Sharing icons: Weaving an open ended, virtual, word-of-mouth network


When it comes to hawking your wares, stop sweating your SEOs and start building and using your social media infrastructure. Why not? It’s free and the connections you make are much higher in value than those you might get from a newspaper ad for instance. That’s because, like the garden variety word-of-mouth, however far down the chain the message is spread there is ultimately a human contact at its source who has positively interacted with you in some way. “Oh! My son-in-law’s best friend’s girlfriend’s mother, just had her toenails painted with glow in the dark polish at Nails ‘n Rails and was able to toss out all her night-lights.”


Social media comes in all shapes and sizes, but you don’t have to sign up to any or all of them to make them work for you. I can install a plug-in in your WordPress blog that will automatically place a row of social media icons that your customers might regularly use, before or after each post and page you create. This allows them to post your article on their Facebook page, etc. – instantly, I might add. It’s that quick and easy response that puts your information in front of the connections of those who find some value in what articles you’ve posted or information you’ve provided.

One icon is in the shape of an envelope. If someone finds one of your posts valuable, they just have to click on the envelope and an email window opens that they can address to themselves or anyone. The email will contain an automatic link back to your post. That same process happens with each of the other Social Media sites. They click on the appropriate icon and the link is posted on their Facebook, Tweeted on their Twitter, Pinned on their Pinterest and so on.


It’s all so fast and easy that visitors to your site barely have to think about it. If they have a positive response they just click. Others who are connected to them will be able to see that post on whatever social media site it appears and if they like it, they can instantly share it with their connections.

You can choose which social media icons you want displayed and in what order you want them to appear. You also have some control over how they appear on your blog site.


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Social Media: People is good for business


You have access to each Friend’s information and Timeline as they do yours depending on each Friend’s settings deciding who gets to see what.

Each of the social media sites allows people to interact in unique ways. The Facebook description below is about just one such approach. Because each one serves its members in a particular way, it is not uncommon for one person to belong to several social media sites. That means more potential exposure for anyone who wants to promote what they do through social media. Your primary social media tool should be your email, since that usually involves anyone who has already used your services or will use them. Without becoming a nuisance, you can connect with these people intermittently to let them know what you are up to by sending a link to a recent blog post you made, etc. From there, you can branch out to some of the social media sites through Sharing Icons or even developing your own Business Page on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Those are great places to offer specials, etc.



You are able to visit anyone’s home page. How much you will be allowed to see, is up to the owner of that home page. Often you need to become that person’s Friend in order to view their content. You can Search for Friends or browse your Friend’s Friend list. Better yet you can find out who Liked a post that you liked, or Commented on it, or Shared it.

Social media sites are pretty simple to use but very hard to wrap your head around. In Facebook, for instance, you open an account and start posting whatever you want to post, with the latest post showing up first and older posts disappearing down the page (Timeline). Then you ask someone to be their Friend as others ask you to be their Friend. Friend basically means that you both agree to let the other visit their timelines make comments, share, etc. Unless you are a complete party animal, you may want to be somewhat selective at first in how you choose Friends, especially with those you know nothing about. Designating someone as Friend doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re your friend. It’s just a FB designation for someone you feel ok about interacting with, mostly on a pretty basic level.

So let’s say that Facebook limits you to 5 Friends, which which it doesn’t. Your list of five Friends is different from each of your five Friends’ list of five Friends. Because each of your five Friends group of Friends is different from your Friend group and each others’ groups, the way you experience Facebook is different than the way your Friends are experiencing it and their experience is unique to them as well.. What a mess!



Your Newsfeed is unique to you including Posts from all your Friends. However, your Friends cannot see each other’s posts since they each have their own group of Friends unique to them. The diagram on the left shows you the makeup of your unique newsfeed. On the right, Friend A sees only their unique Newsfeed which includes you since you are one of A’s friends.

