How to Work With influencers

Working with influencers can be incredibly beneficial for a brand. As a business owner and influencer, I’ve been on both sides of the coin. Over the last decade, through a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned the hard way how to get the most out of an influencer relationship with your company.

“I think influencer marketing is going to have a golden era of a decade. I think we’re at the beginning of it and I’m very fond of it.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Here is the seven-step process I use when working with Influencers.

Get clear on who your ideal customer is.

This is something preached day in and day out in the world of marketing, but that’s because it is crucial to the success of a marketing campaign. If you’re going to work with someone else to promote your company, you want to make sure you really know who your audience is and who they know, like, and trust.

You’ll want to find an influencer who has the same or similar ideal customer as your company. The more crossover you and your dream influencer’s avatar have in common, the better the collaboration will perform.

Know what your goals are for the campaign.

Are you looking for a one-and-done deal to get the word out about your company? Or are you looking for a continued relationship?

Most of the time as a small business, you’ll be able to see better conversion rates when you focus on building relationships versus sending out a bunch of free products.

A blast campaign is better for bigger businesses with deeper pockets and large advertising budgets. If you’re smaller, it will make more sense to find people to work with on your own. This will cut out a lot of fees that you would have to pay an agency, and the relationship is more personal.

Don’t focus on follower numbers.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when looking for an influencer to partner with is only looking at a high follower count. Many people assume the more followers an influencer has, the more successful the collaboration will be. In my experience, the opposite is usually true.

There are plenty of accounts out there with a large following that has very little engagement and interaction.

Instead of focusing on how many followers an influencer has, look at how often their following comments, shares, or interacts with their account. Do they have a low amount of likes or interaction for how many followers they have?

An account with fewer followers that are dedicated is worth more than an account full of bots and people who are just there to watch from the sidelines.

For small businesses, the sweet spot is most likely partnering with micro-influencers: those with 10k-100k followers. Micro-influencers tend to have better engagement and a more active following than the internet-famous influencers you see everywhere.

If you’re just getting started, don’t discount nano influencers either. Nano influencers are categorized as those with under 10k followers. Everyone on Instagram has access to links now, so follower count is not as important as a dedicated audience.

Research, research, research.

Next, start looking at varied accounts to narrow down your search.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask your customers who they like to follow. One question I love to ask that usually sparks some great responses: “Who is an account you love to follow that you feel is underrated?” This will help you locate influencers that your audience loves (who are in that nano or micro-influencer range) who may be looking for opportunities to work with brands.

You can also search niche-specific hashtags that relate to your company to find additional potential influencers.

When you find an account, look at what their content style is, how often they have sponsored content, and the voice they use. Does the general feel of their page match your brand values?

Make sure who you choose to work with is a good fit for your business.

Start building relationships.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when working with influencers is to start cold-emailing or cold-messaging someone you want to work with.

As an influencer myself, I get anywhere from 5-10 of these pitches a day and I can tell you firsthand, they are immediately deleted.

Pick three to five influencers that you think would be a great fit and start following them. Leave thoughtful comments on their posts, share their content that your customers will relate to, and get to know them online.

Then, after a few weeks, if those comments and shares have warmed that relationship up a little, send them an email saying that you would love to work with them to gauge their interest.

It can literally be something as simple as “Hi _________, my name is ________ from _________. I’ve been following along with your Instagram account, and I think your account would be a great fit for my brand. I’d love to discuss how we can work together if you’re open to it.”

If your comments, shares, or interactions don’t get any response, it’s a good sign not to pursue that relationship.

Sweeten the deal.

Influencer marketing is a 10-billion-dollar industry as of 2021*, and it’s only going to continue to grow.

If you’re not looking to pay for posting in 2022 because you don’t have a budget, you’re not going to get very far. Even micro and nano influencers usually expect some form or payment to work together, and very few will work for a product exchange.

In addition to allocating a budget for influencer marketing, think of ways you can draw them in to work with you. Affiliate or incentive programs can go a long way in building continued relationships.

Don’t be afraid to try again.

You may be shocked when you reach out to someone and they ghost you or never respond. Maybe they’ll come back with a rate that’s not in your budget, or maybe their editorial calendar is full. This happens all the time. Don’t take it personally.

Don’t rush into an influencer relationship just because you feel like you need to. Wait until you find the right influencers to pair with.

Honestly, working with influencers is like dating – it’s going to take a while until you find the right one, but with each “date” or collab, you’ll learn something that you can take with you moving forward.


There is no “quick fix” to finding an influencer that will fit well with your brand. It takes time, research, and persistence. At the end of the day, influencer marketing can be very beneficial for your business – if you do it the right way.

Do You Need a Website

Will Websites Still Be Relevant in 2024?

One question we still hear a lot of is – Do I actually need a website in 2024? We know there are plenty of ways to share and sell online. You can sell directly through most social media platforms now, so is it really necessary?


But let’s talk about WHY and what advantages it can give you in 2024.

