Fake news

avoid being sucked in by fake newsA couple weeks ago one of my Facebook friends posted a news bulletin announcing the death of an actor. I had seen the actor that very morning on live television and I doubted the post was real. A few of the person’s contacts doubted it as well. We all responded to the post saying we thought it was fake. She took it down immediately, but I’m sure many people posted the same story on their pages.

The 24 hour news cycle has its downfalls and fake news is the biggest among them. Social media users are confused about how to tell what is real and what is not. It is important to know that what you are sharing is real. We need to know the truth now more than ever.

There are a few ways anyone can verify if something is real or not.

At Social Squids, we love social media. When I see a rumor reported by someone on Facebook, I rarely take it at face value. Too many people, my own friends included, are taken in by fake stories and claims. If I see that someone has died or news of a plane crash or someone got a DUI, I immediately go to the two big social media sources for news – Facebook and Twitter. Twitter seems to scoop everyone on news so I generally start there. Is the news item trending?

I love Twitter, but sometimes they get it wrong too. After I check Twitter I go to trending topics on Facebook. Next I check the news media sites. If everyone is running the same story, I feel like it’s probably true.

If you can’t find a big story on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC or Fox, it’s probably fake. Breaking news stories might not be online right away. But for the most part, the major networks know about breaking news almost immediately.

Try to find the original link or source of the story. Is it a reputable site? If you’ve never heard of it, that’s a red flag. The story might be a fake.

Is the news a parody or satire? Sometimes parts of stories like ones on The Onion are taken out of context and reposted as news. NewsMutiny and the Borowitz Report are also popular parody sites.

Clickbait is news that is a question or statement is so titillating that you feel compelled to click on it. You then fall down the rabbit hole and end up reading a story that never answers the question you originally found intriguing. It’s a form of fake news, a teaser headline with no actual story to back it up.

Other fake news might have a headline that doesn’t match the image or video. It may claim that one person was arrested, but the video is actually of different person getting arrested. It can also show a current story with images that are from a long time ago and obviously the two don’t match. These stories are both misleading and untrue.

Foreign URLs are another tip off to fake news. If it’s something happening in this country, but you can’t find the story on the major news networks, check out the URL of the article.

Be responsible and question everything you read. Verify news with multiple sources before you believe it. Try your best not to spread rumors that have no basis in truth. In the world we live in today, you have to be a skeptic.

Twitter analytics

Using Twitter analytics in business

Using Twitter for business purposes is a vital part of sales in today’s marketplace. Twitter analytics gives you insights to the people who are visiting your profile, looking at your tweets and responding to them.

As you use Twitter analytics month after month, trends begin to develop.

  • Who is retweeting my tweets?
  • Who is my most popular follower?
  • Which post did the best in the past month?
  • Did people thank you for following them, allowing their followers to see your info?

As these trends are formed, you have the opportunity to examine the stats to see whether or not you are hitting your target market by location, business type and sheer numbers of viewers. And you can see if they have improved or not from the previous month.

In the video below, get the scoop on how to find your Twitter analytics page and then how to interpret the information provided by Twitter.

Please subscribe to our new Vimeo page and look for more videos about social media coming in the weeks and months ahead. If you have a specific question, post it on the Vimeo page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Twitter analytics from Social Squids on Vimeo.

Website promotion tips

gain page views on websiteEntrepreneurs of all industries have websites, but many business owners have no idea how to draw attention to them. While certain marketing like SEO (search engine optimization) is best left to professionals, you can do some things on your own to help put your website on the map.

Some of these suggestions may seem like no-brainers, however business owners are not always well versed in the ways of self promotion. It doesn’t take a computer wiz to do some simple things that will significantly increase your website page views.

Website self promotion

Doing these basic tasks can help gain momentum for your web page and ultimately boost your sales.

Increased sales is what we all want.

