Archive for the ‘Website’ Category

Cutest Dog Photo Contest – Win a $150 Gift Certificate

March 9th, 2011 by Skyla Grimes

I’ve run a few contests here and there over the years, including a military essay contest, trivia contests, and a recipe contest.  But I must say that this contest probably has me the most excited.

I love dogs, all dogs!  And Blake House welcomes dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds. We’ve had a lot and appreciate every dog that chooses to stay here. Asheville is a pet-friendly city, but it is still difficult to find B&Bs that allow dogs. Of the ones that do, most have size restrictions or room restrictions. But not Blake House. In fact, we only have one room that is NOT pet-friendly.

As you can see, I love dogs!  And want to see more come to the Inn. To accomplish this, I’ve made some changes to the website and our offerings to be even more enticing to our four-legged guests.  The website now has a Doggie Scoop page, solely dedicated to our canine guests. And this page will evolve and grow over time. Check it out, there’s a hilarious video of a dog’s leg that is trying to steal the bone from its owner.  I crack up every time I watch it!

We also offer, dog walking services, for a very nominal fee, for our doggie guests. Jake Rusher Park is next to the Inn and while mom and dad are out enjoying Asheville, Amber or I will walk your dog(s) around the park so he/she can exercise and take care of business.  We also provide pet sitters and doggie daycare information on the Doggie Scoop Page for those looking for even more for their dog.

Lastly, we offer all kinds of romance packages and spa services for mom and dad and we’ve just added a romance basket for your dog. Fido’s Doggie-Style Romance Basket treats your canine companion to a little pampering.

But, onto the purpose of this post – our newest contest – the Cutest Dog Photo Contest

All the details and rules are on our Facebook Page, but this is a straight photo contest. Each month, send in one photo of your cutie patootie, and your dog could win a $150 Blake House Inn Gift Certificate.  Winners will be selected by votes on the site, but you must be a Fan to enter.

How cool is that? Maybe Fido can use that gift certificate for all the things discussed above.  The only catch is that mom or dad, or both have to tag along on the trip. :-)

Check it out and in the meantime, here are a few shots of some of my cuties. Sophie is our Jack Russell foster dog from Animal Compassion Network.

Squirt

Squirt, Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix

Jenny

Jenny, Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix

Sophie

Sophie

Rocky

Rocky

 

QR Codes – Why You Should Get to Know Them

February 24th, 2011 by Skyla Grimes

I signed up for a QR code about 10 months ago, but never used it. Until now! That’s because I didn’t recognize its value at first. I just got one for the Inn because I was learning as much as possible about all the new social media options and QR codes were among the growing list of things to use to promote your business.  Now that I understand how to use it better, I see what a cool tool it can be.

What is a QR Code?

According to Wikipedia, the technical definition of a QR Code is a two-dimensional barcode, sort of like the barcodes you see on store items that identify what they are and how much they cost when you scan the code into the register. The QR code is shaped like a square and can be encoded with text, data, or in my case, the URL the the Blake House website.  It’s my business’ fingerprint. This is the QR Code for Blake House:

How is a QR Code used?

It is used by the camera function on your smart phone.  First you have to download a FREE QR Code Reader app onto your phone. I have an iPhone so I downloaded the QR Code Reader app from i-nigma. You can use other versions or readers. From your iphone, click the App Store icon and do a search for i-nigma. There is an app for the new iPhone4 and one for the rest of us who still have the iPhone 3GS or lower. Once you download the app, you can start reading QR Codes for any business that has one. It is literally that simple.

You’ll see QR Codes in store windows, on printed material, Facebook Pages, emails, etc.  You may have already seen them, but like me, didn’t know what they were and haven’t paid much attention to them. Now you do.

When you see a business with a QR Code (like the Blake House one shown above), you click the QR Reader app on your phone and it opens your camera.  Hold your camera up so that it sees the QR Code and as soon as it registers the code, it will take you to whatever online information has been programmed into the code.

