Last weekend, I was looking for a video game to buy as a gift. I used my smartphone to open up the GameFly app. (For you non-gamers, GameFly is the biggest video game rental service around—they offer around 30,000 games for PC, consoles, and mobile.)
I didn’t find a game to order. Not because there weren’t enough to choose from. I just couldn’t get past the way GameFly was using social media within its app.
It appears that any message posted by a GameFly member (an account can be linked to Facebook or Twitter, or created in-app) is immediately published to one of the app’s front pages. At first, this seems like a great idea: helpful reviews from real-live players! Seamless user interaction! Mad excitement-building for new product releases!
And GameFly’s not alone in adding this feature. Application programming interfaces, or APIs, make it easy for apps to pull tweets, likes, and posts from other programs into their own.
But here’s the problem. There’s zero filtering of vulgar, profane, hateful comments. And trust me, there’s plenty of potty-mouthed posting going on. That means when my 7-year-old daughter opens the app and looks for an age-appropriate title, she’s assaulted with this garbage. And short of deleting the app altogether, there’s not a thing I can do about it.
For me, this was a really negative experience. But it got me thinking. As more and more companies integrate user feedback into their digital marketing strategies, brands need to be aware of what exactly their fans, followers, or users are posting—and where their words are showing up.
That’s not to say you should delete or edit user comments. (As Applebee’s recently learned, moves like these can backfire, and may make you appear untrustworthy.) But you also don’t have to give nasty commenters the spotlight. In GameFly’s case, “mature”-rated games (and their associated commentary) could be sorted into a separate menu. And smart programmers could add “safe-word” filters to weed out bad language.
I’m all for a collaborative user experience. But not when that experience is hurtful to others. Above all, companies should ensure that they’re the ones in control of their content—on social pages, apps, and everywhere else. When a 7-year old has easy access to content that would shock a 70-year-old sailor, something needs to change.
At Atomic, we want to build a great user experience—for everyone who uses our apps. We can help you create content filters and choose features that will best highlight your brand. Contact us to find out how.
Business is changing fast. But as technologies come and go, these principles withstand the proverbial test of time: Marketing is about connecting consumers with messages. Find your consumers where it’s convenient for them, and make your message heard.
If you’re still wondering what social media has to do with your business, think for a minute about where you’d start if you were looking for a new TV and needed to compare prices. Or wanted to see what an old college friend was up to. Or were hungry for some Thai food, and were looking for good restaurants nearby. Still wondering?
I didn’t think so.
Create your plan of action
Once you’re on board with social media, the most important thing is to decide—in advance—what exactly you want your social media efforts to do for you. Do you want to provide better customer service? Sell more products? Increase brand awareness? Decide what the goal is, and strategy will follow.
Make your presence known on the social media platforms best suited to your product. If you’re targeting career-minded professionals, be sure your LinkedIn profile is top-notch; if mommy bloggers are your market, try daily posts on a well-maintained Facebook page.
Above all, make sure branding is consistent across platforms, down to the font and images you use. Customers want to feel reassured they’re getting a high-quality, dependable product—no matter where they go looking for it.
Don’t forget to designate a person within your company to take charge of social media efforts—and make sure it’s someone who really gets social media, and who enjoys it (or risk tweets of “I hate my job” going out to your followers).
Track your progress
Once you’ve got a campaign going, take a step back to assess your work. In Web 3.0, success is measured in fans, followers, shares, and clicks, so make sure you’re keeping up.
Advanced analytics tools (I recommend Google Analytics) can tell you how many people viewed your Facebook profile, how many of those viewers followed a link to your home page, and how many of them went on to buy something from your site. A little Big Brother-ish? Maybe. But for companies trying to understand what makes their customers tick, it’s seriously cool.
Assess and adapt
So you’ve launched your campaign, upped your likes, and tallied some results—what’s next?
If you’re reaching your goals, well, by all means keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe reallocate some of your budget toward further social media awesomeness.
On the other hand, if you’re not getting the results you expected, it’s time to reevaluate. Figure out where your strategy is lacking, and adjust accordingly. Maybe your message isn’t consistent from platform to platform. Maybe you’re not reaching the audience you want. Maybe you need to try a different site altogether (are you on Pinterest yet?).
If you’re not sure where you’re going wrong, try A/B testing—test one campaign against another. See which one engages the audience better. Stick with what works, and ditch what doesn’t.
