Microsoft fluffs its Content App Sprightly

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If April came early, this would have been a nice joke. Microsoft released a content creation app called Sprightly on the Google Play store.

Initially I was mildly surprised that Microsoft Garage would incubate the concept for this app and release it as it is.

Now, it is billed as a really a tool for creating flyers, pricelist, catalog and eCards.

After I took it for a spin, I didn’t know what to say. I had to drown myself in absinthe and feast on rotted cheese to clear the memory of that experience.

I do not know what to say.

Microsoft isn’t the most creative company in the world. After a string of misses, they still do not understand what people want. Which makes me wonder if they are at all serious about content creation.

These are the folks who set the bar for Microsoft Office. Since then, they have wallowed in the mud, stepped on a few landmines and followed a sure path down hill.

Real World Applications

Why is Sprightly so bad?

Let’s say you wanted to create a catalog, of say four items to showcase on your instagram or Facebook page. The first thing you will realize is that you have no control over the cropping of your images, you have to crop your photo to the correct shape before using it on the template.

There are no tools to beautify the image either. So if you didn’t enhance your photo before you took it, you are pretty much fucked.

Then you have no creative control over the fonts used. It is as if the 21st century never happened. It has only ONE font option and you can have any color for that font as long as it is black.

Then you have the sad lack of creative layout for template choices.

I know. Microsoft is as creative as a culinary chef from McDonalds. They recycle ideas from the last century and hope you don’t notice but no one told them they got found out.

Content is all about Catching your Eye

This is where Microsoft gets it all wrong. By coming out with a vanilla grey Sprightly app, they think you should communicate in black and white.

The creative option is as rigid as adamantium. You can’t add borders, or for that matter use a different paper color. It is also is unable to make things attractive to the eye with creatively curated fonts.

All you do with the Sprightly app is to drop in a picture, fill in the descriptions and maybe the price and leave it at that. There is really nothing else you can do with it.

Is it simple to use?

Yes. If all you want is to drop a pix and add a price, yea. But that’s not to say that you can’t do this on other apps.

The multipage feature may sound brilliant but is hardly useful.

The flyer option is dead boring. How would you want an flyer that bores the hell out of people when you send it to them?

I suppose the idea behind this app is to integrate a host of services that Microsoft offers online but this addition is by no means cohesive.

You don’t fetch files from your skydrive or import excel files into your Sprightly document.

Maybe I am being harsh here after all, it is Version 1.0. Who knows what might happen with Version 2.

For now, I think that the app is probably suitable for the more geriatric members of Microsoft  who probably think that dropping a picture and adding a description is probably all you want to do when sending out a sales list or catalog.

As insane as it sounds, they might be right but I can assure you, the rest of us will disagree.

 

Epic Fails in Social Media Content Marketing

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There was a time when Content for Social Media Management platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite and even Klout made sense in its hey day but not anymore.

The amount of effort (unpaid) that goes into creating content and then having no eyeballs to appreciate them is a reality we all have to deal with some day. You now have to get on board with all social platforms, be online 24/7 to answer queries and find the time to manage your real business while at it? That’s true too. Forget the hired hand who blogs for you. He won’t do it for free so that in itself is a cost factor.

All social media platforms will give away some freebies but these freebies do not always justify the effort you put into creating content for your followers.

Your efforts are bound to fail if you don’t want to understand that content marketing is like any other advertising or advertorial campaign that is backed up with plenty of ad spend. Here’s why.

Facebook Organic Reach is a Costly affair

Facebook is like the high class hooker from New York. If you don’t have the money then there is no honey. Social Media Management platform gurus will always tell you that you have to decide on your objective and strategy for Facebook but NEVER tell you that you need to budget lots of cash for this effort.

Yes, creating content takes effort. But signing up to a Social Media Management platform is not going to get you the eyeballs you need for branding of conversion success. The platforms cautiously omit telling you this as they want you to take the bait, hook, line and sinker before you realize that your budget isn’t enough for a year long campaign. How much does it cost? Let’s assume you are doing this on your own for a small business, spend probably US$100 a week on promoted post to your followers on Twitter and Facebook. That’s US$400 a month, and let’s throw in that package from Hootsuite, which at the lowest is US$120 a year. That’s about US$5,000 a year, excluding the cost of a hosted site. And this is just for a a small business. Let’s factor in a 3 fold ROI to justify that return on investment. You need to pull in US$15,000 in revenue returns to your small business to spend that sort of cash.

Facebook has zero organic reach. Twitter won’t give you the time of day too if you are not going to pay so signing up for a promoted tweet is a must.

People who start on Facebook do not understand that each post cost them money to show to your followers. These are the same blokes who liked you page in the past but come back to play candy crush with their online pals on Facebook. Do they notice the notifications on their menu? Nope. So the best way to reach them is to force feed a post onto their timeline.