The Blake House Inn QR Code takes you to the Blake House Inn website. Other QR Codes may be set up to take you to the business’ website or a coupon page or their Facebook Page.

What is the value of the app?

Here are 2 examples:

  1. Let’s say you pick up one of Blake House Inn’s rack cards in the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, but you haven’t been to our website.  The rack card only has so much information and you think you’ll remember to check out the website when you get home later. Maybe you will, but maybe you’ll forget.  If the rack card has a QR Code on it (mine don’t right now), you can use your phone to very quickly get to my website, just by opening your camera.  And instead of having to wait to look at my business, you can access it immediately.
  2. You’re at a restaurant and you notice they have a QR Code displayed on their menu or in the window. By clicking on it, you find out that they are offering a discount, but only for patrons who reference the promotion on the QR Code.

Of course, there are many other uses for the QR Code, but its greatest purpose is to allow people on-the-spot access to information about the business they are interested in. It can be used for informational purposes only or it can be used to promote specials or promotions for those who access it.

If you own a business, you should consider getting a QR Code (or multiple codes) to help promote your business.

For everyone else, you should start reading QR Codes for the businesses you patronize that have them because you never know what kind of deal you just might score.

It’s the End of Summer and I Can’t Think!

August 31st, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

I’m not a writer, so I can’t have writer’s block. I’m not a blogger, so I can’t have blogger’s block.  But I’ve definitely been having trouble coming up with the topics and the energy to write anything. I think it all started in June when my dog, Hummer, passed away. Since then, I began working at Eagle’s Nest Foundation and July and August have been pretty busy months at the Inn. Between being depressed about losing my baby and dealing with the summer crush as well as a new job, I feel like I haven’t had the energy or inspiration. You’d think that with all the summer action around here, I’d have no problem coming up with interesting topics.

But I can’t think of ANYTHING that I want to/feel like write about!

I’m sure I could blog about the new piece of flooring in the kitchen I had done last week ($1600 later and it’s only 1/4 of the entire kitchen floor space). Or, I could talk about the Family Reunion Cruise I just returned from (I probably will share that soon). There’s also all the fun summer activities that took place in Asheville or the cool fall lineup, including the Flower Carpet at Biltmore and Octoberfest (another beer festival). There’s a wedding at the Inn this weekend that could inspire me to write and another one the first weekend in October that I’m preparing for. Lastly, I could always talk about my super sister, Jessica, and her admirable battle with breast cancer these past six months (another probably will blog).

There are definitely lots of topics to write about. I just need to find my mojo and get back into the groove.  I’d really love to hear from anyone (professional writer, blogger, or novice) what tips they might like to share with me and the general public about how they deal with the infamous “block” that invariably happens.  What can/do you do to get past it?

Figuring Out All This Social Media Stuff

February 3rd, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

I can only resist change for so long. It first started when CD players first came out. I liked my cassette tape players and I just didn’t see the need to buy a very expensive CD player and have to replace my tape library with costlier CDs that I didn’t think sounded any better. But, eventually, I folded and got the CD player several years after it had come out. Then it was the DVD player. Again, I refused to see any difference in quality and really hated having the replace all the VHS movies I had with more expensive versions. Again, I finally fell and 4-5 years after it came out, I bought a DVD player. Now it’s the flat screen TV, and I am slowly replacing all the big, heavy bubble TVs with flat screens. The real benefit for me there is the size and weight of the flat screens. They are easier to move and mountable on the wall out of the way, opening up shelf space in the guestrooms. But, I still refuse to pay for HDTV as I see no visual difference on the TVs. But, hey, that’s just me.

In running a business, I am confronted with so many different things that are beneficial and not so beneficial in staying viable. Even a bed and breakfast must move forward or there is a good chance it will not survive. Especially in a city like Asheville where there are a large number of bed and breakfasts competing for guests. Which brings me to this world of social media. What exactly is social media?

