Two posts a year is twice as good as one…

In a week it will be a year since I last posted on this blog. A year. Wow. It’s moved fast. In that time we’ve completely rebuilt our house, seen my blog get hacked and saved, watched our youngest move into ‘the school years’ and continued to provide ongoing digital advice and support to our core clients and three new ones.

We’ve seen Facebook float and turn its community into a product. We’ve seen Instagram’s owners profit, stuff up and recover.

Google’s continued its march into behavioural marketing and is slowly using its various verticals to build Google+ into a colossal tool.

Apple, sans Steve Jobs, has continued to own the smartphone and tablet device space, although their app centric OS is starting to wear down its appeal as Windows (yes Windows!) launches a more useful mobile product and Samsung and Nokia find the right size and features for their hardware.

We’ve watched local player Trade me slow as people start buying goods directly overseas or simply dismiss the need for buying and selling books, DVDs or CDs.

Groupon and its various pretenders have seen the light and we watched them burn out as fast as they came.

We’ve watched the newspaper industry whittle down its profits as advertisers place their dollars where the eyeballs can be measured and better understood.

We’ve seen Pacific Fibre slide underwater and take with it a potential windfall of benefits for Kiwis.

We’ve seen NZ be a pawn in Hollywood’s attempts to remain in the past with their business models.

We’ve seen NZ journalists really start to understand twitter and its potential. If only they stopped exclusively talking with each other on it and started using it to connect with new audiences.

And we’ve seen the rise and rise of Pinterest. As of yesterday the company has a market valuation of $2.5 billion. Well played.

Heaps of other things happened too. But if I list them all, it’ll be another year before I actually post some opinion here. And who knows what will happen in a year…

Pin the tail on a winner

Four years ago I remember talking with some friends about twitter. I was adamant that it was going to be a gamechanger. Oh they did laugh…I’m not getting high and mighty, I just want to present some context to social media’s new best friend…Pinterest.

Pinterest is an online pinboard where you can ‘pin’ images on any site you like and add them to your own personalised Pinterest page. Your pinboards are self-titled and other Pinterest users can follow them – just like you can follow any other member’s pinboards.

And oh, is it addictive. At the moment it’s really succeeding with design, fashion, architecture and the like but I think, when people start to really understand how it can be personalised to every individual’s taste, it’s going to take off.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I tend to agree.

Register now and start working it out for yourselves.

Tunnel vision

Earlier today I watched a terrific TED presentation from Eli Pariser. He explains how Google and Facebook are using algorithms based on our past site viewing patterns to give us all different search results and newsfeed updates.

As well as Google and Facebook’s algorithms, I think there’s also a natural pattern evolving with twitter whereby we’ve started building our own silos of self-confirming opinion. During the 2011 Election I’ve seen this quite clearly.

I’ve followed people on twitter over the years because I found their insights interesting. But what I also found in the Election was that most people I follow are left-leaning liberals who had little time for John Key and his approach to media. Kind of like me looking in the mirror.

I found that a little boring and ended up ignoring a number of people and looking for some new folks to follow to give my view on the Election a bit of balance.

As Eli Pariser points out in his presentation, news editors of TV, radio and print media may have had particular left/right leanings, but at the end of the day their position has only been sustainable if they offered a bit of professional balance. Just look at Fox News in the US. Widely viewed, but only by a limited audience.

To really create or write a good news article it’s important that the “other side’s” view is articulated, read or viewed and understood. Then people can make up their own opinion based on both sides’ arguments. That’s a democracy.

If we all just see the same old information from a select few with similar views, how will we grow?

Twictionary

After many years on twitter I’m still surprised (and sometimes confused) by new twitter abbreviations and their meaning. To help simplify things I’ve decided to note a few common terms…

RT – Retweet. Used to share another person’s tweet with your followers. Can be done with a simple click of the ‘retweet’ link under each tweet.

Reply – Under each tweet you have the option to respond to a person’s tweet. To identify the person a “@” sign and the person’s address will appear at the beginning of your response.

