WordPress 5.0: The Pain, the Gain, and Why You Shouldn’t Update Just Yet

This post is especially for my beloved folks out there whose professional websites are built in WordPress – about a third of the world’s websites by some estimates.

Today is the day the benevolent geeks in charge at WordPress released their spiffy new version, WordPress 5.0. You’ll start seeing the graphic above (absent my embellishment…) when you log into your site.

I see you yawning out there. Software update? Dull!  But bear with me for just a second.

It’s not like most web software updates, which just replace the old with the new, in a calm and orderly fashion, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This one has the potential for causing some mischief that could be, shall we say, “stressful.”

It’s all about “Gutenberg,” the editor. That screen you’re on when you’re creating or editing website posts and pages? That. I wrote about it this past Fall and posted a little introduction to it here in my post, “Guten-who?

The good part:

It’s pretty neat. The new one uses a system of blocks to let you arrange things on the page in ways you sometimes couldn’t before, embedding different kinds of content (pictures! text! columns! yay!). For non-technical folks who would love to be able to easily create and edit their own pages, and do more than just the one-long-column-of-text thing, it’s going to be awesome.

The bad part:

Many website designs, frameworks, plugins, add-ons are not compatible with it and thus your site might spit up hairballs when it’s installed. That could mean anything from “no effect whatsoever” to the white screen of death, with no way into your site. Especially if your site is more than a couple of years old and hasn’t had any sort of updating of its “guts,” it could be messy.

It is already causing a bit of mayhem, the same sort of mayhem you might expect if you decided, for example, that you wanted your own personal pet rhino. It’s very possible upgrading to 5.0 right now will break your existing website into smithereens unless you follow some special procedures – and who has time for that right now right before the holidays, seriously?

For the do-it-yourselfers:

But okay, to stay solution-oriented: I’m going to list these procedures below for those who care for their own sites. Before updating, you’ll want to do things like:

  • Take a complete backup of your site and download it to your own computer. NOT just your files and database. The whole directory. Your website host can point you in the right direction there.
  • Update your website’s “theme” – the design framework that it’s running (in your Dashboard, go under Appearance>>Themes to see what I mean) – to the newest version available.
  • Also update your site’s “plugins” (Dashboard >> Plugins) which are the little programs that enable your site to do things like cool contact forms, shopping cart, security, automatic backups, etc.
  • Install a little plugin called “Classic Editor” to switch your editor back to the way it was.

See what I mean? Who has time? Even after all of that, it may still alter your finally-beautiful website, so have your web person’s email handy and consider letting them know before you plan to do that (or have them do it for you, and save a few brain cells).

BUT once the WordPress gods get the kinks worked out, it’ll be a pretty nifty little update to WordPress that’ll help zillions of people work with it more easily and create more beautiful things with it. Totally worth it. No, I mean it, it’ll be good for a lot of people.

They are already apparently working on a revision to fix some of the bugs, and should be publishing a cleaner version (or two, or three) of it in January 2019.

SO, TO RECAP:

  • Don’t push that blue “update to 5.0” button. Just don’t do it. At least not for a month or more.
  • If you can’t resist, take all of the steps above FIRST and light a green candle, burn some incense, recite some incantations from the Necronomicon, etc. If you’re not a WordPress geek, coordinate with your web person before you do.
  • Wait until late January at the very earliest. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade right now. None. So let the dust settle, let the geeks pick it apart and let WordPress fix all the bugs.

If you are hosted by Hostgator, and here are all the reasons I still advise against that, you may want to check with them to make sure it’s not going to automatically update itself.

I’ll update this post as things get sane again.

Peace, all.

P.S. If you’re interested in having us do regular updates to your website so you don’t have to worry about this (including security, backups, updates, and all those geeky things), please reach out.  Learn more about how to buy an hour, or five, or ten, to make sure you can focus on doing the work you love rather than trying to be a website expert too.

25 things I do to preserve energy, time, and optimism for my work

There are a zillion vampires that will rob your business of energy, time, and optimism if you let them. Here are 25 things I do to keep them at bay.

Guten-who? What to do when WordPress makes its big change

Folks who have websites built in WordPress will see a big change this Fall with the new “Gutenberg” design/editing system. Not time to worry yet though…

Six fun and powerful little tools that are day-makers for people like us

This morning I had an email from a client who was stuck in techie purgatory. She needed to find a way to have just some of her blog posts appear on her website’s home page, but have the whole collection appear on her Blog page, and to top it off, her blog images weren’t displaying when she tried to share them to her Facebook page…basically, everything was misbehaving for her.