Then there’s the Newsfeed, or Home. Each of your five Friends and you are regularly making FB posts. Without visiting your Friend’s FB home pages, you can see some of what they are posting by clicking on the Home button in the menu bar at the top on the right, which brings you to your Newsfeed. Like the Timeline, the most recent posts are at the top and move down the page as new posts appear at the top. Unlike the Timeline it’s not just your posts, but some of your Friends’ posts as well. Which ones appear are decided by some mysterious cyber force. Reading your timeline is somewhat akin to reading the daily newspaper except that the news is being generated by your Friends and no two newsfeeds carry the same stories. Oddly, what your Friends post about can be pretty compelling, even addictive. Addictive means captive audience which is why social media is well worth the effort to learn your way around. What you see in the newsfeed is unique to you only. Since your Friends are reading posts in their newsfeeds that their particular group of Friends are writing, they’re not seeing your Friends’ posts and your not seeing their Friends posts.

Now, to make this really exciting, no one is limited to having just five Friends and some people have into the thousands! The problem is that regardless of the numbers you remain somewhat isolated from all those Friends’ Friends. What allows you to break through those barriers is Liking, Commenting and Sharing which your friends can do with your post and you can do with theirs. Once your post is Liked or Commented on they leave a fingerprint on your post that others, outside your circle of Friends can see. If someone Shares your Post, they can decide who they want to show it to. It’s at this level of interaction that the word-of-mouth process becomes really dynamic.



Liking, Commenting and Sharing breaks through the walls separating Newsfeeds.

If one of my Friend’s posts something and one of their Friends, not in my circle of Friends, comments on the post, then I can see that comment in the Newsfeed and if I choose, I can comment on the comment. I can also visit the commenter’s home page and learn something about them and perhaps invite them to be my Friend. Normally, if one of my Friends makes a post, then I can see it in my newsfeed, but my other Friends cannot see it in their newsfeeds. However, If I value my Friend’s post, I can share it and it will be seen in my Friends’ newsfeeds as well. Like and Comment also break through the isolation barriers. Like, by the way essentially means that you think a post is worthy of sharing, which often means that you really like it as well, but not necessarily so. Who you Friend and what you Like should not be taken as an accurate barometer of your personal tastes. Commenting allows you to be clearer about how you actually regard the post.

As I said, easy to do, hard to comprehend! The thing to focus on is what you post and how you interact. This is not a good venue for hard sell. You can post whatever you want, but unless it’s interesting to others, it won’t get Liked, Commented on or Shared and thus will be of little value to your business. If you are too heavy handed promoting your business you might get ‘Unfriended’ in a hurry. No one wants to see your commercials. Friends are pretty open to your accomplishments though as well as information they might find useful and in fact, your posts might have nothing to do with your business at all yet still draw people to your business. If folks become interested in you they might get curious about what you do.

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The no signature Email Signature: Step one in creating virtual word-of-mouth 


If you haven’t already done so, I would start by creating a formal and informal email signature. The formal version generally should include your name, business name, web address and phone number along with your street address if you have any kind of office or storefront and perhaps a line or two about what your business has to offer. It’s ok for the formal signature to be reasonably inclusive since it will generally be used only at the beginning of a client relationship. The informal signature might include just your first name, phone, and web address depending on the nature of your business. These are easy to create following instructions in the help section of your email software. You might also type into Google, “How to create signatures in my (name of email software}”.

Once configured, you then have the option to sign your emails with whichever signature makes the most sense. I usually use my formal signature when I first contact a new client and once we get to know each other, switch to a shorter, less formal version. Basically though, once you’ve created these, every email you send out gives your recipient the opportunity to instantly discover more about who you are and allows them to easily pass your information on to a friend. Listed web addresses will automatically be linked to that address when the email is sent. With one click, the recipient is at your website.

I also suggest not trying to get too fancy, displaying logos, photos, animation, etc. Those can distract the recipient from your email message and also limit who can view your email without running into technical problems. Just use your basic email type with perhaps some judicious use of bold and italic.

An email signature then is just typing and not really a signature. It’s simply a short cut so you don’t have to continually retype all your vital information. When you compose an email, there is a signature tab that allows you to choose between several signature options you’ve created including displaying no signature. It’s quick and easy and an invaluable way of making your website one click away and your web address easy to share.



