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medium overload

During my lunch break on Wednesday, I was browsing through my Facebook feed, texting a friend, and emailing some final details about the Creative Economy Alderman debate that was to take place that evening. I realized that the text I was typing, the email I was sending, and the Facebook post I was responding to were all to the same person.  I then sent him another text message stating, “Kind of sad that I just emailed you, am texting you, and we’re posting to each other on Facebook.  Add a phone call and a tweet, and this would really be crazy.” I am sure many of you reading this already think that this is crazy, but I was using these mediums wearing three different hats, if you will, and conveying very different messages. This still may seem a little intense, but we need to take a step back and think about how these mediums are best used.

In this scenario, I was using Facebook to share an online article with my friend, texting to talk personally about a pressing issue, and emailing to talk “official business” and pass on some documents. I therefore was using all of these mediums for different reasons.  If I tweeted to him and called him, the tweet would have been something relevant (reposting a tweet or article I thought he would find interesting, for example, or commenting on a personal joke, perhaps) and a phone call would have been in a desperate “I need to talk to you right now!” panic. All of the modes of communication certainly have their different and intended purposes, but how do you not go into medium overload?

I don’t know that I can answer that question from a personal standpoint. From a business standpoint, I think it is pretty straightforward. You have to think about who your audience is and how they are using these different mediums, if they are, which will then instruct you on how to best use them.

I went to Google Ad Planner and looked up the demographics for the people that land on either Facebook.com or Twitter.com (see below).

Facebook.com

Demographics of Facebook.com.

Demographics from Twitter.com.

This is all well and good, but a lot of people don’t ever need to log in, either because they mainly use one site or the other on their phone and therefore don’t visit the home page of the site, or their computer remembers their log in and keeps it current.  However, Google Ad Planner is a great tool; you should certainly check it out when you plan to buy ads online.

Using a social media communications dashboard, like Hootsuite (which I use) allows you to get demographic information from your different social media sites at once. Different insights from Hootsuite or the individual site allow you to even see the best time to post information on your pages. Knowing which tools are best for you to use takes research and time. You need to know your market and where your competitors are, as well.  You also need to keep in mind that this information changes all of the time. For example, I can not find any more recent information on the average age of the Facebook user than from 2010 when it was 38.  Of course, I could do some mathematical equations based on the percentages on the graphics above, but I am not a math wiz; I am a social media wiz.

My point being is that each mode of communication that you use and is available to you has a different purpose.  The way that you use these mediums, as well, can vary from business to business or person to person.  You need to build all modes of communication into your marketing plan; including everything from more traditional mailers and phone-a-thons, to social media and email blasts. And although there are more methods of communication and interaction now, please don’t go into media overload. Study your demographics and who your target customer is.  Find out where they are and place your self in front of them not only on social media platforms, but on websites they frequent, other businesses they are patrons of, and the public transportation they use. By knowing who your customer is and how they use their free time and work time,  you will be able to reach them more effectively and efficiently.

Before I go, in my research today, I found this great graphic from Advertising Age online. It delves into the demographics even further.

From Adage.com.


 
 

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social media & irene

On Monday, February 13th, representatives from the state’s Community Recovery Partnership, a group formed to support the efforts of long-term recovery efforts around the state post-Irene, visited Rutland.  The point of the conversation was to “reach out and listen, help identify short and long term needs, and develop a framework to help communities emerge from this disaster stronger and more resilient.”  They were posing questions to emergency management officials, volunteers, and survivors, asking what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to happen in the future.

Part of this conversation focused on the flow of communication and how social media played a part immediately following Irene. Not everyone agreed with this idea; actually, as many towns and survivors did not have power, and there for could not access the Internet or charge their phones in order to find out what was going on off of their “island.”  Although people directly affected by the storm may not have been able to access the Internet, I feel it was the main form of communication for volunteers and donors.  Let’s look at a few examples of groups that used social media immediately following Irene and their influence.

#VTResponse

A true grassroots effort, VTResponse formed the day after Irene. Sarah Waterman, Matt Sisto, and Katy Kent quickly sprang into action and did what they do best; build and manage websites. Sarah had disaster relief experience, having run efforts in Biloxi, MS post Hurricane Katrina.  She also focused her master’s research on disaster preparedness and response.

#VTResponse quickly became the go to source for volunteers, organizations, and donors. People needed help, and people wanted to give help.  It became a craigslist, of sorts, of people posting what they had, or what they needed, and when the two matched up, viola! people got what they needed.

They also blew up the twittersphere; their hashtag #VTResponse being very popular even on Monday, the day after the storm. From their website: “Social media has played a huge role in the relief effort. …real-time updates of the situation across the state have been prevalent. Even Governor Shumlin has continuously updated his Twitter account throughout the storm and aftermath. By Monday evening, vtresponse.com had over 8,000 visits to the site. Two days later the site had received over 5,000 emails and 95,000 page views.”

To this day, the #VTResponse crew is active, running their exchange site and giving out information.  Visit their site, vtresponse.wordpress.com or email them vtresponse@yahoo.com if you are interested in helping or need help.

Restoring Rutland  

Ok, I am a little biased about this one. The day after Irene hit, my friend Jim Sabataso and I went out for a drink to reflect and figure out what we could do. I wanted to help get food and supplies to the “island” communities. After spending some time searching online, I found the effort that Aaron Kraus was starting to bring fellow Vermonters home for the weekend to help clean up. I contacted him and we brought our two ideas together to form what has now become “Restoring Rutland.”

From the very beginning, Restoring Rutland has relied on social media to communicate. We posted what communities were looking for in terms of supplies, and people delivered.  If we need volunteers, we posted online, and people showed up and lent a hand.

During the weeks immediately following Irene, we had over 80,000 page views on our Facebook page. Our fans came from all ages, both genders, and several countries. We have a blog, as well, that still generates traffic and dally emails to us. We still use our Facebook and Twitter accounts daily to update our followers on what is happening in post-Irene recovery.

Last, but certainly not least, I Am Vermont Strong

I am so proud of my best friend, Lyz Tomsuden. The night after the storm, she created a simple, but beautiful graphic that went viral. Her boyfriend, Eric Mallette, loaded it onto Facebook and started tagging people in it. I was on my way to work on Tuesday morning and he called me up. “Can you tag some people in that graphic?” he asked. “Every Vermonter I can.” I replied. He then asked if I thought people would buy it on a shirt if he made a few and sold them at the Farmers’ Market that following Saturday. “Sure,” I said. “I think people would love it!” He was worried that not enough people would see it before Saturday. I think we all know what happened after that.

Again, without the original graphic going viral, IAVS would not have been able to raise over $70,000. We also wouldn’t have these classy license plates that are also raising money for the Vermont Foodbank and the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund.  Plus, they look snazzy on the front of your car. (She doesn’t know it yet, but I am going to ask Lyz to autograph mine and then I am going to frame it!)

Photo by Eric Mallette.

So, what’s the lesson learned?

I heard today that some people are “afraid” or “intimidated” by social media. I know there are some negative things that happen in social media; cyber bullying, privacy issues, just to name a couple. But I have certainly seen more good than bad happen on social media, and these are just a few examples of the good to come out of social media.

So I ask you, what are your reflections of Irene? What do you think worked? What didn’t work? What needs to happen in the future? What good things have you seen happen on social media? Either post comments below or email me at localsocialvt@gmail.com.  I would love to hear what you have to share!

 

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the great internet blackout

Since you are obviously an Internet user, you must have run into some information about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it’s sister legislation called the Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act (PIPA). If you had not heard about these proposals before Wednesday, January 18th, you may have run into odd “blackouts” on sites like Google, Wikipedia, and WordPress (yes, the very site that hosts this blog), among many, many others. Looking at the names of these two bills, you may think that their names make them sound like a good thing. We all like pirates (yay, Johnny Depp!), but not the kind of pirates who steal people’s copyrighted material and make money off of them.  This, we all agree, is wrong and illegal.

The wording of these proposals is currently very vague.  To be very simplistic, the only things that SOPA and PIPA do is protect the rights of artists and they apply due process to judge infringement claims. That’s it. There are a lot of words in the acts that are unexplained and leave a lot of doors open with what they can actually apply the laws to.  Under these bills, you may not be able to get to a site you were looking for because of the imposed breakdown of DNS (Domain Name System), which is essentially the “switchboard” of the Internet.

Response from Google Chrome when Facebook.com could not be reached.

Due to the amount of censorship and lack of clarity about how the censoring works, “SOPA would reduce freedom of expression and undermine the dynamic, innovative global Internet…[and it] would impose harmful regulations on American business and slow economic growth in the U.S.” (Greg Jarobe, SEO-PR president).

Another issue is a website shutdowns or dismantlements.  If someone makes a claim about copyright infringement, they can contact advertisers and payment processors and make claims about the infringement to have the services disabled, without notice or a chance to respond from the website owner.

