Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chalkbot: Tour de France + social media

If you've been watching the coverage of the Tour de France and noticed the yellow statements written on the road course in chalk and assumed it was nothing more than the fans writing statements of support to the riders, you would be mistaken. What you're witnessing is the newest form of social media in action.

Chalkbot is the newest endeavor of Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong foundation and Nike's Wear Yellow campaign. The concept is simple, tweet a 40 character message to @Chalkbot or text "Livestrong" followed by your message to 31001 and this is what happens:

Per @lancearmstrong

Yes, this is exceptionally cool. Your tweets and texts can be seen by the riders and spectators at the Tour de France. Isn't this the goal of social media? Being able to communicate with people on a global, yet personal level?

What is Chalkbot?

How does it work?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band - 09.09.09

The Beatles: Rock Band may finally entice my beautiful wife to allow me to spring for Rock Band.

This is the the opening cinematic, and may be the single greatest music video I have ever seen. In case you couldn't tell, it was directed by Pete Candeland, director of the Gorillaz music videos.

Now, for the gameplay:

Oh, and yeah, you get the greatest instrument set in Rock Band history

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Keane - Perfect Symmetry tour review

Just got back from Keane. They were simply fantastic. Saw them after Hopes & Fears was released, missed them on the Under the Iron Sea tour but now on Perfect Symmetry, they were a seemingly entirely different band. Hopes & Fears was a very subdued show. Really ominous, angsty and depressing. Sad cartoons and illustrations in the background. Tonight was upbeat, very Britpop and fun. Tom Chaplin was much more active and animated this time around. Apparently his breakup and subsequent rehab has had a very positive effect on his personality. He was so much more engaging.

They played all but two songs from Hopes & Fears, only three songs from Under the Iron Sea and five songs from Perfect Symmetry.

Now the negatives. The openers played too long. Two opening acts was too much. You shouldn't have to wait two hours to see a headliner who only plays 90 minutes. I have no problem standing while a band is playing, but now I remember why I like small clubs, theaters and stadium shows over large club shows. You can't sit at a large club. At all. Ever. My back and feet are killing me.

As Murtaugh said "I'm too old for this ****."

Oh, and once again, they ended with Bedshaped. I hope they close every show with it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Loving someone with fibromyalgia

Two months into our dating, as we were sitting in a hot tub at Breezy Point resort in northern Minnesota, Michelle told me that she had something to tell me. Now, I wasn't sure where she was going with this, because she looked very serious and sounded a bit ominous. Frankly, I thought I was getting dumped. She looked into my eyes and told me that a few months back she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Now, I was a bit uncertain as to what it was. All I knew at the time was that a very difficult to diagnose rheumatic syndrome, and had a pretty negative connotation regarding the (mostly) women who had it, or who said they had it.

I wasn't afraid, I wasn't turned off, I wasn't overly scared, but I knew that in order to continue our relationship, I would have to learn as much as I could about it. I did some cursory searching on the internet and started to freak a bit. Reading about women who had to leave their jobs, had to go on disability, how much worse it got after having children and how it really impacted their day to day lives scared me. That being said, I wasn't going anywhere. I was in love with this woman and would face it every day with her.

Michelle gave me books on the subject to read, and while I didn't bury my nose in each and every one, I read quite a bit of each of them, trying to get as much information into my head as possible so I could understand what I would be facing having her in my life. Reading how certain types of weather, or stress, or lack of sleep could bring on a flare-up, I went a bit crazy. I acted like the typical 50s father-to-be who won't let his pregnant wife do anything for fear that she'll over exert herself. While I thought I was being the good boyfriend, then the good fiance, then the good husband, as it turned out, I was driving her nuts and acting as if she was a delicate little flower. All she wanted was to be treated normally. That concept is still difficult for me to grasp.

I try to do as much as I can to alleviate stress in her life. I figure since I have no control over what happens during the work day, I can at least make sure that when she comes home she doesn't have to worry about anything, and she can rest when she needs to rest, nap when she's tired and when she has a flare-up I know that she needs a bit more from me, whether it be a light massage of her shoulders or calves or just to be left alone so she can rest.

It took her a while to let herself be vulnerable with me regarding her Fibro. Often she wouldn't let me know when she was really hurting, and I'd ask her if she was ok, and she's blow me off or just say "I'm fine" even though I knew she wasn't. This is the single hardest part of living with someone with Fibromyalgia. When you look into their eyes, or hear their voice and you know they're tired or hurting and you can do absolutely nothing to alleviate their pain. Almost 10 years later and it still pains me to see the woman I love hurting. I know that the flare-up will pass, but during those times I just want to hold her and tell her everything is going to be ok.

