Is Your Business Twitter-Fated? All Signs Point to Yes!

As a follow-up to our Forward Motion radio show on Tuesday, Nov. 16, in which host Carmen Carrozza and I discussed online marketing with INDIEbusiness entrepreneur Donna Maria Coles Johnson, I'd like to emphasize the overlying message we were trying to convey to business owners:

IF YOU'RE NOT ON TWITTER YET, YOU SHOULD BE.

Doesn't matter what product you're peddling or service you're selling; Donna Maria made it rather clear that every business can up its value by using Twitter to reach out to customers, fans and the general public, in hopes of making true connections with them — connections that foster long-term growth for your company, because common interests and circumstances (discoverable through social media likes, tweets, posts and comments) bring people together. Once relationships are established, you never know when that connection will lead to a sale or another opportunity for you or your company.

THE NO-FEAR APPROACH TO TWITTER

When I asked Donna Maria what she would say to a business owner who is afraid that he or she can't think of anything valuable to say on Twitter, or is afraid of not being able to dish out enough content, she summed up her answer in 3 words: "Get over it." She reassured our listeners that their tweets don't have to be pithy, or even industry-related for that matter. Simply sharing your favorite ice cream flavor, she said, can lead to a true connection.

Read Donna Maria's excellent blog post about how to "Get Over It" and get going on expanding your customer base through social media by clicking here or clicking the image below.

QUICK STUDY

Afraid you don't know the lingo or how to find others on Twitter or how to use keywords? Twitter provides a great getting-started section for businesses. The best way, however, is just to dive in and get started. You'll catch on simply by watching how other businesses use the space.

And to read up on etiquette, check out The Morning News' savvy guide to polite Twitter usage.

To listen to our Forward Motion conversation with Donna Maria, download the podcast.

LET'S CONNECT!

Follow me on Twitter and I'll be happy to follow you too. Can't wait to see you get started!

See you soon,

Carla "Mint Chocolate Chip" Fisher

Easy Peasy Password-Keeping

Everyone uses passwords. A lot of them. To exist online, either as a consumer or as a business owner, you must employ the use of secure passwords, and keeping track of them all is no picnic — especially if you're like me, and you try to come up with mixes of numbers and letters to make them extra secure. Like I once did, you probably find yourself more often than not racking your brain to recall that once so-clever-because-it's-so-tricky password, or even to remember which version of your usual password you've used for a particular site that you need to log into stat. "Remember Me" functions often have time limits (ex. two weeks), or are made null when you have to reset your browser or clear your cache. And sure, there's the "Forgot Password?" function, but even those can be time-consuming, especially when security questions you've long forgotten are involved.

The solution I've found for my business, and recommend to my clients, is 1Password, a software application that saves all your logins, e-mail accounts and identities in one easy-peasy virtual vault.

1Password is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems and its features go well beyond keychain tools that come with system software. Here's why:

+ This isn't just a matter of copying and pasting from stored data. By far, 1Password's best feature is that you open your vault, find the login for the site you want to visit and double-click it — next thing you know, the software is logging you in automatically. No copying or pasting of usernames or passwords. Of course, you have to enter them initially when setting up your logins, but that process is quite painless and will save you oodles of time in the long run. NOTE: In Preferences > Logins, you must have the box checked that reads "Submit automatically after filling a login (Autosubmit)" for autologin to occur.

+ Another fantastic feature is that if you ever change your password or create a new log in on a site, an 1Password prompt will ask you if you'd like to update your existing login with this info or save the new information as a new login in your vault. I cannot emphasize how convenient it is that I don't have to make a note somewhere myself regarding my password change.

+  You can backup your data. In 1Password's "Preferences" section, you can set how often you want to back up your password files, and where on your hard drive you'd like those backups saved. Of course, whether you do so is up to you. Some people don't like to store passwords or secure info on their computer, because in the case of a system crash (or a fire), they would lose that data forever. Others don't wish to employ the autologin feature, for fear that if their system was ever hacked, their account info would be compromised. How you choose to handle these security considerations is a personal choice, and you can always search user forums for advice from others who are grappling with the same issues.

