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How to Create a Social Media Strategy - Part Six

How to Create a Social Media Strategy - Part Six

How to Create a Social Media Strategy - Part Six

Welcome to the final edition of our six part series How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy.

If you've been following this series, we hope you have gained a better understanding of how to research, plan and execute a Social Media Marketing (SMM) strategy.

If you've missed out, you can catch up on previous articles here:

Part One - How to Perform a Social Media Audit

Part Two - How to Set Goals and Objectives

Part Three - How to Identify Key Target Audiences

Part Four - How to Plan Social Media Marketing Tactics

Part Five - How to Execute a SMM Strategy

Our final article will focus on how to review and evaluate SMM performance in order to understand which activities drive return on investment (ROI).

Part Six - How to Evaluate SMM Performance

Developing a Social Media Marketing (SMM) strategy can require significant planning, research, organisation and tools. It can be a short exercise or a detailed and lengthy process, depending on your goals and what you aim to achieve.

If a budget has been allocated towards SMM advertising, it's vital that the activities are driving profitable growth.

So you've crafted a solid SMM strategy and executed it seamlessly...

  • How do you know if the strategy was a success?
  • Were the SMM activities effective?
  • What metrics should you measure to determine it's success?
Analysing SMM performance provides an opportunity to reflect on what worked well and the areas that require revision.

Evaluation can help fine-tune tactics and build a stronger strategy in the long run.

Analysing social media metrics can help understand the type of content your audience is engaging with and why.

Join us as we cover iASP Central's 6 steps to evaluating SMM performance.


Step 1. Create a spreadsheet to record findings

When analysing SMM performance, it's important to record your findings in one place.

We suggest using a spreadsheet or SMM report template.

There are many types of SMM reporting templates available for download from the internet. For your reference, we have provided some links to SMM report template in the resources section of this article.

The data recorded in the spreadsheet will help build the basis of a SMM Report.

Set up your spreadsheet or template before proceeding to Step 2.


Step 2. Review initial strategy

Take some time to review the SMM strategy framework and what was set out to achieve.

This includes strategy goals, objectives and the marketing tactics implemented to deliver the strategy.

  • What SMART goals were you aiming to achieve?
  • What tactics were implemented to support these goals?
  • Did you make changes to marking activities during the execution process?
Create a tab on your spreadsheet and list these down.

If goals or marketing tactics have been altered during the process, list the most recent.

This will help you to compare your findings to the original goals set. It will also formulate the basis of a report.


Step 3. Use Analytics Tools to Measure ROI

Use Social Media Analytics Tools to measure and analyse performance.

This could be considered the most important step when evaluating strategy success!

Social Media Analytics tools track and analyse important data relevant to your social media page or profile. For example: Page Likes, Engagement levels, Sign ups etc.

Analytics tools can help to understand how well posts and ads are performing.

Tracking data is essential in helping you achieve better results with your SMM.

If you've been reviewing content throughout a campaign, you may have better understanding of how SMM activities are tracking.

So what kinds of SMM analytics tools are available?

Analytics Tools

As outlined in Part 5, we suggest using analytics tools relevant to the social media channels.

There are many kinds of analytics tools available.

Such as tools provided by the large social media platforms:

And tools provided by other websites: Most social media platforms have some form of free analytics, once you reach over 100 profile Likes or Followers.

Tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite can provide analytics from multiple social media accounts in one place, however these analytics tools often come at an additional cost.

Here at iASP Central, we regularly use Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and Google Analytics to help track our social media and website performance.


Important Metrics to Track

So what metrics should you focus on?

Measure and record metrics that relate directly to your goals and marketing activities.

Below is a list of some common SMM metrics.

Please Note - the metrics below are not common to all social media


Content Engagement

Likes, Comments and Shares

Engagement is a measurement of how many times people have interacted with your content, posts or profile on social media.

Measuring engagement can help you understand how well content is performing. It can also help provide customer insight on your products or services.

Likes, Comments, Shares and Retweets are all forms of engagement with content.

If your goal is to raise brand awareness or promote a specific product, measuring engagement metrics can help you understand how well your message is received by your target audience.


Reach

Reach refers to the average number of people a post or ad can be shown too on social media.

It's your potential audience size.

Please note - The volume of reach is an estimate measure of potential number of people who may see the post or ad. It doesn't represent an exact number of people that view or interact with a post or ad.

A large number for reach means content is more likely to be viewed by a larger audience.

A smaller reach, can mean your content visibility is limited to a smaller audience.

If you're aiming to increase brand awareness and send a message to a broad audience, measuring reach is an important metric.


Impressions

Impressions are the number of times your content is displayed on social media news feeds.

There are two types of impressions:

- Organic Impressions
- Paid Impressions (used in paid advertising)

If you're aiming to increase brand awareness, measuring impressions will help you to understand how many newsfeed impressions your content is receiving.


Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

A Click-Through-Rate (CRT) refers to the number of people who click on a post or link that is then directed to a webpage.

CTR is relevant to Facebook and Instagram advertising, Google Analytics and Email Marketing.

If you're running a paid advertising campaign and set up Google Analytics tracking, measuring the CTR will help you understand how many exact clicks you've received directly from an ad or post.


Conversion Rate

A Conversion or conversion rate is a measurement given when a specific action or goal is achieved.

Conversions are only applicable if conversion goals have been set out.

For example, conversion rates are common to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising on Facebook and AdWords. Conversion rates can help you to understand how paid advertising converts directly into sales.

If you're running paid ads with Google Analytics tracking, measuring the conversion rate will help you understand exactly how many set goals or conversions have been achieved.


Reviews

Reviews can be placed by customers on social media or other online platforms.

Reviews can provide feedback and insight from your customer perspective.

Analysing reviews can give you important information about products, services and overall brand perception.

It's important to monitor and track your reviews before, during and after strategy execution.

If your goal is to build rapport with customers and improve brand credibility via social media, recording review data can help with this.

IASP Central Tip: We suggest monitoring the total number of positive and negative reviews, common subjects and patterns in reviews.


Mentions

Mentions are when a company or brand is 'mentioned' or referenced online.

Mentions can be found on social media, Google and other community forums.

If your goal is to build brand awareness, strategic partnerships, sponsorships or influencer marketing, then reviewing online mentions can help you understand what people are saying about your brand online.

iASP Central Tip: We suggest using Mention, a free tool to help monitor online mentions.

Visits

Visits refers to the number of visitors on a profile or page.


Video Views

Video views refers to the number of people who have viewed your video for 5 seconds or more.

Once you've identified the most important and relevant metrics to record, list them down on your spreadsheet or template.

Below is an example of an iASP Central SMM goal and the metrics relevant to the goal.


iASP Central Example:

Strategy Goal: To increase website traffic and sales to ecommerce website through SMM campaign.

Objective: To run a targeted Facebook Ad promoting a product that includes a direct link to a product page on the website.

Action steps taken:

  • Facebook Pixel tracking set up - This will help to monitor how many clicks received directly from the Facebook Ad to the website. In order to create set up Facebook Pixel, we must convert to a Business Manager Page. 
  • Facebook Custom Audience set up - to display remarking ads to the visitors who clicked on the product website page and didn't purchase the product. The remarketing ad will act as a subtle reminder. 
  • Facebook Remarketing Ad Set up - design a custom ad and select the customer audience created in the previous step. 

Metrics to measure:

  • Click-Through-Rate - The CTR will help us establish how many clicks the ads received.
  • Conversion Tracking - this is an accurate way to measure website traffic and sales directly linked from the Facebook Ads. We can see how many sales were converted from the ad.
  • Facebook Ads Manager Analytics - to track Ad results including Click-through-rate (CTR), Engagement and Reach. Measuring the number of Likes, Comments and Shares can provide insight on key target audiences and how they interact with the Ad.

Using these metrics we can establish how many sales, clicks or actions were taken as a direct result from the Facebook Ad.

For more information on Facebook Fixel please refer to the resources section of this article.


Step 4. Prepare a SMM Report

Now it's time to analyse and report on the data collected.

Evaluate your findings and create a summary.

  • Which SMM activities received the highest level of engagement?
  • What is the best performing type of content ? Video, Images, Links?
  • What goals did you achieve? E.g. Product Sales, Brand Awareness, Website Traffic
  • How would you improve your efforts for next time? What would you do differently?
  • Which activities provide the highest return? Which drive profitable growth?
  • How would you rate your SMM strategy in terms of success?
  • Did the activities provide return on investment?
When creating a summary, you may want to present the data in a report. Use the spreadsheet or report template outlined in Step 1 or there are various SMM reporting templates available online for download. Please see templates in the resources section of this article.

Calculate Return on Investment (ROI)

Social Media ROI is the return generated for the time, money, resources and energy invested into this exercise.

To calculate ROI, follow this formula:

Return - Investment

Where Return is what you received from the exercise, and Investment is what you invested into the exercise (this can be money, time, efforts etc.)

iASP Central Example ROI:
  • iASP Central's Facebook Ads directly sold 50 x products worth the value of $50 each. Total value of $2500.
  • We set a budget of $2 per day for 30 days, running targeted Facebook product ads. Total cost of advertising was $60. Plus approx 4hrs of employee time, to create and set up Facebook Ads and monitoring. Total cost of employee time was approx $120. The total investment cost to iASP Central is $180.
  • ROI = $2500 - $180 = $1020 profit. Therefore this exercise is considered very profitable with high ROI.
Once you have calculated Social Media ROI and finalised your report, it can be then be presented to a team and management.

This report can also be used as a reference for future SMM planning.


Step 5. Set up Touch Points to Communicate with Customers

The next step is to focus on your target audience and what you learnt from this experience.

  • What did you learn about your customer?
  • What feedback did customers provide?
  • How did your customer like to communicate? (E.g. Facebook Messenger, Chatbot, Website Enquiry Form, Phone Call)
  • What social platforms do they use most? (E.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat)
It's important to maintain and harness customer relationships established during and after strategy execution.

We recommend setting up touch points to help you reconnect with your customers.

Below are some ways to continue communicating with your customer:

  • Regular Social Media posts
  • Blog Articles
  • Email Marketing or Digital Newsletters
  • Facebook Re-marketing Advertising
  • Phone Calls
  • Split Testing
  • Customer Surveys
  • Paid Advertising

Step 6. Forward Planning

Reporting on findings help improve future SMM efforts.

Refer to the report when revising and making changes to a SMM strategy, campaign or advertising.

When revising a SMM strategy, be sure to focus and grow exercises that generated ROI. This will help build a well performing, solid strategy second time round.

When planning future Facebook marketing, be mindful of the planned algorithm changes that will focus and "prioritise posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people" as announced by Mark Zuckerberg recently. Incorporate changes like this into future strategy planning. As the social media landscape is constantly changing, it's important to dedicate regular time to reading and researching social media updates, changes and new tools. This will ensure you get the most out of your marketing activities and keep you ahead of the game.

iASP Central recommends the following resources for social media news, articles and updates:


We've reached the end of our journey...

Thanks for following the iASP Central How to Create a SMM Strategy series.

We hope this series has helped to grow and fine-tune SMM skills in strategy development, content planning and marketing execution.

Building a targeted SMM plan can help reach the right customers, increase brand awareness, sales and performance. Once an initial strategy has been created and tested, use this a sounding board to improve on.




Have you planned and developed a social media marketing strategy before?

What SMM activities did you use?

Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.




References:


How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Five

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Five

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Five

Welcome to the iASP Central series How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy.

If you've been following the series, we have now reached Part Five of our Six step journey to developing a Social Media Marketing (SMM) Strategy. 

In case you've missed the previous articles, you can catch up here: 

Part One - How to Perform a Social Media Audit

Part Two - How to Set Goals and Objectives

Part Three - How to Identify Key Target Audiences

Part Four - How to Plan Social Media Marketing Tactics

Next we focus on how to successfully execute a SMM strategy. 

Let's dive in… 


Part Five -  How to Execute a SMM Strategy 

Once a SMM strategy has been researched, planned and developed.. it's time to put the plan into action!

Execution is the process of delivering a SMM strategy and bringing it to life. 

Have you ever heard of the phrase 'Execution is Everything?'

Well, the execution phase of a SMM strategy is considered very important. 

The delivery process can be critical to the overall success of the campaign. 

Even the most highly crafted, well thought out strategies can fail, if a plan is not executed effectively. 

The execution phase of a SMM strategy can be a challenging process. It can require a significant amount of organisation, project management, leadership skills and team communication. 

When there are multiple marketing activities coordinated at the same time, there can also be more room for error.

If possible, formulating a team to take on various roles and responsibilities can help with the delivery process.

So how can you help ensure a smooth-sailing and well executed strategy?

Follow iASP Central's 3 step process: 


Step 1. Update Social Media Accounts 

The first step is to update all social media accounts. 

All business information and branding should be current and consistent across all social media platforms. 

It's important that social media branding reflects business values, goals and marketing messages. 

Ensure all images and written content is engaging and appeals to your primary target audiences. 

iASP Central Example: If your Facebook Business page features a high-quality business logo for the profile image, make sure this is visually consistent across Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn. Or if your business has a marketing tag-line, be sure to include it in the description on all social profiles. 

Part 1 - How to Perform a Social Media Audit, provides steps on how to analyse key competitors social media accounts including their strengths, weaknesses and potential opportunities.  

A social media audit can help identify outdated information, improve visual branding and establish potential branding opportunities. Identifying branding opportunities can help set you aside from competitors social media.

When updating social media profiles, consider the following: 

  • Logos, Profile and Cover Images - Use high quality, professional, visually appealing images or video
  • Page Content - Update Profile Descriptions or 'About Us' sections to include current contact details, keywords, links and tag-lines that reflect strategy goals
  • Call-to-action - Include a CTA that strategically encourages customers to act. This could be 'Call Now' 'Message Now' or 'Visit Website'. A CTA can help with conversion rate and achieve sales goals. 
  • Update Profile Settings - Ensure your profile is fully optimised, that your Profile is visible to the Public and that your account is Verified. 
  • Consistent Branding - Make sure branding is visually appealing and consistent across all platforms. Use the same colour palette or filter for all images. Try using images that are bold, eye catching and effective.
  • Research and compare competitors social media profiles, what's working and not working for your competitors. Also research and find inspiration from other outside sources on social media. 

iASP Central Example: You have conducted a social media audit and analysed your three top competitors social media profiles. From the analysis, you can see that all of your competitors are using still-format images for their Facebook cover image. 

After researching video content, you understand that video is the highest engaging form of content on Facebook. 

You perceive a potential opportunity and decide to use a short-video feature for the Facebook cover image. This creates a point of difference from your competitors SM profiles and helps grab the attention of your fans when viewing your Page. 


Step 2. Execute SMM Activities

Running multiple integrated SMM activities requires high-level organisation and management skills. 

Organisation is the key to executing a solid strategy.

Part Four - How to Plan Social Media Marketing Tactics, can help you plan and develop a SMM strategy further, including: 

  • The SMM Activities to be carried out, including a template to help monitor activities throughout the process
  • A projected budget and template to help monitor spend during the execution stage  
  • A plan of the content to be released on social media, including an Editorial Content Calendar 
  • Delegated roles and responsibilities

Prior to the execution phase commencing, it' important to have a clear plan of the activities carried out and who is responsible. 

If you have a team helping to execute the strategy,  ensure they understand their individual roles and responsibilities during the process.

This will help keep SMM activities on track and running smoothly.

Nominating a project manager can also help to lead a team, monitor marketing activities and meet set goals.    

Good communication is vital when executing a strategy. 

Effective communication can help a team understand the challenges of the project, what's working well and how to best provide support if required. 

If you've selected a project manager, they can track and report on performance, help deliver completion of SMM tasks and  identify any potential problems.

When executing SMM activities, it's important to:

  • Refer to the strategy and goals to stay on target 
  • Analyse SMM activities and report on them weekly. If necessary, adjust SMM activities that are not performing
  • Monitor budget and marketing spend throughout execution
  • Stay active on social media - Post regular content, engage with audience and be timely in your responses 
  • Use templates and worksheet to help stay organised - Editorial Content Calendars,  Budget Spreadsheets, Runsheets etc. 
  • Monitor and report on KPIs
  • Communicate effectively with team members

iASP Central Tip:  Using an Editorial Content Calendar can help keep you organised during the execution stage. We have provided some example templates in the resources section of this article below. 

Step 3. Measure and Report on Performance

Analysing SMM activity performance throughout the execution process can help save efforts, costs and time. 

Examining data can allow you to make educated changes to SMM activities.

It's important to know which activities are generating return on investment (ROI) and which aren't. 

From here, non-performing activities can be changed or replaced by better performing SMM activities. 

So what types of analytics are available and relevant to SMM performance? 


Social Media Analytics can provide data and reporting on how well social media activities are performing. This includes content posts and advertising. Analytics can also provide key insights into target audiences, who is viewing and engaging with content. 

The data you choose to measure and track shouldl be based on your SMM goals. 


iASP Central Example: 'Skin Beauty' is an online e-store specialising in skin care products. The marketing team are planning to run a Facebook Ad to help increase sales for their skin care product. They decide to create an image ad aimed at a broad audience of women from 15 - 55 years old with interests in skin care. They set the ad budget to a maximum of $50 per day to help improve the visibility of the Ad.  

Two weeks into the ad campaign, the team review Facebook Insights and the ad performance. Upon reviewing Insights, they can see that the majority of clicks and interactions with the Ad are from women aged 18-25yrs old. While they are reaching the max budget spend every day, they are unsure if these clicks are converting into sales. 

Therefore the team decide to adjust the Ad target audience age group to 18-25yrs old and lower the daily spend to $25per day. 

This will increase the likelihood of Ads being displayed to a more narrow and defined target audience. They then focus on using the extra $25 to set up a Facebook Re-marking Campaign for visitors who visit the website and view this product. 

Using Google Analytics they can then track and monitor the conversion rate of customers who purchase directly rom the Facebook Ad. 

Facebook Insights and Google Analytics have helped the team monitor their SMM performance and generate the best ROI.


Team KPIs 

Holding a weekly catch up with your SMM team can help keep your team and SMM activities on track. 

It provides an opportunity to review and report on SMM activity performance, team contributions and concerns. 

Using a Social Media Report can help track performance and important data. We have provided a SMM Report Template in the References section of this article. 

When meeting with your team for a Work in Progress (WIP) update, report on the following: 

  • SMM Activity performance and analytics 
  • Goal and Objective tracking 
  • Team KPIs
  • Potential obstacles and ETAs

Collect Important Customer Data 

When reviewing social media analytics and reporting weekly,  it's important to collect information about your customers. 

Collecting and analysing data about your target audience will help future campaign success. 

Collect information from your customers including Email Address, Location, Interests etc.  

Using a Facebook Lead Form or Facebook Poll can help you gain insight into your customers and your services. 

Compile customer data to form data bases. Segment your lists into new customers and existing customers. This information can be utilised to create email marketing campaigns in the future. 

