And no I’m not talking about Square dancing here! However if that is your thing do check out this video, Square Dancing is pretty Rockin’ too!!
I’m talking about Square Payments, a product line and services that allows any Small Business to accept and process payments virtually anywhere and opens a world of possibilities for the Small Business entrepreneur.
What drove me to start using Square is the need to be able to accept credit cards for my products. Living in a world of Client Convenience and where not many people carry cash, I didn’t want to miss a sale. Although I was aware of debit and credit terminals, these carry monthly fees which did not make sense for the size and scale of my business…. thus Entrepreneur meets payments Squared.
Other things to consider is security, rates and setup fees and of course payments! So if you are asking what does Square looks like, well here it is in its simplest form:
It is pretty simple to use, you only need to download the Square App and plug in the device to your phone or tablet, make a few configurations in the App and you can start accepting payments.
What is really neat about it too is that you can configure your products, with their default and custom fields down to tracking quantities. Manage customer information and produce a decent amount of reports. All this is virtually included (for latest rates check out Square Payments site).
They also have other type of terminals that are more appropriate for local businesses such as a Flower Shops, Salons, Coffee Shop or even Car Mechanics!
Another cool feature is their e-Gift Cards, which I think are a fantastic idea as these are stored in your client’s phone, which are easier to carry plus they can be reloaded leading to repetitive business. Other features that I found quite useful are:
- Appointment Management
- Invoices and Receipt Management (help for the Accountants)
- Time cards and Team Management
- Online payments from your Webstie
Big players such as GoDaddy are now integrating websites with Square which makes selling your stuff online so much easier!
Now that you know of a tool that can help you take payments virtually everywhere, it is time to start selling your services … even if that is Square Dancing Lessons:
Until next time, Cheers!
In this day and age, there are so many ways to connect with friends, family, community and even just the world around us. All of which we can do through news channels, Facebook, Twitter and newsletters from various news outlets, and also through one of the newest trends, Instagram. Although the majority of Instagrammers are aged between 15-29 years old, it is used daily by around 77.6 million users around the world.
So, what exactly is Instagram?
Instagram, also referred to as IG or Insta, is a social media platform primarily used for photo and video sharing created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in October 2010. Part of it is owned by Facebook. It is mostly used on touchscreen phones, seeing as its first version was meant solely for iOS devices and a second version was launched in April 2012, allowing Android users to have it as well. An online web version was released in November 2012, although some features that were available on the phone application did lack in this version. Apps for Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 were released in April 2016 and October 2016.
How to create an account
Although you can create your own account on both desktop and mobile versions, it is recommended to use the mobile version as there are more features available and a lot more that you will be able to do. Here below is a step by step instructions to creating your own account for mobile version and desktop version.
- Head over to the App Store (for iPhone) or Google Play Store (for Androids) and download the Instagram app
- When it has finished downloading, tap the icon to open and start the application
- Tap the button saying Create new account (on iPhone) Sign up with email or phone number (Android)
- Enter either your phone number or email (a verification code will be sent to whichever contact line you choose) and tap the Next button
- You can also tap Log in with Facebook to sign up using your Facebook account
- If you used your phone number or email address, you will now be asked to create a username and set your account’s password, and then fill out the information that will be featured on your profile (such as profile picture and a short biography). After this, tap Done and you’re set!
- If you used Facebook to create your account, you will be asked to log into your Facebook account if you are currently logged out from the device you are using.
- Open your preferred browser app and launch the Instagram website
- You will be asked to enter your email address or you can click Log in with Facebook
- If you choose email, create a username and set your password and click Sign up
- A confirmation email will be sent to you to make sure it is you who created the account
- If you choose Facebook, you will be asked to log into your account if you are not logged into it from the device you are using
On either version, if you used email to sign up, make sure it is an address that you have access to. If you are ever logged or locked out of your account and you’ve forgotten your password, your email will help you log back in.
The app includes many features including posting, in app photo editing and video editing, private messaging between users, privacy vs public accounts, etc. It is all usually organized based on your preferred following, tags, location information and preferences. Additionally, depending on what type of account you have, certain other features are available to help you manage your page better.
