Do QR Codes Really Kill Kittens?

Do QR codes really kill kittens?  The other day I received my new copy of QR Codes Kill Kittens, by Scott Stratten, and within 1 hour, I had my answer.  Unfortunately, I’m not going to share it, just yet.

What I will tell you is this is a perfect book for what not to do, in marketing, in social and in life.  This book isn’t all about the QR code, and how to use it.  Stratten is just using it as a jumping off point to explain his theory that, any marketing when used incorrectly, will hurt more than help your brand.  The improper use of QR codes is just one such problem.

Stratten organizes his book into four sections:Do QR Codes Kill Kittens?

1. They Don’t Work

2. Nobody Likes Them

3. They’re Selfish

4. Your Time is Better Spent Elsewhere

and makes his point through more examples than any brand would care to admit.  In fact, there are about 180 different examples of how brands have used these new digital tools to do more harm than good.

For one, he has numerous examples of companies spending money on marketing, whether by QR code or in design, that sends people to websites that are only viewable on a desktop, or that have no mobile version available.  If people are scanning QR codes from a mobile device, it should lead to a mobile website.

Stratten takes issue with Facebook events that invite everyone and their mother (literally), yet are only accessible to a select few, due to location.  And, he specifically calls out Google, since they base their user numbers on how many people use their Google account in the year.  If you use YouTube, Gmail or Google search, and you are logged in to Google, it counts as a use of GooglePlus.

Finally, he takes issue with businesses that are only present and engaging with their customers after they have left.  He has a great example of an Allstate agent’s reply to a lost customer, after trying to get the agent on the phone, to no avail.

In the end, do QR codes really kill kittens?  No, thankfully, they do not.  But, as was pointed out to me recently by Chris Westfall, the National Elevator Pitch Champion, every time a business does something right, an angel gets its wings.

Should you read it?  I’d say, yes.  It’s worth it for no other reason than to see how you are doing better than some of the big brands.

Have you seen big brands (or small ones) that are incorrectly using these new digital tools?  I’d love to hear about them (as would Scott Stratten).

E-Mail Marketing – The First Social Network

email marketingE-mail has been around since before the dawn of the internet.  That’s right, in the early 1970’s, the Federal Government was sending messages through the United States Department of Defense network, which handled over 30 million messages per month.

As we began to move more onto the information super-highway, services like Compuserve, Prodigy, and America On-Line began to proliferate, making it incredibly easy for everyone to have an e-mail address.  In fact, at the height of AOL’s dominance, they had over 30 million members worldwide (they only serve about 2.9 million subscribers, as of October 2012).  In contrast, Facebook has over 1 billion members, as of September 2012.

What made e-mail so “social” was the ease at which your messages could be forwarded to your entire address book.  If you wanted to share with friends and family, all you had to do was hit the “forward” button, and they were all able to participate in the discussion.

Fast forward to today, and most businesses are marketing through e-mail, but that doesn’t mean that they are “doing it right.”  Just using this “social network” isn’t enough.  We need to ensure that our e-mail marketing is accomplishing its goals of increased business, increased lead generation, and increased market share.  The big question, then, is what are some best practices in e-mail marketing?

Best Practices

1.  Write compelling Subject Lines

Keep it short and simple and incorporate the benefit of opening the e-mail.

2. Set your objective and then choose the appropriate frequency

Are you trying to promote, inform, or relate to your audience?

3. Call your audience to action

You are sending the e-mail for a reason.  Make sure they know it.

4. Make sure they recognize the “From” address

They may know your company name, but not yours.  Make sure the email comes from someone they “know.”

5. Keep your main message and call to action “above the fold”

This is “news speak” for making sure that the important information is seen without scrolling the message.

6. Be mindful of mobile devices

Statistics say that 38% of email is opened on a mobile device and only 33% is opened on a desktop, so make sure the fonts and images will look good on your recipients mobile devices.

