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Your Webmaster: The Master of Some, Sometimes, When Possible

What do a VCR, a fax machine, a Walkman, and the term Webmaster have in common?

They’re all obsolete.

Yes, Webmaster is an outdated term.

It’s the year 2017; websites are interactive, dynamic, and imperative to business operations. They are the central command center for a robust, multi-faceted marketing approach.

In a way, a website is an organism. It is a complex system that only works well when various independent parts work together in harmony. If you look at your website under a microscope, what would you find?

Perhaps SEO and social media would serve as the respiratory system, breathing in new life…maybe passwords, firewalls, and encryption protocols are the skin, white blood cells, and spleen…the server could be the heart…the content management system could be the brain…with scripts and code transporting information and lifeblood like nerves and veins.

To look after and “maintain” these independent parts, many of us turn to a single web development company, a contractor, or look to hire someone in-house. Once on-boarded, briefed, and everyone is happy, we give our new “Webmaster” the keys to the city, and task them with the responsibility to:

“Look after all this, don’t let anything break, and build something that will make our company great. Oh, by the way–do all of this fast and on a limited budget.”

Ten years ago, you might have gotten away with this type of arrangement. Just like 200 years ago, the town had one doctor, who made his rounds on a horse and buggy, providing you with a one-size-fits-all treatment, regardless of whether or not you had syphilis, polio, or a broken arm from battle.

“Here’s a shot of bourbon, rub some dirt on it. I’ll notify the morgue, so they can free up a bed.”

I realized I wasn’t a Webmaster…

For a while, I considered myself, and all of Orpical Group, Webmasters. In my opinion, part of this misconceived notion comes from Google and Bing, who both subliminally knight us every time we claim and verify a client’s website for search engine optimization (SEO).

It wasn’t until June 2017 however, when I fully realized I wasn’t a Webmaster, nor did I want myself, or Orpical Group, to be perceived as one.

I always considered us a marketing agency and business consulting firm, but further verification (and understanding of what that meant) really took place once we made the conscious decision to focus a large portion of our time into developing a specialty web service under the growing web security spectrum. The productized-service: GOGET SECURE was born.

This post isn’t a sales pitch for GOGET SECURE, but I want to quickly share some background info on the brand, our motives behind it, and its initial reception to further emphasize how absurd our views of what a Webmaster is can be.

When I started cold prospecting…

At its core, GOGET SECURE is a 51-point proprietary process (it’s actually more now, but 51 still sounds cool) that we developed at Orpical Group to make websites more secure. The service safely, smartly, and thoroughly switches a website from HTTP to HTTPS. As far as we are aware, it’s the only branded SSL Installation and HTTPS Migration Service in the world.

In making the switch to HTTPS, businesses are able to encrypt the connection between their website and a user’s browser. This ultimately results in increased credibility and trust from prospects and customers, improved conversion rates, and higher search rankings.

When we decided to conduct our initial outreach, we aimed to first identify websites that weren’t on HTTPS. In addition, we looked for websites that had login forms or other areas on their website that collected sensitive information, like passwords or credit cards. We developed an app called Bandit that would find these types of websites, then generate a report and browser screenshot showing that the website was “Not Secure”.

Basically, we took this information and gave a courtesy heads-up to business owners and executives. Our message was simple. “Hey, your website is being shamed (flagged) by Google and other search engines and browsers. We have a specialty service, the only one of its kind, that can help you fix this to better secure your site.”

And prospects shut me down hard because they “have a guy” that handles their website already.

I quickly realized that most of my prospects were passing my report along to their existing Webmaster.

Thankfully, some kind souls did get back to me. Those that did agree to chat with me were hesitant and really put up their guard. But, I am immensely appreciative of those opportunities, mainly because they confirmed my suspicions that I wasn’t crazy.

“We already have a Webmaster.”

“Our website is managed currently by another company.”

I was thwarted like this over and over again. I’m not going to lie, it got frustrating.

So, I started to reply rather bluntly: “If you have a guy, why hasn’t this important security protocol been added to your website yet?”

As an agency, we understand the value of having a Webmaster on call to handle most of your website needs. It’s like having a family doctor when you get hit with a cold.

In fact, we provide clients with general web maintenance services, so we would be a giant hypocrite if we advocated totally against it. With that being said, we developed GOGET SECURE because many Webmasters are not fully dedicated to search engine optimization, server configuration, and encryption. In addition, many are simply unaware of the importance of HTTPS themselves, therefore they have not acquired the knowledge and skillset to encrypt your website. This did not happen overnight for us. We have invested tremendous resources (1000+ development hours) to be able to call ourselves experts in SSL Certificates and HTTPS.

So, is your Webmaster a bad guy? A crook? Digital Pirate? Con? No, we’re not saying that. Nor are we saying that they are incompetent. What it boils down to is this:

Webmasters are freaking busy and frankly a little overwhelmed.

When it comes to something hyper-focused like HTTP to HTTPS migrations, your Webmaster isn’t always going to have 100% understanding and laser-focus. Not a big deal. After all, I wouldn’t want my family doctor performing open-heart surgery.

More times than not, the person managing a website is running around week-to-week, day-to-day, switching gears to meet priorities and deadlines.

A “webmaster” is your modern-day chicken with a head chopped off, working on dozens of things to keep you happy: plug-in and theme updates, designing and developing new content, sometimes hosting your website, UI/UX testing, fixing bugs, analyzing data, pick your poison. Oh, and there is dealing with the marketing department…Good luck, Mr. Webmaster!

Working with multiple agencies and vendors is the way to go.

Doesn’t your family doctor refer you out-of-office for additional diagnosis and treatment when it’s out of their capabilities? Isn’t there a reason why doctors affiliate themselves with hospitals and medical centers?

In the web development industry, there is plenty of work to go around. As our clients, you are relying on us to deliver our expertise, creative services, and technical support. With the growing complexities of the web and digital marketing, it’s foolish to think that anyone of us can cover all bases.

So, I learned that we are a marketing agency and business consulting firm. What does that mean? To me, that means that we’re essentially a hub for your web, marketing, and business operations. There are days when I might look at you and say, “We need to bring someone else in here,” and then I’ll make an introduction to a partner, or vendor that I have personally vetted and trust. There are other days, when I will say, “Oh yea, that’s right in our wheel house.”

Finding the right balance and the right partnerships is key. Embodying the web via a lone webmaster is virtual suicide.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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How I Became a Better Marketing Consultant by Cutting Out the BS

Becoming a better marketing consultant is a lot like working out: you can work your tail off seven days a week, pump out extra sets and reps until you’re blue in the face, but if your diet sucks, you’re preventing yourself from significant gains.

I’ve always heard that getting a six pack (of abs) is 80% what you eat, 20% core workouts. For awhile, I thought that was a load of crap. Just lift heavier, run faster, grind harder, be a beast, insert favorite gym cliche here.

Then, one fateful day, after years of maintaining, I decided to leave the beer in the fridge, and opt out of my regular cheat cheese steak. Slowly, I started noticing results because other people were noticing results. “You’re looking good,” I heard and gleamed (flexed biceps) in return. It’s stupid, but as humans, we’re wired for reinforced recognition. It took me awhile, but I learned that people do not notice inertia, they notice the accumulated product of continuous activity and life.

Marketing consulting is a $43 billion industry, employing over 300,000 people in the U.S. with an annual growth rate of 3.6% since 2011.

Comparatively speaking, when you look at industries like computer systems design, which has an 18% sales growth, the marketing consulting growth rate is pretty weak. But in my opinion, there is no excuse for it.  All industries, in one way or another, can benefit significantly from a lean, mean, outside marketing machine.

So, why aren’t we keeping up?

Simply because we are weighing ourselves down with saturated fats and focusing on the wrong things far too often.

By no stretch am I perfect. I am, however, performing at an optimum level thanks to “adding by subtracting.” Adopting a strict NO-BS mantra has enabled me recently to be hyper-productive, where I can manage everything from prospecting, to sales, to work fulfillment, all the way up to reporting, and then on to new opportunity assessment without burning out. And this is for multiple clients! What’s even better is that I still have time, if not more time, for a little Netflix and Chill.

Here are some things that I’ve cut out of my professional diet to become a better marketing consultant:

Pointless Proposal Development

One line that I’ve been testing out lately is, “We don’t make any money writing proposals.”

While this is a pretty obvious statement, I have found it absolutely necessary to say, especially in early prospecting stages. Proposals have their time and place, but they are time consuming. When you put this out in the open, people seem more inclined to appreciate the fact that your time is invaluable.

If and when I do need to write a proposal, I use Proposify, which boasts to “streamline your sales process and help you close deals faster.” And it does…sort of. Proposify’s high-quality, easy to customize templates and online portal are great features. But still, on average, to write a REALLY GOOD proposal with research supported by data, a custom letter with prospect interactions, detailed scopes of work, budgeting, and terms and conditions, you’re looking at anywhere from 2-5 hours. Just think: How much could one of your existing clients benefit from that time. Wouldn’t it be nice to bill a few extra hours each week?

New business is great, but nobody has a 100% close rate. I’ve found that many of my prospects don’t even read my proposals and just skip right to the estimate/budget section. In fact, I have the data to support this. Below are two lost proposals in my Proposify system.

Become a Better Marketing Consultant with Less Proposals

This was a proposal that I spent roughly 2 hours on for a custom eCommerce website. The prospect spent 1 minute reviewing the proposal and decided they didn’t want to do it.

Become a Better Marketing Consultant with Less Proposals

This was actually a second proposal, revised after the scope of work significantly changed. In total, I spent close to 5 hours handling resources, researching solutions, writing and editing. All for what?

Both cases show that prospects aren’t reading word for word of my carefully prepared, thoughtful proposals. I’m willing to wager that I could work in something mildly offensive, especially in the additional recommendations section, without any real risk.

I am not saying to stop doing proposals all together. Again, they have their time and place. What I am suggesting is to be very, very careful on who you choose to write a proposal for. From my experience, and from Proposify insights, most people only really care about “what’s in it for me” and “how much is this all going to cost.” Ask yourself: Can those questions be addressed up-front in five minutes or less on a phone call or in a brief email? Ask the prospect: Do you need a formal proposal or is it okay if I simplify things? Most will say the latter is cool.

Any and All Negativity

“You are what you eat.”

“People are products of their environment.”

The list of sayings goes on and on.

Because it is all true.

To become a better marketing consultant I make it a point to examine who I am interacting with and what I am consuming (television, social media, music, etc) almost on a daily basis.

I filter out people on my News Feed that gripe non-stop. I turn off sports radio because I work in Philly and all of our teams are stacked with losers. I hardly ever watch the evening news (morning news is way more optimistic). I plead (politely) with my fiance when I come home and she channels her inner Regina George and gets hangry.

via GIPHY

Negativity is a cancer that spreads like wildfire. If you do not control it, then it will run rampant on both your professional and personal life. I have found that the trick is to create mechanisms that catch negativity before, or as it begins, to invade your space. Social media can be the biggest culprit, but there are tons of ways to filter out the crap and stay ahead of it.

The Fantasy World of 9 to 5

This post started as a shimmering thought in bed on a Thursday at 11:30pm. It then entered the depths of Evernote, where it rested until Sunday at 2:30pm, later moving into our content management system. I continue to write the same post now at 7:35am Monday morning, and I will need to resume again later as I will be focusing on work for my clients soon.

My point is this: If you want to be a better marketing consultant, you have to put your “Fantasy World of 9 to 5” to bed. It’s a unicorn, get over it.

In a highly-intrusive world, nobody really works 40 hours per week anymore. Marketing consultants know this about as well as anybody. I have clients all over the United States, and some international, which means I’m always on call.

There have been nights where I have not slept because I was physically “holding up” a client’s website as their web server collapsed. I have had Skype calls with people in Tel Aviv at 2:00am. I’ve made edits to a brochure during a Friday happy hour on my phone for a client in Dallas.

As a marketing consultant, your schedule works around your clients, not the other way around. Of course, you need to have a personal life as well, otherwise you run the risk of doing more harm than good. But a 60-40 balance of work/play is essential. It also becomes a lot easier when you are able to hybrid the two.

Lazy Lunches

I’ve never made much money while my mouth is stuffed with a two pound burrito. It’s hard to design a website, or write up a report, when your barbecue-laced fingers stick to the keyboard. And I’m definitely not super productive after a heavy meal.

Sure, food gives us energy, but if you’ve ever experienced couch-lock after chowing down on some grub, you know that your body goes through a process after eating.

High-carb, high-fat and high-sugar foods (often the things you find at your favorite lunch stop) trigger a neural response as soon as they hit the small intestine, according to Huffington Post and Scientific American. A size of your meal is also found to have a correlation to tiredness due to things like insulin spikes.

