A guide to keeping Twitter simple…
It’s fairly easy to understand the potential benefits of Twitter, both personally and for a business. But, like the rest of us, you may well be short on time and think that social media is a nicety time doesn’t allow. The truth is, Twitter should be a fairly fundamental part of any social media strategy, and understanding how to manage your Twitter account effectively can help you develop this strategy, without letting it overtake your life.
The great thing about social media is as a phenomenal shift in the way we communicate, it has been embraced by some great technology companies who have done all the hard work to make our own lives more simple.
TweetDeck is a desktop app that allows you to setup segmented twitter feeds, LinkedIn and your Facebook account (and others) all in one. It uses fairly simple columns to segment your interests, mentions, direct messages or general friend feeds at the click of a button.
My columns are fairly simply setup, with a feed with all friends tweets on the left, any mentions following that, direct messages, my LinkedIn news updates and finally Facebook feed.
It means I can keep an eye on the basics. It lets me know when someone has retweeted what I have said, so I can return the favour at a later date. Or if someone has asked me a question, I can reply promptly, without having to be reminded by Twitter that I have a message.
As a desktop app, I can leave it running in the background (with noise notifications setup) so I can be aware of what’s happening, without having to keep a constant eye on it. I can quickly switch between what I am working on and Twitter without any fuss. Most importantly, if I have something to say, I can flick it up, and, using one of the integrated Twitter tools such as TwitPic, YFrog, bit.ly etc, tweet anything from pictures to videos all through the same tool. It saves me time, and allows me more flexibility in my tweets.
For those of you with lots of followers or are looking for more advanced management, try playing about with the global filter under preferences. This tool will create a column with updates surrounding certain terms, so if you’re an IFA and someone mentions #pensions, you could jump right in and message them with some advice. You also may wish to segment your friends into groups, so you can keep an even closer eye on those people who influence you, as we all have them, rather than shifting through hundreds of micro-blogs that may not be relevant.
So, while you’re at your computer, use TweetDeck, but what about on the move, in theory one of the most powerful uses of Twitter, instant micro-blogs. Well, Twitterlator is another great tool. Available as a free or paid app, Twitterlator offers an easy means of keeping up to date while out and about. Much like TweetDeck (which coincidentally also has an iPhone app) it segments things into general tweets, mentions and direct messages, and allows easy use of third party tools for the on the go photo or longer message. Coupled with TweetDeck, it means you can easily stay on top of your tweets, without taking up all of your time. There are plenty of other android and iPhone apps that achieve fairly similar things, I just happen to use Twitterlator, but find one that works for you and use it, and let’s start some #intrigue. @rjpalmer
Who doesn’t like cookies… the ICO’s PECR doesn’t
Perhaps I should clarify, I don’t mean the wondrous Frisbee shaped sugar filled melt in your mouth treats, although I’m impartial to a good cookie at the best of times. No, I mean browser cookies and the fact that today (possibly yesterday by the time I finish writing this) marked the introduction of a new regulation within the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, aptly hyphenated to ‘PECR’.
Now let me (briefly) outline what a cookie is. The Information Commissioner’s Office, the body tasked with introducing and policing the revisions define a cookie as, “a small file of letters and numbers downloaded on to a
device when the user accesses certain websites. Cookies allow a
website to recognise a user’s device”. Fairly nondescript I’ll admit, but it kind of sums up what could otherwise be a long winded and boring topic. In essence, a web cookie stores information about you and talks to a web application in order to provide a more personalised user experience. Every time you add an item to your basket in an e-commerce shop, it is saved in a cookie. Every time you revisit a website and it says, “Hello Fred” (or your name more likely), it is because it has stored a cookie in your browser.
The new Regulation now demands that users be given clear instructions as to what a cookie will do, and requires them to ‘opt-in’, allowing one on your browser only after full understanding and acceptance. Now I’m all in when it comes to consumer rights and privacy, but this is taking things a little too far if you ask me.
Admittedly, I haven’t explained that there are also such things as ‘persistent cookies’ that can last for many years (even if you upgrade your browser) that track your movements across sites to display more relevant ads and can even analyse search patterns. Sound scary? I’m not entirely convinced it should, as even these are in theory design to help everyone. Yes of course, help the media companies and advertisers, but who likes seeing ads for tenner ladies when your a 27 year old bloke.
Some may argue that cookies can be misused both by site owners and malware, but most cookies these days are encrypted to protect your information, so if the agenda here is to protect user privacy, then that’s a good place to start.
To summise, placing the need for ‘informed consent’ on every website is ill advised. Users won’t read them, but will get frustrated with them, web owners will need to pay for them, but not benefit from them, and web developers will spend a long time developing the best solution for something that browsers will undoubtedly replace in the future.
If you are worried about the impact these regulations may have on your website, please call our dedicated hotli… yea right – follow this link. A few good suggestions for preparation, although most small e-commerce owners will not enjoy the cost of this. Alternatively, just ignore it, and hope that Google or Firefox step in and pave the way for all browsers to solve the problem for you – except Internet Explorer of course, that would be asking too much.
FBML makes room for the iFrame…
In theory, FBML (Facebook Markup Language) is slowly being phased out, but while the official cut off for installing applications using FBML has passed (in theory it was March 18th) you can still actually use it – in fact I installed it onto a page only last week.
On the other hand iFrames, as you may well know, load content from your own server, meaning these factor becomes irrelevant. Being completely independent of Facebook, this also means that you could, probably after a little tweaking, transfer the application to another platform.
Strangely I have heard a few people say they like FBML as it makes the platform look more like Facebook. Of course this is a bit of a confusing argument as the content of an iFrame can look exactly ow you want it to with a bit of decent CSS.
The bottom line is, iFrames make more sense, and if anything open up the market to the less technically gifted. Plenty of people these days are capable of throwing together a basic website, even if there design skills or advanced technical knowledge is lacking. iFrames allow them to give it a go too, making it accessible to small businesses without the budget to hire an agency. Just remember, if you are to go down this route, Google the basic principles of a Facebook page, such as width requirements.
My hope is that this move makes social media more accessible to businesses, and can provide richer experiences to the end user.
Young CEOs, Egos and Money…
I finally got around to seeing ‘The Social Network’, the Golden Globe snatching and Oscar nominated movie from director David Fincher about the founding of Facebook. I must admit, I was originally put off watching it, and having now done so my reasons became justified. On the whole, I objected to wasting 2 hours of my life watching a story of someone I took to be an absolute €#&%, whilst, rather annoyingly, at the same time a genius.
I suppose I wasn’t let down in that way, as that is exactly how the young Jesse Eisenberg portrayed the youngest billionaire on the planet, aptly supported by Andrew Garfield. But how, you may be asking, does this tie in with my blog about all things digital and entrepreneurial? Well, it got me to thinking. Young CEOs, egos and money.
Sean Parker, the genius behind Napster (and apparently also an absolute idiot) talks about having a brilliant idea and then the ‘corporates’ taking over. Now, I agree with him that the whole point of young and enthusiastic CEOs is that they have real creativity, but he seemingly fell into the hole of the arrogant know it all, who until Facebook, had never been able to make and keep his, some would argue, ill gotten gains. I must admit I know little of Sean Parker’s history, not particularly being a music buff myself, but the film certainly portrays him in a rough light.
Successful young entrepreneurs need to be careful. You see it happen to footballers all too often. Just because you make a success of something, and even if that success leads to a small fortune, don’t get cocky. The recession should have taught you that, and I have seen plenty of talented businessman who, at the age of 45/50, have only just ‘made it’. Often the biggest difference between a successful young entrepreneur and an unsuccessful one is luck (and timing).
Don’t be afraid to hire a team far older, more experienced, and yes, even wise than you. It’s not about your ego, it’s about your vision, and trust me, you’ll need help in making it a reality.
Here’s an interesting article on being a good CEO of a startup.
I have recently been thrust into the world of retail, and not simply because Christmas is around the corner. I am in fact working with a company called Davina Fashion Shoes, looking into their digital offering and in-shop marketing (p.o.s). The digital game is one I have come to expect, a delicate balance between paid and natural search, social media, crm and display. The in-shop approach was somewhat surprising however, and I was amazed to see just how much difference a few alterations to the decor and shop window could make in sales.
I remember years ago during my gap year working as an Acting Deputy Manager (a nice way of giving me the responsibility without the money) in Holland & Barrett. The Regional Manager used to say, “dress the window like a voluptuous woman”. Now forgive the need to add this typically male response to something that looks appealing, but despite the obviously sexist analogy, he was right.
Not that he had a clue how to fulfill this enormous feat, but it’s much like Google AdWords, you need people to know they have come to the right place before they even enter the site, digital or physical. That’s more than popping a few of your better sellers in the window. It’s about highlighting who should come into your shop and why. Something that can be done for a surprisingly small budget if you’re careful.
However, this post isn’t really about pretty wallpaper and vintage ornaments in a shop, it’s about sales. Strolling around the ever thronging highstreet of Bromley, I could not help but notice how many shops were offering 50% off already. Now I realise the last few years have been tough, especially on highstreet retailers, but as the purse strings start to loosen, I am shocked that large chains such as Aldo feel the need to try and steel the competition’s customers with 50% off. While perhaps more of a reflection on their decision to drop brands and only sell own name products, the sale seemed to have little effect. The store was pretty empty. I think it comes down to something I was saying back in the lows of the recession. Don’t devalue your services (or products) just because some people can’t afford them. By using 50% sales, you devalue your brand, especially at a time when people expect to pay top dollars for their Christmas gifts.
From shop owners I have spoken to, things really seem to be on the up, at least those who stuck to their guns during the recession. And for those who haven’t, think long and hard about your shop front. What does it say about you?
Facebook v Foursquare, the race for location domination…
Since it’s inception, I have seen numerous articles surrounding the merits, and intrusiveness, of Facebook’s location service, Places.
My personal feelings aside, most articles look at the potential benefits, but always end up slating the invasion of privacy, and somehow end up referencing Ian Green (the recently convicted ‘Facebook Paedophile’), or someone else with, well, similar disturbances. I have to say, that is quite a jump, even for our over zealous fear mongering press. Whether a direct result of this moral panic (no where near a moral panic, but I like to stir things up) or not, when Googling Facebook Places, the 6th entry is entitled, “How to disable Facebook places”.
What makes me laugh of course is the rantings of frustrated nominal Facebook users. Those who clearly do not want to be tagged with friends in certain places (what are you trying to hide!) but can’t figure how to turn it off. Admittedly, Facebook took on it’s usual tact with Places, and opted everyone in with a voluntary opt-out, which I completely agree is borderline a breach of privacy, and certainly cheeky. But, when is the media going to realise, it is deliberate. They can’t seriously believe that Facebook forgot to set the normal parameters to opted out, not after the several outcries they have experienced in the past over privacy issues. The simple reality is, it causes a buzz, it gets people listening, and it overshadows the competition.
Oh yes, Foursquare. As a result of the above, Foursquare is losing ground. Let’s not forget it came out before Facebook, and while an specific app for download, thereby opting in, it’s far more flexible and fun than Facebook’s far too obvious alternative.
There are certain niceties to Foursquare that provide some potentially exciting opportunities. Leaving tips at certain restaurants such as, “don’t have the soup”, or “try the steak, but ask for it less cooked than you usually would” offer a myriad of opportunities that bridge the gap between immediate location based response, and blogs and reviews, post dated, and potentially outdated. I like to think of it as a potent mix of micro blogging (Twitter) with relevance (restaurant reviews for example).
Imagine 2 or 3 people in the same restaurant as you ‘tipping’ about what’s hot and what’s not. On the night advice about the food you are about to eat! Ok, so I’m a little obsessed with good food, but Foursquare for me is the outright winner. Facebook lacks anything other than an ‘I’m here’ service with a short message. Great if you are trying to bolster you numbers down the pub, but not useful for anyone you don’t know.
Foursquare has been criticised for the very fact that your ‘friends’ tend to be Twitter followers, and other people we clearly don’t know. Facebook Places is just your friends. But I think this is an opportunity, not a draw back. Yes, we need to have our real friends on there, to enable us to meet randomly for a bite or beer, but we need to know what everyone thinks about the places we are, currently, because I definitely would not have had the burger at Brown’s in Covent Garden, but would recommend the mushroom starter.