What the Hashtag!

by: Kenneth Cossin

How to Properly Use a Hashtag in Your Social Media

What the Hashtag!

Don’t freak out!  I am sure that you have seen the proliferation of the hashtag on television today, and you may be asking yourself why this little symbol has become so ubiquitous.  As most of us know, it has been used in many different forms of communication and technology from telephones, voicemail systems, programming languages, etc, but today, it has really gained a lot of traction in social media.  Often, the hashtag is overused, because there is not much thought behind its real function in social media.  Also, we hear so many mentions of hashtags every day in the media that we just think that it must be important, therefore, we must use them, too.  I bet some of us have even caught ourselves saying things like, “[Hashtag], #NotMyProblem” or something of the like to get a laugh or two.  Well, this little mark has a lot more functionality than just to gain laughs or to annoy social media users.

Make Previous Posts Findable

What is a hashag anyway?  It is a pound sign or hash (#) that is placed at the beginning of a word or phrase that makes your social media posts searchable.  For example, one can denote #USA or #USAFlorida at the end of a social media post to make the post findable or searchable after the post is made.  When a post is created with the hashtag, you can go back to search for this chosen word or phrase without having to remember everything that you posted.  To explain further, posts with a particular hashtag can be aggregated to tell a story, provide information, supply metrics for measurement, create social media trends, track results, or a plethora of other uses.  These uses are only limited by your imagination.

Make Topics Searchable

Hashtags are used by most social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc.  The hashtag can help users of the platform to locate accounts that they wish to follow – that is, accounts that strategically fit into their interests.  For example, let’s say that you want to follow some great marketers on Twitter that publish/promote content about the marketing field.  You could perform a search, “#Marketing” on Twitter to locate all tweets containing this hashtag.  A majority of the results will not only provide you with interesting information on the marketing field but also provide you with Twitter users that have tweeted this interesting information.

Using a hashtag effectively starts with knowing how many hashtags to use and how to be strategic with its use.  A great rule of thumb is to use no more than three.  Also, know what search keywords are important to your tweet.  These keywords or key phrases should be hashtagged in your post.  Note that overusing hashtags affects your post’s readability.  You can read some of my thoughts on this subject in my article, “3 Quick Tips on Writing a Readable Tweet,” that helps explain hashtag usage further.

Make Hashtags Easy

When developing a hashtag for your tweetups, daily posts, etc, make sure that you use a hashtag that is easy to remember, easy to type, and not trademarked.

For example, for a tweetup, remember that the people tweeting are probably using a mobile device.  Therefore, don’t use a combination of capital letters and numbers.  Having to switch your virtual keyboard is a nightmare on a mobile device when you’re trying to be quick and efficient.  So, maybe use #entnews instead of #EntNews or #EntNews10.  Also, keeping it short and sweet is important.  The more typing someone must do, the more room there is for errors.

Steer clear of using trademarked names, as this can not only cause confusion but also create a potentially messy situation with the owner of that trademarked name.  Just play it safe and be creative in your choices.

So, next time you hear the word hashtag being used in the media, you will know what it means and how to use it properly.  While this catchphrase may fade from the short attention span of television and the viewing public, it will most likely continue its functionality in the social media world — that is, until something more catchy comes along!

photo credit: bunnysvintagevictory.blogspot.com


7 Tips to Creating Great Video to Increase Your Audience

by: Kenneth Cossin

With how easy it is today to create video, we, as bloggers, need to think of how to leverage video content to increase traffic to our site. I will give you some video tips that are easy and inexpensive enough for anyone to use to get started with video content for their blog.

Why make a video?

  • You can cram a lot of content and information into a short 5-10 minute video than you can into paragraphs of words.
  • When used effectively, you can build an audience and gain returning visitors through visual content.
  • Video helps to build trust with your audience. They see and hear what you are talking about, therefore they understand better the message you are trying to convey.

Types of Videos

Below are five types of videos that work well with blogs. They can be applied to almost any subject.

