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6 Tips on How to Engage Your Customers Through…

Once upon a time, the only online presence a startup needed to worry about was a website. Not long after, a Facebook business page became another virtual necessity. Next came Twitter, where news is so often reported -- and even made --before anywhere else. And there's more: Nowadays, if you’re a business that relies on visual branding, an Instagram account is a must. Moreover, if your customers are B2B, LinkedIn is a platform that’s only growing in importance.

An effective social media strategy can be a boon to virtually any startup or business. But, where do you start? Based on my experience advising entrepreneurs on how building an effective social media strategy can increase the value of their online business, here are six tips to get your social media strategy on the right track.

Putting data to work to boost economic development

1. Stick to a publishing schedule.
When it comes to developing a successful social media strategy, consistency is essential. Entrepreneurs are busy people. It can be easy for you to let days, or even weeks, fly by without publishing a new Facebook post or tweet. That’s why a commitment to scheduling is so important. If your audience members can’t count on your business to deliver relevant content in a timely manner, you'll find it difficult to keep them engaged.

Luckily, there is an abundance of social media manager apps out there to help keep your content calendar on track. Two of the most established and powerful are Hubspot and Buffer. Both handle scheduling across a number of platforms and offer "forever free" plans so you can get your social media calendar up and running at no cost.

2. Maintain a consistent voice.
For an effective social media strategy, timing is not the only area where consistency is important. Vital to your brand’s health is uniformity in voice and messaging across all your channels. The brand persona on your website -- in emails and on social media -- needs to be kept consistent; otherwise, you risk confusing and alienating your audience.

Maintaining a consistent voice may be easy when you’re a solopreneur or you're working with a small team; but as your business grows, you need to be vigilant to ensure your brand stays on message. This is particularly true when you look to outsource your social media and content marketing.

Karl Kangur, managing director of MRR Media, a content marketing agency for SaaS businesses, places a strong emphasis on the importance of consistency: “I stress to each of our clients when they come on board how important it is to have a clearly defined brand persona," he told me. "We work together during the onboarding process to achieve this.

"This is vital to our mutual success, as the brand persona informs every piece of content we create: from blog posts and tweets, to Facebook posts and email marketing.”

3. Show your (brand’s) personality.
Consistency is important, but "consistent" doesn’t have to mean boring. Posting on Twitter, Merriam-Webster has even found a way to make the dictionary entertaining. Of course, your own brand’s personality needs to be tailored and authentic to the audience you are trying to reach. Consider giving your followers a peek behind the scenes of your business. Introduce your team members and show customers who and what makes your company tick.

Another strategy that works well for many brands is to have a “corporate” Twitter account that is informational in nature alongside the founder’s and team members' personal accounts. While still promotional, what you write there can be more opinionated. An excellent example of this strategy in action is content posted by Elon Musk and Tesla.

4. Content is king.
When it comes to social media marketing, the temptation may be to focus too heavily on quantity and lose sight of quality. While apps like Buffer and Hubspot make it easy to schedule posts and tweets, don’t give into the temptation to just plug them into your content calendar and have them shuffle and repeat.

For your social media strategy to be successful, your audience members must feel they have an authentic connection to your brand. To achieve that kind of connection, there is simply no substitute for sharing high-quality, fresh and engaging content in a timely manner.

5. Be selective.
Creating quality content consumes significant time and resources. With that in mind, don’t feel obligated to have a presence on every platform. Focus on crafting superior content for the platforms most closely aligned with your business’s customer segment. While Facebook and Twitter might be considered almost mandatory at this point, think carefully about which additional channels you want to take on.

The reason is that each platform you add to your social media strategy means additional responsibility to create high-quality content unique to that channel. If you’re a fashion brand, perhaps you can’t do without Instagram or Pinterest, but do you need to be creating content for LinkedIn? Focus your efforts on the platforms most relevant to your business.

6. Listen; don’t just speak.
One of the unique strengths of social media is that it gives brands a platform to engage in a dialogue with their audience. This is a big part of what makes social media social; listening to your audience is just as important as speaking to them.

Many businesses discover that their customers won’t hesitate to share their experience with a brand -- positive or negative -- on social media. How a brand responds to customer compliments, questions or complaints will go a long way toward determining how successfully they manage to engage their customers through social media.

