Facing Facebook in Small Business

By Graphic Design, Social Media, Web Design

, Blog, HS Creative, HS CreativeBehind every Facebook user there is a story. Each is keeping a personal journal of sorts, marking events in their life and passing the time with friends as they browse their timeline on their laptop.

Facebook is the success it is because it is a personal journey that each person can make their own. Your business Facebook presence is a part of this story. The trick is to make your posts just personal enough to fit in each user’s timeline without feeling too commercial, while keeping it surface enough to not intrude on their real life friendships. There’s nothing stranger than seeing a commercial Facebook account that seems like it’s trying to be everybody’s best friend in real life.

One of the ways I’ve found this can be done is to identify what it is about your company that made your followers “like” you in the first place. A strong brand presence is key, so they know who you are at a glance. A concise message, always – that’s marketing 101. But in most classic marketing materials, the personal connection is either forgotten or overlooked.

If they clicked like for your company, it’s usually because of one of two scenarios:

1) They have visited your shop, tried your product or service and had a positive experience

And/Or

2) One of their friends recommended you

Either way there is a similar bar to overcome – they are giving you a chance to provide them another positive experience in their personal Facebook timeline, one that is pleasant enough to remind them to support your store or product in the future.

Posting what your store is doing that day or if you’re closing early on Thursday isn’t enough. Facebook users are looking for an emotional connection – you’ll notice on your own timeline the most “likes” are heaped on the posts that elicit an out-loud emotion. Laughter, tears and joy are three of the ovbious ones.

When something fabulous happens for you and your business, POST IT!
If you landed a big account or a new distribution deal – share that with your fans! They love to share in your success, and feel the emotional boost that you got when you opened that letter or got that phone call.

Post lots of funny things that are connected with your business
If you’re a taco joint, post that it’s National Taco Day! Run a special on Pirate Day and post a picture of yourself wearing an eye patch with a parrot photoshopped on your shoulder, eating a taco. Your fans love to see you having fun at your place of business, because if somebody’s having fun it means they’re doing well and prospering.

Include some personal tidbits
Without oversharing, include some personal tidbits that serve to remind your fans that your business is homegrown and locally owned. When your in-laws come to town and have dinner at your restaurant, that’s the perfect opportunity to both make it personal and poke a little fun. “Even my in-laws love it here!”

When all else fails – pop culture makes it fun
When it’s a slow news day, simply go for an easy laugh. Photoshop a puppy holding your product and exclaiming out loud about it. Puppy and kitten pictures are the fuel of the internet – without them we would all perish.

Above all, have fun with your Facebook feed and your customers will feel it! That happy, feel-good connection is what will keep bringing them back again and again, and remind them to recommend you to their friends.

Happy Facebooking!

Water your Twitter Garden

By Social Media

, Blog, HS Creative, HS CreativeSocial Media can help your company in many ways, but one of the benefits that many marketers fail to recognize is that of getting to know your customers and their behavior better.

Sure it’s great to have success with a coupon campaign or receive a slew of retweets for a Twitter promotion, but when we think about long tail success it’s all about understanding your customer base.

One of the mistakes people make on Twitter in particular is forgetting to explore. By searching the very hashtags you are using in your own posts you can find plenty of users out there interested in the same topics – and when you combine that with geo-regional tags you can drill right in to your own city, or even your own neighborhood.

When you find these glowing examples of likeminded neighbors, take a moment to explore who they are, who they follow, who they retweet and who they bash. If they look like a perfect customer, give them a friendly shout out – send an @ message agreeing with something they tweet, invite them to visit your shop, retweet something you agree with, sprinkle their timeline with faves, give them a follow if they look interesting or influential. Maybe they’ll return the favor! The loyalty of a new customer acquired through direct personal contact with your brand is definitely worth the two minutes it takes.

Once you’ve established the connection, maintain it! Keep a private list of “loyal customers” and regularly groom your list. Feeling special will bring those customers back time and again, and will keep your brand in their mind when they make recommendations to friends and family. A great way to maintain this connection is to glance at your “loyal customer” list timeline once a month or so and just send out a slew of friendly @ responses to posts that you also personally identify with. If somebody tweets “Beautiful day, fun time at the park with the grandkids!” tweet back, “we went to the park today too! Isn’t Austin the best this time of year?”