The impact of digestion isn’t the only null effect of lunch. It’s the entire embodiment of the activity. I associate lunch with “break-time”, an opportunity to leave my desk so I can wander about in search of a somewhat sanitary food truck. Lunch is an escape for most people. And as we hold that perception we lose focus, billable work, and opportunity to provide clients paramount insight and value.

Yes, lunches can be productive, especially those with co-workers, and of course, clients. Casual collaboration and physical interaction that develop around a lunch table can sometimes not be mimicked. Though in my experience, I have found that more times than not, lunch conversations drift away from creativity and problem solving, and hum closer to after-hours talk.

My substitute for a lazy lunch is snacking on fruits and vegetables and assorted, unsalted nuts throughout the day. This way I can keep my energy and focus up, without sacrificing time and money. If you are going to break for thirty minutes, do something that won’t make you feel like crap for another 30 minutes or longer (e.g. mediate, go for a walk, write, etc).

Add to this List

I am always looking to explore new ways to become a better marketing consultant to provide unprecedented value to our clients at Orpical Group. The lighter I am, the more efficient I can be, which in turn will drive more profits for our client base.

If you are a marketing consultant and have additional suggestions on fat cutting, please feel free to email me at stefan@orpical.com. I would love to expand this discussion to develop more fit marketing consultants, promote high energy environments, and ultimately gain more profits for our companies and all of our clients. Of course, I will give you credit and link back to your business and social profiles. We’re in this together – there is plenty of marketing consulting work to go around!

About the Author: Stefan Schulz, Marketing Consultant

 

Stefan Schulz is a web and graphic designer, brand enthusiast, and online marketing expert with 10+ years of diverse experience as a marketing consultant. His work has helped earn Orpical Group accolades including The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Top Branding Marketing and Media Services Companies, as well as Top Tech Employers List.

“I love working one on one with business owners and executives. I love getting tasked with a challenge and I always feel honored when someone has faith in me to find a solution. When someone says to me, ‘We need to figure this out, and we need you to figure it out for us,’ I geek out. To be a good marketing consultant, you need to be like that. It’s like being a full-time Labrador retriever: If your client throws a stick into the ocean, you’re damn excited to go out there and get it for them.”

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About Orpical Group

Orpical Group is a full-service online marketing agency and business consulting firm. Based in New Jersey (NJ), we specialize in logo design, branding, web design and development, search engine optimization (SEO), and search engine marketing (SEM).

Since 2012, we have helped our clients realize and sustain high levels of individual and organizational performance. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all marketing approach. We believe in our clients. And our clients believe in us because we are invested in success.

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How To Not Slip Up When Hiring a Web Designer

This is a post that most web designers don’t want you to read. It’s a short, sweet guide that will hopefully help you avoid common “slip-ups” that even the smartest business minds make when hiring a web designer.

Don’t Be Stingy

We all love bargains. Websites are no different. Some people try to justify stinging out on a website by telling themselves the less they pay the more they save. Not exactly. When you nickel-and-dime, you actually run the risk of having a crappy, unprofessional website, perhaps missing content, or lacking functionality. All of which ultimately cost you money down the road. Here a some sample ways of “nickel-and-diming” and their pitfalls:

  1. Hiring someone overseas at a stupidly low rate: They probably don’t speak the same language as you. They sleep when you’re awake. You sleep when they’re awake. The project will take forever. You’ll get the bare minimum. Who wants to be a Benedict Arnold anyway?
  2. Using a free website builder: Just because you can get access to the software to design and develop your own website, doesn’t mean that you should. Case and point: I have Quickbooks, but I don’t do my own bookkeeping. You might learn the software after buying your WordPress for Dummies, and upload some content in a Free Template, but will it really get the job done right? For more info on this see my post on Custom Vs. Customized Web Designs.

Don’t Drop A Fortune

Paying an extra $10,000 on your site won’t change the fact that you will still be getting a page marked up with HTML and styled using CSS. Don’t get taken advantage of. But also don’t expect a designer or design firm to work for pennies. Work with someone who is fair, understands your budget, and is willing to be flexible to help you achieve your digital marketing goals. Your web designer should a “partner in profitability”.

Consider All Your Website Needs

Do you need a logo? Copy and content? Multimedia such as videos? Should the content be optimized for search? Custom scripts? Integrations with third party applications? Need a content management system? These are just some of the many questions any good designer and developer will ask before getting started.

