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posted by | on Articles | Comments Off on Content Management Systems: A Beginner’s Guide

There is no question that the internet has changed our way of life. From the way that we correspond with friends to the way that we conduct business, the internet has become a critical method of communication for organizations both large and small. The difficulty that faces many businesses lies in determining how they should use the internet to increase their brand’s value in the eyes of the client.

It is fairly easy to see the value of creating a website for a business, but much more difficult to envision how this website should be updated and added upon with the passing of time. Like any other tool, a company website needs to be periodically maintained in order to remain useful. However, the maintenance process for most websites is far too difficult, requiring the skills of an advanced website developer just to make simple changes.

Unless you have experience with HTML and/or PHP, it can be quite difficult to update your website with the latest information. This problem is lessened for companies that can afford to hire out full-service IT departments, but for small businesses and organizations, that is simply not an option. The Content Management System (CMS) was built to allow everyday users to update and maintain their website with as little hassle as possible.

In the days before the dot-com bust, every webpage was created by hand, and if an organization wanted to change something simple, such as their contact information, they would have to make that change on every page, one page at a time, and hope that they did not mess anything up in the process. We’ve all visited websites that appear to be “broken” in some way, resembling some surreal newspaper whose words extend beyond the newspaper page and are stuck hanging in mid-air. Because these giant errors could happen from the slightest typing mistake, it was generally agreed that only the computer-savvy could operate their own website.

Fortunately, we live in very different times today. Content Management Systems take care of all of the technical aspects of running your website, from design to organization, making it easy to update the website regardless of one’s skill with computers. Any authorized user can log into the website, add or edit articles, upload pictures, customize forms, and much more, all without the risk of somehow destroying the website. What’s more, a Content Management System allows a website to add additional features over time, such as the ability to send newsletters, coordinate events, integrate with facebook, and much more.

All of Caulfield & Co.’s websites are built under the WordPress CMS or Joomla CMS, in order to ensure maximum functionality and performance. These websites are simple to use, quick to update, and are easily able to fit a variety of company applications. Contact us and see how we can help!

posted by | on Articles | Comments Off on Turning The Web On Its Head: 3 “New” Design Elements

It is so easy for an internet marketing firm like Caulfield & Co to get caught up in the tedious monotony of web design. When it comes to the web, sometimes it seems like there are only so many options out there. Flash websites don’t work on mobile browsers, and what’s more, they often look cheesy and out of place. Microsoft’s Silverlight was a good try at creating interactive websites, but ultimately their concept failed as well. Finally, because there are so few groundbreaking web design ideas out there, clients typically have the same general idea of what they want their website to look like, which only serves to increase the amount of cookie-cutter websites that are on the web. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle which is very hard to break out of. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear from a business that wants to think outside of the box and completely re-envision how their piece of the internet should work: it gives designers a chance to dust off their creative hat and really create something special.

Here are 3 classic elements we expect to see, and why they’re killing design creativity:

1. The Search Bar

I cannot think of the number of times that a search bar has forced me to drum-down my website to a duller, more mainstream design. The actual search bar isn’t so big in and of itself, but for a designer, it becomes far too tempting to draw a horizontal line right across the website in order to “contain” the search bar. Make no mistake: When you make a big horizontal line in the middle of your website, you greatly limit the number of creative choices available to you. Think of implementing the search bar in a way that doesn’t cut up your website into tiny sections. For example, in one website, I threw the search bar up as high as I could, integrating the search bar into the much larger illustration of a fun outdoors scene. The search bar looked like a sign hanging from one of the clouds, and it kept it out of the way of the rest of the website, while making it visible to the casual user.

2. Horizontal & Vertical Navigation Bars

This one almost comes so naturally to designers that we don’t even stop to think about it. After all, what other options are there, if not a horizontal or vertical navigation bar? How are we supposed to navigate through the website without this staple of the internet? It’s easy. Think about how you interact with objects every day: your phone, your printer, your car. Hopefully you have no trouble operating those devices, despite their distinct lack of horizontal or vertical navigation bars. Why is that? Intuitive interfaces. For most big companies, there’s an entire department built for the sole purpose of creating products that are intuitive for the user to immediately use. Apple has bet nearly all of its money on creating products that are easy to use, right from the start. There’s no reason why the web can’t be the same. For example, you’ve got a restaurant who wants a new design. Instead of busting out your friends the horizontal and vertical bars, stop and think about what the company is and how it interacts with users. At a restaurant, people choose things all the time from a real-world menu. Why not make your own menu bar work the same way? The content could load on the right side of the restaurant menu, and the navigation could be located on the right. Appetizers could be subtitled “About Us”, Entrees could be subtitled “Our Services”…you get the picture.

3. The Top-Right Corner Logo

In the old internet of 1997, the only way of getting people to know your brand was to stick your logo in the top-right corner of the website. Those times are long and gone, so if you’re simply slapping your logo up there without thinking about why you’re doing it, then congrats! You’re one step closer to a boring, monotonous website. In today’s world, we see logos everywhere, and not always in the same places. A clean, sleek design is reduced to tedium by a blocky logo at the top. If the website is so sleek and modern, why not trim down the logo some, and readapt it near the bottom-right corner? If you have a location-based design (an office desk, a bulletin board, etc) why not integrate your logo into one of the objects (such as the cream in a coffee cup?) It will show up just as vibrantly as before, and clients will notice and appreciate what the avant-garde choice says about your company.

Looking to bring some new life into your website, but aren’t sure how? Contact us and see how we can help!

posted by | on Articles | Comments Off on Social Media Marketing: Turning Communities Into Cash

If a company hopes to become part of a community, they are expected to engage in a dialogue with potential consumers, and that means submitting original content to the internet.

Why is it important to contribute to the internet?

Contributions to the internet result in acceptance into the online community, and lead to increased consumership. Contributions can be made in the form of blog entries, twitter responses, or even YouTube videos. The type of content that results in the greatest diffusion of content is classified as ‘viral’, and includes lists, quizzes, how-to’s, or even interactive flash activities. On the other hand, the type of content that establishes a company’s expertise in the field is classified as ‘informative’, and includes articles, commentaries on recent events, comparisons, Q&A sections, and product reviews. Establishing a balance between these two forces is the key to successful blog writing, and what’s more important, providing this free content will engender customer loyalty overall.

When does giving all this information away befome profitable?

Chris Anderson spends a great deal of time answering this question in his book, “Free”. He explains that by consistently providing engaging and relevant content, business owners have taken the first step in successfully creating a community around their brand. Community members, he says, feel an intrinsic need to support the business in which they are now mentally invested. When individuals are welcomed into a community through free content offerings, they subsequently feel indebted to support them. In addition, when the content provided is valuable, relatable, engaging and worth sharing to others, brand loyalty will increase right along with search engine ranking.

What’s the proof that these campaigns really work?

Tamar Weinberg in his book, “The New Community Rules”, discusses several successful and creative examples of companies that provided exciting and creative content that appealed to the masses: the “Mentos & Diet Coke” campaign and BlendTec’s “Will it Blend?” campaign. The Mentos campaign found a creative and unusual use for an otherwise one-use product. On a similar note, BlendTec’s “Will it Blend?” campaign featured a series of faux-scientific experiments in which durable, expensive or exotic objects were placed inside of a BlendTec blender, transforming it into a fine powder. Both campaigns were so creative and unusual that the videos spread like wildfire, and consequentially, awareness of both brands skyrocketed. Weinberg estimates that it would have cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to find a similar level of success with traditional marketing techniques alone, but Mentos was able to produce a nationally recognized video for approximately $2.50.

So I can just post whatever I want and hope a community grows around me?

Not exactly. In order to provide such content, it is critical that the business understand the psychographic habits of their audience, their goals, problems, and values. Once this is understood, it is easy to provide content that will appeal to a narrowly tailored or widespread audience. Since anyone can make a video and post it on YouTube, it forces advertisers to place their primary focus on creating new and innovative plot ideas, and that requires a critical look at what the brand stands for, what their target audience is, and how they hope to communicate this message to their audience.

Seems hard to do from an insider’s perspective. Can you help me?

Of course! Our firm is capable of handling the necessary steps in order to form a strong image online. Contact us and see how we can help!

posted by | on Articles | Comments Off on The Internet Is Not A Billboard

The internet is not a billboard that a firm can use to slap their name all over the town, but a community in which dialogue and understanding are the primary goals.

What binds members to form a global community if they are scattered in small pockets all around the world and will never meet in person?

Benedict Anderson, professor of International Studies at Cornell University, explains this phenomenon in his book “Imagined Communities”. According to Anderson, the idea of a community is nothing but a social construct, wholly imagined by individuals who believe that they are members of this community. In order to maintain this community, it does not matter if members in the community ever meet, exchange ideas, or even exist, as long as individual members believe wholeheartedly in their existence somewhere on earth. Because of this, the internet is an ideal venue for fostering these imagined communities, uniting members all across the globe in their desire for special-interest communication.

Now that these communities have sprung up across the internet, what are the implications of participating in them?

Just like any other community, there are rules of membership that must be followed. David Meerman Scott, in his book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”, clearly explains that members of a community are expected to engage in dialogues, two-way conversations in which both parties exchange ideas and express themselves and their opinions in an open and tolerant environment. This is where traditional marketing falls flat when applied online.

But advertising firms have been doing things this way for years! How does the internet change things?

Before Social Media Marketing, the number one way to reach an audience was through advertising, a one-way form of communication. However, when applied to the community model, it quickly breaks down. Think about the kind of people who spend all day talking at their peers without waiting for a response or signal of interest. They aren’t community members but parasites, and are to be avoided at all costs! The same goes for advertisers on the internet, which is why there is such a need for good Social Media Marketing.

What can Social Media Marketing do for me?

When properly applied, it can provide enormous results at a relatively low cost for the business: it can humanize a larger corporation, allow a small company to become a “thought leader” on a subject, empower a company to reach out to a specifically targeted audience based on geographic or psychographic proximities, or it can simply raise general awareness and appreciation of an otherwise dismissed brand.

How can I get started?

That’s simple! Caulfield & Co is happy to discuss How Social Media Can Help You.