Friday, 29 May 2009

Three power blogs worth checking out

Fancy broadening your blog horizon?
Start by taking a look at some of the blogs on the Advertising Age's "Power 150" blog list (which is updated daily).

It's definitely worth taking some time every week to catch up with thoughts and trends on other professions within advertising and media. Marketing gurus - check some tech blogs. Product managers - check out some marketing blogs.


Like

Nr 9 Logic + Emotion
A lovely blog by David Armano which balances as the name says logic and emotion. Any blog which dabbles with emotions will from the word go make me feel more engaged and enticed to follow. His latest post is on the unspoken 50/50 Twitter (following v follower) rule. I'm sure I'm not the only who felt a pang of "yes" when the followers count exceeded the following...

Nr 33 Copyblogger
Now this blog is buuusssyyy. Each post usually has more than 100 comments, what an aspiration!
"Now that blogging has become the smartest strategy for growing an authoritative web site, it’s your copywriting skills that will set you apart and help you succeed."
Anyone would benefit from checking this blog once in a while.

One post called "Screwed Up Your Blog?" is particularly interesting. It focuses on how you can turn your blog around from something that just didn't quite turn out as expected - to something much more successful (regardless of how you see success);

"If you’re new to blogging, the best place to start is copywriting. It’s not because copywriters are marketing geniuses (although some of them are), but because copywriting is so similar to blogging. The chief objective of both is to get attention and build a relationship. The difference is that copywriters have been doing it for almost a century longer, and they have a lot more data to work from."

Nr 12 Social Media Explorer
For those who can't get enough of social media, or have just taken off their sandals to dip their toes into the sea of Tweetdeck etc, then SocialMediaExplorer is an excellent first port of call.

This is a personal blog, created by Jason Falls and it covers everything from philosophy to social.

I'm particularly impressed by the post "10 Sure-Fire Ways to Maximise Your Online Distribution Channel". He provides necessary information and useful advice in a digestive manner - and it's a pleasure to read!

Without going into details, these are his core 10 ways to MAXIMISE (I do recommend checking the post for more info on each of these);

1. Provide Killer Content

2. Leverage Social Syndication

3. Provide More Than One Format

4. Make Sure You Understand Basic SEO

5. Follow an Editorial Calendar

6. Incorporate e-Newsletters

7. Provide Downloadable Content

8. Don’t Forget Offline Strategies

9. Build Relationships

10. All Roads Lead Back to Home


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Which career route had the Internet not existed?


I was watching BBC1 documentary on Ida the 47 million year old fossil last night. If it wasn't for Ida, there would have been no monkeys, and if it wasn't for monkeys....

OK I know the connection is pretty lose, but it's interesting to think where we might have been had it not been for the invention of mobile and Internet technology that we now take for granted. When I was in my early teens, I didn't think the Internet would make any real difference to my career choices - but now I know better!

My likely job to had it not been for the Internet
*Accountant / broker - I really thought economy was for me. It was a "parents do it, must be good" choice.
*Artist - a rebel part in me wanted to become go down the fine art route.

Do I wish I would have stuck to my early plans?
Nope. Even though my bank balance might have been healthier had I gone down the finance part, I don't think I would have enjoyed the work or the working hours.

In terms of keeping creativity online, my current job allows me to think creatively and the opportunity of blogging, creating sites etc means that I can take my ideas much further than a canvas. I am SO pleased I ended up working within the online world. Don't think there's any turning back.

What would you have done, had the Internet not been invented?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Changing your Twitter background

From a tiled image background ...


... to a fancy full page background. Easy peasy thanks to http://www.mytweetspace.com/.

Liking it! (for more ideas on how to personalize your Twitter background, check Mashable's new article.)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Use the web to nourish your talent

Last night I watched "Beyonce - My Story" on the music channel TMF. Would she recommend others to take up singing and pursue a singing career?

"Yes if it's what's right for you. I see singing as my gift and wouldn't do anything else".


What is your gift - and how to use the web to get going

I think deep down, each and everyone know what their "gift" is. That one thing that you LOVE doing. Even though your current occupation may not relate to your gift or skills, the Beyonce interview made me realize that we should try to utilize our skills and not let them fade away.