Report on the customer data collected during your team catch ups. 


Now it's time to put your plan into action…

Deliver your strategy with precision and accuracy. 

Remember the key components of a strong execution are: 

  • Organisation
  • Team communication
  • Detailed plan of SMM activities 
  • Understanding team roles and responsibilities 
  • Measuring and reporting on performance  
  • Adjust and make changes where relevant 

Analyse and make changes to your plan and activities as you go, to ensure the best ROI. 

Have you executed a SMM strategy before? How did you execute your plan effectively?

Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


References:

How to Create an Extraordinary Social Media Strategy for 2018

Implement a Marketing Plan

6 Steps to Successfully Execute a Strategy 

6 Essential Steps for Executing Your Social Media Strategy

7 Steps in Creating a Winning Social Media Marketing Strategy in 2018


Templates: 

Social Media Analytics Report Template 

Create a Social Media Content Calendar 




How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Four

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Four

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Four

Welcome to the fourth edition of the iASP Central series How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy.

If you've just joined in, you can catch up on previous articles:


Join us as we continue with Part Four - How to Plan Social Media Marketing (SMM) Tactics.

Part Four - How to Plan Social Media Marketing Tactics

When planning a SMM strategy, it's important to develop and implement effective marketing communication tactics.

SMM tactics are the action steps carried out to achieve set goals and objectives. These steps help to execute a strategy.

Marketing tactics are often referred to as marketing activities, strategic methods or promotional tactics. 

Marketing activities can help communicate important messages to specific target audiences.

For example, if you wanted to sell a product to a target audience on Facebook, sending a strategic marketing message about the product's features and benefits could help increase sales. In order to effectively communicate this message, the following SMM activities could be used:

  • Facebook Content Posts
  • Facebook Boosted Posts or Adverts
  • Facebook Event Invites
  • Facebook Re-marketing

With a large volume of social media marketing platforms and media available, it can be tricky to know which will marketing activities will drive the best return on investment (ROI).

If you've completed Part Two - How to Set Goals and Objectives and Part Three - How to Identify Key Target Audiences, you may have a better understanding of the goals and the target audience you want to reach.

The next step is to start planning the SMM activities that will support this strategy.

When choosing marketing activities, it's important to select activities that are relevant to your audience and business values.

Follow iASP Central's 7 key steps to help formulate marketing activities that drive results:

Step 1. Set up a SMM Activity Template

The first step is to set up a marketing activitiy template or spreadsheet.

This template can be used to plan and record the marketing activities that will be carried out.

Running multiple activities over a period of time is often an effective way to get marketing messages out there. It's important to stay organised when running different activities, so an activity spreadsheet will come in handy.

Here are some suggestions to include on your spreadsheet:

  • Marketing activities undertaken e.g. Targeted Facebook content posts
  • Platforms used e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+
  • Target audience
  • Person responsible e.g. Team member, team or department
  • Expected completion date
  • Success indicator e.g. How will you tell if the activity is successful? What metric or goal must be met?
  • Cost of marketing activity

A spreadsheet can help to monitor activities and performance throughout a campaign. It can help a team understand their individual roles, as well as a place to contribute information.

iASP Central Tip: If you don't have time to create a template from scratch, there are a number of free templates available for download. We have provided some links in the Resources list at the end of the article.

Step 2. Plan SMM Activities and Channels

Start planning the SMM activities you will carry out and list them on the spreadsheet created in Step 1.

This step relates directly to your goals set out in Part Two and the identified target audiences outlined in Part Three.

When planning SMM activities, remember to consider the following:

  • What message are you trying to communicate?
  • Who is your audience on social media?
  • What is the best platform to use?
  • What is the key time to reach your audience?
  • What is your end goal?
  • What date do you want to achieve your goal by?

On your spreadsheet, write down the marketing activities that will be performed and the relevant social media channels to be used.

Remember to list the expected time arrival (ETA) for the completion of each activity.

iASP Central Tip: There many ways to send marketing messages via social media platforms. Here are some suggestions:

  • Targeted Content Posts
  • Advertising or boosted posts
  • Lead Forms
  • Social Groups or Communities
  • Re-marketing
  • Event Invites
  • Cross promotional posts

When planning activities, it's important that the activities undertaken are relevant to your target market, strategy and business values.

Step 3. Assign Team Roles

Assigning team roles and responsibilities is an important part of planning SMM activities.

A team's contribution and efforts can impact on the overall success of a campaign.

Assign roles to team members that reflect their strengths, build confidence and motivate.

Ensure that you provide your team with clear and detailed information about their specific role and responsibilities.

When running multiple marketing activities, it's vital that team members understand:

  • Their individual role and expectations
  • Team roles and how team members are contributing
  • Overall goals the team is planning to achieve as a collective

There are many SMM roles that can be undertaken when running activities, here are some just to name a few:

  • Content Development
  • Community Manager or overseer
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Campaign Strategy

Once you have organised individual and team roles, write them down on the Spreadsheet created in Step 1.

Step 4. Set a Budget

Developing a budget is a vital part of SMM planning.

A marketing budget can help track spend, funds allocation and generated revenue.

It also helps to keep a team on target, and avoid over spending.

Before starting any SMM activities, try to estimate the projected costs of each activity. If your goal is to make sales, calculate how many sales are required in order to cover the cost of the marketing activities undertaken.

Tracking spend while running activities can help work out the ROI or where funds could potentially be better spent.

iASP Central Tip:There are lots of marketing budget templates available online. We have included some below in the resources section of this article.

Step 5. Plan SMM Content

The final step is to research and plan the content that will be released on social media.

Content is the foundation of any SMM strategy. It's a powerful tool that can help engage target markets, drive messages and create demand.

Content is the information or media distributed via marketing platforms. Content can include images, text, video, e-books, downloadable documents etc.

Content Marketing is the practice of developing strategic content to communicate marketing messages to an audience.

When developing a content plan, it's important to create content that is relevant, educational and engaging.

So how can you create high-quality, effective content?

Follow iASP Centrals Key Tips:

Research Competitor's Content!

Knowing and understanding what content is working, and not working, for your competitors can give you a head start!

As suggested in Part 1 of our series, completing a social media audit can help you reflect and evaluate on your current position in the social media landscape. It also allows you to analysepotential opportunities for content development.

Find Content Inspiration!

Conduct research within your industry to find content that inspires you!

Finding content ideas can help to create fresh, interesting and trending content that will allow you to engage your audience more effectively.

We suggest using BuzzSumo, an online keyword tool that allows you to find popular relative content on the web.

Hashtag research can also help you discover new content to draw inspiration from. We recommend using toolsKeyhole and RiteTag to conduct hashtag research.

Use an Editorial Content Calendar!

An Editorial Content Calendaris a schedule of the content you plan to release on social media.

It helps keep content organised and provides a clear outline of the date and time content will be released.

When running a SMM campaign, a content calendar can help keep content on track and ensure it's consistent and timely.

Plan and list content on the calendar including:

  • Type of Content Post - E.g.Video, Blog Post, Live Video, Image Post
  • Social Media Platform -E.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn
  • Target Audience - E.g. You may have more than one Target Market you're trying to reach on social media, so list which specific audience your post intends to reach
  • Marketing Message E.g. What is the marketing message conveyed? Does the post promote a specific product or service?
  • Release Date and Time
  • Scheduled Post Information E.g. Is this post scheduled for release? What platform is is scheduled on? Buffer, Hootsuite, Facebook Scheduled Posts?
  • Engagement Levels E.g. How many likes, shares or interactions did the post receive

iASP Central Tip: There are many Editorial Content Calendars available online for download, we have provided some links in our resources section at the end of this article.

Create Unique Content!

Content is everywhere online!

Therefore, creating unique 'standout' content is the trick to getting a message across.

Content Creation can be time consuming and costly, especially if it involves design or a team collaboration.

However there are a number of online tools available to help assist with writing and designing content.

We suggest using Canva,a free design tool to createeye-catching visual content or branded images. Canva is an easy-to-use online program that allows you to design content posts and images specifically for social media. You can also post directly from the platform to a social media profile or page.

When creating written content, establish a unique voice and tone that correlates with your target audience.

For example, if your target audience age group is between 50-75years old, it would not be appropriate to use modern slang or catch phrases in your language and written content. Adopting a more mature tone could help relate to this audience.

To write catchy headlines or subjects for your content, we recommend using Hubspot's Blog Idea's Generator or Coschedule's Headline Analyser.

Hemmingway Editor is a free grammar tool that highlights grammar errors and makes suggestions to simply sentences. We use this tool regularly at iASP Central when creating content, as it helps to keep sentences clear and succinct.

Use a Social Media Scheduling Tool!

Social media scheduling tools allow you to manage and organise social media posts from one place.

We suggest Buffer or Hootsuite as our top social media scheduling tools. These platforms allow you to streamline posts and schedule for release ahead of time.

Using an editorial content calendar along with a social media scheduling tool will keep your content and team organised.

To Sum it Up....

Plan, develop and implement SMM tactics that support your strategy.

When planning marketing activities, budget and content,use the available marketing templates to help assist you and keep organised.

Ensure the activities carried out relate directly to your target audience, goals and business values.

Join us next time for Part 5, as we focus on the execution of SMM tactics and how to review and report on key analytics throughout the process.



Have you developed social media marketing tactics before? How did you implement them?

What marketing activities did you use?

Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.

References:


Marketing Activity Templates:

Budget Template:


Editorial Content Calendar:




How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Three

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Three

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Three

Welcome to the third edition of the iASP Central series How to Create a Social Media Strategy.

Effective Social Media Marketing often starts with a detailed plan.

Creating a strategy can help drive goals, marketing activities and measure success.

If you've just joined in, here is a quick recap of iASP Central's six steps to creating a Social Media Marketing (SMM) Strategy:

  1. Auditing
  2. Goals
  3. Target Audiences
  4. Planning
  5. Execution
  6. Reviewing


In Part One - How to Perform a Social Media Audit, we reviewed social media profiles to determine which are generating the best return on investment (ROI).

Part Two - How to Set Goals and Objectives addressed the importance of creating detailed, specific goals using the S.M.A.R.T formula.

Next we focus how to identify target audiences, in order to develop effective marketing communication tactics.



Part Three - How to Identify Key Target Audiences

Engaging the right target audience is vital to SMM success.

Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter use the term Audience to refer to fans, followers or a broader social community.

Companies target specific audiences via marketing messages, through traditional media channels like television or radio, or online media channels like Facebook or e-Mail.

A target audience is a group of people who are likely to be interested in your product, service or offer, and who will be the target or focus of your campaign.

For example, you might target single men for a Valentine's Day promotion, or you might target working mums for a new product you are launching.

A target audience is often also referred to as a Target Market, a Target Group, or Focus Group.

Getting your marketing messages to the right people can be a tricky task! It can be the difference between marketing failure or success.

Marketing messages aim to influence, engage, educate or persuade consumers to react in a specific way. For example - to buy a product or to provide an email address.

But even the most creative SMM campaigns can fail if messages are not communicated to the right target audience.

To get the most out of a SMM initiative, it's important to understand an audience's demographics and underlying motivations.

Identifying key target audiences can help develop effective marketing messages and maximise ROI.

So what method can you use to help identify target audience?

We've put together a 8 step process to guide you:



Step 1. Define a Target Audience

The more you know about customers, the easier it will be to engage with them.

Ask yourself who are you targeting?

Brainstorm the following:

  • Who is your ideal customer? Who would benefit or enjoy your new product / service / offer the most? How would you describe them?
  • List their demographics including: Age Group, Gender, Occupation, Interests, Geographic Location, Income, Education, Values.
  • What products or services are they interested in? Why?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • Are they desktop or mobile users?
  • What patterns or similarities can you conclude?


Brainstorming practices can help create and identify different market groups. And you may end up targeting different groups with different SMM campaigns.

The practice of grouping customers who exhibit similar traits or interests is called Customer Segmentation.

By segmenting customers into groups, unique buying personas can be developed to engage them.

If you're having trouble identifying a market group, try these iASP Central Tips:

  • Review your Social Media Analytics

    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn all feature analytics tools with detailed audience information.

    The Facebook Insights People tab features information on Fans, Followers and People Reached including age, gender and location.

    Twitter Analytics - Audience Insights provides key metrics in age, interests, language, lifestyle and gender.

    Twitter Analytics' Add a Comparison Audience tool compares audience demographics and interests to a broad Twitter audience.

  • Conduct a Survey or Pole

    Surveys are a great way to learn more about an audience on social media.

    Create a survey or poll to gain information about your audience, their likes, dislikes and thoughts on products and services.

    Twitter Pole is a tool to create voting poll posts. Poll answers can be viewed publicly or privately.

    Facebook apps My Polls and Simple Surveys are great tools to create unique surveys on Facebook.

    Survey Monkey is an online survey platform that can be integrated with social media and email marketing.


Step 2 - Understand Audience Motivations

Understanding an audience's motivations is an integral part of developing and identifying target groups.

Customer motivations are desires or needs that can drive a customer to purchase.

By identifying the motivations of an audience, it can be easier to establish how you can help them.

Creating a Buying Persona is a great way to predict the needs of your customer.

A Buying Persona is creative description or characterisation of your ideal customer, their behaviours and emotions.

To create a Buying Persona, it's helpful to think from the customer's perspective.

Ask yourself:

  • What help does the customer need? What problem do they need solved?
  • How do they feel? What behaviours do they exhibit?
  • What drives or motivates them to use social media?
  • What motivates them to buy?


Creating a buying persona can help develop a deeper understanding of a customer, their buying behaviour and how you can address their needs.

iASP Central Tip:Product Knowledge is key!

Product knowledge is very important.

Once audience motivations are established, you can best match a product or service to suit their needs.

Make sure you know the features and benefits of the products your marketing or selling.

iASP Central Example:

Fictional Scenario: An online e-store Beauty4Us sells all organic beauty products in Australia. They want to promote a new skin product via a SMM campaign.

Target Audience: After brainstorming they have identified their key target market as young women, aged between 15-35years old, with interests in beauty care and health.

Buying Persona: Young women who are looking to buy quality organic skin products, who value eco-friendly products at an affordable price. This audience is interested in understanding ingredients used in the product and how it can benefit their skin.

Motivation: This target audience is driven to find an affordable, organic skin solution online.

By pre-determining customer motivations and behaviours, effective marketing messages can be developed to appeal to their needs.



Step 3 - Create a Value Proposition

This step relates closely to your overall goals and objectives that were set out in Part Two.

Once the motivations and buying behaviours of a target market have been established, focus on why you want to reach this group.

What is your main motivation?

  • To sell a product
  • To build brand recognition / reputation
  • To promote a service or product
  • To create a lead or establish a relationship with a customer
  • Build social media engagement


Always keep goals in mind when developing target groups. It's important that objectives align with your customer's needs.

A Value Proposition is a statement that explains why a customer would want to buy a product or service. It's a unique statement that sets you aside from competitors, and explains the value a customer receives from your services.

Creating a unique Value Proposition is a great way to help your team better understand a target audience.



Step 4 - Research Competitor's Audiences

Conduct research to establish who competitors are targeting on social media.

In Part One - How to Perform a Social Media Audit we identify the social media platforms your competitors are utilising.

Using the audit results, review your competitor's profiles and report on the following:

  • Who is engaging with your competitiors content?

    e.g. Are people in certain demographics appearing more than others, such as a specific gender group, or age group, or people within or around a particular location?

  • How is their audience engaging with content?

    e.g. Are they liking, commenting, disliking or sharing the content?

  • What type of content are your competitors using?

    e.g. Is your competitor using image posts or video posts? What content is gaining the most attention? What language and tone are they using for their social media posts? What content is least effective?

  • What conclusions can you draw from reviewing competitors profiles?

    e.g. What content is most effective? What key demographics and interests do their audiences share? What motivates their audience to respond to content?

  • Who are your competitors tagging and engaging with?

    e.g. Are your competitors using cross posting or tagging social influencers? Do they post in social Groups or on specific Pages? Do they tag partnerships, sponsors or charities in posts?


By reviewing your competitor's social media activity, you can gain valuable audience information. Formulate different target groups based on your competitors audiences.

This will help you to find if you will be targeting the same audience groups as your competitor, or identify new audience groups that your competitor isn't targetting.

iASP Central Tip:

SemRush is a great social media tool for analysing competitor's Audience Insights . It provides detailed metrics on competitor's audience growth and key demographics.



Step 5 - Determine Audience's SM Platform(s)

Establish where your audience is 'hanging out' on social media.

Research the following:

  • Review social media analytics and locate where your chosen target audience spends the most time E.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest or Snapchat. It may not always be the Big 4 social media platforms.

  • Do your social media followers visit the company website?

  • Do they read the company blog or email marketing?

  • What other websites do they spend time on?


By understanding where an audience is spending time online, strategic marketing activities can be developed to reach them.

iASP Central Tip:Review Google Analytics!

Google Analytics is a free tool that can track and measure website and social network performance analytics. It allows you to track traffic to specific website pages and social media.

iASP Central Example:

Fictional Scenario: e-Store Beauty4Us research shows that their target audience of women aged 15-35yrs old are spending the a lot of their time on Instagram.

After reviewing Google Analytics they can tell this target group are also spending time on a beauty blog website, and are often viewing their video content.

Therefore creating video content and sharing it via Instagram could be an effective method to attract and engage this target audience.



Step 6 - Establish the Best Time to Target

What is the best time to reach your audience?

When are they on social media? Day, night, lunch or a specific time?

Publish your content and posts on social media at optimal times when most of your target audience is active on a social media platform.

iASP Central Tip:

Review social media analytics and find out when your audience is most active online.

Facebook Insights: The Local tab allows you to view the peak times a local audience is using and engaging on Facebook.

Buffer: Buffer is a social media scheduling tool which has a paid analytics option, to track audience insights from social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. Buffer can provide metrics on the peak times to post content.



Step 7 - How to Reach an Audience

Determine the methods you will use to reach an audience.

How will you reach your audience? What methods will you use to contact them?

There are many ways to reach audiences via social media including:

  • Facebook Lead Ads - create a Lead Ads form that directs customers to a sign-up Form or direct webpage contact form.

  • Facebook Advertising and Instagram Advertising - create content targeted adverts that can be delivered to specific target audiences. Import customer's email addresses and create Custom Target Audiences and Look-a-like Audiences to directly target your market group.

  • Facebook Preferred Audience Tool - Create targeted posts to reach an organic audience using this tool.

  • Twitter Advertising - Create geo-targeted posts using details such as location, language, interests and country.

  • LinkedIn Advertising - create persona groups on LinkedIn and advertise directly to them.

  • Facebook Pixel - Installing Facebook Pixel allows you to re-market and track conversions. Display an ad who have recently visited your website or Facebook page. This is a great way to remind customers to take action after engaging with your brand.