  • Teasers – These are short 30-90 second videos that show your viewers a product or service. They are much like a TV commercial.
  • Leadership – Demonstrate your authority on a subject. You can provide useful and unique information from your perspective.
  • Interviews – Open dialogues about a subject related to your blog. These videos can be fancy and shot in a studio or simple Internet conversations recorded with Skype or another video conferencing tool. Check out these five video interviewing tips.
  • Demos/Training – These videos show step-by-step how to do something or provide an overview of how something works.
  • Storytelling – A narrative related to subject matter associated with your blog.


Starting off with a storyboard is very important whenever you set out to do a video. It does not need to be fancy, have awesome drawings or graphics, or have details that everyone would understand. It is a tool to help YOU plan out how the video will go from how the camera shots and angles will be set up to where the person or object on camera will be placed in the frame.


Start off with some basic tools such as a simple video camera with an on-board microphone and 3-point lighting. There is no need to invest in expensive equipment. Find things around your house that will suffice. For example, locate a lamp that will light up a large area. Fill in the shadow areas with other lamps of varying intensity to minimize shadows. Be sure to strategically set them up to be flattering on the subject. When recording a video over the Internet, you can usually get away with only one light source and the built-in audio and video capabilities.


Whether you are doing an interview or having someone be your talent on camera, you always want to have a specific thought in mind. Therefore, you can clearly convey to your talent why you are choosing them and what you want them to do or talk about.


Assemble a detailed verbatim script of what the person or people will say on camera. Also, have your talent practice the script to avoid bloopers and other mistakes. Your goal is to always capture on camera exactly what you want for your final product so that you minimize the amount of work you have in post-production. In essence, the more work you do in pre-production, the less work you will have in post-production.


Avoid recording outdoors at all costs unless your audio will be replaced with other audio. You do not want to ask your talent to return to your location to do voiceover work for inaudible parts. Also, test your audio to see if the recording volumes are set correctly.

Editing Software

It is very easy to edit your videos using iMovie for Mac or Movie Maker for PC. These software packages are inexpensive and have a small learning curve. They will allow you to cut out any undesirable parts and insert a leader, royalty-free music, images, graphics, cuts, or information.

Have Fun!

My last tip is to simply enjoy the process. No matter what type of video you create for your blog, you can make it a fun process with these simple tips above.

If you are ready to start your video adventure take a look at these tips on how to optimize your Youtube channel and how to optimize your videos.

Republished with permission from Marko Saric of How to Make My Blog.  Original post: http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/video/creating-great-video/

6 Great Storytelling Tips For Bloggers

by: Kenneth Cossin

Coming up with topic ideas for your blog can be very frustrating at times. Below, I offer some great storytelling tips to help get your content ideas flowing. If you need more blog ideas, check out this list of 31 types of ideas you can post.

Stories usually tell about a journey, whether it is a personal passage, a conflict, or a challenge. Along this journey, we hope that the hero will transform into a better version of himself. As bloggers we need to capture and translate these same concepts into our blogging to better engage our readers. Here’s what you can do:

Gather Your Raw Materials

Keep a journal of your topics and decide on what categories they fall into whether you are providing tips, tricks, creative ideas, suggestions, or opinions. For example, think about how we categorize films into genres of comedy, drama, thriller, and so on. The categorization process is the same.

Outline your ideas and jot down key words as they come to you. As a rule of thumb, make sure that you can express your ideas in about 800 words or less.

Break Down Your Story into Segments

Create a compelling introduction that grabs your reader’s attention within the first 2-3 sentences. If your reader is not continuing on with your entry after the first few seconds, he will quickly move on to another one. Touch on your key points clearly and concisely. That is, be detailed but brief. While this statement is rather vague, try spicing your reading up with a sprinkling of adjectives – not too many or you’ll lose your reader in the details.

Give your reader a sense of conclusion, a sense of closure. Therefore, briefly summarize your points at the end.

Use Visuals

Relate the concepts you are trying to present to something that people use or do every day. Use photos, videos, and podcasts to help visually draw in your reader. While videos and podcasts take a lot of time in terms of planning, coordinating, setting up, recording, and post-production, there are many simple tools that you can use as an individual to accomplish this goal.

Use Analogies

Telling stories often incorporates complex ideas. Therefore, it is always a good idea if you can relate an everyday task to what you are explaining. Also, you will want to make sure that your analogy relates directly and translates easily to the complex idea. For example, if you are showing someone how to play a grand piano, you may wish to equate it to playing darts or some other simpler task that still requires a keen sense of accuracy.