Now that we've been together a while, and thinking about starting a family, the first thing I had to do was to partake in some real soul-searching. My first fear was that going through pregnancy was going to make her miserable, far beyond the normal "wear and tear" or a typical pregnancy. Secondly, I wanted to speak to specialists to find out the possibility of a genetic component to Fibromyalgia. Michelle kept telling me that it wasn't genetic, and that it couldn't be passed to our children, but I needed that corroboration from a doctor. Michelle and I both spoke with my rheumatologist and he alleviated my fears. He told us that Fibro is not a genetic condition, at least not as they understand it today. Hearing this removed that fear, but I am still concerned about the effects of pregnancy on her body.

Lucky for me, my wife is an incredibly strong woman. She amazes me every day with how much she fights through, suffering from Fibromyalgia. She never uses it as a crutch, hates to admit how much she hurts when she is having a bad day, and is getting better and better every year with letting me know when she needs me.

Fibromyalgia isn't a curse. It isn't something from which one needs to run screaming, and it isn't a deal-breaker. Loving someone with FMS takes patience, it takes strength from both partners, and most importantly it takes openness. Openness to learn about the symptoms, openness to talk about how you are both feeling, and openness from the person afflicted to be vulnerable and reach out for help when it's needed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Marketing & social media links of the week

  • SEO or PPC, Which One Should You Use? (UAE Hosting) - Many people think that PPC marketing is a waste of money while others view’s SEO as unworthy. In reality, the two marketing strategies form a perfect combination.

  • The Best Way to Build a Twitter Account? Step by Step. (Dan Zarrella, HubSpot) - The data shows that the best way to build a robust Twitter account is via a stepped approach. Follow a few people (a few of them will follow you back), then follow a few more. Don't go crazy following thousands of people. Do it slowly and build up your followers gradually. 

  • Social Media Marketing Budgets on the Rise (Adam Ostrow, Mashable) - According to a new study released by Aberdeen Group (published today by eMarketer), 63 percent of companies plan to increase their social media marketing budgets in 2009, despite the current weakness in the economy. Digging deeper into the numbers, 21 percent of those surveyed plan to increase social media spending by 25 percent or more, while a mere 3 percent plan to shrink their budgets

  • SEO Tips for Blogs (UAE Hosting) - While not deeply profound, too many bloggers don't think about how their blog can help their company in regards to overall search.

  • Email, Search & Display Show Strongest Online Performance (Marketing Charts) - A large majority of marketing executives say email, search marketing, and display ads are their company’s top performing advertising channels, and many plan to increase spending on them in 2009, according to a survey from Datran Media.

  • 5 Reasons Why Design Matters to SEO (Ryan Caldwell, Van SEO Design) - The fact of the matter is that most amateur SEO professionals don’t have the slightest clue about why design matters. Most of them assume that it doesn’t. And you can tell by looking at the kind of content they promote.

  • Think Beyond Google AdWords (Kneoteric) - Pay per click advertising offers enormous potential for revenue generation but is seldom extended beyond Google AdWords. In this newsletter, we will discuss a few pay per click search engines that are lesser known to online business fraternity, but can deliver better return on investment. In the end it’s all that matters!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Marketing & social media links of the week

  • Deepspace SEO Event Recap (Lindsay Wenner, Space150) - Space150's Ben Krull talked about how to get integrate SEO across all aspects of your web development team. Ryan Lewandowski from Target discussed how they are using certain SEO techniques to gear traffic toward specific product pages to drive sales. Nina Hale from Nina Hale Consulting talked about search outside the realm of Google. Lastly, Craig Key from Space150 discussed the benefits of SEO and social media.

  • The ROI of Being Social at Work (Matthew Hodgson, the app gap) - Have an issue where you're on social media sites at work, and your boss thinks you're being unproductive? This article outlines the studies behind improving your working environment through social media.

  • 5 Social Media Fatal Errors (Mike Rynchek, Spyder Trap Online Marketing) - Not getting what you wanted out off your social media campaigns? Chances are you're committing one of these.

  • When Pay Per Click Is NOT Right For You (Brian Carter, Search Engine Journal) - Wondering if you should get into the wonderful world of PPC? Brian Carter gives a great intro into whether or not it's worth your time, effort and money to jump into it.

Facebook friends in the workplace, or are they really frenemies?

