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.

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.

Which social media sites are best for your business?

social media with social squidsIt seems that every day a new social media platform arrives on the scene. Trying to figure out which ones work best for your business can be confusing. It does not matter whether your business is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Here are some clues to help with the decisions.

Everyone can benefit from the mass appeal of Facebook and Twitter. There are so many people on these sites that you can use the shotgun approach to finding business. That is when you send you message to so many people, a percentage of them must be interested. You Tube also has a wide appeal, but you have to have to create interesting videos that people want to see.

If your business can show before and after” photos like home improvements, makeovers, dog grooming, etc., the more visually oriented platforms will work great. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Vine are excellent ways to let the visuals do the talking. For businesses that are creative, like illustrators, photographers and web designers, the visually oriented apps are your best bet. Show off your work!

An accountant, lawyer or medical practice can benefit from using blogs. A blog can be more targeted, especially if you use appropriate bookmarking sites to spread the word. Blogs can have a mass appeal as well, especially if you have a topic that is appropriate for a wide audience. By offering tips, you let readers know you are an expert in your field.

All social media helps you get your business name in front of an audience every time you post. Conversely, if you only post occasionally, you are losing that audience. By using the right social media platforms, you will become a household name. Once that happens, people will begin to think of your business when they need to hire someone in your field or make a purchase.

11 ways to make the most of QR codes

QR code business facebook pagesoQR codes are popping up in all sorts of places. These weird, little, square symbols are the new way to take smart phone users to any web page. How can you use QR codes to help with marketing your business? Here is a list of ways you can make these scannable codes work for you.

Signage: There is only so much space on a sign. QR codes are found on large posters or signs in bus shelters, in bathroom stalls, on public transportation, schools, sporting events or other places where people walk past. Get more traffic by adding a QR code to your sign.

Advertising: Magazine and newspaper ads are using QR codes more and more to encourage people to go to the website of the business to get special offers and company information.

Borchures and flyers: Brochures and flyers can be found on retail counters, left under windshields, in doctor’s offices or handed to people. A QR code can give much more information or take potential clients to a video or slide show.

Packaging: This is a great way to go from someone purchasing your product to someone learning more about the business that produces the product. Get people to go from purchaser to devoted fan.

Name tags at events: Scan in business information about a person on the spot.

Business cards: There is barely any room to write much of a message on a business card. A QR code will let people read the whole company mission.

Real estate for sale signs: As potential buyers see a house for sale, they can stop and scan your QR code, which can take them to a virtual tour or lots of pictures of the interior before they decide to call the agent about the house.

Subscription links: If you have a brochure, sign or flyer and want people to sign up to be on your mailing list. A QR code will quickly get them to the right page.

On an interactive map: A map of an area can add QR codes for readers to get details about interesting landmarks.

On giveaway marketing materials: Key chains, refrigerator magnets, nail files and even pens have little space for more than a logo. Adding a QR code will take them to your site to see details about your business.

RSVP on invitations: Make it easier for people to let you know whether or not they will attend your event with a QR code for yes and another for no.

I need a QR code for my business if you need a QR code for your business.

Facebook is down, OMG!!

facebook-went-offlineNo, the world didn’t come to an end last night. It just seemed that way when Facebook had a little hiccup. What would we do without Facebook? It has become such a part of everyday life that all other social media went crazy with comments about it, which is interesting in its own way.

I had the most amazing time during the 15-20 minutes Facebook was down. Honestly, with the panic that ensued, it seemed like the problem lasted a lot longer. At first I thought my internet connection went down. According to what I read, a lot of people had the same thought.

Some people did not lose Facebook at all. Others could use the mobile version. The fact that people even mentioned that, shows how much this social media is imbedded in our society. The website downdetector.com shows what sites are down at any given time. Check there before you panic!

Because the site is so popular, it demonstrates why every business should have a page and use it. You need to post on your Facebook page at least a few times a week, preferably every day, to get the most out of the site. Also, adding links to your regular website will help send traffic to the social media page.

Millions of people are using social media every single day. If you want to grow your business, you have to be a part of it. I met someone at an in-person networking event recently who told a business owner, “If you’re so great, why doesn’t anyone know about you?”

So true! Enjoy the fact that free social media sites are here for your business. Every now and then there is a little problem, but for the most part they are a presence that must be part of your marketing if you are to succeed.

Just for fun, here are some of the fantastic comments I read last night. I didn’t attribute these to the people who sent them in case they didn’t want their names mentioned.

I’m predicting an explosion of births nine months from today. #facebook

Thought I broke #facebook but apparently it’s just down at the moment…

I didn’t realize how much #facebook meant to me :'(

#facebook is the number one trend worldwide…. Oh the irony

#facebook is down, How will i know what everyone is eating right now?!?

Because #facebook was down, he turned his head only to discover that his wife left him months ago, that he was hungry and that he had to pee

#facebook is down, how will I know if my elderly next door neighbor is ok? I could knock and ask, but, face-to-face interaction, ewww.

This is Twitter in its prime; when #Facebook goes down and people need another social networking site to vent their frustration.

OMG #facebook is down. The Mayan doomsday calendar must be off by a few days.

Eight ways to attract viewers to your blog

blogging-for-page-viewsHere is a list of eight ways to raise your popularity. In the comments section, feel free to add any ideas of your own.

  1. Post as often as possible. Make your blog entries become a permanent fixture in your readers’ lives. There is something be said for consistency.
  1. Add links to some of the old blogs within a new blog. Invariably, you will write about a similar subject to one you wrote about in the past. Connect your older blog with your new one and you will certainly add page views.
  1. Use images. Whenever you can, add images, videos, infographics – anything that will attract the eyes of people scanning through pages of information. The image will grab them, and great writing will keep them.
  1. Answer all comments people post on your blog. Also, comment on other blogs. This increases your credibility.
  1. Give timely and useful information. A blog that says nothing has no reason to be read. Relate big news items like the election, hurricanes, sports victories or other popular trending topics to your blog.
  1. Write a great headline. Sometimes the headline is an afterthought. Make sure your headline is as engaging as the rest of the blog.
  1. You have a sense of humor – use it! Even if you are writing about a serious topic, being clever and witty will keep people reading.
  1. Don’t forget other social media! This probably should have been the first thing on the list. Spread your wealth of information all over the internet. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and all of the bookmarking sites to get as many viewers as possible.

Too bad social media can’t change the weather

While the weather can change social media, it’s too bad it can’t be the other way around. Of course, Hurricane Sandy is trending and so is FEMA while the wind whips around my house and knocks branches off the trees. Just as I typed this, a big gust of wind hit and my dog went flying upstairs to hide.

In Baltimore, we’re bracing for heavy-duty winds from now until about 2 a.m. I can only hope my power holds out through the worst of it. My neighborhood has above ground lines so we lose power quite often during bad storms.

Social media is obviously abuzz over this storm. Not only are people posting about power outages, weather updates, but crazy photos of Godzilla walking in New York Harbor and the State of Liberty with a ominous looking, swirling cloud have been Photoshopped. Don’t believe everything you see, people!

Some of us, who are considered technically savvy people, look at every photo with a little bit of skepticism. We’ve manipulated photos enough to look the way we want them that we are naturally looking for shadows that don’t all go in the same direction or other signs of photo altering.

Knowing that people are home from work, and surfing cyberspace to wait out the storm, gives some of us the opportunity to reach people who don’t always see what we post. And, it’s nice to know that I can look on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google+ and see that my friends are “hunkered down” as Baltimore’s mayor told us to do. I’m sure all of social media is working with higher than normal traffic.

I can at least see that my friends and family members are okay, when they are posting status updates and photos or forwarding someone else’s photos. Surfing and reading, that’s really a relaxing thing to do while you are “hunkering down.”

Cross your fingers, offer a good thought and let’s keep spirits up during Mother Nature’s latest attack on us. She seems really pissed today.

Sports and social media

Continuing with a sports motif… Catch the Redskins game last night? Former Baltimore Raven and now Washington Redskin, Billy Cundiff, missed three field goals before kicking a game winner in the last few seconds of the game. You might wonder what this has to do with social media – actually, quite a lot.

Billy Cundiff missed a critical field goal for the Ravens last year during the playoffs and the entire city turned against him. His teammates were the first people to speak out in his defense. Ray Lewis was quoted as saying, “We win as a team, we lose as a team.” That did little to stop the horrible tweets, Facebook posts and other social media insults and threats.

Using social media for good instead of evil, should be our goal. Focus on what the kicker did in the last play of the game and not threaten his life.

Sometimes it is best to keep your opinions to yourself. This is especially true if you are trying to grow your business and use your social media to do that. You never know who is reading your posts or how they feel about any given situation.

There was an interview with baseball sportscaster Joe Buck on TV last night. He also received negative tweets and was reading them on his phone during the games. He said it affected the way he did his job. He had to stop using Twitter to keep his peace of mind. Are you driving people away from social media with negative comments? Let’s hope not!

Iran has blocked certain websites from that country, although they have unblocked gmail today. We live in a wonderful, free society and to take that freedom and use it to heckle, harass and browbeat people is wrong.

Let’s try and have some good karma. Think of at least one nice thing to tweet or post on Google+ , LinkedIn or Faceboo.

Bookmarking sites can work for you

bookmark-your-blog-and-websiteBookmarking sites are the one easy way to spread your message to the most people in a short amount of time. If you have never heard of StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, BizSugar, YahooBookmarks, GoogleBookmarks, you are missing out on a way to reach countless people. For every blog I write, website I design and article I post, I spread the word through bookmarking sites.

There are tons of these sites out there, you just have to know where to find them. For the most part, the sites are popularity contests. Like or vote for the page, and it rises in the ranks.

By using the Add This toolbar to your browser, you have a convenient way to organize all of the bookmarking and social sites. You load your favorite sites, and when you use the toolbar, all of your social sites are right there. You can just click on them one by one and share your blog, site or article. Unlike Twitter, Facebook and Google+, many bookmarking sites can only be used once per page. Each blog entry can be viewed as its own page, so you can promote each blog entry through each bookmarking site for maximum exposure of your business.

Before you sign yourself up for a whole bunch of bookmarking sites, take a look at each one and see if it is appropriate for your business blog or website. Some, like BizSugar, are more appropriate for marketing and business related sites, but not so much for others. StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg are more general and have lots of topics or subtopics from which to choose. If your business does not fit well into their custom topics, it might not be a good fit for you. Don’t waste your valuable time promoting something that is never going to be viewed. Remember to sign up for – and use – Google Analytics and see which sites and search engines are sending you the most traffic.

Another issue is how many members the sites have. Some of the bookmarking sites have limited membership, or the members may all be from foreign countries. That’s great if you market your business to foreign countries, but not if you don’t.

You have to join each bookmarking site before you can use them. But after that, it becomes easy and routine. Add This has sharing codes that are easily attached to your blog so other people can share the page too. You will see the share buttons at the bottom of each of my blog entries. Once you set up your accounts, you can add the codes to the blog. Be nice to the bloggers you like and share their page. Hint, hint…

The Add This sharing codes and toolbar both have loads of social media and bookmarking sites. That is why I chose to use their links on my blogs and websites. In order to grow your business, use these bookmarking sites as much as can. I’d love to hear about how bookmarking is helping you.