Here is how Facebook wants your moolah.

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Every FB post (unpaid) to your followers will yield roughly 1 percent reach. That means if you have 1000 followers, you post will reach about 10 people per 1000 followers. To get your post on all their timelines, you have to spend money. Lots of it…and this is just to build awareness.

All FB post to your page is best suited for branding and awareness building. It does not help you get more followers. To get more followers, you need to promote your page which is actually a subset of their advertising master plan. You have to advertise either on the timeline or on the sidebar [sidebar advertising isn’t available on mobile platform].

If you are interested in a straight out conversion from your advertising budget, you need to advertise to a regional or country specific audience. This is where you measure ad spend versus return on investment (ROI).

In old world advertising terms, if you spend US$100, you should get at least US$300 return in investment (3 fold ROI). This unfortunately doesn’t quite gel these days in any social media marketing plans if you take into account the money you have to spend on FB or Twitter, and at the same time sign up with a Social Media Marketing Platform [at a cost of over US$120 to US$600 a year depending your requirement]. So once you go down this path, you have to take into consideration the amount of money you have already spent without even going into the advertising details of each social media platform.

Facebook is not responsible for the quality of eyeballs you get on their platform. In the old world advertising, you advertise with a magazine like Tatler or Monocle because the people who read it are…well, are your specific target audience who would buy a whole wine cellar as a hobby. That means these eyeballs command a premium if you advertise with them. FB and Twitter is by no means a quality platform as any Tom, Dick or Harry can start multiple profiles as seen in the Click Farm business. Instead, you are given a choice of location, target age and probably some of their more fanciful hobbies as a potential audience profile.

Getting followers for you blog, Pinterest board, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter can be done in only two ways. The paid way is to get people to click a link to your content and become a follower. The other is the splatter method.

The splatter method is when you follow people to get them to follow you back. It is like a follow for follow tag currently popular with some folks hoping to break into to the social circles. I call this a splatter method because you have no idea who you are following most of the time, except maybe that they like what you like or live within the same locality as you do. This is not quality advertising for your content as people who have similar interest as you do may not live within a 1000 miles from you. So unless you are running a brand awareness campaign, or offer online shopping, chances are those post will be ignored. But all this takes effort on your end to search and add them.

Videos give you Better Reach on Facebook

Here is another clue. Video is the next big thing on FB. They have even tried to introduce self streaming videos to the annoyance of mobile users.

Posting videos to your FB page will automatically give you a 5 percent reach as compared to a link or text post. So for every 1000 followers, you have a chance to reach 50 of them for free. You want more eyeballs? Sign up for their Premium Video Ads for ROI.

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But before you say it’s a good deal, let me ask you, how much time and effort did you spend on shooting, editing and planning for that short video? Is 50 eyeballs enough to satisfy that need? Go figure and write Santa a note about getting some Facebook credits for next Christmas.

Twitter is no different than Facebook

Yes, unfortunately that is true. You pay for what you get and in the end, you just gotta justify your ad spend. Twitter’s organic reach is hovering at an all time low. It just fails to suck up those eyeballs and convert that into measurable ROI.

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That’s why these folks are betting big on ‘live’ streaming since that is a buzzword they can still use to justify their dollar denominated advertising plan. Vine videos haven’t taken off in a big way except with college kids and people with too much time on their hands. Instagram has video to further add to the basket of eyeballs wanting moving images and finally, there is live video which could be the future for Twitter on Periscope.

Tumblr isn’t for Everyone

The young of heart may be your next target niche but no one told you that Tumblr is still a very American centric social and content discovery platform. You are not going to reach out to that same age group in Japan, Korea or for that matter Vietnam using Tumblr.

Even though Tumblr maybe way better than WordPress.com in some ways but in the end, you still have to pay to get discovered.

Ever since Yahoo bought them out in May of 2013, featured ads has been appearing in user’s content stream. This is both good and bad news.

The good part is that hashtags can still be used a strategy to find your future or potential customers and generate the sort of brand awareness you need to start. However if you want a straight cut ROI on your ad spend. You probably have a better deal signing up with Tumblr to show those ads.

Pinterest is Instagram on Steroids

Let’s face it. Starting a board on Pinterest is a time consuming affair. You can either curate or create content for each board. Who gets to see these boards? Only fellow users who are out to get more pins.

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Since Pinterest is image centric. You can’t help but draw similarities between them and Instagram. Both require User inputs and that’s you I am pointing at.

Both work the same way and since each board is in itself the description of the pins, you can’t help but think that the board itself is a hashtag of sorts to categorize content.

Pinterest also has promoted pins, and with it an advertising plan to suit your target audience. The same can be said of Instagram when they started to introduce promoted content (advertise content) to specific region of users.

There is no such thing as a Free Lunch

I like to call social media campaigns as a Freemium Advertising Gateway as you have to ante up on those dollars to find some sort of success.