Why You Need a Website in 2024

  1. You don’t own your social media following. So, if ALL of your content is housed on social media, if it were to go down (like in the great SM outages of 2023), you’d be out of luck. If it were to get hacked – all that content? BOOM. GONE.
  2. You need a home base for your content. This is something a friend told me, and we love that phrase. You need a place where ALL your content can reside. You can’t control a third-party social platform, but you can control a website. All your leads, including lead magnets, should go back to your website.
  3. It helps build your credibility. It’s 2024, and a website helps build your credibility in your industry and legitimizes your business, no matter how small. Even if it’s just a website with some general info on it, that’s better than nothing! If we had to bet on something, we’d bet that most people would purchase something from a website over something that is only on social media.
  4. It helps with search results. Unless people specifically search your company’s social media handle on Google, it’s not going to turn up anything. But, if you have a website that talks about the products you sell who they’re for, and what problems they solve? When somebody searches for those things, you’ll show up as a solution – which broadens the number of people who are seeing what you’re selling. And in the words of one of my favorite mentors on the internet – it all comes down to how many eyeballs you can get on what you’re selling. The more organically you come up in a Google search, the better. This is actually something we started focusing on A TON about two years ago, and we are starting to see some HUGE payoffs now. SEO (or search engine optimization) is a tricky game, but it can pull out some huge rewards.
  5. Show off your SKILLS, your expertise, and your products. On a website, you can create a portfolio, a lookbook, blog posts, articles, product videos, all of it. And it’s all in one place and easily searchable. It gives potential customers a chance to look at what you’ve done and think “Yep, this is the right business/product for me. They’re selling exactly what I need.”
  6. Analytics. As far as we’ve seen, a website gathers the MOST in-depth information about your customer – which is CRUCIAL when making business decisions. Do you want to be able to confidently answer all of the questions about your ideal customer from our worksheet? You’re going to get that kind of info from digging into your website analytics.
  7. It can be a revenue source. If you’re a content creator, putting ads on your website can be another source of income. Last year we pulled back the curtain on our revenue sources for Six Sisters’ Stuff, and advertising from our website ALONE made up 45% of our revenue. Trust us, if you create content for a living, you should have a website – don’t just give it all for free on social media.
  8. A website is open 365 days a year. Whether that’s to get answers to questions they can’t easily access on a social platform. They can also contact you through a form, see what makes your product or service unique, or buy something from you at any time. When you have a website, it’s there all the time. And hopefully, it’s making you money while you sleep.
  9. You are the only competition on your website. When you get your customers off of social media and onto your website – you dim the noise of distraction and competition. On YOUR website, your customer is only thinking about YOU (and not skipping to the next story or scrolling to the next video). You also control the flow of information and the sale. So, you can add upsells, and downsells, and decide where a customer ends up after a purchase. You can’t do that on social media.

In Conclusion

Yes, you absolutely need a website in 2024.

Is it one of your goals for 2024 to actually HAVE a website? But maybe you don’t quite have the time or money to create a brand-new website by yourself. We have the perfect solution for you.

Contact Page Mistakes

We’re seeing contact pages out there that don’t quite hit the mark, and so today we return with the flipside — some common Contact page mistakes that you should definitely avoid.

You Have A Contact Page, Right?

The first and most obvious Contact page mistake is pretty simple — not having one. This seems like it would be a no-brainer, but I stumble across sites making this mistake all the time! Usually, this is because people are working under the erroneous assumption that social media links (usually in icon form) will be enough for people who are looking to get in touch. Not so!

Sure, social media links are great for people looking to connect with you, especially in a casual way, but for those who don’t engage in those particular networks, or who are in need of direct contact to solve a troubleshooting issue or get answers to pre-purchase questions, they are relatively useless.

So, if you don’t have a Contact page, get one. You need one, no matter what you think.

Don’t Hide Your Contact Page

Oh, you say you do have a Contact page after all, I just didn’t see it. Well, that’s on you, bub! I shouldn’t have to spend precious time figuring out where you decided to keep your Contact page away. If it’s not immediately obvious to me where your Contact page is, it might as well not exist. Stick that link in your main navigation unless you absolutely can’t for some reason.

Contact Forms Should be Just Right

Think three bears porridge. Add too many fields to your form and people will bounce off of it like a wren hitting a patio door. Add too little, and they won’t be able to tell you what they need. What you need to do is hit the butter zone between those two — include only fields that people need to communicate with you, without leaving anything crucial out.

Ted Cruz contact page
Ted Cruz contact page by Judith E. Bell

Don’t Ignore Responses

There are two parts to this mistake. The first is pretty obvious…don’t forget to reply to people who contact you. Period. Even if that response is super short, it’s critical to let people you are corresponding with that you received their message. Consider setting up automated replies that at least let people know they’re in the system, but don’t neglect the power of a personal response.

The second part of this mistake is more subtle…don’t forget to adjust your form based on the submissions you are receiving. People will usually indicate if they have an issue with your form, and even if they don’t the type of messages they send you can help inform edits to the form.

The Lonely Form

Sure, forms are fantastic ways to facilitate communication, but they aren’t always the best way for everyone. Make sure you offer alternative ways to contact you if they exist. If you have a public phone number, include it. If you don’t, consider alternatives like linking directly to your email, or offering a live chat interface. Social network links make sense here too.


CAPTCHA’s are annoying. They used to be one of the only defenses against spammers, but we’ve moved on for the most part, with much less obtrusive and much more accessible solutions. Don’t CAPTCHA, unless you’re buried in spam and you’ve tried all the solutions first.

Fire & Forget

Just because your form was working when you set it up doesn’t mean it’s still working now. Plugin updates and other gremlins may have caused it to stop working at some point, so make sure that you periodically test all of your contact forms to make sure that they are still functioning as planned, including any automated interactions that should happen after the message is received.

Writing a “Contact Us” Page That Connects

There are some pages on your website that are viewed more than others, which makes them more important. Like the Contact Us page. No big surprise.

But, what does surprise me is how many people don’t use this obvious information to their advantage…to optimize that page to get people to connect with their organization. That’s why this is such an important area to focus on.

Your prospects and customers need your contact information, like a phone number or email address, to get in touch with you. Plus when it’s done well, “…an amazing contact page has the ability to entice visitors and convince them to either make a purchase or hire your services,” according to the Search Engine Journal.

