Tips to Use Instagram for Business

Why use Instagram? Or any social media channel for that matter. Back in the day, the Yellow Pages was the go-to place to find a business. Now, we have lot's of channels and the questions you may want to ask are "Are my customers looking for me here?", "Can I afford to skip this channel?" and "Does this support my business goals?"

1 Super Way you can Help to Innovate Raleigh

Of late, Raleigh, NC has taken innovation seriously. So much so, that we are able to get a group of smart, savvy, and seriously interested people to gather together to talk about what works, what doesn't, and how we can all pull together to make things happen.  In essence, to make Raleigh an outstanding place to live, work, and play. If you would like to get involved, here are 2 ways.

  1. Come to the Innovate Raleigh Summit Weds. September 11th at the Raleigh Convention Center. REGISTER
  2. Join in/attend/participant the Raleigh M.A.I.N. Event, an Innovate Raleigh initiative, celebrating a month of music, art, innovation and NOISE. CALENDAR

Want to see what was uncovered from last years summit? Read Innovate Raleigh Report 2012

What would you like to see happen in the Triangle to make this area awesome?



#1 Thing to do to Secure your Website

UPDATED POST: Wordpress 3.6 is the newest software release. If you have not upgraded yet, you should.

#1 malware threat to your website is out of date software and or plugins. The best way to secure your website against possible hacker threat is by keeping your software and plugins updated. Wordpress 3.6 was recently released. If you have not upgraded your website yet, you really should consider doing this. Why? Well the  most compelling reason is for security against possible hacker threats. Although Wordpress is built on a solid platform, there are folks in the geek world who have other agendas and may try to compromise your website without your knowledge. One great way to secure your website is to keep the architecture software updated and keep your plugins updated as well. You can do this fairly easily via your WP dashboard.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Login with your admin password
  2. Check to be sure you have a recent backup, and if not make one now
  3. Look for the button to upgrade
  4. Click the button, and when it asks if you are sure you want to upgrade, click Yes
  5. Test your website to be sure it is functioning properly

Depending on the complexity and plugins used on your site there is a mild to strong risk associated with this action. So, I can't stress enough the importance of making sure you have a recent backup prior to making any major changes. Plugins sometimes have conflicts with the software or other plugins, and often they simply will not upgrade as a way to stop a conflict. So after you finish the upgrades be sure to test your website thoroughly, especially the plugins that offer special functionality.

Customers on our maintenance plan receive automatic software upgrades.

If you're interested in upgrading (and you are not on a plan with us) but don't want to do this yourself, contact us to discuss.

5 Super Simple Tips for eBook Cover Design

received the following question at a talk I had given in 2012 for the Independent Communicators Alliance. Here is the post about that discussion.

"How would you design a cover if you knew it was only going to be an eBook?"

Great question! What the author was really asking me had more to do with her decision to NOT print her book and instead only have the book available as an eBook. So, if you find yourself in this situation I would suggest a few things in terms of design:

  • Book cover size ( the online retailer will tell you what the best size is for their website )
  • Just one cover image is needed. No need for spine, back cover or flaps
  • Be sure the design includes your title and if possible author name very large
  • Use color and contrast to help the book cover "pop" in online retailers
  • Keep it simple

You can save money with a designer if you know the specifications and realize the difference between creating artwork for an online retailer versus a traditional print publisher. Keep in mind that there is a difference between an eBook and a digital copy of your book. An eBook is a document prepared to publish on an electronic reader such as a Kindle or a Nook. A digital copy  is often a PDF ( Portable Document Format ) of your manuscript with or without a cover.

catfishTo the left, Catfish and Mandala, is an example of a cover design I think could be better if it is only available online. Notice how the author's name is hard to read? Also, notice how much extra sub-text is on the cover making it difficult to read and brings into question why it's on the online cover? I do love the orange color! On the right, The Bone Season, is a cover I think works really well strictly in an online environment. It has both the title and author name very visible and it enjoys some nice graphics as well.  bone season

Many authors publish both a print version and an online version of their book. If you are in this camp, your graphic designer can help you create a cover version that can work well in both scenarios. Or they can create two covers, one for each environment, keeping the look and feel consistent.

