A blog can be many things to many people.  For the reader it can be a resource, an inspiration or a window to a world you wish you were a part of.  For the author it can be a way to share your thoughts and feelings, promote yourself or to simply to let off steam.

What about for a company?  What does a blog represent to them?

1) A way to connect directly with your audience.

Unlike with traditional media coverage, your message goes directly from your keyboard to your reader without any publicists or journalists getting in the way.  And equally important, you can read through comments to determine how your audience feels about a topic and how well you are connecting with them.  Tap that audience for some User Generated Content and you take your blogging to a whole new level.

Canucks.com incorporated user comments and tweets to remember our favourite on-ice moments of Markus Naslund. By simply asking their fans for their input, they were able to create a blog post that better captures the admiration and respect that Vancouver has for it’s one-time Captain.

2) A way to share the details that make you special.

In business there are a lot of things that happen on a day-to-day basis that are noteworthy and special, but that don’t warrant a major announcement or marketing campaign to promote them. I’m talking about everything from program updates that solve minor glitches to the company baseball team winning their league championships. A blog can be a great way to recognize minor accomplishments that may be of interest to your fans.
Check out this post on Strategic Shaving at the 1-800-Got-Junk blog to mark the end of Movember. Newsworthy? Not really. But special and blogworthy to be sure.

3) A way to stay top of mind.

Not every company is offering a product or service that someone needs to use on a daily or weekly basis. A blog is a great way to keep the conversation with your audience alive, even if they may not need you at that time.  Eventually they will be ready to take action and your company will be top of mind because of all the interesting and useful information you’ve been providing in your blog.
Grouse Mountain is gearing up for another ski season, but in the mean time they’ve used their blog to update us on the hibernation plans of their two bears. By using their blog to stay in touch with Vancouverites, they are able to bridge the gap between their summer hiking season and their winter skiing season.

You’ll notice that “A way to make more money” didn’t make my list.  Not that blogging isn’t an important business activity, just that in most cases it is part of the brand building aspect of your business. Use your company blog for what its good for – interaction, communication and providing consistency.  Embrace what blogs are good at. Don’t try to make it into something its not.

It’s a conversation. It’s a journey.  It’s an adventure.

Enjoy it.

As I said in my intro – we all blog for different reasons.  Why do you blog?

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Dear Adobe Indesign (c/o Facebook),

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.  I love how you allow me to create templates for the designs I do over and over again. I love how you let me place multiple photos at one time or change all but summer greens to fall browns with your swatches. I love that I can create multi-page documents (My ex, Illustrator, never let me duplex!) and that all your fonts remain vector (Photoshop could learn a few things from you!). And I love your happy pink logo.

So pink. So happy.

 

I spend most of my day working with you and yet it never occurred to me to try to become your friend on Facebook…until now. Of course you are on Facebook!  You appeal to tech savvy creative folks like myself who seem to spend our lives online and are involved with designing for social media, as well as traditional web and print.

I know we can’t really be friends on Facebook, I can only “Like” you and join your social network of adoring followers. I have to accept that I must share you with the 88,257 other people who Like you (although thank you for reminding me that I can also follow you on Twitter @InDesign where I only need to share you with 5,068 followers).  Your Favourite Pages tell me that you want to share my affections with your 5 friends – Creative Suite Design (9,151), Adobe Digital Publishing (3,213), Adobe Flash Catalyst (7,445), Adobe Photoshop (1,350,515) and Adobe Illustrator (211,575) – but I Like you the best and don’t want to split my devotion just yet.

Since I must admire you from afar, I appreciate how frequently you update your status (Several times a day! You keep me checking in.) and how you vary it from topical questions to very specific news articles, events and program tips:

ADOBE INDESIGN:Are you spending this Black Friday shopping? Or still recovering from a great Thanksgiving meal?
ME:I’m Canadian so I’m at work and had Thai for dinner instead of turkey, but thanks for asking!

ADOBE INDESIGN:Amazon has released a free plug-in (Kindle for Adobe InDesign (beta)) that allows InDesign users to export documents and books to Kindle format.
ME:Cool. That could be useful…file that info away for later.

