What is Slack and Why Your Small Business Just Might Need It?

Woman wonders what is Slack while looking at phone and computer

What is Slack? Listen up and I’ll tell you.

Launch4Life is excited about a communication tool we’ve started using called Slack. What is Slack? It’s an awesome program for communicating and collaborating with team members.

What’s cool is that you don’t have to be a large corporation to use Slack. It’s as effective for small businesses and even solopreneurs. Slack allows remote team members to work together. So whether you’re small team or a one-person shop with virtual assistant – Slack is for you!

 

But let me back up and tell you why we began using Slack.

Our Slack Backstory

Launch4Life will soon be offering some new services. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details. We found ourselves in need of a better way to communicate with team members and clients.

While email works great for Janet and I, we discovered that’s not the case with everyone else we work with. Who knew?

Instead, we learned that others prefer to communicate via text. Ack!

The rationale is that email has too many distractions. Email inboxes can get cluttered up with… too many emails. What’s so great about instant messaging is that it’s quicker and more focused.

Okay, while that may make sense to them, it doesn’t work for me. I prefer email because it lets me keep communications organized and in one central place.

While I do love my iPhone, I save it for personal use. Yes, I may occasionally use it to text a client, or check email on the go, it’s not my go-to device for business. I‘m “old school” and prefer using my laptop.

So, what do you do when you have people with different needs? You build a better mousetrap. You look for one tool that meets the needs of everyone on your team. Which is why we are so excited about Slack.

What is Slack?

Slack is an instant messaging tool for communicating with your team.

First up, Slack works on all devices – smart phones, tablets, and computers. So, everyone on team is happy. Hurray!

More important, Slack is way more than a chat room. It’s a dedicated workspace that allows us to collaborate. With Slack, we can share files, links, and so much more.

 

what is slack and what is a custom workplace

 

Your Slack Workspace

How Slack works is you set up a private workspace for your company. Your workspace is a dedicated area on the Slack server that comes complete with it’s own custom URL. You can access your workspace from any digital device using your URL and logging in.

While you can have Slack open in an Internet tab, I find it’s much better to download the free Slack app. If you want to access Slack on a tablet or smart phone, visit the applicable app store and download the app

Slack Channels

Inside your workspace you will set up different channels to stay organized. Think of “channels” as you would think of folders on your computer. You can then add people (i.e. members of your team) to those channels as needed. This helps you keep relevant information all together in one place.

Public vs. Private Channels

Public channels are open to everyone on your entire team. When you first set up your Slack workspace you will have two public channels – General and Random. You have the option of renaming those or creating more. It’s your choice.

Whenever you type a message or share a file to a public channel, everyone we see it. Also, everything in a public channel is searchable by everyone on your team. If anyone needs to find something that was posted previously they can search for it in the archives. Sweet.

You can also set up private channels within Slack. This is ideal for conversations amongst select team members. Private channels are only open to invited team members. Private channels are distinct because they have a padlock next to their name.

Direct Messages

You can also send any team member a one-off direct message. This is useful for when you want to send one, or several people, a quick private message. What I especially like is that Slack lets you know who is currently on-line and off-line.

This feature is especially good for team members that don’t have access to a phone… as you can send and receive direct messages from any digital device.

Sharing Files & Links

So what is slack really doing the best?

Slack makes it so easy to share files with team members. You can drag and drop files right into Slack message. Easy peasy. The type of files you can share include: documents, images, pdfs, videos, and audios.

You can even copy/paste links into Slack for your team to access. So if you see something of interest on the web that you’d like to share with your team, you can do so using Slack.

 

what is slack and an overview of the opening screen

 

Search Feature

What’s great is that anything added to your Slack workspace . are searchable. Finding messages, files, links, etc., is so simple. Type what you are looking for into the search box… and voila it’s found.s

Works Well With Others

The feature that sold me on using Slack was how well it works with other programs. At Launch4Life we use a whole host of online tools to run our business. From A to Z – Asana to Zoom, it looks like Slack works with every program we use. The biggest integration bonus was Asana – that would have been a deal breaker for me.

I am amazed at how many apps Slack plays nice with. In the integrations directory there are apps I haven’t even heard of. Which makes this tech nerd girl very excited.

Your Own Little Slack Bot

If you ever need help using Slack, it’s nice to know you have a trusty bot to guide the way. Simply type a message int the chat window and your bot displays the answer. How cool is that?

what is slack and direct messaging a slackbot

 

Customize Your Preferences

Slack allows you to customize your settings. There is even a Do Not Disturb setting that allow you to set your office hours. You won’t hear any bings or dings alerting you to new messages. This helps you to set boundaries around when you work and when you don’t.

