Archive for April, 2009

Your Business Doesn't Need Social Media, Or Does It??

Social Media logosMaybe you have looked a little and toyed with a social media outlet here or there. Maybe it was YouTube, Twitter or Flickr. Did you come away thinking “This is just a big waste of time for my business. I don’t care what someone is having for lunch today!”. Well, if you place any value on how Google sees things on the web, you just might want to think again! With or without your business included, social media has become an online force of growing strength and scale.

At least for the time being, Google seems to be placing some premium on the placement of social media in their search results. Companies who participate in these forums find that their social media presence is listed highly in Google results. For these companies, this can only be a good thing.

StarbucksAs an example, in a recent Google search for “Starbucks” there were three separate social media related results in the top 20 listings, they included Twitter, Facebook & YouTube. Of the remaining seventeen results in the search, only four were generated from the starbucks.com domain itself. By the effective use of social media, Starbucks nearly doubled the number of top 20 listings in this Google search result, which pointed to web pages under their direct control!

Starbucks is just one of many examples of the same thing happening over and over again. It is routine now for more and more nationally recognized companies and brands to use social media as tools in their arsenal to communicate with current and potential customers.

comcast-logoComcast is a well known example of a nationally known company using social media to communicate directly with their customers. Specifically, with their many accounts on Twitter (most notably @ComcastCares) Comcast uses the Twitter platform as a tool to interact with their customers directly and nearly in real time.

So what exactly is Comcast doing? They constantly monitor discussion on Twitter looking for any references to their company. When they do find a disappointed, or flat out irate customer, they immediately open up the lines of communication. They take customer service directly to the disappointed individual and solve the problem as quickly and professionally as possible, in a very public forum. The result is a bad situation which has been turned into a good one. Comcast wins, and their customer wins.

So maybe you do want to think again about how social media might benefit your company. Sure, some people are contributing mundane details of their day on these forums, and what is really wrong with that. Your business however, can use these tools in a very different way and end up with better search results, better customer communications, some positive public image and a thriving business! And there is nothing wrong with that!

Photographing an Artist, Capturing a Legacy

B.C. comic strip cartoonist Mason Mastroianni, surrounded by his Grandfather's artwork.

B.C. comic strip cartoonist Mason Mastroianni, surrounded by his Grandfather's artwork.

A recent project for me that was both fun and interesting was that of photographing local cartoonist and artist Mason Mastroianni, grandson of Johnny Hart, the original artist and creator of the nationally famous comic strip “B.C.”. After his grandfather’s passing in 2007, Mason took over at the drawing board and he and his family now perpetuate his grandfathers legacy.

Stay Healthy cover photoI was contracted by United Health Services (UHS) and charged with the task of photographing Mason in his art studio for an article in the Spring 2009 issue of Stay Healthy magazine, which is produced by UHS. The images would be used as art for the magazine cover (shown at right) and would also be included in the content of the article itself. But first, I had to get there, to the art studio that is.

Making my way to the shoot location in rural upstate NY, my instructions were to call when I arrived at the driveway entrance. I quickly understood why as I was guided into the property on the phone. On a sprawling parcel of land, the studio itself was nestled near the back of the property surrounded by beautiful mature trees and at least one large pond.

Mason had cleared his entire afternoon for the purposes of our photo shoot. After a tour of the various studio settings available for our photography we settled on two or three scenes to work from. At least one of these scenes allowed me to photograph Mason at the very same art table where his grandfather had crafted the B.C. comic strip over the preceding decades. It would be one of the images captured at his grandfathers art table which would eventually make it to the cover of the Stay Healthy magazine issue, as shown above.

While there at the John Hart Studios it was also my pleasure to meet more of the team, all family members, who work together to keep the B.C. strip in newspaper comics nationwide. Mason’s mother, Patti Pomeroy, and his brother, Mick Mastroianni, made my job easy and kept the mood light as good natured ribbing seemed to be the order of the day. As best I could tell, the teasing, often at each others expense, seemed to be pretty evenly distributed among the three of them.

Mastroianni self-portrait

Mason working on a self portrait.

When all was said and done, we had created a great selection of images for UHS and the Stay Healthy magazine to choose from. It was a pleasure to meet Mason and his family and get a glimpse at the inner workings of a nationally syndicated cartoonists art studio. And as cold as this winter day was, the warmth of this group of creatives more than compensated. My thanks to everyone at John Hart Studios for an enjoyable afternoon!

Sample Any Color From Anywhere

It is an easy task to grab the Eyedropper tool in Photoshop and pick a color from anywhere in your open document. Just click anywhere in the document window to choose a color from within the image.

But how do you pick a color from somewhere else on your screen? Maybe from that web browser window or open Word document elsewhere on your screen?

Just click within your Photoshop document first, and then drag your Eyedropper tool directly to the object from which you would like to sample a new color. When you release the mouse button Photoshop will sample the color from that spot. This works in Adobe Illustrator too!