Fourth of July fireworks, parades, and parties guide

Fourth of July fireworks, parades, and parties guide

 

Fireworks explode over Sarasota Bay during the Fourth of July. 

Fireworks, parades and parties are all part of the fun taking place on the Fourth of July. At many of these events, bands will rock the crowds ahead of the patriotic pyrotechnics with vendors selling such American classics as cheeseburgers and cold beers. You’ll find plenty of activities for children, too.

From beaches to ballparks, here are the best spots to celebrate Independence Day, including fireworks celebrations on Saturday and Sunday, in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.

  SARASOTA COUNTY

Bayfront Fireworks
Sarasota Powerboat Grand Pix Festival (here's our complete guide) again closes with a bang, actually a bunch of bangs. The Grand Prix organizers at Suncoast Charities for Children, in partnership with Marina Jack, helped raise the money to produce the Bayfront Fireworks that illuminate the sky off the waters of downtown Sarasota. For an extra-special experience, make a reservation at Marina Jack.
9 p.m. Monday; Marina Jack; 2 Marina Plaza; Sarasota; 941-365-4232; marinajacks.com

All-American Barbecue at Selby
Watch the fireworks in style at Selby Gardens with live music by blues singer Lauren Mitchell and a menu of such American classics as burgers (including a portobello burger), barbecue pork sandwiches, chicken fingers with fries and kosher hot dogs. Beer, wine and cocktails are also available. Regular ticket prices do not include food or open bar but the $150 VIP ticket includes valet parking, open bar and catering by Michael’s on East in Selby’s indoor VIP area.
6 p.m. Monday; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota; $25 (members), $35 (non-members), $150 (VIP), free for children age 3 and younger; 941-366-5731; selby.org

Siesta Key Fireworks Celebration
For the 26th year the Siesta Key Chamber has produced its own fireworks show with our most famous beach again a great spot to watch red, white and blue explosions.
9 p.m. Monday; Siesta Beach, 948 Beach Road, Sarasota; 941-349-3800; siestakeychamber.com

Office Bar SRQ Rooftop Party
View practically every fireworks show in the area from the top floor of the Office Bar SRQ’s parking deck, which puts you about 600 feet above Sarasota Bay. Office Bar is taking up the whole top floor so there will plenty of space in the shade, or under shelter if it rains a little. The Beer Box will be pouring Florida craft brews along with a small wet bar and burgers and hot dogs from Evie’s Catering & Events. Bringing a lawn chair is suggested. No outside food or beverage permitted.
6-10 p.m. Monday; Office Bar SRQ, 1989 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota; no cover charge; 941-955-3843; eviesonline.com/officebarsrq

Freedom Festival Parade
For the 14th year the Freedom Festival Parade will bring family fun to Longboat Key on Independence Day morning with floats and other festivities starting at Town Hall and proceeding down Bay Isles Road.
9-11 a.m. Monday; Longboat Key Town Hall, Town of Longboat Key, 941-316-1999; longboatkey.org

Venice’s Fourth of July Fireworks
Fireworks will be shot from the South Jetty, which will be closed, and can be viewed on area beaches from Caspersen to Nokomis.
9 p.m. Monday; Venice South Jetty; 941-486-2626; venicegov.com

North Port Freedom Festival
Watch a fireworks spectacular choreographed to music at the North Port Freedom Festival, one of the city’s signature events since 2004. There will be live music, an array of food/vendor booths, family activity area, obstacle course, giant slides and a gladiator joust.
6 p.m. Monday; North Port High School, 6400 W. Price Blvd., North Port; free; 941-429-7275; cityofnorthport.com

 

Celebrate the nation’s birthday at the Anna Maria Island Privateers Parade. HT ARCHIVE

MANATEE COUNTY

Bradenton Marauders
Celebrate Independence Day on July 2 when the Charlotte Stone Crabs play at the Bradenton Marauders’ McKechnie Field, where there will be post-game fireworks presented by Bright House Networks and Budweiser. There will also be a patriotic-themed jersey auction and free shirt giveaway for the first 1,500 fans to enter the ballpark. Live pre-game music by Gator Creek Band with gates opening at 4:30 p.m.
4:30 p.m. (gates) 6:30 p.m. (game) Saturday; McKechnie Field, 1611 9th St. W., Bradenton; $6-$10; 941-747-3031; bradentonmarauders.com

Anna Maria Island Privateers’ Fourth of July Parade
If you planned on attending the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Parade, which has been canceled, consider a trip to Anna Maria Island. The Anna Marie Island Privateers will once again host their annual Fourth of July parade to celebrate the birth of our nation and the non-profit’s mission statement of “pirates for kids and community.” The parade goes the entire seven-mile length of Anna Mari Island and is open to everyone: businesses, groups, families or individuals who would like to show their patriotism. There's no parade entrance fee although donations are always accepted. Please note that this is a non-walking parade so every entry must be on wheels. Attendees are invited to bring a chair and an American flag and set on the parade route, which is expected to draw 20,000 watchers with over 850 participants. The parade goes from Coquina Beach starting at 10 a.m. and will continue along Gulf Drive to Anna Maria City Pier. The after party will be at The Ugly Grouper, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.
10 a.m. Monday; Coquina Beach, 2650 Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach; 941-209-2212; amiprivateers.org

Sandbar Fireworks Extravaganza
This Monday’s fireworks celebration at Sandbar marks the 30th year the restaurant has hosted its Sandbar Fireworks Extravaganza. While it’s of course free to view the display from any of the surrounding beaches for spectacular dining and VIP options call the restaurant. The Beach House, part of the Chiles Restaurant Group, will again suspends its fireworks this year “with the best interest of our community’s environmental protection in mind, we have decided once again to cancel our July 3 fireworks display to protect the rare and endangered shore birds on the beach nearby,” reads the statement issued by Chiles.
8 p.m. Monday; Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria; 941-778-8709; sandbar.groupersandwich.com

Palmetto Fourth Festival
Palmetto knows how to party on the Fourth of July, once again bringing a free concert to its city and blasting off fireworks to be enjoyed on both sides of the Manatee River. That’s right, Bradenton, thank Palmetto for the patriotic pyrotechnics. Smash Mouth, the laid-back California band who gave us the catchy 1990s hits “Walkin’ on the Sun,” “All Star,” and covered The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” for the soundtrack “Shrek” plays Sutton Park at 7 p.m. The park opens at 4 p.m. with an opening performance and mayor’s Pledge of Allegiance. Fireworks are at 9:30 p.m.
4 p.m. Monday; Sutton Park, 6th St. W., Palmetto; free; 941-723-4988; palmettofl.org

 

Hundreds of people participated last year in the Freedom Swim. HT ARCHIVE

CHARLOTTE COUNTY

Charlotte Stone Crabs
Following the final out of the Bradenton Marauders at Charlotte Stone Crabs there will be a post-game fireworks show illuminating the skies above Charlotte Sports Park presented by Florida Cancer Specialists. Stone Crabs players will wear patriotic jerseys for Independence Day and the jerseys will be be auctioned off during the game.
5 p.m. (gate) 6 p.m. (first pitch) Sunday; Charlotte Sports Park; 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte; $10-$12 941-206-4487; stonecrabsbaseball.com

Fishermen’s Village July 4th Celebration
Fishermen’s Village will host its annual Fourth of July Celebration starting with the popular Freedom Swim beginning at 2 p.m. on the north side of the southbound U.S. 41 bridge and ending at Harpoon Harry’s. (Call 941-661-5622 for more Freedom Swim details.) The Green Hibiscus Trolley will provide transportation between Fishermen’s Village and the swim starting point. Other festivities at Fishermen’s Village include a lineup of music acts performing at noon and continuing through 9 p.m. Harpoon Harry’s will be offering children’s crafts, treats and face painting, bathing suit and Hula Hoop contests. Viewing of annual fireworks display over Charlotte Harbor begins at 9 p.m.
12-10 p.m. Monday; Fishermen’s Village, 1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda; free admission and free parking; 941-639-8721; fishermensvillage.wordpress.com

Englewood Firecracker Festival
Lemon Bay Sunrise Rotary is throwing its annual block party and fireworks show starting at 10 a.m. on Dearborn Street with burgers, hot dogs and such from local restaurants and vendors plus beer, frozen daiquiris and margaritas. Over 60 craft vendors will be lining the streets plus a kids’ zone with water slides and bounce houses. Three bands will also be performing and locals will know about the “chicken sheet bingo.”

10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday; Pioneer Park, 300 W. Dearborn Street, Englewood; free; lemonbaysunriserotary.info

Retailers should know that search extends beyond Google!

Retailers should know that search extends beyond Google!

  Retail is undergoing a major change. This change has been on the horizon for years, but 2017 seems to be a tipping point for the industry. Retail stores are closing in record numbers. Week after week, major news outlets report on the trend, highlighting empty storefronts in vibrant neighborhoods like SoHo in New York City, and smaller crowds at shopping malls across the country.