We've all heard the horror stories about people losing their jobs for comments made in blog posts or Facebook pages. Typically it's because their managers or HR personnel are watching out for people making such comments and tracking employee behavior. Basically these people screwed up by not protecting their comments.

Now it seems you have to really rethink the idea of friending your co-workers altogether.

A 16-year-old girl from Essex was fired after she described her office job as "boring" on her Facebook page.

Kimberley Swann, 16, of Clacton, had been working at Ivell Marketing & Logistics, in Clacton, for three weeks before being fired on Monday.

"I think they've stooped quite low," she said.

The firm's Steve Ivell said of the decision: "Her display of disrespect and dissatisfaction undermined the relationship and made it untenable."

Miss Swann said: "You shouldn't really be hassled outside work. It was only a throw-away comment.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said employers needed "thicker skins" in relation to social networking websites.

He said: "Most employers wouldn't dream of following their staff down the pub to see if they were sounding off about work to their friends."

Kimberley Swann made the mistake of friending the wrong people. Trusting her co-workers and getting burned by them. They turned her in, likely to further their own positions in the company.

What's the takeaway here? Should you not friend your co-workers? Should you censor what you say? Should you be allowed to be terminated for something said in private that was never seen by your employer? Is calling a job "boring" grounds for termination?

In my opinion Mr. Ivell over-reacted. After all, this was only her 3rd week of employment. However, the bigger issue for me is that you can never be too careful with what you say in regards to your employment situation, and need to be even more guarded to whom you make those comments.

Maybe next time take a second to think about whether you really should friend your co-workers, or whether they'll go running to management with every comment you make.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Email, web analytics and integration with CRM

All the data in the world can't help you make sales, if you have no idea who is doing what with your emails or on your website. Sure, you can get high-level information, you can find out what kind of results your emails are getting, you can even learn how to increase the effectiveness of your emails.

However, if you don't feed that information, on an individual level, into your CRM, it's worthless. This is especially true if you're a company selling high-dollar items with a long sales cycle. How much more powerful would your sales team find their lead information if you could tell them exactly who clicked-through on an email, which links they clicked, where they went in your website and what whitepapers/webinars/sales collateral they viewed? How many more sales would occur by your sales staff knowing exactly what the lead wanted before you even talked to them?

If you integrate your email delivery tool and your web analytics package with your CRM, you can take action on those individuals who have reached out to you with greater efficiency than ever before.

Next time you send an email campaign, think about this. Think about being able to track an individual from email open to click-through to your website to pages within your website all the way through to your shopping cart or conversion goal, and have all of that information fed directly to your sales staff with little to no effort on your end. Best part about it? Your sales staff never has to know how easy it can be for you.

Email Integration

You are targeting your message, segmenting your lists and gathering leads from click-throughs to your website. However, are you feeding those leads directly to your sales staff? Many email delivery systems have some type of API or other integration with various CRM tools. Most of those integrations include campaign-level metrics as well as individual opens and clicks. However, that information is not always intelligible. Is your sales staff prepared to translate a unique id code into a specific link to your website?

If your tool doesn't offer individual-level integration with notifications of exactly which links the lead clicked-through and changes the lead rating from cold to warm or hot, then take the time to manually do it. Download a report of individuals who clicked-through, which links they clicked on, and enter that information into the lead in your CRM. If you have API developers or want to pay someone to write code for you to do that automatically, great. If you don't, the time/money spent is well worth it.

By entering the activities taken on your email campaigns and building the lead profile, you can automate follow-up campaigns, phone calls from sales staff, event invites and offer incentives centered around their profile and past activities. If you know someone is interested in products A, B and C, you can send them targeted information and offers for those products, not wasting their time with cross-sell offers until after they become a customer, thereby improving your reputation with the customer.

This automation can save you time that you spent to enter the information by cutting down the manual follow-up procedures.

Your sales staff will thank you for the notices when their leads start coming in and they can easily tell why this lead is a hot versus a warm versus a cold. They love you when you can send them into that follow-up call with the ammunition to move that lead through the pipeline. Remember, without sales, your ROI goes into the tank. Sales people are your friends. They need your leads and your information to close the deal and you need them to close the deal so your campaigns are successful.

Web Analytics Integration

Most companies spend a much larger budget on designing, building and maintaining their website than they do on their analytics package. Frankly, I'm not certain that is the best use of budget. What good is having a flashy website that generates thousands of hits a week, if you don't know who those people are is and what they want from you? You're wasting thousands of sales opportunity every single week. In this economy, can you afford to let those leads go by, untouched?

Sure, they may have to fill in a form, and you're going to have a high percentage of bounces, or people who refuse to fill in the form. However, they're already on your site. They found you for a reason, provide them with an incentive to complete that form. Once they do, you'll know exactly who they are, what they want and when to contact them.

Big budget option

If money is no object to you, chances are good you have a great analytics package installed already. Now, how are you making those analytics actionable? Are you integrated with your CRM? If you're using a product like Omniture SiteCatalyst, WebTrends or Coremetrics, do you have it hooked up with an API or Salesforce.com's AppExchange?

With these products, you can know exactly who is on your site, when they are on your site, what they are looking at, which offers they are downloading and how they travel through your funnel to your conversion goals. If they are spending time on your site, but not converting, why not? Where's the breakdown? Are they filling out a shopping cart, but not buying? With integration into your CRM, you can automate a process where you send off a free shipping coupon, or guide them to a page further into your funnel and closer to the conversion goal.

You can automate your processes to notify your sales team as to the activities individuals take on your website, change their lead rating and set tasks for them to contact the lead.Your sales team can get an email notification as soon as a lead is on your website. Think about how powerful that can be for your sales staff.

Not only is this automation powerful, but the reporting available is insane. These big buck platforms offer the ability to write reports centered around your business model, your sales structure, sales cycle and marketing needs. After all, you get what you pay for.

Moderate Budget Option

A product like HubSpot also allows you to integrate your web analytics with your CRM. It allows you to also track your keywords, the keywords of your competitors, how your pages stack up in an SEO frame of mind, how well you're linking across pages in addition to external links coming into and going out of your site. In addition to these analytics and SEO reports, it allows you to begin to track your social media footprint. Frankly, for $500/month, it's an exceptionally powerful tool.

Just like with the big budget options, HubSpot provides your sales staff up to the second information once someone is on your website. Every click they make on your site can be tracked. Notices can be automated and sent to sales based upon these actions. Follow-up campaigns can be automated. You can be one step ahead and prove your worth to sales and to the C-levels in your company.

Zero Budget Option

If you have literally no money for analytics at all, Google Analytics is better than nothing. It allows you to get high-level site reporting, track your PPC campaigns, track your keywords and your conversion goals. However, it provides no individual-level reporting. Unless everyone fills out a form on your site indicating every page they visited and you entered all that information into your CRM, you are losing thousands of leads every single week. Go to your CMO, CFO or CEO and tell them that. Tell them that without the right analytics you are losing thousands of sales opportunities every week. Chances are that they'll find room in the budget for something.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Marketing & social media links of the week

  • United Linen Does Social Media Right (Scott Hepburn from Media Emerging) - A solid example of a business to business company successfully utilizing social media in their marketing strategy.

  • 8 Questions to Ask Your "Social Media Expert" (Dave Fleet) - Piggy-backing on Chris Brogan's post, take a look at Dave Fleet's post on vetting your consultants and/or social media marketing staff. Don't go into this world blind.

  • 8 Tools to Track Your Footprints on the Web (Lidija Davis from Read Write Web) - Once you've started your social media marketing campaign, how do you track it? You know that analytics are important, but in the social media world which tools do you use? Davis offers some great suggestions.

  • Top Twitter Features Worth Paying For (HubSpot) - Ok, in addition to tracking your blog, SEO, keywords and social media presence, there are various demographics and analytics that can be derived from the Twitterverse that would be a goldmine to any internet marketer. Which ones would you be willing to pay to receive?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The importance of analytics on email: It's more than just opens and click-throughs

You've spent time and money on your product, time and money on your message and time and money on your online presence. Now, when you work on getting the word out to your market, how do you know if your product, message and online presence are being well received?

Too often, we hear from clients and sales staff that leads are down, phones aren't ringing, people aren't walking through the door and your eCommerce site is inactive. As a result, sales are down and people look to marketing to find out why. Is it the product? Pricing? Message? Is your call to action resonating with the market? How can you even begin to determine how to solve this "problem" if you don't know what the problem is in the first place? Enter, your analytics.

  • Open rate

  • Click-through rate

  • Click-through to open rate

  • Using your metrics

All the money in the world, spent on your website, blog, social media presence, email content, design, segmentation and delivery system might as well be flushed down the drain if you don't have the proper analytics, or worse, aren't taking advantage of what you do have.

As email delivery tools become more and more advanced, and reporting and metrics become second nature, how do we know what they really say? We know about deliverability rate, open rate and click-through rate. But, what are these really telling you?

