A word for the ladies…

sexual harassment in the workplaceWith all of the talk about sexual harassment and abuse in the news today, I feel like I need to go off topic and address this issue myself. I was a victim more than once of this type of abuse when I was young. The men were not billionaires or famous, just predators who thought they could do anything and get away with it at work. And they actually did.

The first situation was my boss. He constantly groped, grabbed and pinched me every single day I worked, even when his wife was there. I was happy when she worked because I knew there would be a lot less groping on those days, but it still happened.

I thought no one would have believed me if I said anything. I put up with it because I needed the job. Unfortunately, I stayed in that job over a year until I found something else.

I was in college at the time and didn’t know what to do or who to tell. I felt like it was somehow my fault, like I somehow invited his abuse. I know better now.

My fears extended to going to the bathroom because I knew he would be standing outside of the door when I came out. I would have to try and dodge him every time. I rarely succeeded in escaping. Some days I worked 8-10 hours so it was impossible to avoid the bathroom. This person terrified me. He had to know I hated it and was afraid. Perhaps that made me more of a target.

My nightmares were of him groping me. I couldn’t escape him when I was asleep. Even now, I get goosebumps thinking about that situation and how horrible it was. How did I endure this?

I wonder how many other young women put up with similar predators over the years. I never told anyone at work about this because he was the boss. Who could I tell? Telling his wife was an idea, although I probably would have been fired and branded a liar. I wouldn’t be getting any job reference from them if I suggested the boss was a molester.

The second situation was while I was a student intern at a local tv station. I worked in the newsroom and loved every minute of that job. Writing news was a dream come true. That was, until my boss asked me to go get him coffee.

He rarely asked me for such a menial task and we didn’t have a coffee maker in the newsroom even though people guzzled it constantly. I had to go up to the vending machine, where the coffee was truly awful. Why anyone wanted it was beyond me.

As I went up the stairway, I was approached by a guy at least twice my age who worked in another department. He cornered me in the otherwise empty stairwell, pushed me into a corner, grabbed my wrists and asked me how I liked being helpless. I think he was about to kiss me when someone entered the stairwell.

I shoved him as hard as I could, heart pounding like a frightened rabbit and ran upstairs to the vending lounge. I was terrified to come back down with the coffee, but I did. I figured I would just throw it on him if he came at me again. That man assaulted me twice in the same stairwell during the two semesters I spent at that job.

I was so afraid of going up those stairs. The second time he cornered me, I said I was going to scream and he told me to go right ahead. Again someone unknowingly rescued me by entering the stairwell and I took off running.

I told someone at the station after the first time and they told me that guy was “harmless.” When I said it didn’t feel harmless they told me to stop being dramatic – and this was another woman. She basically told me to grow up and stop acting like a kid. I was about 21 at the time.

I’m much older and wiser now. No way would I take that these days. At the time, I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.

If you are reading this and you are a female, please tell someone if this happens to you. If they don’t listen, tell another person or human resources. Don’t just take it like I did. Times are, hopefully, different these days. Although I wonder if they are with the conversations happening this week.

And if you are a man, I hope you never take advantage of a young girl the way these guys did to me. Who knows what kind of scars something like this leaves behind?

A graphics primer

A graphics primer

Part 1: Design elements

Graphic design

As entrepreneurs or business owners, we all need to have graphics done from time to time. Having a professional graphic artist instead of using your own support staff or trying to do it on your own, can be the difference between an amateurish brochure that will end up in the recycle bin or something that really grabs the reader’s interest and is worth keeping.

Before you get started, you need to know what you want and how to ask for it. Here are some explanations of terms and techniques that are important to a graphic artist.

Don’t worry, there is no test at the end. It’s helpful for everyone to know the terms so you can tell your graphic designer what you want.

Photos

Let’s start with my pet peeve! Printed images and web images are completely different. Your logo artwork or photo can look amazing on your website, but will print like garbage if it is not the right format. Images for print must be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Websites look fine at 72 dpi, but will print looking pixelated and awful. Websites require RGB (red, green, blue) color and printing needs CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Color printing is called 4-color process and prints all colors made up of percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.

Graphic element

Anything that is in your project including text is a graphic element. This includes words, photos and artwork.

Author’s alterations vs corrections

Author’s alterations are when the client changes the wording rather than correcting an error. Generally those are not included in the quoted price. If you make changes, you will be charged for them. Your copy should be ready to go before you start the graphics. Corrections, however,  are always included in the price.

Camera ready art

Camera ready art is ready to go to the printer without any changes. Your graphic artist should give you camera ready art as the finished product, usually in PDF format for printing. Some printers prefer the original graphics file, but they can be quite cumbersome. You need to discuss with the printer what they require before the graphic artist gets started on the project.

