"Round-Up" Your Social Media Content In Seven Steps

When the mood strikes, I go to YouTube to watch my favourite television commercial from 2006. Remember this one?

It reminds me that an online community manager is a bit of a digital cowboy. When you're responsible for "rounding" up daily, quality content for all your social media channels, practice your "yeehaw", put on your cowboy hat and direct your digital lasso to help you organize online content quickly and with a purpose. Here's how:

Step 1: Organize It Consider using a social media dashboard like HootSuite. With a dashboard, you can set up and monitor search streams to help you keep an eye on the online conversations and content that matters to your audience.

Step 2: Share It If You Like It Visit your favourite blogs, news sites, and online magazines. If it's not something you would read or watch yourself, than you’re going to have a tough time convincing others to spare their attention. Always post quality over quantity.

Step 3: Schedule It Bookmark or schedule the content for posting or tweeting throughout the day or week. Remember, scheduling good social media content does not replace day-to-day social media monitoring. It's important to take the time to read and respond to fans and followers who reach out to you. Monitoring should always take precedent over scheduling content.

Step 4: Build It We recently came across a study that shows tweets that contain a link with content on either side of it perform better than tweets with a URL at the beginning or end. It's a small change but worth consideration. Prompt the tweet; add your shortened URL, and follow-up with your own thought or reaction to the post.

Step 5: Repeat It Be consistent. Seeking out relevant content can take longer than you think. Set up a block of time each week and, if you need to convince management that it's time well spent, explain how it's a form of media monitoring and research. After one month of "rounding" you'll notice how much more you know about the current conservations and online attitude toward relevant topics.

Step 6: Have Fun With It Not every piece of content you share has to be a New York Times opinion editorial. Maybe you work with a conservation organization and you've just come across a beautiful example of time-lapse photography that features wild landscapes from around the world. No doubt members of your audience who support your conservation efforts would love to see examples of wild spaces that matter so much to them.

Step 7: Reward It If an organization or company similar to yours is making headway in their field and you like what you see, share it. It never hurts to send a little link love toward efforts that further innovation, even if you find yourself competing for the same audience.

Giddy up.










Image courtesy Jose Manuel Mazintosh, flickr.

The Pluses and Minuses of Google+

I'm lukewarm about Google+. I joined very early because I'm professionally obligated to kick the tires on new social media channels. The conversations in the early months were all about the tool itself. This is always the case--the first ten "electronic mails" you ever sent were probably about the wondrous medium of email. Since then, I haven't really discovered where Google+ should sit in my infovorious landscape. Since I signed up, Google+ has apparently gained some serious momentum. Earlier this year Google's CEO reported that Google+ had 90 million users worldwide. That's a very fast rate of growth--much faster than the equivalent periods of growth for Facebook or Twitter. Anecdotally, I've got nearly 6000 followers (roughly the same number of Twitter followers I've collected in five years of Tweeting) through no actual effort on my part.

And yet we've already read the usual "new social media channel is dead" stories from the likes of Forbes and Slate. I don't put much stock in those, though I've recently seen other Google+ news that's not encouraging. Among my Google+ circles, I only see about 10% of users actively on the site.

What's the future of Google+? I gave up making predictions about technology back when I wrote about "not getting Flickr" in 2004. Until recently, I'd been advising our non-technology clients not to worry about Google+. It's early days, I told them. Let the geeks kick the tires on Google+ and we'll see if it crosses the chasm. I reminded them of other Google efforts--Knol, Wave and Friend Connect.

My advice changed, though, once I watched this video from SEO guru Rand Fishkin. Take 12 minutes and watch it.

As you can see, he makes a very strong case for the search engine optimization benefits of being active on Google+. SEO tends to be a relatively small part of our non-profit clients online marketing efforts, but if you sell stuff online, then Google+ matters.

That said, if you sell stuff online, then you're probably better off spending time on Pinterest than Google+. But that's a whole other post.

Photo courtesy Yodel Anecdotal, flickr.

Drawn to the Wild with Sarah Harmer

We're delighted to be part of a project this year that combines music, conservation, and Canada's wild and beautiful landscape. We're talking about Drawn to the Wild, a project that first came about through a partnership between Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, Mountain Equipment Co-op and The Big Wild. This project was originally inspired by The Johnny Cash Project, a website we continue to admire for its originality. Drawn to the Wild aims to raise awareness around threatened Canadian landscapes. It invites Canadians to contribute to a new version of a Sarah Harmer video and support the protection of part of the Niagara Escarpment at the same time. In the video, Sarah is singing "I'm a Mountain" as footage from her  documentary and concert film, "Escarpment Blues", features Sarah and her band touring across southern Ontario.

