And with this, we wrap Halloween 2019

My daughter forwarded me this Halloween clip that blew up across social media today. Click the link on the photo and make sure to turn up the sound as you watch..

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A quick bit of Googling revealed that the man who posts on Instagram as @Shauhindavari is Shaw Duvari, a professor at Orange Coast College in Newport Beach where he teaches public speaking. He also coaches the OCC Speech, Debate, and Theater team, which he drolly describes as “incredibly successful.”

A quick scan of his posts show his typical viewcount averages in the low hundreds, but something about this one struck a nerve. He’s already eclipsed 20,000 views due in no small part to a share from Barstool Sports.

No, he might never match the viral success of this oh-so-relatable post. But today, Shaw wins the internet. Good on you guy.

The Data Confirms It: In a Contentious, Divided Society, Joy and Love Still Rule

I’ll admit. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I love those viral clips that demonstrate human kindness and thoughtfulness writ large. Nothing is as contagious as uncontrollable laughter.

Still, it’s easy to feel bummed out these days, particularly if you use social media. Most recognize how Facebook gamed our feeds to garner more attention, and in the process fiercely stoked polarization to the detriment of our democracy. It’s depressing to see how quickly even benign social media comments get weaponized into political spew. And political debate on the nightly news rarely elevates beyond schoolyard name-calling. Given this news environment, it’s only natural to consider our society as little more than a tumble of feral, clawing tomcats in a bag.

And then, right at the moment when hope fades, along comes a day-brightening bit of undeniable evidence proving the exact opposite.

Of the 3,019 emojis in the Unicode Standard version 12.0. the top two used are Face with Tears of Joy and Heart: ūüėā and ‚̧ԳŹ.

Those are the two symbols we reach for more than any other: emojis symbolizing happiness and love. Those are the emotions we express the most. And yes, I consider that very good news indeed.

We are so loving and supportive with our emoji

I realize emoji choices aren’t long on anger or division, but don’t harsh my mellow here. I like that we have a language predicated on love and support for each other.

Admittedly, I don’t use emoji myself. I have nothing against them and will frequently type “heart” or “thumbs up” but I prefer the written word. No judgment, just preference. And I won’t deny that strings of these colorful hieroglyphics brighten up many an Instagram response.

If you’re interested in seeing where your favorite comes in on the frequency count, visit¬†Unicode’s Emoji Frequency¬†page.

I’m simply going to enjoy this sunny Monday a bit more, knowing that perhaps we’re not all spittle-lipped hatebags after all.

I heart that. I heart that a lot.

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Gold, Frankincense…and Metal

So, how many times this season have you heard Paul McCartney’s treacly “Wonderful Christmas Time”? Did an act of congress dictate that every store’s playlist must feature an inappropriately-breathy rendition of “Santa Baby”?

If you’re struggling to find your musical merry this season, search no more. In what is the polar opposite of anything on Neil Diamond’s Christmas playlist, a metal band out of York, PA has released their own magical antidote of sorts. Small Town Titans have re-interpreted “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” with a metal sensibility that would make Boris Karloff smile. And it gladdens my heart more than all the sugarplums on Michigan Avenue…

Wow. The Zevon-worthy lyric “YOU HAVE ALL THE TENDER SWEETNESS/OF A SEASICK CROCODILE” never felt so ominously threatening. And apparently, lots of us agree that’s a good thing.

The¬†unsigned power trio released this cover last year but according to lead singer Phil Freeman, “we weren’t really expecting more than maybe a million views by Christmas.” To their surprise, their¬†Facebook post of a live performance¬†went viral. It now has over 23 million views…and it’s still climbing. That’s what happens when your post gets shared by over a half a million people.

In a lovely twist of fate, Freeman, Ben Guiles, and Jonny Ross all met as students at¬†Lebanon Valley College; my decidedly non-metal mother and sister’s alma mater.

