular video.  In fact, most videos that go viral do so under similar circumstances to ours.  So basically, there is no guaranteed method to create a video that will go viral, and anyone who tells you they can help you make your video go viral is probably not leading you down the right path.

A true “viral video” is a rare phenomenon, but a video doesn’t have to go viral to be effective.  A recent video we produced about a new medical device is being distributed to a targeted audience of physicians and health care administrators.  Going viral would not necessarily benefit this particular company but showing the video to specific people with the means, the authority, and the need to purchase the device does provide a huge benefit.  The company just received FDA approval to officially sell their product.  However, they’ve been out showing the video to potential clients for almost two years so they’ve already laid the groundwork for a successful product launch.

However, if you still have your heart set on trying to create a viral video, just follow our successful blueprint:

1)      Tie your video into a National Holiday

2)      Feature people eating some sort of fried avian testicles

3)      Find a four-leaf clover

Mac

this is cool – part 2

check this out – tweedee productions has its own bar code! yes – bar code! if you use an android smart phone, you just scan this bar code (called ZXing) and it will take you magically to the tweedee productions web site. google came up with this cool idea. you can make a ZXing code for just about anything you want to share… we are placing our code in conference print ads, on envelopes  – it has a ton of possibilities. check out the google ZXing site for the details…. and get scanning!

sandy thinks honesty is the best policy.

sandy is trying to stay trendy.

The Virtual Company

We have a tradition here at Tweedee Productions.  Almost every day at about 2:30, a small group of us will walk down to Ground Zero Coffee Shop for an afternoon shot of caffeine.  The short walk gives us a chance to talk about things outside of the office.  Our conversations range from our families, to the Packers, to the latest Hollywood movies – conversations that usually have nothing to do with work.  I appreciate these walks and talks, and realize the benefits they have for the rest of the Tweedee team.  Which brings me to my point in a round about way. 

I just finished reading an article in the April issue of Inc. Magazine titled The Office Is Dead, Long Live The Office (I know, I’m a little behind in my reading!).  For those of you unfamiliar with the magazine, they pride themselves in writing about up and coming companies, industry trends, and various business models that make some companies seem all too cool.  So the editorial department at Inc. decided to live out a concept that it would typically write about – the virtual office. 

For those of you over 50 (like me), a virtual office or company is one that exists without formal headquarters.  Its owners, executives and employees all work in separate locations, many times from home offices.  They stay connected via a myriad of cool electronic devices, web cameras and free software.  And many of these virtual companies, as reported in the Inc. article, are multi-million dollar virtual companies.  

So after working as a virtual office for one month, the Inc. team produced a 10 page article about the pros and cons of virtual companies.  Pros and cons like less overhead, more individual freedom, confused family boundaries, more legal costs, and a seemingly cooler work vibe.  But what I found most interesting was the effect that the virtual office had on the Inc. staff.  Some people loved it – working at home in PJs, working from a coffee shop, coming and going as they pleased.  Others not so much – it was easy to become distracted from work, and mostly they felt lonely and disconnected.    

That last notion hit home with me and was summed up by the comments from Inc. Magazine photo director Travis Ruse.  His reaction made me appreciate what we have here at our non-virtual office.  Travis said, “My job really became just about my job.  I missed the distractions and surprises that my co-workers bring to the day.  Part of working is the social aspect of doing something collaboratively.  I missed that very much.”    

I started Tweedee Productions 12 years ago in a home office.  That lasted less than 6 months.  I needed a place – an “office” – and much like Travis, the collaboration of working with and bouncing ideas off of my office mates.  I would have trouble working in a virtual company today no matter how cool of a trend it continues to be.  Here at Tweedee “world headquarters”, we have the freedom to set our own hours.  We are very generous (by American standards) with vacation time.  Yet we all come together at a specific place, at a somewhat specific time and make good video.   How much cooler can that be? 

Gregg Schieve, CEO and Founder Tweedee Media Inc.    

Sandy Kowal and Steve Donovan on the Tweedee coffee walk.

The Value of Online Video

I read a recent study that showed 0% of internet users would be willing to pay to use Twitter.  I don’t use Twitter myself, but with all the talk out there about Twitter these days, I was quite surprised to see that even those who use it don’t really see any value in it.

Establishing value is an important tenet in any business so here are some simple valuation points for our business:  Website video and professional video production services

1)    Video combines sight, sound, motion, and emotion to provide the most optimum format of communication.

2)    Video is a great way to introduce yourself or explain a complex issue in understandable terms.  Given the choice, most folks would prefer to watch a two-minute video instead of slogging through pages of text on a website or PDF.

3)    Video provides  a great avenue to engage your prospective clients and stay on your website longer.  People search the web for information on products and services they want to buy.  Video allows you to present information about those products and services in a more accessible format.

4)    Better communication with your customers and clients leads to other benefits.  Product videos can help increase sales and online video has also been shown to reduce return rates for retailers by 60%.  If a customer can see the development of a product, its features, how it works, etc. before they buy it, then that decreases the potential for wanting to return the product once they actually purchase it.

5)    On-line video can be repurposed to use in sales presentations, trade shows & conferences, events, investor relations, television commercials, website pre-roll ads, in-store video, etc.

6)    Three out of four respondents reported watching some type of short, professionally produced videos online regularly (Online Media Daily, June 2010)

7)    You can share videos.  A true “Viral Video” is a rare phenomenon, but a video doesn’t have to go viral to be effective.  A recent video we produced about a new medical device is being distributed to a targeted audience of physicians and health care administrators.  Going viral would not necessarily benefit this particular company but showing the video to specific people with the means, the authority, and the need to purchase the device does provide a huge benefit.

8)    You can drive people to your website by sharing links to your video in your company newsletter, your press releases, and your Social Networking sites (including Twitter!!!).  The more places you post your video the more people you expose to your message.

9)    Mobile video continues to grow and will only get more popular as more and more people begin to use SmartPhones and other mobile devices like the iPad.

10)  Video is awesome!!!

Mac

Get the Message

The other night at the dinner table I was thinking about noise. Basically, because there was a lot of it. Pretty typical for many families, right? Everybody wanted to say something, had to say something, or just wanted to hear themselves say something. (That’s usually me.) And, everybody has their own style of getting their point across. Some of our kids yell to be heard, some never stop talking, some never stop butting in, and some pick their moments. It’s a snapshot of the world we live in now. Communication is constant – Facebook, Twitter, websites, texting, phones, blogs, email, and even ol’ fashioned mail. They’re all just different tools to do the same thing…communicate. Some work better than others at different times.

As I sat there eating my chicken pot pie and listening to the hubbub, I noticed a couple of things. I found myself tuning out “The Loud Talker.”  (He knows who he is.)  I was also getting impatient with the person at the table, who shall remain anonymous, who kept interrupting to get his point across. (In his defense, he’s much younger than the rest of us.) Although, I’ll admit “The Interrupter” does give us some belly laughs with his non-sequitur comments. Then, something happened when the “Non-Stop Talker” took a breath. (She knows who she is.) That’s when one family member I’ll call, “The Quiet One” (with apologies to George Harrison) spoke his piece. We all listened to his story about what happened when an argument broke out in the hallway at school.  It’s like we were all being let in on the secret of Area 51. He had a good story to tell. His timing was right. We all got the message. “The Quiet One” went back to his chicken pot pie. He’ll have another story in due time.

For me, it was a perfect example of great communication. It’s kind of a mantra around here – tell good stories that people want or need to hear. And, don’t let the “noise” or “babble” of over-production get in the way of the message.  Keep it authentic, well-timed, and simple. Sounds like an internet video.  Stay tuned for more on that in future blogs.

Dan tries one form of communication

Dan tries one form of communication

Now, if you want to warn people about a fire in a crowded building, “The Quiet One’s” approach probably isn’t the best option. Try shouting. Like I said, some communication works better than others at different times.