SNEAK PEEK: Website launch for Linda Kay's Creations

Earlier this year, we formalized our commitment to telling the stories of great brands online by offering website development services to Checkmate Consulting clients. After an initial website launch earlier this year, we're excited to share we're at it again.

Linda Kay's Creations is our newest and boldest client, sharing amazing custom embroidery creations for thousands of Etsy shoppers every year. We're developing an intuitive, innovative digital catalog that showcases Linda's amazing and affordable products. From font choices to previous creations, Linda Kay's website will showcase the very best products she creates.

We can't wait for you to see it.


DFTBA: DON’T FORGET TO BE AUTHENTIC

In July 2007, I stumbled upon a video of a guy with nerdy glasses singing a song about the very-near release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was 17 years old, and Hank Green sang and charmed his way into my heart as both a Harry Potter fangirl and a social media user longing for community.

And that day, I became a Nerdfighter.

Nerdfighteria is an online community co-lead by two brothers: New York Times best-selling author John Green (author of a little book called The Fault in our Stars) and his little brother, Hank, who just so happens to run a conference called Vidcon that hosted more than 10,000 Youtube creators and community members last year. These two guys began as just brothers vlogging back and forth to each other each day as a simple video diary to reconnect as siblings. But along the way, they developed an online community with their Youtube channel that I not only did but actively wanted to be a part of as a consumer of digital media.

Their many successes, from CrashCourse to DFTBA Records to blockbuster movies and both scoring interviews with President Barack Obama, showcase how to keep momentum going once you go “viral.” But, in my mind more importantly, these two brothers show how forging communities and being in the community business generate success inherently. These brothers model that by being true to your personal and professional values and forging and authentically building communities, those communities will become loyal and do what you kindly ask. I pre-ordered all of John’s books because I liked John, not because I liked the synopses or the covers looked cool. I wanted to know what my friend on the Internet, John Green, had written — just like how I buy pizza from a pizza shop because the owner is snarky on Instagram and buy my favorite cookies at a local bakery that shares baking tips on Facebook.

I spend dollars to support communities and brands that connect with me.

John in his speech above at this year’s Youtube #Brandcast, a TED-esque infotainment event designed to court traditional mainstream advertisers, talked about how young users are demanding connection and engagement online. Consumers aren’t just buying, they’re looking for brands that talk back, that build communities and enrich lives.

Millennials and Generation Z kids are looking for brands that are authentically engaged in the culture of young consumers, and as marketers, we have an obligation to drop the act and to begin building online communities behind our brands. We need to stop pushing and start pulling; we need to stop selling and start connecting.

If there’s a currency for this next generation, it’s authenticity. We crave it, and we make our purchasing decisions because of it.

Now, I’m 25. I’m one of the so-called original Nerdfighers, one of the first 1,000 subscribers that started watching in 2007, and Hank and John have retired those camcorders that recorded their first vlogs. I’m not a senior in high school, I’m a social media professional (really), and John and Hank employ 30 people to help create the videos, events and projects they love. Their videos have been viewed more than a billion times. Almost as an afterthought, they’re making (a lot of) money doing what they love and being who they are, engaging authentically with their followers daily on Youtube, Twitter, Tumbly and even Snapchat.

I connect with Hank and John, and there are hundreds of thousands of other Nerdfighters who buy products, attend shows and support financially and with their voices the projects that Hank and John lead. They have their own empire — forged organically from a place of love authenticity and transparency.

But the vlogbrothers’ success is also a caution for old-school marketers trying, desperately, to be cool. If traditional brands don’t start forging digital communities like Nerdfighteria, they will lose relevance as fast as you can say “DFTBA.”

Building better websites

For the last two years, we've been providing the highest caliber of content and customer service for our customers at Checkmate Consulting. We've been tweeting, posting, liking and sharing, while building brand awareness and creating authentic, engaged communities for our customers.

It's been an exciting journey so far, and we're thrilled to announce the next step in our journey to being a full-service digital marketing agency.

As of March 1, we'll BEGIN OFFERING Website Design and Maintenance SERVICES.
 

But we didn't intend to go down this road as a company. In January, Mike Luebbering Construction contacted us to design, build and implement a simple, functional website for the family-owned construction company. We were tasked to tell their story simply and completely in two weeks.

Mike Luebbering Construction tasked us with building a website for the family-owned construction company. We did it -- and we did it in a week.

Mike Luebbering Construction tasked us with building a website for the family-owned construction company. We did it -- and we did it in a week.

Our team of digital communications experts with years of website development and creation experience built MikeLuebberingConstruction.com in less than week, tweaking and teasing out content on appropriate channels and testing our content before its launch today. And in less than 24 hours, Checkmate Consulting is happy to report that nearly 150 unique visitors have stopped by MikeLuebberingConstruction.com.

We're excited to be offering Website Design and Maintenance services for current and new Checkmate Consulting customers, who know the importance of a digital presence for their business and brand identity. But it's important to note that we are not web developers; we aren't creating a website from scratch. For our customers, we will be utilizing tried-and-true website management and online content management systems to create fully functional websites. We don't do the coding, we just provide the content and help you tell your story.

And your brand's story needs to be told.

3 Great Ways To Use An Event Hashtag

We live in a social world … a social media world, at least. When you’re out and about at events even in my small(ish) Midwestern city, you’ll see hashtags everywhere. They’ll prompt you on signs; they’ll be on the wall as Twitter feeds. They’ll be ever present on promotional materials and fliers; they’ll dominate the digital conversation. But how do you use them appropriately? Here’s a short guide to using hashtags while you out at events, just in time for all those corporate holiday parties.

1. Use The Hashtag!

It may seem obvious, but in order to increase your reach and be heard during an event’s digital conversation and life, you’ve got to use the hashtag. It’s always best to end a tweet or Facebook post with a hashtag so it doesn’t distract from your content, but always include them. By using an event’s hashtag, you’ll gain more followers and be able to engage with other attendees during and after the event. From your personal accounts, it’s a great way to network at conferences. You’ll never know who will start following you as a result of a simple 140-character observation. Note: Event hashtags can be used across all platforms, but attendees can best utilize them to encourage engagement on Twitter and Instagram.

2. Share Photos With The Hashtag

Tweets with images result in a 36 percent increase in clicks, a 31 percent increase in visits to your profile, a 41 increase in retweets and a 48 increase in favorites, according to a recent social media article by Fast Company. If there’s a keynote speaker presenting or you’re taking a selfie at a vendor booth, take a photo and write a short caption. Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and it’s important to take interesting, engaging photographs that are relevant to an event. Just post it to Instagram, and share it across your other linked platforms. A great one to do? Photos of the event’s opening or closing. Social media managers will be looking for content during those quiet times and are more likely to engage with you from the event’s brand.

3. Engage With The Hashtag

Once you’ve tweeted that quote from a presenter or shared a photo, click on the hashtag and start scrolling. Begin retweeting and/or favoriting interesting or noteworthy tweets or posts from other attendees using the hashtag. It doesn’t have to be a science – just something that catches your attention is all that’s necessary to engage in a digital conversation. Plus, your followers will know that you’re out and about learning things about an industry or organization with your sudden influx of content about a particular subject, which makes you a more relevant content creator and curator. 

3 Ways To Tell A Story Digitally

Digital storytelling; it's a term widely named, but not widely implemented. There are 1,000 ways to tell a story on the Internet, but in order for your message to be heard above the noise, stories have to be told in a captivating and interesting way. Below are three basic ways to tell a story on social media.

1. Photos always win

There's nothing like a moment captured, and with smartphones, you're never too far away from snapping that perfect image. It's true that a picture can be worth 1,000 words, and when the concept is simple, post a photo and a short caption (5-10 words). Photos on Facebook also get a slightly higher EdgeRank score, which means better visibility in your audience's News Feed.

2. Graphics come in a close second

There's a reason why all those fancy, glossy magazines have talented graphic designers on staff -- because graphics can take a complex idea and repackage it in a way that's pleasing to the eye. If you've got an event coming up, don't use text to tell the time, date and place, take a screenshot of your flyer and use that as your graphic. Or, better yet? Quickly redesign your flyer to become a simple 650x650 graphic that can be shared across social media. But your graphic should never get too cluttered; a tagline, time, date and place is all that's needed.

3. Words come third

As a writer by trade, it pains me to say it, but words win the fight on social media. What do you share on Facebook? If you answer honestly, it's a great photo attached to a mediocre news story or pictures of your new niece or nephew. But if your story is too complex to tell in a simple photo or graphic, steer clear of first person always. Your audience wants to feel included in a conversation, not listening to a story. Involve them in the story by using "we" or "you."
 

 

3 Tips For Better #Hashtag Etiquette

I manage a Twitter account with almost 7,000 followers day and night, and the biggest social media faux pas I see over and over again is poor hashtag etiquette. In order to better serve the world as a professional social media manager, I offer the following advice for veteran Twitter users and novices alike.

#Too #Many #Hashtags 

It’s incredibly common to see posts (especially by teens) who want to put a #hashtag #on #every #thing #ortheydothiswithalongsentencefragment. Like salt and sugar, hashtags should be used sparingly and only to produce a flavor to your tweet or function for searching. If you’re at a SPS event, be sure to use #learningispersonal or #spslearning but not both. Also, there are a lot of hashtags out there that are already claimed and in use. Before you attempt to become trending, do a quick search and discover if the hashtag you’re wanting to use isn’t already in use.

Hashtags on Facebook 

Even though Facebook has added this really cool Trending feature on your News Feed that is different than Twitter’s, hashtags are still predominately a Twitter game. Do not go hashtagging all over the place on Facebook; searching trending topics on Facebook is not its primary function and the Facebook hashtag search module just isn’t supported for #mylife or #SGF like Twitter is. However, one specific hashtag designed for content searches is appropriate and acceptable.

Follower-building hashtags

 Although very popular in the beginning of hashtags of lore, #FF or #FollowFriday has gone the way of the world and is no longer vogue, posh or acceptable by any social media managers’ standards (it’s so 2009). In a world that moves quickly, #Like4Like and #FollowBack just turn faux popularity contests. Brands and individuals should want authentic, engaged audiences – those perusing the internet for artificial numbers to inflate their personal Klout score never create a real impact on social media.

3 Ways To Diffuse Social Media Arguments

The decision to cancel school due to inclement weather is one of the most contentious decisions  the Springfield community faces all year, and parents are guaranteed to agree and disagree with the decision regardless. Springfield Public Schools’ communications team will do its best to put out the fires by answering questions as they are posted, but still, the hateful, mean, argumentative comments will roll in on Facebook. 

But what happens when a stakeholder attempts to start an argument with our brand or a fellow user on the Facebook page you manage?

New York Times digital editor James C. Best wrote an insightful article this week about how to battle social media arguments and can’t-win propositions. His advice? “Don’t fight flames with flames.”

Trying to discuss an even remotely contentious topic with a stakeholder is a fool’s errand, he wrote. And I can’t agree more – it’s always best to not complain, not explain and not engage hateful users who are just lashing out on social media. Instead, here are three ways to sedate the trolls when posting sometimes divisive or controversial content on your brand’s social media:

1. Let the content speak for itself. 

If you provide a link to an applicable page that can provide more information and at least partially explain the reasoning behind a brand’s controversial decision, you’ve won half the battle. Trolls, users who only complain and actively smear brands and individuals on social media, thrive on lack of information and misinforming others in a comment thread. A link can provide correct information before the trolls have a chance to negatively engage or misinform.

2. Answer genuine questions.

 If a stakeholder posts a question in a comment thread that is an appropriate, non-confrontational clarifying question, reply to the user directly (using their first name) within the thread as soon as you can. By answering the civil user’s appropriate question, you’re showing the silent observers that a) The brand cares about its customers and will answer appropriate questions and B) The brand will not tolerate or respond to hateful comments, period.

3. If the comment is hate speech, disrespectful to another user, or offensive, hide the comment.

 Hiding comments on Facebook means that others can’t read the comment, but the user and his/her friends can – thereby putting the person on mute without the user knowing the sound has been turned off. It’s an easy, non-confrontational way to silence a bully as a brand. And if the user posts vulgar of obscene language? Delete the comment. If they do it again? Ban the user. On the SPS About page on Facebook, there’s a short-and-sweet comment policy that has zero-tolerance for profanity, vulgarity, offensive comments and threats of violence. Don’t hesitate to delete, and if your brand doesn’t have a similar short message in place, add one. (Side note: If a user does post a threat of violence toward your brand or an individual, take a screenshot before it’s deleted for legal reasons).

The big lesson? If you’re thinking about posting a controversial or sensitive content on social media, whether it be on a brand’s page or on your own account, examine the content from every angle before you press post. Would someone find this content offensive? Is this sharing this content worth the possible negative engagement? Is this the type of message I want to send to my friends or our stakeholders? Once you let the genie out of his bottle on social media, there’s no way to put him – or his controversy – back in.

3 Reasons To Have A Social Media Icon

For businesses that are consistently feeding information to their customers via social media, it's important that their brand identity doesn't get lost in the fray. Having a social media icon that has a simple, concise brand identity can help you break through the Twitter clutter. Here are three reasons why having a simple social media icon is important to your social media strategy.

1. Icons Are Recognizable

The resizing mechanisms on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms make your 6-inch wide logo a blip in your clients' news feeds. Having a single design element that can be noticed even when it's only 73x73 pixels (or smaller on a mobile device) is social media gold, leading to more clicks and higher responses.

Here are a few examples of effective social media icons. 

icons.jpg

You instantly recognize their brands, but no one of these graphics include an obvious or full company name. Your brand's social media icon should have the same qualities.

2. Icons Are Modern

Logos, although a necessary part of your business, appear outdated on social media. They should a lack of attention to detail and are the first indication that a brand that isn't interested in having a current or contemporary social media presence. If a business is targeted to reach social-media savvy customers, it's particularly important to have a bold, vibrant social media icon. Good colors to use are light and medium blue, warm, soft yellows and cool greens. Ask a graphic designer to create five options, and pick the best one for your brand.

3. Icons Are Urgent

Your logo for your letterhead can be relatable, powerful and friendly (or at least a branding specialist told you that in 2003), but your logo and slogan won't be read on a mobile device. Modern, simple social media icons make a user pause and possibly read to the message. Your eye goes left to right, and an image that is easy to consume on your left can lead your eye to the right to read your content more consistently. 

You can have the best social media icon that works with your brand standards, but if you don't have a compelling message alongside your icon, your gorgeous icon won't generate leads, an increase in web traffic or brand loyalty. Find out about Checkmate Consulting's social media management services here