When I design a book cover for print, I would follow the above suggestions somewhat, however a seasoned designer will always ask additional questions such as the final book size, what kind of cover ( soft or hard ), dust jacket included, ISBN, author bio and much more and design accordingly. Also, with traditional book cover design for print, a designer will consider the spine size ( depends on number of pages ), back cover layout, and if designing a dust jacket, inside flaps as well. You might want to check out this post about the anatomy of a book.

Are you working on an eBook right now? What cover ideas have you seen that work really well?


3 Tools I Use Everyday to Work Faster and Smarter

Just fyi, these loves of mine, re: the list below, are tools I use a lot, and have paid to use. I am not associated with these companies in any way, and they didn't ask me to review, write or anything like that, I simply like the tools. If I include affiliate links, I do so simply because they are available. Harvest time trackingHarvest. ( ) One of my favorite tools! I have been using Harvest since 2010 and I have never looked back. This online application is perfect for folks who track their time, whether you bill by the hour or not, and want to collect those hours to present your client with a simple or detailed invoice. You can easily enable Paypal and other payment gateways and it integrates with Basecamp, Highrise, Quickbooks, Xero and OAuth2. You can also export your data and import data into Harvest too. It is fully branded with your logo and is very professional with an elegant user interface. Features I like a lot are recurring invoices, reporting tools, email payment reminders, auto marked as paid when client clicks the Paypal pay now button, and the ease of thank you emails after payment. And for security it has me covered there too. Read more about SSL-encrypted connections... all that stuff here. Support is great too. The team is very responsive and always looking to make the product better. Even when I hound them about when they might have Purchase Order support, they very nicely tell me it's not their focus right now, but they have it on the list. If you are inspired to acquire this great tool, use this link, it gives me a few points. $129.60 per year

Bottom line: It works, makes my life oh so much easier. I get paid faster.



Square. ( ) Ok, so I have not used this tool that much, but whoa... when I needed to charge a customer via credit card, you know Visa, Mastercard, Amex ( I don't have a regular bank gateway account ) it was seamless and awesome. How so? Well, recently I went to a business meeting and was wearing one of the yarn scarves I make. A woman at the event inquired if I had made the beautiful scarf around my neck.  I said "yes" and she asked if she could buy the scarf I was wearing, right off me! I said "sure", then grabbed my iPhone and the Square and before long she was walking out wearing the scarf and I had a little money in my account. Sure they take 2.75% of all my swipe sales, but that works for me. It even sends an email receipt right then and there. Easy-peasy. They also have Square Wallet, pretty neat idea for payment, a bit like a blend of Venmo and Foursquare. The idea is you pay with your name and a photo of yourself via the phone app. Plus, Square just launched a Marketplace. See my store on Square Market. $ Free account. 2.75% a swipe or $275 a month

Bottom line: Ridiculously easy to use. Enable more sales...anywhere.



Mailchimp. ( ) The Mailchimp team obviously loves bananas, who can blame them? I love banana's too! But wait, what does bananas have to do with this? Well, this fun, hip tool keeps things light as you dive into serious email business. They are always improving the software and make a free version of this product that works great for most small businesses. The templates are nicely designed and many come responsive, so you know it will look great on your phone or iPad. You never have to worry about being legit and folks can easily unsubscribe. The reporting tells you exactly who opens your email, how many times, the overall success of your campaign compared to other campaigns, and even auto tweets and tracks your campaign on Google Analytics. Mailchimp does even more, but you get the idea. If you're interested in this tool, use this link, it gives me a few bananas if you become a paid customer. $ Free account ( 2000 subscribers or less )

Bottom line: Elegant, compliant email communication.

Say, what business tools do you love to work with that makes your job easier, faster, or productive?

3 Key Steps to Event Success, Plus See Our Numbers!

We often get asked which tools we use to promote our events. Questions like "Do you use Facebook, linkedin, or Twitter?"  or " Does social media really help drive registration?" or " What tool do you use for registration?" If you plan events, and maybe have had these questions also pass through your mind, this post may help. Keep in mind many of our events are designed for under 200 people and have a low ticket price to entry.

