Social media marketing strategy – get some direction

Social media marketing strategy – get some direction

Most companies are now looking to take advantage of the ever growing number of social platforms in their marketing mix. But the problem with many social media marketing strategies is – a lack of basic strategy. Let’s face it,  throwing together a Facebook page and encouraging friends and colleagues to like it or become a fan is not  exactly a focussed use of the social media channel.

There is an age old rule in communications to not say something because you want to be heard, but to say it because you have something to say.  But social media isn’t about communicating about how great your brand is, and how your offering is exactly what we all need, it’s about getting other people to say this for you.

More and more pSocial Mediaeople are taking their behaviors online, and businesses have to follow.  The effectiveness of your evangelical supporter in spreading the word is (almost) immeasurable in marketing. Social media  platforms give the early adopters and evangelists the communication tools and audience to spread the word like wild fire, providing a potent catalyst to a dynamic we already know exists.

Get off the band wagon and on the boat

A social  undertaking has to have a set of aims on which to gauge your campaign’s success. Without a clear plan and strategy of using social channels to under pin and support your overarching business objectives, your company is in danger of jumping on to the social media bandwagon and missing the all important boat.

Some examples of those aims could be to:

– Drive more traffic
– Uplift sales values
– Increase conversion ratio
– Reduce strain on customer services
– React quickly to negative PR
– Drive recruitment

The following video, Social Media ROI: Socialnomics, gives some inspiring examples of successes through social media marketing, and most importantly, the ROI figures to back them up:

So social marketing isn’t simply about us broadcasting our message via these channels, but how we can employ them to make relevant connections. Just as off line sales is more about listening (for a requirement, for a problem) than talking, social media gives us the window to look through and see what people are saying , as well as the tools to make positive connections and have some influence over what is said.

The video above  was found on Shannon Paul’s very official blog – a must read for anyone interested in no-nonsense approach to social media marketing. You may also want to check out Johann Ronnestam’s  Social Media Marketing Simplified questionnaire too for more insights and to see if you are adapting to this channel shift.

Will HTML5 leave Flash extinct?

Will the Ipad make Flash extinct

On a recent trip to London, in a quiet pub, a fellow punter unboxed their shiny new IPad to the coos, aahs and oohs of a growing love-struck crowd surrounding the lucky bugger. Anyone would have thought a new born giraffe was taking its’ first cute stumbles judging the reaction from the awestruck lunch time drinkers.

Practically every digital billboard in the London underground featured provocative shots of the iPad’s lusty particulars, male and female eyes just couldn’t avert their gaze. One thing is for sure, the iPad is an object of exquisite technological beauty, and we are rapidly falling in love. Even die-hard PC fans may not be able to resist the temptress for long and could soon be bowing down in submission to Apples’ evangelists.

You only have to check out their HTML 5 showcase (you will need to browse in Safari, as the showcase uses non-finalized web standards) to see how Apple are going to take the driving seat in pushing the web and mobile technologies of the future. But Steve Jobs has confirmed that Adobe Flash will definitely not be coming along for the ride.

Jobs’ statement may seem a little harsh, and the ending to this ‘will they, won’t they’ storyline between Apple and Adobe isn’t a happy one,  but it’s difficult not to appreciate the logic behind the decision to not support Flash on the Apple mobile OS. Pixel perfect transitions, slick animations and  video are all achievable through the open standards of HTML 5, CSS3 Javascript. Free, openness and sharing are all concepts synonymous with the web and Apple at least seems to be embracing these with their development strategy.

If developing in open standards is the only way you are going to get an application on the iPhone and iPad – where does this leave Adobe’s licensed development platform?

If I were a Flash developer for web, I might be starting to rethink my long term career path. One reason is most Flash sites depend on hover-overs – an alien concept to the growing number of devices using touch screen navigation. So there will be plenty of companies looking to redevelop their Flash sites…………. just not in Flash when there are more accessible options available.

Power consumption is an issue every mobile device manufacturer faces, and how to get the most out of a single charge. So even the rise of the non-Apple smart phones that will support Flash, does not look likely to be throwing a lifeline when it comes to mobile, as the technology is more demanding on power. Large, battery heavy devices will not survive in the market and besides, manufacturers have to keep making devices smaller – so we keep losing them and buying more!

But where do the users loyalties lie? YouTube and all the major content providers support H.264 codec, so non Flash users aren’t missing out on much when it comes to video. Most of us couldn’t care less if we are viewing content using Flash or Javascript and the majority of us don’t know what this geeky nonsense even means!

So the allure of the Apple style mobile OS will swoon us in the end, and non Apple developers will be following the leader when attempting to emulate the Apple experience. They already are. Flash looks likely to retreat away from the web content arena but that doesn’t mean it’s multimedia applications are dead and buried, Flash still has it’s niches.

