23 posts categorized "Images"

Facebook Adds Stories to iOS/Android Apps to Try to Kill Snapchat

Facebook stories

Facebook truly DESPISES Snapchat!

As documented in a blog post today, Facebook has now added "Stories" to their main mobile apps. Just like Snapchat, these stories:

  • expire after 24 hours
  • can be either images or videos
  • have all sorts of filters and effects you can add
    • this includes a "masks" feature similar to Snapchat "lenses" that can change someone's face
  • can also be sent directly to one or more of your friends
    • and just like Snapchat, the recipient can view the photo - and then view the photo once more in 24 hours
  • can be created by simply swiping to the right to rapidly access the camera

If you reload your iOS or Android app today, you should see that the top of the app has changed. You now have:

  • a camera icon in the upper left corner that lets you open the camera
  • a "Direct" icon that gets you to images or videos sent directly to you. (Yet another messaging inbox.)
  • a bar of icons of all the friends who have posted Stories so far

And, as mentioned before, you can now swipe to the right to access the camera. If you don't have this feature today, you should within the next day or so.

Cloning Snapchat again and again...

Adding "Stories" to the main Facebook app comes as no surprise. It's been clear for a while that Facebook was jealous of all the people using Snapchat and wanted to bring them back inside Facebook's shiny walled garden. Facebook had already rolled out "stories" in their other Messaging apps:

  • Instagram Stories
  • WhatsApp Status
  • Facebook Messenger "My Day"

Of these, Instagram Stories has been viewed as successful. The WhatsApp and Messenger launches have been very recent and so it's not clear how many people will use them.

How will Facebook differentiate from Snapchat?

In their blog post, Facebook notes that:

Over the coming months, we plan to introduce new ways for the Facebook community to create their own frames and effects that can be used on any photo or video created with the new Facebook camera. Our goal is for the camera to be a home to hundreds of dynamic and fun effects that give you new ways to connect with friends, family, and your community.

We hope that with the new Facebook camera, Stories and Direct, it will be easier than ever to see the world through each other’s eyes

While it is possible in Snapchat to create a custom "geofilter", this teaser from Facebook sounds like a great bit more.

Facebook, of course, has a huge userbase. As I wrote in my "Directory Dilemma" post a few years back, users will use an app for messaging if the people they want to communicate with use that app. And the reality is that Facebook is the center of many people's communication.

So on one level, Facebook doesn't need to differentiate from Snapchat. They simply need to provide this functionality... and hope that this keeps people from opening up the yellow ghost app.

And of course, Facebook still supports regular text posts, photos, links, all of which last longer than 24 hours. They also have Facebook Live video streaming.

This is just really a way to bring "ephemeral messaging" (messages that disappear after a period of time) inside of Facebook's walls.

How many places can people post "stories"?

The question to me is really:

how many places can people realistically post their 24-hour "stories"?

Right now people have at least FIVE major options:

  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp

... and any other apps that are copying Snapchat right now.

The reality is that users won't post to all of them. They'll choose one... maybe two... and that will be it.

Many people will probably choose to stay right inside of Facebook's walls and use that. Or, if they are already using Instagram Stories, they may stay there.

But what about Facebook Messenger?

One curious aspect of this announcement is bringing direct messaging BACK INSIDE the Facebook mobile app.

Facebook has spent a couple years now moving messaging OUT of the "Facebook" app. They have forced people to use Facebook Messenger to send and receive direct messages on a mobile device.

Now using the "Direct" inbox, we can send and receive messages inside the Facebook app again.

Granted, the messages can only be viewed twice within 24 hours - and they are in the form of images or videos. But we do have messages in the Facebook app again.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook evolves these many different messaging and "stories" channels they have.

Which will YOU choose?

If you have read this far... do you see yourself using the Facebook Stories?

Or will you stay with Snapchat? or Instagram Stories?

Or are you using WhatsApp Status or Facebook Messenger "My Day"?

Or do you just wish this whole "Stories" format would go away? ;-)

Please do leave comments here or wherever this article appears on social media.

P.S. There are many other stories about Facebook Stories appearing today.

Big News! 360° photos now available for any WordPress site via JetPack plugin

360 photo

For those of us experimenting with "360-degree photos", last week's announcement of Jetpack 4.5 had a hidden but awesome feature: you can use a shortcode to embed your 360 photo or video into ANY WordPress site (that uses the Jetpack plugin).

