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Using Timelines for Visual Storytelling

Books lined up on the library shelves

As a communications professional I see my work not just as copywriting, but ideally to tell stories through my writing. My storytelling can take many forms through the written word, including blog posts or social media, and even tactical media like press releases or fact sheets. But of course writing isn’t the only way to tell story, and as a visual storyteller I’ve created a number of infographics
and visualizations that intergrate data with images and text to help make complex stories more accessible. Not to mention my work as a film student writing and editing short stories in video.

Another kind of visualization that is helpful for telling narrative stories is a timeline, which spacially represents key events over time. In a timeline events can be as significant as a milestone/landmark developments which culminate from continuous iterative progress which is illustrated over time, or as simple as a tweet/status update that shows a conflict’s initiation/resolution. And like all narrative storytelling there are key elements like context/setting and esclating conflict which should be resolved by the end.
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Blogging by the numbers: Measuring my writing and blog readers

Ever since I started blogging in 2004 I’ve been trying to better understand my audience of blog readers through stats like unique visitors, pageviews, social media shares, or the number of comments readers add to each post. Analyzing these data points gives me a better a understanding of which pages interest my visitors most, and helps me think of new blog posts I hope will resonate with my audience. As an online marketing strategist I also try look at how readers come to my blog, focusing my efforts on what content I can offer which will introduce new readers to my blog, as well as how to connect with them outside my own website.

In the interest of trying to become more transparent as a blogger, here’s a look back measuring my own blog’s audience during 2011:

Matthew Hurst's Year in blogging 2011

Source: http://jetpack.me/annual-report/6790360/2011/

  • A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
  • In 2011 there were 15 new posts on the blog, growing the total archive on this blog to 61 posts so far.
  • Twitter and Facebook were my main sources of referral traffic, but increasingly Google+ brought new readers to my site.
  • I’ve had far fewer comments in 2011 than in previous years, and average less than a comment per post.
  • My most read posts in 2011 were actually from previous years, bringing in visitors searching for “Twitter internships” and how to become “Social Media Marketers“, showing the long-term value of SEO built through blog writing.
  • (more…)

My Top 11 Memes and more from 2011

Matt Hurst's "Deal With It!" avatar
Looking back on 2011, I wanted to recap my favorite internet memes, music, trends, and more during the year which saw many changes in communications and technology. Until recently I’ve posted a monthly list of my favorite ideas on this blog, and though I’ve lapsed these updates I still share my favorite media on my Tumblr blog. Every day on Tumblr I share the best memes, infographics, viral media, and ironic links, many of which contributed to this list of Top 11 memes.

After the jump, check out my favorite memes from 2011! (more…)

Facebook by the Numbers: Measuring my friends on the social network

via ShoutFlow.com

Not only is Facebook increasingly synonymous with social media usage, but it’s ubiquity reaches more than 7 out of 10 web users every month, and a growing number of weekly and daily users like myself.  Here’s a few more ways to understand the impact of Facebook:

My 550+ friends on Facebook represent only a fraction of Facebook’s 800+ million registered users, but it represents a historic shift in creating larger circles of friends. Thanks to Facebook’s ubiquitous popularity, I’m able to keep in touch with friends in high school and college who live hundreds (and thousands) of miles away, whereas only a few years earlier I would more easily fall out of contact with my friends. Since I grew up in the Facebook generation, I’m not alone in using the social network to keep loose-ties with old friends following my own graduation and relocation to New York City.  Here’s a few more stats about how I use Facebook to connect with friends:

Infographic on Matthew Hurst's Facebook friends

Facebook Infographic via ShoutFlow.com

5 years ago I reluctantly joined the social network, admittedly at the behest of Lauren Reid who wanted to make our relationship “Facebook official”. I’m happy to say we’re still “in a relationship” (even though only 24% of my friends are single), and that I’ve been hooked on Facebook ever since.  Here’s how I used Facebook when I first started:

Matthew Hurst's early posts on Facebook with Lauren Reid, in infographic form

I’ve seen this social network grow from a core of friends and college classmates into an everyday network of family and friends used by some people I never thought I’d interact with online; most recently my Mom even signed up! You can connect with me through my Facebook profile or by becoming a fan of my Facebook page for this website.

Nielsen’s Social Media Report

Data visualization of demographics on social media sites from Nielsen's Social Media Report
Last month Nielsen (my employer) released a new State of the Media report focused on social media use in the US and around the world. This report offers a unique snapshot overview of the social media landscape, using measurements of consumers’ behavior in their browsers rather than survey data. It reveals not only the significant growth among the population visiting social networks and blogs, but also who makes up the audience on these sites and how they use social media.  Here’s a few highlights of its key findings and takeaways:

  • More than 4 in 5 American who are active online visited Social Media websites within the last month
  • About a quarter of all time spent online is using Social Networks & Blog sites, more than twice as much as the next nearest category of websites.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social networking website globally, and in the U.S. Tumblr is among the fastest growing
  • Growth in social media users comes from people of all ages and increasingly among those aged 55+, making social media more representative of the online population overall

As a member of Nielsen’s global communications team (full disclosure), I helped research and write this report, working together with our thoughts leaders/experts and designers to create compelling data visualizations that help convey Nielsen’s insights into consumer behavior.  The response to the report has been overwhelmingly positive, with coverage by key news media and thousands of links shared across social networks. Of course all ideas/opinions expressed on this site and in social media are my own (and are not necessarily shared by my employer), so hopefully you find the analysis and insight in this report as helpful as I do.

Visit the Nielsen’s website to read the Social Media Report and download a copy of your own.

Twitter by the Numbers: 2011 update

Infographic of Matthew Hurst's Twitter usage

I’ve wrote before that Twitter has inspired a fixation by online marketers like myself because of how it can be measured. Since my previous post, Twitter has continued to grow its influence among newsmedia, brands, and consumers around the world.  Even among experienced Twitter users like myself, Twitter use has changed significantly over the last year as the social network broke records and even breaking news.  As of writing this blog post, marking my first 4 years using Twitter, here’s how I’ve used Twitter:

  • I joined Twitter 1462 days ago on September 15, 2007
  • I’ve posted over 16,100 tweets in four years, almost double my total since April 2010, and average 11.3 tweets per day and 328 tweets per month
  • I’ve gained 1677 followers, about 2/3rds more since March 2010, and I’m following about twice as many Twitter users (1347) as I was during my prior blog post measuring Twitter

In celebration of my 5th year using Twitter, I wanted to update my status about how I use the social network, so I created this infographic using Visual.ly to help illustrate my use on Twitter as of September 2011:

Infographic of Matthew Hurst's Twitter usage

Click here for a version of Matt Hurst’s Twitter infographic which is automatically updated based on my most current usage on the social network.

Extra credit: Follow @MattHurst on Twitter and see how I use Twitter and hear what I have to say.

Introduction to Copyright and Fair Use

I can has copyright?

I can has copyright?

What is copyright and what constitutes fair use? Do I need to register a copyright for my creative work to be protected? How long is a work copyrighted, and when does it enter the public domain? Are there advantages to using creative commons licensing or copyright?

In a recent course I took at the Brooklyn Brainery, our class took these questions head on to discuss the need to protect creative work and limit the exploits of copyright trolls. Sometimes referred to as intellectual property, copyright is a kind of property right (and a Constitutional Right in the US) which protects the use of creative work. Of course creative work is unique compared to other kind of property, so copyright is created whenever it’s “fixed in a tangible form of expression” by its creators, whether it’s a written novel or a music recording. Copyright gives its owners the exclusive right to reproduce the work, derivative works, and public performances of it.

There’s a careful legal balance between protecting the intellectual property rights of their owners and promoting the free expression which is guaranteed as a constitutional right.  For example, in the music recording industry many musicians don’t profit from sales of their recordings after they cede to their labels/distributors ownership to copyright for their work, sometimes waiting years to regain the copyright to their own songs. Likewise the creators of mash-ups and remixes such as Girl Talk make a legal balancing act necessary to avoid infringing on copyrights while using elements of old recordings to create something new.

While media law is a continuously evolving field and largely a matter of interpretation for the judges, over time some precedence has emerged that provides some legal framework. As we learned in our class for general purposes, here’s the four requirements you need to meet for Fair Use of copyrighted works: (more…)

Instagram by the Numbers: measuring my photo sharing via mobile

In its short history, Instagram has become very popular is crowded market of competing mobile photo apps, or at least has become my favorite among them since I started using it in October 2010.  For those not already familiar with this iPhone app, Instagram has been installed by over 1 million users who use the app to snap pics, apply creative filters to add visual interest, and easily share their photos across multiple social networks (ie Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare).  Users can follow photos by their friends using a timeline inside the app, which doesn’t have a web interface but rather exists as a social network of sorts confined within the app itself (and accessible to services using its API).
Matt Hurst's Instagram infographic
Of course the concept behind Instagram isn’t new; long before this app I’ve been been sharing mobile photos on TwitPic, showcasing my photography on Tumblr, and sharing thousands of pictures on Facebook, Flickr, and many other photo sites. Although it’s not immediately apparent how useful the service might be as a branding or communications tool, it has caught on in popularity from a consumer-generated media standpoint.  At least in my own experience Instagram offers immediate gratification and feedback that makes it addictive, with the added value of offering perspectives across a variety of social networking sites.

Matt Hurst's Top 5 followers on Instagram Matt Hurst's favorite Instagram users Matt Hurst's "likes" on instagram
Matt Hurst started using Instagram on October 24th, 2010 MattHurst's instagram infographic

Outside of Instagram, here’s a few more ways to measure the impact of mobile on photo sharing:

  • The iPhone is the most popular camera on Flickr overall, and I’ve uploaded more than 5% of my 8194 photos on Flickr from pictures taken using my iPhone camera.
  • Photos are the most used app on Facebook, and they’re rumored to be working on a mobile photo app
  • At least 2 million photos are posted to Twitter each day on average, and doubtlessly more buzz comes from image driven Tumblr posts and photoblogs

Most recently with the announcement of Twitter’s new photo sharing functions, as well as their deeper integration with Apple products, photography continues its push into mobile platforms and remains a key driving force behind social media into the foreseeable future.

