A three-day web conference for smart web marketers

Last summer, we started talking to colleagues about creating a web conference in Vancouver. I think there have been several good marketing events in Vancouver, but no great ones. We connected with about 30 of our friends and colleagues to pick their brains. We ended up with these criteria for a conference:

  • The smartest marketers would be there
  • The conversations would be about web strategy, not WordPress plug-ins
  • It would be an emerging trust network, where we could talk about failures as well as successes
  • It wouldn't have any sponsors
  • The speakers would have insights to share, not products to sell
  • It would take place in a natural setting near, but not in, Vancouver

A few months later, Fireworks Factory was born. We're betting our time and money on the belief that there's an appetite for this kind of conference in Vancouver.

For who's coming, who's speaking and other details, visit the Fireworks Factory website.

Why is it called Fireworks Factory?

We lived in Malta for a year in 2007, on the small island of Gozo. Each town on Gozo has a week-long religious festival--Malta is the most Catholic nation outside of the Vatican--punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics. These explosives were all homegrown, crafted in a community-owned fireworks factory on the edge of town. Men from the village would spend time there building and testing fireworks, in the hopes of outdoing their rival towns. Occasionally, something horrible would happen.

Still, they were communal spaces where something risky and breathtaking gets imagined and created. That seemed like a good metaphor for the kind of conference we want to run.

Slides and Notes from NetSquared Camp

Theo and I recently completed a research project regarding how NGOs can better perform on Facebook. I'll be publishing an article about our research shortly, and will link to it from here. In the meantime, here are the slides we presented on the research at NetSquared Camp. After the slides, you'll find a few notes about the research which couldn't fit into the article.

Some other observations we made in our research (which are also in the slides, as it happens)

  • Likes are obviously more popular than comments, which in turn are more popular than shares. We found that for every one comment, there were there shares and 11 likes.
  • The top performing NGOs published once a day, seven days a week.
  • Hardly anybody ever uses Facebook Questions, Facebook's poll feature. We encountered exactly two poll questions in the thousand-odd posts we examined.
  • The equation we used to measure engagement was:

    Engagement = Likes + (Comments * 2.5) + (Shares * 5)

    I conferred with a number of colleagues, and settled on these weightings. We all agreed that a comment was worth more than a like, and a share was worth more than a comment.

"Calculate It" image courtesy flickr user Dave Dugdale.

Welcome to Capulet 4.0

We started Capulet back in April, 2003. While living in Ireland, we bought the site address from a domain squatter for about €300, and then paid some Irish folks to mock us up a logo and some business cards. I taxed my meagre design skills, and devised this rather embarrassing website. Hey, what can I tell you? Those were simpler times. Eight years later, you're looking at the fourth version of Capulet.com. We've had Capulet 3.0, powered by Drupal, for nearly five years. I wrote about that redesign on my personal site.

We commissioned our friends at Giant Ant to produce the design. How did we arrive at this particular look and feel? Good question.

We began with thinking about a new wordmark for Capulet. Our old logo felt pretty tired. We'd outgrown it. One of our colleagues said that "it looks like the logo of a part-time, freelance editor of romance novels". That's not far off. To replace it, we were looking for something bold and contemporary. We looked at a variety of options, but this one, with it's clever play on transparency, felt like the right fit. You can see some of Giant Ant's early sketches below (click to enlarge):

EarlyLogoArt

With a decision reached on the logo, we wanted to extend those ideas with a site that reflected the imaginative, risky work that we do when we're at our best. The old site's aesthetic felt a little too corporate and safe for the agency we'd become.

Years ago I read this great manifesto about corporate site design. It contains the simple but powerful idea that companies are mostly just people:

Decide who the Ambassador of your company will be, take a photo of him or her, and put it on the front page of your site to welcome each new visitor personally.

Ever since, we've felt that it's important for site visitors to see who they're hiring, right on the home page of the site.

We presented a bunch of ideas to Giant Ant, and cited a couple of sites as inspiration. After agreeing on wireframe layouts, these are a couple of the first drafts we looked at:

GreyLayout

We liked them, but we were looking for something a little more brazen. We did some more thinking, and introduced an aesthetic that we figured could help make the design more unusual. It's a kind of textured, mid-century look that you can find in the wonderful posters of Olly Moss (don't miss his Star Wars trilogy), and the striking credits sequence in "Catch Me If You Can":

Based on this feedback, Giant Ant produced a great set of second draft ideas. The current website is remarkably close to one variation of those revisions.

We're delighted with the result, and hope you like it, too.

Crashing the Capulet Party

Throughout 2011, you’ll see my blog posts on the Capulet blog from time to time. That’s because Darren and Julie have invited me to work with them on several projects and I’m thrilled to be crashing their party, so-to-speak. In fact, the party metaphor works nicely as an introduction to my interests. Like any party guest worth their invite, I would try to keep my half of the conversation as bizarre interesting as possible and listen carefully to what you have to say. With that in mind, I might steer the conversation toward the topic of redheads, West Highland Terriers, and satellites.  These are universal interests, no? Brace yourself. I’m the party guest who will show you pictures of her terrier named Toby, explain how redheads are likely not to be extinct by the year 2060, and take you outside to show you how to identify* a military satellite and compare it to a telecommunications satellite.

Any moving point of light traveling on a laser-straight path in the night sky from North to South is likely a military satellite. Likewise, if it’s traveling east to west, there’s a good chance it’s a commercial or telecommunications satellite. If it’s traveling west to east, you’re delusional and should promptly step inside for another drink. Satellites never travel west to east.

At this point, if you haven’t already excused yourself from our conversation in search of more boring sophisticated party banter, I would encourage you to download Starwalk, the iPhone and Blackberry app that points out the constellations when you hold your phone up to the night sky.

Now, the true test will be whether Darren and Julie can appreciate my yen for space junk, westies and redhead chromosomes. They certainly show plenty of potential.

*A fabulous book called “Secrets of the Night Sky” by Bob Berman taught me everything I now about satellites. I highly recommend it - it’s an excellent read.

Social Media Marketing Bootcamp Heads Back to Calgary

We've had a fantastic month leading Social Media Marketing Bootcamps in BC and Alberta. We've met many creative marketers who are ready to embrace social media and who ask great questions and bring new marketing insights to the full-day workshop. Thanks to all of you who have made the sessions so fun and thought provoking. And we're not done yet! There was so much interest in Social Media Marketing Bootcamp in Calgary we're heading back over the Rockies next week for sessions on September 29 and October 1.

If you're in Calgary and would like to join us, there are a few spots left on both days. Find out more about bootcamp or register now. We're looking forward to seeing you in Calgary!

Don’t Miss Social Media Marketing Bootcamp in Victoria on June 4th

Back by popular demand... after a sold out session in April, we're running another Social Media Marketing Bootcamp in Victoria on June 4th. What's SMM Bootcamp all about? In this full-day workshop, we'll show communicators and marketers, as well as small business owners, how to add social media into their marketing mix.

We'll discuss the dos and don'ts of social media marketing; look at successful marketing campaigns; introduce the social media tools every marketer should know about; and cover online communications etiquette. You'll learn how to:

  • Bring more visitors to your website
  • Increase your company’s visibility online
  • Approach bloggers and other online influencers about your products and services
  • Get your website social media ready
  • Craft a potent social media pitch
  • Incorporate online channels like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into your marketing programs
  • Avoid campaign killers and online faux-pas

Students will leave with:

There will be a session in Victoria on June 4th. The workshop fee is $299 (taxes included).

Want to save $50? Blog about our workshop on your own established (meaning not brand new) site. Don't have a blog? Ask a friend or a local blogger if you can write a guest post for their site.

Register or find out more about Capulet's Social Media Bootcamp.

Social Media Marketing Training in Vancouver and Victoria

Building on the sold-out course we taught for UBC Continuing Education this winter, Capulet is running full-day workshops in Vancouver and Victoria to teach communicators and marketers, as well as small business owners, how to add social media into their marketing mix. We'll discuss the dos and don'ts of social media marketing; look at successful marketing campaigns; introduce the social media tools every marketer should know about; and cover online communications etiquette. You'll learn how to:

  • Bring more visitors to your website
  • Increase your company’s visibility online
  • Approach bloggers and other online influencers about your products and services
  • Get your website social media ready
  • Craft a potent social media pitch
  • Incorporate online channels like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into your marketing programs
  • Avoid campaign killers and online faux-pas

Students will leave with:

There will be sessions in Victoria on April 30, 2009 and Vancouver on May 28, 2009. The workshop fee is $369 (taxes included).

Want to save $50? Blog about our workshop on your own established (meaning not brand new) site. Don't have a blog? Ask a friend or a local blogger if you can write a guest post for their site.

Register or find out more about Capulet's Social Media Bootcamp.

Mixed Reviews from South by Southwest

Last week, we shared some thoughts from the South by Southwest interactive conference on the TechVibes blog. Here's a brief summary of our impressions as first-time South by Southwesters: Julie: If you didn't already know that social media marketing is the new black, then the huge number of panels on this topic at SXSW would certainly tip you off. The panels had plenty of conflicting advice on how to move marketing and PR to the web--from dropping your email newsletter in favour of Twitter to focusing exclusively on building word-of-mouth marketing programs. While I did not agree with all the touted strategies, it was good to see rooms full of marketers taking this stuff seriously.

Darren: Despite the star-studded line-up (hey, there's Heather Armstrong! There's Hugh McLeod! And so forth), the overall caliber of the panels followed the typical conference curve of average to great. In truth, the quality was not better than smaller technology conferences, like Gnomedex. It's the scope of SXSW that makes the conference unique.

We enjoyed meeting new people and connecting more deeply with aquaintances, but neither of us came away singing the praises of SXSW like we often hear others do.