Your Web site represents that critical line of communication of your organization and brand. In most instances, it is the only touch point between your customers and your business. Establishing and expanding your brand online requires strategic planning, knowing your audience and embracing all forms of technology. From widgets, applications, plugins to blogs and social media integration, there are many areas to explore, some of which, can be challenge, requiring much effort to implement and manage.
For many years, I have been involved in all facets of Web site development and strategy as well as network administration. Given my background, I can help you navigate through the tricky waters of technology, and find the right solution that is tailored to your needs.
I’m also a believer in sharing information and resources with others, so feel free to peruse this site for the latest information and downloads. You can also contact me if you’re interested in building a site for your business or just want to chat about technology. Have fun out there!!
Embedding a YouTube video on your site or blog is an easy task. By simply clicking on the share/embed option, users can embed YouTube videos anywhere. While there are many basic embed options available, there are some additional embed parameters that allow you to control how the video is played. From hiding the controls to setting a start point of the video, you have many options at your fingertips.
To make it easier, I compiled a short list of the popular embed parameters with settings and syntax. For a complete list of all parameters, follow this link.
|&rel||Displays related videos after the video||0, 1||0 = NO 1 = YES|
|&fs||Controls the display of the full screen button||0, 1||0 = NO 1 = YES|
|&border||Places a border around video||0,1||0 = NO 1 = YES (gray line)|
|&autoplay||Video starts automatically||0, 1||0 = NO 1 = YES (will autoplay)|
|&loop||Loops the video after it's finished||0, 1||0 = NO 1 = YES|
|&start||You can designate the start point of the video.||any number||append the number at start point|
|&showinfo||Display info of video||0,1||0 = NO 1 = YES|
As you will see in the table, there are two values for the parameters: 0 and 1. 0 is no and 1 is yes.
To add any of the parameters, simply append ¶meter name=value (i.e.: &fs=0) to the video URL. So, the URL within the embed would look like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwT7BHztBIU&autoplay=1
To see one of the parameters in action, I highlighted it with an example along with the embed code below. It’s also a good reason to showcase cute kittens as Jedis.
Start Parameter (&start): this one will start at a designated point on the timeline of the video. This parameter is great for jumping to a section of the video. In this instance, we are starting the video at 0:16.
Here’s the embed code with the autostart parameter. Simply highlight the code below and copy it. The only thing you need to change is the URL of the video and the start point. For this “start” parameter, you need to be aware that the value is in seconds, not minutes. So, if you want to start the video at 1:20, it would be at 80 seconds.
<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/IwT7BHztBIU?version=3&hl=en_US&start=16"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/IwT7BHztBIU?version=3&hl=en_US&start=16" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>
Create a link with a parameter:
You can also create a link with the same parameter. However, the syntax is a little different. Simply append the following to the URL: #t=xxmxxxs. Replace “xxx” with the minutes and seconds. To illustrate, this would be the URL with a start point of 1:08
Feel free to share any thoughts and have fun embedding!!
Twitter, the platform that transformed the way we communicate into 140-character snippets, recently rolled out an iOS mobile application that enables anyone to convey a slice of their life in a 6 second video. Aptly titled, Vine has already hit some records in downloads and shows tremendous potential. After a few minutes of testing this free app, I found it really easy to create my videos, known as Vines. Once that was done, I could share it on the Vine network as well as post it to Twitter or Facebook. Using my dogs as subjects, here’s my first six second masterpiece:
Latest Vine with the dogs..;) vine.co/v/bJ3QbY0AEpp
— Carl Ferrara (@cferrarakc) January 31, 2013
In many respects, this is a throwback to those looped animated GIFs that thrived back in the early days of the Web 1.0. According to Twitter, they defined it Vine like this:
Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.
Many thoughts also came to mind for this new platform, including how organizations can leverage it in the marketplace. If a picture can tell a thousand words, think about what a 6 second video could convey. Advertisers have already embraced it and I see this as a trend for video ads and social campaigns, especially for advocacy, community-building and loyalty campaigns. I also see celebrities jumping on board, as it’s another way to reach their fan base. Even Paul McCartney has a Vine, so Beatles fans can rejoice.
