Need Graphic Work Done?

I know many of you out there are interested in getting graphics of some kind done for your online presence. From twitter backgrounds and blog templates to podcast logos and ebook covers, the list is endless. There are many graphic designers out there, yet the good ones are even rarer to find. To make this process easier for you, I will reveal who I use for my graphic design.

The banner you see above and the logo used on my podcast are all the result of Podcast Designs. Becky, who does all of the design work, was referred to me by a fellow podcaster for getting a good logo done for my podcast. She blew me away with what she came back with, and I fell in love with it immediately. Not only does she do logo’s, but also ebook covers, website templates, and any other graphics work you need done.

Podcast Designs comes highly recommended by me, so be sure to tell her that I sent you when you need graphics done. 😉

May 2010 be your most prosperous year yet!

-Taylor Marek

Note: This is one of those rare posts where I recommend someone I use on a regular basis for work they have done for me. I am not compensated in any way, other than good will, for recommending Podcast Designs, I am merely sharing a resource that I use and works well for me.

How Checking Your Writing Makes You A Better Blogger

© Stephen Poff

You are in the art museum marveling at a masterpiece when you notice there is a green smudge running across the bottom of the painting that should not be there. Regardless of whether it was a careless stroke by the artist or not, what just happened? Instantly your liking of the painting took a hit.

The same should be with your blog, research paper, forum post, or any other form of writing you undertake.

I’ve read many blogs. Possibly even too many… (nah, scratch that. I’ll be reading blogs forevermore) I’ve read enough to know this fact. Please double check your work!

Currently, Chris Pirillo is doing a YouTube series slamming poor grammar and writing skills (Note, there is language and it is meant to be offensive, but in a humorous kind of way). Chris can get away with it as he has been on the internet for quite a while now and he has a degree in English, so I can understand where he’s coming from.

It is a simple yet most often overlooked fact in today’s age. Here are a couple tips to remember:

1. Solidify your thoughts

By reading what you just wrote, you will be able to clarify your thoughts. If you need to make changes, now is the time to do it before you publish it. It also confirms what you were thinking, and typically your mind and the words on the page will click together. It never hurts to read what you just wrote and is much more beneficial if you do in the long run.

2. Uncover Errors

If there is a comma missing, punctuation misplaced, or a word spelled wrong, you will usually find it on the second read-through. You may also find a word that looks similar, but because the spell checker didn’t flag it, it will go unnoticed unless you read through and realize that the word is actually spelled differently.

Trust me, it will make you look better in the long run if you double check your work.

A picture is worth a thousand words yet if one part is wrong, it ruins the entire masterpiece.

What are you doing to correct that?

Thought Leaders

© 2009 Patrick Smith Photography

I’ve been reading some very good material around the web recently, and I’ve been coming to realize the difference between social media rockstars and thought leaders, though this can apply to almost any industry. (I love having StumbleUpon to archive all of this stuff…)

Tim Ferriss nailed it on the head for me. He was at LeWeb speaking on how to make a global phenomenon for under $10k. Two things in his speech stood out.

1. “Target the thought leaders, not the ones who are popular.”

He was speaking about how he went around promoting his book, the 4 Hour Workweek, and this was quite an interesting idea he put forth. He also documented case studies on his results as well, which were quite interesting. He explained that he met someone at an event, got to know him pretty well, and promoted the book on his blog. Little did he know that everyone else followed this guy and soon he noticed on a fairly popular blog that there was a link trailing to his friends blog, which trailed directly back to his blog. Sales for his book sharply increased.

Another example is that Chris Brogan mentioned in passing on a blog post that he picked up Tim’s book for a flight and planned to read it. The book hit #2 bestseller in Amazon for the next 2-3 days. He compared it to being on the Today Show and noticing he hit #12 in Amazon for only 2-3 hours.

Quite interesting if you think about it. Many times the thought leaders are quiet and don’t say much, but everyone echoes them across their own blogs popular or not. Seth Godin is a good example of this, as well as Erik Qualman. Some thought leaders are popular, while some just love to come from behind and surprise you. There are alot of rockstars out there, and alot more wannabes, but the ones who are moving mountains are the thought leaders.

2. “1000 True Fans is all you need.”

This thought, and the referral to the article opened my eyes to something big. If you break it down to simple numbers, if all you had were 1000 people to sell to and your product cost $100, you would make $100k which is a pretty decent living. If you upped it to a $1000 cruise, you would have $1 Million dollars. Think about it.

Tim Ferriss, in pushing his book to stay on the New York Times Bestseller list for two solid weeks, wanted 20k “Earlyvangelists” for his goal to work out. How did it work out? His book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for two and a half years and still going strong. Surprising eh? Exactly, this is a powerful idea to consider. Think about it? 😉

In response to this, not only is one of my goals for 2010 to find my earlyvangelists and convert them into my 1000 True Fans, but I also created a twitter list to reveal who I believe the thought leaders are. Some are popular, some are not, but each are a part of their own respective industry and have a brilliant mind full of ideas. Feel free to follow, add your comments, and build these ideas out further.

My Twitter Thought Leader List.

Pepsi to drop Super Bowl Ads for Social Media?

Can Pepsi pull off its social media campaign?Ah, the Super Bowl. Sitting around with family watching two teams batter each other for the title of Super Bowl Victor. For me, in years gone by, I used to enjoy watching the Super Bowl for the pure fun of it. I was young, there was food, and something cool was on the screen to entertain me.

Then I grew up. I still enjoy watching the Super Bowl and can hold my own when it comes to debating over football teams and players, but that is just side knowledge. One of the reasons I watch the Super Bowl now is for the ads. Yes, you heard me right.

I enjoy watching the creativity of these companies as they duke it out on the big screen. For all practical purposes, there is a subliminal battle going on as well. I want to see which one understands people and the culture better, and what spin they can throw on it whether serious or humorous.

Mashable just posted an article on Pepsi dropping the Super Bowl Ads in favor of a $20M Social Media Campaign. Listen closely here. Anyone think the Social Media Revolution is still a fad, or are we going to wake up?

I am dead serious. Here we have a company who has been around for more than 100 years, and has been an integral part of the Super Bowl for the past 23 years. They know and have used all the traditional media and advertising outlets since the beginning. Want to know what made Pepsi big though? It was NONE of these ads. It was word-of-mouth. Think I’m kidding? Try the good old “Do you like Pepsi or Coke?” line on anyone. Better yet, talk to the company directly. You’ll get answers real fast.

If Pepsi can pull off their $20M social media campaign in 2010, that will show the world something. Something that needs to be taken seriously. Something that the nicely padded traditional agencies need to wake up to if they expect to have a job down the road. This monumentous shift will show the world that if a company that has been around for the past 100 years is taking this emerging industry seriously, you had better darn well too. Let me remind you that Burger King did pretty good with its whopper sacrifice in the beginning of 2009.

Thoughts? Think Pepsi can pull it off?

A Personal Review of Avatar

Avatar - NeytiriI went with a group of friends to see Avatar last night. If anything, this was the one movie on my list that I had to see. I had seen the previews for it, and it sparked my interest immediately.

Oddly enough, the day started out with nothing planned, but I knew for a fact that I would see Avatar before the day was out. I was waiting on a call from the friends as to the exact day and time, and when I did check in with them they said it would be that very night. I may have been caught up in the hype, but trust me, this was a movie I wanted to see.

We went for the IMAX 3-D version of it. When I got there, a line had already formed for the movie. I got my big bulky glasses and waited in line with the rest of them, meeting my friends in the process. There was a slight buzz of excitement, but that was about it. Not long after, we were ushered into the theater. Yeah, it was sold out, but we got the best seats in the house. Smack in the middle, 4/5ths of the way up.

IMAX has a tendency to come out and punch you right in the face when the movie starts, and it did just that. The sound was gorgeous, though I wouldn’t have minded if they cranked the speakers up more. This was a movie I could get used to watching at full volume. The 3-d glasses were an annoyance at first, but I got used to them quickly. if I could give one recommendation on this movie, go for the IMAX 3-D version, you’ll thank me for it afterwards. 😉

Avatar began. Now how do I rate movies? I rate them based on the story they tell and how accomplished they are in its telling. If they are a master storyteller and can weave a story of awe and wonder, that will usually do it for me. Graphics and music come second. James Cameron is one of those masters.

**Spoiler Alert!!!**

The Story

The story of Avatar goes as follows. Jake Sulley was sent to take his twin brothers place at a human base on the planet of Pandora. He had been in cryo for the past 6 years as they traveled from earth to this distant planet. They landed on Pandora, which if viewed in 3-D is absolutely gorgeous. The colors are vibrant, and it feels for all practical reasons like you are there. Very quickly we find out that Jake is handicapped, he can’t use his legs. The rest of the people there are marines, sent to defend and protect in this hostile planet. We are debriefed and learn there is an alien tribe, the Na’vi, who pretty much like to keep to themselves. Ah, but he isn’t fighting. He was sent as part of a project, Avatar, to find out about the Na’vi by actually becoming one. Apparently the base had been around for a while as they were able to mix human and Na’vi DNA together to form a hybrid. That hybrid was then controlled by the “driver”. Jake was one of the drivers. For all practical purposes then, when they linked their brains together, he became a Na’vi. He only looked like one though, he had no idea of anything else. One thing he did like though was that he could use his legs again.