+ You can set a preference for which browser you'd like opened when you double-click for autologins.

+ You can organize your logins in separate folders. For my business, I have different folders for different clients, with stored credentials I access on a regular basis. For my personal usage, my husband and I each have a folder for our regular logins, from social media sites to bill-paying to music downloads to online pizza delivery.

We are all looking for ways to make our crazy-busy lives easier. Getting password-keeping software is a step in the right direction toward freeing up your valuable time so that you can more effectively run your business, and your life.

Please note that I have no affiliation with 1Password; I simply like it. Try it free for 30 days and see for yourself.

Securely speaking,

Carla

Want more tips? Visit Facebook.com/saidandsung.

Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners

Still think you don't need a website, or that yours was a waste of money? Pshaw! Read my latest column below, which was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 2, 2010. Marketing guru/freelance writer Allen Mogol contributed to the research of this column. Shop Talk

Written by Carla Rose Fisher
Thursday, 02 September 2010 13:46
Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners“I spent all this money on my website, and it hasn’t brought me a single sale.” For small-business owners with sparkling, newly launched websites, this is a common lament. You’ve invested time and money in your website. Why, you ask, after three days — or three months — hasn’t my site paid for itself? Have I wasted my investment?

Probably not. Your website is a long-term investment. Instead of expecting your site to pay off immediately, consider that it takes time to attract and persuade a new customer to buy. A website can begin the process, but not necessarily seal the deal. A website can also remind your existing customers that you’re there for them 24/7, placing you on par with bigger businesses, and also let them know about new products, services, discount offers or special events. Your site can help keep you in the forefront of peoples’ minds when they need you, but may not necessarily result in an instant sale.

You actually may be getting business from your site without knowing it. If you ask your customers how they heard about you, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear how much of a traffic-builder your website has become. Especially if you’ve got video: Forester Research tells us you are 53 times more likely to appear on page one of Google’s search results if you have video on your website. And any good site designer these days will input keywords into the site’s coding to maximize its chances of being easily found on search engines.

5 key benefits websites offer:

1) Credibility. If your bank, favorite cable channel or preferred charity didn’t have a website, you’d wonder about its professionalism and reliability. By the very act of having a website, you’re telling your current and potential customers that you’re legitimate, current and committed to be there for them, not just now but down the road. When you meet someone in a business setting who makes a good impression, don’t you want to find out more about what they do? If he or she doesn’t have a web presence, it’s natural that you’d wonder about your new acquaintance’s level of expertise.

2) Convenience. Does that restaurant you’d like to try have vegetarian options? Is it wheelchair accessible? Busy consumers are used to getting instant answers not just when deciding where to eat, but when deciding on colors for their kitchens or where to buy school supplies. A website allows potential customers to get answers or even make purchases at their convenience, no matter what time of the day, often saving them the parking and traffic headaches that come with heading to actual storefronts. Whether refillable pencils or paint samples, a website transforms your business hours from 9-to-5 to 24/7.

3) Browsing. When potential customers are investigating a purchase, product photos online can result in a visit to your store when those customers are ready to buy, no matter if it’s tomorrow or months from now. It’s modern-day window-shopping. I recently watched an employee at a tea shop set up a stand in front of the store, offering free samples to dozens of passersby. Over 10 or 15 minutes, close to 50 samples must’ve been given out. And not one sampler walked into the store. A waste of time and product? Absolutely not. The product is delicious, and the shop made lots of impressions among tea drinkers that will likely pay off in the long run.

4) Reach. Let’s say you own a children’s furniture store. That’s usually the kind of store that potential shoppers will check out online first, before making in-person visits. They won’t go miles out of their way, not when they can go online first. And they likely won’t decide immediately. Your website is your chance to persuade customers to travel to your business, rather than go to the nearest one. Just know that the visit might not happen for weeks or months, as most people tend to research purchases — mostly through online reviews — before visiting the store to investigate further.

5) Branding. This may be the most important benefit of all. Your website is an ideal tool you should be tying in with all your other marketing efforts. In fact, you’ll increase site traffic by taking every opportunity to let your customers know you’ve got a website. Place your URL on fliers, your storefront display, business cards, coupons, menus, bags…virtually everywhere you promote your business. A website doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it’s part of your overall campaign. But you’ve got to make it known. Lots of companies Harrisonites do business with make sure their web address is prominent whenever they send out a postcard about a sale, an invoice for a previous purchase or a catalog promoting its whole line. Reminding customers about their websites gives customers a chance to find out more, and might persuade them to place an order or pay an in-person visit.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area or want more info on creating a web presence for your business, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

Need a writer for your website? Visit saidandsung.com to view my writing samples.

Pockets of Information, Part I: Empty Yours by Speaking Up

Yesterday, I enjoyed a brief respite from work to play softball for my Broadway Show League team. During a post-victory conversation with a teammate, I mentioned I was on my way to a meeting with my writing partners for a new children's musical project. My teammate just happened to know a higher-up in the children's musical world, and thus, smack dab in Central Park, a connection — or the promise of one — was made.

The lesson here? My teammate had NO IDEA that in addition to being a freelance business writer, I am also a songwriter, let alone that I have children's songs in my repertoire.

This is a perfect example of what I call Pockets of Information. And they need to be emptied.

SPEAK UP

Don't assume that answering the question "What do you do?" (WDYD) with a job title is enough to spark a connection in the mind of the person to whom you are speaking, especially if you are in business for yourself. In fact, if you answer that initial question confidently (which you always should), then that person may assume that you are all set in your profession and aren't seeking new clients. You also should share more about your other interests, but I'll say more on that in a couple paragraphs.

I'd say a better way to answer the WDYD question (using myself as an example) is, "I'm a freelancer writer and consultant for Web and print, and I'm always seeking new clients in small businesses, corporate clients, even individuals."

As the conversation continues, you should then try to work in any other passions you are pursuing (in my case, this would be my songwriting). Side jobs or businesses, even extracurriculars, can lead to tangental conversations, which are great breeding grounds for expanding your network.

If you own a business with a storefront, that's one thing, because people can see what you do. But if you have additional businesses or are an independent contractor of any kind who keeps the other sides of you deep in your pockets, few people will be able to guess them. By opening your mouth, you open your work and your interests to a new world of possibilities.

So get out there and get talking! Get on Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn to share your likes and dislikes, your passions and your strengths. You'll be stronger for it.

In Part II, I'll discuss how Pockets of Information affect business teams.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

Want more tips? Find me on Twitter, on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

Want to hear my music?

Saidandsung Returns to WGCH … Listen Live!

Business coach Carmen Carrozza and I had such a great time discussing business marketing on his radio show back in May that he's invited me back! Tune into tomorrow to "Forward Motion" on AM 1490 WCGH, from 4-4:30 p.m. Stream it online by visiting WGCH.com and clicking 'Listen Live' at the top left of the show's site.

Carmen and I will be discussing how I've helped his marketing efforts as well as defining which marketing works best for small businesses, large companies, B2B, mom-and-pop shops, retail and professional services. Call in at 203-661-5051 to ask your marketing questions!

You can read more about Carmen on his Web site.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

saidandsung.com

WGCH extends to the Bronx, parts of NYC, the North Shore of Long Island, Brewster and all of Westchester.

From Sophisticated to Snarky: Saying It Just Right, Part II

The tone of any copy you print or publish speaks volumes about your company. So what's the best voice for your Web site copy, press release or brochure? In other words, how do you want your message to come across, in terms of attitude, and how do you think your target market wants you to speak to them?

Maybe you want your potential customers to know that your company is a hip assortment of idea people and creative thinkers who will bring a sense of urban wit to their work. Or perhaps you're a multi-generational family business whose customers share the same tried-and-true conservative values that you espouse?

Refer to the examples below (and those in Part I) to help differentiate between casual and conservative, hip and snarky, and so much more.

A note about the FAQs category: The Frequently Asked Questions section of your Web site or brochure is a great opportunity to showcase your personality. For example, if you are a fun-loving but get-the-job-done kind of company, then your FAQs should reflect that balance, providing useful to-the-point information, sprinkled with fun, feel-good phrases.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Saidandsung.com’s At-a-Glance Guide | Copy Tone Comparison

TYPE OF COPY: PLAN DESCRIPTIONS

TONE: Conservative

1) from asmallorange.com

Powerful and Secure Hosting Plans

Service designed for high-traffic sites and online business

• Essentials

• Plus

• Premium

TONE: Casual and Clever

1) from mailchimp.com

Forever Free Pricing Plan

Loved by more than 225,000 people.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

TYPE OF COPY: FAQS  (see the note above about FAQs)

TONE: Conservative

1) from ping.com

Below is a list of our most frequently asked questions.

TONE: Sophisticatedly Hip

1) from beezag.com

Get answers.

TONE: Casual and Clever

1) from wufoo.com

A collection of answers, replies and clarifications to our users’ favorite questions. It’s like a quiz, but with the answer sheet.

2) from vimeo.com

I don't know how to make videos. Where do I even start?

You don't need to be a Steven Speilberg to make videos. All you just need is a camera, and a little motivation.  [cont'd …]

3) from wufoo.com

How can I get at the data collected by my form?

In so many sweet ways, my friend. In addition to giving you the ability to design your own awesome reports, you can access your data within the admin interface, have Wufoo email you new entries, subscribe to them as via RSS feed or export them as an Excel document.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

TYPE OF COPY: REPORTS/STATS

TONE: Conservative

1) sample copy (no source)

You have no reports created. Click here to create one.

TONE: Sophisticatedly Hip

1) from beezag.com

Accurate, Real-Time Monitoring

2) from wordpress.com

Stats to obsess over

Our stats are designed to give you up-to-the-minute data about your visitors: how many there are, where they’re coming from, which posts are most popular, and which search engine terms are sending visitors to your blog.

TONE: Snarky

1) from wufoo.com

Oh no. Buddy! You don’t have any reports! Let’s go make one!

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

NOTE: Creating perfect copy isn’t an assembly-line process. Saidandsung will customize your information in the exact tone your target audience expects, even demands.

Missed Part I? Get up to speed.

Better Writing (and Business) Begins Here

Welcome to the blog for saidandsung.com! My name is Carla Fisher, and here is where I’ll share writing, marketing and business tips that will make your copy fresh, sharp and engaging. I'll also offer up ideas on creativity, business operations and systems (such as file organization) and social media tips.

From time to time, I'll share my songwriting developments and any announcements (Yippees) and my Harrison (N.Y.) business column as well as radio show, Forward Motion, based in Greenwich, Conn.

Please feel free to add comments and ask questions! Let's make this a dialogue.

I have a great deal of social networking experience, having worked in the space for five years in the areas of user experience/quality assurance, search engine optimization and marketing, blogging and community-building, writing/editing and Web site consulting.

My 13-plus years of writing and editing projects have been vast and varied:

+ Call-out copy, landing pages and banners

+ Site copy, executive bios, FAQs and privacy policies

+ Voiceover scripts, TV and radio ads, and CD inserts

+ Brochures, feature articles and sidebars

+ E-newsletters, press releases and press kits

+ Sales letters, annual reports, formal letters and resumes

+ Greeting cards, speeches, songs and children’s writing

Please note that the editing style I favor is that of The Associated Press Stylebook. So those sticklers for The Chicago Manual of Style or The New York Times, know that I have used those styles in the past but I choose to follow AP.

If the kind of writing you need is not listed in any of the above projects or areas, ask! I am always up for a new challenge, and have found that my skills are easily transferable.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Carla

Follow me on Twitter