Using voice memo to rescue an interview

Between Christmas and New Year I had the pleasure of chatting with physiotherapist Alistair Greetham about the potential impact of mobile phone use on our health, particularly in relation to my own personal case as a mobile journalist, someone with terrible posture and a recurring need to see an osteopath to offset my symptoms.

I chatted for over an hour with Alistair but only managed to record the first five minutes (damn you, mobile phone and lapel mic)and in an attempt to remember as much as possible about what he said, I recorded this voice memo during the drive home.

So this is a warts and all recording, attempting to recall the interview while driving and trying to remember the way home. No editing has been done – this is 100% authentic panic interview recall. This research forms part of my MA in Online Journalism and focus on mobile journalism, in particular.

You can read the full interview – undertaken as research as part of my MA in Online Journalism – soon, and I’ll also be recording a video session with Alistair to physically show some of the open/closed postural movements I talk about in this audio recording.

 

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From maternity leave to professional Instagrammer

saraAs well as having a whopping 146,000 followers on Instagram (@me_and_orla), Sara Tasker is a blogger, photographer, iPhoneographer, writer and Instagram coach. So she’s pretty busy. Sara’s story has seen her go from maternity to leave to running a successful business helped, of course, by a generous dose of creativity and talent. And now she’s helping other Instagrammers to find success…

How did you first get into Instagram?

I was on maternity leave and feeling pretty bored and uncreative. I read about people doing 365 projects using their iPhones and it appealed as a record of my daughter’s first year, so I reactivated my dormant account and started sharing daily.

Did you ever imagine, when you started, that being a successful Instagrammer would create so many opportunities?

I had no idea! Back then there were only a handful of people making a living from Instagram, and they were all in the US with millions of followers.
My intention was only ever to share and be creative – and, to some extent, to find an audience to help me do that. Everything else came as a big surprise.

You’re now an Instagram coach and channel expert. What do you love about working with Instagram and what types of people/organisations do you help?

My favourite thing is how it represents creativity in everyday life. Sometimes we can be afraid to give ourselves or anything we do the label of ‘creating’, because it feels pretentious, or like it belongs to other people. Instagram is a way around that, and it means you have this really diverse group of people sharing their take on the world.
I love getting to help people find their visual voice, and connect with their audience through that. I tend to work mostly with small business owners and creatives. That’s never really been by design, but probably represents the audience that most feel they can relate to me and how I work. I’ve mentored actors, coaches, singers, illustrators, authors, photographers, bloggers, makers – and people who just want to develop their Instagram as a tool to express themselves for no specific purpose.

What benefits do you think Instagram has over other social media channels? Are there any downsides, or features you’d like to see added?

It’s a visual medium, which is great as that’s how your brain works. If you’re wordy and have no eye for a photo, it’s not going to be the place for you. Compared to the early days, it’s a highly saturated market now, and it can be difficult to stand out – but if you’re doing something original that resonates, there’s still plenty of potential to make a splash. There are plenty of limitations within the app – they don’t like you to share links, for example, and are notoriously incompatible with Twitter – but it’s a free service, so I’m reluctant to complain too much.

What can people expect to learn on one of your courses, who are they aimed at and why will they find it beneficial?

My courses are for the people who I’ve been mentoring – or the people who I would mentor if I had the time! I found myself going over the same key principles again and again with my clients, and my time was becoming increasingly scarce, so a course seemed the logical step to share the knowledge further. I’ve tried to make it pretty exhaustive, so it covers everything from choosing the best username all the way to playing the algorithm and maximising your exposure opportunities. The focus is on creating great, genuine, meaningful content all the way through – I’m really opposed to the ‘get rich quick’ schemes that chase huge followings without the quality of the posts improving. It only works if you put the effort in.

What are your top 3 tips for Instagram users, whether it’s for business or pleasure?

  1. Take better pictures! I start there with everyone – including myself, every day. It’s a visual platform, so you need to be always striving to take and share your best work.
  2. Be intentional about your message. If you know what you’re trying to say, and who you want to say it to, it’s much easier to connect with the right audience and find which hashtags to use, etc.
  3. Engage more! The biggest reason that people’s accounts lie dormant or flounder is because they sit back and wait for their audience to come to them. Instagram is hardwired to reward engagement, so you really get what you put in.

 

You have  very specific look and feel on your account – is that something you’d recommend? Do you think ‘branded’ accounts get a better response from their audiences?

