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Using Canva Animator to Make Even More Awesome Content

One of our social media secret weapons is the online tool Canva, especially since the advent of Instagram Stories last year. Our office relies pretty heavily upon the tool for stylized, easy to build graphics, and now, animated video content as well.

I recently had the opportunity to demo the new Canva beta animations tool on Duke’s Instagram Stories to highlight a very exciting partnership between the university and the American Ballet Theatre.

Canva is a great tool if you’ve got really visual content to accompany any text about your story or research that you want to highlight. In this case, we were fortunate to have some incredible dance photos at our disposal. I knew I wanted to highlight these images and push people to the story via Instagram Stories.

Enter, Canva. The great thing about this tool is its user-friendliness. I was able to login to our office account and design slides using photos and text, just as I would ordinarily. The difference comes in when it is time to export your slides. You’ll notice that there is a new option under “Download” in the top, right navigation bar. Select this new option, “Animated GIF/Movie,” then click “Preview Animation.”

 

This will open the Animator tool:

From here, you can select from any of the six options or “styles” on the right for your animations, which will be demoed on the slides you have created. Once you are satisfied with your selected animation form, you have the option to download them as either a GIF or .mp4 file. For example, @DukeUEnergy recently used the tool to create a GIF that they rolled out on Twitter:

 

For the purpose of our Instagram Stories, I selected “Download as Movie.”  Then the file will be downloaded to your computer. Here is our final product:

 

We’re not quite done yet. Because all four slides were created in one Canva document and not individually downloaded, they exported into one, 28-second long video. Instagram Stories will only allow 10-second long clips for each part of the story. So I had to do a bit of tedious editing on my end. First, I emailed the .mp4 file to my iPhone. Then, I went into my camera roll and edited the whole video down into separate clips featuring each slide. I saved each edited segment as a new video file, so as not to lose the original 28-second video. The end result was 4, 7-10 second long videos featuring only one of each of the animated slides. I was then able to upload these, in order, to our Instagram Stories.

The result when it played back was one seamless “video” on our Stories. With the video broken into 4 separate parts, I was also able to attach a link on to each segment of our Story that sent viewers directly to the Duke Today article about the partnership. The end result can be viewed on Instagram’s mobile interface as a feature on @DukeUniversity‘s account.

This whole process took me less than an hour. With a little creativity to work around the Stories time limit function, Canva Animator is a really great tool to easily make videos with a highly produced feel with (very little, at least on my part) video skill.

Even the Trees Are Fall-ing for Duke

Inspiration

There is no place like Duke during the autumn months. Fall is already one of my favorite seasons, but something about fall on Duke’s campus is just breathtaking. Every year, Duke’s social media pages launch a #DukeFall campaign where Dukies everywhere are flooded with vibrant photos of the seasonal changes happening on campus, on their timelines and Instagram feeds. During my first two years at Duke, I never really paid much attention to the fall leaves changing. It always seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. Yes, Duke University is a gorgeous campus, but leaf watching was not on my radar. However, this year I wanted to capture this beautiful and colorful time of the year in a unique way. So I decided to create a time lapse of the leaves changing colors on a single tree on West Campus.

The Process

When I envisioned this project in its final form, I knew I wanted it to look like the tree was changing colors over the course of one day.  So I first found my subject, a sprawling oak tree that stands in the shadow of the magnificent Duke Chapel.  When it was time to film, I set up my camera in roughly the same spot, at about the same time each day.  For this particular time lapse, I positioned my camera at the center of Abele Quad.  In that spot, my tree takes center stage with the chapel in the background.  Then the waiting game began for this beautiful oak to turn vibrant orange.  In the beginning, the process was kind of like watching paint dry. It was slow and not very eventful.  But by week three, a glimmer of hope, as a tiny patch of orange peeked through the green canopy.  Signs of fall at last!

For 8 weeks, this tree project really captured my attention. For the first two, I relied on calendar alerts to remind me that it was time to go out and film.  Every Friday at noon, I would set up my tripod and record for about 30 minutes, to ensure that I collected enough footage of people passing by once the film was sped up. Then by the third week, it became part of my routine.  Eventually my whole family was consumed by the changing of the tree.  At one point during this process, my parents would call to check up on me and the changing tree!  I will say, this project was quite the conversation starter. I met a lot of wonderful people while standing on the quad waiting for the leaves to change color.  People would come up  and ask “What are you filming?”  I replied, “I’m filming that tree as the leaves change colors.”  The spectators were a little bit surprised but also very intrigued.  After weeks of waiting, my coveted tree was finally filled with beautiful orange leaves in all its fall splendor.

When I started the project, I must admit I was a little nervous about how the video would turn out.  Prior to this video, I hadn’t made a time lapse of this magnitude. After I gathered all the footage I needed, I found myself becoming a bit emotional and enlightened.  After 8 weeks of filming, I came to realize some very important things:  First, I’m so lucky to attend a university like Duke. Secondly, patience really is a virtue. And finally, there’s beauty in everything if you just take the time to find it!  Recording this tree was an eye-opening experience for me.  It allowed me to take a step back and observe. As students, we tend to forget that there’s more to campus life than just classes, parties, and grades. Watching this simple oak tree assume it’s fall glory, revealed to me that every moment of our college experience is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Animoji in Motion: How Duke Announced the 2018 Commencement Speaker

Commencement season is one of my favorite parts of working in higher ed communications. Gearing up to send a fresh batch of Dukies out into the world, all glowing with accomplishment and brimming with promise, makes for a lot of work and long days, but is one of the most personally gratifying projects I work on each year.

And when your boss hands down the task of coming up with an innovative new way to announce this year’s commencement speaker, it’s time to get pretty creative. After all, we announce a commencement speaker every year, and we’ve done it the same way for as long as anyone can remember. But at Duke, we like to think of ourselves as “big idea people.” We aim for the Pie In The Sky and see where we land. We’re also fortunate to have an extremely supportive team of leaders who encourage us to think BIG and run with it. And this time we really went for it.

We learned that Apple CEO Tim Cook would be this year’s commencement speaker only a few weeks after the launch of the iPhone X, which gave Apple’s jazzy Animoji ads just enough time to make the rounds on social media. In our team’s brainstorming meeting, I threw out the idea of making something similar to announce Cook as this year’s speaker and things snowballed from there into the end result: two students and Duke President Vincent Price – and their Animojis – introducing Cook as our commencement speaker.

We could have rolled the video on our social channels and left it at that, but since we really wanted to make a splash with the students, we arranged to have the video on the jumbotron at Cameron Indoor Stadium during a Duke men’s basketball game.  And the reaction was better than we could have ever hoped for.

What everyone didn’t see was the weeks of hard work and late nights that went into making this project. Here’s a look at some of the behind-the-scenes work (and play) that made the magic happen:

Duke’s Director of Social Media & Content Strategy, Sonja Foust, playing guinea pig for our lighting test.

Sanford School of Public Policy MPP candidate Kavya Sakar films with her Animoji.

Senior Matthew King during filming.

Really testing out that facial recognition software.

Even Duke’s President Vincent Price was game.  Behold, a series:

And here’s a look at how those of us not lucky enough to be designated as “talent” spent the day:

Special thanks to our hosts for the day of filming in Blue Devil Tower, Chad Lampman, Executive Director of the Blue Devil Network.

Kristen Brown, AVP of News, Communications & Media, gives the Animojis a try in between filming. We’re big fans of the bunny.

Taking my job as Chief Fly Away Wrangler v seriously.

Me (appalled at how we are STILL in the studio some 9 hours later) along with Duke’s AVP of News & Global Communications, Laura Brinn, and VP for Public Affairs and Government Relations, Mike Schoenfeld, who loved watching the process from the monitors as President Price recorded his lines.

