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My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at joelkellyATgmail.com

Monday, December 29, 2008

How to offer sponsorships and co-branding - Part 2

This will make more sense if you're read the first part of this series about offering sponsorships and co-branding on your website.

So I'm going to do my best to address the second issue: Isn't this all just a lot more work for advertisers?

@moreglen and I were having this discussion about sponsorships and whatnot, and he threw out that devil's advocate question.

I mean, instead of just doing some high-reach display ad campaign we've actually got to work. We need to find communities, we need to think up interesting ways to make ourselves valuable, we need to show ourselves interested and invested in these people.

It's exhausting just to consider!

So it's easy to come up with problems, but as I said before about advertising in a down economy, the advertisers and communicators that keep succeeding are the ones that think about these things and do their damnest to come up with cool, new ways to overcome any potential obstacle.

So, of course the first answer to that is, Yes, it's more work, too bad. But a little more work to make a product that's more effective, more interesting, and more helpful for everyone.

The second answer is, Well, isn't there a way to automate much of this?

Think about this possibility: Your marketing department or agency outlines just what type of sponsorships you're able to accommodate. The types of communities you're looking to sponsor, what you can offer, and what the prerequisites are on the part of the publisher/site owner.

Then you set up a site for publishers and site owners. They go, check the list of requirements, and see if their site fits the bill.

If so, they select what types of services/sponsorships/co-brandings would be appropriate for their site, from a list provided on the site.

They submit whatever other terms they have, and a message gets sent to the advertiser/marketer. And then someone is assigned to manage the account from there. That person is also responsible for what we'll talk about in the next post: How can you make sure you're providing an interesting, helpful service to the actual members of the community or site audience?

But all the leg work, the looking for sites, the selecting opportunities, all the more tedious stuff, is placed on the site owner, the publisher.

By doing this you've eliminated a lot of work, and you've shown yourself interested in having more relationships with communities. I mean, you've set up a whole system simply for this purpose.

Right now it's almost always the other way around: Websites put their terms for advertisers, what they require, what they'll accept. But for sponsorships and co-branding's the relationship is necessarily different.

It's closer, it's more delicate.

The site owner and the advertiser need to work together, need to make sure they're a great fit for each other. That should be up to the site owner to assess, as they should know their audience better than anyone else. If not, don't expect advertisers to come in and throw money at you. There's a large burden on you to make sure you're demonstrating a huge interest in your community, and have their best interests in mind.

So that's just one thought about this issue. Got any more? Post a comment, please.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to offer sponsorships and co-branding - Part 1

So after I wrote my post about advertising in a down economy I had a conversation with @moreglen, who writes the Halifax Web Development blog.

We tried to work out just how websites with strong communities can be successful by offering sponsorships and co-branding opportunities without a) annoying their user-base, and b) providing enough ROI for their sponsors.

Sponsorships and co-branding can mean a few things, like "presenting sponsor" banners throughout the site, permanent ad space, logo placement throughout, wallpapers/skins, and more opportunities that aren't just regular banner ads placed among other advertiser's banners. With a sponsorship or co-branding, you own a space, you're attaching your brand to the website and vice-versa.

We outlined a few potential issues that would need to be addressed:

  1. If you're an advertiser relying more on sponsorships over huge, high-reach display ad campaigns, you're going to lose reach overall, and you'll end up spending more money on fewer eyeballs.
  2. You'll potentially be increasing the amount of work you'll have to do to manage your sponsorship campaigns.
  3. If you run a community website with a passionate user-base, they'll see the appearance of a sponsor as an intrusion, and worry about whether they'll be affecting the day-to-day operation of the site and its editorial content.
So let's take these one by one over the next couple days and work out some potential solutions.

This series will be written from the viewpoint of an advertiser, because I am one. But if you're a publisher or run a community, this should help you assess where your site might present opportunities to people like me. See the issues we're trying to work out and prepare to partner with us to provide increased value for our customer's and your audience.

Okay, what can we do about that first problem?

Well, my immediate thought is that, yes, you'll likely decrease reach. But if you're owning a co-branding opportunity or permanent sponsorship position on a website, you're hugely increasing your frequency and engagement. So yes, reach overall goes down, but attachment goes up.

So instead of engaging a large audience only slightly, you're engaging a smaller audience heavily.

As well, if you're going after community websites, you're getting an already engaged and passionate group of people. These impressions are worth more than others.

Added to that, if you handle your sponsorship cleverly (offering contesting, prizes, increased value to the user-base) they'll talk about you and what you've done. If you screw it up they'll talk about that, too. So be smart, be nice, and see the site's users as people, not eyeballs you're trying to throw your message in front of.

My second thought is that this complaint sounds a little lazy. If you find enough great websites and communities, you should be able to hit a huge number of people. It's just going to take some more work on your behalf.

But isn't this going to cost more, too? Well, sponsorships and co-branding opportunities can cost you a decent amount right now, sure. But that's because websites haven't quite figured out how to handle them yet. This will change.

This naturally leads into the next question, though: Isn't this all just more work?

Check back on Monday for a few answers to that question.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Online advertising in a down economy

In a down economy I'm expecting to see lots of web publishers consolidate and more to just fail and fold outright.

Not a terribly bold statement, I know.

And we'll see our clients demand more bang for their buck. But if there are fewer publishers, that means prices aren't going to drop. They'll likely hold steady or even increase.

So we're screwed, right?

Well, lots of online advertisers will be. The ones that rely on simple, high-reach, high-intrusion, Big Box/Leaderboard/Skyscraper campaigns. The ones that don't get it.

Spending will shift even more quickly to search and Cost-Per-Click (basically all performance-based tactics) in continued attempts to maximize the efficiency of budgets.

Some of us, though, are going to think a little harder. Not just provide our clients with more of the same, but try more and more different, new things. Things that no one's thought of yet. Things that publishers don't quite know how to value and assign outrageous prices to yet. Opportunities that we'll invent.

We'll be working with our publishing partners to create more effective, more innovative, and at the same time less intrusive and annoying advertisements and sponsorships. That's a tall order, I know. But it's exciting.

Ask your current or potential advertising firm what they think about the future of online advertising. If they're excited about the new opportunities they'll be ever more compelled to invent, then they're one to stick with.

The new game will be coming up with entirely different tactics instead of waiting for someone else to, and then buying something pre-packaged. That's an old game that can't work when there's less money to go around.

Are you excited?

Halifax Web Development

Check out my friend's blog tentatively titled Halifax Web Development. Don't let the, um, very straight-forward name fool you: He's got some great ideas over there, and some cool advice.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Social media IS NOT its networks

So stop saying it, please.

Your social media strategy is not to start using Flickr and Facebook to spread your message, okay?

First, a tactic is not a strategy.

Social media strategy is about figuring out, first of all, why people should care. It's what Mark Earls calls the "What For?" of a business:

"Put really simply, the Purpose-Idea is the "What For?" of a business, or any kind of community. What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else? BTW this is not "mission, vision, values" territory - it's about real drives, passions and beliefs. The stuff that men in suits tend to get embarrassed about because it's personal. But it's the stuff that makes the difference between success and failure, because this kind of stuff brings folk together in all aspects of human life." - gapingvoid.com
So that's how a strategy begins. Now, if you can understand that, and still think that executing a strategy just has to be about using social or peer networks, you've still got a problem.

In the phrase Social Media, "social" is the keyword.

The media is interchangeable.

Social media can take place on the good old sneakernet.

The reason that social networks are used in social media is because they enable people to connect to so many people so quickly. But it's their usefulness that makes them so widely used for social media campaigns, not because the terminology or strategy necessarily demands it.

So please, stop writing what you think is your "social media strategy" by starting off with a list of websites you need to post your content on, as if the media will create the society. It won't.

Communities create networks, not the other way around.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Social media and tourism

How long do vacations last? A week? Two?

How long does the memory last? Years, likely. If it's a particularly interesting vacation, the memory can last a lifetime.

