What to Do When Your Online Reputation Takes a Hit

First and foremost when you are struck by negativity online:

keep-calm

The worst thing you can do right now is overreact and say something you may regret. Count to ten, shut down your computer, and make a strategyYou’ll want to have a plan before you do anything publicly.

First, how bad was it? Is it something that you can just let pass you by without comment at all? Will it blow over in a day? Would a quick apology mitigate any outrage?

Especially when the problem is a bad review (say, on Yelp), a brief but heartfelt apology to the writer can help to quell the disappointment of your customer, as well as the concern of onlookers who are trying to decide whether to give you their business or not.

Any apology or address of a grievance should be without fuss or qualification. If you supplement your apology with excuses and shirk blame, it will undo any good will you may have garnered. If you can’t make a straightforward apology, don’t do it at all.

Answer the most common questions. A crisis, especially one on the Internet, will come with a slew of misinformation. Find a place to provide answers to your audience’s questions so they are getting the actual facts right from the source – you. Be honest in your answers. If you can’t answer every question right away, acknowledge that your company is working on a solution.

Continue to be responsive on social media throughout the crisis. Consider this: if people are going to vent, wouldn’t it be better if it’s on your Facebook wall where you can respond and monitor the outrage? Your inclination might be to recede and stay away from public outlets, but giving the public a place to complain on your turf will ensure you retain a degree of control.

Make sure your employees are filled in on the plan. Hopefully your employees have the best interests of your company at heart, but they can’t act accordingly unless you let them know what you expect of them. When a social media crisis hits, you want to deliver a consistent message, so make sure everyone knows what’s up.

Avoid one-on-one arguments. Is one guy on Facebook giving you a lot of trouble? Respond to any one person a maximum of twice. Three times makes it an argument, and you’ve probably got other customers to focus on anyway. You can’t convince everyone, so don’t bring your situation down further by hashing it out with one headstrong guy.

Last and most importantly:

Remain calm, collected, and polite. You’re on damage control and the point is to redeem your business’s reputation, not ridicule or fight your customers. If they are angry, the best thing you can do is respond graciously. You’ll show them that your business’s character is strong, steady, and respectful.

Remembering Dave – Coffee, Innovation, and People

Dave's GEEKmemphis mug

Dave’s GEEKmemphis mug

I’m sipping a lukewarm cup of coffee while working on this post, and that seems very appropriate as Dave always had a cup of coffee in hand, usually in his GEEKmemphis mug. As long as it was filled with liquid that was remotely warm and resembled coffee he would drink it. He gave me a hard time because I like Starbucks and schedule meetings there when I can. I am admittedly a coffee snob, Dave admittedly was not.

My story with Dave started about six years ago when I met him at Social Media Expedition (now Interactive Expedition), one of the many groups Dave started. I was managing social media for a local company and wanting to connect with other social media folks in the community. Little did I know that it would eventually lead to joining the LunaWeb family. In 2011 I was looking for a new opportunity and connected with Dave since he knew everyone in Memphis. I asked him if would keep his ears open for opportunities. That conversation eventually turned into several job interviews with Dave and resulted in me coming to LunaWeb.

Since joining LunaWeb, I’ve worked with Dave on countless projects, participated in scores of brainstorming meetings, and taken numerous road trips; we were always talking about what was coming next. Working with someone day in and day out lets you learn a lot about a person. You see their strengths and weaknesses, their flaws and quirks. Part of what I really respected about Dave is that he didn’t pretend to be perfect and would admit what he wasn’t good at. But he was good at helping people. He poured into others and helped them innovate themselves. He poured into me and has helped me grow. He challenged my assumptions and encouraged me to think differently. I am a better man for having known him.

Dave’s love for tech, entrepreneurship, Memphis, and family are no secret – Twitter has been ablaze with people sharing their memories of Dave (#RememberDave) – it’s been pretty amazing. I saw his love for all these things while working with him on the GEEKmemphis board and in planning multiple TechCamps. Amazingly, he had as much energy everywhere else as he did in the office.  I don’t know how he found the energy to do everything he did – maybe it was the coffee.

