Lights! Camera! Action!

It seems small businesses are finally starting to come around when it comes to utilizing the power of social media for their business.

Brokerages and agents can’t keep away from sharing news on facebook, tweeting with their followers, enhancing their photos on Instagram and creating eye-catching photo pin boards on Pinterest. But, where are all the videos? What about Youtube?

Youtube is the number two ranked search engine on the web, behind Google (Youtube is owned by and is a subsidiary of Google). Four billion videos are viewed every day and over 800 million unique visitors visit Youtube each month. So why aren’t businesses taking advantage of this incredibly popular, free video sharing platform?

The unfortunate reality is many brokers, marketing managers and REALTORS® are intimidated by the thought of in-house video production, believing it to be expensive, complicated and time consuming. However, in today’s multi-media, tech-savvy world, video is easier to create than ever before – and is essential to a well-rounded marketing plan.

How and where does one get started with video? There are a number of options to consider when creating video for your business, including:

• Choosing the right equipment
• Creating the best audio
• Getting the best background and lighting
• Content/what to shoot
• Video editing and post production software
• Uploading and sharing

Equipment:
Thankfully, we live in a tech-filled world where smaller is better. Long gone are the days when 20 pounds of heavy steal and bulky plastic rested unnaturally on your shoulder, only to get a shaky, blurred shot of your spouse asking if it’s recording yet.

Two more popular options on the market today for shooting quick and easy HD video is your smart phone and/or a DSLR camera. However, if you’re already using a different video camera that works for you, keep using it!

Don’t be fooled, your smart phone camera packs a mean HD video punch. Five to ten years ago, it would’ve cost thousands of dollars in camera equipment to get the quality of your handheld device – so don’t take it for granted.

Recording video with your smartphone is great when you’re on the go and want to shoot a quick video to email to a client or even upload to Youtube (see sidebar on how to upload to Youtube).

Video editing apps are also available to adjust the footage, add special effects and titles, or edit on the go. There are even a few video “home tour” apps available to create your own, neatly produced video home tour (see editing software sidebar for details).

There are a few drawbacks when recording video with your smartphone:

1.)Smartphones are small and handling them requires extra control so footage doesn’t end up shaky.

2.)Editing video on a small device is not ideal. Some apps have limited capabilities. The small screen makes editing and trimming clips harder.

3.)The internal microphone is not as powerful and flexible as a handheld mic.

If you’re thinking of going for a more controlled, professional style look and feel of your video, then the DSLR is the camera for you.

DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. This means light travels through a single lens and a mirror is used to reflect a portion of that light through the view finder – hence the name single-lens reflex. It sounds complex, but the good news is you don’t need to understand how it works to understand how to use it.

Originally manufactured and marketed as still photo cameras, videographers and film makers are now using them in their practice – and not just small fries either. In 2010, the season finale of the hit US drama House was shot entirely with a DSLR camera.

The benefits of using a DSLR are outstanding. Along with high quality HD, 1080p video capabilities, DSLR cameras give user’s manual control over the image that no other camera in its price range can offer. Users can control the aperture, the shutter speed, focus, ISO and frame size. ‘Traditional’ cameras that do this cost upwards of $6,000, and cheaper camcorders don’t offer this control.

DSLR cameras also record video on a simple SD card. To import footage to your computer, just remove the card from the camera and insert it into your computer’s SD slot. Your video footage is automatically put into separate files and folders within the SD card file, which can be easily saved to your computer for editing and uploading.

The only drawback of using a DSLR is that the audio isn’t ideal. However, if you record in a quiet room with limited exterior noise, the audio should come out O.K.

The two more affordable DSLR cameras for shooting video are the Nikon D5100 and the Canon Rebel T3i. You can find both of these cameras on Amazon for around $500.