Be sure to work with someone who can provide related services, or at the very least, has access to solutions. Think about when you go grocery shopping. Isn’t it a pain in the rear end when you do your bulk shop at WholeFoods, but then have to stop at Trader Joe’s to get those delightful Triple Ginger Snaps? Same thing goes for web design. Consider working with a full-service firm if you need more than just the basics to consolidate your expenses.

Gearing up for a new web design & want more advice? Sign up for a 30-minute conversation and receive a free estimate for a custom website.

Our team of web designers at Orpical Group work closely with you to outline a web design plan that makes sense. At no-cost, we’ll discuss your ideas for your project and will provide an itemized estimate for a custom website. Click here to get started.

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What Businesses Can Learn from the NFL and the Deflategate

Roger Goodell photo courtesy of Zennie Abraham.

As if they haven’t gotten enough bad press following wife beating and child slapping scandals, the NFL gets another black eye following what has come to be known as deflate-gate. Is it a black eye though? Maybe to some but the entire incident has garnered unprecedented press for a game that is traditionally TV’s biggest event of the year.

According to the Los Angeles Times, NBC sold every available commercial spot for Sunday’s Super Bowl, ultimately establishing a new revenue record. Reportedly, each 30-second spot sold for an average of $4.5 million, to generate more than $360 million for Comcast-owned NBC. “This is a record day, I believe, in media, and certainly for our company,” Seth Winter, executive vice president of NBC’s ad sales for news and sports, said during a conference call with reporters. “The NFL and the Super Bowl remain the platinum standard of all media.” This year more than ever, those sponsors will get their money’s worth and they can all thank the New England Patriots and Deflate-gate for the favor.

Bill Belichick

Let’s face it, a villain always makes for a better story.

This year, the Patriots and their deflated balls have become everyone’s villain. The boys from Boston, already known for bending if not breaking the rules, unknowingly transformed the trash-talking, or in the case of Marshawn Lynch (aka Beast Mode)…non talking…brash, bullies from Seattle into the good guys.

This story has generated interest from so many angles. On January 21st, it trumped the President’s State of the Union address as the lead story on four major networks. On the lighter side, Deflate gate provided fodder for late night talk show hosts as well as a very funny skit on Saturday Night Live. From a more serious perspective, it focused a spotlight on the already questionable leadership of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Following his poor handling of the Ray Rice-Baltimore Ravens debacle, it was Patriot’s owner Kraft who came to Goodell’s defense…the same Kraft that played a major role in approving Goodell’s stout salary package of approximately $44 million last season. According to GQ writer, Gabriel Sherman: “So large is Kraft’s sway with Goodell that one veteran NFL executive likes to call him ‘the assistant commissioner,”

From a PR perspective deflate gate is a polarizing promotional pearl.

It has expanded an already massive interest in the Super Bowl, generated thousands of hours of TV, radio, and internet discussion, and pages and pages of press while prompting usually reserved personalities like Joe Montana to comment on the situation. Just about everyone has taken a side. The best part about deflate-gate? It promises to be around for a while. People will want to see if Commissioner Roger Goodell has the inflated balls to stand up to his good friend, Robert Kraft’s deflated balls. We’ll be watching.

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Marketing Prediction for 2015

It’s about to be 2015.

We expect stuff to happen at the click of a button, or even easier, from a voice command—order this now, learn more now, register for this now.

Now, now, now, now.

We’ve really evolved into a bunch of Vladimir Putin’s, haven’t we?

So when things don’t happen instantaneously, we immediately get pissed off. Cause that’s what pre-programmed authoritarians do, right?

The reality of the matter is that we need to shelf our obsession with instant gratification. And by we, I mean we the guys doing the marketing. If we don’t, we’re inevitably setting ourselves up for disappointment—more demanding, more yelling, more headaches, more foul moods, less success for everyone involved.

For 2015, I’m making the boldest, most daring, most ridiculous marketing prediction: Companies that work hard to market their products or services will have more success.

Is your mind blown?

My old man always told me—and still tells me—that finding a job is a job in itself. The more that I think about that, the more I realize its relevance to sustainable marketing practices.

As marketers, we demand results. But, let’s face it. We can get a little greedy. And consumers are savvy enough to pick up on those tendencies. Serving up irrelevant content, and considering yourself smarter than your customers made CMO’s list of 10 Ways to Annoy Your Customers. Both of which are by-products of? Yup, you guessed it. Lazy, greedy marketers.