So yes, it is a lovely season and indeed, it may well be the most wonderful time of the year. Still, there’s definitely room for this sentiment as well. Nicely done lads.

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A Critical Essay for These Times

Ann Bauer is an amazing author, writer, and capturer of truths. Out of her own profoundly personal pain and loss, she came to sense a larger illness in society.

Ann initially posted this to Facebook, outlining a caustic and pervasive issue of our times and neatly summing up what we must strive to do to overcome it:

“Imagine if that were the goal: baseline civility¬†and warm expectations.”

Indeed. Thankfully, someone smart at the Washington Post read it and asked her permission to publish it for a broader audience. Read her magnificent, inspiring, unflinchingly honest essay here.

Thanks Ann. And again, I’m so sorry for the loss of Andrew. God love you and yours.

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Video: Evolving Beyond Selling

So yesterday, I was lucky enough to present for the West Michigan Content Strategy Meetup’s first-ever lunch and learn webinar.

Of course, being that it was ‘first ever’ and involved warring Apple and Google technology platforms, it was a bit of a car wreck; dropped signals, video blackouts, etc. But happily, like all things digital and video, you can fix it in post. So we did.

My thanks to my old friend Scott Smith and the charming and redoubtable Laura Bergells for making this a terrific experience, technical difficulties and all.

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Oh Canada! A Pre-Thanksgiving Travel Message

Everyone knows the day before Thanksgiving is our busiest travel day of the year.

Except it’s not. Summer weekends consistently outrank it. Nevertheless, this is a week fraught with family, shopping, and travel, so this little piece seemed timely…

If we must accept that foreign powers will influence our social feeds, let’s choose the decent people of Canada over the divisiveness-spewing trollbots from Russia. We make mistakes, we apologize, we shake hands and move on.

What a wonderful world that would be…

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A Pre Thanksgiving/Black Friday Shopping Message

According to data from Adobe, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday 2016 all set records for online sales, totaling over $5.5 billion. Black Friday remains the monster; last year, Friday online sales topped the three billion mark for the first time ever, reaching $3.34 billion: an increase of nearly 22% over 2015.

In bricks and mortar, ShopperTrak reported a 1% drop in foot traffic from 2015 over the Thanksgiving weekend, but Black Friday itself didn’t dip. The manic early morning shopping rush has clearly become a new holiday tradition; retailers predict it will hold strong this year even as they foresee another 5%+ growth in online sales.

Retailers revel in this reorientation of our Holidays toward mass consumption. But the Forest Hill Church in South Carolina takes a different perspective. Last year, on December 3, their in-house creative media team posted this ‚ÄúChristmas Presents‚ÄĚ video to Facebook‚Ķ

It‚Äôs not particularly sophisticated or slickly produced–all the actors are either churchgoers or staff–but the idea itself struck a resonant, relatable chord. Over the past year, it’s earned well over 6.3 million views and been shared almost 93,000 times. The idea of gift wrapping the everyday gifts we take for granted is simple and powerful. And joyful; for a non-actor, director/congregant Matt Nunn delivers a very likable performance as the man who wakes up with so much gratitude.

This is a brilliant example of relevant video content and clearly, Forest Hill is very savvy with multimedia. They also have a great looking website¬†that boasts lots of content. They’re definitely doing it right.

First and foremost, by starting with a smart, relatable idea. Well done.

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Thanks to my friend and constant student of culture, Neilan Tyree, for finding and sharing this video on Facebook.

Why Vertical Formatting Matters for Social Video

It might have something to do with their primary audience’s age, but in a small bit of irony, I couldn’t maintain this video’s native vertical format when editing it in iMovie, or posting it to Vimeo, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Still, when it comes to the giants of social media platforms–Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram–vertical is the way to go.

By the way, if you need some expert social media strategic advice, connect with Kate Miller; she’s pretty amazing. IG & TW:¬†@LetsReallyLive.

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