• 3 (very) basic tips to make your social media videos better

    3 (very) basic tips to make your social media videos better

    Make your social media videos exponentially better with these quick fixes.

    Getting the basics of video right isn’t as complicated as it used to be, so there should be no excuse for some of the horrible video content you seen on social media.

    In your pocket right now is a device with more processing power than the old supercomputers that used to take up entire rooms. It’s so much easier than it was even a decade ago to shoot great video. Your smartphone has a camera that can, in a pinch, shoot really great high-quality video content — feature films have even been shot with this device — if you keep a few simple things in mind.

    Note: these are very basic tips but a lot of small businesses on social media get them wrong.

    1) No vertical videos

    This is probably the biggest mistake we see made on social media. Notice how your eyes sit horizontally across your face? That’s how we see things. There’s no surer sign of an amateur than vertical video. Tilt that phone and, congratulations, you’ve automatically become 50 per cent more professional than half of the small businesses on social media.

    2) Learn to edit — but don’t go overboard

    If you can get things done in one take, great (see below for our performance tips). However, there are cheap (and even free) editing programs and apps that are relatively simple to learn to give your videos punch. A word of caution though: unless you’re a designer, don’t get too fancy with graphics and transitions. Simple is better.

    (And once you reach a certain level, there are businesses — hint, hint —who can help you out with the higher-end content.)

    3) Focus on performance

    For the person in the video doing a talk-to-camera, it’s worth keeping in mind a few things:

    a) Keep your voice clear and your demeanour upbeat. There’s nothing more likely to turn someone off than a low-energy performance. You’re also probably speaking faster than you think you are. Slow it down.

    b) Scripting vs. off the cuff. If you’re good at talking off the top of your head and staying on-topic, great. If not, you might want to think about scripting something out — not the whole thing necessarily but jotting down key ideas in dot point form can keep you on track.

    c) As always, keep it short and snappy. Not only will this get your fans further into your videos, breaking your content into smaller chunks means you have more pieces of video content to work with overall. Try to limit each video to one or two key pieces of information per video.

    Takeaway message

    Sure, these are simple but you would be amazed at how many small businesses on social media get this stuff wrong.

    The good news is, if you’re getting these three things right, you’re well on your way to creating better and better video content for your business.

    If you need more help with your video content, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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  • George Orwell and the importance of clear communication

    George Orwell and the importance of clear communication

    Clear language and why it pays to say what you mean.

    “In certain kinds of writing…it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.”
    — George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

    In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called Politics and the English Language. In it, he argued that communication should always be clear, that clarity of expression should reflect clarity of thought.

    Being lax with how we choose to communicate obscures what we actually mean to say, whether on purpose or to cover up something we don’t want to reveal. Orwell believed that communication was headed the wrong way because, basically, it’s easier and people are lazy. People will imitate what’s common and thus spread bad, imprecise writing.

    As he says:

    “[M]odern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy.”

    Furthermore, Orwell believed that sloppy writing was not only annoying but dangerous. Imprecise or deliberately foggy words can be used to cover up all manner of disturbing things. He called this ‘defence of the indefensible’. Think of politicians dispassionately using euphemisms such as ‘collateral damage’ or ‘offshore detention’ when what those terms refer to are too monstrous to say plainly.

    It’s still everywhere

    Although this essay was written more than 70 years ago, Orwell might well have been talking about contemporary business communication.

    After all, corporate-speak (named for another Orwell idea, as it happens) is so infamously difficult to parse that it’s a cliché to say so.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    How much would you love to read an internal email from a manager who said what she meant rather than obscured her meaning in jargon?

    Wouldn’t you be able to do your job better if you had accurate communication about your boss’s expectations?

    And surely a bad idea at a meeting would reveal itself more quickly if it was plainly spoken. (In Orwell’s words: “When you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.”)

    Not to mention that your consultants would be able to more promptly deliver their work if conversations weren’t couched in buzzwords and vague phrases.

