Microsoft Gets So.Cl

microsoft so.cl

If you heard that Microsoft has launched a social networking site, the first idea that comes into mind that it’s a competitor to Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. Wrong. In their own words, Microsoft So.cl is an “experimental research project” and the goal is to help users search for, express and share ideas through collages.

So.Cl’s Quiet Unveiling
So.cl actually launched in December of last year and was aimed at students. No surprise here – So.cl is powered by Bing, which pulls visual content that can be added as a story to the community. Like visual and viral trends seen on Twitter and Pinterest, So.cl is meant to be a place where the stories are amplified and classified by specific interests. Of course, this social community isn’t for just any user and it’s completely self-aware of the fact as it still clearly touts a “Microsoft Research” banner under the logo.

The Power of Visuals
Looking through the site, you’ll see a common theme of discussion, sharing and discovering. Instead of the me-centric attitudes of other social networking sites, So.cl is interest-based. And it’s not just about finding and sharing pictures, you can also post news articles and video. Speaking of, another interesting feature is Video Party where you can group chat with your others while watching YouTube videos. Again, these video parties are based on a specific topic, so you’ll be watching and commenting in real time. (Kinda reminds you of the early, good-ole AOL chatroom days, doesn’t it?)

What’s Your Impression?
While I appreciate So.cl’s subtle introduction and differentiation from other social networks, it’s not really clear if this site can hold it’s all against the giants. But then again, So.cl doesn’t claim to be a game changer. I guess we can only wait and see what direction it takes on next. Like with many social media sites, privacy is a concern. Did you know what your friends are able to view your search history? Be wary of your questionable searches! Besides that, nothing else really stands out in my mind. What do you think of So.cl?

So Long Facebook FBML


Are you ready to finally say goodbye to Facebook FBML tabs?

As of June 1, 2012, Facebook FBML apps will no longer work. As Facebook suggests, you can use HTML, JavaScript and CSS if you are building a new application. This is good news for web designers because it is just like building a regular web page without worrying about weird formatting issues. But this could be problematic for non-coders who liked the “simplicity” of using FBML.

For Page owners who haven’t used FBML, this news isn’t a big deal. For active users, it’s making the transition that could be difficult… depending on the number of tabs you have and their complexity.

There are many other alternative applications available and many are making the switch to iFrame Apps. Facebook accepts and favors this framework because the content will be hosted directly on the developer’s server, instead of through Facebook’s servers. Now here is one important thing to consider:

Should I use a Facebook tab application or make my own iFrame app? There are many applications to choose from if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to set up Facebook tabs – Wildfire, Involver, Tabsite to name a few. While these applications are easier to use, remember that they often have require monthly fees and are branded with their own company name (instead of yours’, unless you want to pay a higher fee for white label services).

Making your own iFrame app will give you the advantage of creating your very own web page on your Page. Depending on the number of tabs you want, it could be like creating your own mini-site with targeted landing pages that you can track using analytics. With FBML, this is something that couldn’t be done – don’t look at it as something that Facebook is doing to inconvenience owners!

So, if you need to, you have less than 1 month to make a transition. Give yourself time to think about the type of web design you’re looking for and weigh the benefits of using different applications for tabs. Be sure to contact us know if you have any questions and check out our portfolio!

Search Marketing Odds & Ends

For your Friday: here are some helpful tips that we all hope you can benefit from.

Don’t focus on just one factor: When it comes to metrics and analytics, it’s difficult but sometimes, you just have to pull through! Focusing solely on one measurement whether it is Page Rank, bounce rate, or clickthrough rate can cause you to lose focus of other measures as a whole and lose sight on the big picture. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear about a client who complains of being outranked by a competitor for 1 particular term… even if they are outranking that particular competitor for 10 different terms! In other words, pick your obstacles and choose wisely.

LinkedIn Answers and Avvo: These are both reputable Q&A sites for business professionals. Being active can help increase your credibility in the community. Bonus: as you become more active, your search engine visibility may also increase as these trustworthy sites are favored in search algorithm.

Don’t be intimidated by updates: Google Panda updates or algorithm changes can seem like a scary thing. The important thing is to stay in tune with what’s going on. As we’ve always said before, if you haven’t dabbled in black/grey hat linkbuilding methods, you should be in the clear. Many times, these announcements drum up anxiety and panic causing people to go out and make sporadic changes to their site. In the mean time, they may very well be doing unnecessary damage to their own site and blaming the drop in SERPs to the updates.

Put the most important things first: This goes with content, Facebook updates and Tweets and anything else you want to link. In a more specific example: we are conditioned to think of Twitter updates in 140 short characters. Think again – how about 45 characters, instead of 140. Many people have found that while whole Tweets are indexed, the messages are truncated in results at about the 45 character mark. While it’s tempting to please the search engines, remember to put real human readers first.

Don’t believe the SEO is dead hype: While the tactics of search marketing from 5+ years ago are “dead”, SEO is far from dead. An increasing number of these articles are showing up for many different reasons: link bait, shifting the focus on alternative search marketing strategies (local and social) or even just because SEOs who want to be disassociated with the myth that all search engine optimization is spam. Make sure to check out this article to see why SEO will never really die.

Stay tuned for more odds & ends and have a great weekend!

Taking a Look at Google Plus and Search

google plus While there’s no argument that your website can benefit from an active presence on Google Plus, it’s still crucial to take a look at the different ways in which this is possible:

Inside the Social Realm
There’s no doubt that +1’s help web pages when we take a look at Search Plus Your World. This helps socialize your search results – meaning that your +1’s will show up when your Google plus friends search for something relevant to your recommendation (and vice versa). These +1’s act like a social sign of credibility and relevance since your friends are liking them and in return, endorsing that certain web page/company. This major change in search has businesses even more intently focused on creating content that will engage users and not just search engines.

Impact on Search Algorithm
The more +1’s your site has, the more it signifies relevance, credibility and trustworthiness. To what degree Google considers these social signals is unclear and their impact probably changes all the time, due to different factors. Of course, this also goes for Facebook Likes and Tweets, but some suspect that Google will give preference over their own social networking platform over the others that are out there.

Ongoing Debate
There is no direct answer on whether Google Plus can bring something “new” to your online organic campaigns but it’s the potential that people are focused on. In a way, you can look at Google + in a way that it isn’t doing anything to drastically change the search marketing game, but that it is amplifying the effects of things being spoken about in the SEO community for awhile now.

For example, these social signals are encouraging companies to create content that is more user-friendly and that will evoke more engagement. The addition of social factors to search engine results are also discouraging spammy content, keyword stuffing and other black hat methods that have been frowned upon because really, who is going to click on, read or even +1 a badly written, self-serving article?

Is Google Plus Right for Your Business?
This all boils down to making an analysis on what social platform will be a good fit for your company. Right now, big brand names and marketing/technology companies are doing well with Google Plus. Smaller companies might benefit as well, depending on their niche. In a comparison that can be easier to relate to, it’s like choosing whether direct mail, television ads or even paper directories are a good fit for your company. Believe me, there are some clients who still invest thousands a month in Yellow Page ads. Marketing is about choosing a mix of different strategies that will suit your company well – it doesn’t mean that you have to just choose one thing and stick to it.

What We Can Learn About Taking Criticism & Reputation Management

Sometimes, the blogosphere feels like a small place that is relaxed and almost too casual. As a regular reader/blogger you might feel the need to respond immediately to criticism. But as a owner or manager, you have to think about how your words will reflect upon your brand or company that you represent. There is no exact science in how you should respond to “negative” comments you come across and there might not even be a need to respond sometimes.

What brings me to this point is some comments in this article about ranking decreases on Search Engine Journal. (Interesting and valuable read, I might add.) A self-proclaimed SEO at JCPenney made some comments and you can read them for yourself – was this really necessary over 1 year after the “event” had taken place. I know this wasn’t an official statement but it seemed off-putting to me. For those of you who are fuzzy about JCPenney’s run in with Google’s penalization, this may refresh your memory.

Anyways, here are some takeaways from that are inspired by this dialogue and others like it:

1) Don’t appear so defensive – This is something that we all see so often. Many people feel the need to come out with fists flying and like they are so offended that they have to put up a defensive barrier. Even though a timely response is seen as a good thing, it doesn’t help to post an emotionally charged response without thinking things through. This might be ok for flame wars or YouTube comments but not if you’re representing or associated with a company. What’s even worse… immediately deleting a negative comment.

