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Posts from August 2007

August 30, 2007

Job Hunting in a Social Media World

I was watching Friends the other day ... one of the early ones where Rachel is looking for a job.  All the gang is gathered over at Monica and Rachel's apartment and an assembly line of sorts is taking place: folding letters and resumes, stuffing envelopes, stamping envelopes, etc., culminating in a box of at least 200 letters.  The punch-line is that someone finds a typo ("I have good compuper skills") and Rachel asks "Do you think it's on all of them?".

Things are quite a bit different these days, particularly if you are an aspiring marketer, PR flack or social media maven.  It's a lot easier to show a potential employer your mad skillz rather than simply talk about them in a dead-tree resume. Take, for instance, what Andrey Tochilin created when applying for a recent eMarketing position at TD Canada Trust: www.tdbank.tv

Andrey took all the research that he did for the application and interview, and created, essentially, one version of a social media plan for TD Canada Trust and posted it in blog form.  He also included his online resume as well as links to informative articles and other Web 2.0 / New Media Marketing resources.  Regardless of whether his thinking is precisely "on strategy", I am a big fan of this for a couple of reasons: 1) it shows incredible initiative, but more importantly, 2) Andrey is practicing what he preaches.  As Mitch Joel said to me recently, "Until you do it (social media), you can't understand it!".
Tdbankdottvscreenshot

Now, I can see how not everyone would think this is a good idea and it raises a number of issues on both sides of the interviewing table: For interviewees ... * I don't want to do a marketing strategy until *after* I get the job. * Do I really have to buy a unique domain? * Isn't this just a gimmick?  My resume speaks for itself. For interviewers ... * OMG, someone is touching my brand! * OMG, someone understands my brand and my customers better than I do! * Seriously, now I have to wade through 50 custom blog sites in addition to resumes?!

I know we have a lot of hiring managers as well as a lot of job seekers reading this.  What do you think?  If you were the boss at TD Canada Trust, would this have gotten him in the door?  Or would you have called the law-talkin' folks for a cease-and-desist letter?  Gimmick or strategic?  Share your thoughts!

My Five Facebook Predictions (and Why They Will Matter to Marketers)

After attending the Facebook Developers Camp here in Toronto a few weeks ago, I’ve been musing on a set of predictions for what’s next in the Facebook ecosystem. Those musings (mixed with a dangerously small amount of web research) have culminated in five predictions about Facebook’s evolution which I believe will have a major impact on online marketing. Caveat Lector applies, of course, as I’m only batting about 500 on my One Degree 2007 Fast Forward predictions to date. My Five Facebook Predictions:
  1. Facebook will launch online Search. If they really are going to be the next generation Portal (a social, emergence-based portal) then they have to offer a way to bring the web back inside their service. The highest impact starting point for this is “search”. There are lots of folks, much smarter than me, predicting how Facebook will do this and what this new search capability will look like. Regardless of the final method, the impact of a viable Facebook web-search function will be nothing less than dramatic and will mark the next stage in the evolution of the social web. For marketers, there are several possible outcomes, ranging from simply adding another vendor to your search strategy all the way to dealing with a marketing world where it is significantly more difficult to buy your way into search results and where your search strategy has to be different based on which platform you wanted to create awareness through.
  2. Facebook will offer its own “Ad-sense” model and will take over the internal advertising toolsets at Facebook. Think about it. Why would Facebook continue to offer the competition access to their established user-base in their single greatest area of estimated value – potential advertising revenue? Once you have more than 35 million active users, exceeding all other web stats on usage and a large base of developers dying for monetization of their applications, why wouldn’t you offer your own tools for advertising? For marketers, the key will be to study the way that advertising is evolving at Facebook, either their direct model or through the new applications that are being developed on the F8 Platform, and look for those opportunities to take advantage of these early days to try out multiple strategies.
  3. Facebook will go public. There is a lot of debate right now on whether Facebook will be purchased or will go public. My prediction is that a combination of the hubris of youth, the current appetite of the public markets and the long term financial viability of the platform will all combine to tip the scales in favour of Zuckerberg taking Facebook public. For marketers, this will mean that Facebook will begin to operate like a real public company and will have to ramp-up how serious they are about monetizing their platform. This will likely make them a more predictable company to deal with and likely an easier company to form long term marketing relationships with. Start practicing now.
  4. Facebook will move to Auto-Refresh and will kill Page Views as a relevant measure for marketers at the same time. For those of you who use Facebook, you will already know that you have to constantly refresh the page in order to see updates, whether or not you have new messages. Besides being remarkably irritating, it also begs the question – are each of those refreshes a new page view? Judging from the astronomic page view stats being thrown around at the developer camp, the answer is yes. This leads me to ask, in the new online world of Ajax applications which don’t trigger page views or Facebook refreshes which do, what is the relevance of page view stats? I would say relatively little. For marketers, I would suggest that you stop looking at Page Views stats. They are an increasingly meaningless indicator of usage made even more meaningless at Facebook. Instead, try to get a sense of how a site defines “active” users or how a site measures “persistent” usage.
  5. Facebook will launch a Payment Tool. Again, why would Facebook allow other competitors to capitalize on a marketplace that is entirely of their design? Maybe they’ll build it or maybe they’ll buy it but either way, Facebook will likely take out PayPal and others currently offering payment services at Facebook. For Marketers, this means an opportunity to not only facilitate easy commerce applications as part of an advertising strategy but also to potentially get access to valuable buying patterns on users at the platform. One of Facebook’s greatest long term assets (and one could argue also the scariest) could very well be the wealth and depth of marketing information they create on users of their service. There will be both powerful opportunities and dangerous pitfalls for marketers in the access to and use of this data. Again, not a bad time to practice.

August 29, 2007

Psyched About Polls

I've been so excited about the feedback that we've been getting, I wanted to provide additional mechanisms (easier, perhaps, than leaving a comment). So, I'm trying this new polling feature. This is my first attempt at a poll - to see if it will even work. Vovici Online Survey Software

"Noise to Signal" Takes a Gamble on New Technology

20070828roi

Get More Action

Imagine how easy marketing would be if you were Obi-Wan Kenobi. Just walk into a tent full of Wookiees, utter a few words, and every one of them would run out, buy a Philips Bodygroom, shave everywhere and come back looking, I imagine, a bit like ZZ Top.