  1. Make sure the search engines have your site indexed. The search engine bots (automated software) regularly reach out to websites, but adding them yourself lets you know for sure Google and Bing know about you.
  2. Post new blogs, pages or updates to your personal social media pages. Even if you have someone who posts for you, add some yourself.
  3. Email your friends about your website.
  4. Set up a Yelp page for your business and encourage your best clients to post on it. Your clients can also post reviews on your Facebook business page.
  5. Add link to your site in the signature of your email.
  6. Make sure your site and social media pages are on your business card, brochure and any other printed materials. This may seem obvious, but people who do not live and breathe digital technology often forget to include their website on marketing materials.
  7. On your personal Facebook page, add your website in the settings section.
  8. Write an article about your business for someone else’s website. Guest blogging gives your business a new audience.
  9. Participate in online forums (using your web address in your signature). This also helps lend credibility and shows you are an expert in your field.
  10. Yahoo has a section where people answer questions. You get points when people like your answers. Become a well-known expert in your field by answering questions in the topic that best relates to your business (add your website under your name in your credentials).
  11. Create a magnet for your vehicle with the website in large letters.
  12. Many local businesses have neighborhood bulletin boards, add your card or flyer (with website on it).
  13. Bonus tip: Many blogs and sites recommend creating controversy on your social media pages to bring attention to yourself and your website. I disagree. Yes, people take notice, but you also take the risk of alienating people who are fans now. Upbeat posts are best.

Go through the list and do the things you feel comfortable doing. If you have questions or need help, please contact Social Squids. We can assist with marketing, printed materials, websites and social media.

SEO insights

SEO insights

newsletter of social squidsSEO (search engine optimization) remains a mystery to many entrepreneurs and website owners. In truth, it’s rather simple. Search engine optimization is a way to help Google, Bing Yahoo and others find and classify your website.

By improving your SEO, your website can rise in the rankings. Without paying attention to it, your site may sink like a rock.

Using social media

You can help your SEO by adding a link to your site in your social media posts, e-zines, emails and newsletters. Make your social media content searchable by using hashtags and keywords in your posts.

Add your location and/or a map on your social media pages to let people know where you are. This is especially important for companies that have a local target audience.

SEO on your website

Make use of an SEO plugin for wordpress sites, or the the SEO feature on your web builder. Follow the guidelines the software suggests and your site will start to make positive moves.

Be sure to use your location in the keywords. Google and other search engines are used more by mobile devices than desktop computers now. Having your location will make you show up in the search when someone is nearby.

Make your blogs at least 300 words. It might sound like a lot, but search engines don’t bother much with pages that have little content. If the blog is really long, cut it in half and make it either two blogs or continue it on another page. If someone is interested in reading more, they will click to see the next page.

Use google analytics or some other tracking software to see where your page visitors originate. Do they come from your emailed newsletter? Social media? Searches? Or did they just type in the name when you gave someone your card? Once you know this information, you can make adjustments.

Blogs

Adding subheadings for your blog and pages is good for SEO.

Keyword density should be 5-7% for your page to be optimal. A construction company’s page might have “construction” or “building” as a keyword. Using a keyword in the first sentence and a few times on the page will make search engines happy.

Links, links and more links!

Get backlinks from relevant sites. For example, for your construction company, get your suppliers or clients to link back to your site. Search engines love backlinks.

Link within your site in your blogs and pages. If you mention a topic covered on a previous blog, link to it. If you want people to get in touch for more information, add a link to your contact page.

Link to other websites. If you are talking about making donations to a charity, provide a link.

SEO insights Social Squids

Images

Use alt tags for your images. If you use wordpress, go to the media library, click on an image and you can see where to add this tag. People looking at your website can’t see the alt tag, but it is in the code. If you have a photo on your site called Img_2005.jpg, search engines have no idea if that image even relates to your site. Adding an alt tag that says, “Baltimore area construction,” is more descriptive and helps SEO.

You can change the name of the image. Using Img_2005.jpg is not as good as new_construction.jpg. Add a description of your photo that is seen by the search engines and a caption that is visible on the site. You can do all of those things, but use different wording in each place.

Looking for a good SEO plugin for your WordPress site? I recommend Yoast SEO.  If this has gone completely over your head or beyond your abilities, you can contact me for additional information or a consultation.

Keep it Simple 

Keep it Simple 

Here is my latest Ink Slinger newsletter:

ink slinger

My mom used to call me the queen of the simple sentence – I thought I was simply being concise. As a senior in college I worked for a tv station and wrote for the 11:00 news. In only 15-20 seconds, I had to relate my story. That’s a mere 4-6 sentences.

In the world of social media, being the queen of the simple sentence can be a good thing.