Make it sound great

Of course, your entire website should have a well-written copy, but it’s particularly important (and often forgotten) on the contact page. Many sites consider the contact page as an afterthought. They throw in an address and phone number and call it a day. But you can do so much more to start building a relationship with people who view the page.

To attract and keep visitors you should use language that is action and value-oriented. This means including a call to action (with an offer!) and information on how visitors will benefit from you or your brand. This will help you set up further communication. Furthermore, keep the page short and to the point. People don’t want to spend a lot of time filling out forms.

Be sure contact details are current. “It sounds obvious, but having an out-of-date telephone number or email address could not only lose you a sale but might also send alarm bells ringing,” warns SEO consulting company

Make it simple and functional

Keep the contact information short, sweet, and to the point so visitors can find what they’re looking for fast. Please take the time to double-check everything on the page. Having links that are broken or won’t send properly is just bad for business. If the email or phone number links are not working correctly, how can people communicate with you? That sorta’ defeats the purpose of the contact page.

Don’t ask for too much information up-front. It will discourage people from getting in touch with you.

Make it look terrific

Your design and visuals are a big part of your website and your brand. The contact page should look and feel as interesting as the rest of your site. Your Contact Us page’s design and style will be part of their initial impression. If you have a poorly designed contact page, people won’t be interested in dealing with you.

Show off your personality. If your audience is the casual, fun-loving crowd, consider a light-hearted, even comical tone for your Contact Us page. Whatever your brand, make your contact page brand-consistent. Make readers just SO excited to contact you now!

Make it mobile-responsive

Since most of the web has gone mobile, make sure your contact page works on all mobile devices. Plus, it makes life easier if you have a physical location when people can access a map on the contact page to locate your place of business from their phones.

Make it link to social media accounts

Give visitors another way to engage with the business through your social media accounts, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Use this handy contact page checklist

It’s especially easy for you to make sure your contact page is doing a great job of connecting with prospects and customers. Simply include:

  • A sentence or two in a friendly, informative introductory blurb
  • Company name, actual business address, phone numbers (landline and cell), and email address
  • Skype username (especially important if you deal with clients outside the U.S.)
  • Email address
  • Hours of operation and/or appointment information
  • Map and directions (if people will be coming to your place of business)
  • Links to social media pages
  • Photographs of key contact people
  • Call to action with an offer

The Rise of Bite-Sized Video

Short Form Video

As social media has taken over the marketing landscape, brand promoters have had to find ways to condense their messaging into increasingly smaller formats. First, it was the limited wall post, then the 140-character tweet. The Instagram photo, the pinnable image, the hashtag, we communicate to the public in every briefer broadcast. It was inevitable that this culture of brevity would make its way into the realm of video.

Instagram Reels

When Instagram announced in 2021 that it was “no longer just a square photo-sharing app,” the platform took a major step forward by introducing Instagram Video, which replaced IGTV and enabled videos to be posted as in-feed content. This shift makes sense from a user perspective, as 91% of active Instagram survey respondents told us they watch Instagram videos on a weekly basis.

Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels

In order to capitalize on the popularity of video content, Instagram offers a range of formats including Stories, Reels, Live, and In-feed. Each type of video format has different length recommendations, with Stories being up to 15 seconds, Reels lasting up to 60 seconds, and In-feed lasting between 3 and 60 seconds. By providing users with a wide variety of content options, Instagram is ensuring that everyone is able to find the content that resonates best with them.

Youtube Shorts

The world of video content has seen a paradigm shift in recent years, as the demand for snackable, bite-size videos has skyrocketed. And one platform that has embraced this trend is YouTube, with the launch of their revolutionary YouTube Shorts feature.

Designed to be 15-second clips easily created within the YouTube app, YouTube Shorts offer creators a new avenue to reach an engaged audience and monetize their content. With millions of potential viewers using the platform, there are limitless opportunities for any creator looking to dive into this new format.

In addition, as YouTube begins to monetize Shorts, there is real potential for creators to see a return on their creative efforts. This could represent a major shift in the financial landscape of content creation and production, offering more stability and reward for those who are willing to invest in bite-size video creation.

As technology continues to evolve, so will the tools available for bite-size video production. In the coming years, we can expect to see new platforms and software specifically tailored towards these quick, convenient pieces of content.

Creators should take note of this trend and start incorporating bite-size videos into their content production plans. By embracing this new format and leveraging the power of YouTube Shorts, creators can reach new audiences, tap into fresh revenue streams, and grow their personal brands more effectively than ever before. So if you’re looking for creative success in the digital age, bite-size videos are an invaluable tool that you cannot afford to ignore.


It is undeniable: TikTok is now one of the biggest social media platforms today, and its influence has shaken up the industry. From 15,000 billion media impressions in a single month to 8 million streams of a Fleetwood Mac song and even celebrities such as Mick Fleetwood creating their own versions of viral videos, it’s apparent that the capabilities of this app are far-reaching.

What makes TikTok so successful is its ability to capitalize on the “snackable” format, providing short videos with an incredibly wide range of genres ranging from comedic to informative videos, for users to enjoy. This quickly led to a broader appeal and a surge in downloads, with more than 2 billion reported worldwide since 2018 and 100 million in the U.S. alone.

TikTok short video
TikTok short video

Moreover, brands and businesses have jumped on the opportunity to create content tailored to this platform, bringing out the “genuine” side of their companies and utilizing tools like filters or soundtracks to make engaging videos. In addition to simply creating content, they’ve also been able to get creative with giveaways or collaborating with other brands through duets or challenges like Chipotle’s #GuacDance which was incredibly popular with 250,000 submissions and 430 million views.

