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Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

February 21st, 2012

“New” Rules of Content Marketing; Not So New, and Other Thoughts

This past week, I attended Boston’s Social Media Breakfast 26: “The New Rules of Content Marketing.” Since much of what we do with Voce’s PN Connect team centers on content, I figured I would hear a lot of interesting things, and I was not disappointed. Among the potential social media bingo games (claim your prize if you had “Infographic,” “engagement” and a Marshall McLuhan quote on your card) was a useful discussion of what content means in this world of the expanding notion of “publisher.” The panel, moderated by Social Media Breakfast’s own Robert Collins is listed here.

Social Media Breakfast: Content Marketing

Here are some of my own takeaways:

First of All- None of These Rules are New

What is new are some of the channels involved, and the people making content may often be people who weren’t in that game (or, like me, had gotten out of the traditional media content game at some past point). So, are we really talking about new rules for content? No. What we are doing is indoctrinating new people into an expanded notion of the “content producer.”

Nobody Reads Long-Form Content

At one point, one of the panelists remarked that nobody reads white papers. I don’t believe this for a moment. It depends on the audience. In fact, when the question, stated more broadly about “long-form content,” was asked to the panel, CC Chapman, to his credit, said as much: “It depends.”

While digestible (ok, someone said it: “snackable”) content is often desirable to draw in audiences without taxing them, the notion that nobody wants long-form content because our attention spans are crippled in the Internet age is nonsense. Certainly, pundits said the same as radio, television, and other popular forms of entertainment came to be. The truth is, you may better serve your audience with long-form content such as whitepapers. The key questions to ask have to do with identifying your audience and matching them with your end goals for putting content out there.

Always Remember that “Infographic” Begins with “Info”

Speaking of taxing your audience, the headlong tumble into infographic-mania has made people like me grumpy. We have been assaulted by a new form of so-called infographic that neither imparts information nor is a particularly compelling graphic. Panelist Joe Chernov of Eloqua said it best when he admonished us to remember that “Infographic” begins with “Info.” He also quoted noted statistician Edward Tufte; “It doesn’t matter how cool your interface is, it would be better if there were less of it.”

How do you balance “less is more” and actually imparting something valuable? It’s a hard line to walk, and sometimes it’s just a judgment call. As a Boston guy, I’ll refer to my favorite recent infographic: the Boston Bruins’ bar tab at Foxwoods Casino after they won the NHL’s Stanley Cup last spring:

This infographic fits in one viewing screen, imparts the main thesis at a glance, and provides optional details which can be gleaned quickly through the visual, with “fine print” that is merely optional. Why can’t more (all?) infographics be more like this?

Zero Out the Brand in Content Marketing?

This topic follows along the ‘balance” theme I mentioned above. I’ll agree it is important not to be in “hard sell” mode all the time, turning off potential audience members through incessant hawking of your products and services. However, the notion of “zeroing out your brand” in content raised by the panel makes very little sense to me. In the end, you have goals, which probably involve driving leads, customers, and/or sales to your company. At some point you need to have that ask in there. Whether you are simply but obviously sponsoring “neutral” content or more pointedly laying out a point of view that leads to your company as solution but also espouses your founding values, there needs to be some value to you as well as the audience.

What Was Not Discussed?

Context. Part of the solution to the question of balance is in creating a context around every piece of content you publish, from a Tweet to a white paper and beyond. I wish context had been mentioned more in the panel, because it is important.

Context is what leads people to react in a certain way to your content. To some extent you can’t control your audience’s surroundings and mod at the time they consume your content. However, the more information you give them – say, repeating a link in a follow-up Tweet or response on a topic, or reframing the overall theme in each episode of a multi-part video seriesYou have to constantly make and remake context, the more successful your content. Even the most renowned content creators in the social media world screw this up from time time- that’s how hard it is.

It is hard– that’s why we keep bringing people together for events like this.

About the Author
Doug Haslam is a Supervisor on the Voce Connect Client Services team, managing client programs and developing strategy. In addition to Voce Nation, Doug writes his own personal blog and you can find him on Twitter as @dough.

