From The Backpack of Amie Huebner

Inspiration & Technology: My Thoughts On Designing Better Businesses

From The Backpack of Amie Huebner

Behind Closed Doors

Client Stories & Successful Results From Creative Collaboration

Behind Closed Doors

From The Backpack of Corinne Ables

Stories & Lessons Learned : Marketing and Entreprenuership

From The Backpack of Corinne Ables

Entrepreneurship is a journey and we are road warriors! Follow our adventures through the Teahouse Creatives blog. A home to our professional and personal treks in life.

 From market trends, helpful advice, client accomplishments, free design resources, to our personal photography - here to there, Corinne and Amie wish to share it all with you. Sign up to receive our blog posts in your inbox or swing by anytime!

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Four months ago I launched “Where In Newport” app to the Apple Store and Google Play. I am really pleased with W.I.N (Where In Newport) performances we have almost reach one thousand user downloads. Now I am happy to announce my newest product, Plan Hashtag.

Plan Hashtag is an online web application that allows you to auto post to Instagram and schedule and manage multiple Instagram accounts simultaneously. With Plan Hashtag, you can post and assess your posts in a single panel and save time managing multiple Instagram accounts.

Instagram was designed to help users capture events as they transpire and stay updated about their friends, family, and customers. Real-time posting may be the optimal way to use Instagram, but not all users have the luxury to update their accounts in real time.

The native version of the social media platform allows you to view Instagram content and communicate with your followers and the users you are following, but it doesn’t allow you to upload media.

There are tools that allow you to upload videos and photos, but they don’t let you schedule your content. Plan Hashtag solves this! You no longer need to worry about managing several Instagram accounts and posting content in real time.

1. Schedule Your posts

2. Plan Hashtag allows you to schedule your posts at a future date to save time. You don’t even need to log-in and out of various social media platforms as you can conveniently manage multiple Instagram accounts from a single place.

3. Import Images from Cloud Drives

4. You can import images from your Dropbox and OneDrive accounts using Plan Hashtag. This way, you don’t need to log-in to several accounts. Just use Plan Hashtag and save time!

5. Manage Multiple Instagram Accounts Simultaneously

6. Plan Hashtag allows you to post to your Instagram accounts simultaneously. As you add content to your Instagram, Plan Hashtag automatically posts the same content to your other accounts.

7. Auto posting and Scheduling in One Tool

Instagram has its own special features that you have to master if you want to use it to drive more traffic to your site and generate more leads for your business. If your customers are on Instagram, it is even more important that you create a business Instagram account to connect with them.

There’s no need to spend all day uploading content on your Instagram account when you can use a tool that automatically posts your stories, photos, and videos on Instagram. That’s what you’ll get from Plan Hashtag. Now, you can get the most out of every post with Plan Hashtag’s Instagram auto post function. Just choose the time you’d like to upload your content and Plan Hashtag will take care of the rest. It also gives you a real-time preview of your Instagram account.

Plan Hashtag Features:

  • Modern, easy-to-use, mobile responsive UI
  • Post Now function
  • Schedule posts
  • Multiple Instagram accounts
  • Cloud Drives (Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive)
  • Automatically post photos, videos, stories, and albums
  • Emoji support
  • Statistics
  • Instagram auto post – Automatically post same content to all Instagram accounts
  • Secure password hashing
  • Repost public Instagram posts directly from post URL or embed code
  • PNG support
  • Automatic JPEG image validation
  • Automatic image resize to match Instagram’s aspect ratios
  • Caption templates
  • Email notifications
  • Proxy support
  • Login with Facebook
  • Schedule calendar
  • Automatic timezone and language detection
  • Multilingual ready
  • Drag & Drop media upload

Give Plan Hashtag a try and let us know what you think!

Read More About Christian Kaman, Founder, Plan Hashtag

I’ve never been a “trendy” person – definitely not the cool kid in high school. But trends are intriguing to me and I almost always jump on trends (just a few months or years later)!

Over the past few months, I have been in countless conversations where various podcasts were mentioned. As a podcast outsider, I was mesmerized by how entranced my friends were. They no longer spent car time, walking time, dishes, cooking, etc. in silence or on the phone but listening to podcasts. I liked the idea and was intrigued at using my quiet time for learning but didn’t know how or where to begin.

My recent move from Georgia to Texas prompted me to figure it out – so I did. As I was listening to Coffee & Crumbs a few weeks back, they mentioned how most of their blog subscribers voiced the same problem that I had – how do you get started? Most people don’t want to admit their incompetence with technology; it’s slightly embarrassing to live in a world that runs on technology and not know how to use it. I imagine it’s even more embarrassing for millennial’s to admit! But it’s a natural issue to have as technology constantly grows and changes. Throughout these changes, we find the technology that benefits our lives but don’t always make the time or space for new technology. Like Alexa for instance – sorry, girl, I’m never going to have time for you.

So why and how have podcasts gotten so popular? I believe today’s social media era has people more interested in being “in the know.” Instead of watching the local news in the evening, people are scrolling all day and are exposed to news headlines intermittently throughout the day. I think this has prompted people to want to know more about the things they care about.

The problem with AM/FM radio is that you don’t get to choose. You pick a station but you’re at the mercy of that station’s hosts and what’s on their mind. With podcasts you get to select your news – you get to select what you want to learn more about and the control is put back in your hands…er, thumbs.

Here are the best ways to access podcasts on an iPhone or Android:

iPhone

The Podcasts app for iOS provides easy access to popular and featured podcasts using the navigation icons at the bottom of the app.

Android

Podcast Addict is the #1 Podcast App on Android with 5+M downloads, 300K reviews and an average rating of 4.6/5.

Podcast Pros:

  • Information about nearly anything you’re interested in
  • Deeper information than your typical news outlet provides
  • Information that isn’t widely publicized is now available to us
  • Various lengths available to fit your personal attention span
  • Often less advertising than radio
  • Accessible and available on your phone at all times

Podcast Cons

  • Data usage; if you don’t have wi-fi and you haven’t downloaded the show, you will have to use your data
  • There are so many options it can be overwhelming trying to pick what to listen about
  • Since you are listening to something specific you don’t get to hear about news outside of what you choose

 

Teahouse Creatives: Protect Your Business From Cybersecurity Threats

How to deter the bad guys as we grow our businesses

Back in the spring and early summer, my Twitter feed was packed with news of ransomware attacks and this morning we all learned that 143 million of us who have used Equifax  {gulp}  just had our names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers compromised. Of that total, about 209,000 of us have had our credit card numbers also taken. Even though that was a large scale cyberhack of epic proportions this news makes me hold my breath as I open my inboxes each morning. This past Spring, as a small web based business, I found myself being asked my opinions on cyber threats by friends and diving into podcasts on hackers and small business to find out how I could protect myself and anyone I work with.

What I learned is that no matter the size of our businesses, none of us are in the clear, but if we are consistent with how we handle data, design good habits for storing data, and don’t click on things we shouldn’t, then we’re 99% better off than the next guy. Let’s look at the facts on who we’re up against.

A whopping 70% of all cybercrime these days is directed towards small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Why is that? SMBs are low hanging fruit. Cybercriminals also know SMBs have direct and indirect business relationships with larger organizations. For every high-profile breach, there are many more threats to confidential data held by local businesses.

 

Back in 2015 in a Cyber Security Review, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stated, “small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime, they are its principal target. In fact, the majority of all targeted cyberattacks last year were directed at SMBs. Even more disconcerting is the fact that cybercrime represents an existential threat for SMBs. It has been estimated that half of the small businesses that suffer a cyberattack go out of business within six months as a result.”

 

I also learned that employees are the soft spot in a business – they tend to invite these people in via clicking on the wrong links on a work computer or do not take cybersafety protocols seriously. Business owners aren’t off the hook either – many do not regard their businesses to be at high risk and some are not aware how to handle sensitive data responsibly. It’s not intentional, they are busy and it is difficult to find time to pause from the other tasks to focus on building safety blocks in their business. We all are more excited about producing and putting time and energy into sales than cybersecurity matters. However, a business that has taken the proper steps to analyze their processes from a security standpoint is more likely to also educate employees on their responsibility. Further, this would motivate businesses to have a recovery plan in place should they suffer an attack.

Who are cybercriminals and what do they want? They are organized crime groups collecting black market data (customer data, social security numbers, ie.) that they can sell on the deep web/dark net. When they go after SMBs, they probably are not looking for intellectual property. Intellectual information is both difficult and expensive to obtain. They are interested in obtaining data on people in the cheapest and easiest way and usually, that is by using tools to scan data they find in a Google search, for example, and hit as many people possible.

