Latest from the blog

by Adrian :: 2.12.10

On social advocacy and colic.

Let’s introduce a bit of a buzz-word that we probably already understand: Social Advocacy. In this post, I’m also aiming to demystify Social Media Marketing.

Social advocacy refers to the power of Word of Mouth (WOM). Many studies are telling us what we already know: we’re far more likely to engage with a product or service that a friend or a friend-of-a-friend recommends. Our family, friends and their friends form part of our social network.

What is social media?

Social media is a set of online tools that help us track & extend our social network and communicate in it.

You’ll want to embrace social media as its a toolset allowing you to amplify the effects of social advocacy.

Let’s help explain this with a little example. Pretend, if you can bear it,  that the internet hasn’t yet been invented.

A Colic Remedy

Imagine, I’m having a drink with a group of friends and we’re talking about all sorts of things. Work, play, kids, politics; how we’re spending and saving our money: We’re being social. I’ve never met Kitty before but she came along as a friend of a colleague. I’m exhausted being a victim to a series of sleepless nights: the little one’s suffering from colic. Kitty and I were chatting about our kids when I let slip an outrageous yawn. In the form of an apology I dragged the dreaded colic into the conversation. Kitty then tells me about this wonderful product called Infacol– administer it before a feed and it works a treat. On the way home, I pick up a bottle of Infacol (not gin) and that night my wife and I enjoyed an uninterrupted nights sleep. Feeling like a new man on the way to work the following morning, I recognise the Infacol brand on the tube advert that had probably been staring at me for the preceding 6 months. That Saturday our NCT group gets together and by the end of our eulogising about Infacol there were another 5 babies and 10 parents getting a great night’s sleep!

So just to recap: Infacol had captured 6 new clients- not on the back of their expensive old fashioned tube advert but on the back of social advocacy. Kitty had somehow been made aware of Infocal but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t a result of traditional advertising either and good old fashioned social advocacy (in the absence of the internet) extrapolated one happy client into 6

Bring back the internet

You can have the internet back now. How many readers of this post are now aware of Infacol? – they may not do anything immediately with this information but it’ll bubble up next time someone, in their social network, has colic issues. Equally so, over time as the Search engines index this site there’s a good chance someone who searches for “Colic Remedy” may just stumble on this little social advocacy case study. (please comment below if you do!)

Social networking tools

I am going to explain why you should consider using tools such as Twitter & Facebook. Remember, a social networking tool helps you communicate with and amplify your reach within that social network.

Had twitter been around in 2005 when our first born was keeping us awake at night I may have tweeted something like

Can’t keep my eyes open, little one kept us awake all night burping. #colicsux

This tweet would have multiple benefits. Firstly, people would understand why I was generally grumpy. The tweet would probably resonate with a few parents in a similar postion and I may get a response :a little bit of sympathy makes me feel better as I no longer feel alone. With a bit of luck, maybe I get some advice out of my Twitter social network. By using twitter I’ve done nothing different from telling Kitty at drinks that I was exhausted. All Twitter has done is its amplified my social network reac and that is powerful stuff! Let’s imagine that a NCT co-ordinator saw my tweet and decided to Retweet it (RT) to all her followers (her social network) – which was made up of 3,500 new parents. I would have been swamped by sympathy tweets and all sorts of advice – perhaps there’s a better solution than Infacol?!

Hopefully you’ll see the benefits of being on Twitter personally but what about your brand or business? I think it makes even more sense for an owner manager to be on Twitter because an entrepreneur’s business is so central to their lives. You need to create awareness of who you are, what you’re interested in and overtime your audience will understand what your business does and if they support you they’re likely to support you and spread the word. Kitty didn’t come to drinks and just talk about Cloud Computing – we started there but,to me, she ended up being the greatest sleep therapist. I’ve recently bought the most beautiful hand-knitted quilt from her (a business she’s just started) and I told all my friends about her fabulous product. I did this on Twitter and on Facebook by writing on the Wall of her business’ Facebook page. A friend of mine “liked” my comment and now all *her friends* (most of whom neither know Kitty nor I) are also aware of what great presents these handmade quilts will make.

Incidentally, Kitty has always been on Twitter in a big way, personally- but she now also has a Twitter account for her business. I don’t follow that account because her quilt tweets are slightly not my thing (although they interest the crafty types) but I enjoy hearing the odd tweet from her personal twitter account about what she’s up to (actually I’m far more interested in how Cloud Computing has revolutionised her business and how she, too, is kept on her toes by her little ones!) I guess the point I’m making here is these tools only work if you don’t depart from the offline social networking model we depended on before the internet. Don’t think you can walk into a room of people and dominate the conversation about how they’re really losing out because they haven’t purchased one of your quilts.

Awareness of your product or service only needs to be sown in a network of a few people for its awareness to grow exponentially. Think of ways to sow it and make sure you use the correct tools to amplify the WOM effect. And now you’re an expert on Social Advocacy, Social Media and Social Media Marketing. Questions?

by Adrian :: 1.12.10

Saved by the Cloud

Before I embarked on the treacherous school run this morning, I received an email from the local village school to tell me that it was closed. Thankfully, to send the email, the school administrator didn’t need to drive on the icy roads to get to her school PC. She relied on the cloud to send the email to the parent distribution list. In this case she logged into the Yahoo mail system from her home pc or mobile device- the originate from the cloud. All she needed was a web browser. Arguably, before the advent of the cloud we wouldn’t have received that email.

In a nutshell then, the cloud enables you to access your data and applications from the end of any internet connection. The application and data sits in the Cloud.

