Mobile Mania

In 2011, it’s predicted that half of all US cell phone sales will be smart phones.  In the global market, that will happen by 2013.  While Nokia is still the most dominant brand, iPhone obviously has been growing.  I learned this and more during a Webinar sponsored by Aquent and the American Marketing Association.

Unfortunately, statistics also show that only 20% of free mobile apps  were still in use after a week, and only 5 % were still in use a month later. So the question is – how do you build an app that truly engages your audience in an ongoing manner? Mobile success is not automatic – there needs to be serious effort put in to building your mobile presence.

Another issue is measurement.  Javascript – used to measure clicks – is often not present or enabled on mobile phones, and cookies may not be allowed on mobile devices and networks.  Some carriers will strip HTTP to their character limits.  So what to do? There are work-arounds, and the best option is a “waterfall” approach – try Javascript tagging first, then server-side image request, then wireline capture, and finally API collection and insertion (although this option can mean using significant IT resources).

Importantly, whatever you do or have built – look at key performance indicators that meet business objectives and analyze “high value tasks” in your mobile work – what do you want your customers doing/ what provides them with the most benefit.  And make sure your reporting is automated as much as possible; otherwise  much time will be spent compiling data before it can be analyzed.

Beyond these technical considerations, what are overall best practices for marketing via mobile? The Mobile Marketing Association has just released best practices for “cross-carrier mobile content services” to include “text messaging (SMS), multimedia messaging (MMS), shortcode programs, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and mobile Web.”

The Webinar was recorded and is still available online here.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Your 15 Minutes of Fame is Now 3: Get it Right

In case you hadn’t heard, online video is huge.  Online search is still more prominent, but YouTube is the #2 search engine.  And it’s not just your 20-year-old cousin — it’s popular across age groups.

Organizations need to know how to “do” video.  If you do it poorly, it won’t work.  As demonstrated by David Neff and Aaron Bramley of Ridgewood Ingenious Communication Strategies at this month’s Austin Social Media Club confab, by following a few rules, you can produce video that doesn’t suck.  I personally am still playing around and learning myself.

Here are some basic rules to get started, thanks to David and Aaron:

  1. Rule of thirds – think about the composition in terms of a 2×3 grid and don’t place the main object in the dead center.
  2. Light and dark – be conscious that this can become way more pronounced on video, especially if it’s projected.  For the best results, use 3-point lighting.
  3. Steady, steady – a shaky film will turn people off.  Use both hands when holding the camera, or use a tripod.
  4. Use close-up shots to show emotions or conversation, medium shots for interviews, and long shots for action.
  5. Sound is very important; even if the shots are great, if the sound is bad, people will tune out and turn off.  Unless you’ll be in a quiet room, consider buying an external mic that can be clipped on to or held by the subject.
  6. Include transcription for your videos – you will get better search engine optimization (SEO).

David and Aaron also provided some documents to help budding videographers:  an individual release form, location release form, and production grid are available here.

If you need some data to help back up your argument with your boss that video is a good idea, see David and Aaron’s presentation.

Oh, and 3 minutes? There’s no hard and fast rule about how long most people will pay attention – just remember, we all have short attention spans these days… think carefully about what your audience and your message.

Twitter Danger

The public’s romance with Twitter is leaving its salad days, as H.I. McDunnough would say.

Twitter use and popularity likely peaked this summer when the world was giddy with the anticipation that the Iranian election protest might actually succeed in real change, but it has not come to pass – yet.

I read a very disturbing commentary on TechCrunch of how one soldier not only propegated incorrect information about what was happening at Ft. Hood last Thursday. This soldier thought she was doing the right thing by letting the entire world be voyeurs into the gruesome scene.  If people know from  whence the misinformation was coming, they will learn to mistrust this kind of instantaneous coverage – not necessarily a bad thing.

So does this mean that Twitter is on the wane? Probably not.  It has captured the attention of many a mover and shaker, and the APIs help it integrate with other popular tools like Facebook.  It is still a good tool for many organizations to communicate with their constituents, especially when events are happening more quickly than other media can handle, or where regular media can’t serve the needs of all potential audiences, such as during a hurricane or other emergency that effects tens of thousands of people across a wide geographic area.  But we all still need respected and trusted commentators and investigators to uncover the real story.

Perhaps this post could also be called “in defense of journalism”?

Drill Baby Drill? I Don’t Think So

I love this simple graphic, from Grist.org:

Great diagram of the impace of offshore drilling, found on Grist.org

Free and Open Internet Access: In Danger?

I knew about Net Neutrality but didn’t really have a sense of urgency about it until Iwatched this video presentation by Lawrence Lessig. It may seem like a boring subject, but Lessig does an excellent job, like your favorite professor (if you go to Stanford Law School, you can have him as your professor). If you do business on the Internet, you should watch this.

Search Engine Marketing: What Not To Do

Below is a great example of some SEM gone bad, courtesy of the FailBlog.  This week the tech world witnessed another fail (albeit not necessarily complete fail yet) in the premature launch of CUIL.com, a new search engine that purports to search by content, not popularity, and whose goal is to “break the Google.com monopoly.”  Unfortunately, a test of CUIL.com, didn’t reveal much to inspire. Statesman.com blogger Omar Gallega (who’s also a friend on Twitter) said his search of “Texas Longhorns” came back with no results. No results! Something must have been broken…. but at least it didn’t return ads for hamburger meat (if you’re an Aggie fan you’ll get the joke)!

fail owned pwned pictures

see more pwn and owned pictures

The Digital Divides – They Lives!

When most people talk about the digital divide, it seems they are referring to the inability of low income people to surf the Internet. Or, basically, to receive and regurgitate the messages that we, the digital elite, are sending to them online.

But there are plenty of small businesses and small non-profits – run by educated, middle class people – who are being left behind, too. This is not simply due to a lack of access to the internet, but the inability to keep up with the rapidly changing environment of social media, search engine marketing, and the like.  I also think it’s the inability to imagine the possibility of this new world, like Clay Shirky has described in his book Here Comes Everybody.  Perusing the job postings of local non-profits, I don’t see many marketing and communications positions that even incorporate knowledge of social media into their job descriptions. I think perhaps they don’t want to scare off some of the older professionals (including people in my age group!) but it’s surprising that it’s not even mentioned. Again, evidence of another aspect of the digital divide.

Big corporations and most of the national non-profits have the resources for getting their message out. And despite the promise of the Internet, I think it is only being partially fulfilled for the small players.

Lately I have been trying to see this as an opportunity. I was initially shocked that people would pay to learn how to use Web 2.0 tools, including LinkedIn and Twitter, but EveryDotConnects has been hosting workshops on this subject! 

 So what should we, the digital elite, do to help our brethren discover the potential that exists in social media? Will our moms forever continue to simply forward us cute and/or alarming emails and, if they’re businesspeople or community leaders, have 1998-era Web sites? And if they do participate, will it continue to be mindless regurgitation? Wait a minute, even those 20-somethings are doing mindless regurgitation… so yes we do need to ensure that technology is used for good… and why should social media literacy be relegated only to the young and hip and savvy?

Search Engine Marketing for Non-profit Orgs

I don’t think very many non-profits have caught on to the potential of search engine marketing.  When I worked for Georgetown University, it didn’t really occur to me that this might be a good idea. We focused on the alumni in our existing database, or on alumni thinking “Hmmm, I wonder what the alumni association is doing?” or “When is reunion?”  Of course, our Communications Office and the Admissions office for the various schools marketed themselves to the general population, but not us fundraisers so much.

Many non-profits, especially those focused on local issues, spend a lot of time thinking about those issues and responding to their current constituency.  That might be perfectly fine in some cases.  In the Austin area and similar areas that are experiencing transience and population growth, there are huge numbers of people who are not yet plugged in or educated about the community and its issues.  These people are actively searching for information online and have a desire to go beyond their work or school environment.  If you are an advocacy organization of any kind, you need to be reaching those newbies, and making sure your organization’s Web site shows up in the the first page of Google searches related to your issue should be a priority. If you need volunteers, ditto. 

Of course, I’m not the first to think of this, and Beth’s Blog has some great information and resources in various Google Adwords posts.

I also am thinking to attending the SEMforSMB Conference next week to get myself up to speed on this.

Innovation Camp Rocks the Cross-Disciplinary Communication

Austin, my hometown, is an incredible place in many ways. Since I moved back recently, many of the people I see regularly are from the tech sector. I spend so much time with them, on Twitter and at Jelly! and elsewhere, that I had started to think everyone in Austin is a computer programmer, search engine marketing guru, web designer, or something like that.  Fortunately, this past weekend’s Innovation Camp proved me (somewhat) wrong, with its diverse group of people, from community activists who didn’t know about Basecamp, to Linux experts, to old school PR people.

I attended several sessions, modeled on the BarCamp “unconference” method. The most exciting one (which I hadn’t really planned on attending) was hosted by Michelle Greer and Cole Crawford, about creating a social network/ social commerce site for open source developers and users. I learned a little bit more about the open source developer community and development methodology (or lack thereof).  Essentially the site would be set up a bit like a mini-X prize, with many users contributing a small amount towards a bigger “bounty” for open source fixes and features.

The best thing about the idea (despite the fact that yes, maybe, it’s not completely original, as Michelle’s blog suggests) is the potential for the type of site we were discussing as a way of solving many types of problems, not just software ones.  I may not have realized this “potential for potential” if it hadn’t been for others in the session bringing up the issue of users who can’t afford to pay anything for a fix or feature, or can’t get enough other people to “invest” in the development… in other words, what about the minority problems? Cole and Michelle and others said that the community could and would likely still do the work, especially if you made a good enough argument for the need. Maybe we just had some great altruistic people in the session, but why not allow people to request things for free and then actually do the work for free? I suppose that you wouldn’t want all of your projects to end up being free, especially if you’re planning to make this a viable business… but if this model could be built as a business and then merely replicated out for more community-benefit projects, that would be great.

Next on the agenda for tech geek/other people interaction is GardenCamp out in Aggie land.  I can’t wait! I hope it’s something I can replant, so to speak, in Austin.

If You Build It, Will They Come? Probably Not Without Some Groundwork

So you’ve heard about this new trend – indeed, some say, the new way of doing media – user-generated content – and decide that you need to ride that wave. Well, as anyone who’s ever tried surfing will tell you, there is a need to plan exactly where and how to catch the wave – by watching and anticipating and practicing. (And maybe getting a little wet and turned upside down and almost drowning!)

This week, I received an email from Hope Equity, a pretty innovative organization working to improve the lives of poor people around the world through what they call “Micro Endowments,” which allow people to contribute to and fundraise for the charities they select. The money is invested and the returns are given to your charity of choice. The email announced Hope Equity’s new “streamlined, user-friendly” Web site. After checking it out (and without going into some of the accessibility issues), I saw a link to a “member’s blog,” part of the Community Center section. I clicked on the link only to find a generic post about the blog being a space for members to let their “voice be heard.” Apparently, the creators of the site intended for the blog to be a place where their constituents can talk about projects or ideas. Unfortunately, even almost a week later, the only posts from readers are two generic comments in the vein of “good for you” and “Hope Equity is great!” Not exactly something that will keep many people coming back.

As I’ve learned the hard way myself, just throwing up a collaborative space is not going to magically get people to participate. You need to do some advance work (watching, anticipating and practicing). Some basic tips:

1. Identify key constituents/ volunteers who could be the seed group. In this case, if you can find people who have their own blog or are young enough to have used social networking sites, you’ll probably have better success with them. Those are the low-hanging fruit. If there is some celebrity or leader type in your midst, it would make it exciting for others to see them participating, but you should be careful to make certain they understand the time commitment and be open to interacting with your other supporters and, perhaps, critics.

2. Work with the seed group to identify stories. What projects or charities have they been involved in? What are some of the common questions you get from prospective supporters? Perhaps your supporters can talk about their own experience – in this case, why did they pick the charity they support?

3. Keep monitoring and participating in the space. You should identify a staff member who will do this. Again, it should probably be someone who already participates in social media. Beth’s Blog, which discusses how non-profits can use social media, lists the following qualities to look for in a community manager:

  • Someone who is on the Internet a lot
  • A risk taker
  • Someone who is tech savvy, or at least comfortable or self taught
  • Someone who has grown up using the sites and really enjoys it
  • Someone who takes a less regimented in communications – less formal – uses happy faces
  • Someone who has a good online persona and personality
  • Someone who enjoys it

If you get these aspects covered, people who receive your announcement won’t go to the community blog (or wiki, or social network) and see nothing. It may be a challenge to get them to return if they think there is nothing going on in that space. Of course, all is not lost – Hope Equity can still focus on and promote their “Community Center” on their Web site. It just would have been much better if they had done this groundwork before announcing their revamped, “user friendly” site.

Do you have any secrets to online community building to share? Examples, good and bad?