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Poll: What kind of monthly webinar would you attend?

Free Monthly Webinar Series Planned to begin in May The DWC is teaming up with Laurie Macomber of Blue Skies Marketing and Ron Zasadzinski of Codegeek.net to offer a fun, new monthly webinar series.  Drawing on the expertise of Laurie, Ron, and Stu Crair (owner of the DWC), this series will be an interactive way to learn more from three tech business owners and thought leaders. So, the question to you is this: “If you had a chance to learn in a webinar format from Laurie, Ron, and Stu, what kind of topics would you like to know more about?” Please fill out the informal poll below to help us shape this series to be as effective as possible. We appreciate your input and look forward to launching this series sometime in May!...

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5 Social Media Platforms To Boost Your Small Business

Today’s world is faced paced and new businesses have to jump in with savvy in order to survive. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product or service is if nobody knows about you and you aren’t making an effort to connect with the public. Here’s where social media platforms come in- the ability to insert yourself into the social sphere and be a part of your customers’ lives, both past and future. There are some basic advantages that social media platforms can bring to a small business, a few of which include: The ability to forge a brand “look and feel” The words you use and the graphics/photos you post say a lot about you and what you’re trying to sell The power to answer and address feedback/complaints Customer feedback is crucial to any growing business and social media gives you a way to interact with clients and publicly fix issues that may arise The platform to offer deals and incentives Discounts and special offers are hugely enticing to the general public, and having a strong online media exposure ensures those will bring in business The tools to grow your following and increase brand loyalty The digital age gives you the instruments to interact with your customers, expand your mailing lists, boost your affiliations, and add the personal touch While it may seem overwhelming, especially if you are just starting out and seriously understaffed (or underfunded), investing in a solid social media plan will pay you back over and over again. If you utilize social media efficiently and in a targeted manner (e.g. a photographer may find more success on Instagram than say, YouTube), you will find your business growing in both sales and popularity. So let’s explore the top seven platforms and how they can bring engagement and panache to your small business! Facebook It’s the #1 social media site in the world, and for good reason. With almost 900 million users, your customer demographic potential is huge and chances are, everyone you know has a page of some kind on this multitalented website. This should be one of your most important advertising avenues, second only to your own unique website/blog, and you should take advantage of the myriad of options. You can post writings and photos, create surveys and contests, plan and invite people to events, invite people to “check in” at your shop, embed videos and links, use hashtags, and so much more. Twitter 140 characters don’t seem like much, but they can be quite powerful when used regularly. Do some research into the best tags to narrow down your target market, and think long and hard about everything you post before posting it. You’ll quickly become savvy at saying a lot in a few short sentences, and gracefully entering conversations about topics and fields that are pertinent to your business. Twitter is great for following people you admire, networking with other people in your industry, and being found by people searching via hashtag or live-tweeting special events. LinkedIn It may seem static at first, since this site is basically a glorified online resume, but don’t be too quick to write it off. LinkedIn has almost 150 million users, and is set up to connect you to other people in your industry, as well as provide a “reference” of sorts to people searching you or your business. It only takes a few minutes to set up your unique page, and update it as your experience grows, so there isn’t a reason not to partake in this useful platform. Over time, you may find opportunities to collaborate,...

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5 Reasons To Use MailChimp For Your Business

In the frenetic world of online marketing, it can be challenging to stand out as a small business owner. You may be overwhelmed with all the options out there for promotion and find yourself confused on which avenues to invest in to bring in clients and sales. Luckily, as time goes on, more user-friendly and effective solutions are being brought to the market and with a little research and learning, you can grow your business with less effort and more style! One of the greatest ways to reach your audience is through email-based marketing. Let’s face it, most people are constantly connected to their email accounts throughout the day, tapping messages on their smart phones or toggling between browser tabs at work. It’s easy to bring your business to someone’s mind when all they have to do is open an email that is right in front of them. And hands down one of the best options out there today is MailChimp, featuring an easy to read interface, simplified design process, and sophisticated tracking options. If you are looking for a clean and simple way to send newsletters, coupons, and other offers, look no further than this amazing program. Here are just five perks you’ll enjoy when you use MailChimp for your small business. Save money There are a handful of different services to keep in contact with your customers, but most of them require subscriptions and can really eat into your profits, especially when you are first starting out. But MailChimp is absolutely free to set up and free to use if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers! And for many entrepreneurs, it takes quite a while to build up that kind of subscriber base- so why not save money during those first slow months and put that cash towards inventory or other marketing? No design background necessary We are all aware of the impact of great design- we ourselves tend to only click on and peruse websites/newsletters/posts that are clean, colorful, simple, and easy to read. Other mail-integration marketing companies can make it hard to put together something that comes off as such, and you may end up with cluttered and archaic-looking emails that simply get deleted. Don’t waste that opportunity when your business is sitting in someone’s inbox by putting forth a substandard product. MailChimp is incredibly clean and simple, while allowing you to control things like color schemes and fonts, and brings appealing design to the forefront. Smaller time investment For a small business owner, every moment of every day is worth money and it’s hard to do it all and still maintain some semblance of work/life balance. So the less time you can spend cobbling together a newsletter or coupon, the better. Luckily with MailChimp, there are several pre-made design templates to choose from and you can simply click, insert a bit of text, add a picture or two, and you’re off and running! It’s also easy to create a custom, regularly-used template (think monthly newsletter) and save it for later- then when you’re ready to send a new campaign all you need to do is swap out your current info and media. Then you can use that time you saved to brainstorm new ideas, squeeze in a workout, or spend time with the kids. Tracking made easy Getting detailed feedback is crucial to learning what works and what doesn’t, anticipating your clients’ interests, and promoting your services. MailChimp’s integrated tracking reports allow you to watch everything from open rates and click rates, to when and where your clients are opening their email campaigns. You also...

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HootSuite Can Help Manage All Your Social Media

There are so many social media options available, it’s hard to know what platform is right for you. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and countless others, there’s at least one good outlet to connect you and your business to your interested and existing customers. Creating a buzz on social media is more difficult than just posting a couple of funny cat videos or copying and pasting quirky quotes. It requires a detailed strategy for how you want your online voice to be heard. For our social media classes at the Digital Workshop Center, we always focus on this key principle to start. Besides time to create the content for social media, you also need to factor in the time to analyze the response. Having a measurable analytic is just as important because it lets you know if what you’re saying online is successfully being received by those who you want to reach. With all of this time needed to create an effective social media campaign, there are tools that have been developed to help alleviate some of the burden. HootSuite is an online management platform that can effectively reduce the amount of time you spend on social media. Started in 2009, HootSuite allows you to manage all your social media from one convenient place. Using HootSuite allows you to more rapidly grow your audience, streamline team workflow and reach audiences with geotargeted features. In addition, HootSuite offers a vast array of analytic tools so you can measure your social media response. One of my favorite things about HootSuite is how user-friendly the interface is. With little to no experience with social media, you can connect all your accounts into one happy place and quickly get started managing them all. Pricing for HootSuite begins with a free package that includes connection for up to five social media accounts, basic analytics and some other fundamentals. If you want to upgrade to its Pro package for about $9 per month, you can receive a wider set of tools. According to Jeffrey Gitomer, an expert on social media and strategy, “Social media is the new cold call.” If you’re going to get involved in social media to try and reach new customers, you need tools like HootSuite to help manage your time better. But always remember that you have to first strategize on your voice and what you’re going to say before you jump into an ever-growing social media world. [Originally published in the Coloradoan on...

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How to Set Up Your LinkedIn Profile

Before filling out your profile and creating a company profile, take a minute or two to write down a few words and phrases that you want to connect to your profile. Keywords, i.e. graphic design, real estate, electrician, programmer, etc. are great. LinkedIn works like Google in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and your LinkedIn profile is searchable on other search engines. The more places you can put the words that define you and your business, the better. Personal Profile  Upload a picture of yourself (headshot of you smiling). Define your “Professional Headline” (essentially your elevator speech, truncated) – this will show up next to your name everywhere on LinkedIn. It is a great place to tell people what you do. Also keep in mind this is a great place to plug in some of those keywords and phrases. Avoid titles like ‘Owner’ and try to use a description of how you add value or what you do. Think about what you have to offer, what makes you unique, what value you bring and how you can help. You have a unique advantage with the amount of experience you have in your own business, highlight that if you like. It is always easy to change so don’t worry about getting it absolutely perfect the first time. Be sure to include a link to your website under the websites section. You can change the ‘title of the website’ that shows up on your profile.  Often times people won’t change that and all you will see is a link to “website.” Edit the ‘name’ and call it something like “Aspen Grove Marketing Website.”  Something more descriptive. Public Profile Section (just below where you list your website – click ‘edit’)– this is the section that allows you to change your ‘privacy settings.’ Your LinkedIn profile is searchable on LinkedIn as well as other search engines. I have mine pretty open because I want to show up in searches and I want people to be able to see what I have done and my recommendations even if they aren’t connected to me. This section also allows you to choose a custom URL. Take a look through this section and while you are here,  get a custom URL as well (i.e. http://www.linkedin.com/in/amyalcorn). Summary – similar to an executive summary of your resume. Tell the world who you are and what you can do. Outline your professional niche, highlight unique skills. This is more about you and your skills where the position description can be more about your work and success stories etc. Specialties – this is a great place to plug in keywords and showcase your ‘specialties’. Add positions like you would in your resume. Fill out the position descriptions fully and try to include some of the keywords and phrases. Think about what you would tell a potential client. A little more than an elevator speech but not a novel. Highlight success stories or problems solved as well. Connections – It is good to work on growing these. ***When you send connection requests or ask for recommendations, ALWAYS personalize the message. DO NOT leave the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” bit that LinkedIn pre-populates for you. If is it someone you may not know as well, tell them how you know them and why you would like to connect. Start asking for more recommendations. You don’t have to get 50 right now, just ask for a couple now and a couple in another month or so. You want to have fresh recommendations. (at least some within the last 6 months)....

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How to Use Twitter Successfully: What Is It & Why Is It Relevant?

Twitter tends to be one of those social media platforms that isn’t quite as easy for some people to grasp. After reading this, however, you will have a better understanding of Twitter and you may even be more interested in using it! “They say Twitter is like a river, ever-changing as it flows, and a Tweeter’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes….” What is Twitter? Twitter is a free online networking tool that allows users to connect and post status updates that are 140 characters or less. Users can follow each other and share pieces of their daily lives. Here are some of the terms used in Twitter defined for you: Tweet – a status post. Must be 140 characters or less. The ‘shelf life’ of a tweet is very brief, so feel free to do it throughout your day. TwitterStream –  For those of you familiar with Facebook, this is like your newsfeed. For those of you who are not, this is a stream of tweets from every user you have decided to follow displays on your home page. Follower – Someone who has opted to see your tweets on their homepage. @reply – Use the “@” symbol at the beginning of your message to reply to someone’s tweet. The only people that will see this are the people that follow both of you. Direct Message – A private (direct) tweet. Direct tweets do not appear in the public tweetstream. You can only send a Direct Message to someone that follows you. Retweet – See something you like in the stream? Simply retweet using the retweet button or “RT.” Similar to sharing a post on Facebook or forwarding an email. Retweets will give the original tweeter credit by including a link to their profile. Mentions – Using the “@” symbol anywhere but the beginning of a tweet will allow everyone who follows you to see this message. This is like including a link to that person’s profile. #, or “hashtag”: Including a hashtag will group your tweets by keyword. Hashtags are great for events, discussions, important topics, and groups. These also make it easy to search for a certain topic. Favorite –  A tweet you have bookmarked by clicking the star. Others can see your list of favorites as well. Trending – Current topics that are being talked about the most. Great, so now I kinda get it a little more… but how is this relevant to my business? Twitter is another platform that you can use to connect with your customers/clients, increase your brand awareness, position yourself as an expert in your field and open the lines of communication. Where to begin: Define your goals. Are you on Twitter to sell products, increase awareness, position yourself as a leader, and/or provide a feedback channel? Lots of larger organizations are very successfully using Twitter as a customer service channel. No more online forms to fill out or waiting on hold for ages.  Simply send them a tweet and you will be taken care of immediately. Get a feel for what people are saying and how they are interacting. Do a search of your company, your industry, your products, or your town.  Spend some time listening and observing. Don’t just push your ad messages. Be real, personable, and genuine. This is not a just another place to get free advertising. It is a place to connect with customers when they aren’t in front of you face to face. You don’t need to go follow everyone that comes across your screen.  Find the influencers in your industry/location/interest...

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