Writing for websites can be tricky. No one wants to read any more. Bullet points and short statements are the only way to get someone’s attention and hold it. Long winded dissertations are no longer used in advertising, websites and never, ever in social media. The creators of Twitter made it 140 characters for a reason.

I took a class in graduate school where I had to take a complicated insurance form and condense the information into one page. Then it was shrunken down to a few paragraphs, and then to one paragraph. The paragraph was turned into a single sentence that summed up the entire document.

Try to do that with your company information. Can you? Take the content from your website and condense it down in stages until you have one statement. The result is probably very close to your elevator speech. If it’s not, then maybe your mission is getting lost.

How do you get your message across when no one wants to read?

  • Use bullet points!
  • Only say what is truly worthwhile
  • Infographics tell a story with images
  • Write down everything you want to say, then pare it down to the bare bones
  • Add images to your posts
  • Add videos to your posts
  • Vary sizes and fonts to make text stand out

Deliver your thoughts in a way that is short enough to read over a cup of coffee. Anything longer and you begin to lose people. Don’t let your true message disappear in a sea of meaningless words.

social media engagement infographic_

Freedom of speech

Charlie hebdo gives us pauseIn the wake of the events of the past few weeks, many people throughout the world are realizing just how precious the right to freedom of speech is. As Americans, we sometimes take this right for granted. Between the terror events in France and the Sony movie The Interview, we are now seeing how some other people view our freedom.

In my business, I have the opportunity to write about a wide range of topics. The most controversial I have gotten in my work has been organizing your clothes closet or picking a team that might win tomorrow’s game. But I know I have the right to write about whatever topic I chose. This is not true for some people.

As a college intern, I worked at a Baltimore television station during the American hostage crisis in 1979 that took place in Iran. It was an exciting yet scary time to be in the news business. The Associated Press and United Press International alarms were ringing in what we called “the wire room” all evening, every evening with news updates and bulletins. Every time the alarm went off, my heart jumped.

Back then, we didn’t have a 24-hour news cycle, social media or cell phones. Okay, maybe there were cell phones, but they were about the size of a shoe box and few people owned them. At the TV station where I worked, they didn’t even have computers. We typed on typewriters with large keys so the stories could be put directly into the teleprompter for the anchorman.

As a young adult, it was the first time I was exposed to terrorism. I also learned a lot about patriotism and freedom during my internship. It has been a long road from that job to creating Social Squids, but freedom of speech has been there all along.

With the technology of today, people use freedom of speech and social media to instantly send images and words to the world. With this freedom people have gotten themselves into all kinds of trouble from “sexting” to sending out things by accident. Of course, many also use it for sending funny, informational, inspirational or newsworthy messages.

As citizens of the world and especially as writers, we should remember how precious this freedom is. Some people have paid the ultimate price. We should take advantage of our freedom of speech and use it wisely.

Je suis Charlie.

We need more brains!

brains, not just for zombies any moreNo, this is not a post about zombies. Sorry if you thought that!

Have you ever had a great idea, but after pondering it for a little while, you are not quite sure if it will fly or not? It happens to me all of the time. I get all excited about some business or plan and then once I think about it for a day or two, I lose my momentum. Instead of letting great ideas fall by the wayside, why not bounce ideas off of another person and see what they think about it?

Brainstorming sessions are valuable in business. If you have someone you can trust with your secret business ideas, ask to have lunch, dinner or even coffee with them. Let them hear your idea and come up with ways it might work, or reasons why it won’t. Either way, you should take advantage of this significant resource.

The name Social Squids, came from such a meeting. My friend and I got together for coffee and I told her that I needed to come up with a name. She’s an illustrator, very talented and creative in her own right.

The starting point was the fact that I like animals, so we decided the name would have something animal-related in it. We brainstormed great name ideas, terrible ones, silly ones and eventually one of us – I’m not even sure which one of us it was – came up with Social Squids.

I kept doing this thing with my hands, wiggling my fingers and moving my arms outward. I was thinking about how social media reaches out into cyberspace. Not only did we come up with the name, we came up with the tag line too – We have far-reaching tentacles.

Paying someone for their opinion has its value, but brainstorming with one, two or a small group of people, will help you find problems, solutions, more in-depth ideas or sometimes cheer you on for your amazing business proposition.