- When preparing to post your photos or videos, there is a part where you select what you are posting and another where you can edit.
- For photos, you can apply basic edits such as exposure, contrast, highlights, shadow tint and you can also add various filters.
- For photos, you can also add filters. Additionally, you are able to trim the video and cut certain parts, and then set a cover image for when it is featured on your account.
- Your portrait photos can have a crop size up to 4:5, anything that goes over will be automatically cropped.
- Landscape photos can go up to 9:16.
- When posting videos, the crop ratios are the same as photos.
- You can also post both as a square with the crop ratio (1:1).
- Videos can be posted with the limit of 60 seconds in length.
- Privacy & Security
- When creating your account and managing the settings, you can apply a feature that will allow you to have a private account. This means that only people you choose can view your account.
- Public accounts allow for anyone to see your account and what you post.
- If you wish to keep your page public, but there is only a few people who you don’t want seeing your profile, you can block their accounts in your settings from seeing your account or by going to their account and blocking them.
- Direct Messages (or Private Messages)
- This feature is rather new and was released only in the past few years through a new update.
- You can privately chat with any user (those who follow you, those who don’t, etc.) and send them posts.
- If someone who doesn’t follow you and you don’t follow tries to send you a message, it will be stored in Chat requests, where you can choose if you wish to accept their message or decline it.
- Business Accounts
- This feature is also new and is used by public figures, companies and businesses.
- In order to set your account your profile, you have to go to your settings and connect your Facebook page to your account.
- After a week of setting up a business account, you will be able to monitor and check your insights. These include being able to see what kind of audience your followers are, promoting your posts to reach a wider audience, knowing the best times to post so you can receive the most engagement and many others.
- Location Services
- Many social media platforms allow you to search up locations and tag them in your posts, which then will get featured whenever that location is searched up and viewed.
- When you post, Instagram allows you to tag the location so that you can show your followers where the picture was taken or where you are.
- These posts tagged with a location are also featured on the locations page, which can allow for more exposure and attention if the other accounts see it.
Once you’ve set up your account and gotten used to the basic features, Instagram starts to monitor your activity in terms of the types of accounts you follow and the posts you like and share. Then, posts and accounts of a similar genre will be recommended to you and will show up on your explore page and timeline.
Although these are rather basic, Instagram is a rather simple social media platform and can be used by anyone. The features and its uses are common between all major platforms, and the more complicated so they can be figured out as time passes and more experience is gained.
Just like this info blog post, check out our post regarding Everything You Need to Know About Twitter.
Don’t forget to add and follow us on Instagram @AgentsDigital. Happy Instagramming!
The Creation of The App.
The service was developed in 2006 and, the completed version of Twitter was released March 2007, in Austin, Texas. The platform was originally called, “Twttr”. Eventually it was changed to Twitter.
The idea for service came shortly after the podcasting pitch for Odeo (located in San Francisco), was not as huge as a hit as they thought it would be…so they proposed this SMS-based platform.
The Purpose of Twitter.
With 126 million daily active users as of February 2019, and it’s hard to narrow down all the reasons why we use Twitter but here is an idea:
|For business use||For personal use|
|• For business promotion and advertisement|
• A place to network with other business and the community
• Allows business to build traffic, listen to consumers, and give “real-time” updates
• Gives the ability to display the personality and vibe a business would like to give off
| • A source of news and entertainment|
• A place to express yourself – it’s an outlet to others
• An opportunity to network
• For everyday communication
But generally on Twitter you have the ability to…
|Follow||You can follow people and they can follow you back. When you follow someone, their tweets will now pop up in your feed.|
|Tweet||Tweet whats on your mind. You can tweet photos, videos, articles or links. You can tweet at (@username) people or don’t. |
Note: that what ever you tweet is now is now visible to the public eye.
