Everything I know, I learned on YouTube
What we can all learn from self-paced and cohort-based courses online
Hello, friends. This is Matt, with two quick notes at the top:
This month’s slightly-delayed newsletter was slightly delayed after my Moderna booster put me sideways for 48 hours. Meanwhile, Zach got boosted too and he’s fine. (I’m not bitter.) A friendly PSA: We believe in safety first, but if you’re getting the boost, maybe don’t do it the night before you have concert tickets.
I know we have a lot of nonprofit friends on this list, and for those of you who don’t know, I’m a former nonprofit exec myself (five years as managing director at Delaware Shakespeare, one of the great pride points on my CV). So believe me, I know video projects are not in the regular operating budget for most nonprofits, and it can be daunting to get started. Please know that we’re always happy to talk through and roughly scope a project no matter how early you are in the process. For example, if you’re including a video project as part of a grant application for the Community Investment Recovery Fund, we’re happy to help.) By the way, did you know that certain types of video, including training videos, are a very valid capital expense?
Speaking of which:
Something We Like: Video That Helps Its Audience
Zach: Everything I know I learned on YouTube.
Okay, that’s exaggerated, but only a little bit. Almost every marketable skill I’ve acquired since graduating film school came to me via videos posted on YouTube or online courses, which I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on.
My generation uses YouTube as our primary search engine, before Google. This means that, as we proceed to take over (don’t worry, millennials aren’t as bad as they say), more and more of your prospective customers and employees are going to connect with you only if you have a comprehensive library of videos on YouTube.
Making a “comprehensive library of videos” sounds like a lot of work, but the type of videos I’m talking about actual save hundreds of hours for every hour you put into them. These videos are assets that appreciate over time, rather than get used and thrown out.
I’m talking about videos that teach people things that you know.
Each of us is in the position we’re in presumably because we’re some kind of expert. Seriously, if you’re reading this, you’re probably an expert in something. Probably several things. Consider the following:
How much time do you spend answering questions in your area of expertise? How frequently are some of these questions asked?
How much time do you spend training employees and contractors how to do things the way you want them to be done? How much followup is there once you’ve trained them? How many times do you need to explain the same things?
How much time do you spend “educating” clients? How much time in customer meetings is spent explaining the thing you always explain, in your unique, expertly way?
There’s a technology available that elegantly scales all of these activities, and it does a lot more than that.
In-person training with followup questions and live engagement is excellent, but video can beautifully supplement any training process anywhere. And increasingly, it’s the way people like to learn.
So many people come to us saying things like “We know we need to use video, because video is getting so big and important” … and then they ask us to create a promotional video. But here’s the thing: Promotional video is neither big nor important. It’s the same as it always was. It can be effective if distributed properly, a vital component of a brand package that bestows critical emotion and credibility.
But the kind of video that’s “getting so big and important” in this world is the video that’s useful to its audience, whether it answers a question they have, entertains them, enlightens them about their specific interests, or helps them get to the next level. The “big, important video” is the one audiences need, the one they’re specifically looking for.
By the way, most of the videos I’m talking about, the ones I learned everything I know from, are garbage. Really low quality, not well-considered, fatiguing, unacceptable audio … but they are useful. They help people. And that’s why they have thousands of views. Or millions of views. While polished promotional videos get dozens of views.
Let’s spend more time creatively thinking about what we might be able to share with people, rather than what we want to tell them. Our work will be better for it. The media landscape will be better for it. And so will the results.
Something We Learned: Non-Actors Still Can’t “Act Natural”
Matt: So I tried to watch the Facebook Connect 2021 “We’re Meta Now” mini-movie so I could report to you on it … but I couldn’t get through it. (It is what the kids call “cringe.”) But maybe there are some learning moments anyway. Let’s take a look at a segment about 24 minutes in, picking up the story as Mark returns from a virtual surfing sesh (seriously, that happened) to chat with Deb from Meta’s studios team…
Please note that neither Deb nor Mark appear here as virtual avatars — those are the real, actual people. But they still makes you uncomfortable, right? That feeling of eeriness and revulsion that bubbles up when we encounter humanoid objects that imperfectly resemble actual human beings is called the “uncanny valley,” and that’s what’s happening here — not because of technology, but because someone scripted Deb and Mark to act like themselves, and they’re incapable of doing so.
But surprise — that’s not their fault! Most people find it hard to “act natural” on camera, even if they’re trying to just act like themselves.
Much of our work is spent trying to get the most authentic moments out of people or filming locations, but when we have a scene that needs to be scripted, we’re always going to hire a professional actor, because looking natural on camera is an actual professional skill. Sure, there are some people who are naturals at it, but those folks are few and far between. And Mark is not among them.
So that’s what we learned watching Connect 2021. Also, in the future, you’ll be able to play chess against your friends in the metaverse. Oh, the wonders!
Something We Made: Catholic Charities 190th Anniversary
Matt: Indulge me as I tell a little story with this one:
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wilmington came to us early this year with the need for a short film celebrating their 190th anniversary. In talking with the client, we learned that the organization dates its founding to the arrival in Wilmington of three Daughters of Charity in 1830, come to take care of children left orphan after a series explosions at the DuPont gunpowder mills.
It was an interesting story. Mostly out of curiosity, we started digging for more info and stumbled across a pamphlet published in 1930 to celebrate the centenary of the orphanage those sisters founded. (We found it inside Hagley’s excellent digital archives. If you have any interest in history, it’s worth nosing around in there.) Reproduced inside the pamphlet, word-for-word, was the original letter sent by a Wilmington priest to the Daughters of Charity in 1829, requesting their help. A bulb went off: If this letter was still around in 1930, maybe it was still around now?
It wasn’t in the archives at Catholic Charities, unfortunately. But we had time, and after through a rabbit hole or two, we finally found it, in the collection of the Provincial Archives of the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland. We called Catholic Charities to see if their executive director and board president would be interested in taking a little road trip with us … and you can see the results here:
The Final Bits
That’s all for this month! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We really do enjoy hearing from you, so let us know what’s up by sending us electronic mail messages, to Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org and Matt at email@example.com, or give a call at 302-656-1638. Until next time.
The Short Order Team