Thus, it’s clear why TikTok has been successful – it offers agility and creativity in the perfect package. And for marketers, there is no better time than now to jump on board. With a little research and finesse, any company can use this platform to create powerful campaigns that engage viewers and spark conversations.


Snapchat has long been recognized as one of the major social media players, boasting a massive 530 million monthly active users and 18 billion video views daily. The platform’s unique short-form video format has made it a popular choice for many users, and its recent Spotlight feature has cemented Snapchat’s status in the world of TikTok-like experiences.

Snapchat short videos
Snapchat short video

When it comes to advertising on Snapchat, the platform recommends keeping videos between three to five seconds in length in order to maximize engagement and conversions. This brief duration gives marketers a great opportunity to capture their audience’s attention quickly and effectively. With the right creative approach and a well-crafted message, marketers can leverage Snapchat’s large user base for success.

Facebook Reels

In February 2022, Facebook unveiled its own take on Reels and Stories to a global audience. Meta, the parent company of Instagram, also claimed ownership of this platform, as they sought to capitalize on the rising popularity of video-oriented social media. Studies conducted by Facebook revealed that videos account for 50 percent of the user’s time spent on the platform, with users able to post clips up to four minutes long. For optimal content, however, Facebook suggested creating videos less than one minute in length and no longer than fifteen seconds for Stories. This move would allow the platform to challenge competitors such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat in the ever-changing evolution of social media.

So, which service to use, and what to do with it? That’s what we’re here for! Stick around and we’ll go through some tips for the best ways to engage.

The More the Merrier

Short videos are designed to capture the attention of an increasingly distracted audience, providing maximum engagement and comprehension. Furthermore, their quick production time and versatility make them a valuable asset for brands looking to stay ahead of the curve.

The rise of TikTok has presented an interesting opportunity for marketers. Famous personalities are often seen partnering with brands to develop fun challenges that engage users while still getting the brand message across without being overly promotional. For example, Post Malone collaborated with Crocs on the #ThousandDollarCrocs challenge which resulted in over 3 billion views and a record-breaking 10-minute sellout of limited edition Crocs. This demonstrates how TikTok is able to harness the power of humor, authentic connection, and relatability to catapult a brand message into the public consciousness.

It’s clear that as more platforms incorporate short-form video into their offerings, strategic use of this type of content will be key to successful digital campaigns. By joining forces with influencers and tapping into the lightheartedness of social media, marketers can build meaningful relationships with today’s younger generations, ensuring their brand remains top-of-mind even amidst increasing competition.

Take Your Time, And Have Fun!

Shooting an attractive video is a lot more difficult than shooting an attractive photo. With Instagram, the filters did a lot of the heavy lifting, but a marketing video requires planning. It needs to tell a story while walking the fine line between promoting a brand and pushing too much. Keep it simple, you don’t have time for elaborate concepts. Be creative, be funny, and make content whose primary purpose is to engage people’s interest. Once you have an idea of what you want to produce, practice, practice, practice! Don’t broadcast the first thing you shoot. Make sure you have your video exactly right before you send it out into the world.

Be Great, Participate

You know the deal. Social Media is a back-and-forth environment, and in order to see the best return on your time investment, you need to actively engage with the community you are sharing content with. Find other users of the services who you think share an affinity with your brand (and who might promote it), and follow them. When they post, comment, and like their stuff.

Techniques and Tricks

There are a few specific things you should know before you begin to shoot with your camera. First, be careful before you decide to include any kind of a pan, tilt or other camera move in your film. Time is precious when you only have seconds, and those kinds of moves can take a lot of time. If you must utilize a camera move, then make it snappy.

Don’t worry about using professional lighting, natural lighting will suffice. Don’t expect to get great results at night, and don’t put extremely bright light sources behind your subject.

Though it has a reputation as time-consuming, consider using stop-motion. In such short segments, you can actually create stop-motion videos with relative speed, and they add wonderful style to the finished product when done correctly. If you are doing stop-motion or any other video you don’t want audio, don’t forget to cover the mic on your phone with your thumb or a piece of tape.

Some Fun Examples

Vine and Instagram videos can be an incredibly fun social media experience to participate in, and the posts can show a wide variety of creative ideas. Don’t take my word for it! Here are some great examples of the kinds of things that are possible.

12 Important Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design Agency

Are you considering hiring a web design agency to redesign your website or to bring a new vision to life? If so, you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of vetting a potential web design partner. Perhaps you’ve been disappointed in the past or this is all new to you. Either way, it’s not uncommon to feel like you don’t know what you don’t know. And you don’t even know where to start.

Here are 12 important questions to ask before hiring a web design agency:

1. Are you able to provide examples of websites designed by your company?

Check out the portfolio of a web design company to see if they have the design chops to create something on par with what you want. Do you like the style and aesthetic of their clients’ websites? Is there a diverse range of looks, or do all of the sites look similar? Snoop around and see if their designs are easy to navigate and function well. You want to join the ranks of happy, satisfied customers.

2. What feedback can you give me about my current website?

If you have an existing website, ask what they think of it. Don’t expect an in-depth audit or free consultation, but they should be confident enough to provide their professional opinion about some aspect of your website during your conversation. Listen with an open mind for evidence of an informed, knowledgeable, and experienced point of view.

3. Will my website be custom?

If you’re going to hire a web design agency for a professional website, find out if your design will be custom or built from a template. If you want to stand out and make a strong impression with your site, your best bet is to invest in custom web design, not a cookie-cutter site that looks like everyone else’s. If what you want is a custom-designed site, you’ll feel confined by the limitations of a semi-custom format and likely disappointed with the final product.