This doesn’t mean you need to be intimidated about doing business online. The first line of defense you have is to be careful of the information you put in your public profiles online. Be aware that any information you give away in a public profile is searchable. By conducting internet searches, data they obtain in your public profile or data they collect from your internet activity (using the same analytics tools marketers use to collect customer data) can be collected to target phishing attacks and other forms of social engineering. The bad guy’s goal is to get the person who opens an email to take action and get you to give away more of your personal information. We all get a ton of email scams so just carry a healthy skepticism by questioning who or where emails come from.

What about all the information you give during an online sign-up process? We all use a lot of apps these days to help us with daily life and work tasks and most of us have multiple social media profiles. My short answer is to limit the number of online services, apps, and social media profiles you have. I suggest that you get rid of any accounts you don’t use because not only is it hard to keep track of where you’ve submitted your information, but it also is overwhelming to try to maintain it all, as we have discussed before. There is a bill introduced in the Senate to secure the ‘internet of things’. If you haven’t heard of it yet, I highly recommend reading about it. The new legislation includes “reasonable security recommendations” that would be important to improve protection of federal government networks. If you are like me and had your information compromised when hackers attacked a government database, then you know the importance this bill can have.

So what can you do on a local level to protect yourself?

  1. Find out how secure your business is. One way is to complete the Cybersecurity Framework provided by the National Institute of Standards & Technologies. This is adapted for small businesses and will help you find out where you stand in cyber maturity.
  2. Design a backup plan. You want to be able to recover easily should something happen and this includes your data that is lost as well as any damage that might be done to your reputation. Equifax is under scrutiny for how it handled its recent crisis. If you store a lot of sensitive client data it may be worth investing in a cybersecurity insurance policy. This is a backup service with a monthly fee that has a person you can call and who can help you recover your data, files, and respond professionally to customers in a timely manner.
  3. Hire someone to help you maintain your computers or if you only have one or two computers, make sure you regularly schedule updates. It’s true – most cyber threats are old and the only reason they keep going is that people don’t stay on top of their computer updates!
  4. An easy preventative measure is to create individual logins for each employee or contractor and control what info each person can access.
  5. Also, make sure sensitive data is encrypted.
  6. Always log out of a website or private account before walking away from a computer. My coworker once left his Amazon account open on an insecure connection and a hacker had taken over his computer. I heard this happening as the hacker was adding items to his Amazon shopping cart and about to check out with hundreds of dollars of purchases. A short wrestling match on screen ensued with the mouse before I was able to shut it down. Lesson learned!
  7. Backup your logins and passwords and move anything you run locally to a secure cloud. The companies that run these clouds provide constant patches and protect you better than you could ever secure your own computers. That said, I also highly recommend keeping your email accounts on a protected cloud. In a rush, people constantly send passwords via emails even though I always ask them not to. So, protect your clients from their own actions. I also have clients that need to, change their passwords after we finish the web development process.
  8. Take personal responsibility for yourself on the web. I regularly monitor for identity theft or vulnerabilities on the internet. I will cover this topic more in-depth in another article as it pertains to your businesses brand, but doing a simple search on your name and small business on a regular basis will reassure you of what is out there. If it is, you now know so you can take action.
  9. Can’t emphasize this enough…use a 2-step authentication app for banking, accounting, Amazon, and Google accounts. Also called 2-factor authentication or 2-step verification.
  10. Try to remember to use incognito or private browsing when searching the web and make sure you only access accounting and software that contains sensitive data on a secure internet connection.
  11. If you do not see a https:// before your web address, call me! Let’s install a security certificate on your site. There are various levels of security to choose from depending on the level you need.
  12. As of this year, Teahouse Creatives is developing smaller sites on all-in-one cloud systems vs. WordPress templates. The all-in-one systems we use offer great security and 24/7 support for SMBs. Feel free to drop us a line if you might be interested in finding out more about migrating your site over to an all-in-one system.

Whew! That was a lot of information, but it’s important that you feel confident in the companies you work with and keep security in the forefront of your thoughts. We’re always working to educate ourselves on best practices and develop better habits as we grow!

 

Lori Fields, graphic designer
You’ve heard the term again and again, but really, what is graphic design?

I was asked to answer this question a few years ago when I was attending Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) while earning my Masters of Fine Art.

Here was my response:

Graphic design is the utilization of typography, image, color, medium, and environment to visually communicate a message to a particular audience. Typically, this message is conveyed as a problem and it is the designer’s responsibility to find a solution through practical processes.

