Be Sure Your Social Media Posts Point to Your Website

I was eager to learn about the new focus of an excellent organization that I follow on Facebook. Then I saw it — a very cool Facebook post that mentioned the organization’s new focus. So I clicked the image on Facebook, assuming that I’d be able to learn more.

No Dice. The Facebook Post Led Me… NOWHERE!

Needless to say, I was disappointed. If it had been one of my own clients, I’d have been a little embarrassed.

Recently, I have been suggesting that my website clients should Feed Their Websites First, And Then Share to Social Media. I have also suggested that Analyzing Your Target Audience Can Make for More Interesting Posts. In this blog post I want to reinforce those ideas by urging my readers with websites to…

Always consider how social media posts can draw your target audience to your own website.

Facebook and Twitter posts are so convenient… A quick little post about this, a tweet about that. I can understand why website owners would sometimes not want to bother with first posting on their website blog and THEN sharing to Facebook or Twitter. Occasionally that even makes good sense. However, they may have the terribly mistaken notion that their websites are just for static, old information, or that the website is so fragile that they wouldn’t want to “mess it up” by posting directly on there. But consider the lost opportunity when the social media follower wants to learn more, but doesn’t know where to go for more information! It may be the only time that follower’s interest is piqued.

Your social media followers don’t know as much about your organization as you do. No offense, but they haven’t been hanging on your every word. So, give them every opportunity to come up to speed if and when they are ready to do so. Always lead them to the information that you carefully crafted on your website. In short, be sure your social media posts point to your website.

Contact me if you need help crafting social media posts that link to your website.




Interviewing Melissa Austin-Weeks, Blogger Extraordinaire

Interviewing Melissa Austin-Weeks, Blogger Extraordinaire

CLICK HERE or on the image above to go to Melissa’s blog. The first time you go there, a pop-up will invite you to subscribe to her MailChimp “RSS to Email” feed. DO SIGN UP, so you can see how that works.

In early 2016, Melissa Austin-Weeks contacted JBH Communications about moving her Blogger blog over to a new WordPress website. Melissa already had another web development firm engaged to do this, but they were not getting the job done, and were not communicating effectively with her. She remembered a friend’s Facebook post about his good experience with JBH Communications, and decided to give me a try.

We got Melissa’s new WordPress site going within a few weeks and it was not long before her new site was one of the busiest of the 80 WordPress sites that I maintain. The number of unique visits (new visitors) to her site is currently hovering at about 1,600 per month, and page views at 2,500 per month.

Melissa has kindly accepted to share some of her experience working with her WordPress blog (www.homewithatwist.com):

Q. Your full time job title is “Coordinator of Senior Adult Programming at TCU Alumni Relations.” What do you do in that job, and does it have any relationship to your blogging?

I work with alumni who graduated from TCU 30 or more years ago. This involves planning events — social, educational, cultural, and community service to actively engage our alumni in the life of the University. As an event producer, this requires extensive research on the latest trends regarding food, table decor, and visual presentation affording our guests with such a positive experience at a TCU alumni event, that they want to come back again and again. As a result, the research I do, mostly through social media outlets such as Pinterest and Instagram, inspires me to share it in some way with my Home with a Twist readers.

Q. Melissa, how do you view the relationship between your WordPress blog and your various social media channels?

In order for a blog to be successful, you have to rely on “cross promotion” across a variety of social media channels. But to do this, you must have a blog that is professional, visually appealing, easy to navigate and current. You cannot just rely on people finding your blog without sharing your content on social media. You might think as your blog as the “central depository” for your posts — it’s the ultimate goal where you want people to land. You have to entice readers to land on your blog by teasing the reader elsewhere. My two favorite places to promote my blog are Instagram and Facebook. I also use Twitter, but I find that more traffic comes to my blog through FB and IG.

Q. You began your blog in Google’s “Blogger” and then switched over to WordPress a little over one year ago. Do you recall why you made the move? Has it panned out as you expected?

When I first started blogging about 8 years ago, it was more like a journal. I wasn’t as interested in how it looked. But, as my content evolved and I refined what I wanted to represent, I felt that Blogger was limiting. Since Blogger doesn’t offer as much customization as I wanted I started to look at other options. Using WordPress, with a slight learning curve and a lot of assistance from Brad Hepp, I have been able to design a website that represents my personality.

Q. I assume you have a sense of which blog posts and other social media posts generate the most interest, right?

The big point here is that you must stay consistent with posting. I know when I am researching new blogs to follow, if I find one that has a great post, I look to see how often they post. If it’s on a regular basis, I might subscribe; if they only post every few months, I am no longer interested in following them. I want to follow someone who treats their blogging more like a professional rather than a hobbyist. Bearing that in mind, I keep my readers engaged with consistent content. I might take a week off for vacation or if I am busy with my “day job,” but I always let the reader know when I will be back.

Q. Have you seen a pattern to which posts your own readers like the most? Is it simply the subject matter, or is there something else, like the degree to which you “get personal?”

Blogging is an interesting beast. I may spend a lot of time on a story that I think will be off-the-charts-popular only to get minimal interest. Yet, when I post a personal story that reminds me simply of two people talking, I get the most comments and feedback. That and anything nostalgic…. To this day, the single most popular post from my old blog (Buzz In Around the Hive) to now is a story I did on Stir-n-Frost cake and my memories of eating them at slumber parties! I have attended several blogging conferences over the last few years and every single panelist says readers want authenticity — someone real they can relate to.

Q. It looks like you publish new blog posts up to four or five times per week. And the content and writing is high quality. I’d assume writing is second nature for you. But what are some disciplines that you’d recommend for others who want to keep up a good output of blog posts?

I use a variety of techniques to stay organized with my blogging. I have a calendar and I write down ideas on certain dates. I keep a running list of story ideas and I also have several books (642 Things to Write About; The 52 Lists Project) that I use to inspire me if my creativity needs a push. I also use National Calendar Day as a way to generate ideas. Of course you can use the seasons and holidays for inspiration. Another thing I have learned at conferences is to write about what I am interested in, not what I think the reader will want to know. There are times I will write to inform my readers, but mostly I just write about things I like. Do that, and people will follow your interests.

Q. Where is all this blogging going? Is it simply an outlet for your creative energy, or do you have an interest in monetizing the blog?

My dream would be to be able to take Home with a Twist to a full time job. But for right now, since I have a job and a profession that I enjoy, blogging is an outlet for my creativity. I like teaching people new things and sharing my story and talents.

Q. I have noticed that you post some remarkably good photos. Are you shooting with a smartphone? Do you use an app to enhance the photos?

Here are some of Melissa’s excellent photos. You can click on any image to view the slide show larger. But do not gaze too long on the food shots!

I don’t have time to learn how to use a digital camera, so I just rely on my smart phone. I will say when I started seriously blogging it was time for a phone upgrade. I had an iPhone at the time, and the phone store associate told me that if I wanted superior quality photos, I needed to shoot with a Samsung. I switched from iPhone to Samsung about 6 years ago and never looked back. My phone takes such crisp, detailed photos! I have learned which light works best, to always shoot outdoors and not in direct sun. There are certain spots in my home that are ideal for food photography. And I use Pic Monkey, SnapSeed and Phonto edit my photos.

The popup on Melissa’s website. Same signup is available at all times in the sidebar. GO THERE AND SIGN UP SO YOU CAN SEE HOW THIS WORKS (you can always unsubscribe).

Q. We placed a pop-up as well as static invitation on your site for visitors to sign up to receive your blog posts automatically via MailChimp’s “RSS to email” function. Thus far, it looks like you have about 80 subscribers, which is DWARFED by the number of new visitors your site routinely gets. Have you had any thoughts about why the subscription form has not generated more subscribers?

I am not sure why I am not generating more followers on my email subscription. Maybe it’s because people don’t want to take the time to do it? I have signed up for an on-line class to learn how to create my own printables to incentivize people to sign up. For example, if you sign up to receive my blog in your inbox, you will get a set of my favorite recipes.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Stick with it. It is very easy to get overwhelmed, and ask why you don’t have more followers?! We get into the comparison mode. Just stay true to yourself, your message and your goals. If blogging were easy, everyone would do it.

The only reason I have a successful product that I am happy with is because I found Brad. He has listened to my ideas, with a true interest in my success, and has implemented them for me so that in most cases an idea I present to him one day is ready for the public the next. Having a blog that looks like mine has been a dream come true and Brad helped make that happen for me!

Brad: Melissa, thanks for your kind words, and for putting so much thought into your answers. You gave us all several valuable, practical suggestions along with guiding principles.




What’s Wrong with Social Sharing?

What’s Wrong with Social Sharing?

This is the second in a series of posts that I’m writing about supporting a brand with social media. In the first post, I suggested that website owners should feed their own websites first, and then share from their websites to social media.

Now, let’s step back and talk about the content of those posts and social shares….

The Problem: No Planning Results in Mind-Numbing Repetition

Since many of my friends and contacts share my religious orientation, I have seen thousands of variants on the cliche’d social share — a pretty picture with a verse. There must be some mill somewhere churning them out. They look something like this:

Some advertisers are lazy!

Don’t get me wrong…. I love pretty pictures, and I love the power of Scripture. But when a religious organization trots out one pretty picture with a verse after another as its social shares, and when those pretty pictures and verses could have been shared by any other religious organization, I have to ask “Do they really understand their particular mission, and their particular audience?” As far as I’m concerned, such mindless social shares do more to damage their reputation than to support it.

Secular organizations, perhaps because their imagination is stirred by the profit motive, tend to do better. But even they fall into ruts.

Why Do Organizations Do This To Themselves?

I asked one of the smartest entrepreneurs that I know. His insightful answer: “Because it’s easy.” Here’s an illustration of the lazy thinking:

The Solution: A More Productive Line of Thought

By analyzing your various audiences and what they need to hear from you, you’re likely to think of many ways to demonstrate the good “fit” between their needs and what you supply. In other words, you’ll think of many subjects for your blog posts and social shares. Your evidence will be varied, and stands a good chance of engaging your audiences.

Start By Defining Your Target Audiences

Dallas website design firmOne of my excellent clients is Ron Speed Jr.’s Adventures. My work with them goes back to the mid-1990’s when Ron Speed Sr. ran the business. Even back then, they knew that I don’t know squat about fishing. But that’s alright, because RSJA clients come from many walks of life, and knowing the different kinds of lures or fish isn’t what they need from me. You see, Ron Speed Sr. and Ron Speed Jr. know their clients. Whether or not they have ever explicitly done so, they can define their audiences. Some of their clients/audiences are 1) seasoned tournament anglers; some are 2) serious amateurs; some are just 3) casual fishermen. And each of these groups has certain characteristics. Ron and his staff know what drives them, what they worry about, what their wives (or husbands) worry about, what they like to eat, and how they like to relax after a day of catching fish (as redundant as that may sound to unsuccessful fishermen like myself). If you look at Ron’s newsletters over the years, you’ll see all kinds of evidence supporting the claims and reassurances that these various audiences need to hear. It isn’t just pictures of big fish, although there are plenty of those!

What are your audiences? If you think they’re all one kind of person, think again. Consider this starter list:

  • Decision makers
  • People who have to justify their actions to decision makers
  • People who buy from you
  • People who can persuade someone else to buy from you
  • People who buy for themselves
  • People who buy for others
  • First-time customers
  • Repeat customers
  • People who need to save money
  • People who need to save time

If you need help defining your audiences, give me a call. I’d love to sit down with you and brainstorm about this!

 




Let’s Make Your Website More Sociable

Here’s something I have noticed in my years of working with website clients: they sometimes pay far more attention to social media (Facebook, Twitter, others) than to their own websites.

So What?!

I care about this because I want my clients’ websites to do as much as possible to further their aims: to snag new customers, new readers, new converts. When you add content to your website — most easily with BLOG posts — Google and other search engines index that content and are able to list your site higher in search results. The more good, relevant content that you add to your site, the more valuable it becomes. It all adds up. As any good webmaster will tell you, “CONTENT IS KING.” If you put all your new content in social media only, you’re missing out.

Isn’t Social Media Also Important?

I’ll grant that Facebook and other social media channels can be VERY helpful in communicating with your audience. This is both direct and indirect. Social media channels present the opportunity to spread your messages via your “friends'” networks.

But remember something important — you don’t OWN the social media channels. If you haven’t seen Facebook or other channels “change the rules” then you just haven’t worked with them long enough. Use them, but remember that they could kick you off on a whim. That’s extreme, but even less drastic changes could adversely affect your work on those channels. Use them, but remember that they’re actually using you. They make money by selling advertising based on all the information you and your contacts share about yourselves.

The Best of Both Worlds

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Get comfortable with using your website’s blog function. Before you know it, you’ll find it as easy to publish on your site as you do to post on Facebook.
  2. Let me optimize your website’s social media connections so that you — as well as your friends and clients — can then use Facebook and other social media channels to share exactly what you want to be shared from your blog.* The sharing can be manual or even automatic!
  3. Consider adding MailChimp to the mix. What you post on your website blog can be automatically emailed to your mailing list.

Contact me about helping you help yourself to the best of both worlds. I’ll show you how to properly feed both your website and your social media.

*TIP: click one of the sharing buttons at the top or bottom of this post so you can SEE just how an optimized blog post gets shared on social media channels. And thank you for sharing!




JBH Communications Transitions to Full Time

Going Full Time Means Extra Time For YOU!

As of February, JBH Communications has transitioned from a sideline to a full-time business. The best part of this is that I can now concentrate fully on serving my clients.

Some things haven’t changed.

I’m still passionate about

  • Clarity – what you want to express, presented with clear, unambiguous design
  • Responsiveness – your requests are filled quickly
  • Value – you get cost-effective production

“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”

It’s like the iconic Daft Punk* song. I’m working harder now to get better and faster results for you. Together we can forge a stronger Internet presence for your company!

Have new projects? Bring ’em on, I’m raring to go!

*Yep, Daft Punk. I enjoy many musical genres!




WordPress Website for Videographer

North Texas Videographer website designerSome websites are fun to build and extra fun to view. I recently helped North Texas videographer Phil Hall update his self-promo website. Take a look: www.treeoflifepro.com

WordPress Website for a Videographer: Floating Veil and Prancing Priest

Phil Hall seems to have a knack for capturing the personality of the people in his videos. When you go to his new website on a desktop computer,* be sure to watch the full video that plays in the background of the home page. You’ll love the prancing priest! It’s a wedding video, and the wedding party seems to be totally at ease even though Phil was training a video camera on them. A good share of special effects and advanced techniques in Phil’s video “put a bow on it.”

How We Built Phil’s Site

In this WordPress website for a videographer, we chose to use one of my favorite premium WordPress themes: Enfold. The theme solves some problems both for me and for my client. For instance, it makes it easy for the client to create columns, or side-by-side material in the site. In the past, I would generally have done this with some HTML code that would yield a good-looking site, but wasn’t easy for the client to edit.

Take a look: www.treeoflifepro.com.

*Note that on a smartphone, the video does not automatically play. This is to prevent mobile website visitors from using up more data than they intended!




Simple Elegance: The One-Page Website

Hate scrolling? Ever been to a one-page website where the designer threw tons of type and images into one painfully long page?
It’s that experience that has made me shy away from one-page websites.

This Time, it Made Sense!

Corporate writer Don Geiger and I have been talking for some time about updating his website to a modern, responsive WordPress site. When Don finally pulled the trigger a few weeks ago, he gave me his usual well-planned copy for the site. It was not enough copy to justify a multi-page site. Here, finally was a good use for the one-page site. So we set about presenting Don’s client-oriented business with a highly-flexible premium WordPress theme. With a few artistic tweaks suggested by our friend Stan Hulen and a number of CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) tweaks by yours truly, we produced an elegant one-page site that works well on desktop and mobile browsers.

Take a look: www.geigerassociates.com.
[Note: at some later point, we may add discrete pages to the site, e.g., to house some of Don’s story-telling photography]




Nice Icon for Your Site!

How Does Your Website Icon Look?

If a site visitor adds a shortcut to your website on his or her smartphone, what will it look like? I hadn’t considered this question until today. When I tried it with www.baptistdistinctives.org (one of my busiest sites), the icon that appeared on my smartphone was just a homely little “B” in a colored square. The iPhone seemed to grab a screen capture of the website, but that resulted in an unclear icon. How could I get a better-looking shortcut?

WordPress to the Rescue, As Usual!

As usual with WordPress, there is a plugin that helps me do exactly what I want: “Add To Home Screen.” This little plugin guided me to provide a 144px by 144px icon, which I crafted in PhotoShop. [The look is a little retro, but that’s okay since the site is about Baptist heritage.]

Once implemented, the plugin throws a little overlay at the bottom of WordPress pages (I specified WHICH pages with another multi-purpose plugin). That overlay guides the mobile site visitor to add the shortcut icon to his/her phone’s home screen. Click through the demo to the right (or below) to see how this actually works.

I’m constantly in search of tweaks for my clients’ websites. Growing older — whether you’re a website or a person — does not have to mean growing stale!

Contact me to freshen up your web presence today!




EARNING My Money and Having Fun

At JBH Communications, I take great pleasure in helping my clients to grow their businesses and organizations. Some of the process is tedious, and NOT FUN, but sometimes it’s LOTS OF FUN! Take a look….

Another WordPress Update? Give me a Break!

webmaster in Dallas, Texas doing website maintenanceNow and then, my little Scottish heart feels like the work I do for clients is TOO EASY, that what I charge them for Infrastructure Maintenance is highway robbery. Then the great platform I use (WordPress) updates, and things break. That’s when I’m reminded of why my customers pay me the “big bucks.” With this latest update there were lots of sites that broke — not just for me, but for many webmasters. As the base for many of my clients’ custom sites, I use an excellent premier WordPress theme that I had to manually update on HALF of the 79 WordPress sites that I currently host. Had I not done the time-consuming manual update, the sites’ slideshows and galleries would have stopped working. I could have held off on the WordPress update until there was a one-click update for the theme, but I’m committed to keeping my clients’ websites current with the latest security and performance updates! Working for yourself is tough when the boss is demanding.

Having Fun, Nevertheless!

Don Regier of DTS website and webmasterOne of my favorite clients is an old friend who taught me how to make slide shows back in the 20th Century! Don Regier has been an award-winning media arts professor at a graduate school (DTS) since 1973. He has always used artistic creativity to teach important lessons. His current project — that I’m helping with — uses clay figures to convey some deep, hard-won wisdom in a hilarious series of vignettes featuring the pig Decker McSwine and the vocal talent of Reg Grant. Check out the McSwine Flu Shots. Believe me, there’s more to this story than meats the eye!

In the process of presenting this video series, we’re both learning a lot about YouTube, MailChimp, and social media like Facebook and Twitter.

How can I help YOU to present your company or story?

Your webmaster for the long haul,
Brad Hepp




New JBH Communications Website

The Cobbler’s Children Now Have Shoes!

I recently began building a new website for a Dallas fine artist. At our first meeting, I was too embarrassed to give her one of my old business cards. For several months I had been stretching my creativity on website design for clients, but paying little attention to my own advertising. It was a classic case of “The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes.”

It was also a violation of what I preached to myself and clients last year: “No more set it and forget it!.” So, on the long New Year’s weekend, I pounded out a new mobile-friendly WordPress website for JBH Communications. More than one friend had advised me to get rid of the highly personal Sangres panorama (mountains) in the site header. They were right. So, now I am using a skyline photo that I took one warm summer night in Dallas. It’s still personal, but unlike the Sangres panorama, these buildings represent where I WORK, not just where my heart belongs!

As the new year begins, I notice clients doing the same thing, asking themselves “What’s next? How can my organization be more successful in 2016?” So, what’s next for you and your business? How can I help?




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