Audio:

Smartphone:
If you’re recording video with your smart phone, make sure you hold the device close to your body so you get the best audio levels. There are even inexpensive microphones you can purchase for your smartphone to increase the audio quality. For iPhones, check the Apple store. For Android and other smartphone devices, Amazon will have what you’re looking for.

DSLR:
When recording audio from a DSLR you want to keep your voice levels at a medium; which means, in order for the camera to clearly capture the audio you need to keep the camera close to your body – about 1-2 feet. Loud vocals will create an incoherent, jumbled sound.

If you’re looking to enhance the audio quality using a DSLR camera, your best option would be to record audio on a separate recording device. You can pick up a simple, audio recorder from your local electronics store for around $75-$100. You can also attach a microphone to the audio recorder for more control and/or if you’re conducting interviews. However, to do this effectively you will have to sync up the audio and video separately in editing.

Lighting and background:
They say lighting can make or break a video. When setting up the background and lighting of your video, take the following into consideration:

-Avoid backgrounds with a lot of motion or sound. Instead, use an empty office. It’s less noisy and you have better control of sound and lighting.

-Never use fake plants or other office “props” as a background – it looks chincy and outdated. Also, avoid off-white walls as they look boring and dull. Instead, set up a colored paper background (by pinning or taping it to the wall). You can buy a roll of seamless colored paper from your local photography supply store for around $45.

-Filming with overhead lights can create nasty shadows and glare. Instead, turn off the lights and try to block out as much outside light as you can. Bring in your own video lighting – You don’t need to have a top-of-the-line lighting kit to make people look great on camera. You can make your own lights with a quick trip to home depot by purchasing a few scoop clip lights, some daylight color balanced CFL bulbs, and some spring clips to attach the lights to a stand or desk (you can pick up cheap stands on Amazon or a photography store). If the lights are too strong and you need to diffuse them, simply tape a coffee filter to the front of it. For more lighting tips, visit wisita.com/blog/your-first-lighting-kit/

-Finally, make sure to create some space between you and your background. Take two steps forward from your backdrop to create a more balanced feel and to reduce shadows.

Creating Content:
Ok, so now you have your camera, the lights are on and you’re ready to press record. What do you record?! Creating content can be a challenge, especially when you’re new to the video marketing world. When considering what to shoot, think outside of the box – what would you want to watch?

Let’s take for example a video update for your clients. Instead of just saying, “Hi, this is ______ and I have three more listings to show you! Call me at 555-5555”, try to make it interactive so you’re not so much a talking billboard and more of a helpful friend.

An example of this would be to host a weekly or monthly video, updating your clients (and potential clients) about consumer housing news, tips for their home, or have a past client come on and interview him/her about the process of finding their dream home. The purpose is to engage the viewer!

Another option would be to do a video home tour of one of your listings, taking your clients on an exciting virtual tour! With video tours, you want to make sure you pan the camera from left to right (slowly) so the viewer gets a full view of the room. The key is to keep the video moving. (Tourzilla is a great smartphone app for creating home tours)

Also, don’t be afraid to be goofy! People like to be entertained, if you like to dress up as Iron Man during Halloween give some “Marvel-ous Halloween decorating tips” in an Iron Man mask. They may think you’re a dork – but they’ll remember it!

Finally, the length of the video should be a top priority. Remember, we humans do not have long attention spans. To keep the viewer fully engaged, try and set the maximum length of your video around 1 minute. Any more than that and you’ll start losing their attention. If you feel you can’t do that, break up your videos into chapters (ex. Part 1).

Video editing and post-production:
There are a number of video editing apps available to make editing seamless and quick on your smartphone. Here are some top editing apps available for iPhone and Android devices:

Socialcam: Think of Socialcam as an Instagram for web videos. Not only can you add filters to your videos and then share it with your social networks, Socialcam also lets you watch your uploaded videos anywhere on any device.