Final thoughts
Whether you’re an established social media maven or your business is just now embarking on its social media journey, evaluating and reconsidering your strategy using the six tips outlined above will help set the course for an effective social media strategy.

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10 key benefits of using WordPress for your business…

As a business owner you probably have a website for your business or are looking at getting one and are wondering what is involved. Either way, it’s quite possible you have heard about WordPress. But what is WordPress and why should you consider it for your business?

WordPress is one of many website content management systems (CMS) available online. But before choosing WordPress for your business there are many things to consider such as budget, timeline and strategy. Below is a list of 10 key benefits to using WordPress for your business website.

1. YOU CAN EDIT YOUR OWN WEBSITE EASILY

That’s right, you the user can make edits to your own WordPress site and it is easier than you might think. If you can create a Word document you can probably write and publish a WordPress article. The WordPress dashboard is very user friendly making it easy to add/edit pages, upload images and keep your site up to date.

2. UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE ANYWHERE AND ON ANY DEVICE

If you have an internet connection you can edit your WordPress site. WordPress is browser based which means you can access your dashboard on any computer no matter where you are. These days you can even use your phone or tablet to make website changes on the fly!

3. WORDPRESS IS COST EFFECTIVE

WordPress itself is actually free as it is an open-source project. Many of the themes & plugins available for WordPress are also free however there are paid options which can offer additional features. Development costs can be reduced when choosing WordPress as time is saved by not having to start a website from scratch thanks to the many themes available. As mentioned earlier, you the user can also save costs by making updates on your own site.

4. YOUR WEBSITE IS FULLY RESPONSIVE

With the ever growing rise in mobile internet browsing, making sure your website is fully visible and functional on all devices is an absolute mustLuckily WordPress has full mobile responsive technology built in without the need to create separate sites for mobile devices.

5. SEARCH ENGINES LOVE WORDPRESS

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about getting your website to climb the Google ranks. WordPress comes fully equipped with a well-optimised core meaning that you already have a solid foundation to build your SEO on. Further customisation of meta data, tags etc can be easily achieved and there are also many great plugins available to help increase your Google rankings.

6. YOUR WEBSITE IS FULLY CUSTOMISABLE

You can customise every little component of your website with WordPress so that your brand is clear and proudly displayed. Some themes allow for easy customisation straight out of the box however others may require assistance from a developer.

7. ADD ADDITIONAL CAPABILITIES TO YOUR WEBSITE WITH EASE

You can add extra features and functionality to your website easily by choosing from the more than 44,000 available plugins for WordPress. Plugins can be used for a wide variety of features including social media sharing, photo galleries and directories for example.

8. BUILT IN BLOG

WordPress was originally created as a blogging platform and although it has evolved into so much more, those blogging capabilities are still there and are easy to apply and customise. Blogging allows you to create regular fresh content and can provide incentive for visitors to return to your website and share it with others.

9. ADD MULTIPLE USERS TO YOUR SITE

A great feature of WordPress is that you can add users to your dashboard meaning that you can have a team of people working on your site at once. As an administrator user you have the ability assign specific roles to users to restrict them from accessing and editing all areas of your site.

10. WORDPRESS IS SAFE

WordPress is supported by a great community and is being constantly updated to counteract the threat of hackers. When using an online platform there is always some risk involved when it comes to exposing yourself to hackers. However there are many practices one can take to increase the security of their site such as setting strong passwords, installing plugins and themes from trusted sources and making sure they are updated regularly. Your WordPress site can also be backed up regularly.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

At WJM Web Design we love WordPress and have created many sites using the platform including our own! We have also successfully migrated older sites over to WordPress so our clients can reap the many benefits on offer. If you would like to find out more feel free to contact Wes at wesm@wjmwebdesign.org or visit our WJM Web Design page for a list of available services.

Cloud Computing Uncategorized

Beginner’s Guide to the Cloud

The first thing you should understand about the cloud is that it is not a physical thing. The cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers use computing power to run applications or “deliver a service.”

For example, Adobe recently moved its creative services to the cloud. You can no longer buy the Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.) in a box set. Instead, you must pay a monthly subscription fee to use each individual service. That’s why it’s now called the “Adobe Creative Cloud” instead.

Other servers in the network are responsible for storing data.

