Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Frequent Fascination With The Unknown

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Question MarkAs a consultant, I do a fair amount of work around web strategy and creating ’sticky’ web experiences. After all, this is key to creating loyal, repeat customers/users. Subsequently, every once in awhile I come across an idea or theory that boggles my mind to no avail. Having said that, one of the best ways to create a strong user base who return on a regular basis is by leveraging the power of the unknown. 

Why do we check our e-mail everyday? Every hour? Even every 5 minutes sometimes? Because there just MIGHT be a new message waiting. We do not know for sure. But it is fair to say that we are internally motivated by what is unknown to us - we are a curious species, always looking to delve deeper and uncover the mystery.

RSS feeds work in much the same way. I, personally, open my reader numerous times a day as new blog posts are cropping up at all times. This movement toward ‘dynamic updates’ is what drives repeat visits to a given web property. Stale content is a thing of the past. Why is Digg so successful? Fresh, frequently-updated articles. It keeps the kids coming back for more.

Another great example of this phenomenon can be witnessed in the form of Facebook. Why has it vaulted into the top 25 sites (according to Alexa)? It is driving a tremendous amount of page views thanks to its ’social feeds’. These irregular, unscheduled tidbits provide a detailed picture of your social networking activities and behaviours, as well as those of your friends and colleagues. Those unfamiliar with Facebook note that these feeds provide information updates with respect to events, friend statuses, profile changes, groups, photos, etc… These snippets of information help provide a detailed map of users’ lives. Finally, due to our human nature to stay current and ahead of the curve, many users frequent the site 10+ times per day to be ‘in the know’ at all times.

Funny enough, as more people are able to add old friends and classmates, grad reunions may become less exciting as you can passively follow the life paths of your friends via a social network feed.

This concept just just makes sense. It leverages our psychologic habits and yearns. After all, who wants to log-in and see their own profile? Lame. That was sooooo web 1.0. It’s not sticky. It won’t work nowadays. Perhaps web 3.0 is what we believed it was all along… unknown. 

Widget Fever

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

WidgetsI love ranting about things that don’t make sense to me. Having said that, I think we (the blogosphere) need to take a serious look at widgets…

It seems that new start-ups are popping up on a day-to-day basis with what they think will be the next ‘killer widget’. Hopes for an outcome like that of MyBlogLog are slim. MyBlogLog had a simple concept, pinpoint execution, rapid adoption, and good timing (sale to Yahoo). This was definitely a special case.

Anyone and their dog can create a widget, but getting people to use it is another story. Furthermore, the value and function of the widget needs to be congruent with the purpose of a widget itself. If the fit is not there, failure is inevitable.

From an alternative point-of-view, the pro’s of a successful widget are immense. Obviously, they are a great way to drive viral adoption among other things. Please read my post entitled Widget Marketing for further in-depth information about the advantages and disadvantages of widgets. In essence though, the widget MUST be useful. It seems rather straightforward, but many are more focused on simply creating a widget rather than making it useful and relevant.

One of the biggest problem to have arisen is a focus away from the site content in favour of the widget. This is not the optimal outcome for most site owners. Moreover, these embeddable devils slow down page loading times. For this very reason, I have removed several widgets from this blog, most notably a chat widget.

Now I’m definitely not condemning widgets as I see their place in the blogosphere and the new web. What I am condemning is the misuse of a widget as a marketing strategy or business model altogether. There must be a stunning value proposition for both the reader/visitor/user, as well as the site author for the widget to be successful. If ambiguity is present and value cannot be presented in a logical manner, it is probably time to adopt a new strategy.

Twitter is Hot Sh*t Right Now

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Twitter logoWow, it seems like nothing is more popular in the blogosphere right now than Twitter. Everyday I see a new headline proclaiming the service. My feed reader is full of Twitter posts and testimonials.

All of this has happened in a relatively short period of time. I feel like an outsider, not being a user of the service (yet). But have no fear, I will try it out…

So what is Twitter and who cares? The concept is so friggen simple it boggles my mind. Yet its simplicity speaks volumes about the ingenuity and creativity of the people behind it. The front page reads:

A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!