Dave will be sorely missed.  He was a mentor and a great friend. I’m thankful for the time that I had to work with him and look forward to helping continue what he started 19 years ago. Rest in peace, friend.

-by Steve Phipps(@MemPhipps)

Heartbleed Vulnerability: Another Security Breach

The highly overused “BREAKING: … ” actually fit this week’s news of the discovered Heartbleed vulnerability.

Heartbleed

Earlier in the week, we used a couple of different verification tools to ascertain any exposure with any of our hosted certificates, found none, and notified our respective clients. It could have easily been that we had though, and this event is another reminder that absolutely nothing on the Internet is 100% rock-solid impenetrable.

However, we want to be sure you know that just because your website didn’t have the vulnerability, you’re not out of the woods. As users of the Internet, we’ll all need to go through the necessary hassle of changing your passwords on affected sites. But, since this is a recommended practice it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. For the next few months, the “forgot password” links are going to be the most popular around. As many of us are just getting over some hassles associated with the Target breach, this is an unwelcome activity.

Recent events like Target and the Heartbleed vulnerability, drive acceptance of more advanced security. After all, this whole password-thing is as old as knock-knock jokes. One increasingly popular security method is to use “Two-Factor Authentication” which requires the use of a second code generated in a variety of means (pre-established, SMS txt, or independent device, etc…). If your site offers it as an option, take it. It will become more of a standard; plus, it’ll keep your info much more secure.

Here are a few related links:

5 Ways to Boost Your Online Reputation

marketingOnline marketing is all about building a virtual identity that people can recognize, connect with, and even promote to their friends. Certainly any business wants their online identity to be regarded positively, but a marketing strategy that is too aggressive or not skillfully designed can come off as pushy or inept, resulting in less customer trust.

Obviously, you don’t want that to be you. Here are a few strategies to help your online reputation not only grow in terms of recognition, but in terms of trust and good will!

Be consistent on your selected social media platforms.
You don’t have to be on every social media site that exists, so don’t stretch yourself thin trying! Stick to the platforms you feel comfortable on, build a following, and then (and this is the important part) don’t abandon your fans/followers. It’s so frustrating for loyal consumers to commit to following your brand only to have you quit updating. Consistency on social media (whether you update once a week or once a day) will promote the idea that you’re not only communicating with your customers regularly, but that you’re generally reliable.

Respond to your fans and followers.
Social media is meant to promote conversation, not monologues, so don’t let your interactions be one-sided! Thank fans and followers for connecting with you online, respond to their comments, and even encourage conversation by sending out questions and requests for feedback. Your customer-base will appreciate that they’ve been given a chance to air complaints or (and you’ll find this is WAY more common) express their gratitude for your service.

Reach out to experts or connect with them online.
Engaging with a well-known authority in your business’s field can let people know that you are involved in your field’s development. Try following experts on Twitter and occasionally retweeting their best content. See if you can get one of them to do a guest post on your blog, or (even better) if you can write one for theirs. Even just connecting with experts on Facebook or LinkedIn can help promote consumer trust!

Use testimonials.
Yelp is so popular because people want to know what kind of experience previous customers had with your business. But you don’t need to limit testimonials to just review platforms! You can collect testimonials through your website, social media, or even just on a piece of paper at your store. Make sure that you have permission to reproduce the content, then spread the word through your social platforms or with a page on your website. And be sure to thank your reviewers for their kind words!

Edit, re-edit, and then edit one more time.
There’s nothing that will undermine your fantastic content and stellar customer service like typos and bad grammar, so proofread everything you put out! Editing isn’t just about spelling and punctuation, though. When possible, get a second opinion on your outgoing content to be sure it’s delivering the message you want. Never be snarky or sarcastic; it rarely reads well on social media. Your customers deserve your best effort, so give it to them!

