The usefulness of video for social media in my work context

The concept of alternative medicine for pets is becoming more mainstream.  The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association currently lists over 800 clinics and individuals in the USA and Canada that provide a wide range of services for animals including chiropractic care, massage, Bach flower remedies, herbal medicine, acupuncture, crystal healing, colour therapy, and Reiki to name just a few.

Although awareness of these treatment modalities for both people and pets is growing all the time, I still found only a handful of videos specifically pertaining to animals.  While some of the ones I watched were much more informative and helpful than others, these still amounted to a very small number. There is definitely a large need for quality videos on the topic of holistic healing for animals.

I believe that posting short videos on my website would be a great way to introduce my services, famous-dog-names-cute-movie-doganswer frequently asked questions, provide customer testimonials, and educate the public in general about holistic health care options for animals.  While some people enjoy reading blogs or short articles, others would be more likely to watch a brief video that both informs and entertains. I feel that putting my information out there in numerous formats, from blog posts to podcasts to videos, allows people to access information via their preferred medium and will therefore reach a broader audience.

I also feel that, depending on the topic, videos can be more helpful that written articles because you can actually demonstrate a technique versus describing it in an article or podcast. It gives people the opportunity to see something for themselves in a tangible way.

Overall it is my opinion that videos have the potential to be very useful to me in promoting the work that I do.

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My Thoughts on Creating a Video

After watching and evaluating several videos on my chosen topic, I felt armed and ready to proceed. However, I soon realized I didn’t have some of the items I would like to include in the video. Instead I switched to another subject that didn’t require much in the way of props and I felt would be easier to do at this time.

I wrote a script and recorded it with Audacity. After editing it I ended up with an audio file just over 5 minutes. I did some searching on Flickr and had trouble finding appropriate photos with an attribution license, so I used some of my own and asked friends for photos as well, since stock images were out of my budget. I also asked my husband to photograph me demonstrating some techniques. Next I created a series of slides in PowerPoint. Finally I just had to pull the PowerPoint and audio together.

movie reelUnfortunately my 7-year-old laptop with Windows Vista did not work with Camtasia. I investigated Jing and ScreenR, which both looked good but had a limit of 5 minutes for screen captures. Since my audio was slightly over 5 minutes, I knew this wouldn’t work. In the end I used a free online program to covert each slide to a JPEG and then imported them to Windows Movie Maker. I added the audio, and got the pictures timed to sync with it, and YAY, I finally had a video!

I was disappointed at what happened, though, to the quality of the pictures in the slides with the conversion, and the special effects I had created in PowerPoint didn’t transfer over properly to the JPEG files. So in future, I hope to have access to a more up to date operating system that will give me additional options for improving the quality.

Overall, I found there were several time consuming steps in creating a video (at least with the methods that I used)! Nevertheless, I was glad to stumble my way through the process. I think there is a lot of room available in my niche market for quality educational videos, and now that I have learned some of the necessary skills, I look forward to updating my technology so that I can help to fill this gap.

Evaluating videos on crystal healing for animals

For my video project this week, I decided I’d like to create an introductory video to the topic of crystal healing for animals. In order to research what other videos are already available on the subject, I visited YouTube and searched for “crystal healing for animals.”

I was really excited by the first video that I found, called “How Can Crystals Work for Pets – Basics of Crystal Healing for Animals and Pets“. Perfect title, I thought, that’s exactly what I had in mind. When I saw that the video was 11:03 minutes long, I hesitated. I decided to give it a try, thinking it might be an excerpt from a workshop with lots of great information.

If I had to sum this video up in one word, it would be “horrible!” I know how harsh that sounds, but let me explain. First of all, there was only one picture used, and although it was a cute one the video quickly got boring. Also, the voice did not sound human; it sounded like a robot with a British accent! If you think I’m exaggerating, please follow the link and listen yourself. It sounds as if someone wrote up an article, entered the text into a program, and the computer converted the text into a synthesized voice. For real. The inflection is sometimes totally wrong and the words echo. I also disliked the music and found it distracting.

crystal cat 1As someone with a keen interest in the topic, I was bored by 1.5 minutes and painfully continued until about 5 minutes when even I gave up because my mind kept wandering. It’s a shame because if I went back and forced myself to listen while pausing it to take notes, there is actually a lot of information packed in there. Too much information! I realized about 4 minutes in that the video had subheadings like “crystals for depressed animals”. These portions could all have been broken out into smaller 2 minute videos and it would have been better–at least I might have made it through the entire video.

The first video led me to a second one simply titled “Crystals for Pets“. This was a live video with two women who are crystal healers having a conversation. It soon became clear to me that it was pretty much unscripted. They had a few crystal specimens on the table in front of them, so obviously they intended to discuss these stones; however in the 4:39 minute video I felt that they didn’t really share a lot of useful information. They were both very expressive, gesturing lots, bobbing their heads, exclaiming loudly, and sometimes speaking over one another. I found this very distracting, and at the end of the video I couldn’t really remember much about the crystals they discussed. When I watched it again I noticed that they listed specific crystals as being “good for pets” but didn’t always explain what the properties of the stone were or exactly why it was beneficial. For example, they said rose quartz is about love and you should use it “because if you’ve got a pet, you love your pet”. In my opinion, it would be better to discuss how rose quartz could help a rescue animal feel loved and secure while bonding to a new family and adjusting to their new home.

