Monday, September 13, 2010

Effective Status Updates

The first time I went on Twitter, I was like, "This is it? I don't get it."

It soon became clear that one of the Internet's most powerful social media tools is your status updates. On most social networks, your friends' status updates are the first thing you see. You can quickly browse over them to get caught up with everybody, and easily make comments wherever you want to throw in your two cents.

To reverse this, your online friends, associates and other contacts, are always exposed to your status updates. It is impossible to avoid them unless you are one of those anti-social-networking freaks. (just saying)

Given the importance of your status updates, the question then becomes: How do you make your updates effective and focused on your business?

Here's three simple rules to follow:
  1. Personalized: Wherever you can, add your own personalized flavour to your posts. Keep your personality, wit, and sense of humour.
  2. Interesting or helpful: Add your own expertise and advice, tips and tricks (for free!).
  3. Personal/professional ratio of 4/1: You are encouraged to update your status at least every 24 hours. This leaves lots of room for personal posts and professional posts. I'd suggest that you post 4 personal posts to every 1 professional business post. This will keep people interested in following your status and then when you sneak in a business advertisement, people will appreciate it, not be overloaded by them. They will also be sure to read them because they genuinely want to know what you are up to as a person like them.
Examples of a personal post:
  • camping was rained out this weekend!
  • late driving the kids to school again :(
  • on my 5th cup of coffee and it's only 7 am, lol
This establishes you as a real person and other people have been there and can relate to those posts. It might put a smile on your friends' faces and they won't be able to resist commenting.

Now... mix up your personal posts with a professional/business plug. For example, after I'm done writing this blog article, I will post the topic and link in my status updates, thereby reminding people of my business and expertise.

Good examples of a business/professional post:
A really successful business/professional post contains an element of humour that makes people laugh. They will remember laughing and they will remember you.

So now you have no excuses. Just accept how important updating your status is to your professional/business, as well to you on a personal level. Make it part of your daily routine like taking your vitamins.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Google Analytics & Keyword Research Tools

I offer Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services. My services include basic industry research, including online research. I find out what keyword words and phrases your customers use to find a business like yours, and analyze how your direct competitors have optimized their websites. My goal is to have your website perform competitively in organic search engine results.

But what happens if you want more?
And what is "more" anyway?

I once sent a client to my Search Engine Marketing (SEM) partner. My SEM partner gave my client a free-initial consultation and a quote of just under $2,500 (initial fee) and a 6-month maintenance plan at (approx.) $500/month. I was copied with the quote, and my client came to me and said, "the costs sound reasonable ... but the problem is that I'm not exactly sure what she's selling."

My point here is that SEO and SEM is what everybody thinks they want... two very HOT items... but these same customers may not know what these intangible services really are.

Some good questions may be:
  1. What am I really getting for all that money?
  2. Are there any guarantees?
  3. Do I have to pay "monthly maintenance" for ever?
In my opinion and professional experience, there are two next steps that include Google Analytics (and/or your website statistics program) and keyword research tools. But before I outline these tools/steps, I have to warn you about something. If you want to undertake these tasks, you need to be the following type of person.
  • Enjoy sifting through reams and reams of data:
  • Think spreadsheets are the cat's meow;
  • Enjoy looking at pretty graphs (the idea of making pretty graphs works you into a frenzy), and
  • Will seriously analyze the data at regular intervals and incorporate strategic changes, testing and experiments into your online marketing plan.
To say you are detail-oriented is putting it mildly.

So, to summarize this rant, my services include the basic (organic) search engine optimization. And I have had fantastic results and tangible success from my efforts. However, I am NOT this detail-hungry type of person to perform the next steps and charge for it. I have tried for many years to find a partner to outsource these services to - and who would also be a good fit with my business - to no avail.

Now, onto the next Steps!

Step #1: Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service and you can login with your Gmail account info. I would suggest signing up for Google Analytics, putting the code on your site, and then letting the stats accrue... even if you have no current plans to do anything with them at this time.
  1. First you have to login (or create your login) using your Gmail account.
  2. Then you create a new account (a new website account). It will ask you for your URL, geographical location, timezone, etc.
  3. Finally, it will give you the code to add to the bottom of each of your web pages. If you are not your web designer, you have the option at the bottom to email the code for your website to your web designer.
  4. Add your web designer or someone else as a USER to your Google Analytics account. (A User must have a Gmail account.) Simply make sure you are in your website profile. Look for "User Manager" at the bottom.
  5. Wait for some statistics to be recorded.
The benefits of using a Google statistics tool is that it is connected with Google Adwords (pay-per-click listings), etc., so that if you decide to pay for any listings in the future, you will have the most complete set of statistics for your return on investment. I have heard that Google Analytics is far more complete than any free website statistics that comes with your web hosting. (But don't quote me on that! I haven't personally compared them.)

But this is as far as I go. I bought "Google Analytics for Dummies" or some such book (which I can't locate this second), but it was not a light read. I tried to delegate it, but that didn't work either. So... go buy your own book and good luck!

Step #2: Keyword Research Tools/Services

Stay tuned for Step #2 in my next blog posting!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Creative Project Management

To be effective and successful, creative project management must be anti-traditional.

The kind of challenges a creative project manager regularly encounters include:
  1. Scope creep and project scope changes. Many of the best ideas will develop during the creative process - so be prepared for this. It is impossible to predict at the outset where all of the twists and turns will be.
  2. Working quickly to ride each projects' momentum, while at the same time incorporating breathing room for the designers. The clients also need time to try on the ideas and make sure they are a good fit for them, their employees and clients.
  3. Having to work within inflexible budgets.
  4. Having to work to strict deadlines.
Here are some tips on how to make your creative project management style anti-traditional!
  1. In your estimates, lay out each proposed project separately, and, if possible, each project should be then broken down into individual steps.
  2. Work step by step, and have your clients agree to working step by step. So if the project scope changes, you don't have to reconsider an entire client-approved proposal. You can easily incorporate scope changes mid-project.
  3. Bill step by step, and/or incorporate progress billing into your system. I used to bill 50% up front and then the other 50% upon final project completion. And each project actually incorporated several mini projects. Unfortunately, by doing this, you run out of $$ to finish the last half... and may not get paid for it up to 6 months upon final project(s) completion! It's hard to run a business like this.
  4. Work quickly on each step within a project like you have just procrastinated for a month on a project due for school tomorrow. Seriously! Some of your best work is produced when you are late and will have to face the consequences :) The time to rest is after certain steps are completed 100%. And be sure to reward yourself for a job well done.
  5. Meet with your clients in person and have telephone meetings. Miscommunications are avoided this way, even though you may think email communication is quicker. Miscommunications can take longer to clear up so don't be shy, call your client and be a pain!
  6. Use 37 Signals' Basecamp to manage your creative projects. I'm not sure what I'd do without Basecamp.
  7. Eliminate needless paperwork and administrative steps.
I would love to hear any of your tips for creative project management!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why I Hate Burgundy

Colours... the foundation of our world. Who would think it's so complex? Designers know better!

One of the first things you learn in life are colours. "What colour is this circle?... red", "what colour is this square?... that's right, blue!"

But the range of different colours is exponential. And the name that you call a certain colour depends on your experience, teachers, and geographical area in the world you grew up in. Not only that, but men and women see colours differently. Their eyes are actually built differently. And you throw in various intensities of colour-blindness, and all of a sudden a simple subject isn't simple anymore.

So, when a client asks me to try out the colour burgundy, I have to overcome my urge to puke burgundy chunks into the toilet. What's burgundy to one, may be maroon to another, may be red to another, may be pooh brown to another. It's a very difficult colour to pin down and reach consensus on.

Web Colours vs. Print Colours

Colours, for design purposes, have all been assigned a number value. This insures you have the EXACT colour. However, printed colours use a CMYK value and web colours use a HEX value. I'll spare you the boring details! So, when you want to take your web/monitor colour and have it printed, you have to either convert it to CMYK, or actually colour match with your eyes.

Graphic designers and professional printers have CMYK books showcasing all of the colours you can choose for your print job. What you may have to do is hold up the colour book to your monitor and pick the printed colours by hand.

Insist on a Proof

This is a very good reason to insist on printing a proof of your business cards (or whatever you are getting printed) before printing off an entire batch and realizing the colours aren't correct.

Think Again!

So, next time you think about colours - especially if you are in the middle of choosing your branding colours, think twice before settling on burgundy :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

6 Tips to Optimizing the Updating of Your Social Networks

  1. Block 15-30 mins a day.
  2. Connect as many updates as you can to Twitter: Update Twitter and all of your other social networks are automatically updated.
  3. Keep a notebook beside you at all times. When an idea hits you, write it down when you are inspired (right brains works at the oddest times!)
  4. Update your status from your cell phone (anywhere!). You can also use voice recorder instead of a notepad to make notes.
  5. Think in terms of linking and referrals - guest topics & writers, as well as content written by your readers (cut down your own work, use someone else's content, and/or delegate)
  6. Learn the lingo and shortcuts to make keeping your social networks up to date as quick and painless as possible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Social Networking for the Anti-Social

I LOVE social networking! It's like it was invented just for me :) Being an natural extrovert, I love how social networking facilitates my relationships at an exponential level. Writing is also my forte, so this all come easily to me; More importantly, it's FUN and I enjoy it.

Social Networking Gets You Business

Social networking is the ultimate PULL marketing for your business. You put things out there that you think might be interesting, and then your contacts can choose to read and respond to your words, ideas, services, products, questions, etc.

The key to social networking is to keep it professional AND interesting. This does take some practice to get it right. The right mix of humour and info mixed in with your soft sell.
"It isn't about being perfect; it's about being active."
And if you don't get it right today, there's always tomorrow... and the next day, and the next day after that. It isn't about being perfect; it's about being active.

Are you Anti-Social?

What do you do if you are anti-social networking, or so shy that the idea of having your name, thoughts and ideas published for anyone to access is considered full violation to your privacy and life. Or what if you just don't have time. You can see the benefits, but you don't need another task on your plate. Or worse, your ideas are interesting to you... but you've had feedback and it seems that others aren't attracted to your style and/or don't get your humour (hahaha).

Social Networking Solutions for Anti-Social, Shy and "Special" People

By not participating in online social networks, you are missing out on business opportunities. If you own your own business, work for yourself, are a consultant, or have the opportunity to bring in your own clients... you have to get with the social networking phenomena.

Here are two excellent solutions for you. You too can take advantage of using Social Networking for creating business opportunities, without compromising your standards or person.
  1. Outsource it. Create a blog for YOUR COMPANY, not in your own name. Then get your partners, associates and employees, to contribute to the blog. Heck, you could even outsource your blog updates to a virtual assistant in India for super cheap. And then you don't have to worry about continuously having to think up the next article topic.
  2. Create a fake name. You like the idea of managing your own blog, but don't want your real name searchable on the Internet. Create a screen name and be consistent with its use. Many authors and actors use a stage name. This way you don't have to get self-conscience about publishing your writing. No one will know!
Just try it!

Don't let your assumptions about Facebook and Twitter (and other social networks) get in your way of making money. Don't give your competitors a huge online advantage. Stop with the excuses and get YOUR BUSINESS out there!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How I Was Caught Phishing

What is Phishing?
It's when you get an email appearing to be from someone you know (or an organization you are a part of), but it's not. It's from bad people. The email offers a click-through (link) for you to click on and log into your account. When you click on the link, the webpage/website mirrors the website of your actual organization/friend/associate.

I was caught Phishing through my social network, Twitter.
In Twitter, you can direct message people. My direct messages from Twitter get forwarded to my email account. So, what happened was I "clicked-through" the link in the message from my email account and logged into Twitter. Thereby providing the bad people with my login/password info to my Twitter account.

What happened next?
The bad people started using my Twitter account to spam my Followers with Direct Messages from me. And since I'm a trusted source (friend/associate), some of my Followers may have fallen into the same trap I did.

How to Protect Yourself?
When you get messages from another source (not an email), but a Direct Message from Twitter, Facebook, etc., forwarded to your email account: DO NOT CLICK THROUGH FROM THE EMAIL. Login to your account from your bookmark for that website and deal with the messages directly in the website. Therefore, the spammers can't get your login/password information.