How to Not Annoy Your Subscribers with Your Email Marketing

email-marketing-smaller

If you currently have an email address, you are almost certainly signed up to at least one subscriber list. For customers, these emails can be a fantastic way to easily receive information about your favorite businesses. However, there are certain pitfalls that can make these emails more spammy than interesting.

You definitely don’t want to your email marketing campaign to make these mistakes! To help you out, here are eight tips to lower your unsubscribe rate, improve your open rate, and even endear your company to your customers by respecting their inboxes.

Make it clear to customers that they are subscribing to your emails.
The only people who should be receiving your emails are those who wanted to in the first place. Do not automatically sign someone up for your emails because they bought a product or contacted support. Always ensure there is a checkbox that clearly lets people know they are opting-in to your email list.

Send a welcome email.
This will let anyone who didn’t mean to sign up know immediately so they can cancel. It’s also a great opportunity to let people know what they have in store if they don’t unsubscribe, or even better, offer them a coupon or special deal for their interest!

Don’t overload your readers’  inboxes.
The frequency of your emails will vary by industry, but most businesses would probably do well to stick to one or two emails per week. Very few companies would need to send more than one email per day, but if you fall into this category (and really think about whether you do, because such high frequency is a sure-fire way to get unsubscribers) at least space out the emails so there’s one in the morning and one in the evening. What you do not want is for someone to get another email when they haven’t even had a chance to open the first one.

Change your subject line every time.
If the title of each of your emails is “Latest News from XYC Company” then your emails are a lot easier to ignore time after time. Try changing the subject lines up to reflect the content they’ll find inside, especially if the email includes a deal or sale!

Play around with your send time.
The hour of day that your email goes out will affect your open rate for sure, but the only way to find out what works for your customers is trial and error. While keeping track of your open rates, try altering the hour your email goes out from morning to evening, weekends and weekdays to see what works best for your particular audience.

Consider not being a regular emailer.
Lots of email marketing tip lists will tell you to keep to an editorial calendar to be sure you send out your emails at the same time every single week. The idea is that customers will forget about you if you don’t reach out often enough. While this method may work for some businesses, it’s much more important for your emails to contain great content that your customers want to read. If that means one month you send three excellent emails, but only have enough interesting content for one email the next month, that’s okay. And it’s definitely preferable to sending empty content at the same time every week!

Test across multiple email clients.
This one is hard because there are tons of email clients and, like browsers, all of them use different rules for parsing and displaying your emails. A simple is always more likely to work in multiple clients, but there are also well-tested, more complex templates included in most services like MailChimp or Mad Mimi. You can also cross-test your emails with a premium service like Litmus.

Erase the term “email blast” from your vocabulary.
We hate this term! It implies that your email campaign is an impersonal assault on your customers, and we know you don’t really feel that way. Your emails should be tailored to your customers and considerate of their time and resources. Trust us, they’ll appreciate it!

Which Blogging Platform Should I Use?

why-wordpressGot something to write about? Awesome! The Internet has made publishing and sharing your ideas easier than ever, but the sheer number of options for how to set up your blog can leave you with option paralysis.

So, we’ll take some of the guesswork out of it for you with this list of blog platforms, and who they work for. Of course, we have to start with our old favorite…

WordPress
…which itself has two distant options: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Here’s the short version: WordPress.com blogs and WordPress.org blogs function on the same content management system or CMS. The CMS is the “admin” part of your website, and in WordPress it looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 12.29.17 AM

This CMS can be installed on any server space to create a WordPress.org site. The software itself is free, but you will need to rent hosting space, which can usually be acquired for very reasonable rates.

WordPress.com offers websites that are actually hosted by WordPress, so they are completely free to the users. The downside to a WordPress.com site as opposed to .org is that you can’t customize your theme or add plugins – two of the things that make WordPress so dang cool. Both versions of WordPress can, however, be correlated with a primary domain (i.e. yourdomain.com) but the cost of the domain is not included.