Yes. Marketing automation is an important concept and is something that should be practiced in balance. Understand that there are pros and cons, and that there lies a serious problem today with marketing automation overload.

I recall when I was first applying for jobs—before I landed my current position. I wrote up what I thought was a surefire gem of a cover letter and blasted that baby out with my jack of all trades resume for the whole wide world to see. When I never heard back from anyone, I was like, “Well, this is crap. The economy sucks.” But in all seriousness, my approach sucked. I sold myself short.

It wasn’t until I changed my approach that I started to get the engagement, interviews and ultimately the great job that I was looking for. Instead of automating my job search, I carefully read ads, picked up on cues, and altered my cover letter and resume to fit what that particular employer was looking for. I tried different layouts, fonts, added photos. Anything and everything that would elicit a response.

The same approach can and should be replicated for premium marketing results. You want to sell more product? You want to secure more clients? You want to grow your business? You want to drive around a Porsche and smoke cigars like Tony Soprano?

Then you better hit the whiteboard. Spend more time strategizing and less time filling out your time sheet. Spend more time testing and less time automating. Spend more time working hard and less time working on cruise control. Spend more time building relationships and less time taking shortcuts. The results will show.

The more things change—the more they stay the same. Those who work hard and smart, and never give up will find true success. Those who learn and adapt from mistakes of consistent effort will find true success.

New Fangled Gmail Changes

If you happen to be one of the millions of users who use Gmail for their email service provider, you have most likely seen the pop up message when you logged in letting you know that images in your email are now being enabled by default. This information corresponds with the announcement a couple weeks back from Google and Gmail that they will soon begin caching and serving email images from their content delivery network (CDN) to assist in speeding up the process of browsing through email.

Now some users of the Gmail services might be unhappy with this new default setting, but rest assured you still have the option to disable it.  In your setting’s panel, you can select “Ask me before displaying” which will convert your email back to the old Gmail setup.

Some are saying that this move by Google and Gmail is to expand upon their already great spam detection system and thwart even more spam emails for its end users.

One of, if not the largest solitary problem that Gmail has with spam is that mass e-mailers otherwise known as spammers are using images that contain keywords that could be, but aren’t necessarily flagged as spam. While, only a theory there are some who are saying that Gmail is trying to use optical character recognition (OCR) to weed out some spam, but that is another discussion all on its own.

Spammers also make use of several techniques to fool spam detection systems by sending their emails from a slew of different internet protocol (IP) addresses, have multiple subject lines, varying alt tags for their images, among other things.

By taking control and caching images, Google/Gmail can now take as a signal that items are spam when there are enough people who are reporting the email as spam, or saying not to display the images in the email. There is even a possibility that Gmail could replace the spam image with one of their images which state it is spam.

What this Means to Email Marketers

This move by Gmail deprives Email marketers of data that they were able to collect previously through the use of images, items such as the approximate location of the recipient.

Prior to the image loading, change, email marketers were able to attach coding to an image which would be able to retrieve the approximate location of the recipient when they opened that email message. However, now that Gmail/Google is opening the information before it reaches the intended recipient, the location which is sent to the marketers is that of Google/Gmail and where their servers are located. In short what this means is that an email marketer can no longer customize an email in order to promote a brick and mortar store which is closest to the individual consumer.

Whatever the motive it is clear that this move by Google/Gmail will trip up many email marketers, but will make the end users experience much more pleasant. This isn’t the first time email marketers have been tripped up by Google/Gmail, and it certainly won’t be the last. As technology increases marketing techniques, will change and grow with the changes.

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Using Social Media as Inspiration

Everyone needs inspiration.  Some of us realize that we do. But where do you get inspiration when your “well of ideas” has run dry? It might be as simple as logging into Twitter and seeing what everyone else is saying. Social media can be an excellent source of inspiration, insight, and useful information. It can spark a new idea, or give you more information so you can get involved in a conversation that’s already happening.

Most social media is regularly updated and covers a wide range of subject matter.   You can even learn how to create a mobile phone app – with no experience!  Many social networking platforms allow for conversation; questions asked and answered, and more.

Of course, there are two sides to social media. There are people who know what they are talking about and get either get validation or insight from others. Other people display an unfounded ego, arrogance, and ignorance are, at least with some social platforms, exposed, and their input invalidated by the social networking community.

