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With billions of dollars spent on Facebook advertising each year, making an imprint in the digital realm can seem like an impossible feat for a new company. Fortunately, Facebook recently made an announcement that will allow small businesses to join the advertising arena. With the thought that small businesses are “strapped” for time, (and let’s be honest, funds) Facebook has developed new tools to help them grow with automated ad campaigns, a “booking” feature, and a simple way to edit videos.

Automated Ads

After answering a few basic questions, Facebook will eliminate the burden of ad creation and strategy by developing a “customized marketing plan” for you. A few key features of automated ads include:

  • Up to 6 versions of an ad can be created with Facebook suggesting text, call-to-action buttons, and other creative aspects.

  • Facebook will perform live optimization for you by showing only the best performing version of your ad. They will also periodically notify you on how your ad is performing with suggested changes.

  • Facebook will recommend budgets and suggest audiences “based on information from your page.”

Book and Manage Appointments

The new tool will allow your customers to book appointments directly through Facebook and Instagram. You’ll also be able to manage your appointments and engage with your customers via messenger or text message. Some benefits to the new booking feature are:

  • Accessible and free for all businesses, even those who aren’t using Facebook advertising.

  • You can customize the list of services you offer.

  • Ability to sync your appointments with another personal calendar.

Video Editing Tools

It’s no secret if you want to seriously compete with other advertisers, incorporating video into your ad strategy is crucial. Facebook’s new video editing tool makes even the most inexperienced videographer look like a pro. Three new editing tools (available in Ads Manager) making editing faster and easier than ever by allowing:

  • Automatic Cropping

  • Video Trimming

  • Text/Image Overlays

Facebook’s new tools for small businesses will save companies both time and money. As more and more resources become available for online advertisers, the digital playing field continues to grow. A system this simple ensures all companies will be able to run ads regardless of their size.

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Nowadays there are a plethora of formats and mediums available for advertisement at our fingertips. With such a variety available, it requires talent and knowledge to determine which format to use for each ad campaign. Some recent types of advertisements that are fun to use are Facebook ad carousels and Instagram gallery posts. These two formats carry an interesting blend of video and advertising concepts that can be used to create a truly unique and interesting experience. 

With image posts, the content is limited to the image and the copy provided - plain and simple. Video posts have much more flexibility and capacity but often people won’t view the whole video. When creating the video, any written content needs to be timed and balanced, because too often it shows too fast for people to read.

Galleries allow you to showcase multiple photos which greatly increases the capacity for information and variability of content in one post. They also allow people to click through at their own pace reducing the legibility issue. This ability for the user to click through at their own leisure also adds an interesting interactive element that can be played with, making it feel more like a journey, rather than just an ad experience. There are many visual ways to play with these two formats: you can separate the different slides or make them into one continuous journey. Each have benefits and choosing a format would depend on what information the ad is trying to convey.

A great example of a visual journey is the Facebook ad carousel made by Adobe Stock. In their ad carousel, they chose images with roads, rivers, canyons and other lines traveling through the images that lined up with one another, creating continuity between the various images while the actual images were diverse in subject matter. This creates a journey for your audience which is useful to get people to interact with the ad. While they didn’t use this in an educational way, it can be a great way to visualize a process such as the ordering or booking process for a product. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can create different content on each slide to which the format of the gallery lends itself. Since each slide is already separate, users don’t necessarily expect every slide to be related, where as with a continuous video, consumers often assume the video has an overarching theme/topic and switching can be confusing for viewers. This can be a great way to convey the different services that are offered at a company. However, when doing this, definitely make sure to differentiate each slide so that the users know to click through for more information. The nice thing about Facebook ad carousel is that you can rearrange the slides to see which order works best for you. 

These ad formats aren’t exactly new, but people are finding more interesting and unique ways to utilize them. The best way to see if these formats work well for your brand is to play with them and track how they perform.

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¿Esta buscando una herramienta que le facilite la creación de contenidos de principio a fin? En este artículo, usted descubrirá como organizar de manera eficiente su parrilla de programación de posts para redes sociales utilizando Trello como herramienta.

1. Cree una cuenta de Trello para organizar sus contenidos. Trello es una solución integral para organizar sus contenidos desde la generación de ideas hasta la publicación de los mismos gracias a que usted puede ordenar sus listas de manera cronológica. Además esta diseñado para trabajar solo o en equipo. Comience por registrarse para obtener una cuenta gratuita de Trello. También hay planes de pago disponibles para aquellos que manejen un gran volumen de cuentas en redes sociales, sin embargo un plan gratuito es más que suficiente para producir el contenido de su marca o negocio. Si usted es nuevo en Trello, es buena idea leer primero este post Nuevo En Trello para que se familiarice más con la herramienta. Una vez que se haya registrado, tendrá acceso al tablero principal y a la creación de equipos de trabajo. Los tableros son las interfaces principales de Trello los cuales contienen tarjetas, así que seguramente allí pasará la mayor parte de su tiempo. Si desea crear un equipo de trabajo para la planeación, aprobación y ejecución de ideas lo puede hacer desde la misma herramienta. Trello define equipo como la colección de tableros y personas que usted utilizará para organizar su contenido de redes sociales y otros aspectos de su negocio. Por ejemplo, supongamos que usted decide crear un equipo con sus colegas de marketing, este equipo puede tener varios tableros y estos a su vez varias tarjetas.