So which did you pay for, where is the real value? The experience, or the memory?

Neither.

You paid for the conversation.

You paid to be able to talk to all your friends and family and coworkers about the trip you're planning, you paid to get to email your friends from some exotic locale and make them jealous, and you paid to be able to force everyone you know to look at your photos when you got back.

That's the lasting value, that's what you paid for.

So if you're marketing a tourist destination, are you focused on making it a one-off experience, unsharable and proprietary? Or do you facilitate sharing the memories, do you help your customers tell everyone they know about the great trip they had, or the great B&B they stayed in?

Do you have free wi-fi and cheap post cards at your hotel? Do you allow and encourage people to take pictures at your attraction? Do you market yourselves as conversation pieces, or as a single experience?

Hugh talks a lot about social objects, and about the need to identify what your social object is that you're selling. If you can't figure out what it is about your tourist attraction or accommodation that will start people talking, that will get people to share the memory with their friends, you're in trouble.

And which is more valuable? Tons of ads, or a few people telling everyone they know about how great their trip was? Which one will get more people interested?

Which one are you focusing your marketing budget on?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Third Wednesday Meet Up Tomorrow!

The Third Wednesday Social and New Media Meet Up is tomorrow at 5pm.

Come out and chat with people passionate about social and new media, internet marketing, and all things wonderful.

At around 5:40 our speakers will talk to us about the upcoming Podcamp Halifax, our city’s very own unconference.

Free registration here.

Location:
Foggy Goggle
1667 Argyle Street
Halifax
Canada
5-7pm

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lock-in is stupid and so are you for wanting it

If you think trying to lock-in your users to your platform is a good idea, you're an idiot.

People use your products out of courtesy and respect, not out of obligation. Trying to force them to continue using your products is, as Cory Doctorow once said, a drug dealer's business model. And not one you want to emulate if you run a more respectable business.

So if you have videos on your site that require a Windows/Mac plugin that requires the newest version (or even those two operating systems), you're being stupid. At least allow someone who's running something else to download the actual video file.

If I can't view your video because I don't have the latest version of the software, or because it requires Windows, I'm not going to upgrade immediately or change. I'm going to forget about the video. I'm going to discredit your site.

And I'm going to discredit the operating system/plugin you require.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Guest Cross-Post: A small website can have a big impact

Cross post by Ted from Infomonkey.net's "The Talk".

A simple, small business website can have big impact


If you are selling to customers under 35 you have to have a web presence. Those customers are at home online and they are difficult to reach with traditional media. If they know about you they will be looking for you on the web.

A lot of small business owners tell me the internet consumes too much time and expense for little or no return. Many of them describe their website as little more than an online brochure. They complain that additions or changes are a hassle. They need a tech person. It's not cost effective.

To that I say get rid of the website. You can still be on the web - but without the hassle. Switch to one of the free content platforms like wordpress.com or blogger.com. They are simple enough for a child to use and provide everything you have in a website without the need for tech help or other charges. They offer plenty of customizable design templates, additions and changes can be made in an instant, and you can keep your own domain name.

An online presence allows you to efficiently target different audiences for your products and services and sell far beyond your local market.

Here are 7 simple ideas to use the web with impact and utility:

1. Interact with your customers. They are not passive online. You are an expert at something. Convey that knowledge. Engage them in a conversation. Tell them your news. Use your staff to do the same.

2. Use video. It's cheap and easy on the web. TV ads are expensive. On the web you can put ads for different products or services on your site and you're not restricted to 30 seconds.

3. Use your site for coupons. Put the coupons on your website but deliver them by email. Ask customers for their email addresses so you can contact them with new offers.

4. Cross sell to different customer segments. Put one product in front of one segment in one content area, another product in front of a different demo in another content area.

5 Test a product or offer for first-time buyers. With an offer only on the web you can be sure your ad is in the relevant content area and seen by the right demographic group.

6. Put POP! in your message with pictures. Illustrate complex products or applications with pictures - something that can be expensive in print or video. An online catalogue is easy to do.

7. Answers any and all a customer's questions. Use all text with simple pages and navigation to explain who you are, what products or services you sell, where you are and how and when to get to you. You could include a picture of your location and a map.

Ask yourself: what do I want to achieve when a customer arrives at my website? Then make that experience as simple and fast as possible.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bad reasons for advertising on your site

Few things annoy me more than sales reps telling me I should advertise on their site because my colleagues in other offices do.

Even fewer things annoy me more than telling me I should because my competitors do.

I’m trying to beat those guys, not join them.

If you think “because the other guys are,” is a good reason, I’m not interested. It might be good information to know, but no decision should hinge on that.

Suggesting that it might greatly affect my planning is insulting, so don’t do it.

And it sort of suggests that you don't have any better reasons.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What is social media?

I've recently heard social media defined as a websites like Facebook, Reddit, Digg, Stumble Upon, and the like, as a method of simply driving traffic to your website.

But that's ridiculous.

That’s like saying the definition of transportation is “vehicle.”

Social media is not its tools. Social media is a space and a mind-set, not a list of social networks.

The goal of social media should not be to “drive traffic."

It should be to increase sales/conversions/awareness/your real, end goal. While there may often be a causal relationship between them, simply increasing traffic isn’t the end goal. Sending qualified, interested people to your site will probably lead to you realizing your real goal, but it’s not the goal in itself.

If a client told me their goal was just to “increase traffic” then I could say, “Okay, let’s start spamming some people. Let’s try to trick as many people as possible into stumbling upon your site as we can."

Of course that sort of thing would get me fired. Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Optimization should be focused on getting the right people engaged with your product/brand. Not just about getting eyeballs on the page. That’s a terrible goal.

But we interact with and use social media solely through things like the above-mentioned websites, right?

Apple zealots spreading the gospel of Jobs to their coworkers are participating in social media. And that doesn’t require Facebook.

If I asked you to define how transportation worked you wouldn’t start by saying, “well, the internal combustion engine…” Social media is bigger than its tools, and defining it by only listing the tools that facilitate it doesn’t make sense to me.

There's something like a venn diagram out there, where digital tools like YouTube and Facebook exist as facilitators of social media on one side. But then there are social nodal points like "I'm a Mac" commercials that get people talking. And then there are guerrilla marketing tactics that get people using social networking websites, and get people talking at the office.

All of these are methods of participating in social media, but none of them completely define it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Headspace Design nabs an ICE Awards merit award

Headspace Design, who made my fabulous Ingenioustries logo, won a merit award at this year's ICE Awards in Halifax for his Mucci Pucci packaging.



I've had the privilege of working with Headspace on several occasions, and creative director Kyle Racki is an awesome designer and great guy to work with, who absolutely deserved this industry recognition.

Congrats!

Headspace Sniffs out an ICE Award

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Halifax Podcamp 2009 -- January 25th

@Greebie over at The Other Librarian has a great post announcing Halifax Podcamp 2009.

The what:

A podcamp, specifically is an unconference about blogs, wikis, podcasts, vidcasts and other social or “new” media. The idea was first introduced by Chris Brogan. The unique thing about a podcamp is that all the information is podcasted and released under a creative commons license afterwards.
The why:
  • why not a podcamp in Halifax, Nova Scotia?
  • we never had a podcamp in Halifax before.
  • based on what I see and hear out in the world, I think there is an opportunity for a New Media Rennaissance in Halifax. A podcamp could spark that IMHO.
  • it’s an opportunity to meet other people who are interested/curious/enthusiastic about New Media. How could you not be interested?
  • Oh yeah. There will be refreshments too.
Head over to The Other Librarian to read the rest of the post about Halifax Podcamp 2009.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Third Wednesday Meet Up Update


As the meet up date quickly approaches, I thought I'd give everyone a quick update on how things are shaping up.

First, Stacey Jones-Oxner from Communications Nova Scotia has said she'll be in attendance, which is a wonderful opportunity for the social media community to learn about the province's usage of new and innovative media. And of course hopefully she'll speak for a few minutes about Pomegranate Phone and the campaign's goals and results.