Who among us (unless, of course, you’re female, in which case you can ignore this mainly male fascination and go watch She-Ra on YouTube) hasn’t imagined practicing the Jedi mind trick ever since we saw it in Star Wars. As a kid, you thought about using it on the playground bully. As an adult, about using it to pick up chicks. (Don’t lie; I can sense your deception.)

Of course, the Jedi mind trick would probably lead to pretty dull ads. For one thing, every ad would sound like Sean Connery reading a bedtime story. Short of the Jedi mind trick, however, there are some simple yet powerful linguistic tricks you can use to get more of any action you desire—from getting more clicks to your site to driving more sales when people arrive.

Reprogram Your Copywriting

The tricks—and I use that word with hesitation, because they’re based on a complex understanding of human psychology—come from the world of neurolinguistic programming. NLP may be familiar to you from such people as Tony Robbins, who uses and adapts it to motivate. This controversial branch of psychology has also been adapted to advertising by such people as Lou Larsen and, perhaps less overtly but more famously, Joe Sugarman.

You don’t need to know about NLP to apply the techniques, but it helps. An overview is beyond the scope of this column—and to be honest, I’m less of an expert than an extremely passionate afficionado. Nevertheless, to help you start increasing sales right now, here are five techniques you can implement after completing this article—with self-serving examples for Commune to show that I eat my own dog food (and more examples in the Commune site’s copy if you’re interested):

  1. Inspire guilt: One of the most, well, devious ways to motivate future actions you desire is to create guilt about someone’s current behavior. A simple trick for this is the pattern “Are you still…?” For example: “Are you still working with copywriters that don’t understand how to apply NLP? Stop wasting your time and money and contact Commune today.”
  2. Illustrate the future: A more positive use of NLP is to paint a picture of your prospect’s future that connects a desired state with your offering. For example: “Imagine how exciting it will be to see your traffic spike when you work with an agency that understands marketing science.”
  3. Provide a false dichotomy: Particularly in competitive markets, prospects face many choices. You can spur actions you desire by whittling the choices down to two, creating a black-and-white scenario, and making your choice far more desirable. For example: “Now that you understand the power of NLP, you have a choice: continue doing things the old way, or contact me now to learn how you can use the secrets of psychology to unlock your product’s potential.”
  4. Exploit group mentality: As social creatures, humans want to be part of the “in” group and never the “out” group. You can exploit this tendency in either direction. For example: “All successful brand managers know that strong copywriting can mean the difference between an award-winning campaign and an embarrassment.” Or in the other direction: “Don’t follow the flock; blaze your own trail and choose an agency that recognizes the untapped power of copywriting.”
  5. Admit a weakness: But do it to enhance a strength. Why? Because people are more likely to take your second statement as truthful when they perceive the first as honest. For example: “Commune may not be biggest agency on the block. But our passionate team and niche focus allow us to provide a level of service that bigger agencies have outgrown.”

Of course, don’t take my word for it. Go out and try some of these techniques for yourself, and see if they help you increase your clicks, drive up your sales or, hey, pick up more chicks.

Note: I am away until September 4 recharging my creative batteries at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, and won’t have access to the web or email. (I know. How will I survive?) Give yourself permission to comment on this post while I’m away, and I’ll do my best to respond when I return.

August 26, 2007

Ask a Marketer - When Should You Ignore the Blogosphere?

Usually "Ask a Marketer" questions come from someone else. This time, it comes from me. I've been wondering for a while now about what to do with a blog post I wrote about 18 months ago. It's titled "Dear Bell Canada ... don't try to upsell me when I have a complaint". It recounts an episode where I called in to Bell for customer support; they didn't solve my problem, but they did take the time to try to upsell me. In any case, it's a pretty typical blogger rant where I offer my commentary on what I think they should do (one of the benefits of having a blog is that you can share your rants with the world). And then I didn't really think much about it. Well, it's 18 months later. And during that time, I have had:
  • 48 Comments on the post.
  • 9012 unique visitors to the post.
  • Average time spent is over 6 minutes.
I am on the first page of Google results for a number of phrases like "bell canada sucks", "I hate bell canada", "bell expressview" (yes, this isn't how *they* spell their product name, but a LOT of people do spell it this way) and "bell canada problem". I get a couple of comments a month and for the most part, I don't respond. I remove the racist ones, but other than that, I pretty much just provide a forum for people to vent. And, wow, do they vent. But I think there has to be a better solution. I've thought about trying to redirect commenters to Sutori. What is Sutori? From their FAQs ...
In a nutshell, Sutori is a place where customers can rate companies, share experiences, build consensus and reach companies to affect positive change. Here's how it works . . . On Sutori, you can rate companies by posting stories about your experiences with them. Each story is accompanied by a "goodwill rating", which contributes to the goodwill meter—an aggregated view of how the Sutori community feels about each company. When other users read your story, they have the option of leaving a comment or voting to agree or disagree with you. To reflect the power of consensus, stories with many "agree" votes have a stronger impact on the goodwill meter. Similarly, stories with many "disagree" votes have less of an impact. In addition to a centralized goodwill meter where companies can track how customers feel about them and why, Sutori also includes a mechanism whereby companies can post official responses to any story.
So, this seems like a good place to direct people. People can share experiences with companies (good and bad) which is what is happening on my blog right now. And there is a mechanism for reps from the companies to chime in as well. Or, there's a new social/customer service network, Get Satisfaction. From their blog ...
Satisfaction is people-powered customer service for absolutely everything. We’re building the start page for customer service online, powered by the people that actually use the stuff: the customers. ... If you’ve got a question about a product, a problem with a service, or an idea you want to share with a company, we’re going to give you somewhere to put it, and we’ll make it easy to get the response you need. And if you’re part of a company, an organization, or even an individual who needs a way to interact with your users (customers, participants, members, listeners, viewers, adherents, advocates, followers, whatever) we’re going to give you the best possible way to do that, as well as tools to get real business value out of the exchange. And it’s not just about getting help — you can give help, too. This thing is people-powered, after all. Fortunately for us, the world is a big place, and everybody has expertise in something. Especially about the stuff they use day in and day out — the products they love and identify with, the ones they hate but are held captive by, and everything in between.
This is also very promising and a little more action-oriented. People (customers, advocates, detractors, whoever) can support each other. They become peers to official customer support reps, and ideally, partner with those reps to create something even stronger. So, I guess my "Ask a Marketer" question is two-fold (and perhaps a little more nuanced than the title of this post):
  1. What would you do if you were Bell Canada and this were brought to your attention? Would you address it or ignore it? The numbers are significant but not overwhelming.
  2. And, what would you do if you were me? Would you leave the post as is? Try to redirect people to one of the above (or other solutions if you know of them!)?
Note ... this isn't to pick on Bell Canada. Every organization in Canada has blog posts about them good and bad. It's more about starting a discussion about how we can give customers what they need as well as build our brands and corporate reputations at the same time. So .. share your best ideas! What would you do?

