How to boost you business with Twitter

Yes, I've been quiet, slack, tardy, not walking my own talk!  Alas, the more clients we get, the more time it takes just maintaining those clients.  And it sure isn't helped when <insert nasty words here> hackers attack not just the client sites, but the whole server that we buy space on.  This year has seen a concerted hack attack on US based servers, so, as much as it would be sort of nice to think so, we're nothing special - just a bunch of sites on a US server.

Anyway, enough of gloom, here's something to get you thinking - using Twitter to boost your business by using Twitter.  As the marketplace becomes more competitive, we all need to be continually reinventing ourselves.   So I've been doing a lot of reading about using Twitter effectively to help grow and promote business.  And it turns out it isn't too hard, but it does take time and effort and commitment!

So today I sat down and put into a nice download-able format all that I'd learned.  Enjoy!

Fixed width v Fluid width v Responsive

I'm often questioned on the merits of each when talking with clients about their design.  Personally, I'm not a fan of fluid width in the old sense of the term.  They were just too unpredictable in layout to be successful in my opinion.  A site that was almost all text based is OK with them (to a point), but, this is the web!  Who does JUST text sites anymore?  The old argument was that a fluid site fitted anyone's screen.  However, with modern responsive design, not to mention more screen sizes than you can shake a stick at, the old traditional fluid width design seems at an end.

Having said that, the old style fixed width design is also out with the incoming responsive design.  Also out are the old methods of layout - tables for example.  When they first arrive, oh my goodness, tables were so cool for laying out stuff.  But now, when your viewer's screen could be a bare 50mm wide, a fixed width table of 640px (about 170mm) doesn't display at all well.

Responsive design

Responsive design is the latest answer to displaying a webpage on any screen, be it a small smartphone, or a widescreen running 1920 x 1280.  The template itself detects the screen resolution and serves up a webpage based on that.  In some cases, what you see on one device will not be the same as on another.  Menus display differently, a header image may disappear, etc.  Compared to the old style fluid width layouts, esponsive designs are infinitely more predictable in their display.

Is responsive the be-all and end-all?

With the number of different sized devices and displays, something had to be devised to cope with them all. Again, as a personal opinion, what responsive design does to sites on smartphones I don't like.  If a user is used to one look on a PC or laptop, then views it on a phone, it can look almost a different site and this can be confusing.

The problem with not doing this is that many designers still make use of tables with fixed widths, and not all are usign the new HTML5 and CSS3 standards.  So it's a bit of a catch 22 either way.  It will be an insterestign thing to watch the 2 new standards evlove and see where it takes us in design.

Backup or it could be your funeral!

This week gave us a very blunt reminder about the value of having regular backups.  Oh, yeah, and backups that are up to date!  It also served us a slap in the face for assuming "someone else had done it".  The space we have on our US based server we had, erroneously, assumed was well secure.  After all, it was bought from a reputable, well though of ISP.  The sad truth is, it wasn't - in fact they'd left huge doors open for hackers to get in.  And guess what?  Get in they did!

The good news, and the bouquet for us, after getting the brickbat for being dummies and assuming, was that our backup regime was regular and automated.  Thank goodness.  And it was also nice that we didn't get hit as badly as we could have been.  Only one site was unrepairable in place and required a restore from a backup - a 5 minute job.  There was a number of hours of combing through each site, rooting out the junk these malicious little <insert bad words here!!> put there.

Perhaps you think you have nothing valuable to lose. If I took your computer and erased everything except the programs, would that bother you?  If you, truthfully, can't reply an unequivocal "Nope!", then you have files that are valuable to you and you should be backing up regularly.  We back up to 3 different places - some local, some off site. We have a USB 320Mb drive plugged into each computer, a 1Tb network drive all computers can access, plus we also send a copy to the cloud at either SugarSync or Amazon S3.  Redundancy isn't something you can have too much of!  And all these backups are automated, either with the off-site systems monitor or, locally, with a nifty program called AutoVer.  This program monitors user-selected folders and/or files and backups them up when there's a change.  Simple, safe, secure.

The takeaway:  Hackers couldn't care less how much pain they cause, and ANYONE is a potential target.  They hack because they can, or want to prove they can, and because sites are there.  I recommend you look at some of the tools on the Gibson Research Corp site, and see how vulnerable you are.  Then hurry to set up a good backup regime.  One day you just may be mighty glad!

Tax the Internet?

At first glance this appears a ludicrous, and impossible, task.  But what has cropped up recently is action by the French government to tax giant Amazon and Google in relation to "the allocation of income between foreign jurisdictions".

Back in November last year, Amazon got slapped with a $252 million tax bill by the French, which, of course, Amazon said it would fight.  No news yet and what's happening, but, even for Amazon, $252 mil isn't pocket money.  More importantly, kowtowing to the French would open up the "cash-grab" floodgates from every Government against every Internet business.

Now French President François Hollande asked for a report - presented last week - that looks at taxign those Internet companies who track and monetize data based on the amount of users.  In their sights are not only Amazon and Google, but ANY company who does business on the net.  The ramifications are huge!

None of this should come as any shock, of course, as cash-strapped Governments all round the globe look for new, creative ways to gouge their citizens (and others).  As Reuters so eloquently put it, "...the French are looking at ways of curbing legal tax avoidance..."  What?  Now we aren't even able to LEGALLY minimize our tax?  Where will it end?

Is overseas traffic of any use?

If you ever study your analytics (and you should - monthly at least), you'll see traffic from all over the place, not just your home country.  There's always a fair few from India and Russia (more often than not they're spammers or hackers) and from the USA.  I looked at our stats for this month on AWStats (part of cPanel).  You can do the same sort of thing with Google Analytics, though GA can have an accuracy problem in its reporting and is better suited, in my opinion, for watching trends.

For the first 6 days of this year, the USA tops the traffic polls.  In fact, it regularly comes in at #1.  Of course, this is partly because that's where the Google, Yahoo et al spiders live, so you'd expect traffic from them.  I would be dismayed not to be seeing this - having your site spidered regularly is a good thing! But what of the other countries? France, Great Britain, Canada?

An interesting thing occured this week.  I got a submission off the site from a guy in Fort Worth, Texas, wanting a .co.nz site built.  Did he look in Texas?  Not sure, but the company he selected was us here in NZ!  So is that overseas traffic good?  you betcha! 

Another reason ANY traffic is good is that the search engines take into account traffic volumes when deciding on rankings.  Simplistically, they equate high volumes of traffic to be "votes" for a site's authority and relevance.  Conversely, low traffic is considered a vote too, but in the negative sense.  This is one reason I recommend strongly the use of a blog (and updating it regularly) along with RSS feeds, galleries and forums (as appropriate) as these are all features that are simply updated and continue to draw visitors back in.

So the takeaway is this.  Consider ALL traffic good (yes even the hackers and spammers count as a hit!) and never thin you won't get business from overseas.  Lastly, if you don't have a blog, get one now and start writing, and watch your stats regularly.

Happy New Year!