How to do Facebook – Social Media For Small Business

How To Use Facebook BlogFacebook isn’t just for the kiddos anymore. It has blossomed into an all out marketing mecca that can allow people to form real relationships with business by “Liking” and following business pages. This is great for companies that really want to connect and share with their customers and other business. To Utilize Facebook for your business there are a few things that are really Should be done.

 First find out what your business trying to achieve by using Facebook.

Facebook is perfect for business that want to share connections with people, and other business, and promote a product or services, but like any Social Media, the sky is the limit and that can seem overwhelming.

 What resources can your organization devote to using Facebook?

If you have the time availability to update your business page or ad a status at least twice a day then you are doing well. Getting people to “like” your page is a different thing all together. The best bet is to invite people who would have interest in your company. Start with friends, and then friends of friends. Once the social media branching out has started it is important to maintain momentum.

 A few simple tips to help improve business Facebook Page:

 -       Make it look good. One does not have to be a professional designer to make sure the image on the cover photo is not a granny, unrecognizable cell phone picture. Get a clear image of the product or service you provide. Hire a photographer, if necessary, to shoot your products for all your media. That will make you stand out and look your best. Also the profile picture should be the business logo or name, not a self portrait, a picture of a cat, or a neighbors cute kid, Just saying.

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-       Make it Accurate. Go into the edit profile section of the page and make sure all of the address, contact, product/service and company information is correct. If there are any inaccuracies then fix them immediately. That way your customers can find you.

-       Post a minimum of twice a day, not all at the same time. Provide meaningful content that your customers and Facebook Followers would be interested in.

Follow other business Pages.  Use your business page to follow other pages and share information with them. You can mention them or ad links to their Facebook page by simply adding the “@” symbol followed by their pages name. by doing that you can increase the size of your audience, and their audience as well.

Use Hashtags on your post. The number Sign followed by a simple key word. (example: #GraphicDesign) These “tags” are searchable so that anyone looking for that key word can find related topics. This can help people find information about your post in a sea of daily updates.

-Try to create open communication with your Facebook followers. Ask and answer questions, and participle in conversations that are important to you and your business.

 Facebook can seem overwhelming at times. With updates, stories, “Likes” and so much more.

If your business does not have the time to invest in having people manage you social media presence, companies like Torch Designs can Set-up, and do all the Facebook updates for you taking the load off of your back.

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How to do Twitter: Social Media For Small Business

How_to_twitterJust about everyone has heard of it, But Many smaller business shy away from using Twitter as a means to communicate socially with consumers, potential customers, and other local business. Twitter can be intimidating at first, but it can also be a way to spread the word about events, products, and specials that a business is promoting very quickly and with very little investment.

What is your business trying to achieve by using Twitter?
Do you want to be able to reach your customers instantly with specials, News, and new product information? If so Twitter is a great platform for your business.

What resources can your company use to devote to Twitter?
How much time can you devote to Twitter? You can spend hours or minutes a day “Tweeting”. For the business owner that likes to work on a schedule websites exist that can set up automatic Tweets so that you don’t have to worry about trying to tweet throughout the day.

A few simple tips to help improve Twitter presence:

-Don’t be Shy. Follow everyone who might have an interest in your company, live in the local area, or need your business services. The more you follow the better. If you decide later that you don’t like the tweets from some people you follow simply un-follow them. It is that easy.
-Spread out your message throughout the day. Not everyone will see 20 messages at 8 am in the morning. By spreading your tweets out during the day there is a greater chance of them being seen and shared by others.
-Re-tweet the messages of others that your followers can benefit from. By sharing the tweets of others or “re-tweeting” you can show that you have an investment in their ideas. It also makes you more visible to their followers.
-Use Hashtags. The number Sign followed by a simple key word. (example: #GraphicDesign) These “tags” are searchable so that anyone looking for that key word can find related topics. Using hashtags at the end of tweets allows people to search, and find a particular topic.
-If possible create open communication with your Twitter followers by asking questions, answering questions, and participating in conversations that are important to you and your business.

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Lastly, with Twitter, and every other social Media platform it is important not to get too carried away. It can be a vital resource in any marketing campaign, or just a pain, It all depends on how it is utilized.

If ever you wish to invest in having people manage you social media presence companies like Torch Designs can Set-up, and do all the Tweeting for you taking the load off of your back.

“Make It Pretty!” Three Words Designers Hate

I want to tirade against three words, three words that can make anybody in the creative field of design cringe with a sense of disgust and loathing for the obviously clueless individual that utters them… “Make it Pretty”

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Don’t get me wrong, I am all for creating aesthetically pleasing designs that get the point across while pleasing the eyes of the viewer. Good designers bring a sense of beauty to a product, creating a look and feel that makes customers want to buy it, or find out more about it. While some people like to look at hideous things continually, I myself do not. So, it makes sense that people pay designers to make the product or service they promote look “Pretty”.

