Why do marketers not get social?

Recent research found most marketers feel their teams are ill-equipped to handle new trends and tech. Social media is clearly a key are of concern in this space.

With the already present and growing influence of social networks it is very disturbing, but not surprising, that so many marketing teams do not have the skills required. 

One of the main barriers is a lack of understanding and reject the relevance or need of social media.

I often find those most dismissive are those who do not even have a Facebook page or Twitter account. They often spout illogical reasons based purely on their own prejudice. They are often fuelled by equally ill informed stories in the press. 

Active participation in social media sites gives you invaluable insight into how these communities work, essential homework for every marketer.

And for organisations whose IT departments block access to their marketers to social networks. Well this is like taking the paint from a decorator. Without this tool of the trade marketers cannot possibly keep up-to-date and fully aware as social media continues to rapidly evolve. 

Is there a fatal flaw with Facebook Home?

 The new Facebook Home, mobile launcher and phone, aims to change how you use your mobile phone. Instead of starting by choosing an application you start with your friends.
The home screen is filled with your friends latest update, and then as you use your phone messages and other interactions jump into whatever you are doing.  For instance, you are looking at a news website and one of your mates messages you on Facebook – this will jump into what you are doing. 

A picture taken from their ‘Avatar’, which is the image on their profile picture, will appear together with their message. This picture will be retained wherever you go within the phone until you either respond or choose to swipe them away.

‘Swiping away’ friends that you don’t want to deal with, is an interesting concept, however even more interesting is how this will this work when a friends profile picture is not them.

For example the hugely successful marriage equality campaign which resulted in millions of profile pictures being changed around the world to images supporting the campaign – resulting in many of your friends all looking the same.

The more successful these campaigns are in getting people to change their profile – the more difficult it will be for you to identify who is calling or messaging you via, as Facebook calls them, Chat Heads.

There are other friends who may choose to replace a picture of themselves with a comic representation, their kids or even something unconnected such as a park bench. 

These ‘Chat Heads’ are a great idea, and I look forward to checking this out – however we may all need to rethink what we choose for our profile pictures or risk not being recognised and our messages being ignored.

The Cuil new search engine… but how Cuil is it?

I noticed a large number of ‘Tweets‘ from my Twitter feed about a new search engine called ‘Cuil’ which has been created by former employees of Google, and for some a possible threat to Google’s dominance. The Google association has without doubt helped feed the publicity for what otherwise could have just passed as just another search engine hopeful. With Google demonstrating that there are huge revenues to be made out of search it is not a surprise that others want a piece of the action.

So how should we cope with all these new search engines, each with different algorithms to define what is relevant and displaying results in different ways?

Whilst recognising Googles dominance and focusing a majority of energy and investment in influencing natural search and the largest proportion of budgets invested in Google pay-per-click, we need to constantly monitor where traffic is coming from and industry trends.

For global organisations the challenge is even bigger monitoring the search engines influence in different countries and regions eg: Baidu in China.

The approach towards search engines needs to be similar to browser usage. I will be testing a new site on the Safari browser which has a usage of just 2.6% [June 2008]. Though this is a relatively low number, it is slowly growing and we need to ensure our sites are suitable for as wide an audience as possible.

In the same way various browsers display pages differently, search engines will pull different informaion from sites to deliver search results. Searchme provides screenshots of pages, making the size of keyelements of text on you site important as a signpost to the user they have reached the right place.

Cuil takes an extract of your site including, where available, an image which it displays with the result. Different search engines take into account different aspect of your site (including links to and from your site) to decide what makes a site relevant to a search request.

As part of the process of design, how the site will appear in the various key search engines will become increasingly important in the same way as we do now as regards to how a site appears in different browsers. This is not just the positioning of the result but how the site is represented.

You can not please all the search engines all the time, and for now Google remains a key focus for both natural and paid-for-search. Therefore, for now, a majority of time, money and energy should remain with Google, Yahoo and MSN.

From a design and marketing viewpoint things just keep getting more interesting [harder] as the number of different variants to take into consideration keeps increasing.

Google asks are you in the Knol

Google have launched Knol, trumpted as a potential threat to Wikipedia, though for me more another source of information (as part of an information mix) and opportunity for individuals and organisations to demonstrate and share their knowledge and specialities.

For companies, organisations and individuals, Knol offers a huge opportunity. A chance for them to show that they really have expertise in their subject matter. Knol refers to a “unit of knowledge” and people with a vast array of skills and knowledge can demonstrate that they really know what they are talking about through Knoll.

To deal with Knol many organisations policy on contributing to social media, which are often restrictive, needs revising. Where there are fear biased policies prohibiting participation in social media – companies needs to change to a more positive attitude of encouragement, guidance and training. Only then will an organisations people be free to really show off what a talented group of people are.

