From the category archives:

Social Media

Twitter

by Brian Harris on April 3, 2012

To help get the word out about ourselves, Bold Universe uses Twitter. We currently have two Twitter accounts: @bolduniverse (corporate tweets), and @boldspin (marketing tweets). We have gotten so much out of these accounts that we are thinking of adding others to our repertoire. “But what is Twitter?” many have asked us, “What value does it bring to your company?”

If you don’t use Twitter, the people who do seem to be speaking a foreign language. The unindoctrinated have heard that some people use the web for Twitter, but others tweet by phone. The one thing they know is that people who are into Twitter tend to be REALLY into Twitter.

Let’s create a fair and equal playing field for those who are still reading but unfamiliar with the tool. The following are the definitions for eight important terms to better understand Twitter and tweeting.

Twitter
Twitter is a social media tool that allows its users to write about anything that they want. Users are limited to 140 characters per message. In some circles, this is called “microblogging.”

Tweet, tweets, tweeting
“Tweeting” is the act of writing and posting a 140 character entry on Twitter. Tweets are devoid of markup (you cannot use bold or italics, for instance). Twitter users have overcome this bare-bones approach to writing content with all forms of syntax. To embolden a word or use emphasis, users will type in ALL CAPS or put *asterisks* around a word to make it stand out. In order to tweet to another user, simply include their username with an @ symbol in front of it (to write to BoldSpin for instance, simply type @boldspin in your tweet). Additionally Twitter users type “RT” to infer a retweet (see below), and # symbols to denote a hashtag (see below).

Following: Followers, Followees and Friends
When you create an account, you may very well do so because you know someone else on Twitter. If you know their Twitter handle (their username with an @ symbol in front, ex. @boldspin), you can see what they have tweeted by putting their username after the twitter url (ex. http://twitter.com/boldspin). If you like what you read when you get to that page, you can click the “follow” button underneath the user’s picture. Sometimes, when you post content that others find interesting you will discover they have followed you back. When you and another user are both following each other you are considered “friends.”

List
You can easily create a list (by clicking “New list” in the right column of Twitter). Lists can be used to categorize the users you follow. If you only follow a few individuals, you probably won’t need lists. However once you get over 25, you may start to find the lists a handy way to group and sort those you are following. For instance, I follow several news agencies (CNN, NY Times, etc. as well as several reporters) and have them all listed under “news.” You can include a user you are following in as many lists as you manage.

Retweets
Sometimes someone tweets something that another user considers worthy of repetition. In such an instance the user “retweets” the entry. This is a common practice on Twitter and is considered a form of flattery. In practice, this was simply done by typing “RT @boldspin:” and then pasting the contents of BoldSpin’s tweet afterwards. Some users add flourish, praise or criticism along with the retweet “LOL!! RT @boldspin:” or “WRONG!! RT @boldspin:” to weigh in on their feelings about the tweet. Twitter has since provided its own functionality to simplify retweeting and make retweets stand out.

Trends
In the column to the right of the Twitter stream, Twitter shows a series of trends. These are the hot topics on Twitter, with heat defined by frequency and recency of the term. This gives a user the ability to see what is being discussed most and right now on Twitter.

Direct Messages
Twitter offers user-to-user communication via Direct Messages (DM). These messages allow for communication that doesn’t appear where other users can see it. In some cases, this can be for business purposes (we get a lot of “Thanks for following us” DMs). Additionally, there are times when we have observed a mistake or typo on another user’s Bio or found that their link doesn’t work. To avoid embarrassing them, we tend to point these out via DM.

Hashtag (or tag)
A hashtag (or just tag) is created by typing the hash symbol (#) before a word (ex. #bold). This is used to tag a tweet so that it can be found with other tweets that have also been marked with the same tag. This can be used for bookmarking, marketing, or categorization.

Now that we have these definitions, let’s quickly create a scenario in which we use them all in context:

Haley knew her friend Ivy was using Twitter. She often heard Ivy talking about things she read and friends she made on Twitter. Haley was intrigued and wanted to try Twitter for herself. She went to http://twitter.com and created an account. Her first choice for username (Haley) was already taken, but she found that her nickname was available (Halester).

Once she had logged in, she was afraid to just start typing. First she looked at the trends to see what other users were tweeting about. There was a trend called #nowplaying. Haley clicked it and saw this trend was filled with users who had put the hashtag “#nowplaying” in their tweet and written about what music they were listening to. Several people were listening to one of her favorite artists, Lady Gaga. She decided to click on each of their usernames and see what else each of these users was tweeting. She was fascinated by some of them and decided to follow them. In fact some of them seemed to be tweeting so much about Lady Gaga, that Haley created a list called “LadyGaga” just to keep track.

One tweet had quoted Lady Gaga and Haley liked the quote so much she decided to retweet it herself. This was her very first tweet. She then decided to find and follow Ivy on Twitter. When she did, she saw that Ivy had mispelled a word in her bio and wrote a direct message to tell her. Ivy wrote a direct message back very quickly thanking her and saying she had fixed it. When Haley refreshed Ivy’s profile, the typo was gone.

The story about Haley is a scenario involving an individual, but businesses can benefit from Twitter as well. If you consider some of the terms we defined, followers and trends for instance, you might glean the marketing potential of the tool. Twitter enables businesses to write about what is happening within their company, but it also allows them to follow and opine on the industry they are in. They can find and follow other companies in their industry and keep track of hot topics in their trade. Most importantly Twitter makes brands accessible on a personal level. Individuals can interact directly with brands and check in and see what is happening in a less formal fashion than permitted by checking for updates on the company website.

There are other nuances about Twitter that this article doesn’t cover, such as the differences between public and private accounts and lists. Suffice it to say that Twitter, albeit a tool designed for overt communication, can support private, intranet like functionality as well; although tools like Yammer are perhaps more suited for such applications.

Lastly, if you do use Twitter and have a lot of followers, followees, friends and tweets and you want to analyze it all, there are many wonderful tools you can use to manage your account. To tweet from multiple accounts simultaneously, there are tools such as Cotweet and Tweetdeck. Twitter allows users to post tweets from any cell phone, but you can also download great tools for added Twitter functionality on various smart phone platforms. Perhaps most critically, there is a variety of great tools for analyzing all of your twitter data. Bold Universe uses and loves My Tweeple (Whitley Media) and Twitter Grader (Hubspot).

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Best Practices, Encore: SEO

by Brian Harris on April 2, 2012

Your website is only available to your audience if they can find you in their search engine results. Search engines change their search algorithms frequently enough that you have to keep your website up-to-date to remain ranked in the results. While tricks and tips for tweaking your ranking come and go, here are some SEO basics that will always serve you well in the search engines.

Content: strategy for success
The Internet is a vast ocean of information. New content is added constantly. Old content tends to disappear quickly, under layers of newer, fresher material. Your site content, even that on a “static” web page needs to be periodically updated to stay ranked.

A schedule for planned posting and freshening your content should be developed. At a minimum, annual reviews of content should be considered in which new buzzwords and industry trends (aka “keywords”) are evaluated for embedding within site content while older, less relevant buzzwords and trends are weeded out.

Keywords
Keywords, buzzwords and industry jargon should be embedded in your static and social media content. Periodic effort (depending on your industry, the frequency differs) should be made to make sure that new buzzwords and industry trends get folded into static content (on pages such as your About Us page). The goal is 2-7% keyword density within your content. Embedding 1-3 targeted keywords in the first 160 characters of your pages is also recommended.

Figuring out the best keywords can be tricky. Good keywords are frequently searched for (high demand) but not targeted by many other websites (low competition). Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a free tool that tells you how many searches there are for each keyword or phrase, as well as the level of competition.

Metadata
Keywords should not only be embedded in the first 160 characters of a page for optimum effect, they should also be included in a page’s source code as metadata. This means that for every page you write, you should keep a list of relevant keywords that describe and promote the page, once the list is complete, make sure these keywords are added to each web page’s metadata.

Additional techniques

  1. URL slugs: Slugs are reader-friendly information in the URL. An example would be http://www.bolduniverse.com/best-practices-encore-seo (the URL for this post). This url tells the viewer what the topic of the page you will visit will be. Most modern tools have means by which the slug can be easily added, such that it is separated from how the content is stored in your CMS.
  2. Analytics tools: There are a host of tools that allow you to see what parts of your website (e.g. which content) is attracting viewers. By analyzing their most attractive content, companies can isolate elements of that content that are bringing in audience members and exploit them on the rest of their pages.
  3. Social bookmarking: The more external websites that link to your website the better. For this reason, a social bookmarking tool (ex. http://sharethis.com) should be employed to permit users to quickly and easily post links to your content on popular web venues such as Digg, Delicious, Twitter, etc.

SEO SUMMARY
Inbound marketing is about getting noticed as a content publisher, not as an advertiser. This means appearing in the results data on major search engines. There are many methods for increasing search engine ranking. The tried and test methods are to keep your content fresh, employ well-researched keywords in your site content and titles, blog post titles, social media posts and your metadata. Additional techniques include user-friendly “slugs,” keeping an eye on your viewership, and using tools such as ShareThis.

Next topic: Twitter

If you have questions about best practices for business websites; if you’re interested in putting e-commerce or social media on a website; if you would like to learn more about Bold Universe services or solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Best Practices, Part 7: Timeline

by Brian Harris on March 22, 2012

Most Bold Universe solutions involve rapid build phases. In our Discover->Design->Develop process, the segments that consume the most time are figuring out what tools to include (functional discovery, project approval) and arriving at a look and feel for them (digital presence construction, design approval). To make sure we are building the right solution for our customer, these two phases generally take as long or longer than the actual development and configuration of the solution.

Design
Some solution designs take longer than others. Bold Universe estimates developing an approved design to take about two and a half weeks. In that time a design for the home page, an internal page (usually the blog) and elements for external sites such as Twitter and Facebook are created and aproved.

Content
While Bold Universe is developing/revising the design, our clients are developing their text for their webpages following our best practices recommendations for audience, voice, and content. While we often proceed without every piece of content finished (risking increased development cycles), we prefer to begin construction with a complete body of content.

Development
Once a design is approved and content is submitted, Bold Universe solutions take about four weeks to build, depending on the required site functionality (ecommerce generally makes a project take a little more time). Somewhere at roughly halfway through that period (roughly two weeks) customers are invited in to tour the site and provide feedback. The remaining time in the project is typically spent tweaking the solution to customer preference.

TIMELINE SUMMARY
Not every project takes this long (our fastest launch, including logo development, business cards, and a complete website with blog entries, was completed in under a week–you can imagine the wagers on that bet were pretty steep); some take considerably longer. The major factor that influences timeline is customer feedback. When customers respond quickly with feedback, projects tend to launch ahead of schedule. Because customers are running businesses while participating in the construction of their website, the timeline usually takes about eight weeks from project approval to launch. Bold Universe makes every effort to accommodate scheduling needs on a case-by-case basis.

This installment of our best practices for small business website development completes our initial 7 of 7 charter.

  1. audience
  2. voice
  3. colors and textures
  4. website environment
  5. content
  6. functionality
  7. timeline (you are here)

While we have been posting these seven best practices for small business website development recommendations we received a few suggestions for additional entries and will extend our charter past these seven. If you have suggestions for best practices recommendations/advice topics, please let us know.

Next topic: SEO

If you have questions about best practices for business websites; if you’re interested in putting e-commerce or social media on a website; if you would like to learn more about Bold Universe services or solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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