Local Parent Network Greets Hurricane Season

June 1st marks the beginning of hurricane season and for the creators of the Local Parent Network that’s a pretty big deal–we’re both New Orleans natives. Most of the Local Parent sites are located in coastal cities as well, so this time of year looms large. Here are some of the posts published by our network on hurricanes, evacuations, and sheltering in place:

Lessons-From-Katrina-

Lessons from Katrina (published in 2013) was written by Cara, owner of Jefferson Parish Parent, who lost her home to the breach in the industrial canal.

special-needs-evacuation

Katy, the owner of Northshore Parent (that’s me!) shares her tips for evacuating with a special needs child.

Tips-for-Hurricane-Preparation

 

Laurel at Jefferson Parish Parent gives tips for Hurricane Preparedness. 

shelter-in-place-with-toddlers-

Aimee describes the realities of sheltering in place with small children.

books-about-hurricanes

 

Katy (me again!) shares her favorite books about hurricanes. Books are a great way to introduce your children to difficult topics.

 

 

Managing Advertiser Commitments

In the beginning it should be easy to keep up with your advertising commitments. You won’t have very many and they may select one of your smaller packages so it’s pretty easy to keep up with.

Pretty soon, however, you’ll realize that each advertiser needs a little something different and keeping up with it all can start to feel overwhelming. When this happens, it’s time to take control. I am NOT an organizational expert, but this is what works for me.

Create a Google spreadsheet. List all of your advertisers on the sheet. Underneath each name list every action you will have to take as part of their campaign. Do you need to do a social mention twice a month for three months? You’ll need to list “social mention” underneath six times. Do the same for newsletter ads, sponsored posts, dedicated emails, and anything else that goes with the campaign.

As you fulfill these requirements, list the date of fulfillment in the next column, and next to that leave a link to the content.

Some site managers might wish to put each advertiser on their own sheet–that would work too. I copy and paste my progress into a new sheet and attach it to my billing documents so clients can see the progress.

It’s important to review these documents regularly–once a week at a minimum. As you’re looking at your commitments you can schedule your ads for Facebook and Twitter, taking one more thing off your to-do list.

Below is a portion of the spreadsheet that I use to track advertising commitments.

Hope this helps and good luck!

Advertising-Agreements

Editing Pictures in PicMonkey

 

 

This is the PicMonkey home screen.  Click first on "edit" and select "computer."

This is the PicMonkey home screen. Click first on “edit” and select “computer.”

pic-monkey-tutorial-2

 

After your photo is opened up, you need to click on the butterfly to open up overlays. You then select a category of overlay. Geometric, banners, and ribbons are all good choices for this.

pic-monkey-tutorial-3

 

In this case I selected the square with the rounded edges.

 

pic-monkey-tutorial-4

 

Drag the edges of your shape until you get it to a size you want. You can change this at any time, so don’t worry about getting it perfect.

pic-monkey-tutorial-5

 

Use the color picker to select the color for your box. I find it works well to use a color that exists somewhere in the photo. In this case I matched the teal in my son’s shirt. The yellow on the bike would have worked well too.

Pic-Monkey-tutorial-6

 

Once you have your shape the way you want it, you click on the Tt to select a text. If you have BEBAS downloaded onto your computer then click on YOURS.

Pic-monkey-tutorial-7

 

You will get a list of available font on your computer. Select BEBAS and then click the button that says “Add Text.”

pic-monkey-tutorial-8

 

Type whatever you want. You can highlight to and use the controls on the right to change the color or the size.

pic-monkey-tutorial-9

 

Use the cursor to put your text in the right position.

 

Pic-monkey-tutorial-10

 

Now it’s time to add your watermark. Click on the butterfly again and then click on the big button that says “Your Own.”

Pic-monkey-tutorial-11

 

A drop down menu will appear and you should choose “my computer.” It will open up  your files and you select your watermark. Use you cursor in the corner to make the watermark as big as you like.

