Tags: online marketing

Sending .edu Emails during Holidays Can Wreck Your Reputation

Sending .edu Emails during Holidays Can Wreck Your Reputation

Beyond • December 30, 2011

If you’re like many small business email marketers you have a number of opt-in subscribers who are employed or students at a college or university. Indeed, many online marketers who specialize in the youth market may find that this type of email address (.edu) could constitute the majority of their subscription list. Due to the way the calendar fell this past year many universities and colleges closed on the afternoon of Wednesday December 21 and did not reopen until the morning of Tuesday January 3, leading to a twelve and a half day gap when their internal computer sciences departments, which generally operate the mail servers, were shut down and empty. Emails of any kind - whether marketing-related or personal - sent to any address on those servers would bounce back, and not in the “soft” way of overfull mailbox or internal internet traffic problem, but as a “hard” non-existent address: The kind that can devastate the legitimate online reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. Face an Avalanche of Mailer Daemons Academia is not alone in evacuating during the holidays. Small business email marketers also heed the siren call of warm southern beaches or snowy holidays at Grandma’s house at that time of the year, so they may have set up their email marketing to be issued on autopilot during that late December 2011 to early January 2012 period. Let’s assume that your e-tailing business regularly sends out your newsletters on Mondays and Thursdays. You would have received a total of four hard bounces on each of your “temporarily closed” .edu customers. Even if those addresses comprise a small percentage of your total overall sends, you might face an unpleasant surprise on your first day back at work: An avalanche of mailer daemon notifications and an urgent missive from your email service provider featuring the words no online marketer ever wants to read: blockage & blacklist. TLDs Everywhere with Nary a .edu in Sight International educational institutions do not necessarily adhere to the .edu TLD, so just separating those specific addresses from your holiday period sending is not sufficient. Most colleges and universities in Canada, for example, use the national .ca TLD with no .edu in sight. If this is confusing, you’re not alone. When Microsoft offered their Office Home & Student Ultimate Steal package, where registered students could obtain a discount on a purchase of the software, they placed a boneheaded insistence on a .edu address in blissful ignorance that most Canadian academic institutions don’t use it, thus blocking most of their potential buyers! Your email subscription list may have to be manually reviewed address by address… an overwhelming task for the email marketer with a list totaling in the millions. It is also questionable whether any manual reviewer will be able to determine that carleton.ca or concordia.ca are actually universities and not commercial Canadian domains! ensad.fr, lum.it, ras.ru: University or ??? The same applies to most international universities anywhere: Can you determine at a glance what ensad.fr, lum.it or ras.ru are? Even though there are some national TLDs that indicate an academic institution without the critical .edu, such as ac.uk in the United Kingdom, ac.id in Indonesia and ac.jp in Japan, pulling college and university domains out of a list can turn out to pose a massive migraine to small business email marketers. Rely on Your Preference Center It may be well nigh impossible to reverse engineer a completely correct list of your academic institution students and staff, so your best tactic is to rely on your Preference Center. Ensure that you allow your subscriber to check off if their email address belongs to an academic institution, as there may be no reasonably feasible way to determine it otherwise. If you are not yet incentivizing your subscribers to keep their contact information current and accurate - you should start yesterday, as an effective Preference Center can be the most significant factor in ensuring deliverability and thus your online reputation. Start preparing now for the next holiday season so that you won’t be caught unaware and have your online rep trashed!


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Online Marketing Tips: How to Get Noticed Online