3 Key Steps to Promote Events with Social Methods for More Registrations and Success
As an example we will use PechaKucha Night Raleigh (PKN), an event Cynergie Studio hosts and sponsors 4 times per year. We do use Facebook and Twitter to promote events. When we started promoting back in 2009, we used Facebook, Linkedin, Community calendars, PR, Twitter and other sources. We tested via custom links which of the sources were driving registrations. When we noticed that Facebook was a clear and bold leader, we stopped spending time on all the other PR sources. Why? Well simply put, time. PechaKucha Night is requires lots of coordination and depends on volunteer support. We have to make the process as streamline as possible, and since we were getting the results we needed with Facebook, we didn't spend time working other PR sources.
Our last PKN event was held May 23 at Visual Art Exchange in Downtown Raleigh and below we are going to share some insights about what we do, how we do it, and see some numbers.  Keep in mind a few things as we discuss the promotion of PechaKucha Night Raleigh. We created our Facebook page on December 1, 2009 and we have 312 likes. We created our Twitter account December 18th and have 790 followers and have posted over 1200 tweets.
Ok so, when we start to promote PechaKucha Night, the first thing we do is create an event on the PechaKucha Night Facebook page and then we make sure to do the following 3 things;

  1. Place the registration link on top of the post
  2. Add a nice graphic to the event
  3. Invite everyone


That's pretty much it. Then we monitor the event, respond to comments and update as new info arrives.

Back on the main PechaKucha Night page, we continue the dialogue leading up to the event with a series of posts (sometime we post date them to save time) updating information such as speakers, topics, reminders, etc to build excitement. We always try to post with an image as the views are often much larger ( some say it creates an increase of 120% views ) when an image accompanies the post. We rather like this number :) ...
And it went along with the image of the poster ( below).
The post was announcing the event poster design which included all the speakers and the event information and which we printed and brought to the venue.
When we posted, we made sure to tag the image with people associated to this event, such as venue, poster designer, speakers, and PechaKucha Night volunteers. This helps to notify the appropriate people, plus it is seen on their timelines, often to people who may not even know about the event. As a bonus, it is great to receive comments, and we always reply, again to keep the post active and engaging.
Other things to consider besides views, are the numbers about Engaged Users, Talking About This, and Virality. Below are a few posts with data showing. It would seem obvious that the post with the highest reach (546) also had a high number for engaged and talking about, but it wasn't high for virality. And the post that reached only 73 people had the highest virality, meaning more people created a story from this post. We are still learning, and the author of this post is most definitely not a data collection geek, but we suspect the virality is most likely due to the following things;
  1. The post was actionable.
  2. This was the event post and many people clicked the "join" button which often posts to their timeline.
  3. People clicked the registration link. 
  4. Folks are interested.
facebook reach
We also use Twitter and of course our mailing list (thanks to Mailchimp!) Registrations come from these sources too, but not nearly at the same rate. You can see in the first column we had many click throughs ( 788 ) from Twitter, but the number of actual registrations was just 2. Compare that to Facebook with 52 click throughs and 15 registrations and Mailchimp of 76 click throughs and 65 registrations. Percentage wise Twitter delivered less than 1% conversion to registration  versus Mailchimp's 85% conversion. And Facebook delivered a 28% conversion which is great. These numbers are calculated through our registration vehicle, Eventbrite, but we will talk more about the in's and out's of Eventbrite later.

To Have, or Not to Have an Email Signature?

Has this ever happened to you?  You try to contact the person you may have a meeting with or perhaps you need to discuss something with this person and you do a quick search in your email and you find their email, boom! Success and so quickly, gotta love gmail :)  Then a quick scan of the email finds absolutely no mention of a phone number for this person. My glee turns quickly into frustration. Have you experienced this?  Perhaps, it is just me, but this seems completely out of touch. So today I challenge you NOT to be one of these folks! OK folks, email relationship tip #101. Absolutely, positively, always, always provide a current email signature on the bottom of your email. This is good business form and lets the email receiver know you are accessible and legit. I know many good, professional folks that simply do not do this. I don't get it. It's best if you do this for every email profile, every platform and since technology makes it ridiculously easy to do, you really have no excuses, 'K? Now, you may be like, "well I don't want everyone to know my phone number." OK, that's cool, but then be sure to make it clear in the body of your email, that you can be reached at this [ fill in the blank ] number. Personally, I am way too busy to be typing something that can be automated so easily and with such ease.  Add to that the added value of exceptional customer service and this seems like a no-brainer for any would-be entrepreneur, certainty for any business owner, and of course for anyone wanting to increase revenue, communication, or donations.

