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Hitting the right note with Facebook promotion

I had this email from a musician friend of mine today complaining that he had been banned from Facebook:

“I know many of you use Social Networking Sites to promote your musical activities, particularly Facebook.

Be aware! They’ve just deleted my account without warning because I “was using Facebook to promote a business”. My crime? Telling the lovely people who’d agreed to be my FB friend that I was doing a gig!!

Just be aware that it’s not worth putting any effort into promoting yourself or your band/business via Facebook”

It’s easy to see why he’s so annoyed – after all, the people who he was “promoting his business” to had all agreed to get posts from him, so it was hardly spamming.

But his experience is worth learning from – whether you are a musician or a business looking to drum up trade on Facebook.

Social media is promoted strongly as a forum for promoting businesses – and with good reason. So it might seem odd that this can happen.

The trouble is that while Facebook is trying, commendably, to stop people blatantly spamming about their business online it isn’t always as clear as it should be about it’s rules and regs – unless you are one of the 1% of people who actually reads all the terms and conditions you sign up for.

Facebook can be used to promote your business – as blatantly as you like – but you have to do it in the right place.

What my friend – and many businesses who use Facebook as a platform – didn’t realise is that while Facebook doesn’t want you to use your personal page as a selling platform, it’s more than happy for you to do the same on a fan page.

What’s a fan page?
Essentially its a Facebook page that, in their words, “looks and behaves like user Profiles”, but can be used to “engage with customers and amplify your voice to their friends”.

Why do they make the distinction?
For two reasons mainly: Firstly to stop abuse of normal personal pages by spammy businesses, and secondly because Facebook can look to “monetize” these pages in a way that might appear, well.. spammy, if they did it with personal pages.

So, if you are a business just starting out in social media – make sure you put your promotional content in the right place or you could risk losing all your hard work. And if you are Facebook – try to make this point a bit clearer to ordinary users.

How to set up a Fan Page

Open a Facebook account, then go to this page on Facebook. Simple!

The need for speed in SEO

As expected, Google has announced that site speed – how quickly a site responds to a request – has become a factor in where your site appears in the search engine’s results.

Google is aiming to reward sites that offer a better user experience, saying: “We’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.”

The speed issue re-emphasises the need to ensure your site is built to the highest coding standards, and also shows the continuing way Google is shaping its search algorithm to reward usable sites – something that will continue to matter more and more in SEO. While the latest change to the algorithm will have only a minor effect overall, the move towards more intelligent measurement of user satisfaction by Google makes addressing all usability issues a more and more essential part of your overall SEO programme.

It also shows the importance of having a good hosting partner who offers superfast, low-latency hosting. Cheaper hosting – for this and many other reasons – can often end up costing you far more in the long-run than more expensive but higher quality hosting.

Conversion, Conversion, Conversion – the 3 rules of SEO

How do you measure the success of your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign?

It’s a question we’re often asked, and one which our clients often have their own answer for. For some, all they want to know is where they appear in Google. For others, its how much their traffic increases.

For us, there is a clear answer – the three most important indicators of SEO success are:

1: Conversion
2: Conversion
3: Conversion

SEO should never live in isolation from your overall marketing aims. When we start working with an SEO client, the very first thing we do with them is to establish what their web marketing goals are and what actions they want their clients to perform on the site to support those goals.

Only then can we begin the process of finding keywords, optimising the site, link-building etc.

By understanding what clients need to be doing on the site to reach those goals, we can set in place ways of measuring conversion – essentially finding out just how many users actually did the things on the site that the client wanted them to.

That could be buying particular items, joining mailing lists, making telephone contact, or more esoteric actions such as increasing brand awareness or better understanding the proposition of the company.

Position *heart* Conversion

Getting a high position for your carefully selected keywords/phrases is a very important part of SEO – but it is really just one step along the line to your ultimate goal, and not the ultimate goal in itself.

Similarly the number of visitors to your site is a stepping stone, not the finish line. In some cases, you could actually see visitor numbers fall as a result of successful SEO.

That might seem illogical, but we recently had a client who wanted to know if there was a simple figure he could give his board to show the success of an SEO campaign. He felt that visitor numbers was the key.

We’d just advised him to change the page title and description that appeared in Google when his site showed up for an important keyphrase. The description was slightly misleading – and while his company offered a very particular service related to the keyphrase, the title and page description made it appear his company’s site was more of an overall information portal for the subject covered by his service.

We explained that by changing the title and description he would almost certainly see the number of people clicking through to the site fall. The important factor was not visitor numbers – but getting the right visitors.

While thousands of searchers were clicking through to that page each month, the bounce rate was horrendous. The reason? The page was optimised to appear for that search term by focussing on the term rather than the offering. The vast majority of people clicking through were either expecting something else, or not seeing what was really on offer.

As we expected, when we optimised the page for conversion, the level of traffic fell. So – very slightly – did the Google placement.

But, the number of people actually going on to engage the service – to perform the action we planned at the beginning of the campaign – rose by more than 100%.

Balancing act

So an SEO campaign that saw visitor numbers and Google placement fall? Measured by conventional SEO wisdom that would be a failure. Measured by conversion, a resounding success.

SEO needs to balance conversion and position. Neither factor should eclipse the other – having a great conversion rate for a tiny amount of traffic is no better than having a tiny conversion rate for lots of traffic. But if you are to weigh the two against each other – conversion should always be the first priority.

SEO is not about appearing as high as possible in Google for a focussed search term – it’s about appearing as high as possible for a focussed search term that leads to direct conversions.

Conversion needs to be seen as part of an SEO, not a separate discipline – optimising for conversion and optimising for position work best when they work together.

There’s actually an even easier way to measure the success of our campaign with that client. Just look in the company accounts.

The client is making more money from promoting that service online now than they were before we made our changes. For conversion, read return on investment.

Website Hierarchy of Needs

At the initial web requirements stage of any development, we often find it helpful to slice a website into three different layers in order for the client to understand what they need to be thinking about when planning their website. We need to understand what the core functionality will be, what marketing messages the site needs to reflect and how the website will work as a marketing tool for the client (i.e. how does it fit with their overall marketing strategy). We call this a website hierarchy of needs.


Core functionality and usability

As part of a thorough requirements analysis, we will begin to plot out what the site areas, or sections are. The core functionality (or functional requirements) inform the web design company what user processes the site needs to support from within each section.

Usability and proven web conventions play their part at this stage, because core functionality must always be user-focussed, ie do users need this functionality in order to fulfil their objectives on your site?

Marketing Messages

Your website communicates marketing messages to a targeted audience. What are your key marketing messages, how are you differentiating yourself from your competition for instance? The design, content and information architecture of the site need to support and reinforce your marketing communications.

How you will use your site

The final layer is thinking about how your site will work as a marketing tool for your business. Your site will only work as part of your overall marketing strategy, it is a tool and any tool will only work well if it is used well. So how does your website support your marketing and work as part of your overall marketing strategy?

Does your website support the sales conversation by acting as a referral via search?. Do you point people to your site to reinforce your proposal? Does it reflect your creditability and market position?

Think how you will actually be using your site, how it can function as a tool for your organisation and what you need it be doing to work at its best for you.

The “3 Ps” (Purpose of your website, Profile of your target audience and the Processes your website needs to support) work on every layer and need to be your starting point for any web strategy.

Charlie Simpson shows charities the power of Twitter

What have one of the world’s oldest and most influential humanitarian organizations and a seven-year-old boy from Fulham got in common?

Both have shown in recent days the power and potential of using Twitter as a fundraising tool.

Twitter, and other social media, have become the front line for many third-sector organizations when it comes to bringing in donations – and have been used with great effect by the American Red Cross and Charlie Simpson.

From a single Twitter message, the American Red Cross was able to attract more than $35m online and mobile donations – more than for the whole of the Asian Tsunami and Katrina Hurrican appeals combined.

The appeal worked despite the charity not having a huge number of followers to receive the initial Tweet. But with careful targeting (including celebrities with massive followings, and other high-profile Twitterers) the ARC were able to leverage the power of social media to go viral very quickly.

Meanwhile, in the UK, seven-year-old Charlie Simpson raised £125,000 (and counting) for a five-mile charity bike ride he had hoped would raise £500.

And that was without any publicity other than a post on the JustGiving webite and a request to retweet from Unicef – the body he is raising funds for:

unicef_uk: Pls RT:Seven year old Charlie Simpson is doing a sponsored bike ride for UNICEF’s Haiti Appeal- You can sponsor him at: http://bit.ly/70mwpZ

Charlie’s fantastic achievement highlights Twitters ability to engage beyond the online world and into – and back out of – old media.

Once it became clear that Charlie’s fundraising campaign was taking off online, television and the newspapers picked up on it. The subsequent publicity drove doners to the web – where they not only gave, but carried on spreading the news. Old media keeps a very close eye on the web for potential news stories, and was quick to pick this one up.

There are some clear reasons why Twitter works so well in this way.

Twitterers, by their nature, like to share and spread information. The more they engage with others the more followers they are likely to get.

So, helpfully, the most popular Twitterers are often the most likely to retweet anything of interest. And a charity message – particularly one with a strong human element like Charlie’s story – is an ideal message to pass on. Firstly, it makes the sender feel they are doing something good, and secondly they know it will be well recieved.

So active Twitterers with large followings will retweet to others who have followings of their own.

The rapid snowball effect of this is what allowed an organization like the Red Cross – with a relatively small following – to rapidly spread its message through targeting the right Twitter users.

Smaller, or more specialized, charities can sometimes be put off Twitter by the feeling that they would struggle to build a significant following. But this example – and many others – shows that it is not necessarily quantity but quality that counts in terms of who is following you. Even if you are only being followed by 100 people, in reality your potential audience is closer to 100 million, as long as you know how to leverage it.

The ease of online giving is also an important factor. You can put out as many news reports and television appeals as you like, but the key is to make people respond to that call of action in the brief window where you have their attention.

If people don’t pick up the phone, or actively go online, while that window is open the chances are you’ve missed your opportunity.

Getting a Tweet – by its nature – means the reader is online, or using their mobile device. So you capture their attention and at the same time put in front of them an easy, quick and painless way to donate – ie a JustGiving page or other online donation facility.

This connection between message and call to action leads to a higher conversion rate – and more money for your cause.

As social media becomes more and more the default medium for spreading news quickly, Twitter for charities, not-for-profit and other third sector organizations is becoming less an option and more a necessity in the battle for hearts, minds and donations.

If you want to donate to Charlie Simpson’s charity bikeride – go to http://www.justgiving.com/CharlieSimpson-HAITI

To donate to the Red Cross – go to https://www.redcross.org.uk/emergencysite/Campaign.aspx?id=88917