The third video I watched was called “Crystal Healing for Cats – Ralphie’s Session for Courage“. This was a demonstration video where the healer was gently stroking a cat using a couple of different stones. What I liked was that you could clearly see the calming effect on the cat and how much he was enjoying it. His story was briefly shared, along with a explanation of what crystals were being used and why, as well as how they had helped him. It was 3:20 minutes long, short and to the point. It provided a specific example rather than acting as a general introduction to the topic of crystal healing for animals, but it interested me and made me want to learn more. This lady has several other videos on her channel about crystals and animals, and I am definitely interested in watching the others. It was a little quirky and cute how she spoke in a soothing voice to help calm the cat, but sort of had this “baby voice” throughout the video. It made it very real and I felt a connection to both her and the cat. Of the videos I watched, this was by far the most effective.

There are several other videos on this subject that appeared in the sidebar and I will be sure to check out some more of these soon. I noticed that they all seem to be “live action” videos, so maybe it would be a fresh angle for me to make a PowerPoint video presentation instead using photos and text with voice over, just to offer something different than the rest. I look forward to coming up with my own version of a video on the topic of crystal healing for animals.

Exploring how podcasting could be used effectively in my work context

Now that I have begun to explore the world of podcasting, I can appreciate the effectiveness of this media as a business tool. While some people love to spend hours reading their favourite blogs online, others prefer to listen to a podcast when exercising, commuting to or from work, or simply unwinding at home. I think a successful website should accommodate both visual and audio learning styles and provide customers with various modes of information, including articles, podcasts, and videos.

In my own professional area, I have been studying and developing my skills in energy healing and modalities such as Reiki, flower essences, crystal healing, and aromatherapy. I am getting ready to launch a business providing holistic health services for pets (and people, but my focus is on animals). Although holistic and alternative healing is growing in popularity, many people are still unfamiliar with many of these methods of healing, so creating podcasts that introduce them and explain their benefits is one way that I can help educate people. Having a regular show that entertains and informs is one way to attract consumers and customers.

When I looked for podcast shows about energy healing for animals specifically, I found very little outstart-a-podcast-tbbo there. Two of the shows I came across took an interview-style approach, drawing on experts to talk about a wide range of topics related to animal health and wellness. I liked listening to these shows and certainly see the value of interviewing a guest about a subject that it not my personal are of expertise. At the same time, I can also see myself turning a list of FAQ about holistiic healing for animals into a series of short podcasts that briefly answer people’s most common questions about this topic.

Once I have established a solid customer base, I think it would also be great to record some customer testimonials in the form of audio files. I often see written testimonials on websites, and while these are valuable I believe a recorded testimonial might be even more effective because you can hear the person’s enthusiasm and sincerity conveyed in their voice.

I am sure that once I get going I will come up with many more ways that I can incorporate podcasting into my business and use it as an effective social media marketing tool.

My thoughts on creating and publishing a podcast

Creating my first podcast was a rather daunting task for this perfectionist, one that justified several days of angst and procrastination. I love to write, but for some reason the thought of taking an idea, writing an outline, and then recording myself presenting it seemed intimidating at first. When I finally resigned myself to the task, I discovered that the microphone I had borrowed didn’t work. After making a trip to the mall to purchase one of my own, there were no excuses left.

In order to give my podcast the feel of a “real” show, I decided it should have an introduction. Since my work is about holistic healing, I felt it was appropriate to use nature sounds instead of music for my background. After poking around on several websites looking for the perfect free audio clip, I found a selection with a stream and some birdsong that I felt would work well. I recorded myself doing my intro speech of 25 seconds or so, and then the challenge really began. I had to learn how to select 30 seconds from the 17 minutes of nature sounds, and cut that file to size. Then I had to experiment with the sound levels so that the nature sounds faded into the background when I was speaking, returned to a louder volume when I was done, and then gently faded out at the end. Thank goodness for YouTube and various how-to guides on Audacity!

podcastAfter spending probably 3 hours on my 30-second introduction, I was ready for the actual podcast. I decided to draft an outline instead of creating a full-on script, although the outline was very detailed. I found myself reading it verbatim at some points, but tried to make my voice natural and conversational. I actually only recorded myself once! A great deal of editing needed to be done though, since unfortunately I am suffering from a cold right now. I learned how to cut out those annoying parts where you could hear me wheeze between sentences or sniff delicately. When I listened through the final version I thought I had sewn it together rather nicely, but when I listened to it again after posting it to PodOmatic a couple parts seemed a little choppy. 😦 Live and learn, right? I managed to resist the urge to figure out how to insert a second or two into those parts where it seemed to jump from one sentence right to the next.

Once the recording was done (and my husband had reassured me several times that it sounded good and that nature sounds were fine) I went to the PodOmatic website to upload it. Creating a profile, adding a picture of myself, adding a cover picture for the podcast, and finally uploading the file took another chunk of time, but in the end I felt really proud of my creation!

The whole process turned out to be very valuable for me. First of all, it exposed me to some new hardware and software, and  now that I know the basics of using Audacity and have got everything set up on PodOmatic I am sure my next podcast will be a lot less time-consuming to create and post. Second, it gave me confidence in my speaking abilities. Surprisingly, by the time I posted the final product online, I had gone from feeling terrified that people I know would actually listen to my podcast, to deciding to share it on Facebook and asking my friends to check it out! Finally, it got me thinking about how I could use podcasting as an effective tool in promoting my business (more on that in another post).