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9 Things You Must Be Clear On Before Hiring a Web Developer

9 Things You Must Be Clear On Before Hiring a Web Developer

I previously wrote an article about understanding the different types of web developers there are.  For some types, you will need to do ALL of the planning and strategizing so you can just hand over what you want done and they will do exactly what you tell them.

For others, like working with a professional web development agency, you don’t need to do all of that pre-work because they can help you with a lot of the strategy involved in building a proper website that will work best for your needs.

But even when working with a web development agency, you will need to be prepared for your initial conversation with them in order to obtain an accurate estimate.

So after reading this article, you will be fully informed on what you need to have in place first before seeking out estimates. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond.

Here’s a list of 9 things to be clear on before making that important next step:

  1. Be clear on your business plan. This may sound obvious, but it has happened where I’ve been asked to build a website when the new entrepreneur only had a vague idea of what they wanted. There was no real business plan in place for them to follow yet, just a vision.
     
    It’s pretty much impossible for a web developer to provide an estimate with no specifics. They can give a wide range of costs, but the cost of development depends on too many specifics to give an absolute price.
     
    So before jumping ahead and building a website, be sure you have a viable business idea that will provide you with a reasonable return on your investment.
     
    Will this end up being more of a hobby that you just want to dabble in or are you planning to create a profitable business?
     
    It is important to be clear on your intentions of what you want to accomplish first before asking a web developer to build a site that matches your vision.
  2. Be clear on your business name.  Make sure you have a registered business name before creating any of your marketing materials.
     
    I’m not talking about getting a domain name, I mean registering your business name with your local government agency so you have permission to use it.
     
    It could be a costly mistake to have to go back and change everything if you find out your business name has been rejected and can’t be used.
  3. Be clear on the product you sell or service you provide. Ensure you are clear on the product or service you offer so the web developer knows what type of site features to suggest and what kind of design will work best to showcase your offerings.
     
    If you will be selling a product, will it be a digital download or will people be receiving it in the mail? If by mail, how are you going to ship the products? These answers will determine if you need a full shopping cart system or just a PayPal “buy now” button.
     
    If you are offering a service, you won’t need a shopping cart system necessarily but you still need to decide what method of payment you want to offer your customers. Will you just use PayPal  or have an online merchant account that will process payments?
  4. Be clear on your brand. This does not mean you have to have your logo already designed. If you hire a web development company that has brand designers on staff, they can design your logo and other stationery/marketing materials for you.
     
    But if not, then you need to have your logo already designed before having your website developed. This is because the design of your website must match the colours and style that your logo has established as being the foundation of your brand.
     
    Being clear on your brand means you need to be clear on the message you want to portray to others about you and your business.  This is actually not an easy or quick process but makes a significant difference if you are clear on this before moving on to anything else.
     
    The more clear you are on how you want to be positioned in the marketplace, the easier your brand identity can be created so that it will attract your ideal client.
     
    Once done, you will not only be very clear on the essence of our brand, but also the “look” of it. That way your web developer will have a good foundation to work upon when designing the look and feel of your website.
  5. Be clear on what you want your website to accomplish. A site that does not have a clear purpose is not going to be effective in fulfilling your goals.
     
    What do you want your website to accomplish? When visitors come to your site, what do you want them to do once there? What is your primary call to action?
     
    Your web developer needs to know this so that the design layout, features and site functionality will all support that goal.
  6. Be clear on how you are going to get sales. Unless you have a really effective marketing campaign in place, the odds are slim that someone is going to purchase from you during their first visit to your site.
     
    So having a way to capture your visitor’s name and email address so you can keep in touch with them on a regular basis is paramount. This is done through a consistent newsletter  where you have the chance to develop a relationship with your subscribers and they can get to know, like and trust you enough to purchase from you.
     
    You will also want your web developer to ensure it is built SEO friendly and smart phone friendly so that you are providing optimal opportunities for potential buyers to come to your site.
  7. Be clear on what features you want on your site. Before talking with a potential web developer, you need to have a good idea of what kind of website you will need.
     
    Will it be a static “brochureware” site with standard 4-5 pages or do you want something more dynamic with features such as a blog, calendar, search function, photo gallery, shopping cart system, newsletter system, membership area etc.?
     
    Each of these features need to be factored into the estimate the developer provides. If you’re not sure, then the web developer should be able to help you determine which features you need in order to support your website goals.
  8. Be clear on your budget. Your developer needs to know your website budget so they can recommend a site build that will fit within your means.
     
    But telling them you want a website for under $500 is not going to get you anywhere!
     
    Your website is your primary marketing piece – it’s your virtual storefront where it’s accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t want to skimp on such an important and prominent asset for your business!
     
    So don’t be fooled by the cheaper template options or “do it yourself” applications out there where, unless you have studied the intricate nuances of how the Internet works, search engine optimization, branding, marketing and effective layout design, you run the  risk of scaring off your perfect customers instead of attracting them!
     
    With the rare exception, the cheaper amount you pay for your website directly affects the perceptions others will have on your business.
     

    Cheap Looking Websites => Cheap Perceived Products

  9. Be sure you do your research on who to approach. You want to find someone with experience and skill who will partner with you to help you build your business.
     