Artwork stretching

I’ve seen people stretch logos or photos to make them fit into the page layout. You never mess with someone’s logo. Make your design fit the logo, not the other way around. The same goes for photos. You can crop and size them in a way to make them fit.

stretchy bee

Colors

Colors should compliment each other and not clash. Bright red on bright blue or green can do crazy things to your eyes and should be avoided. The easiest text to read is black text on light yellow. Generally speaking, soothing colors go with calm subjects and bright colors go with a more vibrant subject matter. If you are unsure about what colors to use for a project, you can always extract colors (there is a tool for that in most software, usually an eye dropper) that match an image or logo. For example, if a logo is purple and yellow, those colors can be used in the text. Please make sure they match perfectly or don’t use them. If they are close, but not exact, it is not pleasing to the eye.

White space

You do not have to fill every bit of space with text or artwork. White space is a design element that some people forget is available to them.

Negative space

Negative space is the area around or between the main focus of an image. The World Wildlife Fund logo is a great example of using negative space. You see the entire animal even though your eye has to fill in part of the outline.

Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.
Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.

Grid layout

A grid layout is commonly used for things like brochures. Everything is generally at right angles and the end product is pleasing to the eye. If you create something that looks slightly off kilter, it can be irritating to the reader.

Special effects

Too many special effects on one graphic element like feather (edges fade away), drop shadow (shadow behind the object), rotating, outline and inline can be distracting. You can tell by looking if it is too much.

Paper

Coated or uncoated paper (shiny or not) is another graphic element to your project. Depending upon the project, you may want different paper types (bond, laid, onion skin, etc.), thickness (card stock, paper, newsprint) or paper colors. Discuss paper choices at the beginning of the job because adjustments may be needed to get the desired effect. For example: Newsprint can only be printed on a web press and most printers do not have room for them. On a web press, the paper is in a giant roll and gets printed on one side or both sides, cut, collated and sometimes stapled as it goes through the press. Most presses do not use paper rolls, but sheets of paper that are cut to size after printing.

Bleed

A bleed is where text or an image goes off the page like on most magazine covers. You need a larger sheet of paper for printing with a bleed. After it is printed, the excess is trimmed away. While the finished product looks better, it usually costs more to print.

Summary

Some of the best examples of logos are elegant and simple. Think of the Nike swoosh, the NBC stylized peacock or the McDonald’s arches. The same simplicity can work for a brochure or any other graphic piece.

Next time we will discuss typography, the text for your project. Choosing the right font (typestyle) is important to the legibility and success of your printed project.

Contact Social Squids if you have a graphic design project like a corporate identity package (logo, letterhead, business card), trifold brochure, flyer, ad, newsletter or any other printed piece.

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.

Twitter tips

twitter-logo-2Microblogging with Twitter is a fast way to get your message to a large audience. Messages move at the speed of light. Often times headlines that have not yet hit other news media can be found on Twitter. Here are some handy tips that will help you get the most out of this social media platform.

One of the best examples of putting Twitter to use is a food truck. As the food truck travels, the driver can tweet where he is and where he is headed. Followers can see when the truck is nearby and plan lunch accordingly. Most businesses do not move around like a food truck, but posting updates on what is happening with your business is something you can do.

Retweet and follow posts on other accounts every day. Retweeting other messages shows you are not just posting messages, but you are also reading them. You are engaged in the process. Retweeting is a nice way to assist your favorite accounts and it will come back around to you in a good way when you get some new followers.

Search for your competition, good referral partners, your target audience and influencers in your field. Once you confirm your cell phone number you can follow up to 2,000 accounts. After that, you can follow 10% above the number that follows you. The more accounts you follow, the more will follow you. Most celebrities do not follow back, so only follow your very favorites.

Using hashtags will help people find your message. If you use #SocialSquids in a tweet and someone searches for that hashtag, the message will be more easily found.

If there is way to use a trending topic in your tweet – do it. Trending topics are the most popular topics or hashtags at any given moment and are listed to the left of your Twitter feed. In your settings, you can adjust for local trending topics if most of your business or interest is local. The mention of a trending topic will get more attention to your tweet and you may gain followers.

By adding a photo, your tweet is more likely to be seen (just like with all social media).  If you are able to embed text in the image, you end up with a longer message than a normal tweet. Add a video and get even more attention.

Making an offer or announcing a sale for your Twitter followers, helps you measure how many people are seeing your message by how many people ask for the offer. Twitter now has its own analytics. See how your account is doing by visiting twitter.analytics.com when you are logged into your Twitter account.

Send a direct message to another account by using the @ symbol and the account name. If you use .@ it will be seen by many more people because it will be in your feed and the other person’s feed.

