Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Wordle Image for this blog

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text. Here's one I did yesterday for this blog

Wordle: Press2.0 Blog

Friday, July 30, 2010

Some further misconceptions about social media

There's a lot of talk, blogs and tweets about what social media is and what it can do, etc.

However, there's still a lot of debate about the details (e.g. monitoring platforms, segmented blogger engagement methodologies, sentiment analysis, etc.) and this can all get quite confusing if you're dipping your toe into the water for the first time*.

So I thought I'd quickly post about the popular misconceptions about social media and possibly get some dialogue going;

1.You need to do everything with Social Media to be effective
No. You need to do the relevant things necessary to engage with for your target audience.If you don't have a clue, don't leap in with both feet.

2. Quantity = quality
No. The number of followers you have on Twitter does not equal influence. Its better to have a smaller number of relevant and regular re-tweeting followers than an army of people who couldn't give a monkeys... Sure, if you're Lady Ga Ga, then millions of global fans 'liking' you is what you need to drive your personal brand appeal, which could well affect your iTunes download sales. But if you re making local widgets on a trading estate in Cheshire, then having a bunch of up-turned thumbs on your public Facebook page from Canadian pranksters is just that, nothing more.

3. The boss must blog every day
My favourite one this, as I heard someone on the train the other week telling a colleague "Look, you've got to blog every day, it's the only way you get people to read your stuff and you then get to appear first in search engines".
No, no, no! People.... (like a flasher in a lift) this is wrong on a number of levels! Firstly, as I've stated above, quantity does not equal quality. Its a signal to noise thing...and the signal should definitely prevail over the noise. There's no hard and fast rule that the Managing Director should even blog, especially if they have nothing useful or relevant to say (hand their blog over to their daughter) or can't bother to continue what they've started; consistency is the key here folks.
And as for getting to the top of search engines by blogging daily... as well as being incorrect on a number of SEO points, you have to ask the questions "what would you type into the search engine to get this premier result?"

4. Its information overload
Not necessarily. Sure, you can get deluged in a sea of information. But with the correct listening tools, filters and signals, you can pick up the relevant conversations and buzz without drowning in data.

5. Its complex and technical
No, it is not. And in case you missed this post from me earlier, its not about the technology.. its about the people!
Your suggestions on other social media misconceptions are gratefully received.

*Where have you been all this time? But come on in anyway and leave your preconceptions on the shore!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cybersquatting - Using SEO to gain the upper hand

Imagine the situation.... a cybersquatted domain appears in the Seach Engine Results Pages (SERP's) for your brand, but below your own site... which hopefully appears near the top.

Its not just annoying though, its still potentially damaging your brand and quite possibly making the cyber squatter money. This is because most cyber quatters tend to have affiliate links in their sites off to similar / competitive products & brands and therefore make commission from click-through sales. If the squatter can hold onto the domain for a while and even push their site up the rankings, they can potentially make quite a lot!

However, because Google and other search engines change their indexing algorithm all the time, there is no guarantee that your URL will stay above that of the squatters for any length of time. Also... there is also a very real possibility that if this person (or company) has gone as far as squatting on your domain, then they won't be restricted to entirely ethical means to improve their rankings.

As a quick explanation of what is ethical (also known as 'white hat') and unethical (AKA 'black hat') SEO activity, take a look at the diagram below:

Q: So what can you do about this?

A: Well its always easier to take preventative SEO action than trying to remedy the situation later on (and when the damage is done). This means devising an SEO plan as early as you can and setting up some above-board organic search optimisation activity. This should help your URL continue to claim its rightful place above cyber squatters.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UK Facebook numbers & demographics

There's been a lot of press recently about Facebook reaching the milestone figure of 500 million users (or 'half a billion' if you want a more attention grabbing headline).

However, when looking for figures specific to the British user-base, there is unfortunately less information around. So I'm therefore grateful to Clicky Media for providing these recent UK statistics (and have unashamedly reproduced their diagrams here for my readers). They mainly give data for June 2010 and show the Social Network's growth despite the recent reports of poor customer satisfaction.....