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The only free social platform that is devoid of any advertising right now is Google+. That’s because Google has much grander ambitions than to charge you for your post as they have the search engine to back that all up.

Getting a ROI on investment on any social media marketing campaign will cost you money. Don’t think it is cheap as even Americans feel it is far too expensive.

If you can spend the time to crate content but can’t spend the money to promote it, you are doomed. At every level, you cannot think for one moment you are getting a free lunch. That’s why Social media has become a Freemium platform. Once the social media networks hooks you, they hope you get dragged under the water with their advertising masterplan.

Success in any business can only be measured by ROI. How much you aim to get out of it in the end to sustain your business empire is crucial. It’s not just about eyeballs but quality eyeballs. This sad fact, unfortunately, is lost in translation as one grabs onto social media…thinking it was the elusive pot of gold to their online success.

Start with a Web Presence

A web presence is a web site. If you haven’t got the time of day to do one then social media marketing isn’t for you. There are plenty of free hosting sites which can of course establish your de facto web presence. My own recommendation is strikingly.com, which gives you a free web page for your product, company, portfolio in the simplest design terms. It has easy to use templates and you just key in the text and fill in the pictures. I will give you my reasons why this should be the first step towards establishing your own web presence first before any social media marketing can take place, but you already know that having an actual web site speaks volumes about your online dedication. So take the first step. Start your web presence with a site before attempting social media.

No Brainer Web Presence with Strikingly.com

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I get asked a lot about having web presence and technically speaking, it is one of the most boring and common question that I face.

People often think that for the time spent of Facebook, that should be enough. Well, technically that is a social presence and it’s not entirely the same as having your own website.

A web presence is really about having a website that says it all. It can be for your book, company, service or nanny services in which you provide real hookers for menage a trios outing.

You can call this an online brochure and for those who have no idea on what to do and where to start, there is always those free web sites on blogspot or wordpress.com which caters to your varied content needs.

But many of you do not need a CMS to have a web presence. There are so many alternatives to this, like in the case of wix.com and squarespace virtual real estate packages that come preloaded with templates for you to switch to.

Strikingly Dot Com

I have a site here and don’t pay a dime for it. But my site is my own calling card of sorts. I have test driven a whole load of these other hosting sites in the past and I have to admit, these dudes at strikingly have done a good job. And no, I have not been paid by them to say otherwise.

First, you have those clean templates which you can use for almost any type of site for any web presence requirement. Some are so well done that you’d only find it as a paid CMS template on WordPress.

imac-4e2a6cf4d4f2c2f58f978754e565c9c1Test driving it is free, and you can also have a free site as well so no hidden sign up fees for those who do not know if they would end up liking it.

For those who want to customize their needs to suit, say their books, seminars, portfolios, etc. You have to option of paying for an annual plan which to me, cost as much as you would in setting up a paid hosting service on WordPress.

Strikingly also offers great design options that are also mobile friendly. The templates have improved in time and today, you even have the option of adding a blog space to your site if you so wish.

Not everyone blogs. That much is true.

Some might not have much to say while others will wear you to the bone with their text. To create a successful web presence, it’s a toss between the two but people ultimately are visual creatures.

This is where the Template organization and usage comes to play. If the User Experience (UX) for the site sucks. You can be assured your visitors will opt out faster than they found your site link.

LinkedIn with Strikingly

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Here is another good reason to build your own resume/CV without the confusing and often badly designed UI of LinkedIn.

I am not a fan of LinkedIn because the UX feels cluttered. Even if they sell themselves in a social manner, I never found the value of browsing someone’s LinkedIn file unless I was looking for people to hire.

Strikingly has a auto-import feature that will layout your LinkedIn profile into a proper web portfolio. Just import your profile and key in the missing details. It looks far better than the jumble mess you find in LinkedIn.

Cost Versus Effort

For as little as US$96 a year, you can have your own domain and email forwarding plus 50GB of traffic. Now, ask yourself….how the hell would you exceed 50GB of web traffic unless you are running a porn site?

And let’s not forget about the cost of having a designer or a webmaster of sorts to set up a CMS if you don’t already know how. Strkingly is a snap to set up as its visually designed templates allow that freedom to not hire someone who has better brains than you to set it up.

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For example, to use forms, you have a visual interface to create it. No more having to install a plug-in on the CMS to get it running. Plug-ins will crash and depending on their security compliance code, can let hackers break in. But you wouldn’t know that unless someone told you about it.

Now Squarespace offers you loads more in terms of blog, e-commerce and stuff you probably won’t end up using for the same price. However there is no free ‘site’ option like in the case of Strikingly where you can create micro-sites to link to your own personal web presence.