    Unless you already have experience working in this industry, you want to avoid programmers who only do exactly what you tell them as opposed to others who can offer ideas, suggestions and be a part of your  team to be there as a valuable resource when needed .
     
    Always ask to talk to their clients to see what their experience was working with the developer.
     
    Be aware of those that claim to be developers when in reality, all they learned was how to use a “do it yourself” software like WIX or WordPress and are using pre-created themes that cannot be easily customized.
     
    The quality of your site – both in design and in how it is coded – is very important on many levels so ensure the person you hire understands how to design and build a quality website for you.

Are you looking for a web developer to create your new website or is your existing website looking tired and out of date? Once you become clear on the above nine items and are looking for a professional web development agency to take care of your needs, contact us for an estimate.

To your success,

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

9 Reasons Why B2B Businesses Love LinkedIn

9 Reasons Why B2B Businesses Love LinkedIn

With over 350 million members, LinkedIn is the most powerful place to create and build a presence for your B2B (Business to Business) company.

What can you do on LinkedIn? Why use LinkedIn versus other social platforms like Facebook?

Read below to learn why focusing on LinkedIn can lead to big opportunities.

Why Your Business Social Media Efforts Should Focus on LinkedIn

  1. Top platform for B2B

    B2B businesses and marketers love LinkedIn.  Not only can you create an individual profile, but you can also create a Company page.

    Plus, LinkedIn users are business professionals – it is the 3rd most used social platform by business owners.  Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have a more varied user base and are used for more social purposes.

  2. Worldwide Reach for Your Next Product Launch

    LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with individuals around the globe.  In fact LinkedIn features users from over 200 countries and territories and is available in 20 languages.

    There are stats that suggest LinkedIn is now the premiere platform to use for product launches among B2B businesses.

  3. Access to Influential Individuals

    Want to catch the attention of a VIP? Try LinkedIn.  Mention something flattering about their book, program, or latest article and they will notice.

    LinkedIn also makes it easy to connect with high profile individuals through InMail, a service available for Premium Account holders.

    If your ideal target market is the affluent, 41% of millionaires use LinkedIn. Plus LinkedIn users are active with over 40% of users checking it daily.

  4. Generate Leads

    LinkedIn is a goldmine for generating leads; it drives 80% of B2B social media leads.

    Studies show that LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation than Facebook and Twitter.

  5. Virtual Networking Made Easy

    LinkedIn makes it so easy to connect with the people in your network regularly.  It’s fast and easy to grab a cup of coffee and check in with colleagues, prospects, and centers of influence.

    This is your opportunity to congratulate people on promotions, send a message to connections, flatter someone by endorsing them for a skill, like someone’s status updates, or write a recommendation.

    And since it’s virtual, it saves time, gas, and calories from those Mocha Lattés at coffee shops!

    Continue with the networking effort by sending your new connections a quick message to say hello and ask more about what they do.

  6. Grow Your Network Fast

    It’s very easy to add new and meaningful connections to your network. Go to the page of someone you know and click ‘Connect.’ Avoid using LinkedIn’s generic introduction blurb and write something specific for that person and your reason for connecting.

    You can also go into the “Connections” section and look on your existing connection’s profile to see their connections and ask them to introduce you.

  7. Showcase Your Thought Leadership

    Show your brilliance with quotes, articles, and original articles by adding them as a Pulse post. Pulse is very similar to a blog and this feature and its benefits are not offered on the other common platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

    You can write about industry changes, trends, or lessons you’ve learned in business. Participate in discussion forums by being friendly and answering people’s questions.

    LinkedIn Groups also provide you with an opportunity to showcase your expertise by posting informative posts and responding to others’ with insightful comments.

  8. Credibility

    Social proof is powerful to build trust with your ideal target market.  LinkedIn Recommendations earn confidence with recruiters, customers, and joint venture partners.  Giving and receiving recommendations also helps members strengthen their profiles.

    The Skills and Endorsements section can also help build credibility through others endorsing your key skills.

  9. Employment Recruiting Opportunities

    LinkedIn is widely known for its job hunting capabilities. In the past four years, there has been an extensive increase in job postings, which means qualified candidates are also turning to LinkedIn to find their next dream job.

Step Up Your LinkedIn Results

One step in leveraging your LinkedIn results is to optimize your LinkedIn profile. If you’d like to learn how to do this and how to drive traffic, sales and leads without spending hours a day on LinkedIn, join our Social Blast group.

It’s our online social media and marketing membership program that teachers you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. We’re doing a 4-part series on LinkedIn starting October 2015 that you won’t want to miss.

I’ll be covering how to fully optimize your LinkedIn profile, how to get the most out of LinkedIn Groups, how to get qualified leads and how to expand your brand reach and influence. I promise you’ll learn a lot in this series!

Check out SOCIAL BLAST here: www.socialblastcoaching.com!

To your success,

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

Entrepreneur eTip: Making Meaningful Connections on LinkedIn

Today’s eTip is about taking advantage of LinkedIn’s powerful networking platform.

Listen to today’s 1 minute tip to find out how to make meaningful connections on LinkedIn that can benefit your business.

Many entrepreneurs I talk to find LinkedIn a puzzle. They don’t understand its difference with Facebook, they don’t know what to post and more importantly they don’t know who to connect with nor how to lead those connections into clients or customers.