Here is why this is so huge - up until last month, the only sites that would display 360 photos were either:

  • Facebook
  • Google StreetView

That was it. Two effectively closed walled gardens of content.

As I mentioned in my reports into a couple of For Immediate Release podcast episodes, my concern was that only Facebook users would really get this benefit. I wanted the ability to display 360 photos on any website.

On December 15, 2016, WordPress.com announced that all hosted sites could embed 360 photos or videos. This was a great step forward in bringing 360 photos out to more sites.

Then just last week version 4.5 of the JetPack plugin was released and, somewhat bizarrely, while the announcement contains no mention of this awesome new feature, an Automattic staff person confirmed the inclusion of the support in a comment.

You can read all about this new capability here:

Now, since this Disruptive Conversations site is sadly NOT on WordPress, I can't show you the features directly here. However, I've gone ahead and embedded 360 photos on two WordPress sites I have:

Those were both taken using the Google Street View application on iOS. (And yes, sometime I need to write or record a tutorial about how to do this.)

I have included the shortcodes in the blog posts so that you can see how easy this is to do. You just:

  1. Take the 360 photo using the Google Street View app on your smartphone. (This will save it to your camera roll on an iPhone.)
  2. Upload the image to your WordPress site.
  3. Use the appropriate shortcode in your blog post.

That's it!

Of course, you need the Jetpack plugin installed in your site, but that's all.

Many thanks to Automattic's Jetpack team for bringing out this capability so that we could set our 360 photos free of the walled gardens and bring them to any WordPress site!

What do you think about this? Will you try some 360 photos now?

Instagram Embraces The Algorithm - Switches From Showing Newest First


Some big news in the social media world this morning was that Instagram is embracing the algorithm. Instead of seeing posts from Instagram accounts you follow in "reverse chronological order" (newest updates first) you now will see them in an order determined by Instagram. As the company wrote in a blog post today (my emphasis added):

You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

Note that important part:

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

Your feed will "show the moments WE believe".

Instagram decides.

You have no say in the matter.

Now, of course, Instagram's parent Facebook has been doing this for years now. Twitter, too, has recently embraced the algorithm saying in February that users would start seeing "the Tweets you’re most likely to care about" at the top of your timeline..

Algorithms are not necessarily bad.

I wrote about this topic over on Ello a month ago in a post "Sometimes Algorithms Help Us" [1].

The reality is that algorithms can help us sort through the deluge of content that is exploding on all the social services. As I wrote in that Ello post referencing first blogging and then Twitter:

The deluge of content became too hard for one person to handle

Algorithms can help us sort through the deluge and try to bring to the surface the most interesting and useful items.

The big question is - who is in control of the algorithm?

Is it ME, the user?

Or is it the service/platform?

And in that case how will they potentially manipulate the algorithm toward their own ends?

The problem is that there is a great potential for abuse on the part of the service/platform. As I noted in my recent post about Facebook Reactions, Facebook manipulated users newsfeeds back in 2012 as part of an experiment about moods.

Beyond that, I know many folks, myself included, who just assume that Facebook and now Twitter (and now Instagram) will use the algorithm to manipulate our feeds to show us more advertising and sponsored posts.

They have to, really, in order to pay their investors given that advertising is really their only revenue source.

And this is the problem - the algorithm is a "black box". We, the users, have no idea what is inside of it or how it works.

The corporation is entirely in control.

They are the gatekeeper of the content we see.

Ideally we would have some degree of transparency and control. We would at least know how the algorithm is affecting what we see. But we don't for most of these services.

In their blog post today, the folks at Instagram write:

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.

I hope they do listen - and I hope they do help us at least understand how the algorithm will shape what we see.

Perhaps they'll take some inspiration from Facebook that still provides (at least for the moment) the option to change to see the most recent updates:

Facebook news feed

Although I thought I saw somewhere some stat that only a very few people actually use that option.

Meanwhile, all we can do is embrace the algorithm ourselves... we have no control over the Instagram platform. That is entirely in the hands of the corporation (Facebook) behind it. If we are to continue using it, we are subject to their whims and desires.

Welcome to our brave new world where the corporations are the gatekeepers of what we see.

And, in truth, the algorithm just may help us find more interesting and relevant images within the deluge of Instagram photos.

What do you think? Will embracing the algorithm help make Instagram more interesting and useful? Or do you see this as a cynical attempt to merely get more advertising visible to us?

P.S. Many more stories about this change are appearing on Techmeme.

[1] Note to self: need to pull that post out of Ello's walls and publish it here on the open web.

One Screenshot To Show How Getty Images' "Free" Offer FAILS - And Why I Will Not Use It

Much has been made over the past few weeks about Getty Images allowing the free embedding of over 35 million images from Getty's vast library. The Verge ran a glowing piece and Neville Hobson summarized a good bit of the early coverage. While I commend Getty Images on trying to evolve their business model in the era of the Internet, here's the reality:

I will NOT use this service - and I can't imagine why anyone else would who wants their content found via social networks.

Here is one screenshot to show why Getty Image's service fails.. I used a Getty Images embed in my last post here and this is what happened when I tried to share the link on Facebook:

Getty embed facebook 2

Here's a second screenshot of sharing the post out in Google+:

Getty embed googleplus

Do you see the problem?


That's right... IT'S NOT THERE!

The image appears in the post itself, of course, but it doesn't appear when you try to share the image out in social networks.

Which is... often... THE ENTIRE POINT of why I am including an image in a blog post. I want something visual that will illustrate the points I'm making in the post - but also that will be attractive when the post is shared out on social media.

So for me this is a reason why I will pretty much never use this new offer from Getty Images.

There are host of other issues, as well, as outlined by Brian Krogsgard in a recent post, but for me the one that kills the whole deal is the lack of the ability for the image to appear in social sharing.

Again, I commend Getty Images on trying to figure out how to evolve their business in the Internet age, but this implementation needs to evolve before it will be useful for people like me.

What do you think? Are you planning to use this new service?

I recorded an audio commentary on this issue as well:

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Google+ Changes Cover Photo Size Again - Removes Huge Image, Moves Profile Photo to Left

If you haven't looked at your Google+ profile or page for a bit... you might want to do so because Google has changed the image size again. It used to be a huge image that took up a great amount of your screen - and then "collapsed" in a funky way when you scrolled down the page. Your name and your profile photo appeared at the bottom of the photo and the photo was greyed out a bit.

That's all gone.

Now your photo is a good bit smaller and does not collapse as the page scrolls... it just disappears off the page as you would expect it to. Most significantly, though, your profile photo and info is on the left side of the photo, taking over about a quarter of the image. Here's what my Google+ page looks like now:

Dan York Google 2

You'll note that the profile photo and info now blurs the image behind them. But... if you had taken the time to create a cover photo with something centered in the middle of the photo, you'll probably want to adjust that to shift the image over a bit.

I've not seen any formal specifications out of anyone at Google about this new image size. The only real note I've seen is this Google+ post by Google engineer Karthik Nagaraj just indicating the change was happening. He indicates that basically any 16:9 image should work.

On my Mac using Google Chrome I did a screen capture of that part a G+ page and that told me that the overall image was 1060x438 and the main visible (non-blurred) part was 780x438 (which math then says leaves 280x438 behind the blurred part. That, however, is just how it was displayed in Chrome on my Mac... I don't precisely how it will appear on other browsers on other operating systems.

The main point is that about the leftmost 25% (actually 26.4% if those numbers I measured) of the image will be blurred, so keep that in mind when choosing an image.

Given that I find myself using Google+ a good bit more these days, I do like these changes... it just would have been great if Google gave all of us a bit more of a clue about the change rather than just waking up to find that it had been done. Ah, well... given how much I've paid for Google+ (i.e. nothing) I guess I can't really complain, eh?

What do you think of the new cover photo size? Do you like this better?

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Fashion Designer Chris Benz, Copyright, Photography - And Watching The Social Web React

Jessica nicholsRight now a part of the social web is in full reaction mode to what they see as a strong injustice... and we can watch it unfold right now in Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more.

Photographer Jessica Nichols has laid out her case in a lengthy post that begins:

I have been fighting an infringement of my work since July and it is time to share my story. Fashion designer Chris Benz used my Loads of Ranunculus photograph without my permission and without compensation on his Spring 2012 line.

She goes on to show photographs, including one where a reader matched her photograph pretty much identically to one of Chris Benz's purses.

Having received no response from Chris Benz or his sponsors, she has put out a call to action for people to let Benz and his corporate sponsors know what they think through their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. That post was echoed by others and spread into social networks. I saw one such post of support on Google+ where it was spreading virally through friends of mine.

And it's happening... I can see the comments on Chris Benz's Facebook page filling up... and the "Posts by Others" on the Saks and Lancôme pages seem to have posts there.

As a (casual) photographer myself, I certainly understand why Jessica Nichols is upset - and I do hope some resolution can be found sometime soon.

In the meantime, the social web is responding... and unless there is a response from Chris Benz and his sponsors sometime soon, I don't expect it to go terribly well for them...

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Yet Another Skitch / Evernote FAIL - Image Sharing/Uploading No Longer Works

In the continuing saga of Evernote's destruction of Skitch, a.k.a. how-to-really-badly-screw-up-a-product-loved-by-its-users, I grabbed a screenshot in the old Skitch 1.x (a.k.a. the version that works) and hit the "Share" button. I hoped to get back a skitch.com URL that I could then simply pop into Twitter to reply to someone.

Instead I got this:

Screen Shot 2012 11 01 at 5 30 41 PM

"Skitch.com sharing has moved to Evernote."

Now, in fairness, they have been mentioning that this transition was going to occur for the past bit. So it's not a tremendous surprise.

But here's the FAIL - the "Click here" link takes you to a page on the "Skitch.com Transition to Evernote". But this page simply tells you how to transition your old Skitch.com images to Evernote.

It tells me nothing about how to actually now share an image.

Zip. Na da.

I am left with the mockery of the first sentence: "Skitch is getting even better."

I am guessing that Skitch 1.x users who refuse to upgrade to Skitch 2.0 because it is an incredible downgrade in functionality are probably now just simply... screwed.

I am guessing the easy "Share" function that I use on pretty much a daily basis will now no longer work with Skitch 1.x.

I am guessing that I need to find a new screen capture program that does what I need.

(And yes, I've tried the new Skitch 2.0.1 but it still continues to add many more steps to the easy way Skitch 1.x worked and it still doesn't do all that Skitch 1.x did.)

I am guessing all this because the link that Evernote/Skitch takes me to tells me nothing about how to actually share an image.

Further, I went to look in the Evernote forums to see what users might be saying there and... the site is down for me.


If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Evernote Destroys The Old Skitch With New 2.0 "Update"

This morning brings a collective "What the ______?" moment to the world of many Mac OS X users as we try to absorb the impact of the new Skitch 2.0 released by Evernote. Perhaps the reaction is best summarized by tweets like this:


[Screenshot of that tweet taken, by the way, with Skitch 1.0, immediately resized by dragging the corner, and dragged/dropped into MarsEdit where I'm writing this post.]

And articles are popping up on this same theme:

Evernote's support forums are full of criticism and tweets are exploding with commentary.

Perhaps more importantly for Evernote, existing users are well on the way to decimating the app's ranking in the MacOS X AppStore:

Skitch ratings 1

Note the difference from before - and realize that those 200 one-star ratings at the bottom includes the 135 from above. So basically you are seeing a complete inversion of the app ranking going on right now.

There is somewhat of an irony to this as Skitch is getting heavy rotation right now as a "featured" app in the Mac AppStore.

A Very Happy - And Paying - Skitch v1.x User

I should preface these comments by saying that I have valued Skitch so much over the years that I have been a paid "Skitch Plus" user. I am also a paying user of Evernote. So this is not a rant of someone who expects something for free. I've paid for this software because it is so crucial to what I do.

Skitch is one of the applications that I use each and every day. Constantly. I take screenshots for blog posts and articles. I resize images and change their formats. I drop them into PowerPoint presentations. If I have a JPG and need a PNG, I drag an image into Skitch v1, change the format and drag it back out. If I want to crop an image, it's a simple action. If I want to show someone remote something on my screen, I snap it and then copy/paste the URL into an IM or email message (or tech support web forum).

I use Skitch all... the... time!

And over the years I have turned many people on to the tool... as have many others judging my the fact that there have now been over 10 million downloads. Skitch has been truly one of the absolute best tools for Mac OS X.

The "Paring Down"

The issue is that Evernote didn't just "update" the application - they pretty much recreated the user interface. As they state in the blog post:

We pared the application down to it’s most-loved, most-used, most-essential features, then made those features as great as they could be. We also focused on creating a unified experience across all platforms. So, whether you’re using Skitch on your desktop or mobile phone, you’ll know exactly what to do.

The problem is that the list of "most-loved, most-used, most-essential" features apparently doesn't include the ones that many of us use. :-(

As an example, here are four features I use the most that are simply gone:

  1. Ability to rapidly resize images - In Skitch 1.0, all you did was go to the lower right corner of the window and start dragging it. Boom! Resized image. Super simple. Super FAST! Truly awesome.