Visual Content Matters

For me, having a visual web presence is far more important as people normally do not know what to write or say on a web site. I am sure you can pen a few words about what you wish to communicate to your visitors but trust me, having the right pictures to go with the site is all that matters.

The human attention span of the average web surfer is about 100 words. If you don’t hook someone for the next 100 words, he will click the nearest link to a porn site.

Visual marketing plays an important part of that psyche. It has to flow well. Look nice and the colors have to gel too.

A pure white and minimalist template often times do not work (sorry square space but you suck) and people might say that’s the safest option for your pictures to stand out. Going one up the ladder would be to be attractive than to be safe. How a UX is designed becomes important if you want to hold those eyeballs.

People on the Internet have a truckload of choices in which to spend their time on. Trying to be Zen in your layout just isn’t one of them unless they suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.

So start your web presence in baby steps. I know you hate to jump in and realize that you can’t swim. That’s how it happens sometimes so you have been warned. To build your own site with strikingly, start here.

How Twitter turned Nazi on Coke’s Campaign

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When it comes to creating content, the last thing you should do is to use an automated bot. A bot is a term for a robot, which of course is just some dumb waiter in this instance. In the case of Coca Cola, they were on the receiving end of the joke when Gawker themselves started a bot to counter the #MakeItHappy hashtag used by Coke.

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People using this quote will have the chance of getting a lovely ASCII graphic as long as it was tweeted with the #MakeItHappy hashtag. So this was Coke’s way to spread some love and happiness in the time of ISIL and the burning pilot trapped in a cage. The quoted text below sums up the experience.

Coca cola started a new Make It Happy campaign during the SuperBowl TV spots and didn’t know the consequence of using Twitter hashtags. As part of Coke’s ad campaign, it allowed people to reply to tweets with the hashtag #MakeItHappy, which would prompt the @CocaCola account to automatically take that tweet and spit it back out as fun ASCII art.

This basically sums up the use of bots. If you fail to employ a full time human staff to man your content feed, then you’re looking for trouble. In Gawker’s case, they wanted to prove a point that having a Bot manage your content feed is a bad idea. All they had to do was insert lines from Hitler’s infamous book “Mein Kampf” and use the hashtags to lure the Coke Bot to pick it up and this can happen to anyone. The quoted text will appear as a happy ASCII art as seen below.

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Why Content Has to be Managed

You learn the hard way that you have competitors and they are out to destroy you in the most creative way. In the case of Coke, a rival like Pepsi could hire someone to hijack the campaign. Even though any publicity isn’t bad publicity, in this case it gave Coca Cola a boost in the social sphere, things could have turned out far worst for SMBs who do something which can tarnish their long term marketing objective.

Coke pulled the campaign, Gawker laughed so hard and yes. You have to be-careful when using Twitter.

Hashtags have become a way of life in content promotion. You find a unique hashtag and try to own it by using it. The NYPD also had a campaign which backfired. It started a #myNYPD campaign to show how citizen friendly they were and got a slew of citizen photos showing otherwise. Then it was made into a joke which put the NYPD in a very hard spot.

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Twitter for the Rest of Us

Twitter is a two way street. It is sort of like a bulletin board of sorts where people can reach out to you and it works particularly well for brands, celebrities and politicians. If you wanted to reach out to someone directly, he or she may respond to you in Tweets. The whole process then helps you to communicate with entities you do not normally have the chance to. This power to the people scenario is also open to abuse. Twitter is severely limiting to those who can’t sell something in 140 characters. Using a URL embed is the only way but to get people clicking on that URL is also a shot in the dark. Twitter has made it clear that it aims to clamp down on spam and post abuse but so far, they have been slow in responding.

As with all social media platforms, Twitter allows you to shore up your followers with lots of buy-in fake followers, take promotional adverts to promote your content on the platform and use it for content marketing. What they don’t tell you is that organic growth has been spiralling down and is only a tad higher than Facebook’s zero percent organic reach.

The platform has been moving away from its text based roots and is now openly supporting picture post and later, video post as well. Twitter has no choice but to do this as it has to secure the eyeballs instead of letting people exit the platform to view something on YouTube or a third party video host. In the past, they have blamed iOS 8 failures and broken mobile apps that costed them millions of users.

However I am not particularly sold on Twitter is that after experimenting on it, I realise that the ambiguity that is often associated with it is what makes people abuse the platform. For one, it rarely ever reaches out to the masses unless you happen to use a ‘pop’ hashtag. These are the trending hashtags that Twitter tells you about in your dashboard. You have to craft your content to fit the moment instead of relying on your own unique hashtag to take off. Its like riding a popularity wave, once it dies down, you find the next hashtag wave to ride on. It’s a bit like surfing, where you wait for the right wave to ride on. So for example you can add a Tweet to ride on Coke’s  #MakeItHappy trending tag and add #hireMyWhore at Men’s Health Spa.

I have seen Bots that are programmed to work as a spamming tool by inserting bit.ly URLS into a reply to your tweets and then sends you to a spam site upon clicking on it. Thanks to Twitter’s method of restricting your characters, people often are not sure if the given URL is a genuine reply or a spam link.

In the case of Coca Cola, they started this off without much thought and didn’t plan on responding  that someone hijack their campaign, this undermined their online credibility. By having a human process to moderate the replies, spam and abuse can be checked but this is far too costly for a industrial giant that pulls in billions in global revenue every year.

This is where content marketing gets expensive for corporate use. People have to be assigned as moderators while for SMBs, you just have to monitor this on your own time. Imagine if you’re out fishing for the weekend and constantly fighting spam on your hashtag on your mobile. That’s the reality for the rest of us.

How Twitter can Work for You

As a communication channel to your business, it has to be manned 24/7 and this where you tell customers to follow you for updates. You can of course insert marketing or promotional content but often the character limitations will leave your followers guessing. This is why people make use of picture post as a marketing lure. In the case of Coke, the happy ASCII picture was the lure for people to jump onto the hashtag wagon.

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Instead of just tweeting pictures, you should consider using Twitter for the following:-

  • Content updates to your Followers on Social Media.
  • Promotional updates to your site
  • Sharing of curated content using shortened URLS to your followers
  • Feedback and Contact channel for customer/product satisfaction

It makes no sense to acquire users on Twitter unless your targeted audience are also frequent users of the social channel. Such acquisitions are a miss-miss affair. Remember the hashtag rule. If the brand isn’t yours then there is no point pouring money into it in the hope it will go viral.

So before you embark on any content marketing campaign, think about the strategy behind it first and follow through on it. Murphy’s Law is all about consequences on things that can go wrong and for social media, there are heaps.

Content 101: Why having a Strategy Matters

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The idea behind having your content is two fold. One is to get on top of a SERP, the second really for social media. Both count towards your eventual goal of reaching the top 10 but let’s not also forget that content plays a huge part of it all. Whenever you do a search, UGC from different sources (country IPs) also help to boost your visibility. Whenever you do a search for a product or service, reviews from consumers and users will show up results that is linked to your brand. This is why having a solid content strategy matters.

Back in the days where social media was nothing more than online communities (it still is btw) you posted stuff you did, stuff you want to do and shared some pictures online. It was like, Buzznet, and my profile is still active there too. Social media like Foursquares, Tripadvisor, Linkedin, Facebook and G+ are intrinsically linked to content found on Tumblr, Blogger and self hosted WordPress sites.

Facebook and G+ changed it all in recent years as your social profile also became your brand and what you associated with. So if you happen to run a business or work for one, they would have their own presence online outside of the traditional website. The game changer was that your businesses could  qualify as an online entity thus was born the need for social media content. This entity should be alive, as determined by Google Algorithms, and updated to show it is alive.

Online Brochureware versus Content Development

Still relevant in today’s online world are online brochures to show you have a company presence for people to drop by and browse your services/products. If you are lucky, they might even send you email. But any long forgotten and undated revision to your website will only show that your strategy isn’t about content but more of a online brochure, with that your SERP gets gunned down by Google for being too plain and unhelpful. Brochure ware sites are Zombie entities, not entirely living or dead so this gets bumped down the search chain over time. Using keywords within your brochure site  isn’t going to help you rise to the top of a SERP but at least you’re somewhere in the top 100, or maybe top 1000. Oh…maybe that wasn’t your intention to begin with?

Why Site Planning Matters

There are plenty of places to host your own online brochure. That one page calling card which you call a website has many advantages, like maybe your email and fax number for contact. However if you want to be found outright in a SERP, you need to invest.

First, you don’t have to do this. Your business is going great and you won’t miss those emails screaming for orders from the darkest corner of Africa. However if you want to sharpen your online presence, you need to take note of a few following details.

1. Migrating to a CMS System

When do you graduate from a website to one that is content friendly? This is time you finally decide to use a CMS or Content Management System. If you have no content, heck you can even do that on a free WordPress account. Free hosting too. It’s done so let it sit! But if you have regular updates (meaning weekly or monthly as opposed to once in a year revisions) then that needs to be managed. There are three popular CMS platforms for self management, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Having a web designer isn’t the ultimate solution. Designers work on design and are totally clueless when it comes to your content needs.

2. Web Designers are Not Content Developers

This is another thing that people have to understand, web designers are not content developers and have little or no regard to what makes your business work. They do not come out with content on the fly or make that work with social media. Designers create sites which suit the content you have or the content strategy you have in mind. They worry about how the system will perform and how the content will look. The also have to think about the back-end system based on your content requirements.

3. Web Designers are not SEO Consultants

Here is another problem people face, if you want to have an SEO friendly site, you don’t hire a designer to do that, this is not their role. 5 years ago, SEO was real easy. You could use Black Hat techniques to fool search engines to display your site ontop of a SERP. There were web tools and even downloadable programs which can do this. Those same tricks aren’t going to work now as the whole SERP business has gotten a lot more complicated. This is where the SEO consultants come in. Today, SEO consultants have to transition to content consultants as their role to find the easiest way to the top of the SERP has gotten so much harder. Most of them are snake oil salesmen. And you know why? They cannot guarantee a metric in which to prove any success. Pageviews or web traffic can be generated without having to hire a consultant, you can pay Google to put your name on top. Web traffic can also be gained by putting up banners on partner sites. SEO consultants can lend a hand to boosting your SERP rank but they cannot guarantee a return on your investment. So go figure.

4. Content is Dynamic

Content has to be shared via multiple platforms that we all know as social media. People want to know what works and how to do things. Even B2B sites need content that showcases their services or products in the best light. This is why so much effort has been given to Google’s Hummingbird update. There is no point of having content that is locked into a particular platform. That platform has to help disseminate your content to a wide audience. This is why YouTube works so well. It is share friendly. You can post videos you made to both G+ and Facebook. However if you post video to Facebook, that content gets locked into that platform and it can’t be shared outside of the FB community.

Google’s algorithm is being tweaked all the time. Every month, they do something to adjust it and this can be viewed on Mozcast, a site that monitors the SERP turbulence created by these minor changes. These changes affect how your content is placed in a SERP and if you are chasing a SERP rank, you probably need to have full time staff monitoring such changes that affect your site ranking.

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5. Know your limits on Budget

From the onset, having a CMS isn’t going to be easy as you need someone to manage it. Then there are other cost factors for each strategic decision. For example, shooting a video and putting it up online might seem relatively easy but you have to ask yourself who is going to do this if you’re not video savvy. The same can be said about graphics for your site. If you want a highly customized graphic, then you need a web designer who knows how to manipulate images in Photoshop or create one digitally in illustrator. Do not expect that to come from one person. Everyone has a different role as what your want sometimes lies outside your intended budget. Let’s not forget the budget for SEO consultants and content developers if you don’t have the time to develop them yourself. All this adds up as part of your ongoing budget.

6. A Dead Site is a COMATOSE Site

There are plenty of comatose sites on the Internet. Businesses who concentrate mainly on existing customers do not update their own company websites when they have new products. This becomes very exasperating for customers when they hear of something new and can’t find any resource on it. Just coz you paid for the hosting and put up a static front page isn’t helping you or your customers in any way. Today, people are information driven. They need information to make credible decisions. Having a static site that sits there minding its own business is a waste of money.

One way of avoiding this is to cross post content from Tumblr, Instagram and even Pinterest to your own website. Social Media management systems like Hootsuite, Buffer and IFTTT.

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IFTTT.com is probably one of the most creative uses of web action fucntiions where you can trigger cross posting of content to various other media channels. The only downside is that it doesn’t support either Pinterest or G+ for the time being but Facebook profile, pages and groups are supported.

Online isn’t cheaper than Print

One of the age old paradigms is that having a website is going to be cheaper than printing a brochure as it was suppose to disrupt the traditional way of doing things. Not anymore. It cost more to get your brand recognize and even more for you to make money from it.

You should instead take websites and social media as complementary channels for your marketing strategy and not rely on it solely to bring home the bacon.

Online has gotten to be as expensive if not more than what it takes to print a brochure. One of the reasons is that technology has made it more complicated to reach out to new customers as everyone else is clamoring for that same piece of the pie. Your voice gets drowned out if you don’t shout loud enough in the marketplace and this is where you need to strategize your priorities. Big brands with millions of dollars in advertising budgets never have to worry because they have what it takes to create their own online presence whereas for the SMB, your budget is limited. Competing with the big names isn’t your priority but find your niche is. This is where you have to formulate strategy to get things going for yourself.

Content marketing is all about attracting eyeballs and you need to spend time, effort and money to make it all work.

Negative Content: Why you should worry about Free Speech

MIT

Content is king but what is it? Technically speaking we derive no differentiation from negative or positive content as long as someone reads it. This is a dangerous precedence as content creators might be inclined to use negative content to bait eyeballs. Boston University’s Krystal Blanco at Boston University developed a mathematical model of how rumors are spread. In this model, individuals are either ignorants, spreaders, or stiflers of information. In addition to these categories, Blanco and co introduce a category of quarantined users who are unable to contact other members of the population and so are unable to spread their messages. This is also how Net censorship is taking place in some countries though not with the use of a mathematical formula but one that is based on keywords.

There is no Such Thing As Free Speech

I have often pointed this out to people who ask me about what makes for popular content. Being popular can be both a negative and positive experience. Positive if you are going to get loads of traffic to your post, negative if you happen to give a spiel on a competitor or as an avid blogger giving a heartfelt review of what one has experienced.

Caroline Doudet from France wrote a review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013 on her blog Les Chroniques Culturelles.

She got sued by the restaurant for affecting the business.

While the court only asked Doudet to alter the headline of the article, she chose to delete it entirely following the court proceedings — only after, though, she was asked to pay a 1500 Euro fine and an additional 1000 Euro fee to cover the legal fees of the case. “If bloggers do not have the freedom to write negative reviews, positive reviews make no sense either.” Doudet’s case is the first in which an unpaid, nonprofessional blogger has been fined for publishing a less-than-positive post on a restaurant.

 
Taking a Cue from the Movie “The Chef”
 
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This little movie that came out of Hollywood is another testament of what can happen if negative reviews are used as popularity gauges. This is very dangerous as online reputation these days is largely based on your virtual popularity.
 
In the movie, a Chef’s reputation was completely destroyed with social media, and this can happen to any business that solicits social media approval.
 
Countering Negative Content
 
The first rule is not to fight back. Negative content can be disarmed but you need to identify if the person leaving it is indeed unhappy about a product or service that you provide or is just another Internet troll. Taking your troll to court is probably too far fetched unless you find a way to subpoena him or her.
 
You must first examine the negative content, be it in a blog post, twitter feed or a blogsite. This is very important as at this point, you will have to decide to engage the blogger who posted the content. In any business, there are so many ways to get a negative feedback. It could be a lapse in due diligence or a product failure.
 
After having establish this as fact, you can of course engage the person via his blog or your postings on social media. Accept the fact that you have done wrong and apologize. It is the best way out of social media flame war
 
If you feel that you have been wronged in some way, you can also choose to engage the customer directly by offering a refund or a replacement if that person came to the shop personally with the defective item.
 
The PR stunt here is have the person in the shop accepting the goods. This is a grand occasion for you to make good on something and this is how social media will work in your favor. Being humble about your mistake and making good on your service quality will create goodwill and that is the tip of the iceberg.
 
Engaging your customers socially with such content is a sure fire way to bring in more customers as it is free publicity for you. The Soviet era of having it your way or the highway in customer engagement is a death trap in the Internet age. So don’t do it.
 
Taking down a troll is easy but you have to prove they are acting erratically. If you find content that is disturbing, you can always tell the community owner to take it down. This can also happen in social media where trolls may post seemingly negative content on everything they touch. Cutting them off from their own social media community is the only step you need to take.
 
Free speech is a myth. Don’t you believe it exist on the Internet. This is where you also get to learn that leaving stinging reviews on your competitors is not a content strategy you can use lightly. It has consequences and will backfire once it is traced back to you.
 
 
 
 
 

Responsive Web Design for Mobile

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I want a website! I don’t want one that SUCK! What Should I do?

In the old days, at least during my time, the only option to show off your website was to create one on a web host with code. Then came desktop programs like Pagemill from Adobe that sort of help iron out the rough edges but that was no guarantee it would not suck! The problem back then was browser compatibility (it is still the problem now but to a lesser extent). The only way to bypass that was to use Adobe Flash (hence its popularity).

Since Adobe has scaled back on its support for Flash, it has become a veritable nightmare for browsers as a new breed of surfers emerge to take its place. These new breed of web surfers are now referred to as mobile web traffic.

Mobile Web took off in a big way in the 21st century. Data has to be transmitted and understood by devices with a peculiar set of protocols. In its day, WAP and Docomo’s i-Mode were highly popular and due to limited bandwidth on mobile, TCP/IP standard didn’t enter mainstream until much later in the late 90s thanks in part to EDGE/3G services giving you much faster data access.  I won’t bore you with the details but responsive web design in the old days meant that you had to put up a WAP site along with your standard website. I-mode in  was only happening in a handful of countries before it died prematurely in the hands of the iPhone. The iPhone in particular spearheaded the rapid demise of all other mobile protocols.

Now, why would you want to put up a website to meet the demands of both desktop web surfers as well as mobile surfers? Good question. According to Gartner and Cisco’s report, the dominant traffic of the Internet future will be from mobile devices!

  • The Gartner Institute is projecting over one billion smartphones and media tablets will be sold globally by 2015
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012
  • In 2012, mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012
  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012
Gartner statistics on mobiles and tablets

Responsive Web Design

It sounds like a big term that only geeks can understand but really, it  just means you gotta have a website that scales to size to meet the needs of a mobile experience.

