Think Websites Are An Expensive Pain? Now There’s Small Business Relief via Squarespace

“Simpler is Better.” Website Design Can Be More Fun & Efficient When You Go Beyond the Complexity of WordPress and other platforms.

While my team and I still design and develop larger WordPress websites, I have found the Squarespace platform to be a faster, more fun and more client-empowering way to help small businesses create elegant, totally mobile-friendly websites that have all of the functionalities that a small business needs.


As some of you may know, I did a streaming video webinar earlier this year (see YouTube clip above) that explains in the first 15-minutes why I’m recommending Squarespace over WordPress for websites for smaller organizations.

I’m writing today because my streamlined, three-hour 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Squarespace Website sessions are becoming more popular; and, for me, more fun.

Learning from Real Life Website Design Experiences

Recently in one of these “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” Squarespace Website sessions where I collaborated with a local chiropractor and friend, Robert Adamich, we actually produced his entire website (short of a couple of blog posts) in just one of these three-hour sessions.

To be clear, this is not always the case. That’s why I book these, not as projects, but rather as sessions, i.e. a three-hour commitment to get as much done as possible, including developing the site’s content structure, integrating some content, teaching how to use Squarespace, and developing the site’s unique look and feel using one of Squarespace’s modern design templates.

Here’s what Robert had to say about this process:

“My work with Jon Leland of ComBridges produced amazing website results in far less time than I could have imagined! Prior to our “1-to-1 Get-It-Done Squarespace Website Session,” Jon provided me with relevant tools and questions so that I was prepared and ready to go. Then, in only three-hours, we crafted a 7-page website that I absolutely love. Jon was fun to work with and creative sparks were flying. Then, at the end of the session, when we launched my new site, it was literally a dream come true. The icing on the cake was that I left with enough training and familiarity with Squarespace that I can now manage and edit my own website. THANK YOU, Jon!”

— Robert Adamich, AdamichChiropractic.com

Personally, I absolutely LOVE the opportunity to contribute what I think is extremely high value as a writer, marketing consultant, information architect, and Squarespace trainer, all in one action-packed session.

The results are tangible and the clients have all been very happy.

My calling is to be of service, and there’s something very satisfying about this Squarespace powered format. I hope that it’s obvious that I am much more than just a website designer. What I love about this process is that I get to bring all of my talents into these sessions and have clients walk away with all or most of a new website, as well as with an empowering orientation to the power and ease-of-use of Squarespace.

Here’s another example, another real life Squarespace website client experience:

“As a do-it-yourselfer, I questioned why I hired Jon. Was it just so I would get started on my project of updating my website? That alone would have been worth it, but Jon’s services went way beyond my expectations. In the space of three hours, he not only provided me with a tutorial on using Squarespace; but he also helped organize, with my input, the framework for the revised site, as well as providing a good start on several important pages. It was amazing! I wasn’t overwhelmed with the behind-the-scenes tech or design stuff, and I felt empowered to continue on my own when we finished. Thanks, Jon!”

— Gia Combs-Ramirez

I welcome your questions and I’m happy to do a 15-minute “discovery session” with anyone, anytime, so that you can get a better sense if this approach (or one of the other website design approaches we offer) is right for you. Please contact me in order to arrange your free discovery session.

Or, If You Want a Complete Website…

In other cases, I do the entire website as a Squarespace project for a project fee. For example, this was the case with a website that I did recently for a South Lake Tahoe law firm. For this client, I also delivered Internet marketing services including SEO and Google AdWords in order to attract new leads and prospective clients. In fact, as they say below, their firm has already booked new clients as a result of our work together:

“Jon Leland and ComBridges went above and beyond in building my firm’s website. Jon built us a very professional, attractive website while patiently taking the time to explain how to manage the website in a way that was easy to understand. It was obvious that Jon has a lot of pride in his work and was committed to boosting my firm’s business through our online presence. His hard work and our investment in our website has already produced positive, tangible results by bringing us many new clients.  I’d recommend Jon and ComBridges to anyone.”

— Scott Souers, Attorney, William B. Cherry & Associates

How Do You Know Which Approach to a New Website Is Best for You?

We have a three-column chart that provides a better understanding of the difference between these two approaches to building Squarespace websites.

Or, please check out my portfolio of Squarespace websites.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Squarespace Website Quick-Start Webinar: Free. Next Thursday.

If you’ve been challenged getting a website done or you think they’re too expensive, I have some good news for you.

Next Thursday, December 17th at 10am PT / 1pm ET, I will present short 15-minute webinar on why I’m preferring Squarespace websites for small businesses. During this presentation, I will concisely share my knowledge and insights about why most of my clients are now benefiting from the streamlined production, stress-free hosting, elegant templates, built-in mobile-friendliness and other benefits of the Squarespace online website software platform. Click here to register or learn more.