Last year, online retail totaled 10% of retail sales; in the next 24 months, it will surpass 15% of total retail sales -- a massive increase.

 

Perhaps the best indicator that retail is suffering is Amazon's incredible success. Amazon now accounts for more than 40% of all U.S. ecommerce sales. When you consider that Amazon is just one of the many options consumers have for online shopping, you start to wonder how any retailer can catch up.

But perhaps retailers shouldn't focus on catching up. Maybe, instead, they should focus on those things that Amazon simply can't offer, due to its sheer size and plethora of inventory.

Progressive retailers

A distinct brand identity is vital for any retailer looking to attract customers to its physical stores and websites. Increasingly, shoppers are unwilling to buy from stores that don't stand for something. Notice that stores with a distinct brand identity and a powerful social purpose, stores that have invested in building a loyal customer base by consistently offering differentiated products, are still thriving. They're offering something that Amazon can't.

We see three key initiatives that are being undertaken by progressive retailers to thrive in this connected world:

1. A conscious effort to better understand their customers, gaining insights into cross-channel customer journeys.

2. An active effort to build a brand identity that's authentic and stands for something meaningful.

3. The adoption of a mobile-first philosophy that focuses on how customers see the brand through the lens of a mobile phone. Forrester reports that mobile influenced more than $1 trillion of all retail sales last year, or more than 30% of total retail sales! This number will only grow.

 

Rethinking customer search

Search remains a resource for consumers for both online and in-store purchases. However, search is no longer just intent-driven. Thanks to social media, search is now serendipitous as well.

We saw this phenomenon clearly in our data of ecommerce activity around Mother's Day this year. This Mother's Day, we found that last-click attributions increased by almost 18% for Facebook/Instagram from a year ago, with most of the ecommerce activity happening in the week leading up to Mother's Day. This suggests that consumers who were browsing on social media and were reminded about Mother's Day -- either from ads or posts from friends -- almost immediately bought their mother a present they found through Facebook search or on their feeds.

The issue with this new consumer behavior is that most retailers are not yet able to take advantage of it because of departmental silos that exist around specific channels. For instance, a retailer's social marketing team may be working separately from its search marketing team.

We can see how this impacts a major shopping holiday like Mother's Day. A consumer was likely thinking about a present for his mother for Mother's Day before he made that last-minute purchase on Facebook. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, he likely searched for some ideas on Google, but didn't make any purchases. But a week before Mother's Day, he was caught in the "uh-oh" moment on Facebook -- and was driven to make a purchase before it was too late. In that moment, he likely abandoned all his previous ideas. By rebuilding functions around the customer journey, retailers will be better able to seize on these "uh-oh" moments.

Put another way, retailers should think of the search bar as extending across all platforms, not as something that lives on Google. Search also lives on Safari, Facebook, Amazon, Pinterest, etc.

Retailers need to rethink customer search by understanding who their individual customers are, and how to attract them, no matter where they become serendipitously inspired to buy.

 

Shop Local Media is the #1 provider of Social Media Marketing in Sarasota, Venice, North Port, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. 

People now watch 1 billion hours of YouTube per day

People now watch 1 billion hours of YouTube per day

A few minutes of short-form video here and there can really add up – YouTube’s average video length may be quite constrained, but in aggregate, viewers are watching a billion hours of its clips per day. That’s around 8.4 minutes per day per human, according to some very napkin calculations.

Put in perspective like that, it’s easy to see how we’ve come to this: For superusers, getting sucked into hours-long keyholes of YouTube viewing is not at all uncommon. And for everyone else, a few minutes here or there makes total sense, because someone sent you a link or shared something on Facebook, or just because you heard about the latest awards show mishap and wanted to catch up on what everyone was talking about.

Google points out that an individual attempting to rack up 1 billion hours of YouTube watching would have to find a playlist that was 100,000 years long – but as you can see above, broken up among the members of an increasingly connected global human society, it’s a lot easier to see how we got to where we are today. Regardless, it’s a huge number, and one that reflects YouTube’s ascent to a primary media distribution platform that others who want a piece of the video pie, including Facebook, will have to work hard to edge out.

social media marketing in Sarasota, Venice, North Port, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda Florida

A commando's tale: Sarasota native is Special Ops legend

A commando's tale: Sarasota native is Special Ops legend

 SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) Bob Keller is one of the most elite commandos this country has ever produced, and certainly one of the most experienced.

He’s been deployed to dozens of foreign countries, surviving more gunfights than he can count.

A Sarasota native, Keller began his military career in a Ranger battalion, part of a storied regiment that’s considered the best light-infantry unit in the world.

He later joined the U.S. Army Special Forces, earning a coveted Green Beret.

But for the past 10 years, Keller has been a member of the Army’s most elite Special Operations unit.

After 9/11, Army Special Operations took on new missions and new roles. Much has been written about their exploits, which include hunting SCUD missiles in the deserts of Iraq, chasing down high-value targets in Baghdad, rescuing hostages held by terrorist groups, pulling Saddam Hussein out of a spider hole at a farm near Tikrit and, most recently, killing ISIS leaders in Syria.

Keller, 43, is prohibited from mentioning the name of the secretive unit in which he currently serves, much less where he’s been deployed or what’s he’s done downrange.

But his former teammates, who have since retired, are able to add a little more detail.

Special Operations veteran John Schaible served with Keller “overseas.”

“We got into a lot of live-fire engagements with the enemy,” Schaible said. “People would ask if I shot anybody. The truth is, I shot at people who were probably already dead, because people like Bob got on the trigger faster. I did an okay job out there, but guys like Bob did a better job than me. Bob was absolutely on time in serious situations that required that split-second decision-making process that kept a lot of his buddies alive. I’ve seen it happen on numerous occasions.”

Now, as he nears retirement, rather than seeking a lucrative consulting or contracting job, Keller is giving back – giving back to other Special Operations veterans through extensive charity work and giving back to local law enforcement officers. He’s teaching SWAT teams the shooting techniques that kept him alive through countless engagements – for free – through his start-up training firm, Gamut Resolutions.

Read about Bob Keller’s training philosophy and what sets his training apart.

“The quality of training he’s capable of delivering is simply the best. If you think of it on an academic scale, Bob is at the PhD level in terms of tactics and shooting – even better than a PhD level. He goes above and beyond,” said retired Sgt. Major Jeremy Morton, who served with Keller in Special Operations. “His research and his thesis are based upon his own experiences.”

GI Joe

Keller is a humble man.

He’s plain spoken and becomes somewhat ill at ease when discussing his accomplishments.

He’s exceedingly polite. He adores his parents, and they’re extremely proud of his accomplishments, even though they don’t know all the details of his deployments.

Keller is a proud husband and father.

“My wife and my family mean everything to me,” he said.

His world view is shaped by potential threats – terrorist groups, foreign militaries, hostile militias.

He’s got the bearing of a senior NCO, which he is, with none of the associated gruffness. After all, he’s not serving in the “regular Army.”

Keller handles weapons like surgeon. It’s the kind of familiarity that only comes after decades of training and real-world experience.

He’s an incredibly fast yet extremely accurate shot. He shoots smoothly with little wasted effort using either hand.

Watch Bob Keller deliver firearms training at the range.

In addition to SWAT teams, Keller teaches beginner and female students.

“The females work out best,” he said. “They don’t have preconceived notions and they listen.”

Like most special operators, Keller is in incredible physical shape.

His workout regimen is classified.

His former teammates say he’s a gifted athlete.

Now stateside, Keller lost the beard and long hair – the “modified grooming standards” that have become de rigueur for special operators serving overseas, so they blend in with the local populace.

He and his older sister were both born in Sarasota. Their father, Bob Keller Sr., also is a combat vet. He served as a helicopter door gunner during the Vietnam War.

After he was discharged, the elder Keller worked as a golf pro at the Palm Aire Country Club, until he also was hired by a country club in Minnesota.

“For years, we were doing summers in Minnesota and winters in Sarasota, until us kids got involved in sports,” his son said. “Then we stayed in Minnesota.”

Their family home was outside of Duluth – a five-acre wooded lot surrounded by hundreds of acres of pine forest.

The younger Keller has lost all traces of his Minnesota accent.

“I pretty much played any and all sports,” he said. “If I wasn’t playing sports, I’d be hunting, camping or screwing off in the woods.”

Keller turned his private preserve into his own mini “Ranger School.”

“I had bunkers I’d dug out. I had forts all over the woods – tree forts. I had obstacle courses, three wheelers, dirt bikes,” he said. “Even at a young age I practiced doing Army stuff.”

In high school, Keller focused on hockey and golf. After he graduated, he returned to Sarasota and started playing golf full-time.