Typical of many of my self-sufficient clients, she didn’t want me to wave my geek wand and fix it; she wanted to understand it and know how to fix it herself.

I could’ve sent her a lengthy tome about this-and-that setting, do this/do that, but this is the kind of situation that is best solved by showing, rather than telling.

If you’ve ever had trouble explaining to one of your clients how to get on your webinar, how to make one of your products work for them, or even just what it is you DO, then you understand this—sometimes, video is best.

Enter one of my favorite little tools, Loom. It’s a free service that lets you capture short videos with just one click of an icon in your web browser. You click, start the video, say/show what you need (screenshare, or you talking, or both), and send them the link, all in the blink of an eye. I’ll show you a teensy video at the end of this post I made in Loom and embedded in my blog post in just under two minutes total.

Whenever I use it, it brings to mind all of the small tools that make formerly-time-consuming tasks so easy and fast now, creating more time for me to work with the people I care about (and have a free evening to read books on the back porch). I wanted to share a half-dozen of them with you here that I really couldn’t function without. None of these are affiliate links, by the way; I just think they’ll rock your world:

Privacy Badger

Not technically a time-saver, unless you count not having to deal with ads shoved in your face every time you turn around. I should confess that I hate being tracked by marketers when I’m online. (It reminds me of the scene in the film Minority Report, when Tom Cruise is walking through a sea of customized virtual ads popping up in front of his face.) Privacy Badger is a little gizmo you add to your web browser with a click that “…stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, it automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared.” Perfect. It has cut down on a huge amount of ad clutter and junk for me, and I’m grateful. Check it out.

Boomerang for Gmail

I’m a Gmail user, and I have to confess that I probably couldn’t get through the day without Boomerang (or something just like it). Boomerang is a little extension you add to Gmail that lets you do magical things like:
schedule the redelivery of emails back to you if you’re busy
schedule outbound emails for a certain day/time
set reminders for yourself to respond to an email/look for a reply
undo the email you just sent (!!)
attach notes to yourself to an email
pause your inbox for a while so you can breathe
…and a lot more. I love it so much I wrote a gushy post about it here last year: https://websitesforgood.com/tools-for-tiny-businesses-i-heart-you-boomerang/

Zoom

I have lost track of the number of people who’ve said to me, “Oh, Zoom, right — I’ve been on a group call on Zoom but figured it was too complicated to use for my little business.” It’s a videoconferencing tool anybody can use to connect with people all over the world with just a couple of clicks. With a very short learning curve (think minutes) you can expand the reach of your service business from your town to the entire planet. Even in the Free version, you can host an unlimited number of online meetings (think one-to-one or one-to-many coaching, workshops, webinars, trainings…), with 2 to 100 participants if your session is less than 40 minutes, and unlimited session time if you’re just doing one-to-ones. Try a free account and check it out. I’m happy to show up and be your guinea pig, or you can check out my quickstart 1-to-1 session on using Zoom to grow your business here!

Acuity Scheduling

It would take me 500 words to explain how much Acuity has transformed my business, my productivity, and my stress levels. Without it, I used to spend a lot of time doing…well, the tasks to the right. With it, my people (clients and inquirers) can quickly view my availability, self-book their own appointments, reschedule them with a click, receive reminders, fill in intake forms, make payment for paid services, and about a hundred other things that used to take time and bandwidth. For…$10 a month. (or free if you choose that kind of account.) If making appointments is part of your work, it’s worth a look…they’re also amazing at the art of very personal and entertaining support. Check it out.

If you don’t need fancy things like reminders, rescheduling, etc., check out other systems like Calendly or Setmore from this page: https://zapier.com/blog/best-appointment-scheduling-apps/

Loom

Finally, circling back to Loom.

I explained it above, but I’ll show you the results here:

From the moment I clicked the Loom icon on my browser to posting it here, 1 minute 45 seconds elapsed. The videos can be longer, shorter, or much more elaborate if you like (you can include screen captures, videos, etc.), but Loom’s strong point is the ability to just knock out a quick visual and share it with very little effort, so you can do more of it. Check it out.

FB Purity

Oh, what a life saver for those of us who want to use Facebook for business or personal reasons…  F.B. (Fluff Busting) Purity is a browser extension that lets you customize Facebook in amazing ways. It alters your view of Facebook to show only relevant information to you. It lets you remove the annoying and irrelevant stories from your newsfeed such as game and application spam, ads and sponsored stories. It can also hide the boxes you don’t want to see on each side of the newsfeed.

