Don’t squeeze the website.
“Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” should be required reading for everyone in advertising. We make everyone at The Next Wave read it. Of course, the fact that our Chief Creative Officer helped review and contribute to the chapter on digital in the 5th edition means it’s going to be on the reading list.
Luke Sullivan is one of superstars of Advertising who has won virtually every award there is in advertising. He now teaches at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) after working at agencies like Fallon (Where he mentored another one of our favorite people and former client Sally Hogshead), Martin, GSD&M. He’s featured in the book “The Copy Book” How 32 of the World’s Best Advertising Writers Write Their Advertising. He travels the world, getting paid big bucks to speak about how great advertising is done.
And, yes, we’re his go to guys when it comes to building a WordPress theme, organizing his content for optimal organic search, and teaching him how to do this Internet thing right (the professor is getting a C+ so far).
Yes, WordPress is powering about 25% of the world wide web these days, but, not everybody truly understands how to make it work for you. We’ve been teaching our www.websitetology.com seminar since Nov 3 2005 (we know because we have slides in the prezo still that were screen shots from the night before). It’s not enough to just have content online- it’s how you put it up, organize it, tag it, and make it useful to readers and therefore to Google. Websites also aren’t brochures, which is hard for some old school ad guys to wrap their heads around.
If you build your site correctly, it becomes a corporate information dashboard- where you can find out exactly what people are saying about you, how they found you, what they expect of you and even, why you are better than your competition.
If you are interested in how we do it, first read the book “Hey Whipple” then call us, the guys Hey Whipple used to craft his site.
“Everything old is new again” is the first thing that comes to mind when reading this story from Ad Age about Coca-Cola hiring an agency to do “social media monitoring.”
Coca-Cola North America has selected 360i to handle social-media monitoring for all of its brands.
The agency, owned by Dentsu Holdings USA, will be responsible for formulating a consistent way of keeping track of what consumers are saying across Twitter, Facebook and other channels. It will then report back to the company to yield insights into how to improve or tweak marketing, and determine consumer sentiment about specific products. Billion-dollar brands such as Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Minute Maid, Powerade, Vitaminwater and Dasani will be monitored.
“Coca-Cola North America is excited to scale our efforts in the social-listening space,” said Linda Cronin, Coca-Cola’s Integrated Communications Director. “While we have been conducting social listening for the past few years, we decided that now is the right time to step up our investment in the space.”
Coca-Cola North America launched the “listening review” earlier this year with the goal of identifying a consistent format for monitoring social media. “By consolidating our listening efforts through 360i we are able to ensure quality and consistency across our entire portfolio of brands,” Ms. Cronin said. “Social listening provides another important source of information so that we can best understand our consumers and their interests.”
via Coke Taps 360i to Handle Social-Media Monitoring | News – Advertising Age.
Back before the internet and Google, large companies would pay media clipping services to literally cut out articles from publications that referenced their company or products. Stay-at-home moms would get paid to take the scissors to daily papers, trade magazines, general interest magazines and organize the articles and send them to some poor person in PR who would dutifully fill out reports of monthly mentions and summarize the months media coverage.
Those days are gone, and now, the stay-at-home mom is a content creator, mommy blogger, and is actually creating the content and monetizing it with ads and even sponsorships. Walmart even has their own cadre of Mom-bloggers with their Mom’s know how site (in beta) pimping and reviewing the products that they sell in their stores.
Which brings us to question the whole concept of “social media monitoring”- social media isn’t something you delegate if you truly understand it. Social media is supposed to be an ongoing, 2 way conversation about your products and services with the people who use/consume them. Outsourcing this service is like disconnecting your ears from your mouth- and pretending to be in a conversation.
While huge brands like Coca-Cola obviously have a opportunity to become major players in the social media arena, the real question is what do they plan to do with all this information gleaned from their “monitoring” and how fast can they react?
Granted many large brands have made large stumbles in the social media space, of late, the epic #FAILs of Netflix come to mind, but the real key to social media is how do you want to engage not monitor.
As someone who monitors the moves of marketers in the social media space, this is just another example of a brand not understanding the social media space and how to integrate it into their corporate culture.
This isn’t tested research- just a gut feeling, but after watching several open source software projects grow or go bust- I believe there are some key factors in successful open source software projects- and they parallel marketing issues for other projects.
There are an overwhelming number of tasks for a software project to succeed, typically requiring a dedicated core team. This is the basis of open source- in that the core team can be as large as there is interest. A lot of people use or have need for your project- a lot of different people get involved. However- depending on the type of project you are working on- you may not get a good cross pollination of talent. Coding geeks often have narrow skill sets- that can leave some critical parts of the development process lagging.
I’m going to try to outline some key areas for you to consider:
After having struggled with installers for several open source projects, I can’t stress enough the need for a stress free install. One of the key WordPress early bragging lines was a 5 minute install process. Even after doing many installs of the early versions manually- I wouldn’t call it a five minute install process for the non-geek.
The inclusion of your open source project in a software installation script wizard early is key. This improves the likelihood of sampling, adoption and even awareness.
Some installation script packages are : Fantastico, Installatron, Softaculous, SimpleScripts.
Including data import tools from your main competition was also a brilliant strategy employed by WordPress – making it easy to import from other major platforms like TypePad and Blogger.
I’m also going to venture to say that worrying about installing on Windows or Mac servers should be a non-worry for open source projects- if you don’t run on Linux Apache MySQL PHP (LAMP) you aren’t an open source project.
It wasn’t until WordPress turned 2.5 or so that a User Experience design professional (or User Interface) was engaged by the core team- with usability being a key factor in the early success of WordPress- the dev team probably felt they had it covered. They didn’t.
The success of open source projects requires easy adoption- which means intuitive interfaces should probably be a key focus.
Too often, it’s code first- and worry about documentation later. Or let the users write the documentation for you in true open source fashion (FLOSS manuals come to mind) after you code and release. This may be the biggest failure point- unless your user community is so large- all answers are just a google search away.
Instead- consider the documentation the true road map of the project- starting with a manual outline may save your project a lot of problems because if it’s too hard to explain- it’s probably too hard to use. Clear goals and directives on where the project is going can make the going that much easier.
Think of Stephen Covey- “Start with where do you want to end up” and the path will seem that much clearer to all.
There are two schools of thought to release cycles- fast and furious, as soon as a new feature is ready- ship, and a more ordered process. While the fast and the furious may keep the geeks happy- it plays havoc with those involved in implementing and maintaining it in a business environment. Explaining to your boss why you had to update the software 6 times in one month can be a bit difficult. Only release serious bug/security patches like this.
Set a release schedule, with milestones and stick to it. Mature packages do this.
Adhering to industry standards is critical. If you don’t, you risk being marginalized. Take accessibility, microformats W3C standards seriously- and don’t mix open source with proprietary code (ever). Standards are the way to gain a solid foundation of functionality- no matter how dumb you think they are- they were set by a whole bunch of people and that’s what you need to be successful.
There are three areas where WordPress got it right- and then perfected it- and they got is by studying Mozilla.
- Updating– a one-click internal updating process will guarantee the largest number of updates and less compatibility issues. If it’s hard to update- you’ll be fighting a versioning compatibility hell. Mozilla doesn’t even give a choice anymore- the updates within a major release are mandatory.
- Extending– again, WordPress is a model of success. Both themes and plugins are maintained in a central repository with ratings, reviews, bug trackers, FAQs. If you hope to have a large community, you have to grant easy access to your user base.
- Customization of interface: While plugins and themes are great- and allow for infinite tweaking- the fine control of an interface using AJAX may be the ultimate brilliance. Users like easy- and reordering a UI via AJAX is the true WYSIWYG experience. I can’t think of any technology that makes me as a user happier in using software.
Of course, you’ve separated content from presentation, built in search functions, RSS feeds and paid heed to what makes Web 2.0 what it is.
The size of your installed base will only grow if you make it easy for them to connect and work together. If you don’t have a well moderated and managed forum you are doomed. Unanswered questions, spammers, and the same question asked over and over are good indications that your project isn’t on track for greatness.
It’s also impossible to move forward if you don’t have a good handle on what your user base wants.
None of this is done in a vacuum, and there is nothing wrong with empowering people to make a living with your product- enable some kind of rating system for your contributors as well as a donation system, reminding people that even small donations are key to keeping the project going.
Even if you don’t agree with an approach taken by a plugin developer- don’t ostracize them or their methodology- build bridges not walls, and look at the communities acceptance of their project. WordPress alienated a coder named Dr. Dave who had developed an open source Spam solution that competed with their own Akismet- eventually forcing his Spam Karma II plugin into deprecation.
While the project may be open source- and the software is free- you still need to make an effort to get your product name out and to let people evaluate it.
If you have created your product to replace something you feel is inferior- make sure you find some bloggers to do some comparison reviews. If you are in a brand new space- get some press coverage- and ask thought leaders to evaluate your business model. Google started out with a great service- but had no clue of how to make money until Bill Gross came along with his idea of sponsored search. Who will give you the impetus to get your strategy on track?
In most cases there are people already evaluating options in your field- make sure to reach out to them and get some press and ask for assistance to get the project seeded.
Your project website
I’ve been evaluating Customer Relationship Software (CRM) packages for a while- in fact, it’s what got me to write this post. The difference between packages- and what they do, is key to your business model and where the user first decides on if your project will be a viable option.
There are some critical things you must have in order to put your project on par with your competition:
A feature list- even a comparison to your competition. There are no secrets- if you don’t do it- someone else will. As a developer you should know who your competition is better than the others- and in Open Source- the idea is to create the best version possible- not ownership. Cooperation and integration with other projects should be the goal.
The SugarCRM vs vTigerCRM split is interesting- and why the two forks can’t work together more is embarrassing. One is targeted toward enterprise the other toward small business- there should be no need for acrimony.
The real competition are the closed source companies – that develop slick products that might lock a user experiencing great growth out of needed features. This is where we have to decide which platform makes sense as users- do we go with Salesforce because it’s a leader- or do we invest in an open source project because it will give us ownership of our business model?
Look at the closed source/proprietary software sites- you see an intro video on the home page, a clear feature set, support options, cost of ownership information, user testimonials and case studies, user forums, tutorials, documentation and even a blog- if you don’t have a site that answers questions about your project- you will end up relying on someone else who may not fully understand why your project exists.
If you want to see a comparison- look at the open source Ruby on Rails project- FatFreeCRM site- and then compare it to Highrise a commercial product based on the same technology. Of the open source sites- Feng Office may be one of the better front ends- simple, clean – not confusing. Compare it with the Magento site- which you’d almost not know was Open Source.
While Open Source software is free- there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to build a way to get paid into your model. Google makes a lot of money with a free service- there is no reason why your code expertise shouldn’t be able to support you. The current model seems to be offer a free unsupported code base and have a hosted, supported version in parallel.
While this may support a small core team- what about the rest of the contributors? Think about your project as an ecosystem that requires both user and developers and build a community support tool that will give your experts the ability to generate revenue from their work. After all- maintaining the pace of progress can have a toll.
I’ve yet to find a project that has built a system- for instance, WordPress has been through several rounds of venture capital and Automattic now owns a bunch of other properties- there should be some kind of revenue share for the most popular plugin package developers. They’ve done a good job of allowing premium theme and plugin developers into their hub- but, there are still people working for love on what has become a decent sized business.
Google and Amazon have both built in opportunities for the small guy with affiliate systems- this model should be integrated into any open source development project.
The structure of cooperative software design sites
While the developers can talk endlessly about the advantages of codebases like SVN, GitHub, SourceForge, Google Code etc as repositories for code in development, the real problem may be that what is needed is a CMS designed for software collaborative construction and deployment.
I’ve seen software communities use all kinds of tools for their own hawking of wares – Drupal, Joomla, are the ones I notice first- yet it seems there is still room for a dedicated package to handle all parts of a successful open source software project.
Learning how to do it right
One of the things I’ve been searching unsuccessfully for over the last 2 years is an institution of higher learning that is actively teaching how to build and manage open source business models. I’ve found lots of places willing to share their courses- led by MIT opencourseware there are more and more universities offering classes you can audit classes from your home- but, I’ve not found a collegiate program focused on this growing business model.
The University of Advancing Technologies has an “Open Source Technologies” program- but it doesn’t mention the business side of the equation in the description.
For Students looking on how to get involved in Open Source Projects- see this post: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2151999/how-to-get-started-in-developing-student-opensource-projects
If anyone has any information to share- please include it in the comments.
Here is a link to an academic paper I found when doing some research on this subject:Defining Open Source Software Project Success PDF
Found a short list on being successful with Open Source software: http://jwage.com/2011/02/28/tips-on-being-successful-in-open-source
A post about Open Source Business models- and a case for Open Source vs. Proprietary software: http://window.punkave.com/2010/09/16/open-source-business-models/
A kinda snide “Top 10 Reasons I won’t use your open source project”
An overly corporate post from Vmware on “Open Source Governance”- http://olex.openlogic.com/wazi/2009/create-an-open-source-governance-process/ Written in 2009- it has zero comments- but, the part about the code license checkers is interesting and a part I left out.
Check into this FAQ on Governance by FOSS Bazaar https://fossbazaar.org/openSourceGovernanceFundamentals
If you find others- again, please contribute in comments.
Will the number of followers on twitter, or your page rank turn you into a consumer protection force in the near future?
Will companies start being extra nice to those who have social media mojo?
We think it’s happening already- and wonder if ad budgets shouldn’t be slashed and diverted to “customer satisfaction” funds instead.
Peter Shankman is a micro-brand on his own. His Twitter account (skydiver) has 19,093 followers. He publishes the “Help a reporter out” e-mail blast which reaches pr pros across the country. He has a book on PR stunts, he has a blog. He’s web 2.0 connected and plugged in.
So when he tweets about a bad customer service experience from TiVo it gets 35 comments in a few hours.
What actually happened re:@tivo this morning thatI can’t fit into a tweet: http://tinyurl.com/8houvz – S O very displeased. Feel cheated.
It may have been seen by 15,000 people. If others have also had bad experiences, they would start piling up. Back in 2006, I watched this happen on a friends site- for a bad hard disk drive. I also watched Advertising Age’s Bob Garfield launch his rant “Comcast Must Die” after a horrible customer service experience.
No matter how big or small your ad budget is, refunding $29 makes more sense than feeding a web 2.0 PR bonfire.
Bottom line, TiVo can’t afford these kinds of mistakes to normal people, never mind someone with a posse.
Here are some pieces of Web 2.0 customer service advice:
- Always have a customer service ombudsman contact for your site that is monitored 24/7 to respond immediately to potential complaints.
- Have Google Alerts set up on your product and brand name.
- Respond on the “offending” site- within the comments asap- even if it’s a “We’re looking into this”
- Admit your own mistakes on your company blog- and make sure you give credit to the customer for pointing out where you screwed up so you won’t do it again. This was Dell’s solution to the Dell Hell scenario.
- Have a company twitter account- where your fans can follow your brand.
- Make sure you have support forums on your site that are moderated and useful. There is nothing worse than having customers going to other experts to solve problems with your products or service and having the competition recommended.
It wasn’t more than 8 hours before Peter had a response from TiVo. I don’t know if my e-mail to their Investor Relations department was part of the solution, but, in it- I said I didn’t think they really wanted to make a million dollar PR blunder over a $29 refund to a previously happy customer.
While many companies used to say “the customer is always right” we believe the new adage should be “the community is always right.” Offend one, and risk offending many.
Will having a huge network make you a one person consumer rights team? We’ll see soon enough.
Conventional traditional paid media is dying a quick death. The old discussion of targeting consumers and buying their attention in :30 second increments is over. Twitter may be the ultimate media for the attention deficit consumer who has suffered media overload for the last 30 years. When used correctly, you can make a million with 140 characters. You just have to follow the lead of the Dell Outlet:
Out next week, but wanna welcome all the new followers based on news Dell sold $1M thru Twitter. Happy Holidays to all!
Twitter / Dell Outlet: Out next week, but wanna w ….
Releasing deals, one at a time to opt-in followers created a new way of connecting intimately with people who want to buy their products. It’s that connection that is the secret sauce of new media marketing in a web 2.0 world.
Traditional conventional media depended on repetition with a twist to keep it interesting. How many versions of “Hi, I’m a Mac, Hi, I’m a PC” have there been? If we tweeted the same message over and over, we’d have no followers in no time.
Social media requires an opt-in relationship, meaning it’s only going to last as long as you keep providing value. Many companies talk about their “commitment to the customer” but- what they need to be evolving to is a “commitment to the community.” Defining and nurturing that relationship isn’t a part-time job to hand to the intern either- just see what happens when a relationship is done right: Robert Scoble (who started at Microsoft and grew a community that would stay with him instead of M$)
Obvious communities are Apple users, Harley riders and Oprah followers. But when you look at how Nike took the solitary sport of running and turned it into a global community with their Nike+ technology, you start to see that opportunities to build community abound.
Twitter is a way to tie your company into a community in real time. Not having to wait weeks to produce an ad and get it out into the marketplace can be a powerful tool to out-maneuver your competition.
There are a couple of posts about Twitter from Rohit Bhargava of the Influential Marketing Blog:
The 5 Stages Of Twitter Acceptance
Five Stages of Twitter Acceptance by Rohit Bhargava
Influential Marketing Blog: The 5 Stages Of Twitter Acceptance.
(I’ve copied the image text into the alt text so that this searches properly and is accessible- click on the image to get his 5 stages in computer readable format.
His other post:
9 Ways To Make Twitter More Useful For You
Influential Marketing Blog: 9 Ways To Make Twitter More Useful For You.
Is well worth reading as well. The 9 ways- without their full descriptions to tease you to click on the link:
- Listen to conversations in real time.
- Track emotion moments.
- Get link love.
- Reach unreachable people.
- See what’s popular/important
- Introduce more people to your personal brand
- Get quick answers.
- Optimize your event attendance.
- Read instant feedback.
There are more ways in the comments, including: build relationships with leaders in your field, track customers and competitors, but, most importantly- connect with a community.
Here is the final word on why Twitter is neither a marketing shotgun or rifle- those analogies are just as dead as the idea of conquering customers in a war for market share. You don’t buy market share, you don’t win it- you earn it, by building relationships with real people, one-on-one, in real time.
If you want to follow my thoughts on marketing- long and short, you can follow me at http://twitter.com/thenextwave.
At what lengths will an agency go to spend a clients hard earned money. If you are Crispin Porter + Bogusky, to Greenland, Thailand and other far away places to make a spot called “Whopper Virgins.” The concept is brilliant- do the ultimate blind taste test, find people who’ve never eaten a hamburger, and may not even know the difference between McDonalds and Burger King.
So far so good. But then after a very expensive shoot, and a brilliant, entertaining short documentary, you fail to let the world find the site online as discussed in Ad Age:
…Whopper Virgins, its latest endeavor, may be the best yet… if you can find it.
The Whopper Virgins experience begins with a TV commercial with a brief teaser that directs you to WhopperVirgins.com. … it’s running heavily during weekend football games. Go to the site and you’re treated to a video of Burger King running a Whopper vs. Big Mac taste test with people in Romania, Thailand and Greenland who have never eaten a hamburger before. It’s poignant and amusing, if you can tolerate the implicit ethnocentrism.
What if you don’t remember the exact Web address and Google it? You still better remember the domain name. While whopperVirgins.com ranks first in Google for “whopper virgins,” it’s invisible when you omit the plural.
There are three areas of neglect here:
* The domain: WhopperVirgin.com is a parked domain filled with ads for Burger King store listings, Virgin Mobile gifts, Virgin Atlantic flights, Virgin Islands vacations and Virgin Mary checks.
* Search engine optimization: The microsite doesn’t appear on the first three pages of Google results for “whopper virgin” searches.
* Paid search: While reviewing Google’s listings over several days, there hasn’t been a search ad running on “whopper virgin” queries.
This is a major missed opportunity. Google Trends shows that recently, the volume of searches for the singular and plural versions have been nearly equal. “Whopper virgin” searchers must either go to an intermediary site or refine their search. Why can’t consumers ‘have it their way’ and get to Burger King’s site even if they’re off by a letter? This multimillion-dollar branding campaign could have covered all its bases with a $10,000 search marketing investment. As it stands now, Burger King risks frustrating consumers instead of serving up one whopper of a video.
Burger King’s Whopper of a Virginal Search Slip-up – Advertising Age – DigitalNext.
We’ve been preaching the same thing, ever since Crispin did the expensive “Manthem” spot. In fact, most ad agency sites are just as oblivious to both search and accessibility. Both of which should be critical to any client and their budget.
Before you approve a large web budget, you should first, try to google your agency. Go to www.google.com and type in: site:youragencyurl.tld like site:thenextwave.biz
If they don’t have more total results than we do, start wondering (especially if there are more than 2 commas in your budget). We’re happy to evaluate digital strategy for any one who is about to spend a gazillion dollars on an online based campaign like Whopper Virgins.
In case you want to see it- try it right here, instead of going to the site that does nothing for search.
update- 2017- here’s the video from the flash site