“At 22, I turned pro,” he said. “I played on the Hooter’s Tour. I played on all the mini tours around Sarasota, Tampa and into Georgia.”

Despite his professional status, the money just wasn’t there.

“I earned enough to survive and some sponsors were paying my travel,” he said. “Basically, I learned a lot of valuable lessons.”

A week after he missed the cut for a tournament in Louisiana, Keller quit golf and enlisted in the Army.

“All my golf friends were like ‘What the hell?'” he said. “It really just came down to this — I knew what I wanted to do. Running around the woods playing GI Joe, forcing myself to sleep outside – that was my passion.”

Ranger

After basic training, infantry school and Airborne training, Keller was assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion in Savannah, Georgia.

He was 24 and “non-tabbed,” since he’d yet to attend Ranger School and earn the distinctive shoulder patch.

Life for a non-tabbed Private First Class was difficult. They’re on the low end of the pecking order and are often fodder for work details and other duties.

“I was 24 when I got there,” he said. “I was older than most squad leaders. It wasn’t fun to be non-tabbed.”

Ranger School soon followed. It has been described as the most arduous training the Army has to offer.

“It’s a great course for finding out what your body can take – no sleep, little food and constantly walking with heavy weights,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a leadership school, but it tells you how much your body can actually take. I went in at 195 pounds. I was 155 when I graduated. I looked like Skeletor.”

Keller’s class went through Ranger School in the winter, which added its own set of challenges, especially when patrolling through freezing Florida swamps at night.

“It was cold. You’re constantly miserable. I was walking through this swamp carrying the big gun in freezing water up to my neck,” he recalled. “I thought to myself that at least my head was dry – at least I had one dry spot. About the time I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I hit a tree root and fully submerged.”

After he returned to his battalion, the unit deployed several times overseas.

It was pre-9/11. The related wars hadn’t started yet.

Keller learned what soldiering was all about as a young Ranger.

“Rangers are a great group of guys who you knew always had your back,” he said. “They’re hard-charging kids that wouldn’t ever quit.”

Green Beret

When his enlistment ended, Keller left active duty, transferred to the National Guard and went back to school.

He earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Manatee Community College, now State College of Florida.

He had thoughts of becoming a cop, but the Army still beckoned.

He was selected by the 20th Special Forces Group, which is one of two Army National Guard SF units with battalions in several states.

His battalion sent him to the Special Forces qualification course – known as the “Q-Course.”

It’s a bit more cerebral than Ranger training, but still a difficult course.

Keller became an “18-Charlie” – a Special Forces engineer sergeant – a specialist with extensive knowledge of construction, demolition and explosives.

“During one phase of the Q-Course, I jumped in with a toilet seat so we’d have some comfort. Since I was the engineer sergeant, I knew I’d be responsible for building the pooper,” he said.

After he was “tabbed SF” and returned to his unit, he and several teammates provided surveillance support to federal law enforcement agencies in “counter-drug” operations.

Then they deployed to Iraq.

“We did regular SF missions. I got lucky being able to deploy with those guys. We were very active working over there,” he said. “Our mission tempo was very heavy. We were gone all the time doing stuff.”

Citing “operational security,” Keller declined to describe specific missions.

“Obviously, you work with the host nation. We were doing actual missions with host-nation guys – traditional SF-type s—,” he said. “I came back, worked at the counter-drug stuff again, but not for too long, and then I went to the other selection.”

Alex – who, for security reasons, did not want his last name used in this story – served with Keller in Special Forces and later in Special Operations.

“As a soldier, one thing sticks out about Bob. Before we went (Special Operations) and were on the SF team, there was a certain ‘good-enough’ mentality,” Alex said. “Bob was always the guy who said we gotta train harder. The good-enough mindset was not the mindset we needed to have, he’d say. That encapsulates Bobby.”

It’s typical of Special Operations personnel, Alex said, to “without any qualms run into harm’s way.”

“That’s Bobby. When things go bad, there’s never a question. He’s running toward the gunfire and using a gun to accomplish his mission,” Alex said. “It’s hard to quantify and put into words. It’s not bravado. It’s a selfless desire to do what’s right, regardless of the personal outcome.”

Within the close confines of the Special Operations community, everyone knew their teammates’ foibles as well as their accomplishments, Alex said.

“All I heard about was Bob’s bravery,” he said.

Uncommon valor

Just getting chosen for selection is an arduous process, much less making it through the course, said retired Sgt. Major Jeremy Morton, another soldier who served with Keller in Special Operations.

“There’s a certain personality type and character that people are looking for in an operator,” Morton said. “Because people were chosen for these traits, they can be trusted. They can function at a high level during periods of extreme stress of long duration, and operate morally, legally and ethically. If resources are made available, great, but a lot of time they find their own resources. If a guy gets selected, he’s already gone through a lot in his career.”

The actual selection course, which some have said is far more difficult than Ranger School, has an attrition rate of around 90 percent. Many of those who fail come from elite units themselves, such as Ranger battalions and Special Forces teams.

Even if a candidate is successful and passes the course, the challenges are not over. Months of training, testing and personal evaluations lie ahead. They claim an additional 10-20 percent.

“Selection is really an ongoing process no matter where they are in their life as an operator,” Morton explained. “From start to finish, selection is an ongoing process. They can’t rest on their laurels. They have to perform today. Everyone is subject to peer pressure and performance-based goals.”

Keller won’t talk about his time in Special Operations.

His teammates are proud to talk about it.

Asked if Keller was brave, Morton said: “Bravery is moving to the sounds of gunfire, not moving away. We’re a group of people with uncommon valor, who march to the sound of a different drum – gunfire. The psychology behind what is brave is doing your job. Bob did his job very well, despite the risk out there.

“We try to mitigate the risk as much as we can. We try to put yourself aside and move forward with the mission, putting others above self, the unit above self, country above self and your brothers on your right and left above yourself by moving through direct fire to save a buddy who’s been shot. Is Bob brave? Yes, he’s brave,” Morton said.

Alex concurred.

“It’s impressive when you see men who literally, without any qualms, will run into harm’s way. That’s Bobby,” he said.

Schaible, the veteran who served with Keller “overseas,” pointed out the unique nature of the extreme over-achievers who comprise Special Operations.

“Over there, at that building, generally speaking, it’s really hard just to be average. Bob didn’t have to work real hard. He’s a gifted athlete. I almost hated him because he’s so good,” Schaible joked. “As an operator, he’s totally competent. A lot of people had to try real hard to be good. Bob was better than most people around the building. He was really good, and only had to work at it a little bit to get even better.”

Philanthropist

The fast-paced, real-world mission tempo of Special Operations can take a toll.

“Most guys do at least a decade in Special Operations,” Morton said. “You just can’t do that type of work and not have some kind of residual effects. You may not have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), but there are definitely issues, physiological and emotional. Bob’s part of a core group of guys who collect money through fundraising events and distribute it for certain needs, marriage counseling, helping out someone with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) or PTSD. That’s the kind of work Bob’s doing on the philanthropy side of the house. He’s made it a priority to give back and help out the guys who need it.”

“The Special Operations Care Fund (SOCF) fills the gaps that lie between some of the bigger charities and the smaller ones,” Keller said. “One-hundred percent – every single penny – goes to charity. No one has a salary. They host events for guys with brain injuries, buy fake eyeballs for guys who’ve lost eyes, pay for special brain treatments.”

The Fund’s stated mission is to “connect people to the Special Operations community via events and engagements. Funds generated from the events will be donated to the best charitable organizations that support the Special Operations Community.”

“It’s the best charity I’ve ever been around or even seen,” Keller said. “Their events are great. There are SF guys, my guys, Navy guys, Air Force, anyone in Special Ops who either got help from them or who donate time to meet donors.”

Keller is founder and CEO of Gamut Resolutions, a shooting and tactical training firm for the public, corporate groups and law enforcement agencies.

But individual cops he’ll train for free.

Listen to Bob Keller discuss his charities.

Keller also created his own charity, Operation Blue, a year ago based on the SOCF model, after he learned how little time police actually get to spend at the range. He doesn’t draw a salary from the training he provides to these officers.

“I get them to the range, get them shooting their guns, get them more familiar with them. It’s ridiculous how these police departments only shoot once a year for their qualifications,” he said. “After hearing that, I set up a program where they can spend two full days with me at the range shooting.”

Sometimes some “industry guys” will pay Keller’s travel costs, which usually means he’ll break even.

“My ultimate goal is to have smarter, safer, more confident shooters,” he said.

Scott Puckett, a sheriff’s deputy in South Carolina, first met Keller at one of his Operation Blue courses.

“Bob Keller – wow! He is a very humble individual with a great deal of been-there, done-that experience,” Puckett said. “What he brings to us in law enforcement is tactical training that teaches control, restraint and precision. What he brings and what he teaches is not theory. He’s teaching real-world applications. He’s coming out of a unit – a group of individuals who have no limitations on training and sharpening the saw.”