It’s something that develops organically if you work at it long enough – you refine and improve your style and taste so precisely that things tend to start to flow by themselves. That said, the more you consider the overall look of your gallery, the more coherent and deliberate your message to potential audience will be.
There are a ton of benefits to having a really solid visual identity – it’s a bit like having a recognisable writing style or singing voice.
It’s not just about the individual pictures/books/songs that you create, but the talent and vision you have behind them. That’s what people are signing up for when they hit follow – your voice, not the pictures that have gone before.

You inspire a lot of people on Instagram – who is your Instagram inspiration?

I soak up inspiration from all over the place – from music and photography and nature and life. I love browsing new hashtags and getting a sense of what’s up and coming and fresh.
It’s impossible to name one person or account that inspires me, because it’s such a creative soup.
My ideal catch up on Instagram would have some film photography, some female self portrait work, an amazing styled food shoot, and a quick snap of someone’s kids. I love the diversity and the scope of it, and that keeps me creating and thinking in pictures.

Find out more

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Seeing the world through square images and Instagram filters

When I started my InstaMA project I genuinely had no idea how time-consuming – and valuable – it would be to truly immerse myself in its community. Or that I would be dreaming in square images – every content opportunity was viewed through an Instagram filter and a square frame. It took over. But after three months the pilot is over, I can take my foot off the gas, reflect a little and take stock of what I’ve learned.

My own personal use of Instagram is merely to keep a record of my top memories and best photographic endeavors and I rarely venture into content beyond that posted by my friends and family. Conducting an Instagram pilot on The Open University’s account made me look at things in a much broader way (and if you need a reminder of exactly what I’m doing, see here) and I’ve enjoyed the experience.

Share the love

Lurking is all well and good but getting stuck into Instagram is the best way to engage with people and increase your following. I immersed myself in the OU community and it was great – not only helping me to come up with content ideas, create and share content, but also chatting to students and sharing in their success – or in their low moments. A comment from your university when you’ve reached the peak of procrastination is a pretty good motivator. I now ‘know’ some of the OU’s followers, I see and talk to them regularly via Instagram and feel much more able to ask things of them, because I’m giving back (like chatting to Chloe which is using Instagram to drive traffic to her blog and build her business). And when I say I, I mean the OU, of course.

What this pilot has uncovered is that Instagram is far less broadcast than I realised and there’s real value in chatting to your audience. I have to confess, when the pilot started I was seeing everything as a potential Instagram post, I was even dreaming in square images! But I’ve learned – and am still learning – a lot.

Instagram success is not instant: invest serious time into monitoring

Newsflash: engaging with your community WILL eat up a lot of time. What I thought would be a few-times-a-week monitoring task turned into a nightly one – there were so many #openuniversity postings that in order to keep on top of them, I had to like and respond to comments daily. I also found it tricky to keep on top of conversations unless I responded as soon as someone commented and a notification popped up on my phone. If I ignored the notification, the chances are I’d never have found the comment again – this is one of the downsides of Instagram, so I did feel a bit like a slave to it, and to my phone, during the pilot.

I naively thought I’d be able to carve up tasks throughout the week and, like a good little postgraduate student, be methodical, practical and organised throughout this pilot. Not so. I’d hoped to be able to follow the timetable below, but I couldn’t keep on top of the replying to comments and liking photos if I didn’t do it nightly; it just got too much.

Monday Monitoring Monitor relevant hashtags and like and comment as appropriate
Tuesday Talking Comment on relevant posts, respond to comments
Wednesday Wisdom Research
Thursday Thinking Develop new content ideas
Friday Review Weekly review of stats – likes, comments, increase in followers, what worked well, what didn’t
Saturday Business as usual
Sunday Stats Note weekly stats and increases

There is much less tagging of accounts on Instagram than use of hashtags. For example, @theopenuniversity was tagged a miniscule number of times compared to the number of #openuniversity posts. My tactic was simple: to engage with anyone who commented on an OU post, and to follow the hashtag #openuniversity, liking and commenting on those posts. And I hunted around for other hashtags used by Instagrammers and dipped in and out of them too: #openuni #oustudent #ou and our graduation hashtag #ou_ceremonies.

This took time. At the start of the pilot there had been 17,557 mentions of #openuniversity and at the time of writing this post there are 20,514. That’s 3,000 uses of that hashtag over a three month period, so approximately 1,000 per month, 250 per week, 35 a day. Now 35 doesn’t sound much but if you let that monitoring slip by a couple of days you have 100 posts to flick through, like and comment on.

Community engagement takes a lot of time, and just as much time is needed creating your posts. But after a three-month pilot (which was meant to be one month, then two) it’s clear there is always more to be done. I’d committed myself to posting at least once per day, but it’s easily to let things slide and find yourself scrabbling around for content. On some days, something was better than nothing but this won’t be the approach going forwards.

#CreateYourOwnHashtags

I introduced some new hashtags: #ouselfie and #ouacademic. The first was to encourage members of our community to take photos of themselves and post them. Students were already doing this but I wanted to students to engage and offer to share some of them. The second was to try and engage academics and, for those active on Instagram, to share their content which always seems more genuine when coming from a personal account. Despite promoting this on the OU’s intranet site, engagement from academics directly via Instagram was relatively low with just two or three academics contributing fairly regularly. I did however, get suggestions for content and submissions via email, including some nice shots of campus.

photoShare the love wider: third-party content

A great way to show off your community and reward its members, is to share their content. There are various ways you can do this, including apps like Repost but I find them clunky. I simply took a screen shot of the photo I wanted to share, cropped it, and then posted it directly (no reposting per say) – but first I asked permission to share it via the OU account. No one ever said no, which was great, and I always tagged them in the photo and thanked them for letting me share it. Doing it this way also allowed me to add my own filters to their photos or, in once case, blur out a cat’s ID tag in which its owner’s mobile number could be read. On the whole, most of the third-party shared posts got better engagement than our own – how else would we be able to delve inside our students’ lives in such a genuine way, see them studying in their bedrooms, their kitchens, with their pets on their laps and while entertaining children. They were authentic. To a lesser extent I also shared some academic’s photos directly via Instagram.

Instagram doesn’t have to be lonely

The intention was, as part of this pilot, to collaborate with partner organisations and undertake some kind of takeover. This didn’t come off, mostly due to lack of time, but we did join forces with the OU Library. They were thinking of starting their own Instagram account to run alongside their already successful Twitter and Facebook accounts, promoting library resources and actively engaging with students. Unsure how time-consuming it would be to take on Instagram, our pilot served as theirs – how would the library get on providing us with regular content without the pressure to update their own channel? And how would we, owners of the corporate social media channels, get on posting daily?

The library provided some content for us to post, including a ‘shelfie’, a video flipping through the pages of a George Orwell original, and a series of photos from the OU’s digital archive which I posted out each Thursday for #ThrowbackThursday, including hashtags #oulibrary and #oudigitalarchive – these hashtags were agreed with the library and while they don’t have their own account on Instagram they do have their own community through the hashtag.

I also conducted this pilot almost entirely alone (well, I have an MA to finish, my colleagues don’t) but it’s always good to get feedback from colleagues and help creating content if you can. I thought it would be easy to tackle this alone and well, really, more hands on deck would probably have had a greater impact.

maggieIf you ask a question do you think you’ll get more comments?

Yes. Yes, you will. Any content I posted which included a question got much better engagement overall. For example, weekly content posted for #ThrowbackThursday got decent engagement in terms of likes but minimal comments. On the photo of Margaret Thatcher (right), taken in 1973, I asked ‘What were you doing in 1973?) which got a lot more comments – most saying they had yet to be born, or my favourite, “I was but a twinkle in my father’s winkle.” In essence, ask a question and you will get answers.

Have a sense of humour

Tone of voice in important and I set this up from the start – our tone on Instagram is professional but informal and with a sense of humour. We wanted to come across as friendly, chatty and approachable. When one curly-haired graduand posted a picture on graduation day complaining that the OU doesn’t provide mortarboards (not part of the OU’s formal dress) I responded with ‘Because we don’t want to ruin those lovely curls.”

fridayprocrastDon’t be afraid to go for the easy wins

Once you know your audience, tap into their weak spots. And what I mean by this is post content you know they’ll like. It’s an easy win. I know firsthand (because I am one) the life of a distance learning student means  studying all hours. So our post which simply said ‘Hands up who’s studying on a Friday night’ (posted on a Friday night, no less) got massive engagement.

I see lots of post by students of their study spaces and procrastination concerns, including posting to Instagram, so I posted an image which said ‘Get off Instagram ,you’re suppose to be studying’ which got massive engagement as I’d caught lots of students red-
handed and it had made them chuckle. Also, knowing when key dates or deadlines are coming up and offering up a snippet of motivation can help spur people on.

refelctionAdd an incentive

Students love sharing their experiences, advice and tips but you may need to tease it out a little. I tried this in a few ways – one asking a direct question ‘How do you juggle study’ with a juggler pic, which posted to gain some quotes for some new marketing material on how students fit studies around their other activities. I also ran a competition to support marketing’s New Year ‘reflections campaign’ asking students and grads to reflect on what they thought of the OU before they started studying compared to how they feel about it now. And I offered up three £20 Amazon vouchers for three ‘winners’. This post gained 120+ comments, more than double that of any other post we’ve posted to date. What it didn’t do is gain us many more followers.

Reward loyalty

It’s easy to find out which followers engage most frequently with your content, and I did this using our social media monitoring/scheduling tool Social Sign In. Reward them. Talk to them, like their photos, share their photos, and give them an occasional shout out. Oh, and follow them back!

If you build it… they still might not come

If you’re starting an Instagram account or dusting off an old one, you’ll need to tell people. You can’t expect them to know you’re there. After a good three weeks of posting decent content on Instagram after the launch of our pilot, I started telling people in the following ways:

  • Pilot mentioned in weekly cross-department editorial meetings (spread the word, contribute etc)
  • Series of three once-weekly articles posted on intranet (to increase staff and academic engagement – definite peak in followers around these times)
  • Mentioned in November and December editions of eNewsletter, sent to 400,000 students and alumni (slight rise in followers after each, although CTA was low down the newsletter)
  • Promoted via other social media channels, namely Facebook and Twitter on several occasions, including pointing to an Instagram Story when covering Harrogate Degree Ceremony.
  • Going forwards the Instagram handle will be included in publications like the 2017 Graduate Directory (printed).

What’s next?

You know when I said I could take my foot off the gas a bit now the pilot has ended back up the top of this post? It was a complete lie. What the above has illustrated is there is still a huge amount to be done, and this will be highlighted in a report to my line manager. There are still things I want to try but haven’t got round to, like animation (check out Rachel Ryle’s legendary work), and clearly defined branding for this channel (check out Matt Crump and Sara Tasker) as well as a channel strategy going forwards which aligns with university and communications unit objectives whilst also engaging with our community and continuing to grow our followers. Oh, and the rest of this MA to complete. Eek!

Cor blimey, that’s a long post. Huge congrats if you made it to the end. If I don’t write all this stuff down, I’m afraid it’ll float clean out of my head. What’s next? Well, if you can bare to read more I’ll be writing about mobile phones, health and safety and why salsa dancing could be the key to keeping mobile journalists fit and healthy. Oh, and some academic stuff too, of course.

 

 

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‘Using Instagram to build my blog’

Chloe Burroughs, OU graduate and study skills trainer

Chloe Burroughs is an Open University (OU) graduate who’s since launched a new study skills training business to help other students achieve what they’re capable of. While working towards her degree (a first class business degree with honours, no less) Chloe developed a secondary set of skills – essay writing, assignment planning, motivational styles etc – which she has compiled into a series of strategies and tactics for not only helping others pass their assignments, but also to achieve higher grades. And remember, many OU students, just like Chloe, work full-time while studying so finding time, let alone the time to get great grades, is no mean feat.

I bumped into Chloe on the ‘Instagram circuit’ while running The Open University’s two-month pilot – we are both using and following the hashtag #openuniversity and commenting and liking the same content. One of the nice consequences of immersing yourself in an online community, is that you make friends. So I touched base with Chloe and asked her if she’d mind sharing some of her content on our page. I also asked Chloe a little about her business, her use of Instagram and what, as an OU graduate and potential postgraduate student (yes, she’s planning on coming back for more), she thinks of the OU account and how we could improve it.

Screen grab from Chloe Burroughs' Instagram pageWhen did you start using Instagram and what do you like about it?

I set up my account in February 2016 but started using it regularly in May 2016. I love the versatility of Instagram. I can share simple quote images which are great for motivation and add some colour to my profile. I can just share images or I can give value to my followers with longer captions. I try to give advice and tips in all my captions. I can also share behind-the-scenes images of my study space and of my personal life.

The portfolio style of Instagram allows me to build up a story of me. As I’m a personal brand rather than a company I think it’s important for me to share all sides of me, not just the study skills training aim of my business. So I try to add in personal images a few times a week not just those related to the business.

You’re working on building your own business – how is Instagram helping to develop that  and what other channels do you use? How do you find Instagram compares to them?

