Friday, March 4, 2011

Webmaster... Doesn't Mean "Expert"

If you've ever logged in somewhere, uploaded a photo or two, typed in some text, added a link or created a personal web page to share with family and friends, you can officially call yourself a "Webmaster".

After studying several dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a variety of both offline and online resources, I’ve learned that no two definitions are exactly alike.  They all, however, suggest that if you've ever created a web page and have a link you can send to others so they can view what you’ve done then you are officially a "Webmaster".

Using, a resource which displays several definitions for a single word or term collected from a variety of dictionaries including "Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary", "The American Heritage® Dictionary", among others, let’s break it down:

Web Page: A document on the World Wide Web, consisting of an HTML file and any related files for scripts and graphics, and often hyperlinked to other documents on the Web.

Web Site: A connected group of pages on the World Wide Web regarded as a single entity, usually maintained by one person or organization and devoted to a single topic or several closely related topics.

Webmaster: The alias or role of the person(s) responsible for the development and maintenance of one or more web servers and/or some or all of the web pages at a web site. The term does not imply any particular level of skill or mastery.

Pay particular attention to the last line: The term does not imply any particular level of skill or mastery.

What does this mean?  You can add "Webmaster" to your résumé if you've ever created a template style web site or a personal web page, at websites like "Google Sites", "Facebook", “Twitter”, "Flickr", “MySpace”, "WordPress", etc…  It's a web page, viewable on the Internet and you created it.  This suggests that “Facebook” alone has more than 3 million “Webmasters”!

My point?  I think it's pretty clear.  Sure… I can sell my home all by myself… that doesn’t mean I’m a “REALTOR®”.  Nor can I call myself a mechanic just because I changed the oil in my Yukon.  It might be wise to do a little research before hiring your next "Webmaster".

Unfortunately, the term doesn't require a set of credentials in order to use it on a business card.  It doesn't suggest certain qualifications which are paramount when offering guidance to clients regarding Internet related matters.  It doesn't indicate a level of expertise necessary to develop a professional, successful, and search engine friendly Internet marketing tool.  It’s been watered down, compromised and abused and no longer denotes any type of authority where Internet related matters are concerned.

Yes, there are plenty of qualified, knowledgeable individuals still using the word to describe their occupation.  The challenge is in trying to determine who can do more than simply buy a domain name and create some web pages by pushing a button or two in a software program.

The truth is, any professional possessing the complete skill set necessary to provide you with competent and knowledgeable consultation along with the ability to properly develop an effective Internet marketing tool for your business will be overqualified to use the term "Webmaster".

Written by William H. Wells III for Monroe County, Tennessee Newspapers.
Monroe County, Tennessee includes Coker Creek, Madisonville, Sweetwater, Tellico Plains, and Vonore

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Email Etiquette - It Could Make or Break the Deal...

There’s no question email is still a powerful and vital communication tool. Although the first email was sent back in 1965, we didn’t really begin using it in business until 1993.  Since then, email has been used by business owners and professionals to communicate with each other, with clients and with complete strangers. The problem?  Email really just "came to be".  No rules or guidelines.  Few know about “email etiquette”, or “netiquette” as it's also called.  Understanding netiquette is critical.  Mistakes can kill business relationships.

There are many netiquette guides and rules.  I've been using email daily for 18 years.  During that time, little has changed.  It's still about text communication being sent and received, occasionally with an attachment or two... or more.  I’ve compiled a list I call “Top 10 Tips for Effective and Professional Email”.

  1. Use a business-like email address. Free services like Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo!, etc… are less professional and frequently used by spammers.  Spam filters often block these email addresses. Your email could get “lost”, your recipient won’t receive it and you’ll never know.  If you have a website, email service generally comes with it. Use it. If you MUST use ISP email such as TDS, BellSouth, etc… or free email service, avoid cute or suggestive words.
  2. Use the “Subject” line effectively.  Summarize your point in five words or less.  Avoid using common symbols like: !, ?, ‘, “, *, $, %, as well as words such as ‘online’, ‘sales’, ‘urgent’, and 'money'. You may as well delete the email yourself. That’s what most spam filters will do.
  3. Use a polite, professional, respectful greeting or salutation.  Don’t be presumptuous and assume you’re on a first name basis.  Use of words such as ‘Greetings’ or ‘Hello’, followed by Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr., (if appropriate) is safe.
  4. Keep it basic. Avoid stationary, graphics, logos, and fancy fonts. The email may look fine to you. However, spam filters can’t wait to intercept, delete, or strip it bare before passing it on.  Those who may receive your email could have trouble viewing it.  Stationary, logos and fonts can turn into attachments.  Email programs don’t always display email the same way it was sent, especially if viewed on PDAs, Smart Phones, or cell phones.
  5. Watch what you say and how you say it.  Comments made in person, accompanied by gestures and facial expressions, will be understood as intended.  The same comments in text can easily be misinterpreted.
  6. Avoid emoticons, abbreviations and ALL UPPER-CASE LETTERS.  Leave the smileys, BTW’s and LOL’s out of your professional email.  It’s PROFESSIONAL email, remember? Using all upper-case letters is the email equivalent of shouting.
  7. Use a “Signature” at the end of your email. You close letters, memos, and other hard copy correspondence.  The same applies to email. Conclude politely and professionally with ‘Thank you’ or ‘Sincerely’, followed by your full name, business name, phone number, email address, and website address.  Most email programs allow you to set up a signature which is automatically added to your email correspondence.
  8. Be considerate. Confirm before sending attachments. Verify that the recipient can receive large files and open certain file types.  Sure, you may be able to send attachments over 1 MB in size.  However, whether dial-up, high-speed, and now with recipients using Smart Phones to view email... enough of these can clog a recipient’s email forcing them to sit, wait, and in some cases, prevent them from receiving email altogether. Files made on “Windows” software may not be viewable on a “Mac” and vice-versa. Checking first will save time and minimize problems.
  9. Proof Read and Spell Check. You get one chance to make an impression.  All credibility is lost if the recipient is busy trying to interpret a word or sentence instead of focusing on your message.  Most email programs provide "spell check".  If yours doesn't, use word processing software, check it there, then copy and paste it into your email.  This is also a good method for checking grammar.
  10. Fill in the “TO” email address last. Ever hit “Send” only to realize you forgot to attach something?  Or worse… you realize you said things you really didn’t want to say.  Filling in the “TO” email address last helps prevent accidentally sending an email before you’ve completed it, proofed it, spell checked it, attached files, or reconsidered.
Not only can each of these tips be expounded on, but this list just scratches the surface. Visit your favorite search engine and type in “email etiquette” or “email netiquette” for more information if you really wish to perfect your email communication skills.