Before the pro-Adobe rent a mob (and the Flash team at my agency) get their backs up – there is no doubting Flash’s capability to create gorgeous animated web content, but recently the Adobe developer community seem to feeling the heat in advertising  the fact more than ever. Perhaps this will drive Flash developers to create even more innovative content. But open web standards are catching up – fast.

Sorry Flash, I think  it might be over. It’s not you, OR me. It’s Apple.

Increase conversion rates with narrative, madlib forms

Nobody likes filling in forms. In fact I would go as far to say I despise any kind of form filling, online or off.  Most of us have a natural aversion to giving away our personal information or contact details, especially if we don’t want to be contacted and we just want to learn more on our own terms.

But the law of the internet holds firm. If you want to receive something, you have to give something back. Just as  Google have to give you their free organic search results in return for your occasional click on a paid listing, you have to  give up your details if you want that report, free trial or access to that members area.

Filling in the blanks…

Online marketers are always looking for ways to increase conversion rates of data capture forms. Opt in data and qualified leads are gold in any online  campaign, so how do you woo your audience into giving up their details? What if your data capture form was more engaging, even entertaining?

Narrative forms, also known as madlibs style forms, are an inventive take on the classic form format, and it looks like Ron Kuti has proved you can increase your data capture rates with this idea, check out the example below from Vast.com:

Narrative forms - increase your conversion rates

(Image from Luke Wroblewski)

Through split testing, the only way to truly find out which of your options are going to work best, Vast noted an increase in conversion rate between 25 and 40% by using narrative forms.  Some additional tweaks have been employed, such as one field for  phone number as opposed to three, but this change shows a major improvement in enticing engagement.

This technique hasn’t worked for everyone, Patrick from Kalzemeus found a deterioration in conversion rate with his take on a  madlib form, but his example could have been improved. But this  goes to show you should always test out goofy ideas like this on your own target audience.

If you want to conduct some A/B testing yourself with madlib forms, grab this code from ELC technologies.

Sketch and draw online with Harmony

Harmony online sketching tool is an impressive experiment in HTML 5, (so you will need a supporting browser like Firefox or Google Chrome) that allows you to create soft pencil type drawings and sketch online with surprising ease.

Harmony developer Mr Doob has used canvass and JavaScript with HTML5’s ability to create bitmap images. The result is possibly one of the most mesmerising creative toys on the web.

Usually drawing with your mouse is inherently clumsy and messy, but Harmony’s sketching brushes create exquisitely smooth strokes and seems to know where to apply shading and texture.

These brushes seem to lend themselves particularly well to Anime type creations, urban/graffiti style lettering and charcoal. The squares,  grid and circles tools allow you to create more geometric type imagery.

Still very much in it’s infancy, the open source code is not without its faults, (there is currently no delete or undo function so go carefully!) but we are bound to see improved releases of this exciting medium soon.

Check out more HTML egg head wizardry over at Chrome Experiments or go straight to Harmony and start sketching!

Flash slider Cu3er – Free 3D image carousel

Flash slider Cu3er – Free 3D image carousel

A flash slider can add an enticing element of engagement to a homepage. Whether you are looking for a random image generator, banner rotator or featured content gallery – Cu3er is a free download that offers something unique.

Download Cu3er for free

Image carousels are nothing new, which is why yours should capture attention with something your user hasn’t seen before. Cu3er adds a touch of the unexpected with it’s  3D transitions between slides and this free download is pretty easy to implement, and edit via XML. You will need to know a HTML few basics, and be able to edit your images to size.

You can add featured content and navigation text, add styles, control shading and colour – there’s even a helpful customization guide to get you started, and a more detailed manual for advanced users.  If you have a WordPress blog and want to feature Cu3er, read on.

Flash sliders are not always the best way to engage  your target audience  and do raise accessibility issues, so don’t expect to show case your new slider to your iPhone audience just yet, but Cu3er is worth considering for an image switcher or banner rotator if you are looking for something fresh.

Cu3er is now available as a WordPress plug in

If you run a WordPress blog, there is a Cu3er plug in available, I’ve tested it and it works great, but read on for some tips on implementing it.

Cu3er Elements for WordPress Tips

  • Cu3er Elements takes the first image and excerpt of the post and adds it to the carousel. So make sure your image is added to your post at a large enough size to to fill your carousel, then scale it down within the content editor.
  • I’ve seen a  few complaints about Cu3er Elements in that you can’t specify the post you want to feature, it just takes the last X number of posts. BUT you can set the Cu3er elements to only show posts from a specific category.
  • Create a new category called “headlines” (or whatever you like!) , set Cu3er to only show the posts under it and apply this category to only the posts you want in the gallery. Hey presto – you have control over the posts you want to feature.

Cu3er Elements – Free 3D image slider for WordPress.

If you have any problems adding Cu3er Elements to your WordPress site, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help… 🙂