Friday, January 30, 2009

More social media search

Following my posting about Social Media Search on Thursday (about, I've been pointed in the direction of a few other similar services.

Here's a list of the ones I now also know about:
Definately a more person social search tool than a corporate one, this site allows you to "Search your world and find stuff that matters to you!"
(there's some interesting results for me)
A self-described ‘social media search engine’ that seems to work well. I have used it to look for brand name mentions and personal terms with some good results. It also has RSS feeds for search results and Podcast & audio search capabilities.
IMHO this one is the best of the current bunch!

Does anyone know of any others?

Lotus Notes & Linkedin

Now, I've used Lotus Notes and Domino (its all-but-deceased web server offering) a few years back and admittedly only under duress. It therefore comes as a bit of a shock to see IBM (the owners of Lotus) integrating their product with the business social networking site

Using a plug-in, Notes users can see their Linkedin contacts and more integration looks to be on the cards in the future:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Customer Complaints go viral

There's a rather amusing email compalint to Richard Branson doing the rounds, from a less-than-amused passenger returning from Mumbai to Heathrow in December.

Rather than reply in the same manner Sir Richard phoned the chap (Oliver Beale art director at ad agency WCRS) and personally thanked him for his email.

The Worlds's favourite bearded airline owner even invited him to select the food and wines for future Virgin flights. Mr Beale said: "He was incredibly nice about the whole thing but I haven't received any compensation since talking to him."

Social Media Search

If you're measuring the buzz about your brand (or your client's brand) then I came across this useful new service called It claims to be a Social Media Search Tool that can help you find conversations, or as they put it:

Our goal is to deliver the most relevant and current conversations happening in the world of social media.

They claim to have a clever algorythm that collates data from over 60 popular social media gateways. Initial tests seem to bring up some previously undiscovered blogs and comments about some of our clients, but its early days and time will tell if it gets taken up by the masses.

Some possible further development ideas could include:

1. An RSS feed of the search results
2. Personal rating/ranking of the results
3. Other ways to filter the results

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The future of journalism

With a new American President, comes the dream of a better future of the World's most powerful country and along with it is a hope that the reporting of that World is also improved.

John Fine from Business Week, who's also a blogger, gives his views on where Journalism is evolving. For him its all about speed of reporting and how the web facilitates that compared to mainstream media. Aspiring journalists or PR people should take note, he advises you to find what you are passionate about and write about that stuff.

Funnily he asks: "Can you do 60 posts a day without your head exploding?" Perhaps not.. (However it might make a fun experiment to try sometime).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Journalism Fundamentals

Jeff Jarvis, who usually blogs over at has some interesting data about Interactive Journalism compiled into a presentation

I like this slide deck from the end of 2008 , because it challenges the idea of newspapers online. Rather than them being filters of information, Mr Jarvis knows that the Internet is all about links and relationships, so suggests newspapers understand this as well....


View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: cuny journalism)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Buzz monitoring: why are you doing this?

We at Ideal Interface have recently started some new work for a particular company to understand the blogosphere buzz about them. Whilst this may seem like a simple-enough request, what became clear was that unless clients understand and answer the initial question"why are you doing this?", they won't get the most from this work.

So... if you are a client, before your digital consultant asks, why not ask yourslef "why are you doing this?".

Just saying the generic response "We want to see what our customers are saying and writing about us online", is really repeating the brief. To get a fully answer, its best to understand what you will do with the information once you have it.

Here are some of the most likely/possible answers:
  1. We want to quantify the amount of comments or mentions about us over time
  2. We want to identify our prominent bloggers / influencers out there, with the aim of engaging with them
  3. We want to quickly spot trends or identify issues and respond accordingly
  4. We want to understand the general sentiment or tone of the buzz

Replies and further questions in response to these likely/possible answers to follow in subsequent postings.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Online retailers have ROI issues too

Are you a marketer who's having difficulty deciding where to spend your online budget? Or are you struggling to work out the Return on Investment for your digital campaigns?
Well, you're not alone!

‘The Eyes & Ears of Digital Marketing Survey’ done at the end of 2008 for Coremetrics examined the effectiveness of the digital marketing formulas from different European online retailers. It found that 96% of Marketers don’t Measure ROI Across All Online Marketing Activity and a third do even not know where to allocate digital marketing budget.

Despite this, a third of the respondents were expecting to add further online tactics to their marketing mix in 2009....

Recession - its official

So, the long-awaited UK recession has arrived:

Whilst this is hardly a suprise to anyone (some of us having been saying this for almost a year), its effects will be the topic of dinner party conversation for many months to come.... assuming anyone can afford to host one in 2009.

I feel this BBC chart explains the situation better than words:

This has even been noticed by Google, who's revenue figures have dropped 1% year-on-year and 12% comparing Q4 08 with Q3 08. Google UK's SVP and CFO Patrick Pichette, stated:
"It'd be wrong to say that the dynamics of advertising and spending for products
is not affected by this. The UK is in deep recession"

So how is the Government handling the communication of this information?

Well.. so far I've not seen any official response and the Number 10 Government Website hasn't been updated for 2 days.

I'll leave it to you to decide if its a good idea to let the country suffer whilst the spin doctors take longer than normal to plan the "recovery is on the way" rhetoric....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Screen Scraping

Following an evening in the company of an old colleague and friend John G, we discussed the pros & cons of screen scraping. "What's that then Hayden?" I hear various people asking.

Screen scraping is the process of electronically grabbing content from an interface designed for human viewing. In the pre-web days it was used as a way of getting displayed system information from terminals. Now it generally refers to the technique of grabbing the HTML on a web page and inserting that content into a file or database for subsequent use.

So, what are the pros?
Well, by running a screen scraping routine, you can obtain data from a website that you would either have to manually copy & paste to another source(e.g. a spreadsheet). This routine could be automated to run at a particular time (e.g. just after it was updated at midnight) and may save you having to integrate with the site directly or paying the site owner for an export of the content you need.

But what are the cons?
Well, firstly its rather under-hand. Yes, it is just automating a manual process you may-well be doing anyway, but the question should be raised as to why you need to obtain lots of information from the original source in this way (and presumably without their permission)? The terms & conditions of many sites will prohibit you from doing this, especially if you have to register / pay for browsing premium information that you then want to scrape. It should also be noted that you are obtaining information from a website in a known layout/code structure... any change to that code will mean your routine will not work (and some websites deliberately do this for that very reason).
In addition, some sites will be very quick to notice screen scraping, especially if it is likely to affect their revenue or purpose. Using network techniques they could then block your access and counter your efforts.

To quote (without his permission) Eric Raymond of the Jargon File:

screen-scraping is an ugly, ad-hoc, last-resort technique that is very likely to break on even minor changes to the format of the data being snooped.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brands & Social Media

I thought it useful to point out some examples of brands that have been successfully using social media last year. So I started looking at specific examples and came up with a few, such as:

Then, after further investigation, I found out that other people have done this already, such as:

So it seems that Brands have truly woken up about social media. But whilst some of them made the jump, a lot of brands have so-far yet to crack it. Zachary Rodgers, from digital marketing site says:

But these breakaway hits are by and large exceptions to the rule. And the rule is this: Marketers can't easily build awareness on social media sites -- not yet anyway.

Perhaps 2009 could be the year this rule gets broken?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Newspapers - trouble ahead

eMarketer states that newspaper ad revenues dropped 16.4% in 2008. But before you shed a tear, please remember that is still $37.9 billion in income. (However the estimations are that by 2012, this will be $28.4 billion.)

Carol Krol, eMarketer senior analyst says
"they face the same transition problems that plague other traditional media,
such as TV, and so far they have not been able to crack the code”

Monday, January 19, 2009

A year ago

A little off-topic, but here's some sobering statistics (Thanks to Mr M Buck for the information).

