ABC – Always Be Converting – Website tips for your business

The over-quoted but underviewed scene in Glengarry Glen Ross where Alex Baldwin rips into the staff has a bit where he talks about the ABCs: Always Be Closing, when it comes to any kind of web presence for a business it should be: Always Be Converting. If your website is not designed to get custom and make contact with potential clients then it’s a vanity exercise.

It’s very interesting to read how Obama’s decision to announce his VP selection via text message came about: They needed more subscribers to their mobile phone database. Simple really. A few 100k were on their list, announcing it via text message ensured that number would jump a magnitude. Getting people to contact you or opt in to updates from you from one of your channels (Email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc.) should be a focus for your web work.

So on the front of your site, have contact details, credible ones (not just a mobile number), don’t have just a form on the Contact page. A real postal address and landline helps a lot for that contact page. See this business communications checklist. List your content channels if people look at the site, make a positive (but not buying) decision about trusting you and want to get updates from Twitter or Facebook. Tell them why they get rewarded for doing so. Bargains, discounts, first for new content etc.

And don’t forget to use language that appeals to the person. Conversational, not formal and removed.

And now the same idea with more expletives and a bit of insanity:

All very Facebook

As more and more people I work with are moving some of their communications to Facebook and expanding what they’re doing they have various needs. If you can do any of the below, let me know by emailing damien < at > mulley.ie with subject: Facebook Work

  • Facebook Ad experts
  • Facebook Page coders – Can you sex up a Facebook Page with HTML and FBML?
  • Facebook App/API coders – What it says on the tin

Marketing a hotel online – Some thoughts

Since the event that the two Ciaras ran in Killarney a while back, I’ve been chatting to some Irish Hotels about online marketing. I’ve shared my thoughts with them and am sharing them again here now.

There are a few ways that a hotel can use online resources such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter to both increase traffic to their website as well as get more people talking about them online and offline. Ranking well in search engines is all well and good but what can you offer if you and a hotel across the road have the same rates and are neck and neck on Google. If your friend recommends a hotel down the road that’s a little more expensive would you be inclined to go to them or at least their website? The real endgame here is getting members of the public to recommend your hotel, even when they never stayed but their friend did. It’s happening and online can make it happen more.

Searching for “hotels in Cork”, “Hotels in Dublin”, “cheap hotels Dublin” will result in you seeing some very competitive placings. Hotels spend well on search engine optimisation but it’s not just about those pages on your website. Do you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and other sites that rank very highly on Google? A hotel should do their best to own as much of the front page of Google as they can.

Hotel Nove, Marianske Lazne (Marienbad), Czech Republic.
Photo owned by Jim Linwood (cc)

From the mechanics then, to the way the message is relayed. Personality. What way are you communicating with people? Are you fun and friendly? What do you know about the general area and fun things to say? Are you recommending good restaurants and places for tourists to go? Are you encouraging patrons to leave reviews and to blog about you?

Creating a blog about your hotel is good, creating a Twitter profile for your hotel is also good as is a Facebook Fan Page or a LinkedIn Discussion group. People however are not searching or looking to join such a niche community. They want to learn about the half mile to hundreds of miles around it. Why not instead create a blog that while centred around your hotel, also talks about the general area? Become a noticeboard for the community and all their events. Same for Facebook and LinkedIn. You should still however also fully control the usernames for your hotel name too on these sites.

Getting a little in-depth

Blogging:

Create a blog:
Creating a blog will give you a boost in search engine rankings but more importantly it will be a way of showing off your expertise on the area around your hotel. What can you offer above other hotels in such a competitive market? A personal experience which you can show off on the blog and also expertise about the area. Tell people what is interesting, what most other tourists might not get to see. Give case studies how you went above and beyond for a client.

Blog Content:
Have a blog that talks about the Hotel and general area.
Use the blog as a noticeboard about events in the immediate and the surrounding area.
Include photos and videos of recent events at the hotel and the area.
Additionally talk about the hotel on the blog. Give some history. Give stats on the hotel. Number of guests each year, ever. No of miles per year visitors travel to get to hotel. No of sheets washed per year. Weight in tonnes of these sheets. No of rashers consumed each year. If you lined them up end to end how many mies is that?

This will create both engaging content for people who look at the hotel website as well as content that will get people talking and linking

Blog offers:
Be known as a “Blogger friendly” hotel: Offer free wifi in the hotel and give a 5% / 10% discount for “fellow” bloggers. Encourage guests to blog about the hotel and their trip so others can read the opinion of guests. Offer them the chance to guest blog on the site and share their thoughts and get a tourist’s perspective on the area. Add a link to the blog link list (known as a blog roll) to all bloggers who have stayed in the hotel.

See here for a list of Blog Installers if you want to install a blog.

International (Green) Zone, Baghdad, Iraq
Photo owned by jamesdale10 (cc)

Video:

YouTube
YouTube is the second most used search engine nowadays. YouTube videos also show up in Google search results. What videos show up now for your hotel name and the general area?

Create video content using a cheap videocamera like the Flip or the Kodak Zi6 (see some of mine). Interview guests. Interview business people. Talk about the history of the hotel. Tag all videos. This will bring people to your content searching for themselves, their friends, the general area, your hotel. Make sure to add a logo or name to the videos. This is not a sales pitch or a sneaky way of making a hard sell. Make sure the content is useful.

Photos: Flickr

Create an account on Flickr.com, the photo sharing website and upload photos of the area and recent events on a regular basis. Flickr is the most popular online photo sharing site in the world. Encourage guests to become fans of the Flickr profile of the hotel and also encourage them to take photos. Run a monthly competition (for perhaps vouchers) that results in the best local photo being on the front page of the hotel website. Get users to tag their photos of the hotel interior and exterior with the hotel name.

Photos: Pix.ie

An alternate is to use Irish Website Pix.ie to also upload photos.

Facebook:

Create a fan page
Create a fan page for your hotel and import the feed from your blog so new content is being created on the page without any manual work. Also import photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube.

Facebook Events:
Facebook allows you to create events. Create events listings and invite all your contacts to them. Be careful not to send events out too often.

Create a second fan page for your general area
Use this like the section of the blog as a community noticeboard. Use it to inform people of local events and to provide links and information about your local area. Facebook pages show up in Google results.

Twitter:

Create the HotelName account on Twitter to prevent someone else taking it. Also create YourAreaHotels account on Twitter. You can import blog posts into your Twitter account. Do this. Make it clear that the account is that of the hotel. Give out discounts and special offers on the account. Use it once again to share information about the area

Searches on Twitter
Use Twitter to run searches for “hotels in Dublin” “Dublin hotels” or whatever your area is etc. etc. Do not try and spam people about the hotel or broadcast special offers to anyone that mentions these phrases, instead contribute to the conversation. Don’t be a chugger.

Le Meridien San Francisco Room 1112 (5)
Photo owned by garybembridge (cc)

Measuring Effectiveness:

For the blog and website:
Measure number of new links to the website and number of comments on the blog over time.
Measure boost in search engine rankings from this campaign after 1 month, 3 months and 6 months.

Sales measurement:
Have special sales code for Facebook, Twitter and even blog offers. Measure how many availed of this.

Facebook Page:
Measure number of fans of the Facebook page, number of comments left

YouTube:
Measure number of videos watched, numbers of comments left

Twitter:
Measure number of followers, number of replies per day, week, month

Online Marketing can mean building something and stepping back

And I don’t mean a god-awful “subsite” for some time-sensitive campaign

I’ve been working with some very different companies and organisations of late and some have identified online communities that they should approach and try and work with. Just buying banner ads is pretty much out as it’s very lossy. What we’ve been trying to do is get these communities to take a look at the products and give genuine feedback on how they should be marketed and even what needs to change in the products. Sometimes though these communities don’t seem to exist or are scattered amongs dozens or hundreds of sites. So I’m trying to get the organisations I’m working with to build a space online for these communities and build them the tools and services to allow them to exchange information and just let them at it. No chugger-marketing (get in your way and face), no spamming you with email updates you can’t opt out of, nothing like that.

An analogy would be a skater shop building a skate park for their community, if that community doesn’t have one already. The old-skool business types would of course plaster such a place with ads, loudhailers talking about the latest offers and demand the kids only wear and use the products they stock. Restricting the freedom of your customers isn’t going to work these days. I remember I saw a show before about some athlete and some kid asked him for an autograph and he told the kid he was contractually obliged to not sign anything with a logo of his sponsor’s competitor. All the kid had was a flyer he got at the event. I’m sure his sponsor was delighted seeing that because they probably thought the kid will know better next time and buy some logofied item to get a signature. Or maybe the kid will find another hero. They’re spare these days since the net can connect us with them all.

skate
Photo owned by Aitor Escauriaza (cc)

If the skater park does exist however, just go along and participate as someone who has something to say. Give advice freely, make recommendations but disclose your bias. Go there to help people out and maybe ask for some help back. Be a skater, be a coach.

In the Forrester book Groundswell they gave the example of a group that built a private social network for cancer patients to recount their experiences and exchange information with each other. From talking to these people they saw exactly how patients chose their specialists and what criteria they used. People didn’t actually spend too much timing choosing who they should go to, they left that to their doctors so the cancer specialist centres then started working with Doctors to let them know of their services.

Of course something like a social network is expensive and Ning isn’t that great so you could just build a blog and use it like a community noticeboard, a central source for everything in your business segment. Mention everything that’s going on. Mention your competitors and talk them up. If you build a space online where the people who you want to market to are coming to every single day, have it in their bookmarks and their news feeds then you don’t really need to do the traditional form of in your face advertising or marketing. Brand recognition and trust is there.

Last weekend I spoke to some county and city councillors about whether they should do the whole online thing and do a blog and join social networks. I think for the vast majority they should have a blog and should use it to talk about local issues and explain their reasonings and take on things. However with the local elections pretty much just around the corner, perhaps setting up one now might be seen as a cynical exercise. Two years ago might have been a better time as it will take a while to get momentum going with these things. A blog isn’t a campaigning tool as such and making it one will probably end in failure, it’s a longterm communications tool for the day to day and week to week issues the public and a politician might encounter.

spoa090197
Photo owned by bob brussack (cc)

So going back to the skating analogy, build your store next to the skate park and be there dispensing genuine advice at the skate park. Yes, it’s going to be a bigger effort and a lot more work but it’s a longterm commitment that in a way ensures a longterm survival.

Collision Course 1 – Aftermath

Well actually, in case it wasn’t clear, bloggers are not whores for free stuff.

Whore in Boca
Photo owned by tercerojista (cc)

Other coverage of the first event: Rick, Alexia, Peter, Will, Thomas, Eoin, Alastair.

I’d disagree that throwing free stuff at bloggers or inviting them to events is good for either demographic. That kind of stuff is superficial and lacks any kind of thought. Bloggers are more than Gavin Lambe-Botoxes. And I’d strongly disagree with Thomas that bloggers think they’re journalists either. That is easily proved wrong with the slightest interaction with bloggers. Journalism is way more than writing about free stuff you were given and maybe it should never have done so.

For me, the real value in working with bloggers is giving unbiased information to opinion formers, those who reach beyond their blog readership and are respected by other blogs and their peers in the offline world. Those who write and analyze because they want to, not because they got the offer of something. If you have a shit hot product then giving the gorey details to a blogger who considers their blog as a space that covers these products is good enough, they’ll be clever enough to come to the right conclusion about it. Answer all the questions they have about it. If you have a shit product though then don’t give it to a blogger, unless it’s one of the claphappy ones out there that take money to do reviews anyway. No I won’t supply a list. They might be good for search engines but they’re not respected.

Saying that, the web and the Internet might be the future but this is the present and bloggers have some influence but not a lot. PR people need to figure out the value in bringing bloggers to events and boozing them up and whatnot. Perhaps a simple email with a few attached documents might be more than enough. Many bloggers might appreciate access to someone in a company or an information source rather than samples of a product. This billable hours thing that was mentioned a lot at Collision Course suggests PR companies have limited resources and some clients might not want to pay big amounts. If that’s the case, maybe one’s time is better spent trying to get discussion of your client or their company on to Pat Kenny or mentioned in the Sunday Business Post but then again, this is pretty much the same as bringing bloggers to events. Short term.

You know, the R in PR? Working on that might be better. Proper relationship building takes much longer than that though and billable hours will probably hamper that. Perhaps that’s why the clever PR firms hand over the relationship to internal employees of their client company once the blogger or journalist is first introduced via the PR company? Good matchmakers are good PR people. The King sending gifts to his potential Queen does nothing if she has more than a few braincells. Which goes back to the first line in this post.

There is nothing new in this globally but locally it seems bloggers and PR people are learning these basics. If you’re not clever on how you work with bloggers and how bloggers work with PR companies then you will see blog posts like this famous and very true blog post from Tom Coates about his disgust with PR and Marketing types. That happened 18 months ago in the UK. Hopefully the idea of Collision Course and ongoing feedback will stop this. Perhaps next time those that aired their feelings in the pub afterwards might actually do so at the event where the PR people were.

For the next Collision Course I’d hope we can move beyond seeing how best to make contact with bloggers and ask the PR people the best way bloggers can contact their clients or get information from their clients via PR companies. It’s two-way, not one way. In addition I’d hope to get bloggers and PR people to bring along what they consider good examples of Online PR and Marketing.

Knowledge is Power – December 22nd 2008

This opinion piece in the Sunday Business Post is truely awful. Running an Online Marketing Campaign by learning lessons from how criminals do spam attacks? No no no.

So a rate card for Facebook leaked out and then another. 300k for a sponsored group? Youch.

Brilliant. Alex Tew builds a game that ties into the shoe-throwing George Bush press conference. It’s done within hours of the event and sold for 5k within days of it. It’s called Sock and Awe. The shoe throwing is still news about a week later. If a little flash game can be built within hours of an event, why is is taking your webdev team a year to do your new website or 6 months to build a new tool for you? Today you’re 6 months late if that tool takes 6 months to build.

And speaking of being timely.

Forrester tells you how to choose a social network if you want to market in Europe.

Social media predictions for 2009.

Broadstuff shows the Cost Per Click model ain’t that good these days.

The business case for asking for a business case

Please stop asking for the business case for blogs or Twitter or Facebook or all these digital tools. Is there a business case for people reading the Irish Times in the office? Or listening to Morning Ireland?

On Friday night I was in London. On Friday night a local furniture store in Cork burned down. My Cork friends in London and myself watched what happened via my mobile and Twitter. Feck the notion of “how can we use this for business” before we allow it through our web filters. Just allow it. These are some of the pics we saw from London.

Pictures via Sam Kidd who was on the scene.

This is the aftermath:
Cork Fire North Main Street

What exactly is your justification for blocking the outside world from hearing from your company and sharing with your company?