    From Hook Media’s perspective as a media business with a wide variety of clients, we have always done our best work when everything was clear and direct. That means everybody is clear about what the project is, what the expectations are, what the issues are (should they arise) and what the end product should look like.

    You can only arrive at this through clarity of thought, which you can only express through clear language.

    Rules to write by

    Orwell’s Politics and the English Language is brilliant essay and I recommend you read the whole thing it if you’re interested in communication at all.

    It contains his famous six rules for writing that are as relevant today as they were back then:

    1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    Clarity is what gets you the best results — no matter what your business.

    And if you need help with your communications, get in touch.

    Image: George Orwell, 1943, Branch of the National Union of Journalists (BNUJ), public domain.
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  • A second set of eyes: Even the stars of business and social media need good copy

    A second set of eyes: Even the stars of business and social media need good copy

    Typos, misspellings, poor wording, badly phrased ideas: all of them are coming from the social accounts of brands, business personalities and other people who want your money.

    Have you ever noticed how much bad copy is around on the internet?

    This idea is never far from my mind but it hit me anew as I was reading the sample chapter of a book I had been anticipating. The author is a well-known commentator on innovation and technology who has a popular and engaging social media presence, so I was excited to see how he came across in long-form.

    However, as I started to read it, I got a sinking feeling. Although the interesting ideas I was expecting were there, the prose…was static. Like someone had transcribed it from a speech. As any good journalist knows, speech is a fickle thing: sometimes the transcription can make a person sound foolish when in fact he is an erudite and articulate speaker. Written communication is a different beast.

    Then I encountered a typo. Then another. A misplaced inverted comma. A double spacing.

    Small things, really, but something that can and should be easily fixed.

    (I am very aware that I’m setting myself up for ridicule should this article itself have any of the above. Such is life.)

    In fact, what the sample chapter most looked like to me was a pitch document. ‘This chapter is where I’ll do this’ and ‘from there I’ll move into that’. There was no finesse, no building of arguments.

    I then noticed that some basic, checkable facts were wrong.

    Next came a laboured, extended metaphor. Then a mixed metaphor within that first one. And it just kept going. At least put some self-effacing references to the fact that your metaphor is cumbersome! That might at least buy some time from your readers before they give up.

    I thought to myself, “Surely somebody should have picked up on this when it was being edited”.

    If I didn’t know any better I’d think this business guru had gone the self-publishing route. Maybe he dealt with a publisher who exercised no editorial oversight. What might have been a fun, insightful read became a slog because of something relatively basic: communication skills.

    Bad communication is everywhere

    But these kinds of communication errors are everywhere and often from the leaders in their respective fields.

    I remember being similarly disheartened when I followed some of the ‘sharks’ from the TV show Shark Tank and saw how poor some of their writing skills are. Sure, that’s not what they’re best at — they’re business experts after all, not copywriters — but for a crop of people constantly telling people to always be at your best and work hard, some have had trouble grasping the basics.

    In my previous role as a magazine editor, I would often encounter a similar habit in fitness professionals. These Adonises would post on social media admonishing others for not working hard enough and just ‘hardening up’, ‘put it in the work’ and getting things done. But ask them to fill out a questionnaire, tee up a phone interview or write an article and suddenly they had ‘no time’.

    So, sometimes ‘hard work’ is really just a matter of prioritising what’s important to a person.

    This is all fine! But it might be time to bring in the experts if you need some professional communication.

    Good communication skills are important

    When you’re in the business of communication, bad or incorrect copy shows up everywhere.

    I recently received an email from SBSOnDemand: ‘The Handmaiden’s are back’ (sic) said its subject line. How did this slip through?

    You begin to appreciate how special good communication skills actually are. We should all learn them from a young age but with recent news that one of the world’s leading education experts thinks the NAPLAN is teaching kids to be poor writers, it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

    Business gurus talk a big game. Gary Vee can say you should just get your product out there, no matter how rough around the edges it is. And maybe that’s true — as long as your business isn’t professional communication.