Using Adobe Flash isn’t kosher anymore, largely thanks to Adobe abandoning its support for the mobile platform by saying it can’t be done. So let’s not go there.
There are ways to create a mobile/desktop site without much worry if you care to spend some money. Or if you prefer, use a CMS/blog platform such as WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr and a host of other CMS platforms like Weebly and Squarespace. There are just too many to mention. You can create blog sites, corporate sites and even e-commerce sites that are responsive to all devices using these platforms. Some are more user friendly than others so you gotta know what you want before you begin.
For example, not all CMS platforms support e-commerce engines. This is pretty tricky and hosting as to be secure enough for you to use. All e-commerce sites will be targeted for hacking at some stage so choose well.
Developing your own RWD Site without CMS
 
responsive-website-on-iphone-ok
This is the golden question everyone is asking. Can I not use a CMS host and create my own site? Of course you can. If you care to ante up on one of those web tools, I suppose you can do anything. Some takes more work than others and this is probably the only leg work you need to do. You can use something like TOweb, a site creation program that basically allows you create everything you need for a website but it doesn’t support blogging. Download it, install it and run it. It’s not very intuitive but if you want complete control, you have to learn the ropes. Move a ahead a bit more and you’ll have HTML5 compliant building tools such as Tumult Hype.
This is a drag and drop experience and with all the content ready at your disposal, it should be quite easy to build a site up within a day. However, the e-commerce part might be a bit more tricky so keep your eyes peeled for things you don’t understand. Whereas Tumult Hype is not for the uninitiated, it has many powerful features to create everything from interactive elements to multi-touch support but to fully utilize its power, you need to know how to code.
From Website to Mobile App
Yes, this can be done too if you are wondering why no one seem to mention about it. That’s because it takes a bit of tinkering. First, there are several Mobile App Builder platforms available online, just Google the reviews up and you’d get an idea on what I mean. Those which are free to use are pretty basic, and you need to also pay for the App to go live on a store. So far, only Blackberry doesn’t charge anything for listing a mobile app. It cost US$19 for the Windows store to US$99 for the Apple store. So please remember that the freebies are not free when you decide to list your app.
responsive-design-mobile-web-mobile-apps-you-pick-the-strategyHow does the Mobile App Maker Work?
First, your content is your key. If you already have a standalone website that is not hosted on a CMS platform, you need to find out if the App Builder of your choice is able to support it. If not, you could choose an App builder that takes your feed manually with RSS.
All app builders are made to have some form of intelligence. They might not be able to play a game of chess with you but they sure as hell know what is a content feed when they see one. From here, you can add maps with bells and whistles like video and flickr photo feeds.
Paying to use a platform is normal, if you don’t pay, expect an advertising banner to be displayed on your mobile app. This is not a good way to start if you are running your own business.

Enabling Responsive Web Display for WordPress

This is much easier to tackle if you are running the latest WP on your site. Just do the following:-

Go to your DASHBOARD > APPEARANCE > enable MOBILE

MobileTheme

You can customize those options if you like and see how it goes. But beyond this, it’s not going to cost you anything else. Older versions of WordPress would take quite a fair bit of juggling with extensions, where a third party extension is used to enable mobile device viewing.

You’d be surprised how it looks in the end as the theme you use can be highly responsive to mobile displays to the point you can’t tell the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.

Multi-Touch is not Included

You are bound to arrive at this point asking, what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website if you can’t visually tell the difference? Well here are some pointers to remember :

  • Native mobile apps might display content in a similar way but on a native mobile app, multi-touch actions are supported.
  • Mobile websites do not support the fancy transitions you often see on native Mobile apps. You need to code in HTML5 and use Javascript to have that capability. This requires coding knowledge.
  • Native apps are hand coded. They do not use templates or themes, thus making them feel more unique to the end user and is totally Greek to the uninitiated who try to code one from scratch.
  • Native mobile apps support for Social Media is seamless. The app can integrates more tightly with your content and social media feeds.

Remember how to Deliver your Content

Content matters. If you have lots to share, then you should put more thought into it but first know how often you are going to update it. If you are going to have lots of updates and plenty of content to share to engage your customers or fans, then it is better to start off with a CMS system with RWD enabled for your site. A mobile app is sort of a calling card these days even though they carry the same content as your website. You need to find out if you really need a mobile app to begin with.

Your content strategy should be sound. Customers are not going to download and install your app if all you do are annual updates.

Think for a moment, if all you are producing is vintage vinegar, and you don’t have much to share, then having a mobile app would be a waste of time. Even your Twitter feed will be empty until you have a fresh batch to announce for delivery.

Content has to be original and engaging and not just brochure-ware. The term brochure-ware is just that, a company brochure that has been regurgitated into an online form—which in this case would be your mobile app.

Don’t just create another mobile app just cause you think it is cool. Have a defined content strategy in place before you do as this is a very time consuming process. Content has to be curated or developed and if you don’t have the time to do it, then you have to engage people with the right expertise to help you.

Having a budget before you proceed is very helpful. Sort of like having an advertising budget, you carve out a part of that advertising budget to support SMO and SEO activities. Failing to do that will cost you even more time and money….and customers when you take them for granted.