Next Digital Breakfast with Google

We have the first video up from the Get Digital breakfast with Google.

Yuri Narciss, Head of Technology Industry Sales talks Innovation.

The event was held on Thursday 12 March 2008.

This is Part 1 of 4.

Slides will be coming soon.

AFL v NRL 2009 season launch ads

NRL has started and is now in round 2, and the AFL is about to kick off. What better way than to show case both season launch ads. Now I’m not an AFL fan, other than a Sydney Swans supporter by virtue of being from Sydney. However, I do  think that the AFL ad is better. C’mon NRL, step yo game up!

 

AFL Season Launch Ad 


 

NRL Season Launch Ad 


 

I’m out like the offseason, 

Matthew Ho

Creative Lego ads – brings back childhood memories!

I love lego. I used to love the big lego exhibitions in the city, which my parents used to take me to as a kid. You would see  these crazy lego sculptures and wonder how people made them (and how they were held together!)

And these ads are so clever! Some of them are very simple but so witty and funny. Minimalist is the key.

LEGO – TANK

legoad-tank1

 

LEGO – ALICIA KEYS

legoad-alicia-keys

For more check out here. It’s worth it, trust me!

I’m out like lego exhibitions,

Matthew Ho.

p.s. someone bring them back!

Call to legislate internet privacy and Google’s new interest based advertising

After my Advertising and marketing meets Johnny Law post, two interesting things have emerged on internet privacy. Check out the news from the NY times blog and the Google public policy blog (one of my favourite blogs to read).

I’ve copied some of the more pertinent parts of the article below. 

——————-

Call to Legislate Internet Privacy

The debate on Internet privacy has begun in Congress.

Rick Boucher
Phil McCarten/Reuters
Representative Rick Boucher

I had a chance to sit down recently with Representative Rick Boucher, the long-serving Virginia Democrat, who has just replaced Ed Markey, the Democrat from Massachusetts, as the chairman of the House Subcommittee looking after telecommunications, technology and the Internet. Mr. Boucher is widely regarded as one of the most technologically savvy members of Congress……..

But high on his list is a topic that is very much under his discretion: passing a bill to regulate the privacy of Internet users.

“Internet users should be able to know what information is collected about them and have the opportunity to opt out,” he said.

While he hasn’t written the bill yet, Mr. Boucher said that he, working with Representative Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who is the ranking minority member on the subcommittee, wants to require Web sites to disclose how they collect and use data, and give users the option to opt out of any data collection. That’s not a big change from what happens now, at least on most big sites.

But in what could be a big change from current practice, Mr. Boucher wants sites to get explicit permission from users — an “opt in” — if they are going to share information with other companies.

“I think that strikes the right balance,” he said. “Web site operators are very concerned that if they have an opt-in regime for the internal marketing of the Web site themselves it would be very disruptive. The default position of most Internet users will be not to check any boxes at all. It is a very different matter if the site takes the information and sells it to gain revenue.”

I spoke to Mr. Boucher on the day that Google announced its new plan to track data about customers for advertising. And I asked him about such behavioral targeting, which presents an ad based on what you did on other sites.

For the rest of it here

——————–

Google’s announcement on interest based advertising


 Check out this article on Google’s new privacy controls here and Google’s take on it via their public policy blog. This is exactly the point I was making in my post about relevancy of advertising v privacy of information:

“In her post to the Official Google Blog this morning, Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management, announced that we are making interest-based advertising available in beta for our AdSense partner sites and YouTube. Interest-based advertising uses information about the web pages people visit to make the online ads they see more relevant. Relevant advertising, in turn, has fueled the content, products and services available on the Internet today.

Providing such advertising has proven to be a challenging policy issue for advertisers, publishers, internet companies and regulators over the last decade. On the one hand, well-tailored ads benefit consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike. On the other hand, the industry has long struggled with how to deliver relevant ads while respecting users’ privacy.”

 

I will discuss it in more detail when I get my head around all this information. 

When advertising & marketing meets Johnny Law

Last night I watched American Gangster (again!) featuring Denzel Washington, one of my favourite actors. I’ve seen it before when I was visiting New York in a Times Square movie theatre. Denzel, uses the “johnny law” phrase a few times when talking about paying off “Johnny Law” i.e. paying cops to turn a blind eye to his nefarious activities.

