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Courtney Brown

And Then There Were Six…

By | Events, Miscellany | No Comments

(But not in a creepy, ominous way)

Contrary to the common usage of the phrase, we’re actually counting up, not down. (As far as we know, nobody is skulking around the Mack Web island, knocking off careless stragglers).

This month we are beyond pleased to be introducing not one, but two new members of the Mack Web team. (Yeah, we can hardly believe it either).

There are several implications to these new additions.

The most obvious, of course, is that Mack Web is growing like a mad thing. Which is awesome.

We’re adding new skill sets, new perspectives, and a whole new well of pop culture references to our offerings. Which is even awesomer.

Slightly less awesome? We’re going through the chocolate at a much higher rate. (Seriously. There’s nothing but Mr. Goodbar left. Where have all the Krackels gone, I ask you?)

Chocolate or no chocolate, we are seriously excited to be introducing your to our two new Web Marketing Strategists: Tyler Brooks and Ashley Steele.

It’s a Boy!

That’s right, friends. After a long history of being an all-girls club, we’re excited to introduce you to Tyler Brooks, the first guy to officially join the Mack Web Solutions team.

Tyler. And His Whiteboard.

Tyler joins us fresh from Indiana and we’re pretty happy that we get to show him the ropes around Fort Collins as well as the office. We’re also happy that the beautiful whiteboard that has mostly been used thus far to keep track of the drinks we owe each other has finally found its purpose in his hands.

You can find out all about Tyler’s professional credentials on his bio page (coming soon, but take our word for it here and now, they exist). But to learn the really important things about him, we’re gonna play a fun little game some of you might remember from junior high. It’s called Two Truths and Lie.

If you don’t remember the game, let me get you up to speed. I’m going to make three statements about Tyler. Two of them are true. One of them is a lie. It’s up to you to guess which ones are which.

Ready? Okay.

One: As a child, Tyler’s chief aspiration was to be Sherlock Holmes.

Two: Tyler can hold his breath for 72 seconds before he starts turning blue (welllll…purple).

Three: Despite being quite brainy and practical, Tyler’s deepest fear is that he would be a terrible accountant.

So…what’s the truth and what’s the lie? Let us know what you think.

And another girl!

Just because we love her. Not because we are scrabbling desperately to maintain the balance and continue talking about nail polish in team meetings.

Ashley! (With Mack lurking in the back like a creeper).

Ashley Steele started with us as part time and less than a month into it, we knew we needed her more than twice a week. So she’s become our newest full-time strategist, bringing with her an array of skills and experiences (to be detailed elsewhere).

Here are the things you really need to know about Ashley. (And one thing that you didn’t. Cuz it’s a dirty, dirty lie).

One: Ashley turned down a spot in the WNBA to go into marketing because she didn’t want the celebrity lifestyle.

Two: She has double jointed elbows.

Three: Ashley’s secret delight is the smell of bleach.

So…what’ll it be?

Stay tuned!

So, we’re putting together their official bios (with official photos and everything, despite how some of the team feel about having their picture taken), but we’re just so excited to have these two with us that we couldn’t wait any longer to tell you about them.

So drop us a line, say hello, welcome them to town.

And don’t forget to take a stab at which facts are true and which are…less so.

(Also…just in case…should you see a nefarious figure sniffing around our offices, let us know, would ya? We’re pretty happy with the six we’ve got. No need to start counting down instead of up).

 

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

By | Creativity, Events | 4 Comments

The Good Stuff

I know, I know. Typically this is an assignment undertaken at the end of the summer and not before it technically begins. (Although, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been assigned this essay. Not even in elementary school when it was more of a crayon-based operation than an actual paper).

But this (almost) summer, Mack Web Solutions is getting to the good stuff early and we want to share.

(Also, we want to explain, in advance, why you won’t be able to reach us in the latter half of this week. Because we know you’d worry and, frankly, we don’t want to have to deal with the aftermath of the missing persons’ reports. The Ice Cream Break Debacle of 2011 taught us that).

So consider this your official notice…this Thursday and Friday, June 13 & 14, Mack Web Solutions will be out of the office and out of your grasp because we will be in…

STRAT OPS!

(I know, I know. When Mack first announced it, I was desperately hoping for Hawaii, too).

Better Than Hawaii! (If you hate sun, sand, surf, and fruity drinks with umbrellas)

Okay, so it’s no island paradise, but we actually are really excited for this chance to take this time away and make good on something we promised ourselves to do: treat Mack Web like a client.

It’s been a goal that we’ve been working toward (with no little success) for the last year or so but, as with every client, it’s time to move on to the next phase of our growth.

Even though we’ve been around now for ten (that’s right, count ‘em: ten) years, the company has undergone such an evolution in the last 12 (er…16) months, that we really felt like we were re-setting the clock.

(Which is not going to stop us from having a celebratory blow-out worthy of the decade mark later this year).

So, appropriate to the re-genesis, we set some goals for ourselves last spring and we’ve spent a good part of the last year really trying to accomplish them.

The return on that investment has been beyond what we expected and, if we’ve talked a lot about it, it’s only because we’re so giddy-happy with the results of what started, essentially, as an experiment. A well-conceived, carefully-considered, painstakingly-researched experiment, but an experiment nonetheless.

Mad Science

That experiment, of course, was a little thing we like to call…Innovation Friday.

If you’ve worked with us, heard of us, chatted with us at all, you probably know a thing or two about Innovation Friday.

From 12-5 (almost) every Friday, we stop checking our email or answering our phone. We bar the doors and sequester ourselves in our offices with a plentiful stash of paper, smelly markers, and chocolate, and go about the business of making Mack Web the company that we want it to be.

This takes different shapes based on the stage of evolution we’re in at the time.

Sometimes we get to laugh and dream and throw candy wrappers and get a little high off fruit-scented markers and indulge our inner creatives.

Sometimes we just take the time to offer kudos, air grievances and frustrations, secretly psychoanalyze each other, and really, truly communicate.

Sometimes we have to knuckle down and slog through the hard, painful, punctilious work of sorting out the details of the model we want to build.

Every time we learn new things, whether from Mack, from each other, from our industry idols, or from our interactions with you lovely people in our community.

No matter what kind of Friday it is, the overarching aim is always the same: a sacred time and space where we can focus on us, so that we can

a) become this company that we’re proud to be part of and
b) become the version of our company best able to serve our clients.

What’s coming up this week is just a continuation in that grand tradition of deliberate growth and cultivation. (Including, but not limited, to the unquestionable cornucopia of comestibles).

Egg? Chicken?

Our Mack, in case you hadn’t picked up on it, spends a lot of time pondering ways to guide Mack Web Solutions down the path that our love of just, plain old doing things right necessitates.

It’s a beautiful trait of hers and one that we, her (almost always) adoring employees appreciate. But there comes a time when even one so grand as Our Boss Lady doesn’t have the knowledge or resources to carry on alone.

So when she was setting resolutions for the company this year, she laid out, in black and white, that she would not be afraid to ask for help.

She has followed through on that in two ways so far this year. First was in bringing in an HR consultant to help us find the right team members (a stunning success so far, but more on that coming soon).

Second, she got in touch with a strategical operations consultant. Which brings us, full circle, back to our plans for summer vacation.

(And to the ever-unresolvable question: Did our desire for excellence lead us to Strat Ops or did Strat Ops feed our desire for excellence?)

Operative Strategery

I know, I know. Strat Ops sounds so very espionage-esque (and if I’m harboring secret hopes that our consultant will turn out to be Sydney Bristow in disguise…well, that’s just between you and me), but it’s actually a huge planning session for the future of our company and (indirectly) maybe some of yours, too.

So here’s the nitty gritty:

  • two days
  • six team members
  • one consultant
  • ten years in review
  • three to five years in projection
  • ten brand new smelly markers (it would be a sin to forget those)
  • approximately a metric ton of chips, popcorn, dried mangoes, and various forms of sweet, seductive tooth-rot-in-a-wrapper

That’s the summary.

The long-version involves a lot more heart-to-hearts about dreams and goals, candid talk about roles within in the team, uncomfortable chats about financials, and the laying-out of a concrete strategy for moving forward.

We’ll be re-examining who we are as a company and as individuals in relationship with each other, re-establishing what we do, and re-defining who we do it for.

We’ll be revisiting our mission, vision, and values. We’ll be putting absolutely everything about ourselves under the microscope and seeing what we see.

Behold…

I figure it’s going to end in one of two ways.

  1. Either we’re all going to come out of this thing a collective bundle of paranoid, traumatized neuroses in the throes of a full-blown existential crisis, OR
  2. We’re going to come out better, stronger, faster, with a definite plan for the future.

Obviously, the hope and plan is for the latter.

To that end, we’ll be practicing what we preach and setting the next set of big goals for ourselves.