2) Don’t change the subject and bringing up other irrelevant topics – Another thing that is common is to try to shift the focus and somehow turn the blame on the comment/commenter. When this occurs, with especially a valid point, it makes your company seem less credible and trustworthy. This reminds me of a client who got a negative comment and responded by shifting the blame on a name mix-up! As in… “It wasn’t us! It was someone who went by a similar name who happens to be in the same area…” Regardless of the situation, it’s important to present a calm response and take the conversation off a public forum. Reputation management should not consist of the blame game or being so eager to teach a lesson to people who don’t agree with you.

3) Don’t not provide a solution – One thing I don’t get is when responses don’t provide a solution. While you could go back and forth on criticism made, it doesn’t help to bring up the past and not show what you are doing to improve the situation. This is what effective reputation management is all about, going forward and focusing on the good that the company can provide.

4) Be positive and useful – Sometimes, things just come across more cold and unfriendly in text. This isn’t to say that you should be overly enthusiastic but you should be mindful of how your responses are read and if it’s easy for an angry or sarcastic tone can be applied to what you wrote. If someone has an opposing view, you can respond with your side of the story and facts to back it up. It’s not as simple as just telling them that they are wrong or that they don’t know the whole story without presenting any credible proof – especially if you’re focused on maintaining a company’s integrity and image after a mishap.

This post isn’t about ragging on jcp, as it’s just small example of many situations. It’s a difficult position to be in to respond to negative comments and we can all learn from these and be prepared. If you have any other thoughts on responding to negative comments and such, it would be great to hear it.

3 Missing Elements of Social Media Success

social media influence

comScore and Buddy Media Research recently released a report on the effectiveness of social promotions during this past 2011 retail holiday season. If you haven’t seen the 17 slide presentation yet, it’s time to take a look before planning your next social media campaign.

While the report analyzes bigger brands like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart, there are some important takeaways that you can apply to your small business. Take a look at this slide above. This is an important slide because it addresses many conceptions that business owners have about utilizing Facebook to promote their business. The immediate thought is to 1) Get Facebook Fans 2) Become successful. As we all know, success doesn’t come that easily. According to this slide, you can look at the missing process in three steps:

1) Cut-through – As your fan base grows, you’ll need to broadcast brand messages that are interesting so that they capture your customers’ attention. The importance of this step is that most Facebook users spend 27% of their time on their Newsfeed. Spread out your focus to include updates for your newsfeed, media updates (using photos and videos) as well as status updates.

2) Engagement – Your Facebook Page can’t truly gain exposure if it’s not being talked about. Comments and Likes are both very desirable forms of engagement. Don’t forget that these actions now also play a greater role in your search engine rankings! Interestingly enough, Mashable recently came out with in infographic that showed that “positive” updates are more likely to get Likes, while “negative” updates are more likely to get comments. See for yourself, here.

3) Amplification – Facebook Shares, reposts and even private messages are also intermediary ways to help reach your end goal of success. The best part about sharing on social media websites (especially on friends’ profiles) is that there is an extra component of trust and credibility when customers vouch for your product/service. These shares will come naturally and no coupon, newsletter or commercial can replace the value of word-of-mouth advertising.

Make sure to check out the report for yourself and see what other elements you can use or learn from for your next social media campaign!

What is SoLoMo and is Your Website Ready?

so-lo-mo

If there are 3 areas of online marketing you should concentrate on this year, these are it. If you don’t think your site is quite ready, you may be more prepared than you think!

Social – Focus on a few social networks that you can consistently update. You don’t want to be the website with dozens of social media publishing buttons. Instead, focus on quality over quantity. You’ll want to make sure that everything you post on your website is shareable and somehow linked back to your social media profiles. Remember, this isn’t just to be user-friendly, but search engines are paying more attention to these metrics as they play a factor in your search engine rankings.

Local – Paying more attention to local marketing means proper keyword research so that you use terms that are relevant to geographical areas. Additionally, you’ll want to encourage customer reviews and testimonials that will be linked and crawled from Google Places, Yelp, Yellow Pages and more. Remember, the goal isn’t to FAKE reviews… because it is totally noticeable as well as unacceptable. Instead, you might want to create a short, standard questionnaire to send to satisfied customers/clients. These blurbs will help boost your brand reputation without taking forever to complete.

