Ryan Welton

Sports + Digital + Music + Life

Category Archives: Digital

Tweet it, Post it: Sooner or later, theater etiquette will be digital-friendly

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I am super opinionated and passionate about this topic because I love and support the performing arts, but I also work and live in the digital world.

In fact, I’ve written about it before.

Whether it’s a play, a musical, a concert, it’s a fact: sooner or later the seal will be completely off, and smartphones will become integrated with the experience. And it will be glorious because it will cause unreasonable theater snobs to seize in agony.

That’s an exaggeration, and I don’t actually want anybody to experience pain.

I also get it.

I don’t want to be bothered by somebody’s flash. I don’t want somebody to be holding their phone up in front of me for the full two-hour duration of a performance. Then again, the worst behavioral offense I’ve ever encountered at a show had nothing to do with technology. It was two women sitting behind Kristi and me who would not stop talking during what was a fantastic Kenny Loggins show.

People asked them to stop, and they responded, “We paid for the tickets. We can do as we please.”

Nobody is suggesting that the performing arts become a digital free-for-all. However, it is completely reasonable to accept that not everybody enjoys the arts in the same way. One person’s “the theater is meant to be experienced by the whole of the person” is another’s “I want to document this amazing experience forever.”

One response is not superior to the other, and to suggest so is supreme snobbery.

It will soon be antiquated.

The New York Times writes about it in its Oct. 6 edition, “Filming the Show: Pardon the Intrusion? Or Punish It?” And I’m not interested in arguing with anybody on this topic because I don’t intend to upset anybody’s theater experience with my phone. But, also, I’m ultimately on the right side of performing arts history on this one.

Alas, I am going to root on and support anybody who challenges these norms.

And I’m going to declare “I told you so” when theater companies start creating “digital-friendly” shows. Eventually, “digital-friendly” shows will be the norm, and the outlier performances and concerts will be “digital-free.”

The Times’ article says it’s already happening.

But others are trying to embrace the digitally tethered: Some orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, have experimented with letting people keep their phones on during some concerts and offer an app to guide people through the music. The Boston Symphony Orchestra does this, too, at select “Casual Fridays” concerts, in certain designated seats.

And then there are the compromises: When Bruce Springsteen was on Broadway in 2017 and last year, the production put an insert in the Playbill, urging fans accustomed to rock concerts not to use their phones during the show, but promising that Mr. Springsteen would stay onstage during the curtain call long enough for people to take pictures. The Metropolitan Opera offers similar advice on its website: “Tip: Snap a pic of the cast during curtain call!”

To me, this is a wonderful compromise. Let folks go to town before the show and toward the end of it. But did you read what the Philadelphia Orchestra is doing with the app to guide people through the music?

That’s marketing 101, people.

There will probably always be enough theater nerds to fill Broadway shoes in New York. But I’ll tell you: when RENT came to Oklahoma City, the place was less than half full. And tickets were cheap.

Sad.

Promoting the arts isn’t merely about endlessly advocating for more public school dollars. It’s about introducing the masses to talent and beauty, skill and precision, through the devices we carry in our pockets.

And that happens when you allow the true believers or at least the admirers to share their experiences digitally. The smart thing to do would be to create digital content around the art and to designate certain portions of the performance as being phone-friendly.

It will happen whether you like it or not. Might as well regulate it.

 

My First MacBook

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I’m a Mac owner. Finally.

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Two summers ago when I had a chance to buy a new laptop, I used Consumer Reports to figure out which one to buy. I studied and studied and studied, and I eventually went with a Lenovo PC, which got phenomenal reviews.

MacBooks get tremendous reviews as well, but at 1.6 times the cost of a PC, I couldn’t quite make the leap mentally.

And then came a Facebook message from a friend looking to get rid of his 2014 MacBook Pro 110 for $250. That’s a price point I couldn’t pass up.

“What’s the catch?” I asked.

None, he said. He only had the laptop and a makeshift cord for now; he’d get me the original box and power cord soon. That worked for me, and I paid up. He had barely used it, he said.

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And by all accounts, this is practically a brand new machine. While he had wiped it, there was still a couple references to his accounts, iCloud and email and such. After I eliminated those things, I installed the most recent OS, which is called Mojave.

Turns out that even *that* is an app.

Everything is an app on the Mac, just like it is on my iPhone or iPad, and that’s something I love as an avid Apple man. It took a long while to install Mojave, but I went to bed and it was done by morning.

The first feature I noticed was the ability to turn my background dark, if I wanted. And I did. But now I was also able to download all sorts of apps, something I wasn’t able to do before the OS upgrade.

I downloaded Magnet, which is a paid app that allows you to pin opened apps to various parts of your desktop. So, I pinned my notes, my email and News, Apple News, a miso-mash of headlines from various news sources across the country.

My next download was Google Chrome for Mac because Safari distorts things a bit, and I wanted to see webpages the way I was accustomed. I also downloaded Kindle and Adobe Lightroom and Garage Band and iMovie, basics for the Mac newbie.

And I downloaded Ulysses, where I’m writing this blog post right now. I’m not sure why I would want to pay $4.99 per month for an app where I write, but here I am.

Something I’ve noticed about typing on a Mac is that the keyboard fits my hands. Reminds me of a line from Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind.”

Or something that somebody said
Because they thought we fit together walking

At a more practical level, I can type a billion miles an hour on this sucker and not have to look at the keyboard, which already puts the Mac way, way, way ahead of my Lenovo. I also strongly prefer the 13.3-inch version of the Mac to the 15.4.

If I get to where I love using this Mac, as I expect I might, my next purchase might be a brand new one. But first things first, I’m loving getting to know this Mac — and I would love your feedback and insight as to what apps I should be adding to it.

What do I need to know about my new Mac?

Easiest, surest way to make your Facebook brand page grow

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Digital Image from ijclark on Flickr

By day I’m the director of digital content for a pair of local TV news stations. I’ve been in the digital game a long time, helping businesses grow their audience and leverage platform algorithms to their benefit.

I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, but I can help with what’s worked for me over the years. I’m going to start using this blog to help you, too, especially those of you who are a little older, like me, and feel left behind by technology and digital content, unlike me.

It’s rather easy to do this in the macro: provide the reader with value, use the platforms the way they want you to, spend some money, and repeat often.

Let’s talk about Facebook for a second.

I’m working with a bunch of folks to start brand pages. I’ve started a brand page, too, to help promote music I post to YouTube. If you have any focused personal or business objective, you need to get off the ‘friend page’ and onto ‘pages,’ what we might call a business or brand page.

You’ll also want to associate a credit card with that new page via business.facebook.com.

At some point, I’ll blog about how to do that. But let’s say you’ve got your brand page and are posting content to it. Here is the simplest strategy to grow your Facebook brand page.

It goes like this:

  1. Post compelling, interesting content
  2. Put money behind it against a targeted audience
  3. Convert those who react to your post into fans

Something about my Facebook page that I’d like you to ignore is how poor my art is. I’m going to spend a few dollars on fiverr.com to get my cover photo a whole lot sharper. The goal for my page is to bring attention to music videos I record, covers and originals. The ultimate conversion is for viewers to become fans or to visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel. To be fully vulnerable and transparent: I haven’t spent nearly the time and effort on my own pages as I should have.

This is me documenting that process.

This is what I do.

Post compelling content
For me, that means that I’ve recorded a music video, cover or original, that I think was particularly well executed. I post the video to my channel on YouTube and am sure to leverage all the fields to my benefit. The first 24 hours is crucial in the life of a YouTube video, so you don’t want to post it today and detail it tomorrow. Do it all from the beginning.

Also, don’t add one of those thumbnails that has writing all over it. Not at first. You might later; it’s just that you want to optimize the video for a Facebook ad first. Facebook has always said that it doesn’t give much audience to posts that have writing all over the graphic associated with it, but they have really throttled them recently. It’s best if your thumbnail has no writing on it at all, for Facebook.

For YouTube, it appears to be a different answer.

So, we’re posting to YouTube to share to Facebook to grow audience on a Facebook brand page and to drive people to my YouTube channel, and we want to adhere to Facebook’s post preferences just long enough to get an ad on the ground. Afterward, you can go back and add the thumbnail that has words all over it to YouTube.

Put money behind it
Once you get your post live, immediately put money behind it — and do it with your phone. Look for the blue button under the post that reads, “Boost Post.”

Once you click that, you’ll see:

Several things I’d like to note here.

  1. I strongly prefer to make ‘Get More Engagement’ my primary goal. You can make ‘Get More Website Visitors’ your goal, but I’ve found that you end up with more website visitors if you focus on engagement. Plus, your post does better overall, and you end up with more new fans.

    In my experience, focusing on content that produces engagement will take you to your business goal faster indirectly than even directly.

  2. In the vast majority of situations, you’ll want to use an audience that you ‘choose through targeting.’ Click ‘Edit’ next to that.

    After you’ve created one audience, you can save it and re-use it. Or you can create a new one each time. Or you can start to re-market your posts to people who like your page or who have interacted with your posts. For my purposes, since I’m covering mostly songs that were big hits in English-speaking countries, I tend to target either the United States by itself or the U.S. plus Canada, England and Australia.

    But that’s not all, I like to target people based on interests. For example, I just boosted a post that linked to a cover song I did for “Lady” by Kenny Rogers. At first, I targeted fans of Kenny Rogers who also like piano, but I found that I got more traction when I just targeted people who liked piano. Typically, adding the artist helps because it tightens the audience. When you create a Facebook ad, it helps to manage it throughout its life-cycle. If the ad is not performing to your satisfaction, make changes!

    Once you select an audience, Facebook will critique it and tell you how broad it is:

This audience with all the ages and no interests, demographics or behaviors included is much too broad. Not only do I limit the number of countries that can see my video (which is not shown precisely in the image above), I limit the age grouping. “Lady” was a huge hit in 1981. I figure folks who love the song are pretty close to my age and older. In fact, when I cover 1980s songs, I typically target an audience that is 35 and older.

You’ll see in a moment why I really should be targeting 50 and older!

But I make a couple tweaks, and “voila,” I have an audience that Facebook says is good.

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Once you’re done, it takes an hour or so for Facebook to approve your ad. At that point, I’d recommend you start paying attention to the performance of your ad. Do two things, specifically:

  • Interact with people who interaction with you. Like their compliments, and thank them. Do not feed the trolls. Be social.

  • Look through everybody who has liked your post and invite them to like your page. This part is a must.

Here’s where you’re not going to be impressed, I’m afraid. I only have 153 fans so far.

The truth is: I’ve only posted to the page 15 times this entire year through seven months. If you have a brand page, that’s unacceptable. If I really want to make this page take off, I need to be posting at least once per day — and it needs to be a strong post. Every day.

However, for just a few dollars, I’ve built an audience of 153 people who aren’t my real-life Facebook friends. If I were to do exactly what I’ve done at scale, I’d have 1,000 fans in no time flat — and then 10,000. Everything I’ll show you how to do on digital is about taking micro-steps and doing them at scale.

It’s a challenge when you’ve got a regular job and other life obligations. Preach.

You can learn a lot about the audience that likes you as part of this process, too. For example, check out the results from my $20 ad campaign on the song “Lady.”

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From a Facebook perspective, I reached 2,794 people and got 437 engagements on the post. I was able to convert that into 18 new fans, which for $20 comes to about $1 per new fan and a 4.1 conversion rate. Is that good? I think it depends who you are, what business you’re in and what you’ve done thus far — a baseline, if you will. I feel like I could have done a better job with this ad, particularly if I were to have honed in on an older audience.

Check out the bottom of the graphic above.

Most all my audience was 65 and above. Wow. I must be the new Liberace. Long-term, however, it’s not my goal to grow an audience of AARP members, a club I’ll also be in very soon. On the other hand, the 50-80 year-old demographic is absolutely the fastest-growing group on Facebook — and I bet that if I were to re-do the ad and focus on that audience, my conversion rate would be significantly better.

If that were a goal of mine, I’d do just that. For now, I’m content to experiment with another ad on another song. For you, however, whether you’re a Realtor or a comedian or a so-called social media expert, the formula for growing a Facebook brand page, at its easiest, is exactly this.

What about my YouTube channel? How did this ad impact that? It’s hard to say. It did bring the video 342 views, and most of them came in the first couple of days of the video’s existence — a big deal in the world of YouTube. Early performance on YouTube predicts long-term performance, not merely against the quality of the video but also within YouTube’s algorithm.

Plus, with each new YouTube subscriber, it’s hard to know for sure why they decided to subscribe. About the only way I know to find out is to ask them or hope they’ve already “liked” one of your videos, which would show up on their page, I’ll address that later in a blog post. I’m currently at 865 fans and would love to be at 1,000 by the end of the year.

But every time I do a new Facebook ad, I’ll show you the results. If you’d like to come along on that journey, follow this blog. We’ll grow together!

Header graphic comes from ijclark on Flickr

 

Look back at 2018 & channeling my inner Don Draper

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Don Draper from 'Mad Men'

The period between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite each year. It’s a time filled with anticipation for the year ahead, a time to look back at the year gone by and a time to state the obvious.

I don’t know why I like that lede so much. Strikes me as first-cup-of-coffee funny on a gray winter’s Saturday morning.

The start to this weekend finds me at my local Subaru dealership, getting an oil change, rotation and a fuel service. I think they call it an induction service, but to what I’m being inducted I don’t know. It’s 27 degrees outside, gray and still and gorgeous. I can do any kind of weather with no wind.

Boy, am I in the wrong state (Oklahoma) for that!

But on to the business at hand.

I love looking ahead to the new year and looking back at the year previous. I am never one to say, “Good riddance!” to the year. There are always highs to balance the lows.

A look back at 2018
And this year had plenty of high moments. I got engaged to a wonderful woman with whom I have enjoyed many an adventure and plan to enjoy decades more. Being a 48-year-old bachelor, I never anticipated what it would feel like to be engaged or married or even tightly coupled. However, I also didn’t spend my bachelor years overly concerned about how I would feel about it. To the contrary: I spent most of those years considering how to do it right in a world where at least half of all marriages ultimately fail and even more relationships fade into the ghosted ether.

With all that said, I feel extraordinarily confident about the start of my marriage in 2019.

We’re getting married on April 12, which would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. She passed away on June 5, and that was certainly the low mark for 2018. However, I gave myself a gift in anticipation of that moment several years ago with the daily phone conversations we’d have on my commute home from work. The regular communication with family is good for the parent, to keep them engaged and connected, but it’s also a giant deposit into the barrel of goodwill and good karma that you’ll be able to lean on when the loved one passes.

For anybody who has aging parents to whom they’re close, I can’t encourage you enough to develop that kind of routine.

Also, I may have some snippets of our conversations thanks to the fact that sometimes Mom didn’t turn off her answering machine when I called and it picked up before she did.

Work ain’t hard if it’s passion
My professional life has gone exceedingly well, especially so because I get to be in news and work with a wonderful newsroom. Over the years, some folks have labeled me a workaholic, but that’s never been true. I enjoy working and, more so, being in motion. Sitting still is not in my DNA. Any time or situation when it’s felt like I’m overworking myself is the product of poor management on my part, failing to delete the actions that need dismissing and overvaluing money for time.

Time is the arbitrage for everything.

It’s why voice is the technology of the 2020s. It’s why Uber exists. It’s why you should hire a housekeeper and a lawn care person (GreenPal is fantastic). It’s why you should get up early (good sleep is awesome but long sleep is insanely overrated), and it’s definitely why you should get off the couch and explore your city, state and world.

Time is the single currency you can’t amass. You can always make more money.

And travel is more important than acquiring any ‘thing.’ Just thought I’d add that.

But I digress.

As I get older, my professional focus is more about helping other people achieve more. I’m taking on more the role of a teacher or mentor to anybody willing to be taught or mentored (willing is ‘key’), and what I realized early on is that words have super little impact where no actions live. The best way how to tell anybody how to do anything is to show them, by setting the example.

So, whether I’m always successful or not, I’m focused on the examples I set every day.

Various side projects
My digital life has been a lesson in drifting, an enjoyment for sure but no real accomplishment other than an exercise in patience. Take my YouTube channel for example. I gained 86 subscribers in 2018, but that’s in a world where it’s not uncommon to gain thousands.

Why is that?

It all depends on how you look at my channel. Is it a songwriter’s channel? A performer’s channel? If so, it’s super clear that the quality of the content at a creative and technical level isn’t moving the needle. However, that’s not totally true. Two of my biggest organic videos of the year were contemporary jazz tracks I recorded and posted a decade ago.

RyanWeltonMusic YouTube watch time 2018

Step To It” picked up another 6,456 minutes of watch time in 2018.

Nocturnal” earned 1,237 minutes of watch time.

But those weren’t performed. They were produced. There’s probably a lesson there.

Views are important, but the currency on YouTube and, eventually on any video platform, is watch time. How long can you keep a person watching your video content? It’s important because it indicates quality. Most folks are willing to click on a video. Very few are willing to sit there for 7 minutes and 32 seconds.

In the list above, you’ll see a couple of original songs with a high amount of watch time. Those weren’t organically achieved. I ran two types of ads in 2018: Google ads against YouTube videos and Facebook ads against Facebook posts on my teeny-tiny Ryan Welton Digital Facebook page that point to my YouTube channel.

The Google ads did an amazing job of boosting my superficial stats, but they failed to produce engagement and subscribers.

The Facebook ads, especially when executed against cover songs, did an amazing job of turning targeted viewers into subscribers. Mind you, for me, we’re talking dozens of new subscribers instead of hundreds or thousands, but any one of us learns or achieves in nuggets. The snowball falling downhill gets bigger the farther it goes.