Filed in Events, Publishing Programs

February 14th, 2012

How Much is Too Much? Best Practices for Streamlining Corporate Social Accounts

Brands often find themselves facing the difficult question of how many social media accounts is too many? What divisions within the company are allowed dedicated social media accounts? Which ones should have their social efforts integrated into broader corporate accounts?

The answer for each company may be different, but it should be based on the core principles of frequency, topic, purpose, duration, local needs, and discoverability. In order to identify which divisions or initiatives warrant a dedicated social account, a brand must consider questions such as: What topics does the account cover? How frequently is it updated? How does it differ from broader corporate accounts? Is there a specific geo or language need? Are there individual evangelists within the company who can be the voice of the initiative on social?

Below is a sample framework from which to review existing accounts for consolidation and to evaluate new social account requests from specific teams. Note that in this post, an “account” refers to a team, program, or region’s social presence; one “account” can include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and other relevant platforms.

  • Frequency: Regular and sustained updates should be the number one consideration. Maintaining dozens of largely dormant, topic-specific social accounts not only clutters the brand’s overall social experience; it also confuses followers and dilutes the impact of the most critical centralized accounts. A general guideline is to ensure that no social accounts are updated fewer than two times a week. Beyond that, however, it is also critical to maintain regular engagement with fans and followers; an account that simply syndicates links to press releases or blog posts twice a week will not cut it.
  • Purpose: Each official corporate account must have a unique purpose and rationale. For example, a marketing team for a single specific product likely wouldn’t require their own dedicated social profile (there may be exceptions for products that are brands in and of themselves). Instead, this content can often be folded up into an account that covers a family of products, all products, or a centralized corporate account.
  • Topics: Similar to the above point, each social account should cover unique and different topics. If overlap exists, you can generally consolidate multiple accounts under the umbrella of a single account. When evaluating a new account request, a good stress test is to request an initial editorial calendar for the account – make the requesting team put some thought into the content they want to send out over the first month. Compare this proposed content to the existing topics covered by other accounts to see how much overlap exists. Then ask the requesting team to either adjust their focus or join in under another umbrella account.
  • Duration: Social accounts by their very nature should be designed as ongoing communications channels, not temporary accounts to support a short-term initiative or event. There may be rare exceptions where an account can be set up to support a short-term initiative, but there must a very compelling reason to create a new channel. Instead, consider a dedicated hashtag for use across other corporate channels in support of the short-term initiative.
  • Global Geos: Because geos across the globe often have different areas of focus, different audiences, different timezones, and even different languages, most brands maintain geo-specific social accounts to fulfill the localized needs and reflect an understanding of local intricacies. The key here is to leverage local teams’ knowledge of what unique elements are going to best resonate with local audiences. Typically we’d recommend no more than 2-3 accounts per geo, but there should be flexibility based on language needs and specific team/content needs.
  • Discoverability: Be sure to make it easy for visitors, fans, and customers to find and engage with the corporate social handle most relevant to their needs. Each team should be responsible for promoting their own social channels to their key customers, partners, and stakeholders. In addition, be sure to maintain a centralized resource with links to all of the corporate accounts; this often takes the form of a dynamic, easy-to-find social landing page on your site.

These core considerations can help streamline the brand online and minimize confusion. Keep in mind, though, that each brand’s needs are different; your brand may see value in maintaining dozens of accounts dedicated to specific items or in centralizing everything under a single account.

Either way, don’t overlook individual evangelists. Chances are you’ve already got a bench of experts at your company who are active online and who cover all sorts of relevant topics on their own. Leverage these resources as ambassadors for the brand – first equip them with training and governance, and then set them free to build relationships and expand the reach of your brand.

These folks already have a social audience you can tap into, an expertise to demonstrate to key stakeholders, and an ability a corporate channel does not have to build relationships and engage on a personalized level. No, you don’t want to hinge your entire social strategy on an individual who could leave the company, but building a broad bench of internal evangelists can “diversify your assets” and simplify your corporatesocial channels.

