It’s All Free (Or At Least It Was)

Chancellor’s Note: This is a reposting of the first WordPress Page I created, which was originally published on October 19, 2006. The original title was “It’s All Free (And Mostly Easy)” and it was my first attempt to keep some basic themes foremost on my blog, which was at that time called “Lines from Lee.” As you’ll see below, I had resolved that I wasn’t going to do anything on my blog that required me to spend any money. This page (now demoted to a post) highlights all the things you can do in social media for free.

Over time, that “It’s all free and mostly easy” theme morphed into the school motto for SMUG: Suus Non Ut Difficile, or “It’s Not That Hard.”

I’m going to be cleaning up some of the navigation on SMUG, and demoting some of the other Pages to “Post” status as well. This also will give me a chance to reflect upon things I wrote three to four years ago, and see how my thinking has evolved since then.

And how many things I saw in social media then really haven’t changed. It’s still mainly free. And it’s not that hard.

So…here’s a blast from October 2009:


With 100 million blogs listed in Technorati, obviously there isn’t too much inertia preventing people from starting blogs, but among public relations professionals I have seen less familiarity with blogs, podcasts, and social media.

This ought not to be.

One reason for the reticence to jump in might be a lack of understanding and a misperception that it’s expensive, difficult or requires extensive IT support. That’s why I’ve decided that on this blog I will only use services that are FREE, such as:

Flickr, for photos:

Lee Aase

YouTube, for video (and audio):

(For the story behind that clip, click here.)

And, of course, is a free blog hosting site.

For social networking, I use Facebook (and you can friend me here.) MySpace is also free.
Many of these services offer paid upgrade packages that let you do more, and maybe you (and I) will want to do that in the future (e.g. to be able to upload more than 20 megs of photos per month). But the point is, you can start right now with a blog and have it up and running in about 90 seconds (and that’s if you take a minute or so to decide what you want for your username or domain name.)

So, I may blog about some services that have a cost, but what I incorporate in my site will all be free.

This is my first time creating a standalone page (outside of the reverse chronology of the blog.) I hope to add some related pages that would highlight other free stuff, and maybe a step-by-step tutorial on how to get started.

If you want to use another free hosting service other than WordPress, that’s fine. Blogger and others probably have some features that differ slightly. But for whatever tutorial I develop, it will be in WordPress, so my examples will be easiest for you to use on that platform. Besides, how much better can you get than free? And if you decide to wait and research which is the best free hosting service, that’s a recipe for procrastination. Just do it.

Also, to prevent inappropriate mixing of business and personal worlds from an email perspective, go get a free email account from Google or Yahoo!

Here’s another post where I have boiled this all down into a 12-step social media program for PR professionals. Follow this plan and you’ll be conversant with key social media tools and trends within a couple of weeks. Not expert, but at least conversant.


By the way, I’m now up to spending about $80 a year for blog hosting. And the above post was published just six months after Twitter was created, well before it had gotten any kind of critical mass. Just another free (and easy) service that has become much more prominent in the last four years.

SMUG Super Bowl Ad and Social Media ROI

Here’s the Super Bowl Ad you didn’t see on NBC:


Among the reasons for this omission:

  • The ad 34 seconds long, instead of the customary 30;
  • I was about $2.6 million short of the cash required to pay for the airtime; and
  • I created it during the Super Bowl today.

One of the ironies of social media is that everyone asks about the ROI, or return on investment. It’s an understandable question, but one of the points I make in presentations is that as I (investment) approaches zero, ROI approaches infinity, because it is calculated as follows:

ROI = benefits/costs

My cost of producing this stellar Super Bowl ad wasn’t exactly zero, but it was zero out-of-pocket. I already had invested $150 in the Flip video camera used to record it, and the production took a bit of my time and attention as I enjoyed the game .

I expect the benefits to be non-monetary as well, measured mainly in the satisfaction of getting more people involved in exploring social media. I hope you will use the ShareThis tool below to pass this post (with its embedded ad) along to your friends and co-workers who might benefit from becoming a SMUGgle, and invite them to enroll. I think it captures the essence of SMUG in a brief video snippet (but how did I manage to leave Blogging out?!)

Then we’ll see what happens to the SMUG enrollment, currently at 261 members of our Facebook group.

Updated: I originally had embedded the ad in the Facebook player, but I’m wondering whether that might be responsible for a SMUG slowdown, so I took that version down, at least for now. But you can see the higher-resolution Facebook version in the SMUG Facebook group.

