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How to collaborate with Google Docs

Posted by: in General on Thursday, May 23, 2013

At SpinWeb, we love to use collaboration tools and productivity apps to get more done. We use all sorts of apps like Basecamp, EverNote, and Dropbox to share files, notes, and tasks.

We are set up on Google Apps and one of our favorite apps is Google Docs (part of Google Drive). As part of the apps suite, Google offers an online word processor that allows you to create and manage documents online very easily.

So why would you want to use Google Docs?

Simple: collaboration. A Google Doc is not meant to be a replacement for all the fancy options available in a Word document. However, the thing that a Google Doc is great for is group document editing. It lets you create a document, share it with others, and then allow people to make changes and post comments directly on the document without having to email it around or worry about "who has the latest version."

One of the issues we've seen with Google Docs is that the concept of collaborative document editing is not always familiar to everyone. We often send a Google Doc to someone (accessed by a link) only to have them paste it into a Word document and send it back to us with their changes. This defeats the purpose of document collaboration, but it happens because the recipient is simply not familiar with how a Google Doc operates.

To help, here is a quick overview of how Google Docs work and how it can be a valuable system for document collaboration.

Creating a Document

To create a document, you would first go to your Google Drive interface. Drive is where documents are stored. Once you are logged in with your Google account (either via Gmail or your Google Apps for business account) you'll see it at the top:

Drive screenshot

Click on "Drive" and there you are. This drops you into a screen that lists all of your current documents. If you have not created any, the screen will have no documents there yet.

To create a new doc, click on the "Create" button and you'll see some options:

Create a doc

You can add a new folder to store docs in, or you can create a new document. You can also create a new spreadsheet (simillar to Excel) or presentation (simillar to PowerPoint), but we'll stick with a standard document for now. Just be aware that the same options apply to other types of docs, as well.

Once you create a new document, you'll be presented with a blank page with a standard set of word processing tools at the top.

blank doc


The first thing you'll want to do is name your doc. Do this by clicking the words "Untitled document" at the top and giving it a new name.

tps report


Now you are ready to write! You can treat this just like a regular Word document. Type and format away.

example text


Additionally, your document is stored in the cloud, which means you don't have to worry about saving it to your computer or losing it. It's auto-saved every minute, so all you need to do to get back to it is open your web browser, go to your Google Drive, and click on it. Easy!


Now that you have created a doc, it's time to see where Google Docs really shines. Let's set up a scenario that might be familiar to you. You are working on a document that requires feedback and input from others in your office. So you put together a report as a Word document and email it to a group of 4 other people with the note: "Please give me your changes." Each person then makes notes and changes in the doc and emails it back. Now you have 5 different versions that you need to consolidate back into one. Ugh!

A Google Doc eliminates this headache. All you would need to do is "share" the doc with your co-workers and ask them to make their changes directly in the same document. You are now working on one document as opposed to 5 different docs.

To do this, you would first click on the "Share" button in the upper right.

share button


This will open up a screen that allows you to share the doc.

sharing options


By default, it is shared with no one. Now, let's say I want to share it with some of my co-workers. I would enter their email addresses into the "Add people" section in order to "invite" them to work on the doc with me.

invite people


Note that if you start typing an email address that is already in your contacts list, it will auto-complete with their full name, so you can just select them from a list as you can see above. Otherwise you can just type in their entire email address. Separate multiple email addresses with a comma.

Also note that by default you are inviting people to edit the doc. This means that the people you invite will be able to make changes. However, don't worry... you can always undo their changes (more on that later). Once you click "Share & save" an email will be sent to the people you invited with a link to the doc. They will then be able to click the link and view it, as well as edit it.

You can also add a personal message to the doc (which is a good idea) so that the people you are inviting have some context.

sharing message


I usually ignore the other checkboxes as I don't see a need to send a copy to myself or to paste the doc in the body of the email. There are some cases, however, where it might make sense, so feel free to use them if you want. Be sure to leave "Notify people via email" checked so they will know about it.

So what happens now? Well, the people you invited will now get an email with a link to the doc.

sample email


Now they can simply click on the link to go to the doc and edit it directly online.

Here's the cool part: they can make all the changes they want at the same time, and every version is tracked and saved automatically. Additionally, you can compare and roll back to any earlier version you want. People can also add comments to the doc as a way of offering feedback without actually editing it.



If you want to see the entire revision history of the doc, go to the "File" menu and choose "See revision history."