There is also room for posting comments with full support of sharing and tagging. With all of that, Vine could be the next video distribution channel, giving users the opportunity to tell their stories in six seconds.
To learn more about it, check it out on the Apple App store or view their blog.
What about Viewing Vines on the Web?
There are many sites popping up with streaming Vines, so that you can see the latest micro videos out there and you don’t need to be a registered user to view them. This includes Vinepeek and All Around the Vines. Vinesmap is a great geo tracking site, for seeing real-time Vines from around the world-very cool. I anticipate that we will see more of these sites with some search functionality.
I was home and my wife called me in a panic, as she just received this email indicating a recent transaction at Kmart for Windows 8. This prompted me to check the email and it was textbook SPAM as the sender’s email address had a Russian extension (.RU) and it had numerous phishing links to bogus URLs, none of which tied to PayPal. To be honest with you, I don’t even use PayPal, so it was not a challenge to flag this as SPAM.
It was also a reminder that viruses and phishing scams continue to plague users around the globe. As a rule of thumb, always question these emails and NEVER click on a link or give any personal information. Some other traits of phishing emails include the lack of detailed information and grammatical errors. Even the generic salutation with this one was a red flag. If you see this email, delete it immediately as you don’t want to be a victim to this phishing frenzy.
A good resource for current SPAM scams is http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0002-common-online-scams Be careful out there!!
Where’s my iPhone? This is a question that has surfaced many times around my household, as I have conducted many long searches for missing iPhones. This prompted me to do some research, as I knew there had to be a better alternative to combing the house with a flashlight and a tracking mobile phone. I quickly discovered this great, free application that makes the process of finding a misplaced iPhone or iPad an easy task.
Find my iPhone is a cloud-based iPhone app that enables you to track down any iPhone, iPad or even Mac.
Simply install it on any iOS device, login with your AppleID and add your device. This application will mark the location of your device for tracking. The application can locate your device on a map, with a full suite of options, including pinging the device with a high pitched tone, displaying a message on the lost device and even remotely locking the device down. You can also access the application via the Web: https://www.icloud.com/#find
Some key features:
• Locate your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac on a map
• Display a custom message on the screen
• Play a sound for two minutes at full volume (even if your device is set to silent)
• Remotely lock your device
• Remotely wipe your device to erase your personal data
• Lost Mode (iOS 6 or later)
• Driving directions to device location (iOS 6 or later)
• Battery charge indicator of the lost device
To learn more about this FREE application, follow this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/find-my-iphone/id376101648?mt=8
There was a time when fan page content on Facebook was easily accessible in your home feed with little filtering. We also accepted that Facebook was an ad-driven engine, so we tolerated the ads in the sidebar. However, many Facebook fan page owners have complained that their impressions have diminished by almost 50%. This means less eyeballs on their Facebook posts. It was like Facebook took a virtual machete to our page content, and sliced the number of impressions in half. The reason is simple – Facebook was built around advertising and tapping into featured content was a logical step to keep the shareholders happy. So, the Featured Posts model rolled out and forced page owners to pay up to get more eyeballs. If you want more eyeballs, you have to pay for it. Hence, we have what I like to call the “Facebook Squeeze” and it’s only getting worse.
According to Facebook, approximately 15% of your Facebook content is seen in your friend’s feed. All of this is driven by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm that weighs affinity, engagement and life span of a post. However, this Promoted Posts ad model turns this algorithm on its head as it took this organic approach and turned it into a paid model. For example, I do not follow Wal-Mart on Facebook, yet their promoted post appears at the top of my feed. All because they paid a little extra to get their foot into my feed.
It really became apparent when I noticed that Star Trek’s George Takei, addressed this issue of his Facebook content not making it into the feed of his fans. With over 3 million+ fans on his Facebook fan page, this is a sign that everyone is feeling the squeeze.
It was like Facebook took a virtual machete to our page content, and sliced the number of impressions in half.
In a recent article in Mashable, it looks Takei is addressing this in an chapter of his upcoming book, aptly titled “Oh Myyy” in which he challenges Facebook’s Promoted Posts feature.
Here’s the video segment:
Beating the Squeeze: What can you do?
In light of this squeeze, there are some things that you can do to get your content in front of your fans:
1) Serve up what your fans want: Now, more than ever, you have to think about your content and what is generating engagement. Do the research and identify the trends for user engagement. Facebook shares, by nature tend to generate more traffic, while keeping the Edgerank algorithm happy. In addition, larger images work and I have seen this consistently on pages, as users are more likely to share anything with an image over a traditional link.
2) Have your fans add you to their Interests: George Takei has already taken the step and asked his fans to add his page to their interests. All is required is simply selecting the option to “Add to Interests” list.
Hopefully, this will help give your content more visibility organically. However, I think page owners may be forced to pay up to be seen at some point.
Have you been squeezed? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with Edgerank and Facebook’s Promoted Posts platform.
For many power computer users, moving on to the latest and greatest OS platform is a way of life. They want to be on the cutting edge and own it. While for others, they are more inclined to wait it out to see how the dust settles and bugs are worked out. To date, Windows had its share of buggy releases (remember Vista?) so waiting it out is not a bad option. Also, upgrading to a new operating system can be a real challenge, especially when you have compatibility issues with software and hardware support. Like many, I’ve spent many late hours trying to configure the right software driver for a printer that has not caught up with the latest release.
Mac or Windows:
That is a loaded question, as there is much to consider and a lot hinges on your needs and your comfort level with either platform. With both releases, it is clear they have fully embraced the mobile age as there is definitely tighter integration with mobile operating systems, enabling users to freely toggle between their desktop or mobile phone with better synergy. For some users, the merging of desktop and mobile may not be a desirable feature, especially for those who long for the old days of desktop computers. On the flip side, it may be a refreshing change in the right direction.
Now that Apple has cycled the whole animal kingdom for their releases, Mountain Lion is the latest release to hit the stores and it’s available for a $20 upgrade fee. Bundled with approximately 200 new features, it is worth the upgrade. As mentioned, there is more integration w/ mobile and with that, comes a look and feel of an iOS platform.
Here’s the quick breakdown:
Mac / Mountain Lion:
Upon your initial log in, Mountain Lion looks like your typical OS X desktop–from the menu bar at the top, the familiar OS X Dock at the bottom and the space-themed desktop background. Access to the Finder is relatively easy by clicking the Finder icon (the blue smiling icon), located in the dock. From there, you can view your folder and files-another familiar site for Mac users.
One distinction of Mountain Lion is the Launchpad as you have an iPad-esque grid of icons for your programs, making it easy to access them.
Windows 8:In both operating systems, there are distinct differences to the look and feel and it is evident from the moment you log in. For Windows 8, the look of the familiar start menu, taskbar and Windows Explorer have been replaced by square and rectangular icons for your applications, known as Live Tiles. This experience takes a while to get used to as you have to scroll left and right to view your apps.
There is much control over the display of your apps in the start screen, and you have the option to pin other content including internet favorites, bookmarks and custom widgets.
One of the biggest challenges with Windows 8 is the tile interface was really tailored for touchscreen tablets and was not made for a keyboard and mouse. I found myself wanting to go back to just my desktop as that was familiar territory with a better user experience.
So, my vote is for Mountain Lion as it’s more intuitive and just easier to use. Share your thoughts and let me know your experience with either platform.
Have a WordPress-powered site? Have you thought about a backup yet? Now’s the time to look at getting a backup system for your site. On a positive note, the process of configuring a backup system requires very little effort and most of the packages are free or relatively inexpensive.
The importance of backing up your WordPress blog:
Now that you have launched your WordPress blog, the need for a backup is critical for the following reasons:
• If your WordPress database gets corrupt or if your account is hacked. This is a reality of the Web.
• If you are moving your WordPress server build to another server, a good backup is your friend as it makes the migration process an easy one.
• If your hosting provider encounters a fatal server error and your data is compromised.