Squarespace Website WebinarMy Mission is To Help You Get a Grip on the High Performance, Low Cost Squarespace Website Software That I’ve Come to Know & Love

If you’re interested in learning more about how Squarespace and/or if you think this information might help you to have a more elegant website and an expanded web presence more quickly than you may have thought possible, I would love to help you by sharing what I’ve learned in the hope that you will benefit. I promise to quickly and clearly explain why this is the website development strategy (Squarespace) that I’m recommending these days.

Squarespace has really changed things at ComBridges recently because now, thanks to the ease of use of this platform, I’m able to do websites a lot less expensively; and, it’s more empowering for the clients to be able to make their own website changes and updates. It also solves the today’s requirement that everything on the web and in email be mobile-friendly. Squarespace does that “out of the box” will ALL of its modern templates. My clients also like that they don’t have to worry about hosting and the associated technical headaches… and on and on.

Bottom line, our clients are happy, and you might be interested in learning more about why this is working so well. Click here now to learn more.

This Is What I Do

As many of you know, I am an online marketing mentor with a real passion for connecting the dots for small businesses. I call it spanning the Grand Canyon gap between people and technology. One of the biggest things that’s happened to me in my business in the last or year or so is doing more websites using Squarespace rather than WordPress.

All the information about this online event is here on this page, including a personal video invitation and bullets that explain more about what I’ll be talking about.

I hope to see you there.

When you click this link you will see more detailed information and be able to register. The live session includes a chat-powered Q&A. The recording is included when you register.

Having a Blast on Blab: Learnings from the Launch of My New Social Media Video Show

I’ve been doing social media since the beginning of social media and I’ve never had a more uplifting experience of community and connection than the one I’ve had getting to know the new video conversation platform called Blab (http://Blab.im).

I created this graphic to promote last Friday's Blab session and shared across all of my social media accounts.

I created this graphic to promote last Friday’s Blab session.

Getting Started with Blab

Last Friday, I did my first regular Blab show ([email protected]) and it was surprisingly easy to do and successful. Word spread by social media, and we had people join in late in the show who said that they had heard buzz that we were “killing it” and that they should check it out. Unexpected delight. 😉

We had about 280 viewers who watched live at sometime during the 90 minutes we were on, a pretty steady audience of 60 or so more during the webcast; and, as of this writing, this program has now had over 308 viewers counting the Replay on Blab.im. And, as you will see below, I’ve also posted the recording to YouTube and thus the exposure continues to grow.

Those are just some of the reasons I’m excited.

Spontaneous Community

Part of the reason for this success was that I was honored to have author/speaker Joel Comm (“Twitter 3.0” and other books) as my featured guest. It was Joel who first told me about Blab… Well, actually I got the info from a post of his on Facebook. Joel has become kind of Blab Ambassador. If there’s a Blab “star,” Joel would be on the short list of “nominees.”

Then, to my surprise, as the Blab progressed (may I remind you that this was a live session), I was delighted to have blogging business veteran Darren Rowse join us (see image below). Darren is better known as Pro Blogger and has been a social media marketing thought leader for years. Others who just “happened by” included social media strategist Carlos Gil and digital marketing expert Pam Brossman who both offered some really useful insights and tips (a taste of which are included below). That’s the kind of spontaneous community “happening” it was and which the Blab platform fascilitated.

A Truly Transparent Company

Another guest that contributed a lot to my first Blab show was Brittnay Metz who is a Blab spokesperson and I guess you could say evangelist. For example, she’s the one who sends out emails to the Blab members, but she also spends a fair about of time on Blab itself participating, answering questions, taking feature requests, and generally monitoring and supporting the user base.

Brittnay told us, for example, that the company was really committed to staying at only 30 employees. She also talked about the fact that Blab’s engineers are going to be developing very sophisticated video analytics.

Positive Impressions of An Emerging New Video Technology

Both from what Brittnay said and from my own experience, it’s clear that Blab is making sure that their software really works. I’ve experimented with lots of video conversation platforms, and especially considering this is an early “beta,” Blab seems extremely stable. But Blab’s biggest strength is ease of use which, of course, is a very big deal.

All you need is a Twitter account and you’re in with full participation priviledges. Blab is also totally free as they grow their user base and there are no plans for a “premium” version on the horizon. In some ways, I think Blab may be the example of the “Instagram business model.” (Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1Billion.) I imagine that Blab is going to be acquired by a much larger company at some point, but when I asked Brittnay about this possibility, her response was a quite grounded. She said, “What makes you think we want to sell?” I left it at that.

blab-screen-labels-v2
Minor Limitations, Major Advantages

The only significant limitations of Blab’s video implementation that I’ve found so far are that it does not work in the Mac Safari browser (because of the video format that Safari uses) andthere’s a mobile app for iOS, but not yet for Android. The best web browser for Blab is Chrome and the desktop version is more full-featured (as shown above).