Pricing

Slack’s free plan is one of it’s best features. They offer a free forever plan that is very generous. A small business with simple needs may never need to upgrade. Kind of reminds me of MailChimp.

Free Plan

  • 10k Message Search
  • 10 Integrations
  • Two Factor Authentication
  • One on One Voice and Video Calls 5GB of Total Storage
  • Standard Support

A small business with simple needs may never need to upgrade. Kind of reminds me of MailChimp. I always like programs that allow you to scale up as your business needs change.

So there you have it, that was my quick overview on what is Slack? I will report back in a few months and let y’all know how it’s going. In the meantime, here’s a good overview on how Slack works.

Or, to sign up for your own account, visit Slack on the web.

 

Launch4Life - Gillian Whitney

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Using Facebook Live for Business to Extend Your Audience

Facebook Live for Business Training

Facebook Live for business? What on earth is that?

Let me explain.

As I’m sure you know, organic reach on a Facebook business page is pretty dismal these days. When we post something to our Facebook business page, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of likes, shares, or comments anymore. The bad news is that too many businesses are now having to buy ads if they ever want fans to see their posts. The good news is there is still one free post type that’s doing well – Facebook Live video.

Using Facebook Live for business is a great marketing strategy. It is free way to promote ourselves and our business.

Mari Smith, one of the top Facebook Marketing experts, recently confirmed that “Facebook is now favoring Live broadcasts, which tend to get more organic reach.” It turns out that most people love watching live video. As a result, Facebook Live video gets as much as six times the engagement over regular video.

According to Mari Smith, here’s how Facebook Live video engagement compares to other content you may be posting.

  • Video posts on Facebook get the best engagement – with an average of 6% (up 2%)
  • Photo posts get 4.81% (down 3%)
  • Link posts get 3.36% (down 7%)
  • Status posts get 2.21% (down 10%)

Facebook Live for business is a smart move for anyone that runs a Facebook business page. Unlike Facebook ads, which cost money, Facebook Live videos are free.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret… there are a few extra things you can do to get more bang for your buck.

Secret #1: Add Captions to Your Facebook Live Video

Facebook offers a free captioning tool you can use with your live videos. You can type or upload your own captions, or let Facebook generate them for you. The majority of Facebook users see videos in their timeline with the sound off. When they see captions on your video it will catch their eye and let them know what you’re talking about.

Adding captions to a Facebook Live video

Secret #2: Upload Your Facebook Live Videos to YouTube

Facebook allows you to download your Facebook Live videos. Which means you can repurpose those videos. One idea is to upload your Facebook Live video to YouTube. This creates more content for your YouTube Channel, which helps with SEO. (Every business owner should have their own YouTube Channel. That’s a blog post for another day.) Always remember Google owns YouTube and having content on YouTube helps with your Google Search ranking. SEO baby.

Uploading a Facebook Live video to YouTube

Secret #3: Embed Facebook Live Videos on Your Website

After you’ve uploaded your Facebook Live video to YouTube, you can then embed it on your website. While you could embed a Facebook video on your blog or website, embedding a YouTube is better. We’ve been embedding YouTube videos on to our website for years and found YouTube to be so reliable. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?

 

Not Using Facebook Live for Business?

If you’re not currently using Facebook Live for business, there’s no time like the present. Maybe you have a long list of reasons you’re not already taking advantage of this free and powerful marketing tool.

You don’t have time. You don’t know how. You don’t know what to say. You don’t like how you look on video. You don’t like the sound of your voice. Yada yada yada.

“When you need an excuse, any excuse will do.”
~ Robert Vazquez

Please don’t feel bad. You’re not alone.

’ll be the first to admit that I have been riding the “excuse train” for quite awhile. However, I finally decided now is the time to jump in.

For a few month now, I’ve have become inspired by a friend and business associate. Sue Clayton, the Serene Solopreneur, is just rocking it with Facebook Live for business. Sue runs a membership site for business women. To keep her members engaged and active on Facebook, she posts at least one (if not more) Facebook Live video each week. Whether she’s at home, at an event, or in her car, she never hesitates to whip out her cell phone and go live on Facebook.

Following in the footsteps of my friend and colleague, this weekend I decide to whip out my computer and made my first solo Facebook Live video. For my first session, I decided to just relax and go with the flow. If I can do it… you can do it.