Capture: Capture is YouTube’s very own video-editing app. You can shoot and edit videos from your smartphone in 1080p HD quality and instantly share your final product with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Viddy: What sets this short-video app apart is that users can only film their videos up to 30 seconds – making users be selective of what they shoot. Like Socialcam, this app also has multiple filters that help enhance the look and feel of the video as well as more audio tracks for sound effects.

Magisto: Magisto is easy to use: All you have to do is upload your video, select your theme and music, and the app will do the work for you. It will automatically select the best scenes from your videos and create short videos.

Tourzilla: Tourzilla is smartphone app that allows real estate agents to create a video virtual tour using their smartphones by pressing just one button. Unlike many other video recording and editing apps, Tourzilla is made specifically for real estate.

Editing video from other camera devices, such as the DSLR or any other standard camera, requires you to download editing software to your computer. However, there are a number of affordable editing programs available that offer practical tools for you to import, organize, edit and share videos quickly and easily.

Windows Live Movie Maker – Quickly add photos and footage from your PC or camera into Movie Maker, then fine tune your movie just the way you want it. You can move things around, speed it up or slow it down. Movie Maker adds transitions and effects automatically so your movie looks polished and professional. Once your video is finished, Movie Maker allows you to share it online on Facebook, YouTube or other social networking and video sharing sites with just a click of a button. Note: this is for Windows users only.

iMovie: iMovie is Apple’s basic video editing application, aimed for the amateur consumer. It allows Apple users to create movies from a number of different sources including digital video cameras, DV-encoded files, and pictures. The features allow the user to add music to their video, add transitions between clips, and add titles and other effects.

Wondershare: Wondershare Video Editor is well-known for its intuitive and easy to touch features, as well as in-depth tools you can also access if necessary, such as picture-in-picture, speed up/slow down, voice change, etc. It’s easy to use and inexpensive to download.

Magix Movie Edit Pro: After transferring your recorded content to your computer, the Magix Edit Pro MX takes all the hard work out of getting great looking videos out for the world (or your family/friends) to see. The built in tutorials help any user level easily navigate all the functions of the software.

Uploading and sharing:
Once you have fined-tuned your video in editing, it’s time to upload and share on Youtube! To begin, you need to visit youtube.com and create an account – it’s free and easy to set up.

If you are uploading video from your smartphone, you will want to download the Youtube app. Once the app is downloaded, find the video you want to upload and send simply upload it to your Youtube account! Youtube will ask you to create a title and description of the video. Just follow the steps and within a few minutes your video will be ready for broadcast (and to share) on Youtube. Your video will have its own link to share with your clients and friends.

Uploading a video from your computer to Youtube is very simple. Once your video is finished and ready for Youtube, visit Youtube.com (if you don’t have an account, create one), click the upload tab on Youtube’s home screen, find the video file from your computer and simply click O.K. to upload. Youtube will again ask you to create a title and description for your video. Once it’s finished uploading, Youtube will provide you with a link to watch and share your video.

That’s all – good luck with your video production and marketing! If you run into any trouble creating or uploading video, just Google it!

Build it they will come

Way back when (late 1990’s) — which is considered eons in internet years, the future of e-commerce was anybody’s guess. But even then, entrepreneurs and progressive futurists alike agreed that a large portion of future business transactions and marketing tactics would be derived through an “on-line portal” (the internet).

In the past 15 years, the internet has changed so drastically that it’s hard to remember what a vastly different place it was. Back then, developers would spend weeks writing incredibly complicated codes to build what we would consider today, a painfully dreadful website. What’s funny (and slightly embarrassing), there are still companies out there using the same web design they had in the 90’s.

Today, with the infinite number of online tools available, it couldn’t be easier to build and sustain an active website, either for personal or business purposes. However, even with these tools at our finger tips, more than half (54 percent) of all small businesses in Ohio still don’t have a website, according to a recent stats release from Google.

