The SuhHub blog – articles on all things membership and membership websites

Planning

Create the Perfect Homepage for Your Members

Picture the scene; you’re invited to a friend’s for a housewarming party. Whilst fixing yourself a drink you bump into a guy you’ve never met before. He immediately launches into a long, protracted story about himself. There’s no direction to the information he’s telling you, he takes ages to get to the point and have no interest in you at all. Would you a) actively seek this person out later in the night or b) avoid him at all costs? Unless you’re a social masochist, we’d bet the latter.

The point is, first impressions count. And stick.

A website is no different. Your homepage is the first impression any prospective member has of your business/organisation. Getting it right can be the difference between gaining or losing business.

So how do you make sure your homepage does the business and doesn’t have people making a swift exit? Here are some top pointers to ensure that your homepage presents the best possible image to those who visit.

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Who’s it for?

Knowing your audience guides the design, copy and direction of your homepage. Draw yourself up a set of customer personas; your three ideal customers. Think about age, sex, interests, the types of magazines and websites they read, their web usage: build up a full picture of who you’re expecting to visit and create something that will appeal to this group.

 

Mission Statement

Getting your mission statement in place should be one of the first things you do when you start your business. A mission statement tells people what really matters to your business or organisation – it’s a brief snapshot of what you’re all about. Use this mission statement to guide not just the contents of your homepage, but its design too.

 

Design on Paper First

If you go straight into creating what you think is right for your organisation, you may well stumble across problems. Use good old fashioned pen and paper to sketch out your ideas of how the new website should look: not only will this help you to get a handle on the design element, but it will make you think about exactly what information, photos and other details you’ll need to include.

 

Typography

Typography basically refers to the fonts that we use and the ways in which they are organised. Good typography often isn’t noticed by those who aren’t designers, because it just seems to make sense. Bad typography, however, stands out like a sore thumb.

As an example…if you’re designing a website for a law firm, you wouldn’t use Comic Sans: it’s a font that screams fun, playful and childishness – and will definitely switch website visitors off. Instead, you’d go for something like Times New Roman – a more serious font that’s more in line with the image that the law firm is trying to portray, and one that suggests credibility and trustworthiness.

 

Colour Scheme

The colours used for your website may not seem that important in the grand scheme of things, but the truth is that colour can not only fit with your branding, but can also deliver messages and affect the mood of a visitor to a website. Obviously, it’s important to choose a colour palette that’s in line with your business, but different colours should be chosen depending on what you’re looking to achieve. White symbolises truthfulness and purity, while black is a colour that represents dignity and security, which is why they are so often used for more “serious” businesses. However, blue also represents trust and reassurance, giving a wider palette to play with.

Orange is good for nature and food, as it symbolises warmth, while red can translate to either love/passion or aggression, so use it wisely. Ultimately, choose colours with your audience and brand in mind, and keep it simple.

Case Studies/Testimonials

There’s no denying the importance of case studies and testimonials when it comes to your website. Unless you’ve managed to find the perfect niche, you’ll be competing against a number of other organisations who are all doing the same thing as you: some better, some worse.

What you need to do is to prove that you know what you’re doing, and while writing about how great you are is a step in the right direction, you want visitors to your website to read about how great other people think you are. Think about who you can approach to create case studies and testimonials that position you in the best possible light, and demonstrate why people should choose you over your competitors. And put these comments front of house on the homepage for all to see.

Call to Action

Before you start building your website, think about exactly what you want to achieve from the site. If the call to action is to get visitors to sign up for membership, for example, then make sure that they are able to do so easily. Make sure you give them the reasons why they should sign up, so that they know what it involves. Your call to action could be to get them to sign up to your newsletter, or to make a purchase: whatever it is, you need to be sure to make it easy for visitors to achieve their goal.

 

Images

If you want a professional-looking website, you need professional-looking images to match. It’s now easier than ever to take photos on the go using smartphones and tablets, but a grainy phone photo just won’t cut the mustard. Photos don’t need to be professionally taken and edited on an expensive piece of kit, just bear in mind that the pictures you use are yet another way in which website visitors will assess your brand. You can also find free stock images on some websites if you’re looking to use photos of things that are quite common, instead of specific people, places or events.

Planning a Website

Proofread

Some of those who visit your website may never have met you before, nor had any contact with your organisation. In situations like this, it really is true that first impressions count. If your site’s littered with spelling or grammatical mistakes, website visitors may end up believing that your English is poor, or that you simply don’t care about the details – not a great first impression to make.

 

Check the Links

Once your homepage is live you need to check every link to make sure it heads to the right place: if these links fail when clicked, you won’t be making a great impression on visitors.

While it may seem like there’s a lot to do to create the perfect homepage for your members, it’ll all be worth it in the end. After all, would you rather have a speedy website that turns visitors off, or a more polished version that increases membership? The choice is yours…

Business News

A New Home For SubHub

 

We are very pleased to tell you that Member Digital Ltd., parent of SubHub, has been acquired by EFactor Group Corp. (“EFactor”).  EFactor Group Corp. is a publically listed company, currently trading on the OTCQQ under the ticker, EFCT.

EFactor Group Corp. has at its core EFactor.com, a niche social network for entrepreneurs. EFactor.com provides its members with the people, tools, marketing and expertise to succeed and make real, trustworthy and lasting connections to help entrepreneurs develop competencies and engage with service providers to help them build their businesses.

SubHub clients, like you, are entrepreneurs themselves who use the SubHub platform to build businesses that serve unique niche audiences. By joining EFactor, we are excited to be able to expand the range of services and opportunities we will be able to offer to help our clients grow and achieve entrepreneurial success.

Over time you may see SubHub popping up in some new places, such as powering the groups capability on the EFactor.com website. However, the familiar faces and core team you’ve come to know at SubHub will continue to be there to help make your membership website a success. We’ve just begun to roll out our new, responsive SubHub 4.0 platform, and we’re excited about how much further we can take things now that we are part of the EFactor Group Corp.

We would encourage you to set up an account on EFactor.com and get involved with the entrepreneurial community there. You’ll start to see the SubHub team members showing up there already.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, please drop us a line. We couldn’t have reached this milestone without your support. We look forward to offering you much more in the months ahead as you pursue your entrepreneurial passions and ambitions.

Kind regards,

Evan Rudowski

Co-Founder and CEO

 

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Something for nothing: How effective is giving away free content?

Everybody knows that the best way to grow your business is to have people talking about it. But how will anyone have heard of you if everything is shut behind a paywall? Anybody can say they are a ‘marketing guru’, or a ‘LinkedIn expert’; but giving away a little will prove it.

It might seem counter-intuitive but sometimes, it pays to give for free.

Think of it like a food taster. You’ll pay for more of something if you try it and it tastes good. A nibble of digital content will, if it’s good, build an appetite for more; and that’s your subscription.

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Not only is sharing content the fastest way of marketing your business, but it also allows you to build trust and credibility with your audience when they discover the value and benefit of what you’re offering. There’s no need for the customer to buy blindly or rely upon reviews, plus you’ve increased your likeability. Giving something away to customers also taps into the psychological phenomenon of reciprocity.

Introduced in Dr Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the concept is simple – if someone does something for you, you naturally will want to do something for them. No, this isn’t bribing. If you can act in a sincere and giving way, the recipient will naturally want to help you too.

On top of all this, as an extra reward for your generosity, you’ll have more to share on social media, and if your content is referenced on other websites, you’ll have more backlinks to your website and more search hits; it’s the new SEO, and it’s all free. Who doesn’t like freebies?

Give it ALL away?

Some SubHub customers don’t have paywalls at all; their entire bank of content is completely free. Jeff Evans from Inside Beer makes an income from advertisers, whilst still allowing his content to be shared.

He says: ‘My initial thoughts were to run the site on a subscription basis, but I soon decided to make the site free and open. This allows me to target selected advertisers and build up a bigger awareness of the work I do.’

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It’s not all sunshine and flowers (crafted out of crisp cash and notes) though. Advertising isn’t that easy to come by, particularly if you’re just starting out.

Also, if information is your business, why should you work hard (and make it your living) to provide useful and valuable information, just to pass it out willy-nilly? You could gather truck-loads of traffic to your site, but if the people crowding your site aren’t interested in buying, then you’re just wasting money in giving it to them.

According to marketing ace, D Bnonn Tennant, ‘Giving stuff away attracts hobos looking for handouts.’ People might just take what they can from you and skip away laughing. Many marketers (such as this one) say that giving away your best content for free will send sales skyrocketing…But Tennant has a point: ‘If you give away what is truly your best, most valuable content for nothing, then what possible reason could anyone have to pay for the stuff left over?’