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Blog spam gets nasty: Flipping the switch on Comments


If you have a blog and you allow readers to comment on your posts and pages, then unfortunately, you are open to receiving spam comments. Spam is bulk messaging designed to make your life miserable and sometimes if interacted with, can lead to forms of identity theft and/or the installation of malware on your machine.

Plugins can be added to your blog that will filter out most of the spam, but without it you may find you have thousands of comments, most of which are spam. Trying to find legitimate comments among thousands is next to impossible and even dumping them is very time consuming unless you use a plug-in designed to dump bulk comments indiscriminately.

Even with spam blockers installed, some get through that use language a legitimate comment might contain. What gives this form of spam away is lack of specificity as in the example at the top of this post. These comments will praise you for your blogging style and tell you how useful your article was but without referring to anything specific. Because they are bulk comments, they have to be generic.

In many ways these are the worst, since you are forced to evaluate them and that takes time. I was so uncertain over a recent comment regarding its legitimacy, that I decided to check out the website. Big mistake!! I thought my computer had been compromised, though fortunately that turned out not to be the case.

Comments are a great way to interact with your readers, but if I could be fooled by this form of spam, then I’m sure most of my clients could. Nuisance is one thing, identity theft or a damaged hard drive is quite another. So until I discover some iron clad way to keep Comments turned on without worrying about malicious spammers, then I’m using a work-around, encouraging direct email comments instead and encouraging visitors to comment on my FaceBook business page.

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Grandmother! What big SEOs you have…


OK, you’re Little Red Riding Hood. Think of the basket of goodies as a basket of search engine optimizations (SEOs) that you plan to give to grandmother for her website. The wolf is not too concerned about the basket. He’s more interested in eating you alive, but will make pleasant conversation with you about the contents of your basket in order to distract you so he can pounce on you.

Unfortunately, the whole world it seems wants to help you with your SEOs, for a small fee that is. The object is to make you feel very insecure about your ranking when people do searches related to what you have to offer, citing all kinds of statistical analysis. They will refer to technical tricks guaranteed to drive traffic to your site if you will only agree to pay them so much per month.

The reality is that search engines today are designed to elude most of the ploys used to draw them to a specific site. Let’s take keywords for instance. For a while search engines did favor keywords, so people crammed keywords into their sites to the point of unreadability. Now if the search engines catch you stuffing your text content with keywords they will lower your rankings.

The good news today is that if you have a site that works well for those it serves to the point where they visit a lot and interact with it, then your site will be rewarded in the rankings. I love it! The search engines today are asking you to be creative, thoughtful, and focused on the quality of your content. It’s a challenge.

Sure, there still are some basic ways to optimize your site, but in the end it all comes down to how well you serve your potentiaL customers.

Here’s some excellent advice directly from Google:

Even though this guide’s title contains the words “search engine”, we’d like to say that you should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what’s best for the visitors to your site. They’re the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work. Focusing too hard on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results. Search engine optimization is about putting your site’s best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.

So beware, Little Red, when talking to strangers! They do not always have your best interests at heart. Two particular areas to be wary of are spammers and unfortunately your web host providers. If you have a blog and don’t have spam protection plug-ins installed then your comments will soon number in the thousands as the spammers discover you are there, and the majority of those are trying to get you to hire them to fix your SEOs, or worse, to get you to respond to their spam comment so they can trick you into giving up personal information. 

Even with spam protection, some spammers will send spam messages that are worded in such a way as to almost feel like legitimate comments, full of praises for your site. They are the worst since you actually have to read them to decide whether or not they are spam. You learn to recognize them by their lack of specificity, but you really have to pay attention which is a real time waster.

On the web host front, I’ve been recommending a particular web hosting company that I’ve been using for years without any major complaints, but I failed to notice in their branding that they had become a subsidiary of another company whose focus was offering website building services. 

What I had noticed however was that every time I called I was being given increasingly aggressive sales pitches for their services with SEOs being right up there. Call to renew a domain and you come under attack regarding your rankings. One of my clients bought into such tactics and was paying a substantial monthly fee that was not only not bringing significant results, but was very difficult to get out of. 