So, if building a website was so easy, why don’t more businesses have them? The top procrastinating reasons are:
1.Change
2.Knowledge (technical)
3.Purpose (marketing power)
4.Time
5.Cost

We, as humans, find security in habit. Change makes us uncomfortable because it requires adjustment which forces us to make both mental and physical re-arrangements. But, in order to survive we have to adapt!

Case in point, Forbes did an article not too long ago about the Yellow Pages and how they’ve gone by the wayside in terms of being an effective marketing tool.

The buyer journey has been fundamentally changed by the Internet. Today, 60 to 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is completed before a salesperson is ever contacted. That means that buyers have already researched their problem, potential solutions, and investigated the viability of those solutions. They have evaluated the vendors, conducted reference checks via social media and even gone so far as to test the short listed solutions by visiting colleagues who are using the product or downloading free trial versions. For the most part, all this happens without the company’s knowledge. By the time the buyer contacts a salesperson, they have a specific list of questions and a price they are willing to pay. That leaves the B2B sales team with frustratingly little opportunity to influence the buyer’s needs.

Competing in today’s market without a website is like trying to catch fish in a dry pond. Today’s client is a social web hound-dog, sniffing through every possible online portal finding out who you are, who you know, how good you are, and if you can find them the best deal out there.

And, if you think your name doesn’t exist on the internet, it does – somewhere – and they’ll find you. So it’s best they find the positive things about you, right?

The old adage of ‘what got you to where you are today is not enough to get you to where you need to be tomorrow’ is more relevant today than ever before.

Fortunately for you, building a website today is easier and more cost-effective than you might think. Today, business owners can build a sleek, fully functional multi-page website with hosting for under $200. Sound crazy? Keep reading.

When it comes to finding a home for your website, there are a number of options. The most popular website builder, GoDaddy.com, is a simple source to get your website up and running. GoDaddy is also great for those of us who are tech challenged, providing pre-designed templates and guiding you through the process of registering and launching your site. GoDaddy’s packages start at just $10 a month. However, be careful, GoDaddy is known for constantly trying to upsell you. They also limit you on design templates and it takes some time to get use to the admin controls. They do offer 24/7 support for any concerns or questions.

Dreamhost.com is becoming one of the more popular hosting websites because of their design options, user interface and bang for the buck. The basic Dreamhost hosting package includes unlimited storage space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited number of e-mail addresses and unlimited domains for hosting (essentially, you can set up multiple websites with one Dreamhost account). This basic package runs just $9.95 a month or $119.40 a year. Another great option about Dreamhost is that you can incorporate WordPress into your website.

WordPress, originally created as a blogging platform, has evolved into one of the most popular content management system’s (CMS) capable of powering just about any type of website. WordPress is a type of website software that is installed on your server to help you easily and effortlessly manage and organize your content. Also, WordPress is free!

With Dreamhost, you can incorporate a custom third-party WordPress design, which allows you to install any type of plug-in, theme, and add-on to your website. These add-ons and themes generally run between $40 and $90 for a single-use license and come in a variety of easy-to-use templates for specific business types.

Templatic.com (third-party WordPress designer) offers a wide variety of real estate themed designs and provides an easy-to-use format for property listings and agent profiles.

If you do decide to use DreamHost for your hosting needs, be sure to use the promo code SAVEMONEY, which offers a $50 instant discount on all DreamHost plans.

Some other great website builders that have great designs, are easy to operate, mobile friendly and inexpensive are:

Squarespace.com – Sleek and sophisticated with lots of room for customization.

Webs.com – Insanely flexible. Tons of options. Webs will surprise you with how much creative freedom you have.

Weebly.com – Unparalleled in ease of use and flexibility. Has an uncanny way of giving what you need when you need it.

Edicy.com – An elegant, easy to use website builder that nails the fundamentals.

Virb.com – A limited but easy to use website editor package with some stunning designs.

Yola.com – Great for SEO and full of clever features that make building a website fun and easy.

Jimdo.com – A strong e-commerce editor and some neat integration make this website builder stand out.