Around this time last year RBS paid $100bn for ABN Amro. For this amount today you can buy:
  • Citibank $22.5bn
  • Morgan Stanley $10.5bn
  • Goldman Sachs $21bn
  • Merrill Lynch $12.3bn
  • Deutsche Bank $13bn
  • Barclays $12.7bn

And still have $8bn change...... with which, one would be able to pick up GM, Ford, Chrysler and the Honda F1 Team!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cinema ratings for UK websites

Last month there was the usual main-stream-media merry-go-round we get once every few years, about rating websites depending upon their content. The fear is that juniors will see stuff they are not supposed to (but in reality I think its mainly so that adults will know what they are looking at). There did seem to be a lot of debate still going on about whether the UK should implement a series of ratings similar to those used for films (e.g. U, PG, etc.).

But hang-on, don't we already have a way of rating websites and one that was built into browsers some years ago?

PICS - ever heard of it? Nope, I don't suppose many people have. It was the Platform for Internet Content Selection and backed by various companies (including Microsoft at the time). It was supposed to be a self-regulating set of site classifications that coders would put in their sites. But for some reason this whole project seems to have been a bit of dead-ended venture and its been left to software companies to produce packages which call up black lists of no-go site.

On top of this, if everyone is so worried about our children accessing unsuitable material on the web... why not just create a specific Top Level Domain for such things? You could then develop a very simple filter that would exclude all content with this TLD. You could even call this domain .xxx and you could gain the acceptance of the $12 billion online porn industry in its implementation

Oh yes, that's right, that idea was tried for over 5 years, only to be cancelled at the last minute (which was nothing to do with powerful American religious groups lobbying the USA Government at all, honest).

One better suggestion may be to set up a children-only domain name.

'Dot Kid' anyone?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stuff journalists like

This site made me smile the other day:

My favourite quote is in the posting about Press Releases:

Coincidentally, the majority of press releases are written by former journalists who either quit their journalism jobs in search of a PR job with better pay, or journalists who were laid off and had to sell their souls to the dark side to pay rent.

'nuff said I think

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The High Street leads the online

eCommerce has come-of-age in these depressed times, despite the general retail slowdown in December. Neilson released figures yesterday that shows the the top 10 sites had an average 37% year-on-year growth and that 8 of the top 10 are High Street retailers.

Alex Burmaster, of Neilson said:

"It’s not that online retail will be impervious to the tighter financial environment but it has an opportunity to weather the storm better than other elements of the economy, particularly if retailers promote the web as the best way of finding cheaper goods in the most efficient and convenient way possible.”
Back in the dotcom era (some 9 years ago now) online-only retailers claimed that High Street players would die off. Now it seems that a lot of those High Street stores are leading eCommerce players.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UK Online sales grew 30 percent in December

For those who didn't read the Financial Times front page today, the British Retail Consortium and KPMG have released December's trading figures and its not good news. This report is headlined the "WORST DECEMBER IN SURVEY’S HISTORY" (since 1994) and says that UK retail sales values fell 3.3% on a like-for-like basis.
I'm always a little suspect of retail figures that compare sales from the same stores over two years, as no major retailer I know has exactly the same stores from one year to the next.

Although "The shift in consumer spending is that they are spending less" (no prizes to KPMG for that startling piece of insight), there are some things that are bucking this trend. In fact, the same report states that sales of "Non-Food Non-Store" sales, in other words those transactions which take place over the internet (or via mail order & telesales) were up by 30%.

As I have mentioned in my post back in September, this isn't online's recession yet.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Predictions of 2015...

...may be closer than you think.

Almost 4 years ago in 2005 an animator put together a vision of the future that gained a certain notoriety in both publishing and online companies:

It foretold of a future in 10 years from then. It was one where Google reigned-supreme online and ended up destroying the market and business model of the major newspaper networks such as the New York Times.

