Sunday, October 31, 2010

The New Influencers

At the recommendation of our professor I chose to read The New Influencers by Paul Gillin. The reason for my choice is the bane of my existence, the NCH Software Blog. I was a computer science undergrad student and never really considered myself a writer and this never ending challenge of writing for a blog has been one of my largest challenges in my current marketing position. And of course since we are software company I am surrounded by coworkers who are completely unwilling to contribute anything that is written in anything other than C++. But I found The New Influencers to be a very interesting read and I hope to take some of the things I learned and use some of Gillin's insights of the blogging community to help improve our company blog.

In Addition to the recommendation from our professor, Gillin was the founding editor-in-chief of TechTarget, and a former editor-in-chief of ComputerWorld. The forward is written by Geoffrey A. Moore, and the book also comes with recommendations from many well known names including Seth Godin. None of which is anything to sneeze at.

Gillin introduces the book with a quote that he himself made back in 2003 that he is forced to admit how he was completely wrong. He said “Blogging’s wave has already crested, now that millions of online diarists are realizing that not that many people actually read this stuff.” The success of blogs despite the odds is a recurring theme in this book and I found his honesty of his mistake on the topic gave me an added level of respect for him as someone who has thoroughly investigated the topic, and like many of the bloggers he spoke to is willing to bend and admit their mistake when it is pointed out to them by their readers.

Gillin uses case studies and stories to explore everything from the different kinds of blogs to the enthusiasts that write them, viral content, the dangers of ignoring bloggers as a company and much more. I found it to be a very fast and interesting read, and a book I will likely read again to make sure I didn't miss anything the first time through. If you have any interest in learning more about the dynamics of the blogging community, I would strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of The New Influencers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web by Tamar Weinburg Reviewed by Kimberly Carpenter

I chose this book for a couple of different reasons. First, I really wanted to know what all the hub-bub was about and thought I might be able to incorporate some of this into my work environment. Second, my group is presenting Twitter and I had no idea what Twitter was about or why everyone was talking about it. I had tweeted once in my life, thought it was stupid and never tweeted since. So I admitted to myself that I really needed to know more before I made hasty decisions and gave up tweeting forever.

The book really is a general handbook or guidebook that takes you though the detailed basics of how to get started, figuring out your goals, choosing the right social media to support those goals. Weinberg goes into much detail about some of the major forms of social media available to you, including blogging, microblogging (tweeting), Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, human contribution sites such as Wikipedia and social news sites. You get a good idea of what each is about and how to behave properly so that you are not ousted by the others. Closing the book by pulling it all together.

In general, I thought this book was great for someone like me that really has no idea what it's all about, however it is probably not detailed enough for most students in this class. If you already have an idea of which social marketing tools you would like to use or are already using them, this book may be too general. This book gives you a good overview and you finish knowing a good bit about a lot of different social media sites.

This is the first book Tamar Weinberg has published, has been in the industry for about 15 years. She current works at Mashable, a social media news website and consults on the side. She participates in many social communities and has many online publications. I felt she was a credible source and I also believe that in her consulting career she probably has answered a lot of basic questions and that may be where the very basic nature of the book stems from. I would recommend it for someone like me who has tweeted once in their life and uses Facebook only to share pictures with family and friends. It will give you a good idea if it’s something you would like to pursue, the time and costs involved and the benefits.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FBML by Jesse Stay - A Review by Jeff Miller

The book I selected for the Marketing 6700 e-Commerce book review was Facebook Markup Language Fundamentals or FBML for short. I chose this book for many reasons: first for my desire to learn more about Facebook as a customizable social media platform, second because of it’s relative rank in an search on “Facebook development”, and finally because of it’s price (4 out of 5 stars for $20 - can’t go wrong with that).

The author, Jesse Stay, has been involved with Facebook development from the very beginning and has consulted for some of the top 100 Facebook applications. He is the CEO of a social media consulting and development business. His clients include the iTunes app iTV and the Facebook We’re Related App with 4.7 million active monthly users. According to his blog he was recently named one of 20 developers to follow on Twitter and one of 10 entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by the top Tech blog

FMBL is technical reference / how-to book about Facebook application development using the Facebook Markup Language (FMBL). The book provides a brief introduction on the history of Facebook and Facebook development. It teaches the basics of the markup language and serves as a reference. Like many other software book’s it provides several code examples many of which require the reader to have an understanding of Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) and JavaScript. Although the book is geared toward web developers it also serves as a introduction to the basics of FBML.