Some of the features that I like most are the fact that it’s a conversation environment with four interactive video windows. It’s easy for people to come and go. The host has the ability to accept or reject “visitors” at his or her discretion, and most hosts are quite welcoming. We had people coming and going all through our program.

Powerful Twitter Integration

Blab derives its external social media power through its integration with Twitter. And that’s a big part of what makes Blab powerful as an audience or relationship-building tool. Blab engages users via Twitter with the build-in “Tell a Bird” feature that’s to the left of the video windows (on the desktop version). It’s not only a good way to share what you’re doing, but it actually demonstrates a kind of freedom to interact that is not possible on Facebook because on Twitter “friend requests” are not required in order to interact.

Chat, Recordings & More

Blab stays highly interactive as well with a very lively chat stream that runs along the right side of the four video windows.

After you host a Blab session, you get both an mp4 video file and an mp3 audio file of the recording. These files are available for you to download and can be posted anywhere (for example, on YouTube, SoundCloud, or wherever). The video recording doesn’t have the screen names nor the chat stream. You can see the difference between this version and the embed code version that’s also provide via embeds that I’ve included below.

Compared to Google Hangouts, in the production sense, Blab is less robust. For example, at this time (although Brittnay told us that this is coming at some future time), Blab lacks screen sharing. Likewise, the spiffy lower-third ID’s that are part of Hangouts are not on Blab, but you do automatically get labeled during the live sessions with your name and Blab ID (for example, mine is @joncombridges).

As a work around for the absence of lower-thirds, people have gotten into using apps like ManyCam and CamTwist Studio (Mac only) in order to put graphics into their video frame. In fact, Joel was doing was doing just that all during our program.

I also think it’s worth noting that, in some ways, Blab’s ID feature is substantially better than the lower-third Hangouts feature because it’s interactive. For example, if you like what someone is saying, you can simply click on that ID to follow them on Blab. There is also a link to their Twitter profile so you can follow or list them there as well. The Blab ID also let’s you address them directly in the live chat stream. You also can click on the lower right of any video image to give the speaker “props.” So, what Blab may lack in snazzy production features, it more than makes up for with ease of use and authentically interactive tools that enable real people to have real conversations, in real time.

What About Lead Capture?

One of the questions that I asked Joel and the others during my first Blab Show was about lead capture, or lack of those kinds of features in Blab. For example, I use Google Hangouts within the WebinarJam “envelope” in order to do lead capture when I do webinars because I want to be able follow up with the people who attend my programs via email. What I’m learning is that Blab is something completely different.

What Blab delivers, possibly “in spades,” is a completely new way to get exposure. And what’s really important is that that increased exposure is delivered via video so people can really get a sense of you and your expertise or value.

I’m finding that I’m making new friends with my fundamental practice of “Leading with Value” and that’s the most dynamic and perhaps the most important part of Blab. Blab really is about relationship building and making authentic connections. People are doing this on Blab in a way I haven’t seen before on any social media network. I really think it’s worth checking out.

A Video-Powered Way to Increase Your Visibility

As someone said during the program, the Blab experience is very much analogous to being at a party and meeting people. So in that sense, for marketers, Blab is  like a new form of the classic free intro call.

One other important dimension of delivering expanded visibility is, as Carlos recommended and I’m demonstrating below, via YouTube. In the future, I’m also going to upload the audio to SoundCloud. In addition, there are people who are using Blab to record podcasts by taking the recording and distributing it via iTunes and so forth. Bottom line, Blab is a new way to get the word out.

That having been said, I watched a Blab the other day that featured Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner and he talked about specifically getting enrollments for some of their conferences via Blab. Thus, Blab can be used as an on-ramp both to build your visibility and also, in at least some cases, to make specific offers that then people move down your engagement funnel.

I’m recommending Blab because I’m finding it to be a great way to meet and connect with people. There’s no doubt that in only a little over a week, I’ve made new friends; and, equally important, I’m definitely having fun. Blab is so engaging that it’s literally becoming an addictive kind of social media experience for some people and in that way it’s a great social media environment to be swimming in.

I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to keep this kind of energy going, and I hope to see you (literally via Blab video) next [email protected] (PT).

Useful Resources:

For the Convenience of Comparison
Please Find Below Two Versions of This Same Program, My First “[email protected]” Blab Program. The first is the embed provided by Blab and the second via upload to YouTube—are provided below for comparison.

Blab Embed:

YouTube Embed:

Major Website Design Learning: Squarespace Makes It Fun Again

Our new Squarespace website design options—both a done-with-you process and lower priced projects—have taught me important lessons while also helping me to help clients better and to enjoy my work more.