Many suspect that Knol will be favoured by Google, given it has created it, in search listings. Even if this was not the case the fact is that with the Google brand behind it Knol has all the possibilites of becoming as big if not bigger than Wikipedia and therefore the potential of Knol being somewhere else that you just cannot afford not to be is high.

Getting an identi.ca

I have been a great fan of Twitter for sometime, however lots of copy cat sites keep popping up and today I checked out identi.ca the latest that had come to my attention.

Signing up is not as easy as it could be. The sign up form does not include any dynamic verification so that only when you submit will you discover that you have either done something wrong or if the username you have chosen has already been taken. When the form returns to tell you to make a change the two fields for password are blank again – very annoying!

Uploading a photo avatar is easy, no restrictions on file size of picture dimensions. Updates seemed to work quickly and easily, and with ongoing problems at Twitter they may find a few frustrated users flying over to identi.ca if they do not sort their technical issues soon.

By using applications such as Twhirl you can post to several microblogging sites at the same time. The point of doing this is that each service may have a different audience so if you want your microblog to reach the largest audience without maintaining several different sites Twhirl is for you.

Subscribing to others on identi.ca could be improved, from search you have to go to the individuals page where it would be better if there was a subscribe button within the search.

My microblog is at http://identi.ca/wellbelove/all

Five Social Media must do for politicians

There are thousands of social media sites, which for someone who hasn’t even got a Facebook profile must be overwhelming. Whilst I have written about creating a profile network I realise that to start with many politicians will need to take a few ‘baby’ steps into the realm of social media and enabling their constituents to find information about them and their work on-line.

The reasons for doing this is to both ensure that when users of a particular social network search for you they find content that you have produced and control. Additionally search engines will crawl these sites frequently so when a constituent searches for you they will be offered several options to gain access to your content.

I take for granted that you already have a website. If you do not I no longer think this is as essential as it once was and a well formed blog can actually do the same if not better job than any website.

Five Social Media must do for politicians

If you do nothing else, you should do the following now:

1) Write your social profile, this will be invaluable when you add your details to any social networking site as all you will need to do is copy and paste the same details into the description or about me box. Think about how you would sell yourself in a couple of hundred words. Remember to ensure that anything you write is as non-time specific as possible as you may not revisit the content for a long time if at all.

2) Set up a blog, use the social profile that you have created to create an about page. Include a contact page with details of how constituents can reach you. Don’t write ‘Welcome to my blog I will update this frequently’ and then don’t. Pointless introductions are a waste of both yours and the readers time – get straight in there with the content and add periodically.

3) Set up a YouTube page, recording at least three short videos about key local issues. A good example of this would be the Val Shawcross YouTube Channel. Enter details from your social profile into the description section.

4) If you have not already create a Facebook profile that is publicly viewable. If you already have a profile and wish to use it for both personal and professionals reasons ensure that you utilise the Facebook privacy features. Whilst you are at it create a Bebo profile as well. Bebo is bigger among younger people and if you are not in this environment you will miss this key audience. Bebo also often performs better on Google for search results with the whole of your profile visible to the search engine where Facebook only provides full details when you are signed in and therefore not seen by the engines crawler.

5) Start Twittering. Twitter is a microblog which is quick and easy to update with messages about
you. This is a very effective and easily manageable method of keeping constituents informed about the work you are doing.

Fake profiles on Facebook, is someone pretending to be you?

One of the greatest compliments is to be copied, however if you are a famous person someone pretending to be you is full of hazards especially if they use your photograph, name, location and age to try and persuade people they are you then write as you saying things you may not want to be associated with.

Facebook has always been a haven for false personalities, how on earth Benny Hill has a profile page when he died long before Facebook was even thought off, whilst his profile has clearly been created by a fan other profiles have a far more sinister motive.

Whilst I guess it may be funny to have Gordon Brown coming out with ridiculous things on the false profile page on Facebook, for others it could be extremely confusing when trying to find the real person.

Fake Gordon Brown profile

You can report a fake profile by clicking the ‘Report this person’ link at the bottom of the page. This is only available currently if privacy settings set by the person who created the page allow you to view the profile. If you can only view after becoming their friend you cannot report this way as you cannot report your ‘friends’ or unless you are in a profile. If this is the case visit the report someone form.

Fake profiles also expose the importance of having a real profile. If you do not have a real Facebook profile then it is even easier for someone to pass themselves off as you and if they initially act in a sensible way could build a legitimate group of friends who may be unaware they are not friends with the real person.

The benefits of having of a profile are many but the primary one being that if someone searches for you within Facebook they find content you have control over and allowing you to share with a wider audience all the hard work that you do for your constituents.

