Unless Your Last Name Is Zuckerberg…

A few weeks ago news outlets and blogs were up-in-arms over an experiment Facebook performed without telling everyone they were doing it. The Telegraph reported, “Facebook altered the tone of the users’ news feed to highlight either positive or negative posts from their friends, which were seen on their news feed. They then monitored the users’ response, to see whether their friends’ attitude had an impact on their own.” If you are a Facebook user you agreed, when you signed up to use this free service, to terms that give permission to Facebook to do things like this.

I’m always amazed at how many people scream and seem so surprised, offended and violated by something like this. The bottom line is that unless your name is Mark Zuckerberg then you have very little privacy when using his free service. And I do think the key word is free. I don’t own Facebook, I don’t even rent Facebook – they let me use their service, software, platform, servers and technology at no charge.

If you don’t like Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+) knowing your business then don’t use the service. If you don’t want friends, family, co-workers and the rest of the world knowing your business either learn to use the privacy settings social media services provide or don’t use social media.

I have been involved with providing interviews to the media over the years. There is one thing that I learned early on and that is that NOTHING IS EVER off-the-record. You can apply that same philosophy to your online activity – very rarely is your online activity every totally private.

Unless you are paying for a service or have established a business relationship with an online organization you really can’t get too upset with how they handle your information.

If you don’t want social media services to experiment on you and your information here’s what you can do.

  1. Don’t use social media
  2. Become Amish

So what do you think?

And in the immortal words of Daryl Hall and John Oates, “Private Eyes – they’re watching you…”

 

 

 

Is Your Mobile Email Marketing Campaign Doomed To Fail?

This post comes compliments of my friends at Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing – enjoy!

Mobile email marketing is growing in tandem with overall use of smart phones and tablets for accessing the web and as a result you need to develop a mobile email strategy that integrates completely with your entire online sales and content funnel.

According to statistics compiled by email management company Reachmail, more than 40% of all emails are opened via mobile device and among some demographics (such as those in their 20’s and 30’s) the number goes even higher. The obvious takeaway from this is that you need to use mobile email marketing and make sure you handle it in a way that succeeds with maximum conversions and sales boosts.

Luckily, there’s this extremely informative infographic from Reachmail to guide you through the fundamental mistakes many mobile email campaigns make and how to avoid them. Let’s summarize their 7 key points:

1. Don’t Procrastinate on Total Mobile Integration

You might have optimized your website for mobile viewing but left your emails readable only on desktop devices or vice versa. This is a big mistake. An effective mobile email campaign is only as good as its weakest link and getting the most of it requires that every segment of your email marketing channel be optimized for mobile device use.

Understand that 7 out of 10 mobile users in the U.S use their phones for sending and opening emails and 4 out of 5 viewers will quickly stop browsing a website that isn’t smart phone friendly. Thus, you need to make sure that not only your email messages are mobile optimized but also all of the content they lead to. You get only one chance to impress, because 97% of readers will bother reopening from their desktop an email that they first tried to access via their smart phone.

2. Don’t Forget to Scale your Emails Correctly

Remember that the average screen width of most mobile devices ranges between 250 to 480 pixels and that 7 out of 10 Americans also happen to use corrective lenses for reading. This means that they won’t like your content if it’s designed for 900 to 1000+ pixel screen sizes!

Make sure that your email and content layout as well as text are optimized for easy reading on screens between at least 360 and 480 pixels. Failing to do so could make yours one of those emails that some 70% of readers immediately delete when they can’t read its content.

3. Don’t Plan your Email Send-outs

A mass mailing that you send out to your mobile users at 2 am on a weekend night won’t get seen any time soon after and later it will be completely buried under a bunch of other spam and personal messages. This means dropping conversions and clicks.

Avoid this problem by carefully planning your mailing campaigns so that they get sent out at the ideal mobile mail browsing times. These are between 10 am and 1 pm and then between 4 and 6 pm. Having your message seen within one hour of when you sent it will make it much more likely to get read.

4. Don’t forget about Demographic Segmentation

Many successful email marketers consider this to be one of the most crucial components to successful mobile email marketing. What we’re talking about is list segmentation by audience type and demographic.

Get to know your different types of viewers and adjust your email content according to each group’s habits.

5. Don’t Optimize for Just one Platform

46% of mobile users access their email from their iPhone, but that also means that 54% more do the same from Android devices, tablets and Windows phones! Keeping your conversion rates high absolutely depends on making your mailings readable on all of these different device types.

When you’re setting up your mobile email and content material, make sure that you test it on several different platform types and stick to best practices such as:

  • Keeping your content short and simple
  • Double checking everything for readability
  • Sticking to text and simple layout as much as possible
  • Staying away from clutter such as Flash, Java and memory heavy interactivity

6. Don’t Keep your Call-to-action Hidden

Your email messages and content based call-to-action is the single most important part of your entire email marketing campaign and making viewers play hide n’ seek to find it will only lead to dropping sales and decreasing conversions. Bear in mind that 61% of readers will navigate away from a mobile site that doesn’t get to the point quickly.