It’s just the sort of pleasant back and forth that so many feel is lacking in modern society – isn’t it funny that the technology brought to us by the social media boom is what is bringing it back.

This ongoing relationship is a special sort of communication that is still new – it lacks the face to face intensity of meeting somebody in person, but what it lacks in physicality it gains in the ease of communication. There is no awkwardness, the contact is fleeting enough to be comfortable yet personal enough to plant that golden seed of brand loyalty we are all working toward as marketers.

Tend your garden of potential customers thoughtfully and they will surprise you with the level of intimacy they will share with you. It all bends toward positive results – more customers, happier customers, loyal customers. That’s a win, in my book.

Have a Twitterific day!

Too Many Social Media Accounts = Spaghetti Mess

By Social Media

, Blog, HS Creative, HS CreativeThrowing social media spaghetti at the wall does NOT result in a delicious meal.

The first time you made pasta, you didn’t throw cinnamon in with the tomato sauce, right? Well, there’s no need to add every spice in the cupboard to your brand new social media platform. When it comes to social media marketing, start with the basics and get your recipe just right with with hand crafted, fresh ingredients., and then start to experiment.

One of the most common mistakes we see when a company comes to us looking for help with social media management is that they have stretched themselves way too thin by diving headfirst into every social media outlet they can find, with the mistaken impression that they need to have their company represented on all of them. When you count them all, you can participate in an unreal number of social media circles – the obvious ones being of course Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+  to name some of the giants.

Simply participating in the media outlets just mentioned means that you have five different social media accounts to manage – and to manage five separate social media accounts effectively means creating five engaging, interesting pieces of content several times per week (if not daily) that not only speak to your audience but actively reinforce your brand identity. That’s upwards of 25-50 pieces of original content and graphics per week. Easier said than done, as our clients learned first hand.

Depending on the industry you find yourself in there may be even more outlets that you are tempted to include in your social media strategy. If you have tons of video, perhaps Vine or YouTube would be an obvious choice. Or maybe your company focuses on networking with other professionals and LinkedIn is the way to go. Or Tumblr. Or SoundCloud. Or Flickr. You get the picture.

We recommend starting with the ONE or perhaps TWO social media networks that your target audience most likely will be participating in. Not only will it be more effective in terms of marketing impact, it will be easier to create and maintain content because it will feel natural. Think of your initial social media accounts as salt and butter. You can always add basil and garlic down the road… but to build on, you need your dish to be perfectly al dente.

Once you have established a routine and are seeing a solid return on your investment of time, money and creative energy, you can look to add another outlet to your social media repertoire. This steady, deliberate strategy  over time using metrics and measurable results is a much more effective approach than throwing digital spaghetti at the wall with a halfhearted presence on a multitude of networks – spreading yourself thin results in poor response and can even make your company look downright bad.

In short – be targeted, be strategic, and most of all – don’t bite off more than you can chew! A job well done on one social media site is better than having five poor quality accounts.

Happy Marketing!

What is Google’s SEO Algorithm Development Process?

By SEO, Web Design

, Blog, HS Creative, HS CreativeHow exactly does Google figure out the algorithms they use to rank websites in search results? Wouldn’t we love to know!

SEO is a crazy wild west and the search engines have the job of trying to deliver high quality search results that show users exactly what they are looking for. It’s a mind boggling task, and the process is kept a tightly sealed mystery so that us SEO professionals are kept guessing.

Or at least it WAS – until now! I have top secret insider information that you will find nowhere else about how Google develops the algorithms that crawl the internet, parse the data and rank content. I made a journey to Google HQ and was taken to the center of the brain. Allow me take you on that same journey so you can see for yourself how Google creates SEO standards for ranking websites.

Here we go…

You have been traveling for days by air, train and boat, blindfolded, and have finally arrived at Google headquarters. As they remove your blindfold you see that you are within a ultra-high security compound, surrounded by an empty desert stretching as far as you can see. You are taken to the building at the center of the compound, where guards with machine guns escort you wordlessly through ten biometric security systems. Once inside, they shove you into a chamber that sprays you with some sort of decontaminating chemical and wait while you put on a full body hazmat coverall and space helmet. They write your name on a “My Name Is” sticker and slap it on your chest. You ask them why you have to wear this crazy getup and one dead-eyed guard mumbles “Google can’t have you contaminating their SEO geniuses with your disgusting peasant germs now, can we. Let’s go.”