    Now it's hidden under Tools->Crop/Resize where you have to go through a dialog box to do the editing. Also, it seems I no longer can enter numerical values if I have an exact size I want to enter. (At least, I couldn't find it.)

    So what was an instant task now becomes a series of dialog boxes and menu choices (or pressing "Option+Command+K" to get to the window).

  2. Ability to rapidly crop images - In Skitch 1.0, all you had to do was go to one of the sides or corners of the image and start dragging to crop an image. Super simple. Super FAST! Truly awesome.

    Now you have to go yet again into this Crop/Resize dialog box and go through the steps.

  3. Ability to rapidly change image types - In Skitch 1.0, there is this wonderful drop-down menu box that lets you choose the type of file you want to export:

    Skitch export

    With this one menu, you can export an image to whatever format you want. If I want a JPG, PNG, TIF or even a PDF. Just choose the type and drag away:

    Skitch export 2

    Super simple. Super FAST! Truly awesome.

    Now this, too, requires additional steps. You have to go to File->Export where you then go through the standard Mac OS X dialog box to save the file. The choices have also been dropped to PNG, JPEG, TIFF, GIF and BMP... although those were honestly the ones I pretty much always used.

  4. Ability to take a timed screenshot - In Skitch 1.0 there was this truly awesome capability where you could hold down the Shift key while taking a screen shot to get a countdown timer:

    Skitch timer

    This is tremendously helpful if you want to do a screenshot of a menu command, a pop-up or hovering menu, or just anything you want to re-create using the pointer.

    In Skitch v2.0 I can't find this feature at all.

These are just four of the features that I commonly use that I have seen in the 2.0 version after I upgraded one of my systems. The forums are full of other features people used... the menu bar icon... custom hotkeys... the ability to share to your own SFTP server... the list goes on...

Destroying the Speed

Now, as I noted, with the exception of the timed screenshot these "features" are not truly "gone" from Skitch 2.0. They are just now buried in menus and take extra steps.

And that's the point.

The most awesome part about Skitch was that it was insanely FAST.

In a few moments I could have screenshots that were resized, cropped, annotated and then dropped into articles or shared online. Simple. Fast.

And that's gone.

Did We Ask For A Unified Experience?

Why would Evernote do this to Skitch?

I think the answer can be found in part of that blog post that I quoted earlier:

We also focused on creating a unified experience across all platforms. So, whether you’re using Skitch on your desktop or mobile phone, you’ll know exactly what to do.

And therein lies the problem.

I completely understand what they are trying to do - and on one level I applaud them for trying. Make it so that an app can work on the iPad and iPhone very much like the app on Mac OS X. Provide a common look-and-feel so that users can move between them easily. Even better, with Evernote syncing (more on that below) you can edit and use the same images across your different devices.

A very solid strategy that sounds great on so many levels. Consistent user experience. Consistent support requirements (ex. documentation, tech support, etc.)

It's a perfect plan..... for a new application.

And for new users.

Anyone completely new to Skitch will probably try out the app and perhaps love it.

The problem is that to get to that "unified experience", the Evernote/Skitch team had to pare down the Mac OS X app... to get it down to the least common denominator across all the various platforms.

And so we who had come to love Skitch on Mac OS X so much have to lose many of the features that were the reasons why we used Skitch in the first place... so that iPhone/iPad users can have a consistent user interface.

The Evernote Connection

One of the big features of this Skitch 2.0 release is that all your snaps are stored in Evernote. In fact, you can't store them anywhere else... gone is the ability to (S)FTP images to another server. No more WebDAV... no more Flickr support... it's all stored in Evernote. (Well, you can choose NOT to use Evernote and only store your images locally, but the only way to put the images up online where you can share them is through using Evernote.)

This makes sense from Evernote's point-of-view and may very well be attractive to many users.

For me personally, though, there's this basic issue:

I do not need (or want) to store my images!

The vast majority of time my usage of Skitch is to take a fast screenshot to drop into an article, blog post or presentation.

They are disposable images.

I don't need to save them... or in fact I have saved them by using them in an article or presentation. But the image itself is no longer necessary.

So why do I want to clutter up my Evernote account with these unwanted images?

Now I guess that if I proceed with the upgrade I'll have to plan some time to go in and occasionally delete out all the useless images.