If you went on the Internet at all on Wednesday (January 18th), chances are you ran into least one website that was participating in the “blackout.” Sites Oatmeal.com and Wikipedia, whose content is user generated and created (hence the definition of a wiki, being collaborative information) are very concerned with the SOPA and PIPA act.

Screenshot of Oatmeal.com from January 18th, 2012

Screenshot of Wikipedia.com from January 18, 2012

Images from: Oatmeal.com and Wikipedia.com.

Sites like Google and WordPress did something a little different, but still participated in the protest.

Screenshot of Google.com from January 18, 2012

Screenshot of WordPress.com from January 18, 2012

Images from Google.com and WordPress.com

My friend Jim Sabataso and I, among other friends, changed our Facebook profile pictures and only posted, on both our Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, about SOPA and PIPA, including passing on the petition to stop the bills.  Did the protest work? Sort of is my honest answer.  Reports came in that at least fifteen Senators who originally signed their endorsement of SOPA pulled out by some time Thursday (January 19th).  But there is still some power behind both the bills and it isn’t over yet.

There is an alternative to these bills and it’s something that no one really seems to be discussing.  An act that has been drawn up that many opponents of SOPA and PIPA support.  This is called the OPEN act. This act seems like the most reasonable alternative, keeping in mind the creators of materials as well as keeping the Internet free and open. KeepTheWebOpen.com has created this great infographic to compare the three current proposals.

OPEN vs SOPA vs PIPA comparison

Infographic from KeepTheWebOpen.com.

If you use the Internet at all, which you must since you found my blog, I beg of you to keep your eyes on this. I hate to slap on a freedom of speech campaign onto my blog, but it is something that I have always felt so lucky to have. It is sad to me to think that instead of truly solving a problem, lawmakers want to essentially sweep it under the rug.

I have linked some sites that give better explanations of the bills then I ever could, including some that don’t seem to fully support the protest. So keep your eye on what’s going on with these bills.  No matter if you are a webmaster, business owner, student, parent, or casual internet browser, they DO directly affect you.

Research on SOPA, PIPA, and OPEN from, and to find out more visit:

Lifehacker

SearchEngineWatch

Wall Street Journal

Slate

Business Review USA

Tech Crunch

The New Yorker

Google: SOPA Blackout

 

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facebook: get a page, not a profile!

Now that everyone has a website (or at least sees the importance of having one), I’d like to chat a little bit about Facebook.

Facebook is “the” social networking site these days. Sure, it was not the first, but the Facebook team figured out a way to take what sites like MySpace and Friendster did and turned social networking into a phenomenon of connectivity. The idea that Facebook really capitalized on was the idea of enabling business, organizations, and events to be right in front of their users.

Let’s go back to 2004.

When Facebook launched in 2004, the site was exclusively for college students. By the end of 2004, Facebook reached 1 million users. In 2006, the year that they opened up the site to everyone, they reached 12 million users. Most recently, Facebook has reached 800 million active users. It’s no wonder some of the biggest brands and organizations are taking advantage of this utility to reach out and put their message right in front of consumers. It’s no wonder, though, how big brand names, like Kellogg’s, Ford, and Old Navy, can pull a lot of interest and attention. The question is, how do small businesses effectively use Facebook and what it has to offer?

There are many ways to utilize Facebook to benefit your business, and some of them are business specific. The first reason, and probably the most important, is how you set up your Facebook page.

Many small businesses make the mistake of setting up a profile instead of a page. This is detrimental to the business. Facebook has gone to great lengths to ensure that businesses can measure the analytics for their pages, track their virality, and connect with their users. Here are some of the features and benefits businesses have by setting up a page:

Insights

You really only need one reason to have a page, and Insights is it. Facebook has really harnessed what businesses should know about how effective their page is, and turned it into this analytics page. The information is easy to narrow down to specific dates, track posts, even see how many of your fans’ friends viewed your posts, as well. You can track your page’s likes, including demographic information on your fans. I think knowing what countries your fans are in is pretty neat, too.

 Moderation

Once on the web, always on the web. We have all heard this before. Facebook for pages has arranged it so you can easily control the level of profanity you allow on your page, as well as block certain words from being able to be posted on your page. Also, if Facebook believes a post is spam, it will not immediately place the post on your fall, but hide the post and an administrator of the page will have to review it and either confirm that it is ok to be posted or delete it. This protects your page, your business, and your fans, really.