All that being said, why then am I so against that phrase “Make It Pretty”. Quite simply, it cheapens design. It likens all the work that a creative person does to putting a paint job on a rusty car. I find it a bit offensive. But, for those who are UN-aware of the intense work that goes into design, it is a catch phrase that can be uttered time and time again.

An in-house designer is more likely to be confronted with this diabolical missile into the ethos of design itself, then say, someone who works with freelance clients. There is something about working for the same company all of the time that makes the employer think that good designs are cheep and easy to create. Like putting a quarter into a toy machine, and out pops a shiny new design. As any creative professional knows, that is not the case. The mental and creative energy that goes into design is no laughing matter. It is a skill that not everyone has, and even those with rudimentary knowledge of some programs cannot accomplish.

I once had to point out to an employer the utter silliness of that phrase, and say, if it were so easy to do, then you would not have to pay a designer. While that was a bit foolish on my part, after all they were paying my salary, the point I was trying to make, is one that needed to be made. The work of a designer is no less important then that of the person who creates the product. I know, and have heard of many brilliant products, and companies, that go unnoticed because of poor marketing, design, and promotion.

So, how does a creative professional go about making the Distinction that turns that despised term into an obsolete phrase in the vocabulary of their customer or management? Several ways come to mind. Some of them are not so nice. I am kidding of course.
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The First way to combat this is to ugly up a design and see what happens.
Make an expensive ad look like something out of a used car flyer. If they like it, you might have discovered the problem. They have no taste. Be sure and design the real ad on the side, just in case they hate it, and consider finding an alternative designer.

Where a shirt that has a bold type print on it, saying, “ I Do More Then Just Make Stuff Pretty!!” If you are more bold then that you could always have the phrase, “I Do More Then Just Make Your S**t Look Good” I am not that bold, and would rather not offend my boss.

All kidding aside, I have found that the best ways to deal with employers that don’t understand the work that goes into design is to be honest with them. If they are willing, the designer can ask them to go through the process. Show them how you take the design job they give you, and work through it from start to finish. Most employers will have a much greater respect for their designer if they new how complicated design can be. The reason this would work is that it would take some of the mystery out of the process and show them that a designer doesn’t just sprinkler magic fairy dust over blank pieces of paper to make awesome designs.

Just a little warning, unless the next words out of your mouth are, “I Quit”, never, ever, under any circumstances, look your employers straight in the eye and say, “If it is so-o-o-o easy to make this stuff look good, then why don’t you do it”.

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In just about any creative design field, a designer is going to be faced with people who don’t understand the work, think that it is a snap to do, and seek to undermine the importance how the design effects the overall appearance of the company or the product. The main thing is not to stress too much about it. If a designer knows that they are producing quality work, then the work will speak for itself, and their employer will thank them, for making them look good.

If it is impossible to make “Pretty” happen, you can always revert to used car flyers. On second thought, don’t do that.

Ever Feel Like a Designer Stuck in a Box

Do you ever get the feeling that you are stuck in a never-ending cycle of clichés and stereotypes? If you do, then you might be an In-house Graphic Designer.
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Yes that’s right, If you, like me, once dreamed of that awesome job in the creative world, where you and high end magazine publishers would rub shoulders, and have the ability to tell some of the best photographers in the industry that there shot doesn’t look quite right for the ad for Nike, you too would have been struck with a large dose of reality upon graduation from the creative school of your choice. If you did get that dream job right out of school, please stop reading, none of what is in this blog applies to you… and you make me a little sick… kidding, but ya.

Reality hit me, and my fellow designers hard, really hard. I graduated in early October of 2001, literally three weeks after September 11th, and one of our nations biggest tragedies. The only people that showed up to our portfolio review were parents, crickets, and priest. The priest were there to give us the last rights to the new careers of the hundreds of bright eyed, and hopeful creatives had just dropped many thousands of dollars on. It was dismal. Advertising budgets were slashed, and those fancy design firms were firing designers right and left. Fat Chance on us squeezing our way into the industry.

Thus I began my journey, with my overly large portfolio case, filled to the brim with all of the exciting things I had managed to create…and some things I wish I had not. I went to marketing firms, and magazine printers, to local publishers, and marketing sweet shops. Finally I found myself trying just to get a job. Both the grocery store and Blockbuster thought that the portfolio case was a little strange.

After a year of stomping the ground in the south Florida Metropolises, I ended up in a small town in Central Florida. I interviewed, they liked my stuff, and I was commissioned, “A In-house Designer”. And that is where I stepped into the box.

In art school a person is told that the possibilities are endless, at a company, they are told to get it done, fast, and exactly how we want it. I didn’t mind pleasing clients when I did freelance, but now I was forced to please one client, the same way, all of the time. My first introduction to this world of design was a business card that had so much information on it and about 6 logos. I was told they wanted all of the same stuff on the new card, and that I had to make it look good. I went home and cried. Not because it was so hard to do, but because I knew, at that moment, that I would be doing things like this for the rest of my life…. troubling.

If they need a photo, I am the photographer. If they need copy, I am writing it. If they need a coffee, oh wait, that’s not my job.

I managed to do creative work as an in-house designer and later, creative director for eight years and two international companies. Don’t get me wrong. The work is good, it pays well, and you get the benefit of a more solid environment. The only thing it lacks is the ability to be spontaneously and genuinely creative.

To beet this “in the box” mentality, there are ways to remain creative, fresh, and sane. Some of these techniques are quite simple, and some require more effort.  They do work though.

•  Buy and look through Magazines.  Get the most popular magazine available, in what ever is interested at the time, and then peruse it for ads. Tag the designs that are most appealing, and if there is time, create a way to sell any product using that style. It can be quite difficult. Try selling soda using a wedding themed background.

•  Another technique that can be used to keep creativity fresh is to work on freelance projects as much as time allows. By doing projects for other companies one gets to branch out and give unique companies, unique designs that match their style.

• Still Another way to keep fresh in the box at work, is to design ads that the company would never use in a million years. Yup. Ads that are pure concept, beautiful designs, great art, unique approach to the subject, and so out of their character that they would never use them. Why do that, because on the off chance the boss gets wind of the fresh approach and says go with it…never gonna happen.  No, the real reason to do that is to remind yourself as a designer that you can do those things. You can make beautiful and meaningful designs.

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So, If you are an in-house designer, or the Creative director of a company, with only two creative people in it…you, and the new guy, then cheer up. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and hope for your artistic mind. Just remember not to settle, sit still, or let your creativity stagnate and you will always be sharp, in or out of the box.

Beware SEO Scammers!

As a business owner, how many times have you received an email or a phone call from an SEO “expert” guaranteeing you first page ranking for your Web site?
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As business owners, we should all be aware that these types of “experts” are interested only in making a quick dollar and are really not concerned with the long term success of your Web site. Building a successful Web site and maintaining a good Google “page ranking” takes time, patience, and a whole lot of work. No serious SEO professional would ever make such a guarantee.

One of the most common ways these companies take advantage of small businesses and companies is with the use of irrelevant keywords. What they will do is take a list of keywords that no one is using, and have no relevance to the content of your Web site, and build your pages with them. The use of keywords in tactical locations throughout the Web site is important for your organic page ranking. An ethical and true professional would select these keywords only after thorough research in accordance with the content of your Web site. Using irrelevant keywords allows scammers to produce top page results, but for the wrong group of keywords.

For example, if my Web page is selling lawn mowers, what keywords might help consumers find my Web site using a Google search? We could use riding lawnmowers, Snapper mowers, push mowers, John Deere mowers. All of these have relevance to the content of the Web site. But there is a lot of competition for these words. Other sites are using them too.

The scammers will take a set of keywords that have no relevance whatsoever for your Web site and produce high rank results with them. If someone happens to search for your page using keywords for lawn mowers, they will search all day and never see your site. You will find out that irrelevant keywords where used to build your site instead.

Unfortunately, these unethical practices occur more often than we would like. When someone comes to you and guarantees you certain results, your warning buzzer should sound off immediately. Remember, Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process. It does not happen overnight. Good results come from long hours of research, trial and error, and knowledgeable individuals, Torch Designs has all three!
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Have a great week, everybody! Blessings.

What Designers Are Looking for In Stock Photos

What are Graphic Designers and Creative Directors looking for when it comes to the images they select?

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That is the ultimate question for anyone who creates stock photography, isn’t it? Being a graphic designer and a creative director for over a decade now has given me a chance to understand what a designer is looking for when they browse a micro stock photography website like Istock or Dreamstime. We are looking for a piece to the puzzle in front of us, and that piece has to work.

First off, they are looking for something specific. That is one of the reasons it is important to have so many options available to them. It is not enough to have just a shot of a vegetable garden. That garden needs to be in rows, have certain vegetables that stand out, and are easily recognized, and the rows might have to go in a certain way for the designer to be able to use the photo. Thus the necessity for many, many shots of vegetable gardens, from multiple angles, and in unique lighting situations is a necessity.

The next thing that designers look for in a stock photo co-insides with the first, and that is quality of the picture. Personally, when I am in the heat of designing a project foAcademy_chapel_smr a client, there is absolutely nothing I hate, no, make that loath, more then having to color correct a stock photo, or clean up some amount of visual noise in the shot. For photographers, that means not just getting that perfect shot, but making sure that it is clear of unnecessary attention grabbers. It is also important for photographers to make sure that the shot has a good color hue to it, and that the subject of the photo is the dominant element.

 

The last thing a designer looks for in a stock photo is the viability with the other elements in their design. Now that one photographers could never guess, because it is up to the individual designer to come up with something that works for their clients. Of all of the work that designers do it is imperative to have the client in mind when considering the finished product. What does the client want the finished piece to express about them?

When it is all said and done, it is important to make sure that everything, including the photography, creates a cohesive mesh, and that the finished product looks like it was created by an awesome production company, not necessarily an individual designer, or small design group.

We at Torch are small, and personal, but that doesn’t mean we skimp on quality, even in our photos.

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