My first attempt to apply the principles I read from the book proved much more difficult than I expected. The getting started section described in the book didn’t match what I found on Facebook and some of the examples didn’t work. I eventually made my way to the official Facebook Developer’s Site and found the roadmap where I learned more about the changes that caused my frustration. Additionally I learned what else would impact and further invalidate what I had just read about Facebook development.

Instead of focusing on the details of a constantly changing language I will relay a few key takeaways that still hold true today and should endure the dynamic nature of the many “languages” of Facebook.

  • By default, the applications canvas page is publicly searchable and viewable by those not logged into Facebook and should be tuned for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Performing SEO on your publicly accessible pages will drive app usage up.
  • Although the days of Facebook app viral launches of 1 million users in a single day have slowed down (it can take months to reach 1 million users) it still remains one of the best way to utilize social connections and gain exposure of millions of users.
  • For not FBML static applications you must have your own servers. The Facebook application architecture consists of Users (who access Facebook) à Facebook Servers (send requests to your servers) àYour Servers (send data back to Facebook).
  • Think big, start small, scale fast. Without the proper infrastructure in place your app could go viral and cause your servers to go down in minuets. The author recommends using a scalable service like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). EC2 is a virtual computing environment that allows you to use web service interfaces to launch instances with a variety of operating systems and load them with your custom application environment.
  • The Facebook developer’s site has helpful test consoles that can be use to validate FBML or other Facebook code.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my review of FBML (and subsequent attempt at Facebook development) it’s the only thing consistent about Facebook is guaranteed change. This constant change means that significant changes to the Facebook user interface or API can render a Facebook application broken. Facebook development is a constant maintenance challenge. The biggest problem with software books like FBML is the short shelf-life (the text becomes obsolete as soon as the next version is released).

In summary, I can’t recommend FBML (July 2008) for today’s Facebook development. I would however, recommend checking out Stay’s latest book Facebook Application Development For Dummies that will be released in Feb 2011. I would also recommend not spending much on a Facebook development book in general because at the current rate it will end up either a coaster or paper weight in six months.

Marketing in the Age of Google, by Vanessa Fox, Review by Rachel Vassaur

This book provides a great overview for understanding different tools to implement an online business strategy. Vanessa Fox includes a thorough discussion of online search-related topics to help you implement your strategy, expounding upon search data, search methods, search personas, search engines, search strategy, search engine optimization development, social media, and the future of the web as it pertains to online search. She looks at online strategy from the perspective of asking the question: What do you want to accomplish with your business, and how can you create an online presence in congruence with you business strategy? From her point of view, an online strategy should not be very different than a regular business strategy because the internet is just another outlet for marketing – like radio commercials, tv commercials, or mailers. For instance, an online strategy would not be something like, “Get involved in social media,” but could be, “Use a company facebook page to encourage customer feedback and understand the needs of the customer.”

Even though she keeps reminding the customer to focus on content of sites and how they affect customer satisfaction, which I see as the broad view of marketing, she gives some technical advice too. She weaves the conceptual and technical together by referencing specific tools you can use in order to understand what the customer wants. The most mentioned tactic would be tracking the details of the traffic on your website. If you know where people are clicking, when they are abandoning, what ad they are responding to before arriving, etc, you can understand how to direct your website’s look and feel to your users’ habits.

Another plus in this book is that she assumes your online vocabulary is minmal and explains the meanings of common terminology used by developers in order for you to a.) be able to communicate with your developers and b.) get a full picture of how the web and search work. This basic technical understanding often keeps higher ups from asking the impossible from their developers. It also saves them time by focusing their efforts in the right places. For instance, since 63% of search-related purchases occur offline, a company might not need to offer online purchasing if it has numerous storefronts (Fox 10). However, Fox notes that there is a growing need for businesses to at least have an online presence because of how many people search and view inventories before going to the store (i.e. furniture sales).

The largest percentage of this book is simply statistics about internet use that have been found in various studies. Most of the studies are not the writer’s, which gives her information more credibility. She references a large handful of well-known experts and studies to offer incites into what you should focus on when you’re tweaking or creating a website. For instance, 85% of clicks on search are organic search (9), but people tend to trust a site if it appears in both (Fox 12). So what does this mean? Basically, don’t spend all your budget on paid advertising, but don’t neglect it all together either. These kinds of results in the book will save you hours of time trying to pull together different studies for yourself.

