Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A very unoriginal 12 days of Christmas Emails.

On the twelfth day of Christmas online retailers gave to me….

A very unoriginal 12 days of Christmas email campaign.

This is going to be the most tempting campaign for any online retailer as it just kinda makes sense, however I pose a challenge to any of you out there having a "12 Days of Christmas Brain Fart" and that is, not necessarily to cancel the idea all together but to get creative with it.

So the basic components of a typical 12 day's campaign include; 12 solid days of email campaigning, a single product or 12 sequentially reducing loss leader products to inspire spending, a subject line to reflect the day and for the purpose of time, generally a templated design covering the overall concept…which is a start. Now, what if you were to change the name from "12 Days of Christmas" and call it something relevant to your brand or product lines, perhaps Kiwi-ise the campaign, hire a designer to create a vibrant and fresh campaign, take notice of the fact that we have seasonally Southern Hemispheric weather…avoid snowflakes and put Santa into some beach shorts perhaps. All ideas, but born of the reality that most of the large retail email campaigners last year flooded my inbox with 12 Days campaigns that lacked originality and eventually created boredom, which furthermore…resulted in a direct reduction in click activity.

One of the offending campaigners brought to my attention that their email agency's top tier Account Director to Retail clients was recommending this initiative to them, but what they were unfamiliar with, was the campaign being recommended to all of their top tier clients…

Outcome - in a very small retail marketing, at least 4–5 of the biggies, deploying the exact same 12 Day campaign, over the same days, with similar subject lines and including similar campaign components.

A small piece of advice…check what your category exclusivity arrangement is with your email agency or at the very least, ensure you are not all being managed by the same person.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Online Communication Etiquette…what are the rules?

I got an email last week from a girlfriend that was also cc'd in to a few other sad individuals that's subject line read – To all of my friends who are NOT on Facebook!…a clear message if ever there was one with more than a slight hint of chastisement. BLESS CAPS AND EXCLAMATION MARKS IN EMAIL! Ooh did I say that too loud?

An invitation to a party that everyone else had received prior and we were the sad wee dregs, not able to be reached via the global monster…I certainly hope all 800 million users won't be there. It made me think (for about 5 seconds), what invitations have we potentially missed….weddings (have I noticed any rings on fingers lately?), product launches, baby christenings, birthdays, funerals…a personal invite from Hugh to the Playboy mansion.

So, what does a world look like with no personal contact…
Hi everyone! Just a quick note let you all know the weddings off, Jason was shagging the nanny.
The baby's arrived! A girl named Lequitia, she weighed in at 5kgs, has an extra digit on here left foot and she tore mum end to end.
I'd like to let you all know that Dad died last night in his sleep…bless, check out the photos of our trip to Rarotonga!

Communication, that informs and updates friends of events and then neglects them dreadfully, in the very same moment.

So what is online etiquette? What are the boundaries of what is to be shared online via an email, text or Facebook and what is worthy of…surely not…really…picking up the telephone and having an actual conversation with someone. I've made a list of the ones that possibly need some URGENT attention -
  • The baby's arrived and all related details – for extended contacts it's obvious that a txt alert is appropriate and photos shared on Facebook – family and close friends should also get the courtesy of a phone call. A smidgen of your time, in return for an abundance of flowers and baby wear only seems fair.
  • A family member or close friend is dead – do I even need to put this one into a bullet point!? Possible exception – boy racers who require a tribute page because, all of a sudden "everyone new him and he was amaaaaaazing".
  • We're having a party! – Mx it up across the channels, if you are over 25, it's likely that email, Facebook, txt, phone or heaven forbid…a hand written invite (more applicable for the Grandees).
  • Canceling anything on the day….if this is work related and you are positive that there is no investment in your attendance, an email or text may suffice. Think about this though, if it's a dinner or event that someone has paid for your attendance, pick up the phone to apologize formally. NB. If this is a client supplier relationship and not handled personally…I'd suggest you're committing relationship suicide. Important Note - If this is a canceling a dinner date or similar, with mates, it wreaks of getting a better offer.
  • We're getting a divorce – another one that fits into etiquette 101. Unless this is a celebration of sorts and everyone expects it, you may actually find that some of your friends are upset and some personal contact is required.
  • Sorry…you didn't get the job – again this seems ridiculous, but any conversation involving a set of balls is being abused by a cowardly email or text message.
  • The final point is dedicated to all of the rude and clueless text addicts out there that choose the following times to read and respond to texts – any shared meal times, when you are having a conversation with someone (you could even attempt to make eye contact as a real challenge), all day at work when someone is paying you to be there, during any formal ceremony, driving any sort of vehicle or machinery and finally, at any time when a collision may occur with an innocent bystander.
There are bound to be a heap more that I can't think of on the fly, but you get the picture.