Updated 2/3/09: Here’s the same video in a Blip.TV player. Another post coming on the topic of video players soon:

Facebook 108: Photo Sharing and Tagging

Flickr is a fantastic photo-sharing community, but it’s not the biggest one.

Facebook is.

More than 10 billion photos have been uploaded to Facebook, and more than 30 million new photos are uploaded every day.

Flickr is great for sharing photos with the world, with people you don’t know. Facebook is for sharing photos with your friends.

And after all, for most people, aren’t your friends the people you want to see your pictures?

One of my first “Aha!” moments with Facebook came when my daughter Rebekah went to her high school Homecoming as a sophomore. Many of her classmates attended the same pre-Homecoming party, and everyone took pictures of everyone else, and uploaded them to Facebook, tagging their friends who appeared in the pictures. If there were 50 girls each taking 50 pictures, that’s 2500 photos from that party alone. I can’t imagine those girls moving to another social networking site and abandoning their Homecoming photos (and those from Prom and other high school events.)

And if the girls aren’t leaving, neither are the boys. I also wonder what impact Facebook is having on the high school yearbook business. How great will the demand be for these bound and printed keepsakes, when so many of kids’ high school memories are available online in Facebook?

But I digress. The point of this course is to show you how easy it is to upload photos to Facebook to share with friends, and how tagging lets them (and their friends) know that the photos are there. Here’s a quick video tutorial I did, using some photos from our preparation of “Old Main” for the Holiday Tour of Homes, a fundraiser for our local chapter of the American Red Cross:



  1. Join Facebook if you haven’t previously. (Which would tell me you’ve skipped some of the earlier 100-level Facebook prerequisites, in which case you might want to go through Facebook 101 and 102.)
  2. Upload a photo of yourself with an appropriate caption, to the SMUG Facebook group. Be sure to “tag” yourself so you see how the photo shows up in your minifeed and news feed.
  3. Think about the implications of photo sharing and tagging in Facebook for social media projects you might want to start for your work-related or community organizations.

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RAQ – Photos from a Flip Camera?

I’ve gotten something of a reputation as a Flip video camera booster (you might even say it’s the official video blogging camera of SMUG), and today a friend copied me on an e-mail about an offer for a free Flip that included a question for me and led to some others. In keeping with our Recently Asked Questions feature, I’m sharing both the link to the free Flip offer and the subsequent dialogue.

Continue reading “RAQ – Photos from a Flip Camera?”

RAQ – What is a SMUGgle?

Even though we don’t have our own sports teams (which helps us keep tuition down!), Social Media University Global still needs a nickname for our student body. Referring to the whole bunch as “SMUG students” has an unfortunate connotation, but until a few weeks ago it was the best I could do.

Then, in a comment on this post, Jim Streed suggested “SMUGgles” as the collective shorthand designation. For those who haven’t read the Harry Potter books, it’s a take-off on J.K. Rowling’s name for ordinary mortals, Muggles: those who lack magical powers.

And while “muggles” is sometimes used pejoratively by Harry’s peers, SMUGgles is a label we should all wear proudly. It reinforces one of the founding principles of our institution:

You don’t have to be a wizard to get magical results with these powerful tools.

Everything you see here is accomplished through free or ridiculously inexpensive services like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and, and with no professional IT support. And with SMUG you can work through the learning process step by step, until you feel confident using these tools in your organization.

But having chosen SMUGgle as our “team name,” that still left us with one problem. We all can picture a Cardinal, or a Blue Jay, or a Viking, but what does a SMUGgle look like? What could be our school mascot?

For now, we’re going with something that bears an eerie resemblance to the “I just joined Facebook” avatar that represents all of us on that social networking platform until we upload a picture. Somehow that seems appropriate, because it shows that SMUG is not only open to newbs, it’s intended for beginners.

But with that, I also want to renew the call for those, newb or not, who have artistic abilities and would like to design a new masthead and logo for SMUG. It would be great to have an official seal that incorporates our Latin motto, Suus Non Ut Diffucile, and if we could get an original drawing for the SMUGgle mascot, that would be fantastic, too.

If the Obama campaign can have an official seal complete with a Latin motto, why not SMUG? To borrow a phrase, “Yes, we can!

I promise that once we select a SMUG seal, we’ll use it a lot longer than Obama did.

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