4. Do you handle development in-house?

Many people confuse the role of a web designer and a web developer. A web designer doesn’t necessarily do web development and vice versa. So when you hire a web design agency, there’s always a chance they are outsourcing development work to another company, rather than doing the work in-house. If the company outsources development, you could lose some control over quality and timeline.

5. Who will be working on my project?

It’s also helpful to know if the agency will be outsourcing other aspects of your website project. Will you be working with one person or a team, and what is their experience? You don’t want to be wowed by web designs in their portfolio only to find out you won’t have any access to talent equal to what attracted you to the agency in the first place. Also, you’ll want to know who your point of contact is and how you will be interacting with the team.

6. What is the design process and timeline?

An experienced web design agency should be able to provide an estimated timeline and some insight into their design process. Before you get started, you should know what will be expected of you and what you should expect from them.

7. How is price determined?

Some web design agencies charge by the project, some by the hour, and some use a combination in their pricing structure. You should have a clear understanding of the scope of the project, estimated time allotment, estimated cost, and how you will handle overages. Ask about their track record for projects staying within budget, and what causes a project to go over budget.

8. What design elements will be included?

Don’t make the assumption that brand consultation, custom graphics, logos, and other imagery are automatically part of your website design. The branding process typically occurs separately from or in addition to web design. You may also need to budget for logo design, custom graphics, and stock images necessary for your final website design. It’s important to sort out any confusion over design elements before you get started.

9. What can you tell me about the standards and practices you follow in your designs?

The web design and development company you choose to hire should be up to speed on the latest design trends and web development standards. You want a fresh modern look and feel. And it’s critical for your website to be responsive, secure, and work on all browsers and platforms.

10. What marketing elements will be incorporated into my website?

Websites that are nothing more than fancy digital brochures should be a thing of the past. Your web design agency should be knowledgeable enough about online marketing to advise you on how to ensure your site is search engine friendly. They should also know how to make sure your site is compatible with your overall marketing strategy and optimized for conversions.

11. Will I own the final design, and will I be able to make updates to it?

You should own the rights to your own website, design elements, domain, and hosting. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous web design agencies employ sketchy practices to make clients dependent on them. You should always maintain full ownership and control of your company’s website and never let an agency hold you hostage.

12. What other services do you offer?

While it’s not necessary for the web design and development agency to continue providing maintenance after your site goes live, it’s good to know if this is a service they offer in advance. Once you’ve grown a relationship with the team, you may want the option to stay on board for support.

Some excellent agencies specialize solely in design and/or development. Others provide additional services, such as branding, copywriting, marketing strategy and support, systems design and support, and more. Your web design project could be the beginning of a long-term relationship with a company that can help your business grow.

We’d be happy to answer these questions for you if you give us a shout!

How to Write Press Releases that Get Noticed

Journalists, websites, and various organizations are swamped with press releases from businesses of all sizes day in and day out. It’s been happening time and time again since the first news release was sent out (about a train wreck) over 110 years ago.

Every one of those releases has had the same objective: to gain positive media attention and coverage. So how the heck do you, as a small business or entrepreneur, make your releases stand out and shine?

You can spend hours (or even days) carefully crafting each word in what you think is the perfect news release. Then, you distribute it and wait for the onslaught of phone calls, emails, and congrats that (unfortunately!) never come. Huh? What the…? Maybe there’s a good reason they’re ignoring your releases.

How to Write Press Releases

A PRNewser article from the Adweek Blog Network showed that journalists, “…received approximately 50 releases every week—and spent less than one minute reading each one he or she opened.” What really annoys them is:

  • Releases that aren’t relevant to the beats/areas they cover
  • Releases that aren’t relevant to their readers
  • Bad writing releases
  • Releases that go on too long without making a point

So, stop annoying people and deliver news content your target news sources want to use to fill space, airtime, and websites. To make your news releases stand out, simply follow these 9 terrific tips.

Keep it conversational…with a personality

Avoid lots of industry jargon, tech talk, or self-promotion. Write in the language and style of the people you want to reach. For example, if you’re writing for the lifestyle space, have some fun with the tone. Or if you’re targeting insurance publications, use their vernacular. And remember to stay away from B.S. superlatives, like “best ever,” “greatest,” and “amazing.” Above all, it should reflect your company’s brand personality, especially if that is quirky, amusing, or irreverent.

Keep it short but thorough

Your recipients are busy and don’t have the time to read a ton of content, so keep your news release to 250-300 words. Try to never send a press release that runs more than a page. (FYI…don’t cheat by minimizing margins and making the type smaller. That will make sure your release gets tossed.) Start with the basics, and make sure to include all necessary contact information (with a Twitter handle) and answers to the who, what, when, where, and why questions. Remember, you can link to pages on your website for details.

Customize your pitch by target media

Most U.S. media outlets—websites, newspapers, online magazines, blogs, TV and radio shows, etc.—have some particular focus or specialization. Even general interest media have specialized departments. So instead of issuing one blanket release, consider adapting pitches to individual media outlets. They don’t want to see what everyone else is seeing. They’re looking for something unique, exclusive, or interesting about your business that matches their targets, especially if you have a local or regional angle.

Feature a killer headline (subject line)

This is the best and quickest way to get attention. Make it punchy. Get creative. Make it unique. Even have a little fun. A good rule of thumb is to spend as much time crafting your headline as you do writing the release.

Include evidence points, data, and quotes

Writers and editors love releases that feature detailed, real-world, verifiable proof and data (preferable that your business generated itself) to support any claims being made. These kinds of facts make the release sound important and reliable (and not just bragging). Quotes are essential, too…include two or three. Insert the most important one right after the lead, and close with a strong one.