And then Issmat A. M. Al-Akhlai from Your World Today will talk to us about the importance of social media in business and politics.

This is looking like it will be an incredibly interesting and informative meet up and, as always, tons of fun.

So spread the word, come on out, and bring your friends!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Third Wednesday Meet Up!



Come on out for the Third Wednesday Social and New Media Meet Up on October 15th! We've consolidated several of the local meet ups into this single event, so we're expecting a solid turn out and some great conversations.

So if you're at all interested in social media, internet marketing, or just want to see what all the fuss is about, please come out!

Oh, and if you're interested in speaking for 5-10 minutes about how you or your company have used social or new media, please email thirdwednesday@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pomegranate Phone Controversy

So, a lot's been said about Nova Scotia's Come to Life brand and their "Pomegranate Phone" campaign. It's been labeled the PomBomb by some (and yes, I've used the term myself), but here's how I feel the campaign could have been more of a success:

Your microsite needs to work as a separate, standalone product.

But it has to be so good, so interesting, that you can stamp your brand's name on it without being ashamed.

I love that Nova Scotia tried something bold and new. I love that they took a risk. The issue here--the sole, important issue--about the Pom Phone site that needs to be remedied, is the bait and… hope that people stumble upon the actual message.

If you think your microsite is entertaining, fun, engaging, and will get people to show it to others you don’t have to hide your branding.

You hide your brand when you fear that putting your actual logo on your microsite will make people less interested.

They just need to slap the Come to Life logo on the actual Pom Phone site (which they should have done in the first place), and bam!, you’ve got a cool site that will keep people playing around, while they know what the actual product is!

This is what Landlord Lou did, what Jonzed did, what the BK x-box games did, what Simpsonize Me did, what all those cool microsites or promotions did… They created an interesting product but weren’t afraid to tie it to their brand up front.

When you have to trick someone into finding out what the message is, dupe them into seeing the actual thing you’re advertising, their reaction will only ever be negative or neutral.

I don’t think $300k is too much to spend on a cool, innovative campaign that gets people talking. But they should be talking about your brand, too, not just the site you dropped the money on.

Kudos to Come to Life for trying something new, now they just need to make it a little more effective.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How much should you charge to advertise on your site?

If you're trying to figure out how much you should charge to advertise on your site, it's actually pretty simple:

First, take the going rate of meat. Multiply that by the cost of fuel, and then, finally, divide by the number of people.

Easy, right?

Maybe not!

Wow, that was a lot of sarcasm, even for me... I apologize... That may or may not have been more sarcasm. It's hard for even me to tell sometimes.

So, as you may have suspected (or, entirely possibly, you may not have) I've been asked recently, several times, how much a site should charge for its advertising space. I've heard this question posed (well, it was related to me by a colleague) by someone who works at a radio station trying to get their site to start, you know, not losing them money anymore, and by a friend who had to do a business plan for school.

In both cases, the question, essentially, was,

"How much should we charge?"

That's, first of all, the wrong question you should be asking yourself, and advertisers. The first question you should ask yourself is, "How much would somebody actually pay for this?" Which, of course, leads you to start thinking about value, the value of the space and the value of the audience who will see it.

Like meat, fuel, and other incredibly general terms that describe so much and nothing, advertisements are not created equal, and do not have equal value. A big box on one sports website and a big box on another sports website absolutely do not necessarily command the same price.

So what's the difference?

Are we talking bacon, or prime rib steak?* There is no "market value" for meat. There's no market value for ads. Each is assessed on an individual basis depending on quality and demand. A terrible ad space on a website with an incredibly important and high-spending audience demands a higher price than great space on a website no one goes to, obviously.

You may have noticed something.

I've written a lot of words without telling you how much to charge for your ad space.

You're right. Give me more information about your site and then we'll talk.

For now, you've asked me how much food costs, and I've said, "Money."


*Wow, for a vegan I'm strangely drawn to analogies about dead animals.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Me on CommandN

@pirie, @dazomaz, @brightwhite, and myself drove to Moncton to check out their @thirdtuesdaynb meet ups.

The guests were Amber and Jeff MacArthur, and Christoper Dick. They filmed episode #149 of CommandN while they were there, and during the meet up they filmed people's "web picks" of their favorite sites on the Internet.

Mine's at 7:20, and I'm pimping @gordonshumway's blog The Typing Makes me Sound Busy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What I'm up to

Because I'm just *so* interesting and you need to know what I'm doing these days.

Check out Chris's post over at YouMakeMedia (the new media blog I used to edit) for some details. Basically I'm working on pre-production (I wrote the screenplay) for a short film. So fixing the script and helping out with other pre-production thing will be where I'll be focused for the next little bit. Exciting!

Oh, I'll also be in Moncton, NB tomorrow night at their Third Tuesday meet up. So that should be rad.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Basics of selling ad space on your site - Part 1

Here are a few basic tips if you're trying to increase ad sales on your site, or if you're thinking about starting for the first time.

1. Know your audience
Do surveys asking people about themselves, and work out your site's demographics. If your site has some form of membership, or accepts donations, you should absolutely have information about those people. They're your most devoted visitors -- know who they are and what they're interested in.

2. Know your audience's value
If your site serves a niche, know how much of a niche it is. And if your site isn't very popular, make sure that there's something about your audience that makes them different from the audiences of other, more popular websites. Know your audience's value, and know exactly why I should buy on your website instead of someone else's.

3. Know your ad space's value
Once you've determined the relative scarcity of your audience, know how much to charge for your ad space. If only a small number of people go to your site (low reach) and you're charging a lot of money, your site had better be the only website on the internet they visit. Because, remember, chances are I can find your audience elsewhere. So price accordingly. Have a niche, and charge an appropriate amount based on the scarcity of your audience, and the reach to that audience that your site has.

4. Charge by the CPM
This is harder than charging by the week/month, but it gives some guarantee to your advertiser that people will actually see their ads. You might not be able to do this at first because it does take some management and administration, but it's something you should be working toward.

5. Be picky with your advertisers
If you become known for having pointless, irrelevant ads on your site, that space becomes less valuable to other, more appropriate advertisers because they'll know that your audience expects ads in those spaces to be irrelevant -- so why would they ever look at them? The ads on Penny-Arcade are an excellent example of being picky with your advertisers. Those ads are incredibly relevant to their enormous audience.

6. Use standard ad sizes
I know, I know, I've complained about standard ad units plenty, but this advice is for people looking for advertisers, not advertisers looking for brand new opportunities. Assume the advertisers you want already have ad units created and don't want to spend money making new ones just to fit into the ad space on your site. Be able to take ads they've used elsewhere and use them on your site.

More to come!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

What do you wish big brands knew about the web?

This is a total cop-out of a blog post, I know, but I'm genuinely looking for some advice here.

I've been going around to some of our clients and, well, explaining the present and future web to them, and how it relates to marketing. And also, more importantly, how their audience expects to interact with their brands.

On Tuesday I'll be at one of our major clients and, at this point, I'm a little at a loss of what direction I'll take the presentation. Likely I'm suffering from an embarrassment of riches when it comes to things I could help them with, and that may be precisely the problem. Large companies seem especially likely to misuse or misunderstand this whole interwebernet thing, and it's tough to find a good way to get a lot across without just coming in with a million bullet points (not on slides, because bullet points on slides are awful and you should never use them) of what could be done better and just overwhelm them and myself with information.

So, take a large company, particularly in this market, and tell me what they're doing wrong with the internet. Be it their advertising, their website, or the way they're handling (or, more likely, simply ignoring) social media.

Please...?

You'll be my total BFF if you help me out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Your microsite is a separate product

So I had a chat with @pirie yesterday that got me thinking more about micro-sites. Basically, when I say microsites suck, I mean specifically micro-sites that are an advertisement solely, that exist only to try to sell the visitor on something.

Simpsonize Me and Elf Yourself are not advertisements solely for their respective brand associations. No, they’re separate products. Simpsonize Me isn’t an ad for Whoppers, it’s a separate offering from Burger King. Landlord Lou isn’t an ad for Killam Properties, it’s a series of funny videos that contain characters from Killam Ads.

Microsites can work if they are themselves a product, themselves an offering. And the hope is that they create a good experience for the user, and they associate that good, fun experience with the brand that’s supporting it.

But if your microsite is just an ad, contains some little gimmick just to get people there but is, at the end of the day, just another ad... Well, it sucks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why is there a game in your web ad?

Is it to drive traffic to your pointless website where the real ad, the actual offer has been placed? Probably. You’ve probably been told that your goal is to drive traffic to the site, or worse, the micro-site.

In some cases this makes a certain amount of sense, especially if the visitor can actually buy your product from the website.

But if you’re advertising that someone go to your store’s physical location, why would you try to “engage” them with a game in an ad unit, drive them to the micro-site, and then try to pitch them on your product again? Why not just sell them with a real ad, a good ad.

Bad Ads

Here’s an idea: You’re trying to sell, I don’t know, coffee. Do you make a game, where the user tries to pour of a cup of coffee without over/under-filling the cup? If you’re a big food company, you just might. And then the user will be sent to the website, get sold on the new coffee (well, hopefully you actually have something new/interesting to sell them on) get up from their desk at work, and go to your physical location a few blocks away and buy some coffee. This is assuming that they’ve seen the ad at work.

Does that really sound like a logical sequence of events?

Better Ads


How about we do this: On all the major/local news sites for a specific area you geo-target an ad unit to postal codes around your physical locations. You run a skyscraper (the vertical rectangle on the right-side of websites), where a cup of coffee is quickly poured and steam fills the ad unit. Maybe there’s a very small top-layer-animation above the unit so the steam of the delicious-looking coffee can rise even higher. On most of the pages on the news sites they check they’ll see this delicious cup of coffee. The coffee and steam disappear and there’s your price-point and the addresses of the closest locations.

And we day-part it, so the ad only runs from 8-11am, Monday-Friday.

No need to drive traffic to a website, no stupid games that have nothing to do with your product. Just an ad for a cup of coffee.

Are there more interesting things we could do? Sure. Given the time and budget I’m sure there would be lots of very effective solutions, but this is simple, fairly cheap, and gets the point across and gets to the point quickly.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

20-something angst

Here's my post on Confused from Oopsy... Was that me?'s blog, called "20-something angst." And it's about my 20-something angst.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blog swap time!!

This is a blog swap guest post. Because some people who signed up for the swap didn't write a post, some people had to be re-paired up. That's why Confused from Oopsy... Was that me says she's swapping with a Maegan. As you may or may not know, my name is not Maegan.

Hi! I'm Confused from Oopsy… Was that me and I'll be attempting to entertain you today, trying my very best not scare away Maegan's freaders. I'm sorry, she'll be back again soon, promise! In fact, she's over at my blog right now delighting my freaders, so go check her out!

Blog swaps freak me out. I adore them, they're sooo much fun (that's why I put my name down again), but having to come up with something sensible to write on someone else's blog is utterly nerve-wracking! I know, I'm not the first to mention this, almost everyone (absolutely everyone?) feels this way. That doesn't make me feel much better right now...

When I got the email telling me the blog swap was up I'd long forgotten having put myself down for it. My reaction was 'Crap, not now!' - Am I allowed to say crap on someone else's blog? Maegan says shit, shit/crap, same difference. I'm ok. I'll carry on now. - I waited a few days for inspiration to strike, but eventually I had to admit defeat. No stellar idea was headed my way. So I made a list. Anything that could possibly be turned into a blog post...

  • Geeky joys: Prime factorisation What kind of a geek goes round calculating prime factors of random numbers and takes such delight in it that it can brighten up even a really crappy day? Umm, that would be me... Suitable as guest post? No. Can't remember why not. Ah well.
  • Clouds I was desperate for ideas and the clouds looked vaguely interesting... Suitable as guest post? No! Wtf?!
  • Trying to think of guest post subject Sound familliar? Suitable as guest post? Yes. -ish.
  • Trying to blog anonymously but being to scatterbrained to stick to itEver since I caught my mum reading my old blog I've been trying to stay anonymous. But I keep doing stupid things like posting the link to my current blog on Facebook. Or posting my proper name, email address (which has my surname in it) and blog URL on a public page... Suitable as guest post? Yes. -ish.
  • My favourite songs Seems pretty much self-explanatory to me. Suitable as guest post? Yes. But probably very embarrassing.

That's the extent of my inspiration. Oh dear... Maybe I can tell you a joke or something. Except I usually confused and tell you the punchline first. Or at the latest halfway through...

So I guess I'll just say goodbye, thanks very much for having me and don't forget to go check out Maegan's guest post on my blog!

xxx
Confused :-)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Want to meet about a young-pro business publication?

I'm thinking about setting up a meet-up to discuss the feasibility/potential of starting a business publication/website for young professionals in Halifax. Let me know if you're interested in having an informal meeting about it sometime soon. Likely at a pub.

What we need to figure out:
1) Demand/Potential
2) Content
3) Costs (I can figure out printing costs before the meeting)
4) Revenue
Obligatory:
5) ??
6) Profit!!

Post in the comments if you're interested or, again, reasons why this might be a terrible idea. Also, if I've missed some crucial agenda point, please let me know.

(It should be noted that I used to work in print publishing, have close family working in printing, and currently work in advertising, so I'm not entirely ignorant to the difficulty of such an endeavor)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A younger-skewing business publication?

This was going to be a topic for discussion at the last meet-up, but I didn't get around to bringing it up with anyone. So I'm bringing it up now.

Does Halifax need a business publication aimed toward all the 20-something career-minded people in the city? The current business publications on offer are stuffy and boring, and don't seem to provide any interesting or terribly valuable advice or editorial for the younger workers in Halifax.

I could be wrong, though.

So first, do you perceive the same need I do? And second, what form would this publication take? I mean, it's targeted at 20-somethings, so would it really need to be anything more than a website? Or should it be, as has been suggested, more like the "funny" single-pagers you find in food courts? Perhaps an insert in The Coast?

I think there needs to be a better sense of community and conversation between the young career folks in Halifax. Fusion is, well, it's something, but it's not enough.

Thoughts? (Telling me I'm wrong is a perfectly valid comment, too. And, if you follow my blog you'll notice that I'm reasonably comfortable with a decent dose of hate)

Friday, July 25, 2008

If Adblock scares you, quit

If you're an online marketer and you think Adblock Plus is going to kill the online ad industry, you're an idiot. Quit, and make room for the rest of us a little quicker. I mean, you're going to be out on your ass soon enough anyway, right?

Why Adblock Matters

Yes, the ads we make, and the ads we buy space for, can be blocked by Adblock, for the most part. They're Flash ads, usually, served via a javascript tag. Adblock can pretty easily allow users to stop them from loading.

We typically make and buy standard ad units. Standard ad units have, well, standard architectures. Standard ads can be easily blocked but, let's face it, they're just as easily ignored. So standard ad units are a problem even if the user doesn't even have Adblock running.

Oh noes?!, right? We're done for, right?

Why Adblock doesn't matter

Because, like I just said, standard ads are already a problem. These are exactly the kinds of things that advertisers should be trying to stop cluttering up websites with. Advertisements can allow sites to generate money, can allow users to have access to the content they want (by paying for its delivery for them), without being stupid, without being intrusive, and without being pointless.

Only the sketchy advertisers who serve up ads that just piss people off are, and should, be scared right now.

Look, site publishers need to make money if they're going to be doing what they do full-time. That's just how it works. Selling advertisements lets them do this.

But the advertising space they sell is usually easily ignored by users, or even worse, annoying to them.

Thing is, those type of annoying/invisible (too often it's only one or the other) ads are the ones most easily blocked. So what do we do? Well, we stop using standard, boring, annoying, intrusive, pointless standard ad units.