This is my actual signature, pasted right from my email:

Cyn Macgregor, Creative Director
* * * * *
Cynergie Studio
(m) 919 602.0900
follow: @CynergieStudio | | product search:
Raleigh City Organizer, PechaKucha Night
* * * * *

Feel free to copy, edit and add to your email signature. You can see my signature includes a nice greeting, my name, title, phone number and other contact info along with links to my websites. At the very least, your name and phone number should be present. Ok, I feel better now, 'preciate you letting me get that off my chest.

Now, how do you feel about the email signature protocol? Or have you sometimes thought the same thing?

10 Greatest ‘MAD’ Covers

MAD magazine has been around a long time, in fact since 1952. Below is the very first cover published for the October/November edition. Above is a portion of the October 2012 cover. (Notice the caricatures of Romney and Obama?) See a compendium of MAD covers at Doug Gilford's MAD cover site.

I'm not a comic magazine or MAD humor lover at all, but I can't deny that I do appreciate the consistency and longevity of a magazine that can remain relevant throughout the years. Very, very impressed with that! The simplicity of many of the covers does nothing to diminish the impact of the covers. The talented and fortunate artist's who illustrated the covers were simply amazing in their concept, composition, and style while maintaining the MAD brand. Speaking of brand, it's interesting to note that MAD modified their logo many times throughout the years without interrupting their brand at all. With a strong brand - translate this as feeling your marketing imagery can be less rigid in terms of always having your logo appear in the same color or even typeface.

[Original content below from Flavorwire's website ]

We’re going to go out on a limb, and assume that many of you could use a good chuckle right about now. If you can believe it, this month marks MAD Magazine’s 60th year of bringing comedy, pop culture satire, and high-quality potty humor to America. To celebrate, the folks behind the insanity are releasing Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity, full of cartoons, comedy writing and illustration from ”The Usual Gang of Idiots,” complete with a foreword by Stephen Colbert and Eric Drysdale. To commemorate the occasion, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite covers from MAD‘s long and storied history. Check out our picks after the jump — and since there’s no way to narrow this down to a definitive ten, be sure to tell us which of your own favorites we ignored in the comments. And if you need a hand remembering (or want to go further down memory lane), we recommend checking out this amazing compendium of all the covers.

About our Creative Director

Cyn Macgregor

Cyn has over 15 years art direction and design experience in diverse industries to include: publishing, healthcare, medical research, SaaS software, technology, music, art and photography.

As a “creative entrepreneur”, (that's the term Cyn uses to describe herself) she provides beautifully designed and cost-effective marketing solutions to business owners.  As Creative Director at Cynergie Studio, Cyn works hard to align business messaging with appropriate business graphics, sales materials, websites, marketing strategies, content management, blogs, videos, and social media channels to help build business and earn revenue.

Stuff you might not know about Cyn

An artist. She paints, draws, and creates.  Cyn focuses her energy, experience and affinity for creating on making colorful, feisty and abstract art. Her artwork is best suited to personal or commercial interiors whereby art collectors can fully enjoy seeing the art everyday. She’s a charismatic and passionate visual artist who feels fortunate to have her artwork in homes and businesses in the USA, Europe and South America.

Aka Ms. Cynthia. Many years ago Cyn had young art students who studied with her at Sun&Moon Studio, a business she founded to encourage kids to create, draw and explore their own creativity. The studio mission statement: There are no mistakes, only opportunities.

She gives back. She believes strongly in giving back to her community so she donates her time and artwork to help support local arts and charities such as SPARKcon and Visual Art Exchange.

She conceived and developed Choice Reward, an award-winning product to help parents encourage good behaviors in their children through a positive reward system.

Raleigh City Organizer at PechaKucha Night Raleigh. Her company, Cynergie Studio, hosts this quarterly event that showcases folks in the RTP area of North Carolina who have a passion they want to share with others in a fast-paced, high-energy idea exchange. The talks are formatted as 20 slides presented for 20 seconds each, for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. PechaKucha Night was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture (Tokyo) as a way for creative minds to present their latest projects or work.

Born in Ohio to great parents. Ken and Irma were married over 50 years! Together, they allowed her to explore her creative side. Artistry is in the family. Her dad was a painter and his dad and grandmother were as well. As a youngster she painted rocks with a mud mixture and then traded them with her neighborhood pals for other childlike wonders. As a young woman her interest and talent in photography led her to build a darkroom in the basement (thanks dad!) which moved her toward a career in the graphic arts. She worked at a newspaper, print shop and later she founded Cynergie Studio.

Anatomy of a Book Interior

Ever wonder what the bits and pieces of a well organized book are called? The following elements make up the anatomy of a published book though they may not always be in the order presented here.

End Papers

These are the blank pages (perhaps with images) you find at the beginning and end of a book. They function to fill out the Signatures.  Paperbacks may not have End Papers. Sometimes End Papers are referred to as Leaves.

Half Title Page

The book title appears on this page.

Other Books by the Author Page

This list may appear on the opposite side of the Half Title page, or on its own page following the Half Title page.

Title Page

The book title and the names of the author(s) and the publisher are found here. On the back side of this page you'll find the copyright notice, the ISBN (the International Standard Book Number) and printing numbers, the publisher’s address, the year the book was published, the Library of Congress Catalogue information, and more.

Dedication Page

This element allows the author(s) to dedicate the book to someone or something.


The author(s) often have plenty of assistance getting their book published. This page thanks people who have been helpful in some way: perhaps a writing instructor, the editor at the publishing house, the author’s agent, a supportive spouse, etc.

Table of Contents

Also known as the TOC, the Table of Contents lists the individual chapters  and the page where each begins. It’s usually found in nonfiction books.

List of Charts, Diagrams, Photos or Illustrations

If included, this might follow the TOC to further detail the book’s contents.


The Foreword is written by someone other than the book’s author(s) and provides insight not readily seen in the authors content.


Written by the author(s), the Preface contains important information relating to the book topic. Sometimes  referred to as Author's Note.

Front Matter

All the pages up to this point are called the Front Matter. The page numbering is done in Roman numerals or some other system that differs from the Body pagination.


The author gives the reader more details about the book in this optional section. In trade nonfiction books, the Introduction may be an informal “Dear Reader” letter getting the reader excited about the information presented, inviting the reader inside the book and giving an overview of the book’s contents. The pagination starts here.

Body or Chapters

This refers to the text of the book, which is usually broken down into chronologically numbered and named elements called Chapters.

In nonfiction books each chapter may be divided into sub-titled segments which may be included in the TOC.

In fiction, the chapters might contain segments called Scenes; these are separated by blank space within the text. They are usually not referenced in the TOC.

In both fiction and nonfiction, chapters might be grouped together and labeled as Part 1, Part 2, etc.

Back Matter

All the pages appearing after the body of the book are called the Back Matter and included in the pagination of the Book Body.


Any additional information for the reader to know after having read the book.


Nonfiction books may have one or more Appendix listing recommended books, websites, organizations, or other resources relating to the book topic.

Fiction only occasionally has an Appendix.


Usually found in nonfiction books, this section lists vocabulary words and their definitions as they relate to the book’s subject matter.


Lists the references used in writing the book.


Usually in nonfiction books, the Index is an alphabetical list of significant terms found in the text and the pages they appear on, helpful to someone seeking specific information in the book.

Author Biography

A sentence, paragraph or even a page about the author(s).

My decision for a Macbook Pro Retina Display

I made the big decision in 3 days, not 3 weeks, which is how long it took many of my fellow mac-folks to decide on which way to go in the debate for or against the newest Apple product, the Macbook Pro with Retina Display. I was in a hurry. With sadness I said goodbye to my beloved Macbook Pro after 4 great years of service. Sadness turned to fear as I realized I had to have a solution quickly as my business depends on having a computer I can trust. So the games begun. Since I was already at the Apple store I took a moment to look around at the options. It became apparent that the first question I had to decide on was with Retina Display or without. This question kinda blind-sided me because I figured my biggest question was going to be about storage and hard drive space on the new 15 inch Macbook Pro, not about completely new territory, yikes!

