Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

It doesn’t matter how big you are, you can’t bully social media

February 12, 2009

This blog post has been inspired by a news article regarding the Conservative party changing a Wikipedia page to back up a claim made by David Cameron in a debate with the Labour party.  I’m not going to go into politics here, as that’s not what this blog post is about.  Further more, I’m not going to take a negative stance towards the Conservatives as I feel this was more a case of misunderstanding and naivety towards online social media then a case of aggressively changing history for their own means.  However, the backbone of the story remains true.  No matter how big you are, how much money you can spend, you can not change social media if it says something you dislike.

Now, when I say “you can not change social media”, I don’t mean it’s physically impossible.  The issue is that it’s in fact very easy to alter what Wikipedia pages say, it’s entirely possible to pay a blogger to write a new story (everybody has a price, I’m sure), however, the issue is that these practices are so strongly hated by the billions of people online that use social media that the backlash would be horrendous.  There’s no point in actively trying to control what people say, as we will always find other ways of saying it.  Besides, history shows that even super powers have tried to silence the people, and we know how this has always ended up.

Rather than controlling bloggers words, why not just treat them like respectable human beings?  Social media isn’t a little kid in the playground who can be pushed around for his lunch money, so please don’t try it.  You’ll only get burned.  However, there ARE ways that you can use social media to your advantage that won’t get your company on the front of Yahoo news

Blogging your greatest hits

February 11, 2009

We’ve all seen those washed up bands, struggling for new material.  Rather than spending time in the studio writing new music, they launch a greatest hits album with a couple of well known songs and filled with back catalogue junk.  It happens more and more, as pressure from recording companies grows for bands to bring the money in.

However, when done properly, a greatest hits album is a great method to introduce your music to new fans.  For example, a few years ago I tried to listen to more Iron Maiden.  Yet, with 14 albums worth of content, I quickly lost focus.  Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to Iron Maiden, but there’s no way am I ever going to listen to every one of their tracks.  In this situation, when a band has a serious back catalogue of music it can be daunting for new fans to get into them.  therefore, a greatest hits is a superb way to provide an easy entry into your music and a starting point for legions of young fans.

This brings me neatly into blogging.  My sailing blog that I’ve been running for a year has nearly 100 posts.  I don’t like to blow my own trumpet (as I’m only a part time blogger so I’ve hardly got the back catalogue to back me up..), but a few of them have been very well received.  I even had a blog postfeatured in one of the largest watersports magazines in the US, providing 3,000 views in one day.  The issue is that these blog posts are buried below several pages of other articles.  How are new readers meant to find these posts?  Sure, I can have a widget to show the most successful blog posts, but very few people actually look at anything other than the content on a blog, besides, a post name is hardly enticing to click on so you need to take a few more steps to draw in your new

Why not write a greatest hits blog post every few weeks, to reintroduce a favourite piece of writing from your past?  This way you can sell your work a little better, hook in a few extra readers, and also reinvigorate your writing.  I was reading through an old blog post on my sailing site, and actually laughed out loud a few times (and then immediately starting writing a new post, with fresh ideas).  It’s so easy to bury your old content under new writing, but it’s such a waste.  Get a greatest hits out, you’ll feel like a rock star in no time.

How not to book your honeymoon..

January 9, 2009

I’ve been tasked with the undesirable job of planning and booking (and therefore paying for…) our honeymoon in September.  I’ve booked a number of holidays before, and all have gone off without a hitch, so why is it that this is such an annoying task?  It’s a common problem faced by a large number of business, the problem of linking online and offline services.

I’ve always booked holidays over the phone after planning the travel and accommodation myself, yet for the honeymoon I decided to take all of the hassle out of it and let a travel company sort it all out for me.  Of course, for something so important as our honeymoon I’d like to talk to an advisor face-to-face, but of course want to enquire at a number of websites for basic prices before calling the company I’m interested in pursuing.  However, after entering my details, holiday requirements and budget into several sites, I began receiving call after call after call from interchangeable sales advisors hankering for my business.  What really gets me is how, after I’ve spent hours entering my details, they insist on asking me the same questions over and over to make sure they have it right.  I was even asked on one occasion how to spell my surname.  My name was on the sheet!  I know that because I put it there!

Oh well, I guess in this financial climate everyone is trying to provide a better service, but for me a better service would be a quick email to thank me for my enquiry and to provide some base prices and some great ideas for trips.  People don’t always want a painfully cheerful sales advisor calling them back the instant the form is filled in.  The internet is used by the majority of people to avoid having to talk to someone when making a purchase, so it should be understood by holiday companies that calls shouldn’t be made unless the customer has requested more in depth information.  If it really is essential, then please make it quick, and please, please, don’t be too cheerful… 🙂

Anyway, back to the honeymoon.  So far I’ve narrowed it down to Tanzania and Zanzibar, Malaysia or Thailand.  I’ll let you know when I’ve finally made my mind up.

Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand

Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand

The power of blogging

November 25, 2008

I just thought I’d demonstrate how all areas of media need to be encompassed for a true web marketing strategy to work. Awareness can come from the most unlikely sources, so it’s worth the extra effort to cover all bases, and blogging is a key area to work on.

A brief example can be taken from another one of my blogs,  As part of my sailing campaign I’ve been promoting the team via the blog for over a year.  Within 4 months we had been awarded a Google Page Rank of 4, which is one of the highest in the UK for a sailing website.  Anyway, through the blog we have received sponsorship deals, sold numerous boats and built strong awareness for our “brand” within the UK sailing community.  We’ve not tried anything fancy or new, just updated regularly, provided interesting content, a range of media (images, videos, type) and have worked to integrate ourselves within the community.  We have gone from being fairly unknown online, to being the first stop for a large number of enthusiasts.  We’ve even gotten ourselves onto a Musto poster campaign:

My brother Justin poses in front of Musto poster campaign

My brother Justin poses in front of Musto poster campaign featuring an image of us racing

The moral of the story?  You need to realise how powerful blogging can be and fully embrace the impact it can have on your brand.  Although this is an example from a small sports team I feel it is still a useful measure of success.  Without any previous brand awareness, we have become extremely well known within the British sailing community.  There’s no reason your business can’t benefit from blogging.

Reliability is key to your relationships

November 11, 2008

Building relationships is key to success online.  However, it’s not about a relationship with your target market, it’s about relationships with the individuals who take an active interest in you.  It’s not just about writing blog posts, it’s about conversing with individuals, giving them the time of day and just generally making them realise that you listen and are interested in them.  With your offline relationships, with friends, partners and family, you need to be trustworthy and reliable.  If a friend calls you in need, you need to be able to be there for them and the same goes online, but with different needs.

Your audience has needs just like everybody else.  I’ve had a few ideas, but let me know if you can think of any more:

– Information:  The need to be kept in the loop.  Tell them about future posts, changes to the blog, what you are doing this week, your favourite team.

– Entertainment: The need to have a new post to read when they log on.  It’s all about content.

– Communication: The need to transfer information and opinions between them and you.  Talk to them, email them back, add them to your Twitter feed, ask them questions.

– Self gratification:  The need to feel important.  Reference individual readers in your posts, talk about how great they are, or what they have done for you.  make them feel special.

To be reliable online, you need to be there for your readers.  If you can become someone’s “go-to” blog, the first site they check each day, you are on the road to success.  But for this to happen you need to always fulfill at least one of their needs.  The easiest need to fulfill is Entertainment, by publishing plenty of content.  However, the way forward is through experimentation to find what your audience need.  Have a go, it really is worth it.

Heat mapping, and knowing where people look

November 4, 2008

Knowing what people do on your site is paramount.  Very often your mental image of your audience (intelligent and wealthy 20 somethings, eager to spend money on your must have electronic lint remover..) can be a little innaccurate (no-one is interested in an elecronic lint remover), so knowing what these people ACTUALLY look at when browsing your site is nearly impossible.  Do you have adverts and banners, or maybe an RSS feed that you want your audience to look at?  Well how do you know if it is well positioned?  Sure, we can see the links people click, but having this visualised over a period of time provides a huge amount of useful information that simple tools such as google analytics can’t provide.

confettiHave a look at  Crazy Egg is a service that provides tools such as “Confetti” click tracker and heatmaps that show the “hottest” parts of your site.  It lets you know the areas that are most effective, and the cold areas that people just don’t seem to care about.

What I really like about Crazy egg is that it’s so much more advanced than Google analytics.  I’ve worked for clients before who have just used analytics, and whilst you get to see a fair bit of information regarding traffic, you only realise how in-the-dark you are when you eventually use tools such as Crazy Egg.

With the information provided by Crazy Egg and a bit of brainstorming you can invent some fairly interesting strategies to increase your site profitabilty.  Here are a few I’ve thought of:

– Find the “hot” areas of your site and situate value adding sectors there

– Compare various site layouts over a period of time to find the most successful strategy

– Online ROI can be difficult to prove, so use heatmapping to demonstrate to your clients the interest your promotions receive

– Use heatmapping to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of banners and to promote social media marketing

– Return the favor to your audience.  Provide information on their own heatmapping, and direct them to areas they may be interested in.