    ‘Just do it’ is all well and good when what you’ve just done isn’t your core business. But for us media professionals, journalists and copywriters, it’s the equivalent of Gary Vee shipping off wine in a plastic bottle.

    If your business is communication, you better make damn sure you know how to communicate.

    We can help

    One thing we offer at Hook Media is a copywriting and editing service, be it subbing your e-book, creating copy for your website or helping you create your own branded publication. With experienced journalists on our team, we’re ideally placed to help our clients make sure they are always communicating well.

    After all, first impressions matter. Your brand might only get one chance to make sure it looks professional. That could be the difference between getting a customer and not.

    And for those gurus posting all manner of bad copy on their LinkedIn accounts, if you do ever get self-conscious about it, give us a call. We just might be able to help.

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  • 6 times high-profile people lost sponsors because of social media posts

    6 times high-profile people lost sponsors because of social media posts

    Smart sportspeople can get the upper hand with sponsors — but some will always misuse social media and face the consequences.

    The entire country seems to be only just recovering from the news that people who hit a ball around for a living might not be emblems of moral fibre (shocked, shocked!). I am, of course, talking about the ball-tampering scandal that has seen three members of the Australian cricket team suspended, including captain Steve Smith, who has resigned in disgrace. And the response from the brands associated with cricket has been swift.

    This despite the scandal being far from the worst thing Australian sportsmen have ever done — not by a long shot. For some reason this has hit Australia right in the patriotismSmith was dropped by Sanitarium (maker of Weet-Bix), David Warner was dropped by LG; Warner and Cameron Bancroft were both dropped by Asics.

    In addition, Magellan has terminated its deal with Cricket Australia while sponsor Qantas’ Allan Joyce publicly said he was very disappointed about the incident. (Almost a disappointing as Qantas not paying any tax in 2017.)

    But you know what’s quite interesting? This has all happened without social media really getting involved. Usually, for sponsors to drop high-profile athletes, it takes a monumental stuff-up on a social platform or a groundswell of social media pressure on a brand. In this case, it seems brands took it upon themselves to be moral arbiters.

    People have (mostly) learnt how to use social media

    Now, it’s true, this doesn’t happen as much as it used to, at least not with sportspeople. Athletes of previous generations were a lot less savvy and social media was much younger; its power wasn’t quite as understood. (However, there are still some dum-dums, as we’ll see below.)

    These days, it’s just as likely to be a sponsored athlete taking a brand to task.

    More and more we’re seeing athletes taking it upon themselves to call our their sponsors when a brand representative — or CEO — says or does something not in line with the sportsperson’s ethics or beliefs. Both Steph Curry and Misty Copeland were vocal about disagreeing with their sponsor Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank when he publicly supported President Trump.

    This makes sense. After all, companies these days are using an athlete’s own brand for leverage even more than they used to. Sports people and influencers are their own businesses and through social media are potentially more powerful than their sponsors. Indeed, the pressure by Copeland and Curry resulted in Under Armour releasing a statement ‘clarifying’ the CEO’s remarks.

    However, it still bears repeating that all social media is publishing and people will see it — especially if you’re a high-profile person. So here are six times high-profile people lost sponsors — or worse — because of their social media posts.

    Content warning: LOTS of homophobia (though I won’t directly quote any).

    1. Israel Folau

    This one is hot off the press, so no sponsor has made a move just yet — but I’ve got my fingers crossed. Rugby jackass Israel Folau recently made homophobic statements on Instagram and Wallabies sponsor Qantas is now said to be reconsidering its sponsorship of the team. Folau has not made any attempt as an apology. On the contrary, he’s now posting cherry-picked bible verses on social media, digging his heels in to the controversy. Hot tip, mate: you’re a rich and famous sports star, not a persecuted victim. Persecuted actually describes the people you said would burn in hell.

