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The new opportunities in the new Gmail

It’s been just a few weeks since the new Gmail inbox has been rolled out globally. And some have already declared it to be “the best thing to happen to email since the oldGmail“, and appropriately that ‘best thing’ has been spearheaded by the team at Gmail. Already in the short time it’s been live, MailChimp’s analysts have said they’ve seen a drop in open rates, however others, such as the team at Hubspot and ExactTarget have said they’ve either seen minimal or no impact at all to open rates.

what is the new New Gmail ?

Why the change and how does the new Gmail inbox work?
The Gmail team have taken Google’s 300 year plan ‘to sort the world’s information’ and applied it to what the Gmail team clearly recognised as a problem. And, what is that problem? It’s two fold.

First is that with additional storage comes additional lethargy to deleting old emails, this creates bulk and completely un-required weight to your email account.

The second problem is that relatively low value communications such as Facebook notifications of a friend tagging you in a picture of sushi and Sale reminders from that store you’ve never quite managed to get around to unsubscribing from, sit directly alongside and even get in the way of your really valuable information such as flight reminders, hotel confirmations, meeting requests and other tangibly valuable communications.

The primary change you immediately notice is that Gmail is now pre-sorted. Pre-sorting is based on a users history, frequency of contact and engagement, as well as who the sender is. Users no longer need to use the filters and folders on the left hand side which they  may have been carefully crafting over the last couple of years and most importantly for the changes are likely to mean a reduction in searching through potentially thousands of old emails for that one that was saved because it was important.

Check out this explanatory video from the Gmail team for a short overview.

How many tabs can I have?
At this stage it appears users can have up to 5 tabs, and three come turned on as standard. The five tabs are:
Primary (default) – What users will see by default when logging in. Featuring comms from people you know, and starred messages.
Social (default) – All social sites are sorted in here – twitter, Facebook, G+, Instagram etc
Promotions (default) – Where most marketers emails will now go. Sales, promotions, and information from companies.
Updates – notifications and service updates (changes to twitter terms of service or Google’s Play store etc)
Forums – updates from forums and online communities.

“We do much more than promotions…I want to be in the primary tab!”


Getting into the Primary tab
Reading the list above some email marketers may have just experienced a cold sweat, exclaiming ‘Promotions! We do much more than promotions, my email is important, I want to be in the primary tab!’

The good news is this, if you’re making genuinely content rich valuable emails then chances are you’re already on your way to getting into the primary tab. There are two known ways of getting into the primary tab:

– Your email subscribers can drag your email from the Promotions tab and into the Primary tab.

– Google continues to learn and those email subscribers who have higher frequency engagement will increase the likelihood of your email being assigned to the primary tab naturally by Google.

Avoid being spammy. I haven’t been able to find anything concrete about this, but if the updates to SEO (as evidenced by Penguin) is any guide, being spammy is a big no-no and could result in being penalised at some point down the track. Requesting  your users  physically move your email to the primary tab is one such example. It feels cheap and it’s a fairly obvious ‘gaming the system’ mentality that I’m sure Google have already considered how to tackle. Additionally, if you’re only going to get your subscriber base to do something, it should be spent on asking them to do something much more useful like engaging with the content and products you’ve lovingly laid out in the email.

The consistent theme for Email, Social, SEO
Email marketers have been content focused for much longer than old-School SEO’s and to some degree Social media managers. Email databases live and die on the quality of content delivered. Even for those who know this fundamental truth it’s still important to step back and think more broadly about what this change means for email and Social and SEO.

These changes represent a fundamental shift in not just the role content plays, but ups the level and importance in the quality of it. Once again Google is pushing a better experience, and as marketers we can’t sit on our laurels and churn out ‘Top 10’ lists, Infographics and ‘How to’s’. This is consistent with the Penguin changes to SEO, and the basis of Social Media.

Summary
The new Gmail is better for users, sorting what Google knows is important without hiding what you’ve signed up for. The opportunity for your business to stand out is more than ever reliant on your content strategy and strong engagement. Getting content right, and integrating it into Social and SEO objectives gives you the best chance of your email thriving.

 

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Why doesn’t Facebook optimise their signed out pages?

With all the talk about Google+ and its potential impact on Facebook, there is little disagreement amongst many industry observers that Facebook needs to up its game a bit.

But why wait for Google+ to put on the pressure?  Even basic things, like sign out pages offer huge opportunities for mobile, tablet and other product and service adoption. In-fact Twitter and Linkedin have been doing something similar, but independent from each other, for over a year now.

Namely, they’ve been using their ‘signed out’ pages as ways of driving one final message: mobile and tablets apps and integration. It might sound like a small thing, but when you consider how many tens of millions of users each social network has, and how many times per day, week and month sign out pages would be seen globally, the reason for not using it to push a message is drowned out. The ability to push one last message during the customer experience before they leave is invaluable. Not using it for a purpose, other than to directly sign back in – as Facebook uses it – seems like a lost opportunity.

Even at just 1 percent of Facebook’s approximately 500 million users, seeing the ‘logout’ page everyday that’d equal 35 million page views per week, or 140 million pageviews over a four week period. That’d mean Facebook’s logout page alone would receive more/rival traffic volumes than even the largest media websites.

Three screenshots of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin’s pages a user goes to once signed out, are below.

Twitter – signed out page

Twitter.com sign out screen

Linkedin – signed out page

Linkedin sign out screen

Facebook – signed out page

Facebook sign out screen

UPDATE, as per a question: So just how many pages could Facebook’s ‘logout’ page be serving each day, week or month?

Back of the envelope guesstimate using fairly conservative numbers:
500 million users, minus 20% of completely non-active accounts = 400 million users.
30% of 400 million users use the site on any given day: 120 million users.
Of 120 million daily users:
@ 30% log out every day: 40 million pages served a day, 240 million ‘logout’ pages every week.
@ 20% log out every day: 24 million pages served a day, 168 million ‘logout’ pages every week.
@ 10% log out every day: 12 million pages served a day, 84 million ‘logout’ pages every week.

It is indeed a pity they’re not using it more effectively.

Wrapped up in our own bubbles – part 1

There are several big picture issues floating around on the internet at the moment all of them revolving around filters, personalisation, social conversations, social media, anonymity and privacy vs conversations specifically tied to your real life and the real you. I’m going to try to tackle these issues/discussions one by one and hopefully finish up with a few summarised thoughts, potential implications and lots of questions worth mulling over in the coming weeks, months and years. The issues are too big for just one post however, so consider this to be part 1.

The first issue to tackle is the discussion around filters and personalisation. Eli Pariser, the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org, argues that more and more individuals and companies are wrapping themselves in ‘filtered bubbles’ of information, and that this is ultimately a bad thing. A ‘filter bubble’, is “A filter bubble is a concept developed by Internet activist Eli Pariser to describe a phenomenon in which search queries on sites such as Google or Facebook or Yahoo selectively guess what information a user would like to see based on the user’s past search history and, as a result, searches tend to play back information which agrees with the user’s past viewpoint. Accordingly, users get less exposure to conflicting viewpoints. And according to Pariser, the filter bubble is “that personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms” which, based on past choices, reflect a person’s existing viewpoint.” Source.

I strongly encourage you to watch the video below as Eli draws out, but stops short of describing, some of the impacts of a filter bubble, and what that means for individuals, groups, collectives, societies and nations.

What Eli touches on, but doesn’t go into a great deal of detail about is what this means in the medium to long-term and about the implications of companies. political and social groups trying to communicate to a broader audience. In an era of ‘over-personalisation’ where your future search and online results are influenced by past decisions it becomes easier to be convinced that you are right, because Search Engines – both algorithmic and social – deliver what you want to hear, read and see, and are influenced signficantly based on what you’ve previously asked for. How does an individual grow sufficiently to take in broad opinion if the search results they receive cater to what they know, not what they don’t know? Over time, the delivery of this personalised information leads to more like-minded searches, which in turn deliver more like-minded results. Breaking out of that cycle could be very difficult – how do you for example tell algorithmic search engines that you want to be challenged, if you don’t know what some of the alternatives are?