As we know, social media is all about building relationships. So the first thing is to stop thinking of everyone as a potential client or customer. There are a lot of other ways a social media connection can benefit your business.

So your goal is to get to know your connections at a personal level. But how do you do that when you don’t know them? You can start by looking to connect with people that you have something in common with.

It’s far easier to build a relationship with someone who shares similar things with you such as the city you live in, companies you’ve both worked with, universities you both attended, or common hobbies or interests.

LinkedIn and even Google’s search feature allows you to narrow down potential connections based on these commonalities. You can also seek people out in groups that match your interests.

So start there and make a concerted effort to get to know, like and trust other people. You never know where those connections might lead you.

I’d love to hear what you think – are you active on LinkedIn or are you having a hard time getting going with it? Share your thoughts in the comments section or if you have a question, I’d be happy to answer.

To your success,

P.S. New to online marketing or you find it overwhelming and confusing? Check out Social Blast: eMarketing for Entrepreneurs. It’s a monthly group coaching program for those just starting out or wanting more advanced strategies to help with their online marketing and social media efforts.
CLICK HERE: www.usocialblastcoaching.com

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

Website Neglect: How To Go From BUST to BOOM

Website Neglect: How To Go From BUST to BOOM

7 Vital Website Updates To Achieve Better Business Success

How long has it been since your website’s home page has been updated with fresh new text and images?

How about your blog? Has it been months? Years even since your last entry? Do you even have a blog?

What about the last time you sent out a newsletter to your list?

If you now have a strong urge to click the delete button due to the sudden guilt pangs that just hit you, hold off on that temptation… instead keep reading to find out why those questions are so important…

Your Website Doesn’t Have To Be A BUST

Over the years I have spoken to a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners who, for one reason or another, have pretty much abandoned their website. Well, maybe abandoned is too strong of a word, let’s say they’ve neglected it badly…

Either they lost contact with their original web developer, don’t have time to deal with it, or simply don’t know that it needs to be looked after in the first place! Some even have told me they’ve given up on the whole thing; it’s been a bust because they hardly got any business from it.

If that at all describes you, don’t abandon ship! read this article instead…

Before diving into the 7 key website considerations, it’s important to remember that your website is NOT a brochure.

It was never meant to be built and forgotten about. Not if you expected it to get you an ongoing and sustainable influx of clients and new business.

So before you neglect your website any further and end up losing business to your competition, here’s seven reasons why it’s vitally important to keep your website updated plus what you can do now to get it back on track:

  1. Your website is your most primary marketing piece for your business. Period. This is due to it being accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It never takes a holiday and is never not seen by anyone who visits it.
     
    Ask yourself what impression others are getting if they visited your site right now? Sometimes this requires a very objective look because you may be too close to it to truly understand that impression.
     
    Does it look old and outdated? Are the images used not a very good representation of your business any longer?
     
    You want your website to give an accurate and favourable impression to not only your prospective clients, but also to your current clients so they can trust and believe that your business is in good shape.
     
    The bottom line is that for the majority of you, your website IS your brick and mortar building for your target market to get an insight into who you are and what you’re about. Ask yourself this, would you ever not spruce up, modernize and refresh a real brick and mortar storefront?

  2. Google and other search engines will only love your site if there’s something new to index.  If it detects that nothing has changed since the last time it indexed your website, then it will downgrade it in the search results.
     
    This is a critical point – you don’t want to get poor search result rankings or your prospective clients won’t be able to find you when they do a search for someone in your industry.
     
    Along the same line, search engines are only going to display your website in the search results if you have the right keywords placed within its text.
     
    Don’t ignore website SEO and at least occasionally change your keywords to match what your ideal client is looking for is very valuable so they will find your site easier when searching for products or services that match their needs.

    You will in fact be penalized by Google for having stale content. Remember this one important thing: Google loves change!

  3. Prospective clients can tell if a site has been left stranded and will immediately get the impression you are either out of business or are not attentive enough to bother updating it.
     
    Either way, they have formed a negative impression on you and the credibility of your business.
     
    No one wants to do business with a failing company and if your website looks like it’s been abandoned, that’s exactly the impression your prospective clients will get.
  4. If you have a newsletter signup box on your site but never or rarely send out a newsletter, this also gives the impression you are not on top of things and really don’t care about building your business.
     
    Newsletters are an excellent way to keep top of mind with the people who literally put their hand up and said, ‘Yes, I want to hear from you!’
     
    Send out regular newsletters and skyrocket your visibility with the people who are ready and waiting to do business with you.
  5. Your website no longer accurately depicts your business direction anymore. Every business goes through an evolutionary process and it’s critical your website stays current with your product or service offerings.
     
    If you find yourself telling people, “oh sorry, my site doesn’t actually say anything about that particular service…” or “I don’t offer that any longer”, think about what kind of message is that person is getting about how well you run a business. Think about it.
  6. Your website looks like it was created in the 90’s. Yes, even sites we designed several years ago are looking old and outdated.
     
    Avoid your site looking old by giving it a fresh redesign; otherwise, it looks like you don’t care enough about your business or about technological advances to keep it up to date.
     
    Keeping your website looking modern will improve your credibility and will give the impression you are attentive to the success of your business.
     
