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IS SOCIAL MEDIA WORKING FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Gone are the days when a simple website was enough to engage your customers.
Today people expect more than a static brochure-style website. Depending on your market, you may have customers who use Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other social media outlets to obtain their information about companies. While some customers will want to peruse your site for information about your company and what you offer, others will want to interact with you. By showing your clients they matter and that you care what they think, you can keep them coming back to your website, store, or company.
The Benefits of Social Media for Your Business
1) You have the opportunity to form personal relationships
with your customers/clients
2) You can show customers/clients that you value them
3) People will remember you if you are engaging with them
Twitter and Facebook for Your Business
Having trouble deciding how Twitter and Facebook can work for you?
Here are a few things to consider, to get you started:
1) What are you an expert on? Share your expertise with others.
2) What added value can you give your clients/customers/followers?
3) Give people a reason to keep following you
4) Give people something they can't get from the competition
5) Provide a community feel where people can participate – in polls about new products you are considering selling, new service areas you are exploring, or engage conversations about your product and industry
Attack Social Media From All Sides
1) Have a blog or news feed on your website
2) Have Twitter automatically update when you post something new to your blog
3) Have your blog posts show up in Facebook
4) Have your posts show in your Linked In profile feed
5) If you run video ad campaigns, can you use YouTube to your advantage? Can you be the next big viral ad campaign?
The Fine Line Between Providing Value and Being a Nuisance
If you are flooding your followers with posts that do not provide any value
to them, they will likely stop following you. (monitor your followers to see if you are retaining them or losing them over time) Keep your business posts relevant
to your business followers. Start a personal Twitter or Facebook account for off-topic threads. Remember that not all customers or clients will share your sense of humour, values, or other interests.
What is Your Competition Doing?
It's easy to check out your competition's Twitter or Facebook pages. What are they providing their customers? Can you do the same? Can you provide more value?
HTML5 and CSS3: WHAT CAN THEY DO FOR YOU?
If you follow any trends in website design, you have surely heard the hype about HTML5, and probably to a lesser degree, CSS3. But, what exactly can the latest HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) do for you? For anyone I've lost already, these are the building blocks of most websites.
Read on so you know what to ask for when you are considering a new or redesigned website.
As with all new standards, there are varying levels of support across all web browsers. It is important to realize that a cool new feature may look great in the latest version of some browsers, while you may need a simpler backup plan for visitors on older browsers.
Here are a few of my favourite new features:
1) Native Video and Audio means they can be embedded directly onto a web page.
This means you no longer need an audio/video player plug-in (Flash, QuickTime, etc) in order to experience this type of content. It makes your video/audio more accessible to visitors and faster to load.
2) Better font support.
Fonts have been supported in web browsers for some time with something called @fontface. Because it has not been easy to have these fonts display in all browsers, the technology has not been widely used. Now, there is improved font support and the ability to choose from a wider range of fonts for modern browsers.
3) Cooler effects.
A few of the cool new effects you can use directly in your HTML and CSS (instead of 'faking it' in PhotoShop) include the Canvas tool for vector-based art, drop-shadows on images and text, transition animations, and better support for image and background shapes and borders.
4) Improved symantics.
This means it will be easier for search engines and screenreaders to navigate our pages.
5) Storing data offline.
This will allow a web application to be used whether the visitor is online or offline.
WHY I KEEP RECOMMENDING WORDPRESS
When I started using WordPress
a couple years ago, I knew it was a great website management tool, but I had no idea it would become the widely popular tool it is today.
These are a few of the reasons why I recommend WordPress:
1) 8.5% of all websites
are now powered by WordPress.
2) What started off as a simple blogging tool has grown into a full CMS
(content management software).
3) It works well with Google to improve your SEO
4) It is free to install and use
on personal and commercial websites.
5) There is a large and active community of developers creating plug-ins to help enhance WordPress
and add functionality to your site. These includes slideshows, product catalogues, interactive calendars and more. Most of these plug-ins are free.
6) There are many people developing templates
for WordPress. You can find some of these templates for free or a small fee, if you do not want a customized, unique site.