Instead, proudly display your call-to-action and display it after a minimal amount of scrolling or reader clicking.

7. Don’t Make Purchasing into a Maze

Just as is the case with your call-to-action, your purchasing process needs to be as obvious and easy to navigate as possible, and especially when it comes to mobile user screens.

Burying your buying mechanism in too much content, too many clicks and too much navigation will only lose you conversions and sales.

Instead, design a purchasing interface that’s extremely easy to use on a smart phone and link your email content directly to your product buying pages.

Doing this and all of the above is crucial not only to creating a successful mobile email campaign but also to creating an excellent customer experience overall.

Reachmail Infographic

Don’t Just Talk About Engagement – DO IT!

It’s not often that I rant but I can’t hold this one any longer.

Over the past couple of weeks I have seen several blog posts about engaging. Advice and recommendations have included:

  • If someone mentions you in a tweet respond
  • If someone sends you a direct message respond
  • If someone sends you an email respond
  • If someone tags you in a Facebook or Instagram post respond

And the the list goes on.

Here’s the deal – if you talk about engagement then do it! I took some of these engagement evangelists at their word and sent them a quick message to see if they practiced what they were preaching. In some cases I was sincerely interested in what they had to say or had a real question that I was wanting answered. The large majority (90+ percent) of those I reached out too did not respond in any way.

If you have a blog, if you tweet, if you post on Facebook or LinkedIn, if you are Instagramming, G+ing or if you have a presence anywhere else online you need to be ready to engage.

And if you are talking about engagement that means you should absolutely be ready to respond. In my “testing” I was amazed at the number of people who I followed on Twitter who sent me Direct Messages asking me a question but who didn’t follow me back so that I could actually answer their question. Don’t ask me a question if you don’t want an answer or if its just meant to make me click on a link that just shoves more “stuff” at me.

So, before you talk about engagement just be sure you are ready to actually do it.

What do you think?

 

My 3 Words: 70 Days Into the New Year

Several years ago I started following Chris Brogan. At the beginning of each new year he encourages his readers/listeners to choose three words to focus on over the course of the next year. For some reason this was the year Chris’ encouragement sunk in and as 2013 ended and the sun rose on January 1, 2014 I contemplated three words I would focus on over the next 365 days. 

The three words I chose were: intentional, bold and generous.

During the first few weeks of the new year I thought about the areas of my life these three words could be applied  - spiritually, emotionally, physically. I thought about how to apply them to my relationship with family, the team I lead at work and my health. I went a little deeper and thought about the “why” behind each of these words and the areas of my life I would apply them too.

So, I had come up with the three words but it wasn’t until after listening to a Chris Locurto podcast that the scales tipped and I put things into motion. On this particular podcast Chris was interviewing Rory Vaden and talked about Rory’s book Take The Stairs. I immediately downloaded the book and consumed it within a few days. This was the fuel I needed to push forward.

My health was first up because it impacts every other area of my life. Because I’m a reader and information addict I started identifying resources and tools that would help me achieve my health goals. I’m also competitive so I joined a couple of challenges to gamify my efforts including a citywide challenge – LoseToWinSTL.

My current Top 5 list of health and fitness blogs and podcasts :

Then I tracked down some tech tools and equipment to help me along the way:

  • FitBit is a bracelet that tracks my daily activity, including sleeping if I want. It syncs with my iPhone and I can also connect with others in the St. Louis area who are using FitBit so it adds a bit of competition to the equation.
  • MyFitnessPal is one of the best apps to track what you are eating along with your exercise (it syncs with FitBit) and your progress.

After 70 days I have lost more than 30 pounds, brought my cholesterol to normal (at least according to traditional medicine) standards and lowered my blood pressure to a normal, healthy state. My energy and mental focus has increased significantly. And although there have been challenges thrown in front of me – sickness, injury, stress – I haven’t let those things keep me back – I’m still climbing the stairs.

The journey continues. 

Smart Brands Tell The Best Stories

Seth Godin says, “Great marketers don’t make stuff. They make meaning.”

Image courtesy of http://video-commerce.org

Image courtesy of http://video-commerce.org

It doesn’t matter if we are selling a product or service, promoting a service or brand…if we aren’t telling a meaningful story about who we are and what we do we shouldn’t plan on having a long relationship with our customers or constituents.

There’s a good piece on The Content Strategist that does a great job unpacking this entire idea. Here’s a snip from the article:

You’ve probably heard the big commandment of content marketing: Don’t talk about the brand. If you do, the theory goes, you’ll drive consumers away. After all, they want to read about the things they love, not about you.

But what about the people who are interested in your brand? What about the investors and potential investors? What about the employees and vendors with a stake in your success? Or, for that matter, what about the super-users who just can’t get enough? Shouldn’t you talk about the brand to them?

The answer, undoubtedly, is yes.

Do you think there’s a balance to how much you talk about your brand? Is there a line that you need to be aware of?

Role Models, Mentors & YOU

A long time ago I realized I didn’t have all of the answers. Its not that I didn’t try to have them all or at least give the impression that I had them all.

My Unique Voice

Image courtesy of http://singfreely.com/blog/919979-you-have-a-unique-voice-that-we-all-want-to-hear/

This realization led me to looking to others who knew more than me. I found  role models and mentors through books, in the organizations I was a part of and in my own family.

Early on I wanted to be just like those I looked up too. And I do mean “just like them” – I practiced talking like them, wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music, doing my hair like them, watching the same movies and multiple other things. My aspirations became what I saw them succeed at.

None of this was wrong, by seeing how other people “do it” we learn how to “do it”.

Where I missed out though was in developing my own voice. Because I wanted, so much, to be like those I looked up too I spent a lot of time and energy on imitating and becoming a copy. I should have spent that time and energy on discovering my unique gifts, talents and voice.

If we are to grow and mature we must have role models and mentors. Its essential for us to have those in our life that help us push forward, stretch and go beyond what we thought we could. A good role model and mentor helps you discover your uniqueness and equips you to speak with your voice.

Have you discovered your own unique voice? How did you do it?

 

 

Authentic In Mission Is a Magnet

People are attracted to others who are authentic – who are the real deal. That same attraction also carries over to brands and organizations that are authentic. When an organization is authentic to their mission others will be attracted to it.

Authentic: Mission

Why do you do what you do? Are you trying to be all things to all people or are you focused on delivering a specific product or service and experience to a specific group? There is an energy that is generated, when we stay true to our mission, that attracts others. When people see us and our organization passionately focused on a specific mission they want to be a part of it.

Staying true to mission drives every part of our organization from product development to hiring people to establishing processes. If you have ever been to a Whole Foods Market you know that everything they do and everyone who works there is committed to their mission. The culture of Whole Foods is soaked with their mission.

If an organization isn’t authentic and true to their mission and purpose their employees, customers and supporters will see it. When this happens trust begins to erode and eventually that shows up through lack of sales and financial engagement leading to the mission and purpose not being fulfilled.

What examples of brand and organizational authenticity have you seen?

 

Customer Experience: How Do You See Your Customers?

At a time when almost every product and service has become a commodity what is that ensures your customers will be loyal to you and your business?

  • Is it the quality of your product? Sometimes, but not all the time.
  • Is it your price? Sometimes, but not all the time – think $5.00 cups of coffee.
  • Is it convenience? Sometimes, but not all the time – think Magic Kingdom (unless you live in Orlando).

Customer loyalty is built on customer experience. What kind of experience do we provide when someone walks through our doors? What kind of experience do our customers have when we answer the phone or respond to an email or tweet?

Do the experiences we create fascinate or frustrate? Are we thrilled someone has chosen to connect with our organization or has the person we need to respond to interrupted our day?

One of my all-time favorite examples of a company that takes pleasure in serving their customers is Chick Fil A. It’s their pleasure because it’s their pleasure from the CEO to the part-time high school student on the front line. Each employee at Chick Fil A is trained to view each person who walks through the doors as an individual with a unique story.

What type of experience are you creating? Is it one that will keep your customers coming back again and again? Is it one that will turn your customers into evangelists for your business?

Its Never Not Our Department

 

not my job

Image Credit: http://bottomlineideas.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/make-sure-the-left-hand-knows-what-the-right-hand-is-doing/

  • Our desk may not be located in the lobby but its our job to make sure the first impression is amazing.
  • Our desk may not reside in the finance department but its our job to be good stewards of our organizations resources.
  • Our desk may not sit in the HR department but its our job to build teams through strong relationships.
  • Our desk may not be located in the customer service department but every customer or potential customer is our responsibility.
  • Our desk may not be located in the bathroom or the break room but its our job to pick up the paper towel off of the floor and empty our lunch container, aka science experiment gone bad, out of the refrigerator.

Our department and our responsibility is wherever and whenever we find ourselves.

Email Me Maybe

Today I received my first email from a company that I signed up to receive emails from more than two years ago. What??

Not only was it their first communication to me after two years but they were asking me to help them – really? They asked me to vote for them in a contest that would help them win a grant for their small business. I’m all about helping but I’d at least like to cast my vote and help out someone that I know something about or have kind of relationship with.

If someone gives you their email address they are raising their hand and saying, to some extent, they like you and would like to hear from you. Even though they just met you, they’ve given you something personal – their email address. It’s up to you to take that and begin to cultivate the relationship, engage with them – talk to them.

Reach our to your new subscribers with a simple welcome message campaign immediately after they opt-in. I have found success with welcome campaigns that contain three separate emails that are sent out over a seven week period. Here’s an idea of the some the content I’ve used in each of the emails.

Image courtesy of webseoanalytics.com

First email sent immediately upon opting in: Thank you for signing up and we are glad you have joined, stating our privacy policy to instill trust in our subscribers and then outlining how often to expect emails from us so that they know we won’t take advantage of the email.

Second email: Sharing the story of our organization to connect with people on emotional level and emphasizing the experience they had or will have when they interact with our brand.

Third email: Inviting our subscribers to connect with us through our social media connection points and then providing them with a coupon to shop with us.

Don’t miss the opportunity to make a great first impression with your first email.

What’s your standard practice when someone subscribes to your email list?