2. Cree un nombre para su equipo, agregue a sus colegas y luego cree su primer tablero. En nuestra demostración hemos creado un equipo para nuestra agencia llamado TPM – Content, posterior a esto añadimos los miembros de nuestro equipo de trabajo a través de sus direcciones de correo electrónico y finalmente creamos un tablero llamado TPM Abril 2019, lo cual indica que en este vamos a desarrollar el contenido de redes sociales para el mes de abril.

Una vez que haya creado su tablero, puede comenzar a agregar listas para completar el tablero. Las listas son columnas verticales que actúan como sus propias categorías para diversos temas y tareas. Para admitir los flujos de trabajo de ideación a publicación, haga clic en agregar una lista y asigne un nombre a su primera lista. Aquí pueden ir los días en los que va a publicar sus posts o simplemente el nombre que usted desee para cada post. Vea los ejemplos de nombres de listas a continuación, usted puede cambiar esto y ser tan creativo como quiera.

3. Empiece a crear su contenido de una manera organizada y creativa. Luego de haber creado sus listas ya puede empezar a planear su contenido. En nuestro ejemplo vamos a suponer que estamos creando los posts para Facebook, Twitter e Instagram. Hay dos formas para organizarlo: La primera sería añadir 3 tarjetas debajo de cada lista y ponerles el nombre de cada plataforma, esto se usa cuando los contenidos son diferentes en cada red social, es decir usamos frases e imágenes completamente distintas para postear.

La segunda opción es crear solo una tarjeta debajo de cada lista y agregar etiquetas de colores con el nombre de las plataformas, esto se puede usar si el contenido de todas las redes sociales es el mismo ya que varias marcas prefieren transmitir un mismo mensaje para evitar confundir a sus seguidores independientemente de la red social que utilicen.

Ahora solo tiene que hacer click en cada tarjeta para empezar a inspirarse y crear contenidos únicos. Allí vamos a escribir la frase llamativa o el caption en la parte que dice descripción, luego veremos al lado derecho una serie de alternativas entre las cuales tenemos la opción de adjuntar fotos o videos directamente desde nuestro computador o a través de sitios de terceros tales como Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive y demás. Repetimos estos pasos en todas las tarjetas. Una vez haya agregado la imagen, frase y etiquetas tendrá algo como esto:

Hasta el momento hemos creado nuestro equipo de trabajo y nuestro primer tablero con sus respectivas tarjetas (posts), así que ya estamos listos para la última parte del proceso. Cuando haya terminado de crear el contenido para los días que desea publicar, su tablero en Trello lucirá así o similar:

4. Revisión, aprobación y publicación del contenido creado. Es probable que una vez usted haya creado todo el contenido, ahora desee enviárselo a alguien más para que lo revise y lo apruebe, lo mejor de todo es que no necesita salirse de Trello para esta última etapa del proceso. Recordemos que al comienzo creamos un equipo de trabajo, así que es muy fácil que todos interactúen y aporten ideas en sus tableros. Usted puede trabajar en modo privado en su equipo y posteriormente compartir los tableros para que sean visibles para todos en el equipo; o si lo prefiere puede trabajar de manera pública desde el comienzo, esto lo puede cambiar en las configuraciones del tablero en cualquier momento. Cada tarjeta tiene la opción de dejar comentarios, allí sus colegas pueden escribir sus sugerencias, recomendaciones o mensajes de aprobación. Veamos este ejemplo:

Adicional a esto podemos crear un check list, el cual iremos tachando según sea conveniente. En nuestro ejemplo vamos a suponer que nuestro checklist tiene las siguientes casillas: Una para el supervisor de ortografía quien revisará la gramática y coherencia de cada frase, otra para el encargado de aprobar los contenidos a publicar y finalmente añadimos una que indique que los posts han sido programados y otra que señale cuando estos han sido publicados. Una vez se hayan marcado todas las casillas, le aparecerá una barra verde que indica el 100% de completación del proceso desde su creación hasta su publicación. De esta manera todos en su equipo estarán actualizados en tiempo real sobre los procesos ejecutados o las tareas pendientes por completar. En nuestro ejemplo hemos creado un check list al cual llamamos “Pasos Por Verificar”.

Tenga en cuenta que tanto los tableros como las tarjetas se pueden duplicar (copiar), mover o archivar en cualquier momento y estas acciones quedaran registradas como “Actividad”, de este modo todos los miembros de su equipo y tableros tendrán acceso a la información sobre cambios realizados en su parrilla de programación. Le sugerimos archivar, cerrar o eliminar aquellos tableros de meses anteriores para así evitar tener demasiados tableros abiertos que ya no están en uso. Esto le ayudará a mantener un mejor control y un orden adecuado sobre su parrilla de programación, lo cual lo hará mucho más productivo y organizado en sus proyectos.