That said, WordPress.com does have lots of highly functional and beautiful themes, so if you find one that exactly meets your needs, you can enjoy the ease of the WordPress CMS without paying a cent. If you want a little more customizing power, it doesn’t get any better or user-friendly than WordPress.org sites.

Tumblr
If you’d go the WordPress.com route, Tumblr might be worth giving a shot, too. Like WordPress.com, Tumblr sites are remotely hosted and totally free. While there are lots of great premium themes, there is also a great library of free themes, so a Tumblr site can be completely free too. The user-interface is dead simple and there’s a built in social network. Basically, Tumblr is awesome for a single thread, regularly updated blog.

That said, Tumblr isn’t great for a multi-page website or a categorized, filterable blog. Consider if you want your blog to be more of a searchable, in-depth website or a stream of consciousness. If it’s the latter, Tumblr could be perfect, especially if you have great photos.

Now if you’re looking for something more text based, you might want to try to get in on…

Medium
This one isn’t actually open to the public yet. So, bummer. But Medium promises something interesting: a blogging platform with social media integration that shares the love between everyday bloggers and once-in-a-blue-moon bloggers, just based on what you have to say. That’s totally awesome and perfect for writers who want their words to shine.

Even though it’s not fully open yet, the beta wait time is short so the sooner you sign up, the sooner you’re in!

Blogger
Oh Blogger, you old so-and-so. I remember the days we… wait. No. Blogger was good to us for a long time – their easy interface made us feel right at home in Internet publishing – but the Internet has moved on. Google hasn’t poured many resources into the Blogger platform and will probably retire it in a few years, if not sooner. Like they did with Reader. And iGoogle, Wave, Buzz, Desktop, Picnik . I guess my point is don’t start with Blogger now. And if you’re already there, start thinking about moving.

Bonus: Svbtle
Ok, another bummer – this one isn’t open yet either. And worse still, there’s nowhere to even sign up for the beta. All the same, though, doesn’t it look so pretty?

9 Hard and Fast Rules of Web Design

web-designWeb design is a broad art with thousands of different aesthetic choices, but ultimately all web designers have one common goal: to display content on the web. That’s why we can compile a list of hard and fast web design rules to use regardless of your website’s look or function.

Let’s start with the building block of your content: the type.

Typographical Rules

1. Your body font size should be between 13px and 17px. Though 12px font is common on websites, it’s really too small for the web. Fonts sized between 13px and 17px are easy to read on screens. Your readers shouldn’t have to squint!

2. Your line-height should be between 120% and 160% of your font size. In CSS, this might look like this:

body { font-size: 14px; line-height: 1.45em; }

This means that your font-size will be 14px and your line height will be 1.45 times that font-size, giving your text plenty of room to breath.

3. Put space between your paragraphs. Again, so your text can breathe. Spaces can be coded right into your stylesheet with the following CSS:

p { margin-bottom: 1.5em; }

Now every paragraph will have a blank line-and-a-half after every paragraph.

General Design

4. Don’t auto play music, not ever. Not even if your website is about music. Not even if you’re in a band. Not even if you think it’s so perfect and audibly illustrates everything you want your website to say. Just. Say. No. Provide musical links or widgets so your site visitors can play your tunes at will – I assure you they will appreciate your consideration.

5. Make the navigation prominent and easy. Your navigation is the backbone of your website, and it’s also where people will first look to find the information they want. Your navigation should be clearly visible, and your menu links should be labeled with clear titles like ‘About’, ‘Portfolio’, ‘Contact’, etc.

6. Include contact information. Most websites have a goal, whether it be to land a sale or just get someone to call the office. For those sites, having a clear way to contact the website owner is paramount. Several ways is even better, such as a phone number, an email address, and a contact us form. For some websites, the goal is just to get visitors to read blogposts. Even in those cases, readers like to get in touch, so provide some way for them to reach you.

7. Be consistent. To make your site as user-friendly as possible, certain key elements should stay in the same place on every page like navigation and the site header. Other important points of consistency are to use the same font choice, weight, and size for headers, the same border (or no border) around content photos, and the same color for links across the site.

Compatibility

8. Browser check. Your website might look great in Safari, but Firefox might have other ideas on how to render your site. Be sure to run your website through a browser checker like Browser Shots to make sure there are no huge glaring errors in any of the major browsers.

9. Be mobile ready. Gone are the days when mobile compatibility is optional. More people than ever are browsing the net on their phones, so it’s crucial to ensure your website looks good on mobile devices. Whether you opt for a separate mobile site or a responsive one (check out the pros and cons of each in this blogpost), just be sure you have a mobile solution.

Zero to Profitable: Taking Your Business From No Online Presence to an Awesome One

You had the million dollar idea – that’s awesome and congratulations, but (as we’re sure you already know) the dream must become a reality.

For most industries these days, it’s going to involve a web presence. Creating one is tough stuff, though, and most people don’t even know where to start. That’s why we’re here to help!

Before you start a fervent social media or SEO campaign, you’re going to need somewhere to send people – a kind of virtual home base for your business. That’s why we recommend that your first step be to…

Get a website.
Whatever your budget or level of web experience – there is a solution for you. The important thing is to have a place on the Internet that has the most pertinent information about your business. Be sure to clearly state what your new company does and how to engage your services.

If you have a more complicated website that will be under construction for a while, you might consider a Facebook page as a temporary home base. We want to emphasize the “temporary” bit because ultimately having an established website will lend your business far more versatility and credibility than a Facebook page alone.

Create content.
Whether it’s blogposts, video, or images, creating content that establishes you as an authority in your field can do wonders for your business. It can also help you later on with an inbound marketing strategy. Even if it’s one post a week, blogging is a great way to quickly improve the SEO ranking of your website, too. Not convinced? Try this article on for size.

Share, share, share.
Now that you’re creating great content and have a site to send people to, you should definitely jump into social media! There are lots of different networks with different audiences, but most businesses start with Facebook and Twitter. We’ve got an in-depth article all about choosing a social media platform right here!

Consider your SEO.
It’s really surprising how much carefully choosing your page titles and blogpost keywords can boost your organic Google rankings. SEO is all about placing your website on the first page of results for your preferred keywords. The tricky part is actually choosing those keywords!

Pro Tip: at first, you’ll want to pick key phrases like “pizza shop in memphis” – the more rare the better!

Repeat.
Now that you’ve got a website, a social presence, and a SEO strategy, you’re ready to go back and revise! What did you neglect in your first website? Do it now! Is there a social network that might more specifically apply to your field? Join it! Has your SEO strategy secured your targeted keywords for you? Branch out and get more! Good luck!

6 Text-Driven WordPress Themes

Not all of us are photographers, but so many WordPress themes seem focused on images. When choosing a WordPress theme you might want to ask yourself how much time you want to put into your photos. Is it enough to warrant a full width carousel? Do you want seven photos on the homepage?

Text can be beautiful, too. So if you’re really more of a writer, embrace it because there are lots of great WordPress themes just for you. And here are six great ones!

FREE

Lefty: This theme is sleek, striking, responsive, and FREE. Even though it’s shown with photos, it would definitely look great with just text. What else could you want?!

Lefty

 

ManifestThis is a beautiful, clean, and narrow theme that is also totally free. It’s a great theme for anyone who doesn’t need a sidebar. (Not responsive)

Manifest

 

Pinzolo: Another minimalist, responsive and FREE theme.

Pinzolo

 

Twenty Thirteen: Let’s not forget about WordPress’s homemade themes! It’s free, responsive, and very modern!

twenty-thirteen

 

PREMIUM

Auguste: Only $15, this theme available on ThemeForest incorporates color in the header and rotating top slider, but the rest is mostly clean text. Really nice! (Not responsive)

Auguste HTML — Themeforest.net — By Carlo Franco

 

Acute: Here’s another no-sidebar theme, but with a lot of sophistication! It’s $40, and it’s responsive!

Acute