And, the thing is, thinking a little bit outside the Big Box (the standard 300x250 pixel unit) is the kind of direction we should be going. Oh, and they're more difficult to block. Oh, and users will be less inclined to block them anyway.

Why advertisers and publishers need to smarten up

Because the users already have. Website visitors have already learned to ignore the first 100 pixels or so of websites. They know there's just going to be an ad up there, so why pay any attention?

Advertisers and publishers need to smarten up because there's so much potential out there, opportunities to let advertisers sponsor your website instead of you just whoring it out to them. Let advertisers spend their money on making your site accessible to your visitors. They're willing to do that if there's something in it for them. Well, they should be at least.

That something? An opportunity to talk, a little bit, to your audience, too. An opportunity to let your audience know that they're helping out, that they're footing the bill for the cost of you running your cool website.

And they can do that by making intriguing wallpapers, by getting sponsorship taglines in your RSS feed, by sponsoring your contest and paying for the prizes, or by running static ads as background images in your site's remnant space. Basically, by helping you deliver your content to your visitors. By being a part of the team.

Adblock should scare bad advertisers and lazy publishers

Because bad advertisers just want to interrupt the users and force-feed them a message. And because lazy publishers just want to toss some AdSense boxes around the page, or sign up for another sketchy ad network.

If you're scared of Adblock, well, I guess you should be.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Halifax Social & New Media Meet Up Tonight!

Agency folks, bloggers, social media nerds, and people just excited about this whole internet thing will be meeting at the Fourth Thursday Social & New Media Meet Up tonight at the Lower Deck in downtown Halifax.

If you read this blog you're probably already well aware of this but, just in case, I wanted to give it a shout out.

I'll be there, and I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Hits" mean nothing to me

If you measure your site's popularity in hits, you stand a good chance of me ignoring everything else you say. Hits are a measurement of how many file requests were made to your server. So, basically, it means nothing to me. I don't care how many times images were requested to be delivered to browsers. If your site's home page is image-heavy you could easily be getting dozens of hits every time someone loads that one page.

Now, I know that most of the time when a rep tells me how many hits they get they actually mean pageviews (a useful metric), but confusing web terminology makes me a little nervous about giving you my clients' money.

Tell me how many visitors you have, tell me how many visits you get, tell me how many pageviews you receive. More importantly, tell me all the information you have about who your audience is.

Don't tell me how many "hits" your site gets. That only tells me to be wary of signing a contract with you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I can find your audience elsewhere

The internet is not TV, or radio, or print. Lots of people may only watch one or two shows. Lots of people may only listen to one radio station, or only read one newspaper.

Nobody only goes to one website. Your site is not irreplaceable.

I can always find your audience elsewhere.

If you really, really value your website, and see it as a necessary site on my media buy, then you should be trying your hardest to convince me of that. If you see it as so important, so necessary, so irreplaceable that you won't bargain, won't facilitate, won't help, then you're off. I'll find your users somewhere else.

I always can.

SEO in Halifax

I recently proposed SEO services and was told that my company's rates were much too high. Which was a little shocking because I'd basically cut the price in half because I thought it would be a really interesting project to work on, and a great win.

The impression I got from my contact is that they essentially ended up going with the proposal with the lowest price. Not an entirely rare thing for a company to do, but SEO and internet marketing in general seem to be really overlooked and misunderstood means of advertising in this city.

Halifax is in Atlantic Canada. According to comScore, Atlantic Canada leads much of the rest of the country in the per captia people online, and the time they spend online. Canada is a world leader in these same measures. Meaning Atlantic Canada is a world leader. And yet they just don't get it...

If you're a business in Halifax, you need SEO. If you're a business in Halifax, you should be advertising online. That's where your customers and prospects are, for almost any product or service you might offer.

People here are online, a lot. It's really that simple.

Obviously much of the numbers for the region could be skewed by the fact that we have so many post-secondary education institutions, meaning that we have a disproportionate number of the most web-savvy demographic in this city. But those people have friends, they have parents, so even if they might not be your audience, they know your audience. If they see your message they can inform the people who need your message.

To neglect the internet is a silly, silly move. No matter what target you're after.

Mine one of 50+ "Kick Ass Logos"


FuelYourCreativity.com has listed my Ingenioustries logo, by Headspace Design, as one of "50+ Kick Ass Logos for Inspiration." That's pretty awesome. Check out Halifax-based Headspace Design for more sweet work.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Glossary: Hits

Hits are requests for files from a server. When you visit a web page, your browser has to request all the files that make up that page to be delivered to you. Hits do not measure how many times the site was visited, nor how many visitors the site has. They don't even measure how many individual pages were loaded. They only measure how many times the server received requests for files. If your site's home page has 100 images, and a single person visits that page one, you just got 100 hits. Congratulations.

Don't measure your site's traffic in hits, then. Because it's meaningless.

This is how to do a site wallpaper


The Dark Knight wallpaper/companion execution on imdb.com is pretty rad. This is some great site wallpaper, people. All your typical imdb content is there, unobstructed, but you've still got incredibly effective advertising.

Yeah, it clashes with the imdb colours, so it's all a little ugly, but the visitor gets their content, and is served an ad, all at the same time. It might be a touch annoying, but nowhere near as frustrating and intrusive as a voken. Wallpaper's the way to go, ya'll. Keep that in mind when you're making your commercial websites.

Hardly anyone will tell you about a cool ad that started covering over what they were trying to read on a website. Almost no one will think it was pretty great that for up to seven seconds they couldn't read what they'd been trying to. At best people will think the ad was pretty silly. At worst they'll be pissed off.

With a wallpaper, at best people will think it was kind of cool. At worst they'll think it was ugly.

Pretty easy choice to make when you have to decide which to go with, right?

Well, it should be.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sell your site, not your space

If you're trying to get advertisers to buy on your site, remember that it's not about the space you have, it's about your audience. You're not selling blocks of space, you're selling what your site has to offer.

You're selling access to your audience.


So if you want advertisers, you need to know who your audience is. What they're doing online and otherwise. I don't care how much traffic you get, I want to know who those people are. Remember, if it were about traffic I could just buy ads on Hotmail and be done with it.

But it's not and can't be about traffic, and it's usually not about reach. It's about hitting a demographic. It's about finding the people most likely to be interested in the product I'm trying to sell them. And I need to know if your audience is in that demo. If you don't know that, then I'm not interested.

And that means that you also need to find the people most likely to be interested in buying your product. You need to be reaching out to advertisers with the information you have, and you need to find compelling reasons for them to buy on your site.

Too many publishers think that just because their site is popular, or has a niche target, that advertisers will suddenly be interested in buying.

I can find your site's audience somewhere else.

Nobody only reads one site on the internet. I can always nab them when they're checking their webmail. Come find me and tell me why it would be better for me to advertise to them when they're on your site, and then I'm interested.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Skinning -- The Anti-voken

First of all, a voken is an ad that appears over top of the content that you're trying to view on a website. They're Top-Layer Animations, Flash animations that are meant to make it impossible to ignore the advertiser's message.

And they're really annoying.

Because people can so easily ignore typical banners (people have basically learned to ignore the first 100 pixels or so of a website, greatly reducing the effectiveness of top-of-page leaderboards), vokens are often used to seize the visitor's attention. It's usually hoped that if the creative is interesting or entertaining enough, the user won't mind that they're being content-blocked. Odds are greatly stacked against that happening, though.

Skinning, however, is like the anti-voken.

You get the same attention-grabbing effect without the outrageously annoying intrusion. Remnant space on either side of the page content is branded with the advertiser's message or colours, and the wallpaper may fill the whitespace within the content.

Skinning can make a website look like it's "brought to you by" the advertised brand. If the site is highly-trusted and has good visitor engagement, the brand may be looked on quite favorably.

Of course, the opposite could easily be true as a site's loyal visitors could see it as a takeover attempt, or an attempt to siphon some of their goodwill toward the site.

In either case, though, skinning is a better idea than a voken. Vokens, yes, can be interesting and entertaining, but always at the cost of the visitor's time.

With a voken, you aren't grabbing a visitor's attention, you're hijacking it.

So if you're a publisher looking to increase ad revenue and invite interesting executions from advertisers, offer things like skinning or wallpapers. Allow content to be sponsored, "brought to you by" the advertised brand, which is definitely not the same as allowing content to be controlled or affected by the advertiser.

People like me are always looking for new, interesting ways to advertise our client's brands online, and smart publishers with solid ideas for executions stand a much better chance of landing on a buy than a site that's just trying to pitch us on hijacking their users' engagement.

Glossary: Skinning

When you skin (or add "wallpaper") to a website, you typically fill the remnant space on either side of the page content with your branding creative. As well, the wallpaper may show in the "whitespace" within the content. Skinning allows all of the content of a site to remain unobstructed, while allowing for interesting, attention-grabbing branding executions. Skinning can make the site appear as if it's being directly sponsored by the advertised brand.

Of course, a bad skin (too busy, too ugly, too intrusive) can have a negative effect on a visitor's experience. While skinning is better than using a voken, it must still be handled carefully to create a good experience for the visitor, the advertiser, and the publisher.

Glossary: Voken

A voken, or "virtual token" is a Top-Layer Animation advertisement that appears and covers over content on a website. Not necessarily user-initiated, these ads, while able to seize the visitor's attention, can be quite annoying. Advertisers and clients have raved about their effectiveness on a click-through basis, but that's likely because they were tracking the "Close" button as a click, and thinking that accidental clicks on the ad count as being effective.

Skinning a website can have similar attention-grabbing effect without being near as annoying.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Have great reps!

Most of the time my decision to buy on a site is based on these criteria, in this order:

1) Will it hit my demo?
2) Do I trust the rep?
3) Price.

That’s right, my relationship with my rep is usually more important than the price. A good rep saves you time, and comes up with ideas that create greater value. That can effectively make it cheaper to buy on a more expensive site with a great rep. A site with a low CPM and a rep who’s only interested in getting the contract signed and who seems to disappear once it is can cost you more time, and therefore more money, in the long run.

This is of course not unique to web advertising, but nobody seems to stay put for very long in in this industry, since it's so young. So if you’re selling ads online and use sales reps and account managers, try to keep them where they are! I tend to banter with my reps (well, I fill their inboxes with long-winded questions peppered with attempts at humour), and the better the rep is at addressing my concerns quickly, and exceeding my expectations of service and trust, the more likely I am to buy on the site.

If you have to charge more so that you can afford to pay your staff well and keep them around, that should be okay. I’ll still buy because I know I’m getting a much greater value in the long run.

Oh, and they should humour me when I try to be funny. That’s crucial, too!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Microsites Suck

Mostly.

If the client asks you why people would actually go to the microsite you're proposing to advertise their product, and you reply, "because that's where all the ads will direct them," you've given a very, very wrong answer.

If the reason someone would go to your microsite is because that's where the ads click through to, don't make it! Seriously, just... stop it.

Office Max's "Elf Yourself" is a microsite, and the reason people go there is not just because some ads directed them there. Burger King's "SimpsonizeMe" is a microsite, and people don't go there just because they clicked on an ad and were directed there.

People go to these sites because they offer something other than another advertisement like the one they just clicked on. People go there because the means (a fun experience interacting with the site) justifies the end (being told about a product). In fact, they'll spread the link around to their friends for the same reason, they'll advertise for the product because, at the end of the day, there's a rewarding experience to be had.

If your microsite doesn't offer an interesting, rewarding experience to the consumer, you're building it because you can't think of anything else to do.

And if your microsite has a loading screen... just give up, go home, and sit in the corner and think about what you've done.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

HOW-TO Grow Your Blog's Audience - Guest Post

This post is by Amy in Arizona, also known as Rocketwife. We've swapped posts this weekend, taking part in the 20somethingbloggers' Big Blog Swap. Thanks to Ben Boudreau for organizing it all! And thanks Amy for the fabulous post.

My post on Amy's blog can be found here.

I'm pretty new at this blog thing. I had a Blogspot account for a long time but it was more of a place to post pictures of my dogs and talk about "feelings" than anything else. I think the most readers I ever had in one day were three. (Hi mom! And dad! And mom again?)

I made the decision to buy my own URL and start blogging a little over a month ago. I figure out how to use Wordpress, learned what a file manager was and even set up my own email account. I was all set! Except, well, nobody was reading the website.

I would wake up each morning and say to myself, "TODAY is the day that hundreds of people read my blog! And they will love it and think that I'm SO funny!" But, each morning I would check the stats on my blog and realize that I wasn't getting any more hits than when I had my "puppy" blog.

At that point, I sat down and began to realize that readers just don't show up, you have bring them to you. It's sort of like making friends. You can't sit at home and hope that someone knocks on your door and wants to go to brunch with you. It just won't happen. You have to be proactive.

And that's exactly what I did. I started first with some very cheesy "blog" companies that promised thousands of hits per day. All I got was spam, and very vulgar spam at that! I DO NOT recommend this.

What has worked best for me is, like I said before, being proactive. I make the effort to engage in other blogs and in return, they engage in me. I post comments but not just any comments. What you say needs to be something that adds to the conversation. I don't think something like "YOU ROCK!" on a random blog would produce any more traffic than saying nothing at all.

In conclusion, I think the best things that have worked for my blog marketing have been:
1. Join websites that relate to you. If you're a 20-something without kids, don't join a Mommies-R-Us blog service.
2. Be PROACTIVE. You have to leave comments to receive comments.
3. Relax and be yourself! When it comes down to it, WHO CARES if anyone reads your blog! If you enjoy posting, then that's really all that matters!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's just about goals

Carman’s post about planning campaigns or creative based on what you or your peers or your friends will believe to be “cool” got me thinking about something we all have to ask ourselves and our clients all the time.

What’s the point?

I left a comment on his post saying that I was critiquing a client’s website (as it’s incredibly hard to use) and was told that it won awards (or was recognized in some way) at Cannes.

That’s a fabulous honour but it matters not at all. Nobody who actually tries to engage with the site, only to be confronted with a loading page and then a non-existent nav structure in a fully-Flash page (no direct linking, no image/text copying) cares at all that the site won some awards. They might be intrigued with the look of the site, briefly. But they’ll never come back. Best case, best case, they pass the link along to a friend because the site looks cool. Worst case, they never enter the contest, their friend never enters the contest, no one sends a direct link to the contest.

And that worst case is just about the current case, it turns out.

If your campaign has a goal, which should almost never be to drive traffic to a micro-site, build around that goal. If the goal is to get information on your customers through a contest, make getting to the contest, sending the link to the contest, and entering the contest the easiest friggin thing in the world.

That simple.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Glossary: % Comp UV

% Comp UV: (Or, Percent Composition of Unique Visitors) The percentage of a site’s visitors that are in your target demo.

This is why reach ain’t everything. If you have a small demo especially, you might not want to blow a ton of money on big sites with huge reach to hit them. If you try to figure out smaller sites whose visitors are highly-composed of your demo, you can probably buy on a bunch of those sites for cheaper, and still end up getting the same (or close to it) reach.

Glossary: Reach

Reach: The percentage of your target demo that visit the website you’re advertising on.

If you’re looking to hit as many people in your demo as possible by buying on as few sites as possible, reach is your metric of choice. If your target is pretty broad, you’re going to be looking at buying on the big sites like Yahoo! or even Facebook.

But reach ain't everything.

If you have a very narrow target, you can still hit them usually by going on the big sites (my Yahoo! reps tell me that when you combine all their properties together they approach 100% reach), but it’ll cost you a decent chunk of change. Why not find a bunch of smaller sites that your demo visit, and buy on them for cheaper? That’s where % Comp UV comes in.

Traffic Ain’t Everything

In fact, it's almost nothing.

