As a business owner, I’m sure you get a ton of emails every day just like I do. Keeping up with emails can take a good chunk of time every day.
Dealing with the junk
The first thing I do is clear out the junk. I set up rules (which you can do on a Mac) to send mail from spammers to my junk or trash folder and they’re gone forever.
I don’t unsubscribe from emails from people I know, but I get added to mailing lists all of the time and they are not emails I want or need. So I unsubscribe.
If you set up an account with a company where you buy things online, don’t subscribe to their emails unless you really want them. Many of them send daily emails, or at least weekly emails that can fill your inbox quickly.
You might get notices from social media sites, you can limit them by changing your setting in the social media site to not receive email notifications from them. Of course, don’t delete the ones you need. I like to know when someone messages my business pages so I can respond to them quickly.
Responding to emails
A good rule of thumb is to wait to open emails until you have time to answer them. Don’t open an email and think, “I’ll get back to him later.” Do it now and be done with it. People lose business every day because they don’t get back to people.
Make sure people know you are answering the emails and not a bot. Create a signature with your name, website, phone number and any other pertinent information they might need. That shows the sender you are responding and not an underling.
Put the sender’s name in the greeting (and always write a greeting) when you respond and be personal. If the email is coming from your website contact page, it’s just as important as a direct email.
Be sure to plan time in your schedule for responding to emails so you don’t get behind. They add up quickly and will end up costing you a good bit of time to get caught up again.
We all have Facebook pages, but getting new followers is can be tough. Here are some tips to increase your following and engagement of your posts.
1. This one is obvious. You can buy page likes. However, when you buy followers, they might not remain followers. Some will follow for a short period of time and then disappear.
2. Using the correct demographics for your business when buying followers can help with retention, but the further you narrow down your audience, the more expensive the ad will be. In the end, however, you get higher quality followers.
3. A good way to encourage post sharing is to have a contest where people have to share in order to have a chance at winning. You can pick a winner at random, use the funniest caption or come up with another way to pick the winner. Another contest idea is to have customers/clients post pictures with your products and pick the post with the most likes as the winner. Best snowman during a snowstorm, best Halloween costume, cutest pet, etc. are also good contest topics. The prize can be anything from your products, services or even a Target gift card. People love winning!
4. Respond to all of the comments on your posts, even (and especially) the negative ones. Explain your point of view in your return comment and then send them a private message trying to make them feel better. Many times the person who posted the negative comment will then post a positive one once they are appeased.
5. Combine forces with someone who has an adjacent or complimentary business to yours. Each of you post things and tag each other so that the post will appear on both pages. You will get some crossover viewers. It is especially helpful if you find someone who has more followers than you.
6. Become a name dropper! If you mention a well known business or person, eat at a popular restaurant or go to a function at a big night spot tag the person or business in your photo and/or post so more people will see what you have to say.
7. Make sure all of your social media pages have links on your website. It’s surprising how many people don’t do this.
8. Comment on other pages with meaningful content. Picking pages with lots of followers gets more engagement.
9. Add a link to your Facebook page to your email signature so everyone you email has a link to your page.
10. Figure out what is working? Monitor your results when you run an ad, have a contest or try another method of boosting your following. Look at the “insights” on your page to see if there is a spike in new likes.
11. Post often and consistently so people know you are seriously involved in your business.
*BONUS TIP* Don’t ask your friends to like your comments, ask them to like and SHARE your comments. When someone shares a comment, it goes to all of their friends and you can reach exponentially more people that way. This is the best way to get new fans, but is often the least used!
Good luck! Please keep us informed on how these tips are working for you by sharing your thoughts and ideas on our page.
You listen to everyone’s advice and you got a website, but no one is visiting. Why does it matter whether or not you have a site or not?
The truth is that you just never know when a prospect may look to see exactly what is on your website and what you do. Almost every business, big or small, has a website. It’s just something you need to do as part of your marketing in today’s world.
The mistake many people make is they think a stagnant website is enough. It’s not.
One of the things the search engines, like Google and bing, look for is activity on those pages and sites. The more active you are, the better.
Websites are ranked by a lot of factors, but one of them is activity – new pages and/or posts and the updating of existing pages and/or posts. If you have a blog and never put anything on it, that’s a negative. If you post regularly it’s a plus.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a method by which you can make changes on your website to have the search engines look more favorably at it. How do people search for you? What terms do they use? For example, in my case it is social media, Baltimore, Maryland, Social Squids, graphic design, writing, websites, etc. Those terms are called keywords.
Search engines frequently change their algorithms in order to fight against people trying to cheat the system. The algorithms are getting smarter so people are forced to be more legitimate in how they put words on their sites. That old, tricky tactics made for some terrible writing on websites.
If you use WordPress for your website, there is a handy plugin called Yoast SEO. It works really well by giving you pointers on how to add or subtract things to your site in order to make the SEO better and thereby help your search engine ranking. It focuses on keywords, outbound links, images and other components that will improve the flow and look of your website while helping the search engines find you and send people your way. Yoast uses a red, amber, green light system like traffic lights. The idea is to get all of the pages on your site to be green in the SEO category. There is also a “readability” category that gets a score.
Whether you use Yoast or other software, amping up your site for search engines is important if you want to stay competitive. Social Squids is here if you need us with help for SEO or writing for your site.