The beauty of using Facebook Live for business is that you don’t need any special talent or equipment. Really. If you can write and publish a status post to your Facebook business page, you’ve got this. Plus, you can use any digital device – a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

To get started:

  1. Visit your Facebook business page.
  2. In the status box, click the Facebook Live button
  3. Allow your digital device to access it’s camera.
  4. Smile and get ready to go live – countdown 1-2-3
  5. Start talking. It’s really not the hard.
  6. Your Facebook Live session will be posted to your Facebook business page as you are recording.
  7. Later, you can go back into the video post on your timeline and add captions, download the video, etc.

 

Facebook Live For Business starting a session

I would like to add a few extra tips:

  • If you use your computer, it’s best to do so using Chrome Browser. I discovered that Facebook Live and Safari don’t play nice.
  • It’s important to have a clear idea about WHAT to talk about. Have a specific purpose and stay focused. Try not to drone on and on. Nobody likes a rambler.
  • Think about providing an overview of a specific product or service you offer. Do a quick question and answer session. Or, offer some tips and tricks your audience might find helpful.

Facebook Live videos are an awesome tool every business professional should check out. Try not to get hung up with being perfect. Instead, be yourself and let your unique personality shine through. People like to do business with those we know, like, and trust. Facebook Live videos for business are a great way for your customers to get to know you.

So what do you think? Are you ready to start using Facebook Live for business?

Launch4Life - Gillian Whitney

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Increase Productivity with This Free White Noise Generator

Listening to white noise generator with computer headphones
Some people love listening to music while they work. Not me. Instead, I find it’s the sounds of nature I need for focused attention. So, when I’m in a place with distracting sounds I yearn for a white noise generator.
 
While silence may be golden, unless you live in the mountains, it can be hard to find. Right now, I have traded in country life for the big city. I am currently staying in Las Vegas where I’m surrounded by noisy neighbors. Summer in the city often includes the sounds of traffic, dogs barking, and lawn mowers.
 
City sounds can get on your nerves and interfere with concentration. Studies show that not all noise is bad. Ambient noises can help increase creativity and make us more productive. I’m excited to share an online white noise generator I recently learned about that creates ambient noises. 
 
Meet Noisli a simple program that serenades you with a host of background noises. The 16 tracks span such sounds as the: rain, ocean, coffee shop, and more. Sound tracks can be solo or combined, allowing you to create the background that meets your needs. The background color changes to add variety.

What I like about Noisli is its ease of use. No login or signup required. Check out their website and start listening to the sound tracks. With a click of the mouse you can toggle any of sounds on and off.

If you want to go to the next level, you’ll need to download the Chrome Browser extension. Sign up for a free account using an email address, Google ID, or Facebook account. Advanced features include saving sound tracks, a timer, and distraction free writing.

Noisli is also available as a purchased app for phones and tablets (iOS and Android). The price runs about $1.99 and does not include as many features as the desktop application. Save your money and use the computer version for free.
 
White noise generators like Noisli are ideal for anyone that works at home. Within seconds you can drown out annoying noises. Noisli’s sounds boost productivity and foster relaxation. It’s great to have an easy to use program to stay focused in a world full of distractions.

* Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition
Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu and Amar Cheema
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 39, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 784-799

 

Noisli White Noise Generator Mini-Training

Launch4Life - Gillian Whitney

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Starting a Podcast Has Never Been Easier

Starting a Podcast microphone and iPad

Have you ever dreamed of having your own radio show? I know I did. When I was a kid, I used to entertain my family for hours with my imaginary “Allen Brady Interview Show.” I always hoped one day I’d host my own show. Now that starting a podcast has never been easier, my childhood dream is totally possible.

Back in 2006, only 22% of U.S. adults had even heard of the word “podcast”. By last year, that figure had risen to 60%. People have not only heard of podcasts, but they’re listening to them on a regular basis.

According to Apple, iTunes now features more than 500,000 active podcasts, including content in more than 100 languages. Wow. Podcasts are popular.

What’s a Podcast?

Not quite sure what a podcast is? It’s kind of like having your own radio show. However, instead of broadcasting your voice live over radio waves, a podcast is an audio file that users can either stream or download and listen to.

People listen to podcasts using any digital device – a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. We’re listening to podcasts at the gym, in the car, at home, walking down the street, or sitting by the pool.

Last winter, the Launch4Life team looked into starting a podcast. However, after doing a little research we were in complete overwhelm. There seemed to be so many moving parts. Special equipment for recording. Software for editing. Not to mention the cost of finding a podcast host provider.

End result? We decided podcasting was way too complicated and expensive for us. Until we heard about Anchor.

Anchor.fm is an exciting new program that makes podcasting super simple. Creating a podcast episode with Anchor.fm is so easy, that anyone can host their own show.

Starting a Podcast with Anchor

To get started with Anchor, all you need to do is sign up for a free account. When you create your account, you can create a custom URL, where you can store all your episodes. You can even add artwork to brand your page.

You have the option of uploading existing audio or creating a live recording. Recording can be done using your computer, smart phone, or tablet. What’s great is that no special equipment is needed. Simply use your device’s built-in mic or attach an external microphone. It’s your choice. As a test, I used the ear buds/microphone that came with iPhone. The audio quality was great.

The podcast episodes you record are limited to one hour. And there is no limit to the number of episodes you can store. After you have recorded an episode you can save it as a draft or publish it immediately.

There are several different options for publishing. You can share it on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), embed it on your website, or distribute it to about 13 syndicated podcast sites (Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, etc.). Wow.

Of course, if you want to keep it easy-peasy, you can choose to only publish to your custom podcast page on Anchor. That’s what I choose to do as I am testing the waters.

I like the idea of embedding podcast episodes directly on our website. It’s super simply. You just copy the embed code from Anchor and paste it onto any page on your website.

The possibilities are endless. We could sprinkle podcast episodes on various blog posts or on select pages on our website. Or, we could dedicate a Podcast Page on our website to store all of our episodes.

Here’s an example of a podcast episode embedded directly on a WordPress website:

P.S. Contrary to what I say in the podcast episode, you are NOT limited to 5 minute recordings. My bad. You can actually record for up to 60 minutes. Awesome.

If we didn’t want to mess around with copying/pasting embed code to our website. We could just direct people to go to our custom page at:  https://anchor.fm/launch4life

 

Here’s an example of a podcast published on our Launch4Life page on Anchor:

With Anchor, there are no fees. There’s no charge to set up an account. And there’s no charge for hosting. If you’re wondering what’s the catch? The folks at Anchor are being funded by a huge grant from Google.

Anchor even provides excellent stats, so you can track your podcast audience. Their newest feature is that they recently introduced an iPad version that allows you to edit your audio. Hopefully, that benefit will soon be available for computer and mobile users.

If you would like to try your hand at starting a podcast you should take a look at Anchor. It really doesn’t get any easier than this. If you decide to give podcasting a whirl, please let us know, so we can check out your show.

Learn More About Starting a Podcast With Anchor

 

Launch4Life - Gillian Whitney

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Want a Faster Website? Learn How to Easily Reduce Image Size

Did you know your website’s page load speed has a huge effect on visitors? Customers have no patience for slow loading webpages. So what bogs down a website? Most likely it’s all those lovely graphics. Most likely, they’re too big. Easy fix. Reduce image size. The immediate result will be a faster website.

Your website visitors aren’t the only ones that don’t like slow loading webpages. Google hates them too. This month Google is releasing a new search algorithm. ‘Speed Update’ will track how fast a webpage loads on mobile devices. Slow websites will rank lower in Google Searches.

So what are we to do? We need to reduce the size of our images. Optimized graphics result in faster page load speed.

You may be wondering “which images on my website do I need to reduce?” If you’re like most small businesses, you have a ton of graphics on your website. And, have no clue which ones are too big.

Thank goodness there’s a simple way to find out. A free and easy website analyzer you can use to discover your oversized web graphics.

So let’s get started.

 

Which of Your Web Images are Too Big?

To test your website’s images, visit Page Weight by Imgix and type your website’s url in the search box.

Immediately, they’ll show you all the images you need to fix. They’ll even highlight your worst performing image. You’ll notice that they list the image’s dimensions (i.e. width x length pixels) and file size (i.e. KB or Kilobytes). They also point out their recommendations for optimizing the image.

 

 

Above is an example of a graphic image from Launch4Life’s website. Notice that while they have the same dimensions (1100 x 600 pixels) the file size 1017.3kb is too big. The webpage does not need the graphic to be at such a high resolution. The file size is causing slow page load speed.

As a good rule of thumb, the size of your image should match the display size on your website.

For instance, on our WordPress blog the featured image (at the top of the page), shouldn’t be any wider than 700 pixels. So if we used an image that was 3,500 pixels wide, it would be five times larger than we need.

The dimensions of a graphic are only one part of the “size” equation.

Resolution, or image quality, also has an effect. The higher the resolution, the bigger the file size.

Images we view on the web don’t need to have such high resolution. Therefore you should try to reduce the image size down to 100kb. Even better, shoot for 75kb.

