How to Set up and Host Live Webinars

We run a monthly podcast for one of our clients which has become fairly popular in it’s respective industry. This is a relatively new ability we’ve learned and as with everything we do, we’re happy to help others learn to do it as well.

To be clear, when we say webinars or podcasts we mean live audio and video feeds (much like radio if it had view-able PowerPoint slides!) which are broadcast over the internet for everyone to view. We record these broadcasts as we do them and give that recording to viewers afterwards and post them on YouTube or SoundCloud.

Create you own webinar

Very recently we got a tweet from a sports coach wanting to start holding webinars and we answered. We arranged a Skype chat, walked them through the programs and techniques we used and introduced them to other possible solutions we found along our journey of developing a quality podcast.  Here’s a summary of our advice.

Our process

We use a combination of the program xSplit and the website UStream:

  • xSplit – recording a webcam or a computer screen is a simple process today, but controlling that recording is an entirely different thing. The FREE program xSplit provides users with multiple “scenes” which operate like a powerpoint presentation. Each “scene” is like a slide in powerpoint and can be customised with images, live screenshots, webcams and more. It also takes audio directly from your computer and microphone, if one is attached. The program can broadcast to multiple sources and can directly record to your computer as a separate option for making videos. While it is only Windows OS compatible (so no support for Mac computers) it provides a lot of flexibility and control to the user.

  • UStream – when you are broadcasting you need a destination and a place for that broadcast to be viewed by others. We use our paid account on UStream with ads removed to broadcast our live viewing. UStream gives us a way to communicate with our viewers as well via a text based chat beside the video as it plays.

This set up makes it easy for viewers to watch as we just need to send them the link to our UStream account while we take care of the broadcasting and content. With other solutions you may need to download programs, make accounts or have to send attendees passwords. We have tested some of those solutions and for a wide audience and age range they proved too hard and presented barriers to attendance.

Other solutions you could use

Many of these solutions add a level of difficulty for either us or our viewers to join a webinar that we broadcast. However they may suit your needs better than they suit ours:

  • Google Hangouts – the Hangouts system created by Google is amazing. It allows you to broadcast your computer screen or your web camera to a live stream (then instant recording) on YouTube. For others to view directly they can watch from YouTube. If you’d like to chat to viewers however they would have to join your Hangout and thus disrupts many of your functions. You would have to mute each attendee if you want to talk and then you could communicate with them via text chat. It works but is cumbersome in it’s design. On the other hand it is a free solution without ads and  is simple for basic internet users to learn.

  • Downloadable webinar technologies – there are meeting simulators that can be used effectively to run webinars such as GoToWebinar or Anymeeting. These solutions are often paid, require you and your attendees to download a program and are designed primarily for corporate use. They will take some training to use (especially for your viewers) but the technology is great. If you’re a businessman looking to run online meetings or training sessions this solution is a great way to go. [only problem with Citrix GoToWebinar solution is the meeting invite does not adjust timezone to the recipient’s calendar]

Now that you’ve got access to the tools, you can start exploring the world of broadcasting and build yourself a webinar! If you’re less technical, or would like to put all of your effort into the quality of the webinar, we’d be happy to take the broadcasting task off your hands. Contact us for more details on these technologies or for a quote on what it would take for us to set up and run your webinar.

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How to be a successful Twitter manager

twitterWhat is a Twitter manager?

A Twitter manager is an individual who monitors one or more Twitter accounts and engages with Twitter users for those accounts. They are more than an automatic tweeting machine. They think of ways to engage their followers, how to gain new ones and spend much of their time interacting with the Twittersphere (the space of Twitter).

A Twitter manager must keep in mind that they are an entity and represent the values and voice of the account that entity belongs to. This is particularly difficult when they manage multiple accounts as they have to reflect multiple personas in their tweets.

What does a Twitter manager do?

These attributes are exactly what a regular Twitter user will do. However we’re talking about it and looking at it from a Twitter manager’s point of view. Here are the activities a Twitter manager undergoes and how they do them differently…

  • Creates original tweets: when a tweet first comes into existence it is said to be original, rather than taken from someone else’s tweet.
  • Shares tweets: this is where a tweet is tweeted again and the original sender is notified and credited. These types of tweets can help smaller pages generate hype and develops relationships with the original tweeter.
  • Sends and replies to direct messages: known as DMs, direct messages allow twitter users to message each other privately. This opens up the Twittersphere to the sharing of personal details and private conversations.
  • Uses #hashtags and copies @people in tweets: by using a hashtag or at symbol in a tweet you notify users of that tweet. It comes up in their feeds and is a more reliable way of getting your tweets seen by the Twittersphere.
  • Follows #hashtags and conversations: a hashtag records all tweets with it attached and you can search via hashtags to follow a topic or conversation. This is crucial to success for Twitter managers as they can follow the best conversations from specific topics related to the account(s) they manage. They show you who tweets the most in that topic, who is important in that topic, what trends are rising and even helps you keep up with big news and events.
  • Balances their number of followers with the number of people they are following: this is another way of getting noticed. By following a Twitter account (a user) you encourage them to see what tweets you make and they will often reciprocate the follow. So this subsequently grows your followers and provides you with more original tweets to retweet from that user you followed. This also allows you to get more in touch with your followers by direct messaging who you follow as long as they also follow you.
TweetDeck