And from those goals we will be developing a solid, defined strategy that will sustain and accelerate the momentum we’ve been building this year.

Because THE GOAL, the big daddy of what we want to accomplish, remains unchanging:

We want to help companies who align with our values and culture to build their brands and their communities and to accomplish big goals for their businesses.

(Also, we want to discover if it is actually possible to eat your body-weight in gummy bears).

Pardon the Mess

So don’t mind us as we duck out of your lives for a few days. We know it’ll be a wrench, but we have confidence in your ability to get by.

And don’t worry about us too much either. We’re not strangers to change and we’re more than willing to do the hard work.

After all, we constantly tell our clients that you can’t rest on your…laurels…if you want to be great. What kind of company, what kind of people would we be if we didn’t apply that to ourselves?

(Bad, lazy, hypocritical people, on par with those who talk in the theater, that’s what).

But hey, coming soon to a cafe-proximal office near you…the new and improved Mack Web Solutions.

Keep an eye out. You’re gonna like what you see.

(Unless we go with Ending #1. In which case, we’d appreciate it if you call the nice men in the white coats. We won’t be in any state to do it).

 

 

We Are Iron Man: An Introspective Pause, With Popcorn

By | Creativity, Miscellany, Web Marketing | 4 Comments

Just go with it for a minute…

Everybody loves a process. And for good reason. Processes make things clean and simple. They ensure that things don’t get missed, that you can consistently deliver the same proven steps and, hopefully, get the same proven results.

And if you’ve paid attention at all, you know that here at Mack Web Solutions, we really love a good process. We research and test and put the steps together and shuffle them into the optimum arrangement. And then we share them with all you lovely people.

Because in addition to loving processes, we also love helping people.

(And ice cream. We love ice cream almost as much as being helpful and slightly more than processes).

But there is a very important piece to the business of web marketing that we try to keep sight of through all the processing and systematizing that we do.

We call it: The Human Element.

The Man in the Suit. (Which is entirely different from the Man in the Iron Mask).

I’m sure that sitting in a movie theater is hardly the strangest place to have an epiphany.   (We took a poll here in the office and decided that the actual strangest place to have an epiphany would be Disneyland or Six Flags. Because between the overstimulation and the sugar high, who has the concentration for soul searching?)

So, no, a theater isn’t that odd. All kinds of deep and meaningful can happen in a movie:  It’s A Wonderful Life and Shawshank Redemption and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Great Mouse Detective. (What do you mean a talking mouse who tracks down missing people and foils regicide attempts isn’t meaningful? It’s clearly symbology for the mysteries of the cosmos. Just ask Douglas Adams).

An epiphany in a movie theater in the middle of a summer blockbuster (and a sequel, at that) is a little odder.

Nevertheless, an epiphany is what I had, while thoroughly enjoying the charmingly irreverent Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man 3.

It was a very small epiphany but worthy of the name, nevertheless: We are Iron Man.

Without spoiling the movie for you, let me sum up the lesson learned in this third(ish) installment in the franchise:

The fancy (and it is hella fancy) suit isn’t what makes Tony Stark Iron Man. It is Tony Stark who gives the suit its name.

(Or something like that. The movie, entertaining though it was, didn’t do a particularly awesome job at closing all the emotional loops).

But the idea is there, all the same. He needs the suit to do all the high-flying, boat-exploding, damsel-rescuing stuff he does.

But is Robert Downey, Jr. himself…er, I mean, Tony Stark – with his ingenuity, his determination, his charm, and his charisma – who actually drives all of these accomplishments. And even when stripped of the armor, he manages to win the day.

(Uh…that might have been a little bit of a spoiler. Sorry. But it is fairly standard fare for the hero cycle, right?)

Processes are the suit.

So when I say that the Mack Web team is Iron Man, I don’t mean that we’re genius billionaires with alcohol dependencies and a ‘saving people’ thing. What I mean is that we’ve managed to find the balance between the magic suit of awesome and human anima that truly drives progress.

(And we did it without blowing anything up or spiraling into a self-destructive morass of booze and egotism. So take that, Tony Stark).

Yes, we love and use the processes that we’ve developed and we put them front and center in most of our public outings.

But inbound marketing (and Mack Web Solutions, in particular) is about more than the tools. What sits right at the heart of our company and our team is the understanding and knowledge of what we call ‘The Three Rs of the Human Element.’

(Well, sometimes we call them that. Sometimes we just call them, ‘that stuff. Y’know, the good stuff.’ An eloquent bunch here at Mack Web Solutions, I tell you what).

So, the three Rs: Roles, Relationships, and Reasons.

A quick note on the Three Rs.

As we talk about the three Rs, you’ll notice they’re all quite different in how they fit into the big picture. But the thing they have in common, the thing that ties them all together, is that they are all driven by people.

By being a person among people.

Which is the one thing we never want to forget to do. Be a real, live person with a soul who remembers that they live in a world driven by other such people, flawed and fantastic as they are.

So. There. That’s that. Note over. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Roles: Working with the right person.

AKA, If Your Archnemesis Has Developed Regenerative Technology, Make Sure the Guy At Your Back Doesn’t Have an Amputee Grandchild. (A bonus lesson, courtesy of Iron Man).

In most of the internal processes we’ve developed and shared, there is at least one portion that deals with assembling and training your team. Getting the necessary buy-in and priming them for success.

The Human Element (can you hear the appropriately dramatic echoes?) is an inescapable part of this. Because your team is made up of people, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, enthusiasms, and prejudices. And you have to be prepared to make allowances for that simple fact.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t train and educate and motivate and, when necessary, scold.

It does mean that you can’t just arbitrarily assign the roles to people on your team. Just because your 22-year old intern is the only one who knows how to use Facebook doesn’t mean that they should be running your social media.

It means that you need to be deliberate about how you assign the roles on your team. Web marketing has a lot of moving pieces and most of them you shouldn’t hand them out willy-nilly to whoever has a free moment. Instead, figure out who they’re best suited for and then find a way to make the balance work.

Some of that is obvious. You don’t ask the girl from whom crayons run away in terror to do your design. You don’t ask the introvert to run your social.

If that means hiring more people or different people, then that’s what you do.

That’s the dream anyway. To be able to maneuver the exact right people into the exact right positions.

But drastic personnel shifts aren’t the only, or even the first, solution.

Take the time to approach the team as if they were real people. Explain what you hope to accomplish with inbound marketing. Take the time to tie it to your real company goals. Don’t hesitate to offer training and time to get up to speed.

Be a person among people.

(See how that ties in? Nifty, right?)

Relationships: Much like Soylent Green, the Internet is people.

AKA, If Your Flying Suit-Robot Mistakenly Crashes You in the Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee, It’s Not a Good Idea to Alienate the Weirdly Tech-Savvy Kid With the Potato Gun.

This one is kind of a duh to anyone who’s been paying attention to the recent trends in search. Automated link building and mechanical SEO aren’t enough.

To really harness the power of the Internet, you need to capture the hearts and minds of the people who surf it.

This means reaching out both on and offline to the influencers in your industry. If they know you and like you and respect you as a person representing your brand, they’re a lot more likely to share and promote your stuff, wielding their influence on your behalf.

They’re also a lot more likely to share their wisdom and insight with you. Almost as if you were a friend or a mentee or something. Crazy, no?

It also means knowing what drives the people in your customer base audience. What do they really want from you? What resources are missing from the vast cacophony of the Internet? What is about you and your brand that calls a response from them?

You know how you find out honest answers to those questions? You develop relationships with the actual people who buy your product or use your service. And then you ask them.

And how do you develop these relationships? Be a person, of course. Be transparent, be enthusiastic, be humble, be generous. Take the time to listen as well as talk. Put yourself in their shoes and then act accordingly.

(But don’t forget to give the shoes back. Nobody wants to be friends with the guy who left them barefoot in the mud).

See how that works?

Reasons: Find the Why.

AKA, You May Have Built Suit Number One to Rescue Yourself from Afghanistan, But Once You Get to Suit Number Forty-Five, There’s Clearly Something Else At Work.

This is probably the single most important factor of The Human Element.

It’s not enough to go from day-to-day, following the processes, and reacting to everything that comes your way.

If you really want to do the inbound marketing (or, really, anything) right, you have to figure out why you care. What part of it is exciting to you? What do you want to do? What stirs your soul?

As many wise souls have pointed out, it can’t just be about the money.

It needs to be about more than building the tools you need in the moment.

You need to have some bigger vision, some overarching goal to drive you forward. Otherwise, you’ll always lag a step behind.

When the big names in, well, just about any industry talk about their journey to success, they rarely talk about the individual products they developed.

They don’t wax lyrical about the killer app they built (or discovered) and how it inspired them. They don’t talk about their fantastic breakthrough in spreadsheet usage.

They talk about their vision, about the world they wanted to help build, about the lessons learned, about the characteristics they developed in and of themselves.

These human lessons are what drove their successes.

But more importantly, if you don’t understand the why of what you’re doing, you’ll probably go nuts.

As someone who has been here at Mack Web Solutions for a while, through the internal testing of a lot of the processes and systems we use and share…let me tell you this, quite frankly: if I didn’t believe in where we were going, I probably would have quit in the middle.

Ironing out processes, shifting gears, backing up to see the bigger picture: this stuff can hurt. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, and you’ll spend some time feeling like a failure.

Without a clear destination in sight, the journey itself can be enough to make you turn around and go home.

So, figure out the why.

And then share that why with your team, with your customers, with your community. Your genuine passion and enthusiasm will be what draws them to you and sparks their interest.

You Are More Than an Arc Reactor.

So, that’s it, really. My rambling, ranting little reminder of why summer blockbusters about handsome, muscular, egotistic men with savant-like knowledge of robotics and an arsenal of quips are relevant to life.

Because they remind us that it’s not the tools that define us. It’s the spark of ingenuity and the ability to dream big for the future, the ability to connect with other living souls, that makes us great.

So, find your inner genuis, billionare, playboy philanthropist.

And then remind yourself: I. Am. Iron Man.

 

The Real Speakers of SearchLove Boston 2013

By | Building Community, Events | One Comment

Seated on the shoulders of giants

As we may have mentioned once or twice (a week), our very own Mack will be heading off to Boston in May to speak at Distilled’s SearchLove conference. We’re almost excruciatingly proud of her and ridiculously excited about the event.

As we’ve been preparing for Mack’s imminent and inevitable stardom, we’ve spent some time pondering the ranks she is soon to join. Some of the biggest names in our industry will be speaking at this conference and we took a little bit of time to bask in our awe and their reflected glory.

And then we realized how much time we spend thinking of them as giants and superheroes and how easy it is to forget the actual people behind the names.

As we’ve reflected on the journey our company has undertaken to get Mack to where she soon will be, we realized that all of our idols have gone on similar questions, fought their way through similar struggles, and come out victorious.

Oh, the humanity!

Which is why our homework for SearchLove this year was less about delving into the accomplishments and assorted accolades of the pantheon of speakers and more about celebrating the smart, human people whose drive and determination have earned them not just our hero worship, but our genuine respect.

Soppy, we know. But truth is truth.

So, with the cooperation of those same folks, we present to you this little look behind the curtain. We asked them each to answer two simple questions to give us some insight into the people they are. They were gracious enough to reply.

What follows is the web marketing equivalent of a glimpse of Bruce Wayne at his leisure, lounging around the manor in his jim-jams, eating PopTarts and playing MarioKart.

Speakers of SearchLove Boston 2013, we salute you in all your real, live person amazingness.

Thanks for sharing.

Mike Blumenthal

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
Besides cooking and eating, it would be biking or cross country skiing with my wife. We live 20 minutes from Allegany State Park and some of the best cross country skiing on the east coast. Both biking and skiing give me the sense of “cheating” nature by overcoming gravity. When the snow is good and the wax is just right, you can get a glide that feels like flying.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Having grown up in a dysfunctional family of the 50’s and 60’s I somehow had lost sight of a career dream and all I wanted was to be in a normal family. I am not sure that it helped when I learned though that no family is normal…

Check out Mike Blumenthal’s blog.

Will Critchlow

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
My world outside work is increasingly about family these days. I’ve known my wife since college. We got together right after college and got married in 2008. Our daughter was born in 2010 and our son last year.

In activity terms, though, my top non-work, non-family thing is playing basketball. I’ve played since I was 11. Our high school was unusual for the UK in having basketball as a big focus. We went to the national semi-finals twice. I played in college (to give you an idea of that standard, our very best players were bench or walk-on players for D1 schools in the US previously). Now I play for a team in London in the London Metropolitan Premier league (the top regional league below the national leagues). My basketball claim to fame is guarding Steve Bucknall who now plays in our league.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I wanted to be an inventor or an astronaut. I used to sketch all kinds of weird inventions – I remember a powered skateboard. We took my daughter to the London Science Museum for her 3rd birthday last week and she was transfixed by the space exhibit. She met a real-life female Russian cosmonaut and now wants to go into space too. Maybe we’ll get to go one day.

Learn more about Will Crichtlow, in his own words.

Annie Cushing


What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
My fave activity outside of work – aside from spending time with my family (duh) – is shoe shopping. Moar shooz!!!

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor. Until I worked as a candy striper and saw how depressed people were in hospitals.

Find out more about Annie Cushing.

John Doherty

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
I have many activities that I enjoy outside of work, so it’s almost impossible to pick just one. My favorites all involve being outdoors, whether that’s riding my bike around Brooklyn, skiing, rock climbing, or camping.

Often I’m able to combine one of these with my other favorite pastime, which is travel. I’m fortunate to be able to travel a lot and can often do so for one of my activities. Recently I was in Colorado skiing, which was my first time skiing in the Rockies. Previous to that I had only skied on the east coast of the US and in Switzerland and France, where I used to live.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a middle schooler, and even into the first couple years of high school, I wanted to become a doctor. My focus was to be cardiology, so I was fascinated by the human heart and how it works. I remember dissecting animal hearts when I was young to find out how they worked (this was a perk of being homeschooled).

Once I got a bit further into my education, though, I realized that a) I hated science, and b) I would have to do at least 8-10 years more of school after undergrad to become a doctor. I decided it wasn’t for me and pursued writing instead. I’m glad I did!

Check out John Doherty’s blog.

Rand Fishkin

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
Actually, I have three (at least right now)

  1. Laying my head on Geraldine’s lap on our couch while watching AdventureTime
  2. Visiting the cornucopia of magical, hipster restaurants in Portland in preparation for our PDX office opening
  3. Heading to Ashland, OR (where we got married) and seeing a play in the OSF’s Elizabethan theatre

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Originally, a dog. Dogs are surprisingly awesome in a lot of ways, so I told my parents that was my goal. Then I found out that’s not how growing up works, so I switched to biology, with a specific focus on rainforest frogs. Imagine my dismay when I found out that rainforests are humid! (FYI – I hate heat+humidity). That’s probably what drove me to the marketing world. 🙂

Get to know Rand Fishkin a little bit better.

Mackenzie Fogelson

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
When I’m not working, I really love being outside. And with summer time right around the corner (my most favorite time of year), I’m looking forward to outdoor concerts, bar-b-ques, going to the pool, and spending time with friends.

Before we had kids, my husband Jon and I used to hike and mountain bike a lot during the summer. Now that we have a 2 1/2 and a 5 year old, we have been learning to adjust our expectations a little bit, but still enjoy all the things we love here in Colorado. We’re just starting to get the kids into hiking. We have one rule: no complaining. That goes for adults, too.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was in the eighth grade, I got 100% on an anatomy test where we had to name all the bones in the body. I still remember coming home from school that day and telling my mom and dad that I was going to be a doctor. Seeing as I’m pretty bad at math, don’t have a knack for science, and am not so crazy about puke and blood, I’m glad I became an entrepreneur.

Get to know our own Mack Fogelson a little bit better.

Ross Hudgens

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
My favorite thing to do is hang out with my awesome girlfriend, Melissa. We’re normally going out to happy hours, enjoying the sun on a hike or a patio (we used to live in Seattle), or watching San Francisco-area sports teams (where I was raised).

As a close second I greatly enjoy Crossfit, which is somewhat of a cult these days. It’s a nice substitute in my life for competition where football used to be, which I played in college. Of course, that SEO stuff is tough too!

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a monster truck driver for a time. I used to watch Gravedigger and Bigfoot and think it was soooo cool. That affinity didn’t last for long, though, and was probably one of the most short lived “I want to be x when I grow up” in history.

Check out Ross Hudgens’ blog.

Dr. Pete Meyers

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
With a toddler and an infant, I’m afraid the honest answer is “sleep”, a rare and glorious luxury. Post-40, I find myself turning into a bit of a fitness buff. In 2012, I took on a misguided challenge to do 50,000 push-ups over the course of the year, and was amazed to find that the resolution not only outlived January, but I actually did it. That’s spawned a whole new world of dangerous obsessions. My ultimate goal – the one-hand-clapping push-up.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Green Lantern. I’m still working on that one.

Get to know Dr. Pete Meyers a little better.

Kate Morris

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
Crossfit. When I met my boyfriend almost three years ago, we talked about Crossfit on our first date. Our third date was him actually taking me to a Crossfit class. People in the class thought he was crazy for making it a date, but I think we are both a little insane. A few months later I started working out at a gym near me and been going for over 2 years now. We are not a standard Crossfit, we focus more on strength than most. I can deadlift 257 lbs and squat 220 lbs.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
A marine biologist. I had a serious love for marine life, and even though I was a bad swimmer (I was bad at anything physical as a kid), I really wanted to work with those animals. So I had the thought to join the Navy maybe (I am an Army brat) and go that way. Alas, I fell in love with business in college and stayed with marketing.