    Not only that, but mobile-friendly websites are a must now and if yours does not display properly on a smart phone or is teeny tiny to look at, you are most certainly turning away valuable sales because it’s not easy for your prospective customers to see your offerings.
  7. Along the same lines as the look of your site being old, so can the technology and coding used behind the scenes to build it.
     
    Old technology and outdated plugins can create many problems
     including security threats and costly programming to work around the old scripts and code if new features need to be added.
     
    Often it is more cost effective to re-develop your website than to continually patch the security holes and do programming workarounds that can be precariously unstable as soon as the next version of web browser comes along.

If you’re wondering if any of the above is applicable to you, then ask yourself if your website is performing the way it was intended.

Are you getting sufficient leads? Are people finding your website and signing up for your newsletter to get them into your marketing funnel? Is your conversion rate high enough to continually bring in new leads and sales?

If not, it’s a sure sign to take a close look at your “busting” website and have a talk with your web developer about ways to get it up-to-date so that it can provide you with the results you desire.

Your website can be a constantly evolving, powerful business tool if you give it proper attention.

It’s important to view it as an integral part of your marketing collateral so that it can work IN your favour instead of against it.

It can be as exciting, innovative and interactive as you want it to be, all you have to do is ask; the technology is available to create an amazing marketing piece for you like never before!

Taking an objective look at your website as it is now, is it time to update it or even give it a fresh new look? If you’re not sure, leave a comment below and I’ll take a look!

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

Entrepreneur eTip: Building Consistent Leads Using Newsletters

Today’s eTip is about incorporating newsletters into your regular marketing schedule.

Listen to today’s 1 minute tip to find out how important sending out consistent newsletters is and the benefits you’ll reap by doing so.

For many years, newsletters fell to the bottom of my priority list. I was lucky if I got a newsletter out every 3 or 4 months. Looking back, I was practically wasting my time.

Back then, I was missing the whole point of newsletters. And if you’re thinking the point of them is to sell something to your list, keep listening because that’s not what they’re here for!

Newsletters offer a way to share advice and build your credibility and expertise about your industry in your followers eyes.

More importantly, it’s a means to touch bases with the people who put their hand up and said, “Yes, I want to hear from you.” By sending consistent newsletters to your list, you are essentially reminding those followers of who you are, what you do and to remind them to keep you in their sights for when they do need your product or services.

Selling should be the last thing on your mind with your regular newsletters. Instead, offer great value that you know your followers will find useful and you will naturally get leads who respond that are interested in your service offerings when the time is right for them.

I’d love to hear what you think – do you have a newsletter that you send out regularly? Or is your list laying dormant, with months in between sendouts? Share your thoughts in the comments section or if you have a question, I’d be happy to answer.

To your success,

P.S. For more tips on how to make your website get you the results you’re looking for, sign up for my free guide today. CLICK HERE: www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

Understanding the Decision-Making Process for Ideal Outcomes

Understanding the Decision-Making Process for Ideal Outcomes

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

The business world is full of them. The question is how do you make them?

Maybe the more important question is, how you make them in a manner that is positive for your business and you.

As a lawyer and a mediator, I must advise clients or guide them through the decision-making world every day, for they usually realize that in difficult matters of law or negotiation, outside advice is highly valued.

Decisions are based on analysis and application of analysis to our particular inclinations.

Do we want to make money, prove a point or respect a principle? Once we understand the process, better decisions can be made.

Star Trek the next Generation is the perfect metaphor for this type of situation. Captain Jean Luc Picard standing tall on the bridge in a tricky situation often called out to his first officer, “Number One –options.”

Advice is important, maybe even vital.

People say to me all the time, “I want to sue that person or company because they did…” The technical analysis would be, did they do anything which would allow you to have a civil lawsuit? Is there a cause of action?

Then, consider other factors that may be relevant: Do I want to be involved in a long lawsuit or is there a more mature and rewarding way of rectification?

Other ingredients that get in the way of good decision making:

  • Ideology
  • Taste
  • Short term considerations
  • Long-term considerations

The subjective influences of others that are influential on how we approach these questions is another ingredient.

We may be influenced by those we know, like or even dislike.

Decisions are complex and what is important for you may be immaterial to me.

Emotion, love it or hate it has a huge influence on decision making. Taking action while dealing with the biological effects of temper will certainly influence what you do.

I’m not saying that temper is wrong for it may help you escape from the malaise of indifference but I am saying that it must be managed.

E-mail responses are one of the best examples of this.

They are particularly dangerous because they leave a written trail. However, so can phone messages. I am working today on a matter where phone messages were e-mailed to me.

The important thing to consider is the impact and the permanency of your decision.

My advice would be to gather all information, formulate it in your mind and then consider the cognitive and intuitive signals that take you in a certain direction.

As a lawyer, I always stress considering options before problems occur for foresight avoidance is easier than extrication from a legal mess.

However, once you must determine a course of action, weigh up the reasons for a particular decision and consider its impact on various aspects of your business life. It may concern the returning client and therefore relations need to reflect this.

On the other hand you might be trying to make a point for other clients, so burning the bridges with one may not be negative.

So make your decisions, make them well and listen to the advice of those who are wise between the ears.

About the Author, Bryce Jeffery

Bryce Jeffery

Bryce Jeffery has practiced law in BC for 28 years and been a commercial mediator for the last 14. Situated in Langley, he practices under the title, MB JEFFERY LAW and concentrates on conveyancing, mortgages, and wills and estates. Bryce's mediation practice makes him the most travelled mediator in BC with frequent stops throughout the interior, the north and Vancouver Island. He is also the author of Commercial Mediation, A Passionate Practice.

Visit his website at www.mbjlaw.ca to see how he can assist you and your business.


A Newbie’s Guide to Hashtags on Social Media

A Newbie’s Guide to Hashtags on Social Media - Tips, Explanations and Examples on How to use Hashtags for your Business

Tips, Explanations and Examples on How to use Hashtags for your Business

If you are new to social media you may wondering what hashtags are about.  We see them everywhere – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and even Tumblr.

But what are they supposed to do? Why do they seem so random? Who is supposed to use them?

It’s no wonder this all can seem very confusing!

That’s why I’ve put together some tips to help you understand what the heck hashtags are and how to use them strategically in your business.

What are #Hashtags

Hashtag keyword exampleBasically hashtags help people find stuff and share stuff. They are like an organizational tool for social media.  They are a way to make it easier for people to find posts on a given topic as long as those posts use the same hashtag that is being searched for.

Hashtags are where given words are prefaced with the keyboard pound hashtag sign: #. One or more words can be used if the hashtag and keyword(s) have no spaces in between them. Once added to a social media post, the hashtag phrase becomes searchable and clickable.

For an example M&Ms just unleashed a new Pumpkin Spice flavored candy for Fall.  Starbucks is also promoting their Pumpkin Spice latte. If you go into Twitter and type #PumpkinSpice in the search feature, it will pull up a list of these and other Pumpkin Spice related posts.

Why Use #Hashtags

When done properly and strategically, hashtags are a great way to gain more exposure for your business. Here are a few examples how:

  • Knowing popular hashtags for your industry and adding them to your posts can help you get traffic to your blog or website.
  • Searching hashtags helps you do research on topics, spy on your competition, and discover great content.
  • Adding hashtags can help brand yourself, your business, your products, and gain you recognition.
  • Promoting specific hashtags for a live event can gain community amongst your attendees and followers.

And some people use hashtags just for fun or to make a point.  My favourite is #ChocolateIsSacred and have used it more than once!

Read more below about strategic ways to use hashtags in your business.

When Hashtags Were First Created

Twitter created the #hashtag feature on June 1, 2009.  All Twitter hashtags (words with the # sign in front of them) became hyperlinks to discover more tweets pertaining to that subject.

Other social networks soon followed such as Facebook in 2013, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram. Some networks like Google+ and Instagram have embraced hashtags with a fury where Facebook still lags at bringing this feature into mainstream usage.

In fact, not long ago I conducted a very informal survey about the use of hashtags on Facebook and many said they had no idea what they were, others thought they were spammy and cluttered up their newsfeed and most all never clicked on them. Indeed, the only people who were using hashtags were either marketers or social media managers!

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used… as you’ll see there are plenty of reasons to incorporate them into your social media strategy.

Rules for Hashtag Use

Different platforms have different official and “unwritten” rules about using hashtags. Here’s a few to be aware of:

  • Sentence case doesn’t matter, but you can use it to improve readability like: #SecretStarbucksMenu.
  • You can’t use special characters such as dashes, asterisks etc.
  • Do not get spammy.  Three or less hashtags is perfect.  Use too many and it can be considered hashtag spam.
  • Avoid having your Twitter or Instagram posts automatically send to Facebook when you tend to use a lot of hashtags. This is a real turn off for those on Facebook.
  • Research a hashtag before using it.  An existing hashtag may be used for something else that you don’t want to be associated with or draw attention to.

15 Strategic Examples On Using Hashtags in Your Business

Just like knowing the best keywords of your industry and optimizing your website content to include them in order to be found in search engines, hashtags can also be used to help you get found in social media.

It’s important to create Hashtags for:

  1. Events you are holding.  For example the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver just ended for another year and throughout their Twitter campaign, they used #TheFair hashtag as seen in this example below.


  2. Tagging famous people or big companies who are mentioned in a post. For instance, #ElvisPresley results in hundreds of posts about the King of Rock and Roll.
  3. Posts related to trending topics. Author and Spiritual Teacher Wayne Dyer recently passed away.  The hashtag #ripdrwaynedyer was created to tap into the social searches for news relating to his passing.


  4. Doing research.  For example, if you were doing research on the latest news for our upcoming Canadian Federal election, do a Hashtag search using #CanadianElection2015 to find several posts on the subject.
  5. Product promotion. Creating a special hashtag for your brand or product can help you gain a fan base. Creating a hashtag for your book or movie can help get traction and turn it into a trending topic.  
     
    For example, We use our own #SocialBlast hashtag to help brand our online Social Media and Online Mareketing membership program, Social Blast, as seen in this example post below.

  6. Humour. People also use hashtags as a way to share funny stuff with others and have a good laugh. Here’s a hashtag used by late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon describing his friend’s car and going on a road trip with him.

  7. Popular Industry Topics. If you see a post on a popular industry topic, by adding that same hashtag to a post you create will help you be discovered by others looking for content on that hashtag.
     
    Here’s a post we have pinned for a blog article of ours to remind people of the importance of having a Smart Phone friendly website using the hashtags #webdesign, #mobileready, #business and #entrepreneur:


  8. Campaigns.Lots of people “monitor” certain hashtags. So using a hashtag consistently can help you gain a following. For example Nike held a series of promotions using the #nikezoom hashtag.

  9. Live Chats. Chats offer businesses the ability to connect to their customers, extend their reach and awareness. If you have a live chat on a certain topic, creating a hashtag can help you attract people to attend.
     
    For Example #BeTheOne is a monthly chat about inspiring people to make a difference through personal leadership that infuses integrity, dignity and character.
     
    Here’s a list of Twitter Chats you can attend: http://tweetreports.com/twitter-chat-schedule/
  10. Tap into Trending topics. Including a trending hashtag in your post can increase the overall reach. Ritetag is a great tool to help identify trending hashtags to use. It allows you to search 11 million hashtags to see what’s hot or not, has a long life, is overused, and underused.
     
    That way you can select the best hashtags to reach your audience.
  11. Company or Personal Name. Gain recognition by creating a company tag like #Apple and #stephenking.
  12. Quotes.  If you share quotes, hashtags will help you be found.  Some top ones to use are #motivationalquotes #inspirationalquotes and #quotes. Look at the use of hashtags in one of our recent Twitter posts.  Every topic relating to the quote has its own hashtag.


  13. Recurring post themes. For example you may post a #photooftheday, #followfriday or #throwbackthursday for daily or weekly recurring posts.   We use #eTip as a daily theme where we share tips on various subjects entrepreneurs utilize in their business.

  14. Gaining blog readers. Using a hashtag on Pinterest pins can drive readers back to your website or blog. When someone clicks on a hashtag of yours most of the results that are shown on Pinterest link back to related blog content.
     
    Note that these results are somewhat different than what you would find in Twitter. Where Twitter displays results in chronological order, Pinterest displays in popularity.
  15. Research your competitors. Follow hashtags your competitors use to do market research and keep up on their latest news.

Hashtags are a lot of fun once you get the hang of it you’ll be hashtagging with the best of them.

Make a point to create and use hashtags for your social media and don’t be afraid to create your own unique ones like what we did with #SocialBlast and #eTip (even though others now use it too and that’s ok!)

It’s a great way to tap into a base of hot prospects interested in what you have to share. Jump in, Try Hashtags Today!

What’s your take on using hashtags? Do you use them in your business social media marketing? As a user, do you find them useful or spammy?

To your success,

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

Entrepreneur eTip: How to Avoid Turning Off Potential Clients

Today’s eTip is about how your website affects your potential leads

Listen to today’s 1 minute tip to find out how your website could be turning off qualified leads and what you need to know about the importance of having a brand identity.

Many new entrepreneurs aren’t very aware of branding and this can be their biggest obstacle they face in attracting qualified leads and paying clients.

Why? It’s because of the perception potential clients have of you the moment they visit your website, see your social media profile or even see you in person.

You only have a few seconds for people to decide if they will find you credible or not and since your website is your primary marketing platform that you have, it’s imperative that your visitors get the best impression of you and your business instantaneously.

And that all happens through defining your brand identity and having a website that accurately reflects that brand.

If your site visitors are turned off by an amateurish looking website that is representing your business, they most certainly will not be interested in doing business with you.

Or what could happen is you will be giving off the impression that you offer low prices just by the way your website looks and you will end up getting leads expecting to pay low prices.

Have you built your own website in hopes to get something up quickly and cheaply? If so, as proud as you might be with your accomplishment, take a critical look at how OTHERS are perceiving you and your business when they visit it.

Are they getting the feel that you are professional? Experienced? Offer high Quality? Or are they seeing a poor and cheap representation instead and just the opposite is happening?

I’d love to hear what you think – do you think websites play an important role in your potential client’s perception of you? Share your thoughts in the comments section or if you have a question, I’d be happy to answer.

To your success,

P.S. For more tips on how to make your website get you the results you’re looking for, sign up for my free guide today. CLICK HERE: www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".

9 Self Publishing Do’s and Don’ts You Need to Know

9 Self Publishing Do’s and Dont’s You Need to Know
Congratulations! Your book is finally done. Years of blood, sweat and tears have finally come to this. Now comes the big question, what next? After careful research, you’ve decided that self-publishing is the route you wish to take, but unfortunately you aren’t sure exactly what all that involves. Not to worry, we are here to help. Here are some self-publishing do’s and don’t’s.

Self-publishing Do’s

  1. Do know that self-publishing is a business.
    It’s so much more than putting your company name on the cover of the book. Go into it knowing this.
    That means you have to know things such as how to get an ISBN number, the requirements to get on Amazon, how much marketing will be involved, etc. And speaking of ISBN numbers, yes you do need to get one for each of your books.If you have an ebook and a paperback, they require their own ISBN.
  2. Do have a clear goal for your book.
    Do you want to only sell books or do you want to use your book to help your speaking career or business consulting?Very important. Once you know what you hope to accomplish, you will be better equipped to do so. This is especially true with self-publishing because honestly, you control everything and get to steer the ship how you want it.

    That’s one of the best parts of having that control. You get to decide what you want to do and can make sure you work in that direction.

  3. Do figure out the formatting for your book and stick to it.
    This avoids the typesetting nightmare that happens when you change from a 6 x 9 to an 8 x 11 format or something similar.Go to the bookstore and explore your section of books (i.e., business books, romance, etc.) to determine what format would be best for your book. And, of course, review where you are going to get it printed to see if they have any recommendations.
  4. Do develop a great website to sell your book and don’t just rely on selling on Amazon.
    You want people to be able to connect with you long afterwards. This leads to more speaking and media opportunities down the road, as well as more sales for your other products or services.And don’t forget to have a way for your readers to connect, leave reviews, find you on social media, and more.
  5. Do remember the importance of marketing. With published books, you might have the first few months of their expertise, but often times that amounts to a press release sent to a targeted database and a few reviews.Create a marketing plan and work on ways to accomplish it. Know that the work starts well before the book is completed and continues on from there.

    Just a few of the marketing you should be considering are:

    • Writing a press release and sending to targeted databases;
    • getting book reviews;
    • planning a book launch both online and live;
    • doing a blog tour and blogging yourself;
    • creating a social media plan and following through with it;
    • setting up your newsletter (with a great free offer) and an auto-responder series to stay connected;
    • Facebook or Google ads;
    • securing radio or TV interviews;
    • etc.

    Now, rinse and repeat monthly and watch your sales skyrocket!

Self Publishing Don’ts

  1. Don’t look unprofessional.
    Remember your book is also your brand. From the book cover to your social media and website, you want it to represent the best you.So often readers will run from a terrific book just because it looks so unprofessionally done or they see the website and it reeks amateur.

    Don’t let that happen to you. If you need help in an area, get it. That includes editing as well.

  2. And speaking of editing, yes you want to have your book professionally edited even though Aunt Sally is really good at English and she has read it for you.I can’t emphasize this enough. When a reader sees constant errors or even a few typos, they immediately lose a little respect. And watch for common mistakes, such as putting the punctuation outside of quotes instead of inside.

    If you can’t afford to have it professionally edited, consider an edit review. Many editors will do a quick review and give you some thoughts on consistent mistakes they see.

  3. Don’t spend your money unwisely.
    Yes, it would be awesome to have 5,000 copies of your book and you’re sure you will sell that many in a few months. However, that is rarely the case.Even if you get a lower rate, chances are your garage is going to have a couple thousand of books for the next year or so. Just be smart. Not saying not to have a supply on hand, but consider your options.Also, know many places now print on demand for each order. Just find out what is right for you. Plan too for all your expenses. Yes, you want to have a marketing budget, but know what that looks like for you and budget accordingly. Don’t count on book sales for this budget.
  4. Don’t announce you self-published when it’s not necessary.
    Now that self-publishing is so recognized and accepted today, there is no need to lead with that fact in your marketing.No need to hide the fact that your book is self-published at all, but you don’t need to waste valuable space emphasizing it.

    For example the title of a press release, mentioning that it is self-published adds no value. Same with the subject link of a pitch that is going out.

Self-publishing a book is challenging, exciting, thrilling, and then downright overwhelming at times.

Be prepared for the gamut of emotions involved. And don’t fret, that is normal.

Just remember, not everyone can say they are an author and have written a book. Be proud of that on a daily basis and take it all a step at a time enjoying the journey.

Hopefully these tips will help!

About the Author, Diana Ennen

Diana Ennen

Diana Ennen, President of Virtual Word Publishing, www.virtualwordpublishing.com offers PR and Marketing services and PR and Virtual Assistant Coaching. She's the co-author of Virtual Assistant - The Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA.

Sign up for her PR Tips at her site and email her at diana@virtualwordpublishing.com to receive her "pitching the media audio" from her PR Success Classes.


How to Determine Who to Hire To Be Your Next Ideal Web Developer

How to Determine Who to Hire To Be Your Next Ideal Web Developer - Critical Benefits and Drawbacks You Need to Know About Different Web Developer Types

Critical Benefits and Drawbacks You Need to Know About Different Web Developer Types

I get asked to do website estimates a lot and sometimes it’s downright heartbreaking to hear about the struggles and challenges entrepreneurs and business owners face when trying to find the right web developer.

Too many times I hear about people who feel they were ripped off by their previous webmaster and are very reluctant to hire someone new for fear of the same thing happening again.

Some of these people decided they better do all the work themselves, struggled terribly trying to literally learn a whole new profession. They end up calling me out of sheer frustration that nothing is working and things are worse off than before.

One time I was having a conversation with someone on a completely unrelated topic and he asked me what I did, when I responded he blurted out, “I hate web developers.”

I cringed.

I’m sure this happens in every industry where there are people who are really great at what they do, some who do enough to get by, and some who only THINK they know what they’re doing!

The web development industry is no different.

If you are unhappy with your current web developer or are in the process of finding someone that you can trust and depend on to fulfill your web development needs, this article will provide some valuable tips that will help you find the perfect complement to your team.

The first thing to get clear on is exactly what kind of help you need.

There are many different types of “web developers” out there and making the wrong choice can be very costly. So be sure you understand “who” you are hiring first and then your selection process will be much easier from there.

Here are four common types of web developers:

  1. The WordPress VA (Virtual Assistant)

    This person has figured out WordPress pretty well. They know how to install a WordPress theme (either free or purchased) and can make some modifications to that theme to help match your brand colours. They will have a good understanding of what plugins are available to match your needs as well.
     
    Benefits: Usually hiring someone for this work charges less per hour than a fully qualified web developer. Putting together small-sized sites are their specialty.
     
    Drawbacks: Often Worpress is all that they know and rarely do they know HTML or CSS to customize your website for any extra bells and whistles that you want to have.
     
    Often purchased themes are so rigid that even moving an element from one part of the page to another is impossible to do with this type of limited knowledge.
     
    When to hire them: You would want to hire a WordPress VA when you are not interested in a fully branded/customized website. You realize that any customization options are limited and you basically get what the theme preview shows aside from some colour, text and image changes.
     
    You would also want to make this choice if you are already well versed in marketing strategy, copywriting, and branding and can simply tell your VA what needs to be done. Anticipate them having limited knowledge in some or all of these areas.

  2. The Programmer

    This person is what I lovingly call a “techno geek”. We have a few of these people on our team and we would not be able to be as successful as we are without them!
     
    The Benefits: They know programming inside and out. They live, eat and sleep programming.
     
    The Drawbacks: They can most definitely build you a fully functional website, no problem. But don’t expect it to look pretty! Branding, copywriting, design layout and marketing are rarely found in their list of skillsets.
     
    You will probably need to hire someone else to help with those areas if you are not fully versed in them yourself.
     
    When To Hire Them: You would want to hire a developer of this caliber if you have a complex website in mind that needs to be customized to fit your needs. Whether it’s an eCommerce engine, membership site or a database-driven tool, a fully trained and experienced programmer is your best bet.

  3. The “All Round” developer

    This again is a single person who has built enough websites to have a pretty good understanding of the bigger picture. They are what is called “a Generalist” where they have enough skills to be able to design and develop a decent website.
     
    The Benefits: Having one person have knowledge in the different areas needed for web development is a big plus.
     
    Usually this person has enough programming acumen to be able to handle most customizations and challenges that come up and will not need a plugin for every functionality (which will bog down your site’s performance).
     
    They also are knowledgeable enough about branding and visual design that your site visitors will enjoy the experience of being there.
     
    The Drawbacks: Even though they may appear to know a lot about web development, it’s impossible for one person to be really good at everything. It’s rare to find a really good designer also be a good developer (they do exist but they are a rare breed.) So you will still need to be, or have someone else on your team who is, well versed in online marketing and copywriting to help offset any weaknesses the person you hire has.
     
    When To Hire Them: If you are lucky enough to find someone who has these skillsets AND is dependable, then you will have a great asset on your team. You will need to be aware of what their limitations are so that you can offset those areas with other people on your team.

  4. The Web Development Agency

    There several different types of web development agencies and for the sake of this article, I’ll focus on the kind that eVision Media is, a boutique web development and digital marketing agency. (If you’re looking for a big name agency that only multi-billion dollar corporations use, you wouldn’t have read this article to this point anyway!)
     
    The Benefits: A boutique web development agency is not a one-man show. They are a team of professionals who can offer, as a collective group, all of the different areas of expertise that your business needs from a marketing perspective.
     
    These areas generally include:

    The other big benefit to using a web development agency is that they are very knowledgeable in your brand, your positioning and the message that you want convey to your ideal clients.
     
    With every request you give them, they will already know what is needed and can discuss options with you to create something for you that is a perfect fit for your needs.
     
    This avoids you from having to know what is needed yourself and also have to ensure other people on your team remain consistent with your brand message and design so you can focus more on what you do best.
     
    The Drawbacks: Depending on who you find, the price point might be outside of your budget. Do your research: ask for and talk to referrals to help you decide if they will deliver what they promise. If they have a good reputation for being on time and on budget, then the extra costs will balance out in the long run.
     
    When to hire them: Hiring a boutique web development agency can be one of the best things you can do as a new business. Doing this will assure that your new venture will get going on the right foot right off the bat. You will save a lot of time and money in the long run if you make this initial business investment.
     
    If you already have an existing business and website but are ready to step up to the next level, this is the time to bring in an agency that can help you with not only the “doing” but also the strategizing to ensure you get to where you want to be without wasting a lot of time, money and energy.
     
    You will also want to look for an agency when you want someone on your team for ongoing, consistent support. After your website is built, you will want someone you can contact at any time for website updates, creating new campaigns, doing SEO work etc.

My final piece of advice is to be sure you do your research on who you approach. You want to find someone with experience and skill who will partner with you to help you build your business.

Unless this is what you’re looking for, you want to avoid programmers and developers who only do exactly what you tell them. Having someone who can offer ideas and suggestions and be a part of your team to be a valuable resource when needed may be more ideal for you.

References are very important in this industry: Always ask to talk to their clients to see what their experience was working with the developer.

Be aware of those that claim to be developers when in reality, all they learned was how to use a “do it yourself” software like WIX or Weebly.

The quality of your website – both in design and in how it is coded – is very important on many levels. Ensure the person you hire understands how to design and build a quality product for you. Otherwise, you will most likely be faced with going through the whole process again in a short period of time once you realize your site is doing you more harm than good by turning off your potential clients instead of attracting them!

About the Author, Susan Friesen

10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum ResultsSusan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

Visit www.ultimatewebsiteguide.ca and grab your FREE "Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Website's Profitability - 10 Critical Questions You Must Ask to Get Maximum Results".