Open rate

If someone doesn't allow for images, and your email analytics requires a 1 pixel image to be displayed in order to give you an "open", you have no idea if they opened or not. If someone has the preview pane open in Outlook, and they scroll past your email, that image may very well have been displayed, giving you an open, but they just scrolled past it and deleted.

Click-through rate

Statistically speaking, click-through is the number of people who clicked on a link in your email, divided by the number of delivered emails. So, if you delivered your email to 1,000 people, 236 opened the email and 35 people clicked on a link, you're looking at a 23.6% open rate and a 3.5% unique click-through rate. However, the real story may be in that seven of those people clicked on an "unsubscribe" link in your email, so what your standard report isn't telling you is that your click-through rate is actually 2.8%. One could make the assumption that your message was poorly received. Or was it?

Click-through to open rate

Further analytics are required to truly get a feel for what the customer base thinks of your message. You know that 28 people clicked on at least one link in your email your call to action. However, you still have seven people who unsubscribed and 201 people who "opened" your email, but did nothing. In reality, when evaluating your message, your call to action, you could not care less what the 764 people who didn't open your email did. You lost them on either the from: address or the subject line (more about subject lines and open rates in the future). So, we're looking at 236 opens, 7 unsubscribes and 28 unique click-throughs. You are now ready to analyze your click-through to open rate. This is a much more powerful metric in evaluating your message and call to action.

Your click-through to open rate is the number of unique click-throughs divided by the number of people who opened your email (yes, I know open rate isn't perfect, but it's the best we have currently). So, 28 unique click-throughs, 236 opens for a click-through to open rate of 11.9%. This is the powerful metric for determining how your message is being received. Why did 28 people click-through, but 201 people abandoned? How are you missing those 201 chances for sales?

Using your metrics

Once you get someone to open your email, your ROI for a campaign is won or lost by these unique click-throughs. You have 236 chances to get someone to take action on your email. 236 chances to deliver your lead to the sales staff, guide someone to an eCommerce site or to get them further into your funnel. You have the people, if you have the right analytics package, you know exactly who they are, now take advantage of it. You've already delivered 28 people for prospective sales, use them. Send them a follow-up survey, ask them why they took action.

You need to qualify your leads anyway, craft a couple questions to help you in your efforts to bring in more leads. Then, use your resources to hit the other 201. Send the next phase in your campaign. I'm assuming your email campaign doesn't use just one batch and blast message, right? You're already on the right path with your analytics, now take the next step. After you've found out why those 28 prospective sales took action on your email, use those results to craft your test. If you don't have multi-variate analysis software or techniques at your disposal (though it would behoove you to), do a simple A/B test.

  • Was your initial call to action too low in the content?

  • Which links did the 28 click on? Highlight those.

  • Was it obscured by your design? Did you set it apart from other informative content?

  • Did you give away the milk, so they didn't need to buy the cow?

  • Is your content dynamically created to fit each individual's profile?

  • Try two or more different phrases for your call to action

Using a simple A/B test on a percentage of your follow-up email can offer you the ability to really make the most of the audience you already have. You have the data in front of you, now it's time to use it. It takes some work to get the data to tell you what it really means, but without looking into the data itself rather than relying on the numbers a generic report provides, you can't make the most of your campaigns.

Next time: Integration with your CRM


Saturday, February 7, 2009

New home, new challenges

Welcome to the all new nathaneide.com. I hope you find my little spot on the net both informative and entertaining. I hope that we're able to converse a bit about social media, sports, entertainment, food, pop culture, marketing and whatever happens to come to mind.

Thanks to my beautiful wife for all of her hard work in helping me get my new site designed and online. I appreciate her love of design and usability.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you'll come back.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Social Media Breakfast-Twin Cities 11 - Job searching and social networking

Today was another outstanding episode of Social Media Breakfast - Twin Cities. Paul DeBettignies (@MNHeadhunter) led a presentation and discussion on using social media in your job search. As someone fully embedded in a job search, I have been using many of the techniques he outlined as he and I had a great talk soon after I found myself unemployed. It really shows the power of the community when professionals get together to offer advice and assistance in tough economic times. Paul also started another blog and community to assist people in their job searches. www.beyourownheadhunter.com is a great resource to find many answers and helpful suggestions to people trying to lock-down their next position.

Another great part of the social media breakfasts is the community building. I love the hours immediately following smbmsp. I make so many connections and find so many people to follow through the discussions, networking and by following the twitterstream at search.twitter.com that my social network builds with people who bring with them a breadth of knowledge, expertise, wit, opinion and information.

So, thanks to all. And without further adieu, here are my followers (thanks to Walter Higgins at Sxoop Technologies).