My advice on online comms etiquette is similar to what I'd suggest to an online marketer, which is quite simply, be where your friends and customers are. Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient, if you have to question in your head if it's right, it's likely not. Remember your manners and don't expect your friends and customers to be where you are or want them to be and mix it up based upon how they like being spoken to….if that’s too confusing for you…ask them.

Join the Mobile/Online Etiquette Resistance…cammo's optional.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whitelisting, blacklisting, graymail or blackmail…

Which one of these things is not like the other…well I guess if you were unlucky and a little dodgy, you may in your lifetime be blackmailed by email but all of the other aforementioned colourful verbs have to be taken into consideration when developing your email marketing program.

As an email marketer, I am very familiar with the importance of obtaining whitelisting to ensure that when I hit the send button on an email campaign, as many of those emails get delivered to the inbox as possible. If I choose not to take care with my content and subject lines, if I create email designs that are based on a single image and do not offer an easy to find and user-friendly "unsubscribe", blacklisting becomes a risk.

The color of today's focus however, is "Graymail". It's important as a marketer not to ignore the color gray, as it applies to emails that are perfectly legitimate, they have subscribed to receive your email but due to irrelevant content/subject-lines or emails being sent too frequently, they have gradually become disengaged and now ignore your email in their inbox. With complete inactivity, ISP's will carry out an automated process of graymail filtering, effectively moving or flagging disengaged customers.

For your benefit, I'll use Hotmail as the example of how they deal with Graymail.
  • Hotmail developed a tool called Schedule Cleanup
  • This allows users to automate the deletion of certain messages
  • Email senders that you pin as wanted, get delivered to the top of your inbox, in the fold
  • Users create custom categories and folders
  • Users can organize messages en masse – messages will automatically be delivered to their predefined folders
The key to avoiding the color gray is to ensure that your copy, content and offers all remain engaging. No longer will email marketers bang the "permission drum" but as a planner, you'll be challenged on fresh content, relevant content and how much time and effort is going in to the subject line.

The important thing for you to understand is that the ISP's are tracking subscriber engagement by opens, clicks, downloading of images, scrolling and safe-sendering your email. Negative aspects that will affect your reputation will be based on deletes, SPAM reporting, marking messages as read without an open, ignoring the message and trashing the message.

My advice – offer content and frequency preferencing, make sure your content is fresh, interesting, dynamic, creative and relevant (not necessarily in that order). Segment your database and avoid the load and blast….are you listening Daily Dealio's??

Good luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Have we hit rock bottom yet? - Daily Deal Websites

I'm asking the question to establish whether or not NZer's will require a Daily Deals Rehabilitation program developed for us to enter over the next twelve months if things continue on the same growth (or persistence) trajectory….of course!

Not only are they dominating our inboxes but the topic is being journo'ed up the Wazoo lately and the general consensus from the public is that you either love'm or hate'm and all that seems to divide these two choices, is time. If I'm to personally comment on the phenomenon, I'd suggest that Daily Deals serve a purpose but debatable areas of improvement, I've listed below -
  • A lack of choice and segmentation – campaigners in this area are still generally following a load and blast mentality
  • Potentially some of the offers are morally questionable – case in point Grab Ones special Vasectomy deal…really…and if it goes wrong???
  • Copy and content of the campaign – check the credibility of what you are emailing and google terms of words if you are uncertain – case in point the very same aforementioned email referred to "Dingleberries" as a euphemism for Testicles when the actual meaning is unfortunately a "dag" (of the sheep variety but located on a human….nasty and hard for the minds-eye not to engage).
  • List washing - deal deployers are automatically removing customers or email recipients who have not purchased within their defined timeframes – this style of marketing offers the customer to look everyday and buy when relevant, preferencing relevant offers would be better than simply ejecting individuals from a list.
  • Ruining global ability to deliver html emails to the inbox – subscribers are hitting the SPAM button vs the unsubscribe. Hotmail has identified this as a concern and implementing measures, but are today the only ones. ISP's are bulking and rate limiting emails from certain domains as a result.
  • Lowering customer engagement - benchmarking statistics for marketers and being affected greatly making the channel appear as if it underperforms. We used to relish in the average open rate world of 30-35%…now we have to carry out a massive spiel on how 18-20% is the average but depending on the quality of the data and how qualified blah blah blah….
  • The sheer volume of them – as published by loveonedaysales.co.nz there are 73 current offering various experiences from retail to travel etc, 18 on the horizon and 36 that have been abandoned. The best thing about this site is that they do all of the research and you can fine-tune your picks based upon their recommendations rather than signing up to the lot. The downside is that their researched kinda sucked.
  • Shane Bradley – he slags off all of his competitors which is generally just uncool, it used to be 1-Day now GroupOn are copping his wrath, ironic when he ripped off the concept from them.
My predictions – Shane B will lose his knee caps after slagging off a Daily Deal Site owned by the Mafia, Grab One will develop a bad case of dingleberries and Napalm will be the only solution and Kiwi's will get back to their old buying behavior of walking into shops and buying 10kg bags of Chinese chupachups.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Should QR codes really be labeled PLWE Codes?