Filed in Programming, Publishing Programs

February 7th, 2012

Web Browsing is Changing, is Your Site Being Left Behind?

“Your site is out of date!” Let’s be honest, you hope I’m not talking to you. You’re thinking to yourself “Nah, we’ve been constantly tweaking it since it launched 2 years ago.” Even if that is true or it only launched a year and a half ago, is that still fresh enough? Start thinking of how long ago the wire-framing and design process started before that? A 2 year life span for a website design doesn’t seem that old, but consider what has happened in the past two years.

Back in February 2010, desktop browsing accounted for 98.14% of device browsing. Mobile + tablet browsing was in its infancy but it hadn’t quite made a strong presence at 1.65%. Most people were fairly content doing the majority of their browsing on a desktop or zooming and pinching to look at sites on their (i)phone. Fast-forward 2 months to April 2010 and the unveiling of the original iPad. Labeled by most people as a game-changer, people could now browse (most of) the web from anywhere they went on a much larger screen than before. Not long after, tablets became the focus of competitors trying to get a slice of the market. As more tablets emerged, their technologies trickled down and more advanced phones followed. All of this meant that more and more people were getting access to full websites on the go.

In less than 2 years mobile + tablet browsing shot up from 1.56% to 8.77%. In the past 3 months alone, mobile browsing has seen an average growth of 1.08%. Desktop browsing is suffering the hit, dropping to 90.84% at the end of January 2012. Click here to see a more detailed version of these numbers. Stay with me, I’m slowly getting to my point.

Sites today are being looked at on devices and in places designers weren’t even considering two years ago. Designs that tried so hard to get that no-scroll look on the homepage bow to the dimensions many people are using now. Elements that were ‘prominent enough’ or even ‘subtle enough’ before are now lost on a smaller screen. Where does that sidebar content go when the user zooms in to read the main content? And what about your ad placement? Nobody wants to pay the same amount for an ad placement that isn’t going to be seen nearly as much. There’s obviously a lot to consider and thankfully some good options out there.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design is an increasingly popular choice. Hell, even if you don’t think it fits for your needs, at least know what it is so you can throw that term out there to sound hip. Seriously though, its popularity is based on its flexibility. It centers around framing out your design based on how it will look and shift when the design is displayed on different dimensions. One of the most popular examples is The Boston Globe. Open it up in your browser, then drag the corner of your browser in and watch how the columns resize automatically. They ultimately collapse under each other as the viewport gets smaller. A lot of planning goes into this method as you must decide which content shifts around so your most important items are always the most prominent. When done right you get an extremely flexible solution that keeps the design integrity on multiple devices. There are lots of people talking about this now but the one I’ll mention is Ethan Marcotte since he was the first to introduce me to it and one of the key figures in The Boston Globe redesign.

Mobile First

The thought of designing your site centered around the mobile experience first is another way to ensure your site is effective for the mobile trend. Luke Wroblewski has been talking about this since 2009 and the idea of starting with the mobile site and then progressively enhance to devices with larger screens is gaining a lot of traction lately. According to Luke, “Mobile devices require software development teams to focus on only the most important data and actions in an application… So when a team designs mobile first, the end result is an experience focused on the key tasks users want to accomplish without the extraneous detours and general interface debris that litter today’s desktop-accessed Web sites. That’s good user experience and good for business.” Cloud Four has another nice summary of things that need to be taken into consideration here.

I’m confused, but in a good way

So now you’re cursing me because you went from thinking your site was modern, listening to why it isn’t, getting presented with two fantastic options, and now you’re left wondering which is best for you. While the two approaches seem like a complete contrast of direction, they’re really quite similar in their objectives and can actually be used together. Brad Frost shows us how to create a mobile-first responsive web design. The main objectives are defining the core pieces of your site and making sure they are prominent on any screen, presenting the user with a dynamic yet consistent brand experience and creating a site that is flexible enough to adapt with future screen variations. In other words, setting your site up so you’re not sitting here in 2 years listening to me tell you how you need to adapt your site again.

About the Author
Pete Schiebel is the lead front-end developer for the Platforms team, described by some here as the "front end MacGyver" for how he works to make sure client projects look and function as advertised. Follow him on Twitter @sneakepete.

Filed in Uncategorized

January 31st, 2012

Blog Publishing Falls Among Fast-Growing Companies

Following up on a recent study looking at Fortune 500 companies, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has now released one focused on the social media usage by companies in the Inc. 500, a list of the fastest-growing companies as opposed to those with the largest revenue.

  • Among the more startling findings of the study is that the use of blogs by these companies has actually declined, the first time it has done so since the first study in 2007. Where last year adoption had risen to 50% it has now dropped down to 37%, below even the level found in 2008.
  • Facebook and, somewhat surprisingly, LinkedIn are the most widely used social platforms, with 73% of respondents saying they were being utilized and around 25% saying they were the most valuable publishing platforms in the respective company’s arsenal.
  • “Brand awareness/reputation,” “web traffic generation,” “lead generation” and “customer support” were all called out – in that order of importance – as the corporate goals a social media program was helping to achieve.

So first off, yes, 37% is higher than 23%, meaning the Inc. 500 still outpaces the Fortune 500 in terms of blog adoption and usage. But where the previous study showed some (minor) continued growth this one shows regression. And it’s regression among companies that, presumably because of their rapid growth, are the ones that are the most active in terms of customer acquisition, something that social media is supposed to be super at.

What’s even more surprising for me is that video usage is also dropping year to year, down from 36% in 2009 to just 24% in 2011. We’ve been told that video is the hot new way for companies to connect with consumers. Further down the survey report YouTube is pegged as being a successful tool for 87% of those using it, so perhaps there’s some barrier to entry that is keeping it from being more widely adopted.

You can read the whole study here. And, as I stated in my previous post, it’s far better that companies use the tools that are going to work for them and not be bullied into maintaining channels where there is no return for them and no engagement with fans simply because the prevailing conventional wisdom says they should.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging

January 26th, 2012

Uncage Your Inner Superb Owl: Nominative Fair Use On Social Media

As the Super Bowl approaches, the NFL’s historically aggressive enforcement of its trademark on the term “Super Bowl” comes into focus as we start to hear broadcast ads from non-sponsoring entities use terms like “the big game” and “superb owl.” For this reason, around this time of year, brands tend to grow particularly sheepish about how they can or can’t use trademarked terms. Because brand social media accounts on Twitter and pages on Facebook are about both conversation and commerce, but are also free, unpaid platforms, it’s difficult to get your head around which rules might apply there. It’s of course always easier to say “our lawyers say we can’t” without necessarily having had the conversation specifically about the use and platforms in question and the related case law.



I am not a lawyer (though I have watched an episode of Franklin and Bash), but the salient question in the law would be whether or not a usage of a trademarked term qualifies as “nominative fair use.” In a piece on the Broadcast Law Blog about use of the term “Super Bowl,” David Silverman explains:

When it comes to use of the trademarked term SUPER BOWL, the NFL will take action against third party attempts to use that term in a commercial sense, in other words, to sell goods and services using the term SUPER BOWL in advertising. This is because commercial sponsors pay the NFL to be the official car or soft drink or whatever of the SUPER BOWL. Any unauthorized use of that term in advertising could imply a false sponsorship or affiliation with the NFL. So, what is permitted? It is fine to use the term SUPER BOWL in news stories about the game and in conversations about the game. There is a trademark concept called “nominative fair use” that allows others to use a trademarked term when there is simply no better way to refer to it. But that concept does not extend to commercial use of the term.”

Sounds pretty clear, but it seems to be mostly talking about “advertising” – i.e. paid media. What about forms of speech that are free and unpaid, like a Tweet or a Facebook status update? Do they qualify as “…in conversations about the game…” or are they still commercial in nature if hosted by the brand?

