five minutes

Infomagical: My Journey

infomagical“You mean you haven’t heard of that?”

Sometimes a friend will say this to me when I haven’t seen the latest viral video everyone’s been commenting about on Facebook or read the 10,000 word New York Times article about a social justice issue.

At first, I took this statement, whenever I heard it, as a challenge. I felt like people were a) implying I didn’t know something I should or b) triumphing supposedly knowing more than I did about one of my fields of expertise.

(Yes, I do hear this statement a lot.)

Between the stuff I have to know (work stuff), stuff I want to and should know (news about friends and family) and stuff I just wanted to know (how to cook with matcha green tea) it was already too much. If I could set up ten of my brains in some kind of parallel circuit to process information 24-7, I would still not know everything.

After this realization, when someone asked me about something online I hadn’t heard about, I felt defeated. In a podcast I can’t remember, someone talked about dealing with email being like being in an avalanche, you are moving handfuls of snow but more is coming at you faster than you can imagine. I feel that about email, instant message, social media, RSS feeds, and audio/video in general.

I sat with this hopeless feeling for awhile. I need to know some things but not all things. So what do I do?

Since I’ve changed nothing, nothing has changed. And then something came into my life I needed but would not have known to seek out.

I’ve talked before about Note To Self, a podcast I regularly listen to. I took place in their ‘Bored and Brilliant’ challenge awhile back which basically challenged people to spend less time on their phone through a series of daily challenges. If you missed it and want to do it, here are all the challenges.

This latest challenge called Infomagical was what I needed. Infomagical’s week of challenges offered us ways to change how we process all the information that is coming in. (If you missed it, you can still do it, just click here.)

The podcast episode launching the project mentioned that ten years ago, we were interrupted an average of once every three minutes. And now we’re interrupted once every 45 seconds. Having run this business for nine years this May, I was wondering why over the last couple years in particular I have felt so overwhelmed by information.

Day 1 was the worst day: forcing me to unitask. I don’t just multitask at work, I do at home too. Often I am washing dishes, cooking dinner, and answering emails at the same time. It is like I am in a race with myself 7 am to 7 pm to see how much I can get done before I let myself relax. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been in battle (and I’m sure I look like it too.) Sitting and waiting for files to upload without tabbing over to the next screen felt painful. But much like call center people can look forward to the small break between when they are hung up on and when the machine autodials the next number (ie when there is literally nothing they can do but wait), towards the end of the day, I started looking forward to these times in my day when there would be breaks (attaching images to an email, uploading the podcast, etc.) It made me feel the task at hand getting done.

I won’t ruin the Infomagical challenge for you but I will say it was a good one if you feel like I do: overwhelmed by information.

I have started to push back a little when people say to me things like ‘You mean you haven’t seen insert-thing-here?’

“Nope, but why don’t you tell me about it?” I say. Because somehow, if I think I have to know something beyond what I consciously consume, I bet that information will find its way to me if I am meant to know it. And while my life may be less rich than it would have if I had watched that cat video, I bet the cat I see when I walk my dog will be an ok substitute.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Why Too Many Choices Are Paralyzing Your Customers

When I was showing Kassie around our Google Analytics the other day, I couldn’t believe what happened when I drilled down into the data. Over 50% of people are leaving off the homepage. Here’s what it looks like:

homepage

Holy crap, people have no idea where to click. I mean really neither do I. Too many choices!

When you overwhelm people with choice, it turns out you overwhelm them period (there’s a paper all about it from Stanford and a book on the subject that came out recently.)

Here are some fun facts about choice:

  • Americans make 70 different choices a day on average.
  • 77% of people with nine options used an elimination strategy while only 21% used an elimination strategy when given three options to make a decision.

Not only do people not like a lot of choice but things like sleep and food effect the decisions that are made.  Check out this graph that seems nuts but actually makes a ton of sense (click on it  or here for the original source and full article):

1394664403-stop-making-bad-decisions-now

In other words, the more choices you give people, the more paralyzed they become and the poorer their decisions. These poorer decisions are increased when health and other conditions are not ideal.

So when you wonder why someone isn’t buying what you’re selling; isn’t going beyond a certain page of your website; isn’t making that choice, you may want to ask yourself if you are giving people too many choices… or if maybe they just all need to go eat an apple. 😉

There are some amazing articles I’ve read on this topic recently. Here are some worth checking out if you are also interested in this topic:

Mequoda’s indepth article about how Scientific American’s four subscription offerings could work better with less choices

Here’s an article summarizing why people don’t like so many choices and how it effects your website visitors. 

A Globe and Mail piece with some examples about how improving customer service (versus giving more choices) actually increased revenue.

Here’s a TED talk about how to make decisions more easily (you know, in case you need that sort of thing).

An article from Fast Company about how to make better decisions.

Now please excuse myself while I take 10 of the average American’s 90 decisions a day off the homepage of my website.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Three Reasons Why You Should Rename Your Files Before Sending Them To Me

*Note content has been changed to protect the well meaning.

I open the email from a client and there are three photos: ‘IMG_93245’, ‘IMG_3445’, and ‘IMG_4558’

The text in the email “These are photos of Rachel, Pam, and Sheila.”

I appreciate knowing but having never met Rachel, Pam, or Sheila, I don’t know who is who. So I take a stab at it and figure the order they are attached might be a clue; maybe the first person is Rachel, etc.

Nope.

Here are four reasons (three you actually care about) before you fire off an email to your web developer, social media person, etc. you might want to rename those photo files.

1) It’s less confusing for us. (I swear this is my only self serving reason.)

Here’s the thing, I get a lot of email. And sometimes, I download it onto my computer only to find a stray photo months later and think ‘Oh was this what so-and-so was talking about?’ By naming the photo, it helps me stick it in the right project or simply find it in my email… which brings me to.

2) Renaming your files allows you to find it years later.

Let’s say a year from now, you are redoing your brochure. “Remember that beautiful sunset photo I sent to Nicole? I wonder where that is…”

If you would have called it ‘sunset_near_rental.jpg’ when you initally sent it to me, you’d be able to search your computer for the word ‘sunset’ and likely find it. The generic file name off your camera will not be helpful in this instance.

Now am I saying you should name ALL your files? No way, who has time for that? But if you think it’s nice enough to send to someone like me who shares it on social media or your blog, it might be nice enough to use for some other purpose later.

3) You can see how huge the file is when you rename it.

Usually renaming it will allow you to see how big, or not big, a file is. (Because at least for me, I get to the file info when I rename things.)

I had a client send me a photo she wanted on a slideshow once. It was small but I shrugged, figured she was the customer and always right… so I put it on her slideshow and asked her about it. When she saw how pixelated it was, she knew she had sent me the wrong (too small) photo.

Renaming your files gives you that chance to look at the file again, whether it is in iPhoto, Windows Media Gallery, wherever.

4) File names are picked up by search engines.

You know when you do a Google image search for something and think ‘How does it bring me back such relevant (and sometimes hilariously irrelevant) results?’ It’s not like there’s people at Google cataloging photos on the internet. Instead search engines skim things like filenames and alt text. How else would we know that little girl is also named Nicole Ouellette (like me)?

nicoleouelletteincaption

In other words, there are several good reasons to rename your favorite photos. You can do it however you like (here’s an idea) but the point is, you’re not just doing it for me. You’re doing it for search engines and most importantly, for yourself.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Three Free Tools To Test Page Load Time

47% of people will not wait more than two seconds for a website to load. And if you still don’t care about this yet, please look at this infographic: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/

I bet you’re wondering now, how long does it take my website to load? (And if you don’t, you are in serious denial my friend.)

Here are some free tools you can use to see if your website’s load time:

http://www.webpagetest.org/
Great for: Testing specific browser versions and locations

webpagetest

So let’s say looking at Google Analytics you know most of your customers are using Google Chrome and located in Argentina. You can test the page load time specifically for this case. Now it’s a free tool so don’t go expecting it’ll have every possibility you’d want but at least it can give you an idea of things.

http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Great for: Getting technical ideas on how to fix issues.

googlepagespeedinsights

If you aren’t looking for a specific load time but want a more technical analysis with some fixes, this tool in the Google Developers section is nice. Specific files are mentioned and the benefit of each fix is also outlined.

http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/
Great for: Overview

toolspingdom

If part of you is wanting that ‘grade’ (and comparison with how your website is doing compared to others) as well as a detailed breakdown of what is slowing your site down, this is a nice tool.

Now if you want something more, like constant monitoring of your website or analyzing more than one page of your site at a time, there are paid services that take this whole analyzing your site load time to that next level. But if you want a drive by view and are ready to do something about the results, these tools can take you far.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Have No Idea What To Say On Social Media? Read This.

Something about a blinking cursor can give even the most enthusiastic writing types writers block.

This post is unblocking this writers block when you update your social media profiles.

Here’s a couple things to think about:

1) It doesn’t have to be perfect. No one’s going to die if you get it wrong and too many people wait around for perfection.
2) It doesn’t have to be amazing. You only have to be clever for about two sentences, max.

With that in mind, for every client I work with, I come up with a content plan for each social network.

Let’s say I’m… a kitchen remodeling specialist. Here might be my Facebook content plan:

Mondays: Kitchen Remodeling Tip of the Week
Tuesdays: Kitchen of the Week (photo)
Wednesdays: Review of Kitchen product (could be on my blog or elsewhere)
Thursdays: Recipe
Friday: BUY MY CRAP

Here are what some of those posts could look like:

remodeltipfacebookpost

fbpostkitchenoftheweek

Now a couple of things here:

1) I credited the original source for my information in both cases and
2) If I care about tracking what things people like, I use bitly.com links. If I don’t really care whether people click or not (or if it’s something on my own website), I can just throw the link in there. (More on this in a future blog entry!)

I’m not changing the world here. I’ve just given myself something to work with. When I open Facebook and it’s a Thursday, I know I should go find a recipe to share. When it’s Monday, I find a remodeling tip. I’m never ‘stuck’ for what to say. If some day I have something else I’d rather share, it’s alright; I just have this as a framework to approach social media and force myself to be creative and on-topic.

The other thing you’ll notice in my first list is the BUY MY CRAP post, which I am thinking about for Fridays for this fake person.

Most of the time on social media, you won’t be posting your own stuff. You want to be conversational, knowledgeable, interesting, helpful. But occasionally, you should remind people about your business. (And you shy people are particularly bad about asking for the sale).

Now what do I mean by BUY MY CRAP? You could

  • A link to an item someone can buy
  • A link to where they can leave a review
  • A link to subscribe to an email newsletter
  • A flyer for your upcoming sale
  • A link to another social media account
  • A link to make a donation to your cause

You get the idea. You give yourself the space, one day a week to promote or cross promote something your business is doing.

Here are a couple of my BUY MY CRAP posts:

selfpromoteypost1

selfpromoteypost2

The other bonus of having some set things you share? People can start to look forward to them. By the third of fourth week, Thursdays your fans/friends are subconsciously looking for that review post and wondering what it is going to be about. Even if they haven’t consciously picked up on the pattern. That’s why traffic on this site spikes on Tuesdays and Fridays, because that’s when people have come to expect new blog posts.

Now you’re sharing plan is going to be different and depend on the social network as well as what kind of business you have… but you really should make one.

A few other fake sample ones:

Jeweler on Twitter

Monday: Post about a celeb who wore jewelry well recently (link to photo)
Tuesday: Retweet something in the #jewelry hashtag.
Wednesday: Jewelry related quote
Thursday: BUY MY CRAP
Friday: Thank people who have retweeted this week

Coffee Shop on Instagram

Monday: #firstcupofcoffee photo
Tuesday: Customer of the week photo
Wednesday: BUY MY CRAP (In this case since it’s a photo only website, maybe a photo of a pairing idea (food with beverage) that you sell. Maybe all pairings could be under $10 which you could say in every caption.)
Thursday: From around town photo
Friday: Staff at work photo

You get the idea, if you step back from what you are doing and think ‘How can I regularly be creative about this?’ you are ahead of a majority of people on social media.

So hopefully you feel unblocked and see the blinking cursor as something that’ll now take up way less time in your day… and open up a new way to have fun with your online marketing.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Best Thing I’ve Found On Pinterest

Now those of you who are on Pinterest at 5:30 am know what a pinning fool I can be. As someone who reads and writes a lot in my daily life, there is something relaxing about sitting with my coffee on my pink couch and watching pretty and/or clever pictures go by on my phone.

You’ll also know if you’ve been reading the blog a few months that I’m on this ‘diet’. A big part of this has been me finding foods I can eat.

So I saw this go by from my friend Danielle and pinned it right away.

clean-chocolate

 

So I made it and it was awesome! And Derrick thought I made him a special treat and it took five minutes.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Equal amounts of cocoa powder, peanut butter, and coconut oil (liquified)- In my case, 1/4 cup of each
  • 1/2 amount of honey (so in this case 1/8 cup)
  • a bit of vanilla extract (in this case 1/2 tsp)

Whisk it all together and put in ramekins and stick in the fridge. Done!

And it takes only a few minutes to harden become chocolate ‘fudge’.

Seriously, I try a lot of Pinterest stuff that’s kind of ‘meh’ but this is so fantastic that Derrick thought I made it for him as a treat. A great chocolate fix without making me feel like I’m undoing a week’s worth of good eating behavior! Let me know if you like it!

And if you like this, you really ought to follow me on Pinterest.  I am sometimes accidentally brilliant there!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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