“How much traffic does your site get?” This is a question commercial websites get asked a lot.

And it makes sense, right? If you’re paying to put an ad on a website, you want as many people as possible to see it, so you’d want to make sure that lots of people visit the site.

Well, that’s just not how it works.

See, most of these sites sell on a CPM basis. This means that you’re only paying when someone sees your ad. So if you buy 10,000 impressions (or 10,000 instances of someone seeing the ad), then it often makes little difference how much traffic the site gets.

If you’re considering purchasing ad space online, “traffic” is simply not a thing to worry about in most cases. Reach might be. %Composition UV should be. But traffic? Not so much.

If it is a crucial part of your decision-making process, you’re thinking about the wrong things. You’re thinking that you’re buying space in a newspaper, or on a TV show. You’re thinking about Gross Rating Points. You’re not thinking that you’re advertising on the internet.

Internet advertising allows you to measure every single time someone sees an ad, every single time someone clicks an ad. You can see where they’re from (down to the postal/zip code), you can see what browser they’re using, whether they’re on dial-up or broadband, and so many more things. And many sites offer all of these things and more as targeting options. This is not TV, this is not radio.

Traffic isn’t a thing, people. Hitting your target demo precisely, and only paying when you do -- that’s a thing. That’s the thing that matters.

Slashdot has a ton of traffic, but if you’re selling nail polish*, that just doesn’t make a difference.



*Sorry to whip out the No Girls on Slashdot cliché, but you get my point.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

HOW-TO Remove Twitter Followers

Just a heads up, if you try to get people to stop following you, you might get accused of being a “Twitter snob.” But frankly, that’s a risk many of us are willing to take. Social media tools are just that, and it’s entirely acceptable to use these tools however you want to.

So, basically, if you want to stop people from receiving your updates unless you allow them to, just go into your Settings, and check the box at the bottom to protect your updates. You’ll be able to approve/deny people who try to follow you.

If that’s a little too proactive and not retaliatory enough (someone of us like a little spite), go into your list of Followers and block the ones you don’t want following your updates anymore.

That’s all there is to it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What are you social media or web marketing questions?

Got any? Send me an email at joel@ingenioustries.com, or post a comment. If you're wondering about social media, web marketing and copywriting, or what I had for breakfast today (hint: light roast from Just Us! on Barrington St.), let me know! I'll answer it right here on my fancy internet website. Viewed by literally several people a week!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

HOW-TO Unfriend Someone

Find his or her name in your list of friends, and click the little “x”. That’s all there is to it.

The top referrals to my site come from people searching for something along the lines of “How to unfriend someone.” It’s really not that hard, it’s not something you should be taking tons of time to think about. It’s not serious. You’re not blacklisting them, (unless you are actually going to block them, which is recommended in some cases) you just don’t consider them really good friends. Like, real-life friends, not the bastardized term “friend” we use on the internet.

If you’re considering unfriending someone, it’s the right thing to do. You can always friend him again, later. “But,” you say, “won’t they be offended?” Maybe. But seriously, if you’re done having him on your friends list, why do you care? Someone who makes you feel obligated to friend them is far from a friend, he’s a leech.

Facebook for almost all people is a collection of names and nothing more. It’s not a network of trusting and trusted friends. It’s a phone book with pictures.

You don’t have to friend your boss, you don’t have to friend your coworkers. You don’t have to friend anyone you don’t want to. If you’re worried that your boss will be mad at you, then you have a pretty terrible job, and a much bigger problem than internet etiquette.

Imagine a world where your friends list is populated only by close, real-life friends. People you trust with your personal thoughts and feelings, people you can count on to help you out and who you want to help. You know, friends. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to censor your thoughts about something because you’re worried the wrong person might see it?

Oh, and if you’re thinking, “But what if a real friend on my list sees something I’ve written and then passes it on to someone else?” Well, if you’re concerned about someone doing that, then he’s not your friend.

Unfriend him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You'll have another best idea

Don't save great ideas for media or creative executions (or anything, really) because you think they might work better with some ideal future campaign or situation. Use it as soon as you can, even if it feels like you're "wasting it" on a campaign that's not high-profile, or doesn't have a huge budget.

You'll have another best idea ever.

You might worry that you won't, though, that you have this one great thought that you need to save until you have the perfect opportunity to use it the way you think is ideal. You're sabotaging yourself, though, and you won't be happy with the campaign you're working on, and you'll never be happy with your great idea because you'll likely never get to use it exactly how you'd like to.

People who seem to have great ideas all the time are no different than you or I, they just use the good ideas they have as soon as they come to them, confident that, eventually, another good one will follow.

It's frustrating to talk to someone who says that they had a great idea for a website or advertisement, or anything else, but they didn't use it because they wanted to "save it."

People don't care if you have a great idea you're holding onto, they only see that you're not executing on any great ideas. It's small consolation that maybe someday you'll be of some use.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

All engine-less cars are equally useless

No matter how pretty the design of your Flash-only, single-page website is, it's just as useless at a 1994-era static, ugly website.

If you don't allow direct, internal linking, or image-copying, or text-quoting, your site is useless. If you build a website, assume someone is going to want to share it with their friends, and likely only a single part. If you don't think someone will want to do that, then why are you making it in the first place? Make it as simple as possible for someone to spread what you have to say and offer around. If you don't, if you force people to start at your splash page and proceed from there, you deserve no one's time or indulgence.

That website is no better than an ancient relic of the internet, a page with frames and manually-updated HTML. A useless site is a useless site, no matter how pretty.

A Ferrari without an engine is just as useless as a Chevette without an engine.

The only difference is that you could probably sell your useless Ferrari for more money.

A bad static website is just as useless as a dynamic, pretty, single-page Flash site. But you can probably charge your client more money for the latter.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sell by the CPM

Seriously, don't try to get me to buy ad space on your website based on time. I'm just going to assume you're trying to trick me into paying more than the space is worth.

Internet advertising is measurable and trackable, so I'm going to buy based on measurable and trackable amounts. I'm going to buy based on how many impressions the ad actually receives. So if you insist on selling by the month or week, I'm still going to work out the effective CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and decide from there if it's a good deal. And I'm never going to buy space on a site that can't give me real data on how many impressions the ad is likely to receive. So save us both that trouble and sell on a CPM basis from the get-go.

Now, I understand that it might be a little more complicated for you. Because how do you decide how valuable those thousand impressions are?

Well, first consider supply and demand. If you have huge inventory, you don't want to risk it going to waste and not having enough advertisers buying, or enough impressions being purchased. So you'll want to set a CPM that gets most or all of your impressions purchased.

If you don't get a lot of traffic, you'd better have a great reason why those limited eyeballs are really valuable. Define a niche for your site that makes that small number of impressions worth buying. If you can justify it, you might even be able to set a reasonably high CPM. If you're selling out your inventory, then you're doing okay (if you're selling out your inventory really, really quickly, maybe you should up your CPM).

If you're in the mid-range, with lots of impressions but not more than you know what to do with, you don't necessarily need a mid-range CPM. Again, if you can justify why those impressions are more valuable than the next guy's (if you have a niche website, or serve a need that no one else is covering), then you don't have to charge a middle of the road price.

So if you're selling ad space on your website, those are a few things to keep in mind. And remember, the best thing you can do to get yourself on one of my buys is this: Make it painless. If I can call you up or fire you off an email and expect great service and great ROI, and provide a great experience for myself and my client, then you've got the best shot at getting on a buy.

At the end of the day it's about value for my client, and since they're getting billed based on how much time I spend on a buy, too, if buying on your website gets me valuable impressions without having to spend a lot of time on it, you're doing us all a favor.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reach ain't everything - Tip #1

My last post on web marketing threw out an example of something that I sometimes need to explain to clients when preparing online campaigns for them: Reach vs. % Comp UV.

Reach ain't everything. Just because a certain site might hit a huge percentage of your audience (Yahoo!'s network of properties, for instance, reaches about 100% of internet users in Canada), that doesn't mean those sites are sufficient on your buy, or even the best way to spend your money.