Five Questions for Bill Sweetman – Tucows

Bill_sweetman One Degree contributor Bill Sweetman recently became the General Manager, Domain Portfolio at Tucows where he is managing and monetizing a very large collection of domain names.

One Degree: What are some things that brands, big and small, should think about when looking for domain names for campaigns?

Even if you are planning to promote and drive people to a sub-domain of your existing domain name, e.g., campaign_name.catmas.com, you have to understand that a certain percentage of your target market is still going to attempt to directly navigate to the campaign by typing in campaign_name.com. If you haven’t nailed down the ownership of campaign_name.com ahead of time, you risk sending a portion of your target market someplace else, maybe even to a competitor. That’s never a good thing for either a campaign or the overall brand, especially if campaign_name.com leads to a porn site.

One Degree: What’s the biggest mistake marketers make when it comes to domain names?

Underestimating their importance. Marketers need to integrate a consistent and comprehensive domain name strategy into the foundation of their business. Such a strategy needs to take into account which domains, extensions, and variations should be used to generate in-bound traffic as well as how these domains are managed, measured, and protected. Domain names are serious business, and they require the full attention of the marketing department; this is not something you just pass off to the IT department without thinking.

One Degree: What should marketers do if the domain name they want is already registered by someone else?

First of all, don’t assume the name you want can’t be bought from the current registrant. Almost everything is for sale if the price is right. Failing that, you may be able to find a similar or even better domain name on the aftermarket. Most marketers I speak to aren’t aware that thousands of domain names exchange hands every day this way, and most of them sell for under $1,000. That’s a small price to pay for a memorable and marketable domain name. That’s why, ahem, Tucows launched its Premium Domains service, which makes it easier for people to quickly find and purchase an aftermarket domain name.

One Degree: What should a marketer expect to pay for a good aftermarket domain name these days?

How long is a piece of string? While there are various objective factors that can be taken into account when attempting to value a domain name, determining the true “fair market value” for a domain is just as much an art as it is a science. It also changes over time. At the end of the day, the best determinant of a domain name’s value at any given moment in time is what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Like real estate, however, the supply of quality domain names is finite. I expect that the average price paid for domain names is going to increase over time.

One Degree: Are .com domain names still important when there are so many other domain extensions available these days (like .ca, info, .tv)?

As a proud Canadian, I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed watching the mainstream awareness and usage of .ca domains mushroom over the last few years. In most cases, however, .com remains the gold standard of domain name extensions, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

What Matters to You?

Since our purchase of One Degree in May, we've been talking about how we want to evolve the site and the community.  But while we have some (no doubt) great ideas, it's your thoughts and opinions that matter the most.  After all .. we want to serve your needs.  So, I'd like to ask you a few questions over the next few weeks - to try to understand what you value about One Degree and what we could do to make it better.  I posted this question over on our Facebook group ... well, more like "What do you love about One Degree" and "What do you hate about One Degree".  We got some good answers!  But I'd like to get a little more specific.

So, today's question is about the kind of content you expect from One Degree.  Specifically, do you expect to find content here that hasn't been published somewhere else?  Or, do you see One Degree as providing more of an editorial/aggregation function and you don't really care if it's been published on another blog or online mag?

Here's the context: I have recently been asking our fabulous contributors for exclusivity, i.e. that they don't cross-post the same article to their own blogs.  Or, if they do, then give One Degree seven days of exclusivity.  So that our readers get to see it first, but then it is subsequently archived on their site as well - so that they can benefit from search results and ensure that the content will never disappear. Some contributors have been OK with this and others have expressed some concerns which I can totally appreciate.  These concerns evolved into conversations about the expectations our readers have of our content. So, I thought the best thing to do is ask! 

Readers: do you expect exclusive (and of course, high quality) content here on One Degree?  Or could you care less .. you just want great content and are happy to let us do the work of finding it and delivering it? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.  Or, if you would rather, you can email me privately at kate AT onedegree DOT ca.  We really do want to know what you think, so please take a moment to share your preferences.

August 23, 2007

Embrace the Spirit of the Web, Not the Technology

We all know that the Internet has indeed changed the world dramatically.  It wasn't a fad, it's not going away.  However, it has been and continues to be a place where terrible ideas are encouraged to prosper. That's the foundation of the web's instability. As a marketer, I see this all of the time. People get so easily taken in by the promises of the technology that they fail to realize that the technology is not the point.

What's behind the Web 2.0 craze, for example? Is it about technology? No! It's about the spirit. What makes all things Web 2.0 so great is the spirit of community, of change, of collaboration. Ruby on Rails has nothing to do with it. AJAX has nothing to do with it. Flash-based video players have nothing to do with it either. Those are all technologies, and they are incidental.

What makes YouTube so world-changing isn't the technology, impressive as it may be. YouTube's brilliance lies in the community. It's in the way that the community generates, responds to, categorizes, and ranks the content. The YouTube community IS YouTube. Yet I frequently see colleagues, both programmers and marketers, look at YouTube and say, "we can do that." They build YouTube clones for their clients. Instead of participating in the YouTube community, they see only the technology. Which is exactly why, tragically, they will fail.