 

 

 

3 Things We’re Doing Wrong in Higher Ed Social Media

1. Calling Snapchat “dead.”

Yeah, the redesign makes your life harder. Are you going to friend all of your students so that your story shows up in their friend feed, or are you going to be content with showing up in the “Discover” tab? You decide, but know that incoming students aren’t giving up Snapchat anytime soon. We’re just going to have to figure out a way to engage. And speaking of engagement…

2. Failing to engage.

We’re really used to broadcasting. We broadcast all the time. We tweet and share links to our sites. We tell people what we want them to know. Increasingly, though, our incoming students and our other community members are looking for engagement. So, yeah, we’re going to have to do some one-on-one stuff, which takes some man/woman-power. And looking ahead, we’re going to have to engage both in the messaging apps we already use (have you checked your Facebook Page inbox recently?) and in the apps we’re going to have to learn to use, like WeChat and WhatsApp.

3. Using YouTube as a video bucket.

Your YouTube channel isn’t just a place where you can chuck all your video content so that you can embed it elsewhere. YouTube is a social platform. Yep, and it’s getting to be even more social with the addition of the community tab and a coming-soon Stories-like feature. You’re going to have to roll your YouTube strategy into your general social media strategy, so start laying the groundwork now to get control of YouTube on your team.

Live Video: Higher Ed and Beyond

2016 was undoubtedly the year of live video. Although YouTube was one of the first social media platforms to introduce live video in 2011, Facebook’s introduction of Facebook Live at the end of 2015 was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of the live video movement. It didn’t take long for this new broadcasting medium to catch on with viewers, leading Instagram and Twitter to follow suit with their own live features a year later.

Live video is authentic, engaging, and powerful, demonstrated by its quick rise to popularity and high engagement rates among viewers and broadcasters alike. Compared to 2014, 81% of internet and mobile users watched more live video in 2015. Out of all of the social media platforms that currently have a live video feature, Facebook Live sees the most traffic of live video viewers. On average, viewers comment 10 times more on Facebook live videos than on regular videos. Viewers’ attention spans are also longer during live videos, with the average viewer watching a live video 3 times longer than a typical video.

How are people using this new portable broadcasting medium? Companies and organizations may broadcast live during news announcements, performances, behind the scenes tours, demos, interviews, and more – the possibilities are endless. Those that come to mind for many social media users are live videos by individuals that document their personal experiences, whether in a serious or casual setting. My personal favorite is Candace Payne’s Chewbacca Mask video, which holds the current record for the most viewed Facebook Live video at 160 million views.

While it may be obvious for some individuals and organizations of what they should use live video to broadcast to users, higher education institutions have differed in their experimentation with live video. The most popular live video platform used by universities remains Facebook Live – although many have not yet stepped into the realm of live video at all. However, over 85% of universities have a presence on YouTube, demonstrating that the vast majority of universities understand the importance of video in engaging their audiences. It’s exciting to see more and more institutions use live videos on social media to reach new audiences and provide a different and immediate digital experience for their viewers. The majority of higher education institutions use Facebook Live in a way that reflects the type of content they publish. This is frequently demonstrated by live streaming of lectures, speeches, and notable events on campus. Duke recently streamed it’s 2017 commencement ceremonies (above) and the first press conference by Duke President-Elect Vincent Price.

During these videos, many of the videographers utilize Facebook Live API, allowing them to broadcast using a professional camera rather than through a mobile device. While using live video for these types of events can be effective, live video provides an avenue to do something different than what might normally be done through video. Since live videos in essence become regular videos once the live stream has ended, live videos should sometimes take the opportunity to distinguish themselves through content and style. Broadcasting live events can draw an audience, depending on the anticipation of said event and whether it is time-sensitive or crisis related. However, in order to truly make the most of what live video has to offer, making use of all of its features, such as live chat, will be vital.

Live videos can be used to allow social media users across the globe to glean an intimate and personal experience of life at the university. Social media is increasingly becoming a space where brands are expected to be authentic and expressive, while social media in and of itself is a place where corporations and individuals alike can let their personalities shine. I hope that universities will be at the forefront of using live video in creative and innovative ways to captivate their audiences. Vanderbilt has used live video to bring prospective students on virtual tours on campus while fielding questions using live chat. Here at Duke we have used live video to allow online viewers to ask questions to professor and author Dan Ariely during a Q&A with students in Perkins library.