Will the real Gordon Brown please get a real Facebook profile

Not all fake profiles are negative, some are just set up by supporters frustration with the politicians lack of ability to keep up with the every changing social media environment. However if they cannot keep up their advisers and communications staff must.

Another dodgy Facebook profile for Gordon Brown

Show it Qik.com

Qik is (from their site) ‘Qik enables you to share moments of your life with your friends, family and the world – directly from your cell phone!’

Qik offers opportunities for both businesses and politicians. So your having a store opening, product or policy launch, wanting to highlight a key local issue. With Qik.com you can get your message straight on-line from your mobile phone.

Currently the number of phone models supported is extremely limited, however the ability to live stream from your mobile offers huge possibilities to marketers and politicians to launch their campaigns and share messages.

Currently the site is being very sensible, like many web 2.0 sites they are controlling the numbers that sign up and you have to apply for access, however its clear that a site of this type will be hugely popular in a world increasingly wanting to stream what they are up to. No doubt this or other similar site will capture the imagination of millions of users if not some very interesting content (!!).

By adding live video to a service such as this you further extend the audience for your messages and give further opportunities to influence search results.

Should I get LinkedIn?

Whilst many business professionals have been getting LinkedIn for many years, the site has over 20 million profiles based in over 150 countries, it is not always been seen as a priority for politicians – which is an opportunity missed.

A LinkedIn profile that has been made public will be found by search engines and form part of your profile network. Being a professional network LinkedIn carries a great deal of authority, especially to those who use it, and is an opportunity for you to focus on your professional skills and experience.

There are many useful articles on how to create a LinkedIn profile available. Essentially this is an on-line CV with the added benefits of linking with other professionals and gaining recommendations which adds authority to the experience you describe in your profile.

Having your LinkedIn profile updated could also be useful should you not get elected and need to find yourself a new job.

Guidelines for producing YouTube video

YouTube is an excellent way to quickly and easily get across a message. When creating these you need to take some of the following into consideration. Setting up an account or ‘channel’ is free and is very easy to do.

Even if you have video on your own website you should also put this content on YouTube. By doing this YouTube users will find your content during YouTube searches, an audience you would otherwise miss.

YouTube places a restriction on file size. Your videos can be up to 100MB for standard upload or up to 1GB using the YouTube Uploader.

Your video cannot be longer than 10 minutes (there is no way around this and your upload will fail).

File formats suitable for YouTube include .WMV, .AVI, .MOV, and .MPG transferred from most digital cameras, camcorders, and cell phones.

When creating your video you should place the URL of your site and the start and end of the video (not everyone will watch the whole video).

If you have a company logo if possible add this as a watermark throughout the video. You should try and ensure this is unobtrusive but it is useful to include as if someone edits or takes a snapshot of your video a connection to your brand will be retained.

Think about how your video will be viewed out of context, when others place your video within their site they may not include any description that you place in YouTube.

Edit the sharing options. I recommend enabling comments after you have reviewed them. This is purely to stop offensive comments and should not be used to stop critical debate. Do allow others to embed your video into their page

.Guidelines for sharing and comments on youtube

Shortly after adding your video you will find that the content will appear in standard search results on sites such as Google (who own YouTube) again spreading your message to a wider audience.

As your video is now suitable to go anywhere think about also adding your content to Facebook by creating a Facebook page.

Controlling your privacy on Facebook

A simple and easy guide to how to set up your privacy settings on Facebook.

I mainly use Facebook to communicate with my friends, facilities like sharing photos of fun nights out are great. But what do you do when someone you would not want access to this asks to become your friend. It could be your boss or work colleague, or if you are a politician a constituent. You don’t want to seem rude by saying no whilst at the same time wanting to keep your personal and political life separate.

By setting up privacy settings you can say yes to your constituent and become there online friend, whilst protecting your Facebook privacy.

There are also some ‘dodgy’ profiles out there. People who are not who they seem to be and may be fishing your profile for a story. Here you may want to create a privacy setting which means they can still add you as a friend but will find nothing of interest (or of use to them) on your profile.

Here is how to create a profile that would allow them to add you as a friend but would show them nothing.

Click the friends link at the top of the Facebook navigation

Facebook privacy

Click ‘Make a new list’ and enter a name for your list

Facebook privacy

I created a group called ‘see nothing’ and after pressing enter was prompted to enter names for whom I wanted to be part of this group

Facebook privacy

Now if you know me this was only a test – so the names here were removed afterwards. Enter a list of people you wish to include. When people ask to become your friends in future you will be able to add them to a list as you accept them.

Facebook privacy

Removing someone from the list is very easy, just click the x by the persons details.