The same thing is happening all across the board.

Take Google's search, for example. Most people think Google's brilliance is in their technology. It's not. Their brilliance was in tapping into community wisdom when ranking websites. The more people link to a site, the better it ranks. Behind all the algorithms and the server farms, the secret to their success was tapping into the community.

Second Life's brilliance is not their virtual reality platform.  Their brilliance lies in the fact that everything in-world, from buildings, to avatars, to events, to even their floating currency, is driven by the community. Linden Labs provided a platform, and not the most impressive one. It's buggy, to say the least. But they let the Second Life community direct the entire project.

I could go on and on, naming one success after the next, but the point is clear: Technology is not what's changing the world, though it does enable it. Communities change the world. Communities can take your brand to superstardom, or pummel it into dust. Communities make the difference between your latest campaign going viral, or going completely unnoticed.

No amount of technological sophistication is going to change that basic principle.

What's a marketer to do about it? You can start by reviewing your ongoing projects:

  1. Do they involve any aspects that could be served by a community-driven platform? An obvious example would be video streaming which could be handled by a service like YouTube or Viddler. Photo galleries could potentially use Flickr. Regular articles could use a blog platform like Wordpress and leverage the technology to make their content available in multiple formats and on a large array of websites, like Technorati or niche websites. Although you give up some control when using public platforms, you gain a new audience and allow users to embrace your content as their own. People get very attached to things they feel ownership over.
  2. Could certain features be transformed in such a way that would be friendly to community control? For example, if a website asks for feedback or customer reviews, instead of having these comments simply sent to your email box, have them immediately posted on a public forum. A great example of this is Amazon and how they encourage users to rate and review their books. By giving up control, you're allowing users to cooperate in deciding what succeeds and what doesn't. Which, again, gives them that precious sense of ownership.
  3. When entering a new platform that you are unfamiliar with, such as Second Life, do not be impressed by the technology.  Never, ever, allow yourself to get swept away by what you can do with the technology. Realize that the community is the driving force. Instead of creating massive islands to your own glory, instead ask yourself how you can help. Could you sponsor any events? Offer any expertise? Do you have anything to offer of real value to the community? Could any of your offline products or services be translated to this new platform?

The basic principle is this: Can you appeal to a community? If you can, no matter how much it may pain you to give up control, do it! The spirit of the web is communal. The entire reason the web works is because it connects us and renders everyone an equal. It's not about technology. It's about connecting as people. Don't fight it. Or, better yet, do fight it and, as a result, make your competitor’s job a whole lot easier!

Business Opportunity for Canadian Companies in Interactive

Ukmission

Join UK Trade & Investment, Scottish Development International and Interactive Ontario on an interactive trade mission to the UK October 29 to November 2, 2007.

The mission offers opportunities to develop new trade and partnering opportunities in the UK. The UKTI will provide travel subsidies to a limited number of approved Canadian companies working in the interactive sector. Application deadline is September 13, 2007. For more details and application forms, visit: www.interactiveontario.com or www.embassy-worldwide.com

The Emergence of “Emergence Marketing”

Over the last year I have become an increasingly radical convert to the school of “Emergence” theory. For those new to the term, “Emergence theory” refers to the way that complex systems and patterns arise out of the culmination of relatively simple interactions.

Emergence occurs when an interconnected system of relatively simple elements self-organizes to form more intelligent, more adaptive, higher-level behaviour. It's a bottom-up model rather than a model engineered by a general or a master planner. The most common examples used to illustrate emergent systems are ant hills and the Internet. Both are built not by a supreme architect calling the shots but instead by the activity of many independent actors behaving individually.

There are hundreds if not thousands of academics, authors and modern day philosophers who are exploring the ways that Emergence can better explain and even reshape the world that we live in today, from economic theory to organizational development. For those of you familiar with the work of Steven Johnson, author of Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, Eric Beinhocker, author of The Origins of Wealth or Brafman and Beckstrom, authors of The Starfish and The Spider, you will likely already be familiar with “Emergence theory” in relationship to community and software development, organizational analysis and economic theory.

One issue all of these authors skirt around but never address directly in their books is what will the implications of Emergence mean for the evolution of marketing?

I think it’s a topic worthy of a lot of thought and one which could never be properly served in a brief blog post. It is also a current obsession of mine as I lead a team to build a business based on the power of peer relationships, which is the essence of an Emergence system.

My objective here is to open the topic of Emergence Marketing at One Degree and to note a few of my own observations on what it could look like. In that regard, here is an initial list of what I would suggest Emergence Marketing looks like (and, in the inverse, what it doesn’t look like):

Emergence Marketing:

  • Is based on the power of peer relationships. Think of examples here like Bill Sweetman’s recent Coach House experiment on Facebook. Peers take on the role of market maker and use peer to peer platforms like Facebook which facilitate this communication to deliver marketing or promotional messages to their peer group and their peer’s peers.
  • Is when your product is being defined from the ground up. Think here about open source code and the power of building a product on the combined energies of those who have come before. Or think of the Facebook F8 platform where companies like Tripadvisor, Flixster or iLike have built out revenue-generating and traffic-driving extensions to the Facebook core system.
  • Is when marketing communication is voluntary and not forced: Think here about models where people speak and you listen. Better yet, think about models where people speak to people and you take notes on the interactions. An example of this is eBay’s “Ask an Expert” community where 90% of their customers’ inquiries about the eBay service are answered without a dime of expenditure to eBay.
  • Is the recognition that your Brand is not defined by you but is defined by the people who use (or would never use) your product or service. Your brand is the collection of thoughts, actions, reactions and emotions associated with the thing that you are offering - not your logo, your font or your tag line.
  • Is based on observed customer activity and behavior. The power of being able to see what your customers are doing, or not doing, in your store or at your site is essential for being able to adjust your service or product or key messages to them in a relevant and targeted fashion. Effective organizational structure which empowers your key resources at the customer interaction level and effective observation skills and tools are key elements of Emergence Marketing.