Watch live: Duke professor Dan Ariely runs a demonstration of his new book, "Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations." The book reveals insights into motivation and what drives people — how it works and how we can use this knowledge to approach important choices in our own lives.In this Facebook Live, Ariely is asking students to participate in solving a puzzle for money … or pizza, demonstrating the complexity of what motivates people.Leave questions for Dan in the comments.

Posted by Duke University on Sunday, November 20, 2016

 

The world of live video combines the immediacy of live TV with its ability to immerse millions into the same place and moment, the omnipresent and immediate nature of social media and mobile phones, and the ever-transforming landscape of technology. With live video, the sky’s the limit and you’re the director. I’m looking forward to seeing how this versatile and immersive tool will empower higher education institutions and individuals alike to create, engage, and connect.

 

 

 

 

 

Snapchat: How Duke Communicators Can Join the Fun

By now, we’ve all at least heard of Snapchat.

It’s the crazy popular app (currently the #1 free app on the Apple App Store) that allows users to share videos or photos that disappear within 24 hours. As of today, it’s the second most active social media network, behind only Facebook.

For marketers though, it’s still the Wild West out there; success metrics on Snapchat are so slim that there’s confusion on what content strategies work. For example, as of today there’s still no easy way to see how many followers you have. Still, the potential for cultivating a captive audience on the platform is worth taking seriously.

 

So What?

The rise of Snapchat has three larger implications for higher education communications:

1. It coincides with a trend toward social messaging. Interestingly, while we tend to think of Snapchat as a social media network, the company itself describes it as a messaging platform.

2. Content on Snapchat is posted in real-time, so it’s inherently timely. That’s no accident. For example, there’s no equivalent of a profile page, and no space to describe who you are. So the only meaningful thing users see when they follow you is whatever you posted in the last 24 hours. To those who are scared away by the fact that content disappears, Snapchat strategist Carlos Gil says, “As marketers, we operate in real time. If it’s not consumed today, it’s irrelevant.” So, what have you done for them lately?

3. Snapchat is exclusively mobile. If you’ve ever wondered why the interface feels so clunky, just know that the design is part of what has made it so successful. It was designed for mobile natives (i.e. the young’uns):

  • The first thing users see when they open the app is not a news feed, but a camera, ready to capture the next ‘snappable’ moment.
  • Discovery functionalities are minimal. Snapchat was designed for messaging, so many users have the app synced to their phone’s address book to find people to follow.
  • It’s made for vertical video.

 

Cool. So What Can My Department Do To Join The Fun?

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Great question! We don’t recommend starting an account for most parts of campus. Building a followership and posting good content consistently on Snapchat is such a challenge that it’s probably not worth the time/resources. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use Snapchat for your communication efforts. Here are two things you can do if you have an event or initiative you want to cover on Snapchat:

1. Snapchat On-Demand Geofilter: Geofilters are special graphic overlays that communicate the “where and when” of a Snap in a fun way, whether users are sending it to a friend or adding it to their Story (the Snapchat equivalent of a status update). For as low as $5, businesses and individuals alike can purchase On-Demand Geofilters for their event, business, or a specific location. Brand logos and trade-marks are permitted. Get started here.

2. @DukeStudents Snapchat Takeover: We are helping the Devils’ Advocates explore the idea of takeovers for their DukeStudents Snapchat account. If you’re interested in experimenting with us, give us a holler.

What they’re looking for:

  • Visual content. Think: Video first.
  • A host – that is, somebody who’s willing to be in front of the camera. Snapchat is all about using the front-facing camera to create intimacy. Remember: Users connect with human faces, not brands.
  • A storyboard with a beginning, middle and end. Plan for a 1-3 minute long video composed from clips during the day. Our peers at Princeton University put together this great blog post on storyboarding for Snapchat.

Here are the guidelines they provide to people taking over the account.