7) WordPress sites are easy to update and maintain
. Changing a welcome paragraph, updating an event listing, or adding new product images and write-ups to a website are quick and easy.
A few websites I have designed and/or developed that run on WordPress include:
Brooking Media Consulting Inc
Alliance H Inc
...And more, with others being launched this summer.
DOES YOUR WEBSITE NEED A REDESIGN?
If you answer 'no' to any of these questions, it may be time for a website make-over.
1) Does your site look fresh and inviting?
2) Is your site performing well in search engines?
3) Is your site easy to update?
4) Is your site taking advantage of the latest website technologies?
5) Does your site stand up against the sites of your competition?
6) Does your site accurately reflect the image you want portrayed about yourself and/or your business?
7) Has your site been complimented lately?
Your website is a valuable marketing tool
, that can work for you 24 hours a day. It needs to be current, focused and appealing to your target market.
If it has been a while since your website had significant updates, now may be a good time to reevaluate your site's presence on the web.
You can contact me with any questions about your site and the benefits of a redesign.
MY WEB TREND PREDICTIONS FOR 2010
• More social networking
. People will continue to embrace Twitter
, Linked In
as ways to connect with large groups of people. The biggest growth with social media will be through mainstream businesses connecting on a more personal level with potential clients. We will see more linking from websites and newsletters to these social media sites.
• Increased CMS
usage, and more powerful CMS solutions
available from traditional blogging platforms, like WordPress
. Companies are preferring a hands-on approach to managing their website content. People will continue to want blogging directly on their site, and the ability to add news to their site on a moment's notice, to keep up with the increasingly fast-paced delivery of news.
Trends in Web Design:
It is difficult to predict web design trends, because of how quickly technology changes. These are trends I am noticing, and I imagine will continue and evolve throughout the year. You need to use your discretion when implementing 'trend' looks on your own site. Just because you can do something, does not mean you should! You do not want your site to appear dated in two years, leading to frequent redesigns. Who knows what the web will be in another five or ten years. (Just think of how far it has come.)
• Oversized footers
packed with more links, logos and social media buttons.
• Magazine-style layouts
with short concise info in an easy to read format.
• More calls-to-action
on Home pages and in sidebars/footers site-wide, inviting visitors to "Sign Up", "Buy" or "Subscribe".
• More new and exciting developments
from our friends at Google
. It is difficult to imagine what they will think of next, but I am sure it will be good.
• More competition (and cool new features
) across the main web browsers
and Internet Explorer
attempt to win more users with their new features and the technology they support.
• More sliders, slideshows and larger images on websites, and more glows and drop-shadows as more internet users are upgrading their old browsers and gaining access to the higher internet speeds critical for delivering this rich content
• More interesting fonts
used on websites, now that current browser versions are supporting @font-face
. (This may take longer to become mainstream on the web, since many people are still using older, out-of-date browsers)
• A continued battle between Flash
and HTML 5
in how dynamic content can be displayed on the web. I think Flash will lose some ground, unless the iPhone and new iPad start supporting it
With technology changing so quickly, by next week my predictions could change too.
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE FREE TOOLS ON THE WEB
1) Google Analytics.
This has been my favourite Google tool for a long time. (see link'ed tip
from July 2008)
2) Google Webmaster Tools.
This great tool
allows you to see how users are reaching your site and make your site more search engine friendly.
3) Google Docs.
easily without the need for sending large email attachments.
4) Campaign Monitor Design and Spam Testing.
Although this is not free, I find the $5 fee worthwhile for testing new email campaigns
5) Font Squirrel.
is a great resource for quality fonts that are free and available for commercial use.
6) FavIcon from Pics.
Create a Favicon
quickly and easily with this online tool.
7) Sitemap Generator.
A quick and easy way to generate a site map
for your website, so that Google can find and index your site.
GET NOTICED ON THE WEB WITH THESE TIPS TO INCREASE WEBSITE TRAFFIC
1) Keep content current.
Search engines, and your visitors, prefer websites that are up-to-date.
2) Keep content relevant.
Use keywords that actually apply to your site. Driving irrelevant traffic to your site is bad for your reputation.
3) Have good, quality links to your site.