For examples of the companies engaged in effective Emergence Marketing, I think of companies that also have relatively small (if any) marketing budgets for promotion and market growth and yet are experiencing market leading growth in their services. This includes companies like Facebook, Wikipedia, Craigslist and Skype, just to name a few from my own experience. Studying the marketing functions of these companies will lead to even deeper insight into Emergence Marketing.

This is by no means a definitive list and likely is not even scratching the surface of a marketing trend which I see as marketing’s the next evolutionary wave, Emergence Marketing. Consistent with the theory though, I am but one voice in this regard. Others interested should build or deconstruct these ideas and possibly, over time, something more complex and comprehensive than any of us individually can provide will emerge from these musings.

August 22, 2007

Five Questions for Mabel's Labels

Julie_cole_mabelslabels_2Recently, I received a charming pitch to review a product.  I wrote about that pitch on my blog, talking about why it appealed to me more than some others I have received.  After posting the article, I was so taken with the pitch that I contacted the company, Mabel’s Labels, to discuss their blogger outreach program and overall social media strategy in general.  That conversation turned into the following 5 Question interview with Julie Cole, co-founder and public relations guru over at Mabel’s Labels.

One Degree: You have a very successful blogger outreach program; how did the decision to reach out to bloggers come about?

Mabel’s Labels monitors referral hits to our website, www.mabel.ca, and one day we noticed that a blogger who organically posted a Mabel’s Labels review/link was generating a lot of traffic to our website. The results were overwhelming and the Mabel’s Labels marketing department was inspired. We now have a very successful blogger outreach program that generates new blog hits daily. This is a huge achievement for the business because creating links to our website is important to us.

In addition to viewing blogs as a utility for generating hits, from a business perspective, it makes sense to want to build relationships with bloggers. In this modern world, bloggers have risen to become the new journalists – they are social and commercial product mavens who easily spread the word about our product and can do this on a regular basis.

One Degree: How do you choose the bloggers you reach out to?  Are there any policies or procedures you have in place? Since you reach out to bloggers, I’m assuming you have a strong blog monitoring (ego feed) program in place as well.  Care to share any tips or secrets?

Choosing the right blog to reach out to is critical. We have identified our target markets: parents, children, families, camps, schools, daycares, entrepreneurs, women in business, etc. Subsequently, we actively seek out popular bloggers in these markets.

Mabel’s Labels’ marketing department follows the following procedure when contacting bloggers: We craft a personalized pitch letter to every blogger which balances sincere flattery with a push to the blogger to review the product and follow up with us. Upon receiving a bloggers’ response, we ship them a product to review along with a letter that provides information about the product and the company. Then we wait – and majority of the time the blogger will post about 4-6 weeks later.

Overall, it’s important to be sincere - we read (to the best we can) all the blogs we pitch to. This gets results! In the end, bloggers seem to love getting our pitches and reviewing our products and we love seeing our products reviewed and linked on the Internet. It’s a win-win situation.

We use Technorati (a blog search engine) to determine popular blogs and find blogs in our target market. We also gather blogger information from the Blog Awards.

My best tip: Don’t shut out a blog just because it has a small readership. We’ve had some great response from smaller blogs. You never know who’s going to read it!

One Degree: What other social media tools does Mabel’s Labels use? Do you find that you’re getting a good return on the time investment?  Are there any that are working better for you than others?

As a company we are very enthusiastic about social media tools. Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia make a dialogue between our business and our customers possible. In addition, we have FB and Delicious links on the website.

We recently expanded on the idea of social media tools to create our own online community called “The Mabelhood.” While the design is still in development we currently have a blog written by the founders of the company and a podcast called “Momma Talks.”

We have had amazing success for our time investment. We’ve created an online social community that reinforces our brand lifestyle: durable, fun, modern family culture and kid-proof savvy products. Each facet of our social media marketing campaign has worked for different reasons. Blogging, podcasting and reaching out to bloggers has grown more links and hits to our website and improved our Google rating. Facebook has created a place where customers can get better acquainted with Mabel (our logo, our girl). Having an entry in Wikipedia alone is a triumph because if you type in "Mompreneur" in Wikipedia you get Mabel’s Labels’ entry. Why is this good? Mompreneur is such an “it word” in the business world that it tickles me pink to think that Mabel’s Labels is Wikipedia’s answer to mompreneur.

Even for customers who are not interested in our social media, it still makes the business more established. In addition, our social media marketing efforts have done wonders for Mabel’s Labels’ staff development. It has given our marketing team the opportunity to be involved with something cutting edge, to think originally and to develop a sense of stewardship about the idea of social media as a marketing tool.

 

One Degree: Mabel’s Labels also has a strong affiliate program ... Can you comment on the social media/online aspects of it?

Mabel’s Labels has an agent program that is similar to an affiliate program but differs in method. Each agent pays a fee and receives a kit and a URL to start-up an agent business selling Mabel’s Labels. They earn commission on their total sales, as opposed to getting a lump sum financial reward per number of hits to a URL link.

From a marketing perspective our agents are mavens. They are all very resourceful in their use of the Internet to expand their earnings and spread the word about Mabel’s Labels. We encourage them to create their own social media to promote their business. Our Agent program is a success because it gives women across North America the opportunity to start their own business and promotes our business at the same time. In effect, our agent program is has contributed to Mabel’s Labels becoming one of the leading suppliers of personalized labels for the stuff kids lose.

One Degree: Do you do any offline marketing?  What about other online marketing? [e.g. SEO, SEM, banners]

Yes and yes. We market in magazines, contesting/prizing for charities and events geared to our market, and relationship marketing, our agent program. We use SEO and we also use click through programs with Google (ppc).  We tried banner ads but we found them trivial.

One Degree: Bonus Question - What is your advice to small business or big business about incorporating social media into the marketing mix?

Social media lets customers know your business cares. It invites customers into your lifestyle and your world, and subsequently reinforces your brand. In this impersonal age of call centres and corporate mass communication the average customer is craving human interaction. I think social media goes hand in hand with upstanding customer service and I will expand on this: customers just want a human on the other end of the phone, email, blog, podcast and consequently to be able to get a response from a human and to get it rapidly.

Social media is a personal touch that can be tailored to suit every business’ marketing strategy and branding. Try something once; just because you decide to start a blog or a podcast doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. I’m about to harp on an old cliché but remember that if even a handful of people become interested in your business because of social media then it was definitely worth it.

"Noise to Signal" on Wireframes

20070817wireframe

August 20, 2007

Five Questions for SEMPO Canada

Sempo_logo_2Search Marketing is HOT and should be a key piece in online marketing campaigns as well as a complement to online communications strategies.  But not every marketing department, corporate communications team, PR firm or ad agency knows how to do search really well.  Fortunately, SEMPO Canada is here to help.  SEMPO is a recently launched Canadian offshoot of the American Search Engine Marketing Professional¹s Organization.  One Degree sat down with co-founders Ken Jurina of epiar.com and Alexandre Brabant from eMarketing101.net to discuss SEMPO Canada and the state of search marketing here in the great white north.

One Degree:  Can you give us a background on what SEMPO is and how SEMPO Canada fits in the local Search Marketing picture?

SEMPO stands for Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization. Its mission as a global non-profit organization is to serve the search engine marketing industry and the marketing professionals engaged in it. Its purpose is to provide a foundation for industry growth through building stronger relationships, fostering awareness, providing education, promoting the industry, generating research, and creating a better understanding of search and its role in marketing.

Although SEMPO originates from the United States, there is a committee within SEMPO called SEMPO Global, whose goal is to expand the reach of the organization outside of the U.S. As a result, a few fellow Canadians decided to create a SEMPO Canada Working Group. Our goal, just like the rest of the organization, is to make sure Search Marketing continues its growth in Canada. Because the Canadian market has its own particularities and since it is far more relevant to Canadians to have a local governance and representation, we feel we are in better position to gather every professional involved in Search Marketing and create the Search Marketing Canadian Authority that anyone can call upon for events, research, best practices and so on.

One Degree: What have you been doing so far to stimulate Search Marketing in Canada? And what are your future plans to foster the growth of Search Marketing, coast to coast?

SEMPO Canada is relatively young. It was created in November 2006 by Ken Jurina of epiar.com and Alexandre Brabant of eMarketing101.net. Our first goal was to actually build the foundation of the SEMPO Canada Working Group and so we recruited a few founding members from the Search Marketing industry. We then created a website (Sempo.ca) and organized our first event during SES Toronto in June 2007.

Since then, we have acquired many more members and have created sub-committees to further increase the awareness of SEMPO Canada and its mission by attending internet and marketing related events. We have also been working on a soon-to-be launched survey called the State of Search Marketing in Canada. Our goal is to read the pulse of the Canadian Search Marketing industry. The publication of this report is scheduled for December 2007 and it is intended to help foster further awareness about the existence and benefits of Search Marketing to Canadians as a whole, which is a topic in dire need of attention in Canada.

One Degree: What is the state of Search Marketing in Canada in terms of adoption rate, depth of implementation and the proportion between organic and paid?

Based on the comments gathered by Search Marketing professionals during the Search Engine Strategies conference in Toronto in June 2007, Canada is still behind when it comes to adoption rate and the use of Search Marketing best practices. According to Gord Hotchkiss, renowned Canadian expert on Search Marketing, Canada is clueless about search.  In this article, written during SES Toronto, Gord points out that despite the fact that Canadians see some of the best Search Marketers in North America, “Canadian advertisers haven’t woken up to search yet, and there’s just no excuse for that, because Canadian customers are light years ahead of them.” According to Comscore, Canadians use the Internet more than anyone else in the world.

When it comes to the split between paid and organic search investment, we see another fundamental disconnect in Canada. Whereas most of the conversions are coming from organic traffic, the majority of the investment is put towards paid search advertising. Therefore, it is commonly accepted in the local Search Marketing industry that Canadian advertisers are in need of a wake up call which is what we intend to provide in the future via SEMPO Canada.

Are there certain types of companies that would benefit from using more Search Marketing who aren’t using it right now? Is anyone in Canada doing it really well?

Really every type of company could benefit from incorporating Search Marketing into the advertising spend. Regardless of whether they are service or product based, B2B or B2C, or even not-for-profit. Every organization has something to gain from using Search Marketing as part of their marketing effort. The billions of searches that are conducted monthly across the web represent a massive database of intentions. There are opportunities for any company or organization of any size in both organic and paid Search. In general, certain verticals such as travel, electronics and consumer products represent a larger portion of search volume and therefore lead to greater potential for these specific verticals, but the market is opening up and Search Marketing is no longer focused around any particular verticals.

With regards to Canadian companies who are doing really well with their Search Marketing plans, we know collectively of only a few companies such as ebay.ca who are using Search Marketing as the core of their marketing plan. Generally speaking though, it is unfortunate that most in-house marketing teams do not know of or employ Search Marketing best practices when they launch an SEM program.

   

One Degree:  I heard someone say recently that search is out and tagging (folksonomies) are in. What do you think about that?

The question of optimizing a website or webpage for search or tagging is setting up a false opposition. According to James Sherrett from Work Industries, whom I spoke to on this topic, you should never recommend to a client that they optimize for search solely for tagging or for voting on Digg, or for video indexing – should that ever happen. We would rather recommend building a strong website for your target market. Website should cater to search engine bots and tagging systems, and anything that might come along.

The point to remember is that in prioritizing all those different considerations, people have to come first. Tagging is in fact very complementary to search. It's another way any one of us can enrich the information available within a website or webpage – which is good for people and good for search bots.

Regardless of the website or industry consistently the large portion of new traffic to a website continues to come from Organic search. The vast majority of traffic online is generated from search engines and 90% of the time the traffic from search engines is from people clicking on the Organic search results. Sure, tags can augment that traffic, but people love to search.

August 16, 2007

Five Questions for Leigh Himel - oponia networks inc.

Leigh_himelLeigh Himel has worked as an environmental planner, a digital strategist and a marketing communications consultant. She is currently the CEO of oponia networks and her blog on networked ecosystems, culture, technology and other stuff, can be found at leighimel.blogspot.com.  Here she answers our five questions about the stealth launch (shhh …) of her company’s new product, the ucaster.  She talks about the product, about developing a business model without relying on advertising revenue and the pros and cons of launching a product without an agency.

