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Paperless is here to stay — and for very good reasons, too!
Here, I want to explore five of the best digital alternatives to traditional Christmas greetings cards and show you how paperless can make this festive time of the year even more memorable.
If you are looking for seasonal inspiration for family or for work, check out these digital choices to complement or replace the paper card this Christmas.1. E-Cards For All Occasions
Probably the biggest direct competitor is the electronic card (or e-card). There are many paid and free e-card services available online, but creating your own from scratch using email clients like Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail are my preferred choice.
This gives you the chance to get creative and have fun with family, friends or colleagues, and really gives Christmas that personalized touch.
For those of you with family and friends overseas, or for people working away during the festivities, e-cards can also provide an instant means to say something special at the right time.
For business purposes, you can also use affiliate tracking software to make sure your message was received and fuel further conversation.
Here’s an example of e-cards in action. In this case, it was the team at Vertical Leap (my place of work) getting festive and donating to Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day:2. SMS From Santa
For younger members of the family, what better way to say Merry Christmas than with a call or SMS direct from Santa Claus? Santa can chat directly to your children or even text your phone with a personalized message.
In this example from chúng tôi text messages will be sent over the festive season, and throughout the week building up to Christmas day.
This can be great for checking children have been good, reinforcing what they are hoping for from Santa, and making Christmas morning extra special for you and your family.
Here’s an example of the type of personalizing that can be achieved to make your children feel truly special this Christmas:3. Video Greetings
Depending on how tech savvy you are, video greetings can be a fantastic way to wish people well over the holiday season.
Basic video greetings can be recorded and send from mobile to mobile, or you may wish to use some of the paid-for retail offerings. Examples of this include MoonPig and VideoGram, although many other alternatives are available (including free options).
Here’s the video explainer from MoonPig:4. Audio Greetings
Saying (or even singing) your seasonal messages can be fantastic means to share personality this time of the year.
An audio message can be an easier option for the less technical savvy, and can be attached to emails, sent via SMS, or included as part of a digital or traditional card or message.5. DIY Digital Photo Collages
From static images to photo slideshows and more, collages can be an excellent way to get everyone involved with the festive fun.
They are quick to create, provide lots of follow-up opportunities – including personalized gifts – and enable you to create whatever your imagination can come up with. It is also a great way to humanize your brand.
Almost every mobile phone includes app functionality for creating collages, as do most basic office applications.
Here’s some my work team showing a basic collage for Christmas:Conclusion
At this time of the year, wishing colleagues, friends, family members and loved ones good will, regardless of the medium, is a great thing to do.
With the growth of digital alternatives to the traditional paper greetings cards, e-cards, audio, and photo collages, give you an immediate method to communicating when it is likely to matter the most. Whatever your medium, make sure your messages are well received this Christmas time.
Merry Christmas to you all and a happy New Year!
You're reading 5 Digital Alternatives To Paper Christmas Cards
If you’ve been relying on Google’s URL shortener, chúng tôi to tighten up your links, you’re probably bummed to find out that Google has ceased support for this tool. As of right now, chúng tôi is not available for anonymous users. Existing users can still use it until 2023; however, after that it will be discontinued indefinitely. Fortunately, there are a number of free URL shortening tools available.What Is a URL Shortener, and Why Should I Use One?
In Internet lingo, a URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is basically a web address. As of March 2023 there is estimated to be at least 4.62 billion web pages. Since each one of those web pages needs to have a unique address, URLs can be incredibly long, consisting of seemingly random strings of numbers and letters. Long hyperlinks pose a problem for a variety of reasons. They look messy, and in cases where the amount of text a user is able to input is limited (e.g. Twitter), long links are not practical.
To get around this problem, URL shortening tools began appearing all over the Web. These services could take a long URL and make it substantially shorter while still directing back to the desired web page. URL shorteners clean up links to make them more attractive and easier to remember. In addition, they reduce the amount of typing required if a person is copying the URL manually. There are a number of URL shortening tools available, but we’ve rounded up our five favorite services. Read on to determine which one is best for you.1. Bitly
Bitly is one of the most popular and well-established URL shortening tools on the web. This is largely because Bitly became Twitter’s official URL shortening service back in 2009. Bitly is easy to use and reliable, as evidenced by the fact that they shorten about 600 million links every month. In addition to Bitly’s free service, they also offer a paid service called Bitly Enterprise. This allows companies to create their own custom shortened links. For example, soft drink manufacturer Pepsi uses “pep.si,” allowing the company to push brand awareness even when people use shortened links.2. TinyURL 3. AdF.ly 4. Is.gd 5. Ow.ly
Ow.ly is part of the Hootsuite social media management platform. Unfortunately, this means that you need a Hootsuite account in order to use it. However, if you already have a Hootsuite account or are considering signing up, this is the URL shortener you should be using. This is because chúng tôi allows you to create shortened links and integrate them with your various social media accounts. In addition, chúng tôi also provides useful analytics. Free Hootsuite accounts do offer access to chúng tôi however, be aware that there are some limitations.