Well, this is how I would’ve defined graphic design prior to my studies at SCAD. The elements of design—typography, image, color, medium, and environment—remain an important part of the execution of a design solution. Before we begin to tackle solutions to design problems, we must think about our roles as graphic designers. How can we separate ourselves from the technologies that have made us all alike? We must begin to think about how we can create processes that lead to human-centered design. How can we begin to make the user the participant? How can we execute a design that results in a user experience?

In David Berman’s book, Do Good: How Designers Can Change the World, he states that:

“Designers have an essential social responsibility because design is at the core of the world’s largest challenges…and solutions. Designers create so much of the world we live in, the things we consume, and the expectations we seek to fulfill. They shape what we see, what we use, and what we waste. Designers have enormous power to influence how we engage our world, and how we envision our future.”

In actuality, technology has made us all designers by the creation of do-it-yourself (DIY) applications. Just about anyone can jump on a computer and create a Web site or design a brochure. Applications and its automated processes are allowing non-designers to play the role of professional graphic designers. It is now time for us, professional graphics designers, to differentiate ourselves from the DIYs and begin to create processes that are based on human-centered solutions. As Berman believes, we must relate and see that design is part of a human culture. We need to design with that concept in mind. This is how we can make a difference in everyday challenges that will benefit us in the future while elevating the user experience.

As we begin to make the user the participant or even place ourselves in their culture, we will gain knowledgeable facts that can lead to better solutions. Tim Brown of IDEO is a huge believer in this method. He asks that his employees/designers place themselves with the design problem. When making designers vulnerable to the user’s problem, they become the eyes, ears, and feelings of the different roles that are played within the problem. For example, what if a popular museum gift shop in Washington D.C. were experiencing a dramatic decline in sales and they thought that having a marketing firm reevaluate their marketing strategies could increase their profits and therefore provide an easy fix to their problem. In this case, restructuring their marketing plan might help. But, rather than fixating on one solution we should investigate the entire problem. We need to become the customer, the salesperson, and the manager and define the problem. Perhaps customer service personnel need to find new ways of approaching and greeting customers. Maybe the customers are not enthusiastic about the window displays or the impersonal behavior of the managers. Could it be that the ambiance of the environment is not inviting? As we place ourselves within the problem, only then can we bring ourselves closer to a solution. Not all design problems are necessarily resolved in print, but it can disguise itself as a service problem.

Brown’s way to narrowing down the solutions is to gather the experts. These experts come from different fields and different backgrounds. He asks that the client or the participant get involved. Having a diverse team of people collaborating will bring a variety of ideas to the table. These individuals are encouraged to use their experiences and expertise to challenge each other’s ideas. A debate continues until a final solution is agreed upon.

Defining graphic design will require that we step away from designing products for its aesthetic value. We need to define graphic design as a user experience. Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, calls this the “psychodynamics of affluence.”2 What Pink means is that we have what we need and we as humans continue to long for “emotionally satisfying experiences.” So after plunging ourselves into the world of the user, we must find methods of creating a solution which enhances that world. It’s really about the study of humans–anthropology.

Now if you ask me what graphic design is today, I will state that it the methodologies that we as graphic designers use to define a problem by making ourselves vulnerable to its drawbacks. It is the way we think and evaluates ways of approaching and challenging ideas until we have a human-centered solution. Once a solution is defined we must consider its sustainability, usability, and the user experience that its impact on the user’s culture. As we implement the solution, the execution may still depend on the elements of design– typography, image, color, medium, and environment.

Sources:
Berman, David B. Do Good Design: How Designers Can Change the World. Peachpit Press, 2008.
Brown, Tim. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness, 2009.

About the Author (Designer), Lori Fields:

“Lori Fields is a Senior Graphic Designer in Washington, D.C. with over 15 years in the design field. She has a Masters in Fine Arts in graphic design from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). With imminent technologies on the horizon, she has a special interest in user interfaces and user experiences and is currently undergoing special training in 508 accessibility.”

Branding is a broad category that encompasses many elements. While most people think of a brand as a logo, it is much more than that. The brand is the essence of an organization. The logo is simply the symbol that triggers an awareness and emotional understanding of a certain company. In order to be successful, a brand must be embraced and championed by its leadership and employees, and must be consistently integrated into every aspect of the company — from advertising to uniforms to what music is played when a customer calls in and is put on hold.

One very powerful aspect of a brand is the company tagline. If well conceived, a tagline, in a few short words, can capture the essence of the brand and make it stick in the minds of the customers.

The good taglines have some commonality. They are almost always short — three to five words — and are always memorable. So memorable, in some cases, that they don’t even need the name of the company for you to recall the brand. You know the ones! “The ultimate driving machine or ” “Just do it” or “We try harder” are easy to figure out!

Developing a memorable message in a single, short sentence is a multi-phase creative process. That process involves defining exactly what the company provides to its customer beyond a simple product or service. The benefit and the impact of having that product or service drives the creative messaging process. The attitude of the company influences the style of language used in the tagline. And, ultimately, the tagline succinctly conveys the essence of your brand through a few words. Sounds easy? It’s not! But it can be fun, and the exercise will often help companies define who they are, why they exist and how they want to position themselves apart from their competitors in their marketplace, and set the stage for growth. That’s a lot of bang for the buck when you consider you are “just” putting together a few words into a short sentence!

While the best taglines can stand alone and represent the brand without even stating the brand’s name, most taglines accompany company names and clearly communicate the value proposition of the organization. The tagline makes it clear who your company already is or aspires to be. Emerging, repositioned and startup brands cannot always stand on their own and require a tagline to define them. If your company name does not describe what you do then the tagline should be descriptive to leave no confusion in the minds of your customers!

Developing the right tagline is as much a science as it is an art. For some brands, it is essential to get the message across – “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.” For others, sincerity and empathy are more important —“When you care enough to send the very best,” from Hallmark; “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” from the United Negro College Fund; and “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.” from the U.S. Navy.

But no matter how large or small, every company can benefit for a strong tagline. It is an inexpensive way to ensure your marketing and advertising is working with optimum efficiency for you. And, like a muscle, the repetitive use of a tagline builds brand strength over time. What do you have to lose? Nothing! At a minimum, your tagline can become the rallying cry or the mantra for building an enthusiastic team. But more likely, it will offer a foundation for all of your messaging, ensuring message consistency in your marketing. Ultimately, your customers absorb the message in your tagline and bond with your brand, building brand loyalty. And that drives success.

To help your business have a more successful brand, Teahouse Creatives has partnered with BlueWater Taglines to provide taglines for businesses, organizations and government agencies.

The best ideas come out of the Blue.

Read More About Jean Tullier, Founder, BlueWater Taglines.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people and the stories that are playing out around me and I just want to take a moment to write about a few of them. When I stop to think about the numerous times we humans can err when put to a challenge at sea, there are also many great moments of victory to share.

Steve at the Newport start of the 2017 Bermuda 1-2

Our fellow Navy sailing friend, Steve Gay, arrived back in Newport, RI yesterday after doing his first solo monohull race in the 635-mile offshore Bermuda 1-2 and winning his division on the return double-handed race back against 9 other monohull boats. These boats ranging from 22 to 41 feet in length hail from ports all over the world. In its 40th year, the Bermuda 1-2 is an adventure challenging even the saltiest offshore sailor. Completion of this race can also earn, budding offshore racers reputation and experience needed for entry into some of the longer single-handed circumnavigational races such as Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (STAR) and the Europe Two-STAR. The ultimate challenge being the renowned Vendée Globe which is a single-handed, non-stop race around the world.

It’s hard to put into a sentence just how much of a mental and physical challenge solo ocean racing is. It tests not only seamanship and tactical decisions when your competition is clear out of sight, but also the amount of training and preparation that a sailor plans for and then do with or without support.  There may or may not be anyone to help and the equipment each sailor selects and tests during their sea trials and training plays a huge part in their race. There is also the trust aspect: do you trust anyone else to install something that, quite literally, your life may depend on? To understand some of these decisions all you have to do is look into the exhausted eyes of a solo sailor returned from sea.

Barconova Sailing Team Bow Shot

Barconova Sailing Team, The Bermuda 1-2 Start in Newport Harbor

In those glazed over eyes are the calmness of the open ocean and the dark storms endured. Then there is the spark that glistens from overcoming situations that test all human capability. I listened as Steve and his crew, Del, talked about the lessons learned, but then watched them crack a smile when Steve talked about figuring things out. Things like how to get the kite down when he was overpowered in 25 knots of the wind and big waves and then what to do when his boat rolled over in a huge 30+ knot puff at night. Del, who is an experienced Transpac driver from Port Richmond, CA, is a born teacher. He helped Steve prepare for the journey and I listened to him gently encourage Steve to keep going. As a dinghy sailor myself, I often wonder how I would get past the mental tests of the long race if I sailed my boat into a huge lull that left me drifting for hours or how I would deal with a storm cloud approaching or what would happen if my instruments failed with only 360 degrees of flat horizon out there. While his compass and GPS were navigational aids, Steve says he relies mostly on the instinctual feel that only a dinghy sailor gains from many hours on the helm. He contributes his success in ocean racing to growing up racing smaller dinghies inshore in buoy to buoy races. Dinghy sailing requires a sailor to be constantly active on sail trim and the tiller to keep boat speed up. Instruments do not play a large part in your success because in any race the entire course is visible and on a clear day, you can see your next mark.

