Responsive Web Design

These days it’s hard to know what type of device your visitors might be using to access your website, let alone what size their screen will be. The sheer amount of screen sizes and resolutions available is enough to make your head spin. That’s where responsive web design comes in! In this article, we will explore responsive web design, why it is important, and the benefits of having a responsive website. Let’s jump in!

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive Web Design is a combination of techniques that allow a website to adjust to the size of the screen on which it is being viewed. This means that if your website is accessed via a small smartphone screen, it will be the same site that appears on a laptop or desktop computer, but it will have adapted to the constraints of that particular screen size and reformatted itself to provide the best possible user experience. Whether you are using a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop or desktop computer, the web page contains all the same content and functionality.

As the web grows up, it becomes more evident that relevant, sharable content is the most important aspect of any website. Responsive web design is the best way to utilize limited screen real estate, as it allows for ease of access by embracing a “mobile first” approach. This provides a cohesive experience, no matter what device is being used to view it.

Why should a website be responsive?

There are many reasons to use responsive design when building your website, but all you need is one: One website, that is. With the implementation of responsive web design, there is no need to build a separate website for mobile users. Your website will simply adjust to whatever screen size and resolution with which it is being viewed.

Benefits of Responsive Web Design:

  • Responsive websites are accessible and functional across a multitude of devices.
  • There is only one URL for customers and potential customers to remember.
  • Updating just one website is much more efficient.
  • Google suggests responsive web design for SEO purposes.
  • Having access to your site, regardless of which device they are using, makes the user’s life easier, and happy customers are good for business.
  • Websites that are responsive have longer shelf-lives, and they save both money and time on management, support, and upgrades.
  • Regardless of the type of device a site is viewed on, the user experience will be better if it is consistent and optimized for any screen size.

Simply put, with no standard screen sizes or resolutions and constant changes being made, who knows where the market will go? Using responsive web design ensures that your website will be accessible and functional now, as well as in the future.

Card-based Web Design

One of the most versatile aspects of the responsive website movement are card-based designs. In general, cards are a small, rectangular space which contains easily digestible and sharable information. There is usually a border around the cards to separate them from each other and the rest of the content on the web page. Another way to separate cards from one another other is to give each one its own background color. These techniques will organize your content, as well as help the user understand your information and how to navigate your website. To find examples of card-based web design, you may not have to go any further than your favorite social network. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Google+ utilize card-based design layouts to provide a cohesive experience to millions of users. Here are some of the benefits of using card-based responsive design:

  • Cards contain concise, “bite-sized” pieces of information.
  • Cards are highly sharable on social sites, like Twitter and Facebook, and can have their own social sharing buttons, making them even more sharable.
  • Cards create a clean and organized website layout.
  • Cards can be interactive.
  • Cards are an organic way to get your visitors attention, making them a logical and convenient place for call-to-action buttons.

To wrap up, at present, responsive web design is the best way to ensure that a website is accessible and functional on an array of devices, with a myriad of different screen sizes and resolutions. If you have a website, it is in your best interest to make sure it is as accessible and sharable as possible, to the largest amount of users, no matter what device they use. Responsive web design will allow you the freedom and flexibility to design for nearly everyone on the web!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Principles of Progressive Enhancement

What Progressive Enhancement Is Not

To understand what Progressive Enhancement is, it may be easier to start with what it is not. You may have heard the terms “Progressive Enhancement” and “Graceful Degradation” in respect to web design and front-end website development, but they are not the same things. In fact, they are two solutions that endeavour to solve the same problem from opposite directions. Graceful Degradation was brought over to website design and development from the world of software development. In short, it is the practice of building a website for the most current, state-of-the-art browsers, while ensuring that it still performs its basic functions in older, less advanced browsers; therefore, degrading gracefully. You may be wondering, “what’s wrong with that?” It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? After all, you are thinking of the users whose technology is a bit behind and that’s pretty thoughtful! The answer is, there is nothing wrong with it…per se. There’s just a better way to do it, and it’s called Progressive Enhancement.

