Social Media Tips and Social Media Customization

Social Media Tips and Social Media Customization

Thank you for all of those who joined us last week for Top 10 Social Media Tips for Nonprofits/Businesses hosted by the Estes Park Computer Users Group and the Estes Park Non-Profit Resource Center. If you missed this event or need a reference, in this blog post I summarize the evening including my tips for getting started with Social Media Customization.

Getting Started with Social Media

We started off the panel with a presentation from Adam Shake, founder of Neanderthal Productions. Adam shared his social media experiences by giving some great tips and examples for those looking to boost or start on their social media. Adam explained the importance of being involved in the social network by urging you start yesterday! Lucky for FrontDesk, Inc. we did start a while before yesterday on Facebook and just getting started with Twitter. However, along my personal virtual social experiences and Adams facts, it was obvious to me, and seemingly everyone else that we should be focusing on these networks to fully tap into our potential audiences. He shared a little fact I noted; Facebook recently had their 1 billionth Facebook user sign up for an account meaning 1 in every 7 people have a Facebook page (and counting). I’m sure that number does not reflect Facebook pages made for people’s cats or dogs, so maybe 1 in every 7 creature has a Facebook page…but regardless, you could be engaging with all of Facebook’s creatures by starting as soon as possible, like yesterday. And your business, organization, or cause is missing out if you don’t. Now do you feel like you have a big huge weight on your shoulders? Another thing to add to your list? Take a deep breath in, and as your breath out, release those feelings knowing that not only is this it going to be worth your time, but you will get the hang of it quickly and soon it becomes fun. Along with “Start Yesterday”, here are Adam’s top tips on social media from my notes:

10. Know your brand – know what your brand means to you, how you want to be known, and what your brand means to your audience.

9. Start yesterday – another fact Adam shared: 98% of the US has a Facebook account. There is lots of potential out there connecting to new customers or clients.

8. Make a great profile – fill in everything possible and make it look like your brand.

7. Push, share, and create original content – find a balance between promoting your business, sharing content from other pages, or creating your own content.

6. Find Influences – find and follow/like other pages that can influence your social media including your competition.

5. Educate your readers by sharing your story – fill in when your business got started on your timeline, other milestones, and past/current engaging stories!

4. Don’t make them think, engage them – make it easy for users to take action.

3. Be Human – scared of making a mistake? We are all just human, and you can just be real with your audience by doing just that.

2. Have fun! – post silly pictures once a week, or make your audience laugh.  J

1. Think outside the mountains [box] –  be creative with ways to get engagement like having users tag themselves on photos of products they want like Adam’s example from Ikea doing that. He said Ikea gave away a lot of furniture but got crazy good social engagement!

Adam provided me with this downloadable PDF: 6 Social Media Tips for business, and it is great for those looking to get started. He usually provides this social media training information for his clients, so we really appreciate him extending these materials to us, thanks Adam!

WordPress, Blogs, and Social Media

After Adam’s presentation, we heard from our FrontDesk, Inc.’s founder Lee Lasson (and my Dad). He explained how to use WordPress as part of your social media strategy. The Estes Park Non Profit Resource Center’s website is a WordPress website that Lee used as an example of how you can make your website’s blog automatically post to your Facebook page. This includes scheduling posts so that you can pre-post for the whole week (or however long you want) to your blog and Facebook all at one time. Lee previously outlined the steps to hook up WordPress to Facebook and your Facebook to WordPress on the EPNRC blog How to Add Social Media Functionality to WordPress. Thanks Lee for sharing your ‘two birds with one stone’ blog post to Facebook post solution!

I love using WordPress for my clients because it allows them to keep their website up to date, we can customize it to look however we want, and gives us the social functionality with blogs and plugins galore. WordPress celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary yesterday and it is clear to be a big part of the web; 17% of the websites in the USA are running WordPress or using WordPress.com. That is huge! And it just keeps growing. You can learn more at http://wordpress.org/about/ and contact us at info@frontdesk.com if you have questions or if you are looking for help with your WordPress site.

Customizing your Facebook 101

After talking about WordPress, I provided the group with some insights on how to get started on customizing your Facebook and Twitter pages. I started out by showing an info-graphic I like to reference from Luna Metrics blog tilted The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet. This includes the most current sizing ratios of your profile pictures, cover photos, etc. on Facebook but also includes Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pintrest. This is a great guide to me when I need to know what sizes of images to make social media platforms reflect their brand.