When you first visit http://DrawnToTheWild.org, you’re presented with a randomly selected frame from a short segment of the documentary video. After choosing a frame, you use a drawing tool to illustrate it -- tracing it, adding to it or radically re-envisioning it. The site aggregates the resulting frames into a new version of the video. Each time someone draws a frame, The Big Wild donates 25 cents to Sarah's Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL), an organization she cofounded. When enough frames have been submitted, The Big Wild will release a new remixed version of the video. We eagerly await the finished product and we'll be sure to share it on our website when it's done.

In the meantime, Darren has put together a screencast, below, to help you better understand how the project works and what to do if you're interested in submitting a frame, yourself. Have fun, drawing!

Video Stories

It's been an incredible year for the Capulet team. In 2011 we unveiled a long-awaited new website which you see before your very eyes; spoke at conferences across the continent; launched a Movement Marketing Program with partners Biro Creative; and generated more Canadian content than anyone thought possible thanks to Darren's One Year, One Canadian project. We've put the highlights into this short video for you. Here's to a memorable and motivating New Year in 2012!

The Data Decade: TEDx Vancouver

If TEDx Vancouver taught me anything, it's that this is shaping up to be the Decade of Data: how we collect it, how we share it, and how we can use it to build a better world. TEDx Vancouver hosted 16 speakers and an audience of 1000 at the University of British Columbia's Chan Centre on November 12th, 2011. Here's a round-up of four speakers that left an impression on me: data-related or otherwise.

Gamers, It Turns Out, Make Excellent Biochemists

Seth Cooper knows a thing or two about computer science and engineering. He is the creative director of the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington where he focuses on using video games to solve difficult scientific problems. He is also the co-partner of a new project called Foldit. It's a scientific discovery game that has allowed gamers to advance the field of biochemistry through puzzles. In fact, you may have read about it in the news. In just three weeks, Foldit gamers were able to predict the structure of the HIV Enzyme, a protein that has stumped biochemists for a very long time. News of this discovery and how the gamers did it made international headlines.

We Share Content In Waves Called Cascades

Jer Thorp is currently the Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times. Together with the research and developement department at the NYTimes, he's been working on a new data visualization project called Cascades which was featured in Mashable earlier this year.

Cascades visually represents what happens when readers tweet about New York Times articles. You can click here to watch a short clip that demonstrates what a cascade looks like and how it's formed. One of Jer's favourite cascades was one he named the "Rabbi Cascade." It's a small cascade that a group of rabbis on Twitter started when they shared an article from the New York Times. You can measure exactly when conversations like this start on Twitter and when they end when people share New York Times content.

The Ocean is Connected to the Internet (For Real)

Dr. Kate Moran heads up the Neptune Project at the University of Victoria, which connects the ocean floor off the West Coast of Canada to the internet through underwater cables. At the end of each cable rests a device that measures seafloor stability, tectonics and paleo-climates. All of this data travels through Neptune's underwater internet cables into your desktop computer or personal device where you can volunteer to help interpret it. Dr. Moran is, effectively, crowd-sourcing the content of the ocean and turning us into scientific researchers, working from the comfort of our own homes.

Carl Sagan had a Radio Voice

Reid Gower is the architect behind "The Sagan Series" which borrows excerpts from Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" on audio tape and adds a musical score and film footage to create digital montages. The first part of this series titled "The Frontier is Everywhere" has been viewed more than 1,450,000 times on Youtube. This video opened up TEDx Vancouver and introduced the event theme: Frontiers.

International Connections: Social Networks Around the World

When it comes to online advertising, Google Adwords and Facebook are the two channels we usually look to, first. Occasionally, we'll foray into Reddit and even then, it's with a very particular audience in mind (think narwhals and kittens.) So when a client recently came to us with questions about cost-per-click advertising elsewhere in the world and in different languages, we had the opportunity to conduct some extremely revealing research. The end product was an extensive list of social networking sites, some almost as popular as Facebook, in different countries around the world. (By the way, if you're interested in learning more about cost-per-click or CPC advertising on Google, check out this blog post we wrote earlier this year.) In the past, we've seen several well-done infographics that feature international social networks. The first infographic that comes to mind is about a year old now. It's a colour wheel of networks from Facebook to Flickr to China's popular Kaixin001.