Favourite – If you like a tweet you can ‘favourite’ that tweet. It won’t be shared directly with your followers but the person who posted the initial tweet will be advised of your action.

HT – Heard through. Requires the user to copy and paste another person’s tweet. Often used when additional context or opinion is required.

MT – Modified tweet. Used if someone has adjusted a person’s tweet but still needs the person’s twitter address included to provide context.

Via – Similar to HT. Again context or additional comment from the sender may be added.

@ – At. The prefix to a twitter address.

Twitpic – A comment photo sharing add-on for people wishing to share photos.

# – By placing a hashtag in front of a term eg #zumwohl people can create an indexable term that others can repeat to form a ‘trend’.

Trend – For various countries across the globe twitter categorises ‘top trends’. These vary with common terms eg John Key or Richie McCaw and various irreverent hashtag terms eg #ifyouwanttodateme

#lazyweb – If you are looking for a solution to a problem, by adding #lazyweb to a tweet, you are effectively asking the twittersphere for a solution. You may be surprised at how many people are happy to help.

bit.ly/ow.ly – These are URL shortening services that help you share news of the web with your followers. They also let you track the number of people who click on your tweeted message.

This list is evolving and I would offer folks the chance to comment on more twictionary definitions but my comment spam is out of control. If you do have more, why not put them on twitter with #twictionary so others can find them.

#Haschnapps…

Over the last month we’ve helped PR outfit Sputnik create the ‘Schnapp Election’ for their client, Zumwohl Schnapps.

The campaign encourages people to tweet amusing insights on the real election with the hashtag #zumwohl attached. Each day the funniest/cleverest tweet wins a bottle of said product (which is wicked btw).

The campaign was greatly assisted by using prominent tweeter and blogger Russell Brown at Publicaddress.net who hosted some simple display ads that we updated each week.

Russell also helped by being completely open about the commercial offer and advocating participation amongst his followers and readers. This subtle element made all the difference when it came to commercial businesses levering twitter as a promotional vehicle.

By being honest that this was nothing more than a promotion that “…earns Public Address a little money before Christmas…” the foundation was set for a new brand to build some exposure.

That’s a useful lesson for a new brand entering social media and one I guess Qantas wish they’d considered before today’s “hashjack”

Starting with a metric platform

A friend of mine recently overhauled their company website. The result has been a massive improvement with a simple navigation and tidy redesign. What they hadn’t considered, however, was how each part of their site would be measured. To me, that’s critical.

The website uses Google Analytics – which is a big tick – but their gap was using modal pop-up boxes for their key conversion goals. This approach meant tracking conversion goals would not work by matching the URLs. Instead, each action in the journey to goal conversion had to be tagged as ‘onClick events’.

In the past this would have meant the conversion metrics would not be deemed a ‘goal’ – thankfully, version 5 of Google Analytics has finally allowed this function. However, what my friend can’t do with the new site is create goal funnels using the events. I see this a real gap in analysis.

Being able to quickly create the goal conversion funnels and present them to clients and site managers is terrific. You can all see where people are coming from and where they’re dropping out. That knowledge is particularly valuable as it serves as the centre-point of the ‘tweak, measure, tweak, measure’ approach that makes online promotion so simple.

Good site design is important. But if you don’t have a clear, simple metric reporting platform underneath, you’re limiting your website’s potential.

Qualifications, experience…followers?

Two friends I follow on twitter have recently joined an existing web business and quickly started using their personal twitter accounts to promote the employer’s various marketing activities.

Now I’ve got no problem with them doing this…except that I find it rather boring and just a bit forced. It feels like there’s a trend building that people are expected to use their personal twitter accounts to tweet or retweet their employer’s or client’s messages.

If this continues, will the number and quality of your twitter followers become an important asset to include in your CV?

Ka Kite underlined blue links

For the last 8 years I’ve argued with every single art director I’ve worked with about the inclusion of underlined links in ads and website design. Why? They work. And if they’re blue, they work even better. Which is why today I’m rather surprised to see Trade Me have today dropped their underlined blue links back to being plain text rollover links.