But as The Atlantic has reported recently, that future may not be in 2015, it could be in 2009!
You see The New York Times Company is already more than $1billion in debt and come May could well default on about $400 million of that (it only has about one-nineth of that sum- $46 million - in the bank).

Now its almost certain that the NY Times won't disappear entirely. In fact many potential purchasers have been put-forward, including:
Rupert Murdoch, David Geffen, Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft and (not suprisingly) Google!

However, just like the Governments of the Western democracies that are ignoring Darwian Economics and buying-up shares in banks to stop them dissapearing.... is this something Google or another one of its digital cohorts should do?

To quote Google's CEO, Eric Schmid in a recent Wired interview:
“The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don't think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems”

It seems that the predicitions may not last until 2015

Friday, January 9, 2009

The growth of online video in 2009

All signs are that 2008 was a growth year for online video and in particular. A report this week from Comscore stated that that U.S. Internet users viewed 12.7 billion online videos during November 2008, an increase of 34% from the same month in 2007. This report gives some pretty impressive statistics about America's digital video viewing habits, such as "the average online video viewer watched 273 minutes of video".
However the market is more fragmented that I first imagined. Although Google sites (Youtube, Google Video) take the lions share of 40%, all other players are represented in single-figured percentages.

And the signs are that this increase will continue into 2009. Video should also increase in length, with companies now realising that its just not enough to post all your previous 30 second commercials up as a public archive of your historic agency spending. This trend should evolve into something better and richer for the viewing customer. E.g. A firm's Corporate Social Responsibility video, the CEO's keynote / shareholder address or a public response to a critical (and hopefuly wrong) YouTube posting.

Or perhaps the increase will just be fueled by so many people now "doing personal projects from home" during the economic downturn!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Opinion leadership - 1950's style

Influencers have been described for years as 'Opinion Leaders'. These are people who are sources of information on a particular subject and have followers who listen & embrace what they say (or do).

Katz and Lazarsfeld way back in 1954 within their book "Personal Influence" claimed Opinion Leaders should be
"spelled with a little 'l'. As everyday influentials, they are ubiquitous"
I take this to mean they could be anyone or everyone; with each person applying their own influence to their own sphere of contacts (at the time, this was generally by word-of-mouth or by simple one-to-one communication methods).

However Katz and Lazarsfeld also refered to some Opinion Leaders as "Great Disseminators" (a wonderful term that). This categorises people who have an important forum— national or international— and who are respected and listened to by a number of people.

Perhaps these early thoughts on an individual's social graph and the different scales of influence aren't too dissimilar to what we're now trying to do on a global scale and in the digital domain.... I for one whould like to know who our Great Disseminators are these days.

Using Twitter for Marketing and PR

Useful advice!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mind the gap - how a consolodated basket may not work

User satisfaction with the Gap site dropped nearly 7 percent when compared to 2007, according to a report by ForeSee, a company that tracks eCommerce Satisfaction in the USA. Apparently with the multi-site integration of, although intended to make online shopping more convenient, has unintentionally diluted the four diferent brands of: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy & Piperlime.

ForeSee President & CEO Larry Freedstomer said:
"The change had a functional advantage, shipping charges were less, and that sounds like a no-lose situation. But what they really didn't take into account was how people were going to see that: `Now you're making it very apparent to me. It's all the same company.'"


I wonder if other companies have now shelved similar plans?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Online advertising is a fad" says Wigan Courier boss

Regular readers will know I like to mention the gradual demise of the traditional media now and then. However, its been a while now since I found such a funny quote (courtesy of the Press Gazette Blog) by a member of the press about all this online stuff, that I had to post again today (that makes 3).

Mark Ashley, Managing director of the Wigan Courier has stated:
"the current obsession with internet advertising and Facebook will gradually go the way of all the digital fads over the last few years"
“There is still no substitute for a colourful, well-designed advertisement in a truly local paper.”

This wonderfully insightful comment came after the paper increased its circulation by 2,500 copies to 34,900 (I make that a whole 7% increase) after “continued requests from advertisers and members of the public”.

