Sherrie Bakshi

About Sherrie Bakshi

Sherrie is the Director of Marketing and Social Media at Matrix Group. When she's not working, she is giving back to the community, serving on the Board of Directors of Doorways for Women & Families or hanging out in DC. Follow her on Twitter @sher_32.

What We Love About MailChimp

Clients regularly ask us to recommend a broadcast email platform. Our answer is almost always MailChimp, the popular email provider.  Here at Matrix Group, we’ve been using MailChimp for more than two years. We even designed and implemented a responsive email template that dynamically responds based on the device recipients are using to view emails — thanks to the functionality of the email provider. MailChimp logo

Here are a few reasons why we prefer MailChimp over other providers:

  •  It’s easy to use. MailChimp offers multiple templates for you to use to create newsletters, emails, etc.   MailChimp also makes it easy to add your own templates. Once implemented, it makes it easy for staff who are not as familiar with HTML to create, edit and send out emails.
  • Updating and managing lists is easy.  You can update lists on an ongoing basis and MailChimp will automatically remove unsubscribes. You can also pull lists of emails that bounced back.
  • The reports are fantastic. MailChimp’s reports provide some great insight on your campaigns. You can view overall open and click-through rates, recipients who have opened your emails and links that were clicked on the most.

MailChimp is a great marketing tool for organizations. It makes sending emails easy and looking good!

Do you use MailChimp?  What features do you like about it?

The Battle of the Blogging Platforms: Sitefinity vs. WordPress

When it comes to deciding on the right platform for blogging, many of us go with WordPress. It’s simple and easy to manage, among other advantages. Matrix Group, has built a number of blogs and websites using this platform. feet and arrows

Recently, we’ve also launched a few blogs in Sitefinity for clients whose main websites were built using that content management system, instead of automatically choosing to go with WordPress.

If we were to choose one blogging platform, which would we consider the better one…or would we?

In the battle of the blogging platforms, we asked two of our experts at Matrix Group, Craig Odar, Senior Developer and Sitefinity Product Manager, and Roger Vandawalker, Senior Front End Developer, about the pros and cons of both CMSs

Pros and Cons of Sitefinity

If your current website is in Sitefinity, there are some clear advantages of having your blog also in the CMS.  “Sitefinity has a lot going for it – it supports a rich taxonomy and an out-of-the box workflow and it has other compelling not blog specific features like responsive templates and a flexible layout system,” says Craig.

Other pros include:

  • Blog posts will share the same taxonomy as the rest of your content and it gives you opportunities to blend blog posts with other content for taxonomy driven pages
  • And, content providers don’t have to learn two systems.

“Setting up a new blog also requires very little setup and there are no new interfaces to learn,” says Roger.

Of course, like any other product, there are a few disadvantages to having your blog in Sitefinity.  The CMS has limited functionality for an out-of-the-box blog, and anything beyond a title, body copy, tags and categories will require the assistance of a developer—so keep that in mind when determining the elements for your blog.

Pros and Cons of WordPress

WordPress was built as a blogging platform originally and because of this, it does blogging very well.

“It’s insanely easy to extend with plugins and can be pretty customizable by just tinkering with a few configurations,” says Roger.

Plus, WordPress has an active community that the plugins and the platform are updated frequently, making it great for security purposes.  Unfortunately, this does pose a bit of a maintenance challenge.  Those using WordPress will have to update to the latest version on a monthly basis. Plugins need to be updated more often.

Who’s the Winner

In the battle of the blogging platforms, there are both advantages and disadvantages of each platform.  Many people are familiar with WordPress and are fairly comfortable with adding new content, plugins, etc based on their needs.

While Sitefinity has some limitations, the blog’s content shares the same taxonomy as the rest of the website, providing rich content for your users.  So, if you’re setting up a blog as part of a larger site hosted in Sitefinity, then it makes sense to keep the blog with the rest of the content.

So, at the end of it all, both platforms are great blogging, but when it comes to deciding which platform is best for you, you need to think about which elements you want to include on the blog itself. With this in mind, you’ll be able to make a decision.

Integrating Visual Social Media Platforms into Your Communications Strategy

Recently, I did a webinar with Matrix Group CEO Joanna Pineda on “How to Integrate Visual Social Media Platforms into Your Communications Strategy.”  Visual social media platforms like Instagram, Vine and Pinterest are becoming dominant forces in the social media world. Man looking at web pages

More and more companies are jumping on the visual social media bandwagon, using these platforms to:

  • Introduce new products
  • Promote events and causes
  • Give followers an inside look into their corporate culture
  • Or, simply inspire.

My Favorite Campaigns

Organizations are doing some cool things on social media! You can’t help but get inspired! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • UNICEF’s Really Want These Campaign: To help raise awareness of child poverty worldwide, UNICEF took to Pinterest through the eyes of Ami Musa, a fictional 13-year-old girl from Sierra Leone and the basic necessities that she wishes for that many of us take advantage of every day … running water, shoes, food and going to school.
  • InStyle’s Instagram Feed: I have been an avid reader for more than a decade, so it’s no surprise that I follow the magazine on social media.  This feed is an example of how organizations are using the photo-sharing social media site to showcase everything from promoting products to giving an inside look inside its corporate culture.  InStyle also hosts contests to engage its followers.
  • Congressman Jared Huffman’s Vine Videos to Protest Against Cutting SNAP: Using common food products, Congressman Huffman’s team created these simple videos to communicate the impact SNAP cuts will have on millions of Americans.  The concept is simple; the creativity involved in producing these is amazing!
  • Food Marketing Institute (FMI)’s Supermarket Facts Video: My team at Matrix Group created the first of a series of videos showcasing facts about the supermarket industry. The first video focuses on how often American consumers visit the supermarket and where they’re shopping through fun infographics and animation.

Tips for Integrating Visual Social Media Platforms into Your Social Media Strategy

When it comes to determining which social media platforms to add to your current social media activities, which ones should you include? Before you jump on the visual social media bandwagon, consider the following:

  • Review your current social media strategy and see which platforms (s) will help you fulfill your established goals.
  • Once you’ve determined which platforms you want to include, make sure you create a posting schedule and have the staff resources to manage it.
  • Get inspiration from other organizations.  Take a look at what other organizations are doing on visual social media networks to inspire some creativity.
  • Once you’ve created your profiles, start building your following. Promote your social media presence on your traditional and online communications. Also make sure you add followers and engage with them by commenting and liking their post.
  • Monitor and refine your posts on regular basisMeasuring activity should be part of your social media activities.

Need help in with your social media strategy or interested in a social media training for your staff? Contact Sherrie Bakshi, Director of Marketing and Social Media at sbakshi@matrixgroup.net.

Blogging Will Not Replace Journalism

Recently I attended Twitch Communications, one of the many events hosted as part of Social Media Week DC 2013. This was my first social media week event (I wish I had the opportunity to attend more), but I have to say I very much enjoyed it. panel

The event was a panel discussion moderated by Amanda Littlejohn (@amandamogul), CEO of Mopwater PR. It was a good discussion on how social media has changed Journalism.

Since I started my communications career more than a decade ago, I have seen it evolve significantly thanks to technology, but the core values continue to be the same, and that’s the same for journalism.

Stacey Samuel (@sss2128), producer for CNN, made a statement that really struck me, “Blogging will not replace Journalism.”  I believe this is so true. Yes, bloggers can be very influential but it cannot replace news. Here’s why:

  • Bloggers are not reporters.  Bloggers talk about their passions, they provide their opinions on issues, share personal perspectives. They tell stories but on a much more personal level.
  • Blogger relations is not the same as media relations. Many PR people approach bloggers the same way they approach reporters, but that’s the wrong approach.   If you are looking to build momentum behind a cause/issue, use bloggers to help support your cause.
  • Journalists will continue to tell the news.  I definitely agree with Stacey Samuel. Bloggers have their role in the media world, but it cannot replace true journalism.

As I mentioned above, it was my first Social Media Week event and the only one I got to attend last week. I would have loved to attend more, but I am glad I did not miss this one.

Did you attend any events during that week? Which ones?

How to Use Twitter and Facebook to Get Your Message Out!

For many of us in the marketing and public relations fields, we understand the importance of sending out consistent messages to promote our organization’s campaigns. The message itself may be slightly modified for the individual audiences, but really nothing else. English phone booths

Well, that has changed—thanks to social media.  The integration of social media (which I no longer call “new media”), has revolutionized the way we communicate and interact with each other on both a personal and professional level.

Social media also allows us to be creative in the way we get our message out, and it’s no longer about who owns the message, it’s more about being the focus of conversation. Ok, many of you may already know this, but do we practice what we preach?

Yesterday, we hosted our first webinar of our spring series at Matrix Group, and we decided to do something completely different. First, we moved away from the traditional PowerPoint slides into a live demo, but that’s not all.  We incorporated social media during the actual webinar and continued it once it ended. The response has been fantastic so far.

Here are the lessons that we learned that we wanted to share with you the next time you are launching a campaign:

  • Hashtags can be pretty powerful. Whether you are launching a fundraising appeal or sponsoring  an event, the level of activity your hashtag can generate can be huge.  And, it’s not only about “promoting your campaign”; it’s about being the topic of conversation. Have you ever played “Telephone?” Well, watching conversations by hashtags can be the same experience. The conversation continues, but your original message changes in the course of it all. It’s a pretty cool way to get to know your audiences.
  •  Your Facebook page makes the perfect platform for discussions. With 800+ million people on Facebook, why wouldn’t it?  A few months ago, I sat on a webinar with someone from Facebook. Throughout his presentation, he re-emphasized the importance of sharing and engagement. He even mentioned that one shouldn’t delete a negative comment on your Facebook page (unless it is deemed inappropriate of course based on your social media policy), but to respond instead.  Because engagement on our Facebook page is important, we invited attendees from our webinar to post questions on our wall for our “in house” experts. It was a great way to engage with our attendees post webinar.
  • Social media is a community so build one.  Again, you’ve heard this before, your social media strategy should be about building a community, but how does really one go about doing it? The bullets above are a great way to get started!

As I mentioned earlier, many of us know this stuff, but how do we go about implementing are ideas? And how do we know it is successful? Start small and go from there. There are so many other component of a social media strategy: blogs, foursquare, YouTube, etc.

Where should you begin? Take the first step by hosting a Facebook discussion. You don’t need an app for it. Just ask fans to post questions and comments to your wall.

What social media tools have worked best for you?