Leave out the Sub-plots

Note that there is no time for sub-plots to your blog entries. Sub-plots detract from the overall story that you are trying to tell. Be sure to remain brief and to the point.

Build to an Epic Conclusion

What is your reader getting from reading your blog post? Is it knowledge, ideas, solutions, answers to questions… Or is it simply them wishing they got those 10 minutes back in their life? Make your reader feel like it was worth their while to spend time with your post. Make it dazzle them; make it epic.

In summary, your blog posts should always be something that you are proud of. Bring creativity and excitement to your work through storytelling.


Republished with permission from Marko Saric of How to Make My Blog.  Original post: http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/writing/storytelling-tips/

7 Tips on How to Stand Out in the Crowd

By: Kenneth Cossin

Feedio.netWe all know someone that seems to continually stand out from everyone else. They make it look completely effortless, and they always seem to be happy. How do they possibly keep up this façade?

People that naturally have a personality that stands out in a crowd have honed skills that many of us have not. Here is a list of seven tools that you can use to be on your way to standing out in the crowd, too!

Being able to walk up to anyone and start a conversation is a great test of confidence. Challenge yourself to talk with others about subjects that you know well. You will want to practice many times with friends that you trust. Get feedback on how you did and what you can improve. Pay attention to your gestures, speaking voice, and intonation. Each of these secondary personality traits speaks to your level of confidence.

When we’re in a room of people that we do not know, we tend to feel awkward, shy, and a multitude of other uneasy feelings. A simple way to overcome this feeling is to learn to do things alone and to trust that everything will be ok. Try going to the movies or dinner alone. Being around others that you do not know will help you become comfortable in your own skin.

When observing people that stand out, you will notice that they perceive and record in their minds many personality traits. They gauge conversation direction, tone, and level of formality and respond to the personalities around them accordingly. Listen closely to what people are saying and how they are saying it. Try to use what is being said to your advantage, and try to fit your perceptions of others into your knowledge and experience.

People tend to judge one another within the first few moments of meeting. Trust is a key element in this judgment process, therefore, be sure that your appearance is appropriate to the situation. Dress in a non-threatening manner, and ensure that you speak in a way that fits those around you. Regional accents and dialects can affect perception and affect how much someone trusts you.

Everyone loves someone who is knowledgeable, but no one likes a know-it-all. Therefore, even if you do know it all, don’t present yourself in this fashion. Speak and present in a way that you are making others feel like they are your intellectual equal.

The Three “S’s”
Stay informed, stay educated, and stay connected. Always knowing what is happening around you, remaining current on your knowledge, and creating a network not only makes you authoritative but also is a great strategy to successfully standing out.

Last but not least, always exhibit a happy personality. People are naturally attracted to happy, upbeat, and positive people. While we’re not happy all of the time, it pays off in many ways to always show others a genuine smile.

Practice these skills whenever you are in public, at work, at school, wherever. Remember that practicing something for 10,000 hours will make you an expert! They take a lot of hard work, but you, too, can stand out in the crowd!

image credit: feedio.net

3 Quick Tips on Writing a Readable Tweet

by: Kenneth Cossin

I know there are so many ways to write a tweet, but are you writing yours to make it easily readable by your followers?  I can guarantee that your readers are not likely to read what you are tweeting if they cannot read it quickly.  Here are my tips on writing a good tweet.

Verify the Link You are Sending

Make sure that the link to the article, story, video, photo, etc. you are sending is well-written  and easy to read with no misspellings, the video plays and is short and sweet, and the photos are attention-grabbing.

Use Hashtags in the Correct Locations

Use hastags in sentences to a minimum.  Place them at the end so as to not interrupt the flow of reading.  Overuse of hashtags makes your tweets look like gibberish.

Place Usernames after Your Links

Typically we will put a Twtter username when we are mentioning someone because of an article they wrote.  Be sure not to place the usernames strewn about throughout the tweet.