On the other hand, my No. 1 video for 2018 didn’t require a dime for it to catch fire. It was called “How To Play ‘Rosanna’ By Toto For Piano,” and it amassed 8,044 minutes of watch time for the year. I don’t even know that I did such a great job with it, but it helped some people get the gist of the chord progressions in the song and, a bit, of how to play the imposing synth solo in the middle of the track.

It had value.

And for the 95 percent of us who aren’t young, beautiful or incredibly talented, value is where it’s at.

Teach somebody how to do something. Pass along your experiences to other people. Document your adventures. Share wisdom.

Do it over and over and over.

That’s the plan for 2019 in my digital life. When it came to this blog, I was largely all over the place, writing about the Sooners and Browns and baseball and YouTube, and that’s all well and good. I think I can still do that as the mood hits, as inspiration strikes.

But as I look at other platforms, I’ll be doing so more closely with an eye for value I can offer to somebody else. I’ll also be looking at eliminating content that provides low return and focus on content that provides much greater return. Whether it be in work or play, passion or necessary mundanity, we all have way too much wasted motion.

In that regard, 2019 is a year to move the needle in a big way.

Walk, don’t run?
don’t know, however, that it’s going to be the year I run my fourth consecutive half marathon in Oklahoma City come the last weekend in April. My training in 2018 was poor, and while I blamed it a lot on the weather, I should also pin it on the extra 10 pounds (now 20) I was carrying.

Mid-year grief sure didn’t help, and neither did a pre-Thanksgiving car wreck. Kristi and I walked away from that, sure enough, but it’s been a giant pain in the butt on numerous fronts ever since. As I sit here finishing this blog post on a Sunday morning, I can confirm that my right knee confirms the accident.

The swelling on the inside of it might not seem the result of Grade 3 whiplash, but when you start connecting the physical dots from spine-to-foot, it’s not unbelievable how that could be. And there’s not a chance I could run to the mailbox right this moment much less a quick three miles.

Not that there’s ever been anything quick about my running.

We’ll see. You all know how much I love running; now it’s just a matter of how much I love training. Need to be better at the latter to be able to enjoy the former. 

Trash talk
Any time I spend ‘not training’ I’m liable to spend on my newest passion: eBay and all-things-flip. Earlier this year, Kristi and I started a little store called R&K’s Happy HodgePodge, and it was born of young Olivia’s enjoyment of garage sales meshed with my inner drive to turn everything into a quest.

I had watched some Gary Vee videos on that ‘flip life,’ and then got interested in how people do it. How they source their products. How they price them. And how they manage a small business based on the simplest of retail tenets: Buy low and resell higher.

That’s all that retail is.

Plus, if I get good at it, it could provide a nice little retirement nest-egg or some money for more travel. I’m telling you: for me, long-term, there is nothing I’d rather spend my money on than travel.

Either way, it’s a fun little side venture.

It seems I’m mostly rambling now, but I’ll leave you with this thought from the wise sage of the advertising world, Don Draper. One of the things I admired most about his character in the series “Mad Men” is his ability to stoically maintain his focus on tomorrow.

“I have a life, and it only goes in one direction: forward.”

Cheers to an amazing+challenging+satisfying 2019 ahead.

WordPress Tip: How to edit the bio at the bottom of your posts

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Thought I’d devote a quick post to this in hopes of helping somebody not waste 25 minutes trying to find it.

I love WordPress, but I also think the CMS is largely unintuitive, especially without search. On several occasions over the past few months, I’ve wanted to update an outdated bio at the bottom of each blog post.

Not only was the information out of date, but it was devoid of HTML, so it looked like a jumbled heap of words.

So, I hopped into the WordPress admin tool and clicked here. And clicked there. And then I did a quick Google search, and then I started to grow frustrated because there is no search in the WordPress admin that I can find — and it should all just be easier than this.

And then I eventually figured it out.

I’m going to show you so that, maybe, you don’t have to waste your time.

  1. Go to WP Admin
  2. Click on ‘Users’ in the left-hand column.
  3. Then click on ‘Your Profile.’

What you’ll see looks like this:

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Type in all the updates you’d like, and note that you can add HTML links to things like social media sites. I tried adding paragraphs and line breaks, and that was no-go. Just add the simple <a href HTML code around any link you have, and it should work.

Then you click the ‘Update Profile’ button just below that, and – boom – all done!

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