Sites with huge reach often have prices to match. While Hotmail may have more impressions than they know what to do with and can therefore offer a low CPM (cost per thousand impressions), most sites with huge reach charge a big price for their valuable impressions.

So what do you do with a small budget, or a client extremely concerned with efficiencies? That's where % Comp UV comes in. It's the percentage of a site's unique visitors that are composed of your target demo.

So one site, say, Facebook, might hit 90% of your target demo, but their % Comp UV may only be 3%. However, a smaller, more targeted site might only reach about 5% of your demo, but it could be composed almost entirely of people in your demo. Find enough of those smaller sites with huge % Comp UV and you might be able to spend less over a bunch of sites and hit all the same people without having to dump all your money on one or two sites with huge reach.

Of course, if you're breaking your buy up into smaller chunks like that you'll want to make sure you're not hitting the exact same people over and over again on those sites.

Agencies use tools to measure reach, % Comp UV, and duplication, among many other metrics, but a good eye and intuition (and carefully worded questions to the people running the sites you're interested in) can still get you a long way. I can't really talk about specific tools I use at my day job, or go into detail about how we construct buys, but hopefully the little bit of information I've given will create a bit of awareness of what goes into buying media online.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What, would you say, you do here?

It's odd that I haven't really discussed what I actually do in web marketing for a living.

I think it's because I'm not entirely set on where this blog is going, yet. It's been reasonably professional and painfully formal so far, which bothers me a bit. I'm no stranger to overly-personal blogging, so I'm hoping I'll be able to find a comfortable middle ground soon.

Anyway, my day-to-day job is planning and buying online advertising campaigns. So I get briefed on the client/product/creative and I plan the online execution from there. I find the sites to purchase impressions on, make the buys, monitor campaigns, and work with the client to keep them up to speed. So that includes a lot of research, negotiation, and more spreadsheets and acronyms than could be easily imagined. Oh, and meetings after meetings after meetings...

That's for the display side. I also handle all the search marketing for our client's campaigns, both PPC and SEO. So I would set up and monitor and maintain Google/Yahoo paid link campaigns, and make SEO recommendations.

The rest of my job is being the internet expert in the office. Lots of meetings explaining social media, why CTR isn't as important as people would like to think, explaining the difference between reach and %Comp UV, and why if you make a website with a loading page you should be fired from the internet.

I'm actually preparing an hour-long talk that I'll be presenting to all my coworkers on Thursday about Web 2.0 and Social Media. I'm going to try to have it recorded, so depending on company policy I might be able to post it online.

So, yeah, that's a little bit of what I do. And also I'm the one male in the media department, so the other part of my job is being "the guy" who tries to turn the conversation away from Girlicious and toward Indiana Jones. With limited success.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ask, Don't Tell

Everybody hates meetings. Well, most people do.

If you love meetings you're likely organizing lots of them, so you should probably keep in mind that most people hate meetings.

And the people who like meetings are typically the ones doing all the talking, the ones doing all the telling. The people who hate meetings are typically silent, thinking about other things, likely thinking about all the work that's piling up while they're away from it.

If you're stuck in a meeting, the best way to get something out of it, or at least try to keep it relevant, is to ask good, tough questions.

How many times have you sat in a meeting and wondered why the conversation has taken this turn? How often do you think no one's actually addressing relevant issues? When this happens, ask the question!

If you're in a meeting about how to promote a product before the product has even been developed, before there's even been a creative brief, ask why. Ask how you can be planning an advertising campaign before you've even differentiated the product from the competition. This sort of thing happens, and if nobody asks the question everyone will be wondering long after why nobody asked it way back then.

Ask the question. Best case you'll get a good answer and everyone will be enlightened. Worst case you might not get dragged into so many meetings anymore...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Out of the Loop

It's remarkable, the anxiety caused by being out of the loop, which itself was caused by anxiety.

The past few weeks have been so stressful and depressing that I haven't had the energy to even watch tech news, let alone keep up with all the blogs I need to be reading. And I do mean need. My job sort of requires that I keep up-to-date with SEO/M news, and my position in the company is defined by my ability to keep on top of these things, to be the guy who knows what's going on online.

And right now I have no idea. It's paralyzing, I'd say, to stare at all these RSS feeds without any idea where to start. Knowing that there isn't enough time for me to get caught up, knowing that I'll just have to start fresh, and hope that nothing really important happened last week.

If anyone knows any big news that someone involved in internet marketing and social media should be aware of, I'd really appreciate you dropping some links.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Your Social Networking DNA

So I'm at the AIM Conference and I just heard a presentation by the General Manager of Yahoo! Canada talk about Social Networking DNA.

His point was, basically, it's unreasonable to expect social networks to continue to operate as they do now, because currently they're the only space where people of all ages interact together. He gave the example that if he started shopping for clothes where his daughter shops, she'd throw away her clothes.

Sure, that makes sense.

And I agree that it's weird and probably unsustainable for Facebook to draw people of every demographic.

And I agree that the future is going hyper local. Everyone will have their own networks where they can interact with the people they want to interact with, when they want to. There will still be Facebook, where everyone is, but there will be smaller, more niche networks, where you can talk to specific groups of people with whom you have a specific connection.

But I do not agree that people will have a single profile, a single "you" that will get carried from network to network, saving you from creating new profiles and logins everywhere you go.

Why? Because you're not the same "you" on every network. Your Facebook "you" is different than your Twitter "you" because your Twitter messages are broadcast to everyone. You're just not the same person everywhere you go.

And if someone steals your one, single social networking identity, that could be as damaging to your business and reputation as your real, actual identity.

Having a single "you" is as bad as being forced to use biometric information to gain access to physical locations or computer data. If someone steals your credit card and your identity, you cancel the card and you contact the police and the government, because you'll be able to prove through all your other "profiles" that you're the real you.

If someone steals your fingerprint, or gets the data from your iris and manages to steal your identity that way, how could you possibly prove you're the real you?

If someone steals your one, single social media DNA, you're in the same boat.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Things I couldn't live without

My video podcasts. Even though I feel like I'm working 24/7 nowadays, I still make sure I make time to watch The Totally Rad Show, Diggnation, Webb Alert, and others.

And yet I don't feel that way at all about anything on TV. Even Lost, which I'd watched religiously, doesn't command that kind of ritual anymore. I haven't watched Battlestar Galactica, which is my favorite show on TV right now, for the last three weeks. I didn't even realize that The Office was back on.

I'm not sure whether that says something good about the future of new media, or something really, really bad about the state of television. Or maybe it can be both.

I wrote about my favorite video podcasts on YouMakeMedia.com a while ago:
Play Digital, Totally Rad Show, Webb Alert, Web Drifter, Vegan A Go-Go, Geek Brief TV, BoingBoing TV

Am I alone in this, or does the Internet really provide a better video entertainment experience now?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Unfriend Someone Today

How-To Unfriend Someone Now Available

What utility is a social network if you can't use it to be genuinely social, to actually experience it as a gathering of friends? If you are using social networks as a competition, taking the Pokemon-ish "Gotta catch 'em all" approach, at what point is it still useful to you?

Can you be honest with your status updates? Do you have to wonder whether the pictures you post might be incriminating? Is your profile wide open for the world to view and judge?

I'm not advocating being paranoid about what you do online. I'm suggesting that you arrange your online affairs in such a way that you don't have to be paranoid. "Friend" doesn't mean "acquaintance whose name you can barely recall." It means someone you care about, someone you care about knowing and dealing with on a regular basis. Someone you can count on and can count on you.

Social networks become a liability when you constantly have to maintain relationships out of obligation instead of interest.

If you had a personal crisis dealing with a sensitive personal issue and you needed to contact your all close friends right away, could you post it as your Facebook status? Or would you have to manually select which of your "Friends" are actually close enough to you to learn about it, and send them a Message instead?

Then how is Facebook any better than an email list?

Unfriend someone today. It's good for you.