 

How to Optimize Your Graphics? Reduce Image Size 

So below is an image I uploaded from my phone. Nice picture of me and my family traveling in Scotland.

In the graphic above, the image on the right is the original. You can see the dimensions are pretty large – 1280 pixels by 960 pixels. The file size – 508,460 KB – is pretty big too.

If I wanted to make this the featured image on my blog post, I would need to reduce both the dimensions and file size.

So how can we do that?

Resizeimage.net is the easiest online tool I’ve found to reduce image size.

You don’t need to set up an account. Upload your image, type in the dimensions you want, and click the Apply Changes button. Wow, it doesn’t get simpler than that.

As a tip, it’s best to choose select JPEG for your output file. JPEG files are smaller than PNGs.

As an added benefit, this program also has a few other simple editing features. You can use it to easily crop images and/or add a custom-colored border. It’s pretty basic, but then again, sometimes that’s all you need.

Once you’re done optimizing each image, you will need to upload the images to your website and place them where they belong.

You could stop there, but I suggest doing a few more things. Even if it’s a bit of extra work.

Number 1, make sure you delete all the old images from your website. Even though they will no longer be displayed, you don’t want them cluttering up your media library.

Number 2, go back and run your website again through Page Weight. Hopefully, your website will now pass with flying colors. Allowing you to feel confident your images are no long dragging messing with the speed of your website.

When you reduce image size the speed of your website should increase. Which means Google won’t penalize your website for being too slow. But most important, faster webpages will make your visitors happy. And happy visitors are more likely to stick around and check out your website.

 

Recommended Online Tools

 

Page Weight By Imigix

https://pageweight.imgix.com/

 

Online Image Resizer

http://resizeimage.net/

 

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant

Launch4Life

gillian@launch4life.com

Time Management Strategies to Help Boost Your Business

Time Management Strategies Clock

Time Management. Doesn’t this feel like an age-old problem? Do we avoid getting distracted during our day. Struggle with setting deadlines and finishing on time. Feeling stressed a lot. We want more time for fun and family. We need time management strategies.

Does this YouTube remind you of your business life?

If you don’t have time to watch it now let me describe it.

There are two guinea pigs on a treadmill. One fell off. He tried and tried but never got off. Funny but so sad. So, which guinea pig are you? If you are on the treadmill, would you like to get off?

Does it feel like insanity? “Doing the same thing and expecting different results”. You must make changes in your daily work habits. Perhaps you need some time management strategies.

Let’s face it. You do know what to do. There are plenty of books to help you. There are tons of videos. Plenty of courses. Great programs to learn Time Management skills.

Here are some basic time management strategies we all know.

  • First of all, stop reading emails at the beginning of the day.
  • Write a list of things you need to do – then break it down into bite size pieces.
  • Lastly, focus your to do list in order of importance

But why don’t you do it? That is the million dollar question.

Of course, we know better, but why don’t get off the treadmill?

It requires huge change. Self-discipline. Daily effort.  Habit is a key to the answer.  But don’t try and change all your habits at once. It may be too much. But each little change made a part of your routine will become a new habit.

Time Management Strategies from Janet

  • Here are some business habits I have incorporated into my business:
  • I use an online Google Calendar. I can access from my phone, Ipad, and laptop. It lets me know when it is time to do the next scheduled project.
  • I gave up scrolling Facebook in the morning. It wasn’t helping me with my business.
  • I use a timer on my laptop to mark out my daily projects. When the time is up, I stop.  I have a glass of water, take a stretch.  Work on a different project.  That’s actually a couple of habits.
  • I do the hard projects first when my brain is at its best.
  • I use an online program called  www.asana.com to map out my projects. Keeps me on task. check emails later in the day. I still struggle with this. But I am getting better at it.

My Mom taught me a famous line that has become part of my philosophy. I preach it to others who ask my advice. “When the pain to stay is worse than the pain to go, you will go”.

Making time management changes is painful. When the stress and lack of productivity are bad enough, the pain will force you to change.

#1 Tip for your time management strategies

YOU are the tip. It’s up to you to decide “its time”. The ability to change your habits is YOU. Finally, the success of your business is YOU.  You have the tools at your fingertips. Just do it.

Take baby steps to change one habit at a time.

Make a note of where you are today. Check back with yourself a year from now. See how many time management struggles you resolved.  Then reward yourself and find out what you need to change next. We constantly have to grow. Let me know.

Janet Elie Launch4Life

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist

Launch4Life

janet@launch4life.com