I’m sure there are many more ideas out there, but the moral of the story is that Crazy Egg is a tool that could prove very, very useful.


Website analysis

November 4, 2008

If you’re trying to build a strong social presence, it’s a good idea to have your site working for you.  Whilst it may look pretty and have enough content, if the inner workings aren’t up to scratch you won’t be maximising your traffic.  Furthermore, do you know how many inbound links you have (the more the better), or the number of bookmarks you have recieved?  There are so many variations that need to be covered so it can be time consuming and confusing to track them all down.

However, there are tools out there to help.  Have a look at for a report on your website’s health.  It tells you everything you need to know about your site and how to improve it, and is surprisingly quick and painless to use.  It’s like a GP’s health check, except without the rubber gloves and awkward silences..

Website grader HAS received some negativity regarding some of its rankings being a little innaccurate.  However, nothing online is accurate, and website grader provides a lot more than just a few figures.  If you can look past the optimistic website rankings, you’ll see that the program provides a huge in-depth analysis of the deep workings of your site, and is an essential tool.


How to lose your audience: Two bug-bares of Twitter

November 3, 2008

Whilst the hardest part of building an online community is getting the audience, once this is achieved it’s not uncommon for for the owner’s to get above themselves and start to dictate what their community should and shouldn’t do.  A good example is Facebook’s recent redesign.  After introducing the new look Facebook, they received a huge backlash  from members wanting the old style back.  Rather than bowing to the demand of their members, they made the new style compulsory.  A big two finger salute to their members, and a move that risked their position as top social networking site.

Below:  Several Facebook groups requesting the old style back

Another online institution, flickr, has begun to attempt the famous Myspace “annoy your audience ’til they leave” trick.  For some reason, logging in to Flickr has become such a chore that I’ve almost stop bothering.  Rathering allowing users to log in using their normal email address, Flickr insists you use a Yahoo! id.  This is fine if you have one and regularly use it, but those of us without one have to create a random email address solely for the use of Flickr.  The annoying bit comes when you want to log in (and being Flickr, this is only required every time you upload images).

Below: Must I use Yahoo? Really?!

For the life of me, I can NEVER remember the email address I use, as I have several Flickr accounts and therefore several emails set up specifically for Flickr.  What’s wrong with just accepting ANY email address?  Surely they must drive away prospective new members?  i asked my Dad recently to upload his holiday snaps onto flickr to save him sending 40mb files via email.  The Yahoo! email address turned him off Flickr straight away, and now I have a clogged email inbox.  Thanks Flickr…

Yes people will say this is a petty thing to affect me, but in the highly competitive market these sites have to be exquisite to use, and Flickr just isn’t.  It’s good in many areas, but lets itself down in one or two.

The final annoyance from Flickr is a new one.  So many sites feel they have to change things to get a bigger audience, when really they need to work on awareness within social media.  Anyway, as usual, a managerial bod at flickr decided to try to make a bit of extra cash, and decided to make it virtually compulsory for users to download an “upload tool” to upload images.

Flickr (in days gone by) let you upload on their “upload images” page by simply selecting the batch you want to use, and then clicking the upload button.  However, the new idea makes you select each photo individually (batch upload is gone) OR alternatively requires you to download and use and upload program that leeches bandwidth and no doubt informs Flickr about your web usage.  The old adage of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is never more true than online.  Something so simple as an upload system doesn’t need to be fixed, so why make it harder to use?

Below: Download the upload tool, or else..

If you’re interested, have a look at my Flickr page at

Cursebird: New and rude tool for Twitter

October 31, 2008

I’ve just stumbled across a new tool for Twitter:  Cursebird.

Very basically, Cursebird is a Micro-blog like Twitter, that streams all Twitter posts that contain swear words.  Built by Richard Henry (, it’s a simple concept that is beginning to recieve quite a cult following.  Man’s nature of loving that which is taboo has given cursebird a cult status, providing hours of enjoyment (and a long list of new words not to be said in front of Grandma) for it’s users.

Now, I’m not one to promote profanity (quite the opposite actually), but the concept of Cursebird will have many impacts on the social media market.  Why can’t companies use similar technology to stream up-to-the-second updates for any Twitter posts that contain brand names or brand specific market conversation?  I can think of ten ideas that can use Cursebird’s technology to benefit a brand’s marketing and research campaigns.

It will be an interesting site to follow, so long as your boss (or grandma) isn’t looking over your shoulder..