To Snapchat or Not To Snapchat

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To Snapchat or Not To Snapchat is a question I am asked by some clients. They recognize that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn remain the big three for most businesses large and small, but no one seems very sure about using Snapchat.

In 2016, Snapchat had been around for 5 years, but Instagram got into their space by adding Stories to their platform with filters, stickers, and text overlay, and just last year Snapchat’s parent company, Facebook, also rolled out its own Stories and the option to crosspost between platforms.

Does Snapchat make sense for your brand?

Here are some numbers. Snapchat is especially popular with Generation Z. 79% of US teens have a Snapchat account and rate Snapchat above other platforms. On the other hand, only 2% of Baby Boomers use Snapchat.

If your brand bathes in the fountain of youth, Snapchat is a place to be. If Boomer dollars are your target, there’s no point in using the network.

One suggestion to stay in touch is to follow the posts about specific networks on the big social media sites – for example focus on posts about using Snapchat at blog.hootsuite.com/topic/snapchat/

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The Right Social Networks

It is clear nowadays that there is not one recommendation you can make about social media for all businesses.

Though Facebook launched in 2006, it was a niche for at least a year until it was opened to everyone in late 2007. At that time, it had 100,000 business pages (pages which allowed companies to promote themselves and attract customers).

At that time, clients would ask me “Shouldn’t we have a Facebook page?” though they weren’t sure why they needed one but it seemed to be the “thing to do.”

Today, every business probably needs a social media presence, but the question to ask is which networks do they need.

Caroline Gillan at Launch as Digital Content Specialist did this video on that question.

The 7 biggest networks have been relatively the same for the past few years.

  1. Facebook still has the widest penetration of any social network in the U.S. 68% of U.S. adults are on Facebook.
  2. Instagram – owned by Facebook – has come on strong the past few years and has now surpassed a billion monthly users. While younger people seem to be leaving Facebook for their parents, Instagram with its easy image-focused mobile interface has grabbed the 18-29-year-old share.
  3. And if the teen to young adult segment is important to your brand, then Snapchat is a network to use. It’s most popular with 13-24-year-olds, and especially with teenage girls.
  4. If the Millennial (arguably 18-29) users with their generally higher income bracket are your target, Twitter is a social network to use. It also has more of an even split between male and female users.
  5. The popular image-based network Pinterest bridges both the 18-29-year-olds and the 30-49-year-old markets and has a predominantly female user base. It also skews towards women with young children. But the women points out that 40% of new sign-ups are from men, so a shift is occurring.
  6. Many people still don’t think about YouTube as a social network but only as a place to find videos. Not only is one of the top social networks, but it is also the second-largest search engine. Why? Because people are very often looking for video results. That is certainly a major consideration for any brand.
  7. LinkedIn continues to be a popular network with higher income-level users, and for businesses to be more B2B, generate sales leads and find employment candidates. The fact that it is not popular for teens and the younger demographics is what makes it popular with another segment.

A topic for another post that jumps off for here concerns the many other social networks that are smaller and more niche but that might be more importance to some brands. Are you a restaurant? Then Yelp and other review sites are more important to you than other industries. Having a presence in the top 7 networks may be an important start to your SM strategy, but it certainly does not end there.

Hiring Web Developers

I saw a post about hiring developers. It was written with clients in mind, but these tips for hiring developers also are something to consider if you are a developer hoping to be hired.

Their list in brief is:

  1. Start with a crystal-clear project scope.
  2. Take your time.
  3. Determine must-haves vs. nice-to-haves.
  4. Ask (and expect) good questions.
  5. Ask for examples of previous work.
  6. Look for a cultural fit, not just talent.
  7. Consider logistics.
  8. Be open to change.
  9. Take a test drive.
  10. Set contractual milestones.
  11. Budget and pay appropriately.
  12. Put everything in writing.
It’s a good list to consider. Certainly, tip 5, ask for examples of previous work, is standard practice from bot sides. Item 9, take a test drive, is not something I have found to be common, but as a developer I would not object to doing.