[testimonial author=”Will Lopes, owner, William Patrick Design Builders”]”The future of website design is here! Squarespace in the able hands of Jon Leland was a revelation. He guided me through a re-design more quickly, elegantly and affordably than I imagined possible. Now, I have a modern, good-looking, mobile-friendly website; AND it’s on a platform that empowers me to have FUN evolving it by myself. I couldn’t recommend Jon’s unique approach more highly.”[/testimonial]

william-patrick-buildersI think the testimonial above says a ton!

As I’ve continued to experiment with Squarespace as a more cost effective and easier to use platform (vs. WordPress) for small business websites, I’ve not only learned lessons about the need for clarity in differentiating these fresh approaches; but, even more importantly, I’ve uncovered new ways of serving clients that are both better for them and more fun for me.

Not “One Size Fits All”

I recently did a “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” Squarespace website session with Christine Fischer via Skype. She lives in Spain and conducts Truffles Tours there.

While Christine appreciated her experience as “fun” with results that she said are “functional and elegant,” she also gave me some valuable, “constructive feedback.” sitka-servicesShe told me that she wasn’t completely clear when we started that the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done package was just a session and not a complete website project.

I was really glad that I took the time to listen to her feedback and I’ve already incorporated her suggestions by positioning the “1-to-1” offer more distinctly, as she suggested. I explained on the “1-to-1” offer page that this session is a way to build a “foundation” for your website and be empowered to move forward on your own. That much I can promise. A complete website in three hours, I can not promise. 😉

I took that input, updated the offer page and then went a extra step by creating a new 3-column chart that’s now featured on my website’s “Website Design Services” page.

A New Chart to Visualize the Differences

web-design-development-options-chartNow, hopefully, thanks to this chart, people can quickly and easily understand the differences between the various ways that we are now serving up new client websites.

Truthfully, for me, doing this chart was also useful because I’ve been experimenting by developing this offers and they needed to be more clearly articulated.

Now, as these new approaches to website design and development have become successful in terms of completing both sessions and projects (please see our new Squarespace website design portfolio page for examples), and, as I’m seeing 1-to-1 Get-It-Done clients complete their own websites, my whole experience with Squarespace has become more and more satisfying.

In fact, it’s become downright enjoyable!

And that’s the bottom line: I love sharing my expertise and being hands on. Doing these projects and sessions have given me a new way to be helpful and one that is empowering for clients. Yay!

Yes, Squarespace has made web design fun again.

Webinar Video: Internet Marketing Success in 4 Easy “Booster Rockets”

Webinar via YouTube: Internet marketing... success

Last week, we recorded a live webinar as part of the re-launch of New Marketing University (NewMarU.com). I entitled it, “The 4 Booster Rockets of Internet Marketing Success” and we covered four key areas that are high leverage for any small business that wants to expand the effectiveness of its online marketing, including why these strategies are important and an overview of how we approach them.

The good news, if you are just passing by, is that I felt that this webinar was such a valuable introduction to how ComBridges approaches these kinds of innovations in Internet marketing as well as a taste of the kinds of useful information that will be available more and more via NewMarU.com, I decided to post this recording free and open to all on YouTube with no email registration required. In fact, this 45-minute video webinar is embedded below on this page so you can just click and enjoy it right now. 😉

In case you want to know what’s covered without watching anything, we discuss the following four strategic Internet marketing tactics:

  • Lead capture and lead nurturing along with the need to design a sales funnel process
  • Truly interactive Facebook Pages that go “beyond the Like”
  • Authentic engagement and what makes video content marketing more effective
  • Cost effective small business mobile apps to reach the rapidly increasing number of website visitors using smartphones and other mobile devices

All this and more in only about 40 minutes plus Q&A. Please check it out and comment, here or on YouTube. And if you want more, click on the “YouTube” logo to subscribe to our YouTube channel or register at NewMarU.com. Thanks! We look forward to hearing from YOU.

Mobile Apps and Mobile-Friendly Websites for Business: 
The Next Big Thing in Internet Marketing?

Shortly after Internet accessibility via mobile phones started to take off, marketers started to encourage businesses to build mobile versions of their websites. But there is always a gap between innovations and those who follow up in order to take advantage of the latest technologies.

mobile-friendly website with responsive WordPress theme

ComBridges’ new mobile-friendly website design uses a responsive WordPress theme

But, now that there is a meaningful volume of web visitors checking out every website (yes, even yours!) via mobile devices, spanning this gap is becoming more of a requirement. And yet, there are still a very significant number of businesses who don’t have mobile-friendly websites. The really bad news, particularly for those who are falling behind, is that the gap is widening between those who are meeting the demand for mobile-friendly web communications and those who are not. The good news is that there are a new generation of business communication tools arising in the form of apps and new kinds of websites that make meeting this need increasingly accessible. Illuminating these trends with specific examples is the purpose of this blog post.