Learn more about Kate Morris.

Phil Nottingham

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of stage combat choreography (theatrical sword fighting), for an upcoming competition in Russia. It’s kind of like a mixture between a sport and a performance discipline and I really enjoy the mix of physical skill and creative flair required to get a fight looking good.

The stage combat community are also a fantastic bunch to hangout with, so all fitness gained through wielding a rapier is fairly quickly counteracted with several pints in the pub.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I’ve wanted to do everything at some point in time during my childhood. Like all boys between the ages of 4 and 8, I wanted to be a superhero.

Then I wanted to be a professional footballer until the age of about 10. I think I then went through a phase of wanting to be a historian, and then from about the age of 14 to 18 I was very serious about becoming an actor until I decided that directing was more fun.

Find out a little bit more about Phil Nottingham.

Rob Ousbey

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
My favorite thing? Tough. I could say that I enjoy hacking together MVPs of startup ideas. I could say that living in Seattle has been wonderful because I can go hiking on the coast, on a volcano or even in a rainforest.

I could also admit how much I love playing boardgames, and am now working on designing my own.

But honestly, all that’s changed in the last year, because my favorite thing now to is hang out with my wife and son. He’s just turned 1 year old, and it’s like we get to rediscover what the first years of our life were like, all over again.

Each day it’s more fun to hang out with him, since he keeps learning how to do & say more hilarious things.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
The first thing I ever wanted to be was a radio presenter, from when I was 3 years old. Then I wanted to be a magician, then in the circus, and then I wanted to be a pilot. Then I wanted to be a lawyer, then an engineer, and then a radio presenter again.

The only one I ever achieved was being a radio presenter, but I still enjoy doing the occasional magic trick when the mood is right.

Get to know a little bit more about Rob Ousbey.

Neil Patel

What is your favorite activity to do outside of work?
I love partying with my friends…I’m a big believer that you should work hard and play hard.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Doctor.

Learn more about Neil Patel.

The curtain falls

And so we withdraw and leave Batman to his own amusements.

We’ve certainly enjoyed the little insights that these fantastic human beings were willing to share with us. (And we’re a bit saddened that the siren song of Search has deprived the world of so many potential doctors. And the occasional dog. Sad for the world, maybe, but happy for us).

We’re looking forward to the chance to spend some time when these phenomenal people and we hope to see you there, too. Let us know if you have any questions for them.

We can’t promise they’ll answer, but we can promise we’ll pass them along.

Also, as a point of interest…what’s your favorite not-work activity and what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

 

Our Little Girl is All Grown Up…and Speaking at Search Love Boston

By | Events, Miscellany | 2 Comments

Something to celebrate

In honor of the day, we Mack Web folks decided to send out a little love…to one of our own.

It may surprise you to know that we here at Mack Web Solutions do not actually conduct our lives as a non-stop party.

I know, I know. We just exude an aura of constant revelry, but the truth is…we are actually serious people conducting serious business.

Ha! Yeah, I couldn’t even keep a straight face typing that. We try to have a good time and we usually succeed.

That being the case, you can bet that when there’s an actual reason to party…we do.

Congratulations, Mack!

One of the strongest messages we send as a web marketing company is that your content should only be about 20% self-promotion or back-patting, but we also think you need to celebrate your wins.

Which is why the rest of the company is taking this chance to sincerely congratulate (and let the rest of the world know that we are sincerely congratulating) Mackenzie Fogelson AKA EponyMack AKA Our Fearless Leader for being selected as a speaker at the upcoming SearchLove Boston Conference.

In case you aren’t aware, SearchLove is a conference that Distilled, an international online marketing company, hosts yearly. They are pretty amazing.

(For more information on the conference, scroll allllllll the way down. (We could just link to it again here, but…we think you should read the post first. Not that we’re biased or anything).).

This is a goal Mack set for herself and our company less than a year ago. (Seriously. Remember this Twitter post from back in the day? That marks the start date of her tireless campaign to get here.) We are incredibly excited and amazed to see it come to fruition so soon.

Nothing says “well done” like confectionry.

Knowing Mack, she’ll probably be putting together a thoughtful post reflecting on the road she traveled to SearchLove and the ways in which that journey validates our company philosophies (which it does, fyi).

But that’s a post for the future. This is a post for unabashed self-congratulation.

And also cake. See, here, Mack’s celebratory cake:

And see, also, Mack’s face upon receiving said cake:

(Not an actual depiction. In case you were wondering).

‘Nuff said

Aaaaaand, that’s pretty much it. Like we said, the whole point of the post was blatant congratulations, so that’s what we’re doing:

Yay Mack! Yay team! Yay SearchLove! Yay cupcakes!

(And if you don’t think a cupcake counts as a party…well…I have nothing to say to you. Clearly you fail to understand the cosmic importance of cupcakes).

Go see Mack (and other people) speak

Here’s the vital stats, if you’re interested in witnessing Mack’s triumph first hand:

Where: Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, Boston
When: May 20-21, 2013
Cost: $699 (basic ticket), $999 (fancy ticket, bonus content, etc).

That’s the basics. For more information or actual ticket purchase, go talk to Distilled about the SearchLove Boston. They know what’s what.

 

Writing for the Web: Not as Hard as You Think

By | Uncategorized, Web Marketing | No Comments

Quick tips for a (sadly) essential skill.
Not unlike tying your shoes, writing for the web is simultaneously simpler and trickier than you think it is. (Don’t mock. The whole “around the tree” thing still baffles me. Rabbit ears all the way).

someecards.com - Learn to tie your shoelaces. Because you really need to quit trippin.

It’s like not-web-writing in a lot ways, but the main difference is your approach to your audience. A web audience is typically going to give you a lot less grace and patience. The nature of the internet is dynamic and quick; no one wants to linger on a single blog post.

With the preponderance of stuff on the internet, especially spurred on by rise of content marketing, this particular skill is more important than ever.

The simple solution, of course, is to outsource your web writing to people who already know this stuff. It’s a perfectly valid strategy. Here at Mack Web, we tend to split the duties 50/50 with our clients. We encourage them, as the true experts on their products, services, industries, and company cultures, to be involved in their content generation.

We usually get pretty good results this way. And, through trial and error, we’ve managed to figure out the most-encountered sticking points.

Now it’s time to get unstuck.

No need to re-invent the wheel.
The thing is, of course, that this writing-for-the-web-stuff is a topic that has been covered by…just about everyone ever. I’m pretty sure that if you go check out the Lascaux cave paintings, some of them will turn out to be the correct formatting and focus for web writing. It’s a practical topic on which nearly everyone is allowed their own opinion. (Which, in a fun meta-twist, makes it nearly perfect for blog dissertations).

Probably the best of these was done by Distilled just a few weeks ago. It goes pretty in-depth on the research, the value, the process, and even the formatting of writing for the web. It’s a good read and it’s more comprehensive than what I’m doing here. I recommend that you check it out if you’re one of those curious types who likes to, y’know, know things.

That said, if you’re a Mack Web client (or if you work with an agency that operates similarly to ours), you may not actually need to know all of those things for yourself. We tend to do a lot of the prep work on your behalf.

If we’re releasing you into the wilds of blog world, we should have outfitted you well with things like audience, purpose, outreach, guiding questions, and maybe even some keywords.

So what follows here isn’t the whole guidebook. Guidebooks give you the entire history of the place and its chief imports and exports and the obscure species of fish you might find if you decide to go snorkeling.

This is just the highlights, the quick tips and guidelines like “don’t forget to lace up your hiking boots” and “don’t walk your dog near standing water unless you want to provide a tasty canine treat to the alligators.”

These are a) the most important tips to remember when writing for the web and b) the ones we find ourselves repeating most often when we’re helping out our clients.

1. Put the first things first. And in the middle. And last.
Before you get started, do make sure that you know the audience and purpose of the post. Even if you’re not the one doing the research, please review the data and keep that in mind as you’re writing it.

With every point that you include in the post, check back to make sure that it relates to your central idea and that it applies to the audience you’re writing for.

In other words, if you’re writing a post with tips for house-training a pet monkey, don’t go off on a tangent about the history of circuses in the early 1900s. Your audience doesn’t really care about how much canvas they used to make the big top. They just want their bonobo to stop leaving them ‘presents’ in their shoes.

2. Start strong. End in triumph.
Your introduction is important. There are approximately a kajillion blogs and websites out there. Nobody has time to read them all. You need to give them a reason to spend the next ten to fifteen minutes reading yours.

