Sunday, September 27, 2009

Internet Marketing takes Team Work

If you're a business owner or manager that believes someone else can create your company web site or Internet marketing campaign without your direct involvement, read on...

A successful web project - whether it involves your web site or an Internet marketing campaign, requires your involvement as small business owner on some level. Discuss this up front before signing a contract. Typically this would include:

  • setting the objectives for the project,
  • providing the text in draft format, and
  • approving the structure, design and the final project before launching it.
The stronger and better the team work between you and your supplier, the more effective the end results will be.

Progress Meetings
When working with a web development or Internet marketing company on an ongoing basis (such as for ongoing search engine marketing or social marketing), schedule regular meetings to discuss progress and results. Whether you delegate responsibility for your Internet marketing to someone in your business or handle it yourself, as business owner the buck stops with you.

Password Control
Another important role business owners / managers play, is to ensure that you control all passwords that relate to your Internet marketing. Ensure that you have a copy of every username and password - from domain registration to hosting to statistics to social networking sites (such as Facebook) to electronic newsletter services. Control its secure storage and who has access to it. Do not open your business to risk by leaving password control uncontrolled.

Measurement, Analytics and Setting Objectives
The last responsibility is the responsibility for measurement. When starting a web marketing process, you have certain clear objectives in mind. Ensure that they are met by measuring.

Ask your web programmer to integrate Google Analytics (free) into every page of your site and review these statistics regularly.

Almost every online initiative has some form of statistical measurement built in - online advertising, e-news communication, web statistics to name a few. Developing and managing a measurement strategy will help you stay on top of your results.

Finding the Right Web Contractor

Negotiate Upfront
When you build or extend your house, you're highly aware of the importance of finding the right contractor, negotiating the price to include all known costs upfront and getting a time line nailed down.

Ask for Referrals and Check References
A successful web project requires the same. Find a web developer by asking your colleagues and associates who they worked with and whether they'll refer their web development company or look for sites you like and ask the owners who developed their site and whether it was a good experience.
  • Know clearly what you want to achieve before you start the process.
  • Check client references upfront.
  • Get competitor quotes if you have never worked with this contractor before and getting as much as detail into your quote to make you feel comfortable that you know what is included and excluded.
  • Negotiate a written contract that includes who will work on your project, costs, a time line, what your and the supplier's responsibilities will be and what the payment schedule will be.
  • Do not pay in full until the work is completed as per contract.
  • However, be fair and if you change the scope of the project, be prepared to cover the cost implications.
Here is a suggested list of questions to ask a web developer before deciding to allocate the project.

A Case for a full-service Internet Marketing Company
An important point to remember is that a web designer and a web programmer or developer are separate roles requiring different skills - just like a builder and an architect. In most cases freelancers specialize in one or the other, but rarely equally in both.

If you would like to discuss an online strategy, you'll again need a different skill set and may be best served talking to a full service interactive marketing agency.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Where would we be if we could not laugh!

Further to last week's blog post about the pigeon that outpaced Telkom's broadband connection, this recent cartoon that appeared in the South African press:

Linked Data and Digital Daisy

I was watching Sir Tim Berners-Lee's TED talk on Linked Data and yes, I was excited about the ground-breaking concept the father of the World Wide Web is now working on, but just exciting were two of the slides he used:
What a fabulous way to illustrate what Digital Daisy Inc.'s mission is: Taking data, systems, technology, information relationships and creating a flower garden of fabulous user experiences - helping businesses and organizations harness the square stuff ("digital") to create the sweet fragranced growing and inspiring client experiences ("daisy"). I could not do illustrate it any simpler!

Watch Sir Tim speak - it is an enlightening glimpse into where information is going to be.

(Thanks John for alerting me to it!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So what is your definition for Web 3.0?

A journalist asked me this in an interview this week. My answer was that I do not believe that there necessarily will be a web 3.0. There was not a web 1.0, was there?

Beyond the Information Age
What then is the next big thing? It is the evolution of the wonderful things the Information Age has brought us and it has landed us "wham bam" in the middle of the Innovation Age. We now have the tools to create and share (photos, videos, stories, podcasts and more). Moreover, we are having FUN again... mashing up web content from everywhere for our own creative end result.