See revision history


Then, you will be able to track every change. You will see a list of all the different versions along with time stamps and who made the changes.

revision history


Clicking on a version will show that version of the document to you. If you want to roll back to a previous version, you can choose to "restore" that version.

restore version


Here's another cool feature. While people are editing the doc, you can see it in real time. You will be able to see who is viewing it based on their icon in the upper right, and you can see who is making what changes in real time.



Pretty cool, huh? And remember, there is no need to save anything. All changes are auto-saved every minute so the document is always up to date.

As you can see, using a Google Doc for collaborative editing is a very efficient process. It means that everyone is only editing one document; everyone always sees the latest version; and all changes and comments are tracked and saved. Additionally, it can be edited from tablets and mobile devices for even more flexibility.

If anyone wants to download a copy of the doc in another format, like Word or PDF, that's also easy. You can go to the File menu and choose "Download as" to export the doc in another format.



This allows you to take the finished version and use it any way you want to.

Use cases

There are lots of ways to use Google Docs. You can share docs within your own organization (via Google Apps) or you can share docs with people outside your organization, as well. Simply use their email address when sharing, and they will get a link to edit (or just view if you want to offer view-only access).

Some ways to use Google Docs include:

  • Drafting a memo or policy in your office that needs group feedback
  • Taking notes for a meeting and sharing the doc with meeting attendees
  • Sharing a Google Spreadseet with your sales team and asking them to keep it up to date with stats
  • Working on a blog post or an article as a team
  • Collaborating on meeting agendas
  • Planning for group work when serving on boards and committees 

The possibilities are endless. Any time you need to collaborate on a document with someone else is a good time to consider a Google Doc. Some other advantages of Google Docs include:

  • It's cross-platorm - works on Mac, PC, iPad, smart phone (etc) with no software required
  • It's stored in the cloud so data is safe and secure
  • It saves steps since there is no need to email attachments back and forth

At SpinWeb, we find that Google Docs is a great place to keep "in-progress" stuff. We don't treat it as a permanent home for a doc; rather, we use it as a stream of working docs that may eventually be exported to a more permanant home. It's a great place to collaborate and create without committing to saving a bunch of docs on your computer.

I hope this has given you a good primer on the advantages of collaborating with Google Docs.

Want more Facebook engagement? Try "big image" posts.

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It seems that a lot of our clients are looking for more engagement on social media. Many of the organizations we work with have a strong Facebook presence and consider it a high priority network to focus on for business.

However, many organizations struggle with "engagement" on Facebook. They post content that they feel is valuable, but for some reason they are not getting as many "likes" or comments as they would like. As you know, it's not good business to chase likes. However, there's nothing wrong with trying to reach more people with your post, right?

If you struggle with Facebook engagement, try using "big image" posts. So what's a big image post?

As of the writing of this post (May 2013), Facebook favors images with more weight than links or text. I slipped the date in there because Facebook is known to change things all the time so be warned.

So what does this mean for you? If you share a blog post as a link, then it will get some exposure but its reach can be limited. However, if you share an image it is more likely to reach more people since Facebook puts more weight toward images.

Images also tend to be more interesting to people since they stand out in the news feed - especially if they are striking and well-designed.

So how do you get attention with a big, beautiful image on Facebook yet still encourage people to link over to your blog post or other website content? Link to your content from within the image description!

Here are some examples from Massamio (a SpinWeb client) on Facebook:

Facebook big image example

Notice how the posts consist of a big, beautiful image that includes useful information, but then the description includes a link to more information. Here is another example from another SpinWeb client. CultureRx is an HR consulting firm that provides workplace culture training and sometimes a funny photo is all it takes to create engagement and discussion:


No link needed in this photo. It's job is simply to provide some entertainment and engagement.

Here are some tips for approaching Facebook with a more visual strategy:

  • Make sure your images are well-designed and interesting (even striking!)
  • Make sure your images fit your brand messaging
  • If an image goes with a blog post or other website content, link to the content from the description
  • Try overlaying text, stats, or other info on a beautiful photo for maximum effect
  • Experiment and measure your results

So if you're still scratching your head trying to figure out how to increase engagement on Facebook, try switching to "big image" posts and see if your numbers go up.


Top 10 reasons to attend my presentations at CMS Expo 2013

Posted by: in General on Thursday, May 9, 2013

Next week is CMS Expo and it's a wonderful time to be in Chicago. The weather is warmer, and it's a great time to get away and build your marketing and business skills.