7.  Make sure to use alt-text for your logo and pictures

This is text that describes the pictures and logos should images be turned-off on your web browser, smart phone or e-mail client.  That way your recipient knows what should be in the image’s place.

Can-Spam

In addition to the tips above, always make sure that you are abiding by the “Can-Spam Act”, which requires the following:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information;
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines;
  • Tell recipients where you are located;
  • Honor opt-out requests;
  • There needs to be a relationship between the sender and receiver.

If you follow these best practices and requirements, then your e-mail marketing is on the right track to continuing the social nature of e-mail marketing.

What subject lines to you find work the best? The worst?  Do you feel that you get too much e-mail?  Sound off in the comments below.

Resources:

Wikipedia – Email

Wikipedia – AOL

Constant Contact – The Value of E-Mail Marketing Video

9 Email Marketing Best Practices to generate More Leads

CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business

Constant Contact

AWeber

MailChimp

Mobile email usage statistics

What the #? Hashtags are Coming to Facebook

Facebook HashtagsIn every class and presentation I do, I always tell people to keep Twitter and Facebook separate.  They use two different languages.  Facebook is all about “natural language”.  We post the way we speak.  We use full sentences, and have posts that can go on for paragraphs.  Twitter is the complete opposite.  It’s all about brevity.  After all, you need to fit everything into 140 characters (and we recommend only using 120 to allow for retweets).  That includes any links, and hashtags that you may use.

What is a “Hashtag”?

In it’s basic form, a “hashtag” is an organizational tool.  It is a way to search for tweets that have a common topic or idea.  For example, if you search Twitter for #HungerGames or #Bacon, you will get every tweet that uses these hashtags, and would be able to follow conversations and find out who says what about a certain topic.  Anything can be a hashtag, and no-one owns them.  While teaching my class at Hofstra University on Digital and Social Media, I use the hashtag #HofstraDigital so that the students can communicate through Twitter, and with me, on any topic they wish.

In addition, if you use social dashboards like Hootsuite, you can set up columns for specific hashtags to follow, and you will see all tweets using that hashtag in an organized fashion.

Hashtags can also be found on other social networks, including Pinterest, GooglePlus, and Instagram, and I’ve even seen them on T.V. shows, so that people can follow the conversation about the show in real-time (#thefollowing, #BigBangTheory).

So, it would seem a natural progression that hashtags would move to Facebook, where over 1 billion users visit daily.

Should I Care?

In short, yes.  Hashtags are coming.  There is no way to stop this.  They are a great tool to organize conversations and topics.  But, I don’t think it will change the way people interact with Facebook, at least not in the short term.  People are used to longer posts, and that won’t change with the use of hashtags.  They would be embedded within the posts.  An example could read:

I can’t believe that #target is not going to match their on-line price with their in store price for me.  That is #badbusiness.

This would allow Facebook’s Graph Search tool to offer up conversations around hashtags, when searching for the store “Target” or the phrase “Bad Business”.

This will also allow businesses to search around terms that they feel would be relevant to their business.  Target, for instance, would find this post by searching #Target, as would anyone else, who could then join in the conversation.

It would become a great way to engage in a conversation around a specific topic, and allow you a broader reach than just your friends or fans.

Facebook could even go so far as to offer a dedicated page for hashtag searches, where people can save specific terms to be constantly updated (GooglePlus offers this).  It may allow deeper and more meaningful conversations among people, and create new relationships.

Facebook could even begin to roll out a new advertising platform that would appear only on these hashtag pages, where advertisers could directly target people searching specific words or phrases.  It would bring a more targeted audience to your brand.

In the end, there is no stopping the hashtag, whether you #love it or whether you #hate it, it will begin to show up in our news feeds.  Why not #embracethehorror?

What do you think?  Do you #like them or #hate them?  Sound off below.

 

Resources:

3 Changes to Facebook Pages: Replies, Cover Photos, Hashtags

Hashtags: from Twitter to Facebook

Facebook Plans to Introduce Hashtags, Reports Say

Facebook Working on Incorporating the Hashtag

Why You Need a Mobile Website

Mobile is everywhere.  According to Google, more than half of Americans currently own a smartphone, and estimates show that by 2015 there will be more smartphones than PCs surfing the internet.

Why do you need a mobile website?

According to recent studies, the majority of users searching for a local business from a smartphone are looking to buy immediately.  They want quick access to important information about your company, which includes services offered, pricing, business hours and contact information.  A mobile website puts all of that information at their fingertips.  In fact, there was 103% growth in website traffic from smartphones from 2011 – 2012, and US consumers spend almost 1 in every 10 ecommerce dollars using a mobile device (25 Reasons Why You Should Have a Mobile Friendly Website).  And, if that isn’t enough to convince you that you need a mobile website, how about the little fact that there are more devices connected to the Internet than there are people on Earth.

What is the difference between a mobile optimized site and a regular site?

Social Ribbit's Mobile Site

Social Ribbit’s Mobile Site

Social Ribbit's Desktop Site

Social Ribbit’s Desktop Site

The biggest difference is screen size.  A regular website is developed to be viewed by a desktop or laptop computer with a screen size greater than 14 inches.  A mobile site is designed to be viewed on a screen that is considerably smaller.  Remember, a mobile website will take advantages of services that mobile devices offer, such as click to call and mapping.  This will convert mobile traffic to customers quicker by removing some of the barriers to contact.  After all, if I am searching for pizza from my mobile device, it usually means I want pizza now.  And, a mobile friendly site will allow me to call that pizza place without having to do anything but click the phone number.

Finally, check your Google Analytics.  How many people visiting your site are are on mobile devices?  Google provides that statistic under the “Audience” section of the reports.

The most important reason to go mobile?

Your customers are mobile.  Your business needs to be mobile, too.  Not only are we using our smartphones while away from our offices and computers, but we are using our mobiles and tablets while watching TV. and movies.  We are using them from the comfort of our couches and at our kitchen tables.  We are using them to access information quickly and easily.  If I can’t access your site from my smartphone or tablet, I’m leaving.  I will find a site that provides me the information I need somewhere else.

Have you mobilized your site?  If not, why not?  If so, have you seen an increase in traffic?

 

Resources:

5 Reasons Why You Need a Mobile Website RIGHT NOW

25 Reasons Why You Should Have a Mobile Friendly Website

7 Reasons You Need a Mobile Website

Google’s Ready To Go Mo?

Pinterest Analytics – Pinning Grows Up

Pinterest Analytics - Pinning Grows UpBack in November, 2012, Pinterest began shifting from a purely personal social network whose goal was to connect everyone in the world through the things they find interesting, to one where businesses would have the tools to use Pinterest for their marketing purposes (Pinterest Makes the Business Leap http://digitalethos.org/pinterest-makes-the-business-leap/).

Now, nearly 4 months later, Pinterest has begun to roll out a full suite of analytics tools that will enable users to get some “deep dive” information about people’s habits when it comes to pins.  Pinterest’s analytics tool is completely free, but has some requirements before you are able to access it.  First, you will need to switch your account to the new profile.  Don’t worry about this much, as it isn’t all that different, and you will have no problem finding all of your boards and pins.  The second step is a bit more involved.  It requires you to have a verified account, and this can be done when you try to edit your profile, but does require some knowledge of uploading a file to your web host.  Pinterest offers help with this step, so don’t let it scare you.

Once you have the new profile set-up and you have verified your account, you will have access to the analytics engine, under the user name in the upper right side of the screen.

What will I find in the Pinterest analytics?

According to the Pinterest website, you will find some very useful information, including how many people are pinning from your website (which you verified), how many people see your pins and how many click on your content.  You will be able to see which of your pins have the most repins and what else they are pinning.