Take this blog as an example. I don't have copyright to most of the images I post here (oops) but I use the wonderful creativity of others, blend it with my own, to serve up something entirely new. It is no longer about simply sharing information. It is about innovation - telling a story in a whole new way by using puzzle pieces from all over the web. We have come to expect the unexpected.

Making Money with Social Media
The second question that had me pondering: "How is anyone making money through social media?" Well, we know the Google model of building traffic through tons of free stuff and then letting advertisers cough up for targeting groups of eyeballs.

We're moving from business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) distribution to consumer-to-consumer selling. Hence the phenomenal growth of online classified
sites like Kijiji. But more so, selling that bypasses commerce sites altogether.

Recently a friend updated her status on Facebook: "I cannot believe I am selling my very first vehicle." Response: "Why r u selling?" Second comment: "What year and model?" And so the conversation continued with comments from friends. A few days later my friend's status read: "It was hard to see her go." A much softer sell than we are used to for secondhand vehicles but the largest part of this deal was done in a social network.

So what about 3.0?
So, back to my definition of web 3.0... Firstly, I am not sure I like the phrase because simply, it lacks creativity. Secondly, I am witnessing an evolution from the Information Age to the Innovation Age. Thirdly, commercial models are changing and social networks are allowing us to cut out the middle man.

And lastly, I believe the user-experience will dominate. Away with visible browsers and connections to the Internet. All that will matter is that we have a great seamless digital experience, not caring about where the files are, how it downloads, where results are stored, what device we experience it on, or how it is processed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

South African Pigeon faster than ADSL

A news story on BBC today reports on the slow data transfer speeds a South African company experienced through its Telkom broadband Internet. Frustration led to an experiment where a 4 GB USB stick was attached to the leg of a homing pigeon set free to carry the data 60 miles between the company's two offices. Obviously this would not be a news story if the pigeon did not win, delivering the data in the same time it took the high-speed connection to transfer only 4% of the same data. Read both the story and see the video on the BBC site.

My visit to Cape Town, South Africa earlier this year gave me a taste of tech reality when my favourite practice of watching YouTube videos dwindled to the occasional luxury or watching the video download rather than watch the content. There is no blame placed on a continent or country that deals with the reality of providing basic services compared to a privileged world of technology where we sometimes forget to talk to each other. And make no mistake, at times the "high-speed" actually picked up quite a bit of speed!

It caused me to reflect on the potential of Internet connectivity in developing countries where education and the reality of rural areas separated by great distances are daily issues. What if? What if broadband Internet were available to all children who do not have access to teaching resources? What if it contributed to health care, to peaceful dialogue, to global collaboration, to economic development? What if providing broadband Internet to every citizen were as important as providing schooling, hospitals and roads?

Access to information on the Internet is an equalizer in a world that is far from equal and an 11-month old pigeon may have given us an exaggerated and humorous glimpse of it. A pigeon is carrying its message (ironically this time through a BBC website) that its time to get off our high-tech horses and put our money where our mouse is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Psychology of Facebook Members and Fans

A recent experiment in user psychology in Facebook Groups highlighted some unexpected findings. Add your comment below - we would love to hear how you feel about the issue.

Popularity of Facebook Groups and Pages for businesses, causes and celebrities is growing at warp-speed. If open to the general public, anyone can join such a group or page.

Facebook Pages differ from Facebook Groups in as far as being an independent "mini interactive website" whereas the Group more resembles a personal profile dedicated to a specific topic. Common to both is its subscriber base: Groups have members joining and Pages have fans.

Social networks like Facebook grow based on group movements. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff refer to this movement as a "groundswell" in their book with the same title. Social groups will not be dictated to or pressurized. Trends grow out of mass opinion and preference.

Recently I experimented by sending an email out to all 86 members of a Facebook Group I administer, called Growing Your Business Online to encourage greater participation in group comments. Guess what happened? The next day the group members declined to 84!

This raised the question: Do group members object to being subjected to unsolicited mail? Membership is voluntary and passive and as soon as there is any direct targeting, is it a breach of what they initially signed up for: passive participation?

What is your experience? How do you feel when a Facebook Group emails you directly? Is it OK or not OK?