My Favorite Free Communications Tools

I am frequently amazed by how many excellent communications tools are now available for free. Just a few years ago they were either not available at all or were expensive. Now, with a little time and ingenuity you can express yourself (or promote your clients) in ways we only dreamed about.

Here are a few of my favorites.

  • WordPress: This blogging platform has now evolved into a full fledged Content Management System that rivals Drupal and Joomla but which (IMHO) is much more intuitive to use for the non-programmer. Not only is the platform itself free, but there are thousands of free templates, to give you a customized look and feel, and innumerable free plug-ins that provide a wide variety of functionality. I use both and, depending on the application. Certainly for the complete novice, the hosted platform at is a blessing. My 11 year old daughter set up a blog by herself in less than an hour on WordPress!
  • This free webconferencing service is easy to use and works pretty well. Only once have I had a problem with the sound quality.
  • YouTube: With a little imagination you can create your own broadcasting channel on any topic you want. While it’s helpful to provide your own content, even that’s not necessary: You can bring other people’s videos into your Channel using playlists.
  • Blog Booker: Turn your blog into a PDF book in less than five minutes. It works like a charm!
  • Self-publish your e-Book in a number of electronic formats including Amazon Digital Text Platform (DTP), Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble PubIt. While these services don’t charge you for creating your book, all do take royalties on sales.

Of course there are also platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn for people who want to stay connected.

The hardest part is keeping track of all of the new offerings. I’ve really been enjoying the proliferation of these new digitally available platforms and products because they have allowed me to manage my own content on line and present it in visually appealing packages. I was shocked recently to find that I was able to recreate a site that in WordPress that I paid major $$ for someone to build for me in Drupal. The real kicker? Mine looks better.

Live video streaming through YouTube just around the corner

We all think of YouTube as a way to catch up with events through video. But what if it offered you a front row seat to an event . . . anything from a concert . . . to an inauguration . . . to a community event or a press conference? Think of the possibilities that it offers to communicators as a way to reach a broad, worldwide audience in a truly interactive way. This is the step that will really turn YouTube into a broadcaster.

YouTube has been testing its new live streaming platform which integrates live streaming directly into YouTube channels; all broadcasters need is a webcam or external USB/FireWire camera.

There will also be a “Live Comments” module which lets you engage with the broadcaster and the broader YouTube community.

This feature was trialed in September. Soon to be available to Google Partners!

Tips for Video Search Engine Optimization on YouTube

Uploading a video to your YouTube Channel is pretty easy; it’s what you do with the video once it’s part of your site that influences how much visibility it gets.

YouTube works as a typical search engine regarding listing results. The search algorithm checks the title, the description, the tags, the number of views, the links and ratings of the video. Therefore you should focus to the above factors to make sure that you have fully optimized your videos and get high rankings not only on YouTube but also on Google. Note that even though YouTube is about video . . . search engines don’t look at video files; they look at the content that surrounds them. It’s the written word that determines your Search Engine Ranking.

As part of your marketing strategy identify the key words or phrases that you want to have identified with your college or university. Think about it like this: these are the words that you hope people will use to find your college on YouTube.

  1. Use key words in your title. While cute or funny titles seem like they would attract views, it’s better to be descriptive than clever. The title of your YouTube video becomes its meta tag and it is also the most important piece of information that search engines have about your video.
  2. Write your description with SEO in mind. Use key words and descriptive phrases when you describe your video. After the title, it’s the most important information for search engines. It can be helpful to include a URL in your description especially if you are driving viewers to a specific program or event. Put that URL first.
  3. If you need input on key words, YouTube has a Keyword suggestion tool that can help you identify the words YouTube viewers are searching on (keep in mind that video searches are often different than web searches):
  4. Make those first 27 characters count. This how many characters you have for key word placement before the ellipsis when the description is truncated. That’s why you should put the URL first.
  5. Fill out the “tags” with key words about the specific video and your channel. Aim for at least 5-7 relevant words or phrases. Tags associate your video with other videos that use the same tags so when people watch a different video, your video will get highlighted as a “related” video and garner more views. Tags work best when they are written in a logical order – the way someone might type into a search box, so think through your strategy before putting them in randomly.
  6. Take advantage of annotations and captions to link to other videos or drive people to your related social media tools (like Facebook).
  7. Don’t forget to fill out the location for your videos. Part of YouTube’s analytics is geographic and you will get more information if your location is identified.
  8. Encourage embedding, don’t restrict it. When someone embeds your video on their site it counts as an inbound link and boosts that video’s rating in search engine results.
  9. Encourage viewers to rate your videos. Higher ratings and more comments indicate that videos are better/more interesting. Use Facebook and Twitter to encourage your viewers to rate your videos and leave comments.