“There was no instrument that was a close substitute for thirty years of driving dinghies in all sorts of conditions. Boats feel like boats and fast boats feel like fast boats. Instinctive things about when to move the tiller just can’t be learned by anything other than experience. On the other hand, a huge part of this race was knowing how to use the tools available. There is no one else aboard to teach you and no time to read the manuals!” – CDR Stephen Gay

The morning following their finish, as we sipped coffee and ate our donuts, I could feel the exhaustion and guilt that was weighing heavy on our friend after being away for so long from his young family and job as a Navy F/A-18 pilot. Only 24 hours on land and I was already dropping them back off at the boat and saying our farewells again as they embark on the delivery to Steve’s home port in Southern Virginia. As a Navy wife and sailor, I know just how important provisioning is to maintain morale and so as I left, I handed them a box of fresh muffins and I hope that the winds are kind and the skies remain open so they can enjoy the sunrise as they charge back South.

The second story that I’ve been thinking about is that of one of Steve’s competitors, another first-time Bermuda 1-2 competitor, Jason. He is the skipper of another sailboat, an Olson 30 named Concussion that made headlines on both legs of the race. I will tell you that Jason is not as experienced a racer as Steve, but an equally amazing person. He is a crypto attorney from Texas whose crew – his wife – was in a horrific car accident a couple of years ago. She is a ER medic and after being given a second chance at life, they decided to push off the dock and train for ocean racing. As I write this, I believe they have just completed the double-hand leg from Bermuda. At some point this morning or late last night they pulled into Newport Harbor under thick fog together after sailing the last 48 hours with an escort from the USCG Cutter, Tiger Shark, because their mast was in the process of failing. I can tell you from meeting him and his report, that they do not feel defeat. The very fact that they are out there doing this race together is a victory in itself.

If you’re anything like me, the multiple daily birthday posts we’re supposed to give to our friends on social media gets old. I run out of things to say and Happy Birthday gets a bit redundant. It’s nothing personal towards my friends, I just feel lame saying the same thing over and over!

So, I thought I’d take some time to share ideas on how we can all celebrate one another a bit more genuinely and thoughtfully on social media.

*Now depending on the age, gender, and interests of the birthday gal/guy some of these ideas just may not fit. Select idea accordingly!*

  •         Pull old photos of the birthday gal/guy … and create a post around it
  •         Use a .gifs and just make a fun post
  •         Facebook or Instagram live video giving a Happy Birthday
  •         Put together a short Animoto video
  •         Create a Happy Birthday video with an iPhone
  •         Favorite page admins to post a birthday wish for the birthday boy/girl on their page
  •         Post a birthday quote – http://www.happybirthday.quotesms.com
  •         Send a Snapchat singing happy birthday in your best Elvis Presley (insert other animated celebrity voice here)
  •         Send a private message (or post) with a favorite memory
  •         Write a short haiku about birthday gal/guy and share it with the world
  •         Write a flattering comment on your favorite pictures of birthday gal/guy
  •         Take a goofy picture and turn it into your own homemade meme
  •         Take a video of your kids singing happy birthday – what can be cuter than a 2 year stuttering throughout the song
  •         Place a sign reading Happy Birthday next to your pets, take a picture, and post!
  •         If you write a standard Happy Birthday post – be sure add something personal you admire about that person (and if you don’t really like anything about that person, perhaps you shouldn’t be wishing them a happy birthday in the first place!)
  •         Everyone shares a birthday with someone famous. Pick a celebrity/politician/etc. that shares that birthday and humorously inform birthday guy/gay that even though they share a birthday with celebrity X, they are still more important
  •         Create a Snapchat or Facebook story with all the things you like/love about birthday gal/guy

By: Amie and Corinne

“Ding!” “Bing!” “Hello!” Have you ever felt ruled by your phone? Unlock your phone to make a quick call only to be bombarded with 7 notifications at the top of your screen? Try typing a quick response only to be blinded by 10 email notifications simultaneously. Nothing like telling your client “I’ll eat you“ when you mean “I’ll meet you”. Smartphones are a curse and a blessing – they provide us insurmountable value, while also consuming more of us than is always necessary.