Conclusión Trello es una de las herramientas disponibles más conocidas de productividad para trabajar solo o en equipo. Su creciente popularidad en los últimos años demuestra el gran valor que ofrece. Si administra las redes sociales de una marca o varias, Trello le ayudará a realizar un seguimiento del flujo de trabajo de su contenido desde la creación de ideas hasta la publicación de las mismas. También proporciona excelentes características si trabaja con el apoyo de un equipo.

¿Le gustaría tener un aliado experto para administrar el contenido de sus redes sociales? Comuníquese con nosotros, en Thin Pig Media tenemos un equipo de profesionales listos para satisfacer las necesidades de su negocio.

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Setting up your Facebook pixel correctly is key to a successful Facebook Advertising campaign. Luckily, Facebook is working to make setup and conversion tracking easier, even for those without web development experience. The new Event Setup Tool allows pixel users to place “Events” on their website conversions through both URL and button click rules *without* editing the code of the website itself. As someone who has worked to set up many pixels, I was super excited to see this feature start to roll out! While it is not available on all accounts yet, it should continue rolling out in the coming months.

What are Events?

Events are actions that people take on your website that can be tracked using the Facebook Pixel. Examples of events include purchases, email subscriptions, contacts, and more (see a full list of Standard Events here). If you want to track an event that falls outside of that list, you can create a custom event, but it’s not yet possible to create these using the Event Setup Tool.

What types of actions can trigger an Event?

Events can be triggered either by someone loading a specific URL on your website (such as a Thank You page following a subscription or purchase) OR they can be triggered by a button click that doesn’t necessarily load a new page. The ability to track button clicks is useful when the button leads to an offsite page that isn’t tracked by your pixel, or submits a form that doesn’t go to a separate thank you page.

Why do we want to track Events?

We can use Events to run ad campaigns with the Conversion objective. Using the conversion objective allows Facebook’s powerful tools to optimize delivery of your ads to people who are more likely to take action on your website, whether that’s making a purchase or filling out a contact form. Standard events are automatically available as conversion events that you can tell Facebook to optimize your campaign for. Events can also be used to track key conversions and calculate ROI on all of your Facebook Ad campaigns, even if you are not optimizing for conversions (such as in engagement or video views campaigns).

How to Find the Event Setup Tool

Once your Facebook Pixel is installed on your website, you can navigate to the Events Manager here:

From the Events Manager, select your pixel. If you don’t yet have a Pixel set up, follow these instructions. You will then see an overview page with all events that are currently set up. PageViews are automatically tracked by the Pixel once it is installed, so if you don’t have any other events set up, you will just see a chart tracking these. To set up new events, click “Set Up” in the upper right corner and click “Set Up New Events”.

A pop-up will appear here with options for different ways to set up your events. Click the first option “Use Facebook’s Event Setup Tool”. You must be an admin on the Pixel you are setting up events for to use this option.

Setting Up Events Using the Event Setup Tool

When you enter the Event Setup Tool, Facebook will ask you to enter the URL that you would like to setup events on. Remember, this must be a website that contains your base Pixel code. Type in your website address, and click “Open Website”

Your website will open in another tab, overlayed with a box that looks like this:

You will notice that you have two options for setting up events — on a URL and on a button click. From here, you can navigate to different pages on your website where your events take place — the event setup tool should follow you. To setup a button click event, click the + Track New Button. Facebook will highlight available buttons and links on your page.

Select the button or link you want to track, and then select the Event you want to be triggered when the button is clicked.

Hit confirm and your event will be saved! To create an event based on a link, click the “Track a URL” button on the page you want to track. The URL should match the page you are on, but you can also edit it into a “URL contains” condition. Hit confirm and your event will be saved!

Once you have added all the events you want, you can click the finish setup button. Your events will begin being tracked in the Events Manager on Facebook.


Events that were setup using the Event Setup Tool will have a special symbol next to them (seen below).

Once your events are active, you should be able to use them in any future conversions campaigns! To see these conversion metrics on future campaigns in Ads Manager, use the “customize columns” feature and check the boxes next to the events you want to see.

For more information and troubleshooting on event setup, see this help page from Facebook.

Want help with Facebook Advertising from the pros at Thin Pig Media? Get in touch with us here: https://thinpigmedia.com/contact

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There are numerous variations of digital ads these days including static images, animated GIFs, videos, 3-D, and VR. For the sake of time, let’s take a look at static banner ads and figure out how we can design these to maximize our click-through rate. On a screen, phone or computer, digital banner ads are essentially miniature billboards that assist in selling your business or product. When thinking about the concept or design of digital ads, you need to keep the previous mention in mind. The view time with each potential customer will be very brief. You need to catch their attention fast before they scroll past your ad and miss it completely.