I then went into a bit more detail about Facebook customization specifically. Facebook suggests along with the dimensions for your page’s cover photo being 315 x 815 pixels that your image should be atleast 100 kilobytes for the best load time. If you don’t have an image 815 pixels wide, then it must at least be 399 pixels wide to be a cover photo.  Your profile picture dimensions has to be uploaded at the least 180 x 180 pixels, but displays on your page as 160 x 160 pixels. This sizing is really helpful if you want to create graphics for these pages, but most any image you upload can be cropped or re-positioned within the Facebook platform.

While I find there isn’t much more you can do aesthetically for your profile on Facebook, there is plethora of customization that goes beyond looks with “Facebook Apps”.  Facebook Apps hook in all sorts of functionality to your page. You might recognize apps called “Farmville” or “Words with Friends” that are used on your personal pages, but there are tons of apps out there that can really boost the user experience on your Facebook business page. I talked specifically about a Sweepstakes App from North Social that allows you to get “likes” for entries into your sweepstakes. There are so many apps out there, but this is just one company that makes a lot of really useful apps. Look at more North Social Apps on their website. North social makes apps that cost money (that comes with excellent support from my experience), however, you can find apps that are free to use. A free app I talked about was the Mail Chimp’s Facebook app that allows users to sign up for your email newsletter right on Facebook! Have a Mail Chimp account? See for yourself how easy it is to set up Mail Chimp Facebook App. Again, there are tons and tons of apps out there. You can learn more about Facebook Apps from Facebook’s Help Center at https://www.facebook.com/help/371634529571035/ And let us know if you are looking for help weeding through all the many apps out there! There are also some FAQs about how to change the icon for an app on a Facebook page on that help center page too.

I then went on to explain a little about eCommerce on Facebook. There are so many people shopping on Facebook, including people right in our home town from the Estes Park Duck Race Facebook! As an example, I showed the Estes Park Duck Race Facebook Shopping cart that I customized from Americommerce Facebook Store Shop App. The Duck Race’s shopping cart was set up by FrontDesk along with the whole epduckrace.org website/design. Using this app was a pretty smooth experience whereas some other apps I have set up seem to be a bit more involved. The other ecommerce Facebook Apps I mentioned during the evening were Ecwid and ShopTab but neither of which I have any experience using. I researched them as if I was going to use them, they got good reviews, and ShopTab advertises to hook in with an existing PayPal account which could be helpful. I find a lot of my clients that are looking to sell on-line see PayPal as one of the most reasonable options and I recommend it as well.

Another app that transitioned me into my next topic of the evening (Twitter) is the Facebook Twitter app. You can link your Facebook to your Twitter page so that your Facebook posts are automatically tweeted on your Twitter page. You can do this when managing your business page by choosing from the top right corner Edit Page > Edit Settings and then choosing “Resources” from the left (with the little orange flag icon next to it). Then under “Connect with people” there is a link to “Link your Page to Twitter”. Click that and follow the steps (you will need to be logged into your twitter account in the same browser program).

Customizing your Twitter 101

For me, Twitter customization can be a bit more fun than Facebook as you have more options to choose different colors and backgrounds for your profile. Again, I reminded the group of a favorite reference I shared: The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet showing you all the dimensions of your Twitter page profile picture, header, background, and more! A profile picture on your Twitter page displays 81 x 81 pixels. Then you also have a header image (reminiscent of Facebook’s cover photo) that displays at 520 x 260 pixels and sits behind your profile image. There is also the background to your Twitter page which varies between screen resolution so you might need to play with it and make sure to reference The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet.

You will also want to make sure that while in your twitter settings, you look under “Widgets”. I mentioned this quickly at the end of the presentation, but you can create a widget to embed code on your website of your Twitter feed.

I then went on to explain that Twitter also uses apps like facebook. You can hook your Twitter up to your Facebook page with an app. This article explains how to connect your Twitter to your Facebook so that all your Tweets will automatically post to your Facebook wall.

Something I did not have a lot of experience with is Twitter’s customizing app Themelon, which is an app you install on your twitter account. Adam showed us a personal profile he made on Themelon and expressed that he had a good experience with the app. Since then, I have scratched the surface of Thhemelon and it has hundreds of premade themes that you can then customize, all with really super cool backgrounds. It is one of those things you could just spend hours changing from background to background and seeing what they all look like on your profile! Or at least I could…for the record I didn’t.