So, what is Progressive Enhancement then?

Way back in 2003, Steven Champeon coined the term and introduced the concept to designers at SXSW. Unlike its predecessor (Graceful Degradation), Progressive Enhancement focuses on user experience by creating content centered webpages for the least advanced browsers, building style and interactivity upon them, layer by layer, for the benefit of more advanced browsers. This ensures functionality, even in older and less advanced browsers that don’t support as many features. As you can see, the strategies are reversed. You’re starting out with a site that will be accessible and functional in even the lowest common denominator browsers, then in final stages of development, adding more features for the browsers that can handle the technology. In other words, Graceful Degradation concerns itself with the technology first, and Progressive Enhancement brings the focus back to the user. If content is king (and it always is), Progressive Enhancement just makes more sense because it builds style (or presentation) and interactivity (or behavior) around a firm foundation of content, which is the entire reason people visit websites in the first place.

Principles of Progressive Enhancement – Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated!

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): Content = Foundation

CSS (Cascading Style Sheet): Style = Presentation

JavaScript: Behavior = Interactivity

The goal of Progressive Enhancement is building a website, layer by layer, to provide the best possible user experience. You do this by creating separate files for your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, then simply linking your CSS file to the <head> tag of your HTML document:

<head>

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”style.css” />

</head>

And linking your JavaScript file to the very bottom of the <body> tag (preferably below the rest of your content):

<body>

<!– Content above, JavaScript below –>

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”script.js”></script>

</body>

The first layer of Progressive Enhancement is a solid foundation of HTML that structures your content and allows you to layer your presentation (style) and behavior (interactivity) on top. Utilizing this technique gives you the ability to build a highly functional website across a wide variety of web browsers and devices. The second layer is CSS and it creates the layout, style, and overall presentation of your website. It’s what enables you to display your content in a visually pleasing manner. The third layer adds behavior and interactivity to your site with JavaScript, and can make it a lot of fun for users to visit! See? It’s a pretty simple concept when you break it down. Make it functional first, then add all of the bells and whistles.

This enables you to write very clean, syntactically correct code. Keeping them in separate files not only helps you keep the languages straight in your mind, but also allows for faster loading, as browsers don’t have to parse through and read three different languages in the same file to render the page. It’s just a more logical, organized way to build a website. It also makes it easier to add the layers necessary to create style and interactivity. See how this puts the content at the forefront of the design, making the user the main focus? This is how it should be. Without content and users, what’s the point of having a website in the first place?

You can’t go wrong when you plan your website if content and user experience are always your priorities. After all, why do you have a website in the first place? To display your content; be it information, a service, or a product. Who do you want to visit your site? Targeted users. Why do they visit your site? The content. What will keep them on your website? The design. What keeps them coming back for more, aside from fresh content? The interactivity! Look at your CSS and JavaScript layers as what sets your content apart from other similar websites, and you will never go wrong!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Common Web Conventions

Like most industries, web design/development has a number of established conventions and standards. They assist in making websites more functional and user-friendly. In this article, we will define web conventions and standards, as well as discuss why and how you should follow them to make your own website more usable for your visitors and search engine robots. We will also examine the benefits of utilizing certain conventions. Let’s get started!

Define Common “Web Conventions” and Standards

When we talk about common “web conventions” in web design and development, we mean the standards the majority of designers and developers follow to make their websites more intuitive and user-friendly. They have become common conventions simply because they work and, as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” Users have grown accustomed to seeing specific web page elements in certain areas on a website. Though it can be tempting for a designer to challenge some conventions and flex their creativity, there are certain standards that can help improve user experience on your site.

Why should you follow web conventions and standards?