CNET described it better than I ever could: “The interface is extremely intuitive. Apart from having the option to hide a multitude of stories including profile updates and tagged photos, you can hide the suggestions box, sponsored box, and the “get connected” box in the right-hand panel of the screen… Facebook has the ability to hide some of this for you (not the side panel though)… having all these options clearly marked in one place with checkboxes is very practical.”

The ability to hide the more annoying and useless-to-you aspects of Facebook, while still having the option to display them, is an incredible time- and energy-saver. You can even filter out posts by keyword (to avoid politics, celebrity news, so-and-so’s tweets, etc.) so you never see them and have to cope with the associated emotional distraction. I couldn’t work without it.


Those are my favorite tools today, though I’m discovering new ones every day. I would estimate that using these tools has helped me recapture at least three hours every week–and BAM, there’s three hours I can spend on working with the people I love, exercising, meditating, building income, or just playing with the dog if that’s what I need for my mental health.

Got any great little tools that YOU use and couldn’t do without? Please share with me! I’m always in the market.

Love,
Margaret

 


LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND SAVE A BUNDLE

Looking for a fast, friendly, personal way to learn how to manage those online things you’ve been paying others hundreds of dollars to do? Reach more of the people that matter, start offering online workshops, finally start using video on your website, and more!  Save some money, time, and brain cells: I offer one-hour, 1-to-1 sessions to self-employed folks who’d like to do more, but without the pressure of a webinar or the geek-speak of online classes. Choose one from the course list, or request a customized session for exactly what YOU want to learn.
Let’s have some fun. What do you want to learn? >

Building blocks of a healthy web presence for your thoughtful small business

I’m forever tinkering with my own biology. From what/when/how much I eat, to how much physical activity I engage in, to what sorts of chemicals I allow into my microbiome and home, I’m a fun-loving scientist using my own body as the test subject. (If I ever try to do something like graft on a second brain or install bionic hands, I’ll get permission from you guys first.)

I’m stacking up blocks, taking them down, stacking them another way. I’m experimenting, noticing, tracking, and adjusting. What works? What keeps me joyful and what weighs me down? What has no effect and isn’t worth the trouble, and what gives the most gratification and reward?

As you might guess, I often put on my Fun Scientist lab coat when it comes to websites for my self-employed kindred spirits too.

I’ve noticed over the years that, just as there are a handful of simple things we can do to make our bodies/homes/lives happier and healthier, so too there are a handful of simple things we can do that make promoting our work easier, more effective, and less likely to cause headaches and heartburn. Below are a few of them. I’ve divided them into “public facing” (the part the public sees) and “behind the scenes” (the part that’s mostly invisible to the public).

Basic website elements: Public facing elements

HOME/LANDING PAGE: As my teenaged friends would say, “No duh.” Yes, you need a home page. Make sure you have one that doesn’t take forever to load, and that acts as a warm, welcoming anteroom for all the wonderful goodness inside.

It should use colors, images, and language that makes people feel the way you want them to feel (calmed, excited, curious, hopeful). It should give them a topline view of how you can help them shift from where they are now to where they want to be. It should have clear next steps to reach you or get more information.

Oh, there’s a ton I could write about the elements of a successful homepage, but for now, just remember this mantra and make sure your homepage says it: I’m glad you’re here. I see you and know why you’ve come. Here are some things I can offer for that. Here’s what you can do next.

ABOUT: Include an About page that helps people know, like, and trust you. People visit About pages for several reasons, but it all wraps around learning whether you’re the best person for what they’re hoping to achieve, have, fix, or become.

Tailor your About page to your ideal client. If you’re offering a service to an audience for whom credentials=credibility, detail those. If you’re offering something where being a good-hearted, wise listener is most important, show me that. Show me your face. Show me your humanity. Show me that you “get” me.

A CLEAR VIEW OF WHAT YOU OFFER: Don’t just list what you do a Services or Products page. Give me the full details on what you offer, how much it costs, and how it’s going to change me. Let me see/hear the voices of other people who’ve experienced the service. Describe the “new story” it’s going to create for me. Give me a next step (buy button, ‘more information’ button, sign up button).

There’s a thousand mile difference between “Here’s what I offer” and “Here’s what I offer and here’s why it’s going to light up your day/life/work/health.” Make sure you’re putting the effort into creating the latter.

TIERED OFFERINGS: Many folks sell very expensive services and/or products, and they are usually worth every penny. But although your prices might be perfectly fair, when you’re starting out, you may find that you have trouble building a client base. It’s not that you’re not worth it, because you absolutely are; it’s just that many people need to be eased into feeling confident and comfortable enough to spend their dollars working with you.

