Do you use Vine?

A few weeks ago, I went to a CLE about the ethics of using social media. At the beginning of the event, the panelists talked about which social media platforms they used and asked us what we used. I was the only attendee who used Vine… and I’d be willing to bet that I was one of the most “connected” people there.

Anyway, do you use Vine? Do you know what it is?

Vine is a video clip-sharing application for smart phones (iOS-only right now, I think?) It’s easy to use–you tap the screen to record footage of up to 6 seconds. You can untap and it’ll pause the video, which means you can do stop-motion-style clips.

Vine has had its issues–it’s an 18 and up app now because people were posting porn on it–but overall, it’s a fun little service. You log in using other applications (like Facebook and Twitter), which allows you to find and follow friends. You can like and comment on videos, but they don’t have  a “reblog” or “retweet” option.

When you log in, you’ll see a feed similar to the one on Instagram, but with looping videos instead of photos. (Turn your volume down, by the way, especially if you’re at work! The videos all auto-play and they can be loud or jarring. Want to stop a loop? Just tap the video and it’ll pause.) The main feed shows videos from people you follow AND “Editor’s Picks,” which shows you what other people are doing with the application. One of the most interesting people to follow is Adam Lisagor, @lonelysandwich on Twitter. He gets a lot of Editor’s Picks, and I think he’s actually using Vine to make a movie of some kind.

As for me… I’ve used Vine a little bit; I enjoy watching what my friends post a little more than I enjoy posting, though. My life isn’t all that exciting, and I don’t feel like I have the comedic timing to pull of something hilarious the way my friends do. Maybe if I had a pet or a roommate I’d use it more often. Still, I like the idea of posting little clips to share with my friends, and I’ve been really impressed by some of the videos I’ve seen so far.

Link: Are You Living Up to Your Brand?

;Are You Living Up To Your Brand? (MaKenzie Birchell)

Although this post is tailored to franchisees, the questions posed can—and should—be applied to other businesses.

Descriptive Key Words: Brichell’s post asks about the description of the brand or franchise. What are the main keywords you would use to describe your business? Are those keywords posted on your website? Be descriptive on your site about the services that your business performs—not only will they alert visitors (read: prospective customers or clients) to how you can help them, but search engines will pick up on them as well, which will make it easier for those prospective clients to find you via Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

Appearance: The article encourages you to compare your business’s physical appearance with other similar businesses. You can do the same thing using your website. Look at the websites of competitors, colleagues, and other sites related to your field of business. Ask:

– How does your website compare to the websites of your competitors and colleagues?
– Is your website easy to navigate?
– Is the purpose of your business easily ascertainable from your site?
– Is your website passive or active?
– What is the overall tone of your site? Professional? Personal? Your tone conveys the overall personality of the business and should match up with the nature of your services. Apartment Complex websites, for example, usually use sensory language to make the visitor feel comfortable and curious about what the complex has to offer.

Evaluating your online appearance can help you figure out where your strengths and weaknesses lie so that you can better reach out to customers and clients. Check out Ms. Birchell’s post to learn other ways to evaluate your business and determine whether you’re following your objectives or need to adjust your business practices to get back on track to meeting your goals.

Google+: Initial Thoughts

A couple of days ago, I procured an invite to Google+, Google’s new social networking service. I’ve only played with it for a few hours, usually when I get notifications that people have added me to their circles, but I really like it so far.

Google+ looks similar to Facebook's news feed, but has a minimalistic, cleaner layout

The main page of Google+ looks like a more streamlined version of the Facebook news feed. You can view posts by circle (friend-group) if you like, and instead of “liking” a post you “+1” it.

Signing up with Google+ gives you a new toolbar that includes notifications and easy access to your Google+ page when you’re doing a Google search, and upon performing a search, you have an option to +1 links in the search results.

Here are some of the other features Google+ has to offer:

1. Circles: Adding friends is more like Twitter than like Facebook in Google+. Anyone can put you into one of their circles of friends, and you have the option of doing the same. You can also block users.

Circles allows you to create different groupings of friends, which further allows you to easily limit who you want posts to be visible to. Don’t want to start a political fight? Make a group of like-minded people and only post political items for them to see. Allowing groups from the get-go gives Google+ an advantage over Facebook—from the beginning of the service, you are able to sort your friends and acquaintances. With Facebook, I had to sort through all my friends after they rolled out the “Lists” feature, which was time-consuming.

2. Sparks: Sparks allows you to “Pin” interests in the sidebar, giving you easy access to stories about topics that appeal to you. I haven’t really messed around with Sparks yet, but so far, the topics are fairly broad. It’ll be interesting to see the direction that this feature goes—whether it’ll remain broad or whether there will be sub-categories that you can subscribe to.

3. Hangout: Hangout is, by far, my favorite feature of Google+ so far. Hangout allows you to video chat with several of your friends at once. I did this the other night with two of my friends, and we had a ball. The video was smooth most of the time, though we did experience some disconnections and some lag.

You can watch YouTube videos in Hangout—when you click the “YouTube” button, the other people in the hangout are notified that you’re watching a video and invited to watch whatever you’re watching.

I’ve enjoyed using Google+ so far; the look is clean and uncluttered, it’s easy to sort friends into circles, and the hangout feature is fantastic. If you get an invite, you should definitely try Google+—if for no other reason than to see what the fuss is about.