You are taken through a white-tiled room, to a shiny metal elevator. As the doors slide open and you venture inside, you notice the Google logo inlayed in the back wall with what looks like gold. There are cameras in every corner that follow your movements. The doors seal silently behind you and suddenly you are plummeting downward, dropping at top speed, miles beneath the surface of the earth.

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When you reach the bottom after what seems like an eternity, the doors open and you cautiously exit, entering a long hallway. Along the hallway there is a series of doors. You see a small glass window high up on the first door. You slowly approach the door and get your first look inside.

Standing higher on your tiptoes to try and see better, your space helmet clunks into the glass. What you see is a surprise – you assumed, understandably, that Google’s innermost headquarters would be sort of futuristic – sleek and minimalist, like the buildings miles above you. Don’t worry, everybody thinks that, it’s natural! You’re now one of just a handful of people on earth who know the truth.

The vast room you see as you peer through the glass looks strikingly like the library at Hogwarts. Countless books line the walls from floor to ceiling, with tall rolling ladders arranged to access them. Long wooden tables are illuminated with candles in tall ornate holders, evenly spaced along the length of the tables from end to end. The surfaces of the tables are overflowing with stacks and stacks of papers and books.

As you look around you count exactly one hundred frizzle-haired geniuses milling around. (You can tell they are geniuses because they are all wearing thick glasses and have suede patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets.) The armed guard at your elbow speaks up.

“In case you were wondering, there are ten vaults like this,” he says, and you realize that ten rooms each packed with a hundred geniuses think-tanking Google’s SEO algorithms is sort of perfect, with a googol being 10100 and all.

Some of the geniuses are hunched over computers, examining their screens and pecking at the keyboards with their index fingers. Some are paging through ancient, dusty tomes, muttering to themselves. Several are furiously scribbling equations with squeaky chalk on blackboards, occasionally mumbling and scrubbing out big sections with their tweed sleeves before starting in again. Some are simply staring into space, thinking.

Suddenly, you are startled when one of the nerd-geniuses (this particular one is an elderly red haired woman with an English accent) leaps up, dings a bell on the table and announces loudly, “Eureka! I have done it! A new algorithm! A new, brilliant Google algorithm! This is the one, I tell you! The one!” She looks around the room expectedly, beaming.

All the other geniuses in the room start listlessly clapping, but you can see them rolling their eyes at each other behind the excited red-haired lady genius’s back. Each of them clearly thinks the algorithm they are working on is WAY better than hers. The excited genius scribbles on a scrap of paper, yanks the door open and pushes her way past you to hurry top speed down the hallway, waving the scrap of paper in the air wildly and shouting “Eureka! Eureka!” as she runs. You follow closely behind, passing door after door of more genius-filled vaults, your space helmet fogging slightly as you break into a sweat trying to keep up with the red-haired lady (you’re not accustomed to running in a hazmat suit).

 

The genius slides to a halt in front of a massive oak door at the end of the hallway and starts banging an iron door knocker that looks like Medusa. The echoes from the door knocker reverberate down the hallway. A voice from behind the door growls “You may enter!”

You can’t believe what you are about to see! This is it! The center of Google! The answer to the ultimate SEO mystery!

 

The genius takes a deep breath, shoves her thick glasses higher on her nose and enters the room. She approaches the desk with reverence. She bows and holds the scrap of paper in front of her, like an offering. “I have a new Google algorithm, sir!”

You look past her…

and…

and…

this is what you see:

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And that, my friends, is how Google develops the algorithms that rank websites. Now you know!

The Keystone of Marketing

By Graphic Design, Social Media, Web Design

, Blog, HS Creative, HS CreativeJust as the keystone is the most important piece of a bridge, a well-branded website is the centerpiece of your marketing.

The Marketing Bridge

Think of your marketing platform as a bridge across which visitors must cross. Every step should feel solid and inviting and related to each other (BRANDING!), otherwise the traveler will feel uncomfortable and turn right around. If you are successful in enticing them the entire length of the span, you are rewarded with an engaged new lead – and your visitor is rewarded with the feeling that they are dealing with a professional company that has everything tightly in place.

Your Website is Key

As evidenced by rising per click rates in online advertising, websites are the number one lead capture tool of virtually every marketing platform.