The Mobile Web is Exploding

These changes are unquestionably dramatic. While the Web was born on desktop computers, it is obviously no longer simply a desktop medium. By May 2012, fully one tenth of the world’s web traffic was arriving on your digital doorstep via mobile phones and tablets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the “developing” world that is truly leading the charge. In those countries where cell phones have long outnumbered landlines, more than one-half of web use is now coming via mobile devices. This demand for mobile delivery is now forcing the issue and providing further fuel for the shift in how websites are designed. In this environment, for a company to ignore the need for the mobile-friendly delivery of its Web content not only limits that company’s engagement opportunities because they are essentially “dissing” a significant segment of their audience. In the US alone, mobile is now estimated to be about 15% of web traffic. Bottom line, this form of resistance to change (or upgrades) will also exclude that company from a significant component of how the next billion people will get online.

Chinese woman with iPad

Photo by Robert May, April, 2013

Not Your Father’s Website Design

Web development for the mobile age itself is advancing quickly. One of the latest innovations is called responsive website designs. Because responsive designs automatically adjust their layout to suit the device being used, they offer a relatively simple solution that can eliminate the complexity of having to create a separate mobile-friendly version of your website. But this means that those—like my company recently—must invest in a redesign in order to keep pace with the mobile revolution. But that’s not all. The pace of change does not slow down. It accelerates.

Span the Gap with an App

Now, at least for marketers who are committed to the leading edge of engagement with social media savvy users who love their mobile devices, a responsive design may not be enough. Mobile apps are yet another important innovation because they combine the emergence of ever-expanding Web access via mobile devices with the ability to communicate directly, in a native form (i.e. within the mobile medium) via customized business-specific functionalities from Facebook feeds, to special offers, to location-based components.

A recent article by SmartMediaTips on mobile statistics points out that over 50% of an individual’s time spent on a smartphone is spent using apps. In 2011, smartphone users downloaded 17.7 billion apps, and this number is expected to increase to 108 billion by 2015. As a result, more than 300,000 apps were developed in the last 3 years. In a sense, apps are the new websites (just like “60 is the new 40.”)

The good news is that some newly developed Web-based SaaS (software as service) resources are make building basic apps far more accessible and affordable than previously imagined. The result is a new trend in mobile marketing: the development of business apps that can be used by companies of virtually any size. Of course, many large, enterprise-level businesses have already jumped on the app bandwagon, including banks, Starbucks, Google, and even Walmart’s new checkout app. Now, there are mobile apps for the rest of us.

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites

A business mobile app means that your website can be programmed to offer mobile users an interface for your website and social media content that is all the more friendly, not only with a vertical layout that fits a smartphone screen, but with an interface that features icons (rather than web-style text links) that are also a natural for the touch of a screen. Thus, an app offers more than a responsive website design. An app gives your business a mobile presence that can put local or social media interactivity in a more prominent position. In particular, an app allows your loyal customers and followers to retrieve content, like audio podcasts or video commentaries for example, that are more conveniently accessed while on the move. Likewise, Facebook posts and tweets, which are commonly accessed via mobile, can become part of your business app’s featured content.

One logical strategy is use the app to make your social media marketing and content marketing outreach more accessible. For example, when individuals are standing in line at the bank or at the grocery store, with an app at their fingertips, they will much more easily be able browse through your Facebook posts. In fact, they are certainly more likely to visit your Facebook Page while on your app rather than from Facebook’s own app where they are far more than likely to be distracted by their family’s photos, etc.

Likewise, if you host a contest, offer a coupon or some other form of promotion, those who get involved with your app can much more quickly check contest updates from an app and receive automated notifications (with permission of course). The app makes waiting for your responsive website to load, asking the user to find the contest page, then wait for that page to load, etc. seem prosaic. An app simply makes any interaction with your web content immediately available with a simple touch of an icon, rather than forcing a web page and more complex navigation through the smaller screen.

Learning from Experience

Small Business mobile app example

ComBridges’ Facebook Feed in our test mobile app

By way of example, as a boutique web design and marketing agency, our company, ComBridges used to have a mobile-friendly version of our website that was visible via smartphones. This was developed using a WordPress plug-in called WPTouch Pro. Recently, we have redesigned and relaunched our own site with a responsive WordPress theme.

What opens up the opportunity for a small business like ours (and so many others) to have its own app is online software services like Conduit.com’s Mobile. While these apps do require a small, additional monthly hosting fee, they are easy for developers like us to implement. So much so that some do-it-yourselfer small businesses could even build apps on their own. It’s a work in progress, but if you have a smartphone, you can preview our first generation mobile app via any mobile device at combridges.conduitapps.com.