Offer a variety of entry points to working with you or buying from you, at different price points that give them a staircase rather than a ladder. The easiest first step is to offer lots of free content (articles, blogs, etc.) that show you care about them. The next might be a free consultation. After that, a low-priced offering such as an ebook, workshop, or mini-session helps them to get a taste of working with you. Then a mid-priced offer…are you seeing the staircase now? If you offer all of those, your high-price-point coaching packages no longer feel like such a risky endeavor. They know you. You’ve proven your mettle and have been honest, helpful, and generous.

BE PAINFULLY CLEAR ABOUT NEXT STEPS (CALLS-TO-ACTION): Check and doublecheck that you’ve provided a path to a next step toward you on every page, perhaps one for every option you present to readers. (If you make readers burn calories trying to figure it out, they will assume you’ll also make them burn calories if you they choose to work with you.) Calls-to-action must be very clear and obvious – buttons of contrasting colors are particularly useful here. If you have any doubt as to whether your call-to-action is clear, have someone unfamiliar with your website walk through it and give you feedback.

DON’T NEGLECT CONTACT DETAILS: Be sure to provide clear and persistent contact information and a way for your reader to reach you if they have questions or want to explore further (such as a free consult). Persistent? Remember that, while they are meandering in your site assessing your offerings, the YES of inspiration can strike them at any time. Make sure there’s always something in view that aids and abets them in following that inspiration; don’t make them go hunting for it.

BLOG: Hey! Come back here! I know all the reasons why this word makes you recoil (see my blog post “10 Reasons to consider writing a blog, even if the thought of it makes you cringe“)

But I can’t overstate the value of including something on your website that has new juicy material added to it regularly. If it helps don’t call it a blog. Call it Articles. News. The Latest. What’s Up.

It says several things about you: I know my stuff. I am out here paying attention. I am always thinking of how I can be helpful to my people. I am generous with my time and wisdom. I am trustworthy and I show up for you. I am someone valuable to have in your life.

Basic website elements: Behind-the-scenes stuff that’s still super-important to have:

A SECURE CERTIFICATE that lets you have “https.” Google has already started to scare the heck out of your site visitors by warning them away from any sites that don’t have this, and it will become fairly universal in the coming month. Please don’t postpone. Learn more in my Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/websitesforgood/posts/2155915141307233

A PRIVACY POLICY that includes your cookie policy, information on what data your site collects from them (GDPR stuff), and terms of use of your site. Contact me if you need to have this created for you. Not only does Google use this as a factor for search engine listings, but you really don’t want to run afoul of the GDPR/data privacy laws.

If you use WordPress, PLUGINS FOR SECURITY (such as Wordfence or iThemes Security) AND FOR AUTOMATIC BACKUPS. Unless you relish the possibility of throwing your website investment of time and money down the drain due to hacking or system failure (plus the cost of having a new one built), you really can’t go without these any more. And there’s no reason not to. They are free, and just need to be installed and set up with basic settings.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS (or other systems of tracking visitor statistics): This is very simple to set up, free, and allows you to receive reports showing who’s coming to your site, how they found you, where they go, where they DON’T go, and a lot more.

AT LEAST A LITTLE SOCIAL MEDIA: Basic presence on at least one social media channel can help most of us, and it’s nothing to fear. A Facebook business page (NOT your personal page) or a LinkedIn profile are natural choices for many. The ability to reach millions more of your people for free is not something to dismiss just because it sounds hard. But because it DOES sound hard, I’m working on two bite-sized private training sessions to just sit down with me for an hour on Zoom and get it done. We’ll have fun. There will be music and poetry and cold drinks 🙂 Write me if you’d like more information on that.

There are many more things I can list, and of course I could wax poetic about telling your story, being a changemaker, choosing the right photos, etc.

But like the basic building blocks of keeping your body healthy, we’ll start with these…then experiment, notice, track, and adjust.

Enjoy!


P.S. Remember, if you don’t have these things, you can always drop me a line and ask me questions about anything. I’m here.

GDPR = Guide to Developing a Philosophy of Respect

I am normally good with words, and especially good with letters. (“Q” is a particular favorite…such a cute little tail.)

So why then did I have so much trouble with the now well-known acronym GDPR? Coming out of my mouth or keyboard to tell people about it, it would become DGPR, GPDR, etc. How embarrassing for a demi-geek like me.

When this happens in my brain, it always helps to give an acronym a meaning, a hook, so it’s not just a bunch of letters floating in my soup bowl. I didn’t get a hook from its real spelling-out (General Data Protection Regulation makes me fall asleep right around the first “O” in protection).