Trade Me has always invested a huge amount of time in improving usability and simplifying the transactional flow but I’m not sure they’ve got it right this time.

I realise underlined links aren’t used by all. Twitter and Facebook simply use colour to differentiate their links. And Google’s new design has also adopted coloured links to present their navigation – but their search listings and AdWords are still very much about underlined blue links.

It’s great that Trade Me continue to make incremental improvements but I think this one may be an increment too far. Remove underlining from the navigation, sure, but I’d suggest they still make their listings underlined blue links. Those links are after all other people’s classified ads.

Content, content…content?

Web 2.0 was all about content. If you had it, you could do great things. Blogging and self-expression exploded through simple platforms that allowed people to create websites to share their views, hobbies and insights with only limited technical knowhow. In blogging, anybody could become a publisher.

Problem is/was, as people quickly find/found out, blogging is actually hard work. It’s time consuming and, if you enable a thread of discussion to unfold, things can get quite animated. In forums and blog discussions people desire responses quickly and anonymity can be a scary mask for insults and insensitivities.

Often people who start/ed out blogging with a hiss and roar, sometimes find/found it wasn’t quite for them. What they really wanted was active communication and live distraction from their daily lives.

Enter Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. All these platforms added a dimension to peoples’ lives that they adore. They offered a direct interaction with other people, with only a minimum of effort.

Entertainment is what we crave from the Internet. It offers us interaction with a global audience. But some of us don’t want that. We don’t want to be on stage. Some just want to remain in the audience and watch. This is where movie, TV and music downloads really appeal. And appeal they do. If you’re under 25 and you’re not file sharing, you’d be in a distinct minority.

Peer-to-peer networks are the hub of the ‘entertainment Internet’ and unfortunately, New Zealand’s government has just passed a law that will limit any opportunity in this space. Well, any opportunity for most of us to participate.

Content provision is, once again, the key. Only this time, it’s not from the long tail of bloggers, it’s from the select few multinational TV and film studios. We now need them to become comfortable with an infrastructure or interface that enables anyone in the world to legally download, stream and watch any TV show or movie when, and wherever, they want.

Apple iTunes, Hulu, NetFlix and the BBC are trying, but they’re still limited by release dates and a distinctly regionalised view of the Internet.

If we could access these services, or had a New Zealand service that could tailor content to our needs and give us access to any movie or show, what would you pay? $0.20 to watch an episode of the latest Survivor episode? Or may be today’s Manchester United match? Or perhaps a rerun of Prime Suspect?

If you knew there was no issue with downloading one of these games or shows for a small unit price, would you do it? My guess is, yes.

Unfortunately New Zealand has another issue or limited bandwidth and data caps. Issues that Sam Morgan recently raised in this article in The Listener.

Which brings me to consider another shift. If you step back for a moment and consider the basic marketing issue content provider have it’s quite illuminating:

Pricing – Find the unit cost people would be prepared to part with for a show.
Product – Figure out how to share enough revenue with the content providers to give them satisfaction to part with their product.
Promotion – The democracy of social media will sort this out pretty quickly.
Placement – A “P” in the marketing equation that perhaps is finished with the Internet (short of location based apps) but if you’re in New Zealand, I’m going to add another P…
Pacific Fibre – There is absolutely no way that New Zealand can keep up with the rest of the world if we don’t figure out a way to offer Kiwis uncapped broadband at internationally competitive speeds.

Pacific Fibre will be a game changer for New Zealand. Competition is absolutely vital for our position in the world’s rapidly changing uncapped interconnected economies, so this “P” is of high importance IMHO.

Knowing you had a world audience was a terrific driver for blogging with Web 2.0. People used the long tail of the globe to connect and share their knowledge and interests. It didn’t matter who you were, or where you came from, if there was a common interest, there was a connection.

As we move to the next stage of the Internet, the game is still the same. There’s opportunity out there. Wouldn’t it be a shame if New Zealand, with all its natural isolation, lost out on this opportunity because of red tape and market monopolies?