From the CMS Expo website:

"You don't have time for jargon, vendor speak or spin, and neither do we. Our learning sessions and panels are delivered by real-world presenters, here to help solve the real-world challenges businesses like yours face every day."

I will be presenting five sessions at the conference this year (because I'm insane) covering a variety of topics. Here's the rundown:

So why would you consider attending? Glad you asked! Let's review:

1. Chicago in May is beautiful. Spring is here, and it's the perfect time to see the city. From driving/running/walking down Lakeshore Drive to Navy Pier, there are lots of ways to get out and enjoiy the weather.

2. No PowerPoint doom. I don't just read bullet points on a slide. I have conversations with my audience. Here's proof.

3. You'll learn valuable skills. Want to learn to produce video for your website? Check. Want to learn how to write great content for the web? Check. Thinking about going mobile? Check. This conference will make you a better marketing professional or business owner.

4. Giordano's pizza. 'Nuff said.

5. It could be a turning point for your company. If you own or manage a web design firm and you're wondering how to take the next step toward becoming an inbound marketing agency, you won't want to miss my presentation. My agency recently went through this change, and I plan to share with you how you can evolve in this direction, too.

6. You'll come back looking like a smarty-pants. If you're in charge of helping with marketing for your company, you will come back from this conference with a cannon full of new ideas and initiatives as well as ways to help your team. You'll be the envy of your co-workers. Look how marketing-savvy you are!

7. Great networking. CMS Expo is made up of great people from all over the world who are eager to help you. You'll find designers, developers, marketers, business owners, and more at this conference. It's a very special group of people.

8. Get help figuring out your CMS. A great content management system is crucial to the success of your website. You'll have the chance to gather tons of information that will help you determine which CMS is right for you.

9. Inspiration happens outside your comfort zone. Does it cost time and money to take time away from work to attend? Absolutely. However, sometimes the best inspiration and business breakthroughs can happen when you step outside your comfort zone and get into a different environment. It happens to me all the time.

10. I'm a sucker for free advice. I love to help people... especially people who attend my presentations. Bring your burning marketing questions and let's grab a beverage afterwards. I will do everything I can to assess your challenges and offer some real soutions and advice.

I'm very much looking forward to CMS Expo this year, and I look forward to seeing you there! If you're not already registered, register for CMS Expo today.

Creating a culture of inbound marketing

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One of our biggest challenges when on-boarding a new Inbound Marketing client is getting their entire organization on board with the Inbound Marketing mindset. In order to be fully successful, everyone in the company must be 100% in full agreement and excited about the strategy; however, this mindset doesn’t just happen. There has to be a fundamental shift in company culture and beliefs in order to embrace Inbound Marketing.

That being said, let’s take a look at how to install an Inbound Marketing culture in your business. 

Redefine roles

The first battle (not that we condone fighting!) a company faces lies in the traditional organizational structure roles that most businesses confine their job roles within. People assume that Inbound Marketing principles such as content creation and social media should only be a function of the Marketing department. It’s a common mistake. “IT people only deal with IT things, and the Marketing people only deal with Marketing things.”

People especially get caught up in what tasks they are assigned to complete. And really, you can’t blame them. They’re just wanting to get their specific jobs done. But then when you ask them to think outside the box and broaden their role, they’re often resistant. 

In order to combat this, take the time to evolve all of your current practices, culture, training materials (etc) to adapt to the new Inbound Marketing culture. This includes dedicating a significant amount of time to redeveloping materials and evolving the training process to incorporate Inbound Marketing training. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it because it’s critical that all new team members who come into the organization understand from the onset that Inbound Marketing is woven into everything that the organization does, no matter your job title.

Generate excitement

The second battle you’re likely faced with is converting your current team into Inbound Marketing believers. The goal here is to get them excited and motivated to evolve their role within the company to include Inbound strategy. Current members (especially long-time team members) can be resistant to this change. But...have no fear! Old dogs really can learn new tricks.

The sooner you can get the team’s buy in, the better off you’re going to be. In order to generate some excitement, fully explain Inbound Marketing philosophy and concepts. Show them why it’s critical to the company to make this shift. Go into great detail about how content production and relationship building (by the whole team!) is critical to the success of the overall strategy. The clearer you can make a link between Inbound Marketing positively impacting the company and their particular position, the more buy in you’ll likely get.