Should QR (Quick Response) codes really be labeled PLWE Codes (Painfully Longwinded Experience) Codes?

Every local marketing meeting or conference that I've attended during the last 6 months has resulted in some discussion or debate about the QR code and why it's not been adopted by the NZ consumer.

I decided to ask my work colleagues what they thought of the technology and why NZers aren't using it. Prior to, I'd of course formulated my own opinion around a "lack of consumer education" and kinda believed that the only way forward was some sort of large scale PR campaign via an offline ubiquitous media.

After chatting with my peers about it, I received responses similar to the following;

"if you have to explain how to download the technology or carry out an educational….it's just too hard". Response – If it makes life easier, they'll learn and do it… case in point - the remote control.

"Why would I download the software…what does it actually offer me by way of convenience" Response – You will no longer have to type in a web URL to your phone or mobile device.
Response – When was the last time you typed in a web URL to your phone?
Response – Valid point!

"The reader technology is pants, you have to hover over the code and it often doesn't read it. Response – Rubbish…in fact utter rubbish, the I-nigma download is awesome and if anything a little too sensitive. Phooey I say to that!!

"I don't really see the point in them". Response – You need to get online and do some research and come back to this argument a little later.

"I think that this is really just ramping technology to NFC and will be adopted when it truly offers some benefits". Response – You raise an interesting point but already we are seeing that the UEM 2007 may be prohibitive to completely successful NFC technology…and that is a whole heap more consumer education that QR codes!

So in essence, I see that QR codes could work brilliantly where there are crowds, much like the RWC, which I believe was a huge missed opportunity for NZ marketers (but that's another rant!) They'll be fantastic for microsite promos, the property market – capturing codes on the fly that direct you to property online (instant grat), basically at any instance where you need to take an offline campaign online.

My personal challenge to all marketers, is to ensure you sell them at the right opportunity, add an educational to the campaign in the short term for the consumer and sell the benefits, set the expectation in the short term as emerging technology…even if they were created in 1994. One last thing, use the reporting technology online to gauge and measure response, it's cheap and useful.

My opinion…QR Code is the appropriate title.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seriously Weird ole World!

Andrew and I had the pleasure and privilege to go to a Chris Cornell Acoustic Concert in Auckland City.

Whilst I was sitting in the theater really appreciating the seriously good looks and beautiful sounds of CC, I had an epiphany, one of little or no value but one that I'll share…we live in a seriously weird world! And From this realization, I find I have some questions of the Universe…

Question 1
Why is Life so Insanely Busy – I mean stupid busy? This is the first CC concert I have been to in my life, have loved the man for years in every iteration and legendary frontman and yet I walked into the theatre, sat down and started a count-down to his final song. I'd read somewhere that he was to perform 24 songs…so in my head I commenced the countdown when he uttered his first lyric. Before the end of the second song, I realized what I was doing and made a mental pact to watch and listen like it really mattered and would never be possible again.

Maybe others in the theatre had the same realization but my observation saw some in surrounding seats getting up and down and leaving the theatre up to four times in 2 horus, some even left halfway through the performance and then there was Mr Numb-nuts that commented on departure at how boring it was. The concert was amazing, CC on a stage, playing acoustically, just him and his 8 guitars, a turntable, vinyl and a mic…kind of the essence of an ACOUSTIC performance.

Question 2
Are our busy lives making us all A.D.D?

Question 3
Why is everything moving so fast? - One man stands on a stage with 8 guitars, a turntable, vinyl and a mic. His guitars probably have names and at least 4 of them will have been with him for 20 years or more but the outcome is still the same…sound, lyrics and movement that engages all of the senses and just gets better with time.

iPhone 4S was revealed yesterday, not even 18 months after the last iPhone launch….so my next question (Q4) is why does an acoustic guitar look the same now as it did 20 years ago and doesn't require an annual upgrade?

Question 5
Why do aging rockers all dance like they're on smack? This one was more of an observation really.