Search engines like incoming and outgoing links. The higher the quality of an incoming link (a national company versus your cousin's blog) the greater the effect on your search engine ranking.
4) Use social networking sites to your advantage.
A blog post or tweet about your site could draw in curious visitors. Have the content they expect, so they stay on your site. (and return!)
By keeping your site optimized for your target visitors you will naturally keep it optimized for search engines. Trying to 'trick' search engines will disappoint your visitors and reflect poorly on your company.
If you are concerned about site traffic, we can work together to make sure your site has the presence it needs to perform on the internet.
YOUR PHOTOS AT THEIR BEST ON THE WEB
People often want to add images to their website themselves. But have you noticed that your images do not look as crisp
as those prepared by professionals?
Here are a few tips for making your images look great on the web
! These are also good tips for any photographs you are uploading to online albums
1) Reduce the image size before uploading.
Images can only be viewed at 72 dpi (dots per inch) on the web, versus a common print dpi of 300. By reducing your image size before uploading to the web, you save the time it takes the image to load, and you can see how your image looks at the size it will be viewed on screen.
2) Sharpen that image.
When you greatly reduce the size of your image you reduce the amount of information stored with the image. This often results in images that appear blurry on screen. If you have Photoshop (or other image editing software) you can use the sharpen feature after reducing your image, to give it the same crisp appearance it had at original size.
3) Play with the lighting in imaging software, using 'curves' or 'levels'.
Smaller images sometimes lack the contrast that larger images have. If you find your images look muddy or lack contrast, try adjusting the curves or levels in the image. A slight tweak can give your web images increased contrast. Be careful that you do not go overboard. It is easy to get carried away and end up with a photo that looks too fake.
4) Make your adjustments on a second layer, so you can tone it back if your image starts to look heavily altered.
By keeping your adjustments on a second layer, your original image remains unaltered. If you find your adjustments are too drastic you can scale back the opacity of the adjustment layer until you are happy with the overall change.
If this process seems complex and cumbersome, know that an expert can adjust most images in mere minutes, so it may save you time and hassle to have your images professionally prepared.
'GREENING' YOUR MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
With Earth Day last month I started thinking about ways to 'green' my graphic design processes. Here are some tips to help with your quest to reduce waste with your printing and marketing.
GREENER MARKETING (sometimes cheaper too!)
• Use email invitations, postcards and notices instead of printed ones.
• Have a PDF or online version of any catalogues, brochures or handouts available so fewer printed copies are required.
• Try e-coupons instead of paper ones.
• Can the final product serve more than one purpose?
• Is the end-product biodegradable or recyclable?
• Look for paper that is: 30% to 100% post consumer recycled, ECF (elemental chlorine free), FSC certified, locally produced, and manufactured by a company with a good environmental record. Ask your printer about green printing option and if they follow a green policy.
• Digital printing is 'greener' than offset printing. (toner emits fewer VOCs than ink and less paper is wasted during printing)
• Avoid using metallic and fluorescent inks. They often contain heavy metals that can leach into ground water (after disposal). They are also a health hazard to employees handling the inks.
• Request online proofs from your printer.
• Deliver files to your printer/designer/client by email or FTP instead of by mail. If you are not set up to FTP larger files try a service like yousendit.com
SOME HELPFUL SITES FOR GREEN TIPS
• Blog with great information on sustainable printing
• Blog with helpful green marketing tips
• Information on FSC paper
• 12 Tips for printing green
• How to write your own environmental policy
EMAIL MARKETING: STAND ABOVE THE COMPETITION
What was once seen as a simple way to keep in touch has turned into a powerful marketing medium. Are you embracing email marketing?
TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE EBLASTS, NEWSLETTERS AND ECARDS
1) Know Your Audience
This is a given for all forms of marketing. You need to appeal to your target audience. This goes further than just the product or service you are selling.
2) Use Text
Text may not be as visually appealing as an image-heavy design, but some people turn off images in their emails. (or, they are reading emails on the go on their handheld device) If there is no text, they will not know what your promotion is about. If an image-heavy email is essential, make sure "alt" attributes
3) Link to Additional Content
Do not try to fit too much content into your email. Give people the most important information in an easy-to-read format and link to additional content.
