How to build a web presence without a website

When you’re starting a new business or event, it’s not always possible to build a website right away. That’s where creating a presence on social media can help people find you online while you’re building your business.

Cleaning Cousins ready to workI recently assisted a cleaning company with this endeavor. Cleaning Cousins Shelly Wood and Julie Heywood have been cleaning homes and businesses for more than 10 years. They started their business together in 2018, setting up a Facebook page so they could be found online.

I met the Cousins through my PNG networking group. They cleaned my house to prepare it for sale. In return, I helped them enhance their web presence and upgrade their Facebook page.

While they were cleaning, I took pictures of them working around my house. I also took photos of the wonderful results they achieved. My refrigerator was so clean it looked brand new! They got into every nook and cranny of my house, ensuring it would pass the scrutiny of even the pickiest home buyer.

Cleaning Cousins meet JunoI was very impressed that the first thing they did was introduce themselves to my dog, Juno. They wanted to make her comfortable with their presence in the house, and the noise they would be making throughout the day. Juno had a great time with them.

Once photos were ready, here’s how I enhanced their online presence:

  • I updated the Cousins’ cover photo on Facebook, and reviewed all information to make sure it was complete and accurate.
  • I also created a post for them with one of the photos I took.
  • I posted the remaining photos on a private gallery on my SmugMug, so they can download photos for future use.
  • I created a Google My Business listing for them, and uploaded some of the photos there.

All of this was done to make the best first impression online if people try to search for them. It was accomplished for a budget of under $500.

Here are some hints for doing this for your business or organization.

  • Determine the best social media to represent your company and find your audience. Facebook reaches a very broad audience and may be better for older customers. Instagram and Twitter might be better for teens. LinkedIn is great for being visible to other businesses and business owners.
  • Have someone take photos of you in your work environment to post on your social media. Your camera phone is just fine for this. Make sure the photos are in focus and have good lighting.
  • List your business on Google My Business. This will help you appear on Google Maps, and will be the best signal to Google for appearing in search engine results.
  • Cleaning Cousins logoUpload photos to Google My Business. Start with your logo and a couple of photos of you at work. Try uploading 1-2 photos a month to keep the listing fresh and improve your search engine optimization.
  • Post regularly on your social media. Don’t just set up your account and go -use it! Post information about your work, new clients, services you offer, company ideals. You can also post links to industry-related news.
  • Put links to your social media in your email signature. You can simply add a line that says “Connect with us,” and list your social media links.
  • Claim your directory listings. Once you’re online, directory services such as Manta, NextDoor and the Better Business Bureau will find you and add you to their website. Google yourself to find these listings. If you like what you see, claim the listings for yourself and update them.

Most businesses start small and grow. Having a great online presence is an important part of that growth. Take some time for these simple steps to help your customers find you.

And when you’re ready to build your website, call Catena Creations to get started.

Why I finally gave up on Facebook

I have finally done something I have contemplated for a long time: I have deactivated my personal Facebook account.

It has been great to use Facebook to connect with relatives and friends I wouldn’t keep in touch otherwise: my sister in Germany, cousins around the country, ex-in-laws who want to stay connected.

However, I’ve had a number of concerns about Facebook for a long time. After an incident last weekend, it was time to act on them.

Who Likes this?

One of the most frustrating changes in Facebook happened a few years ago, when Facebook started showing your Friends what you’ve Liked. The thought is that they might Like it, too, because they’re your friend.

My friends and my son’s friends used to tease me because I Liked so many things on Facebook. I was just trying to keep these people in my news feed.

Facebook’s change in Likes has backfired in my case. I am Friends with many who have very different views from mine on politics and religion. Most of the time, if I see something I like about these topics in a post, I still won’t Like it, because I know it will offend or hurt these other friends, and I don’t want to do that.

Facebook needs to let users decide whether or not they want their Friends to see what they’ve Liked and Shared.

Facebook advertising

I’ve managed ad campaigns and boosted posts for several clients. On Facebook, the more you advertise, the more you have to spend just to attempt to keep reaching the same number of people. In other words, you get punished for committing to spend money with them. Let me give an example.

I just ran a six-week ad campaign for a client this summer. We spent $20 on the first ad to reach 7,000 to 8,000 people. By then end of the campaign, the last ad for $20 was reaching only 4,000 to 5,000. We’d have to spend more money just to reach the same people we were reaching before.

Contrast this with spending on traditional media — TV, radio or print. I’ll use the Omaha World-Herald as an example. Let’s say I buy an ad that costs $500 to run one time. If I decide to run it four times, the cost goes down. The more frequently I run the ad, the more the cost per ad drops. In addition, the World-Herald will run that ad in other places, too, and offer digital advertising benfits — all for committing to run an ad more frequently.

