Sunday, February 28, 2010

Following me on Twitter - what you can expect

I've been a Twitter user now for over two years, clocking up over 1,300 tweets so far (and counting). I've therefore seen it grow from a niche 'early adopter' service to a huge real-time trending tool in that time. In fact I even now use it when watching popular live TV programmes to get the 'back channel' on opinions and buzz (just don't tell my Ideal Interface colleagues that I'm a secret X-Factor viewer).

I've more or less settled into a pattern of using the same account for personal and work stuff, meaning there's a blend of:
  • Hyperlinks of stuff I have read and find useful

  • Personal replies to people I know

  • Retweets that I find useful or just plain relevant to me (and want my followers to see)

  • Trivial thoughts or comments that get me through the day

  • and more recently status updates from other services (e.g. Foursquare)

I therefore have a question (or two):

Does anybody find this balance right or wrong? Should I use my personal Twitter account just for personal stuff such as replies & thoughts and use the company one just for business tweets?

Let me know

Saturday, February 27, 2010

When More Website Visitors Hurt Your Business

There's a well-used phase that states "More is less" and this is very true with websites that cannot handle their peak traffic. Once your website reaches the limit of the number of users, connections, bandwidth or other constraint, the more after that you get... the worse the experience is for all of them.

And since these peak periods for websites are usually the time they want to communicate or sell the most... this actually does more to harm their business than at other times. In fact according to a recent piece of reaserch by Gomez... with 51% of eCommerce customers usually shopping at peak times, you really don't have a choice if you're the website manager, but to make sure your site can handle any level of usage.

The SlideShare Presentation giving the report highlights is below:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Could Foursquare be the next news application?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I'm a user of
. For the uninitiated this is a location-based game / service where you can 'check-in' at a physical location to:
  • tell your fellow friends in the game where you are (e.g. "I'm in my local pub")
  • read and write tips to help fellow users (e.g. "The best beer here is xxxxxx")
  • become the major of the locations (a reward for frequenting each place the most)
  • unlock 'badges' that show progress and status
However, It struck me today that what would be an incredibly useful addition to Foursquare is the addition of local news articles.

The only problem with this idea is.... someone has had it already! .

Last month Canada's free daily paper The Metro News teamed up with Foursquare to deliver specific local content to users.
"Foursquare players who follow Metro and check-in near where they pick up Metro will unlock a special Metro Foursquare badge and be automatically entered to win. The contest is being promoted through in-paper ads across all 7 editions of Metro"

And a couple of weeks ago, The new York Times partnered with Foursquare in a winter Olympics tie-up that provides local recommendations on: restaurants, attractions, shopping and nightlife in the resorts of Vancouver, Whistler, and Squamish (where?). You can even check in to two recommended venues and unlock a special Olympics badge.

So.... is this the future of hyperlocal news? Has a game provided the right delivery mechanism for targeted and relevant content?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Don't call it a pay wall

Its funny how cyclical things are in the Internet industry, as old ideas come back into fashion and what's new becomes old very quickly. To some, this typifies the ever-changing way that ideas evolve now that 1.7 billion people all have access to the same information online. To others, this is just an example of how some people never learn by their own mistakes, let alone by those made by other people.

The topic of paying for digital news content is one such subject that has come full circle. As the mainstream media either tries to embrace the digital switch, change its business models or just try to ignorantly and arrogantly force the Internet to bow to its ways (mentioning no names), its is economically squeezed on all sides as the world recovers from the financial binge of the last decade or so, hungover from what some are now calling "The Great Recession".

So last week the great and good of the "Paid Content Industry" all got together in New York to discuss this. What's quite surprising is that it seems that this wasn't the usual Google-bashing conference that mainstream media middle management still seem to still engage in, but was apparently a quite sensible discussions on the future business models for digital news.

Obviously the topic of paywalls was high on the agenda (funny that) and the announcement by the New York Times that it would be creating a 'metered pay system' sometime in the as-yet-to-be-determined future (possibly by the end of this year) was apparently a hot topic.

Its therefore worth asking the question of whether the NYT will be able to afford to send any management to next year's conference, as a consequence of losing money on this proposed venture. Or if, by then, they will all be blaming the lack of advertising spend for not putting more free content online, as the cycle repeats itself in an ever-decreasing timeframe.

More info from Meghan Keane at eConsultancy is available here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quoted by Blogging to Drive Business book

Arriving in cardboard and plastic wrapping this weekend just gone was my copy of 'Blogging to Drive Business' book by Eric Butow and Rebecca Bollwitt.

