Infographic Design? Yes Sir!

Infographics have become increasingly popular. They’re useful for a lot of stuff – and they’re SEO dynamite. There’s a certain challenge to boiling down information into a simple, readable and compelling graphical format. How do you put a book’s worth of information into an 800 pixel wide graphic? With incredible skill, a little Photoshop magic and a whole lot of coffee. Here are a few recent informational graphics.

Give us a shout – we’d love to boil your information down. It’s not as tasty as boiled ham – but it’s less fatty.

WordPress – What is it, and Why Do You Need It?

20523497311902632364We design and build a lot of websites – everything from ecommerce sites to one-page sales websites. We’ve used a lot of different technologies – Java, Flash, straight-up HTML, Joomla, Drupal – you name it, we’ve tried it. Some sites are better served by certain technologies – but we’ve found that WordPress has become our favorite, and for good reason.

First – what is WordPress? According to their own site,”WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog. We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.” Yep – that’s right. But – what does that really mean? It means that WordPress (the standalone version, not a site – that’s a slightly different beast) a free piece of software that we (or you) install on a server and build a robust, interactive, scalable and attractive website on. It’s an architecture. It’s open source, meaning that anyone can develop stuff for it – plugins, themes, and all sorts of add-ons.

WordPress can be a blog – but it can also be a photographer’s portfolio. It can be a publishing platform, it can be a brochure, it can be a business website, it can be an ecommerce store – it can be damned near ANYTHING. Yep – it’s that powerful, but it’s also exceptionally simple to use. If you can use Word, you can use WordPress (no, they’re not related, thank heavens.)

A stand-alone installation of WordPress allows you (or us) to build a beautiful, functional web site that looks and works just the way you want it to – and the user friendly interface makes it easy to update and change your site. You can change the look, change and add pages – just about anything you want to do, WordPress makes it easy.

Another spectacular feature of WordPress lies in it’s search engine capabilities. It’s standards-compliant, and it keeps your content and keywords and phrases really rockin’ on Google. After all – if you have a great site that nobody can find, what good does it do? Not a lot, buddy – not a lot.

Secondly – why do you need it? Because you need a modern website with all the functionality and changeability that people have come to expect. WordPress makes your web site dynamic – meaning that your content can change easily and regularly. That’ll bring folks back to view your site and offerings, and it makes it attractive to Google/Bing/Yahoo, etc. Also, with easy updates, changes and additions, you can keep your site fresh – without having to pay a programmer/designer to make the changes. Sweet! Everyone wins!

WordPress is a template-based content management system, meaning that it can look like darned near anything you’d like. Plus, since it’s template-based, you can redesign the site without having to rebuild it. We have great experience in designing for WordPress, redesigning sites for WordPress and changing older websites over into WordPress.

You save money, look like a million bucks – and you have a modern, attractive and easy-to-use system. Hooray!

So – if you’re looking for a new website or a fresh approach to a current site, WordPress is the way to go. If you’re looking for someone to design and build it for you, give us a call – we might have an idea of who to turn to…

Social Media 101 – Step 10: Automation for Domination

autoOK – I got a little busy and let the blog go semi-dormant. This is free information, but it’s a bargain at thrice the price…

Since I’ve covered Facebook pretty thoroughly, I figure it’s time to move along to some automation. The beauty of automation is that you don’t have to work quite as hard as you’ll appear you are. People will think that you’re really on the ball, even when you’re only on the ball for a fraction of the time. Because, let’s face it, none of us is “on” all the time. If you’re like me, you’re doing pretty good to be “on” 30% of the time.

I’m not saying that I’m not awesome – I’m saying that I don’t really have the time, energy or psychic capacity to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr and the other 8 zillion social sites as often as I really need to be to keep things rolling and “asses in the seats.”

So – how do I manage to look so great? I automate.

That, my friends, is a four syllable word. Not bad for an aging punk from Leicester…

Anyway – what does that mean to you? If you automate your Social Marketing/Social Media Plan, you can go to one place and do a little work – and have that little bit of work populate all over the place. Folks will think you’re really on the ball – and you spend a fraction of the time. You win!

I know you’re asking “James – how do I do this? I want to be super-awesome like you. I know I’ll never be as good looking*, but I’d like to have some small modicum of your dominance, socially. HOW, James, HOW?!?!?!” Well…

Without further stupid writing, here’s…

Lesson 10: Automation for Domination

The Exercise: Set it up right, give it some thought and use the right tools.

  • Set It Up Right. I’m a WordPress FREAK. I’m a WordPress evangelist. I think that having a WordPress site makes you really, really cool – and I’m right. The other thing that having a WordPress (or other CMS site) gives you is the ability to post something to your site or blog and have it easily appear everywhere else. The way it works for me is that I make a blog post and it pops to my Facebook business page and personal page as a link and a thumbnail. It then goes to Twitter as a title and a link, along with the categories appearing as a hashtag. Then it also goes on to LinkedIn as a link. Between the readers I have here, my Facebook friends and followers, my Twitter buddies and all the folks I’m linked with on LinkedIn, I can ostensibly get 7500 views. Not bad for a single post. How do I do that? Plugins. I use several, and I’ll list them in a bit. But, you can see the power of automation and having my “loop” set up properly.
  • Give It Some Thought: This should really go without saying. One of the steps in doing anything should be to give it some thought. But – this has some special considerations. You don’t want to create a circular loop of posting – if you post to your blog/site and it feeds Facebook and Twitter, and Twitter pulls your Facebook feed and Facebook pulls your Twitter feed, you can wind up with the post being caught in a cycle of post, repost, repost the post, repost the repost of the repost, reposting the repost of the repost reposting. See – it can get weird. So – map it out. Make sure you’re not putting stuff into a loop that never ends. It gets really weird, and eventually, it collapses into itself and creates a black hole that would make the Cern Hadron Collider proud. Don’t do it. Map it out and avoid collapsing the universe. We’d all appreciate it.
  • Use the Right Tools: You don’t have to do this all manually. And there are some GREAT tools that can help you link everything up:
    • Hootsuite: This one is pretty great. You can add several of your social sites and have a single dashboard to post to all of them at once. If you upgrade to the paid version, you can “buffer” your posts so that you can sit down and write a week’s (or month, or year) worth of posts at one time and have Hootsuite post them at predetermined times. Sweet!
    • Buffer: This one works a lot like Hootsuite, but with the free version of this, you can buffer your posts – but only 10 at a time. Not bad!
    • RSSGrafiti – this one is really Facebook only, but it works in a variety of ways. Make a post to your blog, and it posts to your Facebook page or pages. You can pull several feeds, so if you have several RSS feeds on several sites, you can have them all pull into one place. It’s an app that you install into your main Facebook profile, and you can use it to add feeds to any of your Facebook pages – personal or business. Plus, it’s free. Free is awesome.
    • Twitter: Twitter has an API that will pull from your blog or RSS feed, without the need for your blog or site to do anything special. Setup is a little more complex than it needs to be, but – heck, it’s free and it doesn’t bog your site down unnecessarily.
    • RSS: Almost any site that you use can pull an RSS feed from your site/blog and re-post it for you. Use the power of your RSS feeds. They’re there for a reason…

If you give it a little thought, set it up right and use some of the great tools you have available, you can dominate some Social marketing. Or, if nothing else, you’ll look like you’re working hard – even if you’re just sitting around Earth Fare, drinking coffee and doodling in your sketchbook.

Next up is Step 11: Track it
*I look like Buddy Hackett melted.
Photo Credit.

Infographics? Yeah – We Do That…

Infographics (read: charts and stats for less nerdy types) seem to be all the rage these days. We’ve got a great client (can’t name them, due to contractual obligations) who have contracted with us to design several infographics. First up was a fun little thing for Saturday Night Live. The challenge of putting massive amounts of information into a reasonably attractive format is, well – challenging. I think it came out pretty freaking well, though. SNL has always been one of my favorites. I remember trying to stay up late as a young-un to catch a little late-night comedy. Ahhh – the memories…

Click for a big-ass version. (I almost left Joe Piscopo out of the thing, just to be mean/hip, but…)



Targeted Ads on YouTube?



So, I was sitting outside of Earth Fare, drinking my seven thousandth cup of coffee and listening to Mr. Thirlwell do his thing on “Male,” and I decided to look for some live videos on YouTube to listen to while I worked on some graphic goodies – and this is the ad they attached to my search. I’m not sure if I should be offended, or if it’s pretty much appropriate.

It’s spring in Asheville, and I’ve been remiss on blogging lately. You see, when I have a spare moment, I prefer to be in the sun. It’s amazing, and I’m getting so bronze! Foetus is kinda crazy for casual spring listenin’, but Steroid Maximus is – in my humble, yet always correct opinion – a fabulous, funky journey just perfect for people watching, sunshine, and dastardly deeds of design.

So, my best to you – intrepid readers, clients past, present and future – thank you for allowing me to do what I do, where I do it and how I do it. This is awesome – and so are y’all.

Get out and enjoy a little spring. It’g good for you. Thanks a ton. Seriously.

Social Media 101 – Step 9: You’re The Expert, Right?

expertYou do what you do, you do it well. You know your audience, you know your niche, and you know how to get your work done. You’re the expert, right?

When folks visit your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your Tumblr, LinkedIn profile or other social outlet, you want them to feel like they’ve hit on a place (business, person, cause, whatever) that actually knows what they’re talking about. And, really – you might know what you’re talking about – but are you an expert? God, I hope so…

Your social presence needs to show confidence. It needs to show personality. It needs to show intelligence – but most importantly, it needs to display expertise.

That’s what folks are looking for. Expertise. No apologies, no excuses, no self-deprecating. Damn, man – shape up! YOU’RE THE EXPERT.

Mow lawns? Be the best lawn mower out there. Bake pies? Show the world why you’re the best.*

Folks want to feel confident in their choice to follow, like, favorite or bookmark you – and that confidence will spill over into real users, real sales and real quantifiable ROI with your social media campaign.

And so, with no further prevaricating about the bush, I offer…

Lesson 9: You’re The Expert, Right?

The Exercise: Show expertise daily – with good content and genuine thought.

  • Post Photos of Your Work. I’m a bit of an amateur photographer – and I think I take some pretty interesting photos. But, they’re a lot of photos of children, little things and splattered stuff in parking lots around Asheville. Interesting – but they’re not my work. The folks looking for me to show expertise want to see my WORK. Keep your kids and your artsy photos on your personal pages and accounts – put your work up to show off.
  • Post Links of Value: Experts keep up to date on their field, and they read as much stuff concerning their business as they can get their hands on. Show that off. Post relevant links. Post infographics (those are HOT,) and post things that your end user/customer can look at and see that you’ve looked at it, too. That way, they see that you keep your finger on the pulse of what they’re ostensibly hiring you for. Another nice perk here – you don’t have to write a ton of content to build a lot of content. “Hey, here’s a wonderful article on the biodegradability of grass clippings and their benefits to your lawn: LINK.” See how easy that was? You write a sentence – or better yet, a synopsis – and post a link. Suddenly, you’ve got a great blog post, status update or tweet – and all you had to do was read. Sweet!
  • Share YOUR Information: Give away a little bit of knowledge. Don’t always wait for people to ask for it – give it to ’em up front. That way, they’ll feel more like they have the information it takes to make an informed decision when it comes to buying your services. And – if you gave them some nuggets that they other guy doesn’t, who are they more likely to pick?
  • Brag: But not in a braggy way. Something like “You know we make great pies? Did you also know we make delicious cupcakes? Click here to see our cupcake portfolio!” See, you just upsold! Beautiful. If you’re looking for content, just say something nice about your business or your services.
  • Learn When You’re NOT the Expert: Sometimes, being an expert is about knowing when you’re out of your depth. Don’t try to fake your way through it. Delegate when the need arises – and don’t be apologetic about it. “Hey – look at this great project we facilitated. We partnered with Jimbob’s Cake Decorating Services to bring you this great wedding cake.” See – you didn’t have to make the cake, but you can take some ownership of it by mentioning that you had a hand in it. There’s absolutely no shame in this – and it can be a good selling point. “Hey, I’m not the expert in this exact little thing, but I have a team that I can call on that will knock it out of the park.” See – you’re the expert without being the expert.
  • Speaking of You Not Being the Expert: Here’s where we upsell you. Not an expert in social media and marketing? Don’t have the time? Don’t want to burn a zillion brain cells trying to figure out when to post, what to post and where to post? We can help. Contact us, and let us show you how we can make you appear to be a social marketing expert. We can build a plan, give you words and images and we can help you set it all up. That way you can focus on what you do best while we take care of what we do best.
Be the expert, show expertise, share expertise and hire the experts. Easy, huh?
Next up is Step 10: Automation for Domination
*And send me free pies.