Specifically, Pinterest offers you the following data under their Site Metrics tab, including:

  • daily average number of pins
  • daily average number of people pinning from your website
  • daily average number of times pins from your website were repinned
  • daily average number of people who repinned your pins
  • daily average number of times your pins appeared on Pinterest in the main feed, search results or on other boards
  • daily average number of people who say the pins on Pinterest
  • daily average number of clicks to your website that originated on Pinterest
  • daily average number of people that visited your website from Pinterest.

Pinterest also offers statistics for the most recent, most repinned and most clicked pins.

How can marketers use the data?

Most importantly, this new data is incredibly useful for businesses, since they can now see the types of pins getting good traction and they will have a look into the behavior of their customers, as their pins are repinned and as people visit their website from Pinterest, and it will allow businesses to tailor their websites to these new found visitors.

Finally, for e-commerce companies, they will now have a great insight into which products that they are pinning are driving traffic and which ones are resulting in immediate action by their customers.

I believe, as I said in my previous article (Pinterest Makes the Business Leap), that this is just one more step towards Pinterest implementing an advertising engine.

Will the rollout of analytics force you to take another look at Pinterest for your marketing efforts?  Have you been using Pinterest for marketing, whether successfully or not?  Sound off, below.

 

Resources:

Pinterest unveils web analytics, offers insight into visitor pinning behavior 

Pinterest Web Analytics

Pinterest Launches Free Analytics Tool for Business Accounts

Pinterest Analytics: Making the Most “Actionable” Social Network More Actionable

How Users Can Get Access To Pinterest Analytics For A Website

The Ever Changing Facebook

New Facebook News FeedI’ve been writing this blog for for almost 3 years, and it seems that I’ve written about changes to Facebook at least once every few months.  This month is no different.  On Thursday, March 7, 2013, Facebook announced drastic changes to its newsfeed.  They have decided to unify the newsfeed across all devices, desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile, and to provide a better “newspaper” like experience, providing “all the news that you want to see.”

In addition, Facebook will begin to sort the newsfeed chronologically, and will place a greater emphasis on pictures and videos.  In fact, they are increasing the size of the newsfeed, and decreasing the size of the two sides.  There is also talk that they are removing the ticker from the right side, and that sponsored stories are now going to be placed within the newsfeed, as they currently do, only bigger.

The question remains, how does it affect business?

The biggest change for businesses will be the increased size of posts, pictures and videos, but a decrease in screen real estate where ads currently reside.  But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Facebook is unifying the look across all platforms, ads will begin to appear in their mobile apps.

BUT, Facebook is also introducing (or re-introducing) sub-feeds, where you can organize your newsfeed according to specific criteria.  Through the new “all friends” feed, users will be able to see only those updates that their friends have posted.  There will be no updates from business pages at all.  Users can even focus their newsfeed to their closest friends, excluding all others.

Facebook is also going to implement feeds specifically related to photos and music, which may be a boon for advertisers within these respective genres.  They can target their ads to only show up for users within these respective feeds, which may lead to greater engagement.

They are also implementing a new “following” feed, which will aggregate all the stories from the brands that you follow, and also will show ads from all brands.

So, will these new changes be accepted, or will their one billion users revolt, as happens whenever a change is implemented?  Only time will tell.  What do you think of these changes?  Will they affect your use of Facebook?  Will they affect brands ability to connect with you?

 

Resources

Facebook Newsroom

The NEW Facebook News Feed: Everything You Need to Know

What Facebook’s New News Feed Means for Marketers

Facebook’s new News Feed: Bigger is Better

Hands On With the New Facebook

Facebook Takes on Google with Graph Search

Facebook Graph SearchEver since I started using Facebook, I’ve never found their search function very useful.  Results were never exactly what I was looking for, and my attempts at locating useful information left me empty-handed.  I always looked to Google to find exactly what I was looking for.  Despite the recent article outlining a great Facebook search “trick” earlier this week (see Facebook Introduces ‘Graph Search’, but this Search Secret Already Helps Marketers), Facebook really had no handle on search.

Now, that all changes.

What is Graph Search?

Graph Search allows users to search for anything connected with them through their “social graph”.  This new search tool basically searches through everything you have ever done on Facebook, and everything your friends have done and shared publicly, and answers your search requests with that information.  Facebook is going to give you the exact information that it thinks you want, based upon your connections within the site.

For example, if you search Google for restaurants, you will get many pages of restaurants that may or may not fit what you are looking for.  Search Facebook for “restaurants my friends like” and you will get very specific results, based upon your friends “likes” and comments.  Based upon the theory that we “trust” our friends on Facebook, these results will more likely result in a purchase, or a visit.

This is great for business.

If you are a small business with an optimized Facebook page, and lots of connections, Graph Search will customize results to the individuals that are searching based upon their connections, and not any SEO tricks and not based upon the popularity of your site.

More importantly, as research has shown, consumers are 71% more likely to choose a product or service when a friend recommends it to them within social media (see Consumers 71 percent more likely to buy based on social media referrals).  Word of mouth marketing is alive and well!  Remember, people do business with people that they know, like, and trust.  And, if a Facebook friend has used, recommended, or “liked” a business, there is an inherent level of trust in that recommendation.  And, that is the information that will be served through Graph Search.

In addition, businesses with a physical location may benefit most from Graph Search.  Especially if they encourage people to “check in” to the location.  This will provide Facebook more information to provide your friends searching for similar businesses.

In order for graph search to meet its full potential Facebook business page users will need to make sure that their information is complete, including the address, and make sure that the category your page is in is the correct one for your business.  You don’t want your jewelry company being listed as a non-profit, now do you?  The more information you provide on your business page, the more accurate the search results will be.  In addition, the more people that check-in or “like” your page, the more likely it will show up when searched for.

How do I get Graph Search?

Right now, it is only in beta, but you can apply for Graph Search by signing up for an invite.  I signed up two days ago, and received my Graph Search today!

So, are you impressed?  Does this fill a need you had?  Will you use it?  Let’s discuss it in the comments!

 

Resources:

 

Introducting Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search: The Experts Speak

Is This The Facebook Search We’ve Been Waiting For?

Facebook Graph Search: 10 Things You Need To Know About The Social Network’s Big Announcement

How Graph Search can help users see the world through different lenses

How Facebook’s Graph Search Impacts Small Businesses

Pinterest Makes the Business Leap

Pinterest PinboardThree years after their humble beginnings, Pinterest has made the leap to the big time.  That’s right, on November 14, nearly 3 years since launching the site as a closed beta Pinterest has opened themselves up to the business world.  No longer do we have to “pretend” to be a person within the photo sharing site.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a pinboard photo-sharing website that allows users to create individual “pin boards” based upon their interests, and share specific photos from around the internet to their followers.  And for the past year, businesses have begun to use Pinterest to increase their global reach through this visual medium.  Brands like Macy’s have been using Pinterest to showcase products found within their stores organized by category and holiday.  But, they have been doing it without direct sanctioning from Pinterest themselves.  Brands had no more abilities within Pinterest than individuals.

Now, things are different.  These new business pages now allow users to specify their company names, as opposed to using a “First Name Last Name” system.  In addition, companies can now verify their accounts and add new widgets to their websites (these widgets will offer the opportunity to display Pinterest content directly on your website), to help increase engagement among their followers.

Pinterest has made it fairly simple to convert your personal page to a business profile, simply by visiting www.business.pinterest.com and clicking the “Convert your existing account” button, and then answering a few questions about your business.  Nothing could be simpler.

In addition, Pinterest has created a “Best Practices” section of their website to help users best use this site to promote their business goals.  This section covers:

  • telling your brand story,
  • building a community on Pinterest,
  • how to send traffic to your site, and
  • how to analyze your Pinterest presence to improve.

Pinterest also offers businesses a full set of case studies about how different organizations are effectively using this platform.

It is my belief that Pinterest will slowly move towards a monetization scheme which would allow users to create advertising within the site.  In addition, I anticipate Pinterest will begin to offer an analytics platform similar to Facebook Insights, so that users can gauge the interactions within their accounts.

Are you looking forward to an easy way to use Pinterest for your business?  Will you be converting your personal page to a business page?  Where do you see Pinterest going in the future?  Feel free to join the discussion below!

 

Resources:

Pinterest Introduces Business Accounts and Tools

Pinterest Finally Rolls Out Business Accounts:  How to Set Yours Up Today

New Tools for Businesses in the Pinterest Community

Pinterest Makes a Brand Play with New Business Toolkit

Wikipedia — Pinterest

Connected Culture – The Art of Communicating with the Digital Generation

Connected CultureAfter appearing with Jerry Allocca on a panel discussion, he provided me a copy of Connected Culture – The Art of Communicating with the Digital Generation (amazon affiliate link), a book that provides a small business with a step-by-step guide to connecting in todays’ digital world.  And, after reading through this book, and partaking in many of the on-line resources, I can say that this book accomplishes its goal of offering an in-depth look into the “who”, “what”, and “where” of our connections within this new digital age.

Jerry Allocca, founder of CORE Interactive, offers his readers a step-by-step journey into the oftentimes confusing world of social media.  Allocca takes us through why we connect, who we are connecting with, and most importantly, how we can connect with our target audience to ensure that we, as businesses, leave no stone unturned.

And how does Allocca do this?  By following a great formula of offering readers the “why” we are connecting, and then offering them the tools to ensure it is done correctly.  Each chapter is followed by a downloadable workbook, so that readers can begin to implement the many ideas and actions Allocca outlines.

Should you read Connected Culture?  Absolutely.  But, more importantly, you should download and complete all of the downloadable workbooks, so that you are not only learning about the “Connected Culture”, you are able to participate in it.

How Much Effort is a Follow Worth?

According to Webster’s dictionary, engagement is defined as emotional involvement or commitment.  And social media requires this emotional involvement for any of us to be successful.  So, why would anyone use a Twitter validation service?  Does it really matter who follows you on Twitter?

True Twit TweetsI am always looking for people to follow on Twitter.  People who look interesting, or who have an atypical bio.  But the other day, I was included in a #FollowSaturday which I retweeted.  I then received a mention from one of the people within the list, thanking me for the mention.   After receiving this “thank you” I checked out the persons’ profile, and decided it was someone I would like to continue to follow.  So, follow I did.

Except I didn’t.  Actually, I couldn’t.  Why?  Because this person uses a Twitter validation service called True Twit.  After trying to follow him, I received a direct message indicated that, “XXX uses TrueTwit validation service.  To validate click here:”.

True Twit Validation Service DM

 

Why should there be this many steps to try and connect with someone on Twitter.  After all, if you don’t like me, you don’t have to follow me back.  Social media is all about connecting with people we can’t normally connect with.  It’s about conversation.  It’s about engagement.  How engaging is it that you don’t trust me enough to let me follow you?  When at a networking event, do you ask the people you meet to first validate that their intentions are pure?  Do you ask for a DNA test before talking?  When calling people, do you want them to ask you to validate your purpose for calling?

Of course not.  It would be unheard of.

But by asking me to “validate” myself, you are doing just that.  You are telling me, actually shouting at me, that you don’t trust me, that I will do something unjust with our newfound relationship.

I have a policy regarding anyone using the TrueTwit service.  I unfollow you.  There is no relationship.  There will be none.

Social media is about engagement.  And asking me to prove my worth isn’t engagement.  It’s just plain rude.

Do you use TrueTwit or another validation service?  Pro? Con?  Sound off below!

 

Resources

Webster’s Dictionary

TrueTwit Twitter Validation Service

TrueTwit Valication…Seriously?

TrueTwit Validation Service?  No, I will not validate my profile

TrueTwit – Satan, Savior or Simply Misunderstood?

 

Article originally appeared at Digital Ethos