 

So blue. Yet you work so well together.

Everything you write is something I’m interested in reading about.  If I post one of my designs to my Facebook I could Tag you and my design would appear in your Photos. You’ve posted 487 Links that appeal to me and you have a Discussion board where I can post questions to fellow admirers when we are having a fight about one issue or another (Why do you give me transparency issues? You know how I love to play with that effect but then you don’t co-operate.) How is it possible that I haven’t Like‘d you until now?!

 

But I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.  You do have some faults. That Discussion board is pretty quiet, why only 5 posts in November? And while I find you very informative, there is not a lot of personality radiating from your posts.  Also many followers seem to be using your Wall as a help desk but they are not getting responses from you or others (I know, maybe they should learn to use the Discussion board!) so there is very little interactivity going on there.  Hello out there InDesign, is anyone reading these Wall posts? I’m not so sure about that.

But I shouldn’t be too critical.  Your Facebook fan page is amazing and I’ve only been part of it for a little over an hour.  I’m sure as time passes I will develop a deeper understanding of your benefits and flaws. I look forward to developing this friendship in Facebook-land.

Until then,

Rosey

———————————————

What do you think fellow creative thinkers and doers?  Is Adobe on the right track with their Facebook page for InDesign and co? Or maybe you know why my InDesign program keeps losing Arial Bold ever since I’ve installed it onto Windows 7 at work – such a pain to be missing a standard font!  Post your thoughts in the comments.

Recently I’ve been looking into several project management tools for my team to use in the New Year.  Of course they all sound great on their website’s sales pitch but what do the people who actually use them have to say about these tools?

I decided to use the social media analytics tool Backtype to research one of my options, the leading web-based project management and collaboration tool Basecamp.  I hoped to learn more about other creative team’s experience using Basecamp, as well as see how Backtype is used to report online activity.

After searching for the URL www.basecamphq.com from the Backtype home page, their first screen is the Summary tab and shows me the “Weekly Engagement” tweets and comments related to this domain.  I can see that over the past 3 months there have been consistent mentions of Basecamp with a low of 13 and a high of 65 tweets per week.  The stats on the side tell me 3,822 tweets overall, plus a handful of other mentions in various social media platforms. THE VERDICT: Nice chart but doesn’t tell me if people are saying positive or negative things, and therefore not very useful for my purposes.

The second tab is Audience.  It gives me another chart, this one the number of Twitter users sharing related links. It also shows me the Top Influencer and their stats for followers/friends/updates on Twitter. THE VERDICT: Maybe if I was googling Apple or Coca Cola I’d see more results but as it is, there isn’t enough information here to grab my attention. This page is pretty empty.

Backtype Screen Cap

Nice chart but does it tell me anything new?

 

The third tab is Conversations and here is where things get interesting.  Backtype lists all the latest tweets for Basecamp.  The first thing I notice is that most of these conversations are not in English.  Basecamp is an international tool and judging from these tweets I see what looks like German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin users all talking about the program.  Taking only the English tweets, let’s look at 10 recent comments (listed from newest to oldest) about Basecamp and see what they tell us about customer satisfaction.

  1. rogers: Basecamp de-emphasize free on the signup page.. now the Basic plan.. mo’money mo’money..
  2. twaddington: @kmatthews Basecamp is a good bet: http://basecamphq.com/
  3. berniedodge: Using Basecamp for the first time to manage 8 different game design projects in my class. Seems promising.
  4. vianovagroup: Need to wow your customers with on time project delivery? Use Basecamp to manage your projects. We Do!
  5. jeffachen: For project specific collaboration, project mgmt tools also come in handy. I like http://basecamphq.com/
  6. DBCAHEADQUARTER: We just transferred DBCA Digitals internal project management over to Basecamp – and we love it!
  7. foamandthunder: Free Basecamp plan is back. 🙂 http://basecamphq.com/signup
  8. soulhuntre We’re adding/tweaking/improving nearly every day: http://basecamphq.com/changes
  9. CodyNolden: Basecamp doubles its prices, how will a small business ever afford this? #fail
  10. nicksergeant: In case you needed *another* reason to leave Basecamp, their cheapest plan is now $50/month: http://basecamphq.com/signup

