5 Days to Social Media Smarts: Blogs

Choice is something we think we want, but then when we get it, we feel overwhelmed and regret ever having asked for it. When it comes to social media, we are spoiled filthy rotten with choice. Talk about overwhelmed. Every day seems to bring a new networking tool, a new widget, a new piece of research. If you’ve put off learning about what social media can bring to your organization thus far, you’re likely to feel a solid understanding slip further away with each new day.

But learning about social media is not impossible, and you stand to gain so much by using social networking tools that it’s worth making an investment in at least understanding what they’re about.

Just to show you that you really can do it, we’re putting together a plan to get you from zero to “Oh, now I get it!” in five days. By Friday, you’ll have an understanding of the most useful social media services and the foundation for assembling your own social media plan.

Ideally, set aside an hour each day to dedicate to your one-week education. It doesn’t have to be 60 whole minutes at a time; feel free to break that up into four 15-minute chunks. You’ll probably find you know more than you thought you did and can breeze through our recommendations for the day.

Day 1: Blogs

Social media widgets may come and may go, but blogs are here to stay. They take dedication and work, but they offer the best payoff for your efforts.

Now take some time to browse through some blogs and think about how they’re structured. Don’t simply read the postings; page through them. Get your notebook out and jot down your thoughts on:

  • >> Anatomy of a blog, from pages to comments to RSS feeds. How are your blogs structured? Where do the links take you?
  • >> How is the blog published? Is it on a program like WordPress or Blogger? How does it fit in with the publisher’s website?
  • >> Pay attention to the postings that have comments, and the ones that don’t. Do you see any patterns?
  • >> Note where the publisher is focusing their blog and to whom they’re writing, as all winning blogs have a tight focus and clear audience. Audiences need to know what they’re getting.

You may already have a list of your favorites, so use those as a starting point. If you need help finding some blogs, turn to Google’s Blog Search to look up topics you want to know more about.

When you’ve spent some time reading through these blogs, jot some notes on what you like and what you think works, because you can use these notes to structure your own.

Tomorrow: get ready to learn about Facebook.

[Read the other posts in our series 5 Days to Social Media Smarts.]

Small SEO Tweaks with Big Impact

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”719″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”500″,”height”:”356″,”alt”:”\u0026amp;quot;Small things that makes a big impact in Life.\u0026amp;quot;”}}]]

[Photo credit: Small things that makes a big impact in Life, by man’s pic, on Flickr]

Help search engines list you more easily. Even a simple tweak can yield a big results in the number of people who find your website.

Title pages so humans can read them.

Each page should have a logical name that makes sense to the people reading it. This page, for instance, is titled “Small SEO Tweaks with Big Impact.” It’s not “SEO, search engine optimization, search engine changes, search engine tweaks.”

Write pages so humans can read them.

The above is also true for the text of any given page. Search engines – and people – consider it a turn-off if you pack pages with keywords you think search engines are looking for. Use natural language.

Give every image an alternate name.

This means using the so-called ALT tag, if you’re working with HTML, or specifying an image description if you’re using a content management system.

Use a sitemap.

Sitemaps, which list every page on your website, are useful for people as well as search engines. These make it easier for search engines to find and index every page of your site in a snap.

10 Things To Include on Your Synagogue Site – Now!

  1. Contact information – on the homepage. This includes mailng address, phone number, e-mail address and fax number.
  2. Directions. This includes a map (like a Google map), parking information and public transport options. Do you provide transport services? Include info on this here too.
  3. Service times. keep this up to date with candle-lighting times and special, high holy day services. In text, on the homepage.
  4. Rabbi’s blog. If there are two things rabbis do well, it’s think and write. They should be blogging machines. If you’re thinking, “But I can’t get the rabbi to blog!” have him or her send you an e-mail every week with their thoughts, and you do a cut-and-paste job. Bonus points if you put the most recent blog posts on the homepage.
  5. Extra blog for special projects. This is especially for long-term projects you want to inform your members of, like renovations, new programs or campaigns like Save Darfur. Yes, start a second blog for these things. That way you don’t cloud the focus of the rabbi’s blog.
  6. Pictures – OF PEOPLE. If you have to show a picture of a room, make somebody stand in it. Better if multiple people are standing in it. If you can’t take pictures during services, provide arty shots of architectural highlights.
  7. A calendar. Keep it up to date. Bonus points if you put the week’s events or a date-picker on the homepage.
  8. A way to give. Do not be shy. Do not make it hard for people to figure out how to give. They want to help you out. Let them.
  9. Calls to action. Tell your visitors what they should do when they arrive at your site. if you want donations, say, “Donate now!” If you want them to subscribe to the blog, say, “Subscribe to the blog!” If you want them to come to an event, say, “Sign up for our next event!” Get the picture?
  10. A special section for potential members. Your regular Joes know what you’re all about, but your new people need special guidance. Put all the stuff they need – like directions, membership forms, rabbi’s profile – in one handy spot so they can pick it up when they come. Label it clearly, “Visitors: Click Here.”
  11. Affordable websites

