Little Data

In the Internet world, Big Data is a big buzz word. With the right tools huge volumes of data can be digested, analyzed, and summarized with amazing speed. Technology like this is what is driving technical inroads in an array of industries from understanding the human genome to making digital currency like Bitcoin to understanding shopping patterns of given demographic segments.

But what about Little Data? Your little website. It may not be as big as Facebook or have as many visitors as Amazon or Walmart but there is still an incredible amount of data that is available from your slice of the Internet. So how can you turn little data into a big benefit?

  • Email tracking
    Every mass emailer (aWeber, iContact, MailChimp, Robly , etc) has a variety of tools that can help you track the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Some of the key metrics you should look for include Total Opens, Unique Opens, Unique Clicks, Click to Open Rate, and Device type (responsive)
  • Social Media tracking
    You can track just about everything with social media. Some of the key things that will be of value to you though include: how many visitors to your website you got from social media, how many friends, followers or fans you have on your profile or your company profile, how many shares or views your posts or articles got and so much more
  • Site analytics (Google Analytics or some other analytics package)
    What started off as a way to track the number of visitors has now become a very sophisticated way to track any number of activities both on your website and prior to arriving – and even after leaving for that matter. You can learn what your visitors do, what devices they use, how fast your site is, create funnels and track actions
  • Call Tracking
    There are a variety of services that you can set up that will help you to track where your calls are coming from – from a specific landing page for a specific campaign, from a social media campaign or even from a print campaign
  • Campaign tracking (with specific landing pages or domains)
    You can create custom urls or even custom domains to run and track specific campaigns. Running an end of the year campaign to boost sales? You could have a special url (sometimes called a purl for personalized url) like http:// <your-domain>/christmas and track all the clicks to that link.

So even with Little Data (the data that you have available to you on your little slice of the internet) you can harness the power of Big Data and get a much clearer picture of what is actually happening. You can then design a specific plan to get that traffic to take the action(s) that you want them to – whether it be make a purchase, fill out a form, make a phone call, sign up for a seminar or some other factor that is part of your conversion process.

Need help figuring out how to do this for your site? Call us at 303-268-2245 ext 4.

 

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Social Media: Is it Worth it?

A decade ago, social media was fun. It was new. It was fresh. Perhaps even exhilarating. But now we live in a strange new world of social media where jumping to conclusions, imputing opinions falsely and disparaging anyone who disagrees with your politics or religion or race, or even gender is the norm.

With the recent disturbance in Charlotteville, Virgina, the mob (on social media) incorrectly identified one of the participants in a picture as being from Arkansas. And they unleashed on him, publishing his home address and calling him all kinds of vile things. Only they had the wrong person. When his employer – the University of Arkansas – pointed out they had the wrong man, many still refused to back down.

We have a client in the Denver area who received a bad review from someone in Seattle. It turns out the someone in Seattle had a bad experience with a similarly-named company in the Seattle area. We actually helped them reach out to the individual so they could correct it. Guess what the response was? That person was so enraged at that other company and too busy to be bothered to find the right place to complain so they refused to take it down. Yes, they understood they were complaining about the wrong company but they wouldn’t take it back. That would be like going to McDonald’s and picketing because your Whopper wasn’t prepared correctly. And refusing to stop picketing even after it is pointed out that Burger King is a couple of blocks away.

But what to do? Your marketing team is telling you the company needs a strong social media presence. Can you navigate social media and survive? There is no cure for stupidity as the examples above show. But there are many things you can do depending on your brand, your audience, and your message.

Don’t be afraid to be sassy if it fits with your image AND if the medium is right. Wendy’s made their mark on Twitter by being (for the most part) funny but also pretty sassy:

But beware – you have to finesse this just right or you will get roasted.

But that is probably a bit too aggressive, amusing though it may be, for most of us. In a B2B (Business to Business) environment, establishing your company or your brand as the thought leader can move the needle in your direction. Two ways you can do this are

  1. Post original content and
  2. Share other good content.

Number 1 is the sexy answer. And a lot of folks seize on it – “Yeah, we’ll post one a week, maybe even every day!” and follow that regime religiously for a week or two. It takes more than a week or two to establish yourself as a thoughtful thought leader.  The easiest, by far, way to proceed, is to put into writing one or two of the conversations you find yourself having with clients or prospects each week.  That is, in fact, why I’m writing this right now. Had “the social media” talk several times over the last few days. By sharing, and sharing consistently, people know who to turn to for help and more importantly, you stay in front of them so they don’t forget who you are!