Overall, Fox really has a traditional view on marketing, considering her background with such a huge internet-based company (Google), because she defines online marketing the same way Geoffrey Miller, author of Spent, does. Fox, via the words of Miller, defines marketing as, “a systematic attempt to fullfill human desires by producing goods and services that people will buy” (Fox 30). He continues, saying that a “company should produce what people desire, instead of trying to convince them to buy what they company happens to make... Marketing is not just one of the most important ideas in business. It has become the most dominant force in human culture” (Fox 30).

In the end if you’re looking for a beginner’s book on e-commerce, focusing on marketing, you should read this book. Google is like the entry way to the web, and it can also serve as the entry way to your understanding of the web. Fox will flood you with quotations, statistics, and study results, but she focuses these numbers and facts around one idea: marketing online is the same as marketing offline – know your customer.

Here's my youtube of a mini-presentation of this book:

Attention! This Book Will Make You Money by Jim F. Kukral - A Review by Michele Kantak

This book was written by Jim Kukral to assist ANYONE in getting their business started online. Every chapter has a new subject and example of how to get your product out there and noticed among all the millions of others. It is filled with case studies, references and proven examples of what works.

The book is broken into three parts, with no names as to what the parts are, so I’ve added my own suggested titles to them:

Part I – All About Getting Attention
Part II – Making Money Online
Part III – How to Market Your Product

The strongest aspects of the book is that it is written so well that anyone can pick up the book and read just one chapter and that chapter be able to help them improve their online business.

My favorite chapters:
Chapter 13 – “26 Ways to Generate Killer Ideas” talks about finding which way helps you generate useful ideas for your business, some of which I would have never even considered.
Chapter 18 – “What’s Your Hook?” asks you if you are memorable? One of the most important things to get attention for your business is to create a memorable brand – if it’s not memorable, then it’s forgettable.
Chapter 36 – “The Tools” shows the users that new technology can help them get up and running without having to hire a professional to assist them, specifically Membergate, which will assist with business member programs.
Chapter 43 – “Attention! Videos Can Make Money” really goes in depth on utilizing YouTube and what it can do for your business.

Of course the entire book has ideas on social media, the Internet in general, and inspiration on how others have found success. Kukral really focuses in on the fact that you have to be willing to do the work and take the chances by thinking creatively to make money and succeed in the online world. His biggest key is “Attention = Revenue” and that those who don’t try, fail 100% of the time.

At the end of the book there’s an offer for the reader to schedule free time with Jim and he’ll get on the phone and talk about your business and goals and see if he “can come up with some attention-getting idea that could skyrocket your sales, create a flood of referrals, and powder keg your publicity.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, A review by Susan Hittner

I selected this book as the subject of my review for two reasons. The first is to learn more about the different aspects of social media and why it is a successful medium for so many businesses today. I also want to assist a not-for-profit girls' volleyball club expand their brand exposure and reach.

The book is a how to guide to getting noticed on the web. It covers the inbound marketing concept, changes in the marketing field and differences from traditional marketing methods. The intended audience is business owners who have little to no access to commercial marketing companies and large marketing budgets.

The strength for the book is the way in which it is set up. It divides the process into for parts:

Part One: Inbound Marketing - Chapters 1-3 cover the "why" of inbound marketing, with topics like "Shopping Has Changed...Has Your Marketing?"

Part Two: Get Found by Prospects - Chapters 4-7 cover more of the "how" or tactics of the process, such as the different sites within the social media network like Google, Blogs, facebook, and LinkedIn to name a few.

Part Three: Converting Customers - Chapters 8-10 focus on different ways to pull customers in to your site and coverting visitors into leads. It also includes common mistakes to avoid and the advantages of experimentation.

Part Four: Make Better Decisions - Chapters 11-16 provide additional detail to analyzing results of your social media marketing campaigns. It also leads into next steps for your marketing and business growth.

Throughout the book, the authors provide checklist called "To Do" at the end of each cahpter. This provides a step-by-step process for a business owner to follow. The book also provides an entire section devoted to tools, resources and tips for startups.

At times the books goes into deeper technical explanations. For a small business owner, this may be a little intimidating. Many business found on the web may, or may not, have a technical resource with which they could discuss these ideas to explore the plausibility of a campaign or idea.

I believe this book is a step above Social Marketing for Dummies in complexity. It was written in the same vein as The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. Inbound Marketing is the first book in the series "The New Rules of Social Media".

I would highly recommend the book to anyone interest in this area. It is full of ideas, checklists, details, and interesting, real-world examples for each topic. I learned much from this book and am actively applying (albeit slowly), it to the fan page on facebook for the organization I mentioned earlier.

This page can be viewed at:!/group.php?gid=277102765472

Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day by Hollis Thomases, A review by Jeremy Neas

This book was certainly the most interactive books I’ve ever read; even more so than those ‘Choose your Own Adventure Series’ books that I will never actually admit to purchasing. The medium in which the author made her book available played a huge role in my enjoyment of the material. I was able to purchase her book through the Kindle store on and download it onto my iPhone. This made it extremely convenient to interact in ‘real-time’ with the various website links that Thomases provided in her data references. This ‘interactive’ theme carried its way throughout the entire book, enabling me to be ‘just click away’ from relevant blogs, stories, feeds and references.

Another example of Thomases interactive theme was the placement of personalized handles for specific references (i.e. “Jeremy Neas (@Jeremy_Neas) sites in his review…”). By integrating this feature, she enabled the reader to conveniently add new tweeps to their follower list, as well as stay up-to-date on the more interesting people and companies mentioned throughout the text.
Though the intended audience for this book is mainly companies looking to use Twitter as another form of e-commerce, the average ‘Twitterer’ can easily find value in it as well. The layout is well thought-out and easy to navigate through. It initially dives into the history and the basics of what Twitter is, but quickly moves to the common assumptions about Twitter and then gravitates towards the power Twitter can provide for anyone looking to advertise/expand/grow.

She starts by stating “What Twitter Is Not:

1. Twitter isn’t accessible only on the Web
2. Twitter isn’t the “new” email or cell phone
3. Twitter isn’t a form of instant messenger
4. Twitter isn’t a micro version of your blog
5. Twitter isn’t private by any means
6. Twitter isn’t a replacement for Facebook, Myspace, or other social networks.
7. Twitter isn’t a competition.”

Twitter creates value because it helps with:

1. Keeping in touch
2. Making new friends
3. Connecting with Like-Minded People
4. Voyeurism
5. Event Planning
6. Activism
7. Entertainment
8. Getting a company’s latest tweets
9. Marketing and business Development
10. Monitoring Brands and Reputations
11. Keeping up with the Latest News

“The most successful people and brands using Twitter are the ones who treat Twitter as an ongoing, open, and thought-provoking conversation rather than just a broadcast medium.”

Thomases provides in-depth look on exactly who is on Twitter and their motives, as well as the demographics of the users and what you are may come across when you start your venture forth. I went into this book with an open mind, erasing my previous knowledge about Twitter in order to use this book as a guide. Doing this definitely gave me a newfound appreciation for everything Twitter offers and made my reading experience that much more enjoyable.

Textbook to Reference Guide

The book makes a big transition after chapter three which ends part one. It transitions from a text book to a reference guide. Part two goes hour to hour, day to day, and week to week about how to transition from a Twitter “rookie” to a serious power user. I consider it a reference guide because the author understands she doesn’t have all the tools. She does understand where all those tools are, what they are, and the benefits of each one. Additionally, she does a very good job at clearing out the noise of the web and consolidating all the necessary requirements that a business (or person) must have to extrapolate the functionality and usefulness of Twitter. That is what makes this book so powerful.

My live presentation will walk through the reference piece of the book, and what it takes for a business to become a major player in this arena.

For now, enjoy my podcast...

Web Design for ROI

To increase sales, either you increase conversions, or increase contacts per day. This book outlines how to design websites for increased conversions. Web design for ROI presents a method of thinking [usability and audience focused] which managers should pursue in order to build and optimize websites for increased return on investment.

The online commerce world is comparable to the old school brick and mortar retailing industry, where stores assumed if the product had demand , the buyer would purchase. Retailers then learned that placement and external variables can affect consumer spending. Similarly, web design is broken [average cart abandonment rate is 59.8%] and needs to be redesigned for increased ROI.

According to web design for ROI, the top design efforts should focus on forms & checkout, landing pages, category pages, and detail pages. This design focus is contrary to much of the current development efforts seen by large corporations where the homepage is the focus.

Taking a new design approach will ensure your website stands out and converts traffic using the desired call to action, [thus increasing ROI].

The in class power point will outline why each section of design is important to creating a website built for ROI.

Book Authors:
Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus