Another year has gone by. I’ve been through some fairly major life changes. New city. New job. New friends. New experiences.
Instagram has gone through some major changes as well. The photo-sharing app with vintage filters opened its doors to Android users and a few days later was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in early April. A few Instagram users freaked out about the availability on the Android Market and even more freaked out after the news of Facebook’s purchase. Of course, this did nothing to slow its growth. In fact, during this 10 day period, the app saw explosive growth and ended up adding another 10 million users–1 million new users a day.
Now that you’re all caught up on the latest happenings of Instagram; let’s take a look at some of my personal top photos. For the second consecutive year, I have combed through my hundreds of photos and picked my top 10 of the year. I posted a good number of images shot with my Nikon D90, but this list is comprised of only photos shot and edited with my iPhone. You can take a look back at my top 10 photos of 2011 to see I have continued to grow as a photographer and get more creative with my shots. To view all my best photos from 2012, follow my on Instagram (@eric_wheeler) and view my hashtag #wheelers_best_of_2012. Take a look at my top 10 and let me know what you think!
Apple is certainly a newsworthy company. In the past few weeks, Apple released the iPad mini, the patent war between Apple and Samsung has escalated and iPhone 5S and even iPhone 6 rumors have begun circulating the Internet (only three months since the launch of the iPhone 5). Not all Apple news is positive, however. The infographic below is particularly timely given the recent tumble in Apple shares. “Peak or Plateau: What’s Next for Apple?” is certainly a good title for this infographic as the data points look at the success from Apple in recent years and considers the falling stock as the tech giant looks ahead to the future. Whether the future for Apple is gloomy or sunny, you can be certain Apple will continue making big news.
Remarkably, Apple is able to remain in the limelight incessantly while still holding out on social media. Indeed, Mashable recently had a nice write-up on four huge brands still not on social media. There Apple was, the largest company in the world, at the bottom of the list. It seems silly. For the amount of traditional advertising the company does for each new product launch, it seems like a natural next step would be to layer social media on top of that and create online communities to further push its messaging throughout the Web. Maybe social media is finally in Apple’s future?
From the looks of this infographic, Apple might need to shake things up a bit to be sure it doesn’t ‘plateau.’ As you can see Apple has gained some huge ground in the past five years. For one, the iPhone alone now has higher sales than every product Microsoft has to offer. With a $500 billion value, the company is either going to continue thriving or simply flat line. This infographic even says its fan base is leveling out. But the underlying question? Is Apple’s financial skyrocket peaking or is it merely preparing for the next big launch? Check out the infographic from onlinebusinessdegree.org below and draw your own conclusion:
Foursquare is definitely one of the most underutilized social media platforms. Sure brands such as the History Channel and Starbucks are completely killing it on Foursquare, but the location-based app is fantastic for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses in particular have a great opportunity to gain exposure, reward patrons with deals and earn customer loyalty. Chances are, your business already has a spot on Foursquare. Wouldn’t it make sense to claim your venue so you have control of it?
There are plenty of articles about Foursquare success stories and you can skim through a few case studies on the app’s website. Probably the best reason to get your business on Foursquare is for the check-in specials–those are deals users can unlock after a certain number of check-ins or for becoming the ‘mayor.’ Check-in specials are only the beginning though. The following is a quick how-to on getting the most out of Foursquare–without spending any money.
Setting up a ‘personal’ account:
Create a new account for your business. To make this happen, go to foursquare.com and download the free mobile app.
Fill out profile completely. This includes a good profile photo/logo, location, phone number, Twitter handle, and your company’s bio (160 characters).
Add people you know & people in the area.
Create lists & add tips. This is why setting up a personal business profile is important. Maybe you’re a restaurant owner who also serves pizza by the slice at local sporting events … might as well add a tip to those venues for fans to grab a slice during intermission. As the social media manager at KVSC-FM, I created a list of “KVSC’s Favorite Eateries.” The restaurants on the list are all underwriters for the station and the tips include special discounts for members of KVSC (a public radio station). Being a college radio station, I also created a list of tips for venues around campus such as “If you’re walking through campus or driving around town, tune to KVSC 88.1FM for college radio awesomeness! You can listen on mobile devices too. Just go to http://www.kvsc.org/listen.php” and “Make sure you get to hockey games in time for the pre-game intro. It. Is. AWESOME! Read more.” What’s really great about adding tips and lists is that you can link to websites and you can easily check the stats (e.g. “10 people have done this tip”).
Connect other apps, check privacy settings. Foursquare has a number of apps you can connect such as Foodspotting, Instagram and The Weather Channel. If your business is on Instagram for example, you can sync Foursquare to automatically check-in at a venue when you share a photo (by the way, if your business is on Instagram, go ahead an connect your Tumblr and Twitter accounts too). Since you’re a business and not an actual person, be sure to make your privacy settings as loose as possible–make it easy for customers to get in touch.
Setting up your business page:
Create/claim your venue. Unfortunately, this can be quite a drag–taking up to a week or more. This is good though because Foursquare is doing its best to make sure only real venues get claimed by the rightful manager. To get started, head to foursquare.com and sign in using the business account you just created or your personal account–doesn’t matter which. Search for your business and look for the “Do you manage this business?” and hit the “Click here” button. After that, just follow the steps. You will need to verify using the phone number of the business.
Fill out profile completely: Profile photo/logo, Address, phone number, Twitter handle, website, hours and keyword tags. Restaurants also have the ability to add menus and prices.
Create a special. Now that you’re managing your venue, go ahead and create your first check-in special. Foursquare offers a variety of specials to attract new customers or reward existing customers. Choosing a special for users who check-in to the venue for their first time might be a great way to get started. You can create multiple campaigns and test which ones work best.
Add employees and managers. If you’re a busy manager or owner of your business, it might be a good idea to delegate the responsibilities of general venue upkeep to another employee. Also, you can add employees to your venue so they can’t become the ‘mayor’ and reap the rewards that your actual customers should be getting.
Promote. You should get a window cling from Foursquare when you secure your venue … put it somewhere visible. Create fliers, Tweet it, include it in your eNewsletter, put it on your business card, train your employees to tell customers about it, add links to your website and anything else you can think of. Just be sure to follow the Foursquare brand guidelines.
There’s been a lot of chatter about cyberbullying lately and this new infographic from onlinecollege.org has some amazing stats to provide insight to how technology is affecting youth. I’ll let the infographic do most of the talking, however there are a few stats worth noting.
With girls aged 14-17 sending nearly 3,000 tweets per month, there is bound to be some negative conversations now and then. Kids are now growing up in an increasingly interconnected world where using mobile technology and online social networks is commonplace. As many would agree, a problem with online communication is that people can hide behind a persona and ‘bully’ others from a distance. Indeed, 7.5 million Facebook users are under age 13 and 81 percent of today’s youth say bullying online is easier to get away with than in person.
Please take a look at the infographic below and consider the teens you know in your life, or maybe you are one:
Source: Accredited Online Colleges
If you’re an Instagramer you have probably heard of Instacanvas by now. Interestingly though, Instacanvas has received little media attention thus far. Some of the larger tech and social media news sites I generally turn to have yet to crank out a feature story on the new start-up. That is rather surprising considering the site is generating 1.2 million unique monthly visitors and supplying around 20,000 artists with galleries to showcase their work and hopefully earn some passive income.
The concept behind Instacanvas is simple, but I’ll turn to the Instacanvas website to describe its offerings:
With Instacanv.as, Instagrammers can signup to sell their art and then people looking for something cool for their walls can buy that art printed on stretched canvas. We’ll print it, ship it, and tell you that you’re the best too.
I first discovered Instacanvas while scrolling through my home feed on Instagram and was pretty excited about the opportunity to showcase my work and hopefully sell a few items. I’ve been asked by a few people now if I sell my work. The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is a little more complicated. Printing, shipping and collecting money for my work can be quite difficult and time consuming (though, selling my work in person is a rather simple transaction). Instacanvas will hopefully solve some of these issues the next time someone asks to buy one of my Instagram photos.
Instacanvas appears to be open to everyone now, but in its early beta days (a few weeks ago), only users who were in the greatest demand were granted a gallery. This is undoubtedly where much of the early success of Instacanvas stems from. Using the power of Instagram’s 50 million users to promote a website is a sure way to gain some early attention. When I first heard of Instacanvas, I immediately started asking people to help me open my gallery via Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Instagram. I got the support I needed and about a week later, my gallery was open.
I have yet to see a physical canvas print, but the Instacanvas website claims they have developed proprietary image resizing technology that enables them to make beautiful canvas prints, up to 20 x 20 inches from Instagram photos. Of course, I would be absolutely delighted if I sold a few pieces, but I might even buy a print or two for myself or as gifts. The price is reasonable and I’m curious to see how my Instagram shots would look on 20 x 20 canvas–I have never printed Instagram photos larger than 5 x 5 inches. Maybe you’ll be the first to see my Instagram photos on stretched canvas?
Lately I’ve been obsessing over Draw Something. It seems I am not alone. The newest sensation in the world of smartphone apps gained 20 million active users in just a shade under two months. Available in both the iOS App Store and Android Market, Draw Something is a simple idea created by OMGPOP, which was acquired shortly after its launch by mobile gaming powerhouse Zynga for $180 million. The concept of the game is to–you guessed it–draw something for your friend. The hook is that the other player gets to watch you draw the picture in a Pictionary-style animation. Definitely a game for people of all ages.
The first few weeks I spent on Draw Something mostly consisted of stick figures and outlines of objects. With a limited, yet diverse word bank to choose from before each turn, I have expanded my skill and creativity by pushing myself to draw more detailed drawings. Some people have gone a little overboard, but there are definitely some amazing drawings floating around on the Web.
Hopefully the acquisition by Zynga will not harm the simplicity of the app as they work to further monetize off the early success of the app. I came across a clever animated infographic on Mashable earlier today and just had to share it. The folks at MBA Online created the infographic and have gathered some staggering statistics regarding the success of Draw Something.
According to Tweet Grader, I joined Twitter on Jan. 13, 2009 along with Ben & Jerry’s, Seth MacFarlane and the WNBA World Champion Minnesota Linx. I had heard of Twitter a few months prior to joining and was told reporters were using it to “alert the news team when they arrived on scene and provide updates of news as it was happening.” Seeing as how I was working for my fraternity at the time that did not really interest me. In my eyes however, Twitter really started to take shape to its current state when 2009 rolled around. I started to notice more friends, news organizations and brands joining Twitter. So, on a slow day at Acacia HQ, I created my Twitter account and @eric_wheeler was hatched (pun intended).
I would love to see my first couple tweets, but I have apparently tweeted too many times and am unable to uncover them. I will be honest though, I think for the first few months or so I never really ‘got’ Twitter. I would occasionally log in and share an interesting article or interact with a few friends I was following, but I never really did much with it.
Things finally clicked for me when I was watching the OU vs. Texas football game in my first semester of grad school at St. Cloud State in Minnesota. Being away from my Oklahoma home and anyone who truly cared about the game I turned to Twitter to see what people were saying. Sure enough, there were several ‘trending topics’ regarding the game and I was able to weigh-in and be apart of an online community based around one of college football’s biggest rivalries.
I started checking Twitter more often to see what was trending. After a while, I realized most of the trending topics were worthless celebrity gossip and (somewhat) amusing hashtags. It was about this time though that I started to gain a personal interest in social media and the fascination behind bringing people from all around the world together through various topics or content. I started following some of the true social media rock stars such as Jeff Bullas, Brian Solis and Lee Odden. I began reading up on any credible articles I could find on social media and digital marketing.
Soon I was searching for articles on my own on sites like PR Daily, Mashable and HubSpot. I would find as many (and still do) articles as I could to share with my followers. My follower count started to rise and soon I had my own niche community of people interested in social media, PR or other creative disciplines. I started my own blog (thanks for reading) and started participating in discussions on other blogs or articles. Before long, I was totally immersed in social media.
Then one morning, I put my ‘slider’ phone through the wash and my life changed again: I bought an iPhone 4. This allowed me to check updates at anytime. If I had a thought, I could share it. If someone mentioned me in a Tweet, I could reply instantly. I was now constantly connected to what’s happening on Twitter. I would occasionally participate in tweet chats to further educate myself. I began building meaningful relationships and used Twitter as a primary professional networking tool as I began seeking full time employment.
