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Category Archives: Quick Tips

10 Tips to Build a Better Brand on Facebook

So you’ve got a Facebook page…now what? Small businesses everywhere are realizing the benefits of building their brand image on Facebook. Setting up the page is pretty straight-forward. But where do you go from there? To make that process a little easier for my clients and friends I’ve put together a list of ten simple ways to improve your brand image on Facebook.

10 Tips to Build a Better Brand on Facebook.

1. Tagging
In my opinion, the best feature for businesses on Facebook, hands down, is tagging. Tagging allows your brand to travel around other pages and say “hello,” “thanks for all your help,” or “congratulations, kudos to you!” When you tag a status update on your business page, with the name of another page or Facebook friend, your status appears on their page. It’s great for PR, and reaching out personally to another brand or fan. One word of advice though, be geniune. OK, that’s two words, but you know what I mean. Click here for step-by-step instructions for tagging on Facebook.

2. Use Facebook as your Page
This is a new feature for Facebook, and long awaited among small business users. If you ever wished you could navigate Facebook, making comments or posting on walls as your brand instead of yourself, now you can. You’ll notice a list of links on the right-hand side of your page with the phrase “Use Facebook as “your page name”. Click on this link and you can now interact with Facebook as your brand. And it’s easy to switch back to yourself when you’re ready. You can also make the switch under your Account settings.

3. Become an Expert
If you want fans to interact with your page, show them you’re an expert in your field. Share tips that only someone with your expertise can provide. If you’re a realtor, give suggestions for staging a house for sale. If you own an auto-body shop give maintenance tips for busy moms to keep their car on the road and out of the shop. When the time comes and your help is needed, they’ll know who to call. The ease of sharing makes social media a great place to connect with customers.

4. Maximize your Profile Pic
That tiny square profile pic that appears next to your listing is bigger than you think. Most people choose a small square image, or upload a digital photo, and crop it for their profile pic. But the space allowed for your profile is actually around 200px wide, with a height of up to 600px. So if you’ve been uploading square or horizontal images, you’re missing the boat. Here’s a link that helped me create a vertical Facebook profile for my Traverse Traveler app page.

5. Use your Personality
You’ve heard it before, just be yourself, and on social media that couldn’t be more true. Part of selling a product or business is selling the brand. And brands have personality. So be true to you. Be that guy – that snarky guy, that quote guy, that insider-info guy. Whatever shoe fits, wear it. Proudly and loudly. Unless, of course, you are that shares-personal-information-in-a-borderline-obscene-kinda-way guy. That’s a persona I’d avoid if I were you.

6. Host a Contest
One surefire way to build your brand on Facebook is to host a contest or offer giveaways. There’s just something about FREE that draws ants to the picnic. Trivia questions are popular ways to get your fans involved on a regular basis. But you have to be consistent. Host a weekly trivia question on the same day and time. It’s the predictability that will draw regular visits to your page.

7. Promote Events on Facebook
Facebook has some great features to help you promote events, so take advantage of them. To create an event for the first time, click the Edit Page button on the upper right of your page. This takes you to the administrator panel where you can choose Apps from the menu on the left. Look for events and follow the steps. Be sure to invite your friends to get the ball rolling, and encourage sharing to grow the event.

8. Get a unique Facebook URL
When you create a new page for a business you will need 25 fans in order to get a unique Facebook URL. So beg, plead, and cajole to meet that quarter benchmark. Because when you do, a simplified link is in your future. What’s the big deal? Well, which would you rather have on your email footer:

Find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MealticketsTC
or
Find us on Facebook:
  http://www.facebook.com/UnbelieveablyLongAddressAdinfanitumBlahBlahBlah911

9. Facebook Polls
One of my favorite new features for pages is Facebook polls. If you want to see your Facebook insights rise create a poll on your page and send invitations to your friends. The best polls are quick and easy to answer. It’s not a math test, so don’t make anyone think too hard. Polls are also great for R&D. If you have an ice cream store, use a poll to let fans decide you next new flavor. It gives you insight into their favorites, and let’s your fans feel involved in the success of your brand.

10. Be Colorful, Creative and Complete
The three C’s. Colorful: update your photos with nice images to showcase your products, people and location. We’re drawn to imagery so make it interesting. Creative: this is your space, not to be confused with MySpace, so let your page reflect who you are. Complete: So many people get started on social media but lose the desire or get too busy to finish the page. Make sure your information is complete and that you’re using all the tools Facebook provides. And if you need some help, ask. There are lots of social media experts out there. If all else fails, ask your kids.

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5 Techniques to Keep Your Train of Thought on Track

How easy is it to derail your train of thought? Are you easily distracted, or does it take a catastrophic event to lure your attention from a given task? I’d say most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Today I’d like to give you a few tips on how to keep the creative engine running a steady course. And perhaps point out a few pitfalls you might want to avoid. I’d like to start with a simple piece of advice: Watch out for R.O.I.

Allow me to explain.

My husband suffers from an acute condition I like to call excessive R.O.I.: Random Observational Interruptions. In the midst of conversation, be it lighthearted or serious, he notices something in his peripheral vision which causes a lapse in his ability to listen and an impulse to blurt out a complete non-sequiter based on his observations. It’s particularly noticable when driving.

Yesterday, for instance, while discussing how smart phones and social media are changing the way companies approach their marketing strategies, he suddenly motions to the right and announces, “Good News is down that street.”

Huh?

The conversation came to an abrupt halt as I struggled to figure out what earth shattering news he must be about to reveal, only to discover he was thinking of taking our new truck in to Good News Auto for a once-over.

Needless to say, in 5 seconds I’d completely lost my train of thought.

It’s moments like those, which inspired me to come up with a list of techniques that help keep my ideas on track.

5 Techniques to Keep Your Train of Thought on Track

1. Visual Reminders: I admit it. My name is Brandy and I’m a list-a-holic. I would join a 12-step program just so I had 12 steps to complete. But there is method to my madness. Lists make us accountable. I love to make little empty check boxes next to each item so that when I complete it I get the reward of checking it off the list.

To-do lists are great visual reminders. But so are piles. An In box/Out box system works too. The trick is to create a visual manifestation of what you need to complete so you have your goals in front of you. With this type of accountability it’s easier to stay focused on the tasks at hand and not allow your mind to wander.

2. Remove Distractions: Ahhh, distractions. Damn their clever disguises. I believe they are the number one cause of thought train derailments. But there are some simple defensive measures we can take to protect ourselves.

  • Clear the clutter. A disorganized desk can be distracting as it often reminds us of other projects. Clean-up and you’ll find your focus.
  • Sound off. Email notifications, a ringing phone, talk radio; all these can be toxic noise pollution when you’re trying to concentrate.
  • Curb hunger. Keep a couple snacks nearby, healthy munchies, and a bottle of water. A grumbling tummy is a sure fire way to send your mind out to lunch.

3. Track Your Time. As a freelance designer I keep a time sheet for each project. Since I often charge by the hour it’s a necessity. But it’s also a great way to schedule my time. When I have the visual reminder of the tasks that need completion, and the log of how much time I’ve spent so far, it’s a powerful incentive to stay focused and move forward with every passing minute.

I should mention what a healthy motivator guilt can be. If you’re being honest about time tracking and suddenly you see significant blocks of time allocated to “internet research” or “social media” a little voice called Accountability starts whispering in your ear and suddenly Focus walks back in the room and takes a seat behind the desk.

4. Avoid Task-Hopping. For many of us multi-tasking isn’t a habit it’s a way of life. We’re checking email, while talking on the phone and listening to voicemails in the background. By definition, multi-tasking divides our focus. So avoiding it would be best. Yeah right.

Here’s a more realistic suggestion. Focus on one project at a time. Even if you start with invoicing then stop to write an email, followed by a phone call to a supplier, you’ll still be following one train of thought if you stick to one project. While these tasks all require different actions they are still related, and therefore help keep you focused and on track. If suddenly you’re called into a meeting to discuss a new client you’ll notice a sudden downshift in momentum. That’s the thought train slowing down. Watch out.

5. Time-boxing. This is a new technique for me, but I like it. Time boxing is a method for scheduling the amount of time you work on a project. Instead of sitting down to an open ended deadline, or working until the project is “done,” you set a time limit for each work period, and focus all your efforts on a short period of time. If the project isn’t finished when the time is up you allocate another time to work on it, and move on.

How does this strategy help maintain focus? By setting tight constraints on your time, say a 30-minute block to write a blog post, you make a commitment to yourself. It’s that accountability that prevents procrastination and task-hopping.

I’ve only scratched the surface on the methodology behind time-boxing. But it’s worth further exploration. Check out this link for more details.

So the next time your thought train is headed off a cliff, try one of these techniques to get back on track. And remember watch out for R.O.I.; also known in my house as “Deer!”

Authors note: When you live in northern Michigan, and spend hours driving along wooded back roads, it’s not that random to hear exclamations identifying wildlife that may be considering a leap in front of your vehicle. It is, however, distracting and therefore a perfect example of R.O.I. Especially when said “deer” is 300 yards away.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2010 in Organization, Quick Tips

 

Tips for Terrific Vacation Photos

It’s summer vacation and you’re snapping photos at whim trying to capture these memories to savor when the cold winds of winter return. But haphazard shooting will only find you leafing through prints or thumbing your iPhone at home and wondering why those beautiful scenes didn’t translate to breath-taking photos. But not this time. These simple tips will have you aiming your little pocket-sized point-and-click cameras and capturing the syrupy sweet summer images like a pro.

Get a Little Closer

close-up face image

Zoom in, focus and shoot for a great portrait

Don’t be shy. When it comes to portrait photography, closer is better.

Tip: Let your subjects fill the frame. Don’t worry if you’ve trimmed the top of their head or cut off an ear, it’s only a photo. So channel your inner Van Gogh and step-up…to your subject.

Change Perspective

vodka still image

Looking up at a vodka still shows it's scale

architectural image

Angle up for a skyward view of a unique facade

Photographing large buildings and architectural details can often be difficult, if not boring. But not if you change your perspective.

Tip: Try shooting a large building by moving up close and shooting up. This emphasizes the height and scale. Or go low like the limbo and capture a bugs-eye view. Try this for shots on the waters edge.

A change of perspective works well for portraits too.

Tip: Try getting above your subject and shooting down. Ladies, especially those multi-generational ones, will love the way it stretches the neck and reduces under-eye shadows.

Beauty is in the details

monarch butterfly image

Patience may be needed for some detail shots

cherries image

Colors and texture are brilliant up close

A small flower that lands in the pool. Little toes covered in sand or a hand grasping a bucket and shovel. Photographing these small details of your trip will bring back a flood of memories.

Tip: when shooting something small and close-up be sure to use the Macro setting on your camera. (It’s the one that looks like a flower). In many cases you won’t need a flash but you will want to hold the shutter button half-way to make sure the focus is on your subject not the background.

Forget the face

sandals in a circle image

Even faceless wedding photos can be fabulous

Hands and feet are a great place to train your lens. Taking a photo without faces doesn’t remove all humanity. In fact it often focuses it. Our hands and feet, elbows and knees show all different aspects of our personality and likeness.

Tip: focus on the extremities instead of the face. A handful of sea glass, or pretty painted toes are unique vacation reminders and can be deeply sentimental too.

Watch your back

walking on the pier image

A father and sons moment caught from behind

Capturing the backside often says more than those copy-cat cheesy grins your kids give up. When their back is turned you’ll get a natural posture and often catch a glimpse of true emotions; curiosity, sadness, excitement and peace.

Tip: Try to capture emotion over setting in these images. You’ll never say “cheese” again when you shoot from behind. Even your unsmiling relatives can’t ruin these shots. Just remember the backside may not be everyone’s best side. So frame your photos accordingly.

Play with your food

table setting with food image

Martha photographs her table, why don't you?

gelato image

Memories come in all flavors!

Food, drinks and other objects are some of the best vacation imagery. You may not remember the name of restaurant, but you’re sure to remember the fabulous seafood and awesome margaritas if you take their pictures. We’re a food centric society, why fight it. Photograph it.

Tip: food doesn’t look great with a flash. So try to capture images where natural lighting is enough. Get in close, use the Macro setting and snap away. Found a special micro-brew beer that you drank all trip? Photograph the can. Even a bottle cap or cork could be inspiration for a great vacation memory.

Go down under

underwater photo

submerge your memories with an underwater camera

Underwater that is. So many inexpensive cameras are now waterproof up to 8 meters. If you’re going on vacation to a tropical island, where you’ll spend most of your time on the beach and in the water, why not invest in a handy point-and-shoot with this feature. It’s amazing what they’re capable of these days. Whether you just want the safety of taking photos from the kayak without the fear of total camera loss from a few drips, or you’re hoping for a close encounter with a school of fish, an underwater camera is a must.

Tip: purchase a floating wristband for the camera in case it falls in the water unexpectedly. If you fall overboard your sunglasses and keys will sink to the bottom but your photos will bob along on the surface.

I hope these simple tips will tune up your photography skills for super summer season.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in photography, Quick Tips

 

3 Hot Links for the D.I.Y. Designer

I’ve been surfing the design sites for hot new web resources for the D.I.Y. Designer. Here are 3 hot links I wanted to share. In honor of Earth Day we’ll start with one that’s environmentally friendly too.

PrintWhatYouLike.com

You know the drill. You find a stylish website full of gorgeous graphics, a few ads on the sidebar, and most importantly an article you’re dying to share. And by share I’m talking old school share, like ripping-it-out-of-the-newspaper style share. In other words, you have to print it. So you click the printer icon with great hesitation knowing that 10 minutes later you’ll be sorting through 5 pages of photos, ads, weather bulletins and html confusion to find the one golden nugget you wanted in hard copy. After you recycle the extra pages, shaking your head in frustration over the wasted ink and screaming at the one line of text that ruined an entire pristine sheet of copy paper, you realize there must be a better way.

printwhatyoulike.com screen image

Here's the article I want to print, with all the graphics I don't

printwhatyoulike screen image

After I selected the text and removed photos, here's what's going to print.

Ah-haaaaa (golden ray of light shines down upon your computer) there is! I just discovered printwhatyoulike.com, a website that let’s you do just that. And it couldn’t be easier. Copy and paste a URL into their window and up pops the webpage you’re looking for. Then you can choose exactly what you want to print on the page, eliminate what you don’t, and print. I condensed a 5 page article into 2 with a few simple clicks.

Voila! Earth friendly printing, and a simple interface, all for my favorite low, low price: FREE.

MyFontbook.com

It’s funny how sometimes you find just what you need when you actually need it. I was just having a conversation with one of my clients, who has jumped on the D.I.Y. Design train and handles some of her graphics internally. As our discussion entered the realm of typefaces she mentioned a growing frustration in attempting to select just the right one from the huge scrolling list filled with meaningless names and numbers. And I’m not talking about searching through Myfonts for a new resource (one of my favorite inspiration sites). Sometimes you just want to work with what you have…only you don’t know exactly what you’ve got.

myfontbook.com screen image

It's an online font viewer for your own fonts.

That’s where MyFontbook.com comes in handy. This online font viewer allows you to see exactly what fonts are available on your computer, organize them, sort them and test them out to pick the perfect one. Maybe you’re looking for a handwritten font, but you don’t know a slab serif from a slab of beef. Their font viewer give you a sample text window for side-by-side comparison. Or maybe you’re looking for just dollar sign, or a font with old style figures. Use the glyphs window to find exactly what you need.

myfontbook.com screen image

Type in any words and see them typeset in all your fonts

While there is software available that allows you to manage all your fonts, that’s a bit more complicated than the average D.I.Y. Designer needs. Myfontbook.com doesn’t require downloads, installation or fees for basic use. And if you get really into it, there are advanced options available for a fee.