Mobile – If it isn’t totally obvious by now, you need a mobile website! You can read more about some recent mobile trends here. With the growing trend of browsing the internet via phone and tablet, experts believe that mobile browsing will soon surpass desktop usage! If you’ve been wondering why mobile optimization is so popular, it’s because of the potential that you can claim. Google indexes the desktop and mobile version of your website separately, so that your results can differ depending on what device your customers are using. Take advantage of mobile SEO today before your competitors do!

Funny name aside, SoLoMo is going to be an important part of marketing goals for 2012. Make sure that your business is prepared before another year slips before your very eyes!

Google + For Businesses: Will You Join?

Yesterday, Google + business profiles have finally arrived. A short clip about new “branded” pages shows that a business owner cares about customer loyalty and personal interaction with different types of people.

And that’s what I’m seeing showcased more in social media services for small business solutions. The promo ends with this tagline, “Business don’t make people happy. People do.” Social media can help businesses hone that human side and showcase an inviting persona. After all, clicks, Likes and +1’s if businesses don’t see the end result with real people after all their efforts.

Here are some questions that you should really think about investing time and resources on yet another social networking site:

  • Are my customers (or customers within the industry) actively using Google +?
  • What is the point of the company profile and what message do we want to convey?
  • Why would customers be interested in connecting with my company/brand?
  • How else will I promote my content on Google+ and off?
  • How will I integrate this campaign with my other online marketing efforts?

After you answer these questions, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself the final question: are you ready to create unique and relevant content for your Google+ profile? After all, that is the goal of an effective profile. Check out these popular profiles for more examples of how they’re being used: Toyota, Angry Birds, NPR and Macy’s,

Facebook, What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Facebook for businessesCompetition is always good for customers, right? Some people believe that all these new Facebook features are an aggressive response to Google +. Whether you think so or not, there’s no doubt that Facebook wants to be the star of the show in the social media world.
On September 30 (or 29th, depending on the source), Facebook will be launching a new Timeline feature. If you can’t wait to see it, Mashable has an easy guide that you can follow to get a sneak preview.

New features are great for consumers, but what about businesses? One thing that I noticed with this new Timeline interface is that the space for paid ads on the right has been greatly reduced. Where will these ads go and how do businesses take advantage of this new layout? You can bet on it – Facebook has a thing or two up its sleeve for small businesses. In fact, Facebook is launching an education program for small businesses. This initial outreach will consist of informative webinars and case studies where owners can learn more about Facebook marketing.

But wait, there’s more! In October, Facebook is sponsoring “road shows” across the country as a part of it’s Small Business Boost. This injection into the small business community will continue into 2012, where some small businesses will be eligible to receive $50 of advertising credit.

Social media is always evolving but the changes are motivating, as it always makes you think about how new changes will effect businesses. What are your thoughts on the new Timeline, small business features and anything else Facebook related?

Google +1 Button: To Do or Not to Do? (Part Deux)

Will you be implementing Google’s +1 button on your site? Although there are many benefits of using a the button, it’s crucial to see the downsides and how it can affect your current site:

Speed is a factor: More social media buttons means more load time. Slower load time and site speed will hurt your rankings, since it is a factor in how Google ranks your site… not to mention that impatient customers may bounce away.
Too many distractions: Adding a Google +1 button can be a distraction from your site content, especially if you already have multiple buttons. This can clutter your site and draw attention in a negative manner and away from your business.
Harm your professional image: Sometimes, when I see a site overloaded with social media buttons, it gives me the impression of being spammy or not very credible. If you focus on a few social media sites and integrate them into a clean design, it will help your site feel and look more reliable.
Right target audience?: First of all, do you even plan to devote time to your Google + profile? For now, business profiles don’t exist so if you have the button but don’t plan on being social on Google +, it may not help your site in the long run to add more clutter. For the most part, I see that many internet marketers are utilizing Google + and +1s. Like LinkedIn, this can be a good method to learn about your industry and network. But for getting retail customers for your small retail business? Maybe not so much…

Do you think Google’s +1 button is right for your business? Remember, it doesn’t hurt to experiment and see what works out. Feel free to let us know why you will or won’t be using this social media button (or any others for that matter!)