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Visitors walking onto the exhibit hall floor at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas this month will quickly sense that old barriers are lifting on how and where marketers and visual designers can create a display canvas.
Digital signage trends and technology developments mean there are now few restrictions on where signage can go, both indoors and outside, what shape it can take, or what it can do. New high brightness displays can overpower the sun at high noon. Transparent OLED technology can transform the very idea of window glass. Smart signs can mount and hang like framed paintings. And fine pixel direct-view LEDs and ultra-thin LCD frames are turning walls into digital canvases. In many respects, the only remaining barriers are creativity and budget.
Here are five digital signage trends you should watch out for if you’re going to the Digital Signage Expo, or reading about it as the show lights up in mid-March.
1. Transparent OLED
Transparent organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays all but reinvent the idea of flat panel displays. Your parents’ television set had a giant light tube in the back that generated the image. Your flat panel TV at home now uses tiny backlight tubes or LED strips to illuminate the LCD image. OLED doesn’t need either, meaning the displays are impossibly thin and can be embedded in things like window glass.
At last month’s Integrated Systems Europe trade show in Amsterdam, Samsung demonstrated a four-pane interior window that suddenly came alive with full-motion graphics. Transparent OLED technology is expected to transform how we all think about things like glass divider walls in retail and office settings.
2. High-Bright Outdoor Signage
Mother Nature has for many years had the best of technologists trying to put marketing and messaging screens out in the elements, battling heat and cold and trying to overcome the brightness of the midday sun. It’s been possible to do it, but it’s taken a heavy and expensive investment in specialized engineering.
Now, a combination of experience and technology breakthroughs are starting to bring daylight-readable, nature-ready outdoor signage displays to the masses. Samsung has introduced a line of outdoor displays that are weather-sealed, ready to operate in anything from -30 to 50 degrees Celsius, and pushing out 2,500 nit brightness. The panels have the built-in smarts to crank up the brightness or dial it back based on time and ambient lighting conditions. With all the engineering integrated into the display module, outdoor sign and fixture companies to add digital to their capabilities, without having to invest in R&D.
3. Walls as Canvases
Digital Signage Expo visitors will start to see the first ripples of what will be a big wave in the next year or two of fine pixel pitch LED modules for indoor use. The direct-view LED displays of old were blocky, low-resolution units that only started to look good from long distances, like billboards on highways and scoreboards up high in stadiums. Today’s fine pixel pitch displays have the individual LEDs as close as 1.5 mm from each other, creating displays that look spectacular from just a few steps back.
The big attraction is shape, as these units stitch together like wall tiles, unconstrained by specified widths or heights. They can fill a wall, or a support column or a building’s bulkhead. With the combined portfolio of Samsung and our subsidiary PrismView, we’re able to offer direct-view LED modules from 1.5 pixel pitch (for indoor use) right up to 25 mm pixel pitch (for outdoors), with a full spectrum of options in-between.
New indoor LEDs also eliminate perceptible seams, though that’s also happening with more conventional LCD video wall displays. Today’s ultra-thin bezel video wall can be installed with a gap of just 1.4 mm (roughly the depth of a credit card) between upper and lower displays.
Between these two technologies, visual designers for everything from flagship retail stores to building lobbies and mass transport hubs are no longer constrained by the dimensions of the space, lighting conditions or worries about the unsightly grid lines of video walls of the past.
4. System on a Chip
Three years ago at the Digital Signage Expo, we debuted our Smart Signage Platform, a line of professional displays that featured system-on-a-chip (SoC) embedded computers built into the units, removing the need for and cost of an external digital signage player. Since then, the Smart Signage Platform has been expanded across virtually our entire range of digital signage displays, from tablet-sized to some of the largest panels on the market.
5. Office Communications
Not all big new things in digital signage come in equally big packages. One of the hot trends in digital signage in 2023 involves small screens installed at the doors of meeting and conference rooms. There are now dozens of software options for linking and synchronizing with workplace and hospitality calendar systems to push simple information to displays that indicate whether a room is booked or free, who booked it, and for how long.