Told you it was little or no value…mull it over in your spare time, hah!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dead Tree Media

We went home from work the other night in a storm (not a metaphor), there was actually a storm. The winds were raging, there was a Tornado warning on TVNZ's website for the shore and upon leaving the office, the Habitual Fix Street wobble board was sailing up the street and taking out everything in its path.

Upon arriving at the top of our driveway, I force open the drivers door to be greeted by 26 pieces of "dead tree media" in my letterbox, or to put it more accurately, 10 pieces in the letterbox, 16 peppered throughout the surrounding flora and fauna and now saturated and papier mached to my white concrete driveway. Now combine the 26 in our letterbox with the surrounding 5 letterboxes on our shared driveway and multiply that accordingly and we now have 130 crappy, poor quality flyers advertising (very effectively to my flowers, trees and driveway by now) retail giants like Briscoes, Noel Leemings, Farmers, Pascoes, Stevens, The Warehouse.

The bad news is my trees have no disposable income whatsoever, nor the need for a toaster, diamond ring or LED telly…the good news (yet to be received) would be for these retailers to become present in this modern time of realization of the rapid demise of our planet and cease this incredibly irresponsible behavior. I'd also ask, if Jim says on TVOne news that we are expecting 60k winds, if I can adapt my hairdo, why can the distributors of this largely unwanted scourge decrease or cancel the print run accordingly or if they must, deliver a day later.

It seems so unfair that we can unsubscribe from receiving email and have so much control over the media that is being presented to us now but have no control over the one that is the most annoying by far.

I'm off to buy a "No Circulars" sign for the dip-shit that delivers in my area to ignore…


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Am I boring you yet?

I'm sitting at my desk under duress this morning, a head cold that is woollying my ability to absorb information and oddly adjusting my balance and depth perception…if you are present in my inbox today and want my attention, you are truly in need of a miracle.

Daily, I wade through the massive din of content/blogs/forums in by inbox, hitting "right-click-delete" at the speed with which I am taking in header and subject lines, today everything is a little blurry my mood is showing definite indifference to the uninspiring job that marketers are doing to capture my attention. And then, wouldn't you know it…a miracle…

Social Media has Ruined Marketing, author Robert Fleming, CEO/President of the global eMarketing Assoc.

First of all I am old. How old, let's just say I remember a time when Beatles music was not played in elevators. Therefore I remember fondly the “old days”. So I get a bit nostalgic thinking back on time when there was really just newspapers, TV, radio and direct mail as key advertising elements (ok billboards too). It was a great time here are 5 reasons why.

  1. WE REALLY DIDN’T LISTEN TO CUSTOMERS - Ok we had focus groups, but we conducted a monolog with our customers. Not a dialog. Customers couldn’t moan and groan about our poor customer service, or faulty products to the whole world. We could crush small business with the strength of budgets, not the quality of service and products. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT - Because now small business can compete on a more level playing field, and the strength of your marketing does not necessarily have to rest with the size of your budget.
  2. WE COULD USE EXPENSIVE COMPELLING CREATIVE FOR MAGAZINES, DIRECT MAIL AND OTHER MEDIA - Ok, there are still magazines and newspapers, but unless you have been living in a cave you have seen them get smaller and smaller. Direct mail is down substantially from a decade ago and the USPS will be bankrupt by December, without a government bailout. magazines are on iPads. Now we have text ads (little things), tiny banners, or 140 character tweets, social groups, fans and likes. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT - Because now we have to get even more creative than ever, in the way we present our company, on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin (and other Internet media). We have a smaller canvas on the Internet and therefore must get much better with our brushes.
  3. WE COULD MEASURE - With Nielson, Arbitron, ABC, and so on we could get reliable numbers that had been proven for decades. Today we are bombarded with statistics, but how much is necessary to make marketing decisions. WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT - Now we need to reduce our metrics to actionable and relevant statistics, instead of just pouring over data dumps.
  4. WE COULD KEEP OUR JOBS - In the old days, in order to make your numbers and keep your job, all you had to do, is what you did before. With social media looming, and new technologies and devices appearing out of thin air, we do not have the historical data to ensure success. So we have to take chances. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT - Because marketing is no longer "safe" - and the risks are higher than ever, but so are the rewards.
  5. WE COULD DRINK MARTINIS AT LUNCH - Doesn't seem like that’s being done much anymore. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT - Because it was fun.

The headline was provocative and definitely developed with humour, however the responses did not reflect this at all. The post received a huge amount of attention, some people disputing the title, others correcting bad grammar, others offering praise for it's content and general pleasure in reading it, some found it humorous and others of a younger audience were delighted in the associated fear and resignation it implied.

The salient, although long winded point here, is that it generated response, a tremendous amount of two way conversation via Social channels and the device that triggered this response in this instance, was the subject header – Social Media has Ruined Marketing.

Some questions to ask when you are preparing your shareable content via any social channel -
  • How well planned are your header or subject lines or are they often cobbled together as an afterthought?
  • Are you invoking feedback or sales? How enticing or provocative is the header?
  • Do your brand values prohibit you from creativity when developing this component of your communication?
  • Are you doing any subject line testing or similar to test effectiveness?
  • Are you asking yourself when you read the header/subject line – Am I boring you yet?
If the answer is yes…


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is your email marketing tool the right solution for your business?

After working in the email marketing industry (supplier side) for the past 8 years, I have noticed some interesting progressions and not surprisingly, some regressions.

I've had the good fortune to be involved in the industry from a global perspective over the past 18 months and believe that NZ needs some educating on what is now available. The breadth of email marketing deployment solutions now available to NZ businesses now surpasses anything of recent times.

As a nation, we tend to call the biggest agency representing our requirements, and book an appointment, this may be the result of a Google search, market representation, longevity in the space or a past relationship. All of these decision making processes are inclined to be innate, easy and possibly flawed.

I'd question, how often a Direct Communications Team/Marketing Team sit down and do a formal tender to market. Or, if there is a lack of internal resource, approach a consultant to prepare a needs analysis of a solution, develop an RFP and receive responses based upon actual business requirements.

I'd challenge all businesses with databases upwards of 30 to 40k to question whether the email channel is progressing and increasing in engagement levels or declining or ineffectual and static. To roughly assess whether or not your business may require some external assistance or added attention from within….
  • Do you have a 6-12 month email marketing plan of activity to work to?
  • Does this channel represent a fulfillment of allocated marketing budget OR actually deliver, following a clear brief that includes primary objectives, perhaps some database segmentation, some engaging creative and post campaign analysis?
  • Is your email channel integrated with any of your site analytics, whether that be GA or something more enhanced, such as Omniture or similar?
  • What does your email reporting suite tell you or what would you love it tell you?
  • Does the tool include an API for real time customer gratification?
  • Can you re-market easily to customers based upon their behavior within your site?
  • Are you doing any of the basics…at one stage, this was considered to be a load and blast campaign, this is now a birthday email or something more appreciative than your day to day campaigning?
The number 8 wire, hire locally owned and operated, blah blah blah is all well and good and I'm all for supporting local business when it makes sound commercial sense, however laziness and familiarity means that potentially many NZ businesses are not getting the best bang for their buck in this channel at all. In essence, they are compromising great tools and analytics for support or familiarity.

What this discussion could look like -
  • This channel has to deliver, we need assistance with email design or teaching our in-house designers to optimize the channel and coding,
  • As a business we need to be relevant and engaging so delivering dynamic content is not negotiable,
  • We need to be able to reward customers for just being customers so setting up automated emails in real time for Welcomes and birthdays etc will be necessary,
  • We need to track the sales process and perhaps re-market to people that have left the website without converting,
  • Due to our database set-up, we need an alternate solution than email address as the unique identifier, the tool we select will need to deliver on this as standard,
  • We'll need to be able to throttle sends, recently our website has been timing out with too many hits.
This would be a remarkably different list for a B2B email requirement, but you get the picture.

From carrying out the needs/gap analysis, your solution requirements may end up looking something more like this -

We need to hire a professional in the space to assist with needs/gap analysis
We definitely need help when preparing an RFP
Preferably, we'll review responses from NZ/Australian support (2-3 hours is no biggy in email delivery) and see 3 of the best
Whilst we are finding a solution, we'll research some email/digital design agency's – this may be managed internally but not being done well
Contract a supplier that has an email tool that ticks all the boxes
Carry out quarterly reviews to ensure the channel is evolving and maintaining engagement and performance levels.

If any of this resonates with you…contact us via our website, or email me on amanda@skinnymarketing.com and we can continue the conversation.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The skinny on updating your details…

My challenge - I want to keep getting your emails, but I need to change my email address.

What does it mean to a business to provide a quick and easy process for a customer to "update their details' online? A great big chunk of people that unsubscribe do so because content in the email is irrelevant (roughly 49%), but outside of this, a common reason is quite simply that someone on your database moves job or swaps their free mail provider from one to another.

As part of my leaving CheetahMail and moving on to Skinny Marketing, I had to unsubscribe from over 40 email lists, from Just Jeans to Media Post and Click Z out of the States. Now admittedly, because I am in the industry, I am subscribed to an inordinate amount of email programs but for the purpose of this exercise, enough to provide me with an adequate sample to "test".

