Social Media

Does your website work well on a mobile device?

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A mobile phone isn't just a mobile phone any more. Smartphones and other mobile devices give us tools and abilities to enhance our daily life - we can check our email from anywhere, surf the web, pay bills, use social media... add an iPad or other tablet to that, with its word processing and other office apps, and you have a device that can, for the most part, be a notebook/laptop replacement when you're out and about. These devices are growing in popularity so quickly that website design technology now has to take them into account and change to allow for the limitations and capabilities of these devices. There is an excellent article here by Siobhan Ambrose on making your WordPress website mobile-friendly. The advice in here is quite applicable to any website, not just one driven by WordPress. Siobhan cites some big predictions from Gartner Research on the rapidly increasing use of mobile technology. These include: "By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. According to Gartner’s PC installed base forecast, the total number of PCs in use will reach 1.78 billion units in 2013. By 2013, the combined installed base of smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units and will be greater than the installed base for PCs thereafter."  Wow! And also, "Mobile Web users are typically prepared to make fewer clicks on a website than users accessing sites from a PC. Although a growing number of websites and Web-based applications offer support for small-form-factor mobile devices, many still do not. Websites not optimized for the smaller-screen formats will become a market barrier for their owners — much content and many sites will need to be reformatted/rebuilt." Websites that use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) rather than tables have the advantage. CSS can expand and contract as you zoom on your mobile device. Tables can look awful on mobile devices, so if you've got a site you designed yourself a few years ago using FrontPage or similar software, it's time to think of updating and moving to a Content Management System (CMS) site driven by Joomla! or WordPress or similar software.  (There's also SquareSpace, but I don't believe it offers the same value as WordPress as there is a monthly charge to use it and limited templates at this stage.) IoS for WordPressWordPress makes it easy to update on the go with a free WordPress app for iPhone and iPad.  There are also versions available for Nokia, BlackBerry and Android from Automattic. I've been testing IoS for WordPress and find it easy enough to use on both an iPhone and iPad. See the website here for IoS WordPress. This app works whether or not you have a blog hosted on WordPress or your own website. If you manage multiple blogs, you can manage them all from your mobile device - how easy is that! The pic at right shows it in action, courtesy of the IoS site. I'm still investigating a Joomla! mobile editor, but if you want real flexibility for updating anywhere, anytime, head for WordPress and its mobile editing apps.

Social Media’s instant impact on Qantas

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Qantas' A380 emergency a few days ago has tarnished the brand's image, and the impact of social media and its instantaneous ability to spread good or bad news has played a part in that. Simon Canning writes in today's Australian that "The challenge to the airline has been further amplified by the emergence of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. "Within minutes of word escaping that there had been a problem with a Qantas jet bound from Singapore to Sydney, Twitter was alive with reports the jet had crashed. "In the past, such misinformation used to arrive in a newsroom and await confirmation before being broadcast to the world. However, this time Twitter followers for several minutes retweeted unconfirmed news of the crash and shares in the airline plunged briefly before its was clarified that the plane had in fact landed safely in Singapore. "By then, photos of the cowling were making their way across the world and pictures from the airport confirmed the wreckage was from the jet, with every tweet and image eroding faith in the Qantas brand. "Qantas's brand is now much like the crippled A380: damaged and grounded, but far from out of service." Doesn't this make you think about the power of social media and what it can do to your brand? That little line above about share prices dropping immediately after the tweets about the aircraft crashing are as chilling as the notion that the A380 actually fell from the sky. Social media isn't going to go away; it's getting bigger by the minute and is now, really, another arm of mainstream media. We can all be reporters. But reporting misinformation like the "crash" via social media channels can have a grave impact on organisations and the people that run them. When you use social media services, remember the information stays out there forever. Get your facts right before you put finger to keyboard. You could severely damage someone's reputation. Depending on the situation that someone could be you.

Hacking – it could happen to you on Facebook

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One of my clients phoned me, rather distressed, on Saturday. Someone had hacked her Facebook page and also her Hotmail account...and her email account associated with her own website. Like many of us, remembering a dozen complicated passwords is a pain, so my client had used one password for all three and admittedly it was a relatively low security one. I've now given her a new email account for her website with a mother of a password, but she's still unable to access her Facebook page and her Hotmail account, which she uses for business. The ramifications of the Hotmail account being hacked are pretty serious. This person is a consultant with high-level professional clients. She has had to go into damage control mode and send her clients a note stating that her account has been hacked and to disregard any messages sent from her Hotmail account effective last Friday night. What's making it hard for her to get back on track and get her Facebook and Hotmail accounts back is that the hacker has changed secret questions and answers, and now she is having a tough time proving she is who she is. Facebook can send you a new password via text message, but my client got a new mobile phone earlier this year and didn't update that in her Facebook account. And it's pointless Facebook sending her a new password to her email account, because the account linked with Facebook is, you guessed it, the Hotmail account. We don't know whether this has been a random hacking attack or a deliberate attack from someone she knows, but my client has called the police and reported it. Facebook is a hotbed for hackers. We've all heard about tribute pages which have been hacked into, to the distress of the friends and family of the person the page was a tribute to. This is the first time someone I know - let alone a client - has been hacked on Facebook. All of us think "It won't happen to me", but be vigilant, and change your FB password to something a lot more difficult for hackers to guess. Your security is your identity.

SEO Scribe – a must for bloggers

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As of 2009 there were 120 million blogs in the world (as tracked by BlogPulse). That was last year - so this number will have grown exponentially. So how do you make an impact with your blog? How do people find you as a blogger? You need to tweak your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and the best way to do this is with SEO Scribe. This tool is a brilliant addon for WordPress, Drupal and Joomla!. It's not free, but then if you want to get your blog posts up in their rankings it will be the best investment you've ever made. It is particularly good for novice bloggers, because it makes you think about how you structure your posts: using keywords effectively, the length of each blog, how many links you include. When you use SEO Scribe to evaluate your posts, it provides a thorough list of what's good and what's bad, and provides suggestions to tweak your copy for ultimate SEO. It will teach you to write well. To quote from the SEO Scribe site, here's the methodology it employs: "First, the Scribe keyword research tool tunes you into the right language before you write. Once your content is created, the Scribe keyword suggestion service shows you keyword phrases you might have missed. Second, Scribe analyzes your natural, reader-focused content, and tells you how to gently tweak it to spoon feed search engines based on 15 SEO best practices. Third, Scribe’s link building tools help you build back links from other sites, crosslink the content within your own site, and identify influential social media users who want to share your stuff." That's a powerful tool, and it's very easy to use. I use it on this blog and it has certainly helped me focus my writing. I love to digressthis software shakes its digital finger at my (its digital digit, perhaps?) and keeps me on track with my chosen post topic. If you wish to try it for yourself, a free 30 day trial is available. By the way, I'm not employed by SEO Scribe or in any way connected with the company. I simply think this is a fantastic tool and too good not to tell people about.

Recommended Reading: Corporate Blogging for Dummies

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So, you want to start a blog and use it to gain customers and raise awareness of your products and services. Everyone tells you it's the thing to do. But how do you blog successfully? I recommend reading "Corporate Blogging for Dummies", by Douglass Karr and Chantelle Flannery. Then get some help from myself and my social media expert colleagues to get yours underway. This book will help you choose a blogging platform (including of course the wonderful WordPress which I highly recommend), and guide you through developing a strategy for your blog. Because what you post on your blog - or indeed your website or any social media platform - is in the public domain, you'll have legalities to consider such as copyrights and ownership, especially if you use material taken from another website. This book will tell you all the CYA (Cover Your Ass) stuff you'll need to know. The authors share best practice tips, as well as the all important What Not To Do. The book features successful corporate blogs as examples you can learn from. Best of all, at my bookshop prices start from around $16 (exc shipping). With the Aussie dollar almost at parity with the US$, that's fantastic; even with shipping included it's cheaper than buying it in Australia. So go forth - buy! Part of a successful blog is the look and feel of the site it's on, and that's where I can help you (as well as with actual content if you need help writing). If your blog is a standalone site rather than part of your corporate site, I can match your corporate look and feel so you have consistent branding across your sites. Contact me about getting your blog up and running as part of your social media strategy.