    2. Stephanie Rice

    Speaking of the Wallabies and massive idiots, who could forget Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice’s infamous tweet when the Wallabies won the rugby against South Africa? It was the heady days of 2010, where a famous gold medallist with a huge social media following felt comfortable to tweet the f-word for gay out into the world wide web. Jaguar, her sponsor, promptly dropped her, despite reading from the classic Aussie Sports Apology playbook: ‘I’m sorry if I offended anyone’.

    3. Rashard Mendenhall

    Rashard Mendenhall, running back for American football team the Pittsburgh Steelers, was dropped by sportswear brand Champion after tweets that were interpreted at the time as being sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden. The news story had just broken about Bin Laden’s death and Mendenhall, ambivalent about celebrating, tweeted, “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…” Throw in another tweet about 9/11 being a conspiracy and Mendenhall was toast.

    4. Andre Grey

    Steph Rice wasn’t the only one being a homophobic pest on Twitter in the early 2010s. In 2012, British footballer Andre Grey took to Twitter to spout violently homophobic nonsense. The tweet was live for, oh, only four years before his team Burnley found out. His punishment? Suspended for four months. Doesn’t quite seem right, does it? Maybe this list should be of people who got off rather lightly considering…

    5. Anthony Weiner, various other politicians

    US Democratic politician Anthony Weiner’s social media scandals are so extensive they have their own Wikipedia page. The most famous was in 2011, when he ‘accidentally’ tweeted a photo of his private parts out to his followers, later claiming he meant to send it privately to a 21-year-old college student. Uh, yeah, that didn’t make it sound any better. The immediate fallout was Weiner resigning from Congress but Weiner (yes, everyone noticed the joke too) just couldn’t help himself. Sexting scandals followed in 2013 and 2016. He currently resides in Federal Medical Center, a prison for people with mental health issues.

    Mark Thornton, a potential candidate for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (turn around three times and spit), was in some hot water last year. In front of Senator Hanson herself, Thornton was asked at a press conference about a sex shop he owned and very questionable social media posts from its account. His penalty? He actually didn’t get kicked out because, you know, One Nation.

    (Oh but Canadian politician Jad Crnogorac from the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives was kicked out of her party for several social media posts that were racist and made fun of rape.)

    6. Nate Diaz

    In 2013, then-up and coming lightweight UFC fighter Nate Diaz took to Twitter after…look, it doesn’t matter what it was about. He said something homophobic (notice a pattern here?). The UFC suspended him for 90 days and fined him $20,000 for breaking its code of conduct. Has Nate learnt his lesson about running his fingers on Twitter? Eh, not really.

    These days, there’s no reason smart athletes and high-profile people can’t get leverage with their sponsors — but there will always be those who just don’t get it.

    Need help with your social media? Let us know.   

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  • Walking the walk: How (not) to be taken seriously on social media

    Walking the walk: How (not) to be taken seriously on social media

    How are you coming across on social media?

    In my previous career as a magazine editor, I would often come across a strange phenomenon. Contacting athletes for a feature or interview, I was often struck by how many did not match what they put out through their social media channels.

    I’m not talking about Photoshopped images and Instagram filters. This was more about how they would choose to interact with the world. Athletes who preach focus, consistency and dedication barely put in the effort to use proper punctuation in message. Posts that castigated others for being lazy came from people who couldn’t be bothered to fill out a Q&A. Those who spoke of respect and ‘getting it done’ every day took weeks to reply to an email.

    And often those who tried to motivate people with platitudes like ‘if you want something, you just have to hustle’ would lose their motivation when our media outlet would try to engage with these athletes, be it setting up a meeting, asking for some content, an image or anything that might help their brand out — suddenly they weren’t very motivated. So much for hustle.

    Obviously in the fitness industry these kinds of posts mostly refer to fitness. Still, it struck me that these athletes who presumably wanted exposure and potential business would not apply their successful philosophies in one area (fitness) to how they dealt with the rest of the world (media, business, etc.).

    (Indeed, it’s no coincidence that those who manage to apply one discipline to another are often very successful.)

