When I started my consulting practice more than two years ago, my immersion into social media was, maybe, knee-deep. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I had joined LinkedIn in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2009.

Still, the social web has exploded since then. And so has my insight — although the thing about social media is that it’s easy to feel as if you’re always playing catch up because it’s changing so quickly.

Anyway, about a year ago, I decided to redo my website. I wanted to make it more interactive, to highlight my blog better and to enable posts to be shared easily. It needed a big upgrade with respect to its social presence and capabilities.

The journey has been bumpy and difficult. And it’s not over, yet. But it sure has taught me a lot!

5 lessons I learned by redoing my website . . .

(that I wish I’d known beforehand!)

1. Make sure your programmer and designer listen, well, to what you want and can convert those ideas into action

I definitely should’ve spent more time interviewing former clients of the first designer I hired to make sure his skills and approach would translate into a partnership. He ended up designing the site he wanted. Not the one I wanted. And then kept trying to talk me into it, and told me that others he showed it to had liked it. Ugh. To the team redoing your website, you are the important audience. The project should feel like it completely meets your specs and communicates what you want it to.

2. Check their Twitter feeds and blogs

Find out: Do they communicate on a somewhat similar plane as you? Do they share as frequently as you want your posts Tweeted, Buffered and Pinned? Do they know the kind of tools and plug-ins that are on the cutting edge? Just because a designer or programmer is talented doesn’t mean he or she is going to really understand the way you’re going to use the site and need it to work. If your potential designer/programmer’s social presence clashes with yours, RUN. Tweets with expletives? A dead giveaway (and now I know.)

3. Study up so you know what you want

If I am going to have my house painted, I don’t need to know the best techniques. If I am going to get my taxes done, I am not going to brush up on the latest  regulations. But social is different. Week to week, things change. Tools come on the scene that make things better, easier, prettier. Trends shift in warp speed. This is not the area to outsource completely to a designer or programmer — even a good one. You’ve got to know the tools you want to be able to guide the process and site development so you end up with something close to what you envision. I’m not talking about being a dictator. But I am suggesting you have to a partner if you want to love the final product.

4. Know when to give up

I stayed with my first designer (who brought in a programmer I didn’t know — another big mistake) way too long. I knew he wasn’t getting what I wanted, or more precisely, wasn’t listening to what I wanted. I knew this wasn’t going to be the partnership I needed as tweaks to the site would crop up. I began dreading meetings and phone calls, which were not returned very promptly. I got to the point where I had paid for 3/4 of the job. And still hated it. Why didn’t I just leave earlier? That is my advice to you, if things are sliding steeply down hill… just start over. And get an escape clause in the contract that doesn’t leave you paying for work that didn’t meet your specs. I got out of the last payment, but not before it got ugly, which was unfortunate.

5. People skills matter as much as designing/programming skills

This is social media, for goodness sakes. The person or team you pick to redo your website needs to not just display professional social media skills. They have to display professional social skills, period. This project you are embarking upon is intensely personal, very important to your business, a reflection of you and responsible for driving customers and clients to act and buy. You need someone who totally gets that and can translate it into a site that works for you. And to get that, you need someone dedicated to working with you.

So, my website redesign odyssey is, finally, almost done.

I am thrilled with my new team, Yurich Creative. They did my new logo. They found fonts I love. They made awesome design suggestions. And they took my requests for plug-ins I wanted and the sharing capability I pictured. They didn’t know every tool, but were open to discovering and incorporating things into the design.

Their suggestions clearly showed that my descriptions of how I wanted the site to look and work resonated with them. It was wonderful! Ahhh.

I wish I could’ve made this progress without learning these 5 hard lessons. Some of them might look silly, in hindsight. But I learned. And I think that’s why this go-round went so much more smoothly.

And, hey, all of those hassles did provide a great idea for a blog post. Feel free to share it. I want others to learn from my mishaps, as well. And I would love to hear about your bloopers and triumphs with your own website redo. What lessons would you add to this list?

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Becky Gaylord shares some of her motherly love with the 12 Most MOMentous Moments of Motherhood…

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12 Most Essential Traits to Thrive at Work…

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This is fantastic storytelling and brand building! And it takes full advantage of the power of video, visuals and social media. Brilliant.

Fans of my blog know I love word clouds.

I use them in presentations, blog posts and even in reports. They show the proportional use of words, in a graphic form. And word clouds can give real power, visually, to analysis.

I decided to see what my Tweets looked like in a word cloud. Tagxedo has a great tool for this, which allows customization in many ways, including the word cloud’s layout, color, fonts and shape.

Using the tools on the site, I typed in my Twitter ID and downloaded information from my Tweets. I chose to remove (or to skip, as it’s called on the site) Twitter handles, so the words in the graphic included only those within my Tweets. Then, I played around with aesthetic aspects, picking fonts, colors and a shape I liked…

…a quote!   

With the specifications I chose, Tagxedo’s tool created a visual representation of my Twitter stream — what I Tweet, ReTweet, post and comment on in chunks of 140 characters or less! While simple and fun to do, this exercise actually serves a very useful purpose: it is, essentially, a visual representation of my brand on Twitter.

What about yours? Does it look like and say what you want it to?

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Becky Gaylord spills the beans on the 12 Most Powerhouse Habits of Social Media Pros…

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  • meet your deadline
  • solve a problem
  • close a sale
  • win over a client
  • write a blog post
  • find hope after a bad day
  • rebound after a failure

Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. Don’t give up, but don’t beat yourself up, either. Reach out for help if you need it. Give yourself credit for how far you’ve come.

Those people who you suspect have it all together, with no problems and no stumbles? Nope. Not true. But what they have done is figured out how to keep going and make it look like that. You can too.

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12 Most weekly writer Becky Gaylord shares wisdom on the Crucial Rules for Content Sharing.

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Social media gives us access to many more people than we’d meet otherwise. It lets us be touched in more ways. It lets us be influenced by more people — as well as influence more people, ourselves.

Data matter. ROI matters. And analytics matter. Yes, all of that is true.

But this wonderful post by Jure Klepic shows why that’s just part of the story. “As marketers, we need to start focusing on measuring intent instead of just measuring online influence,” he says.

Kait Brand’s intense message of love and courage, which unfolds in this video, reached me through Jure’s blog. I don’t know either Kait or Jure personally, yet both have profoundly influenced me through social media. The more complicated technology gets, the clearer it is that community and simple, emotional connections matter more than ever.

How are you incorporating this reality into your social media outreach?

Blogging is hard work. And getting the tone of voice just right is part of that struggle. Without the right voice, readers won’t stick with you to take in your great content.

Here’s the challenge: You want to be authoritative, but not a know-it-all. You want to be upbeat, but not saccharine. You want to be specific, but not clinical. You want to be informative, but not scientific. You want to be clear, but not patronizing. And you want to show a sense of humor without sliding into a standup routine.

Here’s my trick: try writing as if you’re talking to a specific audience. Picture who you are delivering the information to. Make it visual. And make it personal.

Then craft your content. And do it with the tone you’d use in one of these seven situations…

1. to cheer on a friend,

2. to bargain for a deal,

3. to guide your kids,

4. to pick yourself up after a bad day,

5. to laugh a little at yourself,

6. to mentor a student, or

7. to help a stranger.

See if that doesn’t make it easier next time you need to post. I’d be interested to hear how this worked for you. Here’s more about writing for a specific audience with some examples.