Always aspired to be a writer? Start a blog. There are countless resources online which can help you on your way and develop your own personal voice online. It's really easy to get going with free blog platforms - few tech skills needed. Some blog platforms worth checking are Blogger.com, Tumblr.com and Wordpress.

Into crafts and diy? It's easy to start a project... and not finish it. But if you get part of a community chances are you will get more engaged, finish it and watch the (hopefully positive) critique come through. I'd recommend CutOutAndKeep for a seriously 2.0 take on craftiness.

Want to make a difference? Many social sites now make it easier than ever to get engaged. Organizations such as Oxfam and Amnesty offer online petitions and information on their campaigns.

Prefer being behind the camera? Forget any self critique and start experimenting. Then upload pictures to sites such as Flickr and see what others have to say. If you enjoy it, set yourself a goal of say one photo per week.

We may not be able to shake it quite as Queen B - but we can work what we've got!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Internet Explorer : Operation Aborted


Looks like my blog has been struck by the "Internet Explorer : Operation Aborted" issue.
Last year this affected bloggers who used SiteMeter.com, not sure what what's caused the current IE7 and IE8 issue.

If you want to comment on this blog and encounter the above issue, please use FireFox whilst I put my amateur code hat on and dig around the html....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Twitter has made search trendy again


PATRICK SWAYZE IS NOT DEAD.

Thanks to the speediness of Twitter, the whole world was alerted that Patrick Swayze might be was dead. Turns out he's alive (phew). Twitter's real time search made a rumour go world wide and with a speed that Google wouldn't have been able to catch up with. Users wanting to find out what was behind the rumour would get the message via Twitter search kind of as quickly as they were alerted.

So all of a sudden, search which used to be a in my eyes at least, a pretty boring field is now where it's all at.

So, search is now trendy again. Not convinced?

Check this;

*Twitter (quote) "made Google focus on real time search". Brand new article from TechCrunch where Larry Page says;

“I have always thought we needed to index the web every second to allow real time search. At first, my team laughed and did not believe me. With Twitter, now they know they have to do it. Not everybody needs sub-second indexing but people are getting pretty excited about realtime.”

*[Breaking news!] Yahoo has admitted they need to rethink their search offering. Links to content strategy is no longer hot.

*Google has finally released search by date / time last week, no doubt due to the success of Twitter's reactionary search.

*Ask Jeeves recently got got a make-over and Jeeves was brought back after a three year holiday. Many reports followed which indicated how users often connect with sweet cartoon characters.

*Wolfram Alpha, the super knowledge search machine hit the web yesterday. It computes actual answers to your questions and is well worth a go. Very handy when you're specifically after factual data, such as a country profiles.

+ the countless Twitter spin offs that focus on searching and sorting hashtags.

Even though Google is too big to sometimes grasp, it's encouraging that other companies are developing their search functionality and engines. Who knew that Twitter, a company only 2-3 years ago, is now talked about as a contender to Google. I'm really excited about the future of search - competition is healthy and we'll stagnate if we're satisfied with what's already live.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Shopping sites with blogs


One of the few fashion shopping sites which features a blog is Warehouse. Their blog mixes popular culture (with fashion references) and promotions of new garments. But are shopping site blogs a good idea?

In Warehouse's case, yes most definitely. I have recently become more and more interested in sustainable fashion and was thrilled to read in their blog how Warehouse is now stocking trendy pieces made by organic cotton. Their blog just attributed Warehouse with really positive connotations - at least for me.

Warehouse's example aside, a blog can be used as not only a source of information or inspiration, it also helps with brand building. A blog is an excellent place to post updates that will enhance the brand's message and personality. By introducing blogs, a company's page views can increase and the site gets "stickier".

What do shopping sites blog about?
Asos.com - customer service, light corporate chat, product updates and community vibe.
Example where Asos has utiltied their blog as a CRM tool;

"
My fellow style advisors and I are currently sat in the office desperate for your emails, but due to all the updates ASOS are currently making with the website and all of our internal systems, we cant see your emails :("

Some companies will keep posts anonymous and corporate, whilst others such as Asos.com will allow staff to post personal blogs, see below for an example;

I like it. There are plenty of Asos staff to follow, the general identity screams fun, friendly and a good place to be. Asos want you to get involved, and why wouldn't they?