At first glance I saw a lot of recommendations and happy users, but there is an undertone of criticism for the program and their new pricing strategy. Users are concerned that Basecamp is setting its sights too high and leaving the little guy – the small businesses, web programmers, graphic designers – behind.  The tweets tell me that people are generally satisfied with the Basecamp program and that I should continue to look into this software for my team. Basecamp seemed to realize that raising their prices had angered people and, as #7 and #1 show, the free plan was mysteriously brought back.  They need to be careful, there are hundreds of new project management programs coming up behind them, trying to capitalize on their weaknesses with their hopes of becoming the next go-to project management software.  Alienate your clients and they’ll start shopping around for something cheaper and better. Basecamps seems to be aware of this and as #8 says, they are trying to add, tweak and improve every day. THE VERDICT: Backtype’s Conversation tab is a quick and easy way to review recent conversations about a topic or company, and is the most useful aspect of the Backtype tool.  As for Basecamp, I’d rate them a solid 9.5/10 for customer feedback as there were many more recommendation tweets and retweets from the past few weeks than I chose to include here.  Plus they seemed to act on the user comments they were seeing and made actual changes to their website and business structure as a result of the criticisms. Job we done.

What do you think about these online tools, Backtype and Basecamp?  If you have any recommendations for other project/time/task management programs please post them in the comments.  As I mentioned, there are a huge number to explore beyond Basecamp and the main thing is finding the right combination to work for my team and our specific requirements. I’m not convinced Basecamp is right for us so my search continues…

Check out the social media release below about the new online designer networking site LogoVendor.com which helps match graphic designers with jobs and vice versa.  The business person in me thinks that it is wonderful that someone can pay a few hundred dollars and choose between several logo designs, from several different designers.  The graphic designer in me is concerned that there are people out there creating logos for $100 (and then only if they are the chosen one!).

Are people making a living from this site?  If yes, then they sure aren’t living in Vancouver with our cost of living. Regardless, I feel sites like Logo Vendor are only going to become more prevalent in the future so I think we should take that old adage to heart and “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.

Fad or Future? Post your thoughts on these new online designer networking sites in the comments.

Contact:

Erick Thomson
Logovendor LLC
877-782-9994  x 6
contact@logovendor.com
http://www.logovendor.com

 

GRAPHIC DESIGN SERVICES GET A FACELIFT WITH LOGOVENDOR

Core News Facts:

  • Use LogoVendor to create a new brand identity across online markets
  • LogoVendor works with global clients to provide designs that help them stand out among the crowd
  • Submit a request and view a variety of designs before going ahead with one final winner
  • Complete file ownership of the logo the moment payment has been made
  • Secure payment method
  • Money back if you do not like any of the designs

Quote:

“We are one of the few logo design services that offer equal opportunity to both the designers as well as clients. Our primary aim is to match talent with expectations so the outcome is favorable on both sides.” – Official Spokesperson for LogoVendor (unnamed in original release)

Related Links:

www.logovendor.com

About Logo Vendor:

Logo Vendor is a global online service that connects businesses requiring Creative Marketing Services to thousands of independent, experienced professionals and is transforming the way businesses market themselves. Logo Vendor makes it possible for Buyers to source amazing, high-quality marketing collateral quickly, easily, and for a fair price. As the leading global online vendor for Creative Marketing Services, independent professionals use Logo Vendor to meet clients and increase their business by delivering outstanding results.

Old Spice really hit the ball out of the social networking park with their The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaign.  I think that it will go down as one of the great marketing campaigns of 2010.

Now it seems that everyone wants to be the next Old Spice.  I work with several professional printing companies in my job.  One of those printers is TPH –  aka The Printing House.  I recently received an email from them promoting the start of their new web series Your Printz has Come.  This series of YouTube videos was created by Toronto based Endeavour Marketing and introduces “The Printz”, a viking prince delivering TPH products and faced with understanding the mysteries of the modern workplace.

