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.

Self-doubt, worry and emissions testing

stressing out at the emissions test

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.

Disbelief

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!”

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.

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.

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_

What would you do?

just sitting at starbucksLast week I found myself in an awkward situation. Maybe you have been there a time or two yourself. Here is my story…

This morning I am sitting in Starbucks for the second time waiting for someone who has not shown up. It is my second attempt on an appointment with this person and getting together was his idea. He seemed rather embarrassed when I talked to him after he missed the first appointment and here I am again. I really thought he would show up this time.

How many appointments do you make with someone and how long do you wait before you bail? This is someone I’ve known for over a year, but we will not be working together at this point. And, I feel like I can’t refer people to someone who doesn’t feel I am important enough to keep an appointment.

To make matters worse, one guy is talking loudly on his cell phone and a couple is having a conversation with someone on speaker phone. The loud guy is  talking to his appointment who did not show up either. I clearly heard him say, “That’s okay. Whenever you can get here is fine.”

I have resorted to my headphones, which I don’t like to do because I’m liable to start singing without realizing it. That will not be good in any way.

What is the protocol for being on time? 

In my opinion, you should always be 5-10 minutes early. That way you are never late. I get into panic attacks if I am stuck in traffic and I think I’m going to be late for anything, even if it’s just dinner with good friends and there is no time constraint. Maybe that’s just me.

In the age of cell phones that have alerts to let you know an appointment is coming up or reminders that can let you know you need to do something, there is really no excuse.

When I first contacted the guy after missing the first appointment, he doubted me, checked his phone’s calendar and admitted I was right. Ouch. Doubting me? That hurt right off the bat. I should have just said forget it, but I was hoping that we could at least share referrals.

If I’m going to be late, I text or call the person to let them know. I had an appointment last week and the guy was 30 minutes late. He messaged me three times letting me know there was an accident on the beltway and that he was trying to get to the appointment. However, this time I have been disrespected – and for the second time.

Last night I considered sending a reminder email, especially because he missed the first appointment, but I figured we’re all adults here and should be able to keep an appointment. Seems like I got that wrong.

I will admit, I missed a doctor’s appointment once. I spent the day with that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, but couldn’t remember what it was. Two hours after the appointment, it hit me. I was embarrassed and felt terrible especially since I would probably be charged for it. Granted, that was years before Siri was around to remind me. I made absolutely sure I did not miss the second appointment!

Should I be insulted? I am. Should my feelings be hurt? They are. Should I just chalk it up to experience and enjoy my Starbucks latte? I should, but I can’t.

OMG. The guy I’m supposed to be meeting just walked in the door and sat down with someone else six feet away from me. Now I’m really mad and in a completely awkward situation. I have no idea what to do. I feel like a complete idiot. I am embarrassed, although I should not be. This is crazy. I should not have started writing this and instead left when I had a chance for a clean break.

Life sure does throw me curve balls. Did he see me sitting here with my headphones and typing away at my keyboard or was he focused on his OTHER appointment with the loud guy I heard talking on the phone earlier. Apparently, he forgot that appointment too. I am seething…

This has become too angry to be a blog. It has become a rant.

The guy didn’t even go up and get coffee, offering me an escape route. I am trapped like a wounded animal. Being generally non-confrontational, I am at a loss. I just want to escape with what little dignity I have. At least his back is to me as I contemplate my predicament.

What would you do if you found yourself in this situation?

Dealing with the computer illiterate

computer literacyYesterday I had a meeting with a prospective client about setting up a website. He is a very nice man, but really had no idea what a website does or why he should have one. He never thought about it before because he doesn’t really use a computer.

I see less and less of this type of person. Most people, even many of my relatives over the age of 80, at least use email and Facebook. Not this guy.

It was difficult explaining things to this man because I had to define the terms I was using as I went along. That often got me sidetracked. The man wants to sell something on his website that he makes by hand. He said he’d rather be working with his hands than using a computer. Obviously.

My explanations included how a search engine works and what it does, what Etsy.com is, Facebook, web hosting, domain name, etc. The poor man’s eyes glazed over when I talked about setting up a PayPal account so he can sell his products online. Of course, I had to explain what PayPal is and how it works. “How would I get the money?” he asked after a 10 minute explanation. I had to start from the beginning again.

Luckily, I am very patient. Years ago, I taught word processing in adult education. It was the same situation. The idea of switching from typing on paper to on the computer screen is confusing at first. I explained everything to this man as thoroughly as I could. I’m sure everything I said to him was a confused jumble in his mind when he left.

As a result of the conversation with this man, I have decided to write out some definitions/explanations to hand to people when I get together with them. It is my responsibility to explain what I do and all of the terms involved to a prospective client. I can either email (if they have email) or hand a prospective client the paper so when they go home and discuss it with people, they will have a better idea of what I do.

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.

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.