More recently, Mashable produced an infographic that features "How the World Uses Social Networks." The infographic breaks down data provided by Nielson from their "Social Media Report" and visualizes social networking across ten different countries.

Here at Capulet, based on the needs of our client, we focused on five countries: Mexico, Thailand, Koren, Japan, and Brazil. We also looked at the European Union as a whole.

Almost every social network we looked at presented advertising opportunities, albeit, in a multitude of languages. If we decided to go ahead and advertise on one of these social networks, we'd have to bring in a professional translator (think simplified Chinese versus traditional Chinese) to help us navigate the bidding process.

A few of the social networks in particular stood out, not only because of their popularity, but because of the specific niche they're designed to attract. Below is a quick look at some of the more popular social networks we discovered across several different continents.

Sonico is a free-access social networking website focused on the Latin American audience. You can create a profile, add friends, upload photos and videos, and organize events. The site is popular in Latin America and other Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking regions.

Hi5 shares similarities with many social networking sites, and claims around 60 million members from more than 200 countries other than the US.

Cyworld is a Korean social network that gives users access to a profile page, photos, drawings and images uploading, an avatar, neighbourhoods, and clubs. Many renowned Korean socialites and celebrities have accounts. Cyworld has networks in South Korea, China, and Vietnam and is gaining popularity across Asia and the Pacific Island.

Kaixin001 is a popular professional networking tool in China targeting white-collar middle class users who come from a first tier city. This site in China is extremely popular among people who work for multinational companies, ad agencies and other white collar companies. Kaixin001 has gained much more popularity since 2009 because social networking sites, such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube were blocked in China.

PerfSpot is a web portal for people of any age, gender, or background who want to share their interests and favourite things on the web. PerfSpot currently publishes its site in 37 different languages, with a moderator team based in the U.S. and the Philippines that screens through up to a million pictures on a daily basis.

Online Tools for Your Non-Profit Radar

We recently came across author Heather Mansfield's blog post: 33 Fun, Useful and Totally Random Resources for Nonprofits. This superb list of online tools got us thinking about our own "go-to" resources that merge creativity and efficiency in a cheap and cheerful way. We tip our hat to Heather and offer up these additions to what's looking like an excellent collection of online resources for your non-profit toolbox.

Hootsuite: Your One-Stop Social Media Dashboard

Maybe it's too obvious or doesn't quite fit into the genre of "cheap and cheerful" tools for non-profits, but we still think Hootsuite is one of the best tools out there for organizations. For next to nothing, you can decentralize, organize and schedule tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates and your Wordpress blog from one dashboard. Hootsuite even offers tutorials in the form of "Hootsuite University" if you're overwhelmed with the idea of adding a new social media dashboard to the mix.

Screencast: Capture and Create Online Videos

Screencast is a screen capture tool that captures, among other things, online video and safely stores it online. It won't compress the video file, which means you keep what you capture. If you're looking for ways to tell a story using online videos and images, we highly recommend this gem of a tool.

Storify: Connecting the Soc Med Dots

We know that Storify is pretty new on the scene because we signed up as beta users and had some fun with it. Storify allows you to collect content from your different online channels, group it in one place and share the end result with your online communities. It's a great idea for organizations looking for better ways to collect online community content from multiple channels and present it as one, cohesive story. We look forward to seeing how this tool develops as more users climb on board.

Ushahidi: Online Crisis Mapping

Earlier this year, we attended Mobile for Social Change, a two-day training session that's part of the Toronto-based conference, My Charity Connects. You can read more about that experience, here. We learned about the latest crisis mapping tools organizations are using to mobile disaster volunteers around the world and Ushahidi was number one on the presenter's radar. Ushahidi means "testimony” in Swahili and is an open-source mapping tool (which means it’s free) that allows users to contribute reports and content via the web and mobile phones. It launched in 2008 and was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout. Its roots are in Africa and it's a beautiful example of citizens mobilizing information and news to inform how government's make nation-wide decisions. You can host the Ushahidi Platform yourself or have Ushahidi host it for you using its new Crowd Map tool.

Wordle: An Oldie But a Goodie

Wordle is still our go-to tool when it comes to producing a fun graphic or word cloud for our social media channels. It helps you narrow in on themes if you're following an online discussion or reading an article. All you need to do is copy and paste the content and Wordle generates a simple and creative word cloud. If you visit or blog homepage, you'll see the Wordle we created using the content from this blog post.

Worldometers: Nothing But Numbers

This is one resource we’ve borrowed from Heather's post. It was just too interesting not to repeat. Using a few specific sources, Worldometers generates numbers that inform, among other things, the rate at which humans are consuming resources and energy, making babies, and dying. Worldometers provides a "quick facts" drop down menu and lists its sources. Averages are adjusted based on the data source. The site, for the most part, is automated and several of the meters reset every 24 hours. For example, there's a running meter that tracks how much governments around the world are spending on public healthcare on a daily basis. One look at global energy stats or population growth is enough to throw you into a cold sweat. Despite the anxiety this website may bring on, it’s an excellent source if you’re looking to compare numbers, output and global statistics for a specific research project, article or campaign.

Back to School Reading for the Social Set

Seth Godin’s recent blog post “From Asimov to Zelazny” sparked a lively discussion on a digital marketing and web advocate listserve we subscribe to through Web of Change. In his post, Godin talks about his love for science fiction. He tells of the hours he spent in his high school library reading the sci-fi collection (a telling detail into his awkward teenage years!) and how that reading would impact his future work:

“What I discovered … was that domain knowledge, edge to edge knowledge of a field, was incredibly valuable. It helped me understand where the edges were, and it gave me the confidence to be selective, to develop a taxonomy, to see what was going on.”

The post was shared on our listserv and a reading list sprung forth that we’re pretty sure even Godin would approve of. This reading list is a mix of recommendations that cover everything from organizing to digital advocacy, traditional marketing and inspiration.

We consider it our back-to-school reading as we prepare for September and the Web of Change conference.

Reading List

Beyond the Echo Chamber: How a Networked Progressive Media Can Reshape American Politics By Jessica Clark & Tracy Van Slyke

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming By Paul Hawken

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose By Tony Hsieh

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web By Brian Solis

Friends with Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook By Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo (yeah, we snuck our book in)

Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed By Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Patton

Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems By Van Jones

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies By Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing with Organizations By Clay Shirky

Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World By Margaret J Wheatley

Momentum: Igniting Social Change in a Connected Age By Allison Fine

Rework By Jason Fried and David Heinenmeier Hansson

Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes By Katya Andreson

Rules for Radicals By Saul Alinsky

Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web By David Weinberger

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard By Chip and Dan Heath

The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change By Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith

The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change By Allison Fine, Beth Kanter and Randi Zuckerberg

The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission By Rick Warren

The She Spot: Why Women are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them By Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations By Ori Brafman

The Tao of Leadership By John Heider

Trust-based Selling: Using Customer Focus and Collaboration to Build Long-Term Relationships By Charles Green

Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything By Don Tapscott

You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto By Jaron Lanier

Pays to Click But It Will Cost You, Too

You may have noticed that Facebook’s advertising rates have been slowly creeping up this year. Whether you’re a for-profit or non-profit organization, these changes may impact where and how you spend your advertising dollars. According to a recent report published by Efficient Frontier (EF), a digital marketing firm that monitors growth in search engine advertising, the total amount marketers were likely to spend on cost-per-click (CPC) advertising on Facebook rose 22% in the last quarter. If you’ve ever advertised on Facebook, you know that Facebook suggests a CPC rate based on your budget and the audience you want to reach. Ad rates seem to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The bottom line? Online advertisers are spending more to reach their audience, whether they know it or not.

Already Advertising Online?

The data suggests that you can expect to pay more for your CPC campaigns throughout the rest of 2011. Brands already advertising on Facebook have the advantage of connecting with consumers and winning their loyalty early on, even as competition grows. "The longer brands wait to engage with consumers on Facebook, the more expensive it will become to acquire fans."

Still Thinking of Advertising Online?

The report predicts that "advertising dollars will shift from offline to search, Facebook and display" channels. We tend to agree. If this is true, then brands still considering online advertising budgets would be wise to test the waters of online advertising now. The longer they wait, the longer they risk competing with brands already established in these channels who, as early-adopters of CPC ads, have had a head start converting users into customers.

CPC and the Future

Efficient Frontier recognizes that Facebook advertising is sill a "young channel" and the data it’s pulling from is "highly volatile." Still, the report wraps up by stating the cost of CPCs will continue to rise. “Even if CPCs increase at 20% per quarter for the remainder of the year, this will still result in an 80% growth in a year.”

Despite the rate increases, Facebook CPC ads continue to be some of the most effective ad dollars we spend for client projects. That's because conversion rates tend to be high and the cost is still so much lower than traditional web and offline advertising.

To read the complete report by Efficient Frontier, click here.