4) Name Your Links Logically
Make sure links are relevant and well labeled. You do not want to break the trust of your audience, by labeling a link 'information on product X'
and taking them to a page where they have to search for product X. Use descriptive links where possible. 'Information on product X'
tells the visitor more than a generic 'click here'
Occasionally people will want to unsubscribe from your mailing list. Make it easy for them, by providing a link that handles unsubscribes below your message. It is just as important that you honour their decision by making sure they are indeed removed from your list.
All web browsers and email clients display html (the building blocks of your eblast) differently. Nothing looks worse than sending someone an email that looks great on your screen, only to discover that it breaks and looks awful to the recipient. Use a program like Group Mail
to distribute rich html emails yourself. Or, use an online service like Vertical Response
to handle the distribution for you.
7) Web Version
Some people will view your eblast in text email programs, will have images turned off or will be using a handheld device. Providing a web version allows these visitors to view your eblast on the web instead of inside their email.
View samples of effective eblasts
For more tips and tricks, ask your web designer. I am always happy to answer specific email marketing questions.
TIPS FOR 2009 – MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR THE OFFICE
1) BACK UP!
Make sure you back up important files, both business and personal. We often back up client work diligently but do not take the same precautions with our personal files. Client work, vacation photos etc can be irreplaceable. Use an external hard drive
to run frequent backups. Or, try an online service
(such as mozy.com
) to run off-site backups.
2) BEAT OFFICE FATIGUE AND INJURIES
Try regular stretching
and take breaks
from your desk. Set a timer to go off every 20 minutes if you having trouble taking breaks. Even 30 seconds to look away from your monitor and stand up can help alleviate fatigue and increase productivity over the course of the day. Avoid injuries by stretching properly
. A recent neck injury made me reevaluate my stretching routine. Look online for exercises you can do at your desk. Here is one I found
Have a second person look over your writing. It's easy to miss common grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and misused punctuation. Do not fall into common traps. For Canadian spelling, try this online resource
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
With the reduced daylight, colder nights and decked out shopping windows we are reminded that the holidays are just around the corner.
Use the holidays as an excuse to touch base with clients and business prospects. Why not create a custom ecard, or personalized festive greeting card to send in the mail?
A unique, custom greeting is an easy way to keep in touch, while making you stand out from the generic holiday cards we all receive.
Inkling Graphic Design & Photography launches their new website
WHY SHOULD I HIRE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?
We have all seen examples of poor design: the brochure at our doctor’s office that was created in MS Word, the website that your 12-year-old nephew did for his neighbour, the person who thought they could design their own company logo to save a few hundred dollars.
With so many examples of poor design around us, why do people still think they can do graphic design themselves? We would not think of filling our own cavities instead of seeing a dentist, but for some reason, poor design has been accepted time and time again.
click to continue reading >>
ADD SOME LIFE TO YOUR MARKETING MATERIAL... WITH IMAGES
Images are a great way to add visual interest to your website, brochures and other promotional material.
Custom photography is wonderful, but may not be in your budget. Why not try one of the many stock photography websites? There are thousands of photos available and a simple keyword search will bring many to you in just seconds.
For a large catalogue of high quality images, check out www.corbis.ca
For something cheaper, try the increasingly popular www.istockphoto.com
There are also numerous free stock photo sites popping up. These are usually amateur photographs for your use, so depending on your needs, you will need to search harder to find something acceptable.
One thing to keep in mind: If you are buying a royalty free stock image, chances are you are not the only person using the image. You need to decide what is more important: the low price or having something truly unique.
ARE YOUR ONLINE MARKETING EFFORTS GETTING RESULTS?
Ever wonder who is visiting your website, what pages are most popular, and if your site is designed with this demographic in mind?
Finding out is easier than you may think! Why not try a website traffic tracker, like Google Analytics?
This free online service lets you track visits to your site and provides information about what pages people are visiting, their geographic location, their internet browser and connection speed, as well as other information that could be important to your marketing strategy.
Follow the online instructions or contact your web designer to get a website tracking system working for you.
for more information, or search online for other similar services.
Inkling Graphic Design & Photography launches link’ed
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