We soon find the real reason the human base is here. There is a rich supply of unobtanium that they want to mine, but the Na’vi just happen to have their “Hometree” located there. Jake is to spend time with them and earn their trust in order to move them to a different location. But the Na’vi have been watching what Jake and the other drivers have been doing in the forest. He is separated from his group, and is almost killed until a Na’vi female by the name of Neytiri saves him. They bring him to their home, but on the way find out that he is unique. They decide not to kill him, and he is paired up with Neytiri to teach him everything about being Omaticaya, or one of The People. He does quite well at it, and soon becomes one of them at the same time winning her heart.

Jake Sully in battle attire

The tables turn here as Colonel Miles Quaritch is impatient with the slow progress. He decides to go and blow up Hometree, where all of the Na’vi live. Jake and the rest who are in their Avatars try to stop it, but are unsuccessful. Hometree is destroyed and some of the Na’vi die. Everything lies in ruin, but there is one place for the Na’vi to go. The Vault of Souls. Jake then does the most insane thing ever by capturing and riding one of the most feared flying beasts of Pandora. Then, with the help of the remaining Na’vi, he gathers as many tribes as can be found for battle. Colonel Miles Quaritch finds out that the Na’vi are amassing for battle, so he decides to pre-emptively attack first. Jake hears about this, and decides to use the surroundings to their advantage.

The battle for the survival of a civilization begins, and many Na’vi lives are lost. But in the end the human ships are destroyed and Colonel Miles Quaritch dies in the final battle scene. All of the humans are then driven off of Pandora, the base is shutdown, and Jake is then merged with his Avatar body with Neytiri at his side.

I can’t imagine watching this in regular now, the IMAX 3-D version was the crispest I have ever seen. Everything about Avatar gushes jaw-dropping graphics from the first moment until the end. Soundtrack was pretty good too. As a matter of fact, a friend gave me a copy and I am listening to it as I write this. This almost three hour long movie was definitely worth the time and cost.

Are you a Marketer? Read Jeremy Schoemaker’s Review on What Marketers can learn from Avatar.

My Story?

Lets just say that I come pretty darn close to Jake in this. Might not be the best or the strongest out there, but its the heart that counts and ultimately makes all the difference. This movie came at the exact moment in my life, its kind of creepy (in a good way) how it mirrors my own life struggles.

One thing in particular I enjoyed about the movie is that when Jake is learning the language of the Na’vi is that Neytiri keeps repeating to him, Oel ngáti kámeie (I See You). Jake is somewhat confused by this until he consults one of the other Avatar drivers, Norm, what this means. He finds out that it actually means “I see into you; I see through you; I see all of you; I understand you.” Don’t know why, but I particularly enjoy this line. 😉

How does this apply to Social Media?

Apologies if its taken this long to get here, but if you are still reading, this is a very powerful point.

In Avatar, they soon find out that all of the trees seem to be connected on a subconscious level. The Na’vi know this. Interestingly enough, they can upload and download memories faster than the speed of light at certain groves of trees. Everything on Pandora seems to be connected to each other at 1012 level with everything around it, each sharing even more then that with everything else both near and far, effectively having more connections than the human brain.

Think of the Internet in this way. Its unbelievable yet true at the same time. There are so many connections, no wonder its called the world wide web. Now with the emergence of social media, you are front and center to the most fundamental shift in communication. 1.7 billion people are now online and connected with each other quite frankly to the umpteenth level. Are you aware of how powerful this is? Tapped into this still blows my mind, as it should yours.

How long did it take the radio to reach all of us? 38 years. TV? 13 years. Internet? 4 years. Oh, and the amount of people coming online daily are growing by leaps and bounds unfathomable. What are you doing to connect and engage?

Pretty impressive eh? And this is just the beginning.

Want to read another post on How Avatar applies to Social Media?


Official Avatar Movie

How World of Warcraft is like Life

Darkweb in World of Warcraft
Yes, if you haven’t figured it out by now one of my favorite online games is World of Warcraft. But not for the reasons you may think, nor am I addicted.