Keller, Puckett said, provided the finest firearm training he has ever received during his 22-year law enforcement career.

“Now is a very volatile time for law enforcement. You’ve seen the ebb and flow of the microscope we operate under,” Puckett said. “People need to understand that a guy like Bob Keller – he helps keep America safer by teaching cops how to better use their firearms. That round – once it leaves your barrel you cannot get it back. I want to expose as many guys as I can to his training. I want people in my county to know we’re getting the best training. Law enforcement leaders need to seek out guys like Bob!”

Operator

“Operator” is a title claimed by several elite military units.

According to Keller it can mean a “multitude of things and people. Everyone is different and brings different things to the table. There are hard-charging guys who might not be as book smart as others, and then you have others who are nothing but book smart. It’s a mix of everyone coming together. There is really no one answer. Everyone brings something different to the table. That’s the best part about it, the diversity on your team.”

Morton said it’s a title Keller truly deserves.

“Bob’s a solid man, a man of principle who I’d describe as a good, red-blooded American. He’s conservative in nature, politically and personally, and a man of his word you can depend on. As an operator, everything he did was based on moral, legal and ethical obligations — exactly what you’d expect from Bob. He’s a solid, senior non-commissioned officer – a real operator who was always doing the right thing at the right time.”

Watch an interview with Bob Keller.

Keller said the commitment required for Special Operations is “total.”

Often, operators are gone 10 months of the year.

“It takes a huge toll on families, wives and children,” he said. “We’re going 150 mph, 100 percent of the time. Why did I do it? I am American. I am 100 percent for this country.”

By Wink News

Facebook launches beta of Spaces, its goofy and fun social VR platform

Facebook launches beta of Spaces, its goofy and fun social VR platform

by Lucas Matney(@lucas_matney)

More than three years after its acquisition of Oculus, Facebook is a product even more deeply intertwined with people’s online identities. Today, Facebook is reaching an important milestone as it launches the first significant integration of social virtual reality into its core product.

Facebook Spaces launches in beta today on Oculus Rift + Touch. The product is a first taste of Facebook’s ambitions to bring social interaction into 3D virtual spaces.

With Spaces, those who have bought into the Oculus ecosystem can connect their Facebook accounts and dive into an environment where communication isn’t about chat messages, but voice and avatar body language.

 

In the app, up to four friends logged-in to their Facebook accounts can join a “space” and chat, draw, watch 360 videos, make video calls on Messenger and take VR selfies of their cartoonish avatars (which it can create for you based on recently tagged photos). It’s all pretty basic stuff focused around having fun at the moment, everything feels quite a bit more light-hearted than the cold, bulky Oculus hardware you’re using to experience Spaces. I had a chance to dive into Spaces for an early demo and it’s clear that Facebook is building this for the masses, even though the masses don’t own a Rift right now. The space is quirky, fun and not taking itself too seriously.The most noteworthy highlight of Spaces’ release is that it will be launching on the Oculus Rift but will soon be expanding to other VR platforms. “We eventually want to be on all the VR platforms,” Facebook product manager Mike Booth told me. What’s key about this is that Facebook — despite owning a popular VR hardware platform — wants to be a Google in the VR space not an Apple.

Don’t expect Spaces to be available on the smartphone-based VR systems that you see today. Samsung and Oculus’ Gear VR platform relies on 360 fixed point movement which doesn’t lend itself well to expressing yourself in VR. For the Gear VR, Facebook has shown off Facebook 360, an app for viewing 360 photos and videos.

Spaces represents the first .1% of Facebook’s vision for Social VR according to Booth, but it’s clear that the app represents a lot of calculation on Facebook’s part.

In a recent earnings call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called virtual reality something that won’t see its full potential realized for another 10 years. Currently, there are between 30-50 Facebook employees working on Social VR at Facebook, but with augmented reality and virtual reality growing central to FB’s core product these teams are sure to grow massive as more people buy headsets.

Augmented reality may be the key to Facebook dominating the next decade of mobile, but Facebook is building something incredibly forward-thinking as it rethinks how people experience deeply human emotions in virtual reality. Spaces is just a first step, but it’s an important one.

Spaces is available now  for free download in the Early Access section of the Oculus Store.

Why Buy Local?

Why Buy Local?

BUY LOCAL – SUPPORT YOURSELF

Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally-owned business, rather than a nationally-owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers, and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.(Click here to see summaries of a variety of economic impact studies; these include case studies showing that locally-owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact to the community and our tax base.)

SUPPORT COMMUNITY GROUPS

Non-profit organizations receive on average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

KEEP OUR COMMUNITY UNIQUE

Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit.  “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust

REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation, and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss, and pollution.

CREATE MORE GOOD JOBS

Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally, and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents.

GET BETTER SERVICE

Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers.

INVEST IN COMMUNITY

Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.

PUT YOUR TAXES TO GOOD USE

Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally- owned stores entering the community.

BUY WHAT YOU WANT, NOT WHAT SOMEONE WANTS YOU TO BUY

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.  A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

ENCOURAGE LOCAL PROSPERITY

A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

THINK LOCAL FIRST + BUY LOCAL WHEN YOU CAN = BEING A LOCAL!

Why Super Bowl is the one time a year people actually watch commercials

Though marketers probably don’t want to think about it, Americans really don’t like advertising very much. A 2012 survey by Mancx found that advertising is a big complaint about the internet (54 percent of those surveyed think there are too many ads), and a Gallup survey found that 37 percent of people have a negative view of the advertising industry overall. A Harris poll conducted last summer found that millennials—that darling group that every advertiser is courting—are especially ad-averse: seventy-four percent object to being singled out by brands in their social media feeds, and a whopping 56 percent have quit a social media site just to get away from the ads.

So it’s worth pointing out a finding by a just-released study from the Burson-Marsteller Fan Experience (BMFE): fifty-three percent of Americans say they’d be disappointed if the Super Bowl went commercial free—and that number is actually up 5 percent from last year.

Setting aside that a commercial-free Super Bowl is probably never going to happen, think about what that means: Could the Big Game possibly be the only time of year that people actually want to stare at advertising?

“Yes, without a doubt,” said BMFE chair Jason Teitler—and there’s a reason, he adds. “People want to see what the brands are doing because it constitutes entertainment.”

"We found a lot of people who’d prefer to see the ads for the first time during the game. They want the surprise factor."-BMFE chair Jason Teitler

Another way of putting this: Most ads that Americans encounter these days—from pop-ups to pre-rolls to sponsored tweets—are usually not fun. But Super Bowl ads usually are, so watching them doesn’t feel like the poke in the shoulder that ads so often are.

BMFE’s findings (drawn from a sample group of 1,000 Super Bowl fans) mirror some of those revealed last summer by HubSpot Research. HubSpot polled 1,055 consumers and learned that 85 percent of them believed “not all ads are bad,” yet many people found advertising to be intrusive, unprofessional, or even insulting to their intelligence.

Another key finding of BMFE’s survey: Not only do Americans generally enjoy watching Super Bowl spots, they wish brands would quit releasing them days or even weeks before the game.

“We found a lot of people who’d prefer to see the ads for the first time during the game,” Teitler said. “They want the surprise factor.” If a brand is going to drop $5 million for a “big punch,” he said, “why not do it in the biggest way possible?”

Why indeed. Until quite recently, no company in its right mind would have revealed its showcase spot before game night—an article of faith blown to bits in 2011 when Volkswagen committed the heresy of unveiling its kid Darth Vader ad, “The Force” in advance. When that spot notched 11 million views, the industry took note. Now, showing Super Bowl ads before the Super Bowl is standard practice.

“Brands want to be first and they want to be the best and they want to be the loudest and that contributes to a tendency to go earlier and earlier,” Teitler said. “And sure, you might get buzz, but then people are a lot less [excited], when they see it running, it waters down your marketing message.”

The upshot: Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to hold onto that big spot until game night. After all, as we now know, it’s the one time of year that Americans actually feel like watching commercials.

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Why 2017 Will Be a Very Different Year for Social Media Marketing

We enter 2017 coping with the stark realization that we live in uncertain times. I’m referring solely to the world of social media marketing.

The new year takes us into an era defined by widespread distrust of the media information we receive – specifically the social media metrics that marketers rely on to guide their ad buying decisions. Facebook has now disclosed a series of issues that have caused its reporting tools to overstate metrics like audience size and video viewership. At the same time, many major marketers are performing high-profile audits of their ad buyers following a report from the Association of National Advertisers that uncovered problematic practices in the industry.

These events have made marketers cautious and disbelieving of their social media metrics - and, understandably, marketers are less certain about making new investments considering the absence of trustworthy data. The era of marketers touting social-only metrics without connecting them to real business results is coming to a close. In 2017, look for marketers to address the need for accurate data by re-establishing trusted metrics, such as by tethering social metrics to supporting business KPIs, and by investigating fresh approaches for confirming social ROI measures.

Unfortunately, brand marketers are also signaling uncertainty in their 2017 social advertising budgets for another reason.

The post-election environment has produced a lack of surefootedness throughout the technology sector. Brands are considering ad spend reductions in order to keep their powder dry until the potential implications of this environment are better understood – and especially so when it comes to those with globally-sourced workforces. This potential budget crunch will acutely affect social media marketing, pumping up the pressure for marketers and agencies to demonstrate effective results and thoroughly justify the budgets they maintain.

On the lighter side (and we deserve a lighter side), 2017 will see social advertising get smarter and more fun as marketers respond to consumers’ increased savvy. The industry now recognizes that customers know when they’re being marketed to, however, customers actually don’t mind advertising, so long as brands are direct about what is and isn’t an ad. These facts make it wise for brands to separate their community-centric marketing from their pure advertising campaigns. Social ads will continue to be an effective tool for addressing mass audiences.

Separately, community-building efforts designed to engage rather than deliver a hard sell – sometimes so narrowly focused that they target a single individual – will become better recognized as the tool of choice for winning over effective brand loyalists and evangelists.

The fun will come as marketers face the increasing challenge of capturing consumers’ attention. Today’s digital and social environment is so ad-rich that we, as customers, are naturally becoming adept at tuning them out. If an ad isn’t engaging, it’s invisible. This is a positive development for consumers, but also for those marketers capable of creating creative, compelling, and engaging ads. Nothing less will be so effective.

Wise brands will also use 2017 to explore and experiment with new methods of advertising and new channels where customer engagement can flourish. Even against the headwinds of the new year’s uncertainty, tasking a small marketing team with performing quick and easy experimentation requires only the will to dedicate effort and time to the cause, along with a minor financial investment. The results of these explorations can mean realizing a huge new opportunity, or simply sharpening the brand’s overall approach to social media. Brands shouldn’t be surprised if they end up recognizing new channels that are ripe for targeting a specific customer segment or audience, and if the most effective platforms turn out not to be the common choices like Facebook or Twitter.

The uncertainty of 2017 is an opportunity as well. Brands that currently have outsized content demands or practices based purely on inertia will do well to examine them in detail. Refining brand messaging and becoming more selective with content will make marketing efforts leaner and meaner, and ultimately drive more lucrative results.

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Where can brands start with good content?

What can marketers do to jump-start quality ideas?

We sat down with Allison Casey, Senior Art Director at Likeable Media, to talk about what puts the "quality" in quality content.

In your opinion, what's the best way to start an idea? A brainstorm? A list? How do you get started?

I think the most important thing is really understanding the goal we are trying to accomplish. Briefs are a great thought starter. The research and thought that’s put into them really gets you into the head of your consumer and makes you understand what they want out of it. If you don’t understand your audience, you’re never going to come up with a great idea. I like to go about it as a problem-solving exercise. We want these people to do these things. How can we make that happen?

When dreaming up big ideas, do you start with tactics or concepts first?

You always need to start with the concept. A big idea should be able to be executed a million different ways. So if you start with the tactics first, you are setting yourself up for a bad strategy. Tactics are a vessel for the message, but coming up with the message is more important.

Which is more important: copy or design?

Great content happens when good design and good copy come together.

We keep hearing that video will be even bigger in 2017. What is your hope for video content?

I’m really interested to see where low-fi video content lives. With Instagram stories and live video, I think there are a lot of interesting things that can be done. For years advertising was all about high production value video, with months of planning. But now with these instant video options, brands need to be creative with their content.

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Social Media Marketing in Sarasota, North Port, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers

What is LIVE Streaming?

Presidential debates. Car chases. Sketch comedy TV shows. What do they all have in common? They’re all best enjoyed live.

The first televised live broadcast took place in 1951, when then-U.S. president Harry Truman made a speech at the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco. Since then, we’ve seen countless political events, breaking news, and, of course, popular entertainment shows like Saturday Night Live, all in real-time.

A lot of trends have gained—and lost—momentum in the intervening time, but the popularity of live video has endured. Reinvigorated by new technologies, we’ve now moved beyond social video into a world of live social video.

And where better to stream your live broadcasts than the biggest social network of all? No social network is used more—or by more people—than Facebook. The social giant introduced its own live video feature, called Facebook Live, at the end of 2015 and the prominence of video streaming on the platform has only grown from there.

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is the social network’s live-streaming video functionality. Users can broadcast live videos using only their smartphones. It’s available to all Pages and profiles on Facebook for iOS, Android, and the Facebook Mentions app. Additionally, live broadcasts can be streamed in Facebook groups and events.

Facebook explained the appeal of Live video thusly: “Broadcast to the largest audience in the world with the camera in your pocket.”

Image via Facebook.

When the network first introduced live video in August 2015, the feature was limited to Facebook Mentions, an app available to public figures such as celebrities, athletes, musicians, politicians, and other influencers.

Then in December 2015, Facebook began to make the feature public, releasing it to a small subset of users in the U.S. and verified Pages, then to the rest of the country at the end of January 2016. It became available outside the U.S. at the end of February 2016. Facebook has since introduced a number of Live video features.

Why is live video a big deal for marketers? 

Before we dive into why live video matters, let’s back up a bit. To truly understand why live video is a big deal, you have to look at the ever-increasing prominence of social video.

While video has always been popular online, the dominance of social media and the rise of mobile usage has all but ensured social video’s position as the reigning monarch of content. Users continue to produce—and watch—more video at greater rates than ever before.

What you should know about social video:  

What you should know about Facebook video: 

Beyond the popularity of social video in general, Live video brings with it specific benefits.

What you should know about Facebook Live:

 

 

And of course, when it comes to that most critical of Facebook marketing elements—organic reach—live video can be a huge help.

Facebook considers Live video a distinct content type from other video shared on the platform. This distinction is important for brands because it means that the Facebook algorithm treats native video and Live video differently, with Live videos more likely to appear higher in News Feed while they’re live. After the broadcast, the video can still be discovered and viewed, but once it’s no longer live, Facebook will treat it like any other video.

Facebook Live video also has its own notification system. The network explained that when someone goes Live: “People who frequently engage with or have recently interacted with a person or Page going Live may receive a notification.” This feature gives greater prominence to Live videos and helps keep brands who broadcast top-of-mind.

And let’s not forget expectations for Live video. While viewers expect social video to be polished, audiences often enjoy the opposite in Live video. Production value tends to be less professional and more raw, which many viewers perceive as more authentic, a trait that an increasing number of consumers are looking for in brands.

In other words, there are plenty of good reasons to give Facebook Live video a try.

Difference between Facebook Live and other live-streaming options on social media

Facebook Live is far from the only option out there. Here’s a look at the other platforms offering live-streaming options.

YouTube

YouTube has been offering live-streaming since 2011. In 2016, the video giant added 360-degree streaming and the ability to stream directly from its mobile app.

Image via YouTube.

Users have two streaming options:

Stream Now

Stream Now is the simplest way for users to share live video on YouTube because the platform automatically detects the stream resolution and frame rate. During the broadcast, users can interact with their audience via live chat, view real-time analytics, and monitor the stream. Users can choose to archive the footage to save it for later.

Events

The Events option gives users more control over their broadcast. YouTubers can select privacy options, set a start time for their broadcast, and enable a backup stream (for redundancy). They can also create multiple live events and stream them simultaneously.

YouTube live-streaming is the best fit for people or brands whose audience is primarily on YouTube. It can also work well for brands who’d like to share their broadcast across several platforms, as the link can easily be shared on the network of their choosing.

Periscope

Periscope is a live streaming app owned by Twitter and integrated into the platform. It debuted in March 2015 and fought a brief battle with Meerkat for social streaming supremacy.

Image via Periscope.

Users can tag their location and respond to audience comments in real-time. Recent updates to the app give Periscope users the option to live-stream directly from a GoPro camera, save their broadcast, and embed it directly in Tweets. Viewers can also replay highlights. To learn more about how to use the platform, check out our Periscope guide for business.

The primary difference between Periscope and Facebook Live is the network. Periscope is the live-streaming option for Twitter users while Facebook Live, of course, lives on Facebook.

Facebook Live features

Not only does Facebook Live give brands access to an immense audience—potentially the entirety of Facebook, which currently boasts 1.13 daily active users—it also offers a range of features.

Notifications

Because Facebook Live is considered a distinct content type (and one that Facebook is actively encouraging), it has its own notification system. By default, users’ Live video notifications are set to ‘on’.

The network explained that when someone goes Live: “People who frequently engage with or have recently interacted with a person or Page going Live may receive a notification.”

If a user is particularly interested in Live video from a particular broadcaster, they can choose to subscribe, which means they’ll be notified any time that broadcaster goes Live.

Invite friends

When a user is watching a broadcast, they can choose to send an invitation to a friendto watch with them. This option is available from within the Live video. To send an invite, simply tap on the invite icon and select the friend you’d like to invite. That person will receive a push notification.

Image via Facebook.

Maps

For users interested in discovering new content, there’s the Facebook Live Map, which is available on desktop. Facebook users in more than 60 countries have the ability to begin a live broadcast, so the Facebook Live Map provides a way for people to discover those videos more easily.

Image via Facebook.

The map displays all live broadcasts currently happening around the world, each one represented by a blue dot, with larger dots indicating more popular broadcasts. Hovering over a dot pulls up a preview of the stream, including a counter showing how many people are currently watching it, and a timer showing how long the broadcast has been playing. Users can choose to zoom in to explore broadcasts in more specific areas.

Image via Facebook Live Map.

Additionally, a panel to on the left side of the screen features a list of the most popular current live broadcasts. As with the dots, hovering over one shows both where the broadcast originated and where people are streaming it from.

Image via Facebook Live Map.

Live Reactions

Facebook users can, of course, react to any post on the platform using the six emoji-like Reactions to highlight their response. But Facebook Live takes things one step further by allowing a broadcast’s audience to react to the video stream in real-time, with Reactions appearing on the video itself as they’re clicked by the audience.

Image via Facebook.

Filters

Broadcasters have the option to add a filter to their live stream. There are five options to choose from. While Facebook announced on April 6, 2016—the same day they introduced filters—that they would soon add the ability for broadcasters to draw or doodle on their video while live, this feature is not yet available.

Image via Facebook.

How to add a filter to live video

  1. Begin recording a broadcast
  2. Tap the magic wand icon
  3. Scroll left to view all filter options
  4. Tap a filter to select it

It’s important to note that you will be live while selecting a filter.

Masks

In addition to filters, broadcasters can now also experiment with Snapchat-like masksduring their live-stream. Introduced on October 27, 2016, masks are available on iOS to broadcasters in the U.S., U.K., and New Zealand.

Image via Facebook.

How to use a mask in Live video

  1. Tap the Live video icon to begin recording a broadcast
  2. Once live, tap the magic wand icon
  3. Select the masks icon in the creative tools tray at the bottom of the screen
  4. Scroll through the options and tap on masks to have them automatically appear on your face
  5. To remove the mask, scroll to the far left and tap the no mask option

It’s important to note that you will be live while selecting a mask.

Facebook Live API

The Facebook Live API allows broadcasters to “seamlessly incorporate Live into their existing broadcast setup.” This means that publishers who have more sophisticated equipment have the option to broadcast from a professional camera and audio setup rather than streaming Live video from a mobile device.

The Live API also enables features like camera switching, instant replay, on-screen graphics, and special effects. Using the API, publishers also have the ability to stream other sources, like games or screencasts.

For example, video game company Blizzard Entertainment used the Live API to enable gamers to live-stream their gameplay directly to Facebook from within the game.

Continuous Live streaming

Through the Facebook Live API, it’s possible to broadcast continuous live video. This is a tad more complex to set up than the average Live video broadcast, but offers a great option for users who may want to showcase a constant Live feed, such as a museum or zoo.

Schedule Live broadcasts

Using the Facebook Live API, publishers can schedule Live broadcasts in order to build up an audience before they begin streaming. When a publisher schedules a Live video, an announcement will be posted to News Feed letting their fans know the broadcast is coming.

Image via Facebook.

Users who see the post can choose to receive a one-time notification that will remind them shortly before the broadcast begins. Fans can then join a pre-broadcast lobby where they can connect and interact with other viewers before the Live video starts.

Image via Facebook.

Publishers can schedule Live broadcasts up to one week in advance and audiences can join a lobby three minutes prior to the start of the broadcast. Another bonus? Once publishers have scheduled a Live video, they’re able to share a link to the broadcast or embed it in other places, such as websites or blogs.

Facebook announced scheduling and lobby functionality on October 18, 2016. It was made available to Verified Pages later that week and Facebook said they planned to open it up to all Pages in the following weeks.

Ability to share in a group or event

Facebook Live video can be broadcast from a Facebook profile and Pages. It can also be shared directly in a Facebook group or event, giving users plenty of live-streaming options.

Metrics

For Pages, Facebook offers several different metrics to measure the success of their live video broadcasts.

In addition to the metrics available for video through Facebook Insights—video views, 30-second views, top videos, demographic breakdown of minutes viewedviewer engagement, and more—Facebook provides two Live video-specific metrics:

Peak concurrent viewers

The highest number of viewers who were watching the video while it was live.

Viewers during live broadcast

A visual representation of the number of viewers during each moment of the live broadcast.

 

Ads

In August 2016, Facebook began testing mid-roll video ads in Facebook Live. Facebook told AdAge: “We’re running a small test where a group of publishers have the option to insert a short ad break in their Facebook Live videos.”

It’s not clear at this time whether Facebook will move ahead with implementing this more widely.

How to use Facebook Live

Live broadcasts can be identified by the red icon in the top left-hand corner of the video. The word “Live” will be written next to the icon, along with the number of current viewers.

How to start a Facebook Live broadcast:

  1. Tap on Update Status
  2. Select the Live Video icon
  3. Write a description
  4. Choose the audience you’d like to share with
  5. Go live

During the broadcast, you’ll see the number of live viewers, the names of any friends who are tuning in, and a real-time stream of comments. Once you’ve ended your broadcast, the post will save to your Timeline like any video.

Image via Facebook.

Live broadcasts can be up to 90 minutes long.

How to schedule a Facebook Live broadcast

  1. On your Page, go to Publishing Tools
  2. Select Video Library and then Live
  3. Copy stream credentials, such as stream key and server URL
  4. Write your announcement post
  5. Finalize your scheduled Live broadcast
  6. Click Schedule

Image via Facebook.

For more information and detailed step-by-step instructions, check out Facebook’s guide to scheduling a Live video.

Where to find Facebook Live broadcasts to watch

There are several ways to discover Facebook Live videos. The simplest is, of course, clicking on one in your News Feed. If there’s a particular broadcaster you enjoy, you can tap the Follow button while watching one of their videos to receive a notification next time they go live.

Image via Facebook.

You can also choose to receive notifications from Pages you follow. By default, this setting is set to on.

How to turn notifications on or off

  1. Click the drop-down arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the screen
  2. Select Settings
  3. Click Notifications on the left-hand side of the screen
  4. Click On Facebook
  5. Scroll down to Live videos, then choose your desired setting from the three options in the dropdown: OnSuggestions off, and All off

Image via Facebook.

Another way to find live broadcasts to watch is via the Facebook Live Map, which displays all Live broadcasts currently happening around the world.

Tips for using Facebook Live

Facebook offers several tips and best practices for using Facebook Live on their media site.

1. Plan your broadcast

Broadcasting live, by its very nature, means you can’t plan precisely what’s going to happen. But that doesn’t mean you should just wing it. Like any type of content online, Facebook Live broadcasts should have a purpose.

Before you begin streaming, ensure that you’ve taken some time to think about what your broadcast’s about, what you want to say (or do) in it, and why it makes sense as a Live stream as opposed to some other format of content.

2. Let people know when you’re going to broadcast

You wouldn’t hold a party and not invite anyone, would you? Your Facebook Live broadcast is like any other event: if you want anyone to show up, you’ve got to let them know it’s happening.

 

Hotel company Outrigger Resorts does an excellent job of this, creating 10 to 15 second long mini-trailers for their Live videos, which they share in advance of their broadcasts.

 

Obviously you’ll want to post about your upcoming broadcast on Facebook, where you can encourage people to subscribe to your Live videos. But you can also promote your stream on your other social channels. Just make sure you’re clear about where and when people can tune in!

 

The Facebook Live API makes this even easier by giving publishers the option to schedule broadcasts and share a link to their stream ahead of time.

3. Make sure you have a strong connection

It’s important to make sure you have a strong signal before you begin broadcasting. While WiFi is ideal, if it’s unavailable, a 4G connection works well.

For best results, check your internet speed prior to beginning your broadcast using the Speedtest app, available in the App Store and Google Play.

4. Write a compelling description before going live

Your description tells people what your video is about. A good one captures the audience’s attention and a bad one—or worse, none at all—makes it all the more likely they’ll keep on scrolling.

Use your description to tell a story. Give context about what your broadcast is about and be sure to make it clear why people would want to watch.

5. Tag your location

Add your location to your Live video so it shows up on the Facebook Live Map and gives you a greater chance of having it discovered by new viewers.

6. Ask viewers to follow you

Getting audience members to subscribe to your Live videos is the simplest way to ensure future viewers, because subscribers receive notifications every time you go Live. While broadcasting, take a second to let viewers know about the feature and tell them how they can subscribe to your videos.