One Degree:  Okay, so give us the elevator pitch. What is ucaster?

We call it the hyper-simple way to instantly share content online right from your desktop. You don’t have to upload it anywhere. Just drag, drop, and you're done!

Great for sharing folders filled with files, photos, and play lists. And the best thing about it? It’s instantaneous to anyone with or without ucaster.

One Degree:  How do you decide what a service like ucaster is worth to users? (Or, for the MBA’s in the crowd -  what’s your business model for ucaster?)

Couple answers.

Firstly, my pat answer is a freemium service model.  Meaning, basic service will be free but over time we will launch enhanced services including one for “business professionals” that will be paid.

Secondly, as anything that tries to do things differently, it’s also important to see what the community does with the product.  When people give you money for service it’s ultimately about value creation. Where does the community see value worth paying for?  Just because we see value in X doesn’t mean they will.  So part of our model is watching and listening in order to identify potential value over time beyond our own models.   For example, we have limited resources and we aren’t VC funded but there are so many things people are asking for already.  Amazing things that are on our list to do but we can’t get to.  What if the community could decide and donate to specific projects?  Kinda like a public network utility model. Stuff like that.

One Degree: Pretty much every web product that is launched these days includes advertising revenue as part of its business model. Why didn’t you go with an advertising model for making money?

Your ucaster works directly off your desktop.  The applications run off your desktop.  You serve the content yourself (we route messages on our network so people can find you).  It wouldn’t be right for us to impose ourselves on your desktop by throwing Google ads on there.

 

The ucaster as a brand is all about you, not about us.  We are facilitators and enablers.  None of this precludes the fact that you can put Google ads on your own site if you want to. But that’s your choice, not ours.

One Degree: You’ve kept the beta pretty quiet. Do you plan to continue to grow your audience organically or are you planning a complete media frenzy for the official launch?

It really is a bit of a chicken and egg sort of thing.  Obviously we want some press because we want people to hear about us but at the same time there are dangers with the, what I like to call, ‘blogosphere broadcast model’.

We aren’t famous.  We aren’t the guy from DIGG who is going to create something and get a bazillion people trying to use it and great reviews because it looks cool.  The blogosphere are a damn cynical bunch.  That’s just a fact.  The “A” list bloggers (or whatever you want to call them) get review requests all the time and it all starts to feel like clutter after a while.  Being nobody, we will get all the usual cynical questions based on what “they” think.  ‘yeah but there are so many file sharing products’ … ‘yeah but ease of use isn’t a selling feature’.  It’s hard to answer those questions if you only have a couple hundred people using your product.  But if you have 5000 or more? That’s a different question.  Canadians have always been ahead of the technology curve so hopefully your readers will come and sign up and try it and if they find it useful, invite three friends and so on.

My final point on the slow to market strategy, while it might be useful for VC fundraising, “The Techcrunch 50,000” won’t help us develop a brilliant product.  Growing organically and focusing in on our community means letting the network help us develop it and give it a chance to grow up.  I have no doubt however, that our coming out party will happen soon enough.

One Degree: You have an agency background and have helped clients launch product before.  Now that you’ve started your own gig, would you ever hire an agency to do work for you?  How can startups best utilize agencies?

One of the hardest things in the world is working on your own branding and marketing.  We are now the client and clients are the worst when it comes to being objective about themselves and the marketplace.

We have been lucky though, because we have so many friends who we could never have afforded who have jumped in with two feet and helped us because they believe in what we are trying to do.  It was really important to us that not only would the product be different (giving people an ‘aha’ moment as they keep telling us) but that the experience of the brand feel equally different.  I think, and based on early feedback, we have managed to accomplish both.

   

As for using agencies, never say never.  If we did it would have to be a non-traditional agency that understood digital and network culture. But I would have to seriously consider that one some more because I really hated those trays of sandwiches they used to serve for lunch ;-)

August 15, 2007

"Noise to Signal" on WOM

Noise_to_signal_2

August 14, 2007

Optimizing Your PPC Quality Score - Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, we discussed the importance of quality score and different ways to improve it. In Part 2 we will continue our discussion, addressing additional ways to optimize your PPC campaigns.

Test, Track and Analyze Ad Copy

Like any other ongoing marketing initiative, it is essential to test, track and analyze your PPC ads, particularly for highly competitive terms. Small changes to your ad copy can have a dramatic impact on the performance of your ads. When conducting ad tests, remember to keep quality score in mind and pay close attention to both ad performance and ad text relevance. Improved ad performance (higher CTR and more conversions) coupled with a higher quality score (lower click costs and better ad positions) will provide a greater potential ROI for your campaign.

In order to optimize your ad copy for a higher quality score, you need to consider the relevancy of your ad text to both the keywords and landing page being targeted. Your goal is to create compelling ads that reinforce the contextual theme of your ad groups. Because landing pages are included in quality score, be sure to track your ad tests down to the conversion level and include quality score as one of your performance metrics.

Optimizing Landing Pages

Landing pages play a critical role in PPC advertising. It is a common practice to conduct landing page tests to maximize conversion rates. Now, however, in addition to converting traffic, an effective PPC landing page must address quality score.

Once again, when optimizing landing pages it is important to consider both performance and relevance. Optimizing the performance of a landing page focuses on user interaction. It generally involves testing different calls to action and adjusting the position and proximity of page elements. Google’s Conversion University provides some great articles on improving the performance of your landing pages.

Optimizing landing page relevance is a little bit more technical. The goal is to ensure that search engines are able to identify a common contextual theme between your landing pages and the PPC ads and keywords targeting them. Here are some general suggestions for strengthening the relevance of your landing pages.

  • Integrate most (if not all) of the keywords that you are targeting directly into your page copy.
  • Include your core and/or top performing terms in page headings (enclosed in header tags) and emphasized text.
  • Use your core term(s) and/or top performing keywords in your page title.
  • Add target keywords to the meta information (meta description and keywords tags) on your page.
  • Make sure that your page includes a direct link to your site’s privacy policy, about section and home page (this improves the credibility of the page).