A Reason To Love Monday

Mondays can always use a little softening, so today is an excellent day to remind you that July is Customer Appreciation Month at Talance.

What does this mean if you’re already one of our beloved clients? It means you can cash in on all kinds of things, like graphic design, widgets or save $150 on a bigger project.

And if you’re new to the Talance family? It means you can save $150 – just like that – off any new website.

Nice deal, no? And it’s all because we love you.

Get started by clicking here.

Reader Question: What does WYSIWYG mean?

[Have a question you’d like answered? Use the comments form at the bottom of this page to submit it. We’ll review your question before posting (don’t be shy about asking!) and get back to you with a response.]

WYSIWYG is an acronym, pronounced WIZ-ee-wig, that stands for What You See Is What You Get. In our Web world, it refers to website text editors that display the same thing while you’re editing that appears when the document is published. So, when want a word to be bolded when published, it will look bold while you edit it.

Microsoft Word is a WYSIWYG editor. Notepad is not.

Work-Ahead Tools for Twitter

Twitter updates come as fast as you can draw a sharp breath, but they may not be as spontaneous as they seem. Thanks to a selection of scheduling services, you can create tweets ahead of time and post them in the future, while you’re busy with something else.

Delayed tweeting isn’t the best strategy for building relationships with your followers (can you imagine having your half of a conversation an hour before you meet a friend for lunch?), but it can help when you want to deliver a message but aren’t able to.

For instance, if you want to notify everyone about a new project you’re launching on a set day. You can schedule the announcement to go out while you’re busy setting up said project. Or say you’re at a conference getting ready to speak. You want to tell your followers you’re about to step on stage so they’d better bustle down to the conference room, but you need to give the live audience your full attention.

Here are some tools you can use to set your tweets into the future:

A Quick Website Tweak To Get More Donations

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”718″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”375″,”height”:”500″,”alt”:”Adopt a Pet, Live Longer!”}}]]

[Photo credit: Adopt a Pet, Live Longer! by sayheypatrick, on Flickr]

You may already have a Donate page on your website where you make it possible (and easy) for people to support you. But how many people click through to your Donate page compared to other pages of your site? I’m willing to make the sad bet it’s not at the top of the list.

Some pages, though, are stars. They consistently receive more visitors than other pages. This might be the Dog of the Week adoption page or your contact information page. People either love or need what’s there, so they come back, day after day.

While you should stay true to the main focus of these pages, start to think of them as a way to reach out to potential donors by putting a call to donate on these busiest pages of your site.

To find which pages pull in the droves, tap your Web analytics service, such as Clicky or Google Analytics. Most have a section that lists the top 10 or more pages in terms of traffic. Pick the top pages from this list and ask people to support there.

It helps if you can elegantly work in the plea for funds with the focus of the page. If it’s the Homeless Dog of the Week page, for instance, you may want to include something like:

“Can’t take Buster home? Support him and his doggy friends by donating $20 right now by clicking here.”

That’s it. Stand back, keep checking your traffic and donation box, and see if your income doesn’t increase. Make sure to come back and tell us how it went.

5 Painless Ways to Squeeze More from Your Website

Getting your website to work for you doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul. Here are five small updates you can make without suffering.

1. Add a feedback form

One of the very best ways to get more use out of your website is to give its visitors a way to interact. If you add a contact form to your contact page (here’s an example), you’ll open up opportunities for accepting comments. It’s welcoming, will help limit spam, and can increase the amount of feedback you receive from your site. A pretty big payoff for something so small.

2. Make menus consistent

Clicking through the pages of your site should not cause motion sickness. Yet some websites have inconsistent navigational menus. Sometimes they actually jump around. Sometimes the options change. Sometimes they don’t even work. Make them consistent and reliable, and you’ll find more people will be clicking around.

3. Limit what’s on your homepage

You wouldn’t stuff all your house’s furniture into the foyer, would you? Same thing with all the content on your website. Put your front-page stories on the homepage, and tuck the rest of the information where it logically belongs.

4. Add some links to and from your social networking accounts

Many organizations have well-used Facebook, MySpace or Twitter accounts, but you’d never know it from the website. Do some cross-linking, and add some links on your site. (Note: Join for the Talance Facebook Fan Club, and we’ll give you some lovely social media icons.) People can learn more about what you do, and they can subscribe to your accounts and receive updates and reminders.

5. Launch a blog or microblog

Even if you update it just once a week, a blog is a great add-on to a website. It increases your chances of telling the world what makes you so great, and it keeps people coming back for more.

Emergency Guide for Lost Websites

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”717″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”500″,”height”:”334″,”alt”:”London Underground Emergency Response Unit (WX07 NWJ)”}}]]

[Photo credit: London Underground Emergency Response Unit (WX07 NWJ) by policeblue999, on Flickr]

One of our loveliest, sweetest clients contacted us a few weeks ago with a sad story we hear too often. She’d lost her website. Actually, she knew it was going to happen, because every year at the same time, the site went down like clockwork, and it took precious time and effort to resurrect.

This happens from time to time, especially to people looking to save some money by registering with a bargain basement Web host. As a confirmed cheapskate, I’m not blaming. But sometimes you really get what you paid for. Web hosting is hardly ever very expensive, and it’s worth spending a couple hundred dollars a year on a service you can trust.

But that doesn’t help if your website is caught in some netherworld where you can’t reach it, and you can’t reclaim control of the web address. Here’s a checklist of things you can do if something like this happens to you:

Call the Web hosting accounting department.

Maybe it’s an accounting error, and your payment went through late or not at all. Check with the billing department at the Web hosting company to make sure you’re paid up.

Make sure your domain name is still registered.

You have registered your domain name (i.e., yoursite.org) for one or more years, but you have to renew the registration when it expires. You’ll usually get a tickler e-mail that you need to pay, but you might have missed that message or it was sent to an old e-mail address.

We recommend our clients register their domain names for 10 years.

Your domain name is registered through a registrar for a certain number of years. 30 days before your registration is up, you should receive a bill by email. If you have changed emails, of course, you won’t receive that bill! If you don’t pay that bill by the due date, your web site disappears from the public view. If you wait 30 days longer, it’s no longer your domain name.

The bad news is that domain name might have already been picked up by what I think of as the slum lords of the Internet. People and companies that troll around for high-traffic domain names and snap them up if they expire. Your options in this case are limited.

Sign up for ICANN Arbitration.

You may have some hope of getting the domain name back if you have a trademark on it, thanks to ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). To win the arbitration, you need to prove that

  1. your domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
  2. you have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
  3. your domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

You don’t need legal counsel, but it helps, and you can count on paying $1000 for it. Usually what happens is whomever registered your domain will sell it for just shy of that amount.

Buy it back.

You might have to suck it up and buy it back from the company that snatched it from you. It’s probably cheaper than fighting.

Get another, similar name.

If it’s a small enough site, you’re better off just getting a new domain name and updating all your contact information.

It’s Customer Appreciation Month!

Have we told you lately how much we love you?

Well, let’s fix that right now by telling you July is the kick-off of customer appreciation month at Talance. Pick up your $150 gift card to use for any new or existing development or design on a Talance website. Use it either on its own or apply it toward something bigger.

We’ll keep sharing the love on our Facebook page, so join the fan club so you can get deals, specials and giveaways throughout July.

Hope you take us up on our offer. It’s also transferable, so pass it on if you know of someone who needs the help on a new project.