Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

There was a time when January was slow – where nothing much happened until February. It was a time for planning and organisation. It was about getting your ducks in a row.

We’re already a month in to 2011 and it feels like I’m aboard a freight train – there are events, book launches, happenings and great blogging all aimed to help your branding, marketing and social media activities for 2011. I’ve got some great ideas that I am working on and hope to share with you soon. But most importantly, there are five great posts from last week that you simply must read!

  1. If you want to make 2011 a year where you achieved great things, follow Tara Hunt’s advice and ignore the devil’s advocates (in your head, in your business). After all, Nobody Told Me It’s Impossible – so instead of asking “why?”, ask “why not?”
  2. There’s no doubt that “social” is moving from being a buzzword to something that is more far reaching. But Shel Israel asks Is Social the New Black? While all things social are certainly “in fashion”, my sense is that there’s some serious business success now starting to manifest – we just may be too saturated with the S- word to care.
  3. And on the “social” topic – what would “social innovation” look like? Edward Boches shares Four Great Examples of Social Innovation.
  4. This post from Katie Chatfield on Like Baiting, while older than the last five days is also a must-read. If you want results, take a read.
  5. If you are a visitor to New South Wales’ Hunter Valley or to Newcastle, you will be wanting to keep an eye on UrbanInsider – a new site with plenty of blog posts that give you the inside running on the local scene. This post is a must-read for you social media cupcake fans.

Rethinking Education – Revisiting Brands

I have long been a fan of the work of Prof Michael Wesch from the University of Kansas. Not only does he seek to challenge notions of education and knowledge, he actively encourages his students to participate in these challenges. The latest is on the topic of The Visions of Students Today.

Participants will be asking the big questions. It’s about the world from the student’s point of view – all captured via digital media. Sounds impressive. Sounds vital. And I can’t wait to see what the project uncovers.

But also consider for a moment what it would mean for this sort of examination to be undertaken for your brand? What would it mean for your products and services to come into focus – from your customer’s point of view? Guess what? It’s already happening. Take a look at brandkarma – and see whether you are mentioned, ranked and rated. Take a look at GetSatisfaction and see how you are performing. And glance at a Twitter search stream. Which conversations are you having – and are they the right ones?

The Value of Conversion

chart-of-the-day-revenue-per-unique-visitor-google-facebook-ebay-jan-2011

I can remember way back in the early days of the web that we used to count hits. This basically meant that we would count every element on the web page as a single item and each time it was displayed, we would get a “hit”. So a page with ten items would rate as ten hits. This would get people very excited! “My page got 1000 hits” could translate to as little as one visitor if you have 1000 items on your page.

Of course, to the web novice, 1000 hits sounded great.

As we got savvier – and as the number of web users grew – we started counting visitors. And then unique visitors. And then repeat visitors. We started to think of our websites as destinations – as homes for our content, our ideas, products and services.

But, inevitably, someone asks about ROI. What is the value of the transactions that come in when measured against the money spent in creating, maintaining and improving your web presence? In the early days of the web, the cost of implementing a payment gateway was astronomical, so very few businesses could afford it. (These days, you can implement a PayPal gateway with a few clicks and a couple of hours!)

But those businesses that got involved in online commerce early were able to learn valuable lessons. The value to their business was not in the transactions that came through the web (as a channel). What they gained was an understanding of the web AS a business. They learned how to translate business models into the online space – focusing on the hard metrics (ie revenue) rather then hits, visitors etc.

In the online world – where attention is scarce – your challenge is to convert your website visitor’s attention, interest and trust into something more tangible for your business. Sometimes that is not transactional – perhaps you want to grow a community or position yourself as a thought leader (if so, think through the appropriate metrics such as subscriber numbers, inbound links, community membership).

Now – make the hard decision.

Divide those numbers by your traffic figures. What is the conversion percentage (ie how many “visitors” sign up or subscribe)?

Relentlessly focusing on that per-visitor statistic will help you improve your efforts and achieve your objectives. Just take a look at the graph above from the Silicon Alley Insider (via the Measurement Standard). Amazon drives conversion at every opportunity – and the results show. Make just one change to your site and see what impact it has. Keep refining it until you see improvement. And once your site is more relevant to your audience – and is easier for them to use – watch as your conversion rates improve.

Oh, and on that subject, be sure to subscribe here to my blog. Then there’ll be more branding, marketing and social media goodness coming your way.