Who needs traditional advertising when YouTube is available?

First Frito-Lay eschewed the Superbowl and started running commercial contest on YouTube, Crash the Super Bowl.

Now, Ray Ban is taking viral video marketing to to the next level. If you haven’t seen the most recent video in Ray Ban’s campaign, Guy has Glasses Tattooed on his Face, then you are rapidly becoming one of the minority.

The video was posted just a week ago; already there are 1,099,435 views! Not to mention the media coverage this has generated. Did he? or didn’t he?

Actually this is just the latest in Ray-Ban’s campaign. The videos are posted on Ray-Ban’s YouTube Channel under the moniker Never Hide Films.

Each of their videos is clever, entertaining and gets people talking.

So, what do you think? Is the tattoo for real? or is it a well done fake?

Video is changing writing forever.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a video worth? It’s incalculable. YouTube and the plethora of video that it offers are changing the way that we communicate and I believe will profoundly influence the course of mass communications.

Take for example, the simple communication of instructions.

With video you essentially have a private tutorial with an infinitely patient teacher. You can watch the difficult parts over and over again until they make sense. And with YouTube, you have the opportunity to interact with that instructor through comments so you can get answers to your questions.

I’ve seen this play out in small ways. When my son got a new calculator — one that allows him to solve math problems that I’ve never even heard of — he didn’t read the instruction manual. Instead, he went to YouTube where he found a demonstration of the exact task that he wanted to perform. In less than five minutes he was completely empowered.

I use YouTube for its instructional properties as well. I’ve been teaching myself how to knit and crochet. When I need help with a technique or a stitch, it’s all there — in slow motion and high definition. Instructions that were indecipherable in their written format become clear and (frankly) obvious when shown in video.

How will that impact mass communications? In general, I believe people are reading less and that by using video to communicate thoughts, ideas and instructions, this trend further diminishes the impact of the written word.

That does not mean that our job as communicators is becoming obsolete; rather we must learn how to use video as an effective medium. People listen differently than they read. We need to understand that dynamic in order to create videos that use words and images together in a way that both educates and entertains. Writing isn’t going away. It’s just taking on a new form. One that is potentially even more powerful and influential.

YouTube hits 1-billion views per day

YouTube is putting the broadcast TV channels to shame. According to

YouTube routinely serves up more than 1 billion video views per day around the world, far surpassing its next-closest rival Microsoft and helping the site continue its strong growth, especially since being acquired by Google three years ago, according to a blog post by Chad Hurley, YouTube’s co-founder and CEO.

In August, comScore reported numbers for YouTube’s US market to be in the neighborhood of 10 million videos watched per month. Google represented 40% of all videos viewed online, while accounted for 99% of all Google videos viewed.

comScore also said that Microsoft Sites ranked a very distant #2, with 547 million (2.2%), followed by Viacom Digital with 539 million videos viewed (2.1%) and Hulu with 488 million (1.9%).

However, the latest figures from YouTube, which include global estimates, reveal that comScore’s numbers may be a significant underestimation, writes MarketingVOX.

The milestone has spurred YouTube to create a special “1 BN” logo to highlight occasion.

Trends for online video viewing show that both the number of viewers and the numbers of videos viwed continues to rise. According to a recent study by Ipos MediaCT, more than two-thirds (67%) of online Americans now report that they have streamed or downloaded digital video content from the internet, and most feel it’s reasonable to watch embedded ads in online TV and movies if the desired video content remains free-of-charge.