Step 8 - Build a Relationship with Audience

The final step focuses on building a relationship with your audience and establishing trust.

Creating good content and reaching your audience via advertising is a great way to gain an audience's attention. However it's important to consider how you will get your audience to take the next step and convert them into a lead.

Establishing a personal connection with your audience is key. To do this, try to provide an offer or something of benefit to your audience. This is often referred to in marketing as a 'hook'. Showcase your customer service skills by offering value and assistance.

Think about the following:

  • How can you build trust with your audience?

    Respond to your audiences comments and queries in a timely, professional and personable manner. This can help establish trust and build rapport with individuals. Remember to respond as a 'real person,' be genuine in your approach and use language that is casual yet professional.

  • What can you offer your audience? What could you offer of benefit?

    Think about what you could offer your audience to establish a personal connection. Here are some examples:
    • Free one-on-one consultation to expand further on your services
    • Downloadable ebook with tips on your industry and how you can best help your customer
    • Tip sheet or downloadable PDF document
    • Discount or limited offer on services
    • Giveaway or competition


  • How will you turn a lead into a prospect? How will you follow up?

    Once you have established an offer, consider how you will follow up with your audience once you provide the offer.

    How do you plan to contact your audience?
    • Phone Call
    • Email
    • Newsletter
    • Printed letter or pamphlet
    • Text


    Organise your follow up method before you create the offer.

    In order to follow up, it's important to collect customer contact details. Incorporate this in your offer.

    e.g. If you are creating an offer on Facebook, we suggest linking the offer to a website Contact Form. A contact form will collect important contact details such as name, address, contact number and email. Once a form has been completed, the offer can be claimed. This provides you an opportunity to follow up in a more personal way and grow your relationship.


To conclude...

A well defined Target Audience can help ensure SMM messages are being sent to the right people.

By identifying the key demographics, behaviours and motivations of an audience, marking messages can be tailored to reach them.

This 8 Step process will help provide the main framework for a SMM strategy.

Join us next time as we focus on 'How to Plan and Execute Marketing Activities.'



Have you created target groups or audiences for SMM before?

What methods did you use?

Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.



Resources:


How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Two

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Two

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy - Part Two

Welcome to the second edition of the iASP Central series How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy.

Our journey began with 'Part One - How to Perform a Social Media Audit'

Part One provided an overview on how to perform a social media audit, in order to establish which social media profiles are generating return on investment (ROI) for your business. 

This time we're exploring setting goals and objectives for a Social Media Marketing (SMM) strategy. 

Part Two - How to Set Goals and Objectives 

SMM can be an effective way to build brand awareness and engage new leads for a business.

To get the most out of any SMM initiative, we suggest creating a plan with clearly defined goals and objectives.

Why set goals and objectives?

Goals are desired outcomes that you want to achieve with your efforts.

Goals provide a framework for a strategy and outline what you aim to accomplish.

Objectives are closely aligned with goals. Objectives are the detailed steps taken in order to achieve the goal.

Setting goals and objectives can be considered an important part of any SMM strategy.

Setting goals and objectives can help:

  • provide structure and direction for a strategy

  • improve SMM efforts

  • challenge and motivate team members

  • measure performance and results

So how can you create strong, realistic and challenging goals for you SMM strategy?

The answer: Create S.M.A.R.T Goals!


S.M.A.R.T stands for:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time Based


The S.M.A.R.T formula can be applied when creating goals.

S.M.A.R.T goals have a greater chance of being accomplished. 

Why? 

The aim of the goal is clear, specific and easy to understand. 

When goals are clear, it can be easier to apply the efforts required to accomplish the goal.

Broad and undefined goals can leave a SMM strategy lacking direction and clarity.

Let's dive a little deeper into the meaning of S.M.A.R.T...


Specific - Be specific!

When writing your goal, provide as much detail as possible about what you aim to achieve.

Always consider the following:

  • Who is involved in achieving the goal?

  • Who are you targeting?

  • What do you specifically want to achieve?

  • How will you achieve this goal?


iASP Central Tip: When creating a specific goal for your social media strategy, consider the following:

  • What social media platforms you will use? e.g Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn

  • Who will help to achieve this goal? e.g. a team or specific team member

  • Who is your target audience? e.g. age group, gender, interests, location


Measurable - include a metric in your goal!

Track and measure your performance by including key metrics in your goal. This will allow you to analyse the results.

iASP Central Tip: When adding a metric to a goal, consider the social media platform you are using and the type of metric you want aim for. 

Keep in mind:

  • Do you want to increase page likes, engagement, follows or comments?

  • What specific metric are you aiming for? e.g. 25 Likes, or 25% percentage increase

  • Which analytics tools will you use to measure the results?

We recommend using a social media analytics tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite to measure progress and results. These tools allow you to schedule posts and track important metrics. 


Achievable - Ask yourself is your goal achievable?

A goal can be challenging, but mostly importantly it should be realistic and attainable.

While it is great to have ambitious goals, if a goal is set too high, it can become counter-productive.

Realistic goals can help motivate a team and create a strong work ethic. Realistic goals can create a vision that with hard work, the desired outcome can be achieved.

Setting goals that are 'out of reach' can deter others from working towards the goal. It can also create a notion of failure from the beginning.

iASP Central Tip: When first setting goals for your SMM strategy, we suggest starting out small and try not to overextend the goal.

Goals can be adjusted throughout a SMM campaign.

For example, instead of aiming for a large number of Facebook Likes, such as 1000 New Page Likes in one month, start small with a goal that is in reach.

Review your results from the Social Media Audit performed in Step 1 and create a realistic goal based on this social media performance.

Depending on your Facebook engagement results, you may find that aiming for 60-100 Page Likes in one month is more realistic and achievable.

It may also help to break down the desired outcome into a shorter time-frame. E.g. Aim for 15 likes per week, an approx total of 60 likes per month.


Relevant - Create goals that are relevant!

Ensure goals are relevant to:

  • the project or campaign 

  • business values 

  • target market

  • employee skill level and team members

We recommend you steer away from goals that are not relevant to your business or your customer.

iASP Central Example Goal:

  • Broad Goal - To create open communication and engagement with our customers via our social media community.

  • S.M.A.R.T Goal - To increase customer engagement on Twitter, by aiming for 5 x Mentions per week over the course of 16 weeks. A total of 80 x mentions.

In order to understand the relevance of this goal, let's assume a large majority of your Twitter followers are customers. Therefore the potential to reach your key target audience via Twitter is very high.

The customers who follow your Twitter page are far more likely to engage with your brand, as it is familiar to them. So the goal is relevant to the business and key target audience. 

Now consider this alternative scenario... Your business has a LinkedIn Page that is not maintained regularly. It has a small amount of Followers, which consist mainly of employees.

Therefore reaching customers through the LinkedIn platform would prove to be far more challenging. As the page is not monitored, replying to comments would also be difficult. In this situation, including a LinkedIn goal is not as relevant.


Time-based - Set a deadline for the goal to be accomplished!

A time-based goal can motivate others, as it creates a sense urgency to meet the deadline. Time based goals also help manage team expectations, workloads and prioritising tasks.

After you have created the key goals, list the objectives under each goal. Objectives are the detailed steps you plan to take in order to achieve that goal. See our example below.

iASP Central Goal and Objectives Example:

Broad Goal: To increase brand awareness and build authority through the iASP Central blog

S.M.A.R.T Goal: To gain 100 blog subscribers from 1st August to 30th October 2017, to increase brand awareness and build authority in our social community. An average of 8-9 subscribers per week.

Objectives: 

 In order to achieve this goal, we plan to action the following steps:


How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy

Welcome to the iASP Central blog series that will teach you How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy.

Social Media can be an effective tool for communicating and sharing information online with current and potential stakeholders in your enterprise.

When businesses promote or advertise through these platforms, it's called Social Media Marketing or SMM.

Social media marketing (SMM) is a great way to reach new and existing customers. It can also provide an opportunity to send important messages about your products and services.

Being active on social media and posting regular content isn't a guarantee that you will capture the attention of customers (unfortunately!)

There is a vast amount of content available on social media. It can be tricky to stand out. So it's essential your marketing efforts are generating the best results.

One of the best ways to make sure you're on the right path is to create a strategy!

A well structured strategic plan could be considered a vital starting point of any SMM initiative.

Developing a strategy can be a short exercise or a detailed and lengthy process, depending on what you aim to achieve with your social efforts. In either case, the exercise may prove to be invaluable. A strategy can provide direction, help examine customer behaviours and measure performance.

iASP Central's six steps to an SMM Strategy are:
  1. Auditing
  2. Goals
  3. Target Audiences
  4. Planning
  5. Execution
  6. Reviewing

We will cover all six steps in this weekly series, to provide you with guidance and tools to help create a killer SMM strategy!

Not sure where to start? Read on as we begin with part one, a Social Media Audit.


Part One - How to Perform a Social Media Audit 

Our first step in creating a SMM Strategy is to perform a Social Media Audit.

Why?

An audit is an opportunity to review, reflect and evaluate your current position in the social media landscape.

It can reveal which social media platforms and practices are working for your business and which are not.

Auditing can also get your social media efforts back on track and help establish a plan based on your required outcomes.

After all there is no point creating an action plan, unless you have reviewed your current performance!

The aim of this audit is to find out which profiles generate the best return on investment (ROI).

Some businesses make the mistake of having too many social media profiles. This can end up becoming time-consuming, costly to maintain or forgotten all together. This is not always the best practice and can impact the return on investment (ROI) that media engagement delivers.

Instead we recommend researching social media platforms most relevant to your industry and your customers. Invest time into the ones that work for your business.

If you are starting in social media, you may want to begin with one or two platforms. Facebook or Google + are commonly used for enterprises.

Then once you are happy with their performance, you can look for opportunities on other platforms.

To further help, we have compiled a list of online analytics tools and templates to get started.

Follow these steps and you could be auditing in no time!


Step 1 - Set up a Social Media Audit Template

The first step of this audit is to set up an audit template or spreadsheet.

Use an audit template to record the data in one place, which will make it easier to review later on.

You can download a template or even create your own simple spreadsheet.

Record, organise and compare data collected throughout the audit process on the spreadsheet.

A spreadsheet is also easy for team mates to access and contribute to.

iASP Central Tip: If you don't have time to create one from scratch, there are a number of free templates available for download. We have provided some links in the Resources list at the end of the article.


Step 2 - Identify Social Media Profiles

What social media profiles are you currently using?
  • Facebook Business Page
  • Twitter Business Page
  • Google + Page
  • LinkedIn Company Page
  • Instagram Business Profile
  • Pinterest Business Profile

List them on the audit template or spreadsheet you set up in Step 1.

Remember that Pinterest account you may have created a few years ago but never used? Can't remember exactly? Could a past employee or family member may have set up a profile without your knowledge? Well let's find out.

How?

Perform a Google Search to locate the social media profiles associated with your business.

It's important to know which profiles exist, even if they haven't been maintained or updated recently.

This can help determine which profiles are beneficial and worth maintaining, versus those that aren't.

List the accounts on the spreadsheet, including the URLs and passwords.


Step 3 - Review Social Media Analytics

Reviewing analytics is an important step of this audit.

Analytics measure overall patterns, behaviours and performance.They convey how well a social profile is performing.

Analytics can include various metrics such as Reach & Frequency: The size and demographics of your audience and how often they were exposed to your campaign and Engagement: The actions users took such as new Facebook Likes or new Twitter Followers, sharing your content with others or visiting your corporate webpage

Where can you find analytics for social media?

Tools:
  • Facebook Insights
  • Twitter Analytics
  • LinkedIn - Company Page Analytics
  • Instagram Analytics
  • Pinterest Analytics
  • Google Analytics
  • Hootsuite / Buffer / Sprout Social - These tools compile analytics from multiple social media profiles in one place


The Process:
  • Go through each profile and review analytics
  • Set time frame - How far back are you reviewing? Are you recording current metrics or including past metrics?
  • Decide on the most valuable metrics
  • Record data on your spreadsheet

Sometimes there is so much data available, it can be difficult to know what is the most valuable.

To figure this out, ask yourself what you're aiming to achieve through each social media profile?

Example of aims:
  • To increase brand awareness
  • To generate leads
  • To increase engagement and audience growth
  • To increase traffic to website

At iASP Central, we focus most efforts on Facebook and Twitter.

Our primary target audience consists of current and potential customers for the iASP Technology Platform, which facilitates publication of corporate websites, e-stores and enterprise software applications.

Our current strategy is to engage our social media community, by building a hub of informational resources valuable to our clients.

Therefore the primary metrics we measure audience and engagement, number of followers and the amount of mentions the content we publish generates.

This is some of the data we find most useful to record at iASP Central:

Facebook Insights
  • Engagement Metrics: Page Views, Page Likes, Post Engagement, Reach
  • Posts - Top performing posts and posting times
  • People Insights - Fan demographics such as age groups and locations

iASP Central Tip: Facebook Insights feature a data export tool, that allows you to export a summery of analytics to a spreadsheet. It features a date range and data type export option, that provides data specific information on engagement, reach, impressions and more.

Twitter Analytics
  • Engagement Metrics: Tweet Impressions, Engagement Rates, Profile Visits, New Followers
  • Twitter Audiences: Key demographics, interests and geographical data
Buffer / Hootsuite
  • If you prefer to view all your analytics in one place, we suggest using a social media tool like Buffer or Hootsuite.
  • These platforms are designed to help manage multiple social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + Page and Instagram.
  • They feature real-time posting, content scheduling and more.
  • Both of these platforms offer free versions. The free version of Hootsuite provides basic analytics, however Buffer charges a fee to access analytics.

Links to these tools are included in the Resources at the bottom of the article.


Step 4 - Review Branding

Review branding across all social media profiles. Is the branding current and consistent?

Check for the following:
  • Logo - Is the logo high quality? Is the same logo used on all profiles?
  • Profile Images / Banners: Do they fit the space without being cropped? Are they consistent?
  • Profile Name - Is it consistent across all profiles?
  • Business Description - Is it current? Does it include relevant keywords?
  • Links - Are all links current and working? E.g. website, blog or product links
  • Brand Values - Does your branding reflect your core values?

Write down your findings on the audit spreadsheet.


Step 5 - Monitor Mentions

Find out when and where the business is being 'mentioned' online.

What are mentions?

Mentions are when your business name or relevant keywords are cited on the web. They can appear in social media, search pages, videos and more.

Monitoring mentions can provide more information on:
  • Social Media Audience - Who is citing, sharing and tagging your business on social media? What platform do they use?
  • Feedback - Are your fans supporting or critiquing? This can be an opportunity to reply to feedback that you may not be aware of.
  • Content - Which websites and blogs are referencing the business or keywords in their content?

iASP Central Tip: We recommend Mention.com. This free tool provides real-time alerts when your business name is mentioned on social media, websites, blogs and more.

Record top mentions on your spreadsheet.


Step 6 - Research Competitors

Now let's talk benchmarking!

It's time to compare your social media to industry competitors. By reviewing your competitors, you may discover potential strengths, weaknesses and other opportunities in the social media market.

Research Suggestions:
  • Who are your top industry competitors? Both local and national / intentional?
  • What social media platforms do they use?
  • What messages are they sending? Are they effective?
  • How would you rate their social media persona?
  • What are their strengths? Weaknesses?
  • How often are they posting? How many followers and likes do they have?
  • Do they use social media influencers to promote their brand? If so, who are they?

Tools:

Facebook Pages to Watch
  • We recommend using the nifty tool featured on Facebook Insights called Pages to Watch.
  • This tool allows you to add your competitors pages, to privately view analytics on their post performance, engagement and page likes. It compares your competitors analytics to your own page performance.

SEMrush Social Media Tool
  • The SEMrush Social Media Tool provides detailed reports on your competitors social media analytics and social media campaigns. The SEMrush tool can also track your competitors online mentions across the web.

Google Alerts
  • Monitor your competitors online mentions using Google Alerts. This free service sends an email report every time your competitor's business name is used online.

Step 7-Compare and Analyse

The final step of the audit is to analyse your findings! Let's take a closer look at your audit spreadsheet.

Review and compare the following:
  • Metrics - Key metrics including engagement, followers, likes and shares
  • Branding - Is it current or does it need to be updated?
  • Performance - Which social media channels are working? Why?
  • Competitors- How do you compare your performance?
  • Opportunities - Can you see any potential opportunities in the market? Do have a point of difference?
  • Conclusion- What are the top performing profiles? Which require more time and input? Should any be deactivated?

Audit Complete!

When you have finished conducting the social media audit, we hope you have a clearer understanding of:
  • The social media profiles generating the best ROI
  • Your current market position in the social media landscape
  • Other potential SMM opportunities

Continue to use your audit spreadsheet to track future data and examine the audit results.

Stay tuned for the next release in the series: How to set S.M.A.R.T Goals - Part Two








Have you completed a social media audit before? Were you surprised by the results?
Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


A More Secure Web

A More Secure Web

A More Secure Web

If you publish a website - especially one that allows visitors to login and ESPECIALLY if you operate an e-store and ESPECIALLY if you use the iASP Technology Platform - please take a few minutes to review this article and take the recommended action without delay.

Last year Google made an announcement that read in part:

"Beginning in January 2017, Chrome (version 56 and later) will mark pages that collect passwords or credit card details as "Not Secure" unless the pages are served over HTTPS..."

Read the related article: Moving towards a more secure we

What Does This Mean?

Google has made a game-changing decision to pro-actively inform website visitors that the information they are entering is not secure if the web page uses HTTP and not HTTPS.

You can see an example of a non-secure page from the screenshot that we took just this morning of the Vodaphone website (see the blog image in this article).

While Google is currently limiting this new security measure to web pages that collect passwords or credit card details, they plan to label ALL HTTP pages as 'non-secure' in the future.

Not surprisingly, the Firefox web browser (which along with Chrome accounts for around 70% of Internet Users) has already followed suite by labelling non HTTPS Encrypted pages as non-secure. It would seem inevitable that Safari and Microsoft Edge will also comply.

This means that websites that do not offer customers the peace of mind of HTTPS face the significant risk of turning customers away to their competitors.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS in an Internet Protocol that encrypts the data being send back and forth between a customer's web browser and a website.

Setting up HTTPS encryption requires the purchase, periodical renewal and installation of an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate.

An individual SSL Certificate is generally required for every individual domain name resolving to a website, however, there are multiple domain SSL Certificate options available.

SSL Certificates have various properties such as the level of encryption they offer, the amount of warranty paid to customers if a Certificate is issues incorrectly and more.

The purchase and periodical renewal costs vary significantly from only a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. Some providers offer sweetheart pricing for the initial purchase that significantly increase on renewal.

The renewal period for SSL Certificates is either 1, 2 or a maximum of 3 years as determined by ICANN, the global authority for this area of the Internet.

In some cases longer registration periods offer discounted registration costs, and importantly, SSL Certificates must be re-installed each time they renew, which involves a multi-step process that must be coordinated between the Certificate owner and the system administrator managing the related website server or network.