For example, when you take a picture on your smartphone, it is stored on your phone’s internal memory drive. However, when you upload the photos to Instagram, you are uploading it to the cloud.

So remember: “The Cloud” is a network of servers. Some servers provide an online service, like Adobe Creative Cloud, and others allow you to store and access data, like Instagram or Dropbox.

Chances are, you encounter the cloud daily. From Google Drive to SkyDrive to iCloud to Evernote, any time you store information without using up your phone’s internal data, you’re storing information on the cloud.

How big is the cloud?

No one knows exactly how much space can be provided by cloud-based services like Google, Amazon or Facebook; however, the cloud can store about 1 Exabyte.

But how big is an Exabyte?

An Exabyte of memory can hold the same amount of data as 4.2 million Macbook Pro hard drives. That’s a lot of storage.

How secure is the cloud?

The cloud is great for storing non-sensitive information, like to-do lists on platforms like Evernote. But unsurprisingly, the idea of storing personal information somewhere “up in the cloud” makes many people wary.

Some companies, like Google, are responding to this worry accordingly. Google recently announced it would automatically encrypt data for paid cloud storage service users.

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WordPress Uncategorized

The Advantages/Disadvantages of WordPress

The Advantages

1. Easy to operate.  You can make changes to the website yourself without having to know any HTML coding.  Adding pages, blog posts, products, images and editing current content is easy on WordPress.  At Designed to Connect, we supply you with a set of training tutorials to walk you through how to manage your website yourself when you build a WordPress website with us.  This will save you a great deal of money since you won’t have to pay your programmer to make every change you need done on your website.

2. Cheaper to build.  WordPress offers a huge variety of themes which can be used to build the website.  When you begin with a theme, you cut down significantly on the amount of time it takes to build a website.  (If you don’t find a theme that you like, we can build you a theme from scratch; however, this will increase the costs).

3. The highest number of developers creating themes and plugins for it.  Similar to the situation you are seeing in the smart phone industry where the iphone offers over 7 times the number of apps as the blackberry, WordPress offers more paid and unpaid themes and plugins than any other Content Management Systems. This means that when you want a feature added to your website, there is a good chance that you will be able to find a plugin that exists for it.

4. WordPress is a popular platform.  Even Matt Cutts who speaks on behalf of Google mentions WordPress in a good light.  In the past, we have seen some web platforms cease to operate, which left clients with a website that has limited ability to make changes.  Although I don’t project this happening to either Joomla or Drupal in the near future, I wouldn’t recommend building a website on a CMS I haven’t mentioned in this article for that exact reason.  In the event WordPress decides to sell the platform, I don’t foresee them having an issue finding a buyer.

5. Search Engine Optimization is made simple. WordPress offers several great search engine optimization tools that make doing your own on-site SEO simple.

6. E-commerce is available on WordPress.  At Designed to Connect, we generally use Woocommerce – an e-commerce add on to WordPress to build our e-commerce websites.  As an e-commerce store, you will often find yourself updating your products, pricing, sales, coupons and more.  Woocommerce is extremely effective in doing all this along with offering great reports features.  Building e-commerce into your website has never been easier or more cost effective!

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The Downside of WordPress. 

1. WordPress updates their software frequently.  Updates to the software are required in order to keep the WordPress platform up to date with the current browsers and mobile devises and ahead of malware and virus attacks.  However, sometimes the plugins aren’t as quick to adapt to the WordPress updates, which can leave you with plugins that don’t operate the way they should or at all when you update your website.  Prior to updating your WordPress version it is advised to take a backup copy of the website, some hosting plans include regular backups.  In the event there is an issue it can be restored to the earlier version.

2. Content doesn’t always look right.  When you make updates to your site yourself through the visual tab, it doesn’t always flow the way you expected it to when looking in the actual browser.  This can leave those not knowing HTML frustrated when they try to get text and images to appear the way they want.  However, it is still cheaper to have your web designer fix those few style issues you need done rather than having to send them a list of changes you need done every time you update your site.

3. Customization of a theme can be costly.  If the website was built upon a theme and you decide that you want to make major changes to it, it may be time consuming to have a programmer make changes to the layout of the theme. Every theme is programmed differently and therefore the programmer must first familiarize themselves with the way each individual theme was programmed before making the changes.  If you anticipate needing to make major changes to the theme, consider having a theme built from scratch to meet your needs instead.The advantages of building on a WordPress platform far outweigh the disadvantages and therefore, for most of my clients, I recommend building on the WordPress platform.