New (ok more mainstream new) fashion darling Lipsy proudly place their blog in the main top nav;


Lipsy's all about celebrities, parties and looking good. My only objection is that I would probably visit PerezHilton.com or heatworld.com for the latest celeb juice. Even though I haven't spent that much time on the blog, my advice would be to focus more on CRM, community and products as per Asos.

To sum it up: yes blogs can be a good idea, but they are not necessary e-commerce tools. Get the shopping experience right first (read my Asos praise here) and then focus on blogs.

Whilst a blog is relatively easy to set up - it's more difficult to keep it going and post regular updates. A blog which starts off as a busy and exciting place can quickly dry out and become a sign of failure. However, if shopping sites can assign time, dedication and creativity, and early decide upon blog purpose and branding then why not. Go for it - compare value per session (visited blog / not visited blog), track conversion where click traffic included blogs... carry out quick surveys... get user feedback...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Who's being so kind in Brazil?


I use sitemeter.com to track blog traffic. I know it's not as cool and snazzy as Google analytics... (Lisa Angeletti compares the two here) but it works for me. I can keep a daily check on how many visitors - reached new record a few days ago, 99! only because Buzzfeed.com picked up on my Stweet post - and where the traffic is coming from.

I get particularly excited about the geo data, and most days, I see a little dot indicating a person (I hope!) in Brazil. Oh loyal Brazilian please tell me you're real and not a spider?

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

About time! Google filter by date

FINALLY!

Google realizes the need to filter search results by date. Mashable today includes a Google Search video which highlights the new Google search options. Basically, if you search for "D70 camera" in Google, you will find a text link called "show options" on the results page. Click on that link and a left hand side nav appears with (amongst other) date filters.


No doubt Twitter search pushed the release of these features. You can still use my previous filter advice which I wrote about here (paste "&as_qdr=d" at end of results URL), which will automatically filter by most recent posts within a 24 hour period.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

How personalized is your online experience?

Too much? Not too much? FF3 tulip personas (pick your Firefox here) and Ask Jeeves in pink.



Compare it to using Google in IE8;

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Word from the Stweet and loco-blogging


Here's a novelty Twitter idea which combines a tweet with Google earth location image.

Stweet is a one dimensional voyer site, very similar to the old days when Tweets were displayed on a world map in (almost) real time. You can play around with the locations and check the latest from New York etc, but you can't tweet from the site.

Brightkite.com is another micro blogging site which tags your updates by location. By signing in, you can check updates and pictures from people in your city. Below is a screenshot from the London feed;


Why loco-blog?

Loco-blogging (did I just invent a new word?) is an excellent marketing tool for local small businesses. Coffee shops for example could promote special online offers. Twitter is full of examples where small businesses have quickly spread word of mouth and gained a loyal local following. Brightkite.com is by no means as big as Twitter, but certainly worth checking out.

Loco-blogging adds an extra dimension to micro blogging and certainly makes tweets and the likes more "real" or some how tangible. Suppose the difficulty lies with mixing text and images in a context that makes sense and is not obstructive on the eye. Or maybe it's just me who's excited about the prospect of geo-tweeting :)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Why Asos is so successful

Brilliant online clothing company Asos.com is thriving. Year on year, it appears to beat new records. No wonders! The site is easy to use and reliable, the end products (clothes, shoes, jewellery etc) are desirable and of varied price range.

I spent some time the other night browsing clothing sites and it struck me how far ahead Asos.com are. Thought I'd set my self a task and use Asos.com, Topshop.com and Mango.com to find a dress and rank experience. Why really is Asos so successful?

Task: Find a summer dress size 8 - that's available

Asos.com
1) http://www.asos.com/
2) Top nav "Women" automatic drop down selection to narrow down choice, I choose "day dresses".
3) Day dress page features a left hand side menu with tick boxes (size, colour, price range, brand , celebrity). I tick size 8 and right hand side product offering automatically reflects size 8.



