Category Archives: Technology & Us

10 Tools I Can’t Live Without as Small Business Owner

I’ve been in business with my video production company, Clock Wise Productions, for over 20 years (so yes, I started it when I was in my teens 😉 ). 

Needless to say, the “tools I can’t live without” have drastically changed over the years.

Gone are the days where I would crawl under my desk, twice-daily, to switch my phone service to the internet line and then wait 30 minutes for my emails to download.

Gone are the days where I would get into arguments with the local drug kingpin over the use of “his” phone booth on a street corner where I had set up office during location shoot days and needed to make phone calls to keep the show going.

Gone are the beepers with panicked 505 texts (read SOS), the Filofax, the Blackberries that didn’t synch with anything, and the printers that consistently jammed on endless paper.

Today’s tools are all digital, or allow access to digital tools (smart phones anyone?).

So, here is my list of things I can’t imagine being without, at least until the next shiny new app, platform, gadget, or tool comes my way.

Out of the ten tools listed here, there is only ONE TOOL that hasn’t changed since the day I opened my doors, June 1st 1997. If you guess correctly which one it is, I’ll give you a full hour of free video marketing advice!

Here are my 10 Tools I Can’t Live Without as Small Business Owner (with emphasis on small business owner, not video marketer, filmmaker, dog-owner, or cyclist, etc.

1. Trello is a collaboration tool, but I use it mostly to organize myself, my ideas, my time, and my tasks. I love the backgrounds, which I always keep related to the topic of my to-do-list (I use it for all areas of my life) and inspirational.

My days and tasks would be a mess without Trello.  And yes, it’s also a fantastic collaboration tool. I use it with the awesome Lauren Adleman, who’s my social media manager (and theatre director) and also, to stay on track with a community project that I’m involved in. It keeps everything easy to edit, in real-time, and all in one accessible, organized place.

2. Dropbox organizes your files and keeps them not only automatically saved to the cloud, but also available on your desktop. So, even when traveling without WiFi, you’ll still have access to all your files. It also makes sharing files and folders of any size painless by sending links instead of bulky attachments.

3. QuickBooks is full-featured, yet easy to use, accounting software. It’s keeping my money-house in order, the taxman happy, and my bookkeeper and me sane. I’ve used all of its irritations since 1997, and it’s not only kept up with the times, but also with my growing needs.

4. OwnersUp is much more than a tool or an online platform. It’s where solopreneurs team up and grow faster, by setting goals, supporting each other, and being held accountable. Since I joined, my productivity has doubled.

I value both the daily task time keeping and the regular goal-setting with the online platform. As a small business owner (or solopreneur), it’s easy to get sucked into the day-to-day and forget about the bigger picture. 

5. VA Staffer is a virtual assistant company that offers a huge range of services, which is one of many reasons why I love them. They have an easy on-line platform to set up tasks, and they do it very well! I mostly use them for lead prospecting on LinkedIn, client research on social media in general, video transcribing, and data entry and management.

6. Contactually is an easy to use, fun and intuitive CRM [customer relationship management] tool and it integrates with many other platforms. I love using it and it keeps me on the ball with my most important contacts.

My favorite feature is the “bucket game” that allows you to assign each contact to a ‘bucket’ and then tell the software to remind you every so often to reach out. My buckets have titles like: “active prospect”, or “long-term lead”, and, yes “fired clients”.

7. LinkedIn we all know and, probably, all have a profile (or two). For me, it’s become a great resource for many kinds of networking (finding great new talent, leads, and thought leaders).  

I also use LinkedIn to connect with collaborators, verify information, and get business news to keep a pulse on what’s going on in different industries.

8. Hootsuite is a social media aggregator and, at $10 a month, you can’t beat it. You create one message, choose all the social media platforms that you want it to go to, and send it out (or schedule it, into the future!). Easy to use, fast, and reliable.

9. Thrive Themes is a plugin for WordPress sites that allows you to create beautiful designs in minutes. With it, I was able to build my website myself (with the help of a programmer and an awesome designer, Jill Fiore, of course).

These days, using Thrive, I can make a quick change, add a page, or change a layout myself: all without having to pay or enlist a professional each time.

10. iPhone! Who can live without their smart phone? My iPhone is my camera and video studio all in one (I will shoot, edit, and host, all from my phone!). Plus, I can access all the tools above from my phone, and in general, spend a lot of time on it… ;-).

What are your “I can’t do without” tools?

And, which of the above tools have I used in my business since 1997? The first person to correctly answer in the comments below will get a full hour video marketing consultation! Take a wild guess (or ready the article carefully…).

Video Marketing & Production Trends, 2016 Edition

Borrowed from www.searchengineland.com

What does 2016 have in store for us?

I love crystal ball questions! They sky, or better even, the universe is the limit.

To look into the future you need to also poke around in the past and discern patterns. Here a few video production and marketing trends, that I have seen develop and have kept an eye on in the four years I have written about the future of tech and how it impacts media in general and audiovisual work in particular.

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Video Today

DIY-screwsYouTube has become the second largest search engine after Google. Video ups your conversion rate on product sales somewhere above 60%. Stunning.

One would think that would be every video production companies and video producers dream come true. Well, not necessarily, a few other trends are playing out too. The internet has not only democratized the flow of information and crated “the conversation”, it also has altered content delivery and content consumption. Video production is now accessible to everybody, thanks to smart phones, a plethora of editing and mash-up apps and hosting services. Continue reading

Why Good Enough is Good Enough

The Swiss thrive on perfection. There is a reason you’re known for our quality lenses, precision tools, watches, fine chocolates, and amazing cheeses, alas with holes. “Good enough” you wouldn’t hear in Switzerland and even if it were true for certain things, it wouldn’t be verbalized.

As a Swiss transplant to New York and now a proud American citizen it took a moment to wrap my brain around “good enough”. Occasionally I do cross-cultural coaching and we spend quite a bit of time discussing “The 80/20”; meaning, Americans don’t believe in perfect. The remaining 20% to get something from good enough to perfect is not worth the effort, time and money. (You know I’m generalizing here, but you get the picture).

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Future Disruptive Tech 2015 and 2016

Cesar Quintero_Stock_Future_DisruptTech_BlogBrian Solis, always a great resource for this blog, put together a list early 2015 looking at tech trends and disruptive trends for 2015 and 2016. As we are close to half-way through, I thought I’d go through the list again and pull out what was of interest today and for this blog. Below a curated list of 12 of the 25 original points. For the full list click here. Continue reading

Video Sharing

Nina70ies-BrownoutiftGrowing up we played a game called „as of now”. The premise was that we were on a show and people were watching our every move and we had to fulfill a mundane task, like doing homework, or helping with household chores, or playing doctor, as gracefully (or cool) as possible and keep a running commentary, which had to be as smart-ass funny as we could come up with.  We controlled who the audience was. Mostly our classmates, a boy we liked or a very cool grown up – definitely NOT our parents.

This was in the late 70ies and we where budding teens. Not a reality show in sight, no judging and certainly no million dollar prize to fight for. Also no cell phone to record our theatrics, no apps to share what we taped and no internet to connect us to our friends. Continue reading

The Sharing Economy

As much talk as there is about the sharing economy, and there certainly are major disruptors out there, some of it isn’t really all that new in concept. Sharing occurs if something is superfluous. Or, if there is a desire to share with someone something you have and they don’t.

 

Drill-Collaborative-ConsumptionThe sharing economy is really about renting, borrowing, and providing a service. An article from earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review calls it an access economy, as the real disruptor lies in the capability to handle the access to all the sharing via technology, an app and/or a website.

There are different sharing economy models. In some a company owns the assets and shares them across its members, see Zipcar. Other models, a company manages the platform and the rules of sharing, but the assets are owned by the individuals who are members, see Airbnb, Closet Collective and Uber.

Then there are services and skills shared. They go through a sharing or offering platform, such as Task Rabbit or The Creative Group. Here the disruption is the access via technology from a person in need of a service to a service provider.

Although offered as a sharing community on most platforms, a sharing economy is not based on ‘community’ as much as it’s based on benefits, such as cost-effective access to desired assets, flexibility, and the convenience of not having to deal with the obligations that come with ownership. In a peer-to-peer model, the owner or service provider will most likely be engaged due to financial need, and not for an altruistic, ‘sharing the leftovers with the community’, motivation.

The biggest change in my opinion is, other than access via technology, the reciprocal feedback process that is based on TRUST, especially in the peer-to-peer sharing economy models. I’m not sure it always works as intended.

Take Airbnb; the challenge as I see it is, that once you’ve had a personal interaction with your host and you know they get to review you as well, the reviews stop being authentic. On a recent rental, I felt strongly that I wanted to leave negative feedback, but I held back. Why? I didn’t want to be the first person to leave a negative review for a so-called super host. The host was lovely and went out of his way to show us the ins and outs of his home and the town. However, the home was not in the neighborhood advertised and our room was filthy. I would never use Airbnb again, unless a person, who knows how particular I am with cleanliness, would recommend a place.

That brings up the question, on how brand trust is built on-line. If I go to a brick and mortar McDonalds or to Morton’s Steakhouse, I know what I’m getting, years of advertising and marketing positioning tell me what to expect. Both have a very specific customer profile. With a peer-to-peer on-line platform service I don’t know what I’m getting, beyond customer ratings, and I don’t know what those customer’s preferences are, either. Do they normally eat at McDonalds and would be wow-ed, no matter what, by a Morton’s, or are they discerning foodies and wouldn’t give Morton’s the time of day? It will be up to the companies that run peer-to-peer services to do quality control, careful service provider screening and to nurture trust. How will they do it when they interact with their providers AND customers virtually only? We will see.

Addendum:  Time Magazine of week of October 12 has an article on the Sharing Economy.

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AI – When the Machines Take Over in 2029

I never understood the concept of Artificial Intelligence overtaking humans until the other day, when I connected two thought processes.

I’ve always maintained that my world is only as smart as I am – meaning anything beyond my smartness kind of disappears into an abyss off incomprehension. I have friends who are much smarter than me, but just HOW MUCH smarter I can’t really tell – because if I could I’d be as smart as them. Make sense? Continue reading

Survival around Digital Natives: One [Buzz] Word at a Time

Last spring, after a few weeks of immersing myself into the throws of transmedia experiences, at the Tribeca Film Festival’s  “Future of” series and the Tribeca Film Institute’s Innovation week I had a whole host of buzzwords swirling around my head (with lots of other stuff of no less significance but no relevance here)…   for a visual clue think of word clouds from blog tags that have found their way into a 3D setting and are floating around (which in effect is how the documentary Clouds looked through the vision googles at Tribeca’s Storyscapes – very cool stuff.)  So, I figured I’d start a (random) list of buzzwords of all things internet, social media, trans media, and etc.

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Curation, the Human Algorithm & the Future of Social Media

There are two expressions I keep coming across in reading about the future of everything that’s web-based and, social media in particular: “content curation” and the “human algorithm”.

The definition of curation is that it’s the care-taking or presentation of things entered into a collection, either physical or digital. With the onslaught of information from all sides, some sort of curation needs to be implemented to collect, filter, verify and disseminate news, entertainment, human interaction in the broadest sense.

An Algorithm, according to Wikipedia is an effective method expressed in mathematics and computer science as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. (Gosh I don’t miss math classes). Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing and automated reasoning. So in a way, an algorithm is the mathematical brother of more artsy curation. Continue reading