Looking Across a New Media Universe

We have been talking – and writing – for years about the shifts that are happening in our marketplaces. We tend to focus on the industries that are most obviously connected – energy, technology, media and finance. But the real shift, in my opinion, is more to do with the underlying shifts in consumer behaviour. Take a look, for example, at this infographic from NielsenWire.

media-universe-lg

The Nielsen US Fact Sheet for January 2011 indicates some of these shifts:

  • That we are moving away from broadcast TV to more interactive channels (with high adoption of satellite and cable)
  • That mobile devices – especially smart phones are a powerful and important channel (there are more mobile web users (83.2 million) than VCR owners (70.6 million)

But if we look beyond the facts and figures and think about the impact that this is having on our lifestyles then it raises some interesting challenges. How are we preparing for these shifts and changes in behaviour? How are we structuring our businesses to support and engage people?

Just think – every one of these smart phones is a media creation device. With the press of a few buttons, consumers can:

  • Rate and review our products while they are in the store
  • Gather competitive intelligence on our offerings
  • Seek discounts and competitive quotes
  • Capture and share their customer experiences as it happens

Perhaps the real question we need to ask is what are we investing in for our own future participation in this new media universe.

Retro Fun “Interactive” Website

stopwilson

Do you remember when people used to talk about an “interactive website”? Well, in a nice find today via Twitter we have a website with an MS-DOS command line interface – stopwilson.com:

  • Just type blog to view the StopWilson blog
  • Type help to get help

Brings back all those lovely childhood geek memories! Get your geek on.

How Much Does Social Media Cost?

There are plenty of articles around that talk about what it takes to get started with social media. Heck, I’ve probably even written a few myself. After all, anyone – with the exception perhaps of Gerry Harvey – knows that the barriers to entry to social media are very low. You need a computer and a connection to the internet. Oh, and maybe an hour or so.

In that hour you will be able to create a blog, a number of profiles, fan pages, accounts and maybe even link them together. But then what?

Well, normally I’d say:

 

STOP

 

right

 

there

Do your research, think through and align your strategy and then proceed. But presuming you’ve jumped in feet first …

That’s when you either start spending some time (and yes, time is money) or you hire a consultant or an agency to help you out. But what are the ballpark figures you need to budget for? Think about:

  • The profile of your business customers – where they shop (yes, online), where they get their information, how they qualify their decisions and where they rate, compare and review products. In short, what is their digital footprint
  • What resources/time/people do you have in-house that can “own” your social media project
  • Decide your level of commitment -are you testing the waters, piloting a concept, building on previous efforts, building a platform for business growth
  • Write down your top three objectives

Once you have this basic information, Mack Collier has written an excellent article disclosing the type of prices charged for various social media related services. I have summarised the prices here, but added in my view of what you are likely to see here in Australia. These prices are not LARGE AGENCY prices – and are more likely to be found amongst the boutique agencies and individual consultants. Also, the quality and amount of creative design will impact these costs – good design costs good money.

Remember, you get what you pay for (generally) – and be sure to ask for details or references regarding the last three social media projects your consultant/agency has worked on. Be sure to go through and read Mack’s whole article and subscribe to his excellent blog.

Blogging Range My view
Full service – launch, content creation, comment moderation management and response 1000-12,000 10,000-25,000
Launch – content creation and launch 1000-8000 5000-10,000
Ghost writing (per article) $50-$500 $100-$500
Twitter    
Full service – launch, content creation and customer interaction 1000-7500 2500-5000
Facebook    
Full service – launch, content creation and customer interaction 2000-9000 5000-10,000
Strategy    
Comprehensive strategy and content creation 3000-20,000 10,000-30,000
Social media strategy audit of existing approach 2000-10,000 10,000-25,000
Consulting (hourly) 50-500 50-500
Training    
1-2 hours 500-5000 500-5000
4 hours 1000-10000 1000-10000
Full day 2000-50,000 2000-50,000

The Facebook Valuation in Perspective

The news that Goldman Sachs had valued Facebook at $50 billion is big news. Well – big – in that it is a lot of money. But from a per user point of view, it values all our individual profiles at $100 each. That’s not such a big deal. But it would be more significant if it was $100 per user per year. That would give us something to really measure against.

And for yet another perspective, take a look at this infographic from The Next Web. It shows how the Facebook valuation sits cheek-by-jowl with other web companies like Amazon, Google and Apple.

FacebookValuation

How Denlo Changed My Volkswagen Experience

I knew it was the end when Brett, my mechanic knocked at the door. He explained that I had had six good years with my Alfa 156, but that was ending. Was about to end. And that from here on in, I was to experience a world of frustration, anxiety and financial burden. It was time for the beast to go.

