33 Tools Every Startup Marketer Needs

I’ve spent the last twelve years working in (or as) the marketing department at start ups. In fact, every job I’ve had has been at a start up. Marketing for start ups is a lot different than big brand marketing. For one, the budgets are much, much smaller, and often nonexistent. And you’re laser focused on customer acquisition, there’s no time or money for branding exercises. Because of those start up marketing truths, these tools are focused on getting the most bang for the buck and driving real marketing results for the business.

Over the years I’ve compiled a list of tools that are must haves for marketers who are trying to get marketing up and running for brand new businesses. This is not every tool, these are not the most expensive or a list of free tools, these are the ones that I’ve found help me get a marketing department off the ground. Here are my top 33 tools that every marketer needs to run a successful marketing department at a start up.

33 Tools Every Startup Marketer Needs

Google Analytics – Start here. The best, free analytics package there is. If you configure your goals and segments properly you’ll be off to the races with web analytics. The second you launch your website, install this tracking code. If you’re selling anything on your site configure it to capture ecommerce information. That will let you get important information such as, oh you know, revenue, average order size, revenue per visitor by traffic source, all that good stuff.

Google Analytics

Basecamp – There’s one thing that’s consistent across every start up I’ve been at: everything moves at a lightning pace. Having projects, files, timelines, and to-dos in one place is critical in a start up environment. I love basecamp for marketing teams because it’s lighter weight than something more robust like JIRA but far better than trying to stay organized by email. Works just as well with two people or twenty and will help you keep on top of everything you’ve got going.

Basecamp

Campfire – Communication is everything at a start up. Campfire is a great way to keep everyone in the loop with a browser-based group chat. Teams can bat ideas around, share comps and other files via the chat room and have an opportunity to weigh in on important projects and initiatives that the team is working on. With Campfire the likelihood that someone feels out of the loop drops significantly.

Skype – If you’ve got a remote team, Skype video chat is the secret sauce to keeping everyone on the same page and connected to the team. Video chats are a quick easy way to get in synch and keep that all-important chemistry that will keep the team moving forward.

Google Apps – Save yourself the headache and costs of a Microsoft Exchange setup. Convince your IT team that they would be better focused building the product and not dealing with desktop support and networking. Google Apps: mail, docs, sites, chat and Google Plus are all incredible productivity tools that can keep the team focused on building what matters and not dealing with the nonsense of desktop support.

Dropbox – Skip FTP for moving big PowerPoints and marketing files around and use Dropbox, plus you’ll save your inbox storage for all the mail you’ll generate. It’s great for sharing comps, files, storing assets and synching important documents. Your team can start with free plans and upgrade to a Team plan when you’re ready and need the space.

Dropbox

A DSLR – Whether it’s the Canon or a Nikon, grab a DSLR and learn how to shoot decent shots of your company, product, customers and events. Bonus if it takes HD video too. If you’re going to leverage social marketing to power your business you’ll need content. And people love photos, lots of photos, and video. From shots of the hackathon to video of the product launch and everything in between, having great photos and video can make for engaging content that connects your customers to your company and has them rooting for your team from the beginning.

KISS Metrics – Google Analytics is great, but it doesn’t give you two important things: cohort analysis and user-level funnel metrics. KISS Metrics provides you with detailed funnel construction and page-by-page analysis for cohorts of users and at the user level to see how people are moving through your website. You can see where drop-offs occur and find opportunities to improve your conversion.

Crazy Egg – How is your website performing? Are people seeing the content you want them to? Are the calls to action getting the attention they need? With Crazy Egg you can see what your users are clicking on and how far they’re scrolling down the page. By using Crazy Egg you can see if you have page elements that are being ignored or navigation that is leading people astray. It’s a great visualization tool that you can leverage to up your conversion and improve the user experience on your site.

Crazy Egg

Optimizely – With a single line of JavaScript, Optimizely lets you run and deploy A/B testing on your site in a snap. If you’re running marketing for a start up, one thing is certain, you don’t really know what your customers want. From headline copy, to button color, to page layout and more, Optimizely lets you collect the data and find the best combinations to drive conversion. And, you can deploy it on any page — landing pages, home page, product pages and in the conversion funnel, you can learn and optimize with Optimizely.

Optimizely

 

Facebook Power Editor – Facebook ads are cheap, plentiful and provide a quick and easy way to test your start up’s value propositions, messaging and offers. But how do you do all that testing? Facebook Power Editor. A Chrome extension, it lets you upload ad variants via Microsoft Excel so you can test hundreds of versions of ads in hundreds of different targeting configurations. With a monthly spend of just $1,500 you can leverage Power Editor and put its functionality to work in helping you find what really resonates with who.

Google Adwords – Another great tool for start up marketers. Even if paid advertising isn’t part of your early plan (i.e. you’re hoping press and social word of mouth drive the business) AdWords is a great testing ground, just like Facebook ads. You can test messages, value propositions and calls to action to see what resonates. If you find a particular message or ad unit that converts at a higher click through rate you can take that winning message, value prop or call to action and test it in a broader setting across your site.