SOCIAL MEDIA

I find myself frustrated with how often I’m mindlessly scrolling through my social media pages. Given a couple of spare minutes, I open my phone and immediately get notified. I feel the NEED to check those apps. I feel like I’m missing out. I feel pressure to respond.

This is not a unique occurrence – we are all feeling an urgency to reply, stay informed, and at times we are addicted to checking those status updates. It’s not just the exhaustion from being a new mom, I want to become less dependent on my phone so I can make more time for other things I want to do in life. I want to be more present.

It’s tough to disconnect from what others are doing or saying on social media, but we can learn to better manage those apps. Here are a few helpful tips that will make it easier:

  1. I blocked notifications from certain apps.
  2. I took the apps I spend too much time on, off of my homescreen. Now, when I consciously decide I want or need to check something, I have to go find it in my apps page. It’s that extra step that helps me control where I spend my phone time.

Looking to control your notifications on your phone? Here’s how:

On an Andoid and iPhone:

Step 1: Settings

Step 2: Notifications

Step 3: Select App

Step 4: Select ‘Block All’ ‘Show Silently’ or ‘Override Do Not Disturb’

*If you do not want to receive notifications at all, select ‘Block All’.*

SMS (TEXT MESSAGING)

Full disclosure: I love text messaging. It has been a revolution in communication and most of us would rather give up pizza than our iPhones. But we’ve read all the research and we know technology isn’t necessarily making us happier. True bliss in life isn’t found looking at a screen – it’s found when we personally involve ourselves in the world around us.

When my work switch is flipped on, I respond to people in a very timely fashion. Due to the nature of my work, I’m always on the computer.  I can get email, game updates, texts from my husband, and Google Voice messages on any of the multiple devices around me. I am accessible when at home throughout the day; responding is practically effortless. SMS has made us so capable to communicate responses that we are losing awareness of how we should communicate certain messages – especially those we are uncomfortable relaying face to face. Communication errors often occur because a quick response is not always the best response. I feel like we need to be more mindful and be more accepting of the wait. We need to give others the time to pause, think, and respond appropriately.

Another behavior I observe is in how people use texting to get what they want immediately without consideration for the person on the other end. Take for example how some kids use texting as a means to apply pressure on their busy parents. Technology creates a virtual connection that used appropriately, is a lifesaver to the busy parent. If your child wants to ride home from school with their friend rather than taking the bus, wouldn’t you appreciate a text notifying you they are doing so? However, if you are out with a friend and your child sends you multiple message about a pair of shoes they want you to buy, do you really need to respond immediately? Even the most attentive parent feel a little guilty when they leave behind those they are responsible for. So the question is not if you should respond, but when? Knowing everything we love and hate about smartphones, are we conditioning ourselves to need constant connection? Or are we just over-notified?

EMAIL

You open one of your inboxes, and if you’re like most American’s you have at least two, to see dozens of emails. Email stacked upon email. Daunting, overwhelming… you’re not alone. It becomes hard to find the important emails, you forget what you’ve responded to, you miss a deadline. Again, this is another situation where your technology is controlling you! It doesn’t have to be that way, you can organize your inbox and efficiently use your email time.

Tip 1: Unspam yourself! Unsubscribe from all spam. That’s right, go to the bottom of each email and hit ‘Unsubscribe’. This takes a bit of time upfront, but you will be ridding your inbox of 80% clutter!

Tip 2: Turn off social media email notifications. You don’t need to be notified of social media updates on your phone and your email (or either). Go to that specific platform and turn off notifications.

Tip 3: Pick a couple of news sources to send you ‘Once Daily’ news updates. You don’t need every news site to send you updates, pick a couple. I suggest subscribing to one national, one international, and one local news source to keep you apprised.

Tip 4: Create folders or labels for your emails. After you’ve read an email and completed whatever follow-up is necessary, file it away in a corresponding folder or apply a label. I use labels in my Gmail according to task or subject matter. For example, I use the labels “Read Later” or “Need Follow-up” if I can’t do either task immediately. If possible, do not save all your emails in your inbox. Use your inbox like you would your mailbox out front of your home. You don’t leave all of your mail sitting there do you? Nor should you in your inbox.