Please be respectful. 🙂
|Like||If you like a tweet, you can like it. Pretty simple.|
|Retweet||If you really like a tweet and would like to share it with your followers, then retweet it.|
|Reply (Comment)||Respond to a tweet by replying. Write whats on your mind, and hopefully the original tweeter responds.|
|Thread||Start a thread. Twitter only allows a specific amount of characters per tweet, so one might start a thread. A thread is a sequence of tweets from the same user.|
|Direct Message (DM)||got something to say to someone privately? Direct message them. It’s basically text messaging exclusively for Twitter. You may be familiar with it, as other social media platforms have it too.|
|Share||If you want to share a tweet, but don’t want to make it known to the public than use the share button. You can share the tweet through direct messages. Or you can share it with someone not on twitter. There are many options for that including email and SMS (text message). You can even copy a link.|
If you genuinely need help navigating Twitter you can use this link provided by Twitters help center.
For When You Post:
Hashtags & Tags
The purpose of the hashtag is to be part of the conversation and, to reach an audience that is larger than your own. But, use it in moderation. If you use too many hashtags in one post it can look like spam. You should also make sure you choose hashtags that are relevant. #Facts
Hashtags aren’t exclusive to just Twitter they are also work on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, use them!
Okay, you don’t have to, but you can follow weekday hashtag guide. Everyday of the week you can choose one of these hashtags to use in your tweets. #Tip:
#MondayMood #MondayMission #MondayMotivation #MarketingMonday #MondayMadness
#TuesdayThoughts #TipTuesday #TechTuesday #TransformationTuesday #TuesdayTunes
#WednesdayWisdom #WackyWednesday #WayBackWednesday #WellnessWednesday
#ThursdayThoughts #ThrowBackThursday #ThankfulThursday #TGIT
#FearlessFriday #FunFactFriday #FridayFunny #Friyay #TGIF #FlowerFriday #FridayMotivation
#SaturdayShenanigans #Caturday #ShoutoutSaturday #WeekendVibe
#SpotlightSunday #SundayReads #SundayRead #SupersoulSunday #SundayFunday
Tagging people in posts is also beneficial. It’s a simple way to get someone’s attention. When you use the @ symbol followed by the username, it lands in their “mentions” section.
It’s beneficial in a way that if you tag a user with a larger or just a different audience, and the user likes, retweets and/or even comments on your post; their audience in now in view of you post. Which gains more impressions and engagement for your account!
I am not just talking about memes, live streams and posting on your story. I’m talking about the trend section on Twitter. But yes, those things listed before are important for maintaining a good online presence.
“Trends are determined by an algorithm and, by default, are tailored to you based on who you follow, your interests, and your location. This algorithm identifies topics that are popular now, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis. It helps you discover the hottest emerging topics of discussion on Twitter. “– Twitter
To summarize, the trends section is a list of popular conversations topics happening at that moment on Twitter.
Sometimes the topic can be as simple as a daily hashtag like #ThursdayThoughts. Or it can be a significant event/moment taking place that day like a holiday, a sports event #WeTheNorth or even a TV episode premiere.
It is important to be aware of the trend sections when crafting your tweet. Because, it’s another way of reaching a fresh audience. By including the hashtag or phrase trending in your tweet; your tweet is now included amongst the other tweets regarding that trend.
So when someone searches that phrase or hashtag your tweet will show up along with others tweets.
Appearance & Consistency
Consistency is important not just on Twitter but on all social media, and outside projects you might have. If your not posting at least once a week people lose interest and might un-follow you. But do remember not to be posting every second of the day. That’s just annoying. Find a balance between the two.
For business, they should try to make the page organic so posting advertisement every day isn’t that appealing either. An alternative would be tweeting about what your doing in the office today, or maybe posting a picture of happy clients with employees together.
Having a posting schedule can be helpful too. For example, posting everyday at the exact time same time, or idea of posting every other day. There are multiple social media management applications out there, that allow you to spread out and schedule your tweets. Personally I use TweeDeck and Hootsuite.
Maintaining an online presence also helps. So retweet people tweets, like and following people. By doing that your networking and building more engagement online. Setting out time out of your day to respond to comments and to retweet content would also be helpful.
You want your Twitter page to be appealing to your audience and you want to keep them engaged.
So you may want to ask yourself these questions when you are drafting out tweets: Who is your demographic? What are their interests? Will you find your audience on this platform? How are you going to get their attention?
Based on your audience you should really think about what will engage them. Using things like visuals will help. So an idea is linking videos to your tweets. You can also use gifs, infographics, memes, and just regular photos as well.
After doing a bit of experimenting, I have noticed that colorful photos and videos tend to do much better in impressions than regular tweets do. So you may want to keep that in mind, when crafting your own tweets.
Of course this isn’t absolutely everything you need to know about Twitter but it should give you enough background information to be successful on the service.
Twitter is an amazing platform, that is beneficial to a business and is fun for personal use as well!
I bought my first and only camera the summer before I started high school, in July 2016. Since then, I have taken every opportunity I am given to expand my knowledge on photography, learning different techniques and coming up with various ideas. Although a seriously expensive hobby, being able to capture moments and tiny parts of life into a single shot is what I find so incredible. Expressing my creativity through complex shots, preparing ideas for photoshoots or just taking simple photos of what I see around me is one of my favorite things ever.
In the past year, I wanted to start capturing longer moments and putting them together into mini movies. Videography takes a huge amount of patience, and seeing as how I didn’t have much, I didn’t start indulging in that interest until a few months ago. The process of shooting, sorting through and organizing footage, trimming video lengths, finding the right editing tools and then trying to attain a certain idea that you have in mind seemed like a useless waste of time. On top of all that, many people (including myself) find that they don’t have steady hands, which leads to shaky footage.
One of my best friends has a big interest in videography and through him, I started playing around with different editing softwares and techniques. Not having a steady hand is common amongst many successful videographers but there are tricks that you can do to work with it. Additionally, through different editing software, you can make things appear clearer or add effects to work with the trembling (if it isn’t that significant). For those of us on a strict budget, there are many DIY hacks and small things you can try on your own, and if you can, there is certain equipment meant to keep your camera and your hand steady while filming.
Let’s start with the equipment first. If you have a strict budget, try to match it reasonably with some of the options listed below, as the prices range quite drastically:
- The Glidecam HD:
- Starts at $529 USD
- Glidecam Industries is one of the top hand-held camera stabilizing lines
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Good for cameras between two to six lbs
- Smooth shots whether you’re running, going up stairs or even walking, all despite shaky hands
- For more info and purchasing: Glidecam HD
- The SteadyTracker:
- Two types; SteadyTracker Xtreme ($299 USD) and SteadyTracker Ultralite ($199 USD)
- The Xtreme can hold cameras up to around 7 lbs and is steady for running and/or high action shots
- The Ultralite weighs around 3 lbs and can handle cameras up to 5 lbs
- For more info and purchasing: The SteadyTracker
- The Aviator Travel Jib:
- Weighs less than 4 lbs, supports a camera up to 6.5 lbs
- Fast and easy to set up and extends to around 6ft (24 inches)
- For more info and purchasing: Aviator Camera Gear
For someone like me who has a strict budget, these options would be great if I could actually afford them. Luckily, there are a few other tricks and hacks we can use to stabilize our camera without spending an arm and a leg.
- Find something to rest your camera on. A table, chair or even a pile of books. This trick is more useful for one angle shots, seeing as you can put your camera down and start filming.
- Use your camera strap. There are two ways of using this technique. Either you could wrap the strap tightly around your wrist to provide extra support and stability. Another idea is to have the strap around your neck, and while holding your camera, extend your arms in front of you to the furthest the strap goes.
- Keep your camera close to you. The closer your camera is to you, the more control you have over it, meaning the easier it is to take a steady shot. Try tucking your elbows close to your side and hold the camera in front of your chest to stabilize the shot.
These ideas are usually what I personally tend to lean more towards, but investing a little money would never hurt anyone. Now that you have your perfect shot, its time to get to editing.
EDITING SOFTWARE AND PROGRAMS
There are many different computer and mobile software programs that you can use to effectively to edit your video. Just like camera equipment, some require purchasing while others are more easily accessible.