 

Starting Your Own Web Design Business

I saw that godaddy.com had an article about some steps to a successful web design business. Being a freelance website designer, I had to look.

They say there are nine steps:

  1. Lay the groundwork.
  2. Create your community.
  3. Handle HR and legal concerns.
  4. Establish facilities.
  5. Get your IT in order.
  6. Set up finance and accounting systems and processes.
  7. Dive into marketing and advertising.
  8. Plan for sales.
  9. Set up systems for productivity and quality control.

Since I don’t do web design full time (and have no desire to), I don’t see you as a threat. Click that link above for more details, but here are just a few personal comments on some items on their list.

With all the free and easy to use websites that allow you to set up a basic website, a lot of people who would have needed a designer probably can go at it alone. Still, I find a good number of people who are still technophobes or just know that they won’t do it or maintain a site and want a service. I understand that. You can probably cut your own lawn, so why do so many people have a service to do it?

Groundwork covers a lot of ground. Sart with you really being able to build sites. Just knowing how to use some free sites or a bit of HTML is not enough for what most people want and certainly not enough for what even a small business needs. You may need to take some classes, workshops or online seminars. They suggest Lynda.com as one place to try.

There are lots of books about freelancing, and about web design if you can learn that way. There is also a lot of free info online.

Identifying pricing options was harder than I thought it would be. My first freelance gigs were for friends and I tended to underprice my work. You can have a pricing model of hourly vs. project-based billing. I find that people like project-based because they know the cost rather than seeing the hours pile up. But for my own work, I find the hours are often less than I estimated. You get better at this as you do a few jobs. I use a estimate spreadsheet to formulate a dollar or hours amount.

Don’t forget to build in meetings, travel, and revisions. I also calculate some third party costs that don’t go to me, such as buying a domain and web hosting which I will do for the client. Add in your time to do this administrative work.

My ideal clients are people I know and projects I am interested in doing. Web design is not a full-time gig for me so I can be selective. You may not be so lucky.

You may also be able to offer some other related services. If not, have some people you will recommend that may then recommend you for web work. I do some social media, photography, graphics and video work too. For many others, I refer them to people I know who have that expertise or companies that handle it. That can include branding and PR specialists, hosting, domain registration and email and more professional photo and video work (such as catalog and online store work).

I am a sole proprietor and have an LLC to protect my personal assets. These things vary by where you live and you may need to talk to a lawyer to help you with the necessary paperwork and/or use an online service such as LegalZoom.

Those business expenses can run from a lunch check with a potential client, to mileage, to setting up an office and buying hardware and equipment. Learn about what is legitimate as an expense with the IRS before you file for year one. I have a separate business bank account with its own associated debit and credit cards.

Yes, people do operate out of the local diner or coffee shop, but that won’t work for all clients.

I use a higher-end laptop and Adobe Creative Cloud for almost all my work. I backup all my work in two places -one on a drive in the office, one in the cloud.

I have made up my own invoicing forms and bill like many contractors with a portion to begin and the balance after launch. No payment, no launch.

You certainly need your own website before you take on clients. I have several that I use so I can demo different options and designs.

If you plan to do social media work, or just to promote your business, have some business social media accounts, and consider whether you want business profiles separated from your personal profiles onFacebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Get some business cards and start promoting yourself!

More at Running a successful web design business – The Garage

Better Blogging

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Over the 12 years that I have been blogging, I have read about the rise of the blog and the fall/end of the blog several times. As I watch blogging go through the “hype cycle” (that branded tool created by Gartner), what remains consistent is what makes a good blog and blogger.

That cycle is said to be:

  1. Technology Trigger
  2. Trough of Disillusionment: a time of some disappointment
  3. Slope of Enlightenment: it becomes more broadly understood and used
  4. Plateau of Productivity

I would say that blogging has been through all 4 and has returned to 2-4 again. Right now, it sits on that Plateau of Productivity. They are used for personal and business reasons.

