140+: In the Moment


7 Reality Tips: The Care and Feeding of Websites

“We just launched this website 16 months ago! What do you mean you have to do more development?” says the CFO/CEO/President/Business owner to the marketing geek.  I hear it all the time.  It’s a common misconception that investing a lot into a website means you will only have to add new content in the future. You may think once you develop the site you won’t ever have to think about the website again. Wrong. Read on!

It’s true that if the design of your pages is robust and flexible, and you have an awesome content management system, you will have to make fewer major revisions to your site. And, the more you money and time you invest in designing a flexible design up front, the fewer changes you will need to make over the lifespan of your site. However, the bottom line is that websites are a bit like homes…They need regular maintenance.  After all, your lifestyle changes, appliances and fixtures break, and advances in household products come out every day. Your home has to accommodate those inevitable changes. Your website also needs to adjust to reflect the changes in your business, rapid technology changes, and minor hiccups along the way. For example, the introduction of social plugins from Facebook have sent businesses back to their website developers to adjust their websites to accommodate feeds and like buttons. Adjusting pages to accommodate those changes required rethinking many websites.  Regardless of external technology changes, business goals and priorities often change, and your website has to reflect those changes.

The fact is the average lifespan of a website is only three to (and this is pushing it) five years. If your website is more than 3 years old, and you’ve done nothing to it over those three years, chances are you need to start thinking about a major overhaul.

7 key recommendations about website development and maintenance:

  1. Invest as much as you can into your website design on the front end so you can:
    • Build in a great content management system.
    • Automate as many related marketing processes as possible.
    • Build in a very flexible design that allows you to adjust along the way.
  2. Pick developers who you like, trust, and can work with over the course of the lifespan of your site. (Your developers will be your new BFFs, so you better respect them.)
  3. You will need to budget for website maintenance, enhancements, and tweaks every year over the lifespan of your site.
  4. You will need to revise or overhaul your site in 3-5 years.
  5. Think through your goals, target audience(s), and aesthetics.  Be prepared to tell your developers as much about your needs as possible.
  6. It takes a small village to build a boffo site:
    • Print designers and web designers are not interchangeable.
    • Developers are not the same as web designers.
    • These folks may know a bit about  SEO, but are not search engine optimization experts.
    • None of these aforementioned peeps are marketing experts.

    A good development firm will be able to bring these skills to the table, but if your budget is limited and you can’t work with a firm with all the expertise you need, make sure the people you hire consider these factors in your website. Be sure to assign one person from your company or organization the role of project manager of the site development and someone (perhaps the same person) as the content manager who regularly updates the site. If you have a small company, or you are a one person shop, that person might be you. Plan to either carve out a significant amount of time to oversee the development, and a bit of  time every week or two to maintain the site, unless you plan to outsource those activities.

7. Don’t forget that you will have to keep the content fresh and up to date, so if you don’t have a big team, you may have to either pay someone, or find time in your schedule. Websites that are not maintained are a poor reflection on your company.

UPDATE: Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service (via 140+: In the Moment)

New update to my post, Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service about being unable to resolve a payment issue that caused Facebook to disable my account.

I know will be accused of exaggerating, but I promise that I have tried to contact Facebook more than 30 times to arrange for payment to for a mistake I made! Really! I’ve used their online forms and the specified email addresses, only to be met with a 5 of my emails to every 1 canned responses from Facebook. The responses do not respond to or correspond with the text of my email, and if I am lucky enough to get a response, it arrives with a 3-5 day delay.

At this point, it is just too funny to be frustrating! It’s one big cycle that demonstrates complete disregard for customers.As a marketing geek with considerable experience in SaaS management, including customer service, I am intrigued by just how low the Customer Service at Facebook can go. When you compare the historically horrible customer service offered by Dell, Microsoft, Verizon, and Comcast, and they come out looking like customer service heroes next to Facebook, you know there is a problem.

I wonder if the playground posse at Facebook even has a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). I appears that my cases are brand-new each time I write. Do the FB kids know about CRM? Or are they too busy thinking of the next great way to socialize our universe to worry about such mundane and 20th century concepts as customer service?

Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service Poor Facebook. The company has its hands full. With relentless Congressional pressure to stop abusing our trust and peddling our privacy, the “leadership” at Facebook probably doesn’t have time to think about providing customer service to paying customers. The Facebook kids are so busy planning to build a totally social universe where it is at the center, they can’t be bothered to provide even passable customer service to those of us who pay for … Read More

via 140+: In the Moment

Conducting Webinars to Engage: The Good, The Bad, and The UGLY!

good webinars, bad webinars, and just plain ugly webinarsYou’ve probably attended a webinar or two along the way in your career. If you’ve had good experiences, you may have thought: “I can do that!” You’re right, you can! Webinars are great for business of all kinds, but there are some important things to consider before you jump in.

Over the past 10 years or so, webinars have grown increasingly popular and increasingly effective for marketing and training because they work. You can find thousands of articles and webinars about how great webinars are for lead generation. Many of the webinar software vendors offer webinars about various related marketing topics to generate leads for their companies, and include pitches for their software. But, they might not give you the nitty-gritty behind the scenes reality show version of the story. That’s where I come in.

In as much as I am an evangelist for webinars, I’m also a realist. I have presented and produced webinars for the past 10 years. I attend at least one and sometimes up to three webinars per week. However, as a producer and as a consumer, I have to be realistic: There’s good, bad, and ugly news about webinars that you should know before you build them into your marketing plan.

The GOOD

Webinars generate leads, begin a cycle of engagement, and can help you nurture relationships. Presenting on the Internet is a great way to introduce people to your organization, your products, and to your expertise. Webinars are also great for:woman celebrating a great webinar

  • demonstrating products
  • technology orientations
  • professional development
  • building your brand by demonstrating your thought leadership

Online presentations are like a virtual handshake in the beginning of what will hopefully become a deepening authentic relationship with those who attend. Depending on the content you present, they can help you nurture leads into sales, advocates into donors, and constituents into conducting. And, obviously, the convenience and cost effectiveness of attending or presenting a presentation in your jammies or at your desk is hard to beat.

Great. We’ve established that conducing webinars are a strategy worth exploring. So, what’s not-so-great about webinars?

The (Potentially) BAD

Well, there’s nothing inherently bad with webinars, but there are some potential problems that might not make them the ideal tactic to use without some planning, practice and preparation.

Producing and delivering online presentations can be time-consuming because:Thumbs down: webinar problems image

  • You absolutely MUST HAVE great content that is relevant, meaningful, exciting, and delivered exceedingly well. Developing content that will attract the right kind of audience can be time-consuming.
  • Typically, it takes time to build up a critical mass of people who want to consume your webinar content and are willing to invest their time in your webinars. Having just one will not have as much impact as having a series or multiple series. Be prepared to generate a lot of content.
  • You must research the webinar software vendors and pick the one that strikes a balance between the technology you need and your budget.
  • While you are getting started, researching best practice in webinar production, and practicing your presentation (A LOT) are paramount.
  • You will have to make sure the graphics are compelling and exciting and are not cluttered with a lot of text.
  • The key to success is filling the seats! You will need to spend time marketing and promoting the webinars.
  • You will have to be prepared to follow up with webinar attendees with meaningful practices.
  • Initially, you will need someone to help you practice, prepare and monitor the session while it is live. (When you become more experienced, you may not need the help, but you will initially.

Well, so far, the bad isn’t bad. It’s all just a matter of preparation, right? You’d think so…

The UGLY  

Even with the best software, great content, lots of practice, preparation, and promotion, things go wrong. There are many variables to being successful with webinars, only a few of which are addressed here. Even though I have a lot of experience producing and presenting webinars, I’ve had a bad experience or two. It happens. Once you’ve made a poor impression on attendees, it’s hard to recover. You might not get a second chance.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the pros and cons of delivering webinars. For more detailed information about webinar software vendors, best practice in webinar production, and presentation tips, you might want to:

Join me for a presentation on

11/9/2012 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo, 2012

in Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia World Congress Center, Room B308

Despite the drawbacks, I strongly encourage the use of webinars for many businesses. As a matter of fact, I offer webinar production services that are designed to help the uninitiated get started, and for the business that don’t want to be troubled with the technical details. If you would like to chat about webinars, give me a call or drop me a line. I’m here to help.

Twitter for ECE: Let me count the ways!

Anyone who knows me is aware that I can get as worked up when I talk about computers and the Internet as I do when I talk about developmentally appropriate practice. As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I discovered that child care administration and technology literacy go hand in hand early in my career. And, so far, it’s a combination that continues to fascinate me and shape my career. I don’t think I would have ever been able to do my job as an administrator without technology. (Although, I tip my hat to those who have come before me and conquered without computers!) I also don’t think I would have learned as much as I have about technology if it were not for the need for me to do great work in ECE.

