Online Marketers: How-To Hold Branded Blabs

OnSip-SMBlabLong-time VUC sponsor OnSIP has been running a series of video chats they call #SMBLAB. Blab is a newer, kinda Hangout-like video chat tool built using WebRTC. This week I participated in one with Mike Oeth, CEO of OnSIP, Angela Leavitt of Mojo Marketing, and Randy Resnick, founder of the VUC.

Blab is dead simple to use. It integrates with Twitter for user authentication, allowing up to four people to join each Blab (call?)  The resulting video chats are recorded. Throw in good social media integration and you can see why it’s an online marketers dream.

As nice as blab is, it’s visual presentation is a bit generic. It doesn’t have the image overlay or lower-third capability that you find in Hangouts. That means that you can’t readily add your name or company logo.

That said, it doesn’t need to be this way! You can take matters into your own hands and deliver strong, visually branded blabs…if you want to. It takes a little effort in advance, but it’s not difficult…and it will strengthen your brand presentation.

Tip #1: Individual Identification & Branding

On a Windows PC I suggest you try SparkoCam, which is an inexpensive utility that emulates a webcam. SparkoCam does many things. In this case we’d use it to layer different sources. The range of possible sources includes; static images, movie files (MP4, AVI, etc.), a webcam, or even your desktop.

Layer a suitable graphic image (a PNG file with transparent background) over your webcam and you have a lower third. With your name and company logo in the graphic you identify yourself to the audience and strengthen your company brand. It’s an especially nice way to persistently show a URL.

If you’re a Mac user I suggest CamTwist Studio, which is is freeware that does similar things.

Tip #2: Don’t Waste An Empty Seat

Each Blab allows for up to 4 participants. Of course, there are many cases where a Blab is only 2-3 people. Some might see an open seat as an opportunity to involve some random person from the audience, but a random participant might not be appropriate.

The open seat is also an opportunity to further reinforce the company brand. If you have a spare computer available why not use it to occupy that open seat, filling the screen with a strong branded image?

A three personal Blab would become a four person call, but with a project or sponsor’s branding looming large throughout the conversation.

Here again, I’d lean on SparkoCam or CamTwist Studio to present some nice imagery. Of course, you’ll need to have the content created in advance.

Getting Art in Shape for Blabs

Blab doesn’t show the entire video frame from your webcam. It only uses the center portion of a normal 16:9 HD image or stream. Your branding presentation will need to be constrained to the middle of the display or it won’t be completely visible.

It’s not clear to me if the aspect ratio of the video for each participant varies depending upon the number of people participating. Since the OnSIP SMBLab was going to be the full compliment of four that was my focus for the moment.

For example, my standard opening for VUC is a sequence of sponsor logos presented over an animated background. The sequence is 1280 x 720 pixels. The OnSIP slide appears as follows:

onsip-opening-slide

When used in Blab the sides get cropped away, resulting in:

onsip-slide-in-blab

Overlaying these two screen-shots I find that exactly 25% of the image has been cropped from each side.

onsip-opening-slide-overaly

That means that you can use the middle 50% of a standard 720p video frame to create your branding presentation.

This same size & placement constraint holds true for a lower third presented using SparkoCam or CamTwist.

What About vMix?

You might ask why I’d recommend SparkoCam when I’m known to a big fan of vMix? Fair question, cuz vMix rocks!

SparkoCam Standard Edition costs around $40 and has everything you need to do the job. It’s relatively lightweight and easy to use. Most people will find the fact that SparkCam hides in the system tray very handy. It doesn’t require a lot of screen real estate.

vMix does a lot more that SparkoCam, but it’s also more complicated to use. IMHO, vMix would require using a very high-resolution monitor or dual monitors.

If you’re more ambitious you might try vMix, which comes in various versions. vMix Basic is actually free! It doesn’t deliver HD video, but it would be good enough to satisfy Blab, which doesn’t need HD video.

vMix Basic HD costs $60 and would deliver real HD video (720p or 1080p) from up to 3 sources, which would be enough for what I’ve described above.