Online Marketing Tips: How to Get Noticed Online

Beyond • December 30, 2011

Are you a DJ, a house cleaner, a landscaper or any local service professional who is trying to get more customers? Good thing you’re living in an era where there are countless venues available for you to market yourself. Here are some easy steps to getting noticed online. Prove You Exist! First, get your potential customers to discover you. How else can people avail themselves of the services you provide without advertising yourself? And whatever you do, don’t depend on word-of-mouth advertising. Although it comes in handy in the long run, there are many other ways that you can get your customers to know about you quickly and affordably. One of these is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more. Another way is to join and list your business on e-commerce sites like Google Places, Yelp or Thumbtack (our company!). Aside from that, you can also publish yourself online by keeping a blog or a simple website that doesn’t require you to hire a web designer. Since the accessibility of social media and e-commerce sites takes competition in the market to a higher level, you would then need to take into consideration how to make the public get to notice you more. Among the thousands of professionals who are posting their services online, you need to provide more reliable information relating to you as a professional. Since customers only see pictures and read information online, they are wary about whom they will contact and hire. Here are some things your potential clients will consider: Create Credibility Customers want to know if you’re a legitimate professional. Provide information such as your certification, license, insurance and anything else that shows your credentials. Offer Great Customer Service The best way to gain customers is to provide excellent customer service. Let your customers feel they are valued by sticking to your promise and commitment to provide the services they need. Whether this includes technical support, a good attitude, smart knowledge or quality service, do it well and in a timely manner. Set Reasonable Pricing Remember that a reasonable price is not necessarily the lowest price. According to Whatis.com, “A fair and reasonable price is the price point for a good or service that is fair to both parties involved in the transaction.” This amount provides the best total value that compromises the delivery time, availability, payment terms, quality, quantity and service. Don’t under-price and don’t over-price. Guaranteed Service Other than quality service, customers feel safe getting services from you if you provide a service guarantee. This is the statement that clarifies what your customers can expect from you, as well as what you will do to alter the situation if your services do not meet their expectations. With this, your customers will be confident that you really will do the job right. Another way to boost your business is through a referral program. This marketing strategy will help you expand your network by giving incentives to clients who send you new business. You can do this by giving every satisfied customer a flyer describing your referral program. You can also mail out information regarding your referral program to your business contacts and inactive clients, or promote it through your email signature, blog or website. This is a great way to motivate your clients to keep doing business with you. They might also see it as a simple way of thanking you for the excellent service you provided, as well as a way to show your clients how you truly appreciate their confidence in your work. When you deliver high quality services to your clients, these clients can help you gain more business by providing great reviews. This is basically word-of-mouth marketing but in a written form. These reviews are a testament of what kind of service you deliver. And remember: No matter what else you do, you should always remember that excellent service is the best key to a successful business. Love your job, and do it well, and you will succeed.


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LinkedIn For Good Demonstrates Positive Branding in a Crisis

LinkedIn For Good Demonstrates Positive Branding in a Crisis

Beyond • December 29, 2011

When Haiti was devastated by the major 2010 earthquake, queries on LinkedIn requesting volunteer contractors and tradespeople who could help rebuild the country’s devastated infrastructure sparked the creation of LinkedIn For Good, a subsidiary that provides pathways to connect volunteers with specific skillsets with the people and places where their talents are urgently required. The participants’ profiles served as a ready-made database ready to mine in order to locate the individuals who possessed the professional expertise required in the Port-au-Prince area. LinkedIn made it consummately easy to locate users with particular required skills such as masonry builders, plumbers and electricians in order to encourage them to volunteer their services. Swift action by brands in reacting to momentous global disasters can not only provide needed support to the struck populations but can also maneuver your company as being viewed as part of the solution. Ensure the Cause Is Universally Supported Online marketers should affiliate themselves with a non-profit organization engaged in high-profile projects that are generally seen by the public as necessary to right a great wrong. The most impactful causes are centered around massive natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Although charities working to improve civil rights in repressive societies such as Cuba, North Korea and China can be seen to be philosophically or ideologically controversial and not universally supported, no one is going to take the position that villagers who have been devastated by a volcanic eruption are not deserving of assistance. From the corporate standpoint there is the element of fundraising, which is indisputably desirable from any perspective, but another considerable factor is the not-insignificant aura effect gained from having your brand being seen by its customers as caring and altruistic. Affiliation with a Horizontal NGO No one can predict when the next great natural disaster will occur but it still behooves brands to have an action plan in place in order to be able to swing into action quickly. One of the most important aspects to take into consideration is that the plan should not be focused on a particular form of disaster. Although major global geophysical disasters can affect millions of people, countless numbers can also be affected by fires, drought, pandemics or socio-political upheavals. Creating and implementing a cause-support structure that can extend to everything from establishing an affiliation with a horizontal, wide-ranging charitable NGO (such as the Red Cross) all the way to preparing the donation and appeal page coding in advance, can help your brand quickly react to the next major disaster. Sensitivity Is Key Sensitivity is of utmost importance in the implementation of any disaster cause appeal. It is consummately easy to cross the fine line between being viewed by your customers as genuinely assisting to raise funds and material assistance to devastated populations, and crassly taking advantage of a dire situation to gain market share or competitive advantage. When the 2011 tsunami hit Japan, Microsoft responded with an infamous appeal asking for retweets: obliquely promoting its Bing search engine in exchange for a $1 donation. Had the Redmond software giant simply donated the funds it would have gained considerable social capital, but linking the philanthropy to a Bing promo was widely seen as inconsiderate and loutish. While print and broadcast commercial messaging can take weeks or months of preparation and notice to be able to display, social media allow brands to react literally in minutes in order to present themselves as being in a position where they can perform some magnanimous beneficence and assist innocent populations in dire need. Focusing on the provision of support will help build the positive aura that will last long after the appeal is over.