Sounds novel, but seems like an easy concept to copy. It will be interesting to see how the company erects barriers to entry to protect against competitors.

What has me excited about the company isn’t so much the product itself, but the level of enthusiasm around it. It isn’t often that an Internet start-up garners such a high level of press and publicity. The only other recent example I can think of off the top of my head is Joost. This is due in large part (say 98%) to the previous success of the founders.

Another interesting facet of the company is its name - Twitter. When I think of the name, I picture a little kid running around the mall, yelling and screaming, i.e. a twit. In any case, I think the service works in much of the same fashion. Users are screaming/exclaiming/informing people as to what they are doing. It’s a very ego-centric type service when you think about. Users are assuming that everyone is interesting in what they are doing.

If you use the service, let me know your thoughts and your views… I am very eager and interested to hear tales from the trenches.

Pay-Per-Click is So Overrated

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Google AdWords logoA bold statement to say the least - considering it is the basis behind Google. But I think it should finally be proclaimed to the world. Pay-per-click (PPC) is overrated beyond belief. If big changes don’t happen soon, we may see a new advertising model take shape. Just don’t ask me what it looks like…

First, we know that as much as 30% of all PPC traffic is driven via click fraud. I would even wager that this number could be higher, but some might call me a conspiracy theorist. Nonetheless, this means that deserving businesses can immediately write off as much as 30% of their PPC marketing budgets, as they will produce no results or sales. This has a huge impact on Internet marketing ROI.

This brings on another interesting point. Who the hell clicks on those damn text ads anyways? I don’t know of anyone, personally. Therefore, an elaborate scheme of low-paid Chinese clickers and/or Internet bots (or some other form of click fraud) must be present. The only other possible explanation is that non-savvy Internet users mistake these ads as being part of a given page’s content or part of the organic search results, and naively click through. Once again, this usually results in no sales for the advertiser and a lackluster ROI.

Basically, I’ve detailed why I think PPC sucks and how quality of the incoming clicks are weak at best. So where does one turn to drive qualified traffic and a reasonable ROI? Search engine optimization (SEO)…

Now excuse my bias to SEO (I do consulting in the area), but this form of search engine marketing is highly underrated, yet super effective. So why is it so often overlooked? It takes time and doesn’t usually provide instant results. Furthermore, a strong knowledge of the area is necessary to maximize results and most companies do not have the in-house expertise to do so. PPC campaigns drive instant, ‘qualified’ (or as I like to say, fabricated) traffic.

All I need to say is this…

PPC: Paid, non-qualified traffic.

SEO: Free, qualified traffic.

I mean… this seems like a no-brainer to me. But companies continue to focus on PPC. Here is a startling fact: 90% of company search engine budgets are allocated to PPC as opposed to SEO. This boggles my mind to no end. It should be the other way around.

PPC just seems like the trendy thing to do. “Everyone is doing it so why not us?” Eventually, companies will open their eyes, re-evaluate their ROI, and embrace SEO in a big way. Until then, the short term traffic gains of PPC seems to mask the longer term gains of SEO.

Now I know PPC does work for some and I will get slammed for such a post. But for the majority of us (including companies), PPC is a wasted of human and financial resources. Time and money can be better spent on other marketing initiatives.

Joost Invitations

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Joost logoOver the past week, Joost has provided me with 4 BETA invitations to send out. As I already had a list of people, they were quickly dispatched. However, I expect to receive more in the very near future. So, if you are interested in trying out this innovative, new Internet TV tool, please e-mail me or drop your e-mail in the comments (in some form of counter-SPAM method, i.e. aidanhenry-(AT)-hotmail-(DOT)-com for example).

For those unfamiliar with Joost, it is the new project of Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. These are the geniuses who brought us KaZaa, followed by Skype. Their new venture promises to change the way we view video on the net and revolutionize TV forever.

For more info, view my previous posts on the company: