Are You Sick and Tired Of Counting Characters?

    Are You Sick and Tired Of Counting Characters?

    Lately I’ve been realizing that small and insignificant, but necessary, items eat up a significant portion of my worktime. For example – counting the amount of characters or words I’m using when composing something. Character limits are all the rage these days.  For example:

    Pinterest gives you 500 characters for a description

    • Twitter 140 for a tweet

    • Title tags have no limit but only display 70 characters

    • Meta descriptions have no limit but only first 155 characters are displayed in Google search results

    • Description tags on LinkedIn longer than 225 characters will be truncated (oouch)

    • Facebook only displays the first 300 characters of a description

    • Online contact information is often limited to a certain amount of characters or words

    While I recognize the necessity of limiting would be Leo Tolstoy’s from trying to turn their Pinterest profile into War and Peace, it can be very annoying to craft the perfect tweet only to discover it’s 6 characters over the limit.  

     

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    So if you’re tired of cutting and pasting or checking your word/character count every ten seconds to insure that you stay within the prescribed limit, check out one of the these many free services on the web. Just type in your text, click and there you have it, your total word or character count.  Here are a few to check out:

    www.lettercount.com/ A bonus with this site is they provide a whole how to on writing with fewer letter including a recommended reading list of great authors who wrote short.

    www.mylettercounter.com/

    www.charcounter.com/ This site lets you count with or without white spaces.

    Whichever of these sites you use, to tighten your text do the following:

     • Substitute longer words with something shorter. For example instead of saying using beneficial say useful – a savings of  4 characters.

     • Remember to take into account any hashtags or URL’s you plan on including, so you don’t use up all your characters on the message itself.

     • Shorten your sentences, but make them complete. That’s the challenge, to sound smart and snappy all at the same time. 

     • Remain keyword rich. A limit on words or characters is no excuse to just throw keywords to the wind. Pick at least one and place it in your text.

    Believe it or not, just using a simple tool such as a character counter can shave minutes off of the time it takes to compose a tweet or write a Pinterest description.

    And in a world where 140 characters can make or break a news story, every minute counts.  

    For more time management tips check out my book Time Management In An Instant.

    For more tips on using Pinterest  check out my new book  Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Business

    Karen Leland is the best-selling author of eight business books and president of Sterling Marketing Group , where she works with executives, high-end entrepreneurs, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies to build their personal, team and business brands.

    Spring Cleaning for Your Brand

    Spring Cleaning for Your Brand

    Every spring, I get an itch to go through my closets and rid myself of clothes that no longer seem to suit me. What begins as a sartorial purging usually expands into a clearing out and cleaning up of my desk drawers, computer desktop and office files. Over the last few years, I’ve expanded this list to include an annual spring-cleaning of my brand. Brands are organic — they grow and change over time. Without a regular review, they can become stale. To give your brand a good dusting off this season, consider the following:

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post I did for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the post.

     

    Dos and Don’ts for your Profile Photo

    Dos and Don’ts for your Profile Photo

    If you’re one of those people who thinks that the new year is a good time to post an updated profile picture to your Pinterest page and other social media sites, I would agree. Visuals are a key component of many social networks. Let’s face it: We have all shaken our heads those unfortunate profile photos of people doing tequila shots in their bathrobe. Don’t let this be you.

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post written for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the article.

    Pinterest Boards to Boost Your Brand

    Pinterest Boards to Boost Your Brand

    As a growing number of consumers jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, the opportunities to use the social-media site for business have grown exponentially.  What is Pinterest? The bulletin-board-style social image sharing website is a relatively new social-media phenomenon, created just two years ago and rapidly became one of the largest online social networks.

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post written for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the article here.

    Reporter Services Can Be Key To Media Coverage

    Reporter Services Can Be Key To Media Coverage

    In a survey, the Society of New Communications Research, explored how media and journalism are evolving. In the study, journalists reported using more social media in their reporting including:

    • 78% of the journalists surveyed said they use company websites in their reporting
    • 75% use Facebook
    • 69% use Twitter
    • 54% use online video
    • 31% use LinkedIn

    In addition, 68% of journalists said that their reliance on social media has increased significantly, and 58% sometimes quote bloggers in stories.

    So what does all this mean to the small business owner? It means that effective use of social media is key and critical to being found and written about by the press. But to score these PR points and get reporters to respond to you in the first place, it pays to be proactive by signing up for reporter services such as HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and ProfNet.

    At least three times a day, I diligently check my email for queries from these sites showcasing serious reporters looking for qualified sources. I comb through the postings journalists have placed and respond with my best pitch — promoting myself, or one of my clients, as the perfect person to fit the bill.

    While services such as ProfNet and HARO can provide you with the opportunity to connect with reporters from top-tier media outlets, the chances of a writer using you as a source increase when you respond in the right ways, including:

    Go straight to the point and give the reporter what they ask for up front. If they request your two best tips, send them. Don’t tell the reporter to call you or email you for them.

    Make your bio short and specific. Avoid submitting endless paragraphs on all your fabulous achievements since grade school — reporters don’t have the time to sort through it all. To get their attention, write a few short sentences that show the journalist exactly why you would be a good source for their story and what, specifically, makes you an authority on the topic.

    Respond right away. Whenever possible, respond to a posted inquiry within two hours. Yes, I know you’re busy, and you have a life, but most reporters get hundreds of responses to a single request and are usually on a tight deadline. After a certain point, they stop looking. So if you want to be seen, be among the first to respond.

    While a well-written response to a reporter’s query can’t guarantee you a call back every time, just keeping these few small things in mind when you do reply can help you score big more often.

    Have you used reporter services? What results have you had? What has worked best? We would love to hear your comments.

    The Challenge of Hiring Linksters

    The Challenge of Hiring Linksters

    Picture this: An 85-year-old company founder startled by the scantily clad intern sitting on his desk texting her mom or an angry parent calling to ask why her son’s schedule was changed, impacting the family’s summer vacation.

    Born after 1995 (age 17 and younger), Linksters, also known as “The Facebook Generation,” comprise 18 percent of the world’s population. Millions of Linksters and those on the cusp (ages 18-19) will be working in small businesses as office assistants, interns, busboys, lifeguards and camp counselors — and they are wildly different from the 20-something Generation Y employees who preceded them.

    “This group is characterized by the fact that they are still living at home, and, unlike previous generations, they are typically best friends with their parents,” say multigenerational workplace experts Larry and Meagan Johnson. “They live and breathe technology, are more tolerant of alternative lifestyles than their predecessors and are very much involved in green causes and social activism. Bottom line, though, is that they are still very young and inexperienced.”

    Larry and Meagan Johnson are a father-daughter team and authors of the new book “Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters — Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work” (AMACOM, 2010). They say smart small business owners need to learn about Linksters’ unique generational traits and how to keep these young employees engaged, happy and productive. Along these same lines, recent research from Robert Half International shows that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of hiring managers polled said managing multigenerational work teams poses a challenge.

    Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your Linkster employees:

    1. Ride herd on them. They have short attention spans and lose interest if the work is boring. If there’s a way to incentivize task accomplishment, do it.

    2. Provide them with job descriptions. Linksters need clear direction about what you expect. This includes basics, such as when you expect them to arrive, number of hours they are to work and duties of the job. They are used to being told what to do, in detail and explicitly.

    3. Treat them like valued coworkers. Linksters are used to a steady diet of connection and communication from family and friends. If you have a company party, be sure to invite them. Same with meetings, where appropriate.

    4. Lead by example. Linksters are still trying to figure out how to act and behave. They will look to older co-workers and managers to shape their workplace identity and demeanor.

    5. Orient them to the obvious. Be specific about expectations that may seem apparent. For example, teenagers are used to having their parents cover for them. Make sure they know the consequences of showing up late, taking lunch breaks that are too long or texting on the job.

    6. Welcome them with open arms. Let your people know the Linksters are joining your team, and ask everyone to welcome them. Pair Linksters with buddies — good role models with good work ethics. Call Linksters the night before their first day. Remind them of dress code, arrival time, items to bring, traffic, snacks and water, where to park, whom to contact once they arrive and quitting time.

    7. Know what songs are on their iPods. Young people have a language that’s distinctly their own. Make an effort to get to know their culture.

    8. Create micro-career paths. If you have a young person manning the cash register, give her other tasks that help her understand different aspects of the business from time to time. This keeps her challenged, engaged and feeling valued — and sets her up for more responsibility.

    9. Re-examine your uniform policy. Part of being young is having a heightened interest in how you look. Are you asking your Linksters to wear embarrassing uniforms? Are they comfortable? Are they outdated? Try to remember what being a teen felt like.

    10. Thank their parents. Linksters are young and may still live at home with parents. Invite their parents for a visit, call, express appreciation for raising a great kid and thank them for helping to get your young employee to work on time, well rested and prepared.

    Have you hired any Linksters? How has that worked out? We would love to hear your comments.

    Using QR Codes For Small Business Marketing

    Using QR Codes For Small Business Marketing

    While on vacation seven years ago, entrepreneur Rico Elmore couldn’t find a pair of sunglasses that would fit on his not-so-small noggin. Elmore’s hefty-head experience spawned an ah-ha moment, and today he is the proud proprietor of Fatheadz Eyewear, a company that makes oversized sunglasses and extra wide eyewear for folks with large heads.

    Always looking for ways to innovate, Elmore has recently been using mobile marketing, and QR codes in particular, as part of his plan to engage customers.

    QR codes (Quick Response Codes) are commonly aimed at mobile phone users. If you have a camera-equipped smartphone with a QR code reader, your phone can scan the image of a QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network or open a web page in your phone’s browser.

    “In early 2011, I was flipping through an outdoor retailer trade publication when I saw a QR code in the magazine,” says Elmore. “I thought it was very cool and decided to look into how we might start using them in our marketing.”

    Within 60 days, Fatheadz had integrated the use of QR codes into their campaign involving the ongoing sponsorship of race car drivers.

    “For all of our sponsored drivers, we give them a ‘Hero’ card they can autograph and give out to their fans,” says Elmore. “We put a QR code on the back, and when the fan scans it on their mobile device, up pops our web page.”

    Once on the website, fans can see information about their favorite race car driver, including which sunglasses they wear — and buy them. Elmore says the QR code campaign has increased web traffic by a whopping 10 percent.

    What’s next? Elmore says he plans on expanding the use of QR codes to prospective retailers by printing them on business cards and other marketing collateral and then linking them to product videos on his site.

    Dan Hollings, an expert on mobile marketing, says that video is one of the most effective uses of QR codes.

    “The key is to create a short video (under three minutes) about your product or service or some useful information relating to your product or service,” says Hollings. “Then post the video on your website, YouTube and Facebook and link a QR code to it that brings the visitor to the video. It’s as simple as that.”

    Even though QR codes are relatively simple to set up and use, many small businesses don’t know where to begin. To start, check out Qr.net and createandtrack.com, just two of the hundreds of sites that offer QR code creation.

    Once you’ve created a code, Hollings says you can then easily link it to a video, your website or a podcast. Once you know where you want to send your potential clients, the next step is to promote it. Publish your QR code on your business cards, flyers, DVDs, brochures, mailers, signage or any other material you give to potential clients. Hollings says he’s even seen them placed on complementary coffee mugs at conferences.

    Still feeling a bit shy about bringing QR codes into your marketing mix? Get your feet wet by using one yourself. Now that you know what to look for, you’ll see them everywhere. So download a QR reader on your smartphone and scan away. Who knows, you might just end up with a pair of your favorite racecar driver’s sunglasses.

    Has your small business been doing anything with QR Codes or other forms of mobile marketing? We would love to hear your comments.