3Target social channels, too

A media outlet’s social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) can be as valuable for your business as its printed or online pages. By offering images, videos, or tweets, you can improve your chances of getting coverage.

Be timely and newsworthy

For breaking announcements you need to have a press release in the journalist’s inbox within 30 minutes…or a few hours at the most. If you’re prepared, it’s possible to do this. Timing is everything…not too early or too late to be news.

Put yourself in their shoes

To gain clarity, ask yourself: What would make you read your own release? What makes this news?

Send it to the right people

It’s also important to personally deliver your news release to key media representatives. Who are those people? Newswire says, “They are journalists and media representatives in your industry and/or community who may be interested in your news and information. It can take time to identify and connect with them. However, the effort is well worth it.”

When it comes to press releases that get the attention your business deserves, turn to the experts. Give us a shout!

Create, Share, and Discover with Facebook Live

Facebook Live is an incredibly powerful and engaging platform that marketers can use to share their brand stories in real time. With its simple yet effective broadcasting capabilities, it gives users the ability to reach a broad audience and build relationships with them. However, just like anything else worth mastering, there’s a plethora of tricks and techniques to get the most out of the platform.

For instance, you have to keep viewers engaged visually, which means moving the camera around and using other features to make the video look more interesting. Furthermore, Facebook is now factoring video engagement into their algorithm, so if you make a video that people interact with in meaningful ways — like turning on audio or going full-screen — your broadcast will be ranked higher in News Feeds. Ultimately, taking advantage of these capabilities will help you maximize the reach of your live streams.

When your own small to medium-sized business joins the growing ranks of Facebook Live corporate users, like Chevrolet, Disney, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Target, your streaming video will show up live as your friends, clients or followers scroll, and the recording will save automatically to your news feed, to be viewed or shared later. Even Santa used Facebook Live last Christmas, so viewers could track his holiday journey.

As an infinite number of words and images are vying for everyone’s online attention, Facebook Live video is winning with increased reach, visibility, and interaction in a fresh and exciting way. Here are 6 ways to create, share, and discover with Facebook Live using its proven and newest features:

Address blog comments and answer questions

Another way to use Facebook Live video for your business is to discuss a topic that your audience is interested in. For example, maybe you’ve written a blog post on a subject that you know your readers will have questions about. Sure, you can answer readers’ comments on your blog, but it’s much quicker (and more efficient) to schedule a Facebook Live video session where you can answer many of their questions at once. And it’s a whole lot more fun and involving because it encourages your fans to tune in for the live video session rather than wait for a replay. Answering questions this way positions you as a confident, knowledgeable, go-to resource. (Another tip: you can even turn proven, popular blog posts into live videos.)

To increase the likelihood of a higher relevancy score, encourage viewers to comment on your broadcast and make sure to respond to them. Not only will this promote more comments overall, but it’s also a great way to engage with your audience and make them feel part of the live experience. And if you take the time to mention commenters by name, they’ll be thrilled to be acknowledged!

Provide a peek behind the scenes

People love it when you pull back the curtain and provide a peek behind the scenes of your business. Give them a glimpse into the daily operations and processes you follow, show them what it really takes to run your company, let them see your office, or take them along while you’re on the go.

The purpose of taking them behind the scenes is to create a casual sense of intimacy so that they have the opportunity to begin to know, like, and trust you more.

Promote your upcoming event or live stream an event

One of the primary ways Facebook evaluates a post’s rank is by the amount of Likes and shares it receives. If your video post accumulates plenty of both, then it’s more likely to appear in people’s News Feeds. But while people are watching an online video, they may not be as inclined to Like or share it compared to a text- or photo-based post—something that Facebook identified early on and addressed by monitoring other engagement metrics such as volume.

Facebook Live is a great way to announce an upcoming event. Once you’ve planned the event, create a post to let fans know you have a special announcement to make. Then, share specific details about your event on your Live video. When announcing an event on Live video, be sure to have an easy-to-remember URL that you can share with your viewers. Post this link in the video comments as well, in case viewers don’t have a chance to write it down. You can use a tool like Bitly to create a URL that you can track. You can also use Facebook Live video to stream a live event and make viewers part of the experience.

Conduct Interviews

Interview people that your audience will want to learn more about or learn from, such as influencers in your field, professionals with expertise who work alongside yours, or even interview your clients. A good interview always reveals just as much about the interviewer as the interviewee, so use Facebook Live interviews to dive into some worthwhile topics, associate yourself with interesting people, show off your personality, and present yourself as relatable.

Introduce new products or services

Another way to use Facebook Live video is to give your fans a sneak peek of your products or services…maybe even before they’re announced on your website.

Want to tap into the growing audience for Facebook Live video…and increase your market reach? Simply give our social media experts a shout.

6 Spring Cleaning Tips For Your WordPress Website

Maintaining a WordPress website for your small business requires a lot of care and attention. Your website isn’t something you should set up once, and forget everything that goes into keeping it fresh. We always advise consistently updating to the latest version of WordPress, ensuring that the best security is in place, and confirming that backups are running regularly. We also recommend routinely reviewing all aspects of your website to protect your brand and promote the best possible image for your business.

Every few months, aside from the basics, you’ll want to do what you can to keep it immaculate. Here are 6 spring cleaning tips for your WordPress website:

1. Audit your content

Look over the content and messaging on your website to make sure it still reflects your current company brand, goals, and target market. It’s easy for your website’s content to become outdated as you shift directions, pivot, or expand. Is your bio up-to-date? Is your team information accurate? Have you added or discontinued certain products or services? If you haven’t looked carefully at your website’s content in six months to a year, because you are busy with the daily operations of your business, you might be surprised by how much has changed. Remove or update any content that sends the wrong message or may cause confusion.

