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.

Facebook Fail: Nonexistent Customer Service

Facebook Fails at customer service imagePoor 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 ads. As a matter of fact, Facebook expects us (the peeps with the money to spend on advertising) to adapt the their vision of customer service, which is totally online and delivered with an attitude.  The message I’ve gotten any time I’ve tried to get customer service from Facebook is: “we may get to your problem when we can, and if you are worthy, otherwise, read our rules and responsibilities. You are on your own.”

I could fill you in on my tales of woe trying to rectify an overcharge with Facebook, but I won’t bore you with the details. Just rest assured that this social media consultant wants to pay for what she purchased, not overcharges, and she followed every step of the process as outlined by Facebook…MORE THAN 30 TIMES, and still can’t get resolution. Big, bad, bully FB disabled my account, and basically the company is now completely ignoring my requests to restore my access. I wonder if it is coincidence that I have Tweeted and posted on LinkedIn about Facebook arrogance and inconsistent product development prior to ever requesting customer service. Or maybe my account has not been restored because I had the audacity to try to get someone at Facebook’s attention in the light of day on Twitter.

Oddly, it never occurred to me that the account might have been deactivated because I have made negative comments until I read “Facebook we have a problem,” by Robert Scoble, a blog post that highlights the trials and tribulations vocal users have experienced with Facebook.  It’s fascinating to read the comments by readers who have been abused by Facebook, but the most compelling reading of all are the responses from Facebook leadership, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. The arrogance and lack of interest in basic tenants of customer service seep through in every syllable of the responses.  Even though Scoble maintains a close relationship with the “in” posse at Facebook, in a follow-up post he agrees that  the kids at Facebook have a lot to learn about business, trust, customer service, and long-range strategy planning. Check it out at “Our trust relationship with Facebook: complicated.”

But, I digress. The real issue is Facebook’s hypocrisy about playing by the rules of engagement in social media, the arrogance they display with their insistence that customer service can only be offered through email and online forms, and the lessons they will eventually be forced to learn about customer service. Right now, Facebook is on top, and somehow paying customers are suffering through the customer service void because Facebook offers very effective targeted advertising, and everybody who has something to sell wants the service. But there’s going to be a bottom. There will come a time when the people with the money choose to spend it elsewhere where they have at least minimal customer service.

So the big question is how long can Facebook continue to ignore paying customers, fail to provide customer service, and use the service like a playground on which the company defies all the rules (from development to privacy to customer service) and bullies everyone who wants to play?

Social Media Newbie Notes: What Does the Internet Reveal About You?

Have you ever “Googled” yourself? Don’t lie, and don’t be embarrassed! Of course you have! Searching for yourself on the internet is not (necessarily) conceited. As a matter of fact, these days it is almost critical that you search for your name online. It is important to follow your digital footprint, and even more important to claim it.  Searching for and claiming your online identity is called Online Identity Management (OIM) or Personal Reputation Management.

In general, it is a good practice to become aware of information about you (or someone else with your name) that is floating around the Internet. You may be surprised to find very obscure information that has been made available about you online. In some cases, you might need to correct inaccuracies (if you can), or be prepared to defend your reputation.

If you don’t find yourself online, you should set up at least one online presence, if for nothing else but to claim your identity. There are hundreds of tools you can use to establish and protect your identity, including these listed by Mashable and CNet. If you decide to take action to protect your identity, be sure to link to them from credible and reliable sources.

Today, my husband asked me why I include my maiden name along with my married name on public documents and online. It had never occurred to him that in the 21st century, because our information is so readily available, middle names and maiden names help people distinguish themselves from others with the same name. Because my name is not very unique. I can easily find hundreds of references to Fran Simon who are clearly not me, and that is only on the first two pages of Google results. That’s why I often use my full name, including my maiden name (Fran Sokol Simon), or my complete initials (FSSimon) online. Think about that when you set up your online presences.

It’s a good idea to monitor your identity as well. Set up a Google Alert to search for your name.  Whenever your name comes up in Google, the system will deliver the results to you by email, so you know what people are saying about you. Here are some examples of Google Alerts I set up about myself:

Google Alert for FSSimon

The following links will provide you with more information about OIM:

Secure A Powerful Online Presence By Claiming Your Online Identity

Claim Your Identity Through Google Profiles

Work Smart: Claiming Your Name on the Web