It is a good practice to follow some common web conventions and standards when building a website so your visitors will have an easier time navigating it. The main reason for following any established convention is that it works. After all, they cannot become conventions if users do not find them useful. When a number of sites find success using a specific type of navigation, for instance, others will follow suit and adopt a similar system. More websites adopting a certain convention means that users will learn to navigate them more efficiently. Furthermore, using conventions and standards can even help the user understand how to maneuver around a website that is not written in their native language.

Are there any web conventions that should never be broken?

There are a few web conventions and standards that probably should not be broken, unless you have a very good reason for doing so, and/or you really know what you are doing. It’s generally best to only break conventions when you have come up with a better way of doing something; thus, creating a new convention, are a large and already established brand, or you offer something that no one else offers. Here are a few web conventions most websites should really consider following:

  • Logos – generally positioned at the top left-hand corner of each web page so users have a reference point that will always remind them what site they are currently visiting.
  • Naming Conventions – help users intuitively know where they can find the information they need.
  • Global Navigation (main navigation bar) – should be located within the top 25% of your web pages (or occasionally on the left sidebar, although, I prefer to place secondary navigation there).
  • Link Styles – need to show users which text is clickable and most expect links to be underlined and/or a different color than the rest of the text, so avoid underlining words and using different colors on non-links.
  • Icons – should require little to no textual explanation, so be sure to use standard icon conventions that users are already familiar with (i.e. a shopping cart for a checkout page).
  • Visual Hierarchy – lets users know what content is most important with headings, bullet points, images, and other visual cues.

It’s also a good idea to make your content more “scanable” for human visitors. The vast majority of users will scan a webpage in an F pattern, and many others scan in a Z pattern. That is why it is important to put your main content and navigation in certain regions of your web page. Following are some tips for creating more “scanable” content:

  • The most important information should be presented within the first two paragraphs.
  • Use succinct sentences and concise paragraphs that are approximately 6-8 sentences in length maximum.
  • H1 headings should be short and make a strong first impression.
  • Use subheadings (i.e. H2, H3, etc.), images, and bullet points to break up text.
  • Make good use of white space to break up content in a visually pleasing manner.
  • Bold text is a great way to highlight areas of importance.

What are the benefits of following web conventions and standards?

There are two major benefits to using common web conventions in your website design: users and search engines. Both user and search engine friendliness are central to the overall success of your website. First and foremost, a website should be created with its users in mind. Then it should be optimized for the best possible search engine results. When you design your site utilizing the tips above, you are sure to create a familiar user experience, even for those who are first time visitors, and you are bound to convert some into repeat visitors, subscribers, paying customers, etc.

To conclude…

It is pretty simple to apply some common web conventions and standards that will increase your website’s usability without compromising its creativity. When you use techniques with which your users are already accustomed, it allows them to navigate your site with ease, while instilling a certain level of trust and boosting your own credibility. Only break tried-and-true conventions when you have a new way of doing things that actually works better than the old conventions do. Following these simple conventions will automatically improve user experience and help establish your website as an authoritative resource for users and search engine robots.

By: Danielle Dandridge

Organic vs “Black Hat” Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. The goal is to present the reader with an overview of Organic SEO, what it is, what it does, and the difference between organic and “black hat” SEO.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

It is pretty simple to define what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is and what it does. SEO is the process of optimizing a website for search engine friendliness. The proper utilization of SEO will cause a website to climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs) and keep it at the top. This is important because sites that rank the highest on SERPs are the ones that get the most targeted traffic. More targeted traffic means more sales, shares, inquiries, etc. for the site. Simple, right? However, the mechanics behind it are quite a bit more complicated.

Why Organic?

Not all SEO is created equal. I always feel it’s necessary to distinguish between Organic SEO and “black hat” SEO. “Black hat” SEO is the practice of using unethical or aggressive tactics that are against the search engine’s terms of service (ToS) to make a website rise rapidly in search engine rankings. 