In a B2C (business to consumer) business, the obvious medium is Facebook. And it can be a great tool to get the word out.  The good news is that Facebook is working to stop clickbait (headlines that entice you to click the link only to be spammed with something other than what you clicked on or simply stupid stories) which is very annoying for users.

How can you use FB in a good way? Several quick tips:

  • Create (or review) your FB company page. It is still changing. Fill out as much of your profile as makes sense – the more the better
  • Get some happy customers to write reviews on FB for you
  • Add pictures and, if at all possible, videos
  • Post regularly. Some can be specials or products or events but some should just be fun. “Here is what we are doing the office today” along with a picture of a fun staff or customer event.

Social media is a great tool to connect with people in ways that weren’t available a few years ago. Instead of having the communication be one way – from the company to the target audience, there is an opportunity for that audience to respond.  So be prepared for the responses, keep your sense of humor, and keep it real by showing the human side of what you do.

 

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Privacy, Apps and You

What’s App?

That was a lame heading but this is not a lame topic.

Do you have a mobile phone? I think by now everyone (but the pastor at my church who still uses a flip phone) has a mobile phone with a data plan.

And you have apps on it.

Have you read the permissions you agree to when you install an app? It might actually be worth reviewing. Here are just a few that I have agreed to (without really paying attention):

Facebook can:

  • Read my calendar events plus confidential information (hmmm. Why does FB need access to confidential info about my events?)
  • Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owner’s knowledge (what?)
  • Modify my contacts
  • Read the contents of my usb storage

Why in the world does FB need to do any of these things? But if I say no, no Facebook.

That’s fine. FB is social. You might decide to do without. Not needed. But what about that map app you use? In getting great directions, what are you giving up?

Google Maps can:

  • Add or remove accounts on my device (why?)
  • Directly call phone numbers (without my knowledge?)
  • Modify or DELETE the contents of my USB storage (what happens if my pictures go missing?)
  • And then of course it always knows my precise location.

Pause and consider that for just a moment. I keep my phone in my breast pocket almost all the time. Google knows not only the address of where I work but the exact location of my desk in my building. That might not sound too bad. Are you one of those who tweets, facebooks and other mobile activities while in the bathroom? Google not only knows what you’re doing in the bathroom (if they know where my desk is, they know where your bathroom is), it also therefore knows how often you go there. It also knows how long you’re there. Creeped out yet?

These and other app makers are private companies and you have an agreement with them as to how they will handle your data.

But then there is our government demanding access to your data to these companies. And in some cases our government is actually demanding encryption that is below a level it should be so they can snoop. Which then makes our (your) data accessible not only to the company you agree to share it with, but probably with the government and even potentially with hackers that take advantage of this lower level of encryption.

Do I sound like a lunatic? Read the story about how our government insisted on a backdoor that caused problems last week for a lot of folks.

Normally I end these articles with a “Need help? Give us a call” plug but there really isn’t much that can be done unless you’re ready to unplug. If you do, let me know before you go – I’d like to learn if folks really are unplugging.

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You’ve Got to be Kidding Me! Privacy on the Internet

Privacy is something no one should assume while surfing the Internet. EVERY SINGLE move you make on the Internet is recorded on numerous server logs around the world. The only expectation of anonymity comes from the fact that the sheer volume of data is so overwhelming that honing in on your data is unlikely.

Unless . . .

Unless you are on someone’s radar. Then following you is as easy as putting a “Follow me” sign on your back and having someone follow you.

Yet even knowing this I have been astonished lately. On February 1st my tablet – which doesn’t have a cellular service plan on it – notified me through Google that I had only walked four miles in January but eight in December. No, I don’t have a pedometer app installed. No I didn’t ask for Google to tell me this information. No I have no idea why they decided to tell me this. They did tell me that they collected this information through location information that Google uploads from time. But of course with no cell information I’m still baffled. I’m guessing that it tracks me until I drop off of wifi on my way to and from the car.

Over a month ago the facebook app on my tablet told me I needed to agree to new permissions for it to update itself. I looked at a few of the permissions and balked. Yesterday I tried to open FB and it informed me it wouldn’t work until I updated it.

Here are the permissions that I had to agree to for Facebook to update:

  1. Allow Facebook to read my text messages
  2. Add and modify calendar items – WITHOUT MY KNOWING about the changes
  3. Connect and disconnect from wifi
  4. Modify and delete items from USB media
  5. Record audio
  6. Get my location
  7. Take pictures and videos
  8. Add and remove accounts on my device, create accounts and set passwords
  9. Modify social media contacts, read my call log, read my contacts
  10. Download files without notification

Some of those are rather disturbing. Why on earth would Facebook want to change my calendar without me knowing? Why should Facebook delete files from USB media? I can see it now. I have my presentation all ready to deliver and Facebook decides it isn’t good enough and deletes it?