Create incentive

Have leaders within your organization develop fun and engaging ways for workers to get excited to participate. You might have internal contests or incentive programs. Start an “Employee of the month” based on participation. It’s imperative that team members receive ample recognition for their effort. Give them lots of praise and feature them so that they gain a sense of accomplishment for the work they’re putting in. 

Rethinking your entire company’s culture will obviously take time and effort. It all begins with a cultural shift rooted in the foundation of the business. The more you can make this shift and get everyone on board, the more success you will find, which in the end means your company will grow. I’m not saying it’s easy, but in the long run, it will make a huge difference between success and failure of the growth of your business in this Inbound Marketing age.

5 ways to improve your website conversion rates

Posted by: in General on Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some companies focus on getting twice as many people as possible to visit their website. And, really, that’s not a bad thing. The more traffic you have, the more sales you’re likely to make.

But would you believe me if I said it's possible to double the number of sales from the people who are already visiting? (No joke!) It all comes down to conversion rate. Before we look into ways to improve it, let’s take a look at what conversion rate actually means.

What is a conversion rate?

Your conversion rate is a measure of the number of potential customers that proceed to purchase a product or service from your company. In the context of a website, it’s usually the percentage of visitors that make a purchase. Many websites concentrate solely on increasing the number of visitors they have. However, if they instead focused on fixing some fairly simple problems with their site, their conversion rate could greatly improve, which would likewise improve the company’s bottom line at minimal expense.

All that being said, improving a website conversion rate can be relatively simple. Here are 5 ways to do just that.

Be user friendly

The best way to improve conversion rate is to make your website user-friendly. There’s nothing more frustrating than attempting to navigate a clunky, disorganized site. Make sure your content is clear and current; the navigation is simple; that your links work. It’s kind of like “playing well with others” when it comes to web world. (If need help when it comes to this, let us know - SpinWeb is happy to help!)

But being user friendly extends beyond just having a well-laid out site. It means being clear if you have a product out of stock. Few things annoy customers more than researching a product and adding it to your cart only to find out that it’s not available as you enter the checkout process. The same applies to pricing. A user might be willing to spend $100 on a product, but when they find out that shipping is an additional $100, they’ll be quick to close the browser. (This is why thousands of shoppers return time and again to stores like Zappos.com, which offers free shipping and free returns).

Speaking of return policies, make it clear. I’m not going to suggest what it should be for your particular company, but I will say that the better customer service I receive from places (including flexible return policies and free shipping), the more likely I am to become a loyal customer.

Be clear and upfront with your information - your products, your shipping, your return policy - and your customers will be much more likely to return. 

Less is more

We know how much you want to know all about your customers. (Knowledge is power, right?) However, resist the urge to drill them with 20 questions. Customers consider it a waste of time. That being said, don’t ask for too much information at checkout or when you have them fill out a form. You don’t need to know the client’s phone number for them to download your free PDF. Similarly, why make them create an account so they can buy later before processing their first order? The more simple and streamlined the process, the more likely they are to return again later. In some cases, less really is more.

Be informative

By this, I mean keep the user informed. Let people know the estimated date of delivery of their package. (People are impatient, after all.) Emailing them when their product has been shipped is a great idea. Send them the tracking number, if applicable. These may seem like simple pieces of advice, but keeping the customer happy even after the sale means that they are more likely to speak favorably about you in the future. Show your customers that you care about then, even after they’ve finished shopping. The more informed the user is during every step of the process, the more happy they’re going to be in the end.

Leverage your unique selling point

What sets you apart from your competition? Whatever it is, make it clear to users on your website. If you are a family-run business, make sure that’s known. (People love to support the locals!) Do you excel at customer service, offer the lowest prices, have unique products that can’t be bought elsewhere? Let it be known. Figure out what makes you most attractive to your customer and shout it from the proverbial rooftops (er... all over your website, as the case may be). 

Improve value 

A great way to increase conversion rate is to improve the value to your customers. If a user adds a product to their shopping cart, show them other items they might like as well. Upselling and cross-selling are proven techniques - and it can help make a customer’s search that much easier. Similarly, add value to that search. Don’t just include an online catalog: include information, articles, advice, reviews. Educate the customer on why your product is the best. Add value to the entire process... don’t just sell your product. Doing so will help make you memorable, which is a great way to keep customers coming back time and time again.

Need help with your company’s website or conversion rate? Contact us here at SpinWeb... we’re happy to help!