Social Media Defined

According to Wikipedia (a great source for information on just about any topic you can think of), social media is a group of Internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. That means that you and I create stuff (or content) and share it with others, through various means of Internet applications. In laymans terms, instead of me reading what other people write, social media allows for me to be the writer and to disseminate whatever stuff I’m writing out to many people through various sources. It also allows me to interact more with what other people are writing or posting, through reviews and other forms of online conversations. I can share as much or as little about myself, my life, my business, my knowledge as I want and anyone, anywhere can access that information (depending on how I set up the sources of information – public, private, or maybe to just people I designate). Social media can also generate revenue so it has become a business for some. I’m sure there is more to it, but this is how I understand it.

Social Media Forms

I admit that I am still new to the idea of “doing” social media so there’s a lot I don’t know. But here are some of the more common forms of social media that I have started using:

  • Blogging – Probably the most common form of social media, the blog (or web blog) comes in several forms. Most people use a blog to write about there personal life, to share pictures, videos, commentaries and information. I started the Blake House Blog just under a year ago to provide information about the Inn and what stuff is going on here. For me, it allows guests and potential guests to meet me before they meet me in person. They can see the trials and tribulations, special events, renovations, and general goings on here. While I update the website constantly, the blog makes it more personal for the reader, as if I am talking directly to them. So, in my case, my blog is a business blog, but it has a real personal element to it. There are also professional bloggers who blog for a living, and make money from it! One that I follow is called ProBlogger and he offers tips to other bloggers on making a career and money from blogging, even listing blogging jobs on the site. Another blog-type option for people who have a voice is called HubPages. On HubPages, you write Hubs (blogs) on whatever you want. You can follow other Hubbers and they can follow your hubs. This is just another mechanism to create a web presence for yourself and/or your business. I have posted recipes, craft projects, and information about Asheville and the Inn. I’ve also picked up information from other Hubbers on energy conservation and greening actions that I can use at the Inn. It’s just another pond to fish from.
  • Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn – This is another thing I resisted as long as possible. I saw MySpace being used at work constantly and I thought it was a time sucker, taking away from the job, and that it was used by the younger crowd (tweens, teens and young 20 somethings). My son was on MySpace so I really had no interest. Then I came across Facebook about a year ago and decided to join because it looked a little more mature. For the first six months or so, I really didn’t do much with it. I’d get on maybe once or twice a month. Little by little, I started getting more involved, I began connecting with many friends from high school, and I realized that there is a business side of Facebook. So I have a personal page and a I have a Fanbook Page for the Inn. I am really enjoying Facebook now. Connecting with old friends, classmates, and co-workers has been incredibly satisfying. The Fanbook page allows me to share the Inn with people I know and people I don’t, but I can follow other businesses, charities, and people and stay in tune with their lives. My mother is on Facebook, including aunts, cousins, and siblings who I don’t see often. This is one form of social media that everyone can benefit from. I do have a LinkedIn profile, which I see as a business tool. I joined a few years ago, but don’t spend a whole lot of time on that one. I’ll have to be better about staying “linked in.” :-)
  • Twitter - I just joined Twitter yesterday and don’t yet have a clue how it works. But, it’s another form of media where I can follow and be notified of topics that I think are interesting. On Twitter, you share short snippets of information (140 characters or less) in things called Tweets. Most Tweets have a link to something else; an article, someone else’s Twitter page, etc., etc. Again, I don’t quite get it yet, but I’ll get there. People can follow my blog on their Twitter account and receive Tweets every time I post something new. They can also subscribe to my Feed.
  • Feeds – I use a service called Feedburner so that people can be notified any time I write a new blog (if they are interested). Feeds can be set up through many sources, including a simple email address. If a person likes another blog or page of someone else or a business, look for a feed link/RSS link. If you subscribe or sign up, every time that page is updated, you will be notified. I receive feeds from several other business into one source, Google Reader. I click on my Google Reader page and it lists all the pages I subscribe to and it will show which ones have new postings since the last time I checked. You can even link your feeds with your Twitter account. I have to figure out how to do this as soon as I finish this post. I’m still new to the whole “feed” thing so I still have a lot to learn. But, again, I have tapped into a lot of information that I normally wouldn’t know about unless I hunted around the Internet for it.
  • Digg/Stumble – These sites allow you to share web pages, photos, videos, etc. with others by giving the item a Digg or Thumbs Up. The more diggs or thumbs up a page has, the more people who see it, all over the world. You can share your favorites through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sources. This can be beneficial for business because if something becomes popularized, that could bring more people to a website that wouldn’t normally find it. I use these sites mainly for news information and Digg sends 5-second pop-ups to my computer at various times throughout the day and I can click on the link if I want to read or see the whole page.  These sites are simply easy ways for information to be passed around the Internet quickly. You may also see web pages and blogs with a Digg or Stumble button which means that you can digg or thumbs up that page without having to go to either site to find the page. If you have accounts with these sites, it keeps track of all the pages you have responded to, your favorite pages and topics, and you can submit a page to the site for others to see. I use these sites for fun and have shared a few pages on Facebook.