European Facebook users (from April 2010) total over 110 million, with 24 million in the UK, which makes the UK the largest European user base:

UK Facebook Gender Split is very slightly female orientated (but then so is the UK population as a whole):

UK Facebook Age Split shows the Twenty-somethings have the largest proportion of users, but anyone considering marketing on the social network should obviously not ignore any other age ranges.

Looking at the UK Facebook Age and Gender Split, its clear that female users dominate every age range.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cyber Squatting - Assess the brand impact

Following up on my recent posting about cyber squatting, I though I would cover what this means from a brand's perspective. So, for the purposes of this posts let's assume you have a domain registered by a unwanted squatter with a name that resembles your brand... what is the impact of this?

Well, this really depends upon several things:

1. How close to your brand is the domain that is registered?
If it uses the exact name (and correct spelling) then there's obviously a strong chance its your organisation that has been targeted. If it is a common top level domain (TLD), then expect that many users will type this URL into their browser, an action known as "domain dipping". If then fair to assume some disappointment with your own brand if they don't find your site.

2. What does this domain offer?
Is there an actual website there, if so what does it say or do? Are they attempting to pass themselves off as your brand? Do they sell products, especially competitive ones (or even your own) if they have an eCommerce or affiliate setup?
A site that pretends to be yours is an obvious phishing scam candidate and the negative publicity and reputational risk could be huge! Even if this isn't a phishing attempt, are you really happy for someone to make money from your brand without your consent and without your quality safeguards?
(No, I didn't think so)

3. Are they promoting the domain?
If they are trying, through fair means or foul, to promote the site... then these efforts could conflict with your own marketing and PR activity. Check with you aligned online marketing agency (or even just type in "link[site URL]" into Google to see who's linking to this site).
Oh and don't get me started on what this means for your SEO efforts...

My main advice on this matter is if you are in any doubt as to your legal postion on this.... consult your lawyers. You may have a clear case of misrepresentation or other avenues to claim back this domain (or at least stop it doing what it is doing). But regardless, make sure you fully understand and communicate the impact that that the cyber squatter is having on your brand.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is the Social Media bubble about to burst?

I've lived and worked through the dotcom boom and bust years in the late 1990's. I was there when the bubble burst and trust me it wasn't fun or pretty. I therefore have an interest in making sure I never experience that again.... so I write this post with one eye on the past and one firmly open in the hope that I am not right about the future (never have I written a post before that I truly hope does not come true).

An economic bubble is caused when a combination of factors come into play at the same time:
  • Hype takes precedence over fact and thought
  • A market fills to the capacity of this hype... not the demand of the buyer nor the quality of the supplier
  • People and companies of varying quality and expertise rush to reinvent themselves, to take advantage of this mythical un-tapped revenue
  • Everyone chases each others tails, thinking that someone else has found the foot of the rainbow (along with the appropriate pot of shiny yellow metal)
And what we now have with Social Media feels a lot like that situation back on the 1990's. A situation that Paul Williams likes to call the Social Media "goldrush"
Social media is our gold rush. With the zillions of tweets, Diggs, blog posts, and Facebook updates all panning for attention I’ve only heard of a few who have ‘struck it rich’ as a result.
Sure its not exactly the same as a dozen years ago.... but in various ways it resembles the time just before everyone started realising that there was precious little client or customer money around to support all the crazy valuations placed on these dotcom darlings. Just before the investors saw the digital emperor actually didn't have many clothes on... and what he did have was pulled to shreds and fought over by too many people on over-inflated salaries and opinions of themselves (along with some rather expensive & illegal habits).

But that would never happen now would it?

We'd never make the same mistakes again....


Sunday, July 25, 2010

mobile blogging

I used to write all my blog posts via a browser on the PC and would occasionally email myself useful articles that I then cut & pasted
into my posts.

More recently I started blogging using an app on my phone. It allowed me to type as I thought, in places I previously hadn't considered (in a train, in bed, etc.) . But I still found it a little clumsy to compose my words on a mobile device because the screen is too small to see all that you've written.

I guess it's different when you're Tweeting, then you only have 140 characters of text to play with. But in a blog post you could easily have upwards of 300 words that you need to review to make sure you've eloquently but succinctly covered your subject.

In this way, Twitter and mobile go hand in hand, perhaps that's why microblogging had to wait until the evolution of the smartphone to gain mass acceptance....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why distance impacts page load speed

Here's a very useful video from Ed Robinson, the CEO of website performance software company Aptimize. He explains why your web pages load slower depending on where your visitors are in the world.