Example of a Bad Tweet

#Apple @MacRumors releases the new #iPad #Mini http://boguslink.notreal

Example of a Good Tweet

Apple releases the new iPad Mini http://boguslink.notreal via @MacRumors #Apple #iPad

Great Idea to Help Build Your Blog Followers

by: Kenneth Cossin

We all love deals and incentives, and we especially love things that are free, right?  So, why not apply this simple concept to our blogs?

We write blog posts and create great content to our blogs in hopes that our readers will gain knowledge and insight from our hard work.  It is not easy coming up with new content, and many times when we start creating the content, we really aren’t sure how it will be recieved by our audience.

By putting forth a deal or incentive to have new followers or to keep your current followers, you can always create a deal or incentive, such as a contest, to entice audience members that land on your blog to not only read what you write but to sign up to follow your blog.

Thus, for all the new members that sign up for MY blog within the next five days of my post, I will enter your name into a random drawing to receive some Full Sail University swag!  Please follow the rules within the following form to enter.

11 Tips for a Great Video Résumé

by: Kenneth Cossin

For almost any employer, creating a video résumé is not the end-all be-all for applying for a job. But a video résumé can be a great way to showcase your portfolio of talents. Here are a few tips in creating this supplemental visual that can really make you stand out from the crowd.

  1. Maintain the length of your video from one to three minutes; much longer and you will have lost your chances.
  2. Dress appropriately for the camera.
  3. Use an eye-pleasing backdrop if you do not have access to a green screen.
  4. Make your background appropriate for the job that you are applying for. For example, a mountain landscape would be great for a Forest Ranger, but obviously not for a Public Relations Director.
  5. Be aware of ambient sound, especially outdoors. The audio should be your voice, that is, no airplanes flying overhead.
  6. Have a script prepared and practice it!
  7. Be sure to include not only voice-on-camera but also voice-over work while demonstrating your portfolio.
  8. Use both close-ups and mid-shots. What about long shots? – Not so much… This one is common sense.
  9. Have several friends and trusted working professionals look at your video before finalizing your post production.
  10. Hand out your video résumé during the interview if possible. Be mindful of the employer; some may wish to view it after you have left.
  11. Have fun! Enjoy the creation process. If you are stressed or “stiff” on camera, you will be perceived in that fashion by the viewer.
Below is a great example of a video résumé.  How do you think it could be better based on the 11 points I mentioned above?

5 Useful Tips on Developing Social Media Conversations with Your Customers

by: Kenneth Cossin

As marketers, we have heard so much about how social media allows us to rapidly build our brand, get the word out regarding our products and services, target different demographics, and optimize consumer engagement. Yet we need to take social marketing to the next level.

Thus, I pose the question: Is your company simply using social media channels to create an online marketing presence, or is it creating social media conversations with your customers?

For example, as a professor at Full Sail University, my students are my customers. I use many different social media channels to get each student to “buy into” my courses. I develop student engagement, but then I also intentionally develop a professional relationship with each individual student. By doing so, each student gains a sense of personal investment in my courses.

Here are my five tips for creating social media conversations with your customers:

1. Your attention, please! Gaining our customer’s attention is pretty simple for us marketers. It is something that we have been doing since before the days of social media. Thus, continue to bring attention to your brand and develop your brand story through your social media channels.

2. Get your customers to opt in. Remember, everyone loves a good story. Therefore, the better your brand tells your business story, the more customers you will get to opt in. Once you have an engaged consumer, it is imperative that you learn what attracted him/her to your business. Traditional marketing methods of gathering metrics on your customers remain important. And with social media, you can discover why a customer is choosing you.

3. Determine your customers’ individuality. Find unique ways to get your customers to tell you how they found you. What about your customers makes them choose you? How are you fulfilling their unique wants and needs? What incentives do you provide to keep your customers engaged?

4. Focus on conversation. Typically, businesses will ask customers a series of questions through the use of impersonal surveys, questionnaires, or cold calls. At this point, many marketers usually stop. With social media, you cannot stop here. You must follow through and build a personal conversation by leveraging social media in new and unique ways. So what are we to do?

5. Develop interaction. Through the use of social media interaction, periodically make intentional contact with your customers. Remember to treat your customer as you would a good friend. We do things for our friends because we care about them; thus, demonstrate to your customers who connect with you through social media that you care about them. Communicate with them. Give them the service they deserve: prompt responses, incentives, and other cool offers. You will receive in return the continued trust and loyalty you need and desire to grow your business.