Something important that I would like to note here is social marketing differs a lot from traditional marketing. Traditional marketing is one-way communication, like a commercial, for example. A commercial is putting information out to you, and there isn’t a way to comment on it, share it with friends, or give your feedback. Social marketing enables fans to receive costumer service, file complaints, follow new products, and connect with other customers. It is an active, on-going exchange of information. It is common practice to allow negative comments on your page. It is how you, as an organization handle the negative comment that will be remembered.

Best Practices and Social Plugins

Facebook also provides some marketing and engagement tips for their page users. These are located under your settings page. Here, you can find information on how to use social plugins, such as a Like Box to connect your Facebook page to your website (I know, that word again!). Do you have a sign in on your page? You are able to have users sign in with their Facebook information and subscribe to your site.

As a consumer and a customer, it is important to me that organizations have their own pages instead of profiles as I don’t want all of my personal information shared with the business. What I do want is to be able to connect with that organization, receive information from them, and share their information with friends.

Intrigued? If you have your business set up on a profile page, it is not too late! Facebook has realized that many pages exist this way and has made it possible for you to migrate your profile to a page without losing your friends! I have linked to the instructions on how to do this, so please, take a look and get migrating! The only thing I can say, is to make sure you download your information first, as this process does not move everything over, but it does move the most important information over.

After you build your website, create your Facebook page. If you already have one, make sure you are using a page and not a profile. Your fans will thank you, and you’ll love the analytics and tracking.

And maybe next week, I won’t have an assignment for you. I’ll try to just keep it informative.

 

All screenshots are from Restoring Rutland’s Facebook page.

 
 

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wait, you don’t have a website?

Picture this: a group of friends sitting around two days before New Years Eve, trying to figure out what they wanted to do on the big night. They were going to stay local, in our rural Vermont town, and trying to see what they could do within a reasonable distance. They are sitting around, late at night, all pulling their smart phones out and Googling different local businesses.

“What is going on up on the mountain?” someone says. Someone else quickly pulls out their phone and pulls up different sites. “Well there is X, Y, and Z, and they have a cover of W amount,” the friend says. “Too much for my budget!”replies another friend.

“What about a limo? That’d be fun!” I grabbed a computer and Googled “limos in Rutland, Vermont” and what were the results? (See them here.). Only one of the companies in the area had a website. One! I don’t mean to rag on these businesses, but what is this about? Why don’t these businesses have a website? Why don’t all businesses, big and small, have some form of website?

According to internetworldstats.com, smaller markets lead the nation in Broadband growth, and the nation’s largest markets are close to reaching their saturation points (Source: www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm). For businesses that exist in these smaller markets, now is the time to finally jump on the “web” bandwagon. Looking at the latest census information, you will also learn some surprising things about Internet users.  I was surprised (and somewhat excited, for argument’s sake) to learn that the age group with the most Internet users at home or work was NOT the 18 to 34 year-old group (boasting only 30.48% of the 228,112,000 of the collected surveys), but it was the 35 to 54 year old group that used the internet in these common spaces. The younger group mainly used their mobile devices to access the web on the go, which I am sure we all assumed. Researching this data a bit, I would have guessed that the 18 to 34 age group dominated all of the categories for Internet usage across the board.

The point I am trying to illustrate is you have to know your market. Understand that if you are a clothing store that is trying to specifically target women between the ages of 35 to 54 in a rural area, you need to advertise on sites that these women would visit when they are at home and at work. These Internet ads need to link back to your website. If you own a local young adult hangout who wants to reach the “under 35 club,” you need to be present and active on main social networks, including advertising, and again, link back to your website (Source: www.census. gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1157.pdf).

No matter your demographic, the Internet is where people go daily for information; banking, news, connecting socially. The top two uses of the Internet are using search engines and social networking. Since the dawn of the web, experts have stated point-blank, “If you have a business, you need a website. Period.” (Source: entrepreneur.com/article/65204). It is not just enough to have a website, you need to have a professional looking website that reflects your ideals and your business’ brand. Think about how you use the Internet, both in your business and personal daily activities.

If you are worrying about the cost of your website, look to support local businesses that specialize in website design. Not looking for an overly fancy website, but something more straightforward to get your information out there? Contact Bloomer Consulting, where Matt will help create the perfect website for you and your business. For more advanced websites, including server capabilities, contact one of the several larger companies in the area, that can build the perfect complex site for your business.

Over the next few weeks, I will address a few other “musts” for small businesses. Do me, and all the other consumers out there a favor first; get a website.

 
 

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