MailChimp – There are dozens and dozens of email service providers (ESPs) out there. But MailChimp’s dead-simple user interface and affordable pricing makes it a no-brainer for startups. Plus A/B testing, autoresponder capability, API integration and more, MailChimp can grow as your business grows. Plus the Chimp? Adorbs.

Mail Chimp

WordPress – You’ll need a website and there’s a good chance that you’ll want a blog to keep people up-to-date with what you’re working on. WordPress is a great first step to get your marketing website and/or blog out there. Obviously, if you’re building a consumer facing web product, then you’ll be launching you’re own site based on whatever tech the product is built on; but when you need to get a blog or marketing site up in a hurry, WordPress is a perfect tool to get the job done.

Adobe Photoshop – As a marketer in a startup it’s likely that you’ll be doing not only the marketing, but you’ll be kicking in to support the design team, and if you’re building a product, you may have to fend for yourself creating marketing materials so the designers can focus on the product. Photoshop can help you crank out things like landing pages, email marketing templates, production graphics, ad units and more. The more you can roll your own graphic needs the more you can get done while letting the designers do their thing on the product side.

Final Cut Pro X – If you’re launching a new or novel web service, mobile app or something else brand new, it’s likely you’ll need an explainer video. Video is a great way to demo a product, capture interest, generate press and drive new users. Of course you can pay for it; or you can shoot it and make it yourself. Plus tutorials, how-tos, customer testimonials, demos and more all look better on video. If video is going to be a key part of your marketing strategy you’ll want to be able to polish it up quickly and easily. Final Cut Pro X will give you everything you need for just $299.

Final Cut Pro

Google Alerts – You’ll want to keep an eye on any press, blog or comments mentioning your new venture. Set up a free Google Alert with your brand name and any variations that may exist (e.g. a space between two words in your name, even if you write them together). Extra points for setting up alerts for the founder names and competition to keep a better picture of what’s going on with your brand and in your space.

TweetDeck, HootSuite – Google Alerts can’t monitor everything, and if social marketing is going to be a key component of your marketing, then a more powerful Twitter monitoring and management tool will be handy. I love having a separate monitor setup with HootSuite to keep an eye on people talking to the company, answering customer support, engaging in conversations relevant to the brand and more. TweetDeck is a bit limited in its new release, but HootSuite is just one of many full-featured Twitter clients that can be an important way for marketers to stay connected on the platform.

SEOMoz Pro – SEOMoz Pro is the secret weapon for many online marketers. It’s packed with useful tools and information. You’ll get search monitoring tools to measure your organic keyword traffic, social measurement tools to see how effective your social programs are, and tons and tons of education on how you can build visibility for your company with search engine optimization and social marketing.

SEOMoz

Hacker News – Simply the best news source for the latest and greatest in the technology space. If your company is in the startup world, you just can’t afford to not read it every day.

Inbound.org – Like a Hacker News for online marketing full of great insight on search engine optimization, social marketing, conversion rate optimization, online testing and lots more. If you’re looking to get educated on the latest in online marketing, Inbound.org is a great place to start.

Inbound.org

Verify - Sitting around a table arguing about design is healthy, up to a point. Then it’s better to get the design out there and see if anyone outside the building really likes it or not. That’s where VerifyApp comes in. You can put up a page, email, add, or mobile app comp and ask Verify users to choose a favorite between two designs, recount what they remember after seeing your landing page and more.

Verify

Bit.ly Pro – If you’re using social media marketing there’s no better way to track clicks then to push all of your links through bit.ly Pro. It’s a great way to get analytics on what was clicked and what wasn’t so you can see which content has the most interest to the social audience.

Litmus – Litmus is an email marketer’s dream. It lets you send test emails to a single email address and then Litmus renders them in each of the main email clients. You can even select which clients to include in your test. It’s brilliant for ensuring that your email looks great in the email clients that matter to you, in the browsers that your users use. See an email in Gmail in FireFox, Chrome and IE. See how it renders on the iPhone. Busted HTML email is amateur hour — make sure it looks good before you send it.

Balsamiq Mockups - Wireframes aren’t just for the UX designers any more. Marketers should know how to use and communicate with wireframes. Need a landing page? You should be able to wireframe out one to use as conversation starter or requirement with your designer. Need a Facebook tab, a pricing page, or a blog? Pick up the tools and learn to do it yourself, it will go a long way toward saving time and giving your designers and devs more information on how to approach a marketing project. Balsamiq is great because it’s easy and because the wireframes looked sketched, which makes people feel like they aren’t as formalized, yet they still communicate your requirements.

Balsamiq Mockups

Survey Monkey – There’s no better way to learn about what’s working that to talk with your customers. Regular surveying is a must. Survey Monkey is a cheap and effective way to survey your customers. You can create surveys quickly and easily and go as long or as short as you like. If you’re not surveying your customers you’re doing it wrong.

Unbounce – If your design team is too busy on the product to worry about marketing projects then you might want to consider Unbounce. Unbounce lets you create great landing pages on the fly. If you know some HTML and some CSS you can crank out some great looking landing pages without having to get sprint points to get them done. Win!

ReTargeter - Personally, I think display advertising is for suckers in a startup, but if you’re going to do any display ads, they should be retargeted ads. ReTargeter and Google ReTargeting ad programs let you target display ads back to people who have been to your site. It’s a great way to appear bigger than you are, and to remind your previous visitor to come back soon.

Retargeter

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+  - I can’t write about all of the social networks, but obviously if you’re a startup you’ll take all the free marketing you can get. I’m not going to go into detail on these, because there are literally hundreds of books on the subject. Hundreds. My recommended books post is coming up after this.

Salesforce – Whether it’s Salesforce or some other CRM, it’s helpful to have a database of prospects that are tied to marketing campaigns that allow you to follow up with, measure effectiveness and see progress tracked back. Especially good for marketing teams that need to support sales staffs and for product sales that have a long sales cycle, such as B2B sales. Without CRM you’re under performing in the sales department, guaranteed.

Join.me - Need to share a screen with a potential prospect or business partner? Join.me makes it dead simple. Just send them the join.me link and they’ll see your screen in real time. Great for marketing folks who have to support business development efforts with product marketing and/or training. Also great for demoing press and bloggers who you can’t meet in person.

join.me

ZenDesk – Say it with me, customer service is marketing. Great customer service can lead to excellent word of mouth, which leads to more business for you. You know this, I know this; but if customer service doesn’t fall in your domain you need to champion for a help desk solution for your customer service team to ensure that your marketing effort is focused on growing the business, not fighting fires from unhappy customers.

OLark – If you’re trying to sell something online, there’s no better tool than live chat. It’s great for answering questions and giving users the confidence they need to make a purchase. It’s also a great way to learn about what visitors questions and fears are before buying from you. It’s marketing gold, because you can turn that feedback into content and design that addresses those concerns and converts more visitors to customers.

olark

So there you have it. Some of my favorite tools for startup marketers. They represent a strong set of technologies that can help you get any marketing department off the ground and run it for the beginning stages of the company. These tools work for a company of just 3 or 4 people and scale upwards of 100 (and beyond in many cases). Sure, there will be some that are overkill in the beginning, so wait on those, and there will be those that won’t scale with the organization, so just graduate from them when it’s right; but in all I’ve found these tools invaluable in the startup environments I’ve been in. As a marketer, you’re doing everything from customer acquisition, to email marketing, to social, to supporting customer service and business development, to product marketing and more. With these tools you’ll be able to do your job better and help your startup grow.

I know there are hundreds of tools out there, which ones did I miss that you’d add to the list? Share with me in the comments.

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Something Like a Pinomenon – How Pinterest Drives Real Business

You’ve probably read just about enough about Pinterest. There are plenty of articles on how it’s the next, big thing for brands and marketers, yadda, yadda. But what does it really mean for businesses? In short, depending on the business, it’s a phenomenon. I have the opportunity to consult on the product and marketing at DesignPublic.com, and my fiancee, Erika, runs social marketing and PR for the company. Design Public sells modern furniture and accessories, and we’ve seen first-hand the power of the Pinterest effect. So let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

Pinterest is Design Public’s No. 1 Referring Site

While it’s not the biggest traffic driver for Design Public (organic search and direct visits are the lead dogs), Pinterest has quickly become the number one referring site for traffic. And it’s charged up the list in a hurry.

In October, Pinterest sent 634 visits, putting it 10x behind the number one referring site that month, uncrate.com.

pinterest traffic in october

In January? It’s was first, and by a long shot. It grew nearly 5x in total traffic to the site. It was 30.4% higher than the number two referrer, ApartmentTherapy.com. And for some background, Apartment Therapy has been our top referrer for a very, very long time.

pinterest traffic in january

Pinterest is No. 3 in Revenue from Referring Sites

For the month of January Pinterest was number three in terms of revenue from referring sites (excluding the weird mail referrer here). So while people are browsing and pinning, they’re definitely buying too. We see bounce rates that are higher than other traffic sources, but 25-40% lower than paid advertising sources. People get sucked in and keep browsing our site – eventually buying.

What’d Design Public Do to Drive Pinterest Traffic?

1) Erika began curating boards. The Design Public Pinterest account has a collection of boards across a wide range of design-minded topics. And it’s not just all products. Erika is actively participating in the community and re-pinning and sharing other finds. While she does pin Design Public items it is just a part of her efforts to build brand awareness for Design Public on Pinterest. Pinterest has been a great outlet for reintroducing the brand.

2) Add the Pin It button early to product pages, which gives us a two-fold benefit. One, it lets people pin products from the site with a good-looking product shot and description that includes the Design Public name/URL. Two, it provides social proof to shoppers, helping them make decisions about items on the site.

3)  The entire team is involved in pinning. Design Public has amazing merchandisers and people who have a great design eye. They’re just as addicted as everyone else, and as a company we all try to pin our favorite stuff as it comes in. Then we share what gets repinned and look for ways to leverage that information for how we can come back and promote those popular items on the site, via email, etc.

4) Run a Pinterest Contest. Erika is currently running a Pinterest contest asking people to create pinboards of their dream home and incude at least a few Design Public products. The winner will pick up a $250 gift card to the site. The contest is a great way to get users discovering the products that are on Design Public and sharing them back with the Pinterest audience. Surfacing this content in ways other than just through the main Design Public Pinterest account is critical to reaching new users and potential customers.

Never Add the ‘no-pin’ Meta Tag

We can’t imagine why any site would not want free traffic and sales from people who love design and beautiful things. This audience is a dream audience – and for all of the traffic that comes through, people actually buy. There’s a very real benefit to letting your content circulate on Pinterest.
Take for example this light up cube. It’s been pinned more than 1,000 times at this point. There hasn’t been a single sale. But we do know that we’ve sold other products to people who have visited Design Public via that pin. It’s definitely validation for the model.

What’s Next for Design Public and Pinterest?

We’ve got a few ideas up our sleeve that we’re not quite ready to share; but there are a bunch of really interesting ideas and things that we can do from both a marketing and product perspective to continue to integrate Pinterest into our site. And a lot of it will be driven by the new features, API and other tools that Pinterest releases for brands and stores like Design Public.

Is Pinterest for Everyone?

Doubtful. If you’re pinning auto-insurance policy quotes or mortgage rates, you’re probably not going to have the success we do. But if you make or sell things that are unique, beautiful or inspirational, Pinterest is a no brainer. If you want to keep an eye on Design Public on Pinterest, you can follow Design Public on Pinterest here.

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46 of the Best Facebook Page Timeline Cover Images

Facebook announced the new timeline page design for brand pages last week at the Facebook Marketing Conference. The new Facebook page design gives brand pages the same timeline layout as user profile pages, with a few additional tools to help them manage their brand on the site. One of the most valuable changes to the pages is the ability to create a powerful branded presence by smart use of the cover art used on the page. Here are 50 of my favorite brand pages and their cover images as of today. If you’re looking for inspiration when setting up the timeline view of your brand’s Facebook page, you’re sure to find a few ideas here.

I think you’ll agree that with the new timeline changes for brands, a powerful Facebook presence starts with great cover art. Sure, some companies might not have the money for professional photography, but there are some great examples below of small businesses who have creatively found art work that works in the space and does a great job of branding their business.

These page cover photo dimensions are 815px by 315px. Profile images are 180px by 180px. And remember — all business pages will be upgraded to timeline by March 31, 2012. So get your cover art ready, and take advantage of the new Facebook page layout.

46 of the Best Facebook Page Cover Images

surfrider

Surfrider’s Facebook Page connects with fans of the non-profit, and puts its audience and focus front and center.

starbucks facebook cover photo

Starbucks does a great job of showcasing the beans, the start of any great cup of coffee.

Barack Obama facebook cover photo

Barack Obama’s Facebook page is excellent and it starts with this photo, which quickly shows that Obama gets (and is) one of us.

nike facebook cover photo

Nike uses the cover art to promote their new product line – the Fuel band.

redbull facebook cover photo

Red Bull‘s cover photo perfectly captures the brand essence through its connection to extreme sports.

Coca-Cola tells the brand history with its Facebook timeline, and the cover photo creates the overriding brand experience for the page.

spiderman facebook cover photo

The Spider-Man franchise is back, and this cover art teases the upcoming reboot.

chevy volt facebook cover photo

The Chevy Volt showcases its primary USP with a great shot of the vehicle plugged in, in front of some nice greenery.

the bachelor facebook cover photo

I don’t watch The Bachelor, but you get the gist of it pretty quickly just through the cover photo and profile picture they use. They also update it week after week with key scenes. Nice touch.

captain morgan facebook cover photo

Captain Morgan brings the iconic pirate to life and cleverly matches the profile image with the bottle label to break the hard line between the cover art and the rest of the profile.

american express facebook cover photo

Membership has its privileges is communicated clearly with AMEX’s Facebook cover photo.

alamo drafthouse cinema facebook cover photo

If this cover photo doesn’t tell you what you’re in for, I don’t know what will. Plus, Kenny Powers? Win!

herbal essence facebook cover photo

Herbal Essences showcases its product line with their Facebook cover photo.

louis vitton facebook cover photo

Louis Vuitton uses the cover photo as an invitation. Remember, the Facebook terms of service prohibit brands from putting messages such as “Save 40% now” or “Like Us!” in the cover photo.

livestrong facebook cover photo

Livestrong has a fresh take on its iconic yellow band.

smirnoff facebook cover photo

Smirnoff drinkers make their own great nights” comes to life for their audience with their cover photo.

fanta facebook cover photo

Fanta has a game going right now and uses the cover photo area to promote it. They’ve lost some characters, and only Likes will bring them back.

modern family facebook cover photo

The characters of the hit TV show Modern Family are captured perfectly in this shot used for their Facebook cover photo.

chevy sonic facebook cover photo

Chevy’s Sonic performed the first kick-flip done by a car. If you didn’t know that, you’re not the target audience for the Sonic. Chevy does a great job capturing that awesome feat with their cover photo.

verizon facebook cover photo

Verizon goes the user generated route for its cover photo, showing off a picture snapped on one of its devices for its cover photo.

amy's ice creams

Amy’s Ice Creams does a great job showcasing their product and adding some brand whimsy while they’re at it.

brookfield homes facebook cover photoBrookfield Homes San Diego has a clear call to action and a visually interesting welcome for potential home buyers.

butterfinger facebook cover photoButterfinger lines up the profile image and cover photo to create a fun visual break with the hard borders of Facebook’s cover photo area.

the today show facebook cover photo

The Today Show is all about the personalities of the show — the Facebook cover photo is no different.

mcguire real estate facebook cover photo

McGuire Real Estate uses a stunning shot of downtown San Francisco to create a powerful Facebook presence for potential home shoppers.

 Ben & Jerry’s Facebook cover image is simple and right on brand with their other collaterals.

The Magnolia Bakery whets your appetite with the delicious confections they sell. You almost want to press your face up against the screen like when you were a kid walking by the window.

HSG Accounting is a great example of what you can do without a professional photography or incredible images. Find a great-looking shot on iStockPhoto or similar and crop it in an interesting way to create compelling cover art.

Assassin’s Creed uses a stunning shot from actual gameplay — nice.

People leaves no doubt to its value proposition. Want celebrity news? Read People. Simple.

Jive Time Records showcases their awesome selection of vinyl. A place that any High Fidelity fan could get lost in for hours.

ColdPlay‘s image is all about them and portrays them in the way that their fans expect and appreciate.

Tiffany is all about diamonds and little blue boxes. So is their cover photo.

Tide uses the cover art to introduce a new product to the Tide line.


Nespresso uses an alluring image with satin sheets that speak to the brand promise of a smooth, sensual coffee drink.

SportsCenter gives you a look behind the cameras, putting you in the director’s chair — right on the set.

Doug Bend is another great example of a small business without professional photography find artwork that speaks to their business and brand.

Canlis does a great job showcasing their property. That inviting image is just calling visitors to come and join them for a meal.

The Vow‘s page puts Channing Tatum front and center in a shot filled with dramatic tension.

Old Spice stays true to the branding of it’s campaigns. Explosions and tigers, oh my!

The New York Times gives you a look inside at the people who make the country’s most esteemed newspaper.

Burberry puts the latest runway look front and center with something right out of your favorite fashion or lifestyle magazine.

Toyota connects with the emotional side of owning a car. It’s not about the car, it’s about the lifestyle, the freedom of the open road with your best friend.

Verrado, a community outside of Phoenix, sets the scene with a tree-lined lane that has hometown written all over it.

Sports Clips

SportClips not only puts it’s USP front and center, it shows it in action, too.

The beauty of the Centerpoint on Mill development in Phoenix is captured in a perfect evening shot, showcasing the work and the possibilities of the development.

 

Disclosure: I’ve worked with Brookfield, Verrado and Centerpoint on their social marketing strategy.

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Ecommerce on Twitter. The rise of tcommerce?

pepsi twitter brand pageAdAge has an intriguing article about upcoming enhancements to Twitter brand pages that include sweepstakes, contests and ecommerce. The report is purportedly confirmed by multiple, unnamed Twitter executives. The commerce part is particularly intriguing, especially in light of Jack Dorsey’s dual involvement in both Square and Twitter. But what would ecommerce on Twitter look like? Is this the start of t-commerce? Is it the next wave of social commerce? Will it be as uninspiring as fcommerce (Facebook commerce?) Of course this is all speculation, but the nexus of mobile, frictionless payments and real time is a compelling area to explore a new way to find, share, promote and pay.

Here’s a bit from the article:

Launched in December, the pages show the brand’s Twitter feed and images, but Twitter plans to add experiences, including e-commerce, contests and sweepstakes, according to three executives familiar with the matter.

The product will allow app developers to build experiences on Twitter, much the way they do on Facebook. The features will be contained within the brand’s tweet timeline, a departure from the 140-character limit of a tweet or images and videos that can now displayed. While no date has been set for the release of the product, Twitter has been telling clients to expect it this year.

What Would Twitter Commerce (tcommerce?) Look Like?

Location

Location-based deals are nothing new, see Foursquare, Loopt and the rest, but Twitter has an audience orders of magnitude larger than those services combined. It’s not hard to imagine Twitter using your location to push out deals via your stream that are relevant to you from businesses near by. A deal from the local deli while you’re checking Twitter from the CVS next door could be just the motivation you need to pick up lunch while you’re out.

Deals are also a great incentive for users to follow brands on Twitter. The most successful brand pages on Facebook have far more fans than similar brands on Twitter. And there is plenty of research out there that shows that people follow brands on Facebook for deals and specials, so it’s not much of a stretch to see how deals could help brands build larger purchase-oriented followings on Twitter.

Real Time

Location isn’t the only opportunity. The flash-deal model also works with Twitter. And there are plenty of good case studies on how short-term deals work well on Twitter. The Dell Outlet Twitter account being probably the most visible/memorable. The ability to deploy ecommerce opportunities quickly and to a captive audience is a powerful concept, if executed well. It’s easy to see how Zappos could deploy a deal on the shoes that a celebrity is wearing on Oscars the red carpet. Combining a deal with a promoted Tweet around a popular hashtag is a way to reach a very targeted audience in a much faster and more relevant way than an email 24 hours later, when the moment has passed.

Frictionless Payments

The one catch of course is the payment gateway for all of this. Clicking from a Tweet to a payment page, to fill out a cumbersome ecommerce form is not going to get the job done — particularly in the mobile world. This is where a partnership with a company like Square and the wallet technology makes a ton of sense. Having secure, one-click-type payment ability will be the key to adoption and use of tcommerce payments. Being able to see a deal, and take instant action without the friction associated with typical ecommerce could be the thing that makes tcommerce really work.

What About fcommerce?

There has been a lot of skepticism around social commerce, particularly with the closing of several high-profile storefronts on Facebook. But there is little reason to think the tcommerce would suffer the same fate as fcommerce. Why? Because fcommerce was nothing more than ecommerce jammed into the Facebook chrome. As long as Twitter looks at the experience holistically and unique to the service there is no reason that it has to be as uninspiring as Facebook’s first attempt.

Twitter thinks about it’s platform in a much different way than Facebook does. Facebook is a utility, the plumbing of the social graph that anyone can build on, regardless of the effectiveness of what they build. Twitter is much more in control of the user experience and what is and isn’t allowed in the service. This control means that any solution is their solution, and mobile, real time and commerce are all areas of expertise for Jack and team.

Tcommerce revolution?

Deals and brand offerings are pretty superficial. What if we think bigger. Could Twitter replace Western Union? Could sending money be as easy as sending a Tweet? Could you donate to a cause through a trending hashtag? There are issues to unravel with these scenarios, but there isn’t any reason to think that they’re not possible at some level at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Of course, this could all be smoke. Twitter could just let brands promote the deals they have on other services. There could be no true tcommerce solution. An integration with Square could be years off, who knows. But it is fun to think about, and it could be a whole new mobile, real time, frictionless way to send money to anyone.

Image via AdAge.

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Apple’s Brand Fraying? Laughable, man.

laughableI was wondering who would write the easy article today on the iPad announcement. And I’m not talking about the highlight reel either. I’m talking about the “Apple is screwed without Steve” article. You knew it was coming, and without fail, we got it. Jolie O’Dell at VentureBeat is your winner, for anyone who had a pool going. In her post, Apple’s Press Conference Showed a Brand Unraveling is a poorly considered piece that uses a few specious pieces of evidence to construct her argument that Apple is already falling apart without Steve Jobs.

Her big, unanswerable question, is “Would Steve do it this way?” She concludes no. I get it. It’s link bait. It will whip everyone up into a frenzy and will drive tons of traffic to her article; but there’s just no reasonable way to substantiate her argument. She’s wrong, and she wrote a lazy article to boot.

To save you the read, here is the gist of it:

I think today’s Apple event shows that perfectionism fraying a bit around the edges. The bad pun, the goofy logo, the weird product name — all of it pointed to a leadership that either didn’t understand or didn’t care about consistency in iconography.

Let’s take a quick look at some of her “signs” that the Apple brand is fraying and see if they stand up at all.

The ambiguous naming of the “new iPad”

O’Dell opines that the lack of a modifier at the end of the name iPad shows an ambiguity that wouldn’t exist under Steve. In her opinion, there’s no way Steve would’ve NOT put a modifier on the product to clearly delineate it in the product line.

But, Steve Jobs is the one who took a complicated Apple product line and simplified it — remember? His famous product matrix? The one he drew on the whiteboard after a dizzying set of arguments with product people who couldn’t explain what was different from one product to the next?

From a guy who built the company around simplicity, the idea of dropping a silly modifier of an iconic product seems about right. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this idea was one that Steve actually championed. I can almost hear him saying “Let Microsoft have the ME’s and XP’s and 8′s, we have the iPad.”

apple product matrix

Steve Jobs' simplified product matrix to help Apple refocus after his return as CEO.

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Tim Cook’s Untucked Shirt

I really have no idea why I’m addressing it, because it’s ludicrous, but I’m bored, so here are just a few shots of the executives who have been on-stage at Apple keynotes with untucked shirts with Steve there! I’m thinking that Steve has no problem green-lighting untucked shirts.

Steve Forstall, WWDC 2008

Steve Forstall

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Phil Schiller, WWDC 2009

Phil Schiller

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And Phil again — untucked (with short sleeves!) — at the original iPad announcement

phil schiller

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Tim Cook, in gasp, a polo (with Steve Jobs)

Steve Jobs and Tim Cook

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Verdict? The shirt is fine.

The Apple Logo

O’Dell argues again that the tie-dyed logo is a symbol of the brand coming apart at the seams. Steve Jobs would never allow the Apple logo to be altered in such a way. But the fact is that Apple has made color a huge part of its iconography — especially for the iPad.

Here’s the original iPad launch branding in 2010:

ipad launch

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Here’s today’s announcement exterior:

apple ipad

Looks pretty on-brand for iPad events, don’t you think? I’m guessing Steve would be ok with this one, too.

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Resolutionary

O’Dell takes offense with the iPad headline “Resolutionary”. Steve Jobs would never approve something so punny. But the reality is that Apple is known for their bordering-on-hokey turns of phrase. I hastily dug up a few examples from their email newsletters. Each one of them has a play on words or turn of phrase — it’s fundamental to how they write copy. Resolutionary falls right in line with this tradition. Therefore Steve Jobs gives it a thumbs up. Heck — it could be jotted down in one of his notebooks somewhere.

resolutionary

A very rushed sample of email headlines from Apple newsletters:

In short, there is no brand fraying here. Will Apple change under Tim Cook? No question. It already has. But Apple’s brand is part of their DNA. They have internal case studies on what is and isn’t the Apple brand. They have die-hard brand loyalists up and down the org chart. There may come a time when Apple loses focus, strays a bit, or does something truly “off” for their brand. That will be the time to write the “Apple is screwed without Steve” article. Now is not that time, nor will it be for the foreseeable future. And while I’m sure the pageviews are nice for Jolie today, their lingering impact on her future opinion pieces might not be as welcome.

Laughable image.

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Think social business. Not social marketing.

Social business - not social marketingThink social business — not social marketing. Social marketing, the content, programs, campaigns and promotions that leverage social technologies, is part of social business, but it’s not the end all, be all. Social impacts business in its entirety. It’s easy to say social media or social marketing when talking about social business; because it’s how the press has pegged the activity of brands and users on these networks, but it’s wrong.

Social impacts nearly every aspect of the organization: human resources, legal, product, customer service, business development and of course, marketing and communications. A smart business looks at social holistically and integrates it into the business units in a way that connects the entire organization via social technology. Through this integration, social makes the business more accessible, more agile and more responsive to customer needs. These are all good things.

Businesses that truly “get it” don’t limit their thinking of social as some specialized area of marketing. In fact, social can’t (and shouldn’t) be confined to marketing or to the marketing function. To think of it as a marketing-only area is to miss the boat in its entirety.

So whenever I start saying “social marketing” too often, I remind myself that it’s an organizational discipline and a fundamental shift in how business is done by leveraging new ways of communicating with one another — both internally and with the outside world.

This isn’t a new idea, just a reminder I like to give myself to keep my eye on the prize.  I thought you might find it useful too.

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Don’t Do This: Social Share Abuse

Look. I get it. We all want distribution, and readership. And we want to make it easy for people to share our content on the networks they use. But don’t do this. Putting every. single. social widget you can find on your site isn’t smart — it’s desperate.

Social widget abuse

I love what Nick Denton, Gawker CEO, says about social widgets. I think it’s dead on in this, and many other, instances.

“These sites festooned with social media buttons–they look like primitive tribesmen clutching pathetically onto shiny baubles they believe to the symbols of modernity,” quoth Denton.

Here’s why it sucks:

  • It mucks up your user experience – what are people supposed to do here?
  • It takes away from the core content – what am I supposed to be looking at?
  • It ruins your design.
  • It shows a lack of focus – you should know what your users want to use and don’t want to use. Pick the ones that really drive your business and ditch the rest.
  • It hurts social proof – having 100 likes on something is one thing. Having 3 Diggs and 14 Stumbles and 9 LinkedIn shares, shows your audience that this content really isn’t going anywhere, on any network. So why should they share it. Social proof works both ways.

So please, don’t do this. Instead, look at your traffic and user behavior and understand the networks that really drive traffic for your site, and focus on those. Let random one-offs copy and paste the URL to where they want to share it. You’ll create a better user experience, keep your design clean, keep your site looking professional, and amplify the channels that actually matter for your site.

 

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MetLife’s new ad, featuring Schroeder, is more than just a rich banner – it’s an interactive experience and game that encourages the user to play the keyboard to help Schroeder successfully play a mini concerto in what looks like Carnegie Hall. It’s a brilliant way to engage with users and keep their attention for more than a split second, and the scoring and social sharing ensured this unique experience went viral.

You can view a video of how the ad works here:

This is easily one of the best banner ad executions since the I’m a Mac banners that also ran on the NY Times home page. It must be the high dollar cost of the ad placement on nytimes.com that brings out the best in banner creative.

If you missed the ad, you can play the game on Facebook, or catch it on March 1st on People.com.

 

Brilliant MetLife Ad

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How Klout Perks Really Work

klout logoKlout bills itself as a network of influencers that brands can tap into to leverage peer recommendations across social networks. This is based on the idea that friend recommendations are more valuable than traditional advertising because friends trust each others’ recommendations more than ads. The way it works, as sold on the website, is that you tap influencers in topic areas that are relevant to your brand, you offer them a perk, they love it and you, and then the influencers go out and spread your message via word-of-mouth on the social networks they’re most active on. It sounds good, but does it work for brands? The answer is no and yes.

Quick Background

I ran social marketing for a company recently that used Klout to drive new membership. We ran two campaigns, described below. One which failed miserably and one which was a huge success. I’ve described them below and provided actual numbers from Klout. The goal of these campaigns was to spread awareness of a new service, drive membership sign-ups and purchases. Your mileage will of course vary based on your goals.

How Klout Doesn’t Work – Test Campaign #1

You could be forgiven if you think that the best way to leverage their service is to target the most influential influencers in the Klout network for the topic you care about and then let them spread your message far and wide. I hope I’m forgiven anyway. This is what I initially thought, and was proven wrong. If you’re going to run a Klout campaign as a brand, this is definitely not the way to do it. I know from experience, dude. Let’s take a look at the messy details.

Here’s what we did with our first Klout campaign:

  • Identified 155 social influencers who had high Klout scores in Los Angeles, CA, a target market for our member acquisition efforts.
  • Offered a Klout perk to them of $100 in free stuff on our site, plus the ability to invite anyone in their network to join the private beta and get $10 to try us out too.

The thinking was that by giving these social influencers a sufficient amount of money to try the service and a way to give their followers and friends early access and a discount, that they would be stoked on the perk and spread the word. Friends would sign up for the discount and early access.

The cost of the campaign was $5,000 plus the cost of the coupons, which was dependent on the redemption rate of the perk.

The results:

  • Out of 155 influencers invited, 79 claimed the perk.
  • In addition to the 79 influencers we received an additional 173 downstream, referred members.
  • Each influencer sent 2.7 tweets on average, and along with downstream contributing tweets resulted in 302 tweets.
  • True reach, which represents how many people were reached by tweets was 426,165.
  • Impressions were 1.47 million.
  • Cost to acquire a member was $19.84 and the cost per purchaser was scary high; because most redeemed and used the $100.
What we learned:
  • Influencers were generally grateful of the perk, and some couldn’t believe it was $100. We definitely got some short-term brand awareness there.
  • The influencers didn’t really influence all that much. On average they had enough Klout to drive two extra members to sign up for the service. Since most of them had 10′s of thousands of followers, this is a pretty low activation rate.
  • The member acquisition cost was way out of whack with our model. It was nearly 20x what we look to pay for a member acquisition campaign.

How Klout Does Work – Test Campaign #2

You can probably guess that we were really disappointed by the costs and results of the first campaign. It was pretty clear that as an unknown brand you can’t buy word of mouth via Klout, regardless of the size of the perk. And even if you get a bit of word-of-mouth it doesn’t necessarily translate into action. We spoke with our friends at Klout about this and to their HUGE credit, they offered to run another campaign at no additional cost using a different model.

Here’s what we did with our second Klout campaign:

  • Target 10,000 Klout users in New York, regardless of Klout score.
  • Make the perk free early access to the site and a $25 off coupon for any purchase they make.
  • No referral credit for people they told. It was just $25 off for any perk recipient.
The Results:
  • 8,985 perk redeemers
  • 1.3 Tweets/Shares per influencer = 12,418 Tweets and shares (40x the first campaign)
  • True Reach of 1.93 million based on 8,985 participating influencers
  • 5.9 million impressions based on True Reach (3x the first campaign)
  • Cost to acquire a member was less than $1, even after adding in the $25 per purchaser credit
  • Cost to acquire a purchaser was just the $25. Both the cost per purchaser and cost per member were well in our target budgets.
  • Even if you factor in the $5,000 for the campaign the cost per member was just over a dollar (including coupon redemptions) and about $40 per purchaser – which were well within target acquisition costs.
What we learned:
  • The power of Klout is to reach a large number of people with an offer via Twitter.
  • Counting on the viral sharing is risky – reaching the masses is the better bet.
  • Klout score doesn’t matter. Everyone’s money is good, and the high scorers don’t move the needle in terms of a campaign of this size.
  • We saw a 3x lift in impressions and a 40x lift in social media mentions by going direct to a larger audience rather than relying on viral word of mouth.

How Klout Really Works

If you think about Klout, and you think about scores and whether they’re accurate or inaccurate, you’ll see from the above that that debate is really a silly argument. Klout doesn’t work because they have a database of influencers that get your word out; it works because they have a huge database of people, period. Score is irrelevant to campaigns like these. If you’re going for scale don’t try to tap influencer networks to get word of mouth referrals. The influencers carry less influence than you think and apathy is a hard thing to overcome on social networks.

Instead, reach for as many people as you can, and get them all to opt-in. You’ll get more scale, you get some great word-of-mouth because these lower Klout score folks are pumped to get a perk, and you’re reaching a well-connected, great customer.

One of the things we really learned was that a Klout user was a really great customer for the site. They bought more on average, they bought more often and they referred more friends (through our internal refer-a-friend program) than almost any other audience other than those users who were referred by existing site users.

These results obviously have big implications with regard to a user’s score and it’s importance or need for accuracy, and it has big implications for how you choose to run a Klout campaign vs. how you might initially think that it works. I hope it also reflects well on Klout – as a company they work really hard to make sure you’re successful. They went above and beyond to find a way to make our program work, and that’s all you can hope for from an advertising partner.

I hope it’s helpful in the Klout discussion – especially for marketers and brands thinking of using Klout to market their business.

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Google’s UI Growing Pains

In general, I’ve been a huge fan of Google’s UI changes. It makes the service seem fresher, more relevant and easy to use. Overall, it’s a nice progressive move that shouldn’t totally freak out a user base made up of a huge variety of user skill levels, operating systems, you-name-it. But there are a few spots where it starts to break down. For instance, this is the upper-right hand corner of the Google Voice UI now.

Google Voice new UI

I mean, that’s just plain confusing. There are nine controls packed into that little space and they are almost completely unrelated to one another in terms of functionality.

I love that Google is iterating quickly on it’s products and that it’s pushing it’s UI to be more modern. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in an old UI because your user base can’t or won’t adapt. Ask Amazon. But, I also hope that Google acts quickly to come through a clean up areas like the above so that they continue to drive that Google hallmark of ease of use and clarity down through all of their products.

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