Junked Up Web Pages or Not?

March 31, 2014

Are web sites becoming more succinct and less busy? Is web design trending away from cramming everything possible onto the home page? I can only hope that this nod towards simplicity I’ve noticed is indeed a trend and not just a coincidence.

When I built my first web site over a decade ago, things were simpler. At least the sites were simpler. We had a few pages, some graphics and some image maps. I convinced my boss we needed a web site by telling him it was like a 24-hour brochure.

Web sites are still 24-hour brochures, but as web technology advanced, many of these advancements landed on company home pages, oftentimes creating an incomprehensible mess. Countless businesses insisted (and continue to insist) upon using all the latest developments. I contend this does their business a disservice by distracting and frustrating potential customers. In fact, I wrote one of my very first blog posts on this a few years ago – See Junked Up Web Pages – Stop Screaming at Us.

Admittedly, some businesses offer myriad products and services, and a web site can and should showcase that. Some organizations are so complex and nuanced, their sites become very deep. Sometimes it is necessary; sometimes it is not. For the past 4 or 5 years, sites have become longer, broader and more confusing. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t find their contact information.”? Terrible, especially from a marketing perspective.

Crazy, busy web sites will always exist, but I have noticed more basic sites in the last year or so. Is this because so many people are building their own? Perhaps, but then again maybe the new web technology has become so mainstream that everyone no longer feels the need to use it ALL.

I hope so.


Advertising 101

February 26, 2014

Remember the Super Bowl commercial that featured a puppy making friends with a horse? It was one of my favorites. What about the one where the ‘80s characters were ransacking a store? I enjoyed that one as well. But just because I remember those ads doesn’t mean they were successful.

The puppy commercial was an advertisement for… hmmm… I don’t remember. The ‘80s characters’ commercial was an advertisement for Radio Shack. I contend the more successful commercial is the one where you retain the name of the advertiser. Of course I haven’t been to a Radio Shack since that commercial, but it illustrated to me that they know the market and they recognize how they’re perceived. I’m more likely to visit a Radio Shack now because they showed they’re current.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials from years past is the one featuring the magic fridge. It’s a Bud or Bud Light commercial. A more current ad features a camel walking around an office asking people what day it is. The answer: hump day. I laugh every time I see it. And I know it’s a commercial for Geico. Just now I asked a friend if he knew what the hump day camel commercial is for – he knew immediately it was Geico.

Another recent commercial shows a puppy growing up with a family, getting in and out of a car at different stages of his life. But I have no idea who the advertiser is or what they’re promoting – maybe it’s for dog food? Or for a car?

Obviously this is not a scientific study. I don’t have the ratings or numbers to back up my opinion. But after many years as a professional communicator, I find it interesting that so many advertisements fail to follow the basic tenet – it’s not a good ad if you don’t know who or what it’s promoting. This is true for all forms of promotion, whether you’re talking about brochures, flyers, web sites or advertisements.

Billboard advertising confounds me often times. Drivers only have a few seconds to glance at a billboard as they’re driving by, so why do some companies fill all the space on the sign with copy or pictures that no one could possibly take in all at once. Less is more. A catchy phrase is more likely to capture your attention, just like a clever headline.

Try a test with your friends next time you’re driving past billboards or watching TV. See how they respond to the ads, and then once the commercial is over or you’ve driven past the billboard, ask them who or what was advertised?

Each day we are bombarded with more and more information and advertising, but how much of it stands out or really captures your attention? Think about that the next time you’re putting together an ad. Make sure your company, product or service doesn’t get lost in the story or the cute characters. You want people to remember more than a cute dog or a funny saying. You want people to remember the cute dog and the advertiser. You want people to remember the funny saying and the advertiser. And you want people to buy the product or service. But that’s a post for another day…


Tech Terms are Prevalent but Still Misunderstood

January 27, 2014

Every company and every industry has its own ubiquitous acronyms and terms, some of which cross over into other arenas. Information technology is one of the few industries that seeps or creeps into most, if not all, organizations regardless of industry, as well as into our personal lives. Fifteen years ago, I wrote a user manual for my colleagues, explaining new technology. Chapters included:

“What is the world wide web?”

“What is e-mail?”

“How to use e-mail.”

Of course at that time we all had analog mobile phones, which seemingly weighed about 5 pounds.

In the last five years or so, social media has become pervasive. During that time period, I spent countless hours defining social media, explaining its uses, and simplifying its purpose for both colleagues and friends. Texting (in the personal arena) and Twitter (in the personal and business arenas) have been the most confounding across the board. For example:

“What is texting? And why are all the kids using it?”

“I don’t get Twitter. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I don’t like Twitter because I don’t want to be limited in how many words I can use.” (This one always makes me laugh. Most people would be surprised at how much you can convey using only a few words.)

Three or four years ago, I entered the world of SEO and SEM. At that time, these terms were fairly common, especially SEO, but only amongst the techies. The use of either of those terms outside of technology circles would prompt confused looks and raised eyebrows. No one else knew those acronyms stood for Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing, or even if they did hear or know the full terms, they weren’t the least bit interested.

Now, SEO and SEM are the new keywords; their mention becoming more and more prevalent in business marketing conversations. Business owners and executives know that these processes, if implemented correctly, can help grow their company. However, the use of SEO and SEM is much more complex than simply using keywords, counting views or click-throughs, or looking at your search engine ranking. Yes, all these elements are important to measure, but the latter two are merely basic indicators as to whether additional analysis, testing, and marketing is necessary.

In talking recently with marketing executives at a large national corporation about this topic, I was confused as to why we seemed to be in disagreement. Finally it dawned on me that they were talking basic SEO, as outlined above, while I was assuming they were well beyond that and I was talking about conversion rates and competitors. This illustrates that while these terms may be going mainstream, there still exists much confusion and misinformation.

I’m tracking this with enthusiasm to see where the trend takes us. As a professional communicator with a lifelong love of technology, I can’t wait to see what’s next.


A Simple Social Media Strategy

January 24, 2013

What is your social media strategy? Do you have a social media strategy? And is it working?

My last post addressed the growing popularity of Twitter and the need to determine which social media applications may be right for your company. However, for those relatively unfamiliar with the social media landscape, the idea of online marketing can be somewhat daunting.

Perhaps you’ve started a blog and don’t have any comments. Or you have a Twitter handle but no one is following you. Most likely, you told your colleagues and friends about your online presence and asked them to follow you, so you do have a handful of followers. Now what?

Put yourself in the mindset of your customers. Why are they interested in your company/products/services? What will draw them in? What will retain their attention?

Blog. Post. Tweet.

Engage. Interact. Network. Join.

First, provide information in your area of expertise.  For example, if your business is home restoration, outline steps for consumers to take when a disaster occurs. A financial services company can provide tips for retirement planning. A massage business might focus on the benefits of drinking water.

Once you determine what type of information to present, think about your tone. Social media tends to be more informal than business writing, so you want to sound knowledgeable, yet friendly and helpful.

Ask questions, offer contests and deals, provide open-ended discussion points, ask your customers about their experience(s) with your organization and what you can do to improve — all in an attempt to ENGAGE your customers. The key is interaction. People become more engaged when they can voice their opinion or offer information in return – when they feel they are being heard. The days of presenting your information to customers in a vacuum are long gone.

Join groups, post comments on other blogs, participate in discussions, and become a part of your online industry community. Follow people on Twitter and FaceBook who may be interested in your products/services. They all won’t follow you back, but many of them will.

Lastly, integrate your online efforts with your other marketing – publications, advertising, media outreach etc.

The bottom line is this: Your online interaction is directly proportional to the amount of success you will experience with online marketing efforts.

 


Are You Still Behind if You Don’t Tweet?

September 4, 2012

If you feel like your company is behind everyone else in utilizing technology, you’re not alone, and chances are you’re not as behind as you think.

Twenty years ago, it seemed as if every company but mine had a web site. So I created one. From the kudos I received, I realized we were right in the flow, we weren’t behind at all, that was just my perception. When I publicized the new web site, I unintentionally perpetuated the notion that EVERYONE (except you) had a web site.

Now the onus has shifted to Twitter. So many people tell me they don’t like Twitter, don’t understand it, and even think it’s stupid, but they know they need to get their company on there, because EVERYONE tweets except them.  You are not the exception, although in another year or two, you likely will be if Twitter sticks around. (Some people will disagree with that last statement and insist that you ARE way behind, and they’re entitled to their opinion; I just don’t agree with that yet.)

So figure it out. Dig into Twitter and start using it. Take a class. Do research. Ask other people how it works. I began using it simply because I didn’t understand it and wanted to know what it was all about and why it was becoming so popular. To my amazement, I became a big fan.

I offer the same advice for all the other innovations out there, way too numerous to name here. I started to list some but then realized it would be impossible to list everything and I’d likely leave some out – like the one that just launched yesterday that I haven’t heard about yet. Don’t forget about the industry-specific applications and groups either.

As you integrate Twitter, FaceBook, a blog, other applications and social media into your company’s communications, remember that integrate is the key word. Your communications vehicles, modes, programs, plans – whatever you call them – should all work together. Your publications, press releases, web site, blog, speeches, Twitter and FaceBook accounts, keywords, conventions, events, outreach, etc. should be publicizing a consistent message or messages. They should reflect your company’s philosophies and goals, and enhance your reputation. They should be integrated throughout the company programs, so every employee and every endeavor is aligned.

This is a really exciting time for those of us in the marketing/communications field. After all, effective communication is all about building relationships, and there are more ways to do that than ever before.


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