Instagram is the most successful tool I’m using to build my blog. The hashtag system allows me to find new followers a lot easier than on Facebook. Around 75% of my email subscribers have found me through Instagram, either by following me after I’ve commented on one of their posts, or by finding my posts by searching through related study hashtags such as #openuniversity.

I’ve started using Pinterest which, at first, seems similar to Instagram but is in fact quite different. I’m using Pinterest as more of a search engine, posting blog post images and images overlaid with advice to get traffic for my blog. I think visuals are a great way to build my brand and Pinterest gives my business a more professional side whereas Instagram allows me to build relationships.

I want to start using Twitter too once I have Pinterest figured out and running smoothly. I think that could be great to share snippets of advice and also build relationships with students and influencers. I haven’t tackled Facebook yet but that’s also on the plan as I want to create a free Facebook group to offer support to OU students who feel a bit lonely studying by themselves.

As an OU student and follower of us on Instagram, a) what have been your favourite posts so far, and b) what sorts of posts would you be interested in seeing going forwards?

I’ve enjoyed the posts about different OU graduates. I think that’s a great way to showcase the incredible mix of people studying with the OU. I also enjoyed the recent video (18th December) with a study tip from a recent graduate. Posts that involve other students are a great idea – like your ‘feeling festive’ quick video last week. It can feel lonely at times studying with the OU so future posts could include those that build community.

What do think the OU’s Instagram account is missing?

To build community, perhaps you could start themes for the account? Lots of Facebook groups I’m a member of have a theme for each day. Followers begin to learn the themes for each day and look forward to the posts. Possible categories could be:

  • Motivational quote
  • Quick feature of a current student
  • Study tips – from the OU or other students
  • Feature an OU employee or tutor – include a photo and a few sentences on what they do
  • Share an OU resource – such as the magazine or a study skills page. (You can create shortlinks with bit.ly that you could include)
  • Share your study space – using the #ouselfie tag or similar
  • Engagement day – where you ask questions or ask for a tag e.g. tag your study buddy, or tag someone you know is studying hard. This could grow the audience.

How important do you think branding is on Instagram?

I think branding is very important, I’m still working on mine. I don’t think branding is just about images and colour schemes – even though I’ve decided on these. I think it also relates to the voice of your brand. I don’t want my voice to be that of the expert telling students what to do. I want to share my experiences and give advice but explain ‘this is what worked for me’, you could try it too.

I think corporate accounts need the visual elements of branding as Instagram accounts with a clear style and theme are more appealing. But they also need a clear aim and voice. I can’t remember who said it but there’s a quote like, ‘branding is what other people say about your business when you’re not in the room’. I try and follow this advice and keep my style clear but my voice consistent.

What’s more important to you – showcasing great pictures and videos or great stories with less polished photographs and videos? Or striking a balance?

I think this depends on the audience. I don’t want to come across as too polished. I want to come across as relatable to my audience and as a friend of theirs. So my photographs show me as a normal person, trying to work on her laptop while eating some chocolate. Again, this depends on the brand. Casual may not work for brands that want to only convey professionalism and formality.

Social media can come across as too perfect and I think audiences are starting to wise up to this and crave something a bit more real. This doesn’t mean images or language has to be very informal, but behind-the-scenes photographs, personal stories and funny images could be interwoven with more formal content.

As an OU graduate what do you want most from your university’s Instagram account?

I would love to become more involved with the OU as a graduate but am not entirely sure of the opportunities. Perhaps these could be highlighted. It would also be great to hear more about people who’ve completed postgraduate study with the OU. I definitely want to further my studies next year sometime so would enjoy reading others’ stories.

What are your Instagram top tips?

  • I try and make best use of the hashtag limits by including between 20 and 30 with each post
  • I try to follow the formula give, give, give, take. I try to stick to the ratio of around three posts giving value or telling my story to every one post that asks my audience to do something e.g. click on a link, tag a friend, answer a question… etc
  • I use the one link IG allows us in our bios – I update this with each new blog post and try to send my followers there
  • I reply to every comment on my posts
  • I always engage with my followers by liking and commenting on their posts
  • I try to stick to my blog’s colour scheme for my tip/advice posts.

plannerFree resources and find out more

You can find out more about Chloe by checking out her blog.

Oh, and if you’re studying, take a look at Chloe’s free downloadable/printable study planner – its sure to set you off on the right foot as we enter 2017.

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