Nielsen also found that the the audience for mobile video viewing grew 70% in Q209.

No one reads anymore . . . The future lies in video.

Has anyone else noticed this? Because it seems glaringly obvious to me that people no longer read. Not us PR types. We still read. It’s the people we are trying to reach that have given it up.

I am assuming this is why when someone is given written instructions, the task is inevitably done wrong. Or why when you email or text a question to someone, the response is not an answer. At least not an answer to the question you asked.

The alternative is that people are mostly stupid and I don’t think this is true. Reading, especially reading for comprehension, is just too time consuming.

That leaves us with a conundrum. How can we tell the stories we need to communicate in a way that appeals to our target audiences? The answer is video.

Ten years ago corporate video was widespread and elaborate. Web-based communications made video unfeasible until recently because of bandwidth restrictions. Now, it’s back and it’s more important than ever.

YouTube is now the most broad-reaching broadcast channel out there. It’s bigger than any of the network channels and soon will reach a larger audience than all of those channels combined.

To best serve our clients, we must now embrace the use of video as a communications medium.

YouTube EDU Efforts Profiled on AP

I’ve written before on the benefits that Colleges and Universities can reap from using enhanced YouTube channels to reach their target audiences. A recent AP news story gave some more insights:

College too expensive? Try YouTube


It might seem counterintuitive to look for higher education alongside Avril Lavigne music videos, but the video-sharing site has become a major reservoir of college content.

The Google Inc.-owned YouTube has for the last few years been forging partnerships with universities and colleges. The site recently gathered these video channels under the banner YouTube EDU (

More than 100 schools have partnered with YouTube to make an official channel, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Yale and the first university to join YouTube: UC Berkeley.

There are promotional videos like campus tours, but the more interesting content is straight from the classroom or lecture hall. Many schools have posted videos of guest lecturers, introductory classes and even a full semester’s course.

At a time when many are finding college unaffordable and the ranks of the unemployed are swelling, free higher learning can sound like a good way to spend some free time.

“There’s a huge appetite around the world for people to better themselves, to study subjects that they either never got a chance to or haven’t studied in a while,” said Obadiah Greenberg, the strategic partnership manager for YouTube.

In the past five years or so, colleges and universities have been increasingly opening their doors digitally to the public.

“That Ivory Tower reputation may be even more dated than the advent of YouTube,” said Scott Stocker, director of Web communications at Stanford.

In 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched the MIT OpenCourseWare ( with the plan to make virtually all the school’s courses available for free online.

As a visitor, one almost feels like you’ve somehow sneaked through a firewall. There’s no registration and within a minute, you can be watching Prof. Walter Lewin demonstrate the physics of a pendulum by being one himself.

Last December, MIT announced that OCW had been visited by more than 50 million people worldwide. But why would institutions that charges a huge price for admission give away their primary product?

Ben Hubbard, program manager of the webcast project for the University of California, Berkeley, believes it has always been a part of a university’s vocation.

“The mission of the university has been the same since our charter days back in the 1800s,” said Hubbard. “It’s threefold: there’s teaching, research and community service. Probably in the 1800s they weren’t thinking of it as the globe, but technology has really broken down those barriers of geography.”

In 1995, Berkeley launched its webcasts (http://webcast/ with video and audio webcasts of classes.

In 2007, Apple created iTunes U, a service that allows schools to make material accessible only internally by students or externally by anyone. Most schools do a little of both.

Tools like iTunes U and YouTube EDU not only benefit the community and those called “lifelong learners” curious for a lesson or two in engineering or economics. But these services are powerful marketing tools that ultimately only provide one dimension of the college experience, schools say.

“We all see that the real value in a college education goes so far beyond the lectures that faculty give,” said Stocker. “It’s a way for people to get a taste of what the Stanford experience is, but you’re not getting a degree and you’re not getting direct interaction with faculty.”