You will notice that what you see on our app looks very different than what you see on our website. It’s designed for mobile interaction. In fact, thanks to Conduit, much of the content is automatically derived from our Facebook Page, Twitter feed and more. As you can see, many of our social media pages are featured along with easy options for contacting us, including click to call functionality.

Greeting the Mobile Future

According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of individuals who own smart phones keep their phone within reach 24/7. And 5.1 billion of the 7 billion people on earth own a mobile phone. With these numbers in mind, why wouldn’t every business want to make it easier for their customers, blog readers, Twitter or Facebook followers to engage with them via a mobile app?

Another benefit is that if you develop your business app now, before the gap widens further, you may well be seen as an innovator. At the very least, you will prove yourself smart enough to get an early jump on the next wave of mobile marketing strategies, rather than letting the gap widen between you and your competitors, as well as between you and your customers.


Jon Leland is author of “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts that Every Business MUST Know” and is the president of the boutique web design, video and Internet marketing agency, ComBridges.com. He was assisted in this article by Tara Hornor who also writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company.

 

The Visual Web Demands New Video Presentation Tools & Techniques

One of my ‘mantras’ is that “It’s not about the technology. It’s about the communication.” 

Quick infographic, presentation image

This image took about 5 minutes to create

Both the good news and the bad news is that online communication is becoming more and more visual. So much so that I’ve begun calling it “The Visual Web” and wrote this blog post about the trend.

The first is about the style of visual communications and the continuing “epidemic” of bullet-point list laden presentations, such as those created in PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote programs. (And given the increasing value of sharing presentations via SlideShare, presentation style is more important than ever.)

The second is a new tool that can be applied to both online videos (which I now consider a “must have”) as well as to the increasingly important content marketing strategy of creating infographics.

1. Presentations Done Right

Authenticity in online communications is an important key, and that means you have to walk your talk. Here’s a presentation that does just that. It illustrates what I agree are some of the most important techniques and style points about presentations using PowerPoint or Keynote, and it does so without bullet point lists. In fact, it not only makes a good case against all that text and bullet lists that we all see in far too many presentations, but it also offers some valuable resources. (New to me were Pictalicious for color palettes and PowToon, see below. I already love and recommend the iPad app, Haiku Deck.)

 

2. The Best and Easiest Online Video & Infographic Tool I’ve Seen (ever?)

 I will have to return to the subject of PowToon with a more complete review. For now, I’ll give it one of my highest recommendations which is, “I want to learn this app.”

It’s an online application designed for the creation of all kinds of online videos with an impressive array of built-in animation effects. Their site is full of examples, so I’ll just embed their excellent introductory video. If you are interested in this kind of production, ComBridges can do it for you, and more cost effectively than ever thanks to this tool. Check it out!

 

What do you think?

 

The App Year in Review: My Favorite Apps from 2011

“Hello, my name is Jon, and…

I’m an App-aholic.”

Apps is me. I love ’em and I love to share ’em. And, just for the record, I consider my obsessive behavior with apps of all kinds, especially iPhone apps, iPad apps and small business productivity-oriented web apps to be a healthy addiction. Well mostly healthy. At least I’m learning about the future of mobile computing… and I’m definitely having fun.

Here are my mini-reviews of my favorite apps from 2011 (more to come in 2012). I look forward to your comments and to hearing your recommendations via the comments below.

Note Taker HD: Hand-Written Notes Come to the iPad
This is the app that changed my life. It’s a powerful tool for writing on the iPad in a totally hand-written natural way. I used to prefer using yellow-lined paper writing pads for meetings, and would journal in notebooks, but Note Taker HD has shown me that I can write almost as fast on my iPad tablet (using a stylus) and I’m eliminating the clutter of scraps of paper all over the place.  I use it now for meeting notes, journal entries and brainstorming sessions; and I just love the natural feel, especially the way that Note Taker HD’s window system lets me write nice and big while my writing is automatically resized into a page-sized virtual sheet. This app is so easy and just plain fun that I find myself swiftly moving into the promised land of an (almost) paperless and less cluttered office.

The Hit List: To-Do List Nirvana
In the incessant quest for the holy grail of an Organized Life, I’ve taken more than a few laps around the track with various to-do list programs. Now, I think I’ve finally found the one I’ll stick with forever because, for me at least, this to-do list offers the right balance between features and simplicity. It’s snappy name is The Hit List.  It’s Mac-only (via the Mac App Store), but I also use it on my iPhone and iPad. I can organize lists into categories by client, by project, or by any number of other categories. It’s very intuitive with due dates and priority settings as well as a space for notes on each item. I also like the way that it synchs between platforms and the few dollars I pay per year for that service is well worth it. I’m really pleased I’ve found something that works for me, and I highly recommend that you check it out.

