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Last month Facebook launched a new feature called Facebook Questions which allows you to easily poll your friends. Around the web, people have compared Facebook Questions to similar services like Yahoo! Answers, Quora, or Mahalo.

However, the great thing about Facebook Questions is that it’s already integrated into the powerful ecosystem that is Facebook. You simply write up a question, create some multiple choice options, and then post it to your wall. This makes it easy to compile quantitative data, as opposed to asking a question in plain text and then sifting through a list of comments.

Facebook Questions is a great step toward extracting added value from utilizing social media. Why? Because Facebook Questions aren’t exclusive to user profiles; You can also ask Questions on a Facebook Page. This is a very powerful tool for Page owners, because you’re able to quickly gather market research from your existing community, negating some of the need for site surveys, contests, and more intrusive methods.

For example, say that you run a bakery, and you need to decide between three different baked goods for next week. Why not crowd source the decision to your Facebook fans (likely your best customers) and ask them what they would like to buy? With a large enough sample size, a perfectly split result is quite rare, so you should be able to make business decisions more confidently.

There’s no word yet on whether or not Questions will be coming to Groups, but it certainly is fascinating to watch Facebook continue to evolve. What do you think of Facebook Questions so far?

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Dec/09

17

Importance of Content Strategy

If you’ve ever been involved in a website project, then you know content can get neglected. The process of writing, reviewing, analyzing, and optimizing can be daunting. Is the vendor writing? Is the client writing? The ball gets passed around and around until the site gets populated with fragmented content that might not be completely relevant for its users.

So what is a content strategy?

At the An Event Apart conference in Boston Kristina Halvorson gave content its overdue attention. In short, her definition of a content strategy was:

Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

A content strategist not only worries about time tables, but also content themes, content alignment with business goals, search engine optimization, editorial (voice/legal/etc), and metadata.

Content strategists are adjacent to a lot existing positions:

content_org_chart
Graphic from Joe Pulizzi and BrainTraffic

Why do I need a Content Strategy?

Because:

  • it’s delaying your website launch
  • your current content is written by technologists, marketers, management…too many voices!
  • team members end up being pulled off their daily duties
  • your company does not get represented to its full potential
  • well researched and written content will help you get found and convert more business

Make sure you give your content the appropriate attention in your next web project. It will make all the difference.

Further reading:

The discipline of content strategy

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Facebook ads are quickly becoming the top choice for targeted online ad campaigns. Whether your goal is lead generation, sales, or improving brand recognition, a targeted campaign will always have better results.

Google Adwords used to be the king of online ad campaigns because they can target users based on their current search priorities. Facebook ads are the next generation of targeted text ads.

Learn how to get started and why you should create a Facebook ad.

Facebook has servers of data just waiting to be leveraged for your next online ad campaign: age, gender, location, likes and dislikes. By laser targeting your web ads to just the right users, you’ll not only spend less money but you’re more likely to get a better response as well.

Using these steps to you’ll be able to make a Facebook ad to advertise your products, services, events or just about anything else. You can also advertise your Facebook Fan page. Once you have a few thousand fans, you’ll be able to reach out with different promotions on a regular basis.

Today we’re going to focus on a basic text ad with logo, although these instructions also work for text-only ads or banner ads too.

Start by gathering some information about your ad campaign. First, decide on a budget. Then, make a list of characteristics your customers have in common — their demographic. Does your customer enjoy the outdoors or reading? What is their education level? Where do they live? You may even want to create different ads targeting different types of customers.

Now that you know your target, it’s time to write your ad. Remember to write to your customer. Customize your text for each demographic you want to reach on Facebook. For your ad you will need:

  • a title: no more than 25 character
  • body text: no more than 135 characters
  • a photo: 100 pixels by 80 pixels

Gather your ad information and let’s go. After logging in to Facebook, make your way to the Facebook advertising page.

facebook-ad

From here, you’ll “Design Your Ad” in Facebook’s tool. Type in your text and url, upload your ad image.

facebook-ad1

The next part is the fun part. Using your list of “customer characteristics,” you can include or exclude specific types of people. Facebook ads let you set demographic filters for things such as age, geographic location, sex, relationship status, interests and more. Use the keywords filter to target users that mention specific terms such as the Obama or Sarah Palin.

Next you’ll need to choose between Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression advertising. Pay for Clicks (CPC) advertising allows you to specify a certain amount that you are willing to pay each time a user actually clicks on your ad. Pay for Views (CPM) advertising allows you to specify how much you are willing to pay for each 1000 impressions. Personally, I’ve tested both and found very little price difference over the long-term.

Set your budget and place a bid for your Facebook ad. You can set a daily limit, however, you can’t set a monthly limit. You can pause your ad at any time, so just pay attention to the calendar and turn the ad off when your budget is spent.

facebook-ad2

Finally, review your ad. Make sure your image is appealing and easily readable. Check for spelling errors. After you submit your ad, Facebook will also need to approve it. This usually takes less than 24 hours.

Once your Facebook ad goes live, you can monitor it’s progress through your dashboard. Keep an eye on click-throughs, impressions, cost-per-click. And, don’t be afraid to tweak your ad through out the campaign. Facebook makes it easy to adjust your ad. If it’s not performing as well as you expected, you might try adding or deleting certain keywords to reach a different audience.

facebook-ad3

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As a web designer, it is difficult for me to use the web without analysing almost every page I see. Web design is my passion so I can’t avoid it. It’s one of the best ways to learn what has been done well so when I see poor use of design on the web and think about the average user, it annoys me to notice that some aspects of websites, or even complete sites, are poorly designed.

Here are seven of the most common mistakes made in web design and why you need to avoid them at all costs in order to make sure you are on the right track to producing the best work you possibly can.

1. Unnecessary Use of Flash

First of all, Flash is great when used well. For example, the current state and popularity of online video streaming with sites like YouTube wouldn’t exist in the way it does without it.

The problem is that beyond this the disadvantages of using Flash far far outweighs the benefits in almost all cases. Being a browser plugin, it has a reputation of slowing down computers by using excessive CPU. Flash 10.1 however will support GPU usage to take the strain off the CPU. Which is nice.

Sometimes you’ll see Flash being used for navigation when it just isn’t necessary at all. Remember, by doing this you are making it less accessible to use. Avoid this like the plague as there are many great options using js libraries such as jQuery.

2. Poor Search Results

When using the search function of a website it is safe to assume that someone is actually looking for something and if it exists, poor search results may well prevent them from finding what they want.

One way of improving this is to make use of the power of the most popular search engine with the use of Google’s Custom Search Engine. With this solution, your results will be formatted in the same familiar way that they are on Google’s own pages so users will know what to expect.

3. Bad Images

There are two types of poor images when it comes to web design. The first is using images which are uninteresting or irrelevant especially with the internet being such a visual medium. Good images can convey so much meaning and get a message across very effectively. As the well known phrase goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ which is especially true when it comes to web design.

The second is quality of images which relates to heavy compression, blurry images, resized images and images that are stretched or squashed altering their aspect ratio. Any of the above is unacceptable in this day and age.

4. Irrelevant URL Structure

It is common for content management systems by default to use a dynamic URL usually consisting of seemingly random characters and numbers such as www.exampleurl.com/?p=52. Do you have a clue what the content of that page is? Certainly not from the URL and neither will search engines. Even if a potential visitor does see this in a result on a search engine then they’ll be less likely to follow through due it’s cryptic appearance.

Beyond that is the use of short URLs commonly seen on Twitter. Popular Twitter clients such as Tweetie are able to show the actual URL before sending you off there. When people use that option, it is generally to see what the URL is that they will be taken to and by containing a description of the page in the URL, it is possible to have a good idea of where their click is taking them.

5. Lack of a Clear Message

By not having a clear message on your site or a site you’ve designed, you run the risk of confusing any potential new customers or visitors. The longer they take trying to work out what it is the site is actually for, the more chance they will leave and try and find what they are looking for elsewhere.

A simple way of helping resolve this is to have a simple tagline, no more that 8-10 words long, located in the header. That way if someone lands on a page that isn’t the homepage, they can see the message and be clear of what the site is about without heading to the homepage or the about page.

6. Not Understanding What the Client Needs

The most important thing to get right before you get started is to make sure that you understand your client and what service or product they offer. This doesn’t only apply to freelancers or web designers who work in a design agency where they deal with multiple different clients but also those who work in-house. Think of your employers as your client as they, much like a traditional client, pay your for your service.

Making sure you have an understanding of what the client needs will reduce frustrations further down the road. Most of the time there will be changes out of you’re control that can’t be avoided but by getting your head around what is required early on will reduce any confusion as much as you possibly can.

7. Browser Inconsistencies

The average web user doesn’t know that there are differences in the way that browsers render pages, they only see the internet as one. If they come across a site that is broken in their browser then they aren’t going to know to switch to another browser to see if it works there, they’ll just move on to another site. Most users don’t even know what a browser is anyway.

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dell email campaign before afterI came across this white paper about Dell’s email campaign optimization. The company tested factors like price, discount and subject line. After only 18 emails, the TaguchiNow’s methodology was able to increase Dell’s open rate 5 times and sales by more than 7 times in just a 4 month span. How’s that for effectiveness?

They found that “contrary to common marketing  knowledge,  test  results  revealed  that Financing, Price, and Discount were not influential. The most influential variables were Subject Line, Image,  Teaser,  and  Headline,  in  that  order.”

Here’s the white paper with photos of the ad before and after testing.

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Social-media use is up 14 percentage points this year among Inc. 500 companies, with 91% of the firms now saying they use at least one social service. Twitter ranked as the most widely used site in the survey conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The study clearly shows the upward trend of social media adoption rates among some of the fastest growing private companies, and provide a useful comparison of social media trends from 2007 on.  Despite lower usage of some tools in 2009, many companies that have not yet incorporated social media in their business operations say they intend to do so in the future. For example, 44 percent of companies without a company blog say they plan to start one, and 36 percent intend to use some form of online video.

Have you gone social? DigitalEffex provides consulting on social media and can help get your company a jump-start on today’s most prevalent social media sites.

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Nov/09

17

Are You Really Ready To Blog?

John Cass, a PR marketer, recently shared some insight on whether starting a company blog is true to your company culture. His article highlights the importance of blogging only if you are ready for feedback, Q&A’s, and maintaining online customer relationships. He mentions that social media has appeared because the web is here and people are talking to one another online, consumers create content without needing media intermediaries and as a result are free to talk about products, brands, ideas and society.

“Consumers now expect companies will conduct a dialogue with them online. Companies like Dell, Comcast and Zappos have changed customer expectations about what it means to reach out to a company for the simplest of requests or the most complex of complaints. Instead of calling a call center on their time, the consumer simply writes a blog post, Facebook update, or tweet anticipating a company will respond.

To write well in social media is not about being the most polished writer, or a creative copywriter, rather the skills that are needed to succeed are an ability to listen, be empathic, admit mistakes where necessary, and take a stand knowing the customer is not always right. Online, the good writer is outpaced by the good conversationalist.”

To start corporate blogging, you have to be more open, willing to take criticism, and discuss any issues that arise because they probably will. If things get bumpy you have to be willing to give your point of view and state what you can and cannot do or say. If you’re not able to participate, engage, have a dialogue as part of your culture; blogging is not a good fit for you. And could harm your company if you participate, because once you set up a blog you are saying to the world that you are willing to conduct a dialogue, and if you don’t when the community expects your response, and you don’t respond instead of thinking of the employees in the stores across the nation, people will think of a company unwilling to talk back and forth.

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Lisa Barone compiled a list of seven ways to make your website more dynamic In her posting, she explains how to use video, RSS, widgets, images, podcasts, user polls, and live cams. Check it out if you want make your website more sticky.

Here at DigitalEffex, we push clients to have a CMS (Content Management System) for their website. One key player, Wordpress, allows users to have the flexibility to manage content easily without comprimising functionality or design. With custom Wordpress themes, we can take your current website and migrate its content into Wordpress so you can manage every aspect of your website (including images, videos, etc. ) .

Why chase your web designer, when you can spend your time enhancing your own website?

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Nov/09

13

Growing your “Social IQ”

ZDNET.com recently featured an article on the success of American Express’s OPEN Division .  Some of the key excerpts included Jason Rudman, director of strategy and marketing for American Express OPEN who said

“Small business owners are successful by building individual relationships – for example, with customers, prospects, vendors – based on an innate ability to talk to everyone, to get to know people. You might say this is “social IQ” and that many entrepreneurs possess this in droves. You see it frequently when a small business owner engages their customers or reaches out to new ones through a very personal style of marketing. Social media as we know it today is just an extension of this in the digital universe.”

The web is undoubtedly the most useful tool to engage your customers and have an instant feedback on the success of your message. When having an e-commerce site,  one of the most effective ways to engage your customers and drive sales are through dedicated email blasts. Our clients open-rate on emails have ranged between 20% – 80% . Some things to consider when sending an email blast is:

  • Determine the overall goal of your email.
  • Engage the user through a link, coupon code, or reply to measure the success of your message.
  • Schedule the email – when’s the best time you would want to receive it?
  • Make sure the email looks good.

The more you build these individual relationships and get to know your customers, the better message you can deliver; the better results you will end up having.

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