Back in 2005, my aunt and I went to Rome for Easter. I packed what seemed like an impossibly small video camera, its case about the size of a small purse, and I captured beautiful scenes of Pope John Paul’s last Easter.
Then I got home and realized that without specialized editing software, I couldn’t do much besides play it back as is, plugging the camera into my computer.
About a year later, a friend told us about this thing called YouTube. John’s computer wheezed and stuttered as we tried to watch our first video.
As online video became all the rage, I bought a Flip, a high-definition video camera about the size of an old mini cassette recorder. Its simple interface quickly got me recording, editing and uploading video to YouTube. The name referred to its clever design — you push a button on the side of the camera and a USB connection flips up, plugging straight into your computer without a cord.
This was the first video I shot on my Flip cam then uploaded to YouTube. It’s literally almost as interesting as watching paint dry.
I was slow to the iPhone trend, but once I started carrying a high-quality camera as part of my smartphone, I rarely bothered with my Flip any more. The launch of Twitter’s Vine, a tool for sharing six-second video loops, followed by Instagram’s 15-second videos, made it easy to share video without ever touching my computer. Record the video, share it straight from the iPhone via wifi or data plan.
In just a few years, it’s remarkable how much amateur video has changed — and that’s from a starting point I already thought was pretty advanced.
So many other technologies are moving just as quickly, and it can be tempting to just stick with what you already know. It can be overwhelming to constantly learn new tools.
But imagine saying no, I’d rather keep my fax machine than learn email. No, my film camera is just fine, why would I bother with a digital camera or the phone on my camera? Who needs a photocopier when this ditto machine still works? I prefer this rotary phone to a cordless push button, and I can’t see a use for a cellphone. I like these eight tracks, or albums, or cassettes, or CDs …
I try to test drive new social media platforms as I hear of them, to at least have an awareness of what they do. I don’t go deep with everything — I’m still not a heavy user of Pinterest, for example — but by spending a little time with them, I can make better choices about what to skip.
Even a passing familiarity also reduces my worry I’ll find myself totally left behind, with a learning curve so steep I could never catch up. Sure I’d have to invest time in getting up to speed, and with luck, I’d have a good tutor, but I have at least a small foundation.
Every time I check out a new device or a new platform, I do it with an eye toward how I might use this new thing to tell my story — would broadcasting live video via Periscope serve my communications needs, for example? Can I reach my customer base on Snapchat? Because I think the flip side of getting overwhelmed by technology is getting enamored with the tool and forgetting that the point is communication. Very few people talk excitedly about how great cable TV is, they gush about their favorite TV show.
I blogged recently about social media overload, and suggested you don’t have to do it all. That’s true with all technology. If you really love your turntable, you might not need a Pandora or Spotify account.
But to know what you’re missing, you might want to explore new tools as they come along. That way you can make an informed decision to stick with sending your marketing emails from Outlook rather than using a platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
Is there a marketing tool that interests you but you’ve avoided it because you’re intimidated? Maybe you could set aside half an hour to play with it. Just poke around Google Analytics, for example. Or sign up for a webinar on blogging.
And if something you know well changes, remember it wasn’t long ago when we didn’t have email or websites or social media at all. It hasn’t always been that way. It’s maybe been that way a year or two? Go ahead and grumble, but then start poking around to learn what’s new.
Because if you don’t, there’s probably yet another change just around the bend and you’ll have even more to learn then.