In addition to these suggestions, any SEO work that you have done to your landing page, particularly link building, will reinforce its theme to search engines. One very important thing to remember is that in order to determine the relevancy of a landing page, search engines need to be able to read it; they have a very difficult time understanding certain types of content. If you currently have an all-flash landing page, for example, you should consider converting it into HTML, or embedding the flash elements into an HTML page.

When optimizing your landing pages, use Google’s Site-Related Keywords Tool to make sure that Google thinks your landing pages are relevant. Enter your URL into the tool and it will return a list of terms that Google identifies on the page. If the keywords in your PPC list do not appear in the list of terms returned by the tool – you have more work to do. Continue testing and tweaking your landing pages until Google identifies that terms that you are targeting.

Monitor and Analyze Your Competitors

If you are having a difficult time acquiring top ad positions and can’t figure out why, analyze what your competitors are doing. Evaluate the ads they’re using for each keyword in question and try to come up with a better approach. Identify ways to improve your landing pages based on how they compare to your competitors’. It sometimes helps to monitor how many different landing pages your competitors are using to target specific keywords. This can provide you with a good indication of how much work they have done to segregate their ad groups. The point is that in a highly competitive environment, it is always essential to know what your competitors are doing and find ways to do it better.

Adjust Maximum Bids and Matching Options

Setting your maximum bid is directly tied to your performance metrics (cost per acquisition, conversion rate, value per acquisition etc.). It’s impossible to establish a strong ROI model for your project if you don’t know what your performance metrics are. Before adjusting your bids, you need to know the maximum amount you are willing to spend to get a visitor to your site. When making bid adjustments, be sure to monitor the impact on quality score. If your maximum bids and daily budgets are set too low and your quality score decreases, you will receive fewer ad impressions and lower ad positions.

Matching options are similar to negative keywords, as they can be used to restrict your ads from being shown for certain searches. If you are using broad match keywords, for example, your ads will be displayed for less targeted searches. This can decrease the overall performance of your ads and have a negative impact on your quality score. Try experimenting with different matching options and monitor the result that each option has on your quality score.

There are many other variables considered in quality score calculations and many other tactics that you can use to increase your score. Regardless of the tactics that you use, it is important to recognize that optimizing quality score has become an essential part of achieving a better ROI on your PPC projects.

August 13, 2007

Welcome to our August Sponsor, Techvibes!

Well, we're back from our two week hiatus! And the first order of business is to welcome our August sponsor, Techvibes. Techvibes is a leading online community for technology professionals. The site boasts active forums, extensive job postings, news feeds and member search, it is a popular destination for the technically-minded. Techvibes originated in Vancouver in 2002 and has since spread across North America with featured news, events and jobs for over 3 dozen major city centres. And don't think it's only for geeks! Marketing and product management professionals use Techvibes for networking, recruitment, team building and partnership development. So check it out today!

August 12, 2007

The End of Cell Phones?

I was like a kid unwrapping his Nintendo Wii. The label read “Vonage,” so I knew this was my newest gadget, a tiny white and orange UTStarcom F1000 wi-fi phone. I cracked open the box, threw aside the instructions (who needs those?) and cradled the phone in my hand like an oversized pearl. Call me dramatic. But this, I thought, is a piece of the future.

Through the magic of wi-fi and VoIP, my new phone brings my business line to any wireless access point, from dive bars to coffee shops, and lets me call anywhere in North America, at any time, for about $20 a month. Given that last month’s cell phone bill cleared a few hundred bucks, that’s a big deal.

I couldn’t wait to try it out. So I charged it up and took it for a spin. Once in downtown Toronto, I searched for a signal, and found several. And that’s when it hit me. All that speculating about VoWiFi—voice over wireless fidelity—is becoming reality. And while there’s definitely room for improvement (for starters, the phone has an anachronistic black-and-amber interface reminiscent of an old calculator watch), it begs the question: is this the beginning of the end for cell phones?

By the Numbers

There’s been lots of talk about VoWiFi and when, if ever, it might make a dent in the mobile market. The promise is somewhat obvious: if and when cheap or free wireless blankets cities, anyone with a wi-fi phone and a VoIP line can get the benefits of VoIP on the road. And that, in my mind, makes arguments for cell phones pretty dubious. I already find great advantage in using one phone to connect to my home wireless router as well as wireless access points out and about. If there were greater wi-fi coverage, I wouldn’t need my cell phone much at all.

Is such enhanced coverage likely? The number of ad-hoc places offering free wireless is large and growing. Then there are initiatives such as Toronto Hydro’s One Zone and Wireless Philadelphia that aim to blanket cities with cheap or free wi-fi access. In the US, both Google and Microsoft are working to provide free ad-supported wi-fi, while parts of London now have such ad-supported wi-fi through a partnership including Free-hotspot.com and MeshHopper.

In Canada, Telus, Rogers and Bell dominate the mobile market. But even though it seems everyone and their grandparents have cell phones, Canada lags in mobile uptake. While wireless subscriptions grew by 10% here last year, mobile penetration is at just about 58%, compared to 85% in the US. So there’s clearly room for growth. What’s not clear anymore is where that growth will occur. After all, Vonage reports adding about 25,000 new lines per month in North America.

Making the Switch

A shift to VoWiFi could have a major impact on mobile marketing. If every call, for example, were made through an ad-supported wireless network, it could dramatically increase the number of impressions (if we could call them that) available for mobile ads. Furthermore, as Google works to refine its mobile AdSense services, we could see geographically contextual advertising served up, possibly at some point even related to phone conversations themselves. Talking about grabbing a coffee? Perhaps you’ll see an ad for the nearest shop. After all, Google already does this with email conversations in Gmail. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Is the switch to VoWiFi even likely? After using my new phone for a week, I would say there’s a good chance. It’s justified by the cost alone. What appears most likely, however, is a shift towards dual-use phones that can operate using wi-fi when it’s available and other signals when it’s not. Regardless, the threat and shifting landscape alone appears quite interesting.

Frank and Gordon can talk all they want about free calling within the Bell network, but when I get essentially free calling to anywhere in North America, it’s easy to see how they’ll soon be retiring to the ravine. Maybe then I’ll give them a call from the bar. After all, it won’t cost me anything.

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