100_7754To my surprise, I sold the car within days. Carsales.com.au had done its job and a young man came along to check the car out with his father.

Wow, I thought to myself, “some first car”! And despite being upfront about the high and ongoing maintenance costs and so on, a decision was made, prices agreed and keys exchanged.

Alfas are like that.

But this left me in a difficult situation. No car. And thanks to repeated backflips by the NSW Labor Government on extensions to the rail network, little to no public transport. I needed a car, and I needed it fast.

I had not seriously investigated the car options – thinking that I had weeks of selling time ahead. But a quick look around convinced me of one thing – there were few interesting options available. Having had a Volkswagen Golf previously (and loving it), I arrived at Denlo in Parramatta and checked out the Golf and also the Polo. There was a sale on (great)! For the money (and the go), the GTi seemed like a one-for-one replacement for the Alfa, but was lacking in the heart pounding emotion. So I opted for the baseline model. Nice. Reliable. It would do me for a couple of years.

Denlo –the first time

Having made that decision I thought it would be easy. But then the buying process was convoluted. The sales guy stepped me through options, variations and prices. It took hours. And in the end, I was ready to walk away – we could not agree what I considered to be a fair price. My sales guy would rush off to check with his sales manager, returning with little to no change. I was starting to feel ripped off. But realising that I would have to go through this process again with another dealer somewhere else, I finally agreed to an unflattering deal.

From there I was handed through various other people in the dealership who would each pitch me on options. Did I want the special paint protection? What about fabric protection? What about finance? The pressure continued.

But by now I was so dissatisfied I was determined not to spend any more time or money with these people.

This was two years ago.

Denlo – the second time

More recently I needed to upgrade my old station wagon. Again, Brett had knocked at my door and delivered the bad news. This time, however, Denlo and Volkswagen were at the bottom of my list. I visited dozens of dealerships. I looked, I test drove and I researched. And eventually I came back around to Volkswagen. The Passat models looked good – but were apparently as rare as hen’s teeth. I even made some preliminary inquiries via Twitter, chatting with car enthusiasts. A couple of dealers with stock contacted me and offered test drives and good deals.

I realised that I was making arrangements to test drive cars miles away from where I lived. My Volkswagen buying experience with Denlo had left such a sour taste in my mouth that I was willing to travel miles out of my way to spend thousands of dollars with someone else! I was really pushing this principle.

But the following weekend I happened to be in Parramatta. We reluctantly wandered in to Denlo and the “sale” flags were flying. There were people everywhere. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. I had already had a bad sale experience here before.

Our sales guy, Russell, seemed down to earth and knew the Passat well. As we chatted he organised a trade in valuation of our old car parked out on the street. He offered coffee – but he was also keen to press on. It was sale time and there were deals to be made. This suited me fine – I was more than ready to walk away at a moment’s notice.

The deal

We talked through the options. Russell checked on what we needed and listened to what we wanted. He didn’t appear to be interested in wasting our time and explained which options and colours were available and when we could get them. And then he gave us a trade in figure.

We had already had an acceptable trade in figure in mind. We thought that was a fair price. Something that a dealer could achieve without risking commission.

It was way too low.

Way.

Before I had a chance to even think that I had wasted more time here, he flicked his eyes across his computer screen and countered. A much better deal. Really, we couldn’t say no. And we didn’t.

From there, again, we were whisked through other parts of the building. Yes, we would need window tinting (oops totally forgot). No, we already have great finance thanks to CUA (really, check them out – astounding). At each handover, I would be expecting another hard sell – but unlike last time, the focus seemed to be on what I needed rather than on what they could sell me.

It still took hours to complete the sale, but second time around, this buying experience was completely different.

Gift wrapping

Oh, and when I came back a week later to pick up the car, all the staff on the floor stood up and applauded. I couldn’t help it, but I felt like I’d just won a car on a quiz show – even though I knew that I’d be paying this baby off for years. And for icing on the cake, they even emailed me a photo of me with my new car.

So would I buy another Volkswagen? Yep. Would I buy it from the Denlo folks? Yep. Should you? Check them out. Ask for Russell. But just remember that the buying process takes some time. It can wear you out and wear you down.

The only thing that did annoy me was the “media device” and the iPod dock. Buying the media device meant we could play songs off a USB drive or via an iPod or iPhone. But the device (one of the few optional extras we chose) doesn’t come with an iPod cable. Something I didn’t know until after delivery – and months later I still have not gotten around to getting one. It’s on my list for this week.