Every dress on the product area on the right hand side is available and size 8. Job done. I can now pick and choose - a happy and perfect user experience. I know it's now up to me to choose - the rest has been taken care of.

Score? 10/10. Because I'm so happy Asos.com understand users and needs. I bet £100 these guys user tested like crazy.

Topshop.com
1) http://www.topshop.com
2) Left hand side nav "Dresses"
3) On bridging page where I have to select what type of dress (view all, bandeau, one shoulder etc). I select "view all".
4) Now presented with all dresses Topshop has to offer. But I won't know if the dress is available in my size without clicking on a dress. I click on a "Denim sundress" for £35.
5) Size 8 is available - hurrah!

Bridging page is not too bad, but Asos.com reduced one step in the process by using smart drop downs. Not being able to sort by size (ie availability) is not only a huge let down - browsing dresses is hit and miss as popular sizes are often sold out on Topshop.com, it also means that Topshop.com is unreliable.

Score? 6/10. Simply because they should as first priority launch size selection. Have spent too much time browsing their site only to find that each product I click on is out of stock in my size.

Mango
1) http://www.mango.com - had I not visited this site I would have aimlessly clicked around the site - but I knew to click to Mango Shop... so that's what I'll do
2) I click on Mangoshop.com link.
3) .... page is loading.... and loading... and oh here we go. No idea where to click.


Would you? "New", "Summer", "Catalogue". I have no idea, I want a dress!
I click "Summer".
4) .. and we're loading. Fast laptop, fast connection, 30 seconds to load product type. It now works. I select "Dresses" and size: "Small".
5) I find a dress, it's £42 and it's available in small. Yay!

What Mango product managers don't seem to understand, is that you buy fashion magazines to get inspired. But you visit an e-commerce site to purchase. Better to spend more time developing smart and fast shopping pages determined by garment, size and colour than flash files and background music.

Score? 3/10. Because I have used the site before and even though I now know how to navigate, the site is infuritantly slow and user journey does not make any sense.

Sumary. Asos.com = smart and reliable. They use their offline monthly freebie magazine to promote brand and offer the inspiration. They then use their site solely to drive sales and make the process as smooth as possible. They offer clever and "make sense" product menu choices. Sorting by size avoids disappointment. Asos works and users come back. Brilliant job people! This is how e-commerce should be done.

Anyone agrees? Is there an online clothing shop out there that outdoes o mighty Asos?


Too clean for your own good?


Here is a screenshot of a landing page where I've cut out the company logo. What do you think this company does (if you avoid the copy for clues)? Private or governmental company? And why?

When I first came across this site, my instinct was "bupa" or "NHS".
Why? The choice of sharp blue and white is very clean, very health, very... bupa.
The uber clean lead box with easy on the eye font says governmental project.

Turns out it's a media agency called Yucca.co.uk. Funny how I associated it with medical - didn't for a second thing agency. I'm not sure their look is a good idea - not the best association. This is their original site with logo featured;

Monday, 4 May 2009

Free website idea give-away


Today I'm giving away a free idea of a website because I really want it to exist (and at this moment in time, I don't have the funds to pay a developer and designer to make it happen).

I've just bought a bike and it was absolutely ages since I last hit the road. So whilst I'm confident cycling per se, I feel a bit rusty when it comes to round-about rules and cycling on busy roads due to buses and lorries. Cycling is getting more and more popular in London but few know which routes are safest (and also perhaps quickest). The nearest to cycle route advice in London is available at TFL but only option is to dowload maps. So no social aspect or added value really.

The site: Your cycle routes in London

Content
*Upload your favourite cycle routes in London (map with comments).
*Allow others to comment on route - maybe someone has had bad experiences?
*Q&A / forum where users can ask the cycling community for advice regarding routes
*As routes are uploaded, create a top 10 of most popular cycle routes.
*Routes can be tagged "supermarket ride" "leisure" "nature" "from west to central" etc.

Audience
*Experienced cyclists who would upload routes and offer advice
*Novice cyclists who need route advice

How to monetise?
*Allow space for skyscrapers and leaderboards and join an affiliate network as a publisher.
Check which network features cycle or sports advertisers.
*Let cycle companies sponsor the top ten routes.

Take it take it! Please someone build it :)