MAKE IT STAND OUT

According to the IAB, “Ad unit content must be clearly distinguishable from publisher or unpaid content on the page (for example an ad unit may have clearly defined borders so it is not confused with normal page content).” Since the majority of webpage backgrounds are white, using a colored background will help your ad stand out. We recommend using your brand color palette to create a consistent look among your advertising and design. Photos are another great way to draw attention to your ad. Be sure the photo is adding value and not just taking up space.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

When writing copy for ads, you need to keep it simple. Your message should be short (5-10 words MAX!) and should have an enticing value proposition . These ads will be fairly small on screen so the design and layout should also be simple and easy to digest.

If you decide to use a photo make sure it is not full of intricate details and does not distract from your message.

CALL TO ACTION

You don’t just want customers to simply see your ad, you want them to TAKE ACTION on it. Having an intriguing call to action (CTA) along with a great value proposition will drive users to your website or landing page. This will be the most effective way to generate leads and increase revenue.

YOUR LOGO

Many companies want their logo to be prominent and stand out in their advertising. However, in digital ads this should not be the main focus. Yes, it should be included but your value proposition and CTA should be the stars.

Let’s take a look at one of our digital ads and see how we’ve implemented the practices above. In the following ad we’ve created a bright yet simple background that will easily stick out on almost any webpage. The value proposition is short and easy to comprehend and there is a distinct call to action. Instead of using our full logo, we’ve taken only the pig tail and included it in the top corner. It is okay not to use the full logo within this specific ad because the content describes our business and once a customer clicks, they will be directed to our landing page that will clearly define our brand and who we are.

Do you need help with your digital advertising? Our experts can handle all of the details from concept to completion. Drop us a line and let us know how we can help.

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Squarespace has quickly established itself as the go-to platform for individuals and businesses of all sizes. Our company believes in Squarespace so much that we not only recommend it to all of our clients whether they are comedians, non-profits, or large hotels, but we also built our own site on Squarespace. 

One of the powerful elements of all of Squarespace’s templates are the built-in Search Engine Optimization tools. Using these tools and a few other best practices, it is possible to increase your website’s visibility to search engines. What follows is not an exhaustive list of everything that is possible to increase SEO for your website on Squarespace, but rather a few places to get started in your SEO effort. At the end of the article are some additional resources to take your SEO to the next level after performing these foundational tasks.

But first, a word about keywords.


Keywords for Squarespace Websites

When people use search engines, users will submit keywords to find relevant sites. Therefore, it is helpful to consider those keywords and implement them into your website. There are many places in Squarespace to integrate keywords, but you also need to be aware of taking it too far. There once was a time when search engines weren’t so smart, and a good strategy for website owners was to come up with hundreds and hundreds of keywords and paint them all over their website - this is called “keyword stuffing”. “Keyword stuffing” can be off-putting to users of your site, because it is prioritizing how a bot is viewing your website versus a human. For better or for worse (we think for the better), search engines have gotten better at knowing when sites are using way too many keywords, and in fact, might count it against you in search engine results. Squarespace provides a helpful support document for how to define keywords for your website and best practices.

Keywords are important and should be used strategically, but the most important thing you can do for your website is to have good content. Keywords can help optimize but ensuring the content on your site is high quality, relevant, and descriptive of your site’s purpose are all far more important. 

Now that that is out of the way, let’s look at some of the first things you can do to start search engine optimization for your Squarespace website.


Ensure SSL is Enabled

In short, SSL is a security technology to establish an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. It is particularly important if people are submitting personal or financial information on your website. Even if you aren’t, it is important to have an SSL certificate installed on your website, because over the past few years search engines take the presence of SSL in consideration and place importance on it. Squarespace provides free SSL by going to SETTINGS then ADVANCED then SSL. You will want to select Secure and HSTS Secure.

More information about Squarespace and SSL

Set Up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Google and Bing provide search tools that help manage your website’s presence online. These tools perform two main functions. First, search engines periodically scan your website. These tools allow you to request an immediate re-index of your website, when you make significant changes rather than waiting for the next periodic scan. The second benefit of these tools enables you to see what search queries people are are entering that lead to clicks to your website in Squarespace Analytics. Furthermore, for the search keywords you can see what your average position on the results page is. This can help inform what content you create for your website. For instance, if you are a hotel and most people are searching terms related to your restaurant, you might want to consider building out content related to the restaurant to improve the rank you appear on the search results page of Google or Bing.

Optimize Page Settings for URL Slug, Page Title, SEO Title, and SEO Description

Squarespace provides several tools for search engine optimization accessible through the page settings. You access these settings by hovering over a page on the left side and clicking the gear icon. The first tab, Basic, allows you to set the Navigation Title, the URL Slug, and the Page Title. The second tab allows you to set the SEO Title and the SEO Description. The third tab, Social, allows you to set a Social Sharing Image for your website. Each of these elements have dual purposes: they are looked at by search engines and they are visible to users. 

  • Navigation Title: This is what is visible on your website in your navigation menu. This should be concise and helpful for people navigating your website. This is should not be considered in terms of SEO but rather just helpfulness to visitors of your website

  • URL Slug: This is the actual URL for your webpage. It should be both clear to the user and reflect properly what is on the website for search engines to index. You can incorporate keywords into the URL but you do not want to “keyword stuff” and add too many as it will both make the URL less helpful to users and might be negatively viewed by search engines. For example, if you are a comedian and you have a page on your website for your upcoming tour dates you might want to use the url /comedy-tour-dates but not go overboard and use /stand-up-comedy-funny-tour-dates-live-hilarious-tickets-events.