2. Fix broken links

Broken links on your WordPress website are bad for business. You don’t want someone to click a link, looking for information they want, only to find a missing 404 page. Broken links make your website appear neglected, create the impression that you are careless with your web presence, and negatively impact SEO because Google wants the highest quality sites to be found first. Start by logging into your Google search console, or setting up an account if you don’t already have one. Once you are logged in, click on your site dashboard, and check the site’s status for URL errors. Depending on the error, you may need to remove the link, publish a page, or set up a redirect using a plugin.

3. Speed Up Your Website

Is your website running fast enough? Slow load times can cause high bounce rates, low conversions, and lost sales, and contribute to a frustrating user experience. It can also ding your SEO. Few visitors have the patience to sit and wait more than a moment for your website to load. Start by using the Google Developers tool, PageSpeed Insights, which will analyze the content of your website and make suggestions to speed it up. Then, get some help to make the recommended changes, which may include fixing bugs, tweaking code, compressing images, reconfiguring WordPress caching, or any number of potential resolutions. A developer will use additional tools to further troubleshoot and fix the root cause of any slow loading times. You might find that there are problems with your hosting service, requiring you to migrate your website to a better hosting provider.

4. Declutter

Log into your WordPress dashboard and look around the back end for any pages, posts, or media that can be deleted. Do you have old pages that are outdated or have been replaced? Are there unpublished drafts of half-finished blog posts that you’re never going to use? Do you see 5 versions of a graphic you were trying to get “just right”? Are there deactivated plugins or plugins that you never use? It’s time to delete all of this extra baggage for good. Of course, be careful not to remove something that is in use and get help if you are unsure.

5. Improve the User Experience

There are many things you can do to clean up your website that will improve your user experience. You could simplify your site architecture or add a plugin that automatically recommends related content, allowing users to more easily navigate your website to find what they want. Another improvement would be to replace old images with better quality, high-pixel photographs that can be better shared on social media. And, speaking of social media, when was the last time you updated your share buttons plugin? Make sure your website has user-friendly options that include today’s popular social networks.

6. Remove old users

While you’re doing your site spring cleaning, check for and remove any inactive users that are still hanging around on the back end. You may have set up an account for a former employee, intern, friend, contractor, agency, or even the original developer. To keep your security tight, these user accounts should be removed immediately. Remember to keep an eye on user accounts going forward; there’s no reason to keep them open.

That’s just a start, but there’s so much more spring cleaning you can do for your website — like dusting your house from to bottom until it sparkles, but ignoring the boxes of paperwork from 2001 and the pile of outgrown bikes in the garage. It’s not going to tidy itself.

Need some help getting your WordPress website spiffy-clean and up-to-date this spring? Give us a shout.

8 Simple Steps to Keep Your WordPress Site Secure

It’s ironic that securing a WordPress website is called “hardening.” The process is a bit like adding more stones and rocks to bolster a fortress. But, remembering all the details of WordPress security is so much “harder” (and so much more important to keeping hackers away) than a rock wall!

For the longest time, it was possible to pretend that if you didn’t engage in any unsafe web browsing practices and employed a competent host for your website, you would be safe from the malicious actions of hackers. I say pretend because this was never actually true, but it was easy to believe that small business owners just weren’t large enough targets to be worth attacking.

Well, in the age of big-box security leaks, NSA snooping, easily lost mobile devices chock full of personal data, and hackers that are increasingly targeting smaller targets, I would say that the illusion can no longer stand. It is imperative that everyone, even small businesses, protect themselves from the ravages a hacking attack can wreak.

But for many, the barrier to protecting themselves is simply a lack of understanding or a fear of approaching something that seems too technical from the outside. Never fear! There are many steps even the most technically challenged can take to protect themselves, and if you stick around, I’ll tell you about a few.

And since WordPress is pretty soft on defense, it’s seriously important to step up and combat the attacks.

That’s why it’s worth repeatedly telling you about how to best protect your WordPress site. Especially when these 8 simple steps can help even the most technically challenged secure their website.

Keep WordPress, plugins, and themes up-to-date

It’s amazing that something so simple can have such a big impact on site security. Whenever you log in to the dashboard and see that “update available” banner, click it and update your site. If you’re worried about something getting screwed up, just make a backup before installing the update. The important thing is that you do updates regularly. And be sure to update plugins and themes, too, since each is like a “back door” to get into your site and your personal information. Bonus tip: Only download plugins and themes from reliable sources and delete any you are not using.

Limit users… and be careful with usernames and passwords

You can give anyone you want access to your site, but you shouldn’t. Every person who has access is another weak point in your chain of defense, so the only people who should be given access to your site are the people who actually need it in order to accomplish something. Also make sure that when assigning users their usernames, you don’t use anything obvious. DO NOT make “admin” your administrative username, or anything else that resembles your name or the name of your business…and establish strong (hard to guess) passwords. Bonus tip: You might even want to create a two-step authentication process. This means a password is required plus an authorization code that is sent to your phone in order to login to your site (there are plugins for that, too).

Use a security plugin and a firewall

If you want to ramp up WordPress security, then opting for a reputable security plugin is your best bet. These powerful plug-ins can provide comprehensive protection features such as active monitoring, malware and file scanning, blocklist monitoring, hardening, post-hack actions, firewalls, brute force protection, and notifications of potential security threats that have been detected. One of the most reliable and popular options available is the Wordfence Security plugin. Not only does it offer all the key protective measures mentioned above, but users also get an overview of traffic trends and hack attempts. And with pricing ranging from free to $99 per year for one site – or discounts for multiple sites – it’s an excellent value. So, if you’re looking for a secure platform for your WordPress website, be sure to consider the Wordfence Security solution.