    Helpful hints

    However, it is possible that some people do not realise that this is how they are coming across. In fact, I’m sure most of the people I’m thinking of would be horrified to know. In that spirit, here are a few helpful hints to being taken seriously outside of the social media world (aka the real world):

    • Don’t preach consistency and attention to detail when there are spelling errors all through your social posts.

    • Don’t bang on about hard work when you can’t be bothered getting back to people in a timely manner.

    • Check each post before it goes out and evaluate it for what you’re actually communicating. Is it something that fits with how you genuinely see the world or have you jumped on a bandwagon?

    • Don’t go on about staying humble and having respect in your social posts when you’re rude to people who want to contact you.

    • Understand that when somebody gets in touch, they are a potential client, customer or contact. If you are truly too busy, send a quick reply acknowledging that you received their message and you’ll endeavor to get back to them when you can.

    These obviously don’t only apply for those in the fitness industry. Anyone who uses social media to engage with clients, customers or fans should be aware of how their non-social media behaviour can impact their perception and reputation.

    Takeaway message

    If you’re a social media personality trying to inspire your followers to do ANYTHING — buy your product, become your client, follow your page, whatever it might be — don’t go against what you’re saying in your posts in your dealings with your fans, the media and, by extension, the world in general.

    Sure, we all have personas online. Our social media presence does not equal the sum of our value as a person. That said, if you’ve decided to have a social media presence, what you put out there better be at least somewhat representative of you as a person.

    And who knows? Maybe you’ll even become more successful as a result.

    If you’re an athlete or business that needs help with their social media strategy, get in touch with us at Hook Media.

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  • Plagiarism on social media: Why content theft is bad for your business

    Plagiarism on social media: Why content theft is bad for your business

    Newsflash: you shouldn’t steal stuff

    In the traditional media paradigm, content creators — though we used to be called writers, journalists, designers, photographers etc. — knew that plagiarism was a bad thing. It should be self-evident, right? If you didn’t make something yourself, don’t palm it off as your own creation.

    The digital media world has blurred some of these lines in the past decade or so. Many digital publications base their reporting on one source, often another website, and essentially rewrite the story line-by-line for their site, embedding the same images or videos. Even reputable mastheads have to use this kind of appropriation to up their clicks in order to fund more meaningful and serious work.

    (Related: This is why Buzzfeed has quizzes about which vegetables are trustworthy next to serious reportage about victory over ISIS in Mosul. When anyone tells you Buzzfeed is trash, they just haven’t been keeping up.)

    Considering this, it’s perhaps understandable why a person unfamiliar with the history of changes in the media landscape might not bat an eye at taking, say, a complete workout from a fitness website and publishing it as her own work, possibly even charging people to download a PDF version of it.

    Plagiarism in the fitness industry

    Last year, fitness blogger and personal trainer Sohee Lee described the plagiarism situation in the fitness industry like this:

    “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other people on social media nowadays stealing others’ hard work. They’ll take images or writing that others have produced and act like it’s their own. Oftentimes, this flies under the radar, and they get away with it for a long time.”

    As a fitness magazine editor, I would sometimes come across instances of plagiarism from freelancers who must not have realised that we editors have access to Google and can search sentences that suddenly appear much better crafted than the surrounding paragraphs.

    To some degree, this is just a bug in the current system of having personal trainers writing articles. Someone not from a journalistic background might not even be aware that plagiarism comes in many forms, including ripping off what might seem like stock-standard instructions on how to do a lat pulldown.

    Some of this, however, cannot be put down to ‘didn’t know any better’. Lee goes on to describe one particular person who systematically stole her social media content and claimed it as her own:

    “I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when a post of hers popped up…A few lines in, I found myself raising my eyebrows because I quickly realized that actually, those were my exact words.”

    This kind of plagiarism is malicious and inexcusable. This is the kind of plagiarism where the perpetrators definitely know better. They are usually seeking to make money off other people’s hard work. Good social media content is hard to produce, after all. And there’s a generation of people for whom stuff on the internet has always been free. They will not think twice about ripping it off and claiming it as their own.