Balancing act

stone-tower240The solution is to strike a balance. The Times give away the start of every story they write online but the conceal the rest behind a paywall. They’re doing well, (at least, according to figures) since they’ve now amassed a total of 140,000 paying digital subscribers.

SubHub customer Eric Tyson is the best-selling author of personal finance guides Let’s Get Real About Money and Personal Finance For Dummies (the first non-computer title in the ‘For Dummies’ series.)

He chose to use a subscription model for his website, however it allows a ‘free-look’ period for folks to make sure that the service is right for them. This means that the customer gets a snippet of his advice and (hopefully) they want more, without giving it all away to freeloaders.

On top of that, he promotes the benefits of subscription. For instance, his members get priority when it comes to answering questions, so the subscriber receives a much more intimate and loyal experience, attracting more people to subscribe.

Ultimately it’s your decision, but if your business involves written content you should consider giving away one article every two to four weeks. Where video is concerned we suggest a two minute instructional teaser, followed by a link to a sign-up page.

Don’t give it all away, but certainly give something that makes an impression, immediately supplemented by a simple subscription sign-up. Your website may reach 3,000 people, but wouldn’t you rather it reached 30,000 people?

Test the power of giving something for nothing.

 

Photo Credit:

Free Hugs – by Jesslee Cuizon via Flickr under CC license 2.0

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A beginners guide to social media: build your brand and get more members

Social media is the single most expansive platform used by individuals to connect, be that sharing videos of hamsters eating burritos or, more pertinently, building their businesses.

Facebook has more than 1.15 billion users; almost a sixth of the total world’s population. Google+ boasts of a billion users while Twitter comes in at number three with 550 million users. They’re not all potential customers but within those billions, some will be.

Social media has always been seen as an essential, and free, way of getting yourself seen by as many people as possible; but the landscape is changing. There are moves, especially from Facebook and Twitter, towards monetisation from businesses, meaning that it’s more difficult to get yourself heard over the chatter than ever; without spending cash that is.

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Whether you spend or not, social media is no less important, and there are some things to consider when planning your strategy. Let’s look at the big three:-

Google+

Google+ first? Well, yes. Although somewhat derided at launch – its initial slow take-up, and low engagement the cause for some amusement – times have changed. In fact, some projections estimate it will be bigger than Facebook in just a couple of years. Aside from increasing numbers, why, and how, should you use it?

  • Google Hangouts: One of the most powerful tools in the Google arsenal, hangouts on air are essentially live webinars which can be broadcast to all, for free. Imagine this scenario: run a competition for your members, the winners of which get to be involved in a live Q&A with yourself. Promote the hangout on your site and all other social media channels. Your other members can watch the event live and the video is automatically uploaded to YouTube afterwards for you to share or embed onto your site. That’s three bits of engagement in one and a quality piece of content to showcase to potential customers. Why not make it a monthly event?

  • Targeted networking: With Google circles you can choose what content to share with which people. Create a members circle, an influencers circle, a friends circle, all with the same account and target your posts to each group accordingly.

  • Visualise: Google+ automatically creates a thumbnail for each post. You can change this image. Bigger, bolder pics (or videos) add impact and are much more likely to pique interest. And unlike FB or Twitter, Google doesn’t crop your images. Take advantage.

  • #hashtags – Yep, Google+ uses hashtags too, and using the Explore functionality allows you to navigate G+ easily, but also adds your voice to the ongoing conversation.

  • +Post AdsWhilst Facebook and Twitter can make your post more visible within the platform, +Post ads fire your post across the internet meaning your promoted post will show up outside Google+. Still in beta at time of writing so keep your eyes peeled for developments.

  • AuthorshipEver seen those faces pop up in Google’s search results? That happens because of Google+. By linking your G+ profile with your website, Google can identify you as the author of your content. Authorship is in a state of flux and the wider SEO benefits are keenly debated but having your image alongside your link increases click throughs from SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Huge CrowdFacebook-logo

All the conversation around Facebook promotion over the last few months has been about the death of organic reach (i.e. getting posts seen you don’t pay for), with many claiming the halcyon days of free, effective advertising are over. There’s no doubt that if you’re promoting a product or service and you want to get word out there, it can pay to, well, pay. Boosting posts is relatively cheap and is now the best way to reach a wider audience.

But it’s not necessarily as simple as throwing money at it. If you look at the Buzzfeeds of the world, their organic reach is still huge. The reason? Interesting, quirky, and shareable content.

Member Story:

‘We use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn mostly, but we are trying Google+. I have accounts for Kate Faulkner and our consumer facing site, Propertychecklists. I use them daily and they are really useful to keep up with the latest news in housing. It’s also helped me be seen as an industry commentator which is great, but it does take up a lot of time. What helps tremendously is, firstly, a very good content strategy which means we write daily and then reach out to people rather than just ‘staying on our site.’ - Kate Faulkner, Property Checklists

There’s a wider argument here (how much of your content do you want to share for free if you’re a membership website?) but there’s no doubt that creating shareable content can increase your Facebook following exponentially, raising awareness of your service and, hopefully, swelling your membership numbers.

Facebook is a mile away from the business-orientated world of, say, LinkedIn, so don’t shy away from sharing personal stories, encouraging people to get involved in conversation or promoting events. The tone should be friendly; aim to create a community spirit on your page and reply to comments from people. In terms of presentation, make sure all your posts are accompanied by pictures, Facebook is such a visual media, providing something shiny for people to look at is imperative. Heck, try four photos per post.

Twitt

There are a number of reasons to adopt Twitter but gaining new customers isn’t necessarily one of them. Having a presence is undoubtedly important, but it’s much trickier to convert follows to business than other platforms. But that doesn’t mean it should be  ignored.

There is a general rule that your posts should be 80% other people’s stuff (retweets etc) and 20% your own. If you spend all your time promoting yourself, people will switch off. Twitter’s all about, being visible; keeping yourself in people’s minds. Consider these points.

  • Maintain both a business account and a personal one: Don’t be afraid to retweet yourself.

  • Tweet regularly: once a week is not enough. Aim for 5-6 tweets a day.

  • Find people in your area of expertise: Create a private list of 100 or so key people, follow and share their articles or posts.

  • Don’t just retweet: if you can get involved in conversation with some key influencers in your chosen field, you’re increasing your visibility. Get on their radar.

  • Twitter is a much more visual medium than ever. Accompany your tweets with a relevant pic.

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room either, money. If you have set aside a budget for advertising, promoted posts can give you a huge boost and Twitter’s Targeted Audience push means your promotional material is aimed at the right kind of people.

Member Story:

‘I use Twitter all the time. It’s invaluable and brings in lots of visitors. I’m not a great Facebook user but I go through the motions of posting info about new articles I’ve added to the site and this does bring in some visitors. I do the same with Pinterest. I really should do more with Facebook but I think I would soon be spending more time on social media than on Inside Beer itself. ‘- Jeff Evans, Inside Beer.

Keep up

Okay, so they’re the three big boys; but they’re by no means the be all and end all (not even close.) If you’re involved in the arts, or a visual business, give serious consideration to Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr. Is your area of expertise business? Utilise LinkedIn to connect with people; join communities, promote your work.

Whatever you decide for your social media plan of attack, you need to keep it up. But without a dedicated social media manager, how can you do it? Hootsuite is the answer.

Keeping all your social media accounts in one hub allows you to manage your accounts; scheduling posts for the future rather than spending all your time posting tweets. Automate 5-6 tweets a day, 1-2 Facebook posts and the same for Google+ (you don’t want to over-saturate.)

Use this regular, automated posting as the base of your social media strategy, whilst keeping an eye on conversations from key influencers, and watch your networks grow. Offering continued engagement across multiple channels will raise your profile and keep your business in the forefront of people’s minds. The more people that know about you, the better.

Video Production

How To Make Your Videos Look and Sound Professional

Earlier this month we took a look at how to shoot videos for the web. But editing your video is as important as the footage itself. Whilst nowhere near as lauded in Hollywood, the editor is an essential counterpoint to the director. Would Pulp Fiction be as loved without the superb editing work of Sally Menke? Probably not. Of course, we’re not expecting you to make a blockbuster, but the importance of great production shouldn’t be underestimated. With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to making your videos stand out from the crowd and listed the post-production tools you’ll need to get the job done.

Video Production

1. Trim it.

No customer likes to have their time wasted, so make sure you remove any excess footage using a trimming tool. Any basic video editor will feature one of these. Kate’s Video Toolkit is one of the simplest free production tools on the web, while the Windows Movie Maker or iMovie programs preloaded onto your computer are equally useful. If you’ve missed filming something important but don’t have the time to reshoot, chances are UnlimitedStockMedia.com has something close to the image you’re missing. Sites like this are great for plugging gaps and adding professional shots to any video, but don’t use too many or your film may start looking like a scrapbook.

2. Filter it.

In our previous tutorial we gave you hints and tips on lighting your footage. If you’re still not happy with the result, free program Avidemux will let you tweak lighting levels, contrast and white balance in post-production. You can also crop your footage down to the professional standard 16:9 screen size and apply a number of nifty filters should you wish to make your footage black and white or colorized. Filters can be great for adding a special touch to your video but don’t overdo it – excessive use of filter effects can make films look clumsy and amateur, not the effect you want!

3. Add a soundtrack.

Listen closely to your raw footage. If there’s too much background noise, get rid of it with Avidemux. Adding a soundtrack should be your next step. Any basic post-production editor will allow you to sync a track or clip to your footage, but be careful: copyright laws mean that using a sound file from your music library could lead to trouble later on. Instead, head over to FreeMusicArchive.org for a library of cost-free tracks that you can upload to your video, or RoyaltyFreeClassicalMusic.co.uk for something more Mozart. For sound effects, FreeSFX.co.uk is your one-stop shop for bells, whistles and whooshes. Again, remember that less is more when it comes to soundtracking. Viewers need to be able to hear your message and not be distracted by excessive noise which may even make them switch off completely.

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4. Add your stamp.

You’ve got your polished footage, now you need to ensure customers know why they’ve been watching. Avidemux and many of the other programs mentioned above allow you to add a business logo or ‘mask’ to footage. Alternatively, add a few static images with your name, logo and Sub Hub web address at the beginning or end of your video.

5. Convert it.

Make sure you’ve saved your video in a web-friendly format to avoid issues uploading the file to your webpage. Sub Hub makes this easy by allowing uploads in a number of formats. Once completed, you can add your final edit to a number of video-sites to get maximum exposure for your business. Youtube is the world’s largest video site, while Vimeo allows higher-quality streaming and a more polished user experience. Both services make it easy to share your videos on Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels; spreading the word and getting eyes on your business. Although it might seem counterintuitive (you want people to pay for these videos after all,) giving away some content can help attract people to your site and swell your membership base.

As with shooting, the key to producing professional-looking videos on a budget is simple: keep it basic. The best videos deliver their message in a clear and uncomplicated way, with no gimmickry needed. Try it for yourself; if a picture says a thousand words, imagine what a video could do for your business.

New Media, Social Media, Virales Marketing, rot

Research Methods, what are your customers interested in?

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There’s a lot of competition out there; a whole Internet’s worth in fact.  So how can you be sure to stay ahead of the game and keep people logging onto your site rather than some rival’s? Well, it’s wise to take note of what your  customers want and what they expect. After all, in the words of Peter Purves, ‘Who Cares Wins’.

Analytics

An obvious place to start is by tracking your traffic. If you have a particular webpage that attracts a high number of hits, then this a pretty big clue as to what your audience wants. Conversely, if something doesn’t perform well, be sure to learn from mistakes and avoid re-posting similar content. You can track your customer’s path across your site, find out how long they’re spending on each page and much, much more. Analytics is a powerful tool, and working out what works is crucial to keeping customers happy.

Survey

There are several websites that allow you to create free surveys or questionnaires, which can then be emailed to your customers or even uploaded to your site. Asking your clients direct questions is undoubtedly a great way to find out what they want, and you’ll find a few quick and dirty tips on how to write good surveys here.

Focus Group

Inviting people to discuss their opinions or perceptions of what you do is a popular means of market research. These groups can often be more rewarding than straightforward surveys because conversation flows naturally and participants aren’t limited to a set list of questions. You may not have the budget to use external agencies but it could be worth meeting a few loyal customers, in person or via video chat, to gauge what they want from your business.

Peek

Ever wondered what other people make of your website? Well, now you can find out with Peek, an innovative service that offers you a view from a fresh angle. Simply type in your domain name and email address, and within a few days you’ll receive a real-time video of somebody road-testing your site. It’s a fantastic concept and it’s completely free of charge, unless you want to explore a more targeted campaign with specific demographics.

Comments

Allowing people to comment on whatever you post is a great way to encourage feedback.  You’ll notice there’s a ‘Leave a Reply’ section at the end of this blog, which is designed to invite you, the reader, to share your thoughts on what we do. Everything you say is taken on board and we try to answer any questions posed.

It would be great to hear your stories. How do you make sure your customer’s are getting value? How do you find out what they want? Let us know below.

 

Turning ideas into money

Content Ideas For Membership Websites: Give Your Members More

Turning ideas into moneyI was once a member of the He-Man fan club. I’ve kept that secret to myself for nearly 25 years and it feels good to finally admit it. My Masters of the Universe name? Kalvos (although I preferred the shortened form, Kal.)

On payment of a membership fee I was given a free badge, an ID card and a free packet of candy. As a kid that’s all that was needed. If I was paying an annual fee for a membership now however, I’d feel slightly short-changed by such a paltry return. Basically, members want more.

 

For an online membership site, you may think the options are limited when it comes to providing content so we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to provide your members with more bang for their buck and keep them engaged with your brand (hint: free candy should be an absolute last resort.)

1. Let’s Hangout

Be it live coverage from marketing events and talks or live guitar tutorials, customers will enjoy being able to interact with you. One great tool to consider is Hangouts on Air where you can invite up to ten people into a live chat/tutorial/presentation. This allows you to talk directly to your members while any number of other people can view the hangout live. The resultant recording gets automatically uploaded to YouTube meaning you can add that to your website as content too.

You could offer participation in the hangout as part of a competition or just select 10 members at random. Either way, it’s engaging and interesting. Make sure it’s well advertised on the front page of the website and social media to maximise the audience. The more people who see it the better.

2. Exclusive Podcasts

Offering downloadable podcasts allows members to make the most of your content whilst they’re on the go. Simple to set up, and easy to record you can even set up a private Soundcloud group which effectively creates a private database whilst also giving you the option of embedding any podcasts direct to your site. Plus it looks nice.

3. E-book

E-readers are big business so it’s safe to say that e-books would be greatly welcomed by your membership. As an expert, you have more than enough knowledge and content to condense into a kindle-friendly format. Choose a specific topic and offer it as a download direct from your site. Again, this allows members to engage with your business while they’re on the go, meaning they’re not solely staring at a computer screen when interacting with your work. And it’s not that tricky, you can create your very own using Word.

4. 1-2-1 Skype Sessions

The opportunity to pay for exclusive one to one sessions with experts or coaches would provide a great service for those who struggle with particular concepts or ways of learning. Being able to ask physical questions to someone who really knows their field would be a huge benefit, and paying for their ‘real’ time face-to-face is a sure-fire way to help people set out to do what they want to do, and progress to the next level. Much like Google Hangouts a 1-2-1 Skype session could also be offered as a competition or just as a benefit to a random member.

5. Annual Networking Events or Members Dinner

Being able to invite like-minded members to an event where they can share their ideas and meet each other is a great way to build the platform and make everyone feel personally involved. Industry experts will be able to share their ideas, and members will be able to meet them in person and ask any questions they have. This in turn will help members sign up for more and more once they’ve met and built a rapport with their teacher and know who’s giving them expert advice.

6. Newsletters

A regular weekly or monthly newsletter let members keep abreast of the latest activity on your blog but also allows you to explore wider news in your given field. It’s added value and also keeps your business fresh in people’s minds. Keep it brief and entertaining and you’ll see the benefit.

So there you have it, six effective ways to engage your audience; candy, ID cards and badges optional.

Media Converging

10 Top Tips For Producing Great Video Content On A Budget

Media Converging By 2017, it’s predicted 90% of all internet traffic will be video content.  They’re easily digestible and offer a chance to show the world how awesome you are. Plus, people are more likely to watch a video than read an article, and having video content boosts SEO rankings – driving traffic to your site.

So what are you waiting for? You don’t have to invest in anything fancy because there are many inexpensive alternatives to suit any budget. Here’s our guide to the best value video equipment:

1. Be Smart

According to Mobile Marketing 72% of people in the UK own a smartphone and 89% of 18-29 year olds in the US own one too according to another report. If you’re one of them, you already own the means to record, and these days most phones film in HD. Just be sure to shoot in 16:9 (landscape) rather than 4:3 (portrait), as this looks more professional.

2. Use Your Apps

A variety of free apps are available to improve videos on phones or tablets. Horizon addresses the above mentioned framing issue, while Lightt is a quick-and-easy editing tool that allows you to add unique filters and special effects.

3. Browse for Bargains

With smartphones increasing in popularity and digital cameras improving in quality, camcorders are quickly becoming obsolete. However, this means camcorder prices are falling and there are some real bargains to be had. The Toshiba CAMILEO-X400RD, for instance, has great features and is only £89.99 ($150) on Amazon.

4. Say Cheese!

If you’d prefer to buy an entry-level DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex… or ‘fancy camera’), the Nikon D5100 has great reviews and is available for a knockdown £279 ($460) at SLRHut. It offers full 1920 x 1080 filming and has built-in editing features.

5. Drift

If your videos are going to be more adventurous, the Drift HD Ghost range is a safe bet. Available from just £155 ($257), you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s waterproof up to 9ft and has reinforced casing to protect the LCD screen. The inbuilt wifi enables you to operate remotely, and the lens rotates so you can adjust to capture any angle.

6. Tripod

Keeping the shot steady is a hallmark of professionalism, so avoid ‘shaky hand syndrome’ and get a tripod. Virtually all tripods use the universal screw that fits any camera, and a variety of grips are now available for smartphones. Failing all else, at least prop your device on a table or chair to ensure it stays still.

7. Take The Mic

Most smartphones come with a microphone for handsfree calls, but you can use this to improve sound quality when recording online videos. Here’s a great video to show you how.

8. Backdrop

When it comes to the background, avoid having any clutter or unnecessary distractions in shot. If you’re indoors, try recreating that studio feel by hanging a plain sheet behind you, or simply stand in front of a plain wall. With the right lighting, it can look great.

9. Brighter is Better

There’s little need to invest in professional lighting, just make use of any lamps you have and bear three basic rules in mind: The ‘key light’ is brightest and should be placed at a 45° angle to your camera, avoiding a ‘deer in the headlights’ look for your subject; the ‘fill light’ should be placed on the other side, filling in any shadows; The ‘backlight’ should then shine down on your subject, making them stand out from the background.

10. It’s All in the Edit

Chances are your computer is pre-loaded with basic editing software, perhaps Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. If you’re new to video production, these entry-level packages will have all the functionality you need – you can add titles, increase audio levels, layer music, and play with special effects. But it’s advisable to keep things simple. Unless you’re looking for specialist features like multi-cam editing, it’s unlikely you’ll have to upgrade to industry-standard software.

 

Top 10

Membership Websites – Top 10 Subjects

Top 10 “What are the most popular subjects for subscription or membership websites?” is one of our most frequently asked questions, so below is a brief guide that’s been compiled to answer just that.

These examples should provide an idea of what works and why, but it’s by no means a definitive list of the things that work. When launching your own site, following a tried-and-tested path can yield great results, but you’re far more likely to succeed if you find a niche that really inspires you.

Miles Galliford, the co-founder of SubHub, suggests: “Pick a subject that you enjoy so much that you would be happy to write about it even if you weren’t getting paid to do so. You’ll spend most of your waking hours thinking about it and speaking with people who share your interest. If you’re not passionate about your subject, someone who is will probably create a better site than yours.”

With that in mind, let’s see what others have made work for them…

 

Subject #1 – Weight Loss, Fitness and Exercise

Example: [http://bekahfit.com]

Diets and fitness are evergreen subjects, attracting large audiences in search of their body beautiful. Here, Bekah provides personalized training tips and workout routines.

 

Subject #2 – Music Tutorial

Example: [http://guitarmann.com]

Music makes the world go round, and also makes for a popular topic. Stephen Mann has amassed a huge following for his tutorial site.

 

Subject #3 – Starting a Business

Example: [http://www.whatreallymakesmoney.co.uk]

‘How to start your own business’ must be one of the most popular search engine topics in recent times of austerity, so this niche has naturally flourished. Many sites offer great advice every step of the way.

 

Subject #4 – Make Money from an Existing Business

Example: [http://www.eonetwork.org]

Making existing businesses more profitable is always a popular choice. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a network of business owners from all over the world, enabling a peer-led community to learn from and influence each other.

 

Subject #5 – Online Marketing

Example: [http://www.copyblogger.com]

A plethora of sites offer advice on how to make the most of your online presence. Copyblogger teaches members how to create great content.

 

Subject #6 – Investment Advice

Example: [http://www.thisismoney.co.uk]

Newsletters with investment tips have been around for a long time, and now there’s a host of websites dedicated to regular updates. This Is Money offers discussion forums and expert advice.

 

Subject #7 – Improve Your Personal Life

Example: [www.mysinglefriend.com]

Dating websites are as popular as ever, but My Single Friend differentiates itself by encouraging well-meaning types to help their buddies find love. The big players may dominate the industry, but there’s plenty of opportunities for related subject areas.

 

Subject #8 – How to Guides

Example: [http://www.photographytips.com]

Sites geared towards educating and training make for fertile subscription ground. If you’ve got a hidden talent then creating a tutorial website can be very profitable.

 

Subject #9 – Relocation Advice

Example: [http://www.expatica.com]

These sites are catered towards people relocating to new places, providing all the info required to ensure a smooth move.

 

Subject #10 – Lifestyle and Religion

Example: [http://www.mumsnet.com]

Websites that create a real sense of community, centred around a kind of lifestyle or religious belief attract strong and loyal followings.

 

Conclusion

The membership or subscription model is a fantastic portal upon which many successful businesses are built, and knowing what works is great, but there’s still plenty of room out there for you to carve your own niche into the Internet.

If you choose a subject that resonates, your passion will shine through and customers are more likely to buy into it. There’s never been a better time to start your own site.

Time Management

7 Steps to Improve Your Work/Life Balance

Time ManagementRunning a part-time business can be fun and rewarding but maintaining a healthy work/life balance is vitally important – especially if you have other commitments like holding down a full-time job or keeping a happy family.

Throwing yourself into things is admirable, and variety may be the spice of life, but having your fingers in too many pies can soon lead to third-degree burnout.

Here’s a few tips to help you master the juggling act of work, rest and play:

 

 

 

1. Stick to your schedule

An obvious perk to being your own boss is the associated freedom, allowing for greater flexibility with time. You can manage your workflow outside the normal parameters making it more compatible with your lifestyle, but it’s still advisable to have a structured timetable. Being realistic with daily goals and not taking too much on will help you prevent neglecting other aspects of life.

A great app for home and mobile is Evernote. This connects all your devices together meaning if you put something in your mobile diary, it automatically updates on your PC, laptop or tablet. It’s a calendar and a diary, you can make notes, save web pages, photos, share diaries with friends and so much more. Well worth a look.

 

2. Make lists

Noting down and ranking tasks in order of priority helps you keep on track and improves efficiency. Being systematic means you’re working smart, and there’s real satisfaction when you get to cross-off each bullet point.

 

3. Cut out distractions

With ever-advancing technology comes increased intrusion into daily life. If you find yourself checking Facebook or playing Flappy Bird every few minutes, time quickly slips away. Turning off notifications and deleting apps you don’t need removes the temptation, cutting out the distraction and allowing you to focus.

If you’re really dedicated then try Freedom, an app which locks your online distractions while you work. $10 a year but with your added productivity, money well spent.

 

4. Don’t skip meals

If you’re on a roll it can be tempting to plough on and work through lunch, sometimes eating can even slip your mind. But going nil-by-mouth is a surefire way to hit a brick wall. Aside from the obvious health and nutritional benefits, meal breaks also provide a chance to clear and refresh your head, which makes for much more productive output in the end.

 

5. Exercise

If you work from home you could easily go days without leaving the house (or even getting dressed for that matter,) but this is extremely unhealthy. It’s important to get the blood flowing so make time for physical activity – even if that only amounts to going for a brisk walk to fetch more teabags. Exercise boosts energy levels and makes you more alert, leading to better results at work. The Daily Mail agrees so it must be true.

And if you don’t think you have time…

6. Socialise

While building the business is commendable, it shouldn’t be to the detriment of relationships with friends and family. Spending time with loved ones is essential for your general wellbeing, so make sure you dedicate enough to your nearest and dearest. They’re your best support group, on hand to give advice and/or reality checks, but, more importantly, they remind you to have fun.

Author Margaret Heffernan cites having a life/socializing as one of the four most important personal traits when it comes to increased productivity.

 

7.  Relax

To truly achieve a healthy work/life balance it’s imperative to dedicate enough time to yourself. Whether you enjoy reclining on the sofa with a good book, or dancing around the living room to guilty pop pleasures, taking time out each day really goes a long way to recharging your batteries.

Running your own business should be a pleasant experience. Make sure you don’t sacrifice other aspects of life to make it successful.