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How to Use Slack and Why Your Business Needs It

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How to Use Slack | Small Business Must-Have Tools

As Somer and I continue to expand our various brands (If you’ve been keeping count – We have 5 now! Chaos & Kiddos, The Studio Hampton Roads, The Hampton Roads Creative, Modern Femme Photography and The “CLICK” Series – yup, we’re insane.), we constantly struggle to keep pace with the different conversations, decisions and strategies we’ve had for the varying markets and platforms. Simply put, that’s a lot of market information to keep straight and it’s been nigh unto impossible to stay organized and focused. And then we discovered Slack. MIND. BLOWN. I couldn’t be more excited to show you how to use slack and why your business needs it. Like yesterday.

How to Use Slack | Small Business Must-Have Tools

Slack is a powerhouse online tool that allows you to organize your business content and keep communication, files and activity all in one place. And that special one place is SEARCHABLE. For Somer and I, that meant ditching Facebook messenger for our daily chats, which meant eliminating scrolling and scrolling and scrolling (and scrolling!) through old messages to find links, decisions or to do lists we had created on the fly during a busy work day. Slack allows us to communicate within the tool (real time) and we can pop search terms in later that will pull old conversation history and remind us what was said. Major win.

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searchslackSlack also allows us to create different “Channels” for our different brands. We keep our day to day chit chat in our “Direct Message” hot spot, but anything specifically business related (action items, relevant files, pending publications, event dates, etc.) goes into the appropriate channel. Each time a new piece of information is added in a channel, it highlights the channel so that when you sign into Slack, you can immediately see where to head for new updates. It also puts a lovely little “New Messages” line that keeps track of where you left off during your last visit to the site.

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Now, onto my very favorite part! Besides the awesomeness that is being able to EDIT your comments and posts, your can STAR comments! And then SEARCH via your stars! For Somer and I, this has become our active to do list. While in conversation, if something gets identified as a task that I need to complete, I star it. Then when it comes time for me to devote a few hours to cranking out tasks, I search by my starred items and there it is! Once I complete the task, I can remove the star and it falls off of the list. YAY!!!!!!

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Another amazing feature is the incredibly long list of third party app integration options. Rather than reinventing the wheel, you have tons of options to connect outside resources to Slack, bringing your important files right into the tool for one stop access for everything that keeps your business going. We have all of our logo files, ad files, PDF docs, resources, marketing pieces uploaded to Slack via third party Google Drive app integration. Adding those files to Slack was as easy as getting the Shareable Link from Google Drive and dropping it in a comment. Slack did the rest! We can also post Tweet links and have them show as a full preview and upload Dropbox documents. If we need to chat face to face, a simple entry of /gotomeeting launches the application IN Slack!

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They’ve also created a nice little home base for your notes to yourself. Slackbot is your personal rep. They offer tips and tricks, recommendations and even follow simple commands and auto response directives! My personal favorite is the /remind me in <time> to <message>  which allows me to set notifications like “Remind me on Tuesday” or “Remind me in 24 hours” to “call Somer” or “check on open inquiries.” SO COOL! There is also a whole SLEW of keyboard shortcuts and slash commands that can prompt actions and even formatting on the fly. I’m still familiarizing myself with all of the secret inside tricks.

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Here is what it looks like when you upload files. Images get populated with previews, documents get formal names and attachment links. YouTube videos can be played right inside of Slack (no jumping off to a new window!) and URL links will show a preview. The tool really allows you to access multiple sites and storage files without ever leaving your home screen. No more 300 tabs open on your browser!

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Lastly, a major big win for Slack is the easy accessibility. Your account is given a unique URL and each employee is given a unique username and login. Pop that URL into any browser, anywhere, sign in and you’re up and running. No more signing in remotely to your computer to keep up with the office while you’re on the go. You can also create a shortcut application on your Desktop via Chrome, and there is an iPhone and Mac application!

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A few features that we don’t put to use, simply because we are a two-man operation:

1. You can tag people similar to Twitter (@somer_anne) and they’ll get a notification of a “Direct Mention”  (and can SEARCH by DMs too!).

2. You can create “Private Groups” for private conversations between more than 2 people that don’t require a dedicated channel. For example, you have a company wide channel (that everyone can see), but a sales team private group (that only the sales account reps can see). Keep in mind, channels are in place for transparency. By nature, anyone who joins your Slack site can join the available channels and view what’s going on. This is great for open work environments where everyone is involved and the company believes in keeping its employees completely “in the know.”

I know this is a mega-long blog post, and I have to tell you, I feel like I’m only barely scraping the surface of what this program can do. They really paid attention to every detail. From personalizing your profile, contact information and even a fun picture, to creating a #random channel to encourage people to connect socially and professionally, they’ve created an avenue for companies to work seamlessly in collaboration and transparency, keeping an active, searchable history within reach at all times. Nothing gets lost, no one gets left out, no hunting for websites, information or other portals to sign in. I can’t imagine what our professional life would be like if Somer and I hadn’t discovered Slack. Especially as things are getting busier and busier, just in the short time we’ve implemented it, I can’t imagine how we would have managed our current workload with our old ways. Oh wait…a fun little tidbit for you. Slack is FREE!!!!!