There are several backup plugins out there, and I compiled a short list of ones worth exploring:
1) WordPress Database Backup (aka: WP-DB Backup): My favorite one out of the bunch. Easy to manage and configure, I currently use it and it’s a great free solution to backup your core WordPress build. It can be configured to send the compressed backup file via email or saved on a server location. Check it out: http://austinmatzko.com/wordpress-plugins/wp-db-backup/
2) BackWPUP BackUp: Great solution with an easy setup for backing up your WordPress blog. You have many options as far as storing the backup. You can save it to your own FTP server, DropBox, Amazon S3, Google Storage and more. It can also do a check and repair of your database and export your build to the WordPress XML file. Give it a try: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/backwpup/
3) BackUp WordPress Plugin: Basic backup plugin, offering the essentials for backing up your WordPress build. Easy to setup and intuitive interface, this plugin is a good solution for your backup needs. Here’s the link: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/backupwordpress/
4) BackupBuddy: For a small fee (click here for pricing), Backup Buddy offers the right mix of a clean interface and a host of backup options. Developed by iThemes, Backup Buddy can back up your entire WordPress installation – from widgets, themes, plugins, files and SQL database, it can all be backed up to your server or sent to your email or cloud-based platform. It’s also a great solution for migrating a staging build to another server. Check it out: http://ithemes.com/purchase/backupbuddy/
I would recommend getting a backup system in place before adding any plugins, as that is when issues and conflicts tend to surface.
Pinterest continues to show no signs of slowing down as it is the third most visited social network in the U.S. With that growth, there is a need to track performance and activity. In addition, companies have leveraged Pinterest for rich media, by adding company photos and videos to their boards. The Pinterest API makes it that much easier for site owners to integrate all that great functionality of Pinterest, with their site. Ultimately, this enables site visitors to pin content to their boards on Pinterest. Smart integration is key!!
Pin. Measure. Optimize.
An integral part of any social strategy is understanding how content is viewed, shared and consumed by the masses. Upon its initial launch, the options for tracking activity on Pinterest were limited. Since then, I have seen more applications and plugins that allow you to monitor, trend and optimize your Pinterest account.
Here’s a breakdown of my top picks:
Pinerly: I was fortunate to get in early on Pinerly, a new startup platform, during the beta phase and was impressed with the level of reporting. By establishing “campaigns” you can track and measure the activity of pins. Once campaign pins are established, you can view your “Pinalytics,” a dynamic chart illustrating likes, repins and click thru activity by any date range. Check it out: http://www.pinerly.com/
Pintics: Another great tool that was launched in beta, Pintics offers the essentials for tracking activity on Pinterest. The main dashboard offers the ability to measure follower growth, repins, visits, pageviews, popular boards and traffic. Sign up for a free invite: http://signup.pintics.com/
PinPuff: PinPuff is to Pinterest the same way KLOUT is to Twitter as it enables you to measure your social influence, reach and popularity. This is known as your Pinfluence score. It also provides a snapshot of your pin’s value and potential traffic they can generate. What is your Pinfluence score? http://pinpuff.com/
Repinly: This platform is a little different in that it gives you trending insight into the most popular popular pins and boards as well as pinners and activity. I used it to help identify trends and find groups within specific categories over time. Overall, a great find and I encourage you to add yourself to this platform: http://www.repinly.com/
iGoogle Will Be Discontinued
According to Google’s Official blog, iGoogle, the popular custom gadget-driven platform, enabling fans to get the latest in weather, news, mail and more is discontinuing in November, 2013. The official explanation from Google clearly indicates that iGoogle has run its course. “With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time.”
Established in 2005, iGoogle quickly became the dashboard of choice for users, while competing with comparable platforms such as My Yahoo, Netvibes and other custom start pages.
In keeping with their mission to consolidate all services, Google+ will likely be replacement, despite the fact that it does not have all of the core features of iGoogle. Google might also tailor Google+ to emulate the dashboard-like look and feel of iGoogle. Google also mentioned that “users will have 16 months to adjust or export their data.” With that in mind, it should give users ample time to find another solution. Feel free to share your thoughts on this latest move.
Is there an alternative to Photoshop? A valid question, given the hefty price tag behind the popular image editing application. Hands down – Photoshop is the best image editing application out there but for those who wish to do minor image editing, there are some other free solutions out there for all platforms including PC, Linux and Mac. Since they are free, there’s no risk involved and it should not burn too deep a hole in your wallet.
I gathered a short list of the best alternatives to Photoshop and I encourage you to try them out and let me know your thoughts.
GIMP: Probably the closest to Photoshop as far as the look and feel: http://www.gimp.org/ Solid interface and easy to use.
Paint.Net: For those who are comfortable w/ MS Paint (MS free photo app tool), this one will feel right at home: http://www.getpaint.net/index.html Not as robust as GIMP, but it can do your basic edits.
Photoshop Express: A hidden gem within the Adobe suite of free products, this platform is the only Web-based editor that offers your basic photo edit options. Simply upload your photo and have fun: http://www.photoshop.com/tools/expresseditor?wf=editor
There are a few more out there, like Pixia, but I think this is a good start.
We all do screen captures-whether it’s to illustrate a point or troubleshoot a problem. However, there are very few free screen capture applications that can capture both video and static screenshots with the ability to share, save and email the captured media.
Thanks to a friend, I recently discovered Jing, a FREE screen capture program that can do it all and much more!! From project collaboration to producing narrations, Jing’s interface is elegant and simple, enabling you to use it for any project.
Some key features of this app:
Real-time screen capture of what you see on your computer monitor with the ability to do annotations
Capture both images and video, an ideal feature for doing live demos
Share it via email, IM, social or just save the file for future use
Basic package is FREE and is installed as a desktop application for easy access.
Click here to download the free version and let me know what you think of it.
For many years, I have used Google Analytics for site tracking and for a free tracking tool, it offers comprehensive and in-depth analysis of traffic patterns, user data, page performance and more. Now it will have real time reporting, so that site owners can see activity as it happens. The initial roll out started today to a select number of users and should be available to all users over the next weeks, according to Google’s blog. I can’t wait for the launch and I will post any updates on this post. Click here for more details.
I have worked with many local businesses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) projects and the need to increase visibility on local search remains strong. Especially for brick and mortar businesses (i.e.: restaurants, galleries), an optimized site translates into more site and foot traffic of people looking for that latte on the go. One of the key steps to optimizing your site for local search is exploring ways to incorporate your city and regional keywords in your site content. This includes, but is not limited, to your page content, title tags, header info and even your URL.
Here are some other best practice tips for optimizing your site for local search:
Time for a Blog
Blogging is a wonderful platform for rich and relevant content and I would recommend using geo-specific terms like “New Jersey soccer equipment” to your posts and tags. The key is making sure the blog is tailored for your readers, so avoid blatant promotion as readers can see right through that and it will do more harm than good. Keep the posts short and informative and include rich media like photos and videos as it enhances the posts.
Say No to Keyword Stuffing
I have seen this over and over and over and over and over again. Please do not stuff your site with keywords and this includes the page titles, footers and page content.
Link Strategy with local organizations
Establishing links with local organizations like the local Chamber of Commerce is a great way to build traffic and authority in local search, as it ties in with Google’s ranking algorithm and gives your site credibility a boost. From partner and association sites to social media (esp. Facebook and LinkedIn), look for sites within your network and find those groups and explore opportunities for reciprocal linking. If possible, set up a links page with links to those groups on your site.
Become an expert
Get your feet wet on discussion boards and advice sites like AllExperts.com and Yahoo!Answers and find areas of expertise. So if you have a shoe repair store, jump in on a thread that is within your space like “Repairing Golf Shoes” and sign up to become an expert in this category.
As most of you know, social media continues to be one of the most cost-efficient ways of driving local traffic to your site as well as establishing a local base of fans on all social media channels. FourSquare and Facebook in particular are excellent platforms for any local business, looking for ways to acquire and engage local visitors. The key is making sure you have the resources and energy to keep your fan page up to date and relevant. Restaurants will often use social media for promotions on dish specials and special events.