When you know you are finished click “Save” at the top of the screen.

Anatomy of a Local Parent Blog Post

lpn-blog-anatomy

  1. Images. Your images should span the entire width of the blog section of your page. 600 pixels is a good width. You should also lead with a picture–people start scrolling when they see a picture which keeps them on the page and engaged.
  2. Pinnable Image. Your lead photo should have a graphic as well if you have the time to create one. PicMonkey is a great place to do this. Go to the site, open one of your photos and click on the butterfly to see a selection of geometric shapes you can use for your graphic. Then write your text on it. The font we typically use is called BEBAS. It’s available as a free download on the Internet. We’ll put together a post for you guys on how to do this with step-by-step instructions.
  3. Watermarks. Add your watermark to your image. It’s OK for your watermark to be big and obnoxious–that your brand, your website for everyone to see. As our network grows, it will be a recognizable symbol of quality work.
  4. Text. Try not to be too wordy. Today’s Internet users are reading a lot of stuff and you shouldn’t take too much time to get to the point. Write some, add a picture. Write a little more, add a picture. Remember that the pictures are as much a part of the story as the text. Use bold to highlight important points. Use numbered lists if that helps.

Events with Local Parent Network

In addition to helping local businesses connect to their communities through social media, Local Parent Network also hosts live events that connect small businesses with our readers. Nothing makes a great impression than an in-person introduction and at our events you have that opportunity.

craft-night-header

easter-egg-hunt-header

dad-day-fb-header

jpp-moms-night-out-header

Time Management for Site Owners

Running a website can be a lot of work. I guess I should say that running one well is a lot of work–you’re basically doing the work of an entire publication on your own: marketing, social media engagement across multiple channels, content development and creation, ad sales etc.

clock

It can be overwhelming. To say the least.

Here are a few ideas for helping reign in the madness:

  1. First things first–I highly recommend finding one or two “real moms” who would like to help you with your site. Ideally, they would be paid a small amount per post, but if you’re not there yet there are other ways to reward contributors who help keep your site in good running order. You can offer contributors complimentary tickets you receive, let them attend special events in your stead, and allow them to attend your own events for free.
  2. Give a couple of people the keys to your FB page. These need to be people that are very trustworthy. It might be one of your writers, but it might also be another site owner. Discuss the kinds of things you want to have posted and then let them help you out! For example, if I’m shuttling my kids all around town, Cara who owns Jefferson Parish Parent knows she can put updates about the weather or traffic on my FB page. One of my writers, Aimee, has permission to post pictures when she attends events around town. You can let other people have permissions on Twitter as well, but FB is a must and it’s well set up so you can see who posted when and quickly correct any issues.
  3. Segment off parts of your job. Bonus points if it’s something you’re not particularly good at. I did this recently and have pretty much congratulated myself every day since. What I did was give one of my contributors free reign over the giveaway section of our site. Giveaways are an integral part of working with small businesses in your area and for building awareness of your own brand. I really am not good at keeping up with them though. So I asked one of my writers if she’d like to take control. As “payment” she gets to keep any review samples or extra tickets that we get as a result of working with a business. If we do a gift guide with giveaway, she gets to keep 50% of the gift guide fees. Almost immediately she had us doing a flash giveaway with a local boutique and she’s in the process of organizing a group giveaway for the end of the month. My stats are up, my engagement is up, and she’s having fun too. Win-win. You could segment off events in a similar fashion or you could try to find someone to sell ads on commission. Focus on what you do well and find someone who’s willing to do the things that you don’t do well (or just don’t have time for!)

 

What to Consider When Hiring a Local Blogger

At the Local Parent Network we pride ourselves on not just being local websites, but on being social media professionals. We strive to bring best-practices to our customers in everything that we do. We would like to be the gold standard for local blogs in your area.

We realize, however, that businesses often want to work with several blogs in a particular area. Great! Here are some tips to make sure the site you choose to work with is both professional and a good place to spend your money.

  • Look at their site. How much of their content is sponsored? A recent article from industry expert Kelby Carr recommends that a blogger produce no more than 25% sponsored content. As a site extends beyond that, they are seen as less trustworthy and the value of that sponsored post goes down.
  • Examine their sponsored content–is it in keeping with the most up-to-date guidelines from the FTC? If you’re not sure, ask. If you don’t get a great answer, look those guidelines up yourself. Google is your friend. If someone is going to get in trouble for sponsored content done incorrectly it will always, always be the brand and not the blogger. You need to think about that before hiring a blogger.
  • Ask about no-follow versus do-follow links. If the blogger doesn’t know what you’re talking about, find someone else to work with. Google is very clear on the types of links allowed for sponsored content and it’s important to stay on Google’s good side! No one wants to get “dinged” in the search results because of an unprofessional approach to sponsored content.
  • Ask your friends who work in social media about a site you are looking at. Most bloggers in an area know each other and know who is keeping up with best-practices. A quick check can often reveal any potential issues. Ask how long they’ve been around–you’d hate to pay for blog content on a blog that’s gone in a few months.
  • Check their Facebook page. Divide the Talking About number by the number of fans. The goal is to be over 8%. Every site will have its low days, but this is a gauge of how good a site is at engaging its readers. You can also click on their likes tab and see the city and age of their most active users.
  • Just like on their blog, is their Facebook page all sponsored content or a good mix? The goal is more organic content than sponsored.
  • Ask them how they keep up with trends and legal changes in the world of social media. Do they attend conferences? Are they a members in any online groups such as SITS, Type A, or BlogHer? A good blogger knows the landscape of social media is changing constantly. They strive to keep up with the latest in guidelines and best practices. If a blogger you’re working with doesn’t do this, you could be wasting your money or worse yet, breaking the law.

Tips for hiring local bloggers

Reach is Dead. Long Live TAB.

I’ll confess that I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about post reach. So much so that I’ve done a lot of things to get that number up–adding my link in the comments, uploading a FB-friendly image rather than letting the image pull from the post, and avoiding the image entirely. I’ve had varying level of success with these methods, but the other day I realized that by focusing on reach, I’m letting FB point me right where it wants to.

I’ve been suckered.

A couple of years ago you could post something on FB and depend on it to stay in the news feed for a good long while–those times have changed. There are more people on Facebook and more businesses, and events, and groups, and who knows what else and all of these things are vying for a piece of the newsfeed. It’s a crowded landscape and more people are jumping in every day.

So reach is going to go down. And it’s going to keep going down. The truth is that as more people join any social network, the more the reach of an individual post will go down. In fact, the real problem isn’t that reach is going down–it’s that we’ve gotten lazy. When talking to businesses I would always advise them to start with Facebook because it’s easier. Posts on Facebook used to hang for a good long while and if you get good interaction, they’ll stay up even longer. The problem with networks like Twitter and Instagram is that new things quickly bump old things out of the way. You have to post multiple times a day to keep up with people. You need to interact and comment–you can’t just leave something up and wait for other people to see it. Do you have any idea what the “reach” of your Twitter posts are? I’m guessing not terribly high. Twitter doesn’t bother telling us that, though. Facebook does. Why? So we can freak out and start buying boosts to make sure we’re getting enough “reach.”

Reach is pointless though. Well, the reach of individual posts is pointless. You need to focus on Talking About (or TAB).

Why TAB?

TAB is a count of all the people who have interacted with your page in the last 7 days–a much more meaningful number than the people that saw an individual post. Looking is great, but interaction is what drives a page’s community and what helps get your posts in front of more people.  There are added benefits to focusing on interaction as well. For example, I can ask a discussion question on Facebook with no links and I WILL see an uptick in traffic at the same time. Being in people’s minds in enough. People will also come over to your page and like other things that they missed before. Interaction is key.