One of the key tests for nominative fair use involves whether or not the statement creates confusion about whether or not the brand has a sponsorship or other type of paid relationship to the trademark holder. Using the term to initiate conversation on Twitter or Facebook – “Brand X: Which team do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?” – would not seem to suggest any relationship to the “big game” or create any confusion about that and would seem to meet that standard. Similarly, a brand congratulating a musician for winning a Grammy does not in itself suggest that the brand is an advertiser on the Grammy’s. It’s a part of conversation and the name of a publicly bestowed award. On the other hand, a Super Bowl contest or giveaway done in social media might create confusion about sponsorship, so that’s generally a case where the trademark is not used.

The origins of nominative fair use came from the New Kids On The Block vs. News America Publishing case in 1992, wherein USA Today and The Star ran a poll asking readers to call a 900 number – for a fee – to vote on which member of New Kids On The Block was their favorite (obviously, that would be Jordan.) Interestingly enough, the ruling notes that “The USA Today poll generated less than $300 in revenues, all of which the newspaper donated to the Berklee College of Music. The Star’s poll generated about $1600.” So these were in some sense commercial uses.

The court ruled that that was nominative fair use and that it did not in itself imply that NKOTB sponsored the poll or that the newspaper had a relationship with NKOTB. If you think that sounds like the kind of conversation that might take place on a brand Facebook page about a band, sporting event, movie, or pop culture topic with which they have no direct relationship, then you think like I do. It would seem that it’s OK to refer to trademarked terms in the course of public conversation, even in a paid communication vehicle (like a newspaper), provided it’s nominative fair use. The same should apply to Twitter and Facebook.

In practice, the burden often falls on the mark owner to demonstrate confusion, but courts have applied slightly different standards and tests. Michele Schwartz and Prisca LeCroy from Andrews Kurth LLP suggest that no matter what the exact test is, the questions are the same – did the user imply endorsement or sponsorship by the mark holder, and did the user overuse the mark beyond just identifying the mark holder’s product:

“Different courts have applied different factors for finding nominative fair use and have differed over whether it is an affirmative defense or merely an alternate means for determining whether the public is likely to be confused. But the analysis basically comes down to two questions: Has the user employed the mark more than is necessary to identify the mark holder’s product and has the user done anything, other than use the mark itself, to imply sponsorship or endorsement by the mark holder? If the answer to these questions is “no,” the use is probably not infringing.”

Obviously, promos and paid placements on Twitter and Facebook, like promoted Tweets/trends and FB ads or merchandise giveaways/contests, would be a different story, but based on the above it appears that brands are free to use trademarked terms in the course of updates provided they don’t make excessive reference to the holder, are necessary to practically refer to the thing in question, and aren’t likely to create confusion about whether the holder of the mark endorses the user.

Filed in Marketing

January 19th, 2012

2011 Web Browser Winners and Losers

A lot of the pain fun of my job is providing consistent user experiences between the major browsers. The major browsers can be different for each client so we take user analytics and client preference as our guiding beacon. For this article we are not taking into account mobile browsing so the Big Three are Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome with Safari and Opera maintaining a presence.

Biggest Winner

Chrome (+10.8% -> 34.6%) – Chrome started the year at 23.8% and in just 12 months has jumped to 34.6%, only 3.1% short of overtaking Firefox. It was another solid year for Chrome, who gained 11.6% in 2010. The highlight of the year for Chrome had to be in April when it finally surpassed Internet Explorer for #2. What’s the key to success for Chrome? One could argue that its commitment to standards and quick adoption of emerging technologies like CSS3 make it a favorite among users and developers. Since it’s inception in late 2008, Chrome is up to it’s 17th version. Can you hear me back there IE9? Automatic updates keep users current for the most part, something IE is just now implementing.

Biggest Loser*

Internet Explorer (-6.4% -> 20.2%) – Internet Explorer was like that old dynasty team full of old players that are in so deep that their only options were sticking it out or gutting the entire team. They actually managed to do both. They hung on to IE6 for way too long, appeased some with IE7 and then made some strides with IE9. Finally they accepted that if they want to be a modern browser, they have to start acting like a modern browser. So they completely gutted their original engine, thank you, and started embracing standards. IE9 is a modern browser. It still lacks a few bells and whistles that Chrome and Firefox have but the foundation is there. IE10 is full of promise and CSS3 goodness that teases developers while they wait for IE legacy users to upgrade. The rise of Windows 7, which is required for IE9+, will fuel the ‘revolution.’ Windows 7 gained steam, up +15% in 2011 compared to -11% from other Windows versions. So while IE conceded quite a bit this year, they are poised to regain some of their prestige.

Still the One… For Now

Firefox (-5.1% -> 37.7%) – Firefox worked so hard to overtake IE in early 2009 and saw their best share at 47.7% in May of that year. At first Chrome seemed to be stealing share from just IE but then slowly Firefox’s share started to dwindle. It’s been a much slower decline for Firefox, who has been among the pioneers of standards and CSS3 adoption. 2011 ended with Firefox holding a slim 3.1% edge over Chrome, with the two heading in opposite directions. So what’s to blame? That’s not as easy to pick out as IE’s case. Memory leaks or a bloated browser turned some (me) off for a seemingly lighter Chrome browser. Maybe it just lacks the sexiness of a new(ish) browser like Chrome. It’s hard to pinpoint but at this rate they will be sitting at #2 in 2012.

Did we learn anything today? I hope so. For a more detailed breakdown of the stats, check out the w3schools.

About the Author
Pete Schiebel is the lead front-end developer for the Platforms team, described by some here as the "front end MacGyver" for how he works to make sure client projects look and function as advertised. Follow him on Twitter @sneakepete.

Filed in Uncategorized

January 18th, 2012

“The Social Media Strategist” by Voce Nation’s own Christopher Barger

The Voce Nation is proud today. We’re celebrating the release of Christopher Barger’s book, “The Social Media Strategist: Build a Successful Program from the Inside Out.

Christopher recounts the “in the trenches” experiences he had while building social media programs for IBM and General Motors and provides insights for others in similar situations. The book is consistent with Voce’s hands-on approach to social media, less talking, more doing.

You can listen to a review of “The Social Media Strategiest” from Bob LeDrew on the For Immediate Release podcast.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving away a few copies of the books via the Voce Nation twitter handle. You can give Christopher a virtual high-five over @cbarger.

About the Author
Josh Hallett leads up the Voce Connect Client Services team, managing the care and feeding of clients and developing social media strategies with the rest of the team. You can also read his personal Hyku blog and follow him on Twitter @hyku.

Filed in Voce Culture, Voce News, Voce People

January 17th, 2012

You Can’t Play Angry Birds on A Bound Briefing Book, And Other Reasons You Should Digitize Your Media Prep Material

When was the last time you pulled a volume from an encyclopedia off the shelf to look up a piece of information? 15 years ago? Maybe never for some of the recent grads? So why, in an age where all information is saved and obtained digitally, do PR people give printed and bound briefing material to clients? The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported that a record setting 153,000+ people attended CES 2012. With numbers like that it’s anyone’s guess as to how many briefing books were circulating the show floor over the past week. I’m not a betting man, but since CES takes place in Las Vegas, I’ll go with whatever the over is.

So aside from my point about Angry Birds, don’t you think it’s high time we remove bound briefing materials from the bags of our clients as they walk the floors of events or make their way through the airport? Aside from alleviating hours at the printer and in front of the binding machine, there’s a number of other reasons you’ll want to make all your media prep material digital. Here are a few that come to mind:

It’s Easy

Got an iPad, iPhone, smartphone, or tablet? Well, turn that 75 page briefing book into a PDF and open and save it on one (or all) of those devices. If you’re using iBooks on an Apple device, your briefing material will look something like this:

It’s Searchable

Leave dividers and tabs to your grandmother’s recipe book. Digital means easily searchable. Your time and especially your client’s time is valuable, so let’s save us all the hassle of flipping through pages looking for a meeting room location when we could easily search a PDF.

It’s More Secure

People care more about losing their iPads or tablets than they do a two-pound briefing book, so your competitive messaging, media backgrounders and tough to answer Q&As are a bit safer when they’re saved digitally.

It’s Green

Please consider the environment before printing hundreds of pages for your briefing materials. Less paper means more trees.

It’s Comfortable

Aside from security, this might be one of the most important points for going digital. I’ve got a phone in my pocket and iPad in my bag, why would I want to add a paperweight made of paper to that combo?

So now that we know the benefits and just how easy it is to go digital with your briefing materials, what’s stopping you from doing so? Oh yeah, you have a manager who’s been doing PR since you were playing Pogs and they decided that while it’s a good idea it’s just not practical. As Nick Bilton stated in his book, ‘I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works’, “…fearful and anxious reactions to innovation also keep us from seeing the bigger potential of new ideas. There’s an all too human tendency to believe that what we know and experience now is the way it will and always should be.”

Rattle off something like that. You’ll make a good case to go digital.

Filed in Uncategorized

January 13th, 2012

Photos from the Voce Media Dinner at CES 2012

Every year Voce hosts a very nice dinner for media and others during CES 2012. This year’s event was a fun, interesting night and so we thought we’d share some photos from the night here.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Voce Culture

January 9th, 2012

Custom WordPress Login – Part 2

In case you missed the first part of this unexpected series, check out Customize your WordPress Login page from a few months ago. Those instructions are still valid, the only thing we are doing different is adjusting the stylesheet.

The release of WordPress 3.3, like all WordPress updates, brought a lot of good new features. One unexpected product of the upgrade was a bunch of customized WP login screens I had developed looked broken. So what gives? We need to be more specific. Overall I try to be as generic with my style classes as I can, so I can more easily reuse code and also to keep the stylesheet as small as possible by not being overrun by selector overkill. It usually works out pretty well when you’re styling your own stuff but not as well on elements already being styled by another source like a plugin. Or in this case core styles.

When you need to tweak the styles of elements like these you want to leave the original styling alone. What’s the first rule of WordPress? Don’t hack core files. What’s the second rule of WordPress? Don’t hack core files. Plugins and themes you download should get the same treatment so when you upgrade any of them your files don’t get overwritten. What I like to do is append any of my styles to my main stylesheet. Usually I’m not doing big additions to the stylesheet so a separate stylesheet doesn’t seem worth an extra HTTP request. For this specific example a separate stylesheet does make sense because you don’t need to load your main stylesheet in the admin area. So what do we do when the element is getting styled after our main stylesheet loads? We get more specific. Using Chrome Inspector or FireBug we can find out the structure being used to style an element.

So let’s look at the old login styles I had in there and then the new styles that fixed the issue after upgrading.

.login {background: url(../images/bg-body.gif) repeat-x top center;}
form {border: 1px solid #ededed; background: #e60035 url(bg-form.jpg) no-repeat; width: 275px;}
#nav {padding-top: 8px;}
.login #nav a {font: bold 12px Adobe Garamond, Georgia, serif; text-decoration: none}
h1 a {width: 266px; height: 84px; background: url(../images/logo.gif); padding: 0; margin: 0 0 15px 27px}
label {color: #ededed;}
input {background: #fff;}
body.login {background: url(../images/bg-body.gif) repeat-x top center;}
.login form {border: 1px solid #ededed; background: #e60035 url(bg-form.jpg) no-repeat; width: 275px;}
.login #nav {padding-top: 8px;}
.login #nav a {font: bold 12px Adobe Garamond, Georgia, serif; text-decoration: none;}
.login h1 a {width: 266px; height: 84px; background: url(../images/logo.gif); padding: 0; margin: 0 0 15px 27px}
.login label {color: #ededed;}
.login input[type=text] {background: #fff;}

The styles I had in there before just weren’t specific enough. By adding the .login class before almost everything made them more specific than the core styles and restored my styles.

About the Author
Pete Schiebel is the lead front-end developer for the Platforms team, described by some here as the "front end MacGyver" for how he works to make sure client projects look and function as advertised. Follow him on Twitter @sneakepete.

Filed in CSS, Development, WordPress

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