So I thought about why it’s even a “thing.” What’s at the core of it all…why was it so important to go through all this bother? That helped me dream up my own: Guide to Developing a Philosophy of Respect

I know. Crazy idealist. Oh well.

But think now: What’s this GDPR stuff about? At its core, it’s about respecting peoples’ rights to not have their personal information used and re-used, swapped and sold, manipulated and mushed to serve purposes they never intended when they shared it.

It’s like this: Say I’m at a social event and I’m lucky enough to make a new friend, Marcia. Very cool person, lots in common, and we decide we’re going to walk our dogs together. Marcia gives me her cell number and her address so I can arrange to drive Gordie over, pick her up and take our stroll. It’s a wonderful time.

What if, after that, I began to freely share everything she’s told me with other people? What if I’m on some very public online space and describe her, “Oh, yeah—such a cool person. She lives at 3998 S. Mayhew Circle. She has a Welsh Springer Spaniel and an Audi R8 and she’s a proctologist. Here’s her phone number too, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you gave her a ring some time.”

Okay, that’s a goofy example, but you get the feeling, right? I’ve taken information she shared with me for a specific reason—information she does NOT want others to know, especially people with nefarious intent—and splashed it all around.

Unchecked, companies you buys from could take what you’ve shared with them—what they DEMANDED you share with them in order to sign up for their service—and then turn around and share/sell this information to partner organizations or data brokers. They can then re-sell it to other companies and causes that have nothing to do with your original agreement.

In some twisted universe, that might be okay. But most normal humans would agree that here in ours, it stinks. Hence the need for repercussions under a law like GDPR. Because, as much as we may tire of the tangled spaghetti of law after law after law governing every imaginable situation, it’s gotten to the point where respect is no longer a “given” in business, if it ever was, and in the digital age has to be enforced with legislation.

With our small businesses, yours and mine, we want to put respect and integrity above all other values. The people who come to work with us (or buy from us) deserve our honesty, our clarity, and above all, our respect for their time and other precious resources. Privacy of their personal information—protecting what they’ve shared with us—is one of those resources.

So rather than looking at GDPR as another pain in the posterior to deal with, let’s reframe that.

Let’s look at it as an opportunity to examine the elements of our online presence, from websites to email to social media, to be sure we are indeed operating from within a culture of openness and respect.

It’s good for our businesses, good for the people we serve, good for our souls, and (lastly!) good for staying out of the legal crosshairs of privacy laws.

In my next post I’ll talk about some very common elements of many websites—contact forms, subscriber mechanisms, schedulers, payment links—and suggest reasonably painless ways for small companies like ours to make sure we are being very clear about things like:

  1. what personal information is collected by these useful mechanisms
  2. why we ask for it—what beneficial purpose it serves for us AND for them
  3. whether it’s stored on our website
  4. how people can know what we store, and how they can ask it to be deleted
  5. and more

Relax. All will be well.

See you soon.

Love,
Margaret

Ten bite-sized things to do now that will reap benefits in 2018

Like many of my clients, my office will take a break this year for rest and reflection. I’ll be away from December 22 to January 3 for my annual year-end retreat. Most emails will wait until I return (apologies in advance for that annoying holiday autoresponder). The phone will go to voicemail. I’ll get more than six hours of sleep per night. And I’ll sink into planning What Comes Next.

It’s a great time of year to make sure our online marketing stuff is working and tidy and ready for a new year. Here are a few things you might consider doing now. If you would like instructions or direction on any of these things, drop me a line and I’ll happily guide you.

1. Make an offline backup copy of your website and store it somewhere safe to be ready in case of emergency. Most sites built by us will have the plugin Updraft Plus Backups installed which makes this a one-click job. Email me if you need to know where to find that.

2. Update your website’s guts (WordPress and all the bits and bobs that make your website ‘go’) to be sure they’re up-to-date and healthy. Those who have a maintenance agreement with us don’t need to worry about this–we will do that for you. For others, when you go into your site’s dashboard, you’ll see the left column littered with red dots indicating what’s out of date. Be sure to back everything up (see 1 above) first.

3. Run a malware scan on your home page. Just go to this link and plug in your domain name: https://sitecheck.sucuri.net/

4. Type up a new page with all of your online marketing details on it. This would include the logins & passwords for your website, for the company where your domain name is registered, for your website hosting company, and for your social media logins. Keep a printed copy and give another copy to someone you trust.

5. Change your website’s password (the one you use to get into it to edit). Make sure it registers as “strong” when you type it in…you’ll see what I mean when you do that. Hacking is a huge problem these days, but simple things like this can help avoid 90% of the problems.