The result was that only 5 of over 40 gave me the option to update my email address in place of unsubscribe. Typically speaking, more often than not, I had to unsubscribe with no options and then set about finding the option to resubscribe, which proved impossible to those companies who only subscribe people who have actually converted following an online sale or full registration. The new version of SmartMail kindly offers me a survey to give a reason for my unsubscribe which includes (change of email address) but does not then provide me with a way with which to do it. Others like MailChimp reconfirm that I have been removed but ask me twice if I am absolutely positive of my opting out but again, does not offer an option to update my details or change my email address.

There is quite simply, nothing more useless than begging me to stay but not supplying me with a quick and easy method with which to do it.

This is a low cost solution that is easily able to be carried online, but as you can see, not many businesses offer it. When taking into account the cost of acquiring a new customer or subscriber, it may be advisable to carry out a quick experiment of how easy it is to offer your customers the ability to change their email address vs opting out and back in again, or similar. It may be one small thing that reduces your data churn rate and enhances your subscribers experience in this process. Either way, I guarantee, the outcome will be positive.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Moving information from Facebook to Google +

Now that Google + is (reportedly) about to hit 10 million users, maybe you have decided that you want to leave Facebook and move over or, more likely, try using both while we see who wins out. But after 3 years of posting photos and making/stalking friends, you don't want to lose your entire online life & start again. This blog will detail a couple of the ways you can move your information over.
Friends are why we go on to social networks, so it is important to be able to bring them over. This is really easy and only takes 10 minutes or so.

First of all you need a Yahoo email account, just like when you were 16. Once you have your Yahoo account open, click on "Add contacts" and then on "tools" and in the drop down choose "import...". From here you can import the email addresses of all of your Facebook buddies. Easy.

Next step is to export them to GMail. After your Facebook contacts have been added to your Yahoo account, click on "tools" again, and select "export..." and choose the option to export as a Yahoo! CSV file. This will download all of the email addresses onto your desktop somewhere. Now go and open up Gmail, go into "Contacts" and click on "More Actions", then "import". Find the CSV file (it will be called Yahoo_ab.csv or something like that) and double click it.

All of your contacts will now be synced/merged with the data from Facebook, and all of the new contacts will be visible when you go into G+, so you can add them to your circles and send them invites. Boom!

Next is the photos. To get these en masse, open up your Facebook and head into Account Settings. In there you will see an option "Download Your Information." A few self explanatory clicks later and a huge download will be coming your way. This takes a while, so go make a cup of tea. I recommend Sencha. Once it has finished, you will have a folder that is called whatever your profile name is, and will look like this:

Inspiring stuff. Open up the Photos folder and you will see all of your albums are conveniently stored in their own folder. You will need to create new albums in G+ one by one, but the photos can be uploaded in groups. And as an added bonus, the titles you gave your photos in Facebook are all saved as the file name, so you will not lose that - but you will lose comments, likes & tags.

So now we have all of our friends and all of our photos moved over. I am still playing round with getting old posts across, and I am waiting for G+ to integrate with Google Calendar so that I can import my FB events, but for now it is easy to get the most important stuff moved over.

Have fun :)

*Note: Google + does have a direct "import contacts from Yahoo" button, however this was not working for me, hence the extra step to import them into gmail.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google +: Facebook killer?

Hopefully. After 1 week of playing with it, I am impressed. The ease of keeping your profile secure from certain people, being able to easily see exactly what information is displayed to who, as well as "Hang outs" and a few other features are great.

Using the exclusive invite-only style of marketing that was the halmark of Gmail's launch has seen the social media geeks (like me) feeling more special than we should about using it during the "test phase", and has helped ensure that we all trumpet on about how cool the network is and how everyone should be on there. Indeed, the system has been broken 2 or 3 times since launch due to oversubscription causing problems for their servers. This has meant that even people with invites could not access the system unless they were quick. This bodes well for the future of the network.

A social network is only as good as it's members. The analogy of being the first and only person to own a fax machine rings true. One of my first posts stated that I would only move completely over from Facebook if at least 50% of my ex-girlfriends, or my crush also moved over to Google +. In short, everyone will need a reason to move over, but the reason will be the same for everyone; the people they want to engage with. The fact that the the uptake of the network has surpassed even Google's expectations perhaps points equally to Google's burnt fingers over their previous attempts (Buzz was a fizzer, Wave washed out) as well as the enthusiasm that people have to a genuine competitor to Facebook.

So, what is it like? A person I follow on Twitter described it as "Facebook without it's clothes on", and from a layout point of view it does look very similar, albeit a stripped out version. You can stalk my public profile here to see for yourself, or go sign up here - if the sign up is working.