Facebook profile

So you have created your list of people. This list can also be used as a mailing list, enabling you to email a group of friends without entering their names separately. For the purpose of this we want to restrict their access. To do this now click the ‘Privacy’ link in the Facebook navigation.

Facebook privacy

Here I have selected ‘Profile’. You then need select to ‘customise’ access for each element that you wish to restrict access to.

Facebook privacy

This will then provide the ability to ‘Edit Custom Settings’. Click the ‘Edit Custom Settings’ link for each item

Facebook privacy

Click ‘Edit Custom Settings’ for each element you wish to restrict access to and enter the name of your list.

Facebook Privacy

Members of these lists will now no longer have access to this content.

Facebook privacy

Make sure you save those changes then also customise settings for your applications. To do this click the applications link in the left hand navigation then select each item that you wish to restrict access to on Facebook.

Facebook privacy

Best practice for 404 pages

It’s scary when you are lost. Even worse if someone starts shouting at you for reaching the wrong place. Worse still if there is nothing to help you find where you originally wanted to go. Welcome to the world of good and bad 404 pages.

Get it right, you keep your visitor. Get it wrong, they head back to where they came from and you have missed out. If you are a sales website you have missed a potential sale. If you have access to change your 404 page – you should do.. but not any old 404 will do you need to think about what you are going to include in this page as much as you would your homepage.

Images below are clickable so you can see the screenshots of the good and bad 404 pages. Click the links to visit the real life pages which in some cases they may have improved. At the bottom of this page are recomendations for what to and not to do when creating your 404.

BBC 404 page

BBC.co.uk – includes the term 404 which is not helpful. Does include hints of pages the user could use to help them find the content they are looking for.

ITV 404 page

ITV’s 404 page gives you some clues where else to go but weirdly includes an advert at the top (blocked by my network). The last thing you want when you are lost is an advert!

Telegraph 404 page

Telegraph 404 page, a little wordy (but as usual for the telegraph does not say much of use) and really needs links to key areas of the site.

Apple 404 page

Apple does it really nicely. Simple and clean, as you would expect, with helpful links to key areas of the Apple site though a few too many links.

Guardian Newspaper 404 page

The guardian also keeps it nice and simple, and takes the blame rather than accusing you of doing something wrong. A few links to the most popular areas of the site works really well.

New York Times 404 page

Strangely the New York Times took me to a page titled Member Center.

Sony UK 404 page

Sony UKwas pretty useless. Just putting the whole sitemap is not helpful and they take way too long explaining you’ve got to the wrong place – not immediately clear. Sony USsite isnt much better.

Disney 404 page

Disney gets it wrong! Getting lost should not be a crisis and do the children looking for their favourite characters need to know they have reached a 404 page. Back to the ‘drawing’ board Disney.

ABC 404 page

Its as if ABC.com just didn’t bother – well I guess they did because there is a page – but they really didn’t.

Channel 4 404 page

Channel 4 is far too official. For a creative TV channel this is one place I would have expected seeing something interesting with the ‘404’ label – come on channel 4.

Levis 404 page (of sorts!)

Levis just doesnt care what you type – trust me whatever you type – it leads to the same homepage advert. When they don’t care – will you go elsewhere?

Target 404 page

At Target it is all your fault for getting lost, however they really want to sell you a gift card.

Deutsche Telekom 404

At Deutsche Telekom I got lost in English, but had to learn German before finding my way again in their website.

IBM ignoring 404

IBM was another ‘404 ignore’. They just take you to their homepage because if you don’t know where you are going they clearly don’t want to know.

Orange 404

I searched for France Telecom, was taken to the english speaking Orange site, and when it all went wrong they tried to put me right in English. A few too many links though with helpful pointers in the right direction. My favourite behaviour of all they took the blame for me entering the wrong website address.

Barlays 404

Barclays Bank blames it all on you, and being a bank I wouldn’t be surprised if they charge your account for going to the wrong page.

The 404 Kitten

I would have loved the 404 kitten if its creator had not included the numbers 404.


What not to do…

Put adverts in the 404 page

Blame your visitor for getting lost

Have a long explanation of why they reached the 404 page

Include your whole site map

Expect your visitor do the work, beyond whats absolutely neccesay, to get where they orignially wanted to go

Not bother at all

What to do…

Take the blame for your visitor not finding what they want – even when you did nothing wrong

Be helpful, but not too helpful

Keep it simple

Keep it in the language the user was using your site or searching in

Spend time thinking like a visitor – not only for those who know your site but those from search engines who will go elsewhere very quickly if you get it wrong

Work for your visitors and make it eays for them even when they get it wrong

I would love to…

Ban the term 404

Write a programme that always knew what you really wanted and to sell it