In other words, with these traditional media, the bigger spending commitment you make, the more benefits you receive. With Facebook, you get punished. You have to spend more and more just to keep reaching the same audience.

Mishandling users’ data

I’ve been greatly concerned about irresponsibly Facebook has collected and distributed their users’ data. The Cambridge Analytica scandal left me angry, scared and sad.

I’ve always known that Facebook’s biggest asset is the data it collects. Since internet security is such an important part of my business, it has been frustrating to watch Facebook Friends play games and take quizzes on apps that tell you they will be taking your Friends’ data, and these people have accepted that. Sorry, I didn’t agree to hand my data over to your game!

Facebook’s lackadaisical approach to mining and selling data has forever changed the fabric of this country, our elections, and our online security. It’s not a change for the better.

Is this the real life?

What has pushed me over the edge, however, is much more personal.

Everyone has Facebook Friends who are what I call “fair weather Facebookers.” They don’t post on their day-to-day lives, the good and the bad. They post only when they’re on a fabulous trip, or want to gush about their wonderful spouse/kids, or want to sell something.

Last weekend, one of those fair-weather folks posted some photos. On the surface, they seem perfectly innocent. But the story behind them was very painful for me. It was like being stabbed in the heart. (And no, I’m not going to share details because I don’t want a big blow-up over this.)

Once I realized that I was crying over Facebook photos, I decided that I’ve finally had enough. And before you say “Why don’t you just unfriend them?”, I’ll just say that doing so would cause even more problems than their posts would create.

I am signing out of Facebook for good for my personal contacts. I have another account that is very private that I will use for clients.

Unless it very specifically meets a client’s needs, I no longer recommend Facebook for most businesses. No matter how much money they spend, they still will not be able to effectively reach all of the people who’ve Liked their page and indicated their interest in keeping up with them. This is ridiculous.

I don’t need to have my data mined, sold and used for nefarious purposes without my consent. I’m tired of not being able to control what I see and do, and how others see it. I have done a lot of filtering on Facebook to eliminate the politics and news posts, because I didn’t want it to be a news feed. 

Mostly, I do not need to participate in a forum that leaves me in tears and breaks my heart, and causes depression and anxiety for so many others. Facebook has a lot of filters. Unfortunately, there’s no way to filter insensitivity and pomposity and cluelessness. I have too many other things to do, professionally and personally, that are far more uplifting.

Those who want to stay in touch can find me on Twitter, Pinterest and the other social media whose icons are found at the bottom of this page.

Catena Creations celebrates 10 years

Today is a day that seemed so far away when I first thought about it: It’s the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of  Catena Creations LLC.

Catena Creations 10th anniversary logoTen years ago, I had just been laid off for the second time in 2008. I was doing freelance work for the first company that had laid me off. The first episode of  Bravo’s Tabatha Takes Overwas on that night, and she asked the couple she was helping: What’s your passion?

While laid off, I’d been working at home and taking care of my then-13-year-old-son and getting him ready for school. And watching that show, I realized I wanted to do what I’d been doing since that second layoff: Work at home. Manage my own schedule. Set my own pace. Enjoy a variety of work with more creativity.

It’s amazing to think of all the changes that have taken place in the past decade.

When I started, everyone wanted to build their websites in tables with a fixed width so you could control their appearance. Now websites must be mobile-friendly and responsiveto adapt to a wide variety of devices and platforms — some that we couldn’t even imagine 10 years ago.

Search engine optimization was kind of a concern, if you knew how to do the programming. Now we integrate it into every step we take when redesigning or building a website. For example, the home page for my first website was a large graphic with links. That would be unthinkable today — no keywords!

Photos on websites were small so they wouldn’t take too long to download. Now we showcase photo galleries and use video backgrounds on home pages.

I taught myself Flash in the fall of 1997, using the “Flash for Dummies” book that came with a 30-day trial of Flash on a CD. Flash has since given way to multiple better options for animation and photo shows that are more secure and less buggy.

The most important change: My son is now 23 and has finished college. He just got engaged a couple of weeks ago. But he still is my biggest supporter. I would not have made it this far without his love and encouragement, and I very much appreciate it.

In 21 years of website design and 10 years of owning my business, I’ve seen a lot of changes. A lot of “must haves” come and go.  What hasn’t changed is the need for excellent writing, design, photography, video and editing to create a website that sells your products or services and helps you make a profit for your business. Or raise funds for your nonprofit organization.

I’ll say this again: I may be a sole proprietor, but I don’t do this alone.  In addition to my son and now his fiance, family, friends, clients and colleagues have cheered me on, guided me, lent their strength and enhanced my business. I am very grateful to everyone who’s helped me on this journey, and I thank you for being part of the history of Catena Creations.

I’ll be using this new logo this year wherever I can to celebrate this milestone.  More celebrations are to come. Stay tuned!