The two main advantages from my point of view (wearing my consumer hat now) is that it is very easy to control what content is displayed to who, via the "Circles". I have 6 circles set up at the moment: Friends, followers, workmates, colleagues, family & ex-girlfriends. Every time I post any content (text, photos etc) I have to choose which circles can view it. There are also options to post content to everyone on the web (public - like twitter), or "extended circles" (friends of friends). This makes it incredibly easy to make sure my ex-girlfriends only ever see my highlights reel, while my workmates only ever see me sober. Although Facebook does have the option to split your friends into groups with different security settings, it is a bit of a pain in butt to do this, and generally only the social media geeks get it sorted.

Another cool feature of Google + is "Hangouts". This is video chat for multiple people. It can also be used as a means of broadcasting events like conferences, concerts, your stupid dog singing along to Bernard Fanning...whatever, all with the added interactivity of being able to talk back & get involved. The coolness of this feature has already been countered by the addition of Skype video calling to the Facebook chat function, however the quick roll out of this shows how seriously Facebook is taking the Google + threat.

Although I have an iPhone, I have been told that the way Google + can be used with an Android powered phone is fantastic, particularly in regards to photo uploading. I can't wait to see how an iPhone app will work.

Currently Google + is only set up for regular consumers (not business), but they have worked with several companies (Ford, Mashable etc) to build a few test company profiles which will be rolled out in the next two weeks, and they have received several thousand applications from companies to be included in further testing. However in an earlier release google recommended that companies hold off until full support is offered in the "next few months". It will be interesting to see how these company pages can integrate the suite of other Google services, including AdWords, Adsense, maps, YouTube etc. But the scope from a marketing point of view is huge. When you consider the vast information available to marketers currently using Google, the mouth waters at what this platform will allow (marketers hat on now).

So, is it a Facebook killer? I hope so, as I am someone who values being able to control who sees what information about me. However, it will require a quick uptake from the cool kids to see a major shift from what is currently the largest social networking site in the world.

But the future looks promising. This blog post speculates that as of July 10, there were already over 6 million users on Google +. This kind of growth (if accurate) in just over a week is fantastic, but it will need to be sustained before we can start calling Google + a Facebook killer. Until then, I will keep my fingers crossed, keep posting about issues, and trying my hardest to break it during the test period.

Good luck Google!

Have you tried Google +? Would you move from Facebook?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Social media principles - free to a good home

This is a synopsis of the advice I give all of my clients during our initial meeting, and some of what I talk about when giving my painful lectures/presentations. It is the slow, patient, credible, organic way of maximizing your results from social media. I have found these principles to be pretty solid over the 4 years I have been involved in this industry, but please know this is more about the day-to-day running of your presences.

This is deliberately vague and will require patience to see results. It is not an (A + B) x C = Retirement/fire-the-ad-agency in 6 months kind of plan.

  • Social media is social. Think about what kind of social event your company would host. The same rules of engagement & conversation apply. My personal style of social event would be a bbq. I would let people swear a bit (ok, a lot), but not be (overly) offensive to other guests. I would occasionally talk about the fun things I had done lately at work, or interesting things in the industry. I would not hand out business cards or openly solicit new business. Think about what social event you would have with your clients/providers/friends etc. Dinner party? Golf day? High tea? Whatever suits your brand's personality. Think about what kind of conversations you would have at this event. Replicate this same style of engagement on your social media platforms.
  • Build a vocabulary of words to use more frequently in your social media/blog posts. Make these words representative of the way you want your company to be perceived. They will give your brand a controlled personality that will show you in a desired light, and help potential customers (and future employees) align themselves with your brand. This is my personal brand on Twitter as a tweet cloud. The bigger the word, the more frequently I use it: http://tweetcloud.com/search/from/antsgardiner
  • Be consistent with the timing & content. If you use your twitter account to tell jokes, do not suddenly change to a marketing push and vice versa. And by timing I mean do not forget about twitter for 3 weeks then suddenly send 20 tweets in a day (or FB updates, or blog posts etc). A content plan can help with this. When I ran SM for the military I had 3-6 months of content planned in advance, but I was always flexible with that and would talk about other content as it became topical.
  • Social media is two way. Do not think about what message you want to shout, think about what conversation you want to have, and who you want to talk with. Social media, and in particular Twitter, should be viewed more as a customer service channel, NOT a marketing channel. If you publicly treat your audience well with these channels, they will do your marketing for you in a word of mouth way that is more powerful than any message you could push out yourself.
  • Facebook tabs can do anything these days. ANYTHING. Here is one I built that broadcasts live TV while also displaying a twitter feed of related comments and allowing people to discuss what is happening via Facebook comments: http://www.facebook.com/skinnymarketing?sk=app_104908912928390 You can build a tab that does anything you want, and use these to give your audience a reason to stick around, and a reason to talk about you.
  • Use your Facebook insights page to learn about your main audience segments. Use other statistical information and sites like www.klout.com to identify the mass influencers within your audience and target ads (above the line, plus sm ad campaigns like FB ads or Twitter promotions) directly to this group to get the best bang for your buck.
Anyhoo, these are some pretty solid techniques which, if followed, will eventually help you to organically build a credible following/fanbase of engaged people, all of whom will run to the shops and buy whatever self-diagnosis DNA testing kit you are selling.