New Facebook features not as useful – or private – as they seem

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I've just read an interesting article here. Facebook has launched a new Groups feature which you think might help you organise your friends vs work contacts, but it's not as useful as it seems. Other people can apparently add whoever they want to your group. So much for controlling your own account and your privacy. And it gets worse. Seems that if you have an iPhone and use it to connect with Facebook, syncing may take your telephone numbers from your iPhone and attempt to connect them with users on Facebook if you set up your FB wrongly to work on the iPhone. Here's the article in full, from the Geek With Laptop website: 'Facebook have just launched “groups” on the popular social networking site, apparently so that you can have more control over the way you socialise or communicate with different groups of people. The idea behind it is that just like in the real world, there is information you might only want to share with your family or your friends or business colleagues and so on. Facebook doesn’t create these groups for you automatically; you actually get to put your own little groups together. “We’ve long heard that people would find Facebook more useful if it were easier to connect with smaller groups of their friends instead of always sharing with everyone they know. For some it’s their immediate family and for others it’s their fantasy football league, but the common concern is always some variant of, ‘I’d share this thing, but I don’t want to bother 250 people. Or my grandmother. Or my boss.’” Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post. However, as usual where Facebook is concerned, all might not be as it seems, so let me explain. What users might not be aware of is that once you create a group, other people in that group can also add whoever they want to it and you have absolutely no control over that, so it isn’t exactly your own group is it. (Mark Zuckerberg was embarrassingly added to a group earlier this month which shows just how ill-thought-out the group feature is at the moment - click here to read.) What is far more worrying though, is a report in the Guardian newspaper outlining how a syncing feature on the iPhone (and possibly Android phones too) takes all the telephone numbers of all your contacts and uploads them to the site, Facebook then attempts to match the contact data to a particular user and this information is then visible to others. “It’s very possible that your private phone numbers – and those of lots of your and their friends – are on the site” said Charles Arthur of the Guardian newspaper. (NB - the full article is here ). Arthur goes on to quote Kurt von Moos, who had earlier written about Facebook stealing contact info. “Phone numbers are private and valuable. Most people who have entrusted you with their phone numbers assume you will keep them private and safe. If you were to ask your friends, family or co-workers if they are ok with you uploading their private phone numbers to be cross-referenced with other Facebook users, how many of them do you think would be ok with it?” Not many I suspect. It would be interesting to hear what others think, have you encountered this problem?' Personally I'm wary about what I put on Facebook. Anyone who puts their full date of birth including the year on their public profile, or even makes it visible to just friends, is asking for trouble. Identity theft anyone? Be wary about how much you share with anyone on any social media platform. What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas - it stays visible on servers somewhere forever, and your privacy could be compromised.

I do love a good scam!