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The Future of Small Business: 2012 Marketing Trends

The Future of Small Business: 2012 Marketing Trends

Beyond • December 28, 2011

Marketing can be described as a chameleon, always in transition and shifting to meet its current needs. In 2011 we saw a major shift toward simplifying information in a way that mimicked Twitter’s short information stream. The rise in image platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest highlight this trend. Even Facebook recently caught on to this with the newly introduced Timelines, which offers more bite-sized information. This essentially led to a two-fold marketing application. First, marketing requires a lot more content, both textual and graphic, in order for it to be relevant and keep audience interest. Second, marketers need to adapt newer platforms that cater to a niche method of delivery but that still appeal to a wide user base. So what’s in store for 2012? Check out our top picks below… Developments in Mobile Technology Mobile needs, especially mobile e-commerce apps, were a huge hit in 2011. Next year, the technology is expected to advance with Near Field Communication that of course will be implemented into iPhones. What this does is let a consumer pay by swiping their phone instead of their credit card. What it means is that more people will be expected to make mobile payments, in turn re-emphasizing the need for your business to be mobile friendly. Marketing is also going mobile with Siri, which was out in 2011 but will really catch on in 2012 as a must have tool. What to Expect with Marketing Platforms Understanding marketing starts with Google Analytics, the lifeline of any website. Absolutely every business needs to have it and understand the metrics because next year the stakes go up with more refined technology that lets you track your visitors. You can monitor site traffic in real-time and instantly respond to needs with software that’s more sensitive to conversions. But there’s a lot more to online marketing than just your website – there’s the whole internet and a bubbling array of creative platforms, including new media channels. New media (which includes social media) isn’t just a trend, but the way we live. This year alone saw at least 2 dozen new platforms pop up on the social horizon. Some are great, some not so much, and some offer a select purpose. But the fact remains that there’s more than just one way to syndicate content and more than enough pools of people to tap into for leads cultivation. 2011 has also seen a rise in software services, especially those that help you manage complex and multi-channel marketing campaigns. Expect more of that in 2012, including competitive service and pricing. If this isn’t your field, then consider how you can take the principles of simplifying your business needs to your own clients. Anticipate their needs, simplify their lives and you’ve got a loyal customer. Do this with intelligent idea management that harnesses the innovation already accruing within your network of associates, partners and employees. Understanding What the Internet Is Really All About The internet is about content. If content is king now, wait till next year when the next wave of iPads and Kindles are expected to come out. Cheaper and more accessible content means customers want more of it. So make sure you’ve got someone who can produce killer content that gets you noticed…and gets your content syndicated through social sharing. Beyond content, the internet has become a sharing hotbed. While social media encouraged sharing, marketers have not just noted an increase in users talking about their products, but that developers have responded by making sharing easier. With this comes the idea of engaging your customers and audience in whatever digital waterhole they flock to.


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Twitter Launching Self-Serve Ads

Twitter Launching Self-Serve Ads

Beyond • December 22, 2011

Last year, Twitter fired back at critics who crucified it for its lack of a viable business model when it introduced a couple of advertising products to the world. The social media company mentioned its ambitions to offer self-serve ads earlier this year, and has finally delivered by recently rolling them out to a few lucky marketers. For brands that have been wanting to advertise on Twitter, yet haven’t due to the limitations of its existing solutions, this particular offering is a long time coming. More User-Friendly The beauty of Twitter’s new self-serve ads is all in the convenience. Before the introduction of this new offering, marketers who wanted to advertise through Promoted Tweets or another one of the company’s advertising products had to do so by going through the lengthy process of filling out paper work and speaking with a company representative over the phone. With the self serve tool, a marketer can simply pay for their ads with a credit card, and customize them via a web-based interface in a similar manner as they would with Facebook or Google AdWords. The convenience factor alone should make advertising on Twitter a more attractive idea. More Affordable Twitter initially got the ball rolling by releasing three advertising products last year. These products were Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts. While Twitter’s ad models were able to attract some major brands, the luxury price tag essentially limited it to brands with luxury budgets. Take Promoted Trends, for example. Back in the summer, several outlets reported that Twitter was charging $120,000 to $125,000 per day to run ads through Promoted Trends. With prices like this, advertising on the microblogging platform was viewed as a cost prohibitive move by the average business. From the looks of it, the new self-serve ads put Twitter advertising in easy reach of marketers by not only making it more accessible, but more affordable. According to reports, the company is allowing brands to purchase ads through Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts on the basis of cost per follower and cost per engagement respectively. Ads with Promoted Tweets are said to cost between $0.75 to $2.50 for each engagement, which in this case could include a click, retweet, favorite or @reply, while the costs for Promoted Accounts are said to range from $2.50 to $4 for each follower. A more economical pricing structure should definitely attract smaller brands who steered clear of Twitter advertising because of the costs. Another Revenue Stream for Twitter Twitter currently has roughly 2,400 advertisers. Look for that number to grow substantially if the self-serve initiative receives a positive response. The ability to bypass the conversation with a live company agent and buy spots online at a much more reasonable price will open up another revenue stream funded by the small and medium-sized businesses for whom previously, paid advertising on Twitter was not an option. Some observers are questioning whether the motive behind the new format is justifying its recently estimated $8 billion valuation to investors, but in any event, the move should help the company bring in some much needed revenue. Twitter’s self-serve ads are currently in the experimental phase and being rolled out to a small group of testers. There has been no word on when the format will officially go live. For now, all we know is that it is supposed to be made available to all advertisers over the coming weeks and months. It could be a while before everyone gets to take advantage, but the mere announcement of a new ad platform has seemed to spark a renewed interest in Twitter marketing.


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Marketing Professionals, Write Guest Blogs for Benchmark Email!

Marketing Professionals, Write Guest Blogs for Benchmark Email!

Beyond • December 21, 2011

Benchmark Email has been showcasing cool stuff for small businesses for almost a year now and we want 2012 to be even bigger! In 2011 we hosted exclusive blogs from the likes of Chris Brogan, Jordie van Rijn, Ez Texting and many more. If you\'ve got insight to share with our readers about marketing, both online and face to face, we want you to write for us! How to Blog for Benchmark Email We\'re looking for serious content that deals with the following topics: Marketing best practices Social media strategies SEO (specifically how to, what to steer clear of and broader articles on meeting the search engines\' evolving standards) Online tools & applications (what works best for you in your online marketing and which apps do you use in your personal life?) Growing your company Branding PR Email marketing (natch) Guidelines for Benchmark Email Bloggers You may have a great idea for a blog that doesn\'t quite fall in one of the categories above. That\'s perfectly reasonable and we\'ll take a look at it. But if it doesn\'t fit for us, we can\'t accept it. And before you start sending in any articles, please read the following guidelines all guest bloggers must follow: Blogs must be 400-700 words. If you would like to write a longer blog, it must be broken up into a series. If there isn\'t enough for a series, the blog will be edited down to conform to this standard. Blog topics should pertain to your expertise, be advice for online or small businesses, or editorials. Blogs must be factual and helpful, not an advertisement for your product or business. Guest blogs can be one-time or recurring. If the content is reliable (and usable), you may write a monthly blog. Both Star Marketing and Thumbtack write great monthly articles for Benchmark Email about their respective industries If these conditions are agreeable to you then we can create a guest profile for either you or your company. See our Guest Blogger Page for examples of bios and links. To discuss guest blogging for Benchmark Email, contact Pierce Nahigyan, Content Manager for Benchmark Email, at pierce.nahigyan@benchmarkemail.com.


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An End in Itself: The New Science of Polarizing Political Videos

An End in Itself: The New Science of Polarizing Political Videos

Beyond • December 20, 2011

Polarization seems to be a prerequisite for the viral success of a political video. While the conventional regurgitations of political positions and platforms fail to draw flies, politicians stuffing their feet in their mouths rarely fail to get the YouTube view-meter spinning. For a political video to go viral requires a very precise perfect storm of circumstances: The video must either offend or elate a significant portion of the population; the mass media has to pick up the story; and the amount of online social media chatter has to become pervasive. Whether the video is widely viewed to be inspirational or idiotic has very little bearing on the number of YouTube views. 1 Second Scream = Millions of Views A single viral video can make or break an entire presidential campaign, as was learned by 2004 frontrunner Howard Dean. After being considered a virtual lock for the nomination, Dean’s candidacy was instantly derailed by a single one-second “Scream” where the 79th Governor of Vermont got carried away by his own primary success in front of a cheering crowd and came off looking like a crazed serial killer, a throwback to 1930s German political rallies or, even worse, a clone of Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer. Brokeback Mountain Jacket In his Strong video, Rick Perry has reached the pantheon of viral political greatness by swiftly approaching 7 million views. His claim that America is now a place “where gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas” has become a rallying cry for the far right to support the candidate and the far left to humiliate him. It can be argued that the image of Rick Perry standing tall in a verdant field was specifically intended to draw the support of the rural right while inflaming the urban left. The fact that the jacket he is wearing is eerily similar to that which Heath Ledger donned as the recalcitrant cowboy in Brokeback Mountain might be just another campaign gaffe or it could be a remarkably shrewd strategic move. As one of the primary goals of a political video is to generate social network chatter, the jacket alone may be responsible for driving a million views. The Goal Is the Sharing From a viral video standpoint it doesn’t seem to matter how many times Rick Perry will “oops” himself into also-ran status, Sarah Palin would refer to “our North Korean allies” and Christine O’Donnell would address the questions of her “witchcraft.” The critical aspect is that enough people will see the video and feel sufficiently motivated to share it with their social clique along with one of the typically short exhortations that have become this decade’s version of a salutation: “check this out,” “this is hilarious” or simply “wow!” It is as if a video’s virality was an end in itself and any tactic is considered fair game, including making the candidate look like an fool. The Infamous Cain “Smoking” Video Herman Cain became the most talked-about candidate in a crowded GOP field on the back of a strange, (purposely?) cheaply produced handheld video where his chief of staff Mark Block lights up a cigarette in the painfully silent closing moments. Although Cain’s campaign may have been later set back by his own personal indiscretions, the effect on his visibility when the video of Block’s smoking was repeated ad infinitum on major news media certainly established the presence of the Godfather’s Pizza king, who in another video drew parallels between himself and another King… this time Martin Luther King Jr. In a viral world where P.T. Barnum’s infamous motto of “I don\'t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right” has come to represent a basal campaign philosophy, there may be ample reason to believe that even videos that are pilloried by the mass media and on social networks can be termed successful. By reducing campaign video success to a sheer numbers game of views, drawing attention by any way possible may be the video politician’s new mantra.


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5 Must-Know Tips for Boosting Marketing Productivity

5 Must-Know Tips for Boosting Marketing Productivity

Beyond • December 20, 2011

Let’s face it, there’s a lot on your marketing plate and it all has to get done. Is the biggest workload portion usually heaped onto you? Then doubly so if you’re a single staffer business. Use the tips below to help you make the most of your marketing hours: 1. Manage Incoming Information – Part of your job is keeping abreast on news, new trends and industry information. You use Facebook, Twitter, newsletters and blogs…and you could easily spend all day gathering information. Dragging incoming information throughout the day does two things. One, it keeps you from being able to filter junk info from valuable info; and secondly, it wastes a lot of time. Manage your information gathering with one scheduled hour a day, either at the beginning or at the end of the day. Make use of Google alerts, Twitter lists, curated content sites, Tweetdeck…anything that can streamline information for you. 2. Understand How Your Mind Works – Everyone works differently. Know what works for you and what doesn’t. If creating a daily list is your thing, then keep doing it even if everyone else has moved on to apps and iPads. Some of us are still old school and the older ways of doing things are what keep us productive and moving forward. Case in point, every time I go to social media seminars, I see most people there toting ipads and laptops. At first I thought I was a caveman for not having mine – but then I noticed that pretty much everyone is using tech to web browse. No one has ever used it to interact with the seminar or take notes. Remember, just because everyone’s using something or looking “techie” doesn’t mean it’s helping them keep up with what’s going on. 3. Say No More – Marketing is a business for some people, and as such they want you involved, attending, participating. Other colleagues of yours will want you to attend their events, and expect you to show your support. Same with any networking groups you’re in. In a nutshell, the more social you are, the more you’re expected to “be supportive” or “get involved,” which at times can be a valuable opportunity for you to network - but it can easily suck your time away. Get used to saying no…a lot. Tell people you’ll have to check your schedule before committing to any engagement and then actually do it. 4. Distract Yourself – You’re not a work mule or suffering indentured servitude. You’re doing what you love and it should stay that way. So make sure you’re taking breaks, getting outdoors and doing what it takes to keep creative. Take a lunch break to a favorite eatery or a walk down a fun local area. You’ll be a lot more productive if you don’t treat your job like it’s slave labor you’re subjected to from 9 to 5 (or 7 to 9 if you work for yourself). If you’re an independent business owner, this rule applies to you more so than anyone else! 5. Use the Right Tools – There are plenty of formidable platforms and programs that will help you get the job done faster. This becomes a bit of a trial and error process. You’ll try out one or two programs and see whether it meets your needs, perhaps try a couple more, before you finally choose one that works for you. If you have employees, keep in mind that what works for one employee won’t work for another, so give them a little breathing room to choose the right one for them. Regardless of what you settle upon as your personal choice, you should be using some type of time management software.


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Combine Social Media & PR for Online Marketing Success

Combine Social Media & PR for Online Marketing Success

Beyond • December 12, 2011

How is a social media strategy similar to a PR campaign? I’ve come to realize that their outcomes don’t come from what one posts on their own page, or how many submissions are made to media outlets, or how many times one tweets, but somewhere else entirely. PR is based on the premise that unsolicited word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and the second best is what a journalist or other third-party says about you – assuming, of course, that it’s positive. Media outlets like television news and local newspapers are flooded with stories every day, so they pick the compelling ones to feature. What about social media? A good social media strategy isn’t about Facebook or Twitter at all. It’s not about the “where” of the message, but the what: What can you do, say or sell that is fresh and valuable enough for others to pass along? Note: If we offer a reward or incentive for clicking the “Like” button on Facebook, we’re engaged in a direct response strategy, not network marketing. A social media strategy involves network marketing, so your message is passed from one network member to another – usually in their own words. Notice that in each case our success or failure depends largely on one item: a compelling story. If the story is so important here, what can you do to create a great one? It begins with a customer experience worthy of sharing, and what words to use: Start listening carefully to your own friends and associates when they tell you about a product or service that they liked and make notes. Ask yourself, What makes each story compelling? Remember, you have little control over reactions to your stories, so if people start a negative snowball rolling, it can bury you like an avalanche. Your best defense here is Truth. If it’s not true, don’t say it or imply it in your stories. Social media & PR strategies do not exist in a vacuum. The compelling stories being told about your offering must fall within the marketing environment you’ve created (usually it’s based on a written plan that outlines goals, with strategies/tactics aimed at achieving them). Your ads, sales literature, web site, logo, videos, how you answer the phone, all create a feeling – a marketing environment – that supports or undermines your stories. Generating your own Facebook “friends” is nothing compared with getting your customers to tweet, blog or talk about your products/services and the wonderful ways they were treated by yourself and your staff. Make that the foundation of your PR and social media campaigns and you’re almost assured success.


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Lessons in Successful App Design: Glitches in the Jawbone UP

Lessons in Successful App Design: Glitches in the Jawbone UP

Beyond • December 12, 2011

Technology has made life simpler than most of us imagined it ever could be. You could even say it has made us lazy. Simplicity is obviously what the recently introduced Jawbone UP strived for, and while it succeeds on many levels, a closer look shows us that this one might be a few ingredients short of a winning recipe. The Jawbone UP is specially made for the digital savvy fitness nut. Created by mobile technology expert Jawbone, it is essentially a wristband that doubles as an app for your smartphone. In a nutshell, what it does is keep up with the user’s physical activity, tracking everything from workout activities and how many calories you’re burning to the number of steps you’re taking and how you’re sleeping at night. The Jawbone UP definitely looks the part on the surface. Boasting an oval-like shape, it is easy to port around and fits comfortably on the wrist without looking too much like a laser-firing bracelet. While the hardware is obviously an important component, the juicy goodness of this gadget is all in the software. In fact, the UP is pretty much useless without this program. The application, which is available for free in Apple’s App Store, is installed on your iPhone. Equipped with a neatly designed graphical user interface, it allows you to see things such as how many hours you slept during the night, the time you awoke and even your overall quality of sleep once synced with the device. Although the software is generally easy to use, a few glaring holes are keeping it from being truly useful. Lessons in App Design According to early reviews, the biggest thing standing in the Jawbone UP’s way of being a hit is how it creates a feeling of disconnection. Many users were disappointed to learn that it does not allow wireless syncing, which would have been possible if support for Bluetooth was included. In order to sync the data, the UP must be plugged into the audio port of your smartphone. Considering how people are literally glued to their mobile devices these days, this extra step alone makes Jawbone’s digital wristband more of a hassle than the average person would prefer. Although the omission of wireless functionality and not being able to instantly access the data on your phone are a bit disheartening, they were somewhat justified when experts let it be known that the use of wireless technology would drain battery life significantly faster. Still, that wasn’t enough to cover up for all the design flaws found in the UP’s software. Users have griped over everything from the shallow social features to the complete lack of a web-based user interface. The overall consensus is that the app missed out on some golden opportunities to engage the user, which pretty much leaves us with an incomplete package in the Jawbone UP. Off to a Rough Start If it seems like we’re taking unfair shots at Jawbone and its new gadget, trust me when I tell you that is not the case. The feedback on this one has been so bad that the company reportedly decided to offer a “no questions asked” refund and halt further production of the wristband. Various sources are reporting that both software and hardware issues were factors in the decision. The Jawbone UP got off to a rough start, no doubt. So rough, that it may never be able to recover. When you’re designing your app, whether as a stand-alone device or as an outgrowth of some service your business already provides, it is important to remember to take the user’s point of view, from not only conception but also through the design process and release. As mentioned above, the Jawbone UP had the elements to really succeed: fitness essentials to both tracking health and improving one’s life; but the app stumbled at the design phase. These days the social aspect of any app is practically essential. And yet, even if that could be overlooked, can you imagine anyone willing to forego music while they exercise? It might not be part and parcel of the work out experience, but a compromised audio port is going to be a flat-out deal breaker for many, no matter how health conscious they are. When designing your app, bear these points in mind and do not lose sight of who you’re building for.


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