Weaving a Professional Network at Web of Change

After years of running web marketing campaigns for companies and not-for-profits we’ve learned that it’s critical to approach every campaign from a human perspective. What personal connections are you trying to make? What flesh-and-blood problem are you trying to solve? Thanks to the magic of the web, there are endless technical tricks for pushing out online campaigns--Facebook ads, contests, donation microsites, and more. But at the end of the day, if a web-based campaign doesn’t connect with your audience on a human level and move them to act, it will fail.

This is a hard-won lesson we’ll be sharing with other web technologists, campaign organizers and web marketers at Web of Change as we discuss failures, successes and the finer details of running online campaigns that make a real impact at this annual conference for not-for-profit leaders.

Web of Change takes place in September on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada. Over five days, teachers, leaders, practitioners and learners (which is everybody!) share their secret recipes for leading movements and running successful social change projects.

Past participants include Greenpeace UK who recently delivered The Dark Side campaign and engaged over 230,000 people from around the globe. The leadership behind 350.org and tcktcktck have attended Web of Change and brought their climate science expertise to the table as well as stories of how to engage massive online communities. At Web of Change, Moveon.org has connected web technologists and leading campaign organizers working on the ground to learn how to better mobilize supporters using online tools so that they can affect real change, offline.

We're looking forward to this year’s Web of Change conference, the Cortes Island air, and the genesis of ideas that are likely to shift our perspective and lead us down new avenues of innovation. We hope to see you there, too.

Registration is open for the 2011 conference. Visit WebofChange.com for details.

Web of Change 2011 - Find out more Web of Change 2011 - Find out more

Doing the Blogger Outreach ROI Math

We've been doing online influencer outreach for a really long time. Back in 2002, while working at a now-defunct startup, I started pitching bloggy industry news sites like WebServices.org. At the time, I didn't know that what they ran was called a "blog", nor that what I was doing was called "blogger outreach". We still do (or at least oversee) influencer outreach today, usually as part of broader online marketing and movement building campaigns.

On Google+, Raul referred me to Kerry's recent blog post on the old question of paying bloggers for placement. I left a too-long comment, outlining the state of play from my perspective.

As a footnote to that comment, I thought I'd outline how we think about the dreaded return on investment of influencer outreach.

Focusing on What We Can Measure

As I wrote on Kerry's blog:

When I’m doing online outreach...I’m interested in two things. In the short term, I want to drive high-value visitors to my client’s site. In the longer term, I know a link will help continue to drive visitors, and improve their SEO ranking.

There are plenty of other reasons to do influencer outreach, and they're the same as traditional media relations. For one, it makes most clients happy to see their names in digital print. Then there are the usual benefits of brand awareness. These have value, but it's often difficult and expensive to calculate that value. As such, we focus on what we can measure.

Here Comes the Math

Here's how we think about ROI on influencer outreach. Consider a sample client project where we're working to raise awareness and drive signatures to a petition run by national non-profit organization.

We know, from previous campaigns and experimenting with online advertising, that the average cost per conversion is $1.75. That's the average cost of acquiring a petition signature.

The average cost to the client per blogger for influencer outreach for one campaign might be $150. That includes our research, writing the pitch, sending the pitch, following up and reporting, plus the client's time reviewing the campaign, pitch ideas and so forth. This doesn't mean that we charge $150 per pitch per blogger--our pricing isn't that granular--but when you add up all the time and effort by agency and client, it probably comes out to around that number.

So, if we pitch a blogger on writing about this non-profit campaign, we'd ideally like to get 85 petition signatures to "break even". How many visitors does that blog post need to send to the petition to generate 85 signatures? A good petition might convert at 15 to 20%, on average. However, traffic from blog posts is usually quite high-value, so let's set a conversion rate of 25%.

That means that the blog we pitch would need to send 340 visitors to our client's petition page in order for us to achieve a positive result.

Of course, that traffic doesn't necessarily come all at once--it can continue to trickle in for months or years (though probably not for a petition, which is typically time-sensitive).

For a typical blog, 340 visitors is still a lot. Consider that last year we got a client covered on the world's most popular environmental blog, TreeHugger, and that blog post sent 364 visitors over the course of 2010 to the client site.

Selling Widgets Works the Same

You can do similar math for a for-profit organization that's selling products online. The conversion rate there is much lower--2% might be considered nirvana--but a national online retailer I know is willing to spend $40 to acquire a new customer. In that case, a blog still has to send at least a couple hundred visitors to the client site to make the outreach worthwhile.

We're aware of an emerging set of metrics around "return on engagement", but we remain focused on where the rubber meets the road. We work with our clients to do this kind of math on all their marketing activities, online and off. It enables them to decide what marketing mix to deploy.

Photo courtesy epSos.de

SMS Storytelling

How often do you find yourself working on a problem or a project that applies to the third world? In early June, Capulet had the opportunity to attend Mobile for Social Change, a two-day conference in Toronto at the MaRS Centre for Innovation. It was part of Net Change Week 2011, a weeklong conference for non-profits and tech enthusiasts.

We're hoping to write more about what we learned at this conference throughout the summer months. For now, we're going to focus on what was an obvious source of inspiration -- the Mobile for Social Change component which featured some of the mobile technology projects going on in developing countries.

Here in North America popular mobile devices include the iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry. Apps developed for these devices are designed to help us run our lives more efficiently. Often, they’re meant for our entertainment and enjoyment.

But most of the world doesn't use smart phones. Instead, feature phones -- simple flip phones that use SMS (short message service) instead of data plans -- are what people in developing countries are using to communicate with one another. The device itself is inexpensive and users can pay as they go, topping up their minutes when they need them. This has developers looking at ways for communities to connect with each other via SMS. The needs of a farmer using a mobile device in Guatemala are going to be radically different than the needs of a marketing professional with a data plan in Vancouver. Developers are exploring how that farmer can receive daily market prices via SMS, or get the weather forecast for the next week.

An extraordinary example presented at Mobile for Social Change was a story about a Japanese medical aid worker who used SMS to log her daily activities and to keep a diary during the Japanese earthquake crisis. She sent messages to her blog via SMS using her Nokia feature phone. The blog itself lacks the bells and whistles of an interactive website, but the writing and quality of storytelling is remarkable.

In Brazil, a global project called Wikimapa is taking off in Rio de Janaero. Citizens are using SMS to log and send information about unmapped roads and bottom-up infrastructure. Organizers collecting this data are then building maps with it. People living in homes previously without an address can now locate themselves on a wikimap. In turn, the civic government can now account for families and households. This data informs civic policy, laws and emergency needs. And all of it is being done without data plans.

If you're interested in these projects and mobile technology developments taking place in countries like Brazil, you can follow sites like Mobile Without Borders, 49 Pixels and Mobile.org -- all offer examples of online communities interested in programs, wikis and campaigns that leverage citizen engagement in some of the poorest countries on the planet.

Business Goals are the Cornerstone of a Social Media Strategy

In preparation for our next Social Media Marketing Bootcamp in Vancouver on May 27, I'm beefing-up a section of the workshop on setting business objectives and why they must be the cornerstone of any social media strategy. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts here one the blog. Strategy Starts with a Goal The temptation is to start with tools -- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. But the tools are just a means to an end. To build a solid strategy marketers need to ask this tough question: What business goals do I want to achieve? Finding the answer is a lot harder (and usually less fun) than setting up a Facebook page or tweeting. But, it's where a social media strategy begins. Once you've articulated program goals you can choose the online tools that will help you achieve them. So you want to increase sales? What social media tool is going to be most effective for reaching your audience and making it easy for them to buy? What role can Facebook play in collecting petition signatures for your not-for-profit? If raising money for a capital campaign is the goal, then perhaps a special microsite for that campaign is the way to go. Once your goals are set, choosing which online tools and tactics to use will become much clearer.

Don't Lose Your Marketer's Mind Some marketers are intimidated by social media technology. That's why so many seasoned pros make the mistake of handing social media completely over to an intern or recent college grad. While the tech may be foreign, all the marketing knowledge you've gained in the trenches should be applied to social media too. Audience analysis, messaging, branding and crisis communication are sophisticated skills that, married with the tools, will help online programs succeed. So, bring your A game to social media, just as you would a communications or PR plan. Junior employees can look after execution but only after you've done the heavy lifting.

Measuring Success The question of measurement is a hot topic and is top of mind for many Bootcamp attendees. "How do we know if this stuff is working?" is a great question, especially if you're putting budget and resources into social media programs. Putting expensive monitoring tools in place and generating reports is a waste of time and money if you don't know what you're measuring. Here's a measurement rule of thumb. You're succeeding if social media activities are meeting your business objectives. If "increasing sales" is a business objective then having 10,000 Twitter followers is not a success if they never buy from you. On the other hand, if you want to improve customer service and are able to reduce telephone wait times by answering some incoming questions on Twitter, then that's a success.

If you want to learn more about setting business objectives for social media, please join us at Social Media Marketing Bootcamp on May 27th.

Hunting for Digital Heads

A recruiter recently asked us what they should look for when recruiting someone qualified to do what we do. It’s a challenge, because even for veterans, our work is really only 10 or 15 years old. It’s still relatively rare to find capable communicators who are both web-savvy (in the ways I describe below), and capable marketers. If your company has decided to bring a digital strategist or social media professional on board, you’re looking for someone to help you manage your online channels, promote your brand, engage an online community, and help you stand out online. Potential candidates will all have one thing in common: an ability to wear different “online hats” and navigate the web and their work with fresh eyes and enthusiasm for everything digital.

These days, here’s what we’re looking for in terms of online communicators and community managers:

1. A Background in Marketing, Communications and Public Relations

A background in marketing or communications, we think, is pretty essential. So much of social media is about building relationships and a technical background, while great for building and using online tools, doesn't necessarily give way to online social skills.

Someone with public relations experience will at least understand the importance of nurturing existing relationships and reaching out to new contacts and communities.

2. Why The Ability to Write Still Counts

When it comes down to it, social media and online engagement involves a lot of writing. You'll want your candidate to have a strong set of writing skills, the ability to meet deadlines and write quickly using proper grammar. Your candidate will most likely be called upon to write in under 140 characters, put together blog posts, reach out to other writers and have a general understanding of how to capture the attention of an online audience. They’ll also have to develop or adopt a voice on behalf of your organization in your online communities and campaigns.

3. Knowing How and What to Measure

Building general awareness and blindly reaching for an online audience isn’t good enough. Here at Capulet, we’ve been invited to work on projects when we were the first to ask the question: "what problem are we trying to solve?" That's where metrics and knowing what to measure, helps. Ideally, your candidate would be able to crystallize what your project's online objectives are and set up the proper checks and balances so you can measure them along the way. This could be anywhere from boosting the number of site visitors to online outreach and specific mentions by online influencers. Or maybe it’s about getting the attention of one person or raising enough money during a campaign. Whatever the case, your digital strategist should be able cut out what doesn’t matter and focus on what counts.

4. Storytellers

So much of what we see online centers on storytelling. Videos, blogs, and many online campaigns will often operate within a timeline and a structure that suggests a theme with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The project objective marks what’s at stake and the climax is usually the outcome of your project or campaign. Facebook and Twitter have had an enormous impact on how people interact with online content. Today, an online interaction is defined by how it relates to the viewer personally and how it relates to their own story.

5. Tools and Why You Don’t Need to Worry About Them (Much)

Understanding which online tools can help you and how to use them is probably the least important skill set you need to consider when looking at a potential candidate. It doesn't hurt to know what's out there to help manage social media channels, build community, and technically set an organization apart. However, the tools will always change. In a way, it's the rules that stay the same and how your candidates use their tools (as opposed to what tools they use) to meet project objectives and manage an organization’s online needs is what really counts.

6. What You Love About the Web

Any successful digital strategist or community manager ought to be able to answer these questions:

◦ What do you love on the web? ◦ What does the web love right now?

The first question is really one of taste, and speaks to the kind of work a candidate might do for you. For example, you can ask them what they think about Reddit. This is usually a pretty good indicator as to whether your candidate knows where to search for interesting content online. They don't have to be an active contributor on Reddit but, at the very least, they should know what it is and why it's so popular these days.

The second question will tell you whether your candidate is up-to-date on what's happening online, as opposed to quickly searching sites like TechCrunch and Mashable for "what's hot."

Part of what makes our work so interesting here at Capulet is the changing digital landscape. What defines the search for a digital strategist is in constant flux and presents its own set of challenges. But its also what keeps us in the arena: breaking new ground and building remarkable online campaigns. If you decide to take the leap and go hunting for a digital strategist, just consider it a bonus if you fall in love with the web along the way.

Pink Ponies: It’s An Ethos

Every now and then, an online jewel of a video surfaces on the web, forged for marketers and online strategists alone. When this happens, we celebrate its existence by sharing it with our community. "Pink Ponies" has been making the rounds among our colleagues and friends as a "must-see" YouTube video for online marketers. It tells the story of a case study (and we love our case studies,) complete with objectives, results, messaging, campaign tactics, direct mail and online outreach.

We don't want to give away too much and spoil the video. But we can say this: movement building and thought leadership requires effort, innovation and strategy. The people who made this video, a company revealed as St. John, understand this and, in the spirit of satire, turned social media marketing on its head. We certainly enjoyed it and we hope you do, too.

Facebook, Now More Page-Friendly Than Ever

Last month Facebook introduced some big changes for fan pages. If you manage your organizations’ Facebook page then this is essential reading! Find out what’s new and learn how the fan page upgrade can help make Facebook marketing more effective for your organization. Here’s our rundown of the top three changes: 1. I’m a Fan Page, Hallelujah! Here’s a fantastic upgrade to fan pages. You can now log in to Facebook and interact with other pages as your brand, not an individual. Your brand can follow other pages, comment on their walls and interact in the same way individuals do on profile pages. Note that this functionality only works on other pages, not on personal profiles. And that’s a good thing. Who wants Coke or Walmart leaving posts on their personal Facebook profile?

2. Where the Heck are My Tabs!? The content in the tabs that used to line the top of your fan page hasn’t gone away, it’s just less prominently featured below your profile picture on the left side of your page. Don’t worry, even though tabs have disappeared, you can still access tab functionality, like setting a custom landing page as your Facebook “home” page.

A great example of this is the World Wildlife Fund fan page. It features an online giving catalogue and makes it easy for users to donate through a custom-built HTML tab, within Facebook. What a great way to embed calls to action from your website inside Facebook! The Body Shop also extends website functionality and branding into Facebook. We have iFrames to thank for this custom approach. Originally, developers depended on FBML when it came to custom tabs and functions. Now, anyone can place a page within a Facebook page, all thanks to iFrames.

3. Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words Which is why photos are far more prominent in the new fan page layout. Just like on a personal profile, fan page admins can control which photos appear at the top of their fan page. We like how these prominent photos add a personal touch, encourage users to browse through albums, and generally makes a page more interesting and interactive.

We think all of these are positive changes and encourage you to get your hands dirty with new fan page capabilities.

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):


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:


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.

Who Clicks Your Shortened URLs?

About 18 months ago, I did a pretty unscientific analysis on Mashable regarding the clickthrough rate for Twitter accounts. That is, when you share a link on Twitter, how many of your followers click it? I arrived at a clickthrough rate (CTR) of 1.7%. Looking at a couple of other sources, that seems quite accurate. It's safe, I think, to estimate a CTR of 1% to 2% for Twitter for a small to medium Twitter account (say, up to 10,000 followers).

It's worth considering Anil Dash's great analysis of being on the famed (and now deprecated, I think) Suggested Users list. As he notes, he acquired hundreds of thousands of new followers, but "being on Twitter's suggested user list makes no appreciable difference in the amount of retweets, replies, or clicks that I get."

As with all forms of marketing, quality of audience matters far more than quantity.

That's all a bit of a long introduction to this observation, which reminded me of a phenomenon on Twitter and other corners of the social web.

Earlier this week, I had a (quite unremarkable) tweet retweeted a lot.

As you can see from this Bit.ly page for the shortened link, it was clicked 3872 times. I'd never actually checked out the top referrers for this page--that is, where people were when they actually clicked the link:


As a second data point, here's a recent tweeted link that was clicked about a thousand times.

So, that means that 52% of the clicks came from that first big category, and 38% of traffic comes from the Twitter site. It's too bad that Bit.ly can't further unravel that first category, eh? How much comes from HootSuite, how much from SMS, how much from chat and so forth.

In our workshops and talks I give, I often have to explain to people that they should think of Twitter and Facebook as services or utilities, as opposed to websites. As we can see here, Twitter is water that flows from a lot of different taps, not just from Twitter.com.

Data Journalism: Elegant and Empowering

On January 27 at 5 PM Eastern Europe time, the Egyptian Government cut off Internet access across the country. Here's what the Internet blackout looked like:

An employee at network security company Arbor Networks used data from 80 different Internet service providers around the world to create this image of the Internet block. It's a simple and elegant example of data journalism.

What is Data Journalism?

Data journalism presents large data sets in visual ways that readers can understand at a glance. Also known as infographics, the data journalism trend is on the rise and continues to be popular, both in print and on the web. The Guardian’s map of IED attacks in Afghanistan is a another example. As is this infographic we created for The Big Wild and World Rivers Day. It expresses the length and volume of the world's 20 largest rivers:

If I were a journalist, I’d surely focus on this field. The ability to communicate meaning in a single image is a powerful skill for a world with short attention span. Here’s a nice piece on how to get started on a data journalism project. I also recommend this 54-minute documentary about the rise of data journalism:

Journalism in the Age of Data from Geoff McGhee on Vimeo.