I’m off to a conference in San Francisco tomorrow safe in the knowledge that I can access everything I usually do at the office either on my iPhone, iPad or Mac/PC. In fact, I could even resort to accessing my cloud on someone else’s device if I couldn’t get to mine.

Cloud computing is a great enabler and that’s why entrepreneurs need to take advantage of it.  Firstly, you don’t need to have huge processing power on a PC anymore. Just a reasonable internet connection and a modern internet browser. Secondly, people can work remotely – from home, the office, at a client’s premises or whilst commuting between clients. The barrier to entry for a startup business is significantly lower being able to access all the (often free) power in the cloud. Take Google Apps for example. I’ve planned many posts in the future to help you understand what you can do with the cloud so consider this a teaser.

Cloud computing is also referred to as Software as  a Service or (SAAS) –  no need to get befuddled by what you think are geekish acronyms. You will be using them in common place very soon. And if you cant get used to adopting these words and concepts, remember how you used to smirk when people suggested you Google them!

This is SalesForce’s most popular YouTube video worth watching

If I still haven’t demystified the cloud why not visit Cloud Computing in Plain English which is a very good introduction to the concept by Common Craft – an while you are on the Common Craft site  – have a look at some of the other Plain English productions – they’re great.

by Adrian :: 30.11.10

WordPress: the B-word and the deadly sin of website development

In the old days

I used to run a Digital Agency a few years ago and we built digital solutions for the WPP communications agencies. It was circa 2004 when I relied heavily on my team of developers in Sofia, Bulgaria as I wasn’t (and am still not) a developer or designer. It was at this time that we all became intrigued by the Blog and I remember taking Land Rover to task in a rather empowering chapter of Citizen Journalism. (After Land Rover sorted out their quality problems 4 years later, I decided to take the blog down)

A move from static to dynamic content

The good old blog was a fundamental milestone because, amongst several things,  it taught us about dynamic content: taught us the importance of self-publishing content at a touch of a button. No longer were we dependent on the web developers to refresh static content but we became empowered to create fresh, dynamic content as often as we needed to engage with our audience. The sites attracting the eye balls were those that offered a fresh stream of engaging content.

I have a theory – at least in the UK – I think the word blog has negative connotations? so I’m going to try not use it further in this post. Because I want you to continue reading this. Just bear with me.

You are in need of a website

So you have a business: either established or a startup. Why do you want a website? Naturally you want to engage with your target market. Engagement is about communication. You want to convince them to do business with you. Communication is no longer a one way street: it’s no longer about broadcasting a message, it’s about creating a two-way conversation. You need to be in control of your content – it has to be dynamic otherwise you don’t need a website: just post a PDF brochure online.

Creating content isn’t that onerous

You don’t always have to do all the hard work creating content – in this age of collaboration and information people share information – and there’s a good chance what you’re about to say has already been said by someone else – don’t copy it or rewrite it – rather add value to it by referencing it. You will create far more value for your existing and prospective customers by directing them to the content you think is relevant to them: by all means comment and interpret it but don’t feel pressured to always create your own content. The only etiquette you should always adhere to is link back and accredit the original author. Other writers will do the same for you and this strategy helps build incoming and outgoing links between your website and others and this is an important aspect of getting a better Google Ranking (this science is called SEO – search engine optimisation)

WordPress is a Content Management system for websites

Let’s talk about Wordpress and why its become the most popular platform on which to publish and create a website. I haven’t used the b-word here because its no longer a b-word platform. The good news about WordPress is it is free. It comes in two versions a version which is more designed for the b-word community and another version which you have to host. This is the one I’m going to talk about because it is one of the greatest enablers that the open-source community has given you: the entrepreneur.

The cardinal sin of website development

We recently pitched to a prospective client who already has a most beautiful website – only a year old. It evidently cost her a lot of money but the brand design work impressed me- it was beautiful. All I suggested on the website from was that she needed to keep her content up to date and fresh. She then told me something quite staggering: she had to go back to the agency who wanted to a material budget for the content refresh. When I asked her why she didn’t have a content management system she said she couldn’t afford to have one built and now the agency wanted to charge her thousands of pounds to turn the existing site into a dynamic.

There is no reason in the world why in 2010 you should not be in complete control of your website content.

There is no incremental cost involved in building a dynamic site over a static site. I’ll go further by saying you were ripped off if you purchased a static website in the last 3 years. It is a cardinal sin to build a static website in 2010.

Why am I confident enough to claim the above? Because you or your developer/designer could have built it on WordPress. WordPress may well have been built as a blogging platform  but those origins are incidental- WordPress was built to allow for communication on the web and has incorporated everything to allow you to do this in a dynamic, flexible and efficient way (this includes SEO too) You do not need to be a techie to manage it either.

Get away from misconception that a blog looks like a, well, bloggy- journal. This AoB site runs on WordPress. Have a look at a few other sites that run on WordPress: Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival is another or try the talented guys at Condiment who enjoy pushing WordPress to its limits. And remember I told you I wasn’t a developer or designer – I built my sister’s website on WordPress (admittedly a steepish learning curve).

From the above, hopefully you’ve learnt the following:

  • WordPress is a content management system that allows your website to be a dynamic communication tool that puts you in control
  • It is a cardinal sin to build or own a static website in this day and age.
  • You are being ripped off by anyone agency that charges you for the space that WordPress has now commoditised.

PS: Just so that you understand: AoB doesn’t build websites. We help you spend your money wisely. We’ll help you frame your brief and put you in the direction of the right agency. Equipped with the right team and brief: you’ll get it right first time!  If you haven’t got any money: then we’ll show you how to do it yourself. (future posts, keep your eye’s peeled)