Some of the most common “black hat” tricks include, but are not limited to: cloaking (showing different content to search crawlers than the users see), blog spamming (commenting on blog posts with links to the website using automation), link buying (purchasing links to your site from irrelevant websites), domain squatting (purchasing a valuable domain to advertise an irrelevant website), etc. In general, these methods can cause a website to skyrocket up the SERPs very quickly and are used typically by those who only need their website to rank for a short time. Using “black hat” methods will eventually, probably rapidly, get a website banned or blacklisted by search engines, so it just doesn’t pay in the long run.

In contrast, Organic SEO uses only tried-and-true methods to ensure a steady climb in search engine rankings that will last over time. It is in the best interest of legitimate businesses to choose the ethical, organic techniques that bring lasting results. It might take a little more time to see these results, but there will never be a concern about being penalized, or even banned, by any search engines.

What are the aspects of Organic SEO?

There are many components to successful Organic SEO. It is an art and a science, which includes both on-page and off-page elements, as well as a lot of time and effort. There are no shortcuts in Organic SEO. Examples of on-page SEO are content building using relevant keywords, title and META tag optimization. Off-page elements include legitimate link building (high number of valuable links that point to your webpages) and social-bookmarking. In conjunction, these and other ethical methods are powerful tools in promoting your web content.

Some of the current best practices include:

  • Create content for users first and search engines second;
  • Abide by all search engine rules and guidelines;
  • Keyword research;
  • Content and META tag optimization;
  • Image optimization;
  • Legitimate, organic, manual (non-automated) link building;
  • Search engine friendly page URLs;
  • Sitemaps.

Again, this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. Please do your own research for more complete and detailed information on how to develop your SEO strategy.

SEO is like so many other things in that it can be used in a positive or negative way. It all truly depends upon the practitioner. If the goal is a long-lasting campaign that will continually garner increased traffic and sales, Organic SEO is the way to go. Slow and steady will definitely win the race. The moral is, always create content with people in mind first to practice ethical, organic SEO.

Have your own suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments!  🙂

By: Danielle Dandridge

Top 10 Ways to Effectively Use Social Media

To follow my last revamped blog post, here is the updated version of its original companion article from back in 2010, which can also be found on shankarsoma : Social Media & Digital Marketing Trainer Blog.

Social media is a vital component in internet marketing, visibility, and branding. However, when done incorrectly, it can actually become detrimental to your company. Here are my top ten tips on how to use social media effectively.

Tip #1: Identify Your Purpose

Your social media strategy should be a stand-alone plan which requires nothing else to sustain it. Your plan should not aspire to improve your search engine rankings, as there aren’t usually many backlinks that come from it. Approach your social media strategy as if there were no such thing as search engines. Some things you may want to consider in identifying your purpose include:

  • Branding – Start building a strong brand for your company!
  • Exposure – Give your company and website some visibility!
  • Networking – Get involved in the community and make connections!
  • Customer Relations – Use social media to build good, solid customer relations by answering questions and becoming engaged!
  • Relationship/Trust Building – Leads are more likely to become paying customers/clients when they feel like they have a relationship with you and know they can trust you! (This is also how you become viewed as an authority in your field, which is another way to convert traffic and leads into customers and clients.)

Tip #2: Fresh, Consistent, Relevant Content

Make sure there is a high level of consistency in the content you share on social media websites. Consistency is important regarding frequent updates (fresh content), as well as in keeping with the purpose of your social media strategy. Consistency in your message and your branding also establishes relevance for SEO purposes.

For instance, if you are a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Consultant, provide quality tips on SEM and internet marketing, as well as useful articles, resources, and links. Try to link to (connect/contact/friend/follow) other members in your industry, or similar industries, like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or network marketing. This can assist you in achieving your branding ambitions and enable you to engineer your own company’s brand recognition, offering you some control over how you and your company are perceived. Your social media presence can help strengthen your company’s “webutation” (web reputation). Your online friends, business contacts, and followers should be able to give a brief description of what your company does. If they cannot, you may want to reevaluate tip #1 and reexamine the content you are sharing.