When you first start out in WoW, as its called by its rabidly loyal fan base (probably should write another post on that…), you begin at level one. Currently the maximum level you can reach is 80. You start out with quests which range from anything to having to hunt down and kill a thief to finding a stupid chicken that is running away from you while little fishies jump out of the water and bite you. The quests get harder and harder as time goes on, but at this point you are starting to catch on with the technicalities in how to do certain things. You are gradually leveling up, yet haven’t met anyone. Don’t worry, some of the quests become so hard that you cannot finish them without a guild or calling on friends you run across in game. Just like life eh?

Well, that’s not even the end of it. You’ve officially just started. Soon you may join a guild, think of your friend group in real life, befriend someone and become good friends, and start venturing into other things. Now you are starting out with responsibilities. Guild rules, friends, quests, better gear, and so the list starts to grow. Just like real life eh? (PS, the guys who built this game were pure geniuses are they not?)

Things start moving at a regular pace, additional things keep piling up on your plate and being consumed as you use them, and in general you are starting to enjoy this game very much. But I haven’t even shown you the kicker.

Level 80 is the most highly coveted level you can reach in WoW, hands down. Not only for bragging rights and pretty awesome gear (see pic), but a whole new world opens up to you. Hey, wait a minute, I thought this was my life you say? What are you talking about “new world”? Let me show you.

Not many people reach level 80 because they either become bored or frustrated. But those who break the little wheel of being a lowbie (what levels under 80 are called) find they can do whatever they want. Level 80 entitles you to gear unavailable anywhere else, and you get to run higher level instances. You also start out with Arena matches. Basically in arena matches you and your group are pitted against a group of equal score to see who will be the victor. Last man standing wins. Now comes the race of getting better gear to outdo your opponents, match up to battle a raid boss, and test your skills to see if you know your character inside and out. Not only that, but also the other characters you battle against and aid, inside and out. Level 80 is where everything becomes a game. Everything is moving at a faster pace and you become excited in trying to beat the challenge. Ha! But how does this apply to life you say?

This is very similar to those who are part of the middle class, and those who are rich. This is very similar to those who ultimately become successful in life, and those who settle for mediocrity. This is very similar to those who spin the wheels of the rat race, and those who create their own game. Do you see how this applies now? The fun begins at level 80. The fun begins when you break the cycle of the rat race and create your own game.

Are you game?

5 Thoughts from a Veteran Podcaster

With the last month of 2009 upon us, and after floating around numerous expos and events, I thought I would share some thoughts about our industry as a whole.

1. Our Industry is Maturing

Yes, I know this is kind of the obvious one, but it needs to be stated. We can reminisce back to the days podcasting was in its infancy, and how we loved those days and long for them to return, but podcasting is now a tad older then a toddler, if you want to take it in literal years. Remember when Podcast Pickle hit Time Magazine in 2006? We were making headway then. Remember when we hung out and chatted with fellow podcasters, content in our little world? Now the door is wide open. Remember when “social media” was nonexistent? We worked our butts off in the forums, blogs, podcasts, and elsewhere to have our voices heard.

Oh how times have changed. Our little baby is growing up. And as hard as it is, we need to switch gears now.

2. Stop Swearing

I’ve heard just about enough from others in our industry who think they can just swear and get away from it. I know the typical responses too, but with an audience comes a level of professionalism. This may be where my part of the hammer hits the hardest, but it needs to be said for both of our sakes.

I’ve listened to enough people older than me to know the typical story. As a teenager, things are always changing, and as such you are in the midst of many life choices. If you picked up swearing around this time, you probably had it beat pretty hard out of you in your twenties and thirty’s to know to keep your mouth shut. “Grow up” was a pretty typical phrase during this time. I’ve spoken at length with many of my friends and mentors in this space, and we have come to the same conclusion:

If you expect to be taken seriously as an industry, drop the profanity and inappropriate jokes!

3. Focus

If we want to make the impact on the world that we know we can make, we need to stop distracting ourselves with “other things”. We need to hunker down and focus.

4. Monetization

This has always been brought up time and again. There are many ways to monetize, and if we expect to make a business out of this, we need to find our strategy and go with it. Enough floating around in the water waiting to see what will happen, it ain’t going to do you any good. Find the strategy that works, and go with it. I think Chris Brogan mentioned something along those lines as well when he said, “Podcasting isn’t exactly dead.”

5. Engage your tribe

Stop talking about yourself, this is not all about you. This is about your tribe. They found you and are listening to you because you provided them with something of value and earned their trust. No one cares about a self-centered person. Actually, they find it more entertaining to drop you like a bag of rocks and find someone else. Nurture their trust by sharing information with them, and talking to them. Find out their likes and dislikes, share stories. Build a tribe that way, and they will never want to leave.

Am I missing anything? Would love to hear your thoughts.