Say goodbye to e-blasts and hello to engagement

one way e-communication via eblastIf you are sending “e-blasts” to your customers or supporters – please, stop doing it now. This outdated style of email marketing has the same results as fax broadcasts of press releases; your message is ending up in your recipient’s trash.

While email marketing is still an effective way to communicate with an audience, the one-way communication style of the “e-blast” is over. Messaging your subscribers today means doing more than sending emails with commands like “buy, buy”, “click, click”, or, “register now!” If you want to communicate with your subscribers effectively, think “engagement”.

Engaging your subscribers means looping them into a two- or multi-way communication versus subjecting them to one-way communication. The fact is, social media have raised the overall expectations of e-communications to this level. The prevalence of social networks and their popularity in comparison to Websites suggests that subscribers are more drawn to engagement and the communication arena where they are able to give feedback and participate.

E-blasts - do they work?
Example of an E-blast

Here are examples of steps you can take to make these three popular email marketing asks more appealing:

1. Donate. You’ve stated your worthy cause and have asked for a generous donation. Make it engaging by inviting your subscriber to join a community of volunteers, attend a Meetup in their area or present an opportunity for your would-be donors to get up close and personal with a beneficiary or your organization’s leadership. Even if most of your subscribers don’t take up the invitation to engage, the fact that you present this opportunity will help to legitimize your fund-raising effort.

2. Register. You’ve stated the what, where, when and have asked your recipient to “REGISTER NOW!” Make it engaging by inviting your subscribers to also meet other registrants in your organization’s social network on Facebook or elsewhere. Email solicitation for event registration typically have the recipient asking “is this worth my time and money?”, “will I know anyone there?” or “who’s going?”. Creating a social network around your event is a great way to create buzz and a community that will engage your subscribers – and hopefully motive them to register.

3. Buy. You’ve included a nice big picture of your product with an attractive sale price – and a big “Buy Now!” button. Make it engaging by including the opportunity to share or “Like” the product on Facebook and other networks and allow subscribers to share their thoughts, enthusiasm or questions about your product in their network of friends and family. This simple step could help promote your product further than you imagined.

A popular concern for marketers considering a more engaging e-communication strategy is negative feedback. But the best approach to managing negative sentiment is to create the space for it and be a part of the conversation. So say goodbye one-way communication via e-blasts, and hello to engagement and higher conversion rates!

Face Recognition Software; From Creepy to Facebook

face recognition on facebookHow Facebook used the rules of customer engagement to get users to embrace technology once regarded as creepy.

If you upload a series of photos to your Facebook profile, you’ll notice that some of them are pre-tagged with your friends’ names. This is because Facebook now uses face recognition technology and software to help reduce the time users spend tagging their uploaded pictures.

So how was Facebook able to deploy this technology once regarded as “creepy” with minimal outcry? They followed two cardinal rules of customer engagement

1. Meet your customers’ needs: provide relevant enhancements.
When Facebook redesigned their users’ profile layout earlier this year, the photo gallery that now forms a banner at the top of user profiles made it easier to for users browse their friend’s photos – and encouraged users to upload their own. Face recognition technology became relevant to Facebook users because it simplified the image tagging process for users uploading lots of photos. As users accept or reject Facebook’s recommendations of pre-tagged images, they also help to refine the accuracy of the technology.

2. Honesty: allow customers to choose to engage your product enhancements.
Tricking your customers into using products and services they might otherwise decline is not cool. So Facebook allowed users to opt in – or out of being pre-tagged in their friend’s photos via the company’s face recognition technology*. If you are introducing an enhanced service that might compromise your customers’ privacy or raise damaging concerns, always allow customers to decline or embrace your services and honor their wishes.

Visit us next time to learn how face recognition technology can help boost the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

*Opt out of image pre-tagging via face recognition on Facebook by going to account –> privacy settings –> scroll down to “Things others share” –> Suggest photos of me to friends –> click [Edit Settings] –> Disable.

