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As some of you have heard, I'm leaving University Marketing and Communications, and will be doing freelance Web design and consulting. I will continue to post on an array of topics geared to academic, corporate and non-profit Web developers, bloggers, content managers, marketers and anyone else with an interest in the Web. You can also expect a few marketing entries about the move, as I learn how long it takes to rebuild readership in the new location.
Instead they babble repetitively in varying sized and colored typefaces, repeating their promises over and over again, but with slightly different wording. If you're in business for the long run, no matter the field, content that merely badgers readers into buying your whatsits and whatnots is not the solution. Pick the right graduate school so they can research light-emitting polymers that will help them develop new green technologies. Now that your visitor has decided to explore your site, you need to give him or her the information needed to make a decision. People talk about Web content in terms of stickiness—methods they can use to keep visitors on the site or encourage them to return in the future.
By giving visitors the information they seek, we serve both their goals and ours, while forging customer relationships that can last well into the future. Lately I've noticed that a great number of online marketers are unfamiliar with these marketing basics. Your product will not appeal to everyone on the planet who has a dog, so there is no point in spending the time and money it would take to reach all of them. For example, I recently mentioned the word "dog" in a Tweet (a message I posted on Twitter.) Within 2 minutes I received an e-mail saying that person X was now following me on Twitter. Customers and potential customers share bad experiences and I shared this with many friends who now also will not buy from X. In the long run we'll make more sales if we can match our product to customers who have a desire or need for that product. Is available in a range of sizes—meant to accommodate either the smallest puppy or the largest Mastiff.
We may learn that certain breeds are more likely to wander and their owners would desire such a collar. Let's say we've decided to target college-educated Volvo drivers with Golden Retrievers as one of our market segments. It's important to remember that people will only follow us back if we have something worthwhile to say. Taking the time to narrow your audience to an easily defined niche makes marketing more cost effective.
Once you've found that audience you need to connect with them on their own terms if you want to achieve any level of success. Now that the New Year has been rung in, it seems that the meme of the moment is to blog about the year in review.
Plurk: Social Media Marketing in Action brought in new readers and temporary traffic spikes, the more timeless subjects such as writing, marketing and navigation were the ones that drew in the most readers overall. Suggestions on ways to test sites in multiple browsers, reasons for testing and why we still can't ignore Internet Explorer 6.0.
Overview of popular uses for social media, nature of word-of-mouth and the impact of social media on marketing goals. Your home page is NOT your index; it's your store front provides tips on navigational aids that will help users to explore your site no matter which page they may enter through. Exploring the differences between subdomains and subdirectories and their impact (or lack thereof) upon marketing. Embedding YouTube Videos is one of the easiest things you can do on the Web, but if you're a stickler for standards compliant HTML, you can't just copy and paste.
Positioning photos with hspace or tables is awkward and dated, but the CSS float property makes it easy for anyone to include images in their Web sites and blogs so that they float cleanly to the right or left of the text. Search Engine Optimization may seem complicated, but by following these simple SEO basics you can make a significant impact. This brief introduction to HTML provides links and resources for learning HTML as well as a homework assignment users can try as a way to get started. This is the first in a series of articles that make up my Planning your Web site tutorial—in which I walk readers through a process of identifying goals, understanding their audience, choosing content, outlining a site and organizing pages and navigation.
The Web is constantly evolving and we're all trying to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. Heidi thinks the veil between the 'brick and mortar' world and the 'cyber world' becomes more elusive each day. My friends tell me that I'm no longer shy, but I am an introvert, so I have to admit I was just a wee bit nervous.
George Nemeth was there and George knows everybody and is more than happy to make introductions. Cleveland Social Media Club (on Ning) provides an information hub, but it's also enabled us to easily create multiple redundant pathways to one another.
All gnashing of teeth and wailing aside (and yes there was a lot of that) one of the first things people did was to start announcing where else they could be found. We had this information, we had the ability to download our data, but it was clear that we were scattering into the wind. At the time I really wasn't certain about my long term goals, I just needed something I could launch quickly. By way of comparison this blog was 20 months old by the time it started generating that level of traffic. Since then we've lost a bit of momentum and probably need to refocus marketing on community building strategies. Soylent Green, there is a classic line towards the end that states, "Soylent Green is people!" Alas, soylent green was also what people ate.
As the semester winds down, and the holiday season encroaches, it seems there are more and more events to publicize, greetings to send, end-of-year newsletters to distribute, holiday sales to promote, etc. In many popular e-mail programs, the default preference is to have images turned off in incoming messages. Sighted readers, such as me, have no way to judge whether the message is worth reading (or not) unless we click on the image. Readers with vision problems who rely on screenreading software have no way to read a message that is part of an image.
Most of us know that tables are meant for tabular data and CSS is meant for style and position. The middle row has a white background and contains another table with one row and two columns. The left column contains a background image, but no background color and features the main text. To add an inline style to an html element just include style=" " and put your regular CSS information within the quotes. People sometimes worry that they'll lose too much flexibility if they try to stick with Web standards, but this example shows that despite the limited support of CSS in e-mail there is still room for experimentation. The e-mail standards project provides information on what features are supported by the most often used e-mail programs.
How you send an HTML e-mail depends on your mailing list and the programs you have available.
Macbook Pro looks great but if your current one is only a year old and serves your needs you may not need to order a new one just yet. I don't know the answer to that but I suspect it would be more than 30-40 characters, and would depend on the strength of your original decision. There is, but most of it is focused on URL length for search engine optimization, maximum URL length able to be read by certain browsers, etc. Instinctively we like the idea and ease of short URLs, but URL length is only one of many factors to consider in our Web related marketing strategies. Those who recommend having links open in a new window do so with the intention of making it easier for users to return to the original site. By now, the theory goes, you will have either forgotten where you were before or forgotten how to get back. Get Satisfaction page in which a user actually requested that links on Pownce open in a new window.
Individuals who are unable to detect changes of context or may not realize that the context has changed are likely to become disoriented while navigating a site. While writing this I kept having a vision of wandering the Internet in a world where every external link opened a new window or tab. Categorical Imperative he states that one should "act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law." While this idea was meant to deal with issues of morality, it's easy to see how it could be applied to lesser situations such as links opening in new windows. According to myth, a sticky Web site is one that compels visitors to stay on the site for a long time. This blog, while vastly different from Amazon, has similar requirements when it comes to stickiness. If you've been writing a blog entry about Web site stickiness and outbound links, perhaps you've piqued their interest enough that they want to learn more. Whether your Web site is meant to sell widgets, promote an event or disseminate knowledge, your outbound link strategy should be to provide helpful information to your visitors. By providing such resources you can build goodwill towards your brand and help users make a purchasing decision. In the end, if you take as much care with your links as you do with your other content, your readers should come back for more. Jimi Izrael will introduce you to the myriad types of blogs and explore their evolution as an outgrowth of modern journalism.
Center for Community Solutions this half day seminar will offer ideas non-profits can use in promoting their services through social media and introduce you to members of the local media with particular insight in the field.
Founded in 2006, the Cleveland Web Design and Development Meetup is "here to help folks come together to learn about and discuss making the web, web pages, web programming, all that sorta thing.
Founded in 2007, "The Cleveland Web Standards Association (CWSA) is grounded on the premise of sharing information in a relaxed atmosphere. Founded in 2002, the Cleveland Weblogger Meetup Group meets once a month to discuss blogging, Northeast Ohio, politics and anything else that seems interesting. I know this because they post links telling me they can make this happen if I buy their books and CD's or read their blogs. It may help you sell a short run of something, but it won't establish a relationship with your clients, build a solid customer base or solidify your branding strategy.

This will allow your readers to judge the quality of what you offer, and determine if that offer will serve their specific need. If a visitor is picking a graduate school, he or she will want to know about the faculty, the facilities, fellow students, courses offered etc.
It seems like everyone wants to get involved, call themselves an expert and use the magical powers of social media to triple sales, recruit students, etc. Like any tool it needs to be used in the proper context—in conjunction with other marketing strategies. While it comes in a variety of colors, it's not a huge variety and none feature rhinestones.
Perhaps owners of Golden Retrievers are 50% more likely to buy multiple collars for their dog than German Shepherd owners.
Perhaps college-educated Volvo drivers replace their dog collars 50% more often than Cadillac drivers. We've discovered that we can buy mailing lists for this group, that they watch the Discovery Channel and regularly buy from L.L.
This may then be a good place to put up a Facebook page, to advertise, and to participate in discussions about dogs and accessories. Twitter conversations aren't as easily segmented by topic as they are on Facebook or StumbleUpon. By carefully reading through these results we can pick people one-by-one that may fit our audience. This is not a place to push our product, but a place for us to join a community in which we can share ideas on topics of common interest. Before following any of them, we have to make sure that we've posted some worthwhile Tweets—most of which are not about our new collar. People think of social media as being a free alternative to traditional advertising or direct mail, but making successful connections requires time and labor. So, instead of presenting you with my top 10 articles of 2008, I've decided to break them up into 2 groups, the top 5 written in 2008 and the top 5 from year's past that continue to draw readers—even with the passage of time.
This article addresses the importance of using a tone suitable to both the audience and the subject matter in order to better connect with readers and clearly convey your message. But no matter which platform we use to publish, which strategies we apply, it always seems to come back to the basics. Whether it's to promote a business or an academic program, it's not unusual to hear people as, "How should we be using Twitter?" or "What should we do with Facebook?" The questions often focus on the tools, but as I've mentioned before, in Social Media: Your Interactive Information Resource, social media is about making connections—human connections. While this has been apparent to me for sometime, it's become increasingly clear over the past month. Thus, if one service goes down, the connections aren't lost, we still have other channels available. My friends group contained liberals and republicans, atheists and born-agains and people from several different continents and cultures. Pownce always made it easy to post our other profile addresses on the site, but now people were indicating where their primary addresses would be. In my panic, I decided I needed to create a new, possibly temporary home for us, someplace that would still exist after December 15, where we could continue to share our contact information. I configured the page to use the colors from the Pownce home page, enabled some features that I thought might be useful and spread the word. This way I thought we could use this page to keep track of Pownce-related activity elsewhere.
It sounds silly, but it was a good way to get new people involved as it gave them ideas on things to post.
In April 2008 there were over 230,000 networks on Ning, and they were growing at over 1,000 per day. This sample was created with certain features in mind to demonstrate how such an e-mail will render in different programs. Thus many of us receive e-mails with little boxes and some indicator that says "click here to load images." If you are like me, you rely on the remaining text of the message to make you decide if you should bother or not.
They are relying purely on the text of the message and any "alt text" provided for the image. To ensure that they are readable by everyone in your audience, just be sure to include all the important points as actual text. The original file contains two images, a picture of Death and a white background image with shaded edges.
With images off the white background from the main table will show through so that the text is still easily read. In some of our samples the e-mail is showing up as dark blue which is hard to read against the dark background.
This helps me determine if the problem is a simple coding error or if it is due to a feature not supported in one of the e-mail programs I'm testing. But I've found that padding seems to fail more often than margin in e-mails, so I use margin to ensure that I retain space between paragraphs in as many programs as possible. These offer helpful guidelines, but the only way to know what will work for your file is to test it in as many different programs as you can. If you're regularly sending mass e-mails to large lists, you may wish to use an e-mail service such as Target X or Constant Contact. Site owners had been telling me that their URLs were too long for users to type and that this was keeping people from responding to their direct mail campaigns. The length of an URL is but one of several factors a reader considers when deciding whether or not to respond to a direct mail offer. On the other hand perhaps you can justify getting a new one by giving the older one to your daughter—who could use a better computer. If the next step is to visit the Web site then you probably will take the mailer over to your computer and type in the address.
You have decided you are interested in the product or service and want to place your order, RSVP for the event or do whatever else may be appropriate to the offer.
It would be unusual that any of us would need to create a 70 character URL, even for a very targeted marketing campaign, but if we did, I don't know that it would be a deal breaker.
If the chore of typing 70 characters is enough to deter someone from completing their order, then perhaps they weren't that committed in the first place.
Many people are researching various aspects of URL length, but without very specific testing it can be hard to determine if URL length or some other factor is the relevant issue. The majority of these sites have short domain names (and thus short URLs) and he concluded that there is a correlation between short URLs and site popularity.
Although many others have already written about this topic, it comes up often enough that I think it is worth discussing.
Anyone who surfs the Internet knows that it is easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of links. Of course if the link opens in the same window, and you are using a current browser such as Firefox, you can simply click the down arrow next to your back button to navigate back through the series of links you just followed. With one click I can go back and read another interview or I can choose to go all the way back to the original blog. Preferences vary, so unless you survey the users of your particular site it may be difficult to determine if your audience likes or dislikes it when a link opens in a new window. For example: individuals who are blind or have low vision may have difficulty knowing when a visual context change has occurred, such as a new window popping up. In this vision it was only a matter of minutes before there were so many tabs open in my browser that I had to use the left and right arrows to scroll through them. The content and features of the site are so enticing that users will stay there wandering about for hours.
In that case you can provide links at the bottom of the page that will give them more information. It occurred to me that this might be a good opportunity for those of you (in Greater Cleveland) who are thinking of taking up blogging.
If so you're in luck "Jim Kukral, a lifelong Clevelander and web-famous Internet guru wants to help ease the pain.
The purpose of this association is to provide practical instruction and techniques that will elevate the quality and functionality coming from Cleveland firms and free agents. I finally made it to my first meeting with them last month during which we ate some tasty vittles while discussing gender roles and a variety of other topics.
After having searched Google, discovered your site on StumbleUpon, followed a link from a source they trust or typed in the link they saw on your business card, they've come to your site in the hopes that you can fill their needs. If your site appears to offer what they seek, they will stay a bit longer to find out if your offering is the one most appropriate to their specific needs.
It's merely a tactic used in the hopes that long or repeated visits will encourage readers to buy, or otherwise consume, our stuff. Being currently dogless and unclear of the mission of his site, I neither signed up for the service nor followed X back on Twitter. From this alone we can guess that it will not appeal to small dog owners who dress up their pets in decorative outfits.
If we have an existing customer base for related products we can analyze past purchases to look for buying patterns that may relate to our new product. Perhaps we've also discovered that their average age is 35-60 and they tend to live near major metropolitan areas. It will take time, but it might be worth reviewing the various groups and selecting a few active ones to join.
By targeting your audience you can focus that labor on connecting with the people who matter most to your goals. In 2009 I expect to be writing more on social media topics such as Facebook and Twitter, but I'll also be writing more about content and general marketing principles, the foundations we build upon in all of our Web-based endeavors. So rather than writing a typical how-to or advice article, today I'll just tell you about two recent events that really drive this message home.
Members of Cleveland SMC can friend each other and converse on that site, but we also post our other profiles there. Once the connection is made it can be continued on any one or more of the online services available. When you are new to social networking, it can be intimidating, but theme days provided some great starting points. They spread the word on Twitter and other places, and within no time we had more than 100 members. But this was a social media site, marketed through social media to active social media users.

Alas, as many of you know, creating and distributing an HTML e-mail message is far more complicated than building a regular Web site. Recently I received a message from a well-known business magazine in which the only text provided stated only the name of the magazine and its address. If the sender didn't care enough to present the information clearly, then why should we care enough to read it? This particular message didn't include any "alt text" so the message was lost to such recipients. This doesn't mean you can't use images to add visual interest, it just means that your message will be accessible to everyone whether they can see the pictures or not.
Because the content is text-based the main message is available and the alt text provides a description of the missing photo. In our sample this is showing up as black which indicates that the table cell should be restyled to feature a lighter color. By eliminating any coding errors I can then focus on the work-arounds I may need to implement to solve the e-mail specific problem.
To ensure that your styles aren't ignored, use inline styles to format everything in the document. You can do this by installing several programs on your own computer and by enlisting the aid of friends and colleagues.
To send an HTML e-mail just click the "Write" button to compose a new message, type in your recipients addresses and subject line then go to the "Insert" menu and choose "HTML." A box will pop up in which you can past the code from your HTML file. When deciding whether a mailing is potentially useful, recipients, consciously or subconsciously, ask the following questions.
If you're not as firmly committed then maybe a long address, particularly one with lots of special characters, would dissuade you. If your direct mail campaign isn't sending sufficient traffic to your Web site, then you should also review your message. Disclaimer: links that open in a new window or tab—when that wasn't my choice—are a pet peeve of mine, but I will attempt to explore the topic objectively. To me that seems far easier than wading through a sea of windows, or looking at an array of tabs to find the one you want. Pownce was able to solve the problem by giving users a setting that lets them pick which behavior is the default while they're on Pownce. In this case, warning users of context changes in advance minimizes confusion when the user discovers that the back button no longer behaves as expected." To avoid this confusion they recommend that users should be notified if a link will open in a new window and if possible be given the choice to not have it open in a new window. Whether I bore you halfway through this article or you go on to read several more entries, at some point you will leave this blog. My goal is to share ideas and best practices with you, and learn more from the feedback you provide, so that we can all strive to make the most useful Web sites possible. This is why many Web marketers fret over the percentage of visitors who bounce out of the site and the amount of time spent on it by those who stay. It also made me think that this would be a good time to share some of the other great resources available to bloggers, Web developers and those interested in social media in Northeast Ohio. And it's free." The groups holds regular meetings, offers study groups for novices and provides a variety of helpful online resources.
If your visitor has a hankering for Italian food, then your restaurant menu, location, hours and some photos (of both food and the restaurant) will probably suffice. If we provide content that let's visitors make an informed decision, then we've done our job. Social media, like advertising, direct mail and telemarketing is but one of many tools in the marketer's toolbox. Instead I posted a brief rant to friends on why following everyone mentioning the word "dog" was not a viable marketing tactic. It's rugged and easy to use and may appeal to hunters and other owners of medium to large dogs, especially working breeds. If our Fluffy Anti Flea shampoo buyers have been good collar purchasers in the past, while our dog brush buyers have not, then we should promote our collar to the shampoo buyers. The more we learn about dog-collar buying patterns the more likely we are to narrow our audience down to the group most likely to be interested in our product—while ensuring that there are enough potential buyers in that group for us to make a profit. Accordingly we might want to initiate a direct mail campaign that we send to the list, advertise on the right shows on the Discovery Channel and make an arrangement with L.L. There we can participate in conversations and even talk about our dog collars, so long as remember that social media is about people and not just about our products. We can post Tweets about our own dog, dog-training tips, and observations about life in general that have nothing to do with dogs. If you put as much effort into tailoring your communication methods to your market as you put into developing a product or service that suits their needs you'll have a far better chance of establishing connections than you would with a more generic approach.
While I have written more on social media this year (who hasn't?) I quickly noted that my topics overall continued to range across a wide array of Web related subjects. While video and audio continue to build in popularity, the core of our content is still composed of words. If I went to Pownce with an idea I had about a Web project I wasn't getting feedback from just anybody. As we shared media and stories, personal experiences and jokes we got to know each other on many levels, much as one does in the brick and mortar world. It worked well because we (I credit our early adopters for spreading the word) were focused on a very specific niche (Pownce users), who were well-versed in social media tools, and we had a deadline that affected everyone involved.
In the meantime various members of the community and others are also working to build services with features more akin to the original Pownce.
As we struggled in the days of the browser wars, today we struggle with the myriad ways popular e-mail programs support HTML.
This would also be readable in a text-only mail program with no colors or styles available. I can access my work e-mail in Outlook 2003, MacMail, Gmail and Case's Webmail, so I send myself messages then check them in each program. The important thing is to make sure that it renders cleanly in each and degrades nicely if images or styles are not available. Check with your organization to see if they already have an arrangement with a preferred vendor. The top 100 list includes sites ranging from Yahoo and Google to Apple and Hewlett Packard.
Some designers do this only for external sites while others reserve the technique for opening up .pdf files. I could offer you videos of the cutest dancing penguins or a fool-proof Web marketing technique and you would leave.
Whether you want to take a class or network with others in the field, here are some things that may be of interest. Like any tool it needs to be used in the proper context—in conjunction with other marketing strategies. If we offer interesting insights and links that might intrigue members of our audience and respond to questions within our areas of expertise we'll forge far stronger connections than we would if we treated our Twitter stream as an advertising platform.
Next I looked at my stats to see which articles were getting the most traffic and comments. One fellow declared that he preferred IM and shared 5 different ways to connect with him that way. Anyone who has had to create an HTML e-mail message, or has received one they couldn't read, knows what I mean. I incorporated the letter spacing and the 2009 span changes mostly to see if they would be carried through in the e-mail programs I tested.
I haven't upgraded to Outlook 2007 (as I'd no longer be able to test 2003) so to test that I send messages to my colleague Kim—who patiently lets me look over her shoulder or makes screen captures for me to evaluate.
If you can do that, you will ensure that your message doesn't get missed because of poor formatting. But it did make me wonder if anyone had studied the role URL length plays in direct mail response rates.
How long would it have to be for you to change your mind and not order the product or service that you've already decided you want? Their strong brands would play a greater role in the popularity of their sites than the length of their URLs. While I'd still prefer that links open in the same window, giving me the choice of whether or not to open them in a new tab, I understand that many may disagree.
I think a Web site is sufficiently sticky if the goals of the site owner and its visitors are achieved. As such social media—when used for marketing—still relies on basic marketing principles such as understanding your target audience, the features and benefits of your product or service, brand awareness and so forth. As our focus, today, is on social media let's assume we already have these (and other) strategies in place. In another year we could be spending our lunch hours exploring some yet unknown site with yet another funny name. So today I'll present five tips that should help to make your e-mails readable by the masses. If a user wants to open a link in a new window he can do so by right-clicking (Windows) or ctrl-clicking (Mac) the link in question. If the visitor has a positive experience, follows your call-to-action and comes back to visit in the future, then the site is sufficiently sticky. Test different urls with the same message, try different messages with similar urls of the same length and so forth. I often open links in a new tab if I know that I'll want to flip back and forth between them. But, whatever your preference may be, I hope this discussion will help the next time you're debating where a particular link should open.
If the speakers are well-resepected experts, the event fits your schedule, is reasonably priced and includes lunch, chances are you'll go.

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