I was lucky enough to review a preview version of this book a few months ago after I was asked to write a review of it.

Upon opening it, there are a number of quotes about the book on the inside pages, including mine :-)

"Blogging to Drive Business is a no-nonsense and practical guide for who have yet to embark on the road to enhanced corporate communications. It explains why, who, what & how to start and maintain a valuable connection with your customers via this engaging medium. "

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flash... ahhhhh

OK, it was just a very flimsy excuse to use a Queen-orientated blog heading, but I'm going to use it anyway.

It's also not a sin to pay homage to a copywrited document or published work, despite what music companies would like. It also pales into insignificance when compared to what Mr Steve Jobs said last week to the Wall Street Journal about Adobe's flagship interaactive software... Flash (see there was a relevance in the headline somewhere).

Apparently everyone's favourite poloneck wearer took time while at the WSJ to accuse Flash of being a "CPU hog," having "security holes" and a dying technology. Even better he claimed that the task of moving from Flash (perhaps to a much more iPad-friendly HTML5) would be 'trivial'.

There's currently no news on whether the creative and technical folks over that 'The Journal' have stopped laughing yet.....

More details via ValleyWag:

Monday, February 22, 2010

In store multi-channel

The words multi-channel and cross-channel appear in online/ecommerce market literature more often than nearly any other.

And with good reason. Customers are no longer channel specific in their shopping habits, so neither should retailers.

In a recent report from eMarketer, they found that:

Despite the adverse sales and margin impact due to down market conditions on non-food retail categories, the cross-channel retailing experience continues to gain momentum as 53% of retailers indicate that the need to address rapid changes in customer channel preferences is a key business pressure.

So what are retailers doing about this then?

Well, the crossing from the online channel to the store is an obvious one. This is supported by basic features such as 'store locators' on retailer websites, through to the increasing use of 'order online & collect from store' functionality offered by the likes of Halfords & Argos.

But what about crossing the other way, how is the in-store sales process helping to support the online one? Well... apart from the sale assistant providing the supportive line "we don't have it in stick right now, have you tried our website?"... what cross-over is there?

(Clue: How many terminals providing free access to the retailer's website do you actually see in a store?)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Are you an SEO Warrior?

I've recently been sent O'Reilly's SEO Warrior book to review. However, due to my current work load, I've not been able to spend the time to fully read and digest the book to be able to review it. I've also been spending a fair amount of time reading up on SEO recently, so wanted to take a fresh approach to this book that would give it a fair chance.

I therefore asked James Cole, an eCommerce analyst looking to expand his knowledge in the Search Engine Optimisation arena, to read and review it (and in return I would publish it here and let him keep the book).

SEO Warrior sets out to be a comprehensive guide to all the facets of modern SEO, from which search engines matter and why, to Robots Exclusion Protocol and the minutia of XML sitemaps.

To do this it covers a lot of very in depth technical details about site design, construction and code which requires a very good grasp of these areas, but this knowledge is rewarded with plenty of examples and large appendices of scripts to show how to create what is being described.

However, rather than just dealing with the site technicalities of SEO, where SEO Warrior really sets itself apart is by taking a much wider view of the subject. It does this by including chapters on best practice from the first realisation of the need for a site, long before any code is written (and also long after, as it heavily emphasises the long term benefits of good SEO). Covering themes like domain name and hosting options, site structuring, keyword research, competitor analysis, guidelines for content, search engine spam and the latest SEO issues gives the reader an idea of the bigger picture and where their site can fit into it.

So whilst it has fairly high prerequisites to get the most out of its depth, it’s the breadth of topics covered that makes SEO Warrior an invaluable resource for anyone looking to improve their understanding of what can be an arcane subject at times.
Thanks James

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I like The Pope, the Pope Blogs!

In a rather amusing story, that could create a thousand wonderful news headlines, the Pope at the recent Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Communications told his priests to blog.

Is nothing sacred?


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I'm a great fan of the TV Programme 'The Mentalist' where an advisor to the police uses his uncanny ability to read situations and people to understand the situation and solve crimes.

With the General Election only a few months away, we here at Ideal Interface have been busy developing a tool to read the political online situation and to understand what's being said. The main reason for building this service is to provide a social media early warning system of the political landscape leading up the UK General Election on 5th May.

We have called this tool '' and have put a holding page up on the URL for now. If you would like more details about this service and would like to be a possible Beta tester, then just leave me a request in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Travel and Social Media

We've been speaking to quite a few companies in the Travel space recently about their Social Media plans for 2010.