I left the Apple store with my broken Mac and a vague list of things to think about and headed back to the office for research. The forums and discussion boards were filled with pros and cons. Many said they will never buy a 1st generation "anything" again, others stated that the Retina Display was overpriced and the value wasn't there. Some others said they had to return to the Apple store to get a new one or get it fixed within weeks of purchase.

The other camp said things like "Wow", Best decision ever",  "I would if I could" and "If they come out with a 13 inch, sure!" I was fairly confused. I stalked the Apple store web site, and asked Google terms like " macbook pro versus retina display"  and I spoke at length with colleagues and friends and finally made my decision. Absolutely, positively I was going with the Macbook Pro 15 inch SANS Retina Display. Why? Because I didn't want the headache of 1st generation, I didn't want to spend extra money ( it is expensive enough! ), and it didn't include a built-in CD drive. Go with what you know. Enough said, right? I did my homework and thought I had all the info I needed.

I walked confidently back into the Apple store to order my new 15 inch Macbook Pro and promptly started a discussion with an Apple sales person (who doesn't get paid on commission by the way) who was kind enough to help me configure my order. YAY!

Then the nice Apple guy started asking me questions. I answered them and before I knew it I had made a 360 degree turn! I ordered the Macbook Pro WITH Retina Display. Why? Mainly because the Retina Display machine comes standard with a Solid State Drive (SSD). My daughter's hubby-to-be strongly urged me to not settled for the Macbook Pro's standard 750gb 5400-rpm drive, opting instead for increased durability of SSD. I had planned to configure my new machine with a 128gb SSD for an additional $45.00, that way I would have my Macbook Pro and SSD. I am rather hard on my technology, so I figured extra durability can't be a bad thing for me. What I hadn't figured out yet prior to my first decision was the Retina Display model comes standard with 256gb SSD, which you could upgrade at the time of ordering, if you desire, though I didn't. And the price was about the same if I went with 2.3GHz and not 2.6GHz and if I upgraded from 8GB SDRAM to 16GB SDRAM. Bonus is the sleek 0.71 inch thin design and 4.46 pounds.

I'm happy with my decision. I am getting more excited and can't wait to see what I didn't know about and will soon not be able to live without. Of course at the time of this writing I have not gotten my new Macbook Pro Retina Display, so stay tuned for my soon to come update.


Here are the specs:

2.3 GHz Quad core


256GB Flash Storage

with Apple care of course!


Although my decision is made, I'd love to know what your decision was or will be regarding the new Macbook Pro Retina Display. What are your thoughts on this debate?

UPDATE: OCT. 2, 2012

So far very happy with my decision. The battery seems to be long-lasting, the display lovely, the weight is divine, and the OS is smooth. The trackpad and gestures is a little different and the power cord seems to fall off repeatedly, but those are my only complaints.

Chip Kidd: Book designer with a wicked sense of humor

...the goal when it comes to design and publishing in general: to create smart, striking ideas that also sell. - Chip Kidd


A friend suggested I look up this TED talk about book design. WOW! I'm so glad I did. Chip Kidd is an awesome designer and his attitude is spunky and fun. He was a lot of fun to watch and listen to, even if you don't care a bit about book design. Not sure what the deal was with his glasses? Anyway, since I care a great deal about book design I was in awe and have noted a few of Mr. Kidd's take away points:

  • When designing a book cover that has a user saying " WOW! I need to read this!", consider the following:
    1. Reader
    2. Publisher
    3. Author
  • The cover should say Apple or show an Apple, never both.
  • Stories need a great cover because a cover needs a face. This gives the reader a first impression of what you are about to read.
  • The cover is what makes the book a "thing."  Think product.
The covers below illustrates how Mr. Kidd handled two very different memoirs.

Cover design by Chip Kidd


So the Hepburn memoir cover was designed with words, mimicking the way the content was written, by Ms. Hepburn herself. The Dietrich memoir cover was designed using as image reinforcing content  that was written, by her daughter, to give the reader a visual image of Marlene Dietrich.

Watch the TED talk and let me know what you think of Mr. Kidd's words, appearance, sassiness, and which cover you love most.

More links:,29307,1853737,00.html

Chip Kidd's favorite covers.

Read Smashing Magazine's interview with Chip Kidd.