Engagement Design and IDEA 2008

August 22, 2008 at 7:03 am | Posted in Business, Communication, Forrester, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, Usability, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Information architecture isn’t enough. Sure, it’s important – I gave some tips just two weeks ago – but it’s not the only organizing structure we need to consider.

That said, it may be confusing when I wholeheartedly recommend you attend the upcoming IDEA 2008 conference held by the Information Architecture Institute on October 7-8 in Chicago. The reason I suggest it is because they don’t just stop at information architecture – the conference examines the interaction and engagement that is possible in a web 2.0 world. (Note – This post is in no way sponsored by this or any other organization. It’s just me talking here.)

By the end of this post, I aim to convince you of the importance of the emerging engagement design, how companies can use it to grow business, how agencies will change in response, and finally persuade you to study engagement design at IDEA 2008 or elsewhere.

There’s No Marketing Funnel In Web 2.0

This blog is based on the idea that marketing is changing – rapidly and fundamentally. Forrester Research describes a key component:

“The marketing funnel is a broken metaphor that overlooks the complexity social media introduces into the buying process. As consumers’ trust in traditional media diminishes, marketers need a new approach. We propose a new metric, engagement, that includes four components: involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence.”

We need to look at information architecture and engagement design in exactly this way. Imagine that information architecture is the skeleton – very web 1.0 – organizing and presenting information in a way the webmaster believes is most beneficial.

Now, imagine engagement interaction as the body and soul in web 2.0. Instead of guessing what will most benefit her readers, webmasters can (must!) interact with her readers to determine how they use her website.

Businesses Engaging To Sell

Business is changing as well. In the report Use Personas To Design For Engagement, Forrester outlines three business who, with the help of their agencies, harnessed engagement interaction through the use of personas. These businesses found the key to interaction design through:

Continue Reading Engagement Design and IDEA 2008…

Handy Hints For Fixing Your Confusing Information Architecture

August 5, 2008 at 6:39 am | Posted in Barlow, Janelle and Claus Moller - A Complaint Is A Gif, Books, Business, Communication, Marketing, Online marketing, Usability | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , ,
Courtesy of recursion_see_recursion via Flickr

Courtesy of recursion_see_recursion via Flickr

Information architecture isn’t sexy. In fact, good information architecture (or “IA”) shouldn’t be something your website visitors even notice.

Information architecture is basically how your site is designed. We’ve all seen site maps – those are basically outlines of your IA. It’s the organization of your website, how things are arranged, and it needs to make sense to your visitors.

Unfortunately, not enough businesses focus on their IA or they assume their customers use their site in the same way they would. This blog post explains why you must pay attention to your IA and includes some handy hints to figure out if it’s working.

I Can See Clearly Now

The non-profit Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA) recently released a study called Finding Information: Factors that improve online experiences. One of the main findings was that visitors are looking for “simple, accurate, fast, and easily navigable web sites.” Visitors to websites reported feeling lost on websites or not knowing where their desired information was in much higher percentages than the designers of the websites.

Your designers may have the best of intentions and be highly creative, but it’s up to you to ensure your customers can find the information they need and know where they are on your site at all times.

Website navigation starts with your IA. Here are some handy hints to help you determine whether your website is easily navigable and, if not, how to start fixing it.

Continue Reading Handy Hints For Fixing Your Confusing Information Architecture…

Social Technographics: Forrester And The ROI Of Social Media

May 13, 2008 at 6:04 am | Posted in Communication, Facebook, Forrester, General, Generation X, Generations, Marketing, MySpace, Net gens, Online marketing, Research, ROI, Second Life, Social Media, Tagging, Tweens, Usability, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Last week, a lot of you read my guest post about the ROI (return on investment) of social media. There is no doubt that social media is changing the ways people interact online and hence, the way companies communicate with their customers.

The thing that is still missing is quantifiable data about these interactions. We’re in a theory stage – we know what’s right because we have experienced it – but we are still waiting for proof in numbers. Forrester Research made a giant step in the right direction when they introduced social technographics.

Social technographics is an analysis of consumers’ approach to social media – not just which ones they use, but understanding how they use the medium in their daily life. You can download the full report on Forrester Research’s website (there is a fee) or read the book on the same topic published April 21, 2008: Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. (There is also a ton of free goodies at the Groundswell blog.)

I sat in on a webinar last week where Charlene and Josh expounded on their work. Josh summed up the goal of this work: “Think about what you want to accomplish, not the technology.” There is so much fascination about what technology can do that marketers often forget the question is what technology can do for you. The webinar came back again and again with the message to use this data to inform a strategy for your clients. (You can find the resulting Q&A published post-webinar here.)

How’s It Work?

Charlene and Josh categorize web users into six sections based on the level of their activity, from Creators to Inactives. I have not seen a clear but simple ranking system like this before and I certainly hope it is accepted as an industry standard. The real value, however, comes from their detailed analysis of each category’s activity.

Continue Reading Social Technographics: Forrester And The ROI Of Social Media…

Monthly Metric: Bounce Rate

February 21, 2008 at 6:32 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, Decision making, General, Marketing, Online marketing, ROI, Search, SEM, SEO, Usability, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Someone lied to you if they told you statistics were boring. Website metrics show just how your audience is using your site and you ignore this data at your own peril.

A bounce rate is when someone comes to your site and immediately leaves. They bounce off of your website for whatever reason. A bounce is undesirable – you want people to come and stay on your website! Bounce is the opposite of sticky.

Time vs. Pages

I had always understood bounce determined by time – that this figure was measured from people leaving a site in a certain increment (usually 2, 5, or 10 seconds). So I was surprised when I read in Website Magazine that they asserted that bounce rate “is calculated by dividing the number of total page visits by those visits that did not result in an additional page view.”

Continue Reading Monthly Metric: Bounce Rate…

What’s After Web 2.0? Thoughts About The Personal Browser

December 27, 2007 at 6:15 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Communication, Companies, Cookies, Decision making, Facebook, General, Marketing, Microsoft, MySpace, Online marketing, Second Life, Tagging, Usability, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If Web 1.0 – typified by online newspapers and emails – was about one to many content production, and if Web 2.0 – typified by WordPress and twitter – is about connecting people through a many to one publishing model, then what comes next? I used to think it would be something of a network or matrix – many talking to many. But don’t we already have that? What’s really missing? Instead of thinking macro, we need to be thinking micro. Here are some thoughts on the personalized internet browser.

If we already have everything we need in terms of connections to other people, then the next logical iteration of online behavior is to make our communication and shopping more personal. What if there was an internet browser that knew who I was?

Let’s take online shopping: I imagine we could have a browser that automatically loaded my preferences, including clothing sizes, preferred brands, etc. And I’m talking across the internet – not just on a particular site. If I look for jeans, this browser would load size 34×32. It would place Izod in front of Sean John. Blue and black shirts would be listed before green. If I got a hankering for rugby shirts all of a sudden, it would respond in kind.

This system would be as much or more based on exclusion as it would about inclusion. I can assure you that I will never ever ever buy anything from Nike, but I do like Converse and Simple. This is an an important distinction if you want me to buy something from your store. (More about the importance of exclusion in Rob Walker’s article in Fast Company this month.)

Instead of cookies used between my computer and Amazon, and my computer and Barnes & Noble’s, and my computer and Best Buy, they would all be integrated across the board. This browser would recognize items rather than stores. For instance, if I am shopping for a book, I wouldn’t need to go to Amazon, B&N, and Powell’s individually. I could search for the book and get a list of prices from each online vendor. Likewise, book recommendations would not be based on a particular site, but rather the internet at large.

Here are a few other problems that would be solved by the type of browser I am describing:

  • Why can’t I move my half.com wish list to Amazon or another retailer, and then why can’t I morph that into a wedding registry on TheKnot?
  • Why do I have to log in to MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster separately to see if I have messages or to see what my friends are doing?
  • Why can’t I crop and size a photo and use it to create a SecondLife avatar which would then be used as a basis for a World of Warcraft character?

