Social media doesn’t have to be hard

What exactly is branded social content?

Glad you asked! *pulls out chair, gets comfortable*

Branded social content helps tie your social presence together. 

It fills the gaps in your content calendar with quality imagery that inspires engagement and, if that wasn’t enough, having it at your fingertips also takes the guessing out of your social media. 

With branded social content, you’ll know what to post, all you’ll have to do is login and post it. 

Now, don’t get us wrong, branded social content isn’t going to be the answer to all of your social media woes – you’ll still need to create other content that tells your story, engage with your audience and spend more time than any of us are willing to admit figuring out how to get the transitions to work juuuuust right on your Instagram Reels. 

But, when you need them (yep, Monday morning after you spent all weekend bingeing Bridgerton for the fourth time instead of working out that content calendar, we’re talking to you!), they’ll be there.

Let us show you..

Andy Factory

Always ready to mambo, Andy Factory founders needed social content that is as spicy as their sauce.

We finessed these graphics for them to give them some tasty content that keeps their audience hungry for more. They’re the perfect way to announce everything from new flavor launches to afternoon office dance parties – a definite must if you’re a sauce named mambo.

 

 

I Believe in Me, Inc.

I Believe in Me, a Frederick based youth mentorship nonprofit organization founded by Aje Hill is about people – supporting them, guiding them, helping them grow and thrive and live their best lives. 

The organization leaned hard into helping people when the COVID pandemic burst onto the scene in 2020 and they really needed an entire overhaul of their branding, website and content so that they could reach more supporters and, in turn, support more families.

In the end, the branded social content we created for them met both of those needs – it made telling the world about their work easier, louder and more effective while also keeping those they serve engaged, informed and in touch with exactly what they need to weather this storm we’re all still pushing through.

 

 

S.H.E. Week

S.H.E. Week, the annual conference for and about women in business hosted by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, is one of Frederick’s most anticipated local business events. 

It’s big, it’s bold and it’s beautiful to experience so of course we needed to create graphics that were as fierce and fabulous as the event itself.

These came in handy for spreading the word about the event, engaging sponsors and giving attendees an opportunity to say, “Yassss, girl,” when someone asked if they were going.

 

Ready to jump on the branded content bandwagon? Reach out today to learn how we can help you!

Making Your Website Work for You in a COVID World

As the global pandemic of 2020 continues to rip through the nation and people continue to make the commitment to stay home more, digital connectivity has gotten more important than ever. For business owners, having a well-designed, efficient website that can entice, engage and convert visitors has taken on a new level of importance.

If you’re still not sure that your website is getting the job done for you, now is the time to invest in an upgrade that will help your business survive and thrive through COVID-19 and beyond. Here are some things you can do to make sure your website is working or you.

Make sure your site is up to speed.

In a digital world, on site user experience should be top of mind. You can’t engage your customers well online if your website isn’t setup correctly and working as hard as possible on your behalf to do so.
While numerous factors play into user experience, none seem to rank higher in importance than page speed.

Consumers aren’t interested in waiting around for a site to load in order to purchase a product or service – they’ll just happily move on to someone who can meet their needs more quickly. Having a site that takes too long to load or won’t load completely will lose you the opportunity to wow a customer with your amazing products and services.

In fact, studies have shown that an additional two seconds of loading time can increase a site’s bounce rate by 103% and adding as little as 100 milliseconds of extra loading time can cause a 7% drop in conversion rates. That’s money you’re just giving away by not making sure your website is functioning to the best of its ability.

Lost opportunities for conversions on site isn’t the only issue here -page speed also factors into your SEO. If Google determines your site loads too slowly, it can be detrimental to your search rankings losing you more opportunities to capture customers for whom your product might be perfect.

Have great design.

User experience is also greatly impacted by design – the look and feel of your site says a lot to users about your product, your services and your brand.
And while looking good is super important, great design is about more than pretty colors and funky fonts.

Great design guides your user through your site effortlessly and directs them to the places you intuitively know they need to go. It excites them, engages them and convinces them that your product or service is the solution to their problem, an enhancement to their life and exactly what they need.