Yourfonts.com

Since we’re on the subject of fonts I couldn’t resist telling you about this one, even though I haven’t tried it out yet.

yourfonts.com screen image

Turn your handwriting into a font.

Have you ever wanted to get your handwriting turned into a custom typeface? Or maybe you’d like a special font that includes custom characters for your line of work, and a digital signature for approving files via email. Well this may be the perfect place for you.

Yourfonts.com makes it easy to hand-write a custom alphabet and turn it into a font for less than $10. I can tell you that’s much cheaper than most professional fonts out there. And this would be uniquely yours.

Simply download and print their 2-page template, fill in the squares with each letter indicated, scan and upload it back to them. The website creates a custom open type font that can then be installed on your computers, Mac OS X or PC.

I’m definitely going to try this one. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2010 in Design, Quick Tips

 

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Photo Quick Tip: Rule of Thirds

No matter what type of business you run there will probably come a time when you need to use photographs to promote yourself. Hotels need good images of their lobbies, rooms and amenities. Retail businesses want to showcase products. Realtors know that buyers will walk away from a house that doesn’t “show” well. Even corporate america wants to put their best face forward when translating their products and employees onto pages of an annual report. Good photography is a key element in good marketing.

So how does the Do It Yourself marketer give their photography a lift? One quick and easy solution is to practice the Rule of Thirds.

Rule of Thirds

This is one of the art school basics when it comes to composition. The primary theory is to divide your image into thirds, vertically and horizontally, then place the focal points of your shot along one of those lines, or where they cross. It sounds more complicated than it is.

The easiest way to test this theory is with a landscape shot. Take a look at these two examples. The first image is taken without the Rule of Thirds. The second employs it.

Sunset with no composition rules

Sunset with no composition rules

Use the horizon on a landscape shot as a quick reminder to adjust your image for the Rule of Thirds. And remember not to center your focal point. Instead align your subject off-center both horizontally and vertically.

Sunset using Rule of Thirds

Sunset using Rule of Thirds

Practiced artists and photographers are able to visualize this grid in their head before they shoot. And with a little practice, you can too. Until then it’s easy to adjust the image with proper cropping.

While this is easy to see on a landscape image, you can also use this rule on portraits, product images and other photographic subjects.

Just remember, when it comes to art, most rules are there for a reason, but they’re also meant to be broken. Use the Rule of Thirds as a general guideline and you’ll see your photography improve without taking a course in aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

For additional examples and greater detail on the Rule of Thirds check out this link.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2009 in photography, Quick Tips

 

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Design Quick Tip: Rich Black

Did you know there is more than one shade of Black in the print industry? To get a strong, dark black when printing in full color, also called 4-color process, you have to create a Rich Black.

All colors printed in 4-color process use a percentage of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks to create every hue in the printable spectrum. But the question is, what’s the best way to make a Rich Black. Let’s see if you can answer this question correctly:

To create Black in a CMYK format I would:

A. Use 100% Black

B. Use 50% of each CMYK

C. Use 100% of each CMYK

D. Use 100% Black, and graduated % of each CMY

You might assume that to get a good solid black all you need to do is select 100% Black. That will give you standard black, not rich black. The answer is D. What you want is a percentage of each ink, as well as 100% Black. This layering of inks is what creates a dark, intense, Rich Black.

So how do you know the best percentage to use? Some industries use a special formula, so if this is something you face on a regular basis, i.e. lots of print ads with large areas of black, then ask your printer for their formula for Rich Black. Otherwise try this:

Cyan 60%, Magenta 40%, Yellow 30%, Black 100%

Final notes: Only use rich black on large solid areas of black. Fine lines like type should be set in standard black. And never spec rich black when you’re printing in grayscale only. You could be charged for full-color.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2009 in Design, Quick Tips

 

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