So, find more brains. Bounce ideas off of your friends in the business community. Sometimes these ideas might seem impossible, but give it a try anyway. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for your business. Just be careful you share your ideas with people you trust and who are not going to take your idea and use it for their own.

Is your web contest too complicated?

I received an email from a company the other day about their upcoming contest. I’m going to show the actual steps you need to take to enter the contest, but also change any identifying information.

  1. From DATES OF CONTEST visit our COMPANY Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to gather a daily clue
  2. Use your clue to find the hidden ITEM on our website
  3. Click the ITEM to receive the secret words
  4. Collect the words of the day for all 5 days to create the winning phrase
  5. Enter your submission on our website between DATES OF CONTEST for your chance to win 1 of 10 prizes!

contest too confusing?

I don’t know about you, but by the time I got to step three, my eyes glazed over and that was the end. I understand that this contest was developed to get people to engage in the company’s website and social media sites, however, most people are not going to spend that much time trying to win something. Maybe if the prize was a couple million bucks, people might do it. But this was for a basket of products that are worth a few hundred dollars at best.

Many companies use the “find the hidden item” idea on their website in order to get people to look at the entire site. That’s a great idea in itself, but adding all of the other rules of this particular contest makes it a little too complex for the average person. You would have to be totally devoted to the product in order to do this. And those people are already customers!

People may click on the first link and then lose interest. Once you complete all of the steps, you still only have a small chance of winning. Website visitors might find this scavenger hunt frustrating. That is not an emotion you want prospective customers to feel.

Sure, have a contest! That is a fantastic way to get people interested in your site and products. Intriguing people is the name of the game for online sales. But, when designing the contest, try to engage without annoying your page viewers.

Social media for business in 2014

what's new this year in social mediaOne of the biggest changes in the past year in social media has been advertising. Now there will be video ads on Facebook, ads and sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts on Instagram. Many apps, like ESPN, have added small banner ads across their pages.

People, especially the 18-35 demographic, are using their cell phones more and computers less. Ads are showing up everywhere in the mobile realm.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are leading the pack for social media right now. Of course, that can change almost overnight with social media. Because of the nature of the beast, things happen in an instant.

To keep your business on the cutting edge of the social media revolution, you need to be active. Whether or not you advertise on social media sites is up to you, but you should get involved in some way if you are going to keep up with your competitors.

What will happen in the coming months? No one really knows. Little apps or sites that no one uses now, might just be the biggest thing since Facebook. Social media users are fickle.

Check your Klout.com score. See how you stack up against your competition. Get analytics for your website and see if your clients are coming from social media sites and whether they are using computers or phones to reach you. Look at your website on a mobile phone and see if it looks the same as on your computer.

Let’s say goodbye to 2013 and welcome faster, more sleek apps, social media and mobile sites in the coming year.

Use images to your advantage

social media image is everythingIn cyberspace, much like real life, image is everything. Do you have your logo or a photo on all of your social media pages? The black silhouette on LinkedIn or Facebook and the empty egg on Twitter give people the impression that you are either new to the site or inactive.

A professional studio photo is best, but really just having some kind of image is better than nothing. Put your business logo if you do not want to show your face. If you do not have a logo, use a photo, illustration or icon of something that relates to your business.

If you repair cars, you could have a photo of a car. A chiropractor could show an image of a spine. Computer programmers can have an image of a computer. You get the idea.

Let your clients and prospective clients see that you are an active business and post on your page often. People love photos, videos and infographics. Instead of posting a statement, add an image to pique the interest of your audience. These images help to shape your brand. This is not just for your Facebook page, your website should have images as well.

You have only a few seconds to get the attention of your prospective client. Photos work really well to help grab people and keep them on your page.

Do you have Google Analytics? We’ve talked about this before. If you do, check out your website’s bounce rate. That is when a person only looks at your main page and “bounces” rather than looking at other pages on your site. In print media, this is the equivalent of someone reading a front page news story and then going to the page where it is continued. If they “bounced,” they would only read what is on the front page.

Are you grabbing people’s attention? If you are, you will have a low bounce rate. If not, you need to figure out what your prospective clients want to see and give it to them. Add images that relate and add them often to get the best response to your website, social media pages and blog.