How to Use Slack | Small Business Must-Have Tools

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Echo

    January 16, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Katy! I pinned this!

  2. Dana

    January 16, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Fantastic article! I’m signing up now! 🙂

  3. Samantha @ Designer in Teal

    January 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    This sounds cool!! We just Trello at work but I may have to look into Slack 🙂 Stopping in from the VA bloggers link-up!

  4. Herchel S

    January 17, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I am intrigued….and you must not sleep. How do you do it all!

  5. Kristen

    January 17, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    I have never heard of this – and I’m laughing at the name of the product because you can’t slack if you are using this! I am sending this to two small businesses that could benefit from this!

  6. Amber

    January 18, 2015 at 12:00 am

    This is such a great review Katy! I’ve worked with this one as well as Trello a little but I’m still on the fence as to which one I really like more.

  7. Becka

    January 18, 2015 at 7:54 am

    oh I like the idea of a personal message being send out when I set. I am always forgetting things. This seems really cool! 🙂

  8. Savanna

    January 18, 2015 at 8:20 am

    This is really cool! Very cool, and tons of features that definitely would make life easier!! Thanks for sharing love!

  9. m88

    January 19, 2015 at 6:28 am

    With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it
    is popping it up all over the web without my agreement.
    Do you know any methods to help stop content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  10. Jenny B @ Honey and Birch

    January 24, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    This sounds like a great tool! And one I can really use. Thank you for linking up to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Party. I have pinned your post to the Bloggers Brags Pinterest Board.

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Blogging Resources

How to Add Custom Facebook Tabs to your Business Page

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Custom Facebook tabs are a great way to spiff up your business page with touches all your own. In a visual flow format that’s mostly controlled by the social media platform itself, making the most of these tiny advantages and calls-to-action can be pivotal to expanding your reach. Take steps to prompt your audience to actively engage and direct visitors on your business page to your areas of greatest interest (i.e. subscribing or following you on social media). Custom Facebook tabs give you the opportunity to plant a tiny seed of interest by highlighting applications that otherwise tend to be ignored.

Implementing custom Facebook tabs starts with activating the appropriate applications on your business page. Connect your TwitterPinterest and Instagram feeds directly to your business page (Did you know you can set up your Instagram to post directly to your Facebook business page?). Explore your email subscriber tool for Facebook integration. If you’re using LeadPages via WordPress, activate the auto-Facebook tab (amazing!).

Search Facebook for App

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Your next step is to order your Facebook tabs so that your top 3 (the ones you plan to create custom Facebook tabs for) are at the top of the list. You can do so easily by navigating to your business page, clicking “More” on your top tab bar, and then selecting “Manage Tabs.” From there you can drag up or down to order your list and even delete tabs that serve no use for your page.

Click -More- and -Manage Tabs.- Then

Now we are ready to create your custom Facebook tabs. This feature is kind of hidden…which is why most people don’t customize their tabs! The phrase we hear most often when introducing this to our clients is “Wow! I never even knew that existed!” Click on your page Settings and then navigate to Apps, which should show a complete list of the programs you just integrated with your page. Click “Edit Settings” on one of your apps and there it is! You can accomplish two special customizations here. You can change the tab name (i.e. from LeadPages to Free Motivational Planner) and upload a custom tab image. Yay!

The appropriate size for custom Facebook tab images is 111 pixels wide by 74 pixels high.

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Customize your Tab Name AND your Tab

And there you go. You now have custom Facebook tabs that can drive traffic to subscriber portals, other social media profiles and more. Make sure your custom Facebook tabs are in line with your brand style and message. Maybe try a few different styles to see if any convert more than others. Take the opportunity to make the page your own and entice your audience to take the next step by clicking through.

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Blogging Resources

How to Make Custom Pinterest Board Covers and Upload Pins

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There are so many little ways you can personalize your online profiles and increase engagement with your market simply by improving your visual presentation. This week, we’re introducing a few ways to sharpen your Pinterest profile. The most visual of all the social media platforms out there, and second only to Google for searching for just about anything…Pinterest is an application that no small business owner can ignore. The case for Pinterest and how to maximize market engagement could be a whole blog in and of itself. We’ll have more tips and tricks to share later, but for now, let’s start small. Today, let’s talk about how to make custom Pinterest board covers and how to manually upload and edits pins (without hitting the “Pin It” button).

Custom Pinterest board covers create a strong visual consistency in your profile that can help visitors understand your brand, intent and authority in your area of the business (or blogging) world. To create them, you’ll need to understand how to manually upload and edit pins, so we’ll start there.

Log into your Pinterest account and open one of your boards. See that nice little “Add a Pin” button? Click it!

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Once you click that button, you’ll have two options. Add from Web or from your Device. When you click from Web, it’s going to remind you that you should just use a “pin it” button (and they’re right). For this lesson, let’s click from your Device. It will prompt you to upload a photo and you’ll browse your device (in this case, my computer hard drive) and choose the image to upload. It will automatically trigger the pin box and you’ll be able to choose your board and add a pin description. Voila!

What does your head shot say about you-

You’re probably going…something is missing! Where does the newly created pin take you? And you’re right. We’ve got one more step. Once the pin has been created and uploaded. Click to edit the pin and then add the URL that you want your audience to click through to in the Source box. Now…ta da!!! Voila!! You’re done!

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The process for adding custom Pinterest board covers is 90% what you just learned and 10% PicMonkey fun. Click “Custom” to get started.

The magic dimension size for custom Pinterest board cover is 217 pixels x 147 pixels. 

Once you have your board covers created, you’ll upload each of them via the process above. You don’t have to add a source URL to click through if you’re just going for Pinterest pretty, BUT…our recommendation is to take the opportunity to link through to your website wherever you can! So, if you have a landing page on your website that relates to the items on your board, link your custom board cover through to that page! You never know who might click! To assign the new custom boards as the cover images in your profile, click “Edit” and then “Change Cover” and you’ll be able to scroll through to the new cover image. Click “Save Changes” and you’re done!

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Blogging Resources

Are Your Product Photos Hurting Your Business?

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Why are Quality Product Photos Important to my Business?

There are a lot of factors that impact your sales success (or failure). Just like the right strategy and mix of medias can propel sales forward, most marketing mistakes are closely intertwined and can often work against each other to create a rapidly downward spiral. Often, new business owners overlook the power of their product photos when considering market strategy.

Improve My Etsy Product Photos

Today’s world is visually driven by the real-time access that social media provides. The good news is that great images get a lot more love these days. The bad news is that it’s made us a bit complacent when it comes to quality. Not everyone is a pro, and seeing blurry or poorly exposed photos in our news feeds has become a regular occurrence. The result has been small business owners that underestimate the importance of consistent, high quality product photos. Many make do with poor images straight from their camera phones (you can get good images on your phone!) and few take advantage of the massive range of editing software available.

Overlooking the power of your shop’s visual draw is a huge mistake. In a visually motivated society, a certain level of complacency has desensitized our eyes and we often find ourselves aimlessly scrolling through images until something truly powerful catches our attention. The“Well, that’s good enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect.” response to mediocre images most likely means that your product photos are getting lost in a churning sea of visual garbage that your market blindly scrolls past instead of clicking through to purchase.

We live in a world of options. Gone are the local general stores as the only source of food and supplies. These days you can quite literally order something from any corner of the globe with a few clicks or swipes on a computer or phone. The availability of endless options is overwhelming for consumers. Most will gravitate towards the easy button, which typically factors in two key markers. 1. Ease of Website Navigation (More on that later!) and 2. Stellar Product Photos. You have one chance to grab their attention, and even less than that to keep it. All of the factors need to play to your success, not your demise. And that means your product photos should be impeccably styled, consistently clear and properly presented to your marketplace.

How Do You Improve Product Photos?

1. Simple Presentation: Make sure your images highlight your wares. Remove distractions and design a simple layout that makes your product the star! Use simple backdrops and keep product photos tight and clean, avoiding background furniture, people or other elements that do not directly correlate to your market or highlight your product. If your images show your product in use by clients, make sure your background is staged, clean and devoid of the busy of life (i.e. piles of bills, food out, laundry, fridge covered in magnets). You want your buyers looking at one thing. Your product. Don’t tempt them to look away. 

2. Consistent Styling: Your product photos should present as a body of work. This means that each product should be photographed similarly. If your product photos are laid out in an Etsy shop, and their design and presentation differ considerably, your buyer will spend more time (even subconsciously) contemplating the differences. The end result may be poor decision-making or confusion, because the styling has become a stumbling block instead of a showcase. Use the same set up for each product, edit them consistently and make sure the images compliment each other instead of competing with each other. The last thing you want to do with your business is to create an environment where you are competing against yourself! 

3. In-Focus: Blurry photos belong in one place. The trash. That may sound harsh, but you’ll be much happier when you throw away poor product photos and take the extra time to create stellar product photos. Out-of-focus images send a few messages to potential buyers. You don’t take your business seriously, you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t care enough about me to present your product in a way that I can clearly see…just to name a few. None of those thoughts are encouraging click-throughs. Show value to your audience by taking care to make their visit to your shop as enjoyable as possible, which means they can look at your images with ease, clearly understanding your talent and services, and properly interpreting whether it meets their need.

4. Properly Exposed: Admittedly, there is a bit of a learning curve here, but this is important! If your product photos are overexposed (too bright) or underexposed (too dark), then your prospective buyer can’t see all of the details. They have to work harder to visualize your product in their hands. Like we mentioned before, don’t make them work hard to consider purchasing your services. Whether you invest in professional help or explore today’s popular editing software, make sure your final product photos are well-balanced and properly exposed. 

Improve My Etsy Product Photos

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