Inspiration for Speakers, Parents, Businesspeople, and Writers 

Those who frequently give speeches or write for others often have a good level of expertise and experience with a particular field or topic.  Unfortunately, continually drawing from the same well of knowledge can leave the writer or speaker with a diminished level of ‘sparkle,’ which in turn could bore the audience.  Studying conventional reference and instructional material can bore the true expert, and further degrade the passion for presenting speeches and writing.  Boring speakers don’t get hired again.

Social media channels can come to the rescue.  There are private groups on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.  These groups are often moderated by a knowledgeable person. They frequently screen applications for membership to those groups; this helps to protect the integrity and quality of the group.

Often times, the social media channels we choose to follow are actually part of a larger site. For instance, a pastor might get inspiration from Christianity.com and choose to follow them on Twitter. Not only does the pastor get the information from the website, but he can see some of the conversations others are having.

On these and similar sites, audio, articles, conversational blogs, and even video can lift the spirits, provide information, and encourage pastors and other speakers, teachers, and writers.

Driving Business with Inspiration

Business owners and bloggers have some of the most information available. From Entrepreneur to Forbes, the popular online journals and magazines targeted at business advice have strong social media presences. They often post news and editorials that address strategies and big things happening in the industry.

When looking for inspiration for that blog piece, or even trying to find a new way of approaching your own social media presence, following the Twitter or Facebook account of a company that does it right and you respect is one of the best ways to not only get inspired, but get things done correctly. If you’re not coming up with something new, chances are you’re losing out to a company that is. However, inspiration isn’t limited to figuring out a business proposal or blog post.

Shaking Up Your Personal Life

The type of inspiration and information available through websites and social media can spread into some of the most important aspects of our lives. Parents, who often face unfamiliar challenges, unpredictable behavior, and how to guide their children can get information, have online discussions, as questions, and more from sites such as Parenting.com.

Such sites often offer ways for readers to interact with authors, writers, and each other. This isn’t the type of inspiration that will lead to stronger sales, but it is the type of inspiration that can push you through the day, and even figure out a new and interesting way to shake up an old routine and get back into gear.

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Are Tweets the Ticket to the Super Bowl?

What JCPenney’s Super Bowl Tweets Might Mean for Super Bowl Advertisements

by Lauren Wainwright

Even as a Seattle fan, it got a little boring watching the Broncos continually hand the ball over. After feeling pretty confident the Seahawks were bringing it home, I wound up perusing through Twitter.

It seemed like JCPenney was having as rough a first half of the game as the Broncos.

JCPenney  jcpenney  on Twitter

The company sent out two tweets that appeared to be written under the influence of a few too many super bowl cocktails. However, afterwards, they send out a tweet with a picture of their new mittens, apologizing for the typos. 

Was this a planned publicity stunt or a well-handled blunder?

JCPenney  jcpenney  on Twitter2

 

 

Judging by the prepared image that was sent out after the fact, I would have to guess that this was fully planned. However, the huge response couldn’t have been planned. Twitter users across the board were re-tweeting the messages, making jokes about the brand being too inebriated to have a Twitter account.

However, possibly even better handled was Snickers. Whoever is in charge of their Twitter account made a perfectly executed reply, shown in the image below.

snickers reply

Snickers wasn’t the only one who jumped on board and offered J.C. Penney help with their tweeting problem.

responses

The interesting part? None of the brands that were part of the Twitter conversation were advertisers in the Super Bowl.

With a 30 second commercial costing $4 million, it’s no surprise a lot of brands decided against the splurge in advertising this year, but it seems a lot of them have taken to social media. Rather than spending millions on short, highly competitive air space, there seemed to be more happening on social media.

It also felt like every commercial was trying to start its own hashtag.

hashtag

It makes me wonder what the future of Super Bowl advertisements will look like, and whether or not companies that do decide to spend the money on these advertisements are getting their money’s worth.

While on Twitter, I didn’t see any #StayRestless conversations, or #VW for the Volkswagen commercial, yet there were thousands of shares for the brands that stuck to the Twitterverse. While Jeep’s tweet with the hashtag they paid millions of dollars for with their commercial got 15 retweets and 23 favorites, the reply Snickers sent out about JCPenney’s tweet alone got 3,193 retweets and 1,489 favorites.

It will be interesting to see in the next few years whether the classic Super Bowl commercials will stay the course or if Twitter or Facebook stunts like J.C. Penney’s will take over the main stage.