We encourage you to update your email design to be more responsive and watch your email marketing efforts be more effective! Here are a few of our tried and true tips!
  • Focus on a single product or one CTA (call-to-action) in an email. That will make your email easier to digest on  a mobile phone screen.
  • Keep your message clear and concise – don’t overwhelm your reader – and ensure they take away the key message you’re trying to communicate.
  • Make the offer front and center along with the CTA (call-to-action).
  • Did you know that if you limit your images and offerings in an email, it will in turn be more responsive? Use a rotating .gif instead of multiple images if you need to showcase different versions of a product.

 

As a thank you for answering our brief 3 question survey, we are offering a free email marketing consultation! Take our survey, here! 

*All survey results are research for our own private use and we will share collective results in our next newsletter.*

 

How does this email communicate correctly to its readers?

Correct:
The CTA is front and center.
Incorrect:
There are multiple images and it distracts the reader from the main message. This also slows down its response time. 
How does this email communicate correctly to its readers?
Correct:
One image, front and center.
Correct:
Rotating .gif images

Working with Teahouse Creatives has been an incredible joint creative process. 

Consider the analogy that it’s time to build your dream house: You have your dreams, your lists, your ideas from magazines and Pinterest. Now you meet with the contractor and you learn about the realities of your visions, budget and timeline. You learn what’s possible, what’s in the time and money budgets and what’s negotiable to make the dream house a reality . 

I came to Teahouse Creatives with a fairly functional site but had reached the limits of my abilities to get the site where I wanted it to be. I had a long list of things to do; what was working, what wasn’t and what was a “must do” vs. a nice to do. I thought this would be an easy fix, quick and inexpensive.

After understanding the process more in our initial conversations, I expanded my budget to get what I needed—balanced with the Goldilocks touch: the “just right” mix of innovation and improvement for now but knowing there would be room for growth. Every project has compromises. I decided that it’s best to get it more right the first time vs. doing lots of little changes after the process was over. Like the house analogy, it was best to do things while the contractor was on site vs. after the truck left. 

Amie took my amorphous ideas and guided and encouraged me to hone concepts and visions, and to own them. She helped me refine the vision for myself and for customers and, along with the conceptual and design ideas she had, we worked from there. This was lots of work as I have a visionary personality and ideas are easier than specifics!

As with most dynamic projects, the process is longer than I expected; I have learned that there is so much more to creating a site than I realized—and more people involved. How fun to have Amie, Corinne and Jack all looking in and providing their particular skills and their objective views of the ideas.

They really understand my vision and have read my content for understanding; they shaped it as objective readers to see how it communicates with my audience. I appreciate how they shaped my prose with pull quotes—it looks and sounds so much more approachable and strong.

For someone considering a new site or a redesign, there are realities to understand: 

* it’s not a linear process

* it’s lots of work even though they are doing the heavy lifting

* you’ll learn (lots!) along the way

* learning can lead to new ideas and changes

It’s an iterative process with lots of back and forth because there are layers of understanding as you get into the project. You start to see possibilities and options but those can cost time and money. Teahouse Creatives are straightforward with what is in the scope of the project and what is additional and, if that addition is a “must do” or a “nice to do.” 

I am working more than expected during this redesign! Once Teahouse Creatives has elements in place, I do my assigned “homework” whether that is edits on text blocks or entering titles, metadata, etc  in the backend. We have some options on my site that are more “plug and play” but they still require learning and practice. It’s been a steep learning curve for me even though I was not new to the WordPress site. Teahouse Creatives has provided the training and resources so I know how to do these tasks—or, at least feel more comfortable doing them! Afterall, I will need to know how to do things tasks on my own when our active collaboration is complete; I even have a couple of videos for reference—very helpful options to have.

Amie and her Teahouse Creatives team have been a mentors, guides and cheerleaders all along the way—not only keeping me on track but giving lots of pats on the back for good efforts. Amie and I had the chance to meet in person and it was fun to hear more about her passion for her job and other interesting options for my project (in the future!). It was fun to make a more personal connection when my project is so personal to me. 

For my redesign, we’ve enabled my dreams by creating a site that is set now for success and has built-in room to grow. It will be scary and exciting to have the site. Teahouse Creatives have given me great training to tend the site and have said they’re always available; both are welcome safety nets. Not only do I have a web site, but I have a good education about site design and maintenance processes.

Mia Kali Thea and Teahouse Creatives—a true partnership!

Melinda Graper, Founder/Director

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