TweetDeck

Tools of a Twitter manager

  • www.tweetdeck.com = this is a powerful tool that grants you the power to post using multiple Twitter accounts, schedule posts and see every corner of each Twitter account in an instant. Being able to view messages and posts all on one screen improves productivity by a lot, even for just a single account.
  • www.tweriod.com = if you’d like to know when your followers are online the most, use Tweriod. They’ll send you a report showing you when your followers are most active. From here you can schedule your best tweets using Tweetdeck so they get the most impact and following.
  • Find many more on the Twitter Tools Listly. There are many tools to follow metrics and statistics for Twitter accounts and show you exactly how to use your account to it’s fullest potential.

Pitfalls of a Twitter manager

Be careful when replying – as a Twitter manager, your voice is that of the accounts you are managing. You have to maintain a constant persona for each account and be careful not to stir up negativity in your followers. For example, I’ve created conversations by simply asking people about what they do in their daily lives. They then get interested enough in me to look at the company web page and learn more about the brand I’m managing.

Share for your audience, but avoid profanity – as you re-tweet content you’ll see great tweets that are inappropriate in language, but perfect in context. Tweak these tweets to be appropriate and make sure you read tweets over a few times. It is easy to quickly retweet something that makes you laugh in the context of the account you manage.

Always give recognition of the source – if you know where it came from, recognise the creator because Twitter is all about following conversations and tweets from the source. If you re-tweet without saying who the tweet is from a lot of the time users will feel you’ve cheated the impact of the original tweet. It discredits your account and makes it seem like you put less effort into it.

Have personality, but don’t be personal – avoid getting too comfortable in your role. Have strict rules in place with how relaxed you can be on interacting with your followers.

Balance your followers and followings – try to keep these levels the same or have your followings higher than the number of followers you have. This promotes constant growth and makes sure you’re friendly with everyone in the industry you’re following for whichever account you are managing.

Final notes on Twitter

Twitter is all about getting shared and found, getting the most notice from your tweets and connecting with your followers and industry more closely. That level maintains a professional feel but again being able to become personal with your customers and industry is incredibly powerful for a company’s public relations.

Have all your activities reflect these points and connect with your audience and your industry on a level like no other!

The DOs and DON’Ts of SEO – The Easiest Way To Appear On Google

Google SEOGoogle’s new update – Hummingbird has changed Google’s algorithm. Fortunately, there are SEO properties that have and will remain constant. This article will illustrate the easy way to ensure your website is run optimally for both man and machine – the visitor and Google’s bots (crawler).

What you’ll find in this guide are a more concrete set of guidelines which are unlikely to change in the near future.

This means, delicate topics such as keywords and keyword density etc will not be discussed in this article as the rules surrounding them are prone to change.

As many of you will be aware, search engine optimisation is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. Only when viewed collectively will results begin to be noticeable – so don’t give up early on is the moral of the story.

 

Without further ado – The DOs and DON’Ts of SEO.

Page Titles

Page titles should define in a few words the content of the page. Effective page titles draw visitors to your site and give an indication to search engines the context of the page’s content.

  • Do: Choose a title that effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content
  • Don’t: Choose vague titles that have no relation to the content on the page or a default title such as “New Page 1”.

 

Metatags and Descriptions

Metatags and descriptions allow you to describe and/or summarise your pages content. Descriptions will be the snippet provided by google to help the visitor determine the value of the page before opening it. The text in the red box below is what the user sees.

MetaDescription

  • Do: Write a description that would both inform and interest users if they saw your description as a snippet in a search result.
  • Don’t: Write generic descriptions or use only keywords. Although no longer common, people have been known to paste an entire paragraph as the description.
  • Don’t: Repeat the same tags and descriptions across multiple pages.

 

URLs

*Changing your URL structure is not a small job! If it is ok currently then leave it as is.

Page URLs are often a difficult thing to effectively change if you’ve got a large website and/or have been using it heavily for a while. The reason for this is by changing the structure, all previous links will no longer work. The quick fix is of course to set up a redirect however this is far from ideal – to best utilise your site’s existing SEO capabilities you would have to correct all of the links. You’d probably still have to set up a redirect anyway as external sites linking to your page would also stop working.

  • Do: Your URL should contain words which are both relevant to your site and the individual page the URL links to.
  • Don’t: Choose generic page names such as “page1.html”
  • Don’t: Use unnecessary parameters/ID numbers
  • Don’t: Use excessive keywords, else risk getting the individual URL or even the whole site banned by Google.

 

Navigation

The menus on your site help visitors navigate your site. They also provide a template for creating an effective XML Sitemap which will help bots crawl your site. Having an effective menu layout is a win-win situation.

  • Do: Create a natural flowing hierarchy which makes it as easy as possible for visitors to navigate your site.
  • Do: Use text for navigation as often as possible – not everything has to be in a dropdown menu! (what this means is that often you can navigate visitors to other pages effectively using text on the page as opposed to everything being exclusively in the menu)
  • Do: Submit an up to date XML Sitemap to Google for both your main site and any mobile sites you may have – (update regularly)
  • Do: Have a useful 404 page. Many 404 pages simply have an error. Include a link back to a useful page such as your home page or main news page.
  • Don’t: Create a difficult, complex linking structure by either linking to too many things (that the visitor is unclear what to click) or by breaking your content up (so to increase number of pages but the visitor has to visit multiple pages unnecessarily)
  • Don’t: Have a navigation system based entirely on dropdown menus. As mentioned before, not only can this be frustrating for the user, it also has adverse SEO consequences.

 

Keep Your Text Easy To Read

Obvious really – the DON’Ts however will explain how Google can punish you for making your content hard to read.

  • Do: Write content that is easy to follow, concise and organised by using formatting options such as headings, bullet points etc
  • Do: Create fresh, unique content which is designed for your users, not search engines.
  • Don’t: Overuse headings/bolds/italics etc
  • Don’t: Use pictures to replace words. Pictures aren’t read by search engines which reduces SEO friendliness. Pictures also make it difficult for readers to copy/paste from your site (which although you might think this is a good thing, many would argue that the purpose of the internet is to share information).
  • Don’t: Deceptively hide text from users but displaying it to search engines (Such as having white text on a white background).

 

Links

Links on your page (both internal and external) are an important way of guiding visitors around your site. They also however help Search Engines decipher the page’s content and purpose.

Don't Click Here

  • Do: Try and describe what the link is linking to in the text. Hyperlinking keywords or phrases which define the link’s purpose will both help your visitor and Search Engines know what the link is pointing to.
  • Do: Format links so they are easy to spot (don’t try and trick visitors into thinking that normal text is actually a link). This means highlight them with a different colour.
  • Don’t: Use generic anchor text such as “click here”.

 

Images

Images help beautify a site. They also slow down loading speed so only use them sparingly and avoid using high-definition photos unless needed. Slow sites appear lower on Google’s search results.

  • Do: Use brief, descriptive filenames and alt text. This will help search engines know what the picture is about and will serve a double purpose if the picture doesn’t load, the visitor will know what should’ve been there.
  • Do: Supply alt text when using images as links. Similar to what was said in the Link section of this article to help describe the link.
  • Do: Supply an updated image sitemap file
  • Don’t: Stuff keywords into the alt text – it can get you blacklisted from Google!
  • Don’t: Use only images as links for your site’s navigation
  • Don’t: Overuse high-def images as this will significantly reduce site speed

 

Headings

Headings should be used to help visitors scan your page for the applicable information. Avoid using them for unimportant content.

  • Do: Use headings as an outline – the reader should be able to read just the headings and have a clear understanding of what the page is about.
  • Don’t: Place headings that don’t help clarify the page’s structure and summarise the page’s content
  • Don’t: Erratically change heading tag sizes or put all of the page’s text into a heading tag.
  • Don’t: Use heading styles when italics or bolding may be more appropriate

 

Robots.txt

Robot.txt

Robots.txt files tell search engines what to crawl and what to ignore. Used effectively, they can help bots crawl your pages more effectively and reduce spam. Used incorrectly – your whole site could disappear from Google. To find out more about Robots.txt files and how Google utilises them, check Google’s developer pages

  • Do: Have an up to date robots.txt file – perhaps even a second if you’re attempting to block ssl pages.
  • Don’t: Allow search result-like pages to be crawled.
  • Don’t: Allow URLs created by proxies to be crawled.

 

Promoting Your Site On Google

There are many ideas you can utilise to appear on Google. So long as you don’t spam or buy your links – you should be fine.

  • Do: Sign up for Google Places if appropriate to appear on Google Maps and web searches.
  • Do: Include your website URL in all of your online mailings (blogs, newsletters and social media posts).
  • Do: Guest blog and comment on other’s sites with links back to your own.
  • Don’t: Sign up for schemes where your content is artificially promoted to the top of selected services.
  • Don’t: Purchase links from another site with the aim of getting PageRank instead of traffic.
  • Don’t: Spam link requests to all sites related to your topic area.

 

Google’s Webmaster Tools

Google’s Webmaster Tools are a great way of monitoring and optimising your site – USE IT!

  • Do: Use it regularly to keep up to date with how Google’s bots see your site and whether there are any issues which can be resolved to make your site appear higher.
  • Do: Rectify any issue which Webmaster tools suggests.
  • Do: Utilise analytics and other tools available to optimise the most visited pages and help navigate users around your site.
  • Don’t: Do anything reckless which you don’t fully understand – you could block your entire website from appearing on Google if care isn’t taken.