I've actually been struck by the openness and transparency of their efforts. Its not just been a case of 'Damage 'Limitation' but what they can learn about this evolving communication medium, but also how they can leverage it for brand value and even sales... Hurrah!

Subsequent note on 10 Feb 2010:
I will be writing a longer post some time soon on my attendance at Tnooz barcamp last night;

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why I blog

I was recently asked by a friend (thanks Debs) how I managed to blog so often, given the time it takes to do it - and that I don't get paid to do it either.

Now I've recently had to stop blogging because of so many other things going on and not because my employer, 'Pulled a Forrester' on me :-)

This time off, as well making me feel guilty for not keeping up my near-daily blogging routine, was also a tiring time where I didn't have time to composed my thoughts. I believe this lack of blogging actually contributed to more disruption in thoughts, making my day more and more confused, which meant that I got into a bit of a vicious circle.

So, you see it now, I blog to compose my thoughts, to make things easier, so I have more time to blog. Now that's not another vicious circle... Is it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Follow your dreams. Don Draper style

I've spoken to a few friends & digital industry people who've not had the best start to 2010. For whatever the reason they haven't had their fair share of luck recently...

Although digital is still growing in it's importance as a communication, engagement and application platform... We're still seen either as the new upstart on the block (perhaps hoped that we'll eventually go away or disappear in another millennium-style dot-com bubble bursting puff of ether) or an immature media that "could possibly compare with the golden age".

Now, like many people I'm a fan of MadMen the TV series based on 1950s Madison Avenue marketing agency types, who swaggered and drank themselves through the day (and night). And taking a leaf out of the principle character's metaphorical book, I say to my down-but-not-defeated friends...

Do what Don Draper would have done!..
Enjoy the moment, savour the digital bourbon of web communications, smoke the nicotine of Social Media just a little too much and walk like you own the place. 'cos one day you will!

Thinking time

I've been very busy over the last week, mainly focusing on personal stuff, and it's given me a chance to reflect on my blog and Tweets.

I've therefore decided to focus my postings a little more on the strategic side of digital media, rather than the more technical or specific.

This also ties with our plan at Ideal Interface to showcase our three different areas of specilisation : website delivery, online marketing and digital strategy.

As always, feedback on how I cover all three is greatfully recieved.


I'm a believer in the use of diagrams to depict complex situations (or just those where a picture paints a thousand words). And the diagrammatic use of funnels to show a development, progress or evolution is something I've come across quite a lot in my work.
Here's a few that have caught my eye:

1. The ecommerce Funnel:

Also known as the conversion funnel, this diagram shows the visitor drop-off at each stage along the online purchasing process, from homepage to sale confirmation.

2. The marketing funnel:
Also known as the 'advocacy' funnel, this plots user relationship along reducing path of engagement. There are numerous different versions of this funnel and each roughly follows the AIDA(s) marketing steps.

3. The Twitter Funnel
In an interesting article recently on Mashable, Tim Trefren covers the Twitter sign up funnel and plots the 5 stages of initial usage:
1. Hit homepage
2. Go to signup page, fill out registration form
3. Browse suggested topics
4. Add e-mail friends
5. Search for someone

4. The Social Media Funnel:
Taking this to a higher-level, John Bell from Ogilvy360 has created his version of the Social Media Funnel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The greatest SEO mistakes

In my continued efforts to understand more about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), I've been learning about what is current best practice (mainly from my colleague Marc, but also from OReilly's great book 'The Art of SEO' that I've even gone to the effort of writing a review of on Amazon ).

However, I have been quite surprised by the efforts of some people to try to negatively affect their search engine placement. Often these are not completely Internet amateurs, but professional web designers / developers who either ignore established thinking or decide that they will 'try something unique this time'.

I've therefore made a list of what I think are some of the biggest mistakes in SEO:
  • Build a site with no / very little content
  • Build your website in Flash
  • Fail to update your content regularly
  • Build a site full of JavaScript
  • Give all your pages the same / bad title tag
Please feel free to add to these as you see fit.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thinking time

I've been very busy over the last week, mainly focusing on personal stuff, and it's given me a chance to reflect on my blog and Tweets.

I've therefore decided to focus my postings a little more on the strategic side of digital media, rather than the more technical or specific.

This also ties with our plan at Ideal Interface to showcase our three different areas of specilisation : website delivery, online marketing and digital strategy.

As always, feedback on how I cover all three is greatfully recieved.