How Realtime Tech Can Highlight and Fix Biz Failures; Bikeshare review

Capital Bikeshare Realtime Challenges
Capital Bikeshare in Realtime

One company that’s falling down on the job of using negative sentiments to improve its service is Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC. Subscribers to Capital Bikeshare’s service have access to 1,100 bicycles at 110 stations throughout the city. They pay an annual fee and can check out a bike for 30 minutes at a time – usually for short trips and errands around the city. If they keep the bike for longer, they pay a nominal fee.

Realtime #fail share
Bikeshare is a great idea – in fact, I’m a subscriber. But the service is plagued with negative sentiments from dissatisfied subscribers broadcasting their frustrations via twitter and other mobile applications. A survey of a few real-time search engines yielded the following negative sentiments:

  • Short supply of bikes at popular docking stations
  • Subscribers lucky enough to get a bike for their morning commutes can’t find a docking station when they arrive at their destinations in the busy business district
  • Subscribers unable to find a dock must pay to wait for one to open up (and bear the inconvenience of being late for appointments etc.)

Realtime #fail saves
It appears Capital Bikeshare has a social media strategy focused on promotion; the company uses Facebook and twitter to tout the service daily, and in April they joined LivingSocial to offer a generous discount on subscription which netted over 8,000 subscribers for their 1,100 bikeshare service. But a social media strategy that ignores real-time negative sentiments could ruin their brand.

Here are three ways Capital Bikeshare (CB) can use real-time technology to improve their business.

1. Real-time technology for customer service. Acknowledge and reply to customer complaints via twitter. Many tweets at the company complaining about empty docks and other issues go unanswered. Tweeting solutions and info about alternative docking stations is something the company should commit to especially in the mornings when subscribers use the service to get to work.

2. Real-time technology to anticipate service lapse. There are mobile applications that give users real-time information about bike and dock availability. Even so, load balancing is still a problem the company has not been able to solve. Investing in GPS tracking via mobile phones, bikes or fobs could help the company with load balancing – i.e. ensuring that enough bikes and empty docks are available where users need them.

3. Real-time info billboards – a partnership in the making? It’s difficult for riders to stop to check their mobile phones for information on available docs while riding. Will some innovative entrepreneur partner with CB to provide info billboards (or bike widgets) that re-directs bikers to empty docs before they spend 20 minutes biking around chasing empty docks?

Thanks to technology, businesses and organizations function in a real-time information environment. Feedback on your brand’s reach, influence and performance is broadcast across the globe 24-hours a day in an endless news cycle fueled by social media. Remaining competitive means using real-time technology to do more than promote your wares, cause or services. Negative sentiments should be a guide to service improvement for Capital Bikeshare and others.

What Microsoft Thinks of the iPad

What Microsoft Thinks of the iPadStarting today, the iPad 2 is finally available at an Apple store near you. The revamped device is 33% thinner, 15% lighter, and outfitted with HD cameras, improved battery life and other delights. Apple fanatics the world over are excited and ready to test Apple’s latest gadget – but what about Microsoft? Is Bill Gates intimidated by Apple’s latest smash hit? What does the Microsoft founder think of the iPad?

Well, just last year one brave soul dared to ask Mr. Gates that question after a lecture at Stanford University. The CEO did not give any indication that he was intimidated by Apple’s iPad, instead he explained that portable devices like the iPad are “great advances” for computing and said that Microsoft is still a key player in the industry.

Computing is destined in a way to almost disappear because all the walls [and] desktops around you will be capable of displaying, and you’ll be able to do input though gestures, and through voice — that’s not to say that keyboards and pointing devices will go away,” said Gates, “but they’ll be supplemented by an ubiquitous type of computing where every surface is a output and every action is an input.”

He also stressed that getting prices down, and improving the quality of content are improvements he’d like to see with portable devices such as the iPad. Mr. Gates also acknowledged that iPad computing could be key to the digital delivery of textbooks – something his foundation would regard as good for the environment.

Checkout his lecture to Stanford MBA students on ‘Education for the Real World’ – and let us know what you think of the iPad.

What Sucks About Facebook’s Page Design Updates

If you are using a Facebook page to promote your business or organization,  you already know that come March 2011 your Facebook page will have an ‘updated’ layout. Some of the updates are great for page administrators – but from a marketing perspective, some of the updates are a headache. Here are three potential hitches and what you can do about them –

1. Hello photos, goodbye tabs. Info that was once accessible via tabs at the top of your page has moved to the left column – as ‘links’. Photos have taken over the space that was once dedicated to tabs. This might have been a great update for profiles since people enjoy looking at their friend’s photos – but are people as interested in photos from the businesses and organizations they choose to ‘Like’? This update is not going to bode well for businesses that use customized tabs for promotions.
What to do: Set your preferred customized FBML tab as your landing page.

2. Where is my ‘Like’ prompt? Most customized tabs have an arrow or some kind of prompting text reminding visitors to ‘like’ the Facebook page. You may need to update the alignment of these prompts as your Facebook page now has a breadcrumb navigation that pushes the ‘Like’ button to a new position.
What to do: Embed a ‘Like’ button on the customized FBML tab.

3.  They traded my wall size for…? Your wall got narrower – and the ad space to the right got wider. Businesses and organizations are not going to be happy about losing 50 pixels of messaging space to ads from competing brands. Marketers on the other hand will be happy about having more space to promote their wares.
What to do: Run ads to promote your business and organization – social media advertising is always worth it.

Mobile apps developers discuss the app economy

Check out our webcast of the recent Google Talks event, “The App Economy: How mobile developers attract users, win fans and make money.”

Watch live streaming video from marooninteractive at livestream.com

Moderator:
Jon Potter, RPG Strategies

Panel:
Leon Palm, Developer, Google Public Sector Team
Ken Yarmosh, Analyst, Developer, & Author: App Savvy (O’Reilly Press)
David Smith, Developer, AudioBookShelf
Natalia Luckyanova, Developer, Harbor Master
Robert Sarvis, Developer, Wertago

New Year’s Resolutions For Small Businesses

Get a smart phone, socialize your Website and form partnerships in 20111. Get a smart phone. This great tip appeared on the New York Times‘ list of “10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Technology“. Your clients are no longer using phones for conversation only, they are using them to find products and services, get directions,  keep track of appointments and goals. Mobile marketing is the next frontier for engaging your clients. In order to understand how your customers are using mobile phones, you need to become a user.

2. Socialize your Website. If referrals are important to your business, you’ll need to make it easy for your current clients to tell their friends about your great products and services. Subscribe to services (such as ‘Add This‘ and ‘Share This’) that allow visitors and clients to share your content with friends in their social networks. After all, your clients (and potential clients) are visiting your Website, but they are spending most of their time in social networks.

3. Form partnerships to promote your business. Although new media marketing delivers clear, track-able results, it can be costly and time consuming for small businesses. Partnering with a business that is not a competitor is one way to over come the cost and time. For example, if you are running a bakery, partner with the shop next door to retweet messages, Facebook statuses and share a marketing budget. Soon you’ll find that you are building and sharing a community of supporters for half the effort.

Is mobile phone jailbreaking good for business?

Is jailbreaking good news for businesses and non-profits? Big news in the mobile phone industry this week! According to the latest findings of the U.S. Library of Congress, if you’ve bought a mobile phone it’s yours to do with as you please – and that includes jailbreaking and adding applications to your phone not approved by the phone’s maker.

So what is jailbreaking? It’s simply the altering or unlocking of your cell phone’s code so that you can use it with any carrier Continue reading “Is mobile phone jailbreaking good for business?”

Is Your Website Social Media Friendly?

twtrcom_mi

If referrals are important to your business or organization, then visitors to your Website should be able to forward your content to friends in just a few clicks instead of taking time to “copy and paste” your Web links before emailing them to friends.

Online communication today is more than “email”. More and more people are choosing to use social networks as their primary communication platform.

Some of the top Websites are finding that a growing number of their new visitors are coming from social networks where their regular visitors are sharing Web links. For example, news out of TWTRCON (the annual “Twitter for Business” conference) is that social media is the fastest growing source of traffic to the Wall Street Journal Online, wsj.com! Up to 15% of visitors to wsj.com get there through links posted on Facebook, twitter, StumbleUpon or other social media Websites. Continue reading “Is Your Website Social Media Friendly?”