Friday, April 19, 2013

Why you Should Consider Adding Google Plus Comments

Sharing is important. Interaction is our business. Commentary is a big part of this.

As such I've always rather liked the concept of Disqus (though it never really seemed to catch on) and the likes of JetPack that extended the experience and attempted to tie commentary and the social world together.

Recently, since Facebook produced Facebook Comments (all be it a bit fiddly to set-up - here's a decent FB Comments Wordpress plugin if you need it), the landscape of commentary has become irrevocably skewed towards social integration. For community management, this is great news.

Yesterday, somewhat inevitably, Google+ flopped out Google+ Comments.

Put simply, when folks comment on your content it's also shared on Google Plus. This works both ways, and if a visitor shares your stuff on G+ it'll also appear on your content, and if a dialogue then ensues it's there on G+ and your site/blog for all to see. Pretty simple, right?

This is a piece of cake to turn on in Blogger - in fact, next time you log in you'll probably be promoted to do so - and flawlessly connects your blog (or website) to the wider Google+ platform.

While it's not official, there's already a Google+ Comments plugin for Wordpress that seems to do the job for this - I've no doubt there'll be more to follow.

So why do you want this?

Cos this is some serious gourmet shit.

Social Signals - essentially, the human component in modern SEO. The more shares, +1's, and activity within Google Plus, the more Google is likely to favour you in it's 'organic' search results. Every comment now has the potential to be a share in G+. Every share in G+ is a social signal, and (if you're all set-up properly) a boost to your AuthorRank as well.

The jury is still out on just HOW effective this will be, but with Google doing more and more to integrate G+ and the likes of AurthorRank into the SEO mix, this can't be ignored. Getting closer to giving us a self contained web experience within the G+ walled garden, Google Plus Comments is just yet another string to SEO's bow in the pursuit of preferential rankings.

Add it today. It's early days, but it seriously can't hurt.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to Automatically Post Content to LinkedIn and Google+

Sometimes clients ask for things that you recommend they don't do, and still want it done anyway. One of the big things I come across is auto-posting of blog content.

Posting like this to Facebook, due to EdgeRank, is totally pointless - your content will never get seen as Mr. Zuckerberg and co. will see any third party app. (an external tool or internal Facebook Page add-on) as spammy (like the Poker apps of old) and devalue your posts accordingly. Automation in Facebook means your content is 80% less likely to be seen by your audience. Don't do it.

For some channels (like LinkedIn and Google Plus) it can be done, but the channels themselves don't offer it as a service and (certainly in Googles case) they seem to actively discorage it.

Personally I think all social media posts should be individually crafted for the best results. This should be done 'by the channel', with sympathy to the audience and client goals, and should offer your followers the best experience possible. Yes this is time consuming, but results always are.

Automation for business rarely works well.

Sometimes, however, the client just wants it posted when they publish and to the devil with the consequences. It's not rocket science to fudge this using an RSS feed, but to me this feels almost like grey-hat tactics. In reality, the client pays the mortgage and you can only preach about best practices for so long. This had to be done, so I had to find a simple way to make it happen. If you ever need to do this, here goes.

First set-up a new Hootsuite account for your client. I'm a big fan of Hootsuite. I've written before about creating custom search code for Twitter etc., and once you delve under the hood there's a wealth of good stuff we can turn to our advantage.

Next, on the start screen, click on the option in text at the bottom that says 'Add A Different Social Network'. If you're already logged into an existing account click the button that says '+ Add Social Network', under your list of streams. You'll then get the pop-up, below.

On the left you'll see a list of options - including Google+ and LinkedIn (this process works the same for both, so let's do LinkedIn as an example).

Click on the LinkedIn option, and you'll see the 'Connect to LinkedIn' dialogue.

You'll need to be logged in to your LinkedIn or Google+ accounts already to save any messing about. If you are, Hootsuite will sift through the Pages you belong to and those you Admin. It'll then give you the option to pick one.

Just select the Page you want to post to and click 'Finish Importing' down there on the bottom right.

The next step is to connect an RSS feed. If you have trouble finding the feed there's a good little 'how to', here. If you want to get an RSS feed from your Twitter, I wrote a post about that recently (and that has a whole extra level of potential).

Anyway, just nip back to the main interface (the 'dashboard') in Hootsuite and click on the cog symbol ('settings') over on the left. Then choose 'RSS/Atom'.

Next click on the '+' icon next to the 'My RSS/Atom Feeds' drop down (when you roll over it it says 'Add New Feed').

A box will pop-up with all the fields you need to import your feed and set up protocols. It's pretty self explanatory. Just add the RSS URL at the top, then click in the box that says 'Network to send feed items to' and attach your channel (double check it's the right one, those social channel icons are tiny).