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Our wonderful wired world is bliss for scammers. Remember the old days? You'd get a letter offering you untold riches for something like $9.99 upwards. Owing to being a member of the Sydney Turf Club 20 years ago I still get hard copy letters offering me membership to a betting system from some hopefuls in Victoria. I've never bothered sending back 'not at this address'. Let them waste the postage. But I digress. Internet scams are brilliant. Really, I can spend hours stunned at websites that offer the world for so little. So much is at my fingertips with a little click or two. Sometimes I laugh out loud. Sometimes I shed a tear for the gullible. Have you ever clicked on one of the ads that appear in the sidebar in Facebook? I get lots about weight loss, because I'm female and therefore must be worried about my weight. I've clicked, out of interest, on every diet ad there is. Some of them radiant good common sense (= not scam). Some of them ask you to pay a fair amount of money for good common sense advice (=not scam but really, you can find this stuff out for free if you look around).  Some of them offer a magic pill. Aha, the scam alarm sounds. How do you identify a scam webpage?
  • Firstly, they're miles long. If you decided to print one out you'd be condemning at least one pine tree to eternity.
  • They are stand alone pages which don't have a friendly "about" or anything else useful. The contact address is typically a PO box or serviced office.
  • They usually throw in plenty of offers "worth" X amount of money. "Worth" is an interesting description. What, I can get $1499 'worth' of goodies and extras for only $79.99? Sign me up, Scotty!
  • Oh, let's not forget the testimonials. There have to be testimonials. All glowing. Often with before and after pics, particularly in health sites (diet, skin conditions, you know the ones)
  • They feature primary colours. Websafe blue and red, usually, occasionally with a hint of yellow.
  • Best of all, lots of ALL CAPS and EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!  The more exclamation marks after a statement, the more scammy is my rule.
I've mentioned Diet Scams as an example. With obesity raging through the western world there are a crapload of people trying to make money out of the insecure and overweight. Here's a useful website with the lowdown on some popular diet scams. Read it. Do Diet Patches, Dieters Tea et all ring a bell? A shame they didn't include some links. Never mind, I've got a few here:
  • Balance bands. They really work? Um.....nice use of bright colours in a mid-90s-I've-just-discovered-Front-Page way.
  • Foolproof 30 day diet. This one is just beautiful. A classic example of design. Lots of lovely testimonials too. It might not actually fall into the scam category as the sample menu sounds sensible, but the design, and use of bold type, makes it look very suspect
  • I do like this one. Liproxenol and its metabolic enhancing ingredients. Classier than the classic Lose Weight Now!-type website, but still a magic pill, and as we all know magic pills don't work... eating sensibly and exercising regularly does
If you're on Twitter, there's a lesson here. Before you retweet a link that shows up on your page, click through if it sounds remotely suspect. Check if it looks or sounds too good to be true. If it does, it's probably a scam. Twitter is a lovely new way for scammers to get their products out there. Passing on the odd scam tweet might not damage your credibility but passing on several a day might. Particularly if your Twitter account is biased to a particular industry. The same goes for blogging. If you have an automated blog such as one offered by Blog Overdrive, for heaven's sake, take some control. Moderate what's being posted on there. Oh, and really obvious point: If some unknown wally starts sending you email that's clearly spam/scam with an unsubscribe link, don't click on the link. Just add the emailer to your junk or blacklist. Otherwise you'll still be getting invitations to buy a betting system in 20 years' time. Hang on... just found a brilliant site offering dieter's tea with real herbs. Be back later.

I’m on a horse. Wondering what the next viral marketing success story will be.

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Who'd have thunk it? Old Spice is now the top-selling body wash for men in the USA - primarily because of THAT commercial. You know the one. Isaiah Mustafa, telling female viewers to "look at your man. Now back at me". And not just because the commercial has run on prime-time telly. No, the success of this campaign is worldwide viral marketing on YouTube. At the time of writing the Old Spice YouTube channel is the most viewed channel ever, with in excess of 145,000,000 page views. The ad itself has been viewed more than 20,000,000 times. Mustafa has responded to requests via Twitter and filmed another 180 or so videos. Now, most men don't have the cut, muscly, eye-candy physique of Mustafa, or his onscreen charisma. On or off a horse. And Old Spice, frankly, ain't no L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme. It's the smell of childhood for many of us. Did your Dad wear it? My grandfather did. My aunt gave him one of the two basic supermarket/chemist shop choices (Old Spice or Blue Stratos) every birthday and Christmas. For me, Old Spice is my grandfather. For those of us who remember the scent on our dad, grandfathers and uncles, do we want to smell it on our lovers? Isn't there something a little incestuous about that? Something you might like to talk to your shrink about? But then Old Spice isn't aimed at our age group. Remember here that Old Spice was very uncool for decades; scents for men rose to giddy heights in the 70s and stayed there; Old Spice, Blue Stratos and their friends were left behind in the wake of new, hip and expensive scents. Old Spice has been a desperate hanger-on, the cheap supermarket alternative. Nobody much bought it for years as much nicer-smelling blokey scents were out there. So for Gen Y buyers, the scent is new. Their dad wouldn't have worn it, even their grandfather probably preferred Aramis. Along comes a man on a horse in a superbly executed and edited commercial, and Old Spice is reborn via today's viral marketing methods. An article in today's Australian says the success of the commercial hasn't made a difference on brand distribution here.  Old Spice's owners Proctor & Gamble don't even have a brand manager in Australia, nor anything in the Old Spice range save stick deodorant, nor, indeed, any plans to expand the range despite increased sales as a result of the commercial. It will be interesting to revisit this campaign twelve months from now and see what has happened: whether the campaign itself, with the compelling Mustafa, continues to draw a viral audience, or whether Old Spice sales peak and drop as the novelty wears off. (Maybe Australia's P&G management is thinking the same way.) Whatever happens, this campaign has been a brilliant example of how viral marketing works and how advertising channels have changed forever. (If you're interested in reading more about getting onto this bandwagon, might I suggest this book, Viral Marketing by Russell Goldsmith.) What's going to be the next big viral success story? Have you found a winner? I'd say 'answers on a postcard please' if this was the previous Old Spice heyday but drop me a comment instead.

Monetizing your website

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Eager readers will know I've just added a bookstore to my site. Does that fit with what I'm doing in terms of business communications? Think about it - yes, it does. I'm offering people an easy way to get inspired and do more with their business as part of my portfolio.  And yes, if enough people buy books from me the nice people at Amazon will send me a cheque. Monetizing your website, whether you choose the way I've done it or accept paid advertisers, is a sensible move if the company you are monetizing with is a good fit and adds value to the products, services or information you are offering. I read a cycling blog, Lovely Bicycle, the owner of which has recently monetized her Blogspot blog. Her blog, which is far more regularly updated than mine, has superb photos and an engaging narrative style, was taking up so much of her time it was a case of either ditch the blog and concentrate on paid work or make the blog pay. She put the word out that advertising was available and was bombarded with suitable advertisers from the elegant cycling world (the lycra-free world... my world... where people cycle in normal clothing). Her blog has been a real success story in the 18 months since it started. Her advertisers pay her monthly for graphic links on her blog. Asking for paid advertising isn't something I feel comfortable with on a couple of levels. In all honesty my blog hasn't reached the same level of readership (yet) so expecting people to pay to go on my blog would make me feel like I wasn't giving them the best deal possible. Aside from which, this is my company's site with its own domain name. I will happily promote and link to people I work with - clients, associates - but essentially this little patch of digitalia is my online home and I don't feel comfortable with houseguests. On the other hand, a colleague put me on to Amazon affiliation. It costs me nothing to have my bookstore, and any money I've earned from it is from people who have used it to buy from me. Amazon doesn't give me a monthly retainer to have a store that might sell ten items one month and a thousand another. It's up to me to promote it or Amazon users to find it for themselves. Nor do I have to pay to use it; I can tap into one of the biggest sites on the net for nothing. Best of all, I can choose products that are a good fit for the services I offer. How good is that!? Essentially, I can target what I want to sell. Amazon has a huge range of merchandise these days; it's long past simply being a bookseller. I've started small and chosen to offer a range of books and software, as you'll see if you visit the store. I plan on extending the range a little but ultimately want to keep a balance of selling what I personally love to read in fiction and non-fiction (my hand is hovering over including cookbooks!) and what I believe are the best business and motivational books on the market at the moment, aimed at existing clients and potential clients, or people who simply are interested in my point of view on business communications. Setting up the store was a painless business. It's something anyone can add to their website with a little bit of time and patience. I'm now planning my social media-heavy marketing strategy for the store. I'll be telling people about specials and new releases on a regular basis via Twitter and Facebook; through Twitter it will also get to my LinkedIn contacts. Again, this costs me nothing. The potential for people monetizing their websites is enormous; if you're going to do it, do it now. The market will be saturated in a few years and only the strong will prosper from it. Most importantly, make sure that your monetization is a fit for your business and not just something you'll think will add to your bank balance. Your business is your credibility. If your business is selling cupcakes and you suddenly start advertising hardware on your website, your audience will scratch their heads. It's not a credible fit. So start looking now for your perfect match.

Digital Publishing

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Digital evangelist Seth Godin has advice on navigating the new media landscape you can listen to here. It's a keynote address on the publishing industry. The digital age has certainly impacted on non-fiction publishing. According to Godin people who may have bought around 200 non-fiction books a year now buy around 50, and get their knowledge fix from blogs and other alternative media sources. Companies like Amazon provide infinite shelf space, especially for e-books. Traditional marketing methods such as launches and press releases have been superceded by viral marketing via Twitter and Facebook. So how do publishers change and adapt and thrive in the new media? And is it a better world for prospective authors? You'll have to listen and find out. A plug here for my bookshop: Seth's books are here for you in digital and traditional form.