My most recent fascination is with web 2.0, and specifically with the use of social media for social networking and how it can power collaboration and communication in the early learning community. I’ve been on LinkedIn and Facebook for many years, but in 2009, I joined Twitter, where I began my odyssey to discover if social media would really pay off with connections in ECE.  But first, I had to watch (or lurk) to learn how to Tweet without making a fool out of myself and find people who posted about and shared my interest in ECE.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #1: It’s a lot more than what you’re doing right now!

Soon I learned the first of many amazing facts about Twitter: Despite the common misconception that you are supposed to post what you are doing, that’s not what effective Tweeting is about. The best tweeters post brief statements that include a link to an online article, event announcement, news, or other online resource along with tags that help readers determine if the link will be of interest to them. People can exchange information with other tweeters publicly or through a Direct Message that is private, as well.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #2: Hashtags help sort tweets!

My second very important discovery was about about hastags, which are like keyword labels that allow people with common interests to find the information in which they are most interested. To use hashtags, “Tweeters” just add # plus the a commonly used keyword to describe the topic and then people who share that interest search for topics with that hashtag.

To illustrate hashtags and “Twiterish” here’s an example of Tweet posted by NAEYC (@naeyc):

The anatomy of a tweet

The anatomy of a tweet

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #3: An Army of ECE colleagues!

Armed with this cool new information, I decided to try posting information with the hashtag #ece, not knowing whether anyone else had ever used that tag or not. Soon, I discovered many of my colleagues posting using #ece, and a wealth of new colleagues I had never met before. Even though we all were using the same hashtag, I learned more about different topics than I had ever learned before because, of course, there are many concepts related to early childhood. For example, my tweets are about public policy that impacts early learning, parenting and parent engagement, research, assessment, and program administration. My esteemed colleague, Cate Heroman, (@cateheroman)author of The Creative Curriculum and other great resources from Teaching Strategies (@TeachStrategies ) posts about curriculum, assessment, child development, curriculum studies, and other tweets that are teacher-centric.  Karen Nemeth, (@KarenNemethEdM) the author of Many Languages, One Classroom tweets about ELL, DLL, child development, program management, and language development. There are hundreds of other ECE Tweeters out there, many of whom offer great insight on best practice in the classroom as well as program administration.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #4: “Cross-Interest pollination!”

I also follow and tweet other hashtags like #parenting, leadership, #management, #nonprofit, #fundraising, #HR, #OD (organizational development) and more. This is where it becomes interesting! I think of it like cross-pollination, because the ECE people who follow me learn more about topics in related fields and I learn more about topics I would otherwise never explore. Best of all, I feel as though I am educating people in other fields about early childhood and learning from their expertise.

Let’s count the ways I love Twitter: #5: Twitter brings our community together!

I could talk about Twitter all day (and sometimes, I do!) The point of this post is that my experiment with Twitter proved to me that there is value in social media for early childhood education. Our community has come together through Twitter. It’s like going to a conference to network every day. It is energizing, enlightening, and exciting. The potential is amazing.

Now, let’s count together:

What are your experiences on Twitter? Tell me how you exploit the potential and use it to benefit your program?

Resource:

Are ECE programs businesses?

When you think about your early childhood program, do you see it as a business? Do you think about yourself as a business administrator? I know that when I was in the field, I did not. I ran a program! I thought my program was a nonprofit organization, not a business. It was something else, above or in between. Huh?

Let’s break this down… Every day, just like you, I did the same things every business administrator does, like:

  • managing the facility and equipment (quality assurance)
  • ensuring 100% enrollment (sales)
  • communicating with my customers (families)
  • managing the budget (financial management)
  • making presentations for prospective families (marketing) and staff (training)
  • paying payroll and accounts payable
  • supervising staff (quality assurance)
  • hiring (HR)
  • developing the program (product development)
  • managing benefits (personnel), and…
  • all of the tasks any business administrator needs to complete.

I guess that means ECE programs are businesses! (I better check Wikipedia for a definition, just to be sure….) Some are self-contained and managed internally, and some are managed by larger organizations like schools, agencies, or corporations. But nonetheless, we are in the business of providing developmentally appropriate programs for children. Enough said?

What are the implications? Tell me what you think!