6. See how fast–or not–your home page is. Google is getting very touchy about slow home pages, so knowing where you stand is a good start. Visit https://tools.pingdom.com/ and plunk in your domain name. Let it run, then click “Share Result” to share it with your own email address. If you have concerns, forward it to me and we’ll make plans to help it in 2018.

7. Have a friend visit your contact page to send you an email as though they were a client/prospect. If you have a form, have them use that, or just use an email link. Make sure that no glitchy things are keeping people from being able to reach you!

8. Find a few new photos or illustrations: Visit one of the free photography banks like unsplash.com or pixabay.com to find some fresh imagery that better represents where your business is now. This blog post on finding images without pain & suffering might be handy.

9. Revisit who you’re trying to reach with your business. I know that my definition of the perfect client for me has changed significantly since I started my business. Take a few minutes and a piece of paper and sketch out in words the traits of the person most likely to benefit from working with you—and vice versa.

10. Read your home page out loud. Yep, I said that. The best way to make sure your website doesn’t have the personality of a glossy online brochure is to be sure it sounds like you: Human, welcoming, helpful. Reading it out loud (bonus points if you record yourself reading it, then play it back) helps identify where your language is too formal, too stiff, too impersonal.

 


 

Thanks for stopping by!

If you have a small business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:

  • I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
  • I’m on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
  • Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions for your work, or talk about how to better tell your story online.

 

How I use Facebook to stay happy, calm, and productive in my small business

I still have many clients who avoid Facebook, even though they know it may have many benefits for their work and their business. They have an impression of it as a squawking coop full of unfettered narcissists, over-sharers, and attention seekers. The land of the angry, the bigoted, and That Guy Who Loves the Sound of His Own Voice.

I’m not here to argue any of that. But since there are some very strong business reasons to use Facebook, and because I’ve managed to make it into a place that actually helps me to stay happy, productive, and connected, I wanted to share how I do it.

In order to have a Facebook business page, you need to have a primary/personal page first. That, more than anything, is the place where things can go off the rails and get very problematic. Consider this post to be a guide to managing that part of things so you can enjoy and benefit from your business presence.

Set it up right to begin with, for maximum security and quiet

So many people jump into the potential bedlam of Facebook and don’t bother changing its default settings. So their world is a pandemonium of “friend” requests, private messages pinging day and night, and other people posting on their own personal space. There are also privacy issues, with all the annoyance and even danger of people sharing what you’ve put up there.

Facebook itself has tools to help you through all the settings you can tweak to control who shows up, who can see your stuff, who can contact you etc. Time magazine also published a useful guide to this last year: http://time.com/4166749/facebook-privacy-settings-guide/

One of the most critical ones for me is not permitting anyone but my closest friends/family to private message me, by the way.

Filter out what makes you crazy with FB Purity

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without FB Purity. It’s a little extension (software thing) that you can install, which then automatically filters out a huge percentage of what makes me insane about Facebook. You get it going, and it does the rest.

Don’t want to see the word “Trump” (pro or con) in your news feed any more? Set it up in a filter and all the rants are gone.

Hate that “Trending” thing in the right column that tempts you down the rabbit hole of mindless clicking? Gone.

Bothered by those oh-so-helpful interjections by Facebook guessing at things I’ll like, memories from ten years ago, games, even some ads? Gone.

A list of all that FB Purity does is here: http://fbpurity.com

I encourage you in no uncertain terms to use this, starting now.

Be ruthless about decluttering your so-called “friends”

I know some people who are collectors of “friends” on Facebook. As a result, they are bombarded day and night with the collective sharing by near-strangers of hundreds of baby pictures, funny dog stories, pithy quotes, gripes about jobs or life in general, off-color jokes, stream-of-consciousness questions, sports teams, and worse.

In what way is this a useful way to spend our life’s minutes?

For those who are considering joining Facebook, and those who are already in the soup, I want to ask you to be ruthless in paring down that number to 150 or (preferably) less. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who studies social networks, said that any grouping of people larger than 150 starts to strain the capacity of the human brain. We can’t effectively manage relationships with many hundreds of people—real or digital—and it creates cognitive stress that we may not even be aware of. Hands up: Who out there needs more cognitive stress in this era? Anybody? I didn’t think so.

The idea of being able to keep tabs on endless schoolmates, childhood friends, real-life acquaintances, old next-door neighbors may have sounded nice to begin with. Facebook “sold” the product to us and gave us the tools to build, build, build, convincing us that the more people we “friend,” the better.  But it’s just not helping, and in fact it’s hurting.