Let’s say you don’t have the time to build a website on your own or you want your own custom design, there are plenty of services out there that will build your website from the ground up – but it will cost you.

On average, a basic package for a website designer, including hosting, design, and content management software will cost you anywhere from $1,200-$5,000.

If you’re looking at incorporating additional features, such as mobile platforms, multi-media (video), advertising integration, content integration, IDX, SEO and social media, packages can run upwards to $20,000.

When budgeting for a website, it’s incredibly important to decide only what you need, then build from there. Do your research; compare prices with other website developers in central Ohio. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to the premium package. If you’re an independent agent you really don’t need all the bells and whistles, just go with the basics. Finally, boutique agencies and freelancers typically are the least expensive because of competition from larger agencies and low overhead. Try your luck with them first, and then go from there. Where do you find a designer? Google “web designers in Columbus” – there’s a plethora of them.

Even if you already have a website, it’s always a good idea to keep it fresh and new. Businesses should be updating their website every 18 months; if you’ve had the same design for the past eight years, it’s time for an upgrade.

Whatever you decide to do, either building the website yourself or having one built, make sure you do it right. It’s better to have no website at all than to have one that makes you look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, “I take pride in my work to provide my clients with the utmost professionalism” or it says, “A website? Oh yea I have one of those, my five year old nephew made it! He reads at a 5th grade level!”

The choice is yours – build your business and roll with the times – online, or sit back with the Yellow Pages and see what happens. Most likely, your listing book will kindle the fire on some cold winter nights.

It’s my Social Media Right to Copy, Right?

In a world full of pins, posts, blogs, tweets and re-tweets, digital content is made to be shared. However, amongst this ever-evolving content creating, curating and sharing world, there’s one thorn-in-the-side reality that challenges our digital age – copyright. This article aims to answer some underlying questions about copyright and how to keep you and your digital engagement legal.

The last time the U.S Copyright Law was updated was in 1976; long before internet file sharing and the emergence of social media. A continuing effort to “fix” copyright law is certainly underway but until there is legislative redress, we must work within the current framework. To do so, we must first understand the basics of copyright law.

What is Copyright?
Copyright is a federal law of the United States that protects original works of authorship. A work of authorship includes literary, written, dramatic, artistic, musical and certain other types of works, e.g., a photographer takes a pictures, a musician records a tune, or a writer puts pencil to paper.
Contrary to popular belief, copyright does not need to be registered nor does it require special paperwork. As soon as you click record, apply paint to canvas, or type words, you’ve got a copyright. (You can even use the official copyright circle with a “C”)

Copyright gives the original author a bundle of exclusive rights that has substantial control over his/her work.
1. Reproduction
2. Distribution of copies
3. Prepare derivatives of the work
4. Display the work

Can I re-use photos I find on the internet for my blog or website?
Yes and no. This is where it gets a little tricky and if you’re not mindful of the laws in place, you could end up with a lawsuit. To answer this question properly, we first need to look at the fair use doctrine.

The fair use doctrine allows limited and reasonable uses of a copyrighted work. “Fairness” depends on four criteria’s: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and portion used verse the work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market or value of the copyrighted work.
Not to be confused with free use, fair use is a legal exception to the exclusive rights an owner has for his or her copyrighted work.

A classic example of fair use would be online product reviews. Let’s say you want to review a new piece of technology, or the latest real estate app, you’ll likely want to include a photo.
So you head to the manufacturer’s/owners website and right-click that image and save it to upload to your blog. A photo will not substitute for the actual product, so the owner’s rights should be very minimally affected. Therefore, your right to use the copyrighted image would likely be permitted under fair use.

On the other hand, let’s say you need a photo of a building or landscape to beef up your website, so you Google it in Google Images. Hundreds of images show up; is it fair use? No, but you may still be able to use it if the owner grants public use terms.