You can leave the scheduling stuff, unless you have specific requirements, but it's good to put something in the 'Prepend text to each message' box to say it's yours and from your blog or whatever. Above I'm just using our agency as an example, I'd NEVER do this for channels I personally manage.

Press 'Save Feed' (bottom right), and Bob's your Uncle.

Remarkably painless, once you figure it out. I still maintain there's no substitute for manually crafting posts, as many of these will be truncated and won't have any call to action or other useful stuff, but if you have to do this I can testify it works.

I feel slightly dirty. I'm going for a shower...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

4 Pieces of Advice for Starting out in Digital Marketing

My Dad gave me 4 pieces of advice when I was young. If you know my Dad you'd know he's a bit 'special', all be it in an awesome way. They were as follows:
  • Never fall in love from behind.
  • Don't set fire to yourself.
  • Never play cards with a man who has the same first name as a city.
  • Never drop a baby boy on his head...
I rest my case.

I was thinking about this the other day, having just narrowly avoided setting fire to myself, and I thought about applying this to what I do and wondered what 4 pieces of trite advice I'd give to younger folks setting out into the work in on-line marketing. I have no offspring of my own, which is a plus for humanity, so here we go:

“The more difficult something is, the more rewarding it is in the end.”

1) Go Back to Basics
The brand is the core of everything... 90% of the old pillars of marketing still work in the digital realm, though admittedly with a twist or two. Simple branding is the core of all businesses. B2B, B2C, big, small, whatever. Just because we work in digital doesn't mean this is something we can ignore. If you want the edge in what's now a growing and competitive area, you need a proper brand strategy (more than you need air).

Your brand is your promise to your customer, and your internal and external guidelines for communication. It's what sets you apart from the competition, and it's what tells your clients what they can expect from your and why they should trust you to provide the goods and services they need in exchange for their hard earned dollars.

Every damn thing you do comes from your brand strategy. Without it you can't even identify the key messages you'll be communicating about the product or service. Your voice, your distribution channels, what images you use, your motivations, where you concentrate your efforts, how you word your content, the lot. Frankly, you can't do an effective job without having a strong foundation to build on, and that means being comfortable with how we do the basics.

2) Remember you Know Jack, and Shit (and Jack left town).
Marketing is an agile process, or should be. Looking at the figures will give you insight.

Never presume you know how the target demographic will react. Make sure everything is measurable, and keep measuring it to see if it works. If it works, why? If it doesn't work, fiddle with it or scrap it.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them when you do. Get a bit nerdy about numbers, but don't let it stifle your creativity.

3) Be Bloody Amazing
Boring is, well, boring.

The best people I know (at what we do) have a drive to learn all the time. They are a little bit obsessed, at the exclusion of a lot of other things, about using what they know and about leaning more.

They are polymaths. They have a myriad of interests, skills, and obsessions. They suck up information like a Dyson does dust bunnies. They read industry blogs and feeds. They tweet, and listen to industry influencers. They write, and force themselves to learn as they do. They experience life by going to conferences and talking to other like-minded peeps. They travel, or go to the theatre, they go on courses or to conferences, or love cinema, or create in virtual worlds. They produce video, or audio, or write, or mentor. They seek the opinion of others and amalgamate ideas into something greater than the sum of it's parts.

Truly dynamic people, who stimulate debate, and action, and put IN to the Internet (we still spell that with a capital 'I', right?) have the ideas - and for many of us this doesn't come naturally. These are the people who are more than just consumers of other peoples data. They pro-actively contribute, and learn in the process. You have to work at it at first, but once you start the ball carries on rolling.

4) Get Sign-off From the Client
I've worked in agencies, or for organisations with multiple stakeholders, for most of my working life. I've learnt this one from my own folly and from watching the folly of others. I'm serious here.

Get them to sign the initial contract. The design doc. The brand messaging doc. The keyword research. The marketing plan. Every damn thing where a decision is involved that will impact the final result. Most importantly, get them to sign to say the work is finished (based on the original brief they signed to commit to a pre-defined conclusion). No surprises, for all parties.

If it's all signed off it doesn't come back and bite you in the ass, and also avoids feature creep. Remember: If it's signed-off, feature creep turns into up-sell.

Trust me on this last one. In fact, get it as a tattoo.

So there you go. I've been working with a few bright sparks from Agency Life at Manchester Uni. recently, who might find this amusing. Yes, it's all pretty obvious and pretty basic, but so was my dads original advice (which has always stood me in good stead).

Oh, and find a really bloody good accountant...