Like they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and that doesn’t just apply to in person meetings. Your website only gets one chance too. You want your site visitors to know instantly what you’re about, what you can do for them and why you’re the right choice for the job. And, with so much competition just a click away, this first impression can truly mean the difference between making a sale and being forgotten.

Tell your story.

And hire a good writer to do it.

Everything from the basic screens describing what you do and how you do it, to telling the who and why of your brand and business should be well written. Poorly written copy loses you credibility, distracts from your message and fails to convince your customer that you are worth the investment.

Compelling imagery plays a role here too. Great photos and strong graphics help convey your message more meaningfully to your site visitors. Like professional, well-written copy, an investment in professional photography will help give your business credibility. It also serves to keep your customers engaged and often adds value to your message.

In today’s digital world, where everything is within reach at the click of a button, you need to reach through the screen and grab your customer, drag them into your “shop” and sell them your product – well written copy can do that for you when you can’t rely on your charm and charisma to seal the deal.

Is your website doing all it can for you?

In addition to branding, package design and marketing materials, Octavo Designs specializes in web design and development and help you create a website that works for you and supports your business growth and goals.

Searching For Images to Use For Your Site? Read This First

As designers, we know that finding the perfect image is key. The right photo can be the focal point for your work, get you more clicks, and inspire other aspects of the design. While it may be tempting to do a quick Google search and grab the first image that catches your eye, we’re here to say: don’t! For all of the ease that pulling an image off of Google may seem to provide, the pitfalls are not worth it.

First, there’s the quality control. Not only is the image likely not readily available for public use, but where’s the quality assurance? High resolution is the goal, but some searches offer blurry photos that not only won’t look good on your blog post. They also definitely won’t translate to print materials either, so the ol’ search-and-grab is not your friend.

The second pitfall is an even bigger “yikes!” We’ve heard some horror stories about people get into tricky legal situations when using an image without checking the copyright. Even if someone’s intentions are good, like using an image on your personal blog, the last thing anyone wants is to get a scary letter in the mail demanding payment, attribution, or taking down the work altogether. Photographers and stock photo companies can find their work to ensure it’s being used legally.

Don’t Fear the Fine Print

Copyright infringement? Public domain? Creative Commons? Restricted permissions? There are a lot of terms to know, but chin up! Here’s the good news: there are many helpful resources out there to help navigate what this all means. The most obvious solution is to take your own photos, but that may not be feasible for all of your projects. If you’re new to this issue of legal versus illegal image use, you’re not alone. That’s why there are many articles on this very topic.

Here’s a helpful article from Search Engine Journal that puts it simply:

“You can’t just do a Google image search to find the images you want. That’s how you risk copyright infringement. However, there’s a neat tool within Google Images to help you quickly find all the images you can use.”

So Where Can I Get Good Photos?

We’ve gathered some go-to resources for you. This Forbes article offers 33 sites with free photos. Not bad, right? As a bonus, each website is given a line or two about how you may use them—commercial projects, personal use, or however you like.

Looking to shell out some bucks for high quality stock photos, graphics, and videos? Here are some sites we recommend:

Your choices are endless. Search away!

These user-friendly tools are available to everyone, so your creative project doesn’t need to be put on hold. We’re lucky to have resources available to us.  Let’s keep your work far away from legal pitfalls and instead bring fantastic (and worry-free!) images to your audience.

Your Website Launched—Now What?

Launching your website is a really exciting time—it’s a big deal! What’s also a big deal, though, is what happens after launch day. While you probably wish people would magically flock to your site—and we get that—we’ve come up with a list of 8 crucial post-launch tips that will help make the magic happen.

1. Announcement

Unfortunately, your beautiful new site won’t fall into people’s laps, so you’ve got to broadcast it! There are many ways to advertise your launch, and you can try them all. For instance, you can announce your site (don’t forget the link!) in a quick line in your email signature to catch the eye of past, current, and potential clients. You can also capitalize on word-of-mouth by letting your friends and family know and encouraging them to pass it on to others. What we like to do is create a custom graphic for our clients to announce their new site on their social media platforms. We’re always sure to get the point across with “Just Launched!” or “New Site!” and always aim to display the uniqueness of the client and showcase their personality.

