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