Google images are no exception to copyright law. When you click on a photo, you will find in small print on the right-hand side, “Images may be subject to copyright”. To find out if you can use the photo, you need to check under the photo’s Terms of Use (typically located on the owner’s website). If you can’t find one, you probably shouldn’t use the image as it will most likely be a violation of copyright.
Many times, the best way to find out is to simply send an email asking permission. On occasion, photographers will grant permission as long as you link back to their website.

What about Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter where everyone shares photos?
The same copyright rules apply when grabbing photos off websites or Google and posting them on social media. If the image is copyrighted and you don’t have permission to use it, it’s illegal.
However, social media sites make sure they are not the victim of copyright infringement through their terms and privacy notice. And by posting either your own or others’ content on their sites, you are granting them a license to use the content anyway they see fit.

Pinterest’s terms of service says that Pinterest does not take your copyright to photos. But, by signing up for Pinterest and agreeing to their terms and privacy notice, you have agreed to give Pinterest
a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify (e.g., re-format), re-arrange, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest for the purposes of operating and providing the Service(s) to you and to our other Users.

In other words, Pinterest can use your content on its site because you have agreed to give them a license to use it as described in this agreement, without payment.
The Pinterest copyright statement includes a link where you can file a complaint against someone you feel has violated your copyright.
Facebook and Twitter are similar to Pinterest in that although you still “own” the photograph, you grant them a license to use your photograph anyway they see fit, and you grant them the right to let others use you picture as well.

Under Facebook’s current terms, until you delete your account, they can use any content that you post in connection with Facebook. The license ends when you delete your account.
Under Twitter’s terms, your photos and videos (twitpics) may be reprinted and used in anything – books, magazines, movies, TV shows, billboards and can be used for a “reasonable amount of time” after you delete your account. So be careful what you “tweet”!

Almost everyone is guilty or knows someone guilty of pulling pictures off Google. And frankly, almost everyone doing it had no clue it could be illegal. Do you know someone who’s been sued? Probably not. To each his own…..Just be cautious.

What if there’s a “share” button on a website or image?
I’m sure you’ve been to a website or blog where there’s a “share” tab. In this situation, they want you to post their content over all your social pages; and it’s covered under the fair-use act, as they are giving you permission to use/share their content. Share until your heart’s content.

Where can I find quality images that won’t get me in trouble?
There are a number of stock photo sources that offer free or low cost options. The following is a list of websites offering free or cheap, high quality photos:

Freerangestock.com: Freerange Stock is a completely free stock photo community, supported by advertising revenue and showcasing photographs from talented photographers. Community members can browse the site, download photos for personal and commercial use and sign up to contribute their own work for a share of ad revenue.

morgueFile.com: MorgueFile is home to a very user-friendly stock photography database of more than 200,000 images spanning a wide variety of subjects. Anyone can visit the site, browse and instantly download photos and participate in community bulletin boards, all for free.

Stock Exchange: Sign up for a free account at stock.xchng and begin browsing more than 350,000 free photos provided by more than 30,000 photographers.

Flickr.com/CreativeCommons: Arguably one of the most valuable resources for a nonprofit, Flickr: Creative Commons boasts more than 100 million Creative Commons licensed images.

Stockvault.net: Easily search more than 18,000 high-quality stock photos at Stockvault.net.

Dreamstime.com: Offering both free and for-purchase royalty-free images, Dreamstime invites registered users to browse, download and buy photos from a selection of more than 9 million images.

iClipart.com: iClipart sets itself apart from other stock photo sites by offering a large selection of clip art alongside photos and flexible subscription plans ranging from one week for $12.95 to one year for $49.95.

Bigstock.com: With more than 5 million royalty-free images, Bigstock is becoming a major competitor in the stock photo space. Bigstock is free to join and its design makes it simple for members to manage their account.

As a final reminder, be cautious of the right-click, save as. If you’re not sure if you can use a photo, don’t use it. And finally, keep this list of free photos as your image artillery on file, at all times.