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In lieu of a frequently asked questions blog, I’m writing about three common things people should ask but most of the time don’t in regards to digital content.

This can be a touchy subject as we are all about some free content, even me. But…it’s still not an excuse. We have to play by the rules. Let me explain.

Images –

If you tell me you got the image on your website from Google images an angel loses its wings. You can’t do that in 99.5% of the cases. You must assume that the image is protected by copyright laws.

Check out Pexels.comUnsplash.com, and FreelyPhotos.com – these are sites that let you use their pictures, for free. That’s commercial and non-commercial use. No attribution required and you are allowed to modify them.

You can also pay for pics at istockphoto.comshutterstock.com, and stock.adobe.com to name a few. They aren’t cheap but you’ll find a wider variety of subjects along with the chance that it’s less likely to have been used versus the free images.

Blog Posts –

If you post a blog post that someone else wrote, you can’t take credit it for it. This would be a copyright infringement.

All you have to do is ask permission of the author. If you like a lot of the content they are writing, ask for a blanket permission.

Bloggers love their content to be shared and it’s even part of a search engine optimization strategy to have your content syndicated out to multiple blogs so that you build links back to your site.

All that said, you still must ask. I prefer via email so that I have written and documented “permission slip”.

Another option is to be inspired by the post to add more. Just like when you write a research report, create your own thoughts compiled from multiple sources and then link to the source content.

Email –

Email doesn’t have to be tricky. Here are some examples of if you should use an email marketing service such as MailChimp, or send the email from your personal account.

Is money being exchanged (for-profit or non-profit)? Then you need to use an email marketing service.

Are you emailing a lot of people, especially ones that may not know you well? Then you need to use an email marketing service.

Are you emailing 10 people about Timmy’s birthday party this weekend? Send an email but use blind copy (BCC:) so that you don’t create an email chain discussion.

Are you planning a potluck dinner in your office? Email away from your personal account.

Benefits of an email marketing service are that it meets all the compliance guidelines for a business that are outlined in the CAN-SPAM act.

Plus you’ll gain some great analytics tools and integrations to help grow your list and customer database.

Conclusion –

Hopefully, that can help and give you some new tools to use going forward!

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Here’s a fact: Your Facebook page was never free. If you aren’t paying to use a service, you as an individual are what advertisers are paying to reach. This is pretty much the case for all for-profit businesses.

With Facebook, the content that your business is creating and trying to get out in front of its customers – aka. Facebook users, is now going to cost you more.

On Thursday, January 11, Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, made a sweeping announcement to what content you will freely see on your Facebook feed.

Cliff notes version:

  • Posts from businesses, brands, and media are crowding our personal moments.
  • The news feed will be changed to show more from your friends, family, and groups.
  • Live videos will be weighted higher than recorded.
  • Time spent on Facebook and engagement are expected to be reduced.

Mark gave us big clues in his post of how we as business marketers can increase our likeliness of our content being seen and here are my suggestions – the same suggestions I have given already to clients that this will affect the most.

Suggestions:

  • Keep one Facebook page for your business, church, etc. Shut down the rest.
  • Create groups focused on common interests that are tied to the main Facebook page. If you have an email database already broken down by specific interest – use this to connect with people who may want to be a part of this new group.
  • If you have events – create events in the event section of your Facebook page and budget appropriately to promote them.
  • Use your Facebook page to promote the big events, resources and news – expect to pay to boost these super important (not often posted) posts. Emphasize quality versus quantity of these posts.
  • Be open to allowing more staff access to your Facebook page as live video contributors along with specific rules and tips on how to use and not abuse this new found freedom.

Example:

The kid’s ministry at Vaughn Forest Church wanted to create a new page. Even under previous algorithms, I knew their content was unlikely to be seen on a page. Instead, I created them a closed group under the churches main Facebook page so there would be freedom to share pictures and videos of the kids at church.

I used the church email database to invite users with kids that fit this ministry. 187 invitations were sent. At the time of this writing 89 accepted an invite to the group. As new people come, they are invited to the group. If people leave the church, they are removed. People can request access to the group, but they are checked against the church database.

The most recent post in the group received 6 likes and was seen by 62 of the 89 people in the group. On the same day as that post, one was made to our main Facebook page that has 2,647 likes. It was seen by 342 people and received 4 likes.

Conclusion

This is a huge change to how your page will need to be run going forward. It’s going to create more work. Using Facebook to reach a targeted audience has proven to be highly successful and will be worth the extra effort. We all have to adapt to increase our quality and provide a better community for Facebook users. If we do this, I believe we will see the reward of reaching our audiences.

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To say I’ve anguished over picking domain names would be an understatement. Countless hours searching what’s available, looking for the perfect destination that’s short, memorable and hopefully not confusing.

In our digital world – picking a domain name is the equivalent to a storefront location. We all know that location isn’t the end all. We’ve all driven across town for a specific pizza or even a popsicle. They’re the oddities that we all aspire to be.

For the rest of us, we’ve got to pick a good location before someone else does.

In this post, I’ll tell you two guerrilla marketing stories involving domains plus I’ll give you some tips on picking your domain and how to protect your digital asset!

Traffic Redirection

A competitor announced a new initiative with plans for it to be launched in 2-3 months. A competitor checked to see what domain they were using. The first company had purchased the .net but not the .com or .org addresses. The .com, on the other hand, was for sale. The company bought the domain that their competitor should have bought before they launched their new product.

I don’t agree with going out and buying domains that your competitors should own. For example, the new extension .rocks came out. Don’t grab mycompetitor.rocks as a means of blocking them on day one. Give them the opportunity, but, if they don’t protect themselves, it’s free game.

If they’ve started promoting a new product, I would assume that in their marketing plan, domains would have been part of the discussion. They’ve left the door open and have basically said they weren’t interested in the domain by their actions.

This can get super expensive too if you start snatching domains up everywhere so make sure that you can prove that buying the domain will result in a positive move for your business as in increased sales or brand awareness. There is definitely a potential for a lot more negativity and bad will so be careful!

Roy Moore

This isn’t a place for a political conversation – this is marketing talk, so let’s leave it at that.

That said Judge Roy Moore has been traveling the state in a bus. Said bus had a wrapper made for it with his own website misspelled on the side – “AlabamaDerservesMoore.com”.

This could have been genius as a marketing tactic to get people to visit his site and bring attention to his bus, but Judge Moore’s team didn’t do this on purpose. This becomes obvious when you go to the misspelled domain that leads to his democratic competitor’s website. Try it.

I would have liked to have seen his competitor seize the opportunity to welcome Roy Moore supporters to his site and explain how they are similar on some stances in order to convince people to vote for him over Roy Moore in the upcoming election. It kinda does this but doesn’t tackle Moore directly – and maybe it will if Moore wins the runoff taking place this week.

Right now the emphasis is email, buttons that get lost above a donation form and then a personal letter from the candidate introducing himself.

Suggestions

  • Find the shortest domain possible.
    It’s getting harder, but if you are looking to sell products on a site – a shorter, easy to remember and not confuse domain is needed.
  • Protect your domain!
    Don’t buy just one address. A .com is the standard, I recommend at the least buying the .net and .org and redirect them to your primary domain.
  • Use the right extension.
    If you are not a non-profit, don’t use a .org address as it implies you are a non-profit. Same for non-profits – you can get away using a .com, but I suggest using the .org while still owning the .com. Redirect it to your .org address.
  • Be willing to spend some money.
    You’re kinda late to the game. A lot of the good domains are gone. Start thinking about how much your name is worth. Remember there are a lot of variations you can try, but the more complex it gets, the more confusing and less memorable it is to your customer.

Conclusion

The big takeaway in all this – if you aren’t buying the right domains to protect yourself, your competitor could be buying them. Let’s take a few minutes to go over your domain strategy and come up with a plan to protect your business. Contact us today.

 

Photo credit: Greg Buddell

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Recently we completed another successful Snapchat Geofilter campaign at a large youth oriented event here in Montgomery, Alabama called “Speak”.  This was the second year running this awareness campaign with the goal of using those attending to build buzz for next years event. You can read about the first time in an article posted earlier.

It’s hard to compare apples to apples with this event as the location changes yearly along with the speakers and musicians. Throwing that information out, there was an increase in attendance from 2016 to 2017 by nearly 25%. 770 attended last year, approximately 1000 this year. To say that this is because of Snapchat last year would be a stretch, but the conference name “Speak” is what we are trying to make familiar at this time.

2017 Results
682 swipes
349 uses
17128 views

2016 Results
670 swipes
293 uses
14036 views

Here’s how to understand these numbers:

  • Swipes – Users swipe right to find filters in Snapchat. It does not mean they will choose to use it though. It’s standard to have more swipes than actual uses.
  • Uses – When a user chooses to use a filter and creates a snap.
  • Views – If a user uses the filter, then sends a snap to their friends or their story, Snapchat counts the. Most likely, people who view the story are outside the area where the geo-filter was being used thus creating a larger brand awareness.

Conclusion – Our usage rate was up especially when compared to a similar rate of swipes to last year. The views of those uses were also up meaning this campaign reached even more people. Total spent was $26.61 not including our fees to cover the meeting space. The cost to increase brand awareness was $0.0015 per view.

Are you ready to get this setup for your next event? Contact us so we can get to work for you!

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Do you really need an app for that?

I’m not going to rain on your app parade…but I do want you to think about that shiny new app you’ve had your eye on. The business down the road just spent major bucks on one and you saw them marketing it in your community. Everyone’s downloading it right?? It’s the cool thing to do.

But wait. Let’s think about this more. I want to give you 4 reasons why you don’t need one. Yes, you most likely really don’t need one. At the same time, if these 4 reasons don’t apply to you…it’s 4 reasons why you might need one. Funny how that goes right?

For the sake of being clear, I believe that for the majority of businesses investing the time and money in an app is not needed. Some people will definitely disagree with my assessment on this subject, but from my own investigation, it appears that a majority of these people have a personal investment in building and selling apps. It’s the equivalent of going to a car dealership and asking, “Do you think I really need a new car?” Of course, you do.

Take a moment to think about the apps you use on a daily basis. For me personally, they fall into three categories…social media, news, and games in that order. Each of these has one thing in common, money. You either purchased the app, or you’re the product, i.e. you’ve downloaded a free app in exchange for advertising.

1.    Your site is responsive, right?

Hopefully, your site is already built to be responsive. If it is, it’s mobile ready. If someone is on their phone they have the ability to access your site and whatever you need them to see.

In fact, back on April 21, 2015, Google began rewarding sites that are built to be responsive via their search algorithm. Don’t know if your site meets these guidelines? Google provided a nice tool to check it out: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

2.    You need a purpose

Every site has a purpose. Some are replacements for old yellow page ads. Some are used to promote events. Some are all about resourcing people with useful information. Some have all of the above.

What purpose would your app serve that your site doesn’t already accomplish? Why would someone continue to revisit it? Basically, what’s the compelling reason to download your app and then use it regularly? If you can answer those questions, then build an app. Most can’t. 

3.    App development costs

Apps aren’t free. To build your app you will have to most likely work with a company that knows how to build apps. I can’t tell you specifically how much this will cost…a lot depends on how custom it will need to be. I’ve seen template-based apps start at $50 a month. Some have upfront fees on top of that.

Will your app only be built for Apple devices or will you go after all the devices? They don’t speak the same language and have different specifications, aka. extra costs!

4.    Ongoing app maintenance

In addition to your website, you will also now have to maintain your app. It will need information updated to it. You weren’t thinking you could just throw it out there and never worry about it again, were you? Think about the time investment. Also what happens every time a larger interface comes out? Do you have to go back in and redesign the app?

Now that I’ve stated my four reasons why you don’t need an app, do you have any examples of cases where I am wrong? I’d love to hear some stories that could change my mind.

Maybe you’ve developed an app and saw zero return on investment. Share that story too so we can help others to save a few bucks!

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Having recently completed our summer vacation, I’m a self-proclaimed expert about emotional money. What I’m referring to is the effect being on a “vacation” has on your pocket book and what are the factors in our mind that make us spend more freely.

Let me give an example. When I’m at home I don’t go out to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the same day while also buying snacks, taking a harbor cruise on a whim or buy $40 worth of ponchos you use once to take a ride that may get you wet. Maybe that’s an extreme example, but it’s things that happened while I was on vacation.

So, what changed in my mind to make the guy that cringes on buying a new shirt so footloose and fancy-free? Best I can figure is, and I’m not a psychiatrist, but it’s the “emotions”.

I wanted everyone to be happy and feel satisfied that we had the best trip we could have. I wanted to provide experiences for my kids that they would remember the rest of their lives. I really wanted for my son to get the Darth Vader hat, my daughter to get the Mickey Mouse earrings, and of course, everyone needs ice cream and Dole whips. And you know what…we had a great time and have the pictures to prove it and remember it by.

Have you ever watched Say Yes to the Dress? My wife watches it all time, so therefore I do too. Women drop thousands of dollars on a dress they wear once. The dress shop builds a buying experience around these high dollar dresses that families and friends come to so that they can hear her say yes…to the dress. They have changing rooms and then another room for the families and friends to pick apart the dress as the bride stands on a pedestal for everyone to see.

Sure, they could go look at the dress racks themselves, but they want to describe their perfect dress to a professional and have them search. They want a seamstress to place darts and provide a custom experience. And for this entire experience, they are willing to pay more.

Ever had the mission to find your child the perfect gift or gifts for Christmas? Do they need it? Not necessarily. But you want the jaw dropping experience of surprising your child with a something that maybe they didn’t expect or even something that even makes your kids cry in appreciation. You’d spend more to provide that wouldn’t you?

I give all of these examples to ask the question: How does your business capture your customer’s emotions to give them warm feelings about your product?

Yours doesn’t even have to be a large purchase. I spent $4 on a cup of coffee today and it was worth it. I was greeted warmly, provided a product that met my specification in a timely manner, and then provided a location with free wifi to work in. The smells and ambiance I have found are conducive for writing and working plus I feel really cool working out of a Starbucks every once in awhile.

Think about the environment you create around your products.

  • Is it a fun experience looking at your products?
  • What are things that you can change to make it fun or to increase the perceived value?
  • How do you greet customers online, on social media, in person?
  • How does your physical location look?
  • Would you want to be there if you didn’t work there?

This is the point where I always like to say we can help…but truthfully, all we can do is guide you. And we’ll be happy to do that. But in the end, to increase your customer’s perceived value of your products and develop a positive emotion purchasing experience – there must be a culture shift that starts at the top.

It can start right now, today – contact us and let’s get it started.

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When it comes to grammar, I cheat.

But can you really call it cheating when I use a tool that’s available to everyone? And it’s free!

Grammarly fills the gaps and gives me confidence that what I’m writing is mostly correct…more correct than before at least.

Here’s how it works. It literally checks your writing for the correct use of grammar to ensure that everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free. As I type, there is a small green G in the bottom right of my screen. I see it spinning and checking my sentence structure and grammar. If it finds a mistake, it will underline the error and help me to fix it on the fly.

In writing this article it came up with at least 5 mistakes in my grammar! I even get reports to let me know how words I write, what percentage were correct, and how I compare to the rest of the world (I’m not too shabby most weeks).

Key items it looks for are:

  • Missing comma in compound sentence
  • Confused prepositions
  • Wordy sentences
  • Overuse of passive voice

I’m a repeat offender of all of these, but hopefully, you will never know it!

I have the plugin installed for chrome which is useful when writing emails in a browser, or even this blog. I also have it installed on OSX to check basically everywhere else. You can use their web browser if you wanted to copy and paste something in for the app to check out too.

There are also paid plans that you can purchase monthly or at a discounted rate for yearly plans that will provide a deeper analysis of your grammar content.

The plugin was built by linguist and language lovers…you know people smarter than me. One thing I’ve learned, take advantage of smart people when they are giving out free tools.

If you are already a user, I would love to hear about your experiences. If you aren’t, go download it today at Grammarly.com and check it out.

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I was asked recently considering several social media storms that have taken place, what are some best practices to put in place if it were to happen to you. Let’s look at these examples from the Monday Morning Quarterback chair:

Cracker Barrel

After a local Cracker Barrel store in Indiana fired an 11-year employee, her husband took to Facebook to ask why. Several hashtags appeared as the internet took up this cause and Cracker Barrels social media was torn to shreds.

As with all Human Resource issues, there’s not much Cracker Barrel can say. There is absolutely no win with this.

Should they have addressed it? Yes, I think they should have, but not directly. This was an opportunity to say a lot without addressing the main issue.

  • Highlight long term employees and why they are there.
  • Highlight employee programs that you offer as incentives.
  • Highlight your company’s community activities and all the good you do.

People are going to hate, but the smart ones are going to read between the lines. No one who loves and takes care of their employees is going to fire an 11-year employee without cause, even in an at-will state.

Your only win is protecting the ability to hire future employees while also protecting your stockholders’ dividends.

United Airlines

After a man was filmed being dragged off a flight by security services so an employee could be flown, social media went rightfully crazy.

Adding fuel to the flame was when their CEO apologized for “having to re-accommodate…customers” versus apologizing immediately for what was obviously, a terrible incident. Later a full apology was sent, but too late.

The lesson here is recognizing immediately that they made a terrible mistake and own it. Even if the guys that drug him out weren’t employees, they were working on United’s behalf.

  • Make it right.
  • Tell everyone what you are doing quickly and publically as possible.

Comments and Banning

I’m a little tougher on commenting and banning than most on Facebook, especially for non-profits or religious uses.

My thoughts are this: You’ve built the community. You want to be social but there have to be reasonable expectations for behavior. This is even more evident when it comes to attacking core values.

First offense, I’ll normally hide the post. Second offense, ban them from the page.

Conclusion

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to social media. The key is being prepared, enacting policies and talking out loud about how you will handle scenarios. When stuff happens – call on experts you trust to help. An outside opinion can help to bring clarity in a tough situation.

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Who you choose to host your site really does matter, and I’m going to explain why in today’s blog post.

First off…and I admit it, I’m an unabashed fanboy of WP Engine. At the time of this writing, I have more than 40 sites hosted by them. Their support for my sites is incomparable to anything else I have found.

Here are 5 reasons why your site host matters:

1. Site Backups
WP Engine provides daily automatic WordPress backups so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself.

2. Staging Environments
Say you want to test a theme, plugin or custom code on your site. It would be unwise to make these changes directly to the live site — the possibilities are endless to who your site will react. Possibly even crashing it.

Before deploying changes to the live site, the best practice that WP Engine includes is to use a staging environment to test any changes before going public.

In one click, you copy your live site to a staging environment, run your tests, make changes as needed. With a second click, you copy your site from the staging environment back to the live site.

3. Utilizing CDN

WP Engine offers the ability to put all of your static content on a CDN with little to no configuration required.

Here’s how this works straight from WP Engine:

A CDN is a collection of servers located all around the world. When a browser loads static content, the request is automatically routed to the server geographically closest to the browser. This helps the content load much more quickly. In addition, because your content is loaded from many servers in separate locations, bursts of traffic are less likely to cause issues, because the burst is spread out over hundreds of servers, rather than just one.

For daily use, you don’t know this is even happening in the background. All Harris Media Solutions site come with this activated automatically. CDN is included at no extra charge for the Professional and Business plans and can be added for Personal plan clients for a small monthly fee if you host directly with WP Engine.

4. Securing Your Site

If you have ever visited a site and noticed the address was https:// versus http://…it’s been secured. Your browser may even have the words “secure” beside the site along with the image of a lock.

HTTPS safeguards your site visitors by creating encrypted connections between your visitors and your site, protecting your visitors’ privacy and the data they share with you over the internet.

Also, you can also expect better Google search engine rankings, since HTTPS is used as a ranking signal.

 

5. Built for WordPress

You want your hosting provider to be tailored to WordPress. When looking for a hosting provider, be sure that they offer services for caching, uptime, security, amazing customer support, and more. WP Engine’s premium WordPress hosting platform is built and optimized for WordPress.

Conclusion
Dogwood Media Solutions, LLC offers plans through WP Engine that can save you money and we would be happy to host your site. Get in contact with us to get that conversation started!

WPEngine also offers the easiest way to transfer your site. Learn more about WP Engine’s Migration Plugin. It’s a life changer when it comes to transferring your site to a new host!

Items in this blog post may contain direct quotes from WP Engine marketing resources available at WP Engine.

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When I’ve spoken at ministry related conferences, I’m often asked, what are the things we need to have for our tech and communications ministry to get us current. While this list isn’t all-encompassing, these are some of my consistent recommendations in no particular order.

5. Planning Center – http://get.planningcenteronline.com/

Planning Center has become a must-have tool for keeping worship and tech teams organized. I haven’t found anything comparable that can unify a team better. I personally used it when I was a full-time communications and tech director for five years and have continued to use it at my church to help with our weekly services. It features automated emails, scheduling, planning and can be used for multiple services. Additional applications are often added to the program without increased costs.

4. ProPresenter – http://www.renewedvision.com/

The days of PowerPoint have long passed, and most churches have begun transitioning to presentation software that allows for a more seamless operation. While ProPresenter is not the only option, it’s by far, in my personal opinion, the best product available.

The biggest difference between ProPresenter and PowerPoint is its ability to allow you to be more creative. Helpful features include changing backgrounds on the fly, throwing a song into the playlist at the last minute and seamlessly integrating your videos into your weekly service. ProPresenter does it all. It’s built to show multi-layered presentations.

Check out renewed vision, and add this one to your list.

3. A Website

It’s not an “if” or “maybe”, rather it’s an understood that your church should have a website. There are a lot of options out there and there are a lot more things about building a website than just throwing a picture of your building up on the web. You have to think about the devices that view, how they will view it, what people are looking for, and how you will position your site to help search engines find it. That’s were we come in. Let’s talk

2. A Social Media Plan

You can’t ignore the conversations taking place around you. It’s time to develop a social media plan and potentially invest into some scheduling and monitoring software to help.

Facebook is where I suggest starting. It’s the largest, and there are built-in methods to schedule posts. There are also notifications you can set up to alert you to when people post on your pages and even options to shut down certain things if you can’t keep up with it.

Check out Twitter and Instagram, too, for the next steps and look into products like HootSuite, Sprout and Buffer to help you monitor conversations and schedule future posts.

As for the plan, put in writing what you want to do each week, and do it. Don’t be overly ambitious. Start small and grow!

If you need help, or someone to manage this for you, let’s talk! 

1. Email Marketing Plan

Please stop using your personal account to send out emails about the next big event! While you have permission to email the members of your church, it’s always best practice to use something like MailChimp or Constant Contact as a way to create a buffer that will allow your members to opt out at any time. Some people don’t like to receive a daily devotional but are afraid of losing you as a friend if they ask you to stop emailing them. Importing your lists gives them the power to come and go.

You can also take advantage of scheduling the next email blast about the big event in this software and, by adding a signup option on your website or through your social media, you can add more people to your list.

If you need help setting this up, or someone to manage this for you, let’s talk!

This is by no means a definitive list but only five items that, when asked, I always mention to churches as things they may want to consider putting in place. Let’s work together to get your tools upgraded for your church!

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