    The lesson for all businesses

    This is something people using social media for business — any business — need to be doubly aware of when posting. Whether it’s blogs on your website, what you share on Facebook and even the actual text in your Instagram posts, you can’t just steal stuff.

    You know that funny meme you saved as a photo and then posted without attribution or permission to your business page? Not your property. That infographic you wanted to use because it perfectly explained a concept? You’d better link to the source or seek permission (or, hey, graphic designers like getting paid too) before running with it.

    Now, you’re probably not going to get sued over one silly meme. But it’s a habit you don’t want to get into. The next instance mightn’t be so frivolous and you — or your staff — won’t know how to tell the difference.

    And aside from all that, those pieces of content are usually no good.

    The solution

    You need good, custom content and if you can’t afford a company to do it for you, you need to create that content yourself. Think of your brand and how much damage plagiarism does to it. Even if you’re not caught or called out (though you eventually will be), what does it say about your brand that someone else’s work can represent it?

    (As it happens, we at Hook have had our work stolen, which in one sense is a form of flattery. But in another, more accurate sense, it’s common theft and a big energy drainer.)

    In the end, it’s more rewarding to create things of value for your clients or customers. It’s also better for your business overall. Your SEO numbers will be much better at the very least.

    Plus, you won’t be tempted to post crappy memes.

    If you’re interested in good custom content or a social media plan to make it for yourself, get in touch with us.

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  • One simple social media concept many people get wrong

    One simple social media concept many people get wrong — and how to get it right

    These days, many people have a social media business page that is a separate entity from their regular, personal profile. Unfortunately, all too many of them don’t understand the distinction between the two — and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the fitness industry.

    In the current social media landscape, most athletes have to operate as their own brands, even those with sponsorships. Maintaining a professional and effective brand should be job number one for fitness industry personalities.

    However, what you’ll often see is so-and-so professional or semi-professional athlete sharing what might seem like benign memes and pictures (though also potentially inflammatory political rants or just plain bizarre non-sequiturs) that make that athlete’s fans wonder why they follow your page in the first place. Even if they’re entertained briefly, they’re losing the sense of what the athlete represents.

    Think about it this way: imagine a car company doing that. Imagine Honda, in between sharing its new model roll-out, posting that viral video of the sloth trying to cross a busy road. Funny, right? Professional? Not so much. Even if you wouldn’t be offended or upset, you’d probably just be put off by the plain weirdness of it. You might even stop taking the company less seriously. One thing’s for sure: you might think twice before purchasing something from them.

    There have been cases of high profile athletes losing sponsorships because of inappropriate content posted online on their business pages.

    You might think you would know better than to do something stupid like that and risk your employment but you never know a) what will offend your audience and b) what unintended effects your posts might have.

    So, what is the one simple social media concept many people get wrong? Your business page is, now get ready for this…for business.

    As an athlete with a business page, you have to work out how you’re going to present yourself online as a business. Decide early and have rules about what is appropriate content — this isn’t about scolding you for what you shouldn’t do, it’s thinking about what your followers will not only expect but WANT from someone like you.

    If you’re a bodybuilder selling personal training spots or training programs, your social media content should be in the realm of instructional videos and exercise tips. That’s why people follow you, right? That’s where your money will come from. So, why sabotage that with material that is (get ready, I’m about to use a buzzword) off-brand?

    Similarly, if you’re a company that sponsors athletes, give them clear guidelines on what they can and cannot be posting on their business page. If they’re a bit of a hothead or a big mouth, maybe suggest they keep their personal page set to private so it doesn’t impact on your business. In fact, everyone should do this anyway.

    Remember: the internet is written in permanent ink.

    After all, if you really want to post memes and dumb joke, that’s fine. That’s what your personal page is for. Seriously, it’s not that hard to set your privacy settings so only your Friends can see what you post.

    TL; DR? Don’t post dumb stuff to your Facebook business page. Save that for your personal page.

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