Most of my clients are focused on what they do best and are not particularly geek savvy. If you are approached about your site’s rankings, proceed with caution before buying into any solutions. Internet searches are only one way to build your customer base on the web and not necessarily the most effective method.

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‘Mobile Friendly’: The new Google bots kid on the block



Here is how my now ‘Mobile Friendly’ blog appears on a mobile device

Because there is a growing trend toward mobile device use, in many cases to the exclusion of PCs, Google’s search engines were recently reconfigured on the mobile side only, to favor ‘mobile friendly’ sites.

What this means is that someone doing a search from a mobile device (not PCs or tablets) may get results mostly from sites that Google deems ‘mobile friendly’. If your site does not pass the ‘mobile friendly’ test then there is a good chance your site may not rank very high in a search from a mobile device.

I use the word ‘sites’, though the Google bots are actually ranking the individual pages within the site, so it is even possible that some pages may pass the test while others fail for whatever reason.

If you have a particularly effective site (or pages), it may still rank high even though not deemed ‘mobile friendly’, so ‘mobile friendly’ is not the sole criteria, but it is a strong one, at least since April.

Any searching from a PC or tablet will be completely unaffected by this new Google bots policy.

At this point the ratio between PC and tablet users vs mobile device users is about 50/50 with mobile device use a little stronger but coming on fast, which is why these policies have been instituted. Google is trying to nudge us in that direction.

Sites that were created using code that allows for flexibility will render one way on a PC and in whatever ways necessary to fit tablets and mobile devices. However, such adaptive sites, in spite of functioning well on various devices, may still fail the ‘mobile friendly’ test.

The same is true for sites that were designed specifically for mobile devices. They, too, may work well yet still fail the test. It is up to site developers to discover why such sites or pages are failing the test and figure out a remedy.

Word Press has stepped up with it’s army of geeks to meet the Google bots challenge, at least on the latest versions of many of its templates. In my recent work developing sites, I’ve moved from the template Twenty-Ten to Twenty-Twelve (that’s what you are looking at now) which as it turns out, passes the ‘mobile friendly’ test and displays well on the mobile device. Yet another reason to include a WordPress blog within your site.

I’m working out some strategies that will provide mobile users who end up on a Word Press blog page to be able to experience all of the site content from within the mobile device friendly WordPress blog without having to jump out to the main PC oriented site.

WordPress is much better equipped to keep us up to date as we move deeper into this world of mobile communication, so for now anyway I think it’s a good solution. 

There are still gillions of people out there visiting your site from a PC, so i wouldn’t abandon your full featured site quite yet, on the other hand, using a WordPress blog to solve the ‘mobile friendly’ dilemma will help your site keep up with the latest developments.

Last week my site failed the ‘mobile friendly’ test, including the blog pages. This week I changed my blog template to the latest version of Twenty-Twelve and my pages now pass the test. The change was not difficult and I’m really happy with the way it looks. The image at the top of the page shows the test results including how the main page would appear on a mobile device. 

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Things, they are a’changin’


The above example shows a website designed for PC shown on mobile devices. The smaller the device, the more resizing and scrolling is required of the viewer, however the look and feel of the whole site is preserved.

In 2014, mobile device use broke past PC use, which means that there are now slightly more users world wide using mobile devices to search the internet than those using desktop computers.

User experience

The problem is, that standards have been established on personal computers that provide a fairly consistent experience regardless of manufacturer or operating system. Mobile device development on the other hand is more like the wild west where competing factions have not yet ironed out a bottom line approach in developing their products.

Work in progress

For web developers, trying to provide a consistent web experience that covers PCs and all the various mobile devices is quite a challenge. Because uniform standards have not yet been set on the mobile end, that arena becomes something of a moving target. That begs the question of how much to invest in adapting to something that is going through so many changes so rapidly. If mobile wrist watches are the next big thing, then we’re not likely to see things plateau any time soon.