The social media forms that I have listed are the tip of the iceberg. They are the most popular right now, but I’m sure there will be more for me to join and experience. As a result, I am spending more and more time on my computer, but I actually feel more connected to people than I have since buying the Inn 4 years ago. If anyone knows of other popular social media outlets that you think I should look into, please send me a comment on this post and share it with other readers. I also welcome any comments that would help me and others to use these sites better.

ILoveInns.com Guest Survey

October 2nd, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

ILoveInns.com is conducting a demographic survey of B&B guests.

If you would like to participate AND receive a free Buy-One-Night, Get-One-Night FREE certificate, follow both links below (the first link is for the survey; the second link is for the certificate):


Incentive of Free Night Certificate Available to Guests
Guests who fill out this anonymous survey can also click here to fill out your address for ILoveInns if you would like to receive one of their Buy-One-Night-Get-the-Second-Night Free certificates. This is a totally separate list and will not in any way be associated with survey information because it will be filled out in a separate survey so you can maintain anonymity.

Website Overhaul

June 13th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

I am in the process of doing an overhaul of the Blake House Inn website which I anticipate will be completed (or mostly completed) in early July.

This overhaul includes moving to a new host, changing to a Content Management System (CMS) that will allow me to make updates to the site myself, and a new blog. While I am completely happy with my current blog through Google, my CMS is WordPress so I will be changing my blog to WordPress so as to integrate the blog directly into the website.

I must admit that much of this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, but I understand the basics and my new web designer explains things as she goes along, thus making it easier for me.

A few of the changes to the site will include drop-down boxes for the pages, adding a Business Client page, and adding in some Flash or other graphic to make the site more dynamic, rather than static.

While this is all very exciting, it is more intensive than I had imagined, especially since I more or less designed the current website in 2006 when I first bought the Inn. Of course, my then web designer put it all together for me and each month or two months (whenever I sent her changes), she updated the site for me. Now I’m ready to take over the daily maintenance of the site with advice and assistance here and there.

It’s all so exciting and I can’t wait to roll out the new, and improved site!

Cool Business Tools & Free Stuff

March 14th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

I’m finally coming into the 21st century, technology-wise. Prior to owning a business, I was computer literate and learned new programs quickly. Every job I had after college required computer work so I was familiar with the standard applications plus any company-specific programs.

Well, for the past three years, most of my work has been inside the B&B and using the least amount of computer applications as possible (i.e., Quickbooks, Word, Excel, my reservation software, etc.). When I first started, I took all reservations over the phone, but within the first 6 months, I had started using SuperInn and the majority of my reservations started coming in over the internet.

In the meantime, I’d hear all kinds of stuff about social networking programs (Facebook, MySpace, blogs, etc.), but never really had much interest in any of them. Well, the recession it, and BOOM! my thoughts changed.

Probably the biggest change has come because I finally got a laptop and can work pretty much all day long, in front of the TV, and in bed, instead of having to go downstairs to my cold office to work.

Since January, I have spent more time on the computer than I did almost all year long and I am so glad I have because I have come across a lot of goodies, for personal use and business use, many of them FREE!

If you have a small business, work from home, or want to start a business, check out any or all of this stuff:

  • Facebook – not only is this a social network, you can advertise on the site and target your audience based on the types of people you want to reach. Your Facebook profile is free, advertising is not, but you choose how much you want to pay on a daily basis. Plus, you can put your business info. including your website address and/or your blog address in your profile and that’s free advertising for anyone who reads it.
  • Gmail – powered by Google, this is free and you can forward any other email accounts to this one account. You can access your account from any computer, anywhere, at any time. Yahoo and others also offer free email accounts, but I really like Google because there are so many other programs that operate in conjunction with Google.
  • Blogger – blogs are becoming essential to businesses for many reasons, one of which is that it seriously helps your rankings in the search engines. Blogger is supported by Google and it’s free and easy to set up. I figured it out in a very short time (although I’m still figuring it out). You can also earn money by including Google ads on your blog (you set up how many and where they appear) and any time someone clicks on an ad, you earn money. I already participate in GoogleAds so my account was set up. GoogleAds you pay for and like Facebook ads, you determine how much you are willing to spend on a monthly basis. You can set up mutiple ads too (it’s so cool). I prefer GoogleAds over Facebook ads because I think I get more bang for my buck.
  • LogMeIn – this is probably one of the coolest FREE programs I have been using. It allows me remote access to my desktop PC from anywhere and I can work on documents and programs from my laptop that are on my PC. I can also print documents from the PC and they are waiting for me to grab them whenever I want.
  • Mozy – this is another FREE program that allows me to back up my files to a third party. I no longer need to back up to a CD, an external hard drive, or pay another third party service to back up. You get 2GB of space with the free package, but you can pay $4.95/month for the next level up if you need more space. You can set up the program to run automatically, at whatever time you want.
  • Zoho – this is another free service that offers all kinds of applications that you can use plus you can create up to 3 applications yourself. I just signed up for this one and plan to use it to create documents that would normally be created in Word, Excel, etc. I don’t have Office on my laptop so this free program is perfect for me. It also looks like you can import documents made in other programs. It’s free so I’m giving it a try.

Programs that are just cool. Here are some programs or services that I just like and want to share them:

  • The Switchboardscool resource for women business owners (mainly crafters, artists, and jewelry makers); however there are web designers, copy writers, and other business women ready to support each other, offer services, barter, answer questions, etc.
  • Kick It Backshop online and get kickbacks. There is a list of online stores that you can shop at, with ebay being a big one. Enter the sites through your KickItBack.com account and you will earn money on every purchase you make. Each business offers a certain percentage back, but just think of your credit cards that offer a cash back program. This is just like that.
  • GoodSearchYeah, I love Google, but I do all of my online searches through GoodSearch. That’s because every time I search the internet, a little money goes to my charity, the Asheville Humane Society. You can designate what charity you want the money to go to and you can set this up as your default home page whenever you open your browser.

 

March 6th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

With much excitement and trepidation, I am jumping into the work of the blogger. My purpose in setting up this blog is to allow guests and potential guests a better opportunity to get to know me before they come to stay at Blake House.

I don’t intend to use this blog as an opportunity to express any political or religious beliefs, rather a snapshot into my day-to-day life as an Innkeeper. Maybe I can help anyone interested in opening their own B&B by telling it like it is, or as I experience it anyway.

I tend to be rather candid so I’ll probably share more information than anyone ever wants to know, but that’s what’s so nice about a blog. It’s my diary and since I like people, it’s a perfect way for me to share a small slice of my life and the life of an innkeeper.

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