Though seemingly pedestrian in a world of transparent OLEDs and fine pixel pitch LED walls, meeting room signs solve a nearly universal problem in the offices and corridors of just about any workplace. With Samsung’s smallest 10.1-inch smart signage displays, workers can use touchscreens to book a room on the spot.
Another office trend, multimedia-friendly e-boards are increasingly becoming an essential element of modern conference rooms as projectors are gradually phased out. E-boards allow facilitators and participants to enjoy a more seamless, interactive experience that is great for both classroom and boardroom settings.
The Broader Show
The Digital Signage Expo is an annual gathering of many of the top companies in the signage industry. There’s a lot to see, and much to learn, from scheduled talks to free workshops. It’s a hectic two days, but if your organization will be applying signage technologies in 2023 and beyond, there’s no more efficient place to get quickly up to speed.
Take your business’ messaging to the next level with Samsung’s line of high-brightness outdoor digital displays.
Every year brings with it new opportunities for digital success, and in this post, you will see my digital movers and shakers watch list for 2023.
The focus has been on the top search marketing and digital trends to keep a look out for so you can consider adding them into your marketing mix more effectively (or for the first time) as we move further into 2023.Social Media Slows but Will Continue to Grow
I feel like I am cheating slightly by adding this in, however, when looking at the dominant, unstoppable forces for 2023, I cannot omit social media. With new social media platforms entering the market and existing channels continuing to grow, this social media take over is far from over, although I expect the channel specific growth to slow somewhat.
Search Engine Journal’s Aki Libo-on wrote about this social media growth infographic that covers everything from active users and annual growth, through to user demographics and platform stats. Here’s a snippet from the infographic:
According to a recent report from Our Social Times:
Over a nine month period, the growth of Instagram far exceeded that of other social media platforms, including a growth spurt (between March and December 2014) where it surpassed the 300 million user mark and expanded its audience by approximately 50 percent
Facebook, surprisingly, had more video views in a single month that YouTube from desktops, however, the change in the Facebook video ‘auto play’ functionality likely had a direct impact on that
Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media and messaging apps with six monthly growth in 2014 exceeding that of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and many other alternativesLow-Cost Marketing Will Expand—It’s Not All About Emails
When you think of low-cost marketing the first item that often springs to mind is email marketing. By 2023, I would imagine that a vast majority of businesses have trialed incorporating emails for newsletters, company updates, industry changes, promotions, exciting news and more. By comparison, a fewer percentage will have expanded this low-cost marketing scope to incorporate items like text marketing (also known as SMS marketing and mobile marketing), but there is a growing trend.
According to UK SMS providers, Textlocal’s M-Commerce’ white paper, a company who I work with,:
Almost 4 million men and women in the UK are keen to hear from retailers by text at least once per month.
When you begin to broaden the types of low-cost marketing and expand the areas within the marketing mix that to employ, you will be surprised by the responses gained, even from the same distribution lists. One of the factors for this is that people digest communication differently, so acknowledging that in the diversity of approaches to your target audience will improve key performance metrics like open rates, response rates, and more.Digital Marketing Will Become Even More Integrated in 2023
When you have distinct search marketing and digital expertise collaboratively working, you will be able to mitigate most of the drawbacks of one marketing channel with the benefits of another. From initial objective setting and strategy creation, through to identification of key results, metrics for defining success, and ultimately actions completed – many more businesses will be investing in integrated search marketing as 2023 progresses.
Below you can see an example of a digital integrated working model:
To support effective integrated working, companies will become more creative in their delivery approaches including internal staff interaction, as well as the working relationships with external service providers, changing the historical outsourcing approach to increase the external team mentality.
Omni-channel marketing (really another means to describe multi-channel marketing) was a quickly growing buzzword in 2023 (starting its growth in late 2013), and the trend is set to continue globally in 2023, too. Here is an example of what this trend looks like (you can see the Google Trend here):Mobile Will be Included in Every Marketing Strategy
The growth of mobile search has been well documented and a recent study from Smart Insights tells us that this trend is going to remain active for some time to come. Mobile device targeting is not a new trend, but many businesses have not yet embraced it fully, or focused on the mobile opportunity enough to see it reach anywhere near its true ROI potential. A few key points from this recent study include the following.