The challenge

The sites I’ve been building work great on flat screen computer monitors and they do show up on mobile devices, but smart phones have small screens making it difficult to navigate. The sites still work well visually, but they are somewhat inconvenient to navigate through.

The choices

Leave things as they are to preserve the integrity of the site, even at the expense of navigability on mobile devices

Create a new website in a flexible design format that adapts to whatever device it is being seen on. This limits design development, since in order to successfully adapt, the site must be somewhat generic in design. The expectation is that the site will not look the same from device to device except for the overall design concept.


The above examples shows, probably secondary, sites specifically designed for mobile devices. By nature these are simpler and more convenient to navigate, something like a kiosk version compared to the main storefront experience available on a PC.

Create a second simpler site better adapted to mobile devices. The above examples (not my designs) are mobile sites probably related to a larger site that is meant to be viewed on a computer monitor. Code can be added in to direct mobile users automatically to the simpler, stripped down version of the original site. Or instead users can be given the choice between viewing the original site or the simpler mobile friendly version.  

One final option is to let your blog pages become your “mobile friendly” site. This requires using the latest version of an appropriate template and possibly adding a navigation button that takes the viewer to information from the main website to ‘mobile friendly’ pages.

The advantage here is that WordPress has an army of geeks working to stay ahead of such changes. The ‘mobile friendly’ version of your blog pages is not as tailored to mobile devices as a custom mobile design would be, but it addresses the problem, not only working well on mobile devices, but passing the ‘mobile friend;ly’ test as well.

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My approach to web design


Above client sites: Visage Salon; Pamela Donleavy, Jungian Analyst; Julie Nelson, Actor

I have been creating websites for small businesses that are highly personalized and serve as a focal point for all the other marketing – a place that potential clients can visit 24/7 to get as complete a story as possible about what is being offered – stuff that can’t be communicated within the limited confines of a business card, for instance.
I’ve also been strongly encouraging clients to integrate a WordPress blog into that website so that the website becomes the static and visually consistent portal into which most users first experience the site and the blog provides the dynamic and ever changing content that makes the site more search engine friendly and allows site owners to add and change content.


Above client sites: Dr. Ellen Mitnowsky, Chiropractor; Barbara Ween, Jazz Vocalist; Erica Lorentz, Jungian Analyst

This combined approach has been working well. The website side of the site offers more design potential, well suited to the task of creating a visually rich experience. This richness then allows me to work with my clients to create a virtual storefront best suited to their needs, where visitors can really get to know what is being offered.

The blog side, built using WordPress templates, is more limited in terms of design since it is so structured in advance, but there is enough flexibility to make the blog look like it belongs with the rest of the site. The more I work with these blogs, the better I can integrate them seamlessly with the website.

The main feature of the blog is the opportunity to create and archive new content through the blog post feature. Recent posts are viewed on the main page of the blog with the latest post appearing first followed by previous posts which ultimately are moved into an indexed archive.


Above client sites: Lisa Oxboel, Life Coach; Iris Karas, Educational Consultant, Ken Lieberman, Attorney at Law

At the same time stationary pages can be created that function pretty much like other webpages. I try to reserve these pages for content that the client can regularly update themselves such as events schedule, testimonials, workshop offerings, etc. These pages can be linked to from the main site as well as from within the blog. That way the main website rarely needs updating.

The trend in web design is toward flexibility, a concept which I truly appreciate. The idea is to have the content adapt to whatever container it finds itself in, PC, tablet, mobile phone, etc. However, I prefer a more consistent approach in which the design remains the same regardless of the device it is being viewed on. I work closely with clients to develop a particular look and I think it is important to have that preserved. I also prefer that some basic content should be static though that too flies in the face of how most site development is approached these days.


Above client sites: Community Yoga, Yoga Studio, Award 1, Awards and  engraving studio, Wendy Chabot M.D., Health and Wellness Coaching

Sites that adapt and change are considered dynamic. Though I can appreciate that, I think there is something to be said for consistency at least as far as basic information is concerned. I remember recently visiting a site and then again a week later. The colors and images had  changed so much that I wasn’t sure I was visiting the same site. I found it disorienting.