Three years is not really a long time, but I do feel it is with social media. Twitter helped me graduate from Facebook, MySpace and some of the other less professional social networking sites into a whole new world of meaningful online networking. After three years of self/formal education, using Twitter professionally and building a genuine interest in ‘new’ media, I can now say Twitter has played a positive role in my life. Cheers to three years and another 6,753+ tweets!
How long have you been tweeting? Let me know below or send me a tweet! @eric_wheeler
By now I am sure you have all read plenty of top 10 lists and ‘best of 2011’ countdowns. I promise you, however, I am not just sticking with the trend on this one. I could write a typical list of the year’s biggest stories in PR or social media, but I want to write about something that has truly changed me for the better.
When I joined Instagram a little over a year ago, I mostly used it to capture some of the little moments in my life–attending a concert, ogling over a sandwich I just made or posting a snapshot with friends. I mostly just snapped a quick picture and applied one the awesome filters from Instagram–without giving it much thought.
As the months carried on, I started participating in the many photo challenges and playing a more active role in the vast Instagram community (now with more than 15 million users). Soon my creativity started to blossom and I began using many extra photo apps to edit my photos. I began pushing myself to take photos from new angles and to bring about extra meaning to my images.
Throughout the past year I have grown as a photographer. While I still maintain a rather traditional approach when I have my Nikon D90 in-hand I do feel the creative power of Instagram and “iPhoneography” has brought me to a level beyond novice photographer. Shooting a wedding, doing outdoor portraits and low-lit concerts have helped refine my skills as a photographer and they have definitely helped me gain a better understanding of my equipment. However, Instagram has opened up my imagination and allow me to be more accepting of the editing process as a whole. After all, photography in its most premitive form does entail a certain amount of manipulation. Rarely (if ever) will a photograph appear exactly as it would in real life. Even if you are the perfect photographer who can almost always get that near-lifelike image; photography is an art form and should be treated as such.
The photos below represent my personal top 10 from the past year with my most popular photo at the top of this post. If you’re on Instagram, please follow me: @eric_wheeler. You can also view my full list of top photos of 2011 by searching the hashtag #wheelers_best_of_2011.
I should note all the photos above were taken and edited with only my iPhone. I had a few worthy shots from my Nikon D90, but wanted to only post photos from my iPhone. Probably my most notable non-iPhone photo I took involved using my Nikon D90 and a tripod during a July Fourth fireworks display in St. Cloud, Minn. Cheers to another year of Instagram!
After having a few days to digest, I feel prepared to write a short piece on the death of Steve Jobs. I learned of his passing via a push notification from the AP news app on my iPhone. At first, I thought it was a tasteless joke. There had been a number of Twitter hacks before, including CBS mistakenly reporting the death of Steve Jobs on Sept. 9, 2011. There was actually not a story in my AP app about the passing of Steve Jobs, so I went to Twitter to see what was going on. Sure enough, several other news sites and trusted followers were tweeting the sad news.
It always seems strange to be upset about the death of someone I never knew, but Steve Jobs was truly a visionary who changed the world for the better. Always modest of his life accomplishments, Steve Jobs made products that were easy to use and visually appealing. He had a way of looking into the future to deliver technologies that would change how people communicate and function in the world. But as I said, he maintained his modesty and focused on the important things in life:
“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.
“I’m sorry, it’s true. Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much — if at all.” (Steve Jobs, Wired, 1996)
Whether or not Steve Jobs single-handily changed the world is up for debate. However, I don’t think too many people will argue Apple products are easy to use. Some may think of me as a bit of a tech geek, but if my aunt asks me to help her install a new app on her Android-based phone, I get lost in the process. Anything I do on my iPhone is easy. Apple’s products are so simple, my girlfriend’s 5-year-old daughter can easily use her iPod Touch.
Probably the most profound technological developments of Apple came from the company’s ability to think of products in a new light and to keep things simple. While keeping something simple can often times be much more complicated, the simple designs of Apple products are clearly what sets them apart. Before I over-complicate this blog post, I will simply leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs:
“For something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” (Steve Jobs, BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998)
Apple products have had a major impact on my life and many others. May Steve Jobs rest in peace.