Go to your “Friends” list. Scroll down the list. Hide or (preferably) unfriend: The negative, the loudmouths, the insulting, the ones you have to tiptoe around, the ones you haven’t spoken to in years and don’t miss them. Get rid of the ones who frequently have meltdowns, the people you didn’t care to hang out with in school anyway, the ones that – if they showed up in your neighborhood – you WOULDN’T want to go have a cup of coffee with. Be cold. This is your peace of mind and your focus at stake.

Get down to a list of no more than 150 people that:

  • you’ve actually met and love, or with whom you’ve consistently had meaningful and mutually beneficial one-to-one exchanges; AND
  • you know are often positive or optimistic or otherwise good for your peace of mind; AND
  • are good human beings who it makes you happy to have conversations with (those colleagues, clients, and community members who add to your life)

Root out any trace of FOMO (your fear of missing out on news of something happening to someone somewhere) and be merciless in your decluttering. Your real friends will know where to find you.

If you’re already on Facebook and receive lots of postings from news outlets, public figures, and celebrities, purge them accordingly as. You’re making space for what matters. (Get your news somewhere else, by the way…DON’T have it shoved in your face automatically every day/hour/minute. That’s a recipe for extreme agitation and stress, and the world needs you calm and clear-headed.) 

Start building or rebuilding your Facebook page as a positive space

Now that your feed is no longer cluttered with ads, games, rants, selfies, red carpet photos, etc., you can start filling your account with ONLY the positive, the beautiful, the hopeful, the educational. This will vary wildly from individual to individual, but below are some of the things I’ve loaded mine up with, giving me a solid stream of encouragement, love, and good news all day every day (search for them in the search box at the top of your page, or search for “good news”):

Good News Network
Good Good Good/Goodnewspaper
Tiny Buddha
Center for a New American Dream
Greater Good Science Center
Sweatpants and Coffee
DailyOM
Preemptive Love Coalition
The Daily Flame (Inner Pilot Light)
BBC World Hacks
Elephant Journal
The funny local sign whose puns make me groan (right)

There is literally not much room left for the negative news and inflammatory rhetoric to squeeze in, and if it does, I filter it out systematically so it can’t come back. And that’s the whole point: Craft the space to be the world you’d rather be living in: Good, generous, helpful, intelligent people all around us. Many of us actually ARE living in that world.

Become part of communities that help you, and that you can help

The best parts of Facebook are the opportunities that present themselves to be part of a community. There are thousands of groups on Facebook covering every topic from community gardening to graphic design to meditation to … surviving owning your own business!

If a group is active and has more than just a couple of people in it, it’s an absolutely fantastic way to make some new connections in the world with people who “get” you. You’ll meet kindred spirits, learn a ton of new things, have a place to share your knowledge with others, and grow as a person and as a professional.

Look in Facebook’s left column for the word Explore, then Groups. At that page, you can click the word “Discover” at the top to search for something in your areas of interest. I get an enormous amount of benefit from the groups I’m part of. If you aren’t yet part of any groups, I’d encourage you to give one a try…or start your own!

Tend a business page that helps people

There are lots of resources on the web to help set up and properly use a Facebook business page. I can only say that my page has been, for me:

  • A place to write and share things that help the people I care about most
  • A way to reach a wider audience with the things I offer the world
  • A learning experience, as people share what they want and need from me

Once the personal side of Facebook has been tamed and isn’t obtrusive any more, your business page can be a place to really dip into your zone of genius and connect with those you’re most trying to help.

Oh, and turn off all intrusive push notifications. Right now.

Make sure your mobile devices aren’t receiving notifications of every damn thing that happens on your Facebook feed. The only things I get on my mobile are the occasional private messages from friends (who are almost always real-life friends and colleagues) I’ve set to be allowed to do that. If you are addicted to the invitation to distraction, the binging and bonging of constant notifications—”They like me! They really like me!”—call that out and take steps to get it out of your life. There are far too many people who permit themselves to completely shred their limited waking hours in this way, and then wail that “there’s never enough time!” (I was one of those.) Life really is too short for that.


Do you have questions, concerns or fears around using Facebook for your business without going mad or being overwhelmed? Drop me a line and let do this sanely together. I’m far from an expert, but I have experimented with many different ways of using that particular tool, and can share what I know and what has worked.

You might also enjoy my blog post, Social Media for the Sensitive Entrepreneur, which has other helpful tips for using these tools well and wisely.


 

Thanks for stopping by!

If you have a heart-based business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:

  • I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
  • I’m on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
  • Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions, or talk about how to better tell your story online.

How does a web site happen?

I’m a Big Picture person, so it’s helpful to me to have a bird’s eye view of anything new in my life before I dive into it.