  • Page Title: The page title can be different than the Navigation Title and is prioritized by search engines. The page title is also viewable to users in the tab of their web browser. The Page Title is a good location to selectively use keywords without going overboard since it is viewable to website visitors. For instance, if your website is for a hotel which has a boutique shop you might want to have the navigation title be “Shop” but have the page title be “Stylish Boutique Shopping”. 

  • SEO Title: The SEO Title allows you to specify what the title of the link to your website is in search engine results and are indexed by search engines so this is another opportunity to integrate keywords but once again do not “keyword stuff” since these titles are visible to users viewing your site on search engines. If you do not edit this, search engines will show your Page Title. Depending on your specific use case, it might make sense to have these titles different. As a general rule of thumb, we always add a SEO Title even if it is the same as the Page Title.

  • SEO Description: The SEO description allows to define the body of text shown under the SEO Title and URL in search results. Depending on the search engine, descriptions displayed can be 50 to 300 characters long. This text is both indexed by search engines and viewable to people viewing search results so it should include keywords but also flow naturally and entice users to click through to your website.

  • Social Sharing Image: Although not directly tied to SEO, adding a social sharing image to your website can help drive traffic to your website. When you share a link on Facebook or Twitter, the social media site will automatically generate a share card that will pull in the SEO title, SEO description and an image. If you do not upload an image to this part of Squarespace, the social platform will pull in your logo which isn’t always ideal. This is an opportunity for you to upload an engaging photo that will entice users to click through to your website.

Optimize Images on Squarespace for Search Engine Optimization

Search engines take into consideration the speed of your website and page load times. One of the most effective ways to improve your website’s load time is to optimize the size of the images on your website. As a general rule that we use, is that banner images should be around 100kb large and all other images should be under 75kb. There are a variety of tools to help this process. The first type of tool is one that will crawl your website to find large images. This is helpful if you have a ton of images and be too time consuming to go through and optimize each image. One of the best tools for this is Screaming Frog. Once you have identified the large images on your website, you will want to make those images smaller while still retaining a high quality. A great tool for doing this is Squoosh. Squoosh allows you to upload an image and change its quality, size, and file format. You can quickly tweak a variety of settings and see the resulting image in real time. This is helpful to tweak as much as you can to get the file size small, while still making sure the image doesn't get too pixelated or low quality.

The second element relating to images and search engines that you will want to consider is alt-tags. Alt text is text behind the scenes in the code associated with an image. Search engines use alt text to help determine the content of a page and understand your site to better present your website in relevant searches. This is a fantastic place to include keywords while also being careful not to “keyword stuff.” Here is a helpful guide to adding alt text to images on your site. 

Blogging, Blogging, Blogging

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, content is the single most important thing you can do to improve SEO for your website. Including a blog on your website and frequently updating it is a powerful way to increase SEO and drive traffic to your website. When determining what you should blog about, you can use your keywords as well as review search terms from Google Search Console to guide the creation of your blog content. For our personal site, the large majority of our website traffic is from search and the majority of that search traffic is driven to blog content.

Next Steps

This article has covered the core elements of making your website search engine friendly. In a future article we will discuss what Phase 2 of a SEO program for your website entails. In the meantime, here are some helpful resources for additional search engine optimization items you can work on:


Squarespace Search Engine Optimization Checklist

Adding Keywords for SEO for Squarespace Websites

Tips to reduce your page size for faster loading times 

Search engine optimization friendly site maps for your Squarespace website

Heading tags and Squarespace

Structure content with headings

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SXSW took over Austin with glittering ferocity this month, bringing together the worlds of interactive, film, music, comedy, gaming and more. And as I scouted the gigantic festival for more powerful independent productions like our clients SADIE and Black Hat, I came across some truly unforgettable movies. They couldn’t be more different from each other, but the uniting thread is their burgeoning potential to blow audiences’ minds. Here are my picks for SXSW feature films you should keep an eye out for.

Jezebel by Numa Perrier

Somehow this tale about a phone sex operator helping her sister become a webcam model is both empowering of sex workers and a heartwarming story about family lifting each other up.

Daniel Isn't Real by Adam Egypt Mortimer

Take the best body horror F/X of Cronenberg & Carpenter, wrap it with the relatability of familial mental health issues and new-to-college-kid jitters, and amp it up with a hell of a soundtrack.

The Peanut Butter Falcon, introducing Zack Gottsagen

A strong sweet Downs Syndrome man wants to become a pro wrestling hero so he escapes from his group residence in the South and teams up with Shia LaBeouf in a modern-day Mark Twain adventure.

Sword of Trust by Lynn Shelton starring Marc Maron

A pawn shop owner, his dolt assistant, and two ladies with a mythic sword must "work" together to discover its origin. This movie was so hilarious I could barely finish my Alamo Drafthouse burger. I think this is Shelton's funniest film.

