Why You Should Be Using Hashtags NOW!

brixel-creative_blog_3-reasons-using-hashtags

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve either only heard about hashtags or you use them on a daily basis. For those that do live under a rock, basically hashtags are an easy way to turn any word or phrase (with no spaces) into a searchable keyword link by adding the # sign to the beginning (i.e. #graphicdesign or #socialmediamarketing).

In a way, hashtags allow you to create communities of people interested in the same topic by making it easier for them to find and share info related to it. It’s a really handy skill to learn and as social media becomes the primary way we communicate, it’s becoming very popular in marketing.

Did You Know: The hashtag was created by Chris Messina in August, 2007.
Read more: http://bit.ly/TaEt8P

Incorporating hashtags into your social media posts allow for quick searching and categorizing. Aside from Twitter, a few other social media platforms – Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and most recently Facebook – have also seen the benefit of using hashtags and have started to implement the hashtag feature as well. So how does this help improve your social media presence?

Here are 3 quick tips to help you understand why you should be using hashtags to increase your social media presence:

1. Organization – Using hashtags in your tweets or posts allows other users to see all the posts about this particular topic. Once you start using hashtags, you will begin to notice that tweets tagged with the same hashtag will all (or mostly) discuss the same topic.

Try for yourself: To make sure the hashtag you are using is relevant to how you will
be using it, just do a search. You never know what people may be using hashtags
to discuss and you wouldn’t want to accidentally connect your business to a negative,
controversial or embarrassing topic.

2. Target your Audience – This might be the biggest benefit to using hashtags. Let’s say you are a freelance graphic designer (like me!), you might want to tag some of your tweets that contain tips for fellow graphic designers with the hashtag #graphicdesigntip. This will show your followers that you’re writing for or interested in a specific topic and it will help them sort through the tweets that are relevant to them.

3. Grow your audience – Okay this is another huge benefit! Although a larger audience isn’t directly associated with using hashtags, it puts your tweets in front of people who might be interested in the same topics, and therefore would lead to a larger audience. The more targeted and accurate your hashtag use, the more targeted followers you’re likely to attract.

 

There really is no reason you shouldn’t be using hashtags, especially in your business marketing. If it comes down to knowing when and how to use them effectively, don’t let a little hashtag scare you! My suggestion: start using hashtags today! Join in on the conversation and share this blog article with the hashtag #mainedesigner now!

Graphic Design: Why You Should Keep It Simple

Even when it comes to graphic design, sometimes simple is better. It’s hard explaining this to the client though. For one reason or another when they involve a “graphic designer” they need to make magical things happen. In some instances though magical isn’t always necessary. As a graphic designer you need to know when to make a design sparkle and shine to WOW the audience, and when to make a design look flat (or simple) so it does not take away from the message that needs to be portrayed. This is a learned trait.

Brixel Creative - Simple Graphic Design Blog

I’m what you might call a “self-taught” graphic design aficionado. I did not go to college to learn all the valuable graphic design techniques I use every day, I just sat down with Adobe and embraced my one-on-one time. I’d like to think my 15+ years creating wonderfully creative graphic design for various types of companies gave me more hands-on experience than any college would have done. With that being said, I’m sure there are some techniques I may not know about in PhotoShop or Illustrator, and I’m Ok with that. There are tons of amazing tutorials online I can take a look at on YouTube or read about on a blog. Some things in life don’t need to be complicated and are better if they remain simple.

When you strip away all that is unnecessary – get rid of the fluff – you’re left with a simple message that speaks quite loudly to the audience. Take a moment to think about the some of the most well know logos out there. I bet the ones you thought about are very simple designs. The ones that come to mind for me are FEDEX, Gap, NBC – all pretty simple, huh? But that’s what makes them memorable. It is less information for the brain to process and therefore makes it easier to remember.

Rather than piling on the effects, may I suggest you cut through the noise with white space, choose a clean type, incorporate simple shapes and limit your color palette. Sometimes it’s best to keep your graphic design simple. Get back to the basics because less will always be more, especially when it comes to graphic design.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do you like to keep your designs simple?

For the Love of iPhone

As a work from home business owner, mother of 2, and winner of the “Best Wife Award” for 12 straight years, I tend to reach for my iPhone when I need a moment of sanity. I mean it’s the only ME time I seem to be able to find these days. Between work, kid’s activities, house cleaning, laundry (blah, blah, blah), women tend to need alone time to decompress after a long day. Maybe men don’t need this time, but in order for us to stay somewhat sane, this time is a must.

For the Love of iPhone - Brie + Pixel New Blog Post - www.brixelcreative.com

Think about this: name one person who doesn’t love the iPhone? Ok well, maybe Droid users. But seriously, I feel like the iPhone was somehow created as a relaxation tool. After a long day at work or home with the kids, you look forward to that moment when you can relax on the couch and just sit there – doing nothing but using your iPhone. It’s a great feeling, right?!?!

Whether you’re checking Facebook, scrolling through your Twitter feed or pinning children’s party ideas on Pinterest, sometimes there is nothing better than your one-on-one time with your iPhone. Honestly, I don’t think you could get the same feeling from a Droid. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never owned one. And call me crazy, but it doesn’t seem like the owners of any other smartphone out there have the same “love at first sight” feeling like those that have iPhones.

For me, my iPhone is heaven sent – it is irreplaceable – it keeps me sane – it had me at hello – it completes me. By now you might be thinking it’s a little silly to talk about a smartphone like this. Well to this I say, there’s a very good possibility it’s not me that’s weird, maybe it’s you.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media Etiquette

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SOCIAL MEDIA ETIQUETTE
BrixelCreative.com

These days the internet is used for many, many purposes other than just sending a simple email. You can find very successful businesses selling their products solely online, along with a never ending amount of blog articles.

With so many people from some many different walks of life browsing the internet at all hours of the day, there are times when etiquette may be overlooked. Maybe you think “I’ll say what I want to say because they don’t even know who I am” – respecting others and their opinions is fine, but there is a fine line.

Here are 7 common Social Media Etiquette Tips you should be practicing every day:

  1. Remember your manners – I remind my kids everyday to say “Please” and “Thank You”. Manners can go a long way if you want to be respected and be remembered. Just because you are hiding behind a computer doesn’t mean you have free reign to say “anything” you want. You still need to be held accountable for your words.
  2. Be true to you and your brand – What you do and say on the internet is a direct reflection of you and your brand if you are representing a business. Keeping it real is what will get you noticed since people will want to connect with interesting individuals and unique companies.
  3. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover – It’s the old saying I’m sure you’ve heard many, many times and it still holds true to this day. Maybe a new connection doesn’t have as many Twitter followers as you, or their portfolio could be updated, don’t discount their credibility because of these facts.  Never judge too quickly because this new contact could be very beneficial to you or your company.
  4. Keep it personal – It’s always better to have a direct personal connection within a company. Make sure you are on a first name basis with current and potential clients.  Personal connections create a stronger bond and typically results in a long term business relationship.
  5. Just say no to information overload – Resist from posting the same article every hour on the hour – it’s annoying and might give your followers a reason to unfollow you. If you don’t receive any feedback within a reasonable amount of time, consider posting it again the next day but with a different title. Some people aren’t checking their social media 24/7!!
  6. Post relevant content – Keep in mind, your contacts decided to connect with you online because they felt the information you were providing was relevant to them or their business.  Refrain from posting about your day or how you feel about politics because that is probably crossing the line and may come off as unprofessional and annoying. Make sure your posts are informational to your business and keep in line with your branding. It’s always a good idea to post quick tips or helpful hints that the reader can apply to their business.
  7. Always stay professional – Adding a professional profile picture is easy to do and provides your connections with not only a name but a face to go along with that name. It’s another way to build a solid reputation and introduce yourself to potential clients without even meeting them in person.

Hopefully these few etiquette tips are little reminders that first and foremost we should all be treated with respect no matter if we are out at the grocery store or commenting on a blog post. Just keep it real when you are posting on the internet and represent yourself, your brand or company appropriately. The image you put out there could effect your real life in a positive or negative way.  Always remember: If you wouldn’t say it to their face, then don’t type it online.

How important is etiquette in your social media posts? Comment below!

Why Graphic Design Matters to Small Business

Ask any small business owner what’s an important factor to a successful business and I bet they would mention graphic design and branding. Yet, in business, having quality graphic design is often seen with an “out of our budget” mindset, too expensive and not affordable. However, that mindset can often be misleading and maybe even devastating to your business.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”

With graphic design, maybe it’s your logo, package design or just a simple icon that speaks to the consumer. When you put your business out there to complete with other businesses, there needs to be something that sets your business apart from the rest – but grabbing the attention of the consumer FIRST is what’s most important. It’s the first impression in the end that may be the only thing that differentiates your company from another. And remembering a brand is achieved with consistently great graphic design.

QUICK TIP —> Keep in mind a potential client must hear or see your brand numerous times before the memory of your company sticks. It’s important to provide a consistent and memorable message and image to accelerate this recognition and speed up the branding process.

Brixel Creative Graphic Design Small Business

So how can small business stand out and be seen – going up against those larger companies with huge marketing budgets? Well, first things first, you need to make sure you are competing with like-minded companies and be able to stay within your budget too. Let’s face it, a small business hand-making soap in a small town in Maine most likely cannot compete with a larger company from California selling in all major grocery stores. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put money and energy towards your graphic design to develop your brand image. Having good graphic design gives credibility, boosts visibility, and provides consistency to the consumer making your product more memorable.

Outdated or up to date?

Picture this: you’re searching the internet for a new car. When perusing websites, there are some sites you come across that look very outdated and therefore turn you off right away so you move on to the next website. Then you find a very well designed site and you are intrigued to dive in further; and they might not have the lowest price. You see, it’s the FIRST impression you make on the consumer that is most critical and if your graphic design is “outdated” you risk losing potential client and there is nothing you can do about that.

QUICK TIP —> When developing your website or any marketing collateral, keep in mind this is your IMAGE and the visual design provides credibility and determines the professionalism and quality of the business. This may be your only chance to prove to the consumer you are worth purchasing from.

Having a great product and customer service is definitely important, but just might mean nothing if no one knows you exist. It’s time to put the image of your business first and show everyone out there how memorable your company can be! Professional graphic design can improve your business image, and offers increased positive exposure and sets you apart from the competition. Improving on your design assures you are sending the right message to your clients and most importantly will potentially increase sales. Graphic design improves acceptance and awareness of your products and services and that is what will drive business to your door.

Consider contacting a qualified graphic designer to review your current image and provide insight as to how your graphic design can be improved. In the end, how can you not afford to improve your image with graphic design!

5 Tips to Choose the Right Social Media Channel for Your Business

Whether you’re an established business or a relatively new start-up thinking about diving into social media, it’s not an easy task for anyone. The simple task of deciding which social media channels you will focus on is the toughest part. To help you decipher each option, below I’ll provide a few tips along with a nifty infographic showing the do’s and don’ts of social media. And as a follow up, in the coming weeks I’ll provide more detailed posts about each social media channel to further assist you.

So, here’s goes….

Tip #1: Start by researching each social media channel to determine which will work best for your business. Try to consider what you might post on these sites. Although social media may be free, also consider the necessary time it takes to come up with a plan to develop and schedule your posts.

Tip #2: Keep in mind it wouldn’t be good to sign up for every social media channel right off the bat. Decide which ones would be the most relevant to your company. Start off slow, then you can determine if adding more social media channels in the future would benefit you.

Tip #3: Before you take the plunge, narrow down your list of social media channels that you feel would work best for your company and implement a plan of attack. Make sure not to lose your business image when posting to social media sites. Doing so may have a negative effect so have a clear plan in place helps you stay on track.

Tip #4: Know your audience! This is most important when starting with any social media channel. You must know what your followers or fans want to see. The good thing is you can track this with engagement – over time you’ll get to know your audience and it will be easier to know what they like and don’t like.

Tip #5: Lastly, stay focused and try not to get frustrated. With your commitment it will be worth it, but keep in mind all good things come to those who wait! Be patient!

Brixel Creative - Do's and Don'ts of Social Media
Infographic courtesy of AllyWatch

Hope this information helps! Feel free to LIKE my page on Facebook, FOLLOW me on Twitter and CONNECT with me on Linkedin. Need any help with getting your company set up on social media? Contact me today – I’d love to help!

Don’t forget to comment below to let me know how social media helps your business!

The Anatomy of a QR code

You’ve most likely heard the term “QR code” within the last few years and maybe some of you have wondered “what on earth is a QR Code?”. I’ll decode the QR code for you today!  In definition, a QR code is simply a two-dimensional square barcode that’s read by a specialized app on your smartphone with a code scanning feature.

Here is an example of a QR code:

Along with the evolution of the internet and technology, the QR code was created for an instant way to view a page on the web using an app on your smartphone. Once the code is scanned, it will connect you to any online content of your choice such as a web page, coupon, promotional video, etc. The biggest benefit of the QR code is to quickly connect your customer or potential customer to much more information than any brochure, business card or direct mailing could ever display.  It allows you more information and in turn more engagement with your customer.

Here are a few ideas for you properly use your QR code to promote a web page or other content:

  • Product details
  • Coupons codes and special offers
  • Giveaways or contests
  • Instructional Videos or clips
  • Promotional videos
  • Sending an email message
  • Social media page or blog (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin)

Market your QR code properly
Sure QR codes sound great, but don’t get too excited – they can’t be used in all applications. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use a QR code on a vehicle for the simple fact it would be moving 99% of the time or even on a billboard for obvious reasons. However, QR code can be effective if used on a business card to send an email, brochure to link the customer to more product information, or even within your trade show display graphics to quickly connect the potential client to your website.  As an added bonus you can track when your QR code is scanned, and if you have multiple QR codes, you can view which links had the most interest.

Where do QR codes come from?
So, I’m sure by now you are really wondering where you can find these QR codes. There are many sites online that can convert a standard website link into a QR code and in many cases they would be free.  One site you can try would be http://www.qrstuff.com/. All you have to provide is the webpage you’d like to link the QR code to, then you can download the QR code file. It can be used for print, you can upload it as a photo or post it on your website.

QR code do’s and don’ts
There are a few tips I’d like to provide to make sure you are getting the most out of your QR code:

  • MOST IMPORTANT: Size: QR codes have to be a minimum size of 1 inch by 1 inch. This will insure it is large enough to be scanned by your smartphone.
  • Color: Black and white works best for this application. However, you can use colors with high contrast from each other.
  • Space: You must leave a white border around the QR code so it stands out and to give it a better scanning ability.
  • Be clear: Be sure to provide clear instructions on how to scan the QR code and where they will end up once they do scan it. One example could be, “Scan this code to receive 5% off your next purchase.” You’ll want to make sure you make will be worth the customers effort to scan the code, so they will be more apt to scan it if they will benefit in some way. Just make sure your information is clear and they will be more willing to take out their phone and scan the code.
  • Test it…twice: You must not assume the QR code will work because you put in a valid URL. Once you’ve inserted the code onto your marketing material, make sure to test it many different ways to insure it will work for anyone no matter what. And have others in your office test it too. That’s the last thing you want is for the code to not work for even the most tech savvy the customer and it leaves them frustrated and annoyed.
  • Track it: It’s always important to track when and how often your QR code was scanned. This will give great knowledge to how you should or shouldn’t use the QR code in the future. It also gives good insight as to what your customer wants most.

In the end, QR codes can be a great marketing tactic to use when you want to engage your customers and give them more information about what your company can do for them. Use them wisely but don’t overuse them.

Comment below and let me know how you use QR codes to promote your business.

Happy QR coding!