Always remember that once you tweet, even if you delete it, your message is out there in cyberspace. Be careful and proofread your text. Be sure about an image before you post it. There have been countless “whoops” tweets by celebrities that have gone viral, but your tweet can get you in trouble too.

Once you get the hang of the lingo, symbols and using only a few words to make your statement, you will discover the effectiveness of Twitter.

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.

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.

Making the most of trending topics

make the most of trending topicsWith a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine or other social media page to help grow your business, you should take note of what is trending. Try to connect something from the topics to your business. Many times social media is trending. Everyone who has a social media account can relate to that.

Other times there are sports figures, politicians, criminals, natural disasters or other current events trending. Anniversaries of big news stories often make the list.

What are trending topics? These are the most popular topics on social media right now. They change, usually many times per day. But the big stories always are on the list. Search engines also list trending topics so you can find them on Bing or Google.

By using the hashtag (#) and a trending topic on Twitter, your term becomes searchable. So, if wild fires are trending and you put #wildfires in your post, people who search for that hashtag will find your information. You need to stick to the topic for this to be effective. You can send good wishes to people who are in danger of losing their homes from the wildfires. If you have a product, say smoke detectors, that have a natural connection with the trending topic it works best. You can use that to your advantage and help funnel traffic to your social media pages and your website.

Make sure it is a natural fit. If you check trending topics every day, you will find something every now and then that works with your business. You cannot force the issue. It can backfire and result in people making negative comments.

Keep posting on your social media pages. Make it a daily habit. You will find that you gain new followers, likes and connections.

Create content that gets attention

Frequent social media posts are recommendedOne way to attract people to your business is to create great content on your social media sites. Whether it is a silly meme or a serious article, you need to do things that bring awareness to your brand. The difficulty lies in making statements that get you noticed by your target audience.

Is it funny? People love looking at funny pictures and anecdotes. There is plenty of funny material out there, just make sure that you use something that is not copyright protected. There is nothing funny about taking someone else’s work and using it as your own. Silly situations that are highly unlikely or even impossible, make the viewer smile, which helps them to like you.

Inspire your target market. Sometimes the post can be a statement or blog that gives your audience something to ponder. Inspirational quotes are popular ways to get attention. Maybe the quote hits home with someone you know and want as a client.

Does your status update have the wow factor? If you post information that some people find unbelievable, but yet is true, you can attract a lot of attention. People, some of whom are potential clients, like to make comments on and forward posts that contain impressive information.

Other posts pull at your heartstrings. Sad puppies than need homes, veterans who are out of work or homeless people are issues that bring up emotions in most people. Those deep feelings bring attention to your post.

If your comments are not politically correct, you may end up with the wrong kind of attention. You want to make people smile or think, not incite a riot. Stay away from religion, politics and current events that are highly polarized. You can certainly post that information on your personal pages, but you do not want to alienate any group on your business pages.

All in all, people respond to content that pertains to them. If it is interesting, funny or emotional to your friends, connections, followers or people who like you, the relationship is there. Try to correspond with your audience as often as possible, daily if you can manage it.

Where will social media show up next?

Today I attended a funeral and was told that I could have stayed at home and watched live streaming video instead. I turned around and looked. Sure enough, mounted up high on the back wall was a video camera. There really is no privacy any more. You can now attend some funerals from home or anywhere you can grab some wifi.

I am not sure if I am comfortable with that or not, but it does really show that all sorts of businesses are on the “live streaming video” bandwagon. Maybe caskets will someday be covered with advertising like race cars so people viewing will see their logos. How far will it go? No one knows for sure.

Some religious services are also streamed live. Not feeling well? No worries. You can attend services via the internet while sitting at home in your jammies.

If you can stream an event, people will watch, if you get the word out. You can stream events through several sites including You Tube, Livestream and Ustream. Google+ has hangouts, where multiple people can chat live via webcam and millions more can watch. Using this technology can, not only help grow your business, but actually change the way we all do business.

I can remember way, way back when I was in college. A professor told my class about how we would one day have a card, similar to a credit card, that would allow people to travel with no cash. Money would come right out of a person’s checking account. Every business would accept them. Of course, we know that debit cards exist now. But back in the day, that sounded crazy.

Online coupons that are scanned from cell phones at the cash register are already available. PayPal and credit card companies offer gadgets that connect to a cell phone. The business owner can simply swipe a credit card through the gadget. The client signs the phone with their finger to make a charge or payment. Can you imagine what might come next?

I talked to a friend the other day about business cards. He predicts there will be a business card where the image changes and maybe even has video. How far are we from that? There are already animated picture frames, why not a business card?

Even though social media is my business, I am hearing about new apps and sites every day. Some are great, some not so much. But the technology is changing daily. To stay on top of things with your business, you need to change with the technology and not fight against it.