Web page performance is something we should all be concerned about. It is now one of the many criteria that Google uses to assess a site's search relevance (See my posting about it here)

The clever graphics were done by Christine Lin Barraud who was responsible for the graphics on the CSI TV programmes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cyber squatting - digital brandjacking

I’ve previously briefly covered the topic of Cybersquatting in a posting on brand jacking back in October, but thought that the topic deserved more thought and detail.

Cybersquatting, also known as domain squatting, is when someone deliberately registers a domain name that is relevant to your brand (product, service, organisation or even person). They do it in a deliberate act to either deny you of it, to make money from your brand equity, or with the intention of selling (read: ransoming it) it back to you.

The actual issue of whether this activity is actually illegal depends upon your country of residence, as it is a federal law in the USA to do this under the American Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

However most countries have no legislation to cover this and therefore they have to resolve the issue through the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP),This is an international process set up by ICANN, however the chances of getting a name back varies from situation to situation and is more tricky if your cybersquatter resides in another country, especially places such as China and Russia.

So what can you do about it?
Well I hope to be covering that subject in subsequent posts...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mapping my own Foursquare checkins

Here's a nice little Foursquare / Google mashup I've created that plots on a map where I have checked in on Foursquare:

View Larger Map

Thanks to Lifehacker :

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Poor customer satisfaction with social media sites

Customer satisfaction with social media sites is poor according to the E-Business Report 2010 from the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index).

It apparently has the lowest industry aggregate score of any of the e-business or e-retail industries measured, with Wikipedia leading the pack.

Although this report is from the USA, it does show that these global sites need to consider their users first and their functionality & revenue generations second.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Peer 2 Peer pressure

I must be getting older, as I now firmly regard myself as a different generation from the teens and twenty-somethings.

So, as I try to make sense of what a connected world fully means to companies and brands... I do try to understand the impact an always-informed and life-streaming culture has on people, but especially those who embrace technology & communications the most, the Millennials.

I guess, as well as building services for monitoring brand sentiment via Twitter we need to build algorithms that detect cyber-bullying via Facebook' and other such useful tools that were previously not needed or even thought of.

It then begs the question about the types of challenges and pressures that a 24/7 connection creates.

The future may be bright, but it also brings with it new issues we have yet to understand, let alone solve!

Friday, July 9, 2010

How communication needs have changed

We live in a world where everyone can be always connected, everywhere.

1.8 billion individuals all with Internet access and nearly all of them with the ability to read, do and collaborate online as they want (I say nearly, as some countries such as China block access to certain sites).

Media consumption has been 24 hours for the last two decades, mainly thanks to the proliferation of cable TV (In my opinion: CNN was the real victor in the first Gulf War). We had news updates pushed to us every minute of the day, as TV channels recycled the same stuff minute after minute… and that was just the beginning. This was also the start of the proliferation of devices such as The Blackberry, the business phone that is more popular as a tool for receiving emails pushed to the user 27 x 7.

With the proliferation of the Internet in the last decade, our information needs changed from being pushed to us to being pulled by us. People wanted to be up to date with everything all the time irrespective of the device or channel they were using. This isn’t so much information overload, but information on demand.

Now we have a further evolved state, where one way information consumption has changed into two way communication, connections and collaborations. People of all ages (but especially the younger millennial 'digital natives') expect to not only consume information, but also to respond and contribute to what they are reading, seeing and hearing.

This has, in my opinion, significantly contributed to the mass migration of readership from traditional newspapers to online sources, especially those that not only allow dialogue but make a point of encouraging it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The biggest misconception about social media

The primary misconception about social media is that its all about the technology. In my opinion this is wrong, technology is merely the enabler.

Sure, without technology collaboration on the scale we have seen online would not be possible. But it really is about humans coming together in new, interesting and exciting ways – doing and finding things that they have not done previously with a global way to create and collaborate.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why listen to Foursquare feedback?'ve heard about Foursquare, you read a bit about it and now you're considering it for possible business usage.

However, despite the claims that Foursquare is now adding almost 100,000 users a week, giving it 1.7 million users in a little over 15 months since its launch, its still a fairly niche service.... especially here in the UK.