These are not difficult steps to take, relatively. We already have the information and we are quickly becoming adept at manipulating it. Now we just need to make it dynamic and customizable which is far less difficult. Sure, someone will need to develop a smart cookies and a nice interface and a business model (uber-targeted ads, perhaps?), but it is certainly within reach.

To sum up, the standards then for the personalized internet would be as follows:

  • Customized (and customizable) based on the person
  • Based on inclusion and exclusion of items
  • Online shopping based on item rather than store
  • More power to the user, less to a particular vendor
  • Bring together all the information from various sites into one dashboard

What do you think? Is this all crazy talk? How far away is all of this? Who will be the first to seize onto it (Apple, Google, a dark horse)? It will almost certainly be internet-based rather than software, so that already puts companies like Microsoft at a bit of a disadvantage. But it is anyone’s game. I want my personalized internet!

Marketing Done Right or How Miley Cyrus Showed Me The Future of Marketing

December 11, 2007 at 6:05 am | Posted in Boomers, Communication, Companies, Disney, General, Generations, HP, Marketing, OfficeMax, Online marketing, Tweens, Usability, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

[If you like what you read here, be sure to subscribe.]  

I have a confession: I attended the Miley Cyrus – Hannah Montana show on Saturday evening. I am not a fan – suffice it to say I attended for the benefit of others. My future cousins in-law had a blast and I got to see a friend doing what he does best (thanks Jason!). Though difficult to concentrate in the midst of 10,000 pre-teen girls shrieking at top volume, I did see some rather striking examples of marketing done right. All of it was so smooth and so integrated into the show, I think it was an example of what entertainment will be like in the years to come.

  • Props to sponsor HP for recording video segments run during breaks in the show that integrated their sponsorship with their (and Miley’s) charity work. It was the normal thing (“X percent of your new printer will be donated to Y”), but the production value was great and both kids and parents got the message.
  • Award for the most ingeniously simple marketing scheme: OfficeMax. You might be asking yourself why HP and OfficeMax would be sponsoring a kid’s show, but the sheer volume of well-off parents was proof enough. I saw more limousines (Hummer limos included) than I have for any rock show. Regardless, OfficeMax was giving away signs at a table outside the main doors with a word balloon printed on the front. The idea was that the kid wrote something (“We LUV you Hannah!”) and held it up during the show. However, OfficeMax also included their logo prominently on the back of the sign. That way, each little kid was jumping up and down promoting OfficeMax to every person behind them.
  • I noticed several un-uniformed young adults handing out what appeared to be surveys so, of course, I grabbed a couple. They start out pretty innocuous – age, gender (boy or girl, rather), frequency of interaction with Hannah Montana/Disney.com, excitement to see the show, etc. Then it asks you to name the sponsors of the show. A little weird, but ok. It only started to perk up my interest when out of the blue it asks about my printing frequency. Then the subsequent four questions are about my printing habits, with HP prominently in the first position of the multiple choice. The survey is a great touch-point, makes the child (or more likely the parent) notice HP’s sponsorship, and it provides valuable information to the sponsor.

In all, well done by the sponsors of the show. None of the marketing was too invasive, but it certainly did not get lost either. There were lots of chances to wrote down the URLs displayed on the video screens during breaks, most of which included a situation where the sponsor was providing content or an opportunity, rather than encouraging parents to visit the website and see our exciting new line of, uh, printers (snore…).

Of course, no Hannah Montana marketing article could fail to mention the PR stumble regarding MileyWorld.com getting sued for false promises, but let the parents fight that out. And I learned that the t-shirt sales (occurring inside the venue) were not sanctioned by the Miley or Disney – so the bootleggers were making tons of money off her image. The girl might only be 15, but her handlers should be all over this if it is true. They are needlessly tarnishing her reputation and losing tons and tons of money.

But regardless, I commend the marketing at the show. (And if you haven’t seen MileyWorld.com, check out the great benefits of membership – click on the “Tickets” tab, for instance.) Plus, I never would have listened to those songs otherwise, but many actually had a good message for kids, especially little girls. There was a song entitled “Nobody’s Perfect” and others that talked about the power of friendship and self-confidence. Sure, it’s a little schmaltzy, but the kids ate it up. And that’s what matters.

Advertising as Social Trust Factor

December 10, 2007 at 5:40 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, Decision making, General, Marketing, Online marketing, Turow, Joseph - Niche Envy, Usability | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Joseph Turow quotes a study from the ’40s that details probably one of the first “truth in advertising” studies. He states:

“Between June 1941 and June 1942, the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] examined 362,827 print ads and found that only 20 percent of them carried false and misleading representations. Of the 1,000,450 radio commercials the FTC examined, only 2 percent were found to be false and misleading” (pg. 34).

While 20% still seems very high, consider that this is a measurement from a time where oversight was in its infancy. Today, there is far more governmental and non-profit oversight of advertising. (Consider the amount of legal jargon in any given pharmaceutical advertisement these days.)

So when I see picture like the ones shown here, it makes me think about the effect of truth on the society as a whole. As hilariously detailed here, there is a vastBK 100 difference between fast food advertising and the actual product. I’m not coming at this from a legal standpoint. When advertising is so removed from the actual product, doesn’t that effect the social contract between the producer and consumer?

Sure, there are some instances where we expect to be messed with. I do not actually think my McDonald’s hamburger will look like it does on the billboard. Where else is a little duping assumed to be part of doing business? Used cars. Compassionate conservatism. We understand this is just price of doing business in the world.Wendy 100

But my issue with the fast food pictured here is not the advertising. Rather, the issue here is a terrible product. The photographers who took the awe-inspiring pictures sprayed hairspray on the burger and covered it in Vaseline to show the best a burger can be. I have no problem with that. The problem is that the reality is so much less than that which was advertised.

We do not expect our ads to reflect reality. And with competent oversight organizations, there is a minuscule amount of actual lying (as compared to the Turow figures from the early 20th century). The best advertising is truly making a good product and improving the lives of consumers.

Sometimes this just means doing your job really, really well. It also means viewing your business from a user-centric perspective – not just how they interact with your product (though this is important), but also how your product plays into their lives right now.

This story from Zappos is a great example of how simple quality is doing more for advertising a product than any number of ad spots. I encourage you to read the story and note that the quality of the shoes is not a focus. The focus is on the human interaction. The relation between the Zappos story and the fast food example above is the oft-overlooked reality that we aren’t really buying products – we’re buying the experience. It seems overly simplistic, but the best advertising is providing the best product with the most focus on how it effects the customer.

This may sound like a bunch of feel-good wankery, but count the number of times this does not happen to you today. When you buy coffee, how often does it drip down between the lid and the seam in the cup? When you put that cup of coffee into the beverage holder of your car, does it block your access to other dashboard controls? Add up these instances during your day today and you will agree that my argument is neither overly-simplistic nor a focus of most companies.

Marketing Adventures: Why Second Life Is Your Fault and How To Be An Online Marketing Pioneer

November 26, 2007 at 6:30 am | Posted in Ads in games, Advertising, Books, Communication, General, Guitar Hero, Jaffe, Joseph - Join The Conversation, Marketing, Online marketing, Second Life, Usability, Video Games, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Joseph Jaffe has a post from earlier this month that is worth a read: Who’s responsible for SL’s lack of reach? First, I recommend that you buy his new book Join The Conversation (and send me one – money’s tight right now!) and subscribe to his podcast Jaffe Juice on iTunes. He has great, down-to-earth marketing advice and insight that you should not miss. (A link to his blog is to the right in my blogroll.)

Some background on SL (Second Life): It’s a virtual, 3-D world where users explore, build, socialize and participate in their own economy (that’s marketing-speak from the website). When it came out, there were a rush of articles proclaiming this to be the next new world, much like The Lawnmower Man was to herald in the new virtual reality. However, it did not all work out that way. While Linden Labs (the creators of SL) claim that membership is still growing, there is widespread belief that it is actually stalled. The avatar controls are notoriously difficult. Most important to us, many users felt the paid marketing/advertising was either ubiquitous or simply over-the-top.

And these are not unfair criticisms. But Jaffe makes a case that as adventurers in the virtual world, we, the online marketers, are to blame for an unsatisfactory user experience. Sure, we cannot change the controls of SL, but we do have considerable power over the type of experience people have.

For example, was their experience integrated into the SL life or was it jarring? If you create an island where everything is a branded advertisement, do not expect visitors to return. Create some reason why the users would want to return to your branded area. If they buy something today, it’s worth pennies. If you snuggle with that customer for life, it’s worth millions.

[Coke is a good example (disclaimer: this campaign was designed by Jaffe’s company, crayon). MTV is kind of in between with good intentions, but a few trip-ups along the way. You can find any number of bad examples just by poking around (start with H.R. Block, yawn).]

On a similar note, I was talking to a neighbor the other day and was mining him for information about ads integrated into new game systems. I’ve read several articles about the failure of ads to have any effect, often the type like pixelated billboards in racing games. Of course gamers block that out. But he was gave me two other examples – one I think is decent and another I think is great. He said on Guitar Hero 3 that some car company (Honda?) built a secret level where you preform a song on the bed of one of their trucks. He felt it was over-done with all of the ads for the car company in the background. The lesson, of course, is that if you over do it, the user feels cheapened. However, he also told me about a skateboarding game where, when you customized your board and equipment, you were given a short explanation of a certain part, sponsored by the company that produces it in the real world. This “ad” was subtle, didn’t interrupt game flow, and actually enhanced the gaming experience.

Whether in SL or gaming or any experience where you communicate something to someone else, think of the interaction from their perspective. Would you find this ad jarring? Can this message be integrated to a smoother way? Could it even enhance the experience? Why is this so rarely (or so poorly) done? Is it simply because it’s more difficult, or is it just a different mind-set than churning out the 30-second one-way advertisement?

Fear (to be left out) gets us into new venues like SL or video games. And fear makes us panic when our brands are not immediately embraced. Jaffe is right – if you’re going to be an adventurer in this virtual world, it’s going to take some balls (that’s my paraphrase). Go for the gusto, but don’t forget the experience.

Usability Tips: Do What Works and Keep It Simple

November 19, 2007 at 5:49 am | Posted in Communication, Companies, General, Google, Marketing, MSN, Online marketing, Usability, Yahoo | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

John C. Dvorak has a good article in PC magazine about web site entropy and website usability. I listen to Dvorak when he joins Leo Laporte on “this WEEK in TECH” – a podcast I highly recommend. This weekly podcast covers everything you need to know in tech which relates to marketing which relates to communications and on and on and on…

I like Dvorak’s examples that illustrate “keep doing what works.” It’s amazing how often I hear about a company that develops a great website, maybe even knows why they’re doing great, and their first inclination is to change it. There is something about the internet that encourages constant change. Granted this is preferred over stasis, but change for the sake of change is not always good. If people enjoy your site, do not change the things they value. It seems self-explanatory, but it is shocking how often this happens.

Dvorak also mentions something at the end of his article that I think needs more illumination is that simple is better than complex most of the time. Why is Google one of the most popular sites? Take a look. Seriously, go to the site and don’t search; just look at it. So much white space, so simple. I remember hearing an interview with Marissa Mayer discussing what an application had to go through before being posted to the front page (hint: it’s A LOT). So when you go to Google.com and notice Maps and Images and such, those links have proved themselves to take up that space.

Compared to Google though, try out Yahoo or MSN. Try using one of these the next time you need to actually do something. They try to be everything to everyone and hence are doomed to be nothing to everyone (hyperbole, of course, since these two aren’t hurting, but the theory remains sound).

The point is not to dumb-down everything; it’s just to 1) do what you do really well and 2) don’t worry about a whole lot else unless your audience wants it. When people (and more importantly, companies) start to think of their website as a tool, things will start to improve. If your website is a means rather than an end, you’re one step ahead.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.