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Archive for Interactive’ Category


Comments Off on No Longer Your Typical Graphic Artist/Designer

No Longer Your Typical Graphic Artist/Designer

A ComputerIt’s safe to say that since the advent of desktop computing, business has been changing at a rapid pace. Many jobs have molded and changed to adapt to the latest and greatest technologies available, or they have vanished altogether. Graphic Artists that have been in the industry for the past 20 years know this all too well.

A typical Graphic Artist, Graphic Designer or Art Director must now have the ability to perform many additional tasks that were once additional positions held within several small companies. Such tasks may include being an Interactive/Web Designer, Illustrator, Photographer, Videographer, Video Editor, Computer Technician or even a basic Web Programmer. Modern computers, cameras and software have helped to make this a reality.

This may sound a little overwhelming for people just getting their start in advertising, public relations, design and multimedia productions. Believe me–it is! If you’re looking to get into this field of work, be sure you have vast knowledge and a great skill-set because you’re going to utilize it on a daily basis. In a small business atmosphere you need to be able to wear many hats, not just the one printed on your business cards. This holds true for just about any job at a professional small business today.


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Comments Off on Vine: The Six-Second Video Challenge

Vine: The Six-Second Video Challenge

Vine Logo

Vine is a mobile application owned by Twitter that allows its users to create and post short videos that are a maximum of six-seconds long. Vine is not even a year old and, according to theverge.com, it already has more than 40 million registered users.

Vine seems like it’s going to be the next big thing when it comes to social networks. Vine videos can be simple to create, but they can also be complex. Those making Vine videos as a means for advertising can take a whole day to create a six-second clip. All it takes is a few taps with your finger to create a Vine. When you are ready to record a video, you hold your finger on the screen for as long as you want to record a specific object or action. Then, lift your finger and move around or move objects to get ready for the next segment. In the end, you will have video that could be one object starting as a whole and turning into nothing, or a quick video showing a little of everything.

Creating six-second videos is becoming all the rage across the world! People are getting really creative with it, too. You will find people singing songs, taking videos of events, stop-motion, Claymation, art, wild collaborations and much more.

A blog was posted by Vine offering six tips on how to create the best videos with the app. These tips include using a tripod, using the ghost feature for stop motion, knowing that you don’t need to finish a Vine in one sitting, training your tap, using earphones with a mic, and reviewing your posts. To read the Vine blog, go here.

And, in case you didn’t know, Vine has some new competition. Now that the mobile app Instagram, owned by Twitter’s competitor Facebook, has launched its video creation feature, users are wondering when they should use Vine and when they should use Instagram.

For more great information about Vine and Instagram, read these articles:

–          Digiday: 15 Stats You Need to Know About Vine and Instagram Video

–          Mashable: 10 Ways Startups Can Grow With Vine and Instagram Video

–          TechCrunch: Instagram Video Vs. Vine: What’s The Difference?

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Comments Off on Facebook Ads: A Tool to Get More Likes

Facebook Ads: A Tool to Get More Likes

The Promote Page Window on Facebook

One thing some of our SSC team members learned during a social media seminar at the Erie Club was this:

“The likes don’t come in as fast without Facebook Ads!”

Facebook Ads are a great way to get out the rut your page has reached with its number of likes. These ads will help your page reach more Facebook users. Facebook ads have several other benefits as well:

– Fast and easy to set up

– Inexpensive: To start, $50-$100 is sufficient

– Guaranteed Results

– Increase in Reach, Page Likes, Shares, Post Likes and Website Traffic

According to an article on venturebeat.com, “Performance marketing company Nanigans released a study today (Oct. 16) showcasing that Facebook advertising is alive and well, with retailers seeing a 375 percent explosion in click-through rates from Q3 2012 to Q3 2013 — and healthy 152 percent return on investment.”

One of the great features about Facebook ads is that Facebook now allows you to essentially create six ads for the price of one. You can upload six different pictures to go with your ad description. You can even change the description text that goes along with each photo. This way, you can go back and see which ad did the best and make tweaks to gain a larger reach and more clicks.

Businesses don’t have much to lose since Facebook ads are inexpensive. Test an ad or boost a post only using $15. View the results and decide if you want try it again with an increased budget.

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Comments Off on Five Web Design Trends in 2013

Five Web Design Trends in 2013

Webpage Inspector

In the ever evolving web community in which we all live there are numerous design elements and choices that have begun to arise and will continue to keep popping up throughout the remainder of the year. Some of these trends will disappear as quickly as “Crystal Pepsi” or the McDonald’s “McLean Deluxe.” Some may stand the test of time and emerge as the new standards web designers live by.  Here’s a look at five of the hottest trends of 2013.

Responsive Web Layouts

Almost half of web browsing is now done via smartphones or mobile devices. So it stands to reason that you want your website to look and function the same across all web browsing platforms. Utilizing a responsive web layout is a trend that began in 2012 and is moving to web standard status in 2013. Clients not only prefer this method of web development, they expect it.

Fixed Header Bars

Again this isn’t exactly a “new” trend but we’re seeing more of this design element lately. This design trend significantly enhances a website’s user experience with quick access to the navigation menu. It’s one of the more basic trends, but it’s going to stick around for quite some time.

CSS Transparency

With CSS3 you now have the control of opacity for any element on a webpage. From a programming standpoint, this makes creating a layered web page look relatively easy. This is a new trend that is gaining tons of popularity throughout the web. Look for this to stay around forever.

Infinite Scrolling

This is not necessarily a new trend because it has been around for years. Some of the new websites that have gained mass popularity as of late–such as Pinterest–use this technique where the page just continuously populates as you scroll downward. There’s no need for any navigation or to remember what page a certain image was on because it’s all one page; simplicity at its finest. Look for this trend to stay around for a while for very specific types of websites.

Sliding Web Panels

What was once Flash and action script and became a big web development no-no has now become JavaScript and JQuery, which is almost a must have. The rotating images you see regularly on website homepages are prime examples of a javaScript image rotator. A complete web page that slides in from left-to-right is another cool example of the JQuery trend. Many more websites in the future will benefit from these dynamic website techniques as designers implement them into their web projects.

So there you have it, five design trends for 2013. None of them began this year, but all of them will continue to grow in popularity as time progresses.

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Comments Off on BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

A Finger on a Tablet
Ah, dinner is over, the kids are in bed and you have a cold beverage handy. It’s time to check your work email! How many of us have fallen into this habit? As businesses persuade us to be available 24/7, we’ve seen various ways to make that availability easier and more enticing:

– Providing us with access to work email and servers from home PCs.

– Providing us with laptops so we can lug them back and forth every day.

– Providing us with smartphones so we can check our e-mail from anywhere.

– Letting us work from home for that true 24/7 experience.

But we’ve pushed back, insisting on having a say in what devices we use. Enough of the dictates from the I.T. department; we want devices that are easy to use, even if we have to bring them from home. Of course, we’ll tolerate security requirements from our companies to avoid a Wild West environment in that regard.

Blackberries and iPhones began the “bring your own device” movement a few years ago. Nowadays, who doesn’t have a smartphone? And if the screen isn’t big enough to get “real work” done, there’s always a tablet, with or without a cell plan.

There’s a ripple effect to this movement. When the bean counters at work figure out they can postpone capital expenditures for computer upgrades, Microsoft and Dell will start to worry. But that is exactly what is happening. Even with an April 2014 cutoff date from Microsoft for Windows XP support, over 37% of us still use XP on the Web. And the bad publicity Windows 8 is getting isn’t convincing us to upgrade either. We’ll stick with our Apple iOS and Android devices as long as they can do the job.

So, in the vernacular of street racers, “Run what ya brung” and have some fun while doing it. Just don’t spill that cold beverage on it!

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Comments Off on YouTube: A Great Source for Brand Awareness

YouTube: A Great Source for Brand Awareness

YouTube Logo

Some companies, large or small, feel they don’t need a presence on YouTube. This could be because the product they sell is a necessity and not very intriguing, like insurance or accounting. Some may believe if you can’t create a video that will go viral, what’s the point? What these companies are failing to understand is that you don’t have to create a video that will get a million views in an hour to be successful on YouTube. And, there’s no set list of criteria on how to make a viral video. Sometimes, it’s just luck. There are other uses for YouTube; one of them is to increase brand awareness.

If your business is looking to spread the word about the services you offer, YouTube is a great place to make this happen. Creating a short, one to three minute corporate video will not only increase brand awareness, but also draw out potential clients and promote customer loyalty. Seeing the faces of the people behind the scenes at your company will make your current customers feel that there isn’t just a robot answering questions and collecting feedback. Your team can take the time to make a video that highlights your company’s mission and showcases your staff.

Another way to utilize YouTube is to create a video with some general tips to help your current and prospective customers. If you are an insurance company, obviously there are some pieces of information you can’t share with the public for liability reasons. However, creating a video on why you should contact an insurance company or how-to videos that demonstrate how to navigate a complex website could be useful (and harmless to your company). Also, consider creating a video that includes some helpful statistics, depending on the type of service you offer. For instance, if you offer auto insurance, provide some stats on how many accidents happen per year. This could even be a segue into how your insurance is better than others.

Remember to think outside the box when it comes to YouTube. You don’t have to be a musician or actor to make it work for your business. You don’t even need expensive equipment. If you are on a limited budget, short clips can be created with a webcam or even with a high-end smartphone camera. And, don’t forget to take your new YouTube clips and cross-share them with your other social channels such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the word even further.

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Comments Off on What To Do with Those Negative Social Media Comments: Engagement Flow Chart

What To Do with Those Negative Social Media Comments: Engagement Flow Chart


Have you laid down the rules on how your social media manager and/or team will handle negative comments you receive through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc? We constructed a flow chart that shows how to react to certain types of negative social media posts. Feel free to use this as your own guide to handling social media engagement, or use it as a starting point.

Social Media Engagement Flow Chart: You see a post about your company.  Is it positive?  If so, either leave it alone or engage with it.  If not, is it degrading?  Stand up to it.  Is it a real issue?  Monitor it.  Is it erroneous?  Fix the facts.  Is it from an unhappy customer?  Make good with them.  Bottom Line: Respond if it feels appropriate, but if it seems to be an insignificant comment, there is no need to reply.  If you do respond: always be friendly, no matter how insulting the comment; provide references, pictures, links, etc. if applicable; try to respond within 24 hours; and make sure your information is accurate.

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Comments Off on Seek and Ye Shall Find: Tips on Search Engine Usage

Seek and Ye Shall Find: Tips on Search Engine Usage

Google, Bing, and Wolfram Alpha Logos

How often are you asked for information that could just have easily been googled? Now there’s a website for that. It’s called Let Me Google That For You (www.lmgtfy.com). It creates a link for you to send that shows a how-to animation of Google usage.

But maybe your questioner is overwhelmed by the search results and can’t find exactly what they are looking for. That’s where a Google advanced search comes in (http://www.google.im/advanced_search?hl=en). When you use it to enter more search parameters, Google will narrow its results.

If you are looking for web pages via Google that have been recently updated, use the “last update” field. If you’re looking for something on a particular site and its own search engine isn’t helping, try a Google advanced search with the “site or domain” field filled in. If you know the desired information is stored in a PDF file, for example, select that as the “file type.”

If any of these applications sound useful, create a bookmark for Google Advanced Search in your browser’s toolbar where it will be easy to find.

Here are more hints for googling:

– Use quotation marks around a multiple word search to get results matching the exact phrase.

– Did some obscure error message just pop up? You aren’t the first person to wonder what it means. Copy and paste the text into Google for some links as to the cause.

– The Google home page is simple and fast. Use it to test whether you have a connection to the Internet.

– Create a bookmark for Google in your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. If you only use the search field above the
bookmarks toolbar, you’ll never see Google Doodles (www.google.com/doodles).

– Try other search engines. Bing is another general-purpose search engine. WolframAlpha.com is geared toward
scientific research.

As for the title of this blog, your instinct is right; it’s from the Bible. A Google search quickly tells us it’s from Matthew 7:7. This ancient phrase could be Google’s corporate motto but they chose “Don’t be evil.” That sounds biblical as well.

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Comments Off on Windows 8: Is the New Microsoft Operating System a Hit or a Miss?

Windows 8: Is the New Microsoft Operating System a Hit or a Miss?

Windows 8 Logo

If you’re in the market for a new PC, you’ve probably noticed that manufacturers have recently switched to Microsoft Windows 8 as an operating system. If you took Windows 8 for a test drive in the store, you might have been bewildered by its user interface. Where’s the Start button? What do you mean the whole screen is Start? What’s this Metro stuff?

Microsoft has attempted to combine the elements of our familiar keyboard/mouse environment with the touch screen environment found in tablets. The jury is still out on whether this combination will be successful. Heck, the jury is still out on the ribbon interface in Office!

We’ve seen this before, where Microsoft introduced a new Windows version and it bombed. Think back to Windows ME and Windows Vista. But Microsoft quickly turned out their successors, Windows XP and Windows 7, which turned out to be hits.

There are several approaches to take with Windows 8:

– Embrace it. Forget everything you know about previous Windows versions and learn how to use Windows 8.

– Ignore it. Put off your next PC purchase until Microsoft comes out with something better. The rumor mill has Windows 8.1 restoring the Start button and booting into desktop mode. If you can’t wait, search for PCs still shipping with Windows 7. Look at the business sections of the Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba websites.

– Meet it halfway. Lenovo and Samsung have released Start menu add-ons for Windows 8. Or purchase an add-on program that changes the user interface to something more familiar. Here’s an article about a $5 program that will save you headaches:


Of course, the most drastic approach is to dump Windows and get a Mac. If we all love our iPhones and iPads so much, why not take the plunge?

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Comments Off on Running a Public Relations Firm

Running a Public Relations Firm

Stevens Strategic Communications, Inc.

The debate rages on.  Just what is a public relations firm?  Over the years technology and our economy have caused the definition to change.  In many ways, when I think of the words public relations, the word Catholic or universal comes to mind.

In essence the public relations firm is one that deals with our relationships with all of our publics.  That means our customers.  Our employees.  Our communities.  Our world.

We create messages for audiences and determine the best ways to reach that audience.  Is it advertising?  Social media?  Videos?  Media relations?

Yes, we used to have advertising agencies, public relations firms, and specialty shops.  We even had agencies of record.  Now we provide the best we have to our clients.  Timing, messaging, quality and cost are critical.  Now that we have an understanding of what a public relations firm does—just about everything in terms of communications—then how do you staff?

In the military, I was always impressed with our Special Forces.  These were teams of soldiers with more than one refined skill.  They are linguists, mechanics, snipers, medics, demolition experts.  They are people who accomplish their mission.  In fact, in the military we learned the value of being resourceful even when we weren’t green berets.   So many of us were crossed-trained to do more than our primary military specialty.  That’s how I see the public relations firm of today.

We have social media people who are great account executives.  Crisis specialists who know advertising.  Video producers who know how to write.  Engineers who can create speeches.  Art directors with audio engineering expertise.  Research executives who can handle direct marketing.  Wow.  Our guys are talented.

Survival in the business world today requires that we have many skills, stay up to date on trends, and work hard to stay ahead of the pack.  We want to do all of this while we are having a good time helping our clients succeed.

(FLASH) That is my snapshot of running a PR firm today.  It’s providing the right climate for great, talented people—so they can do great things for great clients!

— Ed Stevens, APR
President, Stevens Strategic Communications

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