 

*Accounts to follow if you want to see these best practices in action:

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  • Gary Vaynerchuk: The author of NYT bestseller Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook has his sights set on Snapchat as 2016’s “next big thing.”
  • Yusuf Omar: Yusuf participated in the 2016 Duke Media Fellows program and is an advocate for mobile journalism.
  • DJ Khaled: Once the butt of jokes about the ‘selfie generation,’ he’s now – literally – the poster child for influencer marketing. #BlessUp
  • DukeStudents: Because duh.
  • Bonus: Check out this story on how Wake Forest U uses Snapchat during finals week to encourage students and raise awareness of on campus resources. Simply, Study Buddy Ann is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

*Tip: Try using these links from a mobile device, after downloading the Snapchat app.

Periscope and Facebook Live

Here at Duke, we’ve been experimenting with live-streaming video tools! Here’s a quick look at how we’re trying out Periscope and Facebook Live video features. 
Periscope is a mobile-based live streaming application that is owned by Twitter. Videos last for up to 24 hours on the channel, but you can archive your own videos using a nifty tool named Katch. We’ve been using Periscope to cover everything from the recent Nobel Prize press conference, to an inside look at a Fuqua class to a 10-hour reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost. If you have a Twitter account personally or professionally, you can create your own Periscope account for live-stream coverage. Here is a recent blog post Sonja Foust wrote on the inexpensive equipment that helps to have for easy videos on social media. 
Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 7.04.55 AM

10-hour live streaming of Milton’s Paradise Lost

Facebook Live is a video-streaming feature that is only open to verified Facebook Pages at this point. The expectation is that live video streaming will open up to all Facebook Pages at some point in the future. The large Duke Facebook Page (that is verified) has held one Facebook Live event — Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, speaking about STEM and minorities, in an event hosted by President Brodhead on our campus — and it was a big success with over 7,000 live viewers. 
I look forward to sharing more as we continue to learn about these new and exciting tools! 

Vidcon Recap

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I just flew back from VidCon in California… (And boy are my arms tired. No? Ok, moving on.)

For those who haven’t heard of VidCon, it’s sort of the premiere YouTube-and-other-online-video conference. It’s run by Hank and John Green (the VlogBrothers), who pretty much invented modern vlogging.

There are several different tracks. The Community track is the one meant for 12-year-old girls to meet all their favorite YouTube stars. (If you ever want to hear high-pitched screaming—possibly including crying and/or wailing—just get Danisnotonfire to walk into a room full of preteens.) The Creator track is the next tier up, meant for video creators. That’s the one I signed up for. One tier up from the Creator track is the Industry track, meant for big brands and networks. (I wish I’d signed up for that one because it looked like they had some great content. Hindsight.)

I went to a whole bunch of workshops and panels and wanted to share some highlights and tips with you all.

Online Video News

There was a whole panel about news shows on YouTube, featuring panelists from The Young Turks and SourceFed. If you’re not familiar, The Young Turks is a live news show featuring way left-leaning opinionated commentary. SourceFed is a comedy news channel. The discussion centered on what works well on YouTube as opposed to in a traditional journalism setting.

The Young Turks channel in particular relies heavily on the opinions of the anchors. They made the comparison to Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show). He’s the most trusted news media figure out there, according to surveys, and the theory is that it’s because he’s relatable and you know his opinion.

Further discussion centered on making the news format digestible, and working to keep things snappy and fairly short.

SourceFed’s main goal is to walk the line between appropriate and inappropriate humor in news stories that aren’t always funny.

And here’s a tip for scripted shows that I thought was interesting: Sometimes reading off a teleprompter gives you “teleprompter face,” and you’re not as animated. The shortcut is to make sure that your eyebrows are still moving if you’re reading off a teleprompter. It keeps your face animated and engaged.

Video Formats

For news videos, lots of channels are doing round-up style videos, meaning they’ll include 3 or 4 different news stories in one video. When headlining these round-ups, though, they’re still using the catchiest news headline to get the click.

Another interesting item I heard about while I was there was the “elevation” of the daily vlog into more of a filmmaking style. I’m not sure how that would apply to Duke channels, but it’s cool anyway. In particular, check out Emily Diana Ruth’s “Letters to July” to see some examples.

Platforms

There was some mention of Facebook directly uploaded video as opposed to linking to YouTube videos on Facebook. You can see our ONC test results on that here. SourceFed mentioned that they’re exploring 1-minute, 1-take videos specifically for Facebook that are “extra” content beyond their YouTube content. Some were also experimenting with preview cuts for Facebook with direction to watch the full video on YouTube. (This redirection to YouTube is more important for those people who are monetizing YouTube views, and not so much to us in the business of getting as many eyeballs as possible without worrying about monetization.)

There was an entire panel on the different platforms available for online video. Represented were YouTube, Vimeo, Vine and Tumblr. The consensus was that YouTube is great for experimenting with new formats and getting feedback on your videos, and Vimeo is great for premium content, especially with their Vimeo On Demand setup, which allows you to charge people to get your video. The Vine and Tumblr reps didn’t have too much to add to the conversation. The Tumblr guy reiterated that GIFs work great on Tumblr, and if you want people to share your stuff on Tumblr, it probably wouldn’t hurt to make some shareable GIFs of whatever video you’re promoting. And, um, the Vine guy just sort of said, “Yeah man, Vine is cool,” over and over. So do with that what you will.

Music and the Content ID System

I will preface this by saying that everyone who talked about YouTube’s Content ID system at the conference began with, “I am not a lawyer, but…” so I’ll make that same claim. I am not a lawyer, but I learned some things about YouTube’s Content ID system in a panel on music. The panel was specifically about covers, parodies and remixes, but could also apply if you have a music bed in your videos.

Fairly recently, YouTube brokered some deals with the biggest labels in the music industry. Here’s how it works: YouTube’s Content ID system will pick up that you are using someone else’s song in your video and will give you a notice that says it’s someone else’s song. That’s not a bad thing because when you click to acknowledge that, yes, you are using someone else’s song, YouTube automatically begins to skim a percentage off of the ad revenue from that video and funnel it to the record label. The record label wins because they get money, and you win because YouTube lets you leave your video up and no one sues you. Yay.

The caveat here for us as Duke channels is that we’re most likely not monetizing in the first place, so this doesn’t really help us. I would still strongly recommend that everyone use music beds that you have licensed. (You can find lists of sites where you can get licensed tracks in the StyleGuide.) Still, if you’re conferring with students, this information could be helpful.

I went to some other panels, too, about storytelling and camera equipment and filmmaking and YouTube in general and got to meet with a a bunch of Internet-famous people, so if you want to hear more dirt or just chat about YouTube (or Disneyland), drop me a note or give me a call.

YouTube Tips and Resources

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“Unlisted” Status in Youtube

I wanted to let you know about a YouTube pro tip (which also makes my job a lot easier!): If you’re putting up a video that’s not ready for prime-time, meaning you’re not ready to have it promoted or it’s a draft video or a video meant for internal circulation only, you can upload that video with a status of “unlisted.” The unlisted status means that you can share the link and anyone will be able to view it from that link, but it won’t show up on your channel page or in subscription feeds (including mine). Then, if you decide you want to make the video public later when it’s all approved and ready to go, you can reset it to “public” and it will show up on your channel page and in the subscription feeds.
Uploading your videos this way helps me to know when your video is ready to be promoted and keeps me from picking up a link to a video that’s still a draft or still in the approval process.

Descriptions and Titles

Also, once your video is ready to be promoted, please be sure you’re putting in a descriptive title and a compelling summary description. This helps your viewing audience (including me!) to know what your video is about, but it also helps your video to come up in YouTube’s search results. For more on descriptions, titles, and tags, you can check out our YouTube upload checklist here: http://styleguide.duke.edu/toolkit/video/youtube-publishing-checklist/

More Video Resources

Lastly, I want to make sure you’re aware that we offer a ton of really helpful video resources on the Video Toolkit on the Duke Style Guide, here: http://styleguide.duke.edu/toolkit/video/ You’ll find links to our graphics package, which you can use for the fly-in intro and lower thirds that you see on lots of Duke videos, and even tips on lighting and video production, as well as resources for free music beds and b-roll footage.