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3 Not So Stupid Questions for #AskAStupidQuestionDay

By Christina Steder, VP of Client Strategy

questions_square.jpgAt Trivera, we love it when clients ask questions about the technology we use to support their business goals. Digital marketing changes all the time. Here are three questions we are often asked. And no, we don't think these are stupid questions at all!

1. What's the difference between SEO and PPC? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the process we use to help your site rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). If you want to be on page 1 of Google, and aren't planning to advertise, our experts will use SEO to help make that happen. PPC stands for Pay Per Click. Pay per click ads are the ads that appear at the top of the results page when you conduct a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search. There are many reasons to combine SEO and PPC. We can help you decide the best balance between SEO and PPC to help support your business goals.

2. What's a wireframe? Wireframes are like the blueprint of your website. Just like a blueprint shows where the rooms are in your house but not what color the walls will be painted, a wireframe is a black and white sketch-style mockup of your website. At Trivera, we build interactive wireframes so you can see what happens when you click on different elements of your future website, and how your site will look on different screen sizes. Wireframes help you see what information will go on each page, and how the information will be organized. Wireframes do not have any photos or logos and use placeholder text only. This helps you as a client focus on where items such as images, videos, or buttons will be placed on a page without also having to evaluate design elements, such as colors, at the same time.

3. Why do we need to do a discovery? Can't we just start working right away? When you become a Trivera client or bring us a new project, we want to ensure we understand EXACTLY what you need. We apply best practices and research to your work so that we can bring you our best ideas and avoid any pitfalls during your project. Of course, if you need something immediately, we're happy to jump in and help, but our 20 years in business have shown us that taking time up front to fully map out your digital marketing strategy or website development project saves time and money in the long run. Our process identifies every aspect of your brand and your target audience so we can create a tactical plan to attract, engage and convert that target audience, then create the ROI to make your digital marketing plan an investment to be leveraged, rather than an expense to minimized.

4. What does Trivera mean? Trivera is Latin for "Three Truths." Those three truths are:

      • Deliver a Product we can stand behind. Our product is "Digital Marketing that Converts." We know how all the pieces need to fit together to provide a website and digital marketing plan that achieve your brand and business goals, creating measurable success and significant ROI. We only recommend something if we believe it can help you achieve your business goals.
      • Follow a proven process, but be agile. Our process begins with a proprietary discovery that identifies your needs and develops a long term strategic plan with defined, achievable goals. Then it continues with an agile approach to accommodate constantly and rapidly changing tactics, tools, customer preferences and market conditions while keeping the goals and budget as our guiding force.
      • Commit to an ongoing relationship. Our Annual Service Agreement isn't just a document or a contract - it's our commitment and promise to be your long-term partner, delivering the highest quality work possible and helping you and your company achieve your goals.

Any other questions? Just let us know!

About Christina Steder

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With 15+ years of experience in consumer product, professional service, and nonprofit marketing as well as brand strategy and client service, Christina provides strategic direction for our clients - linking their ongoing online and content marketing needs to business goals and ROI. 

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock 

How Much Should You Invest in Digital Marketing for 2015?

website-development-budget1.jpgAlthough most companies planned their 2015 marketing budgets in the last months of 2014, a new Gartner report will give you some guidance as to whether your planned investment will match that of your competitors.

According to the report, most companies plan to allocate a little more than 10% of their topline revenue for marketing in 2015, with 50% planning to increase their spend over 2014 levels.

Two thirds of companies these days still separate digital marketing as a separate category out of their overall marketing budget, with the average amount allocated to the digital efforts at a quarter of that budget.

Most companies plan to make Customer Experience their highest priority for the upcoming year, allocating 18% of their marketing budget on improving that.

The typical company will allocate 13% of their budget for Digital Advertising, with content marketing and website development just behind at 12% each.

The following chart shows how those numbers break out in dollars for various size companies:

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Those numbers may seem large to some. But there is plenty to spend it on. Our own observations confirm dozens of other studies that show how far many businesses have fallen behind in their digital marketing efforts. Few companies have responded to the shift in paradigm from desktop to mobile as the preferred customer experience. Most companies still fall behind when it comes to the latest best practices for SEO, PPC and content marketing. With email marketing and Social Media competing as the tool that creates greater results, and new transactional functionality emerging all the time, there is no shortage of digital initiatives to add to a company’s arsenal of marketing tools. 

Smart marketing decision-makers already know what they need to do to take full advantage of digital marketing to build their brand awareness, generate leads, and serve existing clients. But many have had difficulty convincing their CEOs, and CFOs to invest enough to drive efforts that will produce meaningful results.

These numbers will provide them with the evidence they need to argue their case and make sure they have the necessary dollars allocated to stay ahead of their competition.

 

New Clients and Projects Mean Trivera is Hiring!

A recent influx of new projects from existing clients, inlcuding MTMI, Dental Associates, Extrusion Control Systems and Perlick, combined with a huge number of new clients, including Badger Meter, Herzing University, Berghammer Construction, Krete Industries, Accunet Mortgage, K&S Tool, Phoenix Products, Paramount Prosthetics, Skylands Capital and TixSwitch, Trivera has openings for a Back End PHP Developer and a Designer/Front End Developer.

The descriptions of the opportunities can be found on the employment page of our website

Date Set for Social Media University 2014

SMUM2014-logo.jpgIn the summer of 2009, Trivera produced Social Media University, the very first conference of its kind in Milwaukee. Nearly 400 marketers, business owners and agencies gathered at the Italian  Conference Center to learn about this potentially powerful, but still relatively unknown marketing vehicle. Now 5 years later, experience has replaced theory, and reality has eclipsed the optimism. Still a leading authority on Social Media, Trivera presents another daylong event on June 11, 2014 to educate and inspire the market about the importance of all aspect s of social media in your marketing and business strategy.

DSC_6725.JPGThis year's event will be held at Potawatomi's Woodland Dreams Ballroom and Expo Center on 17th and Canal St.  Centrally located, the facility provides easy access, more room, and free parking for attendees.

Just like last event, the focus will be on providing you with practical hands-on knowledge from experts who are in the trenches helping real businesses and organizations just like yours, to successfully use Social Media as a marketing and business tool with the insight of 5 years of hands on experience  Several speakers have already been confirmed on a wide array of topics:

  • Tom Snyder (President, CEO, Trivera) - Social Media 5 Years Later - Strategy is Still The Key
  • Christina Steder (President, Clear Verve Marketing) - Integrating Traditional and Social Media, Not Only Possible but Necessary
  • Wayne Breitbarth (Author) -  LinkedIn, your B2B Social Media Secret Weapon
  • Christopher Graham (Digital Media Specialist, Potawatomi Bingo Casino) - Managing and Measuring Your Social Media Efforts
  • Paul Stillmank (President and CEO, 7 Summits) - Business Benefits of Building Internal and External Online Communities
  • Michelle D'Attilio and Jeanette Pham (Sosh) - Creating and Maintaining a Social Media Editorial Calendar
  • Chris Remington (VP Business Development and Client Strategies, Trivera) - Keeping Your Website Relevant in a Social Media World
  • Katie Fleming and Cory Ampe (Trivera) - How Social Media impacts Your Position in the Search Engines


Other sessions will include the latest techniques to help you understand and leverage Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube and Pinterest (presenters to be announced).

DSC_6857.JPGA panel discussion will reunite members from  the  similar panel of  five years ago and add a few others to share the secrets to the successes they have achieved as Social Media...and their business paths...have evolved over the last 5 years. Panel members include: Joe Woelfle (Blatz Liquor, now State Farm Insurance), Joe Sorge (Founder of AJ Bombers and now President  of -  Hospitality Democracy), Scott Baitinger (Founder of Streetza Pizza, now CMO at Verlo Mattress Factory Stores), and Leslie Rivers (Marketing Associate- Milwaukee Ballet).

Rounding out the day will be an afternoon keynote from a digital strategist from a brand you know and trust ( to be announced shortly).

A variety of exhibitors will have booths to showcase their products and services. And the day will be capped off by a networking reception with cash bar.

DSC_0855.JPGTickets are $139, ($129 if 3 or more from the same company register at the same time) and include continental breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages. Because some speakers are yet to be announced, we're offering early bird registration tickets at $119 each till March 31st. Register at SocialMediaMilwaukee.com

The first Social Media University Milwaukee sold out. Buy your tickets early to reserve your spot. Don't miss out! Follow @GoSMUM on Twitter, or find Social Media Unversity - Milwaukee on Facebook.

Trivera is looking for a Web Designer

t_logo_sqTrivera is looking for a passionate, experienced Web Designer that can design compelling websites and user interfaces based on the right composite of client direction and current best practices for navigation, design and UX. While we have a deep bench of dedicated front and back end developers on our team, an ability to efficiently produce clean code using PHP, HTML and HTML5/CSS3, JavaScript and jQuery to integrate that design into Content Management Systems and E-commerce platforms is a plus.

If you are like us, you:

  • are a total team player, and love to collaborate with other professionals
  • take pride in your work and keep up on the latest techniques and trends
  • have an informed opinion and enjoy being a part of the creative and strategic process
  • are self-starting, detail-oriented, and passionate about building attractive websites and interfaces that work in all current browsers and devices
  • appreciate the fact we don't expect you to work evenings and weekends, but also aren't a "40 hours and out" employee.
  • are proud to be a part of one of the area's most prestigious, high profile and soon to be fastest growing agencies

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Ability to conduct a thorough creative discovery with every client, and presell their design to the client before the reveal so the first comp presented to the client exceeds their expectations.
  • Proficiency in Photoshop
  • Strong knowledge of code (PHP, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, etc.), and browser compatibility a plus.
  • Good understanding of CMS platforms is required (WordPress, Concrete5, and Magento are preferred).
  • Responsive and mobile production experience a plus
  • Excellent communication and problem solving skills
  • A team player who can engage enthusiastically and professionally with clients and staff.
  • Is comfortable with the concept of "tracking billable hours" and capable of accurately entering time in a project management system like Basecamp.
  • Can provide a portfolio proving an ability to create clean, professional design and web interfaces

This is a full time employee position that would require you to work on site in a crazy cool historic building in the center of Menomonee Falls, WI. We offer good pay and benefits, including health and life insurance, PTOs, staff birthday lunches, an amazing culture and we wrap up the week with the legendary Trivera Happy Hour, except when we're cutting out early on Friday for summer hours. We are a casual but focused work environment. If you have had the your fill of a soul-less corporate culture, and are looking for a fun place that is like family, this position is for you.

Email your resume to empinq@trivera.com with links to your professional portfolio, and tell us why this is the right position for you.

(Women and minorities are enthusiastically encouraged to apply!)

Trivera and Concrete5 Shine at Local CMS Showdown

Billed as a no-holds-barred Content Management System Showdown, a group of Milwaukee area developers met on May 10, at Bucketworks for a Web414 panel to discuss...and demonstrate...the comparative benefits and shortcomings of 6 major CMS platforms.

Trivera VP of Business Development and Client Strategy Chris Remington invited Trivera customer Chris Graham from Potawatomi Bingo Casino to tag team the presentation on the capabilities of Concrete5. Among the contenders were ModX, Wordpress, Sitecor, Drupal and Joomla!. While the other presentations focused on developer-focused feature sets and perecentage of market, Trivera's approach focused on the client experience.

While no CMS "won," the fact that, with a depth of experience in Concrete5, Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla!, Digitalus and Expression Engine, Trivera is able to dig deep to discover every client's needs and create a web presence in the CMS that makes the most sense for them.

See the presentation here (cue in to 51:00 to see the Trivera Concrete5 Demo):

CBS58 Social Media Feature Includes Trivera President

packerscheerleader1-300x169.jpgAs the recent controversy regarding a Chicago Bear Facebook fan site bullying a Green Bay Packer cheerleader began to go viral, the news team at Milwaukee's CBS affiliate needed a Social Media expert to interview for their 10 O'Clock news. So to find the right person, they did what any self-respecting media organization would do: They Googled it. The search for Milwaukee Social Media Expert brought up Trivera on Page 1, position 1, and after a quick phone call, the reporter and cameraman were on their way to Menomonee Falls to interview Trivera's resident Social Media go-to guy, Tom Snyder.

542705_10200673998198617_1942508108_n[1]Trying to meet a tight deadline in the middle of a snowstorm, the crew didn't even have time to take off their coats, hats and mittens. That caused the realtime tweets and Facebook posts from the team in the office to be met with accusations that we don't pay our heating bills.

As the day had gone on the focus of the story shifted. Initially, the story was about a Fan Page featuring a photo and the subject of the photo getting hammered with vicious comments. The woman asked Facebook to remove the photos and the post n the grounds that it violated Facebook's anti-bullying rule. Facebook disagreed an refused to remove it. So the woman struck back with another Social Media tool: a YouTube Video. And the battle raged between the haters and the supporters, free-speech advocates and people who demanded that Facebook relent. Eventually even Mashable picked up on the story, and by the time the crew got to our office, the owners of the Facebook page removed the post.

P1015548The questions from the reporters focused on whether we felt that Facebook should have removed the post. Tom's answer framed the dilemma Facebook had by asking the reporters if they would remove a news story on their site if the comments to that story turned ugly. He felt that technically, the fan page owners probably had a moral responsibility to remove the vicious and hateful comments.

Social Media is admittedly sometimes very anti-social. Bullying goes on there constantly. Fortunately, as proven by this instance, those who are bullied can use the same tool to stand up to the bullies, and get an army of supporters to stand with them.

But once again, whether it's for bad or for good...or both...Social Media is a powerful tool, and in the right instances can create viral buzz for the good to win.

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Trivera Office - A gallery of Photos

Trivera Interactive is one of Milwaukee's oldest Web design and digital marketing agencies. We have an amazing space located in the historic Mill building in downtown Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Here are some photos of our amazing creative and collaborative space.

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Trivera Interactive - Serving Milwaukee and the world from the Mill Building.

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Trivera Interactive - The view from the loft

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The megadesk - Command and control for all Web site design projects

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Wall of Fame of Trivera Website design clients.

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Miss Muffett guarding Trivera's Icon wall.

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Trivera upstairs small conference room

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Trivera - Website design...and air hockey...happens here.

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Inside Trivera's small upstairs conference room

Laurie Vogt joins Trivera Interactive

Trivera Interactive has hired Milwaukee agency veteran Laurie Vogt to head up the digital agency's rapidly growing Search Marketing operation.

"The constantly changing and increasingly competitive nature of Search Engine Optimization gave us an opportunity to create an opening for the best SEO/PPC person in the area and bring them aboard," says Trivera founder and President Tom Snyder.

"We have a great team of strategists and technologists who have already been doing a great job helping our clients achieve great results using Search Engine marketing. With Laurie, we now have the leadership and experience to bring it all together and make our offering greater than the sum of its parts."

Vogt will facilitate the development of strategic Pay Per Click and organic Search Engine Marketing plans for clients. She also will work with Trivera's team to insure the proper implementation of those strategies and optimization of their sites. Finally she'll create and present reports for Trivera's clients to measure and improve the success of the efforts on an ongoing basis.

Says Vogt: “I have found an amazing fit here at Trivera. We're a family of innovators and communicators.  We're passionate and hard working.  We are rewarded for our efforts, and we have amazing leaders.  I am grateful Trivera welcomed me into their family, and I strive to make them proud."

Vogt joins Trivera with a great mix of skills. Over her long career as an account manager and Milwaukee area SEO specialist, her trajectory has had her moving onward and upward at agencies like Versant, the Frantz Group and Ascedia.

"We are fortunate that someone with Laurie's experience was available to join our team. Combine that with her energy and enthusiasm and her addition is a huge win for us and our clients," added Snyder.

Trivera's Tom Snyder Maintains Busy Speaking Schedule

The new year is shaping up to be as busy as the old one for Trivera Founder and CEO Tom Snyder who will be speaking at several Midwest events.

On February 2, 2012, Tom will be presenting "Managing Social Marketing" at the Metropolitan Builders Association Business Management Symposium at their headquarters in Waukesha. The event is open to members and non-members. Details and registration information can be found on the MBA Site.

The following week, on February 9th, Tom will be presenting "Twitter: Fun and Games or Powerful Business Tool?" at the Sales Progress 2012 Kickoff held at the Milwaukee Athletic Club. The event also includes other seminars, followed by a large networking session, and free soda and food.  The event is free, but registration is required. Details are here.

Later in the month, Tom will be presenting "Getting to the Top in Google – Your Blueprint for Search Engine Success" at the Wisconsin Association of Home Builders 2012 Builders' Conference, at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells. The event runs February 22-24, 2012, with Tom's presentation kicking things off first thing on the morning of the 22nd. The event is open to members and non-members. Details and registration can be found at the WHBA site.

Watch for more opportunities to hear Tom and other Trivera team members to speak and present at events throughout the Midwest in 2012. Or contact us to have a Trivera team member speak at your event.

 

Trivera's Tom Snyder Speaks at ISACA Event

Everyone is buzzing about Social Media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube, blogs and other Web 2.0 sites and applications are the new face of the Internet.  Because Social Media is having a game-changing impact on how people make their buying decisions, businesses are rightly concerned. While Marketers view it as an amazing opportunity, others within most companies aren’t as enthusiastic.  Legal departments view it as a source of potential liability. For HR, it’s a ball of confusion. Accounting can’t figure out the return on the investment. Employees are unaware of its true impact on their career. And for IT, it’s just one huge pain in the rear.

Initiated as a consumer-oriented technology, social media is increasingly being leveraged as a powerful, low-cost tool for enterprises to drive business objectives such as enhanced customer interaction, greater brand recognition and more effective employee recruitment. While social media affords enterprises many potential benefits, information risk professionals are concerned about its inherent risks such as data leakage, malware propagation and privacy infringement. Enterprises seeking to integrate social media into their business strategy must adopt a cross-functional, strategic approach that addresses risks, impacts and mitigation steps, along with appropriate governance and assurance measures.

To educate professionals on the topic, Trivera president Tom Snyder presented The Risky Business of Social Media for the Kettle Moraine chapter of the The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) on Wednesday November 16, 2011.

Event was presented LIVE  in BROOKFIELD, broadcast remotely to MADISON and the FOX VALLEY and available virtually via WEBEX.

Tom is available to speak for your event. Contact us for details

Out with Old, In with the New

It's been said "Don't look back, unless that's where you're headed."  But I hope you'll accept my apology as we take a look at the adventure that was 2009 one last time before we launch into an exciting new year.

One year ago, my wife/business partner predicted that something big was going to happen this year. We had no idea at the time, but she was definitely right.

A big story of the year was the economy.  As budgets were cut and some  companies even went out of business, Trivera committed to keeping our staff intact, a move that enabled us to superserve existing clients, but also helped us gain the confidence of a large list of new ones. New to our staff this year was a great addition: account manager Chris Remington, who has also added "Trivera blogger" to his duties with a great end of year contribution.

Major new Web projects for existing clients Mitchell Airport, Usinger's, Halquist Stone, Zach Builders and Nuemann Development worked their way through our pipeline this year. We also worked with long time partner ClearVerve Marketing to implement a re-design of their site. Frank Mayer and Associates, Mustela USA and ATL continued aggressive Search Engine Optimization programs with us.

But new clients represented the lion's share of our traditional Web business in 2009.  Among the clients who were able to experience the joy of working with Trivera for the first time: Frabill Manufacturing, Strattec Security, Sellars, Vaportek, US Peacekeeper Products, Renewable Energy Solutions, Chemrite Copac, Breckenridge Landscape, SoHoBizTube, Amici's Restaurant, JailHouse Restaurant, Deductive Energy, Studio 5-D, Western Racket and Fitness, Fresh Coast Partners, and South Shore Dentists.

We also began a great partnership with Chicago agency TargetCom, which resulted in projects for US Cellular and Kellogg School of Management.

But the huge story of the year was the emergence of Social Media as a powerful tool in brand strategies. Our Social Media University - Milwaukee event in July drew nearly 400 people to the Italian Community Center for a day of hands-on learning. As a result of that event, Trivera has helped dozens of businesses create their Social Media program, and several of them have contracted us for more significant ongoing SM implementation. Those include Mitchell Airport and two major political campaigns. The event, our ongoing work and a dozen speaking engagements by Trivera staffers has launched Trivera into the media spotlight as an authority on Web 2.0. And the power of Social Media manifested itself in a big way by creating dozens of new collaborative partnerships with other businesses in our space.

As you can see, 2009 has been a year worth looking back at. But as we wrap up a solid year, we look forward in anticipation to an even better 2010. Our move back to a historic building in Menomonee Falls will give us an infusion of great creative energy.  A large project with a national brand through our partnership with TargetCom is slated to begin in first quarter. Several other big projects with companies whose names you'll recognize should fall in line in January. And we we begin our first major collaborative relationship with Hartman Design, a neighbor in our new space, in serving new client Regalware.

And we're planning on an even bigger and better sequel to Social Media University - Milwaukee in March.

So with seatbelts and tray tables in their upright and locked positions, we're ready for takeoff. We hope you'll grab a seat with us as we wish both you and ourselves a shamelessly successful New year!

Trivera Moving Back to the Falls

After 5 years in the Fountain Square Business Center in Germantown, Trivera Interactive is moving to Menomonee Falls. The 13 year old Wisconsin Web site development, Email marketing and Social Media consulting firm is moving from their current office space to the top floor of a 119 year old historic landmark. Effective January 1, 2010, Trivera's new home will be the Schlafer and Huebner Mill Building, erected in 1891 on the bank of the Menomonee River in downtown Menomonee Falls.

Trivera founder Tom Snyder says "Having been raised in the Falls, I've always had a love for that building. And when space became available with our current lease ending, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to move our business there."

Said Snyder, "These old buildings have such character they just radiate creative energy. Milwaukee's Third Ward is replete with firms in our space that occupy similar buildings. We love the concept, but didn't want the daily downtown commute."

The new office is actually two floors tall with a high ceiling, rustic wooden beams and a loft that overlooks the conference room, reception area, production and sales areas. Snyder's office will occupy the loft. Large windows provide lots of natural light as well as views of Menomonee Falls' signature waterfall in the heart of the village and Lime Kiln park.

Although Trivera has spent the last 5 years in Germantown, they are no strangers to Menomonee Falls. After a few years in a basement in Butler, they moved to the Falls Business Park on Hampton and Lilly Rd in 1998. Further growth spurred by the dot com boom, and acquisition by a West Coast firm required a move to larger office in the same park. After 6 years there, and the unwinding of the acquisition to return the company to Snyder's ownership, Trivera moved to their current location on Rivercrest Drive, just North of the Germantown and Menomonee Falls border.

Snyder recounts: "It's sad to leave the space we've been in. With thousands of cars driving by the freeway right outside our front door, we've had tons of visibility. Everyone knows the blue fountain next to my office. The building owners, JBJ Properties, did an awesome job creating a productive workspace for us. And we'll miss our patio out back. Some lucky business will grab that space quickly."

But Snyder only looks back briefly. "As one of the region's oldest and most respected Web firms, our vision has always been forward looking, so we're excited about the change and a new 5 year commitment to our future, the relationships we have with dozens of existing clients and the new ones we are about to build."

Photos of the new space as construction continues can be seen here.

The new address as of January 1, will be N88 W16447 Main St Suite 400, Menomonee Falls, WI 53051-2891. The phone number, 262-250-9400, will remain the same.

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Trivera Interactive is an online brand management firm that uses Web and Interactive technologies to help their clients reinforce their brand with their customers, communities and media. For more information, contact, Tom Snyder at 262-250-9400.

How to Maintain Your Twitter Account...and Your Sanity

Since day one, our mission at Trivera has always been to help our client companies become more successful by using Internet technology to improve their brand relationships. And while Twitter is being lauded in many circles as the second coming of the Web, for us, and our clients, it's simply another tool that will either enhance or erode our brands. The first step for most of them is to have individuals within their organizations get acquainted with Twitter itself, and we're finding them quickly getting overwhelmed. So today, I want to begin a discussion about a couple tools that we're using and recommending to help keep Twitter in its proper place.

Millions of conversations are happening at any moment on Twitter. The primary challenge is to figure out which of those conversations are going to be relevant and useful to you and your company. Your corporate strategy will determine who you'll follow and why, who you'll want to have follow you and why. It will dictate the types of conversations you'll want to monitor. And finally, it will help you decide which conversations to simply mine data from, which ones you'll actively participate in, and what your Twitter "personality" will be when you do (a topic for a future blog).

When you only have a few followers, Twitter itself can manage the tweets. And Twitter's search function can allow the casual user to feed their curiosity as to what's going on. However, you'll soon find that your numbers of followers and relevant tweets will begin to grow. And because of the sheer immensity of data, managing the streams of tweets that result will be a task that could take over your life.

Tweetdeck has become the most important tool in my toolbox to keep that from happening. Running as a desktop application on the Adobe Air platform, Tweetdeck gives you up to ten columns to organize your tweets. So instead of having the firehose experience Twitter.com provides, you can manage tweets into drinkable streams.

Tweetdeck's "Add to Group" function allows you to determine who goes into one of your columns. Even though you may have hundreds or thousands of followers, there are only a handful that will provide the meaningful dialogue and relationships that will be at the core of your daily routine. My Tweetdeck is set up so that column one is my "Real Follows"consisting of about 30 people that I regularly monitor and engage. Adding a follower to that group is simple. And if I want to remove someone from that group, that allows me to perform an "unfollow" that still allows someone to be a follow, without having to see every single thing they post.

I have a "Replies" and "Direct Messages" column set up so that I can easily see those conversations. And I also keep a column for all friends so that if I want to take the time to jump into the current torrent of tweets, it's always there... but I keep it all the way over to the right so I have to scroll to get to it.

I also have two columns to subgroup other "friends." One is a group for several industry leaders I follow. Their tweets usually contain great tips, personal insight, industry inside info, and articles. The second group is my news group, where I follow general local, regional and national news sources. I have been able to turn off all my email news alerts, so they no longer clutter my email inbox.

I also use the search feature to create columns of tweets pertinent to specific subject outside of that provided by my "friends." These allow me to find great information about topics of interest, and, because it searches all the Tweets, it helps me find new "follows." I have a column set up to display all the Tweets with the word Milwaukee, but you can use whatever term (or terms) you want to monitor... industry or geographically specific.

With your remaining columns, you have other options. You can display TwitScoop to show the words that are ebbing and flowing in the Twitterverse consciousness. You can display "Favorites," where a tweet you want to view later can be stored before it drops off the bottom. And, if you're like me, you'll keep one column available for an on-demand search for the people, terms and concepts that will come up from time to time.

You can set the number of tweets you want to display in your columns, and filter the column to display only those in that column that meet search criteria. You can mark any tweet as read, and clear those to keep them from cluttering the column. And when a username is displayed in a tweet, clicking it displays their profile, allows you to follow or unfollow and immediately modify what group they should be in.

There are tons of other features in Tweetdeck that will help organize your Twitter experience, and help you maintain your sanity. You'll learn them as you become more familiar with (and thankful for) the tool. One shortcoming is the memory it uses, especially when your followers number in the tens of thousands. But that's a bridge you can cross when you come to it.

Before you jump in and actually begin to tweet yourself...especially if you're representing your company's brand...you'll want to take a little time to "lurk," and get a feel for how things work. And my next blog will talk about how important it is to define your Twitter "personality" before that first tweet. Another future blog will feature another amazing tool that will allow you be a part of the ongoing conversations all day long, even if you only have time to jump in once or twice a day.

And if you're following me on Twitter, or are subscribed to my RSS feed, you'll be the first to hear when those blogs are published.

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Tom Snyder @triveraguy Tom Snyder is Founder, President and CEO of Trivera Interactive, a Midwest New Media firm. Tom is a Web guy, wine snob, music junkie, Ex-Milwaukee Radio Guy, HDTV expert, and political wonk.