When I decided to buy an iPhone 4 a little less than a year ago, I was mostly excited about being able to update social sites from my phone, check email and keep my life better organized. Little did I know … the iPhone 4’s camera turned out to be my favorite aspect. That does make sense considering I’m a photographer. However, I really did not think I would be using my iPhone as much as I do to snap artistic, high-quality photos.
The mobility of the iPhone (it is always with me) and the high quality images produced makes it the perfect everyday camera. The Apple iPhone 4 has unparalleled specifications including five megapixel images, optional HDR, tap to focus and a 2.8 F-stop. Add in thousands of photo apps available in the iTunes market, and the iPhone is hard to beat. Listed here are my 13 photography apps I keep on my iPhone:
Instagram is a must for photographers or anyone with creative intuition. This five-star rated app creates a social experience based around the application of a variety of filters to photos taken in the app itself or from photos in your iPhone’s photo library. Added bonuses include tilt-shift generation, ability to tag your photos and share your creations on several social media sites and email. 100 million users can’t be wrong. Read my full Instagram app review here. Price: free.
Adobe Photoshop Express (PS Express) allows basic edits to photos such as contrast, exposure, saturation and tint. There are also a few basic filters, effects and borders you can apply. I have the free version and is all I need for quick edits. The $4.99 upgrade might be worth it if you do not plan on purchasing any additional photo apps. Price: free.
MagicShutter is a great concept, but not very intuitive. The idea is for the app to turn your iPhone into more of an actual SLR camera by being able to control exposure lengths. I have definitely made some cool photos with this app, but every time I use it, I have to re-teach myself. Still fun though. Price: $2.99.
TiltShiftGen is another favorite photo app of mine. If you are familiar of tilt-shift photography then you will love this app. When I first got into tilt-shift photography, I was using a long, complicated post editing process in Photoshop and it was hard to get the effect just right. This fantastic app does all the work for you and has the necessary saturation, brightness, contrast and vignetting features to get exactly the effect you want. Price: $0.99.
SnapShot Postcard is another great concept and one I wish I had when I was traveling through Europe–finding postcards, correct postage and a place to actually mail them while traveling can be a pain. This app does all that for you. The best part? You get one free postcard with your download. Price: free.
PostalPix is a similar concept; only instead of sending postcards, it simply allows you to order prints directly from you phone. Prints start at 29¢ and offers some miscellaneous products such as metal prints and mouse pads. Price: free.
Tiny Planet Photos is a novelty app that is really only fun a few times. It turns your photos into a … you guessed it, a “tiny planet.” You have to have the right style of photo for it to work right. Here’s my best photo, with the “early bird” filter applied using Instagram. Price: free.
360 Panorama is another app that has a great concept, but is a little difficult to get good results. The app creates a full 360 degree panorama in real-time. You just hold the phone out and hit record. Kind of fun, but I think I wasted my money on this one. Price: $1.99.
AutoStitch is similar to 360 Panorama, but it does not capture the image in real time. Instead, the users takes several photos and then lets the app stitch them together automatically. This is definitely a cool app and very easy to use. Price: $1.99.
Halftone is another novelty app for bringing a little life to your pictures. The app provides several comic book-like filters and the ability to add captions and thought bubbles to photos. Definitely a fun app. Price: $0.99.
Photosynth is another real-time panoramic photo app developed by Microsoft. It has a five-star rating, but I find it a little difficult to use. The most recent upgrade allows users to submit photos to Bing maps. Try it out for yourself. Price: free.
Postagram is an awesome app similar to SnapShot Postcard. What sets this app apart is the ability to choose photos from your phone, Facebook or Instagram. Additionally, you can add a personal message, save addresses and the photo pops out of the card! Also, an online version of the card is saved as well and the recipient can easily post it on Facebook or thank the sender. If you have Instagram, this is a must have. I send Postagrams as thank you notes all the time. Price: free. *Bonus – follow this link and you and I will both get a credit to send a free card: http://sincerely.com/u/2oo4s6.
WordFoto is a really cool app that acts as a word cloud for photos. Take any photo, add some text and the image automatically converts to words. Sort of a hard concept to explain, so look at some images created here. Price: $1.99.