Written by William H. Wells III for Monroe County, Tennessee Newspapers.
Monroe County, Tennessee includes Coker Creek, Madisonville, Sweetwater, Tellico Plains, and Vonore

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Email Management: Control Your Inbox... Control Your Life!

Are you overwhelmed when you open your Inbox?  Do you even want to KNOW how much time you've wasted looking at the same emails until you could find the one you’re really looking for? You’ve said, "I don't have time to read this particular email right now.  It's not as important as the one that just came in.  I'll read it later."  Suddenly, you're wondering why it's August, and you've still got email from January in your Inbox.

You CAN control your Inbox and even keep it empty!  The key is to evaluate how you process and organize your email and then make some changes.  You'll gain control, improve response time, and keep up with critical actions and due dates.

Let's look at 5 things you can do to take control of your Inbox.

  1. Recognize the difference between “Reference Email” and “Action Email”.  “Reference Email” requires no action.  You simply wish to keep it in case you need it later.   “Action Emails” require action on your part.
  2. Establish a simple, effective “Email Filing System” using email file folders.  Statistically, as much as one-third of your email will be reference email.  Immediately transfer this email to the appropriate folder!  Even if you intend to read it immediately, read it from it's folder.  This way, if you ARE interrupted, you'll know where it is when you have time to get back to it, however, it's no longer cluttering your Inbox.  Once reference email is filed, all that’s left in your Inbox will be action email.  The next three items will help you with your action email.
  3. Schedule UNINTERRUPTED email time.  You schedule meetings, calls, etc...  Email time is THAT important.  No calls.  No visitors.  Action emails require decisions. Good decisions require focus.  Focus requires uninterrupted attention. Establish a regular time each day to process email.  Mark it on your calendar and KEEP THAT APPOINTMENT! This disciplined approach will develop into a good habit over time.  Of course you’ll scan your email during the day for urgent messages or requests from your boss or client, however, you’ll quickly notice how much easier it is to deal with these.
  4. Process messages one item at a time, starting at the top.  Resist the temptation to jump around in your Inbox.  Sort email by the order in which you wish to process it; by date, subject, sender, etc...  Create folders for co-workers or clients.  Move the first email to the appropriate folder.  Immediately go to that folder and handle that email.  Go back to your Inbox and repeat the process. This can be hard at first with hundreds or even thousands of messages in your Inbox. However, as the number of emails in your Inbox lessens, you'll reach a point where you can process all of your new messages in one sitting whether it's 10 or 110, and keep your Inbox clean.
  5. Use the "Four D's for Decision Making" model to quickly decide what to do with each email.  With this model, you have four choices: (1) Delete it, (2) Do it, (3) Delegate it, (4) Defer it.
    DELETE IT - Statistically, you'll delete about half of all email you get. Afraid to delete?  Ask yourself the following questions to help you decide.  Does it relate to a meaningful objective you're currently working on? If not, you can probably delete it. Why keep information that doesn't relate to your main focus? Does it contain information you can find elsewhere? If so, delete it.  Does it contain information you'll need within the next six months? If not, delete it. Does it contain information you're required to keep? If not, delete it.
    DO IT (in less than two minutes) - If you can't DELETE IT, decide, "What action do I need to take?" and "Can I DO IT in less than two minutes? " If you can, just DO IT.  You'll be surprised at how many messages take less than 2 minutes to process.  File it, reply to it, or make the quick phone call. You'll probably handle about one third of your email messages in this manner.
    DELEGATE IT - If you can't DELETE IT or DO IT in two minutes or less, can you DELEGATE IT?  If so, delegate it. Move it to the appropriate folder, reply to it and send it.
    DEFER IT - If you can’t DELETE IT, DO IT in less than two minutes, or DELEGATE IT, then it will require special attention. Since this is your dedicated email processing time, DEFER IT and deal with it after you've finished processing the rest of your email. Generally, about 10% of your email will be deferred.

Use this model daily!  Statistics show on average, people can process about 100 email messages an hour. If you receive 40 to 100 messages per day, all you need is one hour of uninterrupted email processing time to get through your Inbox. Additional statistics show that of the email you receive: 50% can be deleted or filed. 40% can be delegated or completed in less than 2 minutes. 10% can be deferred to complete later.

If you have a backlog of hundreds of messages, it will take time to reach the point where your daily routine will keep you up to date. It's important to get the backlog down.  Set aside blocks of time to work through it. Very quickly, you'll begin to enjoy email. You won't accidentally miss email.  You won't have to go on a "search and destroy mission" just to find a particular email.  You'll be organized.  And your business will reflect it.

Written by William H. Wells III for Monroe County, Tennessee Newspapers.
Monroe County, Tennessee includes Coker Creek, Madisonville, Sweetwater, Tellico Plains, and Vonore

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