Why would Facebook need to control my camera? Are they going to surreptitiously take pictures and videos of me? I can’t wait to see the picture of me picking my nose posted for me.

I might even be willing to grant Facebook this access – they are a private company after all and they’ve promised to keep my information secure. But thanks to Edward Snowden we know that the government has access to pretty much all the data that large firms like Google and Facebook have access to. Which disturbs me. Does it disturb you?

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The Importance of Being Heard

How do you get your message out? More importantly, how do you get your message out so that it is heard above the cacophony of others struggling to get their message out?

That is the trial of the age in which we live. People are constantly exposed to messaging whether it be via TV, radio, online music, Internet browsing, Facebooking, email campaigns, ads in your favorite apps, or a combination thereof (for example, we just signed up for HuluPlus and one of my kids first questions as we were enjoying reruns of a favorite program was, “How come there are commercials? Aren’t we paying for this?”). Now there is group texting as a targeted way to get your message out – this supposedly requires the end user to opt in but we’ll see how long that lasts.

So what is the best answer? There is no single BEST WAY. But it is very important for you to understand who you are trying to reach and what that particular audience is most likely to respond to. In other words, you should not try the shotgun approach. I recommend, instead the artillery approach: carefully determine where your message needs to go, and then fire away, but don’t stop there. Find out if you were on target and if not, then readjust your settings and fire again.

How does that work?

Well in actual artillery you usually have a forward observer who scouts out the location and communicates the coordinates back. This forward observer is crucial. Without one, the artillery has no idea where to fire. In your campaign, you need to do some forward observing. Where is your target? Where will they be when you begin your campaign? How are they “outfitted”? Do they use smart phones? Do they text a lot? How do they receive news and information? Via the Internet? TV? Radio? How do they interact with various media? All of this information should be gathered as part of your forward observing.

In real artillery the forward observer communicates with the fire direction center which actually computes the distance from the target, the precise direction to the target and handles all the other data calculations. For you this means you need to evaluate the data you discover or receive about how your target actually behaves so you can determine which forms of communication are most effective for your target.

The command post is where the power lies – it is the command post that controls the firing of the guns. For you this means now you get to make the decisions: What venues will be used (provided the input from the fire direction center); when the campaign will start; whether it will be shooting only once or “walking the fire” onto the target with multiple shots.

But the story too often ends there. What you need, just like real artillery, is to go back to the forward observer and make sure you hit the target! For your business, that means you need to measure the results of your campaign. Did you hit your target sales? Did you get the right number of leads? Did the phone ring enough times? Whatever you determine, at the outset you want to measure, you have to actually measure. If need be, now is the time to readjust your sites and fire again. If you scored a direct hit, you can determine whether it makes sense to go after the same target again or whether to shift your sights to another, similar target.

While the goal of an actually artillery campaign is to rain down death and destruction, the goal of a business communication campaign is to grow your business. So in your case, collateral effects aren’t damaging. If you focused on one specific area of communication and got lots of collateral effects such as people close to the target area calling, buying  or otherwise doing business, this is even more data you can take into account with your next artillery campaign.

(Details on artillery taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_artillery)

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Convergence

One of the cool things that I see happening again and again is the convergence that happens in Social Media. Personal and Professional lives converge and people make connections that never would have happened otherwise.

This has always happened in Face to Face networks but the obvious limiting factors in such instances are geography and room size. We’re limited to the number of people that are or can fit in the room and to the people who are in the area.

But online those two limiting factors disappear. This first hit me a couple of years ago when my friend Max, who organizes cool tours to exotic places told me how he posted something on his personal facebook page about a trip to Africa. His post wasn’t marketing in nature, it was along the lines of “Looking forward to the upcoming trip to Kenya”. The convergence happened when he booked a couple of spots on the tour by folks who saw his post.

I was conveniently reminded of how this convergence works when I posted, last week, on our corporate Facebook page, about how thrilled we were to be working with two new customers, a Lutheran Church and a Lutheran School. An old friend from Iowa saw that posting and invited me to a Lutheran conference in Florida in January. Seems like a no-brainer. Spend my time and energy networking in cold Colorado in January or spend it in sunny Florida. Hmmm. What should I do?

In the first instance Max’s personal sphere attracted new customers into his professional sphere. In the latter, my professional sphere overlapped into my personal sphere, creating an opportunity that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

What does this mean? (a very well-known question in the Lutheran Church) It means what I have been telling people for years – don’t forget the SOCIAL part of Social Media Marketing – people want to know you personally, even if they’re doing business with you but also don’t forget the MARKETING part of Social Media Marketing. Often people don’t do business with you because you haven’t asked them to.

So I guess I’ll close this with our pitch – Partner – Engage – Convert. Lots of firms partner with their customers to engage web site visitors. And then stop. We help folks figure out how to convert their visitors into clients. Need help with this? Call Brian at 303 268-2245 to find out what else you can be doing.

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Are You Throwing Money Away?

I often hear comments like “We tried Facebook and it didn’t work” or “I spent $4000 on Google AdWords and didn’t get anything”.  The first question I ask is “What were your goals?” and follow up with “How were you measuring results?” The answer, all too frequently, is a blank stare.

Throwing money at problems is a solution best reserved for government. Well, I’d prefer they not use it either but that is a different discussion. If you are planning to do any kind of online marketing you need to have a plan. Otherwise you can just drive down the highway, open your wallet, and throw the money out the window. You have just as good a chance of someone picking it up and tracking you down as you do getting any kind of results that will help you grow your business.

Here are the important elements to putting together an online marketing plan:

Understand Elements: What are the parts of your online marketing. Often the most important one is the one most overlooked – the website. Often the website is the centerpiece of the marketing because it is the piece you have the most control over. Other elements include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Paid Search (usually Google AdWords)
  • Paid Advertising (on other web sites)
  • Email campaign(s)
  • Foursquare
  • Landing Pages (usually a part of your website)

Understand Offline Elements:  Usually an effective Internet Marketing campaign is folded into a larger marketing campaign. This might include a direct mail campaign, distributing flyers, newspaper advertising, ads on bus benches, billboards, or a variety of other venues. The important part of bringing these together is understanding how they work. For example QR codes can be an effective way to move people from print to digital. It is also important to maintain consistency in brand and message across media.

Start with the End in Mind: You have to have a clue – that is, it helps to know where you want to go so that you can use your resources wisely. So determine what success will look like:

  1. Will it be an additional $x in revenue each month?
  2. Will it be x number of new customers?
  3. Will it be x number of new leads?
  4. Will it be x number of downloads of a video or file?
  5. Will it be x number of new appointments?

You can add to this list as needed. The important thing is that the end is geared toward helping you grow. Once you know where you are going, you can begin to plan how to get there.

Determine Parts to Include: Now you are ready to figure out what all needs to be included. If the goal is to generate leads for your business, you might determine that paid advertising or paid search aren’t the right venue. But running a contest of some kind on Facebook and Tweeting about it on Twitter might be just right. One of the strengths of Internet Marketing is that you can change your mind pretty quickly. If the paid search yields zero results, you aren’t stuck with it – you can stop within minutes. Or start it nearly as quick.

Determine Integration and Flow: It is still important to keep the big picture in mind. If you’re doing a print campaign as well and using a QR code to get people to your Facebook page, test the code with several different devices to make sure it works. Boy it gets embarrassing (and expensive) to direct people to the wrong (or a non-existent) page. Another thing to consider is steps in the process. While the ultimate goal may be getting them to fill out a form on your site, getting them to first “Like” you on Facebook makes it much easier for you to reach out to them in the future.

Determine Measurement Points: We strongly recommend the adage “What gets measured is what gets done” So determine what all you will measure. A good example of this can be seen in the travel industry.  While a very large percentage of folks research travel online, a much smaller percentage actually book online. So bookings would be one thing to measure but “intent to travel” is also something to try to measure. This can be measured by how many people actually viewed a deal on your web site or Facebook page. Or by how many people checked pricing. Or by how many people liked your page.

A key here is to have several measurement points. If you’re just looking at online bookings for example, you might consider the campaign a failure even though overall bookings are up – an indication that people are researching online and then calling. Without several measurement points, you might miss what is actually happening. Of course you can always build in better tracking by adding text like “mention deal 23 when calling” to your online ads.

Determine Evaluation: Once you’ve got the parts above figured out you can determine how you’ll evaluate success. The most obvious measure will be the one that impacts your bottom line. But you also want to be flexible and look at your results. If your goal was x number of downloads of that whitepaper you worked so hard and you fall short, you could say, “I give up” or you could look and see that you actually got more Facebook “likes” than you anticipated and that once you were liked, it was 25% more likely that someone would do business with you.

So the thrust of this part is to keep an open mind and look at all of your metrics to better understand what is working and what is not. For the parts that are working, see if you can tweak them to make them more effective. For those that aren’t working, determine whether tweaking or tossing is the best course of action. Then start your next campaign, incorporating everything you’ve learned from the one just completed.

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Which Big Brother is Watching?

When I was a kid I understood that concern over big brother watching was that the government would be prying into every part of our lives and monitoring what we do. That threat still exists and is encroaching more and more but there are now other “big brothers” that we need to watch out for.

There are two companies that know more about you than you might realize. One is Facebook. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Facebook can tell what sites you’re on, even if you’re no longer logged in to Facebook. The scary part, from my point of view, is what the director of engineering says – what really matters is “What we say as a company and back it up”. But, even if they include this tracking capability in their terms of service, who’s to say they won’t change their terms of service on us?

I’m a big fan of Facebook and use it every day. I leave the browser open and switch back to it at various times. I’m not saying stop using Facebook. I am saying that we, as users of this service, need to be aware of what they are doing and continue to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they aren’t abusing their access to our lives and information.

Right now the biggest “big brother” in my life is Google. Google goes with me everywhere. Google knows where I am at all times. Google knows what I’m searching for, what sites I visit, who my friends are, and a whole lot more. Here are just a few of the ways that Google has access to my (and perhaps your) information:

  • My Droid phone has GPS enabled
  • I have a Google account on my computer and web history enabled
  • Whenever I visit a site with Google Analytics installed, Google has the capability of seeing that it is me visiting the site.
  • When I do a search on Google, it provides me local results even if I’m not logged in (tracks my location by my IP address).
  • Google serves up personalized ads when I’m reading my gmail account – ads based on the content of the emails. Are they reading my email?
  • When I had Google+ on my phone, it AUTOMATICALLY uploaded all videos and images to my account. Think about how interesting that could become!

So as you use these technologies, remember that Big Brother is watching. And decide how to use it accordingly.

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Social Media Engagement Strategies

I often encourage and cajole people to post to social media whether it be blogging, Facebook, Twitter or some other medium. It’s just like when I was a kid back in Nebraska – we had to shower once a year whether we needed it or not. You need to post to your social media regularly – far more than once a year. Yet I often see blogs or Facebook pages that have been orphaned and left to whither. Usually when I see that I can tell someone didn’t have a strategy.

We recommend blogging on a weekly basis or more frequently. For a corporate Facebook account, your blog should feed into it so you have at least one weekly update. Beyond that, it really depends on your strategy and plans for engagement.

So what are some possible engagement strategies?

  1. Post bleeding edge information – this obviously requires you to be on the bleeding edge of your industry.
  2. Share important information about developments in your business that your friends / followers / customers would be interested in. We do this when we finish a big project, for example.
  3. Post video showing you or your people engaged in your industry. You can even try video blog posts although you need to remember that video isn’t as easily indexed by search engines.
  4. You can ask questions or take surveys but you want to make sure that you’ll actually have engagement as you do this. There is nothing more lonely that asking a question only to discover you’re the only one in the room.
  5. Post success stories and other anecdotes about your business that illustrate the excellence of your goods or services.

There are a lot more than these five strategies for success with social media engagement. But starting with these you can get the ball rolling.

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Online Cliques

Online Cliques

Sometimes you have to forget what you learned (or were told) in high school. Back then cliques may not have been good for you – contributing to peer pressure and leaving some of the “un-cliqued” feeling left out.

But in the online world, getting into a clique can propel you forward. There are several different ways to create or insert yourself into a clique.

There are three roles that people fill in online cliques. Each of them can help you:

  1. Leader. If you are the leader of your online clique, you get to be the expert. A good way to be an online clique leader is to create a Twitter following where others can’t wait to hear what you’ll say next. This could be appropriate for a restaurant (especially a mobile one), a thought leader (innovator in your field), or a producer of original content.
  2. Connector. If you are an online clique connector, you help others find the right online clique for their needs. This means that you’re out there in the online world and know what is the right spot to suggest for someone. This might be in Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups or even connecting people to each other on LinkedIn.
  3. Participant. If you are an online clique participant, you get to meet, interact with, and “rub shoulders” with others. To be a successful participant, you have to pay attention. Identify who you should be following on Twitter and then do more than just follow – interact with them and retweet them. On Facebook, choose the groups or pages you join carefully, pay attention to the conversation(s) and contribute as appropriate. The same applies for LinkedIn as well.

In high school you usually only had one clique – perhaps two – that you could be a member of. In the online realm, you can participate in several. In fact, you are only limited by the amount of time you have to put into it.

Having said that, I don’t recommend joining every group. You’ll spread yourself too thin. Remember the power of focus. Concentrate on a select few groups or perhaps just one and get engaged. How should you choose the group? Consider industry group(s) or geographic-based groups that are in your niche.

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