Tip #3: Concentrate on Content, Not Marketing

All too often, companies go about this the other way around. Allow your content to do the marketing for you by focusing on valuable, consistent, relevant information.

Liking, favoriting, bookmarking, etc. your own content can actually damage your credibility. It is better to write compelling content that your readers will give an unsolicited like, favorite, or bookmark. When people like what you’re saying, they will share it. When they do, search engines will take notice, so write something noteworthy, share it with your social networks, and let the rest happen organically.

It is also important to note here that begging for likes and/or follows is an equally bad practice. Not only is it unprofessional, but it is really annoying. Again, if your content is fresh and relevant, you won’t have to beg people to follow you, and your followers will like what you post.

Tip #4: Be a Valuable Asset

When you think of social media, place the emphasis on social. It is not called self-promotional media for a reason. Always keep that in mind when considering what to share with your social networks.

Posting nothing but self-promotional material will inevitably make you a part of the social media noise, and you will eventually be filtered out. Worse yet, you could be labeled a spammer, which is the fastest way to tank your webutation. Even if you don’t lose any contacts or followers, they will begin to skim your posts without even realizing it, or they may ignore you entirely. It is possible to mute accounts on certain apps, for example. Although, if you’re going to go to the trouble of muting someone, why not just unfollow them altogether? Avoid losing credibility, followers, and potential business by being an engaged and engaging member of the social media community.

Become a valuable asset in your niche. One example of how to do this is by posting links to resources and domains that are not your own. I don’t mean for you to post links to your own social media profiles and blogs, though doing so is perfectly fine, but mix it up with resources from other websites too. Be sure to share content from domains with which you are not associated, as well as your own. Believe it or not, you should attempt to befriend your competitors and even promote them. I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but interlinking and networking are very powerful tools!

Tip #5: The Client Always Comes First

Now that you’ve identified your purpose, contemplate what your client (or ideal visitor) is searching for. (Write for the audience you want.) Imagine your ideal, potential client distinctly in your mind, and consider what they may be perceiving through the information that you share. You want to make a good first impression on them, as they are the ones you want to attract to your website.

Tip #6: Get Involved and Build a Rapport

Participating in discussions, replying to forums and blogs, and asking for feedback (and responding to it) are all exceptional ways to get involved in the community and build a rapport with other members. This allows people to view you as a real person, instead of as a robot that does nothing but spam links. (If you’re going to post links, always ensure their relevance.) Other people will warm up to you and be more likely to become a friend, contact, or follower if you humanize yourself. Social media sites provide you the opportunity to show your personality, so use them to truly connect with your target audience.

Tip #7: Do Not Overshare

Of course you want to stay engaged and on your audience’s radar; however, resist the urge to post one thing right after another. Even if your content is relevant and engaging, oversharing can be viewed by followers in the same way as spamming nothing but self-promotional material. Give them enough time to really look at what you post. Curate your own content and that of your other resources carefully. Listen to your audience, and post more of what they want to see.

Another way to “overshare” is by sharing things that are of a personal nature. You want to humanize yourself without being too personal, especially if you have a business account. Keep your posts friendly, yet professional, and always relevant.

Tip #8: Start Linking to Your “Deep Links”

Everyone wants to link their public profiles to their website’s homepage, but deep links (or links that point to internal pages on your site or blog) provide depth and authority. Let’s assume that there are two identical websites. The one that has accumulated more deep links will be considered more relevant than the other. This method will also gain more exposure for your site in search engine results because your internal pages will begin to rank for relevant keywords and key-phrases.

Deep Links Tip: You may not want to share the link to your homepage with someone you meet on a business network or social media website. Think about linking to your “About Me” page (if applicable) in order to give a more personal introduction to your site, or try linking to your “Company” or “Services” page (if applicable) to give your visitors an overview of what your company does.

Tip #9: Link Deliberately With No Apologies

When someone “friends” you, follows you, or subscribes to your blog and/or updates on social sites, it is because they are interested in your most recent information, news, tips, resources, etc. If they should discover that they are not interested, they will simply stop following you, which is not a big deal. This is not a “popularity” contest (regardless of what some may think), as the “quality” of your followers is what matters, not the quantity of them! This is a way to syndicate and socialize with like-minded individuals in a professional and personable setting.

As with anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about hyperlinking to content and resources on social media websites. Here is the wrong way: “Read my blog!” or “Check out my site!” The correct way is achieved by sharing a helpful link (it can be your own, or something else of interest to your audience) and encourage a discussion about it. For example, if you are a SEO specialist, you could share a link to a Google article about their latest SEO standards and ask for your readers’ opinions on it. Since most of them will be in your industry or a related one, the article should be of interest to them, which should inspire some discussion.

Tip #10: Utilize Social Networking

In order to genuinely accomplish a successful social media strategy, you should engage in social networking. Replace the word “competitor” with “colleague” in your social media vocabulary. Other webmasters, companies, consultants, and individuals in your niche are your allies in the social media arena!

Make it a goal to locate as many of your new “colleagues” (who are on your level or within an acceptable range) and develop a key group of professional contacts. These are people with whom you can share/exchange links and even embark on joint ventures. Don’t view them as your competition anymore. Start exploring ways to leverage one another’s positions in the new marketplace!

By: Danielle Dandridge

Top 10 Social Media Mistakes

This post is a revisit to one of my old articles (can also be found on Sitemason.com). I have updated it a bit and am sharing it again because I think it has some good information that is still relevant on what-not-to-do in your social media campaign. Enjoy!

Mistake #1: Sporadic Updates

If you are only updating your social media profiles and networks occasionally, you are likely to lose followers and leads, as well as discourage your current customers/clients. It is so important to update all of your social platforms on a regular basis, without inundating your followers with irrelevant content and filler. Use status updates, graphics and images, interactive ideas (such as polls, surveys, events, and contests), and interesting information to engage your audience and keep them coming back to your profile or website. These are your returning visitors, and they are imperative to the success of your social media campaign.

Tip: Set aside a specific block of time each day to devote to your social media accounts.

Time Saving Tip: Connecting your social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, can help you save time by updating them simultaneously. There are also apps that allow you to schedule social media posts, so you can create them when you have time but schedule them to be posted to your account at a time when the majority of your audience is online. Hootsuite and Buffer are great tools for scheduling posts!

Mistake #2: Too Many Profiles

Many businesses mistakenly choose quantity over quality in this area. Creating profiles on ALL of the social networks can actually be detrimental to your social media strategy (unless you are a large corporation with an entire department devoted to social media). One reason for this is that not all social media sites will work for all businesses. You want to find the best ones for your particular business or niche, and be sure to be active in them. Having an overabundance of profiles to update and networks to engage in can be extremely overwhelming and almost guarantees sporadic updating (refer to number one above), because you simply won’t have enough time to be as attentive as necessary. Remember to leave yourself time to engage with your audience, as well.

Tip: Be selective. Join a handful of relevant social media websites that fit your company’s needs and engage your audience.

Mistake #3: Not Becoming Engaged

Ideally, you should make it a point to recognize and reply to every comment you receive on your blog posts, website, status updates, tweets, articles, etc. You want your profiles to engage your followers through comment replies. Ignoring the opportunity to engage and interact with your community is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in social media. Gone are the days of talking to your audience. They want you to speak with them.

Tip: Set up e-mail or push notifications to alert you to new comments and, if time permits, answer them as they come in. If not, try setting aside a certain amount of time each day to reply to your comments.