New Apple Keyboard?

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Site Optimisation for survival

Retailers have been having a hard time recently (and not just: Woolworths, Zavvi, Adams, USC, Morgan and Wittards), with stores not having the sales they once had. For many of them their eCommerce offering has been a major revenue stream. Digital has come of-age and is paying its way now.

However, things don't stop there. All but the most ignorant online retailers have realised that just driving traffic to a page isn't enough and they are now looking at ways to optimise their sites. Yes, you can use analytics tools such as Google Analytics or one of the more professional packages to tell you how they get there and what people are looking at. But it won't tell you how to make your content (headlines, promotion material, images, calls-to-action, etc.) more effective.

The conversion of a vistor to a buyer is a complex mixture of art and science. Its therfore the combination of the right information and correct enticement to get the potential buyer to add a product to the shopping cart (and enter their credit card details after that).

But what combination works best for your site and how do you find this out?

A/B Split Testing:
Given two alternatives, users will usually state a preference. Showing the same web page but with two alternative pieces of content can also give you two different outcomes. Measuring which pieces of content makes your users buy more product is a simple but powerful bit of analysis and this is the basis of split or A/B testing. A lot of sites now use this method of site optimisation, from trialling a new homepage layout or design through to dynamically changing the supporting messaging during the checkout process.

Multivariate Testing:
This takes A/B testing one stage further and tests combination of page components or elements and measures the effect they have. Basically it ignores the rules of 'Ceteris Paribus' (the principle that all other things must be equal to be able to test a specific condition).
Note: You can take this process further and also automate the segmentation of your different users according to factors such as
  • Geographic region
  • Day of week / time of day
  • Referencing site
  • Etc.

Its quite obvious to me that execs are going to look to their online retail operations to work harder and smarter in the future. By making some simple changes, carrying out analysis and applying this to the evolution of your own site, you can quickly de-mystify the issues and get your site converting more.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Old words, new methods

I was recently staying at my parents-in-law house over Christmas and my wife (Moya) was throwing out some old school books and stuff. Among them was a publication called "Consumer Behaviour and Marketing Action" by Henry Assael (3rd Edition) printed in 1987.

So given a few spare minutes over the last week or so, I've started thumbing through it this old book to compare the pre-Internet marketing world with the one of today. I though it would be fun and useful to mention the differences we now have in Marketing and see how modern digital communications have changed things in over 2 decades.

Assael is apparently still Professor of Marketing at Leonard N. Stern School of Business in New York and has produced more contemporary work, including "Consumer Behaviour - A Strategic Approach" which is still in-print.

However, what I wasn't prepared for was to find it useful and really insightful in some areas of marketing approaches and techniques.

What I've therefore decided to do is to occasionally refer to Professor Assael's work and apply it to the modern digital / social / crowdsourced / always-on world. Expect to see his name and comments quoted from now-on.

Friday, January 2, 2009

User-Centred CRM

There's an old CRM white paper I read again the other day, that mentioned how CRM (Customer Relationship Management) needs to be more about Customers managing their own relationship with a company (CMR). Thinking about this further, I realise that whilst that's an ideal situation and the utopia of the personalised website experience, not everyone wants to do this and not everyone needs to.

In my mind CRM should be user-centred, just as user-centred design is an essential part of creating the right website for your target audience.

So... if CRM is traditionally based around: People, Process, Technology & data, then user-centred CRM should evolve this thinking. But rather than being around the 'what' you need to do, it should be far more about the 'how' & 'why':
  • People becomes: Identify, observe, understand and analyse
  • Process becomes: Timeley, relevant and flexibile
  • Technology & Data becomes: Integrated, optimised & scalable
If your previous CRM intiatives have not achieved your ambitions, perhaps focusing on the user may be a better plan in 2009?

Update 4/1/2009:
The document I was referring to was "Multichannel customer managment" by Stone, Hobbs & Khaleeli.