The Garden Left Behind, introducing Carlie Guevara

This Audience Award winner centers around a trans-woman navigating gender transition while living as an undocumented immigrant in NYC. All trans characters were played by trans actors. This movie broke me open.

Snatchers by Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman

Sure it's just a teen horror comedy to the tune of Edgar Wright and Barry Sonnenfeld, but it's perfectly written. It stars three women, glorifies female sexual independence, and I can't wait to show it to my friends.

Strange Negotiations about David Bazan and Pedro The Lion

This documentary was an incredible experience for me personally. I was a huge Pedro The Lion fan back in high school and there's a clip in this retrospective that I'm literally in, standing at the Showbox Market asking David Bazan, "How important is Jesus to you?" His reply from onstage: "Um, that's more of a private conversation." Bazan was at the screening and I got to remind him that we still need to have that conversation. Some day.

Special mention - Music Video Jury Award Winner:

Hurray For The Riff Raff - 'Pa'lante'

Directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa

This is a visually abundant and emotionally tender short film that serves as the music video to a passionate tune that means "Go forward." It's a brave new Puerto Rican director making a beautiful love letter to his hurricane-ravaged homeland. Watch it now:

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As a 52-year-old newly divorced man, I have decided to double down on one of my main tenets in life: focusing on unique life experiences. While discussing our shared passion for this topic, a good friend, (Jim), told me fascinating stories about his trips to Burning Man. Like most adult humans living in America, I had heard of Burning Man but in all honesty, my ‘knowledge’ was mostly limited to preconceived notions of it being a drug-fueled hippy fest where anything goes (it turns out that those perceptions hold some truths). After several minutes of conversation with little thought or deliberation, I declared “I want in!”. At that moment, I proved to Jim that I had no idea what I was trying to get myself into. There were many steps I had yet to take as I would soon find out.

Burning Man is essentially a city that springs from the Nevada desert every year comprised of many ‘camps’. Based on my friend’s advice, I wanted to join an established camp, the Black Rock Piano Lounge, and they already had a lengthy waiting list. With the camp leader’s blessing, I was added to the list but was strongly advised to do more research on the event to make sure I was a good fit for what Burning Man stands for. Again, I had a lot to learn. (Thankfully, I cleared the waiting list two weeks ago.)

For all of the passionate Burning Man experts out there, this post is not aimed at you, so you can stop reading here. I have never been, so obviously I can’t do it justice. This post is coming from the perspective of a Burning Man newbie. My goal is to share a few things I have learned in my research that make me both worried and excited to attend, and to encourage those interested in attending to do some research to learn more about the intricacies of this event.  

The first thing I learned when I began to tell people that I was going to Burning Man is that their reactions fell into three distinct categories: (1) they look at me like I have three heads (2) say something like “isn’t that just a big drug fest?” or (3) congratulate me for going and tell me I will have a great time.

The second thing I learned is that the event is HIGHLY organized and incredibly well run. Held in Black Rock Desert in northwest Nevada, Burning Man is a structured, temporary city that accommodates around 80,000 people for the week long event without a single public garbage can. As a long-term event planner, I know that many people can’t gather for that long without chaos ensuing unless it is well thought out and orchestrated.

Third, there are Ten Principles of Burning Man. I won’t go into each here, but FOR ME, reading and understanding these principles was inspiring and gave me a better sense that the event is much, much more than a big party. It seems to be a different paradigm to live within, even if only for a week. Although they all resonate, if I have to pick three that speak to me, they are: Radical Self Expression, Gifting, and Communal effort. Truly, each of these principles are sure to stretch my comfort zone.

Armed with a greater understanding of the structure, infrastructure, and guiding principles, I was ready to think about the actual logistics of getting myself ready to become a part of the Burner nation. As part of a well-established camp, many of the necessities have already been thought through and I will be donating time and resources for the good of the camp. But for a few other aspects I need to focus on myself. These are now the things that are stressing me out. Costumes, bikes, and surviving desert life. As a virgin, I don’t know what I don’t know. So like a curious teenager I asked my friend Paul for advice.

Costumes

This is apparently a huge aspect of Burning Man and really speaks to the Radical Self Expression principle. In a perverse way, if you are not in a costume of some sort, you will really stand out. As Paul put it to me, “Imagine walking into a coffee shop in Seattle with your costume on; if eyebrows aren’t raised, chuckles are not elicited, and no one stares, you need a better costume.” Costumes run the gamut from simple to elaborate but seem to help people quickly get into a new comfort zone where they aren’t really worried what other people think. The focus is on fun and creativity. It sounds refreshing. One more piece of advice from the expert, “shop early and often”.  Thrift stores are a great source for items and inspiration, but as Burning Man gets closer, especially in major feeder markets like Seattle, things can really get picked over.


Bikes

The “city” is relatively huge.  Encompassing a 7 square mile patch of desert, everyone needs a way to get around and see the great art, listen to music, and meet new people. Bikes are the primary transportation solution. I happen to love biking, spent a ton of time riding bikes as a kid, and still bike today. One of the fun aspects of biking when I was young  was decorating our bikes with streamers, stickers or other elements. Burning Man embraces that kid-like decoration and puts it on steroids so having a bike is a necessity. Giving your bike its own costume is a cherry on top.

Desert Life

If you are going to Burning Man you are in a desert. Desert life is harsh. It is what makes it a desert after all. It’s sandy and on occasion winds can whip up and cause severe sandstorms where visibility is cut to zero and tents can be whisked away. One of the most critical items to have on hand are goggles. Many people decorate their goggles to incorporate them into their costumes, but no matter what you do, have goggles in your supply cache. With all this sand and dust, you can imagine where it ends up on your body. There are showers but I have heard from multiple people that baby wipe showers are the best way to get the grime off.

So, with 164 days to go, that is where I am at. I hope this helps a few fellow Burning Man newbies or those curious about the event to know just a bit more from the eyes of a newcomer. By the way, I solemnly promise not to be a Sparkle Pony! (Look it up).

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As a 52-year-old newly divorced man, I have decided to double down on one of my main tenets in life: focusing on unique life experiences. While discussing our shared passion for this topic, a good friend, (Jim), told me fascinating stories about his trips to Burning Man. Like most adult humans living in America, I had heard of Burning Man but in all honesty, my ‘knowledge’ was mostly limited to preconceived notions of it being a drug-fueled hippy fest where anything goes (it turns out that those perceptions hold some truths). After several minutes of conversation with little thought or deliberation, I declared “I want in!”. At that moment, I proved to Jim that I had no idea what I was trying to get myself into. There were many steps I had yet to take as I would soon find out.

Burning Man is essentially a city that springs from the Nevada desert every year comprised of many ‘camps’. Based on my friend’s advice, I wanted to join an established camp, the Black Rock Piano Lounge, and they already had a lengthy waiting list. With the camp leader’s blessing, I was added to the list but was strongly advised to do more research on the event to make sure I was a good fit for what Burning Man stands for. Again, I had a lot to learn. (Thankfully, I cleared the waiting list two weeks ago.)

For all of the passionate Burning Man experts out there, this post is not aimed at you, so you can stop reading here. I have never been, so obviously I can’t do it justice. This post is coming from the perspective of a Burning Man newbie. My goal is to share a few things I have learned in my research that make me both worried and excited to attend, and to encourage those interested in attending to do some research to learn more about the intricacies of this event.  

The first thing I learned when I began to tell people that I was going to Burning Man is that their reactions fell into three distinct categories: (1) they look at me like I have three heads (2) say something like “isn’t that just a big drug fest?” or (3) congratulate me for going and tell me I will have a great time.

The second thing I learned is that the event is HIGHLY organized and incredibly well run. Held in Black Rock Desert in northwest Nevada, Burning Man is a structured, temporary city that accommodates around 80,000 people for the week long event without a single public garbage can. As a long-term event planner, I know that many people can’t gather for that long without chaos ensuing unless it is well thought out and orchestrated.

Third, there are Ten Principles of Burning Man. I won’t go into each here, but FOR ME, reading and understanding these principles was inspiring and gave me a better sense that the event is much, much more than a big party. It seems to be a different paradigm to live within, even if only for a week. Although they all resonate, if I have to pick three that speak to me, they are: Radical Self Expression, Gifting, and Communal effort. Truly, each of these principles are sure to stretch my comfort zone.

Armed with a greater understanding of the structure, infrastructure, and guiding principles, I was ready to think about the actual logistics of getting myself ready to become a part of the Burner nation. As part of a well-established camp, many of the necessities have already been thought through and I will be donating time and resources for the good of the camp. But for a few other aspects I need to focus on myself. These are now the things that are stressing me out. Costumes, bikes, and surviving desert life. As a virgin, I don’t know what I don’t know. So like a curious teenager I asked my friend Paul for advice.

Costumes

This is apparently a huge aspect of Burning Man and really speaks to the Radical Self Expression principle. In a perverse way, if you are not in a costume of some sort, you will really stand out. As Paul put it to me, “Imagine walking into a coffee shop in Seattle with your costume on; if eyebrows aren’t raised, chuckles are not elicited, and no one stares, you need a better costume.” Costumes run the gamut from simple to elaborate but seem to help people quickly get into a new comfort zone where they aren’t really worried what other people think. The focus is on fun and creativity. It sounds refreshing. One more piece of advice from the expert, “shop early and often”.  Thrift stores are a great source for items and inspiration, but as Burning Man gets closer, especially in major feeder markets like Seattle, things can really get picked over.


Bikes

The “city” is relatively huge.  Encompassing a 7 square mile patch of desert, everyone needs a way to get around and see the great art, listen to music, and meet new people. Bikes are the primary transportation solution. I happen to love biking, spent a ton of time riding bikes as a kid, and still bike today. One of the fun aspects of biking when I was young  was decorating our bikes with streamers, stickers or other elements. Burning Man embraces that kid-like decoration and puts it on steroids so having a bike is a necessity. Giving your bike its own costume is a cherry on top.