Mistake #4: Confusing “Marketing” with “Engaging”

Many small business owners feel that social media is not giving them the leads they need. However, this is not because the leads are not there. The reason for this is that these companies are attempting traditional marketing and sales strategies in the world of social media, instead of taking the time to listen to their audience and learn more about their needs. Your social media strategy should be more about providing information and establishing yourself as an authority in your field. Building your reputation in this way will translate to more leads, which will yield more sales.

Tip: Utilize consistent, relevant, fresh content to “market” your company. Your content should do all of your “marketing” for you. Make it a point to directly answer any questions your audience may have to help elevate you to expert status.

Mistake #5: Spamming or Excessive Promoting/Advertising

Many companies have become involved in spamming as a method of advertising. This tactic no longer works as internet users have become very savvy and learned to ignore and filter these messages without even looking at them. Be very careful when hiring an internet marketing agency because some of the self-proclaimed “experts” in this area simply launch spamming campaigns which are highly unethical and largely ineffective.

Tip: Obtain a marketing outline from the agency which illustrates their marketing strategy for your company, brand, services, and/or products before signing any contracts.

Mistake #6: “Generic” or “Stock” Avatar

Clients and potential clients alike can become suspicious of businesses that use the website’s stock avatar or profile picture. It can cast doubt about the credibility of the company. In addition, this is an indication that the company is not experienced with and/or knowledgeable about social media.

Tip: Use your company’s logo as your avatar on social media platforms that allow it. On websites which require an actual photo of the profile owner, use the best picture of yourself that you have. Make sure the photo is as professional as possible. Don’t use a grainy selfie!

Mistake #7: Not Having a Plan

A lack of planning, preparation, organization, and strategy will result in the failure of a company’s social media campaign. It takes more than simply launching a profile, blog, or social media presence to run a successful campaign. Appropriate planning and follow-up are integral to the success of any social media strategy.

Tip: First, identify your purpose and audience. This will make it easier to formulate a plan, prepare, organize, and strategize.

Mistake #8: Inconsistent Branding

It is important to ensure that your branding is consistent throughout all of your profiles on each of your social media platforms. The sheer amount of social media profiles that a company can set up can lead to multiple brand identities on multiple sites. This tends to confuse the audience, making it more difficult for them to find pertinent information. They may also become fragmented by this.

Tip: Stay consistent. Set up your first profile, making sure to be as detailed as possible, then use it as a guide when filling out subsequent profiles. Don’t necessarily use it word-for-word, but the guide will help you remember to include all of the most important information which plays a role in your company’s branding.

Mistake #9: Trying to “Measure” Social Media Impact

Since I first wrote and published this article, a couple of key things have changed. 1.) Social media analytics have become more accessible and accurate. 2.) With more social platforms offering (or planning to offer) a way to make purchases directly from their websites and/or apps, I suspect measuring return on investment (ROI) from these will become easier. However, there is still no surefire way to measure ROI from social media, as you don’t necessarily know who has made purchases because they saw a tweet, Facebook post, etc. Companies can come up with measurable goals, but they must realize that it is very difficult to attach a monetary value to user engagement or customer relations. Another aspect of business that is difficult to measure is customer retention, which social media can help increase.

Tip: Become engaged in the community. (Refer to number three above.) If you stay active, you will retain your audience/following.

Mistake #10: Giving Up Before You Have a Chance to Succeed

Some companies dabble in social media, not giving it the attention it deserves or requires, and then claim no ROI. Oftentimes, this is before they have even identified their audience and/or devised a strategy to meet realistic business goals. (Refer to number seven above.)

Tip: Select a few, highly targeted social media sites to join, develop a strategy, and jump right in. Get active and stay active. Be patient. It takes a little time to build an audience or following. (Refer to number two above.)

To Conclude…

There is little doubt that social media has become, and will continue to be, a powerful tool to grow your business. When used wisely, it will provide your audience with a way to interact and engage with your brand. It can also be leveraged to boost your reputation and establish you as an authority. Being considered a trusted expert in your field will help turn your audience into customers and clients.

By: Danielle Dandridge