Combining the more static website with the more dynamic blog provides the best of both worlds. It’s not for everyone, but I think it works well, particularly for small businesses looking for something that is custom designed to reflect the owner’s vision.

A single page main site combined with a blog that the owner can control is the most economic way to go, though I am also willing to work with clients to build a website using just WordPress or other template driven site design options such as Squarespace or Site Builder. These all offer free, do-it-youself website design, but some users find it too difficult technically to work through while others are not that happy with the results. For a monthly fee, these companies offer access to tools that make more customized design choices possible. Even though the site building can be a challenge, using these sites once they’re built, is pretty basic. 

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Is your website an ‘Inny’ or an “Outie”


How a website fits into your marketing plan depends a lot on the nature of your business. “Marketing Plan?’ you say, “I thought that by putting up a website, the hoards would be beating down my doors!”

Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. Yes, websites do function as portals to the rest of the world and yes that is one way that people can discover your business, but even that requires strategies, otherwise your website will just sit there gathering virtual dust.

Beside the portal function, websites have lots of elbow room, giving you the opportunity to tell your whole story in a thorough manner. There is plenty of space available and the rent is cheap so it’s the perfect place to provide lots of information about what you do. Business cards, ads, brochures and signage are limited in size and are expensive which makes it difficult to tell your story. However, those venues can highlight certain aspects of what you do and direct folks to the website where they can get the rest of the story.

I call this the ‘Inny’ approach using traditional marketing tactics with the website being the final destination for educating your customers. Don’t let SEO anxiety pull your attention away from other opportunities right at your fingertips. You meet someone and when asked what you do you give a very brief but enthusiastic overview of your business. They show interest and you hand them your card. Later that night, they recall the conversation and visit your website to learn more. No business card? Then it is unlikely that they will be reminded of the conversation. No website? Well they might give you a call or stop by but those are much bigger steps than just visiting a website anytime night or day from anywhere in the world.

The ‘Outie’ approach falls into two categories, the XTreme-Word-of-Mouth approach and the “Hey, I’m over here!” search engine approach.

The first ‘Outie’ approach involves taking full advantage of social media. Email, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, (and the list goes on), all provide ways to reach new customers by word-of-mouth, both directly from you and exponentially from those who find what you offer to be interesting.

And finally, the other ‘Outie’ approach is via the search engines so that when someone, somewhere types in ‘tick removal’, your tick removal website shows up on the first page of their search results. At this stage you are truly marketing to the rest of the world, bringing in customers you never even knew existed. The search engine approach is more or less difficult depending on how competitive your business is. If you are selling hand carved door knobs, you will probably rank high in searches, however if you sell used cars, you can expect an uphill battle in terms of getting noticed due to the competition.

‘Inny’, ‘Outie1’ and ‘Outie2’ are all great ways to grow your business, but of the three ‘Outie2’ is by far the most seductive because there is a misconception of it being automatic, which it isn’t, really. We all love something for nothing! All three approaches need your attention if they are going to work and actually of the three ‘Outie2’ leaves the most to chance.



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A business card for Daniel Brown…


Dan Brown is a professional artist married to a client of mine, Lisa Oxboel, life coach and professional organizer. Recently, they both moved from Massachusetts to Taos, NM after years of visiting there. In addition to Dan’s works on canvas, he has been an educator and has his own practice as a life coach, often working with other educators and artists.

After their move, Lisa contacted me to update all of her materials including her web site and business card to reflect their new location in the Southwest. Dan needed business cards for his practice as well, so he contacted me and I developed some ideas for his business identity that we applied to his card design.

Dan is also a photographer so I asked him to send me some photos taken in and around Taos along with samples of his painting. In the end, I utilized a section of one of his paintings to build his identity along with a photo of Dan. This worked well on the front of his business card.


In addition, I created a simplified graphic image from some consistent elements in his painting, namely a sliver moon and hills on the horizon. I used these logo elements on the back side of his card and expect that they will show up regularly in other promotional materials as well.

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