I will admit that in some situations it would be helpful to be able to obtain the image from other systems... so I can see some value in the Evernote sync. But I still can't think why I want all my images in Evernote.

What's Next?

So now what?

I should note that Skitch 2.0 does bring some new features that are positive:

  • The new "pixelate" tool is something that I've wished Skitch would have for ages. It's excellent to see! (Although I can't seem to figure out how to undo/remove pixelation once it's done. The standard "Undo" command doesn't seem to remove it.)
  • The highligher tool is another excellent addition.
  • The way you can change the font size by dragging is nice.
  • The simple sharing to Twitter and Facebook is welcome.
  • As noted earlier, the Evernote sync (and search) may be welcome by some.

Will we as users come to appreciate those features as being useful enough to warrant all that is lost? Will the Evernote team come out with a 2.1 release that adds some of these features that we all are missing?

We've certainly seen other companies make similar moves. Apple did it with iMovie many years back and then recently with Final Cut Pro. Skype made a huge change with move from 2.8 to 5.x on the Mac. Twitter completely rewrote Tweetdeck. In all those cases a great amount of functionality was lost even while new features were added.

New users of Skitch may again find much to like in the new capabilities.

But what about the long-time users? Will they stick around to see if a newer version of Skitch 2.x comes out? Or, as I'm seeing in the Twitter stream, will people search for alternatives:

2 Twitter  Search  skitch  All Tweets

For me, I'm sticking with Skitch v1.x on my primary laptop where speed is essential. On another system I use less I've made a backup copy of Skitch 1.x but then have gone ahead and upgraded to Skitch 2.0. I'll try it out and see if I can learn to like it (really not sure on that) - plus I can use the pixelate tool.

But... if some other tool does pop up that delivers the power and speed of the original Skitch, I could very easily see myself moving to that other tool.

This "upgrade" has completely burned any loyalty I had to Skitch... and I can no longer really recommend it as strongly as I once did.

It's too bad. Skitch is a truly awesome tool that is an integral part of my daily workflow. It's truly disappointing to see all that power and speed destroyed for the sake of trying to get to a unified cross-platform experience.

What about you? Are you disappointed in this new release? Or do you like the new Skitch 2.0? Are you going to stick with it? Or hunt for a new alternative?

P.S. All the images used in this post were touched by Skitch v1.x. The two tweets and the AppStore image were taken using Skitch, resized and dragged out of Skitch. The three images of Skitch itself were taken with the native Mac OS X screenshot keyboard shortcut that dropped an image on the desktop. I then dragged those screenshots from the desktop (individually) into Skitch where I then cropped, resized and annotated (in one case) the images before dragging them out to MarsEdit for this post. Super simple. Super fast. Truly awesome!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Images/Photos Alone Do Not Make A Content Strategy


Credit: C.C. Chapman

Lately, it seems, the social media world is all abuzz about "images" in various forms. Photos, pictures... Instagram... Pinterest... infographics... plus Twitter, Facebook and Google+ all enhancing their capability to handle photos... and now this intense fascination with posting images with words and sayings on top of them!

I get it. I do. Visual storytelling is incredibly powerful. Evocative. Inspirational. Images and photos can transcend words and cut right to the emotional core of an issue. I personally enjoy photography, and you can usually find me shooting photos at events I attend. I'm sharing photos all the time into Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.


... lately we seem to be seeing in the corporate PR / marketing / social media space a really severe case of "bright shiny object" syndrome. All over the place... large enterprises, small startups... and everyone in between.

Oooo... let's post a bunch of photos to Instagram because we'll look hip and cool! Hey, clearly we need to be pinning all the photos we can to Pinterest boards, because "everyone" is doing it! Hey, look, another new mobile app that lets us do _____ with our photos - cool! Wow, look how cool we are because we can post a photo with some pithy quote written on top of it in a funky font! And let's not even jump into the cesspool of poorly done infographics...

All of this without answering a fundamental question:


WHY are you posting those images? Why are you using that service? How do the images help communicate your message to your audiences? How do they help get your message out? How do they facilitate sharing? How does posting the images to ______ increase your interaction with your audiences?

Now, don't get me wrong... experimentation is awesome and necessary. And I'm the last one to talk about chasing bright shiny objects... that's what I love to do (and in fact write about). Experimentation is really required if you are going to stay on top of the insane pace of new products and services appearing on a daily basis. But there is a difference between experimentation and trumpeting the fact that you are now using these services, as if the use of those services will somehow make you cooler and help you communicate better.