If patience is not your virtue, there is always the option of running a big flashy promotion. Just make sure you follow the rules....

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Put anything in a Facebook tab

Forgive me. I have not blogged in almost a year. I have had an internal debate about whether or not social media marketing was the new telemarketing.

Anyhoo, recently Facebook has changed what they will allow you to do in a Facebook tab. Previously you had to use Facebook Mark up Language (FBML) which although breakable, was a real P.o.S to work with. These days you can put anything you want into a tab. If you can dream it you can build it, and by and large it is not very hard. I mean I can do it, and I am hungover. Surely you could do it even better.

I thought I had better share some of the new possibilities. Not enough people have both the social media knowledge and the coding ability to implement cool stuff. This post will contain an example of what you can now do with your Facebook page, along with the code & step by step to get it working on your site. The code stuff may look crazy, but it is pretty simple. Your social media consultant/geek should be able to sort it out & change it round.

Anyone with even as limited coding knowledge as me (1 year learning) can build cool stuff into their pages.

Example: Recently I built a test tab for a TV station which allowed them to show their lunchtime news bulletin live on one of their Facebook tabs. It also displayed a live Twitter feed of hashtagged comments, and had a Facebook livestream function on the same tab - allowing people to gossip about whatever was on TV.

Interactive TV inside your Facebook tab anyone?

Here is the tab, with the NZ TV channel taken out & replaced with live CBS from a uStream feed. (note: I also set up and ran a test of this using a live uStream feed from my phone - you really can do anything with it)


And here is the entire code you need to build it:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
<title>CBS test</title>


<table width="500" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">
<td width="360" valign="top"><center><object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" width="360" height="246" id="utv800336"><param name="flashvars" value="autoplay=false&amp;brand=embed&amp;cid=522594&amp;v3=1"/><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true"/><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"/><param name="movie" value="http://www.ustream.tv/flash/viewer.swf"/><embed flashvars="autoplay=false&amp;brand=embed&amp;cid=522594&amp;v3=1" width="360" height="246" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" id="utv800336" name="utv_n_836313" src="http://www.ustream.tv/flash/viewer.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" /></object><br /><br />
<div id="fb-root"></div><script src="http://connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#appId=104908912928390&amp;xfbml=1"></script><fb:live-stream event_app_id="104908912928390" width="360" height="300" xid="" always_post_to_friends="false"></fb:live-stream></td>
<td width="120"><script src="http://widgets.twimg.com/j/2/widget.js"></script>
new TWTR.Widget({
version: 2,
type: 'search',
search: '#CBS',
interval: 6000,
title: 'Tweets with #CBS',
subject: '',
width: 120,
height: 500,
theme: {
shell: {
background: '#8ec1da',
color: '#ffffff'
tweets: {
background: '#ffffff',
color: '#444444',
links: '#1985b5'
features: {
scrollbar: true,
loop: true,
live: true,
hashtags: true,
timestamp: true,
avatars: true,
toptweets: true,
behavior: 'default'
<td colspan="2"></td>


That is it! 55 lines of code and we are there. To plug it into your Facebook page, copy & paste it, save it as a .aspx Facebook iFrame support does not like .html much), and stick it up on your server somewhere.

Next we have to set up the app in Facebook, in 4 steps:

1) Go to http://www.facebook.com/developers/ and click on " + set up a new app". Give it a name & agree to the terms and conditions.

2) In the canvas URL box enter the address to the folder on your server where you hid the code - make sure you put the forward slash at the end of the folder address!!

3) In the Page URL box, enter the full address for the code you uploaded to your server:

4) Save it, go to "Application Profile Page" then click on "Add to my Page"

That is it. You are all done. Now if this makes no sense to you, don't worry. Give it to your geek and they will suss it out.

As bung/geeky as this code may look, it is three really simple bits of code that anyone can find on the internet, all glued together in a table 520 pixels wide (maximum width of a FB tab) and with 20 spare pixels for scroll bars to appear without breaking it. You can embed anything you want in your Facebook tab - YouTube, chat, google analytics, your office/factory/restaurant/bar's webcam, radio stream....anything you want.

Now if you will forgive me, I am going for a beer.