Zite: The Future of News Reading
My new favorite news reader is an iPad app that trumps Flipboard. Zite is personalized news at its finest. It’s infinitely customizable in a very effortless and seamless way. Zite filters what I like according to my initial preferences, and then I continue to let it know what I like and why as I go along. As I interact with it, the app gets smarter and gives me an increasingly better fit for my interests and sensibilities in a clear, interactive, easy-to-read format. The results in terms of valuable articles is the ultimate value, but it’s also easy to share what I read, which is certainly a requirement for me in this social media world of ours.

Google Docs: My New Standard in Groupware
More and more of my clients and team members are now collaborating with me via Google Docs. I gotta believe that that’s because it works. One previous concern of mine was the lack of change-tracking features that are frequently required and available in MS Word. Now I’m enthralled with the newish “See revision history” feature in Google Docs which I like even better than the “Track Changes” equivalent in Word. I am also surprised by the ease of the collaboration process. If you haven’t seen this, you need to try it: When I’m working with someone and we’re both updating a document at the same time, it’s just seamless. You can even see what the other person is doing, in a distinct color, while you are also editing—all via the Web, of course. All the value of sharing and online collaboration is built in. Google Docs is now a standard part of my workflow.

Summify: Socially Aggregated News Delivered Daily
Facebook coined the term “social graph” to describe the mapping of social relationships online. There are clear advantages to extending these virtual relationships via other websites in order to create new kinds of information collections. Summify is just this kind of real time source of aggregated news and blog posts. What I read, pretty much every day at some point, is being sourced by Summify from my own social graph (my online relationships) via their neato web app (a web browser-based app). Summify leverages my network by sending me daily emails containing a linked list of news articles that have been referenced (linked to via Facebook or Twitter) by multiple people from within my social graph. When multiple people from my networks share the same information, that clearly increases the likelihood that I’ll find it interesting. And it works. The consistent quality of what Summify delivers has been impressive. And I like that it can be delivered by email too. I don’t have to go to the app or website to see what they’ve found for me. This is a useful and, to me at least, a valuable preview of the growing power of our social media matrix.

Nimble: Cross Social Network Messaging Power
This start-up company is a recent investment of Mark Cuban and a definite app to watch. Nimble is a new breed of virtual CRM software that connects your contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail and Twitter into a single interface. From within Nimble’s web-based interface, I can message people on different social networks from within one platform and that message, along with all the others that may have been sent from other sites, is available in one place. Note, these aren’t post or status updates, but the embedded messages from within the particular sites themselves. This is very convenient because you don’t have to go to LinkedIn, for example, to send a LinkedIn message to someone whose regular email address you may not have otherwise. Thus, Nimble is also a great way to keep track of the increasing number of online conversations, all in one place.

Scrivener: Larger Written Documents at Another Level
I want to give an “honorable mention” to Scrivener, a marvelous and powerful writing/document management program. I’ve used it to organize references and new resources by subject area for the social media workshops that I’ve been developing and delivering. But I’m only scratching the surface of this feature rich program. It’s powerfully sophisticated, so there’s a real learning curve involved. However, I’ve heard from multiple, reliable sources that this program has been enthusiastically received by authors and others who work with king-sized pieces of content and/or research. If you’re one of them, I think Scrivener is definitely worth checking out.

iPhone Photography
My app review of the year would not be complete without talking about iPhone photography apps. Taking photographs and playing with the images on the iPhone is a source of great pleasure and fun to me. My favorite app so far is Camera+ by Lisa Bettany. I can crop and I can process with a very creative set of presets. It’s got some great filters and I can also put all kinds of artsy frames on my images, plus it easily posts to the social networks (although I’ve recently started using Instagram for that because it also connects to Tumblr). I’m just starting to explore Camera+’s actual camera features…

ProHDR makes a big improvement over the built-in HDR on my  iPhone. If you haven’t checked out HDR (Higher Dynamic Range) photography via the apps, you must do.  It just makes a huge difference and I can’t imagine doing iPhoneography without it.

Finally, I’m a fan of Auto Painter, which I use on both my iPad and iPhone to create very cool painterly effects on my photos. It’s been a big source of creative delight. And recently I’ve had some fun with SketchMee which turned a picture of my newly-wed son and his bride into a lovely pencil sketch, if I do say so myself.

Bonus List
I had the pleasure of catching up with my favorite uber-geek, Brett Terpstra (@ttscoff) at MacWorld and noticed he posted an awesome 2011 Favorite Mac Apps list. Click to discover more cool stuff.

Thanks for app-ing with me – I’m really happy to share all of this with you. Like I said, more to come (subscribe to this blog above if you want to be notified). I wish you happy app-ing in the year ahead, and I hope you have as much fun checking out these recommendations as I have had exploring them. Please let me know what you think.

Ebook Publishing | Searching for a Road Map at ASJA in NYC

I recently had the privilege of presenting on a panel about taking blogs to the next level at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference in NYC. Once again, I spoke about why video is a ‘must have,‘ while also suggesting that bloggers be sure to activate “Email Engagement” via a Feedburner.com email subscription form, and activate “Twittitorial” via a Paper.li virtual daily e-newspaper.

ebook publishing

While these were some of the tips and tricks that I offered, I was most inspired by the panel on ebook publishing that I attended. As most of you know, I’ve got a number of ebooks in various forms of development. My research on self-publishing is fast leading me to the conclusion that: publishing these books as ebooks is not only much more cost effective, but given the trajectory—OK, the explosion—of the ebook market,  it could be far more lucrative than print publishing as well. (For one example of statistics on this boom, see the TechCrunch post: That Was Fast: Amazon’s Kindle Ebook Sales Surpass Print.)

Amongst some other excellent ASJA presenters (including the inspiring and polished, Sam Horn who will be appearing soon at NewMarU), I was particularly uplifted to learn more about the Smashwords platform (affiliate link.) Smashwords founder, Mark Coker positioned his service as the small business publisher’s best friend. It pretty much does everything you need, except format and submit your ebook for the Amazon Kindle. Its services include ebook conversions as well as sales for Apple’s iBooks store, the Nook and others.

I had been thinking that given the relative ease of using Amazon’s CreateSpace.com to publish my ebooks on the world’s largest ebook platform that that might be as much as I could “chew.”  Now, given that I’m a fan of the Kindle app on my iPad and use it often, I’m thinking that the most effective road map that offers the widest possible distribution for the least amount of effort is to use CreateSpace for Kindle and Smashwords for everything else. But I’m still researching and learning.

Anyone have any reasons why this is not the best approach? I’d love your input.

Google TV Ads, Cisco Feeds MSNBC, & Interactive Marketing Agencies: A Fresh Perspective

Another week, another Tuesday segment on TheTVNews.tv. This week, I aggregated three new online video news stories that I think merit your attention. My video segment is below, and below that are the Google TV Ads video demo, more comments, and links to all the sources. Please let me know what you think.

1. Great Video Demo of Google TV Ads

Seth Stevenson of SlateV.com did a wonderful job of demoing Google TV Ads for the rest of us. I’m sure you will agree that he proves his point that, yes, anyone with the technical chops to produce a 30-second TV spot and set up a Google AdWords account, also now has the opportunity to be a media buyer and place those TV spots on carefully targeted cable TV networks in the time slots of your choice.

I’m impressed and ready for a client who wants me to do this for them. I’m highly qualified. Are you reading?

Here’s the SlateV Google TV Ads demo for your viewing pleasure:

By the way, for those of you doing the math, not familiar with Google AdWords campaigns, and figuring that, hey, that’s about $1.30 per website visitor… please keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for AdWords customers to pay $4, $5 and up PER click. And the visitors he “acquired” via this campaign were coming to a strange website URL with no identified service or product being offered.

2. Cisco Feeds Its High-End Teleconferencing System to Rachel Maddow and MSNBC

In what is said to be “a news media industry first,” Cisco has partnered with MSNBC to provide  The Rachel Maddow Show’s New York and Washington D.C. studios with its branded TelePresence technology. According to Cisco, “TelePresence offers what traditional broadcast interviewing technology often lacks: a truly two-way, visual connection between the studio host and remote guest with virtually no audio lag time.”

To me, that’s an interesting tech story, not only because of the “no audio time lag,” but also because of further in-roads being made by a traditionally IT industry player providing hardware services to the broadcast TV industry.

Click here to see for yourself.

For more details and illuminations of the interactive benefits of TelePresence, Beet.tv has a video interview with Charles Stucki, VP & GM of the Cisco’s TelePresence unit.

3. Forrester Research Predicts the Future of Marketing Agency Relationships

Anyone in the marketing or advertising business knows that all marketing agencies are being forced to cross “boundaries” that traditionally defined specific niches. Now, Forrester’s latest report, “The Future Of Agency Relationships: Marketers Need To Lead Agency Change In The Adaptive Marketing Era” sets the stage for overlapping, multi-discipline agencies and the ways we all will be doing battle (or not) in the future.

But if you don’t feel like plopping down $499 for the report, I highly recommend Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim coverage of the report, Forrester Predicts the Interactive Agency of Record Will Die. Beal reveals the main types of agencies discussed and some of the top level data including this quote which gives you a flavor of the sophistication being required in today’s marketing agency market:

It is not enough for adaptive agencies to understand market research, ethnographic, or behavioral data. To fully understand customers, and to leverage that knowledge to improve customer experience, requires agencies to understand the interplay between the various types of data, and crucially, demands the ability to turn the data into actionable intelligence.

Stay tuned. The landscape continues to morph at a record-setting pace. Keep on dancing… and keep your seat belt fastened. 😉