I’ve always been curious about technology and the law. And now more so. Technology is an evolving beast, where the business models are constantly changing and new competitors, trends, viral campaigns emerge overnight. Whilst the law is seen as conservative, slow to adapt, and very traditional. Generalisations yes, but ask any lawyer or laymen and they’ll agree with these perceptions. Evidently, these two are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The law seeks to maintain order and protect society, yet also to enable the creation of new ideas and businesses. The internet is disruptive, fast moving, changing and global in its reach. Law is often seen as jursidictional, often applying to only member states (i.e on country by country basis) unless treaties are ratified by Member states.

On Wednesday morning, I attended an Advertising and Marketing law CLE. What is a CLE? It means “continuing legal education”. For those that are unaware, I’m still a qualified lawyer (amongst other things) and to maintain your status as a lawyer, you need undertake ongoing education. It might involve some lectures, preparing presenting a lecture, or watching some videos.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this lecture but went with an open mind. I heard the following lectures:

1. New commercial models in advertising and marketing using the internet 
2. Comparative advertising 101
3. Copyright in advertising
4. Children & the law

Topic 1: New commercial models in advertising and marketing using the internet 

They were well presented, but the most useful to me was probably Internet Business models by Peter Leonard. Peter is a partner at Gilbert & Tobin, and counts Google amongst his clients. He described some basics about adwords and how it worked – I knew most of this stuff since I do some work on adwords. However, he had some really interesting points on whitelisting v blacklisting of keywords, something which I was not aware of. 

Blacklisting of keywords

Apparently, some brandnames are “blacklisted” on google, so advertisers can’t use them. For example, “Toyota” can only be used by Toyota. A car reseller, wholesaler, etc… can’t use that term. People are very careful which words they blacklist since it does not enable to aforementioned parties to advertise on google. And google applies this policy on a global basis. So if Toyota actually had a reseller in china under a distribution arrangement, they could not buy that keyword to sell a Toyota car.

Contextual and behavioural advertising

The other relevant thing he discussed was contexutal and behavioural advertising, which is becoming quite a big area in the online marketing world. Advertising has always been about relevancy and recency. Erwin Ephron developed the recency theory which is about showing someone an ad when they are in the mood to purchase. The idea of “top of mind”. It’s not about showing them an ad 3 times to get it to stick, rather at the right time when they want to buy. I believe that is what behavioural advertising and contextual advertising seeks to do as well – tying relevancy and recency together. 

 Behavioural looks at your past behaviour on the internet – which websites you’ve been to, how you use the internet. Contextual advertising is 3rd party advertising based on the content on the website (i.e. your current session on the web).  The whole idea is to serve you more relevant ads. Websites now, may reserve a space on their site for advertising local content to you based on your IP address – you’ve probabaly seen it! Look at an American website, yet its giving you ads for Australian flights or credit cards. Online advertising has gotten smarter. It was really insightful because at ad:tech and even in my work, these are topics which people are talking about. third party advertising, serving of ads, affiliate marketing, etc… On the flip side, there are privacy concerns, because your ISP tracks where you’ve been and keeps all the information about each individiual user. To me, this is also two competing concerns – serving you more relevant ads v capturing your private information.

It enhances the user experience and the advertising by having geographically and behavioural based ads, but aren’t you worried that someone is keeping tabs on you?

Other interesting points he discussed was how keywords get bought, and the difficulty of proving trademark infringement for keywords. Since the prices and the allocation of paid ads on Google was constantly changing, its hard to prove in such a dynamic environment. 

I must admit the other seminars weren’t as relevant to me or as interesting, hence my interest did drop off. Copyright issues in advertising were ok, about database compliation and the rights attached to that. Children and the law & comparative advertising was extremely boring, but still handy to know. I learnt that advertising needs to get clearance from legals, very important so you don’t get sued (!) and meets all legal and regulatory requirements. Also, there’s so many various regulatory codes for each type of media (radio, tv, outdoor) and legislation. 

I’m out like Johnny Law, 

Matthew Ho.

Ad:tech – Day 2 by pictures

I visited ad:tech sydney again on day 2 (Wednesday, 11 March 2009). This time I arrived later in the afternoon at 2.30pm. 

I was there to help out with the exhibit. I was at the Next Digital stand from 2.30 – 4.30pm. I also took a bunch of pics and posted them on Flickr and below as well.

It’s interesting being an exhibitor as opposed to a visitor walking around on Day 1. Some people walk up to you just to chat and find out what it is about, others have an interest or something they want to pitch at us. I think the most important thing is to be nice and have a casual chat. Not everyone is interested in hearing the marketing spiel and you have to be ready for all types of questions.

There’s a lot of people at ad:tech that are very tech savvy, and you have others there for the 1st time who looked like they just walked off the street. Overall though, it seemed pretty quite and there was not a lot of people walking around. It look like ad:tech was winding down on Wednesday afternoon.

Next year, I’d like to go to some more of the seminars, possibly even the paid ones. I hear the chatter on twitter from following the hashtags (#atsyd, #atsyd1, etc…) and there seems to be a lot going on.

When I look back, I realise that I have progressed in this industry and it is a humbling experience that a year ago, I wasn’t even working in digital. Now, I had the priviliege and the opportunity to talk to people at ad:tech as an exhibitor about online marketing regarding email marketing, analytics, etc… They say that 1 year in online is equivalent to 7 dog years. I believe that’s so true. Online just moves so fast, new things are emerging all the time. As I’ve heard people say, it may be changing but the fundamentals haven’t changed.

Overall, ad:tech was very good for checking out some new things. One of the most important things I was exposed to was affiliate marketing and traffic marketing, and different companies in this area. These aspects about online marketing I would never had learnt about sitting at my desk at work.

I’m out like ad:tech,

Matthew Ho.

Ad:Tech Sydney – First Day Impressions: talking to myspace.com, netpartners, post click, girls.com.au

adtech_sydney

Ad:tech started in Sydney today. It’s a 2 day expo, with similar events held in San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Singapore. It’s basically for online marketing companies, for those involved in advertising technology. The official line is:

“ad:tech is an interactive advertising and technology conference and exhibition. Worldwide shows blend keynote speakers, topic driven panels and workshops to provide attendees with the tools and techniques they need to compete in a changing world”

I arrived there around lunch time.  I had my express check in pass (thanks ad:tech!), so got buzzed in pretty quick. The first stand lo and behold was Next Digital/Commquest! Which is my company – more on this later.

I was in a rush because I was supposed to go to the Yahoo search masterclass. In the corner of my eye, I saw a guy from my media buying class who’s a dedicated search guy. However, when I got there, the seminar was over. Disappointed, I trudged back and went to the Yahoo search stand and asked them what it was about. I also asked them for notes of the presentation and hopefully they can email it to me. Hit me up if you would like a copy of the notes.

Overall, ad:tech didn’t actually look that full. Maybe its because I expected it be at full capacity. Or perhaps, there were seminars going on. There’s paid seminars, with 3 different tracks but to go to them you need to have a conference pass which costs $1k. I’m just going to the free stuff =) You can check out the different stands, talk to people, and listen to the free seminars. It reminds me of a big careers fair!

Next Digital has got prime position, near the front door and we’ve decked it out in a hospital theme with hospital bed, flasks of weird liquids, IV drip, and doctors walking around with stethoscopes. The theme its “Digital Health Check”, and we’re offering free audits of digital marketing strategy, websites, etc.. We are taking appointments and doing followups. Kate Kendall, editor of marketing mag called it  best stand at expo. Have a look here:

nd-stand-ad-tech

Next Digital was giving a talk after the Yahoo one, so I briefly saw my director Mark Edwards, speaking about digital strategy.  Its a small seated area with about 30 seats and people were standing in the back, 3 rows deep! He had some really good content, however the sound quality was quite poor.The mic and the speakers weren’t loud enough. For the guys standing in the back like me, you couldn’t hear him clearly. As the stands are right next to auditorium area,  there’s so much background noise. It’s a shame and it something the organiser’s will have to look at for next year. Perhaps move the speaking stage a little bit further into a quieter area and turn up the mics!!!!!!!!

I spoke to a couple of interesting people /companies at the stands. Vincent and I walked around and spoke to the following stands. I’ve provided a short commentary on each one:

Fox Interactive 

Websites : Myspace.com, Rottentomatoes.com (movie review site), ign.com (similar to gamespot.com), Askmen.com.

We were talking to Sharon May-Tanous, Group Sales Manager, and she showed us a new feature on myspace.com. There’s this function called “Myspace recharge” where u can recharge your phone by buying credits / topups. Very cool. I’ve always advocated that social networks should do more in the transactional & ecommerce space, given that we spend so much time on there. According to Nielsen research, time spent on social networking has overtaken personal email. Myspace are also releasing a new visa credit card as well, targeted towards younger people. Its going to work like a prepaid debit card. It will be an interesting move for them.

They had a very cool stand with lots of monitors. If you look at the above sites I’ve listed in the heading and click through, you’ll realise that their are Australian versions with localised content. That’s something that they are trying to push, localisation. Rottentomatoes.com is mostly made up of American movies and reviews, so its good a move to have some Aussie content in there too. 

I told her I didn’t use Myspace anymore and she got a bit grouchy LOL. I’ll stick with Facebook, but I’ll check Myspace.com for music related stuff. FYI, I’m name dropping here, but I met Brett Brewer, one of the co-founders of Myspace at the Digital Tipping Point a few weeks ago. He’s sold off myspace to Rupert Murdoch and is now CEO of a social networking advertising company called AdKnowledge. He’s a very cool guy, down to earth, and I guess I’ll have to hit him up on myspace?  

Netpartners – Content network advertising / traffic broking

This area is new to me. I’m still new to search marketing and online advertising, but I understand the basics like clicks, CPM, CPA, conversions and al that jargon. But there’s this whole new area regarding content network / affiliate marketing, etc.. It’s to do with advertising on 3rd party sites, publishers, etc… I spoke to Alan Wan, Affiliate Manager, he explained to me what it was about and I think I got the gist of it. Netpartners is a Hong Kong outfit, mainly targetting US and UK markets. I have to do a bit more research in to this area regarding affiliate marketing. At ad:tech, there were a number of stands, I would say 1/3 selling these services. It was pretty funny, because he was talking English to us and as we were winding down our conversation he asked if we spoke Chinese! Vincent and him started talking, and then I joined in, but I don’t think he understood me very well since my Cantonese is pretty bad and heavily accented. 

Post Click – affiliate marketing

We spoke to the BD manager there. I’ve actually heard of them. Post click specialises in niche affiliate marketing. I’m still getting the hang of this term – its advertising on a network of sites. e.g. you would like to advertise to websites in Indonesia targeting students coming to Australia. They would go represent you and negotiate, and source sites for you to advertise on. They must have relationships with traffic brokers (a new term I learnt) and work out how much you have to pay for CPA, cost per action which is for lead or conversion generation if someone clicks on an ad. Post Click most likely takes a set up fee and a slice of the action e.g. CPC of 1 cent (cost per click of $0.01). 

Girls.com.au / Femail.com.au

I’m not sure why but we wondered over to this stand. We were just curious, and it was right next to ours. They’ve got 2 websites which are online magazines targeted towards females. Girls.com.au has a demo of 18 – 35, skewed towards younger females. Femail.com.au has a demo of 25+. These mags have been running for about 10 years online and has similar content to Vogue, Cleo, etc.. The opportunities are for advertising towards a very specific demographic. 

They also own female.com.au and redirect all the traffic to femail.com.au. however, they are not going to switch over to female.com.au because of the search engine rankings – its already been optimised (SEO baby!!).

CABO Networks – Pay for performance marketing

I spoke to Jurgen Cautreels, who’s over here from Miami. These guys have offices in Miami and Sydney, that’s TWO awesome beach places. They do stuff related to traffic marketing, lists, and email marketing. 

iAD & Pureprofile

I’ve lumped them together even though they are two very distinct companies. Only because they have both presented at our offices. I like iAD, but I feel that their technology is way ahead of its time. When they came into our office and explained their product, they left a lot of us dumbfounded, including me. If you can’t explain to a bunch of people that are pretty technology savvy, your going to struggle with other people as well. Even their blurb in ad:tech is hard to understand – something about a multi-function device, etc…

Ad:Tech on Twitter & Blog

If you are keen to follow with the latest adtech updates, check out twitter. People are twittering using the following hashtags:

#adtechsyd

#atsyd

For the 3 different seminar tracks, there’s also:

#atsyd1 

#atsyd2 

#atsyd3

There’s heaps of ad:tech tweeting going on, and I’ve been following the conversations via twitter and tweetdeck (i’ve got my search groups on for each hashtag!).

You can also check out ad:tech brain blog, I’ve been reading and commenting on it over the past month or so. 

See you there

If you are going to be there, look for me at the Next Digital /Commquest stand in the late afternoon. I’m going to be there in a white coat, and also checking some of the other stands and seminars. 

I’m out like day 1 of ad:tech, 

Matthew Ho aka inspiredworlds

How to improve your email marketing: Part 1

One of the hats I wear at work is email marketing, amongst other talents I possess – SMS, Promotions, Microsites, Basketballer manager, Chocolate Scotch Finger connosieur.  On a regular basis, I speak with customers of all shapes and sizes about email marketing. I was talking today to one of my colleagues about some email marketing tips, some of which I want to share with you. I have decided to break these posts down into parts, since there is so much I can discuss about email marketing.

Some of these tips I’ve picked up along the way, from general observation, actual practice, from reading email marketing articles and a lot simply from being a recipient of email newsletters!

1.Plan your email marketing strategy

You must plan! You can’t be sending out random emails whenever you feel like it. There’s gotta be an email strategy in place in line with your overrall marketing and communication strategy. Plan for regular communication with your customers, stakeholders and subscribers. Because a failure to plan is a plan to fail!

You can take a longer term view and look at it on annual basis. Think about your peak periods, events, specific times where you need to ramp up communication. If you are a retailer, consider sales periods, downtimes, etc… If you plan to hold a major sale, what better way to drive people to the store then to send a quick email to your mailing list. Perhaps in periods of  expected quieter activity, send out more emails to drive sales and visits to your website.

Do not send out random emails in the dark. A lot of people actually do this, and you can only expect mixed results.

2. Aim to send a regular email

When someone knocks on your door, when do you open it? If its in the middle of the night, and you don’t know the person, are you going to open it? Probably not.

The same applies to email marketing. If you send a regular email on an expected day, you are more likely to get opens and clicks. It’s because I know its coming in and its a friendly party. If something random turns up, or on irregular basis, I’m more likely to ignore it or even opt out.

3. Test your email to an internal test list with different email clients

I can’t emphasise this enough. You may think you’ve done an absolute bang up job and created the perfect newsletter. But when you send it out, one of the pictures look funny or the text is distorted. Customer’s will laugh at you, your brand gets tarnished, it looks sloppy. In two seconds, your subscriber realises you stuffed up.

I suggest that you test extensively to a small group of people. Having more than one person means that you are less likely to miss something. Like a painter deeply involved in his artwork or a student engaged in his year long thesis, these people rarely see the flaws in their work. Because they are so deeply involved. You need a fresh pair of eyes to review it.

Ensure you send to a variety of email clients. Email clients are hotmail, gmail, yahoo, etc….. the reason you do this is because emails can render differently in hotmail as opposed to gmail. You need to ensure the email has been designed to look the same.

4. Keep your subject line short and simple, yet catchy

Sounds easy right? Some people recommend 6 words or less. There’s no hard or fast rule. But remember this: you only have a few seconds to impress someone to read an email in their inbox. An unattractive subject line means delete button.

5. People don’t read emails , they scan

I rarely read online articles in full online. The same applies to emails. Online attention spans are just really short. I look at the top, scroll to the bottom and read the ending. If something catches my eye, I’ll look deeper into it. That is why you cannot have large slabs of text in an email. You CANNOT expect people to read emails in full. Intrepid, puts out the longest email ever and I don’t even bother reading it. (I do not see how they won an email marketing award).

Make your email into bite sized chunks. Consider it as an appetiser, inviting people to find out more information. Have a lead in, a few paragraphs, and the rest on your website. Or just keep the content short.

6. Please, please do not write headings sideways

I’ve seen a few powerpoint slides and email newsletter with vertical headings. I’m sorry, but it looks very bad because they are not clear. Anything that makes me require extra effort to interpret, I don’t like – if it means I have to tilt my head sideways, fuggetaboutit!

7. Have a very clear understanding about email marketing prices

Some email marketing platforms charge access fees, record upload feed, monthly subscription fees. So understand how it works. The thing I like about the email marketing platform I support is that the pricing is pretty clear to the public. You know what you are paying.

Enquire about increased or decreased capacity. Most of the email marketing platforms work have some kind of per email volume basis i.e 1,000 email cost $x dollars. However, what happens when you require extra emails? If you want to send 5,000 more for your January specials, are you able to do so? And how much will it cost?

That is why you need to plan ahead. Understand if you are locked into a specific amount per month or if you can change your capacity.

8. Segmenting your email database to deliver relevant communication

Email marketers and advertisers always talk about segmenting your database. Why is this important? Well the more you know about your customers, the more you can personalise the communication and serve them relevant content.

If you can, break up your database into groups. For example, if I am working for a sports store, I might be able to split the database into people interested in soccer, basketball, football and rugby union. I don’t want to send basketball fans sales about soccer shinpads, because they are probably not interested. You have to gather information about them, through sales data, membership drives, instore and online promotions, inviting people to give you more details. You have to give people an incentive to provide their details. If they feel that they are getting a benefit from it, and also continue to recieve relevant communication from you, then that will build a healthy relationship with your customer.

9. Integrate other digital marketing efforts with your email marketing

Again, this feeds back into point 1. Email marketing cannot be considered in isolation to other marketing efforts. Online display advertising (ODA), search, websites, offline advertising, all tie in together.

10. Have a valid reply address

I abhor email communication which says “noreply@company.com”. It’s annoying because sometimes you DO want to reply to them. And if you do and do not realise it, it bounces back. You should have a valid email address. There may be customer complaints, sales inquiries, unsubscriptions, who knows. You will lose that opportunity of subscriber communication if have no return address. Why should you be able to send emails to them and they can’t send emails back to you?!!!

That’s all for now. I hope that will be helpful to your email marketing efforts. In times like now, it’s all about maximising your dollar spend and getting the best ROI (Return on Investment). Email marketing typically for every $1 spent, has an ROI of $57. Which is fantastic for a budget conscious time.

I’m out like spam,

Matthew Ho.

Projections for ’09: A good year?

After completing the lengthy 2008 post,  I’m going to write briefly about 2009 so far and what I hope to do.

From a professional perspective:

– Work more with websites. I would like to work with Umbraco, Sitecore, Reddot, Fatwire etc.., which are open source content management systems. More like finding out what the client wants, developing a strategy and design, managing the build and overseeing the process.

– Online Display Advertising – I’ve very keen to look at stuff like banner ads, learn about adblaster, open ex ad serving and the like.

– Become involved with social media. I would like to experiment with online marketing campaigns involving social media. I haven’t done any yet, but I am eager to do a viral campaigns using Youtube, social bookmarking, etc….I’m really into social media from a personal perspective because its interesting. However,  it’s hard to see how it can be monetised & the commerical appeal – there’s no real formula.

– I’ve started up a work basketball team @ Alexandria. Unfortunately, I’ve sprained my ankle but hope to be back soon. It’s the first sports team @ Next Digital, Sydney so should be an interesting ride.

– I’m attending a few events in the next month or so:

I would like to attend events,  every now and then to hear industry thoughts, meet people, etc…The event that I really want to attend is Wiki Wednesdays if they ever hold it again. Its for people that are involved in wikipedia’s which leads to……..

– Working on a wiki using Confluence. Its my pride and joy at the moment, and I’m currently the residential expert. I hope to evangelise a wiki culture into our business and show others how to use it. It was my suggestion back in October when I posted about it on my internal work blog, and it slowly coming to fruition.

– continue to find out more about folksonomies, search engines, cloud computing (my favourite topic area at the moment), and RSS.

– I currently have an allocation of work time to study search engines and I will be going for the Google Advertising Professional Exam.

– I hope to find a mentor at work or outside of work.

From a personal perspective

– I would like to do some travelling this year around Australia. I’ve seen so much of the world (Europe, states, Asia, etc.) but I’ve never seen Ayers Rock, WA, Great Barrier Reef, etc… This year I will tick one of them off my list.

– International travel – if not this year then the next. I just had a look at tickets to South America, maybe somewhere like Brazil or Peru would be cool.

– Get my own car & move out!! These two things have long been overdue. They both will be done (or a least one!) by the end of the year.

– I would like to sign up for this local mentoring service. I saw a notice at the library asking for mentors, and I feel like I could help someone. I also believe that I should do some volunteer work if I can find the time (there always is time, I just can’t find it :P)

– Fix up this website and get a proper website. It’s ok having a stock standard blog, but I would like to upgrade the website.

– Sign up for a gym – something I’ve also been meaning to do. I have the form on my desk and was about to complete it, but then my ankle injury hit.

I’m out like moving out,

Matt

Seven Commerical Uses of Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for more than a minute now. I signed up around May 08, but didn’t use it much. I posted up a few updates and couldn’t see the value of it. However, I decided to give it another try this week and I’ve been hooked.

I posted previously about Twitter and how my company uses Yammer, a Twitter spin-off. Basically, Twitter allows you to text 140 characters about what you are doing. To be honest with you, when I found this out I thought it had really little value.

However, in the past week I’ve used it for different purposes and this is where I see Twitter as having value:

1. News Service

I decided to follow a couple of news services just to try it out. So I followed @Digg_2000 for stories with more than 2000 diggs and @NYTimes, so I’m getting constant updates about the major news stories. There’s also a couple of other social media gurus out there, like @guykawasaki, @joywayng (Jeremiah Wang of Forrester research & author of Groundswell).  I get to hear their constant thoughts, articles they want to share interesting people & companies that they are meeting (more on this later).

Another pertinent example was highlighted this week. By now, you’ve heard about the plane crash in the Hudson River caused by flock of birds. The first place this was reported was Twitter & the pics were on Twitpic.  Janis Krums, who was on a ferry going to the rescue of the plane wrote:

There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy“.

Twitter was updating furiously with news like this about the Hudson plane crash. I went to the Twitter search engine and looked up “plane crash” and every few seconds someone was saying something about it. It  gives you an ear to the ground.

Due to the availability of the internet on phones, people can immediately micro-blog on their phones and post to the internet via applications like Twitter and post the pics. Twitter allows citizen journalism, for ordinary people to report on stuff straight away and for it to be spread like a viral message.

2. Customer Service

Telecomms

I noticed from reading a couple of blogs, that @Comcastcares was using Twitter to respond to customer complaints. Twitter can be used as a public forum, and if you use it to complain about service or product, and if you have enough followers, you could be quite damaging to their brand.

So in a wise move, companies like @Comcast, @BigPondTeam, etc… are using it to get in touch with people that are bitching about their service. They get in touch with you and DM (direct message) you, to find out how they can help.

Atlassian – Confluence Wiki

I have experienced this from a different angle by praising a product. I posted the following:

inspiredworlds is building a wiki on confluence (Atlassian product). It’s so easy to use!

Then two people posted a response. One of them was @mattnhodges, in their customer service or marketing team, who previously has sent me an autoresponse email about the Wiki when I was evaluating the product and after I purchased it. Through Twitter, I’ve been able to ask questions and get responses and useful links. Another person associated with Atlassian, also posted a response and when they wrote a response to another customer about a sharepoint extender, and I got some useful info there as well.

Docstoc v Slideshare

During the week, I have been evaluating two websites for sharing documents. So I posted a general question: “Docstoc v SlideShare, which is better?“.

To my amazement, the next day when I logged in, @Serena from Docstoc had responded with “docstoc of course. DM me if you want tips about how to optimise your use”. That’s incredible customer service. Admittedly, I decided to go with Slideshare, even though it crashed a few times during the week, but at least I had that option and it made me more curious to check out Docstoc.

Monitoring how brands use it

To monitor this customer service usage, I have decided to follow a number of other brands to see how they will use it, and will post about that experience. I imagine its easier now for customer service, because they are not that many people on Twitter. But imagine if the whole Facebook crowd decided to join twitter, how much noise, clutter and compliants will be on Twitter?

However, I believe that Twitter does attract a certain type of person – someone that wants to be heard, slightly ahead of the adoption curve, tech – savvy, that can influence others. So that is why companies are providing quick responses on Twitter.

3. Brand building / Marketing

A lot of brands are on Twitter. I like that, because I get to follow my favourite brands and apps and find out what’s happening. For example, I’m a huge Chicago bulls fan, and @chicagobulls will post updates during the games and their thoughts:

Duncan is clogging the middle but the Bulls are hitting shots. Hanging in 36-33 in the second.”

I’ve also signed up to hear updates from @Wordpress, @Googlereader, @shareaholic, @yammer_team, @blogger. I like these products and brands, and I want to hear from them. In a sense, I’m giving them permission to enter my world. I don’t just follow anyone, I’m quite picky because otherwise you get too much clutter.

These brands have reciprocated by adding me as their “friend” by following me. So they are interested in what I have to say – perhaps to provide better customer service (as noted above). For example, during the week I posted how “It’s official, I’m a shareaholic“, and in response @shareaholic posted on their tweets:

@inspiredworlds Welcome!

Consequently, I’ve posted in reply that they should add Yammer as one of their new features. And then the @Yammer_team added me. How cool is that? Obviously, these guys are paying attention to what is been said about them.

I believe this is an area where brands can use twitter – to hear what customers are saying about them and to also build up the brand and stay in constant contact with their customers. How cool is that when a brand mentions you in their tweets? Admittedly, the novelty factor does wear off. It’s allowing me to be closer to my favourite brands.

One problem is “twitter squatting”. Some cunning people have snatched up some valuable online real estate. For example @jetstar is not jetstar. I don’t even know if @chicagobulls is even the real thing. So there’s no way to know, just have to look at the page, check their links, number of followers, and make an assessment.

4. Professional Networking

I’m relatively new in digital marketing with only 8 months experience in the industry. So it’s important for me to network with people and meet the who’s who of the industry. I can go through people’s lists and add anyone I would like to know and generally they reciprocate and add me. It’s not as intimate as facebook where they get to see all your personal info and pics. All you are getting in twitter is 140 character updates.

So I’ve added in a couple of the big names in the industry overseas, as well as people locally that I meet.  People also have “tweetups”, where they have real meetings with people in twitter. I mean, even speakers from the Future of Digital forum I attended, I’ve added them in Twitter. You can add someone in twitter and when you meet them, you can say “I know you from twitter!”.

5. Find out trends & buzz

I’ve covered this off above. If you want to hear what people are thinking about, just use twitter search. You will get live updates about what people think about brands, what’s being discussed out there.

6. Thought Leadership

As mentioned above, I’ve tapped into some of the key minds in the industry. And they also share a lot of useful links, which I’ve then read and commented on. They also talk about people they have met in the industry, company meetings they are going to, trends they can see and so on.

7. Microblogging

Twitter is so easy to use and update. This post I am writing now, has taken at least an hour. In between finding the links, going back through my emails and twitter updates. Microblogging is blogging in small lines of text, perhaps one or two lines. You  don’t have to think too much when you twitter because you are concentrating on writing just one line. And you can update it again a few seconds or minutes later.

It could possibly over take blogging. Evhead, the CEO of twitter who previously sold Blogger to Google wrote about it on his blog. Twitter gives you smaller bite sized pieces to snack on and feeds our voracious hunger for constant updates.

Other thoughts on Twitter

I believe that the use of Twitter will continue to grow as it offers a differnet purpose to facebook and has commercial value as noted above.

With the advent of aggregator services like Shareaholic, Fring, Xummi, Friendfeed, it allows you to manage multiple social network services at the same time like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Delicious. So belonging to multiple networks is possible and will grow in popularity.

Their are also a couple of innovations out there like Brightkit, which allow multiple people to “tweet” under one account, manage multiple accounts and to time your updates. I thought there was no way @guykawasaki could be pumping out so many updates throughout the day, but they must prerecord them and have several people tweeting all the time. Brightkit is free now to manage one account, but charges for multiple accounts.

I’ve also come across Ginx, which Pierre Omidyar the ebay founder has started. It allows you to share links, and then share comments about it, with the twitter page taking up the top part of the page. It’s eerily similar to sharing facebook comments about a shared link, where the option to comment is just above the page or even like Digg.

One of the biggest problems I have with social networking is the multiple logins and passwords you have to remember. Concepts like OpenID (having one identification) for all websites will allow one login for all.

Twitter will not replace Facebook, but it takes one of its most popular features the status updates and builds on that. Status updates combined with tiny URL’s, will allows for greater sharing and social bookmarking. Along with the popularity of internet on mobiles, instant messaging, the time is ripe for Twitter.

I’m out like the era before Twitter,

Matthew Ho.

[Updated: Dave from BrightKit – Thanks very much for including BrighKit in your article.  One thing.  We don’t charge for multiple accounts.  BrightKit is entirely free right now while it’s in public beta.  If you wouldn’t mind changing that, we’d greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!]