The first episode, entitled “Smokers” is an amusing look at one of my own personal pet peeves, The Frequent Smoke Break (although there are so few smokers left in Vancouver this is hardly an issue out here – perhaps a bit of Toronto-bias to this campaign, that’s where the smoke break got under my skin too).

It’s a cute concept and I’ll admit to looking forward to receiving Episode 2 in my inbox in the next few weeks. I regularly receive emails from TPH but this is the first time I’ve clicked to read or watch the link they sent.  If mobilizing me was their goal, then this video has been successful.

The character and content are amusing, and the production quality is professional. I could do without the obvious product placement of the TPH mugs and print products. There’s a fine line between a web series and a commercial and this feels like they are trying to do both while succeeding at neither one.  I regularly visit their website and place orders anyway. I don’t know that The Printz will make me do any more business, but I supposed the web series will help keep them top of mind when I’m sending out my next print job.

What has not been done well is incorporating The Printz character into a full social media campaign.  To me it has the potential, but instead of creating a YouTube channel for The Printz, the video is housed off the agency’s endeavourmarketing1 YouTube channel.  Weak.  Also comments for the video have been disabled. In my mind that basically says ‘we’re not interested in what you have to say’ and goes against the fundamentals of social media.  There is also no web page, Twitter or Facebook for The Printz. [UPDATE – After my blog post they added a Twitter account for the character @the_printz and they also posted video #2 on their own TPHCanada YouTube channel.  I feel so powerful!]

TPH has an active Twitter feed where they have posted the video. I’m part of their social network and appreciate the thoughtful commentary and links they post which are related to graphic design and print production. I feel like a secondary Twitter feed for The Printz is a missed opportunity of expanding this campaign. Surely a chunk of money was spent creating the episodes, but I would hope they have other plans that will integrate with the videos.  And if they are simply expecting the episodes to go viral, then they need to lay off the sales pitch.

There are so many printers for me to choose from. The Printz is just one more way for TPH to engage with a clientele that has endless choice.  I think it has potential to help them but they need to embrace him fully.

I’m part of an in-house design department.  There are a lot of great things about my job: I get to be creative, I get to develop long-term relationships with my clients, and there is the security of a permanent job versus the world of freelance design work.

But in-house design departments face a number of unique challenges and, as I’m in the process of restructuring mine, it is proving difficult to find information online tailored to our specific circumstances. I came across this great post on the AIGA (an American-based professional association for design) site that asks the question “Can In-House Design Departments Be Respectable?“.   And as the title suggests, David C. Baker points out that in-house design teams can struggle to gain the respect of both their designer peers and the people within their company.

Here’s my video commentary on the article, and what I see as some of the challenges and benefits of an in-house design team.

In case you missed it, I do believe that in-house designers are respectable because no one knows their company and client’s needs better.  A lot of people have design skills, not everyone knows the ins and outs of the company.

I’d love to hear from other in-house designers about how they view their unique position. Do you ever feel short on respect? How do you sell your services within the company?  What conferences do you attend, or associations do you belong to, that support your in-house design strategies?

I’m a fairly recent convert to the Twitter bandwagon.  In the last two months I’ve switched my allegiance so that Twitter is now my go-to social media stop, passing Facebook in total time and frequency of use. I now follow enough people to I have a constant stream of information that is hand-picked to suit my interests and find myself checking in to start and end my day.  Lately I’ve been following a lot of local social media experts which has inspired me to create this post of my Top 10 Vancouverite’s to Follow on Twitter.

Image by: Scott Hampson

Tweet Tweet Tweet (Image by: Scott Hampso)

If you’re new to Twitter you’ll probably start out by following some of the biggies, @mashable, @ladygaga, etc but it is also smart to follow some people close to home.  The best part of Twitter is that its real-time so when you combine it with the ‘where you live’ aspect, it becomes all the more relevant to your life.

This is my personal list of people to follow, most are related to marketing-communications or social media in the city, but a few are on there purely for the fun.  The list is not scientific or tested, they’re simply people who I enjoy and I think you might too.

#10 @cadijordan aka Jordan Consulting
Why You Should Follow: Corporate and personal consulting, Cadi offers fun links and food for thought.

#9 –  @atomicpoet aka Christopher
Why You Should Follow: Working at Vancouver’s Hootsuite, Christopher obviously he knows his Twitter stuff. Posts are relevant and intelligent.

#8 –  @gutsmctavish24 aka Guts McTavish
Why You Should Follow: Opinionated and animated (literally), Guts is a great way to get your Canucks news. From the author of the 24 Hours column.

#7 –  @matwilcox aka Mat Wilcox
Why You Should Follow: Former Vancouver PR maven, Mat recently closed her shop to focus on social media. Follow her progress on Twitter.

#6 – @todmaffin aka Tod Maffin
Why You Should Follow: Another Vancouver Digital Marketing expert, Tod’s posts a lot of great tech info from the Canadian perspective.

#5 –  @socialsignal aka Social Signal
Why You Should Follow: Vancouver based Social Media blog/company, Social Signal regularly posts great links that will be useful if you are trying to learn more about using social media for your business.

#4 –  @laineygossip aka Elaine L.
Why You Should Follow: Our very own local link to gossip in Hollywood North and around the world, following Lainey is like getting the inside scoop from a best friend who just happens to hangs out with big time celebs.

#3 –  @bcbusiness aka BC Business
Why You Should Follow: A business magazine that tweets more like your cubicle mate, not your CEO. BC Business is refreshing corporate tweeting like it should be.

#2 –  @miss604 aka Rebecca Bollwitt
Why You Should Follow: One of Vancouver’s big name bloggers, Rebecca tweets local and often. She often guest lectures on social media use but also tweets about her day-to-day life in Vancouver.

#1 – @trevor_linden aka Trevor Linden
Why You Should Follow: Because it’s Trevor Linden. He doesn’t say a lot but when he does we listen.

These are just a few of the people who keep me entertained and in the loop on Twitter.  Who are your favourite Vancouver Twitter-ers?  Post a comment to add to this list.  And while you’re at it, follow me on Twitter @roseyhudson.

 

Mad Men battle a creative block - good thing they've got a woman there!

 

Sometimes it’s tough being a small business with a small advertising budget. The obvious big advertising spots that we see every day – TV, Billboards, Hockey Arena Sponsorships – are out of our reach.

But by looking a bit further afield we can find smaller advertising opportunities that target our customers where they live, work and play.

Sometimes we just need something to kick start the creative juices.  That’s why I love Sam Deckers list of 193 Creative Marketing Ideas and precisely why I Digg this article.

Here are just 3 of his ideas that struck me as potential advertising spots for a small business.

DIRECT MAIL – Target your customers where they live with direct mail.  You have the option to do either addressed or unaddressed ad mail and save significantly off standard postage rates. With all the online advertising happening these days, I’m still a big believer in sending someone a personalized letter through the mail with information that is relevent to them.

TRADE JOURNALS – Target your customers where they work.  They may not be as glamorous as their mainstream counterparts but what better way to reach a very specific target audience than with a trade journal.  Search out the right one for your industry and feel good about your targeted ad spend.

BULLETIN BOARDS – Target your customers where they play/study/worship/hang out. Bulletin Boards are available at a lot of places you frequent including your church, your community centre, your Starbucks…  These free boards can be a great place to promote your business to a very specific audience. Follow board etiquette and remember to ask before putting up your ad.

What’s your favourite small business advertising option?  How do you feel about Sam Deckers suggestions to get high school students to do your door knocking/car windshield flyering? Am I the only advertising person who finds watching Mad Men like watching paint dry?

Testing is an important part of any social media campaign, but particularly when you are the sole proprietor of your own business and faced with many other challenges for your valuable time.

Buttercup Cake Design

Buttercup Cake Design

Buttercup Cake Design is a new pastry business established by my long time friend Amanda Goats. A fellow SFU Communication grad, and now a professionally trained Pastry Chef, Amanda recently left her position crafting deserts for two Vancouver’s hotspots to strike out on her own.

Amanda’s communication background gives her an advantage over other new business owners. She recognizes that a strong visual identity and professional marketing materials could be the difference between making a living and realizing her goal of designing high-end desserts. So just a few months into being her own boss, Amanda is already juggling baking with blogging. I’ve designed this test to help her examine her social media activities and figure out what style of photos engage her audience the most.

Balancing baking and blogging

Balancing baking and blogging

THE TEST
What type of images generate the most comments on the Buttercup Cake Design Facebook Page
1) Pictures of deserts
2) Pictures of people with deserts

WHY FACEBOOK?
Facebook is a sharing platform and works well with photos and events. Amanda is already successful in promoting interactivity and commenting among the people who follow her page (36 as of Oct 10, 2010 – majority are friends and past clients). Now she needs to expand that base.

SAMPLE GROUP
The target audience are young professionals, people who are active in both social media and socially in hosting event, but who may not have the skills or time to produce beautiful deserts for their special occasions. For the purpose of the test, she should use her existing network of clients and their web of Facebook friends.

THEORY & OBJECTIVE
By tagging people such as the bridge and groom, along with their wedding cake, Buttercup Cake Design will appear in many more people’s news feeds. The objective is to increase the number of people viewing the page and the pictures, encouraging them to comment and spread the word.

METHOD
Amanda has already uploaded images of the deserts she produced for the 2010 summer wedding season and attracted a number of comments. She should make note of her number of visits and comments as a baseline before executing stage 2.

Next she could ask the brides for a photo of them cutting their cake and upload those pictures to her Facebook page, tagging the bride and groom in the photo. She should monitor the visits and comments in the week following the new photos and compare with previous time periods.

REVIEW
If Amanda finds that photos with people increase her site visits, she could begin to capture more people-friendly photos at events in the future.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS
Amanda is currently participating at  The Bakers Market this fall.  She could run a similar test with images from the market each week.  Do photos of her baked goods encourage site visits?  Or do tagged photos of people buying her baked goods encourage more visits on Facebook?  Can she encourage people who visit her at the Bakers Market to join her Facebook group  and download photos of themselves? Can posting pictures before the market encourage people to drive down and buy that week’s specialty items?  The real-time nature of social media provides a number of testing opportunity for the small business owner and can help figure out what will attract the most attention to your products.

Buttercup Cake Design
Website: www.buttercupcakedesign.com
Facebook: Buttercup Cake Design
Twitter: @ButtercupCakeBC

Interested in trying some of Amanda’s amazing treats?  Visit her every Saturday at The Bakers Market in South Vancouver.

A quick follow up post on TheBrandBuilder’s adventures in positivity (see my previous post here) through his #StepfordTBB experiment.

When I started this #StepfordTBB experiment several days ago (the premise being “what would happen if I actually adopted the Social Media bull$hit I have been warning you about?”), little did I know that all of this stuff would actually work.” TheBrandBuilder blog, Oct 6, 2010

TheBrandBuilder graph of awesomeness aka traffic

What can a pink pony do for your business?

Olivier Blanchard, aka TheBrandBuilder, saw an incredible 305% increase in traffic to his blog the day after he adopted his My Little Pony profile pic and started spreading Social Media bull$hit. The next day it went up to 356%.  Those are some pretty amazing numbers for a campaign based on tweeting sweet nothings to followers of a cynical marketing professional.

It appears Olivier could only take his own sweetness for a few days and has already reverted back to his old twitter avatar, but the experiment continues to facinate me.  While I’m sure his site visits will level out in the coming weeks, I’m confident that others like myself are now adding the TheBrandBuilder blog to their regular sites to visit.  Which begs the question…

What can a pink pony do for your business?

Comic [Not By Rosey]

The Joys of Small Business (or) Comic - Not Comic Sans

Latest Tweets by Rosey

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