What makes a better blog? The so-obvious-it-is-overlooked key to a good blog is that it has good content. I would overlap this with having regular content.

If you don’t have something useful to say, don’t post.

I schedule my posts so that there is regular content. On one of my blogs, that means 2 or 3 posts every weekend, but on others that means one per week. I am blogging several times a day, but not on a single blog, but across them.

When all this Web 2.0 began, one of the things that was appealing about writing a blog was that you could have subscribers who could follow your posts and receive them through email or a reader app. This ability (via RSS) gives you a powerful push technology that had previously been something only the big media newspapers and magazines could use.

But you won’t hold onto followers (“subscribers” seems to have fallen away – perhaps because it implies payment) if they don’t get something on a regular basis to read.

When your blog has some readers and a decent archive of posts, you can start to get a sense by looking at the analytics about what posts get the most attention and what search queries brought them to your blog. Does that mean you should change what you write based on those stats? It depends.

If your blog is about hiking the Appalachian Trail but the greatest attention goes to posts about equipment should you turn it into an equipment blog? I wouldn’t. But I would consider having regular equipment posts and perhaps working equipment into other posts.

Include images in your posts. They do attract attention. Make sure you have the rights to those images. The best thing to do is use your own, but otherwise use images from some of the royalty-free sites (Pixabay, Pexels and others) and Creative Commons.

This is also true for videos. Use your own or embed ones from YouTube and Vimeo or any site that allows this.

Social Media is required. All your posts should be shared on multiple social media platforms available. This can be your personal social accounts, but I would advise creating new ones for the blog, especially if it is a project or business. If I follow your blog on Twitter but many of the posts are about you, your family, your politics etc., I will unfollow you. My blog, Endangered New Jersey, has its own Twitter account separate from my personal one.

My blog analytics show me that besides Google searches most of my traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter with a bit from LinkedIn.

 

Some bloggers send out a newsletter, but I’m not a fan of them. You can share the best content of the week. MailChimp is a popular way to do that and it is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.

You should always use categories and keyword tags on posts. As the blog grows, people will often follow a category or tag, and it’s great to be able to find other related content with a click.

 

 

Don’t ignore word-of-mouth for your marketing. It is powerful. You might want to have guest bloggers write occasionally. “Experts” attract attention and add authority to your site.  You might also be a guest blogger on other sites.

Comments are controversial. I have blogs where I had to shut off commenting due to the amount of spam that hit. If your blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic, you can probably set comments to be approved before they post. I do that on several blogs. WordPress is quite good about snagging blatant spam and it doesn’t take long to approve the comments I do get. Comments are a good thing, when the comments are good.  Engagement with your readers is very good.

 

Web Design ‘Mistakes’

GoDaddy.com posted a list of 15 website design “mistakes.” Of course, some mistakes are not mistakes in some situations.

Here is their list of 15 (details on the full post) which are certainly all things to take into consideration with you website’s design.

Above-the-fold.
Speed.
Responsiveness.
Intuitiveness.
Navigational simplicity.
Readability.
Scannability.
Cleanliness.
Elegance.
Branding.
Contact info.
Search.
Timeliness.
Annoyances.
Error handling.

It is pretty much accepted that having the name of your business and purpose of your website immediately visible on your landing page “above the fold” without scrolling is a rule. “Above the fold” is an old media term from newspaper publishing where that space was what was displayed when a newspaper was stacked on a newstand.

The author lists as annoyances pop-up menus, autoplay and using Flash, but you’ll still find situations where these features play an important role. A pop-ups can be used to capture newsletter signups, for example. But if users are blocking all of them, have you planned for an alternative?

Adobe Flash has gone from being the hot feature for animated banners and menus to being a web design negative. Why? Besides pressure from Apple devices not using it, it is a closed, proprietary system in an increasingly web of open standards. It also is often hacked and it is a heavy draw on mobile device batteries.