In my working life, I’m often approached by people wanting to have something done on the web, and who are like me, wanting to see the thousand-foot view first, then nibble on the details. I’d say fully 50% are people who have either a) never done a project like theirs before, and so have NO idea what to expect, or b) have done it before and had a bad experience, or at least one that left them feeling bad.   So most are apprehensive because they don’t know how the process will go. What can I expect? How long will it take? What are my responsibilities in all of this? How arduous will it be? How much does it cost? What if I make a mistake and at the end I get a huge bill for something?

I nod and smile at their emails. I get it.

Things have changed from when I first started doing web work about 18 years ago. Then, I was in charge of information technology for an organization that wanted to build its first web site. There were very few people who knew very much about the medium then, and since we worked for advertising agencies, we hired one of them to design a web site for us. They asked very few questions, and didn’t return phone calls, but reportedly held a lot of “team meetings” and brainstorming sessions we weren’t invited to. They came back with a site that made my eyes hurt: garish colors, cartoon icons, a menu that didn’t match what we wanted to put out there, and so much more. It would have made our sleek, professional association look like a children’s toy manufacturer.

And then came the invoice for $5000.00.

I still have bad dreams about that experience. And like all good nightmares, it drives me to run my business in such a way that I never, ever do that to anyone else.

I can’t speak for all digital marketing companies; I only know how WE do things. But I wanted to share what I feel is the process that should be followed by everyone who does what I do:

THE MIND MELD

Marketing yourself on the web is like a complicated machine. There are lots of decisions to be made about what goes where, what its purpose is, and how it needs to work once built. No one outside your brain can know what your goals & dreams are, who your audience is, what will motivate the people you want to reach, and where you want to go with your life & business. So this first phase involves questions . . . sometimes lots of questions . . . in order to clarify what you’re creating, and synch up your brains so you both have the same vision. Beware the professional who does not ask enough questions.

THE BLUEPRINT

In this step, you take all of the answers above and co-create a roadmap from where you are to where you want to be. At the bare minimum, this articulates all of your goals and expectations, as well as a detailed vision of the people you’re trying to reach (and what you offer when you reach them) the site’s structure, interactive features, desired timeline, and cost range. This may take some back-and-forth to get right. Take that time. When it IS right, you enter into a contract to bring it all to life.

THE VISION

The web designer takes everything she (now) knows, along with agreements about things like color and structure, and sits down at the drawing table to create some possible designs – the beautiful container into which you want to pour your words and pictures. See this as the beautiful, functional space into which you’ll welcome your audience to talk with them. Typically, the designer produces two or more different ways of putting all of the pieces together into something the works well, and emails the drawings to you to review. You choose, or adjust and then choose, approving the final one you like best.

THE PROTOTYPE

So now the final flat drawing can be brought to life, as it’s programmed into an actual interactive space on the web. It starts with just a framework, with yawning empty spaces where your unique materials will go. You again have a chance to look this over, and make sure it’s what you signed up for. Then comes . . .

THE BRICKS, MORTAR, PAINT AND PAPER

With guidance, you provide source materials like your logo, the navigational structure (“menu”) you want, specific photos and imagery you want to use, text, etc. You may already have things written, or you may need to write them. You may have photos you want to use, or you may need to be pointed to places where you can pick out what you like. No matter the exact path, with these building blocks in hand, the designer can create complete pages, menus, useful mechanisms, signups/contact forms/calls to action . . . everything your site or social media presence needs in order to come to life, and to open for business.

THE EMPOWERING ORIENTATION

Step back and look at your shiny new web space, lovely but still closed to the public. A good designer will give you a tour of it, and identify what’s needed in terms of the proper care and feeding of your site. Any specific training you or your staff will need to move forward happens now. Web sites are never “done,” but are constantly evolving as your work evolves. Your web designer should make sure you know how to make that happen.

THE LAUNCH

When everything is polished and you’re ready to throw open the doors to the public, the designer will do the behind-the-scenes work to get your domain name yourwebsitehere.com to “point” to the beautiful new creation, get your email working and delivered, submit you to the search engines, etc.

. . .

This may seem like a lot, and of course it is. But — at the risk of sounding like a bit of a cheerleader — it can be a priceless exercise, as you immerse yourself in your vision, your “tribe,” and your unique work for a few days or weeks, gaining a tremendous amount of clarity in the process.

So that’s our favorite bird’s eye view. We welcome questions about any aspect of the process that might worry you, or anything that feels the least bit murky or stressful. We love what we do, and love to use our skillset to help people doing good things. Give us a shout at 720-507-1893, skype mterrian, or drop us an email and say hello.