Desert Life

If you are going to Burning Man you are in a desert. Desert life is harsh. It is what makes it a desert after all. It’s sandy and on occasion winds can whip up and cause severe sandstorms where visibility is cut to zero and tents can be whisked away. One of the most critical items to have on hand are goggles. Many people decorate their goggles to incorporate them into their costumes, but no matter what you do, have goggles in your supply cache. With all this sand and dust, you can imagine where it ends up on your body. There are showers but I have heard from multiple people that baby wipe showers are the best way to get the grime off.

So, with 164 days to go, that is where I am at. I hope this helps a few fellow Burning Man newbies or those curious about the event to know just a bit more from the eyes of a newcomer. By the way, I solemnly promise not to be a Sparkle Pony! (Look it up).

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A close friend recently told me a story that was a real wake-up call for me.  A couple of weeks ago she found her daughter shaking and curled up into a little ball crying her heart out. When she asked her what was wrong, she just shook her head and wouldn’t tell her. Finally, after intervention by a sibling, she finally opened up. It turns out that she had been subjected to cyber-bullying, and she was terrified of going back to school. A girl from her grade sent her an Instagram message threatening to beat her up at school.They previously experienced trouble with this particular girl and knew that she was very capable of doing what she was threatening to do.

What is Cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying is online harassment. It’s the use of technology to threaten, harm or embarrass another person and it’s a growing problem. It’s typically done through cell phones via text messages or direct messages through social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Sometimes a fake account, web page or online identity is created with the sole purpose to harass and bully. Cyber-bullying is done deliberately and repeatedly with the intention of harming another person. The target might not even know who the bully is as online bullying creates an opportunity to be anonymous. Since bullying is no longer restricted to the playground or the neighborhood, the harassment can be 24 hours a day. Picked-on children often exist in a constant state of fear, and it can have severe long term effects on the child.

Facts On Cyber-bullying
  • More youths experience cyber-bullying on Instagram (42%) with Facebook being a close second at 37% and Snapchat ranking third at 31%

  • Girls are more likely to be cyber-bullied than boys

  • Only 60% of those who have experienced cyber-bullying told an adult (up from 40% of last year)

  • Only 25% of teens who experience cyber-bullying reported having a face-to-face confrontation with someone

  • 71% of today’s younger generation are worried about Cyber-bullying

  • 87% of teens have witness cyber-bullying

Bullying happens every day and any child with a laptop, iPad or cell phone is at risk. As a parent, it’s important to have a conversation about cyber-bullying with your child and how best to prevent it. It’s important to encourage your child not to respond to the bullying as it will only exacerbate the problem. Should your child become subject to it, make sure you take screenshots of what has been sent, then block the sender and notify the principal of the school. Many schools have strict protocols against bullying and the punishment for cyber-bullies can include suspension from school, being kicked off of sports teams, and certain types of cyber-bullying are even considered crimes.

In my friend’s case, she was smart enough to take a screenshot of the Instagram message that was sent and set up a meeting with the principal at her daughter’s school. This school has a strict protocol against any kind of bullying, and the incident was taken very seriously. The girl in question was brought to the office and her parents were asked to be there as well. My friend’s daughter had a hall teacher watch her the entire day in between classes, and she also took her to her bus after school. The girl in question claimed her account had been hacked and that someone else had sent the message. She was reprimanded by her parents and the school, and she gave my friend’s daughter an apology. Thankfully they have not had any further incidents to date.

It was a good lesson for me as an adult and parent, and one that I thought was worth sharing. It’s not always easy to know when to step in. Kids these days use technology differently than we do. They play games, connect with their friends, watch YouTube videos, and are constantly on their devices. Their knowledge of the digital world can seem intimidating for some parents. In my case, I had a good talk with my kids about cyber-bullying and what to do in case it happens. We also agreed that I must be a ‘friend’ on all their social platforms although I was not allowed to comment (I guess I am not hip enough), and that under no circumstances would anyone post any indecent photos of themselves or anything that could be harmful to someone else. And this includes their ‘spam’ accounts.  Virtually every teenager I know has multiple accounts on Snapchat and Instagram, and parents should be monitoring those as well. I also now have the right to go through their devices at any given time to make sure there are no ‘misunderstandings’.

I remember when my kids were little. I was so pleased to get a few minutes of peace when they were engaged on their Leapster device (pre iPad tablet for kids in case you are wondering).  But of course this was the beginning of digital dependence for them, and it’s starting earlier and earlier. Unfortunately their use of devices goes way beyond learning how to spell ‘c-a-t’ and is the conduit for how they interact socially.  This incident also showed me how this is yet another distraction for teachers and school administrators in their efforts to teach our kids. It’s a reality in today’s world, but parents need to challenge themselves to be more involved and understand this world.

My kids will continue to cringe every time I post on Snapchat and give me a stern lecture if I comment on their post.  I’m definitely OK with that; it’s a small price to pay for being a part of their digital world.

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