7. Respond to comments

As with any kind of social content, engagement is key on Facebook Live video. Facebook recommends saying hello to commenters by name, then responding to their comments.

8. Broadcast for longer periods of time

The longer you continue your broadcast, the more time people have to discover your stream, watch it, and invite their friends to join in.

Facebook recommends going Live for at least 10 minutes. The maximum time limit for a broadcast is 90 minutes, so beyond that, the length is up to you.

9. Show exclusively Live content

While it’s possible using the Facebook Live API to insert previously recorded video into your live stream, Facebook recommends showing exclusively live content during Live videos.

10. Be creative

The more often you go Live, the more likely you are to stay top-of-mind. Try out different types of broadcasts to see what resonates with your audience. And don’t be afraid to get creative with your stream.

Ideas for Facebook Live content

Facebook suggest a number of different ways to use Live. These are a few of the ones that are most relevant for brands.

1. Hot topics

When something’s on everyone’s minds, it can be worthwhile for your brand to dive into the conversation. Though, as with any kind of trendjacking—whether it’s the holidays or the latest craze—it’s crucial to only hop on board if what you have to say is relevant and useful.

At the height of back-to-school season in August 2016, Target took to Facebook Live to chat about dorm room style.

 

The moderator read out questions from commenters, which were then displayed on the screen. The panel of college stylists dished out advice and discussed solutions. The stream has accumulated more than 38,000 views since its debut.

2. Interviews and Q&As

The interactive nature of Facebook Live means the platform was practically made for Q&As.

All brands need to try out this format is a host, a willing and interesting guest, and a mobile phone or camera to broadcast with. The audience can join in and ask questions in the comments, making the experience interactive.

Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took to Facebook Live in October 2016 for a Global Fan Event. The Page streamed exclusive footage from the upcoming film alongside a Q&A with members of the cast.

 

It received more than 1.3 million views.

3. Breaking news

If you’re a journalist, publisher, or other media organization, then you already know when and how to live-stream breaking news. But for brands, it’s a little different.

Southwest Airlines used Facebook Live during winter storm Jonas to give a look behind-the-scenes at Operations Control, showing how they were coping with the weather and explaining what they were doing to help passengers whose travel plans were disrupted.

 

The notable thing about this stream is how Southwest approached the management of a PR crisis on social media by focusing on transparency and customer service. The video has accrued more than 89,000 views and over 2,700 likes.

4. Performances and live events

Whether it’s a conference or concert, Facebook Live is a good home for events. It opens up the experience to a wider audience, broadening the scope of your event.

In July 2016, Target live-streamed the launch party for their new children’s clothing line Cat & Jack. The broadcast was hosted by Zanna Roberts Rassi, senior fashion editor of Marie Claire and NBC Today show fashion contributor.

 

The stream racked up over 1.2 million views.

5. Behind-the-scenes

Behind-the-scenes content is popular on a number of social channels, particularly when it comes to social video. Facebook Live takes things one step further by giving the audience the opportunity to interact, ask questions, and influence the direction of the broadcast in real-time.

One brand that made good use of the Live format was the Smithsonianbroadcasting a series of six videos, each hosted by a different museum. The broadcasts explored various exhibits within the National Museum of African American History and Culture before its public opening.

 

Another brand that does a good job of behind-the-scenes content is Callaway Golf. In June 2016, the brand broadcast an exclusive tour of golf legend Arnold Palmer’s home, led by the golfer’s longtime friend Doc.

 

What sets Callaway’s livestream apart was the camera operator’s efforts to engage viewers throughout the stream. Around the five minute mark, he thanks the audience for tuning in and puts out a call for questions or requests for what the audience would like to see. Later on, about 20 minutes in, he reintroduces Doc and his relationship to Palmer for viewers who had just tuned in.

6. Demo

Live can be a great way to show off your products and how to use them.

Martha Stewart was one of the earliest adopters of Facebook Live, gaining access to the feature a month before most celebrities. She’s shown that demo-style videos—whether they’re cooking shows or a stream on how to properly iron a shirt—work well on the platform.

 

The broadcasts regularly rack up more than 150,000 views. As Business Insider noted, that’s more eyeballs than some episodes of “The Martha Stewart Show” after its move to the Hallmark Channel.

A recent stream, featuring actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, in which Stewart demonstrates how to make a rhubarb-strawberry lattice pie, accumulated nearly 20,000 interactions, setting a new record for Stewart’s Facebook Page.

Her success on the platform recently prompted Adweek to proclaim that she’s “conquered Facebook Live.”

7. Announcements and campaign launches

Going Live for a big announcement or the launch of a campaign can be a good way to build anticipation for whatever it is you plan to tell your audience. Be sure to tease the live-stream in advance and let fans know to tune in for some big news.

Dunkin’ Donuts became one of the earliest brands to try out Facebook Live when they broadcast a behind-the-scenes look into their kitchen for a Valentine’s Day promotion in February 2016. The stream featured the team preparing a cake made from heart-shaped donuts and introduced a contest.

 

Dunkin’ Donuts’ social media manager, Melanie Cohn, told Marketing Land that the session racked up 21,000 viewers in only 13 minutes. She said the company saw one of their highest average view times ever on their Live video as compared to pre-recorded video.

8. Series

If you have an engaged audience and it fits your marketing goals, one option to consider is creating a T.V. show-style broadcast that you run on a regular basis.

Benefit Cosmetics has done this with their series Tipsy Tricks with Benefit. Tipsy Tricks is a weekly live show featuring a host and a guest chatting about beauty topics (often chosen by the audience), sharing advice, demonstrating products and techniques, and answering viewer questions. And, of course, drinking wine. (This is still the internet, after all.)

 

The show debuted in March 2016 and the first two streams accrued 42,000 and 59,000 live viewers respectively, with an average of 2,000 people tuning in at any given time, according to Digiday. A September 2016 episode featuring special guest and brow expert Jared Bailey racked up more than 189,000 views.

Claudia Allwood, Benefit’s senior director of U.S. digital marketing, explained the appeal to Internet Retailer: “Our Live videos are a great way to showcase our brand and to educate our consumers.”

“It is utility-meets-fun-meets-GF banter. We have a talk-show vibe, but we’re talking to you, not at you,” she told Digiday

Another brand that’s gone the show-route is Outrigger Resorts. The tourism brand streams an #AlohaFridayLive broadcast every Friday, taking viewers to a different resort in the chain, showing off the locales, introducing them to employees, and answering audience questions.

Frequently asked questions about Facebook Live

How do you broadcast live video on Facebook?

To start a live broadcast on Facebook:

  1. Tap on Update Status
  2. Select the Live Video icon
  3. Write a description
  4. Choose the audience you’d like to share with
  5. Go live

How do I get Facebook Live?

Facebook Live video is available to all Pages and profiles on Facebook for iOS, Android, and the Facebook Mentions app. Additionally, Facebook Live broadcasts can be streamed in Facebook groups and events.

How long does a Facebook Live video last?

Facebook Live broadcasts can last up to 90 minutes.

What is going live on Facebook?

Going live on Facebook means beginning a live broadcast that can be viewed by Facebook users around the world.

Why Your Social Media Posts Are More Popular Than You Think: Inside the Invisible Audience

Awesome news: 490 people saw a tweet I sent out this week! Awesomer still, 16 people either clicked the link, left a reply, or favorited the tweet.

And as for the other 474 people?

I couldn’t tell you.

Did they enjoy the tweet? Did they notice it? Did it delight them? Did it—eep!—offend them? And perhaps most importantly, what can I learn from these quiet observers so that, when I send my next tweet, those 474 followers find a reason to click, reply, retweet, or favorite?

Meet social media’s invisible audience—and the inevitable questions that this crowd elicits.

The invisible audience among my Twitter crowd and the invisible audiences on Buffer’s social media accounts (and even on this blog) offer a unique opportunity for us to consider how we craft our updates and our content. I’ll be happy to share how I think about this silent majority as well as some interesting research and rules about this topic.

Is this a demographic you consider in your social media marketing? Share in the comments, and read ahead for some insights, stats, and tips.

Your audience is 4x larger than you think

Posting to a social network site is like speaking to an audience from behind a curtain. The audience remains invisible to the user.

While the invitation list is known, the final attendance is not.

Dr. Michael Bernstein, Stanford

How many people do you think see your updates on Facebook?

Chances are that your actual audience is much larger than you think.

A joint research project by Stanford and Facebook studied the perceived vs. actual audience sizes of 220,000 Facebook users. Each user was asked what they believed to be the size of their audience, then the research team compared this perceived size to an actual size, using server logs to gauge the true scope of a post’s audience.

The result: Your actual audience size is four times larger per post than what you think.

 

Also of note is how these users came to gauge the size of their perceived audience. Researchers classified survey responses into eight different categories, and none of the eight involved a specific audience-size metric like impressions or reach. The top way we gauge our audience size: Guessing.

 

Takeaway: Our posts reach a much greater number of people than we think. And we haven’t quite figured out how to measure our audience size.

Participation inequality: The 90-9-1 Rule

Back in 2006, bloggers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba coined a term to describe the ratio of activity in online forums: The 1% Rule, also known as the 90-9-1 Rule.

  • 1 percent of users are creators
  • 9 percent of users are commenters
  • 90 percent of users are observers

This image from Christopher Allen sums it up nicely:

The rule has since been adopted across a wide range of Internet interactions, including social media. If you picture yourself in a group of 100 people, you are the creator, nine of the 100 people engage with your content, and the other 90 are just there to observe, read, and lurk.

Here’s the thing with this rule, though: It’s not going to be 100 percent accurate for your audience.

Paul Schneider tested the theory on his audience, finding a 70-20-10 ratio.

The Community Roundtable noticed a split of 55-30-15 among their community.

You’ll have your own ratio.

For instance, in the example that I used to start this article, my Twitter ratio of participation inequality was closer to 95-4-1. Across our Buffer social profiles, I’ve noticed a similar split—4 to 5 percent engagement rate is fairly standard.

So instead of taking the 90-9-1 rule as gospel truth, it’s best to think of it as a reminder that lurkers are in the majority, engagement is the minority. And this tends to be the norm for online communication.

How large is your silent majority?

To come up with your own ratio of participation inequality—and to see how many people truly view each of your updates and posts—you simply need to look at the numbers. Here’s how I found our ratio for Buffer’s social accounts and the Buffer blog.

How to find your invisible audience on Twitter

To check out your stats on Twitter, you can navigate to the new analytics dashboard for publishers, developers, and advertisers at analytics.twitter.com. It’s quite beautiful, and super informative. (If you’ve yet to get analytics access, you can try a tool like TweetReach.) From the main dashboard you can see your tweet impressions: the number of times users saw your tweet. Next to that is tweet engagements: all clicks anywhere on the tweet (including avatar, username, hashtags, links, and tweet expansion), retweets, replies, favorites, and follows.

Then Twitter will even do the math for you with engagement rate: engagements divided by impressions. Your invisible audience is the difference between impressions and engagements, or the inverse of engagement rate.

Here is a sample post from our Buffer analytics:

 

 How to find your invisible audience on Facebook

You can grab your ratio from Facebook in a similar way to Twitter. Go to your page insights (click on Insights at the top of any page you manage), and total up the Reach from your recent posts and the Engagement from your recent posts. Then divide engagement by reach to arrive at your engagement rate.

You can also peek at an individual post to see its reach and then total up the likes and comments to gauge engagement.

 

How to find your invisible audience on your blog

Hop into your analytics dashboard and look for the unique visits to each post (in Google Analytics, you’ll find this under Behavior > Site Content). Then find the total comments on each post, divide comments by visitors, and you’ll get the comment rate.

One of our most popular recent posts, Courtney’s list of free image sources, has brought a whopping 147,000 visitors to the blog and a whopping 116 comments. Interesting, the comment rate on this post—even with over 100 comments—is 0.08 percent. If we were to split up the 90-9-1 rule of participation according to this post’s comment numbers, the ratio might look like this: one creator, the big toe of a commenter, and the rest lurkers (and clickers and sharers)!

In our experience, blogs have an even greater invisible audience than on social.

5 ways to respond to your invisible audience

OK, back to the question that started out this article: What does your invisible audience think of your content? There’s no way to really know, yet that shouldn’t stop you from supporting this large group and thinking outside the box on ways to reach them. Here are five different ways I’ve found to do just that.

1. Go where your invisible audience is

Have you heard of the phrase “dark social”?

It’s a term that describes the sharing that happens outside the traditional bounds of social media. For instance, people may share via email or via IM, and these interactions are seldom included in traditional share numbers. A 2012 study from The Atlantic and Charbeat found that 69 percent of social referrals were from dark social—i.e., not Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.

If your invisible audience wishes to stay invisible on social media, could there be another place to find them?

We’ve recently began looking deeper at email. Our stats show that the invisible audience size on email is smaller than it is on social. We can reach 27 to 40 percent of our email list of 35,000 each time we press send.

Another interesting take on this is the most-used apps by this year’s high school graduates. Texting is the far-and-away winner, with other interesting apps like Pandora and Netflix among the top ten.

 

2. Keep a consistent schedule

One of the conclusions from the Stanford-Facebook study mentioned above was that a misperception about audience size could have a direct effect on one’s social media marketing.

The mismatch between the size of perceived audience and the actual audience may be impacting users’ behavior, ranging from the type of content they post, how often they post, and their motivations to share content.

The reasoning here is that a smaller perceived audience might cause sharers to decrease their volume of updates. If few people are listening, the temptation might be to post less often.

Heidi Cohen advises to withstand the temptation. Keep a consistent schedule (a scheduling app like Buffer can help with this). Your invisible audience is likely much larger than you think, and they’re primed to keep hearing from you.

3. Invite participation

Dan Zarrella’s popular social media research often references a consistent trend: If you ask for participation, you’re more likely to get it.

This might look a number of different ways. For instance, Zarrella found that asking for a retweet actually increases one’s odds of getting retweeted—by up to 39 percent.

 

4. Stick to your guns (or your bio)

How might you know what kind of content your invisible audience wants?

One of my theories is that they’re likely to want what you’ve promised them—either via your social media bio, your blog mission statement, or your company/position/tagline.

For instance, I’ve mentioned that you can expect tweets from me about writing as well as a handful of fun, curated links. I’ve likely gained a silent majority of followers who understand (and appreciate) that this is the type of content I’ll be sharing.

 

5. Rely on accurate metrics

It’s tempting to look at clicks, shares, comments, and favorites and assume that those are the people reading and viewing your content. Remember, it’s likely that your audience is much, much larger.

I’ve come to rely on a handful of different metrics to gauge the success of a piece of content. Above, I outlined how to view reach or impressions via Facebook or Twitter. Here are a few other social media and blog stats that I tend to focus on.

  • Relative engagement rate – average conversations happening per post, per follower
  • Follower/fan growth, week-over-week and month-over-month
  • Time on site
  • Social shares

Over to you: How might you respond to your invisible audience?

It’s clear that the silent majority on social media makes up a huge amount of the people seeing our tweets, posts, and updates.

How might this invisible audience impact the way you share?

I’ve found it’s important to stay on topic, post consistently, and track these silent impressions as accurately as possible. You may even find value in seeking out new places to find these quiet followers: email, direct message, forums, or even SMS.

My one big thing: Keep this invisible audience in mind when you’re posting. Be their voice by remembering that they’re out there, reading, observing, lurking, and following—and doing so in much greater droves than we might think.

Stop Ads That Follow You on Facebook, Google and the Web

Enabling privacy settings will stop advertisers from targeting you with your browsing history

ByJOANNA STERN Nov. 4, 2016 

Yesterday you searched for Planters nuts on Amazon. Today, there he is, Mr. Peanut—monocle, top hat and all—smack in the middle. 

Enable these privacy settings to keep Facebook and other digital overlords from using your web browsing history, says WSJ's Joanna Stern.

Facebook and other websites use your web browsing history (or more technically, your web browser’s cookies) to target ads at you. It is often referred to as “interest-based advertising” although I prefer the term “stalking.” Here’s how to stop the ads from following you on different services.

 

On Facebook

In the Facebook iOS or Android app, tap the three lines in the bottom-right corner, select Settings > Account Settings > Ads. Tap “Can you see online interest-based ads from Facebook?” and then “Off.” This will turn off the setting across your Facebook account—on all your devices. On a computer? Go to facebook.com/ads/settings.

While you are there, opt out of allowing Facebook to use your personal info when showing you ads across the web. Click “No” on “Can your Facebook ad preferences be used to show you ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies?”

 Across the Web

Other tech companies offer similar settings of their own. Visit these sites on your devices to opt out:

 - Google

- Amazon

- Microsoft

On your computer, if you want to stop other sites from accessing your browsing history to feed you ads, head to the Digital Advertising Alliance Consumer Choice page . This will only work, however, on the computer you are on. Also, if you clear the browser cache in the future, you will have to redo the process.

You should enable “Do not track” in your computer and smartphone’s browser. In Chrome, click the three vertical dots > Settings > “Show advanced settings…” > Privacy > “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic.” You can find similar settings in Safari, Firefox, Edge and Internet Explorer.

 On Your Smartphone

There are similar settings built into your phone’s operating system. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising, and turn on “Limit Ad Tracking.”

On an Android phone, go to Settings > Google > Ads. There you can click “Opt out of interest-based ads.” This setting is just for Google-based ads, however.

These settings won’t end the ads, but they can limit how often Mr. Peanut feels the urge to sneak up on you.