Keeping Pace: New Technology

Is it my imagination, or are smart phones and tablets marketing “new and improved” upgraded versions of their devices merely months apart? The iphone, tablet/readers and pc/tablet hybrids all want to be your go-to device and seem like great tech toys for the consumer that wants to hold the world in his hands. While I see the value in personal internet portals, these new technologies are completely changing the rules of web page presentation.

Have you noticed the proliferation of highly visual messages – photography, info-graphics, jquery powered slideshows – and the decline of text on websites? Has the attention span of the public become so short that a picture must now convey the company story? Back when dial-up reigned, graphics were scarce and web pages resembled ordinary documents.

There are new protocols for website developers now that public wireless internet is ubiquitous and bandwidth abundant. Have you noticed how many websites now look like Facebook and Pinterest? What was once true for keyword and metatag selection in page text and bold headlines has been supplanted by clever subliminal messages conveyed by photography, collages and infographics. The abundance of infographics in use today gives the viewer the visual equivalent of a soundbite. The danger of marketing with chunks of imagery is that one can’t possibly make a rational decision on so little information. Maybe staring at little media screens puts your brain into a suggestive state, where positive imagery seals the deal.

I consider myself a late-bloomer and strive not to follow trendy design until I must. Last fall we completed a project that was directed by a client’s cellphone. We ultimately recoded her home page to give short chunks of information with a prominent call-to-action graphic. Complex key phrases were replaced with bullet-points. I thought it looked more like a power-point slide than a home page… but my client was already onto something I had dismissed as a fad. Since then I completely remodeled three of my sites to include more impactful graphics and slides.

Last week a telemarketer told me in the first sentence of her spiel that my company is nonexistent on Google, not user-friendly on cellphones and I need to have her company fix it. A funny fact is my Google rep told me a half-hour before that I am right at the top of local search for website design. For the past year I have contributed short posts about marketing, social media, scams, spams, and other topics from the small business point of view. My message is about what I can do for small business owners who need a dedicated webmaster to present their company story with care.

That said, I do understand the value of impactful graphics, concise messages and the new expectations of the hand-held device and the browser with a short attention span. Need a consultation? Call during regular business hours or shoot me an email!

Social Media in a Small Business

Anyone with a Facebook account has been asked to participate in “likes”, “follows” and “comments” by vendors, service providers and blog sites. You feel you should be utilizing the new social technologies in your marketing efforts, but what do you do after opening your account?
 

Keeping it real on Facebook

Facebook has been described as the number-one time suck on the net. As a platform for families, extended families and friends, folks can be themselves, reveal their inner children, share the fun, and continue conversations. Facebook ‘friends’ were friends, the site was a neat place to meet, share the love, plan real get-togethers, and share pictures of vacation spots and the grandkids. Many offices have their staff wired to the internet, and many people keep their facebook page open all day!

The environment for the entrepreneur and business, though, is not casual and carefree, and commentary is not always friendly. A spontaneous comment or shared political post potentially opens your thread to everyone, including people who have little else to do than spew (ever see YouTube or Yahoo comments threads?) … there are haters, spammers and flamers lurking everywhere.

This summer I found an award-winning social media marketing training resource which outlined the basic tenets of today’s major social media sites. Though Facebook dominates (today), there are new sites opening up every few months. While you may have dismissed Facebook as a fad, know that it dominates the social sharing world (today), and thousands of companies are exploiting the site as a low-cost marketing medium.

If you are like me and other busy sole-proprietors, you may have experienced “paralysis by analysis”. If you have a company Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile and a list of existing clients, I can help you learn the basics, and together we can map out a long-range plan to monetize your efforts or attract new clientele. Existing clients will be billed at my prevailing website design rates and may contract my services on a monthly basis.

Hosting Providers and SPAM Policies

Imagine that you go online to check your company email and you are not permitted to log in to your account. Many thoughts go through one’s mind, notably, ‘could the server be down?’, ‘did my webmaster change my password without notifying me?’, or ‘jeez, is my website still there?’ So you decide to look at your home page and you see this:

access-denied1

Account Suspension is a polite phrase that means, “you have been kicked out of the clubhouse.” But what is the problem? What has my webmaster done (or NOT done) to allow this transgression? Customer technical support is contacted, and to your great surprise you learn that you have been caught sending unwanted commercial emails to unsuspecting people and your name has been blacklisted. Better yet, one of your competitors was a recipient of your email and they were in the mood to make an example of you. Your sitehost receives the directive to suspend your site, and they may or may not allow you to gather up your belongings before tossing you from the server.

 

Zero-Tolerance Spam Policies

Many hosting providers (and domain registrars) make no bones about shutting you down for violating their Zero-Tolerance SPAM Policy. You are found guilty of violating the Terms of Service and you are shut down without warning. If you have an otherwise spotless history and cordial relationship with the site host, you may have better luck getting your website back. An example of an across-the-board anti-SPAM policy :

Sites advertised via SPAM (Spamvertised) may not be hosted on our servers. This provision includes, but is not limited to SPAM sent via fax, phone, postal mail, email, instant messaging, or usenet/newsgroups. No organization or entity listed in the ROKSO may be hosted on our servers. Any account which results in our IP space being blacklisted will be immediately suspended and/or terminated.”

Are you purchasing the services of an email address provider that advertises online? Do you know how they harvested the email addresses? Is your website’s link in the body of the email? Even if you hired a service in good faith because their website claims they have thousands of potential customers eagerly awaiting your sales pitch in their Inbox, you owe your company and reputation a little due diligence. Ask how their email addresses have been harvested. Email stripping programs steal addresses from the internet for the purpose of sending unsolicited email messages. The host involved in this example does not allow mass emailing. The first promise you need to make when pleading with tech support for assistance will be that you will prevent mass emailing from recurring (forever).

 

spam10088249Opt-In Lists

It is not illegal to allow your visitors to ask to be included in your email newsletter list. There are some very effective software plug-ins for WordPress that are easy to use. In this case, emails are sent from your host mailserver, but these are confirmed, opted-in and willing recipients. Be certain that your email rate (1 email sent every 8 seconds, for instance) does not violate your host’s recommendations, and you’re good to go. All mails contain ‘unsubscribe’ links that you do not have to monitor at all.

Reputation Repair

Whether you thought your email list provider seemed reputable or not, getting blacklisted is serious for your company and all who associate with you. Your email list service must immediately cease all further mailing using your domain link forever.

FTC Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection provides an informative guide called The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net