Every piece of outreach a company publishes or distributes points (or SHOULD point!) to the website – and when visitors arrive, they should be faced with a familiar interface that they were already introduced to by the marketing materials through which they were initially engaged. A well branded company can be recognized at a glance wherever you see them.

Whether your initial contact with your target audience is achieved through advertising in a magazine, a Google AdWords campaign, a Facebook or other social media push, local newspaper mentions or door to door flyer distribution, your website is the landing place where your lead will be captured. Most people check out a company’s website before picking up the phone and calling or otherwise reaching out, to make sure they FEEL good about exposing themselves. The site needs to speak clearly to keep that visitor engaged. After they took the time to actually check out your site, don’t lose them there!

Branding, then Website, then Everything Else!

I have had clients come to me who have spent tens of thousands on advertising campaigns and are perplexed why they are not attaining a better ROI. More times than I can count, these clients have a website that was not professionally designed.

Once your brand identity is firmly in place, invest in a well designed, professional site with tightly edited content and engaging graphics, complete with analytics so you can further refine over time in response to visitor behavior. THEN and ONLY THEN start driving traffic. Doing otherwise is a waste of marketing dollars! Once you have your foundation firmly in place, you’ll see better conversion rates and a rise in business as visitors start crossing your bridge.

What Exactly IS WordPress, Anyway?

By Web Design

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What exactly is WordPress, anyway?

I get asked by clients all the time, “What exactly is WordPress and would it be a good idea for me to use it?”

WordPress is an open source, template-based content-management system (CMS) and blogging tool that resides on a web server. In other words, WordPress is a website infrastructure and management system that can be used “out of the box” by consumers to set up simple blogs, or customized by developers to house more elaborate websites.

WordPress website content can be easily updated and managed in-house by the website owner without the need for a “Webmaster” who is familier with code or third party software. This cuts down substantially on maintenance costs. Updates are managed via a standardized administrative interface.

WordPress releases periodic updates to comply with ever-changing internet browser and mobile device standards, which automatically update within existing sites. This eliminates the need to redesign websites every few years to stay up to date with evolving browser requirements and internet trends.

WordPress is used by more than 19% of the top 10 million websites and is by far the most popular blogging system, at more than 60 million websites.

WordPress website benefits:

– Update and manage content yourself

– Cross-browser and mobile compliant

– Auto-generated streamlined code

– Integrated photo galleries, music, video

– Many expansion and function options available as “plug-ins”

– Flexible design and layout

This is an example of a WordPress page update interface, displaying the content of my team bio on the Windmill website. I can upload a new picture, change the text, add titles or additional images, hyperlinks, and much more – all with the easy tools shown. It’s like working in Microsoft Word, but easier. I can even insert a video or audio feature. Photo galleries and portfolios are managed in a similar way.

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Do you notice the notification at the top of the page, letting me know that a WordPress update is available? That’s how easy it is to update to the newest version of WordPress and ensure my website remains compliant with all browsers, mobile devices and more. All I have to do is click “update now” and it does it for me.

Included in every customized WordPress website we build is personal training in the administrative system. I will show you how to navigate the “back end” of your website and perform all routine updates yourself. If you ever have a question, you can always feel free to come to us for help.

We love working in WordPress and I think you will too! Let us know when you’re ready to get started. In the meantime, visitWordPress.org to learn more – straight from the source.

How to Cherry Pick Your Customers Using Social Media

By Graphic Design, Social Media, Web Design

, Blog, HS Creative, HS CreativeWhen it comes to finding potential customers on social media, you have all the freedom in the world to pick and choose.

By selecting hash tags and writing content that appeals to a certain type of customer who is looking for a service, you can position your business to be found by exactly the type of customer you are looking for.

For instance, say you’re a cupcake bakery. You do a lot of business with your “Mom” customers, who come to buy cute cupcakes for their kids’ birthday parties and other entertaining.

By writing Twitter and Facebook posts about how to throw a great party, feature moms in action and lots of cute kids eating your cupcakes you will appeal directly to the customers who will not only buy your goods, but will spread the word about your business to their friends and family – which, after all, is exactly what you’re looking to do with your social media.

So for delicious results with your social media, indulge your favorite audience with exactly what they come to your business for!

Happy Marketing!