Hide author usernames

WordPress is a secure content management system, but it is not immune to hackers. After being hacked myself within a year of launching my first WordPress site, I have since taken extensive measures to protect my website, including removing all WordPress usernames and author links. This is because WordPress usernames are like candy to hackers – too easy to resist.
Strong passwords are known to deter malicious activity, however, they are only part of the solution. Hiding WordPress usernames is an extra security measure that should not be ignored, just as you wouldn’t want your bank’s username openly displayed. This matter is even more important if you’re running an eCommerce business that handles consumer financial information. To protect your WordPress website, it’s essential to take precautions and hide usernames and author links.

Select a top-notch web host with top-notch security

Hands down, this is one of the best security measures you can take. WordPress has said that nearly half of all site hacks occur through the vulnerability of a host. Once you’ve engaged said host, always use strong passwords for your accounts and databases. If you’re not using a password manager to keep track of and generate your passwords, you should be.

Keep your computer up-to-date

Vulnerabilities on your computer (and your users’ computers) can sometimes lead to hacks (something many of us forget). When software patches are released, install them and remind users to do the same. When a new operating system is released, do your best to upgrade as soon as possible. Also, make sure you use a reliable firewall and anti-virus software…and check for and promptly eliminate malware.

Keep your site spotlessly clean

You wouldn’t leave dirty dishes and flatware sitting in stale water for three days in your kitchen sink would you? Of course not. It would be a breeding ground for filth and muck. Every few months, follow our “Spring Cleaning Tips for Your WordPress Website,” like you would your kitchen. It will keep you safe.

Take WordPress security seriously…and get a little added help

Want to make sure that your website is as secure (“hardened”) as possible? Turn to the WordPress security experts at Austin Website Design. We’ll help bolster your fortress and strengthen your defenses in no time!

8 Web Design Mistakes You Don’t Know Your Website’s Making

Good web design is a moving target. Tastes change, technology changes, and if you’re not actively monitoring and maintaining your website, it can be easy to sink into the murky waters of obsolescence.

Most businesses interested in attracting new customers have a website these days, but many haven’t updated or changed it since it first went live. If that’s true for you, then it’s likely your website has a number of issues that may be hindering it from performing at its full capability.

These issues can be technological or aesthetic in nature, but either way, they need to be addressed. But first, you need to know how to spot them! Here are 8 things you should address as soon as possible if they are true of your website:

1. Aesthetically Unpleasing Design

Thankfully, sites like this are getting harder and harder to find as good-looking website templates become cheaper and more widely available, but I still stumble across one every now and again. I’m talking about sites that were designed prior to the advent of modern web design standards that make good-looking layouts possible (or by people who haven’t bothered to learn those standards). Remember back in the early days of the internet when websites were mostly large blocks of text with gaudily colored hyperlinks? Some small businesses are still rocking those sites today, and you really don’t want to be that guy.

2. No Call To Action

One of the biggest assumptions that business owners make about their websites is that getting traffic to the site is the only thing they need to worry about. They think that people who land on the site must already be looking to buy, and worry only about increasing the number of visitors they rake in every day. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Internet visitors are fickle beasts and browsers by nature. Without a call to action placed prominently on the home page, it’s likely that most visitors to your site “bounce” right off of it and onto other destinations without purchasing a thing. With a good call to action, you can convert these visitors into purchases with a much higher rate of success.

3. Ignoring SEO

It doesn’t matter if your site is beautiful and efficient at visitor conversion if no one can find it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of designing a site so that search engines can find it easily and are more likely to rank it higher in their listings. Without good SEO, you’re just shouting into the void.

4. Bad Writing

If you are not a good writer, you should probably outsource your website’s copy-writing to a professional. Poor writing is a huge turn-off and one of the major reasons people will leave your site quickly. Whatever it is you are trying to do with your site, you need to seem like an authority in that area, and authorities do not make grammar mistakes.

In addition, make sure you break up your copy into reasonably sized chunks. Visitors have short attention spans and will leave rather than slog through giant blocks of text. Get your message across as succinctly as possible.

5. Auto-Playing Music and Video

This one is really specific, but I keep running into it, so here it is. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCE should you have auto-playing video or background music on your site. It is incredibly intrusive. Imagine one of your visitors is browsing at work, or in a library when suddenly they land on your site and the sound starts blaring. First, they are going to leave right away. Second, they will have to apologize to those around them. Third, they will never, ever come back to visit your site again. Let them decide they want to watch your video, don’t decide for them.

6. Forgetting About Mobile Viewers

Like it or not, we live in a world of a thousand screens. If you design your site to work only on a desktop-sized screen, you are ignoring the experience of an ever-increasing number of people who browse the internet on their mobile devices. Your site needs to look good no matter if it’s viewed on a tiny phone screen or on a giant 27-inch monitor.

7. Fancy Over Fast

It’s good to want your site to look great, but it is also possible to go too far. Websites need to look good, but they also need to load quickly and be easy to use. Lots of animation, decorative but hard-to-read fonts, and other distracting elements will slow down your page-load speed and make it harder for people to accomplish what they want if they actually stick around to wait for the full page to load. Make sure your sites are efficient as well as good-looking.

8. Forgetting To Install Analytics

If you don’t have analytics installed for your site, there is no way for you to know if your site is performing as well as it should be. Google has a robust and free solution, so there’s no excuse. The saying goes that the first step in improving something is measuring it, so get measuring! You’ll find that it’s fun, once you get into it.