Reposted via permission of Social Media Marketing Magazine dated 11 January 2011.

Freeze Frame!

by: Kenneth Cossin

Poor Photo

Have you ever been somewhere with friends – on vacation, at a party, or at a family reunion and were asked to take a photo?  You hate taking photos, because you don’t know how to use their camera, you just really don’t have a knack for taking photos, or maybe you just hate people?  Well, here are some helpful tips to make those slanted, out of focus, dark, and just darn awful photos into decent ones!

Who’s Camera is This?

You’ve been asked to use someone else’s camera to take a picture.  Ah!  What do you do?  Well, my solution is simple.  Ask the person that handed you the camera three important questions: One, how do you set the camera on full auto?  Two, when I press the shutter button partially, will it auto focus?  Three, is the flash set to go off when the shutter is fully depressed?  These may seem like no-brainer questions, but how many of us actually think of these questions when we’re put on the spot to take a picture?  Oh, and I suggest that you resist the urge to smash the camera on the ground.  The people you hate really won’t like you any better.

Framing Someone

When taking a picture of a person, or my dog as in the photo above, be sure to frame the individual in the center of your shot.  Typically, you do not have to concern yourself with the background.  But note, if there are tall objects in the background, make sure that they do not appear to be growing from the subject’s head.  In addition, if you have something in the foreground, make sure that it does not interfere with the subject’s face.  Alternatively, shooting a photo with the subject off center can make for a great photo, but this option is best left to advanced photographers.

Getting Framed

When taking photos of people that contain objects of substance in the foreground or background, know that these objects are key elements that make up the composition of the photo.  Thus, you want to be sure to include them in the photo in such a way that is aesthetically pleasing.  Allow me to use an example.

© Fotosearch

Let’s say that you are at a birthday party, and you have been asked to take a picture of the birthday girl and her cake.  You could take the photo with the cake centered right in front of the subject or you could offset the cake a bit to the right or the left.  Which would make for a better photo and why?  The answer is the photo with the cake offset to either side.  Why?  Because the most important element of the photo is the person, not the cake… despite how you may feel about the person.

Keeping Things Straight

There are many straight lines that you can use as reference points when taking a photo.  A table, couch, chairs, floor/ceiling lines, and the list goes on.  Incorporate some of these items to line up your camera shot on the top, bottom, or sides when taking your photo.  It’s that simple!

Staying Focused

Always make your subject stays still.  Do or say something to get their attention, and then provoke an emotion, typically a smile, with a word or phrase.  Count them into the photo, but don’t give them more than two or three seconds; most subjects do not have the attention span to hold still that long.

A blurry photo may not be at the fault of the subject but of you.  How can that be?  You’re perfect, right?  Well, remember that you don’t have to press the shutter button that hard to take a photo.  Therefore, you should be able to hold the camera steady while taking the photo.  Remember this – if the picture turns out clear and in focus, the people you hate will love you!

Lights Please!

Yes, the camera has a flash on it.  Isn’t the flash supposed to be the light source?  Well, technically, the flash’s purpose is to additionally illuminate your subject.  Therefore, be sure to have additional light sources on either side as well as behind the subject.  Even when using ambient lighting, it is helpful to use the flash when in the shade or if the sun is low in the horizon.

Personal Space

Your distance from the subject is very important when you are taking a portrait.  Typically, you want to maintain a minimum distance of about five feet but not exceed more than ten to twelve feet.  Overexposure of the subject happens when you’re too close, and underexposure happens when you’re too far.

What Happened to My Tan?

Good Photo

Ok, this tip is very important when taking portraits, because you don’t want your subject looking like a whitewashed fence.  Point the camera directly at an object that appears the whitest in your field of view.  Depress the shutter half way to force the camera and to perform a white balance.  Then, keeping the shutter depressed half way, re-center your subject and count down the picture.  Don’t forget to provoke an emotion!

You Will Be Loved

Yes, you will be loved by the people that now view your photos once you have mastered some of these basic skills!  Try out some of my suggestions to see if you can take better photos.  These basic tips on shooting portraits can help even the worst photographer look good!