After watching the Barbara Bush funeral on Saturday, I have been thinking about legacies. What will your business leave to the world? How do you measure whether or not your business, and you as a person, are successful? How do you define success?
We had a discussion in my networking group today about this topic. Of course, there is the money definition. A successful person is one who has a financially successful business, or is financially successful himself.
But if you look a little deeper and think about how you define happiness, the money is only one small component. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly helps make things easier. However, it’s not the barometer most people use to measure happiness or success.
People who have a happy family life consider themselves a success. Those of us who are lucky enough to work at a job we love, that gives us fulfillment – and yeah, money too – consider themselves successful.
Others define success as having enough money to travel and do the things they want to do in life with their families. Is a difficult thing to define, but it’s worth a thought.
Someone in the networking group mentioned that as we get older, our priorities change. The nice car, the house in the “right” neighborhood and other status symbols seem to lose their pull. People are less interested in things and more interested in experiences.
When it’s all said and done, your material things are not that important. In fact, there was a controversial article within the last year about how kids no longer want their parents’ stuff. Millennial have less desire to take those hand-me-downs over getting something new.
Living a good life, having good friends, being of service to your clients, loving your family – those are things that matter more than anything else in the end.
While I love social media and doing everything online, at the same time I see the benefits of networking and meeting people in person too. Social Squids can do work anywhere in the world as long as people pay in US dollars, but talking to people in the flesh, seeing their body language and shaking their hands creates a connection that just isn’t possible online.
Meetup and Eventbrite are good places to seek out networking events that might be of interest to you. Looking for you local chamber of commerce is another source of networking events where you can meet other marketing people or business owners.
Posting on social media sites and engaging with people on Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn and Instagram is wonderful. You have the opportunity to meet people all over the world and exchange ideas with them. You can have your brand get a lot more exposure than you would if you only concentrated on meeting people in person.
Of course, meeting and engaging with people in both ways is best for marketing yourself and your business. Just don’t forget about the human contact part of the marketing picture in your haste to get your message to as many people as possible.
A 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.
For the first time ever, I had my emissions tested well ahead of the deadline. So worried that I would not pass due to car problems I’ve had recently, I wanted to get it over with and find out what problems needed to be fixed.
Figuring that the week between Christmas and New Year’s would be a less busy time to take care of the emissions testing, I went yesterday. Wrong, it was just as busy as ever.
It seems that every time the car idles for a long time, the Check Engine light comes on and it costs a lot of money to fix it.
Nail chewing time
I pulled into the emissions center in total freak-out mode and waited in line with my car idling for over a half hour. They now have a self-testing area. After briefly considering that, I decided out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it and would end up in the line anyway. Probably should have tried it.
Traffic jams always make me feel claustrophobic and sitting in this waiting area with many lanes of traffic completely stopped did not help my anxiety in the least. I picked the first aisle because I would only be trapped on one side and that was a little better.
There was a guy in a car in the lane to the right of me that was turning his car off and then back on when it was time to move up one car length. I considered doing this, but didn’t. When he moved his car forward it was making a terrible noise. I figured I would be seeing this guy later in the “you didn’t pass” customer service area.
There were 5-6 cars ahead of me when I got in line. With each car length forward my stomach churned and sweat appeared on my forehead. I thought to myself that maybe I could turn on the heat full blast and it would keep my engine cooler. Not sure if that makes any sense, but the hot flashes took over and I couldn’t deal with the blasting heat even with the windows down.
Another car length forward and my palms were sweating. I couldn’t sit still. To my left I could see people parking and taking their paperwork inside where you have to go once you fail the test. I knew I would be parking there soon and wondered how long I would be in line inside.
A passenger in the car ahead of me got out and took a little walk. I wondered what she was up to or if she just needed the bathroom. She came back a few minutes later. And we moved up another car length.
At this point I was in a full out panic attack. Why? I would just get a paper that said what I need to get fixed. I was sure it would be pricey, then I would have to come back and go through this horror again.
Oh boy, the car ahead of me entered the testing area. My pulse rate was high, full sweatiness and I think my eyes were crazy.
My head was throbbing now. The person in front of me got her paper and the attendant waved me into the testing area.
I could barely speak. I handed the guy my paper and money. He was telling me to turn off the car and step out while he performed the test. I felt faint. Maybe I’d vomit. I knew I looked on edge, but I couldn’t calm down.
The attendant handed me back the paper and I knew what he would say.
“You passed.” He said with the causal air of someone who says that all day long. I thought I misunderstood him.
“Thank you…” I croaked.
“You’re good for two years.” The attendant said. I’m not a hugger, but I nearly leapt from my car and embraced that guy in a full bear hug.
Out of the emissions testing center, I pulled out in total disbelief. I slowly drove down the road thinking that I will wake up at any minute and realize that I haven’t had the test yet. I got to the traffic light, thrust my fist upward and yelled, “YES!”
Here’s hoping 2017 will be filled with moments that end with a fist pump and a “Yes!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Entrepreneurs 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.
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.
Post new blogs, pages or updates to your personal social media pages. Even if you have someone who posts for you, add some yourself.
Email your friends about your website.
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.
Add link to your site in the signature of your email.
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.
On your personal Facebook page, add your website in the settings section.
Write an article about your business for someone else’s website. Guest blogging gives your business a new audience.
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.
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).
Create a magnet for your vehicle with the website in large letters.
Many local businesses have neighborhood bulletin boards, add your card or flyer (with website on it).
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.