Another couple apps we talked about were Social Media management apps that tie in your social media platforms including Twitter. These included Hootsuite and Sprout Social which both cost a bit of money but are great if you are looking for a way to manage multiple social networks. I think we will have to ask Adam to come back to the Estes Park Computer Users group to talk about Managing Multiple Social Media networks – if you agree, please leave a comment on this blog post so we can know if there is any interest in that.

Social Media Panel Discussion

After I gave my spiel about WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter, we had designated Q & A time and social media guru Brooke Burnham, the voice behind Visit Estes Park social media, joined us. In closing, I took away a really strong tip from Brooke and the whole evening– I should be posting more! And you probably should be too! Brooke said a good rule of thumb is to post on Facebook one to three times a day and that you should be posting to Twitter even more! This boggled us all for a moment but I tried to give the crowd a pep talk – I am trying, we are all trying, but you just got to try it! Don’t be afraid of getting in this social media “sphere”, embrace it because every day it becomes easier if you just stick to it and every day shows results. Also, it becomes fun and you might just find yourself excited to spend time connecting with your audience on these social networks. At this point, like a phone number, and like a website, social media is a business tool.

Thanks again everyone for attending, to the EPNRC and EPICUG for having us, and to all the panelists. And if you didn’t attend, thank you for reading. Check back soon for more posts as I better practice what I’m perching here. Again, please let us know if you have any questions at info@frontdesk.com and/or leave questions or comments right on this post by filling out the comment form below.

Windows 8 Interface Tips

I presented “Windows 8 Interface Tips” at the Estes Park Computers User Group (EPICUG) January 24, 2013 at the Estes Valley Public Library.  While the PowerPoint is short in words, it is long in concepts in how to navigate Windows 8 Interface and is linked to the image below.

Screenshot of 1st PowerPoint Slide

Windows 8 requires the new user to understand that the Start Button is now the Start screen. Tricks like right-clicking on the Start icon (lower left of screen) reveals a context sensitive shortcut menu of useful things like the Command Prompt, Run, Control Panel, and other often used items that you may have previously navigated to using the Start menu.

We discussed Charms, the new menu that flies in from the right side of the screen and has the important Search function. To see the Charms menu you need to mouse to the upper right or lower right corner of the screen. One shortcut keystroke worthy of learning is the Windows-C command which calls the Charms menu.

Also included is a slide that is timely and will be timely for a few days from the post. You may upgrade your Windows to Windows 8 Pro for only $39.99 till January 31, 2013. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/buy

 

Mac Encounters: Mountain Lion Lurking

With Apple Macintosh computers you upgrade the operating system as though it is just another update albeit one you pay $19.95 for the pleasure. And with Macs updating the operating system is usually a pleasure and if not a pleasure at least a mildly entertaining adventure. So is the case with this blog post.

With Windows machines I simply don’t upgrade my operating systems. I typically get Windows from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and leave it with that operating system way past its useful life. Upgrades are either not a good idea or you realize you can’t really get there from here directly. Windows XP to Windows 7 is an example of a round about upgrade path. You can’t upgrade XP to Windows 7. You have to use Windows Easy Transfer to move your files and settings to the new operating system. Windows hasn’t {yet} conditioned me to upgrade when new versions come out. In fact they may have trained me that sometimes you just don’t want the OS offered. Good (err, bad) examples were ME and Vista. My friend Don won’t upgrade to Windows 8 until the first Service Pack 1 for Windows 8 is released. Is that a healthy lack of confidence or is it experience talking? We’ll be watching to see if that is how it turns out for him! <click> Enough already about Windows. </click>

I know I named this a “Mac Encounters: Mountain Lion Lurking” and so far that is pretty true. Today I’m running Mountain Lion and all is pretty smooth so far. But I can’t help but feel Mountain Lion may be lurking in the background waiting to bite me! The uneasy feeling comes from living in the mountains for the last 37 years and rarely seeing those cats slipping through the night lurking in the darkness. Shudder. I’m pretty sure that the big cats lay around on the limbs of the trees overhanging anywhere I might walk at night. They are lurking! I know they are really good at it — because you just don’t see ’em! I’m not going out there walking at night and that’s just how it is.

Apple has me trained and I wanted the new big cat because it was the new big cat. The buying experience was a pleasure. Insert iTunes money, click the button, and it downloaded overnight 4.37 GB onto my disk into my applications folder. At this point I knew from my Lion experience that I needed to stop and not do the install in order to preserve the download file. Apple cleans up and removes the ‘Install OS X Mountain Lion’ application from the applications folder after it is installed. Neat but maybe too neat. The MacWorld article, “How to make a bootable Mountain Lion install drive” will guide you through making a USB drive to install Mountain Lion on your other Macs.