The challenge for business should be plainly obvious: How do you talk to the unconverted where they aren’t getting the information they might need because years of search history indicates they don’t know and an algorithm doesn’t isn’t programmed to recognise that they might need it? How do you get to individuals that should be looking at you and considering your services but where you might be prevented from delivering that information to new groups because a search engine, or personalisation algorithms have decided that your message isn’t relevant, even if it is. In an online environment a future challenge (to start working on solving now) is how to get your message to those that aren’t already singing from the same hymn sheet.

This may not be a massive issue right now because the internet is still relatively young, and personalisation more so, but consider the current generation growing up now – next generations students, consumers and leaders – how will their lives be affected, and how will businesses talk to individuals who have never known any different?

Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld said it best when he posited this:
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

On to part 2.

The Goldilocks effect – when it works just right

‘The Goldilocks effect’ is, unsurprisingly, a term adapted from Robert Southby’s “Goldilocks and the three bears” novel, and is generally used to refer to the “habitable” zone where a planet might sit in terms of its distance from the sun it orbits – not too far (cold), not too close (hot), but just right. Generally reserved for astronomy and astrophysicists, I believe the term could and should be applied to digital, mobile and social media marketing too. The notion that something needs to be ‘just right’ to be shared and enjoyed by like-minded, or broad audiences is what most marketers and business are hoping will happen.

As we’ve seen, there’s an art to getting it just right. It might seem like a simple recipe:

goldilocks

– A dollop of something inspiring
– A dash of fun
– Pour in people getting excited
– Add a sprinkling of social media
And all of this mixed together is meant to add up to a great marketing, social and viral campaign, that’s worthy of talking about with colleagues and sharing on social networks.

A simple recipe it may be, but even the simplest recipe’s are hard to master. Truly great chef’s know you need to add your own unique ingredients for just the right flavour, texture and success.

Today I want to share an example of a campaign that hit the Goldilocks zone from the minute it was conceived. Other than Ōtoro, blossoming trees and Loft, the Japanese are passionate about their Shinkansen trains.

Japan’s Shinkansen Corporation got their new marketing and social media campaign just right in this new video of the soon-to-launch Southern Bullet train service.

They added an essential ingredient: People’s Passion. They tapped into something that many brands could do, but are either scared to, or lack the vision to do – they gave up control of much of their visual content to the people who will use their services. It’s a brave and scary thing for many brands, it’s safer to control everything from the outset. But the one thing that controlling, or trying to control, the entire message can’t achieve is a huge amount of interest from everyone involved when the campaign launches. Shinkansen have ensured they have a large ready-made and eager audience in every participant – because everyone wants to know if they made the cut. And if they did, they’ll undoubtedly share it, and be talking about it with their friends and colleagues for weeks to come. If they didn’t, they’ll probably still share it, because it is a very happy, celebratory, video (Try watching it and not smiling).

In a country that is light years ahead in technology in so many ways: mobile banking and mobile payments (I’ll do a post on this soon), restaurant ordering, and corporate efficiency just to name a few, it’s always inspiring to see something truly great that is powered by the thing that Japan is arguably most proud of: its people.

The Shinkansen campaign and video hit the Goldilocks zone the second they launched this. The only question remaining is when you’ll hit your Goldilocks moment too.

Random Shinkansen facts from Wikipedia:
travelling Tokyo-Osaka by Shinkansen produces only around 16% of the carbon dioxide of the equivalent journey by car, a savings of 15,000 tons of CO2 per year.
– The Shinkansen has had a significant effect on Japan’s business, economy, society, environment and culture.[6] The time savings alone from switching from a conventional to a high-speed network have been estimated at 400 million hours, an economic impact of ¥500 billion per year.[6] Shinkansen connectivity has rejuvenated rural towns such as Kakegawa that would otherwise be too distant from major cities.
– During the Shinkansen’s 45-year, nearly 7 billion-passenger history, there have been no passenger fatalities due to derailments or collisions, despite frequent earthquakes and typhoons. Injuries and a single fatality have been caused by doors closing on passengers or their belongings; attendants are employed at platforms to prevent such mishaps.

And my personal favourite:
– The Shinkansen is very reliable thanks to several factors, including its near-total separation from slower traffic. In 2003, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen’s average arrival time was within six seconds of the scheduled time. This includes all natural and human accidents and errors and was calculated over roughly 160,000 Shinkansen trips completed.[8] The previous record, from 1997, was 18 seconds.

Making Social Media exclusive – the next evolutionary digital step

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece “not so social media” and within it I posed questions about how a business manages the balance on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc) between loyal customers, potential customers who haven’t bought, and those that joined because they might think about buying someday but equally might not.

There’s little debate that social media is huge for consumers and businesses. There’s even less debate that Twitter and Facebook is very useful for quickly spreading messages ranging from as ‘Britney Spears got a new haircut ZOMG’ through to ‘Rebellion in Libya, tell the world what’s happening to us’.

But where there is debate and discussion with Twitter and Facebook is its tangible, monetary value to business. Particularly to those businesses that see it as a ‘push’ service, not a discussion and communication medium. And internal conversations are fast evolving from ‘lets get as many people as we can‘ to asking ‘how valuable are the people we’re getting anyway?‘.

Businesses are now quickly facing up to questions about social media database value, and treating them just like any other database they might have built through ‘traditional’ channels. High-level questions such as:

– ‘How do we deliver real value to loyal customers through social media?’

– ‘When our loyal customers swim in the same pool as people who have never used us, how do we separate them to build meaningful relationships with either, or both, group(s)?’

– ‘We’ve managed to get 100,000 followers on Twitter. How much are they worth to us?’

– ‘How do we determine who is truly engaged, and who isn’t?’

– ‘Do we really want or need a huge database? Or is having a tight-knit, more engaged, database better?’

Many marketers are currently focused on evolving businesses, messaging and campaign offerings to deliver greater, more personalised, experiences – perfectly tailored to individuals or close knit groups of similar users.

How might social media evolve from here: Retention and deeper emotional connection

Social media will undoubtedly evolve from its current form. But as marketers, the challenge will be to ensure that evolution and adoption is valuable too. But how can social media play a part in that as part as a valuable communication ‘bridge’ if the conversation is open to anyone and anyone?

I believe there is an opportunity for businesses to take a more proactive approach to integrating social media into incredibly valuable, but as yet, largely untapped areas in their business, and that is ‘behind the wall’. Adapting social media technologies to membership marketing and retention marketing activities may just be one of the cheapest, and most effective ways of retaining customers. As yet it hasn’t been adopted much, if anywhere.

There is an opportunity to differentiate and add significant value to product and service offerings by qualifying individuals and approving them to join group(s) and channel(s) as a part of the entire customer experience.

The argument for making Social Media exclusive

Social media purists, observers and commentators might rear-up in horror at the thought of organisations locking up social media channels, and that’s fair enough – it’s a new concept.

Making some, or specific, social media channels exclusive to current, valuable clients, might sound ludicrous to some – ‘social media should be open right?’, but if we think about it in a real life situation, nowhere works that way. For example: If you go to a bar on a Saturday night, you don’t have a conversation with every single person in the bar. You will almost always have conversations with people you know or new people who have been introduced to the group by a friend. Now ask yourself why you don’t have a conversation with everyone in that bar? Nothing is stopping you. You don’t know for sure you won’t have anything to talk about with each person, but it might take a lot of time to find the few things that you do have in common. And in the end having the common ground you may have might outweigh the uncommon ground you have, thereby negating the effort and actually producing a negative reaction of avoidance should you see that individual again.

By pre-qualifying who can join discussion channels it actually makes the value proposition for the business and customers more valuable. Customers who are actually invested in the product or service have an open forum to discuss issues while ensuring that the conversation is only had with like-minded, or similarly interested parties. The conversation would be more engaging due to there being a higher starting benchmark and the participants would care more about the outcome of the discussion.

In a more private, like-minded environment more valuable conversations about product innovation, testing and idea generation can be developed, as well as more effectively presenting renewal, reward and retention offerings. Should the customer choose to cease purchasing, or continuing their membership, access to the exclusive social media arenas would also cease – if the customer is heavily invested in these groups some may continue using the product and services to continue having those discussions. Equally, it would allow customers to voice dissatisfaction earlier, and allow the company to respond more appropriately.

The wealth of untapped information that could be shared is mind-boggling, and unbelievably valuable, if you start to think about all the possibilities of what a loyal, exclusive, group of customers might discuss and be willing to share.

Maybe not for everyone

This concept may not be for everyone and every business. But in an economic environment where more and more businesses are competing for eyeballs and dollars, low-cost, effective customer retention and product innovation is fast becoming a major objective of many businesses. It’s all well and good to grow, but if you’re losing em’ as fast as you’re getting em’, then the business isn’t growing, it’s treading water.

People want to feel good about themselves and their decisions. People want to feel exclusive, and that the companies they choose to purchase from care about them.

Using social media as a retention tool is a new way of using a new technology to meet and exceed age-old customer expectations.

5 great infographics about digital issues

More and more infographics are becoming the norm to explain complex issues in fun and design rich ways. Today I present you with 5 great infographics that have recently been produced.

How content farms work

PCMag, has put together a stunning inforgraphic on the topic of content farms. Content farms, for those who don’t know, are companies that specifically produce content to appeal to search engines and closely match high frequency search terms. They work, essentially, on the basis that enough pages on one topic – each one slightly different of course – which has a high enough search string will deliver enough pages to make viable amounts of money from advertising revenues.

Highlighting Demand Media, one of the world’s most prolific spam content farms, their business model is actually quite ingenious, as they only produce pages which they estimate will yield positive advertising revenue over a five year period. How many pages could they possibly be creating? According to the infographic, their goal is to produce up to 30,000 per day. Regular readers of this blog will know that Google has changed its algorithms recently to try and bring ‘genuine’ information to the forefront, and lessen the impact of these content farms. But it’s going to be tough. At 1 million articles per year, that’s rough 18 years of New York Times articles.

Get the full size infographic here.

Noob guide to online marketing

Unbounce is helping all prospective online marketers (including those who want to become a little more offait with it) by producing a stunning infographic. Titled “The Noob guide to Online Marketing”, and resembling a dart board with scoring slate undearneath, it truly is a sight to behold. The guide is more detailed than many might have hoped – lest their bosses wonder why they haven’t implemented whole sections of it – but it is a striking piece of graphic design, with the holy-grail of online marketing – the landing page – smack-bang in the middle as it should be. Below, I’ve included the top half of the infographic, for the full version, visit Unbounce’s website, link below.

The full inforgraphic can be seen and downloaded here.

History of Social Media

In November, 2010, Skloog released what many regard to be the quintessential infographic of the year. It was an infographic displaying the history of Social Media. Social Media is being embraced more and more by companies ranging from those who you would expect to be involved – teen and youth focused brands, right through to more ‘suits an’ boots’ organisations such as banks and insurers.

I’ve highlighted, what I consider to be the ‘best’ growth time for social media – 2004 to 2010, however the full infographic is too large to put on this blog. Click on the image below to see it’s full size, or go here for the original which spans from 550BC to 2010. It’s worth noting also that despite this being produced just four months ago – the latest entrant, Google Buzz, has already been withdrawn from the market.

Australian mobile phone usage

One of the hardest things, as an Australian marketer is to find decent, and up-to-date information about Australian mobile phone usage trends. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I found the gem below, which has been cropped, (posted in full here) from mobicity.com.au.

Top mobile trends of 2010

Perhaps a little late to the party, the inforgaphic below highlights some of the ‘big stats’ from 2010. Nothing too surprising here, except perhaps the rise and rise of mobile spending – that is, the actual dollar amount spent through mobile devices. That section of the infographic is below, the full infographic is available here.