Global mobile device users: Mobile users exceed desktop users on a global scale, this means that the opportunity to generate business value from effective mobile marketing has never been greater than it is right now. An increasing number of marketers are changing their approach to reflect this, and I see this continuing to build some momentum through 2023. There is some suggested plateauing of this, but I do not see 2023 being the time-frame in which this comes to fruition.
Internet access types: People are spending the majority of their daily internet viewing time using mobile devices, in fact, 51% of the total time spent in 2023 was with mobile phones and devices. When you consider the often intermittent mobile internet access (consider items like walking to and from locations, periods of working day downtime (breaks, etc.) and often quick internet access actions between tasks) this will shape many marketing approaches based on this and other behavioral identification too.Data: It’s Getting Bigger and it’s Real Time
When looking at digital industry trends and key movers and shakers influencing approaches to service delivery, you cannot overlook the role of big data and real-time data. Marketers have access to more information than at any other stage of human existence, and the challenge for successful digital marketing in 2023 and beyond is making meaning from all this data.
Data fuels everything from content creation and insights, through to reporting and strategy refinement. If you are making any digital decisions without data, you are likely overlooking a wealth of extra opportunity.
Here’s an example of a deep data platform in action. This is the Apollo Insights platform with information from the agency I work for, Vertical Leap. The screenshot demonstrates agile dashboard functionality, pulling in unique data sets for generating insights from information:What’s Next?
The digital industry is always moving at a fast pace, and perhaps it is the speed of change that is the main constant.
While I am confident in my predictions for 2023 digital trends to watch out for, I am aware that there is so much more that can be added to my list. On this point, I would love to hear what you think about my predictions for digital trend movers and shakers in 2023, as well as your own predictions.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.
In-post Photo #3: Image by Lee Wilson
Next, unfold your paper completely and lay it in front of you. If you’re using paper that’s patterned on one side, you want theside facing up (if you’re not using patterned paper, this is the side that was inside your “doors” earlier). If necessary, turn the paper so that the “X” folds run along the bottom edge. Fold the lower part of the paper underneath using the horizontal crease near the bottom of the page.
Grab the top edge of the folded paper and fold it across itself diagonally. Line the crease you just made up with the central crease running down the center of the doors vertically and press to fold. Your paper should look like an upside down, rotated letter L.
Here’s where things get chúng tôi start following along with the video below if you get lost. Take the skinny top edge of your folded “doors” and fold it down so it reaches halfway to the center crease running through your “doors” horizontally. In other words, you’ll want to put a valley fold one sixth of the way down the length of the doors.
Turn your paper once again so that your original set of folds are once again pointing vertically. Fold the edges inward, “accordion-ing” the paper along the vertical folds as you chúng tôi the final fold in the center of the paper — leave this unfolded. Your paper should look like a long, skinny set of double doors at this point. Your folded piece of paper should be one-fourth as wide as it would normally be.
Next, turn your paper 90 degrees so that the previously vertical folds run horizontal. Unfold these folds and make one new one to divide the paper in half vertically. Use a “valley”-style fold (one that points away from you).Your fold should intersect the folds you’ve already made at perfect (or nearly perfect) right angles.
Next, make four more vertical folds to divide each of the tall, skinny sections of the paper in half. These folds should pointyou (“mountain”-style), rather than away from chúng tôi you’re done, you should be left with a piece of paper that’s divided into eight skinny strips that fold together in an “accordion” pattern.
Divide the paper into fourths. Lay your paper flat in front of you (if you’re using patterned origami paper, you want it white side -up). Fold the paper in half vertically, then fold the outer edges inward to the center and crease. When you’re done, your paper should be divided into four tall, skinny, equal sections with three folds that point away from you (or “valley” folds).
This method requires trickier folds than the ones above, but leaves you with an elegant, professional-looking booklet if done correctly. To make your job easier, it’s useful to use square pieces of origami paper for this project. Technically, any square piece of paper will work, but origami paper is usually thin and relatively easy to fold. Plus, it often has patterns or designs on one side which can create great-looking covers.
Kink each triangle in half and fold. Fold each of the small triangles at the bottom of the paper inward to divide it in half. Start at one end and fold the rest of the paper around each fold as you go. Press the folded triangles together accordion-style until your entire piece of folded paper looks like a very long, skinny letter L.
Use a diagonal fold to make a backwards J shape. Take the long, skinny end of your “L” and make a 45 degree fold to bring it up and over itself. Leave a small gap between the lower part of the “L” and the fold you make. When you’re done, your folded-up piece of paper should look like a backwards letter J. Fold the interior of the J shape in upon itself to give the bottom of the J 45 degree angles all around.