The advantages of building on a WordPress platform far outweigh the disadvantages and therefore, for most of my clients, I recommend building on the WordPress platform. But if you want full complete control of how your site looks, then WordPress is not for you

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Windows 10 logo Uncategorized

Tips That’ll Make Windows 10 Way Better

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1. Click the active (front most) window and move it left and right with your mouse.

2. They make navigation so much easier, but they only work on precision touchpads (like the ones on Surface tablets).

3. Three finger swipe down: Show desktop.

4. Three finger flick left or right: Return to previous app (left) or go back to current app (right)

5. Three finger tap: Opens Cortana Search.

6. Windows Key + Left or Right: Snap window to left or right side of the screen.

7. Alt + Tab: Shows all open windows. Press tab repeatedly, then release to switch to the open window.

8. Windows key + Tab: Like Alt + Tab, except it stays open and doesn’t disappear when you release keys.

9. Windows key + Control + D: Creates new virtual desktop.

10. Windows key + Control + F4: Closes current virtual desktop

11. Windows key + Control + Left or Right: Switch between virtual desktops

12. Just say “Hey Cortana.”  HEY GIRL, HEY. If it’s not working, open Settings > Cortana & Search and make sure Hey Cortana is enabled. One thing to note is that leaving this feature on will drain your battery, so turn it off when you aren’t plugged in.

13. Go to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options and set the first option to “Never.”  Only remove the sign-in password if your device is always in a safe place (like home).

14. Go to Settings > System > Storage and click on This PC to see a storage breakdown.

15. Force Windows 10 to respect your privacy. When the new operating system launched, users were up in arms over major privacy concerns. Default settings send information automatically to Microsoft and enables WiFi password sharing, among other things. Microsoft recently addressed the privacy issues in a blog post, but if the explainer still doesn’t make you feel good about sending your information to a big corporation, here’s how to crack down on your privacy.First, go to Settings > Privacy. Under General, you might want to turn off all of the privacy options accept for SmartScreen Filter (which checks for URLS that might contain viruses).

16. Then limit diagnostic reports sent to Microsoft.

In Settings > Privacy, scroll down to Feedback & diagnostics. Then under Diagnostic and usage data, select Basic. This doesn’t fully turn off the feature, but with this option, your device will only send limited health and performance feedback to Microsoft.

17. Finally, disable peer-to-peer Windows updating. This setting is the most confusing of the bunch. Windows 10 includes a new feature that prompts your computer to send update files to other computers on the web and vice versa, like a Napster-style peer-to-peer network. Microsoft claims that it can speed up app and update downloads.To turn this off, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options (at the bottom) > Choose how updates are delivered and turn it OFF or select PCs on my local network to keep it restricted to local computers.

18. Open the Xbox app, then type Win + G.  When this dialog box pops up, just pretend it’s a game and select Yes, this is a game. Click the Record button to start, then stop, the screen recording. To view the clip, go to File Explorer > This PC > Videos > Captures.The only downside to this built-in screen recorder is that it only captures activity in the active window in the currently open app. That means you can’t record the whole screen and you can’t switch apps.For more complex screen recording, you can download the Windows 10-ready, free, and open source Open Broadcasting Software.

19. Hover over the top edge of the start menu window, then click and drag up and down.

20. Go to Settings > Personalization > Colors.  Then turn Automatically pick an accent color from my background to OFF. Scroll down and turn Show color on Start, taskbar, and action center to ON. In Windows 10, Edge replaces Internet Explorer as the default browser, and one of Edge’s best features is built-in search from Microsoft’s artificial intelligence bot, Cortana.Enable Cortana by opening Edge, clicking on the ellipses button on the right (…) >Settings > scroll to the bottom to View Advanced Settings > turn Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge to ON.

21. Right click on any term, and select “Ask Cortana.”

22. Open Settings and right click on any category to pin it to start. For Settings that you access a lot – like Bluetooth connections, changing WiFi networks, and checking storage usage – pin them to the Start Menu and save yourself a couple of clicks.Now you can ride into the future, Windows warriors. RIDE INTO THE FUTURE.

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