- Works only on Macbooks and Apple products
- Easily add simple transitions, music and titles in very few steps
- Quick and smooth
- No purchase necessary
- Adobe Premiere Elements:
- For Windows, Macbooks and Androids
- Costs $99.99 USD
- Easy to use and a variety of video editing features
- By selecting a certain theme, you can simply make a collage including your photos and videos
- Corel VideoStudio:
- Similar to iMovie
- Can be used on Macbooks and Androids
- No purchase necessary
- Quick and efficient to get both simple and complex editing done\
Videography and photography is no simple hobby, nor is it a cheap one. As seen before, “cheap” is very broad term in this industry. There are many more little hacks that you can try out in order to avoid spending a lot of money. But despite all the roadblocks, capturing memories and moments is something that you can treasure forever, so why not work to improve how the memories come out?
Podcasts are this untapped world full of creativity, knowledge and storytelling – they are like radio talk shows, without the music breaks. Podcasts have multiple genres and different outlets on which you distribute your podcast on. They have been around for a while now, and Agents Digital has decided to join in on the fun and start experimenting with our own podcasts!
As we get closer and closer to our first upload, we noticed there are 3 main things you should think about before starting a podcast:
1. Equipment & Software
The physical equipment used for the podcast are a computer and microphone(s). The microphone we ended up using is the, “Snowball Ice by Blue – A Plug and Play USB Microphone”. It is really simple to use too. The product comes with a “USB type B cable” to plug into your computer and a stand for which the mic sits on top of.
The box says the microphone is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers. We used it on a Windows 10 computer and it worked perfectly! When tested, there was no feedback in the audio. Meaning the room did not sound “echo-ey”, and it is important to make sure your not in a big, empty, “echo-ey” space when recording because it will effect your audio.
It should also be noted that the further you are in distance from the microphone the worse the volume quality in the audio will be. Also, the size & design of the room can trigger the audio quality as well. Recording in a small room with carpet, has less of an echo than, recording in a big room with hardwood flooring; but after looking into the product online, there is no doubt that this product is perfect for an entry level podcast.
The microphone obviously is what you use record but how do you edit your audio? Audacity is what we use. There are a multiple other editing software options but we choose Audacity because a) its an open source software therefore, free to download, b) its easy to use and I (the editor) am familiar with it and c) it come with all the features needed to create a successful podcast audio file.
Some of the other popular options for editing software include: Apple’s GarageBand and Adobe Audition CC. Adobe Audition CC is a bit more complex built to please your need as you do get complete control of everything. But takes a lot more time and energy to get used to, and learn. But Audition costs money; so, if you plan on taking this podcast seriously and to the next level, than this is the software would be a great investment for you. GarageBand is only available for apple products, MaciOS and iOS. It’s free for those users. GarageBand comes with all the necessary tools needed to edit a podcast and more. Audacity is available for both Apple and Windows users. Its completely free and comes with all the needed features including:
- Records live audio
- Imports and exports sound files of multiple formats from outsourced files
- Editing tools – cut, delete, copy, paste, trim, silence +
- Audio analysis –
- Automatic Multi-tracking
- and more…
That’s why we chose it.
2. Podcast Hosting
How do you get your podcast out into the universe?
Through podcast hosting. A podcast host, is your podcasts house. It is where you upload your podcast, this is where your podcast officially lives. But if you want to get technical its, “a file server on the internet that lets people download the file.”
There are lots of homes to choose from. Some are free, others are not. But it all depends on what you are looking for in a host. Some hosts provide different features like analytics/statistics, and some allow you to monetize your podcast. But some hosts are much harder to use, compared to others and may come with limitations, but I will do comparisons of hosts in another blog.
Your host should be able to accommodate to you, and your needs. Agents Digital is planning on using CastBox. Our second choice would be SoundCloud. As a beginner type podcast, we want the process to be simple and have as little stress as possible.
Not everyone may know who or what CastBox is as much as SoundCloud, that’s okay. We went for the underdog. Not all your audience is going to be on that one host. You can distribute your podcast to other platforms like Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud and more using an RSS link that most hosts provide for you.
These platforms offer features that are necessary to have in order to run a successful podcast. CastBox was specifically the choice we went with because it was free, easy to use and came with all the features they offer as a platform. Easy uploading process and unlimited storage. Provides the basic analytics, to help your podcast thrive. Plus, they have a monetize feature as well. Yes, you can make money just for talking into a microphone for an hour of your day. What a dream!
Content is the main ingredient to your podcast. Content is the majority of your podcast, after your introduction, before your conclusion – the middle of your podcast. Each episode should have a main concept, or at least multiple mini topics inside.
Here’s an idea, before recording create an outline for your podcast, you can write it down on a piece of paper, your phone or even a whiteboard. Start the outline off with your shows introduction and gradually work your way through to the end of the podcast. You don’t have to write an essay or formulate a script, try to jot down some ideas/topics for that episode. It’s easy.
Being prepared and having a sense of direction for the podcast will relieve some of your pre-recording gitters. Plus if for some reason you start to get off topic, lost your train of thought you can look at your notes, and know exactly what you need to do and/or say.
A lot of planning goes into starting a podcast, but in the long run, it will be beneficial. But hey, If you don’t want to start a podcast, you should definitely try listening to one. There are so many to choose from, its a great way to optimize your time and maybe even motivate you!
I know a great one that you should totally listen to when it launches, created and record by yours truly at Agents Digital. 🙂
Lately, we have been asked why should we use WordPress to create a Website as opposed to other tools out there. Isn’t WordPress just meant for Blogging? The answer is no, WordPress is a content management system that is so much more than the eye can see!
WordPress has evolved from a platform loved by Bloggers to a fully featured Website creation powerhouse. What’s more, WordPress 5.1 (latest version) standard editor helps you create your Website with point and click tools that are just as easy to use as everything else out there. Another great feature of WordPress is that it allows your to create user accounts with multiple levels of access making teamwork .. work. WordPress main components are:
Pages & Posts
WordPress Themes are basically your website’s skin, you can choose from thousands of themes, free and at cost. They provide the look and feel for your website. Checkout some cool WordPress themes here. We recommend themes from the WordPress site because you can check out the ratings, they are free to use and you get updates directly on the WordPress dashboard.
Pages and Posts are what makes up your website. You can create as many pages as your heart desires to describe your company, team, services, contact information, etc, etc, etc. WordPress provides a neat little place where you can upload all of your Media including logos, pictures and videos. Keep them neatly organized and available for all of your pages. Plugins .. these are add-ons and allows you to make your website extra cool. You need a cool looking form ? Check out Ninja Forms. You need to improve your SEO ? check out Yoast SEO! You need a beautiful looking gallery or slider? Tons to choose from. It is wise to check out the ratings and description for each one of these to figure out if it suites your needs.
Let’s face it, nowadays we all need to blog, that’s how we can improve our Search Engine rankings organically and this where WordPress really outshines the competition. You can crate a page that feeds all your stories and have them published in a jiffy! Done and Done. No kidding.
For more info check out WordPress.com
Welcome to the home of Agents Digital! If you have any questions, feedback, comments, please drop us a line. We would like to hear from you!
We are a technology and digital marketing team based out of Richmond Hill, Ontario. Our mission is to help small to medium businesses embrace and leverage technology to transform and scale through Digital. We strive to find the right Digital solutions to meet your business needs.
Many Small Businesses continue to market their business through traditional methods (a.k.a. newspapers and flyers) and while there is still some use for traditional marketing, they are missing the Digital component. “Digital is the new marketplace with Scalability”. Digital facilitates the marketplace from local to global, it allows Businesses to keep in touch with their customers, to get feedback, to acquire new leads and the good news is that cost has reduced significantly in the last few years.
Technology products such as WordPress, Shopify and Salesforce are making it a breeze to setup your business online without the need of high development costs.
In the weeks to come we will go in depth how we (as Small Business) can leverage these technologies to market our products online. Stay tuned or signup to our newsletter to stay in touch!