But whatever you do, don’t let fear stop you from breaking into the social media webosphere.
By not giving your customers an easy way to find you (and, in turn, doing some analytic sleuthing to learn about them), you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And if you’re not getting your message out there, you can bet your competitors are.
Ready to jump on the social media bandwagon? Contact Atomic for help launching a killer social media plan of action.
One of our clients asked for advice on approaching different types of social media. She knew in theory that creating new content is good, but she wasn’t sure what content to put where.
“I have a blog, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account,” she asked us. “Should they all have different types of content? How often should I post on each one? Is there an easy way to replicate posts across different media?”
Starting from short content (Twitter) to longer content (blog posts), here’s our answer.
- Twitter. There’s no real limit to how often you should post on Twitter. Things move quickly there, and it’s easy to miss people’s tweets, so posting frequently will give you a better chance of being seen and heard. In fact, it’s expected. If you’re not interacting pretty much every day, people will lose interest.Also, Twitter is supposed to be for socializing, so keep your posts conversational – people get pissed if you’re salesy. If you write business-related tweets, do it some 20% of the time, and make your tweets as un-pushy as possible.
Because you want to tweet frequently, it’s fine to “push” your Facebook posts to Twitter (i.e., every comment you make on Facebook will show up on your Twitter account). However, it’s not a good idea to push your tweets to your Facebook page, because theoretically, you’ll have way too many posts. People get annoyed if you update your Facebook status 10 times a day – it’ll do you more
harm than good.
- Facebook. What you’re trying to do with Facebook is build a community around your brand. You want to start a conversation with your followers in the hopes that they’ll eventually use your page as a forum to talk about your company.To get the community started, about once a day, you can post thoughts, questions, polls, surveys, or anything that might get discussions started. If you can get to the point where you just monitor the page and chime in when questions are asked or problems arise, that’s ideal.
- Blogs. Blogs are a great place to promote yourself and your company. The blog is on your site, and readers are expecting you to write about yourself. So you can be a little more salesy here.You should blog regularly –at least once a month, and ideally once every two weeks. Once a week is great if you have the time and content.
Blogs can be used to answer FAQs, to talk about industry trends, or to announce new products, employees, or clients. Most importantly, blogs are great for letting your visitors and Google know that fresh content regularly appears on your site. If you have certain keyword phrases you’re going after, you can write entire articles about them, linking the phrases in the blog to the appropriate
pages on your site.
Pushing your blog articles to Facebook is a good idea. The content should be tied to the discussions on your Facebook page anyway, and the posts will sit on your page long enough to let multiple people see them. Pushing blog articles to Twitter is pretty much a waste of time –a one-time mention of a lengthy article will often be lost on Twitter users.
Overall, think of the different mediums as having different communication purposes. You can use Twitter and Facebook to interact with customers on a day-to-day basis, and then use your blog to talk less frequently, but more in depth, about issues that are important to them. With a good strategy in place and a little luck, you should soon have a strong following in each medium.
Does anyone surfing the web these days see a blue bird or a chubby aqua “T” and not think of Twitter?
Icons—pictorial representations of brands, products, or people—can be powerful tools to help you stand out in the cyber crowd.
A customized icon set—a group of similarly styled icons, much like a family of fonts—takes iconic branding to the next level by helping you:
- Differentiate one product, application, or blogger from another.
- Organize products into like groups—without sacrificing the consistent elements of your brand.
- Streamline the back-end functionality of your content management system, which makes it easier for staff to navigate and to train new staff on how to use it.
- Provide a consistent theme for graphic, product, app, and other designers to use for creating new icons.
Here at Atomic, my process for developing icon sets is pretty straightforward. It focuses on upfront preparation, which conserves your time, cuts down on costs, and ensures that we get the best results.
- Brainstorm. First, I’ll brainstorm with you to learn who and what the icon set is for. What message, position, feeling do you hope to convey? I might just listen to how you talk about your products or brand, take notes, and then jot down some ideas to see what creative concepts emerge.
- Research. Often, these early brainstorming sessions are augmented with additional research. I want to know what your competition is doing. I also like to check out how other sites use icon sets and to what effect.
- Sketch. Next, I’ll sketch out some more concrete ideas for you to review—including color schemes that bring the concepts to life. I’ll typically present ideas from a variety of different angles to see which ones you think work best for your goals. And I’ll provide my two cents to help you decide.
- Refine. Once I get more feedback, I can refine the sketches to create full, polished illustrations.
Soon enough, your customized icon set is ready to be deployed.
Now that’s iconic thinking for your brand and your business.
We’ve all heard about the dangers of social networking for kids and teens. Sometimes it seems like every day there’s another story about a predator who used MySpace or Facebook to connect with an unknowing youth.
But imagine that you had a special needs child. Someone who wanted to make friends online, but who was even more vulnerable to danger. How would you protect them?
That’s where Therapals.com comes in. Therapals is an online social community for children with special needs. Just like Facebook, Therapals lets children create online profiles where they can update their status, “friend” other people, comment on a friend’s status, and send messages or attachments.
The site is the brainchild of an Ohio-based occupational therapist who works with special needs children. She came to Atomic for help making her vision a reality. After listening to her ideas, we were able to design and build a 100% custom site using PHP, MySQL, and jQuery. Alexis Branham created the cheerful, user-friendly design, and I did the back-end coding. Like all our sites, we used standards-compliant code, and this site had a particular emphasis on accessibility.
In addition to providing a safe social networking space for children, the site has some unique features for parents and therapists:
- Update their child’s profile and help them find friends with similar interests
- Monitor all of their child’s activities via a custom activity log
- Approve or deny their child’s friend requests
- Set the system to insert “sensory breaks” at defined intervals – a break when the child needs to stop using the computer and perform a physical activity like hopping or skipping
- Communicate with parents of children on their caseload, and with other therapists around the country
- View, with parental permission, a child’s activities, such as how many sensory breaks they complete, who they talk to, and how much they write
- View a child’s status entries to check keyboarding skills, sentence composition, and social skills
Therapals.com had hundreds of hits on its first day. Now, just three weeks later, dozens of paid and free users are visiting the site to connect and share information.
We enjoy all of our projects, but this site has a special place in our hearts. We can’t wait to see it continue to grow.
Using social media channels is a great way to promote your business. But a lot of companies view social media only as a means to an end – as a way to push people to their own website.
From my perspective, these companies are missing a key point about social media: the fact that most people don’t want to be redirected. They’re on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube for a reason. They want to be entertained. To catch up on the news. To interact, comment, get in on the conversation.
With that in mind, smart companies are focusing less on getting people away from social media sites – and more on establishing a strong brand presence within them.
Here are some great ways to do that.
- Facebook. Facebook pages aren’t fully customizable, but they do have some strong features. You can create custom tabs on your Facebook page and sell things using PayPal. You can also create custom landing pages. If you search for “Starbucks” on FB, for example, you’ll go straight to their Starbucks Card tab, rather than their Wall. All of this customization is done using FBML, Facebook’s proprietary markup language.And although this isn’t exactly customization, some companies are using FB as a customer service portal. Look at the posts and comments on Best Buy’s page, for example. Best Buy is resolving customer complains within FB – not wasting time redirecting customers to its home page. What a great concept.
- Twitter. Like Facebook, Twitter also lets you customize your page to reflect your brand. Atomic’s Twitter page, for example, is decked out with our logo, contact information, and brand colors. We’ve also included with headshots of our staff and their Twitter handles.
- YouTube. YouTube allows for elaborate customization – look how Coca-Cola has designed its YouTube channel to reflect its current “Celebration” campaign. Dr Pepper hasn’t done quite as much work – its “I’m a doctor” campaign videos run on a standard Dr Pepper background. But still, the channel is customized. That means you don’t have to go to these companies’ websites to experience their brand; they’ve brought their brand to you.
Here at Atomic, we’ve been helping lots of companies take their website presence and apply it to social media sites. Ready to do the same?
A few months ago Atomic released SlickPlan, a web-based sitemap generator. We’ve had a great response, and several people have asked how we got so much traffic to the site so quickly.
I won’t give away all our secrets, but I will say that submitting the site to a number of directories was part of our strategy.
For those who don’t know, directories are websites that categorize and list other websites. Business.com, for example, lists business websites in categories such as accounting, construction, and healthcare. Submitting your website to directories helps build links to your site and increase your search rankings.
You can’t submit your site to any old directory, however, and expect to get results. There’s some strategy involved. Here the approach I took for SlickPlan. The same approach can work for you.
- Submit to niche directories. It’s better to submit your site to a directory that relates to your industry rather than a general directory like Yahoo’s. Doing so increases the chance of your site being accepted by the directory. And, niche directories have a more targeted readership, so you’re more likely to have qualified leads find your site and click over to it. We submitted SlickPlan to makeuseof.com and webappers.com, for example, both of which cater to web designers and developers.
- Submit to directories with a high Google page rank. Having your site in a highly-ranked directory increases your site’s page rank. It also means that the directory gets lots of visitors, which improves your chances of getting referrals. In addition, sites with a high page rank are generally better made and better respected than sites with a low rank. Being in those directories helps enhance your reputation as well.
- Include links to your site in the directory’s “description” field. Some directories don’t allow you to do this. But if you can sneak a link in, it provides readers with a quick, easy path to your site and helps your organic SEO.
Remember that it won’t help to submit your site to every directory under the sun; in this case, more really isn’t better. Take a targeted approach to directory submission, and you’ll get better results for less effort.
Is email marketing dead?
We recently saw a post on this topic, and it made us stop and think. If you can get Twitter and Facebook updates from your favorite companies, do you really need to get email from them too?
We put our thinking caps on, and we thunk awhile, and we decided . . . yes, yes, you do need email marketing!
- Email marketing reaches customers who haven’t jumped into social media. Plenty of boomers get email from their kids and shop online. But not all of them have started using Facebook, let alone Twitter. Email remains a useful way to stay in touch with them and let them know about sales and promotions.
- It’s a way to establish expertise. Many companies send out email newsletters just like this one on a regular basis. These newsletters aren’t pushing direct sales. Instead, they share information about topics that are important to your customers. This knowledge-sharing can help establish you as an expert in your field – whether you’re a catering firm writing about how to host a great event, or a golf pro offering weekly tips on improving your stroke.
- It’s a way to get the word out about sales and specials. It’s no big news that putting products on sale is one of the most effective calls to action available. That’s why mega-retailers like J. Crew and Land’s End have aggressive email marketing campaigns. Each company promotes a wide variety of sales throughout the year – sometimes it’s free shipping, sometimes it’s end-of-season discounts, sometimes percent discounts. But the sales are regular, and the emails announcing them can come weekly or even daily.
The rules of conduct governing email marketing are rigorous, and there’s no better way to ruin your reputation and get onto server blacklists than to violate them. But if you follow the rules, email can be a great part of your interactive marketing campaign.
Want to talk about your email strategy? Contact us today.
Stop the interweb presses! We’ve got some news!
Atomic has just released it’s first application. It’s called SlickPlan, and it’s a free tool that web developers can use to easily create great-looking sitemaps and flowcharts.
Q: Excuse me, you built an application? I thought you were web developers.
A: Well, of course we are. But often our clients need custom functionality or custom applications for their websites. We wanted to let everyone know we do that too.
Q: Really? You can do that?
A: Totally. Our own Dayton web design team handcrafted this application using PHP/MySQL and jQuery. We used Twitter to identify a qualified focus group that helped us to beta test the program. We released it about a month ago, and we’ve already got more than a thousand registered users.
Q: So you created this app for your customers?
A: Well, originally we created it for ourselves. We’re obsessive about project planning at Atomic – and the first step in planning every website is to create a sitemap. We found ourselves wasting a lot of time building sitemaps in InDesign or Illustrator. So we decided to create an app that could generate sitemaps more easily. That’s how SlickPlan was born.
Q: Is it just for web developers?
A: SlickPlan is great for web developers because they can use it to quickly build site maps, and then with a click of a button turn them into standards-compliant HTML. So that speeds development. It also speeds the review process because developers can send reviewers a URL directly from SlickPlan. Or, they can use SlickPlan to autogenerate a PDF, if that format is preferable.
But in answer to your question, SlickPlan is also great for anyone who needs to quickly and easily create a professional-looking flowchart or sitemap. Like you, for example.
A: Yeah, you. You look like you could use a little more organization in your life.
Q: < sigh…. >
We’ve been busier then usual lately ramping up for the release of our first public web application called SlickPlan. SlickPlan is a a free sitemap and flowchart generator built by the Dayton, Ohio website design team at Atomic.
SlickPlan’s overwhelming positive response has prompted us to give our friends a sneak peak at the design and user interface. Take a peak and let us know what you think.