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Why you shouldn't put all your online eggs into one basket YOU DON'T OWN

Last Friday, Posterous announced on their blog that they were closing down on 30th April 2013. Many of you may not have even heard of Posterous, but as a quick explanation - it was a blogging social network that was positioned somewhere between Twitter (a 160 character micro-blog service) and a full-blown blog such as this one. It was most similar as a platform to Tumblr, although Tumblr is far more popular. Posterous was purchased by Twitter in March 2012 and at the time of purchase had 15 million registered users.

A social network closing down or fading away isn't new - think MySpace and Google Buzz. However, this does highlight a very important point:

As social network users, we do not own our own content. 

Occasionally I'm asked by some of the small business operators I meet "Do I really need my own website? Can't I just set up a Facebook Page?"

The answer is YES, you do need a website. AND yes, you need a Facebook Page. But if you spend time and money just creating a magnificent social media presence, and that particular social network "does a MySpace", then your time and money is wasted, and your web presence may disappear quite rapidly.

I'm not saying you shouldn't utilise social media - you absolutely should. But it should be set up as part of an overall web presence, in conjunction with a personalised website, with links pointing back to that website. Imagine that the website is the centre of a spider web, and all other social media points back to it.

If you need assistance with your web presence or website, please contact me.

How to find your Twitter RSS feed URL (for now)

Recently I discovered that a feed module I had running on my Joomla! website to display my latest Twitter posts had stopped working, and was instead displaying an "Error loading feed" message.

Twitter decided a while ago to cut off all access to RSS, and recently angered third party app developers by cutting off their access too. I'm not sure when my RSS feed actually stopped working because I don't visit my own website very often, but I wanted to fix it.

Happily, despite Twitter removing all references to RSS, there is still currently a way to configure an RSS feed for your site. Simply replace the "WebSolutionZ" with your own username below.

Unhappily, it appears that this method too will disappear in March 2013. C'mon Twitter, stop making things difficult for us! 

Social media cover images

I've just spent a couple of hours fixing up the cover images on my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ business Pages. Of course, they wouldn't make it simple and have them all the same size...

For anybody about to embark on the same exercise, here are the optimum image sizes for each platform:

Facebook:  851px x 315px
Twitter: 1252px x 626px
Google+: 480px x 270px**

(Click on the social media name above to see my end results).

If you need any assistance with your social media requirements, please don't hesitate to contact me.

**Updated 8th March 2013  

What is Responsive Web Design?

Good question! Several of the Joomla! template clubs I use have recently introduced Responsive Design templates. What does that mean?

Well, to save me having to explain it all, here's an article that explains it all very nicely.

Basically, a Responsive Design website is one that will display nicely on all platforms - PC, mobile, tablet and anything else that comes along. 

Why should small business owners read this blog?

Nowadays, a website is pretty much essential for any business but as I said last week, today's business operators need more than just a website if they're going to successfully reach their customers AND beat their competition - they're going to need knowledge. Some of the variety of options to consider as part of a complete online web presence include:

If the Internet is not your core business, you could be forgiven for finding all of this quite overwhelming. Where do you start, and what do you do next?

If your company is large, you could probably afford to hire someone like me, full-time, to handle all this online stuff for you, but small business operators usually don't have the budget for that. That leaves small business operators with a few choices:

  1. Do It Yourself (which can take hours away from your core business if you don't know where to begin).
  2. Get your 16 year old nephew to do it for you (chances are he may understand the technology but probably not the business perspective).
  3. Pay a consultant (quite likely to get done properly, but may end up costing a lot if you don't understand what's required in the first place).
  4. Pretend that this whole "Internet" thing just doesn't exist, and ignore it (not recommended).

Provided you're considering one of the first three options, it never hurts to come to the table armed with some basic knowledge. Unfortunately there's just too much information on the Internet now, and sometimes one page directly contradicts another, so how do you know who or what to believe? Who has the time or the inclination to sit there scouring through all that information anyway?!

Well, as it happens... I do. :-) During my years on the Internet, and in IT management, and setting up and running my own small business, and studying Internet Communications, I've picked up lots of interesting ideas and learned many tips and tricks on the best ways to get things done. So please consider this blog my gift to you. :-) 

Joomla 1.5x is approaching end of life

joomla_logoJoomla! have recently upgraded to version 2.5x. They have previously announced that version 1.5x will reach end of life sometime this year, although not before September 2012.

When a version of software reaches end of life, it means that official support for that version stops and usually, as a flow-on effect, people who have written components/modules/plugins for that version will also stop creating/supporting their own software versions not long after.

Having said that, some people are still successfully running Joomla 1.0x websites (which reached end of life in July 2009) so just because your website is 1.5x, doesn't mean you need to rush to upgrade it immediately. But it's definitely something to keep in mind for the future. Here's why:

  1. Problems may arise over time as underlying hardware, operating systems and software are upgraded to newer versions. For instance, most webhosts nowadays run PHP5.3, which is the underlying code that Joomla! runs on. But "old Joomla" was written for earlier PHP versions, and they won't work 100% effectively on a server running PHP5.3. Sometimes it's possible to perform minor hacks to force a site to keep functioning, but it isn't a happy relationship. So when a webhost installs a new, faster, bigger hosting server and moves all of the hosting accounts across to this new server, sometimes old websites will break and sometimes, they can't be fixed.

  2. Browsers. Every web browser renders websites slightly differently, and newer browser versions are designed to read websites coded in a particular way. Old websites couldn't be tested in newer browsers, so sometimes a new browser version will render your old website incorrectly. It may be difficult to find a fix when your old website's code is no longer supported.

  3. Smartphones and tablets. Websites don't magically just work on a smartphone or a tablet. Many older websites utilised Flash, which Apple don't like (and newer Android will soon also not like), so anything Flash won't even be visible. And newer, smartphone views of a website is actually a separate set of code that somebody has created, that force the content to display in a smartphone-friendly way. In a Joomla! website, this is built into the template. Template-creators have really only started doing this in the last year or 2.

  4. Social media connectivity. Really, you're not doing yourself any favours these days if you don't at least have a Facebook Page for your business. And you want to be able to add all those fancy buttons and feeds to your existing website, to show how social-media-savvy you are. Problem is, a lot of the time nobody had written nice modules to do that, back when your website was created.

If you decide it's time for an upgrade, you know where to find me. :-) 

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