Extra credit: check for updated stats about how I’m using Instagram, and see a gallery of my favorite photos in my Photography portfolio. And of course you can look for my photos by following MattHurst on Instagram

May’s 11

Lauren Reid and Matt Hurst pose for a photo with Pee Wee Herman
Every month I share a list of 7 things shaping my perspective in life. It’s been a couple months since my last update, so I’m going to include a few extra for this edition.

  • Application – Instagram. Instagram has become my preferred way to share photos on Twitter, Facebook, and to make posts on my photo blog Speaking in Megapixels. It’s fun and easy using it to turn cameraphone pics into memorable photos. I find myself increasingly posting Instagram in place of Twitpic to share instant memories over the internet.
  • Blog – Geekosystem. Imagine a blog that brings together the best links from Reddit + Tech blogs + general geeky ideas in a single source.
  • Colleague – Jake Brus. I worked with Jake as a student at American University, and was impressed by his knowledge of branding and creative writing style. A midwesterner educated in DC, Jake is a pragmatic problem solver and great collaborator of projects in the classroom. And since graduating he’s started writing a blog about Place Branding which is recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn about the subject.
  • Music – Harry Nilsson. Probably the best pop musician in the 1960s-70s since forgotten, whose soaring harmonies I can’t help but sing along to myself.  He’s the consummate musicians-musician, and his exploits have since made him the subject of the documentary “Who is Harry Nilsson (and why is everybody talking about him)?”  After watching the film, it’s easy to understand why.
  • Social Network – Empire Avenue. The stock exchange game lets you buy and sell stocks of individuals on social networks, increasing their values based on social media activity. While it’s not meant to act as an social currency like competing influence ratings metrics (Klout comes to mind), it makes for addictive gameplay that effectively functions as a social network in its own right, complete with personal profiles and public comments.
  • Television – The Office. This season we wished farewell to Michael Scott, wrapping up years of plot lines into satisfying conclusion. Nostalgia for the “World’s Best Boss” was hi, and even Ricky Gervais couldn’t resist making a cameo for the character he made famous. No one knows who will play the next boss at Dunder Mufflin, but I’ll be watching along with everyone else.
  • Word Game: Words with Friends. Yes it’s just Scrabble, but by opening up to my network of friends through my iPhone changes they way we can play. Just look up “matthurst” if you want to play a game with me!

Extra credit after the jump: (more…)

Foursquare by the Numbers: Measuring my social life by location

Matt Hurst's checkins on Foursquare, displayed in an infographic

Heatmap of MattHurst's checkins on Foursquare Since Foursquare was created in March 2009 its social network which connects people and places into an addictive public game has motivated millions to continue checking-in. Whether your friends use the social network to unlock badges for brands and special events, compete on the leaderboard, and of course become “the mayor” of their favorite venues. Location-based social networks like Foursquare have created new opportunities for friends to connect IRL (or allegedly to stalk each other), while opening individuals to new connections more like they do online.

Of course Foursquare was hardly the first location-based social media; by the time I signed-up in March 2009 I had already been checking-in for nearly a year, using networks like Brightkite and Loopt. Indeed the founders of Foursquare were well ahead of the competition, having set up the SMS-based location network Dodgeball years earlier which had been bought by Google, only to revisit their idea with smartphone technology. By mixing game elements and unlockable rewards, not to mention the right timing to take advantage of the burgeoning social media scene, Foursquare has created a unique application that has proved popular by 2010 and beyond.

In the process of the gameplay and deals that attract users and brands to use the service, one of the byproduct of using Foursquare is the data that’s created about individuals who use the service. Here’s some perspective on how I’ve used Foursquare over the past 2 years:

Thumbnail of Foursquare infographic - click to enlarge

click image to enlarge the Foursquare Infographic

  • I was the 3,820th user to register on Foursquare, making me an early adopter of the location-based network that now tops 8 million members.
  • My first check-in was on March 17, 2009 at Breadsoda in Washington D.C., and have checked-in another 669 days since
  • In my first two years I’ve checked-in over 3000 times (3241 as of April 15, 2011) at 723 different venues.
  • I’m currently mayor of 7 venues, and have earned as many as 13 mayorship at any one time, earning me the Supermayor badge
  • So far I’ve unlocked 61 badges so far: 38 official Foursquare badges, and 23 more branded by their promoted partners

Of course Foursquare is much more than a means to broadcast your location, although the network has that reputation since many early adopters (myself included) had their service configured to tweet their check-ins automatically. However I’ve found Foursquare is best experienced not just as social media, but as a tool to connect people with places. Their service aids the discovery of new places to visit by using the suggestions and tips of friends, and on several occasions has helped result in the social media serendipity that has connected me with new friends and enabled impromptu rendezvous with friends who check-in right around the corner.

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