Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup is off and running

Detailing the successful launch of the new Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup.

Philly 'burbs WordPress Meetup

On Wednesday night, the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup held its Kick-Off Meetup in the friendly settings of the Sly Fox in Phoenixville. With more than 20 group members attending, the first session was a vibrant and exciting evening of shared ideas on how the group wanted the meetup sessions organized and formatted. The mix of designers, developers, bloggers, writers, marketing consultants and self-acclaimed “WordPress pre-novices” made for an interesting discussion about what WordPress topics really mattered to them.

The Amazing WordPress Community

Although I’ve been working with WordPress since 2007, it was not until 2011 that I attended my first WordCamp. Since heading to Philly WordCamp, my eyes have been opened to the wonderfully supportive and open community that is WordPress. An open source powerhouse, WordPress has a refreshing following of people who are eager to help out fellow WordPress-o-philes in any way that is needed. Maybe it’s the leadership that Matt Mullenweg provides; maybe it’s the fact that WordPress is open source. I am not sure. What I am sure about is the sense of commitment and involvement that so many people within the WordPress community offer to fellow WordPress designers, developers, themers, bloggers and more.

That sense of community was certainly prevalent at Wednesday’s Kick-Off Meetup. There was a real vibe to the conversation — a desire to put together something amazing that would be as beneficial to as many people as possible. I certainly felt the mood and was really pleased to be a part of it.

Next Steps

As my co-organizer, Coreen Tossona, and I gather our notes and work quickly to get the next Meetup scheduled, we were both heartened by the willingness of the group to engage in and support dynamic and flowing conversations about WordPress.

At this point, we are working to get the next meetup organized for first half July. Keep an eye on the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup site for further details.

Q&A: Video Marketing Tips and Ideas with Bettina Hein

An interview of Bettina Hein by Brendan Cournoyer from Brainshark.

This article by Brendan Cournoyer was originally published on the Brainshark blog on 2nd May 2012, and is published here with permission. Read more posts from Brendan Cournoyer.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to chat with Bettina Hein, CEO at Boston-based Pixability and co-author of the upcoming Video Marketing for Dummies.

Below are some of the highlights from our conversation, including tips for evaluating your video marketing strategy, considerations for mobile video and much more.

On the importance of humor in video marketing:

“It’s really important. There are two things that people are looking for in a video: either help me solve a problem or entertain me. Those are basically the two things that make people want to click on a video. As a company, being informative and solving a problem – that’s more in the comfort zone for a lot of people.

But as for presenting information or being entertaining? The BEST videos combine both. It’s sometimes hard to be funny, and I understand completely that it’s not in everyone’s comfort zone. You can create [informational] content; that’s easy to do. But being funny, that’s something else. Still, if you become really successful at it, you might actually get a broader audience interested.”

On viral marketing videos:

“I wouldn’t have that as the goal. Lots of people talk about making viral videos, and they are really setting themselves up for failure. We often get people that say, ‘We want to make a viral video.’ They are absolutely convinced that their content is completely funny for the entire world. Well, not necessarily. What I find funny, other people might not.

That said, what we find interesting and funny in a professional context often overlap. HubSpot, for example, was really successful with videos around cold calling a few years ago. They did a video around [the song] ‘You Oughta Know’ and cold calling. It got like 100,000 views!

Clearly with video, if you’re doing it for business purposes, it has to serve a clear purpose. But that doesn’t mean you can’t push the envelope and make it funny.”

On non-marketing uses for video marketing:

“There are all these internal uses – training for example is an important part. Doing something funny internally as a team-building effort is another thing a lot of companies are experimenting with. You can create an internal video that pokes fun at the boss, for example, or even have the boss poking fun at him or herself. Especially if you’re at an internal organization where, as the CEO, you want to do something that everyone will find funny – you can create a video. It doesn’t always have to be ‘you standing in front of the typical nice background and talking head.’ You can make light of yourself and use that to transport information.

Remember that video is an investment, so we always council people to find uses that are multiple uses. So if you have a video for training purposes, you might be able to use some of that footage for when you want to roll out a new product.

Video is not a ‘one-and-done’ mentality. Always think about how you can repurpose for a later use.”

On mobile considerations for video marketing:

“More and more people are accessing their content on mobile devices. So it’s really important that you can make your content accessible from all different types of devices. I may get something in my inbox and look at it on my phone in the morning, but I might want to look at a video itself from my iPad, because I like looking at videos in a larger format. Or if I don’t have time, I might look during lunch on my laptop.

So it’s really important your videos can be viewed on all these different devices.”

On some of the video marketing metrics to monitor:

“Views would be what most people see as a measure, but what’s really important is to tie in the measurement with your business goals. So let’s say you have form completions on a landing page as your business goal. Or maybe it’s the number of people signing up for an event… all are relevant goals that change from organization to organization. What you have to be able to do is tie in those views with that business goal.

So you have to look at the business analytics behind the views. [For example], say you were to buy a bunch of views. if you look closely, you might find that a lot of those views come from a different country. [Depending on your business goals], those views may be for nought. I’d rather have 200 really focused and targeted views over 200,000 from a different market or country.”

On certain video marketing DON’Ts to avoid:

“For one, don’t put too many messages in one video. Some people will want everything about their product, everything about their company, and everything they want to tell the world in one video. It’s like an overstuffed suitcase; they want to fit everything into 90 seconds. I can guarantee you that most people will find that video useless.

Another thing to remember is this: don’t ignore YouTube. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. It’s the largest search engine for music, and people also go for how-to content. Businesses are still shy about YouTube for inexplicable reasons to me. Right now there is a lot of arbitrage to be had on YouTube, but you can get very targeted audiences that are looking for solutions exactly around what your product offering does.

As a free resource, [Pixability offers] the Online Video Grader. We grade on a scale of 1-100 on how successful you are around video marketing. It compares how well you’re doing with video on your website versus YouTube versus social media, with concrete tips for how to improve.”

On whether marketing videos really need to be two minutes or less:

“That is completely wrong. We have a lot of data to say that. Successful video marketers run the gamut form 30 seconds to 20 minutes. The least successful people on YouTube have just the short-term content. The real successful marketers map their funnel to the length of the content: shorter first to grab them, but longer throughout the buying process as you go down the funnel.”

The book Video Marketing for Dummies will be available on May 8, 2012.For more from Bettina, visit the Pixability blog and follow her on Twitter @pixability.

Managing Online Resources for Blogging Content and Tech Tips

An approach on how to keep links to blog sites and online resources, sites and articles organized.

As a communications designer and small business blogger, I am ever on the look-out for quality reading material. Yet with so many fantastic blog sites and online resources out there, keeping links, sites and articles organized can prove overwhelming. The organizational process proves even more taxing when as I struggle to sync systems across my laptop, iPad and mobile phone.

My primary aims when in developing an organizational approach for managing online resources are twofold: (1) ease of use and (2) filter/search functionality. I want to bookmark items across all platforms (on websites, on Twitter and via RSS) and all devices. I then want to tag, filter and search those stored items on any of my personal computing devices.

What follows is my approach for managing it all. Certainly there are others — this is simply what currently works for me.

For industry news and trends: Pocket (formerly Read It Later)

I’ve been dabbling in Pocket for a little over a month now. I find it very helpful in meeting the two primary aims mentioned above. For a great overview about Pocket, check out Coreen Tossona’s post about it. There’s no point in me posting what Coreen has already written succinctly.

For tech tips and “how to” articles: Pocket

As recently as last week, I used Delicious.com to save technical and “how to” articles. However, there is no great way to save links, tweets and the like directly to Delicious from Twitter. Delicious.com does not play nicely with the iPad either — no Delicious.com app. Since I source so many links and articles while using my iPad, Delicious.com is relegating itself to the dinosaur pile. As of Monday of this week, I’ve transitioned to Pocket for this task.

Unfortunately, I still have not yet worked out how to migrate Delicious.com bookmarks to Pocket. Ideas anyone?

For blogs that I follow: Google Reader and Flipboard

When I discover a valuable news or tech blog, I add it to my RSS feed to my Google Reader account. When I have some time, or when I’ve hit my dedicated reading time, I’ll go through those saved feeds using Flipboard. Google Reader is a great desk tool, and my preferred option for searching for a specific topic or post within my RSS feeds. But for browsing though feeds, Flipboard is ideal. The user interface on the iPad is so graceful and it’s dead easy to save a particular post to Pocket for subsequent reading/tagging.

Of course, there are new apps and bookmarking sites being launched on an almost constant basis. Only time will tell how long I keep using my current setup.

5 Valuable Blog Posts for Small Business Blogging

Links to 5 solid blog posts about small business blogging and inbound marketing.

Small business blogging

As a small business blogger who blogs on the topic of small business blogging, I am regularly on the look out for valuable blog posts about small business blogging. (How’s that for packing a first sentence with keywords? Ha-ha!) Honestly though, I appreciate that it can be difficult to filter through all the noise out there when looking for articles that cut to the heart of the matter and that offer real insight into the often-hyped topic of small business blogging.

To help sift through that virtual clutter, I thought I’d start sharing links to well-crafted, insight-led and on-point blog posts that demonstrate a solid understanding of this important inbound marketing topic. That’s my plan anyway. Consider my publication schedule updated. Keep reading to review my first batch.

Please note that these articles are not ranked in order of importance or anything like that. They approach the topic of small business blogging from unique angles and, therefore, should be read and considered in their own right.

1: Great Overview on Generating Inbound Links
32 white Hat Ways to Build Inbound Links by Corey Eridon on the Hubspot Blog.

2: Goal Setting for Successful Online Marketing
5 Resolutions for Digital Marketing Success in 2012 by Coreen Tossona of Philly Marketing Labs.

3: Insight into Understanding Your Audience’s Interests
5 Simple Ways to Discover What People Are Dying to Read Brad Smith of FixCourse.com.

4: Setting the Approach for Online Marketing
The Tao of Online Marketing by Brian Clark of CopyBlogger.

5: Listing Important Reasons for Small Business Blogging
12 Most Glaring Reasons Why Businesses Should Blog by Doug Rice on 12Most.com.

Of course, there are many more gems online that offer comprehensive, practical and sufficiently-detailed guidance on how small businesses can develop real value from inbound marketing. Why not let me know which ones you have found useful?

Related posts:

Reliable web hosting: more than a pint of beer a month

A short discourse on why good web hosting really should cost more than a pint of beer per month.

A pint of beer

Earlier this week, one of my clients had their WordPress site hacked. Alerted to the issue by my client, I began to investigate. Unable to access the admin side of the site, I quickly logged into the server via FTP. Within a few minutes, I discovered the hacked files and took steps to correct the problem. Once the site was restored, I visited the web host’s own site to chat with its tech support.

In an instant message window that many web hosts utilize these days, I asked the tech support chap if he could shed light on how or why the site was hacked. The tech support guy replied that his company does not offer that service; he had no useful information to share. That ended my interest in chatting with tech support.

A few days later the same site was hacked again, presumably by a different hacker as the hacked page content was different than previously. At that point, I picked up the phone, called my client and explained that it was time to pay more than one or two beers per month for web hosting.

Web server security is technical stuff

I’m a communications designer who can write some code. I certainly am well ahead of the general public when it comes to using a computer. But the level of technical knowledge required to keep a web server safe, online and free from hackers takes a great deal of specific, technical knowledge. Much more than I have. That sort of knowledge costs money to acquire, and companies must pay good salaries to maintain staff with that sort of knowledge.

The web hosts that offer monthly rates of $5.00 or less to keep a website online rely on volume sales. For less than a beer or two month, those web hosts rent us a bit of space on their web servers. Yet that’s where it stops. If they are only getting $5.00 per month from us, there nothing in it for them to care, much less help, when something goes wrong with our site.

Pay up front for safety and security

My own recommendation to clients is to spend the money up front to enjoy peace of mind later, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that skilled and well-educated people are there to help when required. Reliable, fast and perhaps most importantly, secure web hosting can be purchased for $20.00 per month and up. From a different angle, that’s like buying the tech support gal at least a beer every week. Since we’re buying her so many beers, she is bound to want to help us when something goes wrong.

Two recommendations

There are a number of reliable web hosts out there. I have this blog with UK-based host called Memset. My company intranet with is online thanks to WP Engine.

The beauty and speed of WordPress

Highlighting and speed and ease at which a new WordPress site can be launched when needed quickly.

As a communications designer, I am occasionally called upon to perform acts of magic. Most consultants will know what I am talking about: asked to exert considerable effort and deliver significant results on a short schedule, often with little or no warning. While I am no magician, I do keep a number of tricks up my sleeve for use in select times. This past week presented such a time.

A client contacted me late Wednesday afternoon with an urgent need to upgrade his web presence. This client needed a new website by the following Monday at the latest.

Such a request was a tall ask, but I knew that it was definitely possible given one of the aces I keep in my back pocket. WordPress.

My client was running a WordPress.com website. As a free service WordPress.com is a fantastic way to get a very functional website and up and running in minutes. Yet my client’s needs had outgrown WordPress.com, so I suggested that we go with a self-hosted site with the same WordPress software, offered for free through WordPress.org. The approach agreed, I was off and running.

Within a short while, I had the latest version of WordPress software running on my server — I had lent my client web space given the short timetables — and had begun to make edits to the selected WordPress theme. I didn’t make a lot of edits to the theme, just enough to make the look and feel of my client’s website not look so ‘out of the box’.

The theme edited, I used the export/import functionality on WordPress.com to bring all my clients website content to the new site. I made a few more design and functionality edits to the PHP templates and the CSS, then called it a day.

The following morning, I showed a draft version of this new site to my client. The words of praise that I heard on the phone gave me much reason to expect this client to continue to rely on my services for years to come.

Add images to your blog posts by photographing what’s around you

Take advantage of materials in your own office to add unique and creative images to your website.

When working with clients about improving their small business blogs, I frequently ask about their own surfing habits. “When you visit a new first for the first time, what draws your immediate attention?”, I ask. More often than not, the first answer that I hear is ‘images’. I then suggest to my clients that they need to consider ways to add to or improve the imagery to their own company blogs.

What sort of image works best?

Anything! Well, almost anything. It’s best to use a photo that is directly on point. For example, if writing a blog post about how to get more life out of one of our products, then a photo of that product is a great fit. If announcing the arrival of our newest employee, then certainly a photo of that new staff member would work wonderfully.

Yet, if we’re blogging about a concept that is less tangible, then consider using a photo of a related topic. Consider my post about tangible benefits of blogging: I snapped a photo of US dollars and British pounds to represent the commercial value of the tangible benefits.

Shooting your own

With the quality of digital cameras and the cameras on smart phones, it’s now easier than ever to take your own pictures for your blog. No, not everyone can be David Bailey just because they own a camera. Then again, most blog posts do not require breathtaking imagery. All they require is a visual complement, a graphic anchor to capture the reader’s attention. That can often be achieved with a simple camera (or an iPhone) and various objects from around the office.

The following images are just of sample of photos that I’ve used on my own blog:

US dollars and British pounds

WordCamp swag

notepad, pen, coffee mug and netbook

laptop keyboard and headphones

pen and notebook

All those photos were shot in my office, with items that I had laying around. Sure, I used Photoshop to digitally enhance some of the photos, but those tweaks are not really necessary. I edited the images because I am a communications designer. The native images, as they came off the camera, would certainly have worked.

So, as you focus on getting a few more blog posts up before the start of holiday season, why not try to add some of your own photos to your blog posts?

Why DuckDuckGo was included in The Life of a Blog Post

A few thoughts on why the search DuckDuckGo was included in the Life of a Blog Post illustration

Life of a Blog Post

In sharing the Life of a Blog Post that my colleagues and I at lbdesign recently created, I am asked repeatedly: What is DuckDuckGo? None of my clients or close friends seem to be aware of DuckDuckGo or how it could benefit them. Why did we include a relative unknown like DuckDuckGo in an illustration with such big hitters as Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? To answer those questions, I thought it best to publish a detailed answer. (Not familiar with the full illustration of Life of a Blog Post?)

In the interest of transparency, the timing of this post is aimed at taking advantage of a competition from DuckDuckGo. While I’m not overly concerned about winning the competition, I wouldn’t mind a t-shirt.

DuckDuckGo in a nutshell

As a search tool, DuckDuckGo (DDG) harnesses the powers of a number of important sites like Wikipedia, About, Bing, and Yahoo to deliver a more comprehensive and perhaps a better rounded list of search results to its users.

The Google search filter

As a communications designer, I work with businesses to develop and implement their online marketing strategies. A key part of that work entails blogging, targeting specific topics and keywords to help clients grow their respective online presence. As Google tailors search results based on how a user interacts with the delivered results from a search, a sort of bubble develops around that user. The more a user clicks on a certain type of result, the more that Google delivers that sort of result to the user. While that can be helpful at times, but it can also hide key content from a user.

DuckDuckGo looks to counteract the Google bubble by not filtering our search results. It does not record or track our searches, or our search result selections, so it avoids closing us off from potentially relevant and useful content.

As a blogger and as a consultant offering online marketing strategy advice and implementation assistance, I think it’s important for my clients to be aware of the filter bubble. The filter certainly affects search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. Placing the DDG logo on our Life of a Blog Post has enabled me to introduce filter bubbles to my clients, and to explain about DuckDuckGo.

A matter of privacy

About six months ago or so, I suddenly began noticing how ads related to my previous Google searches started appearing in the margins of my Yahoo mail account.

Screenshot of my Yahoo mail account

What I discovered is that Google uses my search information to help advertisers direct what Google believes to be relevant ads to my attention. While this isn’t the post to consider whether or not I approve of what Google does with my search information, I decided that I wanted a different experience.

When I researched DuckDuckGo, I discovered a thought-provoking web page detailing how privacy concerns could prove difficult. The possibility of real world hurdles that might evolve as a result of Google searches is a bit scary.

So, I started using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine. I’ve updated my Firefox settings to make DDG the default search engine for Firefox.

More bits about DuckDuckGo

There is definitely a lot more to DuckDuckGo than I have detailed here. Below are just a few links to help you learn more about it.

  1. DuckDuckGo does not track users: http://donttrack.us
  2. It offers a number of enhancements allowing for shortcuts and quick access to our technical stuff.
  3. It was started by a local developer and businessman, Gabriel Weinberg.

Some of my favorite shortcuts

Although I am still learning my way around the many shortcuts available on DuckDuckGo, here are a few that I use regularly:

  • !m = Google maps
  • !gi = Google images
  • !yt = YouTube
  • !whois = Who Is search

Go on, give it a try

My suggestion is that you give DuckDuckGo a two month trial to see if you like it better than Google. And do let me know your thoughts.

Get directions on how to change the browsers default search tool.