Website Announcement Samples

2. Social Media/Blog

Chances are your business already has social media accounts of its own—perhaps even a blog. These accounts—Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.—help make your website easy to find. What’s key, though, is consistency. The social media accounts that’ll be the biggest help for you may depend on your type of business, so channel your energy wisely so you can remain engaged and active on these platforms. This consistent presence will help you steer clear of that “out of sight, out of mind” pitfall.

3. Analytics/Webmaster Tools

Getting traffic to your website is a good thing—but knowing how that traffic works is an even better thing. You may—or should—be wondering: who is visiting it? What kind of search terms bring them to my site? Having these stats will not only help you understand the amount of people landing on your page, but also to figure out what they’re searching for—i.e. what they want! Consistently learning about the interests and aims of potential clients and customers can then inform your website copy and marketing, which can benefit and sustain your traffic. Google Analytics is a good place to start for a free, easy to use tool. Also, don’t forget about Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)! Like Google Analytics, it is aimed to get you the information you need about keywords, search terms, security info, and more.

4. Claim your Business Listing

Making your key info visible on your site and setting up your business listings may seem like a basic step, but it’s a foundational one in making sure you’re legit, and that Google thinks so, too. Your name, phone number, address, and/or hours of operation should be consistent and accurate not only on your own site, but every time you submit a business listing AKA“citation” in your industry. Keep track of these listings so if you move offices, or get a new number, you can cover all your bases when you need to update it.

5. Reviews

You’ve probably read reviews of businesses you’ve thought about checking out, so you know how these reviews can sway your decision. Reviews should come from your favorite and best clients who will sing your praises on sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Google+. While rankings and business listings help your cred, real life testimonials especially help people connect with you and your business.

6. Don’t Ignore Your Site

Go with us on this: like a car, your website has a lot of working parts that need to work together, and periodic maintenance is one of the best things you can do for it. For example, make sure the shopping cart works, or that your contact form is still getting messages to you. Keeping WordPress and your plugins updated will save you from the headache of unexpected down time.

7. Backlinks

Backlinks is a term that basically means “get your website seen widely yet strategically.” There are many options here, and we’ll touch on a few: make sure your link is visible on social media posts so users will always have your site within their reach. Even everything you get out on paper—whether it’s a print ad or other collateral—should feature your URL. Another great way to get people to your website are blog posts—both your own, and guest blogging for others, where you’ll include your link. Not only do these posts produce original content, but they’ll showcase your savvy to readers on other websites and likely generate visitors.

8. Domain/Hosting/SSL Certificate Documentation

Here’s one of the best tips we can offer after your site launches: keep track of renewal dates of your hosting, domain name, and SSLCertificate Documentation. It’s also important to keep track of who you’ve registered your domain name, hosting, etc. to so you’ll have the access you need or know who to ask when checking renewal dates. It’ll be a lifesaver! Plus, if you’ve got a website/IT person, it’s not a bad idea to work with them to plan password backups and manage this key info.

Has Your WordPress Site Been Hacked?

We’ve recently had a few clients notify us that their sites have been hacked. The way the hack works is when people click on your link from search results in Google, Bing or Yahoo – they are getting redirected to porn sites. Otherwise your site looks perfectly fine.

According to sucuri.net, this is happening to all sorts of sites, including WordPress, forums and pure HTML sites. In most cases, with WordPress, it is happening because the version of WordPress is outdated and/or there are outdated plugins.

How can you tell if your site is hacked?

First off, check to make sure that your site is not already compromised. You can do this by simply searching for you site in Google. Make sure you are not already flagged (see image below), and click on your search result. If your site loads like it should, and you haven’t been flagged, you are most likely in the clear.

 

Hacked Website Example

Your site has been hacked.

If you think your site has been compromised, contact us immediately and we will let you know what you need to do to get your site cleaned up.

You don’t appear to be hacked.

If you don’t appear to be hacked, your next step is to make sure that your version of WordPress and all of your plugins are up to date. See the steps below.

Some of the steps below are very technical and may be out your comfort zone, or you just may not have the time to deal with it. If so, we do offer monthly maintenance plans that take care of everything below and more. Or you can check with your host and see what services they offer. But either way, we feel it is very important to complete the steps below at least once a month.

Updating WordPress

It is crucial that you keep WordPress up to date. Due to it’s immense popularity (currently powering 23% of the websites in the world), WordPress is a popular target for hackers, malicious code distributors, data thieves, and wanna be hackers. With each update, WordPress fixes bugs, adds new features, and improves performance and security to keep ahead of the hackers.

By failing to keep WordPress up to date you are risking your website security and missing out on new features/improvements.

How to Update WordPress

  1. Create a Backup. The first step is creating a backup of all of your files. There is a possibility that updating WordPress could cause your site to break. And creating a backup will insure that you are able to revert to a working version of your site in the event that something goes wrong. You can create a backup by doing one of the following:
    1. Check to see if the BackupBuddy plugin is already installed on your website:
      1. Log into your site and look at the panel on the left side of the screen.
      2. Look for the tab titled BackupBuddy and click it.
      3. Then click on the button that says “Complete Backup”.
      4. Once the backup finishes running, click to download the file and proceed to the next step.
    2. If BackupBuddy is not installed, you can contact us and we will install it for you or you can check with your host and see if backups are included in your hosting plan .
  2. Update WordPress. If you are due for an update, you will see an alert at the top of the page that reads “WordPress #.# is available! Please update now.” To run the update:
    1. First, click “Please update now”
    2. On the next screen click the blue “Update Now” button.
    3. The update will typically take a few seconds to a minute to go through. Once it is completed you may be asked to log in again or be taken to a page verifying your update is complete. If you do not see the alert go to the next step and check that your plugins are up to date.
  3. Check your site. If the update went through successfully, check your site and make sure everything is working. If there are any issues or the update didn’t go through, contact us and we’ll take a look for you.

Update Plugins

Like WordPress, it is also crucial to keep all of your plugins up to date as well. By failing to keep your plugins up to date you are putting your site at the same security risks as an outdated version of WordPress.

How to Update Plugins

  1. Create a Backup. If you already created a backup during step 1 of Updating WordPress you can continue to the next step. Otherwise, see step 1 above.
  2. Update Plugins.
    1. Log into WordPress.
    2. On the left side of the screen click the Plugins tab.
    3. Plugins that need to be updated are highlighted in red. Find the line that reads “There is a new version …” and click the “update now” link.
    4. The plugin should spin for a few seconds to a minute and finish with a green checkmark that reads “Updated!”.
    5. Follow these steps for remaining plugins that need updated.

Everything is up-to-date, what’s next?

We would suggest checking your site at least once a month and making sure that both your version of WordPress and your plugins are up-to-date, as well as making a full backup of everything, just in case there are any issues in the future.

Logo Rejects: The Ups and Downs of Logo Design

We came across a site that aims to celebrate all the logo designs that littered your workspaces and desktop folders but never got chosen to live on in print or on the web. The winner receives not only bragging rights but also vouchers and a variety of great design resources.

Here’s what we love about this concept: as design professionals, we know how much effort goes into creating not only the perfect logo design, but also the dozens (yes, some days it feels like thousands!) of variations of it.

While the ultimate goal is, without question, to please the client and create something they will love whole-heartedly, this goal is not met without trust between the client and the designer. Trust is built when the client reviews the options and sees how their specifications come to fruition the way they imagine it in their minds. The trick is to match your headspace to theirs, and we all know it is no easy feat.

The minute we have the consultation conversation with the client and review their logo design surveys, we put pen to paper or cursor to program and get moving. We talk with our coworkers and throw around ideas so that after we deliberate we can supply three polished logo design concepts that reflect not only the range of what the client offers but also the range within our team. The variety with which we approach a design concept expands our own reach and allows us to consider new things—even if it’s just a new color palette or line weight. We love having “Hey, that works!” conversations in our office, when we feel proud of how what was just a conversation has taken on this exciting, visual form.

Example of three polished logo design concepts

It is important not to lose this sense of excitement, even if the client selects what you, as a team, consider the weakest of the three options. There will be times when the strongest typeface or most dynamic illustration will be set aside because what registers as “NAILED IT!” in our minds might ring in at “I’m not so sure…” in a client’s mind. The image they hold onto in their heads is planted just as firmly as the one we have in ours—and that’s just the way it pans out on occasion.