Your opening doesn’t have to be long or epic. But it does need to catch and keep their attention. Otherwise, they’re going to bounce off your site and hit up Pinterest instead.

(And really, pep talk aside, who can blame them? Where else can you find this stuff:

Source: lolchamp.com via 3milly on Pinterest

).

The recommendation that I find myself giving over and over is that your intro can go one of two ways:

A) It can be so spectacularly interesting, intriguing, funny, or bizarre that it practically compels attention, even if it’s a little off-topic. My high school journalism teacher once went absolutely gaga over an article that started with, “There’s a killer lurking in our halls.” The article was about the ridiculously ginormous wasps that had infested the art building, but that opening got a lot more attention than “The administration would like all students to steer clear of the east wing.”

(No, I didn’t write the article. In high school I mostly interviewed my friends and made up crossword puzzles. There’s a reason I didn’t go into journalism).

B) It can immediately address your audience’s pain points. “Are you tired of your monkey crapping in your favorite shoes?” or “No one wants to find monkey droppings in the dishwasher.”  Quick, direct, and attention-grabbing all the same.

The way you close the post is also important. You’ve relayed your information. Now what do you want them to do about it?

Sometimes you’re going to have a specific page you want them to visit or a contest you want them to enter.

Maybe you’ve got more information on your Google+ profile or you want them to share their tips and tricks or even horror stories on monkey potty-training.

End with something that encourages engagement of some kind, something that prompts a response.

3. Style does matter.
I’m not going to overdo it on the formatting rules, but here’s the down and dirty:

  • digestible chunks: no huge block paragraphs,
  • interesting, informative, and frequent headings,
  • if you can manage it, break it up your sections with some relevant graphics, and
  • smooth transitions from one point to the next.

4. Try not to be boring.
I tried to think of a nicer way to say that, but…then I didn’t.

Oh well.

The point stands.

The truth is that sometimes, depending on your industry, you’re going to be writing about some fairly technical or serious things. You don’t want those posts to be overly goofy or even chatty. You can’t always use a charming or informal voice. (Although, if and when you can, do).

What you can do, is read what you’ve written out loud before you post it. Are there sentences that you fall asleep or lose your way in? Does it sound like something someone would actually say or does it sound like jargon or promotional mumbo jumbo?

It is absolutely possible to write like an actual person without losing your professionalism or your credibility. Hold onto that belief, set it as a standard, and you’re going to do just fine.

5. Avoid those things up with which we shall not put.
Which is my somewhat perverse way of saying: mind your grammar, kids.

This is another one of those things that should go without saying and yet…no one ever seems to go without saying it. So here’s me, saying it: check your grammar, check your spelling, check your punctuation. You’ll find that reading your post out loud is going to help you with that too.

And that’s all, folks.
Seriously, that’s pretty much it. There’s a lot of rules about writing and web writing. There are probably classes you can take and lots more tips and tricks out there. Most of them are good and useful and excellent. Guidebooks, right?

This is just the stuff we thought you should know. To keep your dog from getting eaten by an alligator, y’know?

Are there things you struggle with that we didn’t cover? What is your pet web writing peeve? Let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

 


 

2012 In All Its Glory (Mack Web’s year in review)

By | Social Media, Uncategorized, Web Marketing | No Comments

A good news/bad news situation.
Here’s the good news, friends: The world didn’t end in 2012.

Image Credit: Radio Shack

You’ve probably noticed that by now yourselves. If not, take a look out the window. No meteors. No zombie pandemic. No alien invasion. No cataclysmic crash into a previously parallel dimension.

(If that has changed between the time we posted this and the time you’re reading it, we are so, so sorry. Best of luck to you and your kith and kin).

Here’s the bad news: The world didn’t end in 2012.

Since the Mayans got it wrong (or just found themselves in need of a new calendar. Not that I’m criticizing. I mean, hey! my Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog calendar only lasted 12 months. Theirs was far more impressive than that), that means there’s still a future that must be planned for, bills that must be paid, holiday pounds that must be shed.

Sigh.

To avoid that terrible fate for just a little bit longer, let’s take a moment to review the splendor of the year that’s just passed.

And what better place to look for splendor than right here at Mack Web Solutions?

Our year has been a delightful, caffeine-fueled roller-coaster of change, growth, and what my mother would call “character-building experiences.” The one thing we’ve tried to keep consistent is our determination to be open with our friends and clients, to share our knowledge freely, to maintain an indomitable sense of humor, and to be ever better than the day before.

And if that’s not some kind of splendid, I don’t know what it is.

That being the case, we felt that an appropriate way to honor this fading year (and distract ourselves from the terror, er, anticipation of the year to come) was to remember some of our favorite blog posts and also bask in the glory of our year.

(Since the blog is the showcase for the openness, knowledge, humor, better-ness, etc. Get it?)

So without further ado, I present: Mack Web Solution’s Lucky Seven Top Blog Posts of 2012.

1. We’re Celebrating Something BIG

To start with, a bit of ancient history. Technically, this post is from way back in 2011, but we’re including it here anyway. Deal with it.

No, actually, we think it still counts as a promo for this year for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s the kick-off of a blog series that extended into the early months of 2012.

Second, said series was all a teaser for an event that occurred in 2012.

And finally, that event was Mack Web Solutions’ first (official) step into the brave new world we’ve been exploring this year. We re-branded the company, revamped our approach, and re-packaged our services. If we’re truly dedicating this particular post to the benchmarks of the year, the infamous Iceberg post of 2011 counts.

There isn’t too much else to say about the Something Big series. In a way, they seem to contradict our company policy of value, value, value, everything must have value. But what these seven posts really exemplify is how effective a blog can be in your outreach. We got an overwhelming response from this series and people were avidly watching to see just what was going to change.

Mission accomplished.

2. SEO 101: Some Tools & Tips for Web Marketing Newbies (Now with Monkeys!)

Fast forward a few months. Things are going well with our new corporate identity and philosophies. We’re building relationships and filling information gaps and doing all the things that we always tell other people to do.

Which brings us to this post. We got a request from a friend of ours that we put together a super basic SEO resource for inquisitives who really want to understand more about SEO, but may be more a part of that do-it-your-self-er group.

Certainly it’s not an original request but, as our approach is rather unique, we decided it was worth doing. This particular post hits all of our marks for value: it’s informative and interesting, it has a good voice, and it fulfills a need in our community.

Also, it introduces Marshall the Monkey Man. (Who is fictional, by the way. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is yada yada yada).

All kinds of win.

3. The Comprehensive(ish) Guide to Google+ Hangouts

This is another one that received a lot of positive feedback. Like the SEO 101 post, it’s a fantastic example of straightforward value. We took a relatively new tool and broke it down into digestible chunks for our audience. Peers and clients alike could benefit from it.

And, in end, we got to be pirates.

This one belongs in the roster for the year because it shows our growth as a company. This post went live in August, just six months after our dramatic re-branding. By the time we posted it, we felt like we were hitting our stride, confident in our shiny new social media offerings and our fairly prolific posting schedule. We were trying new things, letting our horizons expand, and secure enough to teach a little of what we were learning.

It was kind of like that glorious moment when you start your senior year of high school. You realize that you’ve got the whole “being a teenager” thing down. You’re sure you’ve mastered all that awkward puberty stuff and are ready for the future to bring it.

Ha, how little we knew then.

4. Highways, Backroads, and the Occasional Tire-squealing U-Turn: Mack’s Journey as an Entrepreneur

Of course, we exaggerate. Even in Mack Web’s late adolescent cockiness, the information we provided was good and valid. There were no actual catastrophes looming.

That said…well years of growth and change make the road a little rocky. (Mmmm…now we want ice cream).

Which is why we’ve included this post by our very own eponymous Mack.

In the fall of 2012, Mack was given the chance to speak at an event of female entrepreneurs. It was a pretty awesome experience and she completely nailed it (of course).

But in preparation for that, she put together this incredibly honest and open reflection on the ups and downs of life as the owner and founder of a small business.

As the man says, it’s lonely at the top.

5. Rules & Reasons for Strategic Partnerships

One of the hallmarks for 2012 was our sincere (and successful) attempts at making friends. We’ve really tried to practice what we preach and so we’ve done a lot of outreach and community building among our peers and thought leaders alike.

(Also, we figured…should the world end not with a bang but a long, drawn-out whimper, it would be a good thing to have allies in various places. Just in case we needed a refuge from the descending hordes of locusts or whatnot).

The result of those alliances was this post. Not only does it deal with the topic of forging successful business relationships within your industry, we also consulted some of those friends to help us put it together.

So. Very. Much. Win.

6. Making stuff part of your routine (for better local rankings)

After spending a few months posting on high-faluting, meta topics like entrepreneurial struggles and strategic partnerships, we went back to our roots for this one.

Mack put together a solid post full of practical tips that our clients can use, that our peers can recommend, that everyone can understand.

Plus, it displays our truly excellent (and not at all inebriated) foray into the world of fine art.

7. A tiny task for clients: how you can help with personal outreach

We rounded out the year with this little bid toward business-related New Years’ resolutions. (After all, just in case the world didn’t end, we needed to have something ready for moving forward).

Again, it’s one of our signature posts full of actionable, field-tested information that appeals to just about anybody who wants their business to succeed online. Since that includes both our clients and our industry, we covered our bases pretty well.

Not to mention Superkitty.

Check ’em out
Of course, this business of choosing the best posts of the year is a tricky and entirely subjective endeavor. We chose them based on a combination of value, entertainment, and their symbolism within our journey this year. We’d love to know if we missed one (or two or twelve) that you particularly liked.

And, we encourage you to read (or re-read) them all anyway. Not only is there a lot of good stuff in there, it’s also an excellent delaying tactic before facing up to the reality that 2013 is  here and the world will keep spinning on indefinitely.

Hooray. Sigh.

 

 

Hats & Fiends: Choosing a Community Manager

By | Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Wheel-Cogs and Puzzle Pieces and the Like
So, here at Mack Web Solutions we’ve overlooked a rather critical piece in the process of a company’s self-actualization as a web marketing entity.

Now, in our defense, we didn’t overlook it because we were ignorant of the need for this piece. We overlooked it because we have gotten so phenomenally lucky in our acquisition of it that it never occurred to us that it might not be so easy to find.

Thoroughly confused? Excellent.

The piece we’re talking about, you see, is June. (Smile and wave, June. All eyes are on you).

June Macon, Community Manger, Social Media, Strategist

June.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, June Macon is Mack Web Solutions’ community manager. (And social media strategist and sometime project manager and frequent comic relief).

Not June.

Of course, all those hats means that we’ve actually broken one of the cardinal rules of selecting a community manager. Which is rather embarrassing, considering there’s really only two.

But more on those in a minute. First, a more fundamental question.

 What is a community manager?

I am so glad you asked. Your community manager is the person primarily responsible for your company’s online presence.

They manage your social media accounts, review and share the blogs and social pages of your industry thought leaders, and oversee the distribution of your content.

Fancy talk, but what it boils down to is that they spend their time checking a lot of blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and the like. They read, respond, and reshare anything of value they find.

They are also responsible for making sure any of your blog posts, infographics, videos, or company announcements reach the virtual world in the most efficient and relevant way.

So, in other words, your community manager, uh, manages your community.

Sounds fun, huh?

The truth is that it can be, but that leads us back around to those two simple, but cardinal, rules.

Rule #1: Pick someone who actually likes social stuff.
It sounds like a ‘duh,’ but the truth is that there are a lot of people out there who are quite good with socializing and quite bad at social media.

You can’t just grab a random person out of your IT or PR staff and thrust them into the social universe. (Well, you can, but you probably won’t much like the results).

Try to find someone who already knows most of the ins and outs of things like Twitter or Google+. There must be at least one person on your staff who has a blog or a Twitter handle. That one person is probably who you want to start with.

Someone who already likes and does not fear the social realm is far more likely to be an effective ambassador to the Disparate Republics of Internetesia.

Because the truth is that, though they may deny it, many, many people find the idea of tweeting or commenting or Hangouting rather intimidating. And not unlike dogs and kindergarteners…the internet can smell fear.

So find someone who is actually willing to give it the ol’ college try. (Whatever that actually means. It’s kinda up there with “to boot” for baffling phraseology).

social media meme

Kinda June.

Rule #2: Pick someone who actually has the time.
Being a community manager is a whole lot of work. While the description may sound suspiciously like “sitting on your duff, browsing the internet”, managing an online community requires a real time commitment and a targeted determination.

So heaping that particular burden…er…delight on someone who already has a demanding job is both counterproductive and rather unkind.

(Unless, of course, they are a superwhiz like Our June. Then it’s more a statement of admiration for her general awesomeness).

Just to get an idea of what we’re talking about with this, here’s a brief glimpse of what June’s daily community manager grind looks like:

9:00 am: Arrive in office. Exchange pleasantries with co-workers. Turn on computer.

9:03-11:00 am: Work like a fiend.

11:01 am: Take a deep breath.

11:02 am – 5:00 pm: Mostly do client stuff, while checking in with our community as necessary. Occasionally, there’s lunch. (And with June, frequently there are snacks. Many, many snacks).

Rinse. Repeat.

Twitter meme

Also kinda June.

Working like a fiend
In all seriousness though, in that one to two hour interval, June’s actual task list is broad but variable, depending on whether or not it’s a “post day.”

(Post days, just to clarify, are days where the Mack Web team is putting out a new blog post).

But post day or no post day, her routine usually looks a little something like this:

  • Facebook: check our wall, check our newsfeed. Engage, comment, like, respond. Search for content to share. If found, share.
  • Twittercheck for engagement (direct messages or responses), respond. Search the stream for content to share. If found, retweet or create a tweet with link, hashtags, and clever teaser. 
  • Google+: check for engagement, respond. Search for content to share on the stream. If found, share. (Are you sensing a theme, here?)
  • LinkedIn: check her personal profile & groups. Look for content to share. If found, share. Check the company profile. Share content.
  • Check news headlines. Yahoo News, Mashable, etc. Look for content to share. If found, share. 
  • Check our friends’ blogs. Comment, respond, engage. Look for content to share. If found, share.

While she’s checking these many outlets, she’s also keeping an eye out for fun ideas we can appropriate and repurpose or gaps in the general knowledge of the community that we can fill.

On top of all that, on a post day, she drafts specific content teasers for our various outlets and audiences.

She also oversees the preparation of things like pushing our content live and post-specific email marketing.

And here at Mack Web…we pretty much have at least one post day a week.

Hence the fiendlike working.

Finding a support system
The beauty of belonging to a group that specializes in fostering online community is that they’ve created a rather lovely online community you can join to gain inspiration and indulge in a little commiseration.

If you have been honored with an appointment to the Noble Order of Community Managers, there are ways to find and connect with your brethren.

For example:

  • Mashable has created a category specifically for CMs.
  • You have your very own Twitter hashtag: #CMGR.
  • There are websites specifically created and populated just for you and your topics of concern, the aptly named The Community Manager and My Community Manager. 
That last one, by-the-by, once named Our June Community Manager of the Day and hosts Google+ Hangouts that Our Same June frequently attends.
  • You even have your very own Community Manager Day. (An honor previously only held by Mothers and Fathers. And Grandparents. And Teachers. And Secretaries. And Veterans. And Presidents. And Flags. And St. Patrick).

The point being…you’re not alone. Hook up with your peers and celebrate your not-aloneness.

Get the picture?
So, in essence, June’s job is to keep Mack Web Solutions active and relevant in the wide world of the interwebs. It takes a lot of work and a lot of smiling and a lot of communication both internal and external. And, apparently, rather a lot of snacks.

How did you select your community manager? What other characteristics would you take into consideration?

The Comprehensive(ish) Guide to Google Hangouts

By | Social Media, Web Marketing | 2 Comments

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –

Skype and Google+ and GoToMeeting, oh my!

With the wealth of video-conferencing-esque applications out there, it can be difficult to know which one to choose.

So, in a brief flurry of tyranny that may just cause the Founding Fathers (dedicated as they were to freedom and choice and the like) to roll over in their graves, we’re gonna just go ahead and make that decision for you: Google+ Hangouts.

So there it is. Now you can worry less about that particular choice and go back to worrying about more important decisions like careers and elections and which Doctor you prefer in the spectrum of Doctor Who. (I’m a Nine/Ten girl personally).

But seriously, kids…

All joking aside, Google+ Hangouts are pretty excellent for their sheer versatility. They allow you a number of different audiences and outlets and fun! fancy! features!

Google+ Hangouts can be public or private, they can be an ephemeral experience or eternally immortalized on YouTube, they can be posted on your website or your Google+ profile, and, if you really, really want, they can make you a pirate.

No lie.

Sounds exciting but kinda vague, right?

So here’s the vital stats: Google Hangout is a tool that allows you to bring up to 10 people (yourself, as the host, included) into a video conference space. You have the option of making it an invite-only party or throwing wide the gates and drawing in the first 9 people interested in participating in your intriguingly-named discussion. Or somewhere in between, really.

These meet-ups can go as long as someone is interested. (Even if the host leaves, everyone else can carry on. So you can use it for a three-minute screenshare (yeah, did we mention screenshares?) or for a virtual filibuster.

(Athough, like a filibuster, proof of life is required. You’ll get prodded to check for continued existence every two and a half hours. Which is, frankly, a longer break than Jimmy Stewart got).

(Okay, my undying admiration and respect would go to anyone who re-enacts famous filibusters on Google Hangouts. Any takers?)

If, at the outset, you decide you want a record of your glorious gathering, all you have to do is check a little box that says “Enable Hangouts on Air” and you can record the thing and embed it on your site or YouTube for the benefit of generations immemorial.
Nifty, no?

Of course, there’s all kinds of tips and tricks that are best discovered by fiddling (though we’ll fill you in on a few as we get into the details. After all, we promised you piratehood, right?)

The only catch is that you have to have a Google+ account. And so does everyone you want to join in. Which is, honestly, not that bad. They’re free, after all. And besides, it’s not just engineers anymore. All the cool kids are joining Google+.

General Usefulness of Google+ Hangouts

There are as many uses for Google+ Hangouts as your imagination can, uh, imagine:

  • bringing together your friends or family from various corners of the globe for video chats
  • setting up introductions for people from different offices
  • any kind of business-related video conferencing (in fact, they’ve integrated hangouts with Gmail and Google Calendar, allowing you to organize and schedule the meetings directly from those forums, and Google Docs, so that you can open and screenshare this stuff in a hangout)
  • webinars
  • pirate reunions (have patience, we’ll get there)
  • filibuster re-enactments (hint, hint)…

Our community manager June likes to hang out with others in the same position and share tips and tricks and general commiseration over their lot in life.

Seriously, give it some thought, play around with it, see what other uses you can come up with.

How the story goes: hanging out on Google

It’s your basic plot: Boy (or Girl) meets social media outlet. Boy (or Girl) discovers all the wonder facets said social media outlet has to offer (including that elusive promise of pirates).

Boy/Girl falls in love with social media outlet. Boy/Girl uses social media outlet to make lots of new friends and accomplish all kinds of tasks. Boy/Girl loses interest in other social media outlets.

Boy/Girl and social media outlet live happily ever after.

At some point, they may get caught in an elevator together.

But here’s the prologue, before this epic tale of adoration begins…Boy/Girl gets a webcam.

We know, we know. It seems self-evident. But sometimes you gotta just be blunt: Hangouts is a video-conferencing application. Video conferencing requires video capability. Video capability = web cam. Ta da!

Thus endeth the prologue and now the story begins. It starts like this:

1. Set up your Google+ account
As previously mentioned, you have to set up your Google+ account. (If you’ve already got a Gmail or some other Google account this is just an add on to that. If you don’t…well, that’s where you start instead).

2. Optimize your profile
Depending on your temperament, this may seem like either a “duh” or a waste of time. Regardless of your personal philosophy, do it anyway. It’s for your own good. Also, it allows you to make full use of all the possibilities Google+ holds.

3. Download the plugin
When you’re all set with that and ready to start hanging out, download the hangout plugin.

TIP: on Macs, at least, once you download, you still have to manually start the application from the download menu. Otherwise, you’re gonna be staring at your computer for 10 minutes, wondering what’s taking so long. Not that anything like that happened to us, supremely knowledgeable beings that we are.

4. Get to hangin’ out
When you’ve got the right tools, you have a coupla options. You can initiate your own hangout, join a public hangout, or respond to a hangout invitation.

a. Initiating Your Own: In approximately 30 kajillion places on your Google+ there is a “Start a Hangout” button.

Click it. It will take you to a screen that allows you to either invite specific people, make your hangout accessible just to your circles, or make your hangout public.

Then you must name your hangout. Not like Angus or Arthur or Winifred. Something that will clue people into what kind of hangout you’re hosting. Word to the wise: This name is publicly visible. Keep it clean, friends.

It is on this same blessed screen that you get the option of enabling your Google Air (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and starting your online legacy and changing your Options to restrict minors or set a preferred language.

b. Joining a Public Hangout:
In the left column of your Google+ profile, there is a Hangouts icon. Click on it and it will show you a selection of current public hangouts, old Google Air hangouts to watch, and featured hangouts.

c. Responding to a Hangout Invitation:
This is the simplest. Once you’re all set up with the plugin, you should get a chat-like window and an audible alert informing you of the invitation. Hit the “Join Hangout” button and, voila! You’re there.

Basic Rules and Etiquette of Hangouts

(to keep Miss Manners from joining your circles for the sole purpose of smacking you down)

There are a few guidelines for making sure that your hangout works well for everyone and some things to keep in mind as you go:

1. There’s a cap on this party
10 people. That’s it. You want more than that, well, at the moment, you can’t. Who knows if change is forthcoming, but we’re not there yet.

2. You’ll have to be your own bouncer
Unlike standard party behavior, you cannot kick people off your public hangout. Even if you’re the host. (However, it is still your party and you can, of course, cry if you want to). Now, if they leave of their own free will, you can replace them with someone new. But do it quickly, because they can re-enter the hangout for as long as the spot is open.

3. Don’t interrupt; chat instead
There is a pretty nifty simultaneous chat function that allows you to interrupt without actually interrupting.

Okay…that might require some explanation. As in any gathering, you have to read the mood of a hangout. There might be one that’s an actual panel conversation or there might be one that’s more of a lecture, with one person talking and everybody else listening.

Should you find yourself in a hangout more closely resembling the latter, you can, at anytime, chat a question or comment to the attendants, allowing your issue to be raised at the convenience of the moderator. Courtesy above all things, of course.

4. Use the mute button
Be prepared for liberal use of the mute button. A thumbnail array of all participants appears at the bottom but the main display tries to keep up with the conversation and show whoever is talking at any given moment.

Be kind to the poor, hapless piece of software: if someone else is talking, click on the microphone at the top to mute yourself. This prevents any background noise – phones ringing, chips crunching, beverage slurping (not that we’ve ever been uncouth enough for such behavior) – from registering as actual contributions to the conversation.

You can also mute someone else by hovering over their image. (This is best used in case someone gets called away unmuted and, while they’re gone, a rouge herd of llamas starts kicking up cacophony in their location, drowning out what the rest of of you are trying to say).

Don’t just do it because somebody’s opinion (or voice) bugs you, ‘cuz everybody can see who you’ve muted in the chat. And then…the shame. And also, Miss Manners. Descending upon you with an elegantly-phrased reprimand.

If you’re not gonna mute, at least turn your sound down. This, at the very least, prevents everyone from hearing you breathe, Vader.

5. Check your lighting
Be aware of your lighting. Unless you’re going for the Deep Throat / Shadowman look on purpose, make sure you’re neither too much in the dark nor backlit.

Light as Air

So, Air is the Hangout interface with YouTube. It allows you to post either private or public hangouts on your You Tube Channel.

Of course, that means you need to have a YouTube account in the first place. So, go take care of that. Once that’s done:

1. Enable Hangouts Air on your (possibly new) YouTube Account.


2. Start the one-time verification process on that nifty set up page from earlier.


3. YouTube will ask for you a mobile device number so it can text you the verification code.


4. Once you receive the code, enter it into the provided box and press “Verify”.

And there’s that done.

Other Apps. Aaargh!

As we all know, Google is constantly fiddling and enhancing. They’ve already got a number of games and tools and the like that can be added onto your Hangouts.

But the easiest by far to use is Google Effects. It’s a rather silly little thing that allows you to add costuming and props to your screen appearance in the hangout.

TIP: Make sure you’re framed correctly if you want the assortment of hats and glasses and mustaches to show up. Too close to the screen and they’ll hover weirdly out-of-frame.

And thus, we leave you, as promised, with the means to join our Brotherhood of Pirates:

So avast, mateys! Try out Google+ Hangouts for yourself and let us know what new tricks and uses you’ve discovered.

Shiver me timbers. Etc.

 

SEO 201 (Link building with a shocking lack of zoology)

By | Web Marketing | 2 Comments

As promised (well, sort of….vaguely referenced, more than actually promised), we’ve put together the Advanced Class on Basic SEO.

We know, we know. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. The world of SEO is wide and varied and rises from a deep foundation of technical computery know-how. The Advanced Class on Advanced SEO would plumb the depths of the technical computery know-how.

Which we’re not doing today.

Hence the Advanced-Basic dichotomy.

Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up, we can start talking a little bit about what happens after you optimize your website.

Advanced Basic SEO

After the beginning comes…the middle.

So in our last little chat, we pointed out that website optimization was the way to guarantee that the search engines know what you’re talking about.

The next step is to convince them that you know what you’re talking about.

Since there isn’t some mighty Search Engine Judiciary before whom you can go make your case, you have to convince them through action.

And, even more unfortunately, it’s not your action they want to see. The search engines’ trust in your knowledge directly correlates to the trust placed in you by…well, everyone else.

They measure this trust by the way people respond to your site: user behavior, social signals, and, above all else (for the time being, at least), links to the various pages.

So in order to start convincing the search engines that you are neither a raving lunatic nor a honey-tongued conman, you’ve got to start building some links.

Pride goeth before, y’know, crimson-eared embarrassment and red-cheeked frustration.

Okay, before we go any further, a small public service announcement: unlike first stage SEO, which can certainly be attempted by gifted amateurs, link building without professional help is…inadvisable.

Not because you’re not smart enough or nice enough or charming enough.

Gosh darn it, people like me

We firmly believe that you are all of that and more.

But building links is, quite honestly, time consuming and doing it well (intentionally, anyway) requires a deliberate strategy and tools that just aren’t particularly economical for internal marketing teams. SEO agencies, who have more than one client/account, get a lot of use out of those tools and they end up paying for themselves.

Unfortunately, this is usually not the case for the Lone Rangers out there. Even with trusty Silver and faithful Tonto.

And thus endeth the PSA.

You are still absolutely welcome to try it on your own or to learn as much as you can so that agency involvement can be at a minimum. We have a great deal of faith in human ingenuity and determination.

(And the music swells as we take a moment to reflect on Galileo and Eli Whitney and Marie Curie and Neil Armstrong and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and whoever invented duct tape).

Buffy brings us hope for humanity

(Because what inspires more faith in humanity than a tiny little girl battling evil with a rocket launcher?)

Foundations (of the metaphoric masonry, not cosmetic, kind)

Okay, moving right along.

Before you can really get started on improving or building your link profile, you kinda need to know what you’re working with.

If you have a brand, shiny new website, you got nada and it doesn’t matter. You get the lucky, lucky task of starting from the ground up with your completely non-existent authority and building the content and social engagement that you need. (So go ahead and skip down a bit to the tips on actually doing that stuff).

But, honestly, very few people are starting from scratch. If you’re trying to improve the placement of an existing website or a recently redesigned site, you need to know where you stand before you can start moving forward.

The tool that we typically use for this is one you need a (paid) subscription to get the most out of. SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer can give you a pretty good picture of all the links leading to just about any website. It tells you what sites and pages link to you, the vital metrics of those sites/pages, what page on your site the links lead to, and what text forms the link (also known as anchor text).

Alternatively, some people use Majestic SEO’s Site Explorer to gather the same information.

However you get it, this information allows you to get the low down on who already links to you. Is it a lot of bloggers? A lot of directories? A lot of local businesses or industry partners? Do they all link to your homepage or do they go deeper? Are they all using branded terms? Are they using keyword-rich anchor text? Are they coming from authoritative sites or are they junk?

Only once you know what you’ve already got, can you start to figure out what more you need.

The good news here is that you can get a 30-day free trial of all Moz Tools, including Open Site Explorer. So if you don’t have an agency to do it for you, you can test it out all on your own.

Illicit Identification

Well, okay. Only sorta. But who doesn’t love some good alliteration now and again? One of the best ways to identify the links that you may want is to take a look at what your competition (the ones that are actually doing better than you, not the ones that you’re grinding into the dust with a wink and a smirk) already has.

This can be done by running a back link profile on them with tools like Open Site Explorer or through the tools that take it one step farther and break down those link profiles into link types: blogs, directories, commerce sites, business sites, etc.

There are a lot of tools that do this (usually for a fee) including Citation Labs’ Link Prospector or Wordtracker’s Link Builder.

You can also just use that good old human ingenuity and your knowledge of your industry to figure out what links might be valuable. (Galileo and duct type, remember?)

Once you’ve identified what you don’t have and where you might find it, you gotta start figuring out how to get it.

Actual link buildage, part I: carefully hand-crafted works of art

There are two basic approaches to building links and they are, by no means, mutually exclusive.

The first of these is manual link building. This has rather gone out of fashion in favor of the second method (no, we’re not telling you what it is yet. Patience, as our nanny would have stressed, had we actually had a nanny, is a virtue. Don’t you want to be virtuous?), because it is time consuming and usually only results in a single link at a time.

It remains, however, an effective method of going after any specific, particularly high-profile links you may wish to attain (like .gov or .edu links). Manual link building involves identifying the website you want a link from, figuring out what it would take to get one, and then making it happen.

Sometimes this can be as simple as writing the right piece of content, sometimes it may involve completely overhauling your site to match up to the standards of your desired linker. And then, horror of horrors, you have to actually ask for the link.

Like we said, this isn’t the most efficient way to get links, but it still may allow you to net the really, really big ones.

Actual link buildage, part II: virtual word-of-mouth OR convincing everybody you’re smart OR working smarter, not harder

The second method of building links is a little thing we like to call content marketing.

(Uh, not that we made up the term or anything. ‘Cuz we can’t take credit for that.

Many other brilliant things, like…hitting up the local candy stories to replenish our snack cupboard, yes.

Our super pretty Pinterest boards, also yes.

Coining the term, “content marketing”…not so much).

Content marketing, oddly enough for something so seemingly self-explanatory, actually does not start with creating and marketing your content.

It starts with finding your online community. This is usually an amalgam of your partners, your peers, your thought leaders, and your customers. Who is online? Where? Are they bloggers? Forum participants? Are they on Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? How can you reach out to them? How can you build actual relationship with them?

Step Uno: The intro & a little judicious flattery
Building relationships begins by engaging on the outlets where they already are. Don’t be pushy or blatantly self-promotional. Just comment on their blogs or retweet their tweets with genuine responses:

“Really liked the post. I, too, think that it is a shame that there are so few monkey trainers in Fort Collins. But, hey, did you hear about that guy in Boulder…”

“Fort Coloradoans need to make one of these! RT: @REI Bikes Infographic: Cyclists: Are You With the Right Bike? http://www.rei.com/features/infographics/bike.html.”

Step Dos: Slyly demonstrate your knowledge (without being a know-it-all, show-off, smarty-pants of the Book 1 Hermione Granger kind)
Once you’ve start to engage and get some name recognition, once you’ve built some legitimacy with the blogger and his audience, you’re allowed to start referring to what you yourself have created in terms of content:

“I noticed that you were lamenting your lack of information on the basic nutritional needs of the naked mole rat. It just so happens that I have an entire recipe collection of naked mole rat favorites inspired by my little hairless buddy Hephaestus. I recommend starting with the Soil Supreme. nakedmoleratcuisine.com/soil-supreme.”

(Uhhh…not a real website. in case you were wondering. sorry, folks).

(And, okay…I guess we managed to work in a little zoology…)

There is an art to conducting blog comment conversations. It basically consists of behaving like a human being with, y’know, manners.

Step Tres: Start seeing the content gaps and filling them. Like Hans Brinker at the dike.
Once you get to know your community, you’ll start to get a feel for what information they crave. What do they constantly gripe about? How can you help? What do they not even know they’re missing?

Create the content that they need and don’t be afraid to let them know you’ve done it.

“Hey, last week you were pointing out that you didn’t know any women in the monkey training industry. I’ve put together a list of all the women I know and then asked them to list more. Feel free to take it and share it with all those discontented female monkey owners out there.”

Step Quatro: Rinse & repeat until they love you
The idea is that you become a source of such consistently entertaining and useful knowledge that eventually people start disseminating your content without you having to ask.

(And in case the well occasionally comes up dry – which it will – here’s some inspiration for creating content of all kinds).

While the dream is that they may do this without your prompting, the truth is, you may have to reach out at first.

If there’s someone that follows you on Twitter and has a large audience, get in touch with them. Find common ground through tweeting, blogging dialogue, emailing, phone calls, even meet-ups and conferences. Become someone who can be comfortable asking for re-posts, guest blogging, or re-tweets. Show them they can trust you, that you know your stuff. 

And demonstrate the behavior you want to follow. Share the good stuff you find. Like it, tweet it, reference it.

Eventually they’ll pick up on it and realize that you’re good, knowledgeable people. Then and only then will they start taking the burden off your shoulders. Reciprocity is a beautiful thing.

(The bonus, of course, is that you also get a friend and maybe even mentor out of the deal. Double win!)

Of course, there’s more to it than this

That’s the thing about this stuff..there’s always more. There’s all kinds of things you can do with social media, with local search, even with content marketing. Multimedia: videos, infographics, webinars, and podcasts. We haven’t really gone into the nitty gritty.

Part of that is because this post is already long enough, thank you very much.

Part of it is because…well…we do make our living on this stuff. We can’t tell you all of our secrets.

And part of it goes back to Eli & Marie & Buffy: you are capable of this kind creativity. You can think of ways to connect with your audience, you can think of content to whet their appetites. You know them better than we do. Our intent here is just to get you started. You can take it from here.

(And in case you’d like a little bonus, here’s a neat list of link building strategies. Take ‘em with a grain of salt, especially the directories as you want to be careful not to get accidentally caught up in any link-trading nonsense).

So, go. Run free. Invent the next duct tape.

We’ll be here. Just in case you need us.