You should still share links. You might need to share them more than once, though. You also want to ask questions and share photos and do things that drive interaction. Talking About is the only metric about your page that’s public–other people can see it. And most importantly, it gives you a much larger picture than staring at one metric for one post. If you want to know how effective an individual post is, take the number of people that it “reached” and divide it by the number of times the direct page was viewed. That lets you know if you have something people want to read and Facebook doesn’t share that metric at all (or seem to care about it).

As I focus on TAB I find that my reach on individual has improved as well. TAB is more work, but that’s where social is heading–best get on board now.

like button

Stretch Your Facebook Ad Dollars

I’ve experimented a bit with Facebook ads and I’ve come up with what I think is a pretty effective use of my dollars. I’ll share my method here and hopefully it will help someone else.

In my experience, promoting the page itself isn’t always a great use of your dollars–people may like your page or they may not, but you have less control over what shows up in people’s streams since this method just pulls the most recent post from you page. Instead, I recommend promoting a particular post that you think is especially good. How do you know if a post is especially good? Use your stats! Look at the post you are considering promoting. What was its reach? Now see how many times that page was viewed directly. The closer those numbers are, the better chance this is a post worth promoting. No matter how great you think a post is, this number rarely lies.

The other trick is not to click the “promote post” button. Why? I have no idea, but I know that it works better if you use the “promote page” button in your Admin Panel. Once you click that button you have to look in the bottom left hand corner for the little gear symbol. Click on it. From there you should select “advanced options.”

Create your FB ad

The next page will suggest that you are looking for page likes. You aren’t! I mean, we all want likes, but this method will get you likes AND traffic–I like to get the most bang for my buck possible. To get that you need to click the button that says “back.”

Create your FB ad 2

On the next screen you want to click on “page post engagement.”

create your fb ad 3

Once you click that, you have to select your page. If you manage a lot of pages, you’ll have to type in the name of the one you want. You’ll then get a drop down menu of post choices–pick the one you want to promote.

create your fb ad 4

The next screen is a little weird–you get a couple of page options and you have to toggle from one to the other. One the right-hand side you’ll see “Right Column” with a check next to it. Click “remove.” Why? Because when’s the last time you clicked on a side-bar ad?

create your fb ad 5

Then you scroll down and select your audience. This is very important! I can’t tell you how sad I am when I see an ad in my stream for a restaurant in Lafayette. Or Jackson! Don’t waste your dollars. Under location list any cities in your area–you will have to use a drop down and take the “within 25″ to “within 10 miles.” Select 18 and over and women for our sites. Under categories, look for parents and select All.

create you fb ad 6

The last thing you do is set your budget. I never pay more than ten dollars for a Facebook ad. You’ll have to change from daily budget to lifetime budget. Watch out! When you do this FB will change the dollar about to $350.00. Adjust that and then you’re ready to buy your ad!

create you fb ad 7

In my experience, this process can drive thousands of visitors to your site. Thousands. And for a very small amount of money. I usually pick up a good number of new FB likes as well.

I hope this method works for you!

Local Parent Network Celebrates Mardi Gras

The Local Parent Network was started in south Louisiana and so it’s no surprise that they embrace Carnival Season. You should stop by and see some of the great information and content that our sites are producing.

Jefferson Parish Parent

The writers at JPP compare King Cakes from across the parish.

Laurel shares the best places to catch a parade in Jefferson Parish.

Angelle gives safety tips when taking kids to the parade.

Cara puts up the entire parade schedule for families in Jefferson Parish.

mardi gras ladder

Lafayette Parent

Things are just warming up in Lafayette, but they’ve already got their parade guide for Acadiana published.

Northshore Parent

The writers at Northshore Parent taste king cakes from across the area and pick their favorite.

Katy shares the the entire parade schedule for the Northshore.

best-king--cake-2