The install was rather painless. No big deal. The install politely informed me that my old copy of Parallels was moved to an incompatible software folder — some where but I didn’t care as I use VMware and wasn’t keeping my Parallels license up-to-date. No problem. Mountain Lion did pounce unexpectedly leaving a ghostly question mark  “?” on my Dock where Server Admin used to live. R.I.P.

I understand moving forward has a price. I knew the price wasn’t just $19.95. In this case it all makes perfect sense once you read Apple KB, “OS X Server: Admin tools compatibility information”. The short story is, “Note: Server app from OS X Lion and the Server Admin Tools 10.7 are not compatible with Mountain Lion.”

I think you know I love technology, right? So I really loved that I can legally install Lion 10.7 in a virtual machine, use 15 GB of disk space to do so, download 2 GB of Apple Software Updates, and then download Server Admin Tools 10.7 {again} all to do what I was able to do without an issue with Lion. All things old are new again… the same thing happened going from Snow Leopard to Lion last year so I really shouldn’t have been too surprised that it would take a virtual machine to do what I used to do with a real machine.

How do I like the lurking Mountain Lion? Just great! Lots of new tech things to explore. It hasn’t seemed to fix any problems that I had under Lion. One such problem is pictured below.

Screenshot of Kernel Panic

Kernel Panic: I’m glad to report this problem to Apple!

Kernel Panic — reassuring that is still part of the Mac computing experience. I provided comments to accompany the report to Apple in the hopes they’ll fix this one in time for next summer’s new cat or sooner! <g>

Seriously, I do recommend moving forward with the Mac Operating System’s latest big cat. Just be prepared to work around what doesn’t work and have fun wondering when the lurking Mountain Lion will pounce!

 

Note to Self: Why Blog?

Hello everyone! You’ve made it all the way back to the beginning of blog postings here at FrontDesk, Inc.

I really was a naysayer to blogging as it didn’t make any sense for me to ramble on at the keyboard about technical minutiae. Why? Technical details change so fast that it hardly makes sense to spend any time pounding keys about the tech trivia that streams through our lives.

One day recently (I love story telling) I was fighting a particularly vexing problem. One of my clients was moving their service bureau to a collocation facility with raised floors, redundant power generators, redundant air conditioning, redundant diverse Internet paths, and very high security. It is a great collocation facility in Northern Colorado and we are very proud to host not only FrontDesk, Inc. but also our clients in this state of the art facility.

Moves are never without a few problems. This particular move was no exception. I had to renumber all the Internet connections going through the Microsoft Internet Security & Acceleration Server (ISA) which is the firewall on the perimeter. ISA has always been a bit quirky and sometimes challenging getting all the rules correct to only allow through the legitimate and necessary traffic while denying all the rest. Unfortunately I couldn’t get ISA to pass the traffic properly through some new rules I had created. It was driving me crazy. These kinds of things can really wear on a person. The clock is ticking and the customers are waiting for the desired results of everything working but no matter what I tried I couldn’t find the trick to make it work!

Worse, I knew I had been here before. It was deja vu for sure. Going down the same path over and over is one of the ways I tend to internalize things. In this case, going down the same path led me to the same old dead end no matter what I did, it just wouldn’t work. I removed the rule in question and recreated it hitting every key presicly as though if I press the keys just right, it’ll work. No dice!

Googleing now is a natural reaction to a problem. I googled and googled and then found the one blog post that held the secrets to making the rule work. The author of the blog post, Johan Andersson had obviously been in the same spot I was in. And Mr. Andersson had been stuck in the same spot before! He put the secret sauce recipe in his blog post with the intentions of finding the answer one day in the future should he yet again face the same problem.

Screen Capture of blog site with "Note to self."

Mr Andersson inspiring “Note to Self” reason to blog.

Bless you Mr. Andersson! You have given me reason to blog. Sort of like leaving bread crumbs along the trail to help lost technicians find their way back to where they’ve been before. “Note to Self” is a category of blogging I need to pursue.

Mr. Andersson was correct. Checking a hidden check box on an advanced screen in the HTTP Listener fixed the 12250 error I was getting but more importantly has set a course for one of the areas of technical blogging I intend to pursue.

Thanks for being witness to my first blog post and my explanation of how the first in a series of “Note to Self” category was born!

Thanks for being here,

Lee