They might help you communicate better, and you won't know unless you experiment... but as you experiment you need to think about the why.

Ultimately these services are all tactics that need to line up with a larger strategy.

Why are you using them? Why are you posting the images you choose to post?

Do the images help educate your audiences about your products? your mission? your services?
Do they help humanize your organization and show a more personal side? or show the people behind the name?
Do they entertain or amuse people and help build your community?
Do they inspire people because of how beautiful or artistic they are?
Do they promote your brand name or social account? Will you gain more followers/fans/etc?

How does posting images to service X fit within your larger strategy? Now, maybe you are posting that LOLcat image purely as link-bait to build your followers... that's okay, just call it what it is. And this doesn't mean that every image needs to be serious and "on message" - images can certainly be posted "for fun"... and maybe that's one of the purposes they serve.

The point is that some conscious thought needs to be given to the use of images and the use of the various services... rather than just doing it "because everyone is doing it"!

As I was thinking about this, a trio of posts yesterday on this precise topic caught my eye:

First, in "Pictures With Words", C.C. Chapman provides this awesome photo that I've included here and hits the point:

If your brand is thinking about diving into this because everyone is doing it, remember that it is a tactic and not a strategy. Where does it fit into your other marketing programs and what can you do with this trend that is unique and relavent to your business? Always ask why before you do anything. Make sure it is a fit and that you are not doing it simply because everyone else is. Following the herd rarely gets you noticed.

We as a society love shiny new toys and are scared of doing the grunt work. We see other people doing things, so we have to do them. If there is a shortcut that looks like it’ll make things easier we take it.


Second, in "The Rise of the Junkweb and Why It’s Awesome or At Least Inevitable", Chris Brogan talks about this new love of images as the "junkweb":

It’s the Junkweb. Why “junk?” Because the original intent of the Internet was that links were gold, that searchability was key, that this ability to find anything and use resources from wherever was magic. And this new web? The web of pictures with text over them? They’re junk. They’re a dead end. The picture is the payload. They don’t lead you elsewhere. They are the stopping point, the cul de sac.

But goes on to say that maybe this is okay in our new world and that the new tools we have access to have in fact made it easier for anyone to participate and share. He concludes offering three suggestions for people to engage in the "junkweb":

1. Make interesting graphics worth sharing.
2. Make it easy to share them.
3. Evoke an emotion.

And for Chris the "why" is because this world of sharing images is where the sharing and interaction happen between "regular" people and thus is worth investigating. Good article and, as with many of Chris' posts, the comment stream is well worth a read, too.

Finally, in his AdAge column titled "The Revolution Won't Be Televised; It Will Be Instagrammed" and subtitled "Businesses That Bank on Photographic Storytelling Will Win", Steve Rubel discusses why businesses should pay attention to what is going on with the rise of visual storytelling through photography. Inadvertently aligning with Chris Brogan's "junkweb", he writes:

Visual storytelling today is blissfully cliche. Photos are deliberately over animated, over filtered and even over exposed. They ignore all the rules. Just as the proliferation of texting arguably made the written word less formal and YouTube did the same for video, the ubiquity of smartphones has changed the expectations of what's considered "good" photography.

On this last sentence my professional photography friends can definitely agree! Steve goes on to basically offer suggestions for people involved with advertising to get involved with this space. Earlier in the article, too, he makes some interesting points with regard to why photos will be more important that videos, particularly with regard to mobile devices.

He doesn't touch on the "why", though, beyond the fact that this is the "new normal" and businesses need to be embracing it.

Which goes back to my original points... WHY are you embracing the use of images? Or perhaps more HOW are you going to embrace them? How does it help you?

Are you asking these questions?

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Tumblr's Awesome Error Message

Lately I've been using Tumblr a bit for a project and overall it's gone quite well and left me quite impressed with the service. Today, though, while working on the site Tumblr had some problem because suddenly I couldn't get to the site.

However, Tumblr did give me a great laugh with this error message:


And with that laugh, I gave them a bit of a break and went to do something else for a few minutes before checking back.

Lesson - if you have a technical problem, at least try to amuse people with your error message...

(And just a minute or two later my Tumblr site was responding again.)

UPDATE: My colleague Justin Dupree pointed out the origin of the Tumbeasts, as did someone named Daniel (nice name!) as a comment to this post. Thanks to both Justin and Daniel for pointing out the origin!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: