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10 Ways You Can Use Technology to Minimize Distractions

Technology has definitely changed the way organizations work. It opens the door for amazing access and capabilities that help us to be more productive – in spite of its addictive distractions.

A 2014 survey by Pew Research Center reported that technology has had a positive and lasting impact on worker efficiency. “Forty-six percent of employed online adults say the Internet has made them more productive at work, while just 7 percent believe it has made them less productive.”

It takes discipline to keep ourselves above the distractions and out of the mire of Facebook feeds and using the apps, programs, and tools that help us to do our jobs better.

And as children’s activity center owners and managers, distractions are amplified. You have employees, parents, students and vendors vying for your attention – and all while you’re trying to get real work done. Using technology tools to manage various components of your work helps you to keep work organized so that minute-by-minute distractions don’t derail your focus.

Technology minimizes menial tasks and allows us to focus on meaningful projects.

We referenced discipline for a reason. Without it’s highly possible that you could find yourself still going through your Inbox at noon or sucked into Facebook for hours on end.

Entrepreneur Magazine is a great resource for business tips. We recently uncovered a list of 10 ways that you can minimize distractions and supercharge your productivity.

  1. Keep email in check.

Email can easily get out of hand. That’s why the flooded Inbox can be so devastating to your productivity. It takes hours to find anything without organization and management. There are tools to help with this: try Sanebox. It’s also recommended (by self-help guru Tim Ferris) to check email only twice a day to limit it from interrupting your schedule.

  1. Curate your to-do list.

What does this mean? It means to avoid the generic when you’re making your to-do lists. This minimizes the never-ending laundry list that is filled with trivial tasks that may seem impossible to complete. Large projects should be broken into smaller, easy-to-tackle parts. There are services that can help with this: Asana or Trello allow you to arrange, categorize and weigh the importance of specific tasks to enable you to better manage your priorities.

  1. Read faster.

Average adults read approximately 300 words per minute. That’s also the rate at which we can comprehend and process most texts. That said, there are plenty of opportunities where you might want to quickly read (or skim) documents. Sites like Eyercize or Spreeder allow you to copy-and-paste text to power through longer articles or books.

  1. Invest in email tools.

You will run into occasions when you will want to follow-up or reach out to people en masse. To do this efficiently, you need tools. There are email marketing services that can help with this: Customer.io, Klaviyo or Vero.

  1. Put social media on a schedule.

You can’t invest the time it takes to engage with your Twitter followers or respond to every Facebook alert. There are apps to help you schedule posts so you can do weeks of work in one sitting: Buffer, Foster.fm and Tailwind help you have a presence without sinking hours a day into managing it.

  1. Take keyboard shortcuts.

Leave your mouse alone. Keyboard shortcuts cut your reaction time way down and allow you to speed up your workflow. It’s hard to imagine this at first, but experts (such as Coding Horror author Jeff Atwood) note that this is one of the quickest ways to increase your productivity on the computer.

*If you spend a lot of time in Excel, learn the shortcuts for that program too.

  1. Track your time.

How much of your valuable time you spend on various activities can be a frightening realization when you begin to track your time. Doing this gives you the metrics you need to quantify your hours and prioritize your activities You get self-awareness about your computer usage habits that diminish your productivity and gives you the metrics you need to prioritize your activities. Tools that help you regain control of your time are Due, RescueTime or Wrike.

  1. Use templates.

We’re creatures of repetition who waste lots of time doing actions over and over again. Technology enables us to eliminate redundancies. Sure, it’s easy to type the same copy into several emails, but creating templates that give you all of that repetitive information automatically can save hours in typing and proofing emails.  Business documents don’t necessarily need to be created from scratch each time- especially when templates can speed up the process of creating the document you need and produce more accurate results.  It’s sort of the same theory as not re-inventing the wheel. Take advantage of existing emails and documents to streamline your work. This has the bonus of also giving your business brand consistency.

  1. Work in the cloud.

We work from everywhere now. In the office, at home, while at conferences and shows and even on vacation. Having data and the apps used in the cloud is a tremendous productivity booster. Whether you’re logging into your email marketing app or revising a document in cloud storage, you save time by being able to access everything you need to get real work done regardless of where you are.

Services like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive make it easy for consumers and businesses to securely save and store documents, spreadsheets and presentations they’ll need to stay productive wherever they are.

  1. Ban it from the bedroom.

You might make a face at this one at first. But think about it. Leaving your phone, your ipad, your laptop in your office (or simply out of your sleeping quarters) helps you to get better rest by quelling your temptation to check email one last time or just put one finishing touch on a spreadsheet. A rested you is more productive at everything you do the next day. Checking your email when it is supposed to be your “downtime” also drives your significant other crazy.

Technology is powerful, but it is a double edged sword that we have to keep under control so that it remains a benefit and doesn’t become a distraction.

Read the original article (without my interpretations and comments), published at Entrepreneur.com and contributed by Firas Kittaneh, Entrepreneur and CEO at Amerisleep.

Instagram Update: Edit Your Captions

Instagram released a new update today – and it’s what we’ve all been waiting for. You can now edit the caption of your photo instead of deleting and reposting the photo. In the world of social media, time is everything. Going back and reposting your really awesome picture means choosing a filter, adding a location, tagging your friends, and then retyping the caption. If you’ve experienced this, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not fun…even if it does only take a minute. 🙂

This is a huge update for Instagram. From their blog, they mentioned that this was one of the top requests they’ve heard from the community – and they listened. Note: You do have to go to the App Store/Google Play to download the latest version.

Happy double-tapping! 🙂

Athletes & Social Media

 

As athletes grow into their talents, they may be in the public eye more than they realize. It’s smart to proactively think about the impact social media can have on their personal and athletic lives.

There can be pressure on athletes to use social media during their events. While it is great to entertain fans and give real-time updates, there is a potential risk. A great deal of focus is needed for athletic events and while the athlete is posting on social media, this could be thrown off.

Responding to fans’ comments could go one way or another. It could really pump up the athlete and make them feel like they’ve got a group of fans rooting for them and they want to perform well for them. Or, it could make the athlete overthink everything. Their focus is gone and they are thinking about all the people they will let down if  they do xyz wrong.

There’s also the chance that the athlete has a few people who do not like them. Bullies are everywhere and have a huge voice on social media. Their mean words can instantly be delivered. Negative comments can be harmful to the athlete’s mental state.

Anything that causes an athlete to lose focus can cause an accident.

While it is a good idea for athletes to use social media to keep fans interested, informed and up to date, posting during the event may not be the best time.

Four Things to Keep in Mind:

1. It’s a tool, not a toy. Social media isn’t just something for one person’s own entertainment. It should be an asset to help the individual’s brand, community, team, etc.

 

2. Nothing is truly private… ever. There are people who realize they are functioning in public and those who don’t. Some think they can delete a tweet or post, but this content can last forever. It can be captured in screenshots or saved by other users. Keep in mind that anything shared could end up being shared to the public.

3. If you retweet it (or share it), you own it. Yes – no matter if you really don’t care one way or another. Freedom of speech does not mean equal freedom from consequences. Even if they aren’t your own words, you could be suspended or suffer another type of consequence for inappropriate posts.

4. Personal branding: Every tweet reflects who you are. How does the athlete represent themself? Are they sending the right message to the public? People are watching their posts more than they know, so encourage them to think about what their social media portfolio says about them.

So, what is your take on social media and your athletes? What experiences have you had?

How to Create Successful Facebook Ads

Facebook is a great advertising tool, as long as you are using it correctly. News feed ads are extremely effective and you should definitively take advantage of them to get fresh leads for your business.

#1: Create a Business Facebook Page

If you haven’t already done so, create a Facebook page for your businessMake sure you can access both your page and ad manager with the same email address.

News feed ads are great, but you need to have a page in order to create them, because the ad will appear as a suggested post from a page.

Here are some of the benefits of a news feed ad:

  • Your page gets visibility.
  • You get a much larger ad with a lot of available space for content.
  • You can feature a big image along with your ad.

It’s easy to see that managing a page makes it worth the time, especially if you plan to advertise.

#2: Prepare Your Elements: Text and Images

Before you launch any marketing campaign on Facebook or through other avenues, you must test your elements. And testing just one message or image won’t do the trick. You need to try out multiple ideas to see which gets the most response.

Prepare your text

Since you don’t know what your audience will like, test both a long and a short post message.

Regardless of the length of your post, your message should include the following.

 

Preparing your images

To get the best visibility, use images that are 600 x 315 pixels.

Also, Facebook images can only have 20% text. The best way to make sure you’re fitting the 20% requirement is to use the Facebook grid tool. It’ll help you when you first get started until you get used to creating proper images.

Don’t be afraid to test a lot of images. They’ll be the core of your marketing plan and the factor that influences click-through rate and conversions the most.

After you share your test posts, analyze which ones got the most responses and why. Then choose the combination to use for your Facebook news feed ad.

#3: Start Your Ad

To create your ad, go to the Power Editor. Log into your ad manager and navigate the left menu to find it. You’ll see a page that looks similar to the screenshot below. Just click on Manage Pages, and select the proper page.

Follow these steps:

  • Click on Create Post.
  • Insert the URL of your page.
  • Fill in the rest of the information with the text and image elements you tested and decided to use.
  • Select This Post Will Be Used as an Ad.
  • Click Create Post to confirm.

4: Save Your Post IDs

This step is fundamental, so you don’t waste time while creating your ads.

Find your post IDs in the Manage Page section of your Facebook page and copy them. If you click on top of the ID, you’ll be able to copy them all.

Next, open an Excel file and paste your list there. Save your file for future reference.

#5: Associate a Name With Each Post ID

This naming trick helps a lot while optimizing the account.

The way I like to do things is:

  • Assign a name to each ad variation (e.g., Text 1, Text 2, etc.).
  • Assign a name to each image variation (e.g., Image 1, Image 2, etc.).

Now, name each post ID by combining the text and image ad variations (e.g., Text 1 Image 2, Text 2 Image 3, etc.)

#6: Create the First Campaign

Start your campaign by clicking on the same part of the menu that you used to go to the Manage Page section. Select the appropriate account. If no account shows up, just download.

You can now move forward with the following steps:

  • Click on Create Campaigns and assign both a name and a budget. Note: This is not available with ad sets.
  • You’ll also select an objective. This is something that has been introduced by the new ad sets account organization. (Note: Facebook is about to introduce ad sets, which are ad groups with their own budget. This means that you’ll be able to group ads by features such as audience and assign them a different budget. This guide is based on this new setup, because it will affect all accounts.)
  • Select a campaign start and end date. Or simply check the box Run My Campaign Continuously From the Start Date. (Note: This is not available with ad sets.)
  • Think about the first audience you would like to target and start the ad creation process by clicking on the ad sets form within the right campaign.After you start the campaign, click on Ad Sets and select your campaign in the left menu. Then, assign it a name and budget. Select an ad set start and end date or simply check the box Run My Campaign Continuously From the Start Date.
  • Make sure to switch to the Filter by Ad Set part of the editor. Your newly created ad set will be visible in the part of the editor that’s not uploaded.
  • Click on Ads, and select the ad set you just created. Then click Create Ad.Name the ad based on the ID of the post you are going to use. You’ll also need to select the Facebook page you are going to use and paste your post ID in the section where requested.
  • As you scroll down this section, you’ll be asked to select your placement. Make sure to choose News Feed (or Desktop and Mobile or whatever fits in your case).

You’ll now be able to select your audience and switch to Optimization and Pricing to set up your bidding strategy.

Extra tip: To keep track, name your ad set after your audience!

#7: Create More Ads

Duplicate the ad you just created to make more ads. Simply replace the post ID so you can leverage the same settings, but still be able to create new tests.

Rename the new ad so it matches the post ID name.

#8: Create a List of New Audiences

Compile a list of the additional audiences you would like to targetCreate a duplicate of your new ad set and rename it according to your new audience.

Look at the ads in the new ad setselect them all and bulk change your audience to the new one.

Repeat the process for all of the audiences you want to target.

This will give you the chance to find out what target group works best for you, as well as what advertising messages to use.

Extra tip: Don’t forget to name the new ad sets after the audience!

#9: Create and Install a Conversion Pixel

Next, create a conversion pixel from the Ad Tool menu:

 

This will help you find out what is or isn’t working. Statistics will display both in reports and your Ad Manager interface.

#10: Upload the Campaigns and Start Collecting Data

You’re now finished. You’ve created your campaign using hidden posts and are now ready to launch it.

Just select the campaign in the Power Editor interface and click on Upload.

Congrats! You made it! Your ad is live. There’s nothing to do now but see if it works, track your leads and work on future ads.
Thanks to Social Media Examiner for the great list of steps!

Add the Power of Social Media to your Studio Website by Displaying Your Facebook Fanpage Posts

Integrating your Facebook Fanpage to your studio website is a great way to keep your website content fresh and promote likes and interactivity between you and your students.

And in this post I’m going to show you how to add the Facebook “Like” Box to your website and customize it to show your Facebook posts.

Check out how The Dance Warehouse has setup their Facebook Like Box setup on their studio website:
You’ll notice that not only does this box show the people who have liked their facebook fanpage, but it also shows their most recent fanpage posts. This is a great way to add the power of social media to your studio website by displaying your ongoing posts interactively on your site.

The like box serves as a valuable addition to your website because it lets you conveniently retain activity and an ongoing connection with your visitors through your Facebook page.

Basic Like Box Setup

You can easily add this to your website by going to this link for Facebook’s Like Box Plugin:

https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box/

 

Facebook Page URL – Enter your facebook fanpage web address

Width and Height – Enter the width that fits your like box on your website

Checkboxes – Be sure to check all 4 checkboxes, including “Show Posts”.

You will see a preview of your like box display as you adjust your settings. When you have it looking the way you want, click on the “Get Code” button and follow the instructions on how to add the code to your website.  If  you are familiar with HTML, you can add this to your website yourself. Or you can contact your website developer to get professional level assistance.

Customizing Your Like Box Posts

By default, you may notice that your facebook posts only show recent activity by your facebook friends.  This is a problem because you want to be able to show all your fanpage posts regardless of who posted them or without having to be logged into a facebook account at all.

So, here is my special tip on how to display all of your posts in your like box.

At the bottom of the like box plugin page you will see a list of parameters that can be customized within your like box code.  In that list you will see “FORCE_WALL”. By default, this setting is set to FALSE, but if you modify your like box code to include “FORCE_WALL=TRUE” this will fix your problem so all of your fanpage posts will display regardless of who posted them.

 


Betty Walker is a technology consultant that specializes in helping studio owners and small businesses “take it to the web” through custom website development, social media marketing, and innovative online solutions. You can contact Betty at http://www.wiseweblady.com

Facebook’s New Contest Rules

Last week, Facebook released a new version of the page terms. The biggest change they have announced is no longer requiring you to use a third party app to run a contest on a Facebook fan page.This means that you can run a promotion right on your fan page instead of having to use a third party app [like ShortStack.com].

Now, promotions may be administered on page timelines and in apps on Facebook.” Be sure to check out the new Promotion Guidelines.

Here are the new terms:

Promotions

If you use Facebook to communicate or administer a promotion (ex: a contest or sweepstakes), you are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including:a. The official rules;
b. Offer terms and eligibility requirements (ex: age and residency restrictions); and

c. Compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing the promotion and all prizes offered (ex: registration and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals)

Promotions on Facebook must include the following:a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries” is not permitted).
We will not assist you in the administration of your promotion, and you agree that if you use our service to administer your promotion, you do so at your own risk.
Read the full list of Facebook Page Terms here.

How do you think this will change the Facebook fan pages? What contests are you thinking about running? Maybe something for a tuition exchange?

How Instagram Helps Grow Your Business

Be where your target audience is. Market to them there. Be one of them. Support them and they’ll support you back.

Instagram is the place to be for teenagers and young adults online. They are starting to prefer that over Facebook and Twitter. In fact, young teens only have Instagram accounts. Why? That’s where their friends are.

If you want to understand your students better, get on Instagram.

Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Use hashtags –  A hashtag is the #symbol and is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram photo. People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their post to categorize those posts and help them show more easily in searches. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other posts marked with that keyword. [Read more about hashtags here.]

2. Post compelling content – Share photos that your fans will like. Are there any motivational quotes you can share? What about photos at your business? Maybe even funny photos of your staff – your students will relate to them and have an instant connection. Humanize your business. Show that you are people too. Bad hair day? Messes in the kitchen? Busted radio? We all have the same life problems.

3. Share widely – Reposting photos from your followers gives them a bit of celeb status. Pick a student once a week to repost a photo from. This will make them anticipate who will be chosen next week. Hopefully, it will get them to engage with your account more. Don’t be afraid to follow people back – users will love it.

4. Be generous with likes – Supporting your followers via Instagram means liking their photos. Reposting will also show support. Making them feel special can be done with one like.

One great thing about Instagram is the ability to link your account to your Facebook and Twitter. This lets people know you’re on all of the sites. Post about being on Instagram on Facebook encouraging them to follow you.

So, what does all of this mean for the growth of your business? The answer is simple – publicity and word of mouth. Separate yourself from the competition by being the organization who is involved in social media, connecting to customers, and being relatable.

Create relationships with your customers to be more than just a dance studio, swim school, gymnastics center, etc. Be the place they look forward going to and connect with you outside of class.

 

The New Facebook Rules

Have you heard about the new Facebook cover photo rules? The team released a few weeks ago that you can put calls to action or your website on your business’ page. There are still text restrictions – the biggest being that cover photos may not contain more than 20% text. 

Clipped straight from Facebook’s Page Guidelines:

“All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Covers may not include images with more than 20% text.”

Since this rule is relatively new, most people have not changed their cover photos. Jump ahead of the competition now and start thinking of ways that you can change up your photo to boost your business.

Keep in mind that this 20% rule applies to advertisements, promoted posts, and sponsored stories.

Facebook provided an in depth explanation of this rule and included photos. Here is an example of a photo that is acceptable and one that is unacceptable:

So, how can you tell how much of your photo is text? This free tool – paavo!

How are you going to use this new rule to your advantage? Share here!

How to Post on Facebook

 

Everybody’s doing it – aren’t you?

Facebook is the number 1 social media platform — by far. If you aren’t on it, get on it. Here are 4 things you must do when you’re starting a Facebook page. After you can check all of these off your list, you’re ready for posting on Facebook.

For those of you who appreciate numbers, here are some regarding Facebook:

More than a billion monthly active users as of December 2012.
Approximately 82% of our monthly active users are outside the U.S. and Canada.
618 million daily active users on average in December 2012.
680 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products as of December 31, 2012.

[Read all Key Facts at http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts]

So, how do you stand out on Facebook? How do you get people to like YOUR post instead of someone else’s?

Here are the 3 major concepts to remember when posting on Facebook:

1- Consistency:

Being consistent with your posts on Facebook is huge. Your fans want to know that you are dedicated to updating them with information. Posting once a month will lose their focus and they won’t go to your page if nothing is new. That being said, posting 5 times an hour may be a little much for them. Find out what a good pattern is and stick with it. You may even want to write a description about how often you post, what you post, etc. in the “About” section of the page.

2- Relevancy:

Share things your fans are interested in. Show them the most popular dance bag, share songs you like, any tips you have for teaching, etc. Find out what your fans like and give it to them. One caution is to understand that while your business is relevant to the fans, don’t turn your Facebook page into an advertising page. 90% of your posts should not be about your studio – only about 10% should be. That way, you can get fans coming to your page for things they are interested in. You will turn people away from your page if it’s full of sales pitches.

3- Excitement:

Grab your fans’ attention with your excitement. Prove to them that your page is worth coming to. You’re excited about dance and you want them to be too! Show them what a day in your life looks like – behind the scenes pictures, choreography, or your dancers.

Next time you post on Facebook, remember these three things and you’ll see the positive outcome!

How do you post on Facebook? How often? How relevant? How excited are you?

Instagram: Why Use It?

One of the hottest new social media tools is…you guessed it – Instagram! In today’s world, people don’t read like they used to. We want to look at pretty things and read a little. Instagram is perfect for this – sharing photos and humanizing your business is a powerful tool.

Another thing about today’s world – people are busy. You’re busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy! How do you find time to update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Tumblr….the list goes on.

Instagram has the capability of syncing with your Facebook and Twitter – so whenever you share a photo on Instagram it automatically shares it on the other two sites. This is a great way to save time, share your brand, and be consistent across all of your social media channels.

Since we all love real life examples, I’ve talked to CK Danceworks [@luvckdw] about their Instagram. Christina Wiginton has shared some of her favorite things about Instagram and why they love it so much.

1. Everyone loooves pictures! I love that Instagram is all about summing up an experience, day, or event into one or a few pictures. We post pictures of our kids in class being silly, in rehearsal, hanging out at the studio, trying in new costumes, or even at competition. They love checking our Instagram account often, or following us, to see who has a new picture on there or what we are up to that day! We use Facebook a lot as a way to get out vital information to our followers and Instagram is more on the “fun” side….ie, let’s see the teacher making silly faces with their kids in class.

 

2. Instagram is the younger kids/ages Facebook. We have tons of kids anywhere from ages 6 to 12 that are not allowed on or too young for Facebook, but they love to Instagram with their friends. We use it as a way to get that target age group info as well. We take information, such as reminders of deadlines or contest info, and put the text on top of a picture or in a frame (using a picture/text app) and then upload it to Instagram! Our patents can get so busy that sometimes even AFTER an email and Facebook reminder…it’s nice for their 9 year old to remind them that it’s picture day!

3. Instagram allows our kids to connect with us! If a certain dancer has been working on their heel stretch or tilt for a week and wanna show us…they can snap a pic, upload it to Instagram and tag us in the comments at @luvckdw…and Instagram notifies us to check it out! It’s that simple!

4. Lastly, it’s so fun! We do fun things like “Tilt Tuesday” or “Show Off Saturday” where kids take pictures of certain things during the day, upload to Instagram, tag us @luvckdw and then hashtag it with #tilttuesday or #showoffsaturday. By clicking on the hashtag, you can view all the pictures uploaded that day to Instagram grouped by that hashtag!

One thing to consider, we do have our parents sign the normal CKDW consent/registration form through Jackrabbit when they are signing up so they know that we have permission to use their children in photos for advertising and social media!

How do you use Instagram? Share your username here! We’re @JackrabbitTech!