Open up the skinny part of the J and fold it back over itself. Carefully open up the accordion-ed folds of the long, narrow part of the J shape to reveal a wide “cape” shaped section of paper. Fold this back over itself, turning it 90 degrees as you do so. Line your fold up with the paper behind it. Then, fold the upper section of the paper back over itself once more in the opposite direction.
Turn the paper over and fold the bottom of the paper up. If you’re working with patterned paper, after you flip it over, your paper should now look like a wide, fat cape or glider with patterned “trim” at its edges. Fold the bottom edge of the paper over itself with a narrow fold — you want to create no more than a quarter inch strip of doubled-up material at the bottom.
Fold the top of the paper down to form a rectangle. Grab the top edge of the paper and fold it down over itself until it’s almost (but not quite) level with the bottom edge. Your folded paper should now be in the shape of a long, skinny, horizontal rectangle. If you’re using patterned paper, the entire rectangle should be patterned.
Fold the outer edges of the paper in towards the “pages”. Your booklet should now be starting to take shape. In the middle of your rectangle, there should be a small “tab” of tightly-folded square segments of paper that fan out from a central point where they all meet. These will form your booklet’s pages. To make your booklet’s covers, fold the outer edges of the rectangle in until they meet the base of the pages and fold to crease. When you’re done, there should be a tab of paper at each end of the inner tab of pages that’s slightly larger than the pages themselves.
If desired, glue your covers in place. Congratulations! If you’ve made all of your folds correctly, when you’re done, your tiny booklet should have ten pages and a front and back cover. If you want to, at this point you can carefully glue or tape the flaps that form the covers of the book down to secure them in place. Your booklet is now ready to use!
Alternatively, for true origami authenticity, try sliding the lower tab of each cover flap into the pocket along the back of the book. This secures each cover in place without the use of adhesives, which any origami master wouldn’t be caught dead using.
Is a paper airplane a drone? For the Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for regulating America’s skies, this is no longer an idle question. The commercial use of drones is currently prohibited in the United States, unless an operator receives an exemption from the FAA that allows them to fly their drone.
According to the exemption, Sachs is free to fly a Tailor Toys PowerUp 3.0, which is a smart-phone controlled propeller that attaches to a paper airplane. The drone retails for about $50, and can fly up to 180 feet in distance with a total unencumbered flight time of around 10 minutes. Here is what it looks like in flight:
When we first covered the PowerUp 3.0, we perhaps prematurely labeled it “one of the purest “just a toy” drones out there.” Sachs’ petition requests the authorization of this drone to “conduct aerial photography and videography.” There are cameras small enough and light enough to fit on the paper plane, so this usage is technically possible if extremely unlikely.
In the introduction to the FAA’s Certificate of Authorization for this drone use, it curiously says that “The FAA has determined that good cause exists for not publishing a summary of the petition in the Federal Register because the requested exemption would not set a precedent.” This is as close as the letter comes to acknowledging that it is super weird for the government to regulate paper planes. That doesn’t stop the FAA from spelling out 31 additional restrictions. Some highlights:
“Operations authorized by this grant of exemption are limited to the Tailor Toys PowerUp 3.0 when weighing less than 55 pounds including payload.” Reminder: this is a paper airplane with an engine attached.
“The [drone] may not be operated at a speed exceeding 87 knots (100 miles per hour).” This is, again, a paper airplane with a top speed of under 12 mph.
“The [drone] must be operated at an altitude of no more than 400 feet above ground level.” This paper airplane with an engine has a maximum range of 180 feet.
Contacted via Twitter, Peter Sachs expressed a genuine sense of incredulity that the FAA even granted the exemption, because it shows they’re choosing to treat a paper airplane like any other drone instead of the handmade flying toy that it is. A comparison with three other certificate authorizations also published on August 26th reveals the “requested exemption would not set a precedent” language to be standard, as well as the 31 additional restrictions. This likely means that the FAA attaches these restrictions to every application for an exemption involving a drone under 55 pounds–even if the drone in question is just a souped-up paper airplane.
Did the FAA mean to define paper airplanes as aircraft? Reached by email, FAA spokesperson Les Dorr said “If you look at the exemption documents, Mr. Sachs submitted a valid petition for exemption, and we granted the requested relief.” Pressed if the FAA will treat every paper airplane with a motor attached as a drone, Dorr replied “Every petition for a Section 333 exemption is reviewed individually and considered on its own merits.”
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