SSL Certificate installation for both new Certificate registration and subsequent renewals typically attracts a cost and therefore the longer the registration period the less the associated installation costs.

What are the Benefits for HTTPS Encrypted Websites?

  • Visible Security - Sites with HTTPS encryption display a secure padlock icon in the address bar that when selected confirms the identity of the website publisher to the visitor.
  • Privacy - End to end encryption of all data entered by visitors into HTTPS pages greatly increases security and reduces the risk of data theft
  • Search Performance Advantages - Secure websites may result in higher ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) than non-secure sites

What are the Disadvantages for HTTP Websites?

  • HTTP pages will be marked as non-secure with an 'Information' Icon or 'Non-Secure' exclamation mark Icon
  • Search Performance - HTTP sites may be penalised in SERPs
  • Website Traffic - Website traffic may be effected if users choose to avoid non-secure sites

How Will This Affect iASP Clients?

Enotia Australiasia Pty Ltd. developer of the iASP Technology Platform, fully supports Google's new initiative to provide a safer web.

As a professional service provider adhering to best practice security policies and procedures, in addition to the actual security risks of non-compliance with Google's security initiative, our company's reputation, along with that of our clients, is at risk.

As all iASP Systems require an administration login via user-name and password, and are therefore already being flagged as non-secure unless they are HTTPS encrypted, as advised in the client bulletin distributed on February 21st:

From July 1st 2017 all iASP powered websites will be required to use HTTPS encryption.

This means all iASP Central websites will require an SSL Certificate to be purchased and installed prior to June 30th. 

As indicated in the client bulletin, all Enotia clients are free to purchase the certificate of their choice from any third party vendor, however, the Enotia Network Administrators must install all certificates on our network for which costs will apply.

Additionally Enotia is offering turn-key SSL Certificate registration and subsidised installation services as part of our on-going service offering.

Enotia clients are welcome to contact us anytime, but will be contacted personally regarding this important matter over coming weeks regardless.

If you are concerned with the security of your website or would like more information on purchasing an SSL Certificate, please contact the Enotia Support team on 03 9855 8517 or Get in Touch.




Resources:





Australian eCommerce Trends & Predictions for 2017

Australian eCommerce Trends & Predictions for 2017

Australian eCommerce Trends & Predictions for 2017

2016 was an odd year for eCommerce in Australia.

The shopping year started off slow, and many retailers were predicting a lack lustre year for themselves.

Yet, the NAB Online Retail Sales Index has estimated that Australians spent more than $21 Billion online between November of 2015 and November of 2016.
If you recall, Australian online shoppers spent $17.6 Billion in 2015.

The statistics support both sides of the story though, showing that Australian consumers did ease off their spending habits for the most part of the year, but (seriously) made up for it in November and December.

The good news is the outlook for 2017 is for another year of positive growth for eCommerce in Australia, with the predicted trends suggesting that this will be a year for significant changes in the industry.

Mobile

Mobile eCommerce will continue to grow as it has been.

But the prediction for this year is that the focus will be on improving two keys areas: SEO and Payment Methods.

Mobile & SEO

Last year, Google announced that it will be splitting their current search index into two, one index for mobile search and another index for desktop search, with the mobile index becoming the primary search index.

In response to this, we should see eCommerce websites focus on improving their efforts in local SEO, as well as improvements to take advantage of the shift to Voice Search.

If you haven't heard the term Voice Search before, we suggest you read up on it. We've included a link in the list of resources at the end of this article.

Mobile Payments

New payment methods that aren't as cumbersome as entering Credit Card details every transaction are also predicted to trend this year in Australia.

Last year contained a lot of buzz about mobile wallets and mobile payments, but stalled once Apple and The Big 4 banks started to battle for control of the Australian market.

This caused a very slow uptake of mobile payment technologies by consumers in Australia, and online stores were happy to continue with the options they were providing.

Now that the dust has settled, online retailers should start to incorporate mobile payments into their eStores as they start to see more demand from their customers.

Traditional store owners will also move to align their offline payment method options with their online payment method options (such as PayWave or Apple Pay or ANZ Mobile Pay) as a way to improve their customer shopping experience.

Chat Bots

Chat Bots are predicted to be the next big thing in 2017.

Down here in Australia though, we don't predict that Chat Bots will take off as much as in larger markets, such as the United States or Europe.

The ultimate decider in whether Chat Bots become a useful tool for eStores will be the Australian customer.

If Australian shoppers don't find a Chat Bot to be both a convenience and a delight to their shopping experience, they will ditch them faster than an out-sourced call centre.

Unless they're done very well, Chat Bots may end up in the same vein as Chat Support plug-ins that were touted as the next big thing in Customer Service.

To the Australian customer, Chat Support has turned out to be more of a gimmick than true customer service and resulted in the technology (and the companies that use them) being viewed negatively.

Amazon Invasion

Of course, the big shake-up predicted for eCommerce in Australia this year will be the entry of Amazon Australia into the market.

Amazon announced last year that they were coming to Australia.

At the time of writing, Amazon had not yet officially launched their Australian arm, but no doubt every sharp business owner that sells products will be keeping a tight eye on them.

No one knows how the Australian market will change once Amazon officially open, but predictions are that it will hurt, and hurt badly.

Competition is good for the consumer though, so it will be interesting to see how Australian eStores respond to counter the hit to their business.

iASP Central Tip: The best way to prepare for Amazon is to refocus your business plan to offer something that Amazon cannot. Products, offers, experiences - anything that will differentiate your business from what Amazon can offer.




Resources:




Do you own an eCommerce website? What do you think will be key for eCommerce in 2017? Start a conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


Is the Pixel Perfect? We ponder the new Pixel by Google

Is the Pixel Perfect? We ponder the new Pixel by Google

Is the Pixel Perfect? We ponder the new Pixel by Google

Did you know Google launched a new smartphone device last week?
It was a surprise on the day, but now you can't miss it.

The new Pixel Phone by Google has arrived and it means business.

Set to replace their Nexus range of products, Pixel is "the first phone built by Google inside and out".

Regular readers will know that we at iASP Central are difficult to please.
We aren't the types to jump ship to the latest gear, only to the greatest gear.

In the past we've liked the Apple iPhone 6, loved the Apple iPhone 6S, laughed at the Apple iWatch, and didn't even review the iPhone 7.

So let's find out if the Google Pixel will stick, or if it looks to be a dead Pixel.

The Hardware

Just like the Apple iPhone, the Google Pixel is available in two sizes - The Pixel and the Pixel XL - with the Pixel XL being the iPhone Plus equivalent.

And on paper, the new Google Pixel defeats the Apple iPhone 7 hands down.

Just the presence of a headphone jack will be enough for some to consider the argument over, but there are more important things to consider.

When you compare the two side by side, the Google Pixel is always slightly better than the Apple iPhone. Not surprising really.

This means the biggest differentiator will be between the operating systems and their ease-of-use.

The Software

As you know, Apple's iOS has won the global market in terms of usability.
The simplicity in learning how to use an iPhone for the first time is the root of the iPhone's success.

And while the Android OS has been available on several different devices (most notably the Samsung Galaxy), Android devices still haven't reached the benchmark set by the iPhone.
Nobody is walking around saying "I want it to be as simple to use as an Android".

Google's latest phone might just change this perception however.

And as always, it's the little-big differences.

For example, the Pixel is the first phone that has Google Assistant built into it.
And when you look at it, this could be a game changer.

Google Assistant is more than just a voice activated bot that you give commands to.
Imagine Siri, but with AI learning capabilities that enable it to remember past conversations, and understand you better each time you use it.

Plus, Google Assistant can be used in everything from your smartwatch, to your smartphone, to your car, to your home. It isn't just limited to one or two devices like Siri or Cortana. So you can ask Google Assistant to turn on your TV and start playing a Youtube video, from your car as you're pulling into the driveway.

Apple doesn't appear to have anything close to this capability... yet.

As Google's chief executive said during the launch, "Our goal is build a personal Google for each and every user."

This might be a little spooky for some people, but it does seem to be the future we are heading towards.

And what might just be the final nail-in-the-coffin, is the Quick Switch Adapter that comes standard with every Pixel phone.

One long-standing excuse for iPhone users to stay with iPhone was the excruciating task of transferring "everything" from an iPhone to an Android device.

Not anymore.

The Quick Switch Adapter allows you to transfer just about everything from any device running Android 5.0 and up, and iOS 8 and up, across to the Pixel phone.
And it doesn't involve any great depth of geek knowledge to do it.

The Verdict

The new Pixel Phone by Google is definitely a new challenger in the smartphone market. With features and functionality that is on-par with the Apple iPhone, the line that once clearly separated the iPhones from the Androids is becoming blurry.

If you do have an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 7, you won't find much reason to go out and get yourself a new Google Pixel today.

And if you aren't across all of Google's latest technologies (you're still a way off buying your first smart car, and building your first smart home), you probably won't get much more out of a Google Pixel phone than you would from an Apple iPhone.

But if your smartphone is getting on in years, and it's time to upgrade, you might want to give the Google Pixel a test run.

The Google Pixel is very comparable to the latest Apple iPhone.
The differences between the two for the average person will come down to your personal preferences.

Smartphone users now need to start considering the other smart-devices they use, and put device compatibility at the forefront of their buying decisions.

You'll either be an Apple user, or a Microsoft user, or now perhaps, a Google user.

What do you think about Google's new phone? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


How to Provide Basic Website Support Like a Legend

How to Provide Basic Website Support Like a Legend

How to Provide Basic Website Support Like a Legend

How many times have you walked out of a retail store after waiting too long for someone to help you?

I don't know about you, but my patience for that type of customer service is extremely low.

So imagine what the experience is like when you need to ask a retail website for help.
Only to receive the reply "Thank you. We've forwarded your enquiry onto our Web Developer. Please wait 2-5 days for a reply."

2 to 5 days! Ain't nobody got time for that!

The time it takes to help your online customers can be make or break for your online business.

Just like in the real world, it can be the difference between keeping customers, or losing them forever.

Don't be powerless in this situation however.
There is something that you and your staff can do to get the ball rolling while before you contact your Web Developer.

You can go through some pre-checks with the customer to see if there isn't a quick fix to the problem they are having.

In the industry, this is known as basic website support or level 1 support.

Providing basic website support is a straight forward process that just about everyone can do.

Let's break the process down into steps.

Step 1: Calm the Customer

Not every customer will need to be calmed, but you will get an angry, demanding customer from time to time.

So the first step is to try to bring the customer back onto your side.

Keep in mind that every website has it's moment. Every customer has their moment too.

But at the same time, you aren't the business, you aren't the website. You are the person trying to help them right now.

Communicate to the customer that this isn't a big deal.

The website could very well be broken, or it could be something else entirely.

But before you call in the Cavalry, you're going to have a look together to see if you can find what's going on.

Calming the customer might not always be possible. Some people will insist on being angry.

In these cases, just proceed to Step 2 as well as you can.

Pro Tip: The best way to disarm an irate customer is to be extra nice in return. Customers like these want to get a reaction from you, they want you to get as angry as they are. As soon as they realise that they won't get that reaction from you, they generally start to calm down.

Step 2: Identify and Reproduce "The Problem"

The second step is to identify the problem, and see if the same thing happens for you.

This will help you to determine where the problem is, and likely what the solution will be.

9 times out of 10*, the problem is from an external cause. User error, or an incompatible web-browser setting, or an up-stream issue with a service provider your website uses, or an issue with the customer's computer or Internet service.
(*Used as an expression, not statistically accurate.)

These are all issues you can't fix, but basic website support is about finding the cause of the problem, solving it if you can (or pointing the customer in the right direction). And if you can't solve it then and there, then you pass it on to the experts.

If the customer hasn't provided enough information for you to start investigating, ask them.
- What is it that you are trying to do?
- What steps are you taking to do it?
- Is any feedback provided, such as an error message?

Once you have this information, follow them step by step to see if you get the same result as the customer.

If you can reproduce the problem, then you know what it is and you can proceed to Step 4.

Maybe it's some bad data that is breaking website functionality. Or perhaps the customer was doing something incorrectly.
Either way, you've identified the problem, and you can communicate this to the customer. Problem solved.

Sometimes you won't be able to reproduce the problem, and everything will work for you as you expect it to.
This is where you need to put yourself in the customer's shoes.

Here you try to identify what else they COULD be doing to produce the problem they're having.
- Are they clicking a button too many times?
- Are they trying to do something on the website that they can't do, or aren't allowed to do?

If at this point, you're still unable to identify what is causing the problem, it's time to move onto Step 3 - basic troubleshooting.

Step 3: Basic Troubleshooting

If the customer is doing something they should be able to do, and the cause of the problem they're experiencing isn't immediately obvious, then it's time to go through basic troubleshooting.

Basic troubleshooting is a list of steps to start ruling out possible external causes for the problem (or hopefully identify and fix it).

For most websites, basic troubleshooting involves the following steps:

  1. Empty the cache (& cookies) of the web-browser, close down the web-browser, and try using the website again.
  2. Ensure that the web-browser has the correct settings and plug-ins required to use the website and that they are enabled. For example, check that Cookies are enabled in the browser,and Javascript is enabled, and that the browser security settings aren't set too high.)
  3. Try using the website in a different web-browser.

By now you have hopefully fixed or found the issue while trying the basic troubleshooting steps and you can proceed to the final step.

But if not, you've now ruled out those possible causes as being the cause of this particular problem.

So now it's time to escalate this problem to Level 2 Support, and proceed to Step 4.

Step 4: Inform the Customer of the Outcome

Step 4 is the most important step. Here you inform the customer of your findings and what happens next.

Clear communication is the key to this step.
Not everyone is a whizz on the computer, so try to explain the problem to the customer in a way that they understand.

Your findings will fall into one of the following categories:

  • You have identified the cause of the problem, and it is a problem that the customer must fix at their end.
    (User error, a problem with their computer or Internet, etc)
  • You have identified the cause of the problem, and it is not a problem the customer can fix.
    (Website error/issue, upstream service issue)
  • You have been unable to identify the cause of the problem, and need to escalate the issue to Level 2 Support.

In every case, inform the customer of the cause of the problem if you know what the cause is.
For example, the issue might be have been caused by a corrupt cookie in their web browser. Or it might be caused by a service outage that is affecting your website.

If your findings fall into category one, provide information to the customer that will explain what they must do to fix it.
You can provide links to webpages or forums with instructions that will help the customer. Or you can write up instruction templates or an FAQ for common issues.

If your findings fall into category two, then explain what you need to do to fix the issue for the customer.

And if your findings fall into category three, then explain that the issue looks to be serious, and you have sent it on to Level 2 Support for investigation.

When you can help the customer to understand how the problem came about, and what needs to be done to resolve it, most people will accept the outcome and be thankful for your help.

And There You Have It

Providing basic website support really is that straightforward.

So don't leave your customers waiting days to receive help to use your website.
Get the ball rolling by providing them with basic website support yourself.

Most website support is just a case of helping the customer get back to shopping again.

Sometimes the problem really is a bug. Many times though, it's a small glitch that can be fixed in minutes.

But by providing basic website support to your customers, you can keep the customer on your side, rather than get them walking off to another eStore.




Agree? Disagree? Start a conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


Coming Soon to an Internet Near You!

Coming Soon to an Internet Near You!

Coming Soon to an Internet Near You!

With not 1 but 2 of the most significant projects we're had the pleasure of producing on our schedule, apologies if we've skipped a Blog update or Two over these past few months.

As regular readers would be well aware we very rarely use this forum to spruik about our achievements, but in this case as they are so important to our stakeholders it justified an exception..

The first milestone was the March completion of the 12 months process of upgrading the iASP™ Powered Work Health and Safety Management Platform we've continuously developed on behalf of Employers Mutual Ltd. since 2010. 

The platform, which consists of several independently branded instances, including HEMsafe, is a Cloud-based system that provides all the tools and resources organisations across multiple industries need to manage their day to day WHS related obligations and maintain health and safety within their workplace.

While the upgrade included enhancements to the front-end public website, the primary focus was the Member-only features and functions.

The application framework was re-engineered to facilitate mobile device compatibility as well as improved desktop version usability.

Additionally, the entire platform was expanded from a single-user focus to an enterprise level application with the introduction of powerful access controls and extensive workflow and version controls.

Key new features include a new Workplace Homepage featuring several interactive dash-board like functions including a calendar based display of all relevant activities and reminders, which provides individual Users with instant access to all tasks that require action.

The second major project, which is scheduled for live launch next Monday, is a Strata Management platform which has been developed with the guidance of one of the largest Strata Management providers in Victoria.

StrataPort, which will launch with around 20,000 initial customers, is a Cloud-based platform that seamlessly integrates to existing internal Strata Management systems and then translates and publishes relevant information for individual Users in a secure, password protected environment that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime from any Internet connected device.

In addition to publication of all Building, Lot, Meeting, Insurance and other data, StrataPort capabilities include submission of "smart" requests such as Meeting Proxy Forms and Insurance Certificate of Currency Application Forms.

The system also features an integrated Support Ticket system that can be paired with external systems as required.

The launch of StrataPort and the generational upgrades to the WHS Management Systems reflect the evolution of the iASP™ technology platform into a truly Enterprise Level Application and marks the beginning of the most exciting stage of our journey to date.

We look forward to the future with great excitement.

Watch this space!


Keep in Touch

Follow on our Facebook Page to stay up to date with what's on at iASP Central.

And if you think we can help your business to improve with Enterprise Software, then Get in Touch.


What Ever Happened to Google PageRank?

What Ever Happened to Google PageRank?

What Ever Happened to Google PageRank?

When was the last time you heard anyone mention the term PageRank?

It's the benchmark of a successful website.
Or at least, it used to be.

Now it seems to be that 'thing' we all used to talk about, but shouldn't mention any more.


A Brief History of PageRank

PageRank was one of the first algorithms used by Google to measure the importance of a web page.

The logic was that web authors will link to useful or popular web pages more often than to less useful pages. Particularly those best suited to support the content they were writing about.

So PageRank counted the number and quality of links pointing to web page, and gave the page a ranking out of 10.

Each link was like a vote. The more links/votes a page has, the higher its PageRank (more or less).

This was then joined with the frequency of keywords on a page. So a web page could have different a PageRank for different keywords.

The general understanding of PageRank became:
When a web page has a high PageRank for a keyword, it will display higher in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Thus, the better the PageRank a web page has, the better a web page must be.

From this, web masters and other types soon found a way to take advantage of the simplicity of PageRank.

Achieving a high PageRank for a particular keyword became a lucrative and competitive business.

And then one day, it all just seemed to stop working.

New websites would get stuck on a PageRank of 0. For older websites, their PageRank seemed to be unresponsive. SEO efforts appeared to be ineffective in improving the PageRank.

As a web developer, this vexed me. I was terribly vexed (Gladiator reference). Why are the websites I build deemed worthless in the eyes of Google?

So like we all do when we want to know something, I Google'd it.

It turns out that we had all thinking about PageRank the wrong way, and Google responded to change this.


The PageRank Phase-Out

As far back as 2009, Google stated that site owners were focusing on PageRank too much. We were giving it more value than it actually had; and so Google were going to phase it out.

In October of 2009, Google removed PageRank measurements from their Webmaster Tools.

Other websites that allowed people to find their PageRank still existed though. So many failed to notice what Google were doing.

Then, in November 2014, Google stopped updating their visible PageRank feed. This was the source that the other online tools were using.

Google followed up a year later by announcing that there would not be any more updates to the PageRank feed.

You'll remember that this is about the time that the SEO community began to shift their focus to content.

And Google started to release new algorithms, and update their older algorithms.

The SEO community scrambled, trying to determine the new way to improve SEO. Searching for any sneaky advantage that they could.

Then Google started recommending everyone shift their focus towards creating 'quality content'.

And now we're back into the present.


So is PageRank dead or does it still matter in SEO?

PageRank is still 'a thing'. It's just had it's badge of honour removed.

PageRank will always be an important factor to determine the best results for a search query.

But webmasters shouldn't focus on PageRank as a definitive measure of success.


What's next then?

Search engine optimisation now encompasses a lot more than just keywords and links.

While keywords and links are still an important part of SEO, they are now a minor part of a larger set of metrics.

In fact, Search Engine Optimisation is such a large topic now, that it's better for me to point you to the masters.

Our first port of call is always the Google Webmasters website. This site explains the fundamentals of how search works. It also guide you to help Google find, index and rank your site.

If you're a beginner in SEO, I recommend heading to the Moz website next. Their SEO guides are easy to follow, and their free Moz tools are great to find where you should start first.

Then check out Majestic SEO for more tools to give you an in-depth view of your website.

Of course, you can keep following our Blog for the big updates in the SEO. And check our social media feeds for useful SEO tips and advice.



So if you're still using the PageRank of your website as a measurement of success, it's time to catch up.

You should now be talking in Conversation rates, Bounce rates and clickthrough rates.



Resources:



Agree? Disagree? Start a conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


A Review of eCommerce Predictions for 2016

A Review of eCommerce Predictions for 2016

A Review of eCommerce Predictions for 2016

2015 was an exceptional year for eCommerce.

Australian shoppers smashed the predicted $10 billion in online retail spending.

According to the National Bank of Australia, online retail spending in Australia increased by 10%, up to $17.6 billion1.

Early last year, we reviewed the industry predictions for eCommerce trends in 2015.

We reported that the major focus would be in the areas of mobile shopping, social media selling, and the combination of traditional marketing channels and digital marketing channels to provide a similar shopping experience for the customer.

mCommerce saw the biggest growth in 2015, helped in part by the growth in mobile device usage and the mobilegeddon that unfolded in the middle of the year.

We saw a serious shift in the capability to buy online direct from mobile devices rather than just gather information to support the customer's buying decision.

2016 is well under way now though, and it's time again to review the future predictions.

Here are the eCommerce trends tipped to be big for 2016.


Continued Growth in Online Markets

The good news is most industry leaders are predicting the strong growth seen in 2015 will continue well into 2016.

And like last year, mobile it tipped to generate the largest part of this growth.


It's all about the Customer Experience

Creating and improving the customer experience will be the main area of focus for eCommerce in 2016.

The marketing strategy of eStores will no longer target increasing the number of single transactions.

Instead, marketing strategies will focus on managing customer expectation and satisfaction every step of the way, including post-purchase.

Cheaper prices and free shipping will no longer be the differentiator between competing eStores.

Instead, online shopping will become a journey or an experience akin to shopping at Tiffany's.


Expansion of Marketing Automation

Over the past couple of years, e-Mail marketing has been almost completely automated.

It is not uncommon now for eStores to send a targeted e-Mail to a customer based upon particular activities, such as if the customer added items to their cart, and then left the website without completing the order.

This year, more marketing channels will become automated in a similar fashion.

Elements of a website such as banners, landing pages, even product descriptions will become automated to serve customized content targeted to the individual.

For example, I might return to a website several times to look at a particular product. The next time I return, I am served a banner advertising a promotional discount on that specific item, a discount just for me.

This level of automation is a tool to provide even greater personalized shopping experiences for customers.


More Social Media Selling

Selling on social media last year was been more like marketing and advertising, rather than a point-of-sale.

Several social media platforms tested and partly launched tools in 2015 to allow their users to buy products within the platform itself, without needing to visit the retailer's website.

In 2016, we will see these features become available to more retailers in more countries.

Soon it will become commonplace to see a post or a tweet with a Buy Now button.


A Higher Quality of Content

High-quality content will become a differentiator to attract and engage customers.

Faster Internet speeds have allowed video to become a viable method to deliver content. Product reviews, demonstrations, and instructional videos will become popular forms of content.

Website content strategy itself will become more about storytelling and entertainment.


In Conclusion

Prepare for 2016 to be another significant year for eCommerce.

Barriers that separated online shopping from traditional shopping will dissolve as new technology becomes viable and affordable to traditional retailers.

This will enable traditional retailers to compete in online markets again as the advantages that eRetailers have enjoyed up until now become less of an advantage.

Online shopping has now become just another part of shopping in general.



Resources:


It's the Final Curtain for Adobe Flash Player

It's the Final Curtain for Adobe Flash Player

It's the Final Curtain for Adobe Flash Player

Flash content is now in the last stages of becoming a relic of Internet past after another major web browser dropped native support of the Flash Player plug-in just last month.

While it isn't the final nail-in-the-coffin for Flash Player just yet, it is the final notice for developers and advertisers that still use Flash Player to deliver their content.

Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox web browsers dropped native support for the Flash Player plug-in long ago, forcing users to change their browser security settings and update the plug-in regularly to view Flash content. And now Google Chrome has joined the group with the latest version of the Chrome web browser also natively blocking Flash content.

None of this has come unexpectedly to marketers and developers in the industry, however.

The end for Adobe Flash Player became almost guaranteed after Apple founder Steve Jobs famously announced that Apple iOS devices would not be supporting Flash Player (and therefore, Flash content) due to the poor reliability and poor security that Adobe Flash Player was well-known for.

Without going into unnecessary detail, the demise of Flash Player comes down to the capabilities of HTML and web browsers finally catching up to those that Flash enabled decades ago - without the performance issues and security holes that also come with using Flash Player.

Now, in a very similar fashion to the infamous web browser Internet Explorer, Flash Player is set to hold a place in Internet history as an example of what was once considered to be ground-breaking technology that helped to push the Internet to where it is today.

In the early 1990's, Macromedia Flash (as it was known at the time) truly introduced the world to the new possibilities that the Internet could provide. The Internet shifted suddenly from being a static medium, with content made up of text and images only, to something that could now potentially compete with the likes of television.

A graphics and animation editor all-in-one, the simple to learn nature of the Macromedia Flash application allowed people to create animations and interactive multimedia easily, without the need to understand computer programming languages. Even entire websites were developed in Flash.

Flash movies and Flash games quickly became a popular form of content, as it was difficult to deliver content in other formats across the Internet at the time that was comparable in quality (particularly video content).

Flash also became the platform of choice for marketers and advertisers, as it allowed for the production and delivery of banner advertisements that were higher in quality than anything else available.

Still, as with all technology, Flash Player has inevitably become redundant and is being cast aside for a faster, better, stronger replacement.

It is important to note that the Adobe Flash application itself is not dead, however, and has evolved to allow developers to produce animations and multimedia applications using the newer platforms such as HTML5 Canvas and WebGL.

In memory to Flash Player and the Flash content era that came with it, we share our favourite portal website that was one of the original pioneers in all things Flash - Newgrounds.



Further Reading:


The Secret to Deciphering 'Quality Content'

The Secret to Deciphering 'Quality Content'

The Secret to Deciphering 'Quality Content'

The war between Search Engines (read Google) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practitioners, which has raged since Google's birth in 2000, shifted focus this year - and not only Google Users, but all website visitors are the winners.

In the early days SEO was much simpler and SEO practitioners had the upper hand: The primary requirements to improve Google performance were simply to focus on the density of relevant keywords and then gather as many inbound links as possible.

Alas, that resulted in websites filled with low quality content - repetitive keywords and phrases - and countless links between unrelated websites that may have improved Google performance, but delivered little value to Google Users or website visitors in general.

Google's evolution, driven by the goal of delivering the most relevant search results possible, led to the release earlier this year of the Quality Update.

This newest weapon in the Google arsenal has forced SEO practitioners down a new path, and the by-products are an overall improvement to the quality of Google search results and the quality of website content generally.


What Is The Quality Update?

Around May of this year, Google started to give more weight to pages that it deemed to have a higher quality of content.

The technical details of how Google determines the quality of content is still being debated, but as one expert has put it: "we do know that it wants to provide users with the best information possible."Source

In a nutshell, it means shifting your focus away from creating content for Google, and towards creating content for your visitors.

Google explicitly states this as the first point in their article Steps to a Google-friendly site - "...give visitors the information they're looking for: Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do...".


What Is Quality Content?

When first hearing the term "quality content", you could be forgiven for thinking that you need to hire the services of Shakespeare to write the content of your website.

There are many, many (many) articles about how to go about writing quality content, but let us save you some pain and share some insight.

The Internet is the world's largest resource of information. You can search for anything, at any time, and get an answer to whatever question you may have.

Having such a vast volume of information available to us at the click of a button, however, has overwhelmed us, and it has changed the way we sort through and process information.

Now, instead of reading through content line for line until we find the answer we're after, we skim across it impatiently; and if we can't find our answer quickly, we move onto the next website to scour through their content instead.

This puts some weight on the amount of time we spend on a single page of a website, because if you've spent more than 30 seconds on a page, clearly there is something of value to you on that page.

And there's the secret to deciphering the term "quality content" - It's actually "valuable content".

Create content that is meaningful to readers, that's valuable to readers.

Readers will come back to content that is valuable to them in some way. Readers will share content they think will be valuable to others.


How to Create Valuable Content

As Google outline in their Webmaster Academy course, the content of your website should be useful and informative, credible, and engaging.

Microsoft's search engine, Bing, have boiled their guidelines down a little further, breaking the aspects of content quality into three pillars - Authority (how trustworthy is the content), Utility (how useful is the content), and Presentation (how well-presented is the content and how easy is it to find it).

The simple fact is, creating content that keeps people reading (or watching) is all you need to do to create valuable content.

And here is where you can think outside of the box. Your content could be informative, or it could be entertaining, or it could be convenient, or a mix of all three.

So while your competitor may have articles fit for a peer-reviewed journal on their website, your content could still be valuable if visitors find it more convenient, or more entertaining.

As an example, think of the numerous Do-It-Yourself related videos on Youtube.

There may thousands of videos that demonstrate exactly the same topic - how to change a tyre for example - but you can find videos that only cover the basics of how to change a tyre with just as many views as a video that shows every single step with detailed explanations.

A video may be just as popular if it is a little more entertaining, or if it covers the steps of the task a little faster (more convenient).

Different audiences will put differing levels of value on different formats and structures of content, which is why you can still create valuable content.

To help you to create valuable / quality content for your website, I've gathered a list of articles that cover the topic in more detail.

They all provide a different angle to decipher and understand the term 'quality content', and how to tackle the task.


Great Articles About Creating Valuable Content:



What's Your Opinion? How do you define 'quality content'? Join the conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


We Review Two iPhone 6's

We Review Two iPhone 6's

We Review Two iPhone 6's

The Apple iPhone 6s (and 6s Plus) were released last week, along with the highly unexpected Apple Pencil and new Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro.

The initial response has been largely positive from both the tech industry and the ever-faithful iFollowers.

I invested in an iPhone 6 last year, so I thought I'd compare the pair to see what extra features and benefits I would now be enjoying if I had waited for the iPhone 6s.

To cut to the chase, in my opinion both models are more or less the same but for a handful of small improvements. So while I won't rushing out to replace my iPhone 6, there is a case to justify the investment. Jump to the bottom to see why.

According to the Apple website: the only thing that's changed in the new iPhone 6s is "everything".

At face value however, the iPhone 6s it looks strikingly similar (in fact identical) to it's predecessor, which you may recall "everything" was also the only thing was changed when the original iPhone 6 hit the streets!

Before we look at the new features of the iPhone 6s in more detail, let's start with a straight comparison to the iPhone 6.

Capacity: Both models are available with 16GB and 64GB of storage capacity. The iPhone 6s also has a 128GB option for those that can't fit enough Youtube on their current model.

Display: The original iPhone 6 has a 4.7" LED-backlit widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology, 1334-by-750-pixel resolution at 326 ppi, 1400:1 contrast ratio (typical), 500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical), Full sRGB standard, Dual-domain pixels for wide viewing angles, Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, Support for displaying multiple languages and characters simultaneously, Display Zoom aaaannnnddd Reachability...whatever that means!

The new iPhone 6s comes with all of that PLUS: next-generation Multi-Touch display with IPS technology and Taptic Engine!

What is a Taptic Engine? It's a new form of feedback from the screen in the form of subtle taps.

That's right, you don't tap iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s taps you! Cool.

Weight & Dimensions: A real let-down for the iPhone 6s is it's size and weight compared to the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 6s is 0.2mm taller, 0.1mm wider and 0.2mm thicker! And it's significantly heavier. A good 14g heavier than the iPhone 6.

Processor (Chip): As with most new model releases by Apple, the new iPhone model comes with the latest A chip - the A9 chip - Embedded with the M9 motion coprocessor, it's a step up from the A8 chip that only has the M8 motion coprocessor (and it isn't even embedded).

Cellular & Wireless: In this category, both models are almost exactly the same.

You have your usual UMTS/HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, CDMA EV-DO Rev. A, GPS and GLONASS, VoLTE and NFC.

The iPhone 6s takes a small step forward however, as it comes with 4G LTE Advanced (over iPhone 6's plain 4G LTE), Bluetooth 4.2 (over iPhone's Bluetooth 4.0) and 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MIMO (over iPhone's MIMO-less 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi).

Touch ID: The iPhone 6 brought a brand new feature to the table with it's Touch ID finger print sensor built right into the home button that allows users to spend minutes trying to get their thumbprint to match correctly so they could unlock their smartphone rather than the excruciating seconds it took before to tap in 4 digits.

The iPhone 6s ups the ante however, with it's Second-Generation fingerprint sensor, also built right into the home button.

iSight Camera: The camera is where the iPhone 6s starts to shine over it's former model. Again, we see only slight improvements in most of the camera's features, but the iPhone 6s is improved by a 12-megapixel iSight camera with 1.22µ pixels (formerly 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1.5µ pixels).

Video Recording: Video enthusiasts will be happy to find that the new iPhone 6s comes with 4K video recording (3840 by 2160) at 30 fps (something the old model doesn't have at all), as well as Slow-motion video support for 1080p at 120 fps, and 720p at 240 fps, and playback zoom! Everything else is the same.

FaceTime Camera: Apart from the higher megapixel photos and Retina Flash, the FaceTime Camera on both models are exactly the same.

Everything Else: Everything else that the iPhone has - Battery Life, Audio Playback, Video Playback, Siri even the headphones... they're all the same across both models.



The New Features

The new iPhone 6s does come with new features that the iPhone 6 does not have.

New Aluminium: The new iPhone 6s is made from a new aluminium alloy, the same grade used in the aerospace industry, so it's fit for re-entry into the atmosphere.

Fun Fact: Compare the Australian Apple website to the US website - it says aluminum on the US site, and aluminium on the Aussie version - now that's catering for your local audience!

New Colour: With this new aluminium alloys comes a new aluminium colour: Rose Gold, which I think looks more like sunset salmon copper, but that's just my opinion.

3D Touch: 3D Touch is a flash way of saying that the iPhone 6s screen, like it's little brother the iWatch, now has pressure sensors and behaves different according to "how deeply you press the display".

3D Touch now allows you to Peek and Pop - the next dimension in functionality - that also provides you with feedback so you can feel what you've done.

Here's a prediction: iHipsters will now rank and file based upon how many alerts they can "peek" at before tapping too hard and "popping" instead.

Live Photos: The stand out new feature on the iPhone 6s, without doubt, is Live Photos.

Touted as "An entirely new way to bring your still photos to life."

I won't try to explain it any better than Apple already have - "At the heart of a Live Photo is a beautiful 12-megapixel photo. But together with that photo are the moments just before and after it was taken, captured with movement and sound." - OK, maybe I can explain it better: it's a 3 second video...


The Final Review

The iPhone 6s is, without a doubt, exactly what the iPhone 6 should have been when it was released... There is still reason why I suggest you strongly consider the iPhone 6s however.

It's not because I'm a rabid iFollower that upgrades to every model the week it is released.

No, I suggest you buy this model so you can get into the 2-year s-model rotation instead of the regular model rotation.

Then, instead of waiting weeks for your new iPhone 7 to ship after it's predicted September 2016 release, 12 months later you'll breeze into your local Apple store and grab a new phone with all the features lacking in the previous model!

Genius or what?


Should You Re-tweet That Tweet?

Should You Re-tweet That Tweet?

Should You Re-tweet That Tweet?

Social Media is all about sharing. Sharing insights, sharing information, sharing opinions.

Not everyone is using social media at the same time however.

Some people use it throughout the day, others just a couple of days a week.

So how can a business ensure that their clients and followers see the information that is shared by the company on social media?

Is it acceptable to post the same information a number of times, or should the business focus on encouraging their followers to be following at the time the company shares their information?

At some point in time, a choice will need to be made - Should You Re-tweet That Tweet?

If we compare social media practices to real world social interaction practices, re-tweeting something you have already said could be compared to sharing a story with one friend about your children winning first place at the sports festival, then walking over to another friend and sharing the exact same story, and then moving onto another friend...

I've been to many a gathering and have seen people repeating their stories, and the crowd seem to clue on pretty quickly about what is going on.

People see this as overemphasising the story, trying to give it more importance than it may actually have, and they react negatively to it.

It doesn't matter if the story is a great tale worthy of being set in stone, more often than not the more times people see or hear it, the less they like it.

It's tempting to categorise re-tweeting a tweet (or re-posting a post) the same as "that guy with only one story", however, that's not the reality.

Unlike a real world social gathering, where everyone is present and with at least some awareness of things going on around them, social media followers are not always present and can be very easily distracted when they are on-line.

Despite the fact that around 10 million Australians are on Facebook every day^, few, if any, are actively there 24 hours a day, and with only a fraction of the followers in your network receiving each individual content item you publish the chances of a social media post being missed is extremely high.

This is why re-posting your social media content is an actually an acceptable thing to do.

Compare the practice to that of a TV or Radio station, who regularly repeat the top stories of the day.

It isn't because they don't have any new stories to cover, it is because not everyone tunes into the 7am broadcast.

If the information you are sharing is valuable enough, people will accept the repetition rather than reject it.

It is very easy to cross the line however, and come out looking like you're desperately trying for everyone in the entire world to know you have a new blog article on your website.

There are best practices and bad practices that you should consider when re-posting your content on social media.


You don't need to re-share every type of content.

The more valuable the content is, the more acceptable it is to re-post it.

While it might seem like a good idea to re-post a photo that received a lot of likes, re-posting the same photo won't be received the same way the second time around.

Generally speaking, the best type of post that can safely be re-posted is a link post  - be it a link to your blog or website, or links to other content you want to share.

Re-posting other content, especially those with the same image can look like you're platform is just stuck on repeat.


Change Up the Message

When re-posting or re-tweeting, don't re-post the exact same post / tweet - and be certain to change the image.

For example, if your typical link post looks like [Article Title] [Link] [Hastag], then try a completely different format when you re-post the link.

The second post could be a question related to the article followed by the link, or you could include a block-quote from the article followed with the link.

The more you change the format, the less your page will look like it is being managed by an automated script.


Get the Scheduling Right

When it comes to timing your re-posts, each social media platform has it's own requirements.

Twitter is very busy. A tweet can get lost among the clutter very quickly. And for this reason, you will want to re-post more frequently than the other platforms.

Re-tweet a tweet 2 hours after the initial post, then once the following day, then once the following week, and once the following month, and one more time 2 months after the first post.

Again, remember to change the content of the message so your feed doesn't look like you're just hitting 'repeat' every few hours.

Facebook and Google+ are much more forgiving. The lifespan of content is longer, and it is easier for people to follow up on what you've posted in the past week/month if they are interested.

It's safe to re-post on Facebook and Google+ a week after your initial post, following up again a month later.

When it comes to getting the balance right with your audience however, it is very much trial and error.

Consider what you deem to be enough, and not too much.

Try one schedule, and measure the results. If your followers mention something, or start to leave en-mass, then you know your current schedule is too much and you need to cut it back.


So there we have it.

Done appropriately, and with some attention to detail, re-posting your link posts is an effective way to ensure that your content has a longer lifespan, remains useful and accessible by your followers, and has the potential to reach a much wider audience than just posting it once and hoping for the best.



^Source: These incredible stats show exactly how huge Facebook is in Australia.



Resources:



Do you repost your content? What are you thoughts on the practice? Start a conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


Your 2015 eStore Christmas Promotion Checklist

Your 2015 eStore Christmas Promotion Checklist

Your 2015 eStore Christmas Promotion Checklist

According to this website, there are 119 sleeps until Christmas!!

That's only 17 weeks!

Which means that all you eTailers have even less time to prepare your eStore for the Christmas/Holiday Sale Rush!

The time to start planning is NOW!

There are promotions to decide, marketing campaigns to prepare, and don't even get me started on which wrapping paper to use this year.

We've put together a nice check-list to help you to prepare for your best Christmas Season yet.

#1: Review Last Year

The very first thing you'll want to do is to review the performance of last year's sale.

Undoubtedly, there were some parts that went very well, and other parts that fizzled for one reason or another.

Take this time to identify the positives and the negatives from last year.

Anything you did that was worth repeating, note it down and add it into your 2015 strategy. And the mistakes that you don't want to repeat, create contingency plans to ensure they don't get repeated.

Then after reviewing your own performance, the next step is to review your competitors.

Look at how they approached the silly season sale. Are there any lessons to be learnt from mistakes they made? Or some clever ideas that you can take some inspiration from?

#2: Check Your Sales Data

Have a look at your sales history for the year.

Identify your top customers, because you'll want to specifically target them to boost your sales, as well as offer them a little reward incentive to butter them up as well.

Next, identify your top selling and poorest selling products for the year, and there are two reasons for this.

The first is to help you to select the products to feature in your promotions.

The second is to help identify any possible issues for the performance of your poorest selling products. Is there a stand-out reason why these particular products aren't selling as well?

Maybe the product description isn't informative enough, or the product images need improvement.

Take this opportunity to compare your poorer selling products against your best selling products and improve the content for your poorer sellers.

#3: Review our Twelve Steps to Successful Christmas eTailing

Hopefully you're already up-to-speed with our Twelve Steps to successful Christmas eTailing from last year, and they're already a part of your strategy.

If not, be sure to read them, as they are all still very relevant.

#4: Map out your marketing strategy

Now you want to plan your strategy - the theme of your campaign, the promotions you will offer, when you will start each promotion, and how long each promotion will run for.

Christmas is about rewards and gifts, and just generally being nice, so integrate this into the theme for your campaign.

Shoppers are always looking for the discounts, but think creatively about how customers can earn them, or earn further discounts.

Create some interaction between your business and your customers.

Perhaps a competition on social media could offer a higher discount on top of a regular discount. Or offer a special discount to your Facebook followers that are the most active in your community.

Stacking promotions to encourage sales at the start of the promotion is another effective strategy, offering multiple discounts/specials at the start of the sale period that drop off as the promotion progresses.

Without a doubt, you will also want to offer Free Shipping at some point during the promotion, if not for the entire sale period. Free Shipping will is always a major part of your customer's buying decisions, and is a common sales tactic by your competitors.

#5: Map out your content strategy

It's never a bad time to review and update your content, but now is a great opportunity to give your website content a good spring clean.

You've already decided on the theme for your marketing campaign, now to plan the areas of your website that will need to be updated to reflect your theme.

You may wish to re-write your product pages to be more appropriate to the occasion/theme, or to provide better descriptions that help the customer to make a purchase.

Fresh product images are always a good idea, and can also be used to add to the feel of your theme.

Then there is the banner images on the homepage that are going to draw and direct your customers to your featured specials. What marketing message will you want to display? Which products will you feature?

If you have a Blog or News section, prepare a plan for the articles that you will publish during the campaign. Plan dates will they be published, and decide on the images that be used in the articles.

#6: Map out your e-Mail campaigns

Now that you have your marketing strategy set out, it's time to plan your e-Mail campaigns.

Following on from Step 2, we recommend making two lists of subscribers - Your best customers, and your regular subscribers.

Plan to send a campaign to each list a week before your campaign starts, another at the start of the sale, then a third campaign a week or two before the sale ends, and lastly, a final days reminder.

List which products you will include, and write the content for each campaign, and again, decide on the images that be used.

Have everything prepared so that all that remains is the create each campaign and send them.

#7: Map out your social media campaigns

As always, you need to plan social media campaigns to support your marketing and e-Mail campaigns.

Plan out the posts for each of your social media accounts, and prepare the content for each post, and brainstorm the style and message of images that will need to be produced for each post.

You may also want to launch competitions especially for your social media channels to attract your followers.

Lastly, look at utilising Facebook Ads to target your followers, or new followers.

#8: Arrange for content to be produced early

Once you have everything planned and decided, the final step is to arrange for the content you aren't able to produce to be produced for you.

You really don't want to leave this until the last minute, the earlier you can get your designer onto your banners or images, the earlier they will be ready to launch your campaign and the less rush everyone will be in later in the year.



Need some Help? If you would like some help to get your Christmas Promotion into gear, Get in Touch. Or if you have some tips of your own that you'd like to share, join us on the iASP Central Facebook Page.



Further Reading:


The #1 Trick to Increase Your Daily SPAM

The #1 Trick to Increase Your Daily SPAM

The #1 Trick to Increase Your Daily SPAM

Don't you just love SPAM e-Mail?

How much productivity is lost globally, filtering genuine e-mail from the countless, useless, unwanted and sometimes downright offensive e-Mail messages.

What frustrates us as professional web developers is that so many organisations directly invite SPAM by making one of the most common and costly mistakes: Publishing e-mail addresses on websites.


Publishing e-mail addresses on websites is the #1 way to attract SPAM.

It's that simple!
No cheats or gimmicks.
No sneaky fees or subscriptions.
Guaranteed to work every time!


Publishing your e-mail address on your website is about as clever as publishing your credit card number. It's just inviting trouble.

There are countless SPAMbots - simple computer programs that scan the Web looking for e-Mail addresses and adding them to SPAM lists or marketing databases.

And while SPAM might be just one of those things you have to deal with on the Internet, reducing the severity of the problem will always make life easier.


So how can you publish your e-Mail address without leaving it open for Spambots?

Well, there are 3 main methods:

1.) Miscellaneous Teckky Tricks

The end goal is to display an e-Mail address in a readable way to a real viewer, while hiding the e-Mail address from spambots.
To achieve this, there are a few "tricks" you can use to try to "hide" your e-Mail address.

One "trick" is to type the e-Mail address backwards, then use CSS to display it the right way.
A spambot will see 'ua.moc.sserdda@liame-my', but the reader will see 'my-email@address.com.au'.
The difficult part to this trick is correctly writing your e-Mail address backwards. Did you notice my mistake?

Another "trick" is to break up the e-Mail address with HTML code, which is then hidden using CSS to display the e-Mail address correctly.

And yet another "trick" is to replace the @'s and .'s in an e-Mail address with AT or DOT.
Because nothing says "professional" like 'my-email AT address DOT com DOT au'.

These tricks have been around for centuries however (in Internet time), and spambot developers have become wise to them.
They will easily unpick your "trick" and add you to their spam list.


2.) e-Mail Address Obfuscator

An e-Mail obfuscator is a small javascript that adds your e-Mail address to the page after it has loaded, or unjumbles your e-Mail address so that appears jumbled to spambots but becomes readable when the page is loaded.

Like the "tricks" above, however, this method is becoming outdated as well.

Spambot developers are learning how to find if an obfuscator is being used, and how to get around them.
This means that obfuscators need to be adjusted semi-regularly to change how they alter an e-Mail address so it doesn't become predictable.

And now with Google's ability to execute javascript to index websites better, you can bet that it won't be long before spambots can do the same thing.


3.) A Contact form

Really, THE ONLY WAY to save you from the need to publish your e-Mail address on the Web while still allowing people to contact you by e-Mail is to use a Contact form.

The first two methods still leave your e-Mail address wide open for nefarious types to find with a little bit of effort.
A contact form removes the need to publish an e-Mail address entirely, making it much more difficult to find.

Using a contact form also allows comes with some advantages for analytics and visitor tracking as well (if you're into that kind of thing).


Conclusion

While just publishing a link to your e-Mail address may save you some time and appear to be more aesthetic.
It is nothing compared to the pain of deleting SPAM e-Mail every morning after your e-Mail address ends up on SPAM lists around the globe.

All iASP powered websites come standard with a Contact form module, and customised versions are one of many options available.

If you're unsure of how to add a Contact form to your iASP powered website, or you'd like some advice about publishing an e-Mail address, Get in Touch.



Resources:



What's your Opinion? Do you proudly publish your e-Mail address in the open? Let's discuss on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.

Our 5 Tips to Avoid Domain Name Scams

Our 5 Tips to Avoid Domain Name Scams

Our 5 Tips to Avoid Domain Name Scams

Since our beginnings as Canberra based Internet Service Provider ACTWEB.NET in the 1990's, we've learned that Domain Name related issues are one of the most common causes of significant service issues on the Internet.

Sadly we've also seen many scams and cons that take advantage of unsuspecting Domain Name owners.

In this article we highlight the most common Domain Name related scams and list our top tactics to help make managing your Domain Names a breeze and avoid falling victim to the scammers.

Common Domain Name Related Scams

There are several different types of common Domain Name related scams.

Many involve a variation on the theme of sending Domain Name owners what appears at a glance to be a legitimate invoice for Domain Name Registration renewal.

The fake Domain Name Registration renewal scams usually fall into one of three categories:

  • 1: An invoice from a source claiming to be the Domain Registrar for a real Domain Name that is in fact registered with another Domain Registrar
  • 2: An invoice for a different version of a real Domain Name. Either closely related spelling i.e. if the real domain is abc.com the invoice might be for acb.com or for an entirely different extension of the domain name i.e. abc.net
  • 3: An invoice for a totally unrelated service that is carefully worded to mimic the appearance of a legitimate Domain Name Registration renewal, such as the one pictured on this page.

The image on this page relates to a scam we received recently from http://www.trafficdomainer.com.

The scam relates to an actual Domain Name we owned at the time: iaspestore.com.

The scam message arrived via e-mail within days of the actual registration renewal date of the Domain Name.

The sender of the e-mail was marked as "Domain Service", and the subject was "iaspestore.com notice".

The notice was properly addressed and contained the words at the top: ATTENTION: IMPORTANT NOTICE.

Of course, when you read the fine print, they are actually selling seo domain name registration - whatever that is - apparently a totally unrelated service that the message later warns "failure to complete...may make it difficult for customers to find you on the web".

Which is 100% BS!

While most of the Domain Name registration scams arrive via e-mail, some arrive in the form of physical mail.

We also recently received a very similar scam to the one above via the post - supposedly from an Australian based organisation, whom we reported to Justice Victoria.

Domain Name scams that originate overseas can contain give-aways in the form of poor spelling and grammar, but those sent by Australian based organisations can be harder to tell apart from the real thing.

What makes some of these scams so successful is they not only appear to come from Australian based organisations, but they contain accurate Domain Name owner contact information and are often well timed to coincide with the actual Domain Name registration renewal date.

The good news is that when armed with just a little information about your Domain Names, even the most official looking scams become much easier to spot.

Our Top 5 Tips to Avoid Domain Name Scams

Tip 1:

When you register a Domain Name create a calendar reminder to re-new the domain name 1 month before the due date. Be sure to also make a note of the Domain Name Registrar you used to register the domain name.

Tip 2:

If you have multiple Domain Names registered via different Domain Registrars or contained in multiple accounts a single Domain Registrar, consolidate all the Domains into a single account for easy management.

Provided all your Domain Name contact details are current, transferring Domains Names between Registrars and Registrar Accounts is a very straight forward process.

Tip 3:

Make sure the contact details, especially the Registrant e-mail address (where renewal notices are sent), associated with all your Domain Names is current.

Tip 4:

If you buy or sell any type of operation where Domain Names are involved be sure to provide or request a letter signed by both buyer and seller addressed to the relevant Domain Registrar on the official letter head of the seller explaining that transfer of ownership has occurred.

Be sure to follow up with the relevant Domain Name Registrar until the Whois Registry is updated with the new Domain Name ownership details.

Tip 5:

When a Domain Name Registration renewal notice arrives, don't ignore it - check it against your list of registered Domain Names - does it come from the actual Registrar of a Domain Name that you are expecting to expire?. One of the consequences of the prevalence of Domain Name related scams is that legitimate renewal notices often go ignored. This year alone three of our clients have experienced the inconvenience of website and e-mail services going off-line for extended periods because they ignored legitimate Domain Name Registration renewal notices.

Summary

If you select a reputable Domain Name Registrar and follow the advice outlined in our 5 tips above you'll be a long way in front of most of the current Domain Name scams you're likely to encounter.

Unfortunately, clever new scams surface from time to time, so keep an eye on the Australian Government's SCAMWATCH website and other sites such as your local State based Australian Consumer Affairs website.

If you're unlucky enough to fall victim to a Domain Name related or any form of scam please don't be embarrassed and report the matter to the relevant authorities, that way other potential victims can be educated and warned of the dangers.


Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Three

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Three

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Three

Not long ago, I started a journey to become more productive on social media.

If you've just joined me, you can read Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part One, and Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Two.

To quickly bring you up to speed, the QuickSprout Blog posted an infographic in May titled "How to Be More Productive on Social Media".

The infographic was designed to help social media community managers become more productive.

As a personal exercise, I am following the suggestions in the infographic to see what result, if any, it has on our iASP Central social media profiles.

To refresh your memories, the infographic split the daily tasks of a social media manager into 3 groups: Content, Community Management and Growth.

Content includes curating, crafting, posting and scheduling content for social media.
Community Management includes responding, listening, engaging and helping.
Growth includes measuring, analysing, planning and experimenting.

In Part I, I followed the Content group suggestions, which resulted in our content collecting activities being made easier and our content scheduling processes a lot more streamlined.

And in Part II, I followed the Community Management group suggestions, which has seen the establishment of automated monitoring that gathers all mentions of our brand name across the Internet, which has in turn streamlined and simplified and our social media engagement processes.

For the last leg of the journey, I'm going through the Growth related suggestions.

The infographic lists Tools and Steps to help with the daily growth management tasks.

The Tools:

  • Twitter Analytics
  • Facebook Insights
  • SumAll
  • Bit.ly
  • Google Spreadsheets
  • Buffer / Hootsuite

The Steps:

  1. Figure out the crucial metrics
  2. Log in to the various places where you collect data on your social media marketing.
  3. Put your top performing content and metrics into a spreadsheet, so you have one place to view everything.
  4. Analyse the top performing content to determine what's working so you can further test based on the following elements:
    1. Post Type (image, link, video, status updated, etc.)
    2. Post Timing (over a long period of time)
    3. Post Content (commonly used words, voicing, emotion, etc.)
    4. Post Formatting (link placement, hashtag usage, etc.)
  5. Take the common factors that you found from your popular posts, and integrate them into the future posts and tests.

Wow, this last leg looks to be a doozy. Let's get going.

Figure out the crucial metrics

Second only in importance to simply being on social media, is tracking your performance to gain insight.

Before you can start tracking your performance, you need to map out what to measure, and how.

The easiest way to decide what to measure is to ask yourself: What am I hoping to achieve from social media engagement?

At iASP Central, our current social media goals include encouraging our clients to monitor and participate in our social media community, which is aimed at website owners who share our passion for eCommerce, as well as to create a go-to resource to help our clients grow their on-line businesses.

Therefore, at this stage of the plan, apart from an interest in our audience demographics, one of our primary interests is in the level of engagement we are achieving.

We want to measure impressions (the number of people that saw the post/tweet), engagement (the total number of likes/favourites, shares/re-tweets, or comments/mentions for a post/tweet), engagement rate (individual engagement compared to our overall community size), and audience growth rate (to measure how fast our community is growing).

These metrics give us an idea of how well our content is performing, and how relevant it is to our audience.

It's worth noting that our key metrics are sure to change in the future. As our community grows and we'll look to achieve new goals from our social media activity.

Log in to the various places where you collect data on your social media marketing.

There are numerous websites and services that you could use to collect data for your social media metrics.

The infographic lists a few good examples.

The social media platforms all provide some analytics, in fact the Insights tab of your Facebook page and the Twitter equivalent give most of the analytics you could ever need.

Swayy, Buffer (which we now use courtesy of this exercise) and Hootsuite (we've been a Hootsuite Enterprise Partner for a couple of years now) also provide analytics of the social media accounts you set up in them, although the analytics they offer are more aligned to the content that is shared directly via these tools.

The infographic also lists a service called SumAll.

SumAll is a social media analytics and business dashboard. It's a free service - apart from their reporting tools, which attract a cost.

Without hesitation, I sign up and begin connecting all our social media accounts.

SumAll looks to be huge. You can even connect it to other platforms, such as Google Analytics, Shopify, WordPress, ZenDesk, even FitBit.

If ever there was a place to be overwhelmed with data, SumAll looks to be the place.

After setting everything up, I have a long list of statistics for our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts.

So I now have a short list of websites giving me analytics data for our social media accounts.

Put your top performing content and metrics into a spreadsheet

Now for the really fun part.

To start, I'll add our last 5 Facebook and Twitter posts, and list the number of views/impressions, likes/favourites, shares/retweets each post received over that time.

I get this data very easily from our Buffer dashboard. I then compare it to the statistics on our Facebook Insights page, and Twitter Analytics page.

The numbers for our Facebook posts are fairly similar, but I can see that the statistics for our Twitter post impressions are a little off.

I'll need to look into this a little later on, but for now, onto the next step!

Analyse the top performing content and find what's working

In this step, the infographic is suggesting that I look at the characteristics of each post, to try to identify the types of content that our audience engage with the most (or to put it another way, enjoy the most).

Of the posts that I listed, two were links to our blog articles, two were shared images, and one was a shout-out link.

The two posts for our blog articles had the most engagement overall, followed by the shout-out, and then our Friday Funny posts are receiving the least engagement.

Because I have only just set up our social media accounts into the analytics dashboards, they don't have a lot of historical data to show me yet.

However, if I look at our top tweets in Twitter Analytics, as well as our top Liked posts in Facebook Insights, I can confirm that our blog posts are our top performing posts.

Our shout-out posts get more engagement on Twitter than they do on Facebook, but our Friday Funny posts get more engagement on Facebook than they do on Twitter. 

That's an interesting insight. Which leads me into the very last step of my journey...

Take the common factors that you found from your popular posts, and integrate them into the future posts and tests

In discovering that our Friday Funny posts aren't getting much engagement on Twitter, it is now time to start experimenting.

I know that our posts are always scheduled to be published at the same time, every Friday.

So as a test to see if I can improve that engagement on Twitter, I'll schedule them to post at a different time. I'll try this new time for a month, and then switch back. Over time, I can compare the different times to see if there is a noticeable difference either way.

An alternative test would be to drop the Friday Funny posts from Twitter, and try something different for our regular Friday posts.

And although our blog posts are receiving the most engagement, again I can test out different posting times to see if we get a greater engagement by sharing them when more of our audience will receive them.

I really have jumped into the rabbit's hole now.

The End

At last, I have arrived at my destination.

At the end of the final leg on my journey to becoming more productive on social media, I have:

  • Determined and documented the metrics that I want to track and measure from our social media engagement.
  • Gathered a number of analytics sources I will use to collect our social media data.
  • Created a spreadsheet that I will use to manage our social media data.
  • Identified our top performing posts on social media.
  • Identified some common traits amongst our top performing posts that I can integrate into future posts.

Having embarked on this journey, I'm now a little older, a little wiser; and I can definitely say that I am now more productive on social media.

A thank you to QuickSprout for the inspiration and guidance.

This journey is a worthwhile effort for anyone who is using social media for their business, regardless of the level of your social media presence.

If for no other reason, you will end up with a pocket full of tools and a semi-automated, streamlined process to make managing your social media voice much easier.

You will transform yourself from the chaotic "just-post-it-now" type, to the "its-scheduled-to-go-next-week" type almost over night. And you should also find the quality of your posts increase as well.

I will do a follow up article in a few months to have a look at just how more productive I have become, and how much of an improvement it has made to our social media efforts, to make sure I don't just have the appearance of being more productive.

One Last Part

One last thing I would like to mention.

The infographic has some advice at the very end for the super busy and those that want to maximise their time on social media.

Using just Feedly, Buffer, and the social media sites themselves, it suggests the following:

  1. Start by re-sharing your most popular content.
  2. Visit your most-trusted content sources. (add them to Feedly if you haven't).
  3. Use the management tool to clean up all of your queued content.
  4. Respond to and engage with all the notifications in the social channels directly.

Just reading this part, I can see that these steps listed are fairly similar to how I was managing our social media before completing this three part journey.

Hopefully I have moved beyond this now, but it is good to know that I was already heading on something of the right track beforehand (according to the professionals anyway).

This last piece of advice is great for the social media managers who aren't interested in the numbers as yet, and are purely focused on gathering, managing and sharing content to first establish their own social media audience and community.


I hope you enjoyed following this journey.
If you too have taken the journey to becoming more productive on social media, I'd love to hear from you. Or if you would like to discuss my journey with me, feel free to hit me up on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Two

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Two

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part Two

Last week I started a journey to become more productive on social media. If you've just joined me, you should read Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part One too.

To bring you up to speed, the QuickSprout Blog posted an infographic back in May, 2015, titled "How to Be More Productive on Social Media".

The infographic was created to help the reader cut back on the number of hours they spend on social sites, and teach them how to be more productive on the social web.

As a personal exercise, I am following the suggestions in the infographic to see what result, if any, it has on our iASP Central social media profiles.

To refresh your memories, the infographic split the daily tasks of a social media manager into 3 groups: Content, Community Management and Growth.

Content includes curating, crafting, posting and scheduling content for social media.
Community Management includes responding, listening, engaging and helping.
Growth includes measuring, analyzing(sic), planning and experimenting.

In the previous article, I followed the Content group suggestions, and resulted in our content collecting activities being made easier and our content scheduling processes a lot more streamlined.

For this second leg of the journey, I'm going through the Community Management group suggestions.

The infographic lists Tools and Steps to help with the daily community management tasks.

The Tools:

  • Mention
  • Commun.it
  • Manage
  • Flitter
  • e-Mail notifications

The Steps:

  1. Reply (or schedule the reply) to all mentions of your name/brand across the Internet using a tool called Mention.
  2. Double check the notifications section inside all your social media channels for missed interactions.
  3. After addressing the mentions, start engaging.
    1. Respond to the post comments.
    2. Respond to any direct mentions.
    3. Answer any questions involving your product.
    4. Answer questions about your niche and industry with the use of Hashtags.
    5. Engage with your customers or influencers.

So here we go, onto the second leg of our journey...

Step 1: Reply to all mentions of your name/brand across the Internet using Mention.

Mention positions itself as a real-time media monitoring application.

You can sign up on the website for a 14 day trial, after which, you can upgrade, or as the website says you can fall back to their free account, which allows you to manage one alert.

After signing up, the next step is to create an alert.

An alert will collect all mentions containing a keyword, typically your business name. If you go into the advanced settings however, you can expand on this to include variants or other keywords, up to a maximum of five.

After creating your alert, you next manage your sources and languages. In most cases you would select All Sources, and we'll just monitor the English Language for now.

The last step is to integrate your social media profiles and website.

At this step, I have trouble. I can't finish the process. I have no idea why, as I was able to link our Twitter and Facebook profiles successfully. It seems to be an issue with our website.

After a little investigative playing, I find that it is adding our website as a keyword in the alert step. Because I had already added 5 keywords, after adding the website as a keyword, I was over the limit. A bit of poor usability feedback there...so I remove a keyword, and shabang, I can complete the set up process.

Now I'm taken to more steps: to invite users, set up access to additional devices and platforms (skip and skip), and finally I get to have a look at my alert results.

Straight away we have 6 mentions listed, although, all but one are from our own Twitter account. The settings for our account seem to indicate that our own social media mentions (our own posts, tweets, etc) will be ignored, but they are showing up anyway. I think I'll need to leave this for a few days to process and settle itself down.

The next step in the infographic is to reply to all mentions of our name or brand.

There is only one, a blog which gathers and lists articles about social media, that has included my first article (!!). So I set up a reply to thank them for including our article. So simple.

Now that that's done, let's move on to the next step.

Step 2: Double check the notifications section inside all your social media channels for missed interactions.

I check our Facebook and Twitter accounts for missed interactions, and aside from messages asking if we want to buy likes (which we aren't into), there are none.

That was an easy step, though hopefully you'll have more interactions to reply to when you do this for yourself.

Step 3: Start engaging

Now that I have everything set up, engagement should be a lot easier.

I'll continue to monitor my alert results on Mention. But for now, I have nothing to engage with. So I've reached the end of the second leg.

That was all relatively simple.

Summary

At the end of the second leg of the journey to becoming more productive on social media, I have:

  • Created an alert on Mention that is gathering all mentions of our brand name across the Internet.
  • Replied to all recent and relevant mentions.
  • Set myself up to be ready to engage future mentions.
I definitely want to do some research on social media etiquette and advice for engagement on social media.

For example, I want to know when I should favourite and when I should be replying? Should I favourite a mention? Or is it better to reply? Or do I favourite and reply and retweet every mention?

I mean, I don't want to be "that account".

I'll also take this opportunity to list some other real-time media monitoring applications, if Mention isn't your cup of tea.

Hootsuite is recommended by many, if you only want to monitor the social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). Tweetdeck is useful for monitoring Twitter. And lastly, Google Alerts might also be useful for you.

They all work fairly similarly, gathering and displaying results of posts or tweets that mention a keyword or phrase. They're also handy to keep a finger on the pulse of particular terms, allowing you to see what other people are saying about terms relative to your industry.

I see many social media gurus using multiple monitoring applications to keep a blanket watch over the Internet. Some applications monitor particular sources and channels more effectively than others, so using more than one can ensure that you aren't missing anything.

Of course, by just keeping a regular eye on your own social media accounts, you will easily be able to monitor and engage your immediate social media interactions with your direct audience.

Many of these other applications allow you to sniff out the indirect mentions and conversations (like people discussing your brand in forums for example).

Next week, we head off on the third and final leg of the journey to becoming more productive on social media - and the topic is Growth.
Don't miss it!

If you have any questions or comments about my journey so far, hit me up on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part One

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part One

Becoming More Productive on Social Media - Part One

The QuickSprout Blog posted an infographic back in May 2015, titled "How to Be More Productive on Social Media".

The infographic was created to help the reader cut back on the number of hours they spend on social sites, and teach them how to be more productive on the social web.

Cutting back the number of hours I spend on social sites is something I want to do, and becoming more productive on the social web is something I want to learn.

I thought it would be a great personal exercise to follow the suggestions in the infographic, and see what result, if any, it had on our iASP Central social media profiles.

It is also knowledge I felt would benefit our regular blog readers, so I thought it would share with you - my journey to becoming more productive on social media.

Before I start, I'll briefly share our current social media strategy so far: iASP Central has a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a Google+ page.

We regularly post our blog articles, and a regular #FridayFunny post, along with shout-outs of new websites that we publish for our clients, and occasionally we share links to articles that we consider to be important or valuable to our client base.

We also have a Klout score of 45 (at the time of writing), because I read about Klout when first starting as our social media manager and thought it would be cool to test it out.

Now before heading off on my journey, I will first work out what I am going to be doing.

The infographic splits the daily tasks of a social media manager into 3 groups: Content, Community Management and Growth.

Content consists of the tasks of curating, crafting, posting and scheduling content for social media.
Community Management consists of the tasks of responding, listening, engaging and helping.
Growth consists of the tasks of measuring, analyzing(sic), planning and experimenting.

For the first leg of this journey, I will be going through the Content group suggestions.

The infographic lists some tools and 5 steps I can take to help me with the daily content tasks.

The Tools:

  • Content Sources: Nuzzel / Digg Deeper / Swayy
  • Gathering Tools: Feedly
  • Streamline Tools: Pocket / IFTTT
  • Scheduling Tools: Buffer / Hootsuite

The Steps:

  1. Feedly to gather content.
  2. Setup Pocket's automatic intergration with Feedly to add articles to your list with 1 click.
  3. Setup IFTTT (If This Then That), so when you "Favorite"(sic) an article in Pocket, it will automatically be sent to Buffer queue.
  4. Collect stories, you can grab anything and everything that catches your eye or seems like it might be helpful for your audience to read.
  5. Comb through the curated content and remove anything that doesn't apply.

Reading through these steps, I notice some familiar names of tools that I have heard of from other sources. Many I haven't heard of before though.

And now, to head of on the first leg of the journey.
Let's see how I go.

Step One - Set up Feedly.

Before I get to Feedly, I notice that the infographic has listed a few websites as content sources, so let's have a look to see what they are.

Nuzzel - Nuzzel is a website that allows you to collect all of the articles shared by your social media friends/followers in one easy source. This sounds pretty handy, so lets sign up.

I link Nuzzel to our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and almost instantly I am given a list of articles, ordered by share popularity (shared by friends / people we follow).

If anything, it looks like Nuzzel will be a good way to see what topics our peers are sharing and discussing. I can also configure Nuzzel to send me an e-Mail once a day with a list of the most shared articles for the previous day.

Digg Deeper - Digg Deeper "now shows you the most-shared stories from your Twitter friends". Just like Nuzzel, I connect Digg Deeper to our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts and it gives me a list of articles being shared on our Twitter feed.

At first glance, to be honest, I'm left feeling confused. The interface is difficult to navigate. The posts listed as being the most shared aren't going to be useful for our audience.

Either I haven't set it up properly, or we aren't the right type of user. In either case, I'm going to keep an eye on it to see if it turns into more after time.

Swayy - Swayy "helps you discover the most engaging content to share with your audience on social media based on their interests and engagement".

After signing up, like the two before, I get a dashboard of articles that are suggestions for me to share. Rather than being a list of the articles being shared by friends however, Swayy appears to provide a list of articles from unselected sources that relate to us.

Compared to the first two, Swayy looks swish. It will provide me with analytics of the articles that I share through the website. It provides a list of topics matched for our audience, based on our profile (after connecting our Swayy account to our Facebook and Twitter accounts). Swayy also has a browser plug-in to make it easier to share articles that I find while surfing the web.

So after all of that, I'm left feeling like I have at least two good sources for content to share that I know is going to be relevant and valuable for our social media audience.

Now let's have a look at Feedly.

The first thing I read upon loading the Feedly website is "All your blogs, organized, and easy to read.".

It looks like I'm going to gather all of the blogs and websites that I regularly check for articles into one list. There is no need to sign up, I simply log in using our Twitter account.

Then I search for all of the blogs and websites that I read and use as content sources. Feedly recommends a minimum of 3. I pass that target without any effort.

Feedly has a free account, which you can use to share to Facebook and Twitter. But to share to other websites such as Buffer, Hootsuite or IFTTT (which were mentioned above), you need to upgrade to the Pro account. This will be interesting then.

Step Two - Set up pocket.

Pocket is a website/browser plug-in combination that allows me to mark a webpage / article I am reading for future reference.

After signing up to the Pocket website, and installing the plugin, I test it out by visiting the QuickSprout article, and clicking the plugin button. Success! I saved my first item to Pocket.

Viewing the article in my Pocket List, I can share it on Facebook/Twitter/Buffer, and I can assign tags.

Pocket seems pretty easy to use. I can see it replacing the folder of bookmarks I maintain for Good Articles to Share. Now I just add them to Pocket.

Step Three - Set up IFTTT to automatically schedule Pocket favourites into Buffer.

I've heard about IFTTT before, though I heard it referred to as If This Then That.

It allows you to write scripts (or recipes, as they call them) to automate things you do every day. For example, you can set up IFTTT to automatically tweet a photo on your Twitter when you upload a photo to your Instagram. It sounds pretty amazing.

After signing up, I'm given a list of recommended recipes, and I have to say, it looks promising. I can do things like automatically update our twitter profile picture if our Facebook profile picture changes, or send myself an e-Mail when the President signs a new law (wait, what?).

Getting back on task however, I want to create a recipe to automatically add an article that I favourite in Pocket into our Buffer queue. So the first thing I will need to do is create a Buffer account.

Setting up a Buffer account is relatively straight forward, and after connecting our 3 social media accounts to it, I'm now ready to set up a recipe to link Pocket to Buffer.

There is probably already a recipe to do this, but I want to learn for myself, so I create a new recipe. It's surprisingly easy.

First I select Pocket for the IF part of the recipe, and select which of the available recipe ingredients I want to use.

Next I search for Buffer for the THEN part of the recipe, and again select from the options.

Then I put it in the oven at 180 degrees for 45 minutes... no, I click Create, and it's done. Now to test it out, which takes me to...

Step Four - Collect stories.

Going back to Feedly, I search through the many, many lists of articles from the blogs I added before, and pick three.

Using the Pocket browser plug-in, I save the articles to my list. Then I view the list on the Pocket website, and click the star alongside each to Favourite them.

Now, I'll check our Buffer account, and lo and behold, the three articles are sitting there, scheduled to be posted to Facebook.
It's all working.
So now there is one final step for the first part of this journey.

Step Five - Comb through the curated content.

And looking at the Buffer schedule, I definitely want to do this.

Because of the limitations of the IFTTT recipe, the scheduled posts only have the title of the article, along with the tags I set in Pocket when adding the article to my list.

This is a bit too simplistic for me, so I manually edit each, and add a little more to the posts.
Save, and they're ready to go.

Phew! I made it!

So at the end of the first leg on my journey to becoming more productive on social media, I have:

  • Found two new sources for content (which also highlights content that our peers are posting).
  • Gathered all of our content sources into a single source.
  • Set up a post schedule and streamlined the collection and review of our shared posts.


Of course, I have lots of tinkering to do with all of the new accounts and services that I've just signed up for.

I need to test Buffer to make sure it is posting messages correctly, and in a format that suits our needs.
I need to check that everything is linked together properly and communicating properly.
And I want to play with IFTTT a little more to see what else I can automate.

But once all the kinks and creases have been ironed out, the whole set up should hum along nicely.
Now I just need to train our other staff to use it too!

Next week, I head of on the second leg of my journey to becoming more productive on social media - community management tasks.
Stay tuned!



If you have any questions or comments about my journey so far, hit me up on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


How Much Is That Like There In The Window?

How Much Is That Like There In The Window?

How Much Is That Like There In The Window?

6 Steps to Better Social Media Campaign ROI

In our last blog article - How Much ROI Should Social Media ROI If Social Media Could ROI? - we considered what a reasonable expectation of return on investment (ROI) from social media is, from the point of view of a small business trying to build and grow their on-line social media community.

To quickly re-cap, we essentially concluded the expectation of a ROI on social media can be like the expectation of winning the lottery. Don't play the game expecting to win, play to be in the game.

Of course you shouldn't leave it all to chance.

Review and analyse the effectiveness of your activities to determine those that generate the most engagement and adapt your strategy to suit.

Counting the number of Likes and Re-tweets each post you publish receives will most likely only result in heartburn and ulcers, but that doesn't mean expecting a ROI for certain social media activities is insane, in fact it's very rational, especially when expectations are framed within the context of the following.

So, let's look at our 6 Steps to Better Social Media Campaign ROI:

Step #1: Set a Goal - What is the primary aim of the campaign? Are you aiming to increase your eStore sales during a promotion? Are you trying to collect new business leads?

Step #2: Define a conversion - What action or result will count as a 'hit'? Following the two examples above, a conversion may be a completed sale, or submission of a Contact Us form.

Step #3: Differentiate & Measure Conversions - If the goals you have set are similar to goals you have for your website, which they likely will be, you need to determine how you will differentiate conversions generated through your social media channels against conversions that were not generated through social media.

In the case of sales, it may be by counting the number of sales that used a particular promotional code that you only publish on your social media channels, or in the case of submitting a form, you may track submissions through a dedicated form or via a shared link that contains a variable. Depending on your analytics tools, you may be able to track visits to your website (or a particular page) that originated from social media websites that end with a completed sale or form submission.

Note: The iASP™ platform features a highly functional affiliate and referral tracking system that automatically tracks the source of visits, enquiries and sales.

Step #4: Calculate your return - How much was each conversion worth?

There are two methods you can use to determine this:

  1. Using data: Calculate the average total of the orders you received during the campaign (as per your tracking analytics). Or you can calculate the average lifetime value of the leads that you received over the campaign.
  2. Use a guesstimate: If you don't have enough historical data to help you, make an educated guess. For example, how much would you estimate to earn from your new customers? How much would you estimate customers spent?

Step #5: Calculate your investment - How much you spent on the campaign?

Your investment costs will be the total of things like:

  • How much it cost to plan, execute and manage the campaign.
  • How much it cost for graphic design.
  • How much it costs for the analytics tools you are using.
  • How much you paid to boost/promote/advertise your posts.

Step #6: Crunch the numbers - Now it's time to calculate your return on investment using the simple formula:

ROI = (Return - Investment) / Investment.


Summary:

Don't be disheartened by the results of any individual campaign, the key is to test and measure and evolve an approach that over time connects and engages with your audience.

Remember that social media can be very hit and miss. In our experience content generates engagement both above and below expectations.

The element that many people seem to overlook in social media analysis is mood and emotion. It changes from time to time in humans, and mood is very difficult to measure because it can be affected very quickly and very easily by factors so far removed that not even those affected couldn't tell they were being affected. For example, my football team just lost, so now I'm not in the mood to read a post I normally would.

The key to success is adaptation and experimentation.

Review your campaigns, try to identify why they did or didn't perform. Keep trying something different and comparing the results.



Resources:



How you ever calculated the ROI of a social media campaign you ran? How did you go? Let's discuss on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


How Much ROI Should Social Media ROI If Social Media Could ROI?

How Much ROI Should Social Media ROI If Social Media Could ROI?

How Much ROI Should Social Media ROI If Social Media Could ROI?

Trying to calculate success on social media* is similar to trying to determine if your joke will be funny amongst the group. To then determine if the time and money you put into the joke was worth the laughs, that is equivalent to calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) of your efforts on social media.

I mean sure, a couple of people chuckled and you got a few thumbs up from your friends, but are you really going to pick up stumps after a lacklustre response and go find a better group to socialise with? One that will laugh really hard at ALL your jokes?

Yes, reviewing the analytics of your social media efforts is a valuable exercise, as it allows you to identify the level of interaction you have with your audience and adjust it accordingly with the aim to hopefully increase your level of interaction (and as all honest social media managers will agree with, we mean hopefully). But to expect a set level of financial return from your social interaction is lunacy. It's basically saying that the only reason you are there is to make money, which, if you said directly to your social media audience, would cause them to instantly unlike and unfollow you, guaranteeing that your social media ROI is now zero.

For a small business, being on social media is like giving good customer service. You don't have to do it, but doing so creates a special connection with some of your customers who then go on to speak good things about you. A positive result that isn't achieving great returns, but it is a better result than the alternative.

Another metaphor I could use is that social media presence is like putting $5 in a savings account every week, or like planting the seed of a fruit tree in the back yard. You aren't going to get any immediate returns, instead, you're looking for future growth. And maybe 5 - 10 years down the track, after giving the tree enough nourishment to grow and the right conditions to grow in, you'll be rewarded for your efforts with plentiful fruit, just ripe for the picking. Or just as likely, you'll find that you should have checked the soil first because apple trees don't grow in clay you num-num.

Our advice has always been to get on social media, in the very least, on the major platforms. Then, just maintain a presence that suits your business, and suits you. Don't feel that you need to compete with the big leagues. You don't need 10+ posts every day, posted at the optimal time to get the most views. I mean, if you compare that to real-world social dynamics, someone who feels the need to say something every few minutes is regarded as an attention seeker, and in most social circles that is a turn-off.

Think about how much you socialise in the real world, and how much your customers socialise in the real world. Are you out every spare moment? Catching up with friends, meeting new people, making new acquaintances? Or do you only socialise now and then?

Co-ordinate your social media presence with your real-world social presence. Post as often as you would go out (I don't mean post at the same time that you go out, just as often).

So throw away the short-term social media ROI targets. Invest as much time as you can or want to into your social media socialising. Make it natural, don't force it. The social media community will treat you the same way you treat them.

And who knows, 5 - 10 years down the track, the compound interest on your regular $5 deposits might hit the roof, and you find a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the social media rainbow.

*Author's Note: Allow me to clarify further. This article has been written for small business readers in mind, who have social media goals along the lines of establishing and growing an on-line community. Their social media Return on Investment is measured in terms of audience engagement and audience size.

If you are marketing and advertising on a larger scale than your website/store-front window, then yes, you will likely have a need to measure the effectiveness of single campaigns in your social media channels against the campaigns in your other media channels.

You will need to determine how views and likes and favourites and retweets compare to broadcasts and impressions and reach. You will then need to create models that estimate how many likes and retweets converted into direct sales, and compare it against how many television advert views converted into direct sales. All this so you can then decide how much the $$ you put into social media compared to the $$$$$$$$ you put into advertising on traditional media channels.

Or you could just justify it like a company justifies spending $$ on t-shirts, hats, mugs and keyrings to hand out at a conference. You'll create a bit of brand awareness from the few people walking around with your logo on their head or in their hands; and you might get two people actually call you for work. Unless you were the life of the party, in which case you may get 10 people call you and slightly more brand recognition.

If you really must know how valuable your social media efforts are in terms of creating leads or sales, then journey onto our next article: How Much Is That Like There In The Window?

Investing in social media is like investing in a lottery ticket. It may pay off, and it may not. You can buy several tickets in all of the games every week and still have average returns, and every now again you might get a big win. It's true, you've gotta be in it to win it, just don't go blowing your budget expecting to win big.



Further Reading:



What Return on Investment do you set for social media? Are you reaching it? Let's discuss on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Perfect Content Images in 5 Easy Steps

Perfect Content Images in 5 Easy Steps

Perfect Content Images in 5 Easy Steps

From showcasing products, to providing visual support to the text on the page, images can maketh or breaketh a website*. As Andy Warhol famously said - "I never read, I just look at pictures", and we all know "a picture says a thousand words".

When it comes to selling products on-line, there are countless studies proving the benefit of images in relation to conversion rates and as a provider of platforms that have processed millions of on-line transactions dating back to the 1990's, we've learned that quality images are often the difference between making sales and not.

We actively encourage all clients using our iASP™ platform, which provides full control over all content published (text, images, movies, files etc.), to invest in production of quality, original images, which can then be adjusted to suit the layout of the area they are publishing.

Providing your photographer or designer with the final image specifications you require is always the perfect option, but if you have images that still need further manipulation we've put together our simple 5-step process to creating perfect content images.

Before you start you'll need image editing software. You can pay for professional level applications such as Adobe Photoshop (like we do), but there's cheaper and even free options available. Today we're going to use a free image editor that is available on-line called Pixlr Editor. It's similar to Adobe Photoshop, and it is very easy to use.


Step #1: Find the recommended image dimensions.
Your images will need to be made a specific width and height, depending on how/where you want to use them. For example, an image used in the banner of your website will need to be a lot wider than an image that is used on an inner page.

For iASP™ Clients:

  • Navigate to the page you plan to use the image on, and edit the record.
  • The image field should have a recommended width and height either under the image label, or in a tool-tip alongside the image picker tool. If not, please just copy the address of the page you want to add the image into and e-mail it to us asking for optimum image dimensions
  • If you are creating a new image for the banner of your website, then you can find the recommended dimensions in the Banner module of the CMS Control Panel.

Step #2: Open the original image.
Next you want to load the image into your image editing application.

  • Open Pixlr Editor in your web browser (or you can use your usual image editing software).
  • Click File in the menu at the top of the application, and then select Open Image
  • Find the image on your computer and select it, press Open.

Step #3: Crop the Image
Now you want to crop out the part of the image that you want to use:

  • Select the Crop tool
  • In the tool options that appear under the menu, select Aspect Ratio from the Constraint options.
  • Enter the recommended image width from Step 1 in the Width box
  • Enter the recommended image height from Step 1 in the Height box.
  • In the image window, drag the mouse to create a crop box over the image. Then use the mouse to drag the edges of the crop box to cover the part of the image you want to keep.
    • This is usually as large as you can make it, or enough to cover the subject of the image.
  • When you are happy with your crop selection, crop the image by hitting enter, or double clicking inside of the crop box. The parts of the original image that were outside of the crop box should disappear.

Step #4: Resize the Image
If you are starting with a high resolution image, in most cases, your newly cropped image will still be larger than the recommended image size in step 1, so you need to resize the image down to the correct width and height.

  • Select Image from the top menu, and then select Image Size
  • Tick the Constrain Proportions box.
  • Enter the recommended image width from Step 1 in the Width box
  • Enter the recommended image height from Step 1 in the Height box.
  • Press Ok.

Step #5: Save the Image

  • Select File from the top menu, and then select Save
  • Select My Computer from the options in the left column
  • Enter a name for the image file
  • Select the Format
    • For photographs, always select JPEG
    • For images that are graphics, or that require transparent areas, select PNG
  • For JPEG, adjust the quality slider until the size is around 100Kb, increase the quality if the image looks pixelated or boxy.
    • The smaller the file size, the faster the image will load.
  • Select the location on your computer to save the image into and press Save.

And Viola (that's her name, don't wear it out), you now have an image perfect for your website.



Pro Tip: Before saving the image, have a look in the Adjustment menu at the top. Experiment with Colour Vibrance or Curves to change the colour balance of your images. You can also apply some automatic filters like Sepia or Old Photo to create different effects.



Resources:



How do you create your images? Got any little tips or tricks that you'd like to share? Let us know on our iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.

*A statement supported by this website: Be Seen In 2015.


10 Ways To Satisfy Your Customer's Privacy Concerns

10 Ways To Satisfy Your Customer's Privacy Concerns

10 Ways To Satisfy Your Customer's Privacy Concerns

In case you missed it, last week was Privacy Awareness Week.

With over 700,000 Australians becoming victim to on-line identity theft in just the past year, protecting customers on-line privacy is one of the most critical issues website publishers must consider.

Under Australian Law, the privacy rights of Australians are protected by the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act), which relates to the protection of personal information about an individual that does or could identify them.

According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the Privacy Act outlines the "standards, rights and obligations for the handling, holding, accessing and correction of personal information" which privacy law aims to protect.

It may surprise you to know that most Australian small-businesses are not covered by the Privacy Act, meaning they have no responsibility to ensure the privacy of their customer information.

There are however moral and commercial pressures: online privacy is already so important to some customers that it is a determining factor when choosing one eStore over another.

So what can eStores do to allay the fears of increasingly privacy-conscious customers?

We've put together 10 simple but powerful tactics that website owners can use to reduce the fears of customers that are concerned about their on-line privacy:

  1. Ensure that areas of the website that collect personal information (such as the registration form, or the checkout payment page) are secured using HTTPS - Consumers are now learning to "look for the lock" and discriminate if they don't see it. (Pro Tip: Make the whole website HTTPS secure).

  2. Only collect personal details that are absolutely necessary to conduct business - If you don't need it to conduct your business, don't collect it. The more personal information a customer needs to fill into a form, the more wary they become. (Pro Tip: Never collect a customers Date of Birth unless it is a legal requirement for your industry)

  3. Have a clear and easy to understand Privacy Policy, that is easily accessible and visible - Don't just put your Privacy Policy in a small link at the bottom of your website, link to it where ever you are collecting personal information and make it very clear that privacy is important to you.

  4. Clearly state the personal information that you will AND will not collect and what you will do with this information - This allows customers to know exactly what personal information and why they need to provide it. 

  5. Give visitors access to view the information that has been collected about them, and allow them to update it easily. 

  6. Don't use sensitive personal information which could identify a customer in e-Mail or newsletters - e-Mail is an insecure medium. Not only is a bad idea to include sensitive personal information in e-Mail, it also decreases customer confidence when they see their personal details being sent over an insecure medium. (Pro Tip: Never send a clear password in an e-mail: instead send a partially masked password hint or preferably, allow the customer to re-set their password securely)     

  7. Encourage your customers to protect their personal information by using strong passwords, and to change them regularly - Protecting privacy is as much a responsibility of the customer as it is of the business

  8. Where appropriate, allow visitors to interact with your website anonymously - It isn't always necessary to collect personal information to conduct business. This may just be a case of allowing the customer to browse without needing to register first, or allowing them to post comments anonymously.

  9. Opt-In to the Australian Privacy Act, and advertise this fact - Show your commitment to good privacy practice by opting into the Australian Privacy Act. Doing so will have your business name added to the public Opt-In Register, which can increase consumer confidence and trust.

  10. Have a data breach response plan - as some organisations such as eBay have learned, honesty and open communications are the best policies to keep customers informed. A response plan will not only serve to decrease the impact on the affected individuals, having such a plan can also improve customer confidence.


Personal privacy is a very important part of everyday life, and this extends to using the Internet including sending and receiving e-mail, browsing the Web, using social media and especially shopping on-line.

Anything website and eStore operators do to improve customer confidence, including addressing increasingly important privacy concerns, should improve customer experience and satisfaction, and a happy customer is much more likely to be a returning customer.



If you are unsure whether your business needs to comply with the Australian Privacy Act, you can use the OAIC Privacy Checklist for Small Business .



Resources:


The Shocking Truth: Are Tablets a "Mobile Device"?

The Shocking Truth: Are Tablets a "Mobile Device"?

The Shocking Truth: Are Tablets a Mobile Device?

As we addressed in our last blog article, there's confusion over what Google considers to be a "mobile-friendly" format (as we highlighted, it's not just limited to "responsive design", as some so called experts would have you believe). Likewise, we've discovered debate and confusion over what is considered to be a "mobile" device.

There are now so many gadgets that allow us to browse the Internet - not only personal computers, laptops and notebooks; but also tablets, phablets, smart-phones, e-Readers, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's), gaming consoles, hand-held gaming devices, televisions, even fridges - but which of these devices fall under the category of a mobile device?

Wikipedia defines a mobile device as "a small computing device, typically small enough to be hand-held... having a display screen with touch input and/or miniature keyboard and weighing less than 1kg".

W3Schools, a trusted industry reference, simplifies the definition even further, stating: "A mobile device is a pocket-sized computing device."

Therefore we can agree that to be classified as "mobile" device, the device must be small and light. This clearly rules out personal computers, gaming consoles, televisions and fridges.

And it seems that being "portable" is not the same as being "mobile". Laptop / notebook computers are certainly portable, but not small enough to be pocket-sized, or light enough to fall into the mobile device category.

We can also conclude, that to be a true mobile device, it must be hand-held with a touch-screen (to use fingers or a tool such as a stylus) or mini-keyboard so the device can be used effectively while moving about.

So smart-phones, e-Readers and PDA's can confidently be added to the list of "mobile" devices (and let's be clear that we are only referring to the e-Readers and PDA's that allow you to connect to and browse the World Wide Web.

But what about tablets and phablets?.

On the one hand, tablets/phablets are small and light enough to be hand-held, they have a display screen with touch input, and a miniature keyboard.

On the other hand, they are used very differently to a smart-phone or an e-Reader.

In fact, research shows that the majority of tablet use is at home, workplace or other fixed location, which gives a clear distinction from a smart-phone or PDA, and also a clear distinction between "mobile" and "portable".

A "mobile" device is used while you are mobile, on the go, and needs to be convenient to use while you are moving about.

A tablet isn't convenient to use while on the go (as anyone who has tried would attest). A tablet is just a smaller, compact version of a laptop computer. So from an industry point of view, tablets in fact fall into the desktop category.

Phablets on the other hand - well they're just inconveniently big smart-phones. Too small to be useful as a laptop computer, and some would say too big to be useful as a phone. But, because of the way that they are used - on the go - these technological anomalies fall into the mobile category.

Wow! So the term "mobile" doesn't relate to the device being wireless, or being physically connected to anything, the term "mobile" refers to the mobility of the user when using the device - or to put it another way, the classification depends on user context.

This is an important distinction, because it now changes the way we should think about "mobile" device, and also the way we think about the term "mobile-friendly".

"Mobile-friendly" isn't just making a website display well on a mobile-device, it's about making the end-goal of the mobile user far simpler on a mobile device, taking into account the facts that mobile users are mobile - moving about, time-poor, often with distractions about and lacking the same tools that desktop devices available to use.

The iASP™ platform has been publishing simultaneously desktop "mobile" device friendly websites since 2006 and the majority of our clients will benefit from Google's changes as their non-mobile-friendly competition pay the price for their lack of foresight.

The good news is it's not too late to invest in a mobile friendly website so if you would like to know more please contact us for a confidential discussion.

Resources:



Thinking of making your website more mobile-friendly? What do you think it involves? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

For as long as Google has been the dominant authority in on-line search, there's been an entire industry dedicated to improving Google rankings: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialists.

The gold rush saw countless businesses and individuals stepping up to the task of getting websites to the top of Google search results, and for many website owners, the call of an SEO specialist was an attractive one, after all, who wants to be anything but #1 in Google search results?

Alas, the SEO industry never enjoyed the best of reputations, as some "specialists" relied on fear tactics, and resorted to black-hat techniques and strategies to deliver their results.

One popular strategy was link farming, where websites filled with nothing but links pointing to one another popped up all over the Internet. Keyword stuffing was another popular technique, resulting in web pages repeating the same word or phrase over and over again, but not really providing any useful information to the searcher.

The consequence of such tactics was of course to lower the quality of search results.

A search for "Accountant Melbourne" for example, could return a website for an Accountant in Sydney that had taken on the services of an SEO specialist that was targeting (hi-jacking) the search phrases "Accountant Sydney", "Accountant Melbourne", "Accountant Brisbane", etc. Not very useful for someone in Melbourne searching for a local accountant.

So the eternal struggle between Google and SEO specialists began and has raged ever since. Google continuously modify and update their search algorithms to ensure that their search results return the most meaningful or useful websites being searched for.

Google's efforts have made it increasingly difficult for SEO specialists to make a living so perhaps it isn't surprising to see that the use of misleading information is sometimes used by SEO practitioners in an attempt to scare website owners into paying for SEO services that they don't fully understand.

One