Could I Be a Social Spammer?

A colleague of mine, whose insight I respect, told me the other day that he thought I was spamming my followers. At the very least, he said, I was treating them without dignity and as if they were idiots.

Here’s the backstory:

When I publish blogs postings, such as this one, I like to release them to the social channels I am participating. Namely, Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Linkedin. Of course there’s also the RSS feed. Feeds are automatically created when an article or posting is published. That’s one of the many nice things about blogging on WordPress.

In theory, that means there’s five different ways someone could come across my ramblings. Seems like a good strategy, right? After all, I’ve done a lot of research on blogging and social media over the last several years, and just about every opinion (I’ve seen) adheres to the idea that it’s just plain smart to promote yourself in any way possible. And, because I’m in the business, as one might say, I know by staying on top of my audience that there’s little duplication of followers across the different social networks.

However, as my colleague pointed out, what if someone is following my blog though the RSS feed…and they follow me on Twitter? What if they’re also following on Google+?

If that’s the case, they would get my new posting notice three times, and as he asserts, they’re getting spammed. Not only that, he says they’re being treated disrespectfully, as if I think they’re so stupid they won’t realize I’m feeding them the same stuff over different mediums.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.

A counter argument I posed with him went like this:

What if on my drive home I hear a BMW ad on the radio? Then, as I’m watching TV that evening I see a BMW ad with a similar message. Later, I’m on my iPad reading news on a site like CNN and encounter another BMW ad. Is BMW spamming me? Or, is that just the nature of modern day marketing?

Wouldn’t the process I go through to promote this blog be the same? Wouldn’t my followers simply ignore something they’ve seen already?

What do you think?

Should a blogger limit or restrict the avenues they use to distribute their blog so they don’t overfeed or spam their audience?

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J.C. Penney — AHHHHHHHHHHHH! (The Ad from Hell)

J.C. Penney has a new ad running on T.V. that is probably the most annoying thing I have seen since the dreaded AT&T commercial that was airing last October.

Watch it and see for yourself, however, I caution you to turn your volume down a little.

On one hand I’d like to ask, “What were they thinking!?” It hardly even makes sense (why are they screaming exactly?) and is truly obnoxious on a sensory overload level.

On the other hand though, it was pretty darn clever.  It sure made you sit up and take notice. I know I sat bolt upright when it came screaming on my TV last night.

There I was, half-lidded and slumbering through something (I think it was Up All Night) when it shook me to a height of awareness I haven’t experienced since I nearly got ran over by a city bus, mindlessly strolling across the 16th Mall.

Today the Internet is on fire today with people blogging and commenting on it, and I’m pretty sure it’s water cooler talk in a lot of offices across the country.

But, everyone’s talking about J.C. Penney, aren’t they?

It made an big, immediate impact.

Of course it’ll never be anything that the “Just Do It,” “Where’s the Beef” or “Think Different” ads were. And for that reason, and the sheer annoyance level, I’d think the marketers at Penney’s would be smart enough to give it a short run time and be done with it. After all, there’s a brand backlash movement brewing out there already. People are saying they will never shop at J.C. Penney’s again. That might just be talk right now, but if that ad keeps airing, it could turn into a reality.

While I feel strongly about it too, finding the mind-numbing screeching truly horrific, it will never compare to the insipid AT&T ad that insults its own clients.

What do you think? Is the Penney’s ad the worst ever?

SEO Strategy Development – Determining the Target Audience

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. In general, the higher a webpage is ranked on the search engine results page (SERP), and more frequently a site appears, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image, local, video, academic, news and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website will most likely entail editing content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Optimizing also involves incorporating elements from the overall digital marketing strategy to take advantage of social awareness, develop inbound linking strategy, and/or to create topic relevance and authority.

In order to develop a comprehensive SEO strategy, one needs to do a lot of homework, and it isn’t all just keyword research. It’s also extremely important to take time to know and understand a site’s target audience.

TARGET AUDIENCE ANALYSIS

Many times SEO consultants or agencies will jump right into Google Analytics or Google Adwords and start throwing together list of keywords without taking the time to either reconfirm or develop a target audience profile. I personally think this is a flawed approach. Understanding a site’s audience is probably one of the most important things that can be done to develop a targeted and successful SEO strategy.

Knowing the audience means not only being able to predict their search patterns, but capitalizing on all of the ways they can be reached through digital marketing. And many of those mediums will need to be optimized for effectiveness as well (i.e., social media, affiliate marketing, online advertising).

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3 Gorgeous e-Commerce User Interfaces

One could argue that when it comes to the Internet that the pointy end of the spear will always be the e-Commerce sites. After all, if you’re not actually selling something on the web, then who knows what you’re doing on there (I’m teasing!). And if you are selling something then your life (or at least livelihood) depends on traffic and sales (I’m not teasing!).

Selling services online is nothing like selling products. It’s easy for brochure sites to reel in people. All they need is sensible navigation, relevant content, clear calls-to-action and a smart marketing plan that drives people to the site.

e-Commerce sites need all of that and more. They need near perfect user interfaces (UI) and remarkable user experiences (UX).

Some people might argue that those two things, UI and UX, are basically the same thing. I am one who believes there are significant differences.

UI is the interaction between humans and machines. It is the ability for the user to effectively conduct a particular operation and control the machine. Good UI design allows feedback from the machine to aid the operator in making operational decisions. Good UI is also intuitive, enjoyable and efficient and creates an environment where the operator provides minimal input to achieve desired output(s).

UX design takes that one step further. It defines a sequence of interactions between a user and a system, whether virtual or physical, that is designed to meet or support user needs and goals.

A clean navigational structure on a website is good UI. The act of someone using that navigation and arriving at a particular goal in a manner that is free from confusion, missteps or crutches (add-on fixes) is good UX.

I have recently finished one e-Commerce consulting engagement and am about to embark on another. In both cases, a portion of the project was or is being devoted to cleaning up some cumbersome user experiences. I like to use examples in my UI/UX comparison presentation so the client can get a visual understanding of good design. These three sites I have come to find represent near perfect e-Commerce user experiences:

Jaqk Cellers

Jaqk Cellers e-Commerce UI Screenshot

Without question, the website is exquisite. The colors are wonderfully muted so that the wine bottles are beautifully showcased and the navigation is foolproof. Look at that screenshot of the cart! Could it be any easier to use? The design team truly lived by the principle that you know you are finished with the design not when there is nothing else to add, but when there is nothing more to remove. My only critique comes in that some of the links do not have a hover state, meaning they do not change when I roll over them. The same applies to a couple of boxes on the page. I think when you get this stripped down you need a little link interaction so the user doesn’t miss what can and cannot be clicked. Beautiful.

Bridge 55

Bridge 55 e-Commerce UI Screenshot

There is a lot to love with the Bridge 55 site. It’s clean, the cart is intuitively functional and the design is wonderful. As they say, God is in the details, and there isn’t a single detail that has been overlooked. Even the littlest graphical elements have a custom touch…all of it pulling the site together perfectly. I especially like the top of the page; the navigation is clean and the cart details easy to see and interact with. Another big plus is the fact that their blog uses the same page header so it is a seamless transition to and from the blog. My dislikes? Well, I don’t have many, but there are a few buttons that have the same look and color as the Add To Cart button. It’s not really that big of a deal except for the Add This button (for social media adds) which could easily be mistaken for the Add To Cart and may actually stand out more than it should with the orange plus sign on it. I am also not a big fan of the homepage, which has a feature element that looks like it was designed by someone from another planet (or the marketing department).

Anthropologie

Anthropologie e-Commerce UI Screenshot

There is no doubt that this is the best e-Commerce site I think I have ever seen. It is truly perfect when it comes to UI/UX. The navigation is so simple, even as you move through the site, that it almost seems like they are selling two or three sweaters and a couple pairs of shoes. But don’t be fooled, they have a lot of stuff on this site and it is easy to find, review, add to your cart….and buy! The design is modern and clean with tons of white space and the muted colors make the products leap off the page. I especially like the next and previous arrows on the top right of the item page that let you navigate through the entire collection without having to return to the full collection page. But, there’s a handy link to the full collection too if you need it. My only complaint…that would be the ugly Facebook Like button they have on the item page. They have some other social media buttons on the page that have been redesigned so they go with their site, so I am not sure why they have the blue Like button plopped on there like that unless it’s to make sure it is recognizable (but it does detract from the design….and I am not yet convinced those stupid Like buttons really have that much ROI in them!).

I hope you find these three sites as compelling as I do. If you have some you think are standouts, please share them. I am always looking for great examples.