But even if it is not a mainstream service yet, here's my reasons why I think you need to listen to the feedback (known as 'tips') about your business from Foursquare users:

  • These people are tech-savvy, making them more likely to be early adopters of new ideas and products.
  • They are interested in informing or influencing their social graph (their online circle of friends) - who also stand a good chance of being like them (see above)
  • They are part of and contribute to other social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and are possibly more likely to be a blogger.
  • They are mobile users - meaning they are more likely to vote with their feet
What other reasons do you need?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How does social media work?

Social Media allows people to connect, communicate and collaborate online.

This isn’t necessarily a new development, since communication has always happened between individuals and small groups. But Social Media facilitates a global society that previously either didn’t know each other or couldn’t stay in contact. It therefore makes the job of interacting across time and distance that much easier and for many users it becomes second nature.

The three stages of end user participation online:
  1. The first stage of the Internet was as an organisational publishing medium (e.g. private industry: newspapers, public sector/academic: research)
    - The end user is merely the recipient, its all about what they see
  2. The second stage was when the Internet became a proper transactional medium (e.g. eCommerce such as Amazon took off, Google/pay per action grew in prominence, etc.)
    - The end user is the recipient and the operator (e.g. the purchaser)
  3. The third stage happened when the Internet became the platform for community – where people essentially ‘live’ and develop, where User Generated Content became what people expected, not what was the exception.
    - The end user then becomes the recipient, operator & creator

At what stage is your company at?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Listen to Sidewiki Comments

The buzz about Google Sidewiki has died down over last few months. Although there are still a number of Sidewiki comments being made on sites, there doesn't seem to be the huge number of updates that were envisioned nor the appropriate backlash. The actual number of Sidewiki posts are extremely difficult to find, but from my perspective I think the hubbub seems to have resided somewhat.

My comments and those made by others stay linked to a specific site. They also are still there, even when the site has been updated (provided the URL doesn't change).
Note: This has already happened with the Russell and Bromley site I criticised about 6 months ago. Although the site has been updated, my words still remain.... fixed there in time like permanent virtual graffiti.

But just because this service (part of the Google browser toolbar, a free plugin for Internet Explorer and Firefox - but surprisingly not Google's Chrome browser) isn't highly utilised.... it doesn't mean you shouldn't also monitor what's being written there.

Now obviously you can regularly open up Sidewiki and check you own site to see what's being written there. However my suggestion is to use Google's own Data API to capture this date
Hint: you can then run it through various tools / services (e.g. Yahoo Pipes) to further filter out the information you want.

For example, the feed for this blog is:
(to see the feed for your own site, simply replace the URL '' with your own).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Apple claims formula leads to signal strength issues

It is common knowledge by now that if you grip the new iPhone in such a way that your hand covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band there is a decrease in the signal strength of the device.

Rumours are still making the rounds that Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO told someone complaining about this issue not to hold it in this way... but these are completely denied by the Cupertino-based company.

However in a press release today from Apple, they have broken their silence and claimed

"We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both
simple and surprising."

"Its seems that the formula used to calculate how many signal strength bars are displayed is wrong"

Therefore the phone, rather than showing the users they are in a low signal areas, is incorrectly showing too many bars. So when users touch the phone in the lower left corner and get the resulting drop in signal...

"Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place."

So there you have it... its not Apple's fault this happens... you're in the wrong signal area.
Oh, and to solve the problem they will be releasing a fix for this problem soon, that also makes the smaller bars bigger.... so if you leave your glasses on your head whilst losing your signal, you can still see what a poor signal you are getting!

Don't forget the value of email marketing

In this current social media focused digital industry we work in, there's a tendency to forget about the basic channels that work.

I'm currently putting together my thoughts together for a report about email marketing & social media and I'm amazed that so many industry commentators are forgetting about the influencing, communications and marketing power of email.

For example, in June email marketing firm e-Dialog found 43% of UK Internet users had made product purchases after receiving an email.

Its also not just online sales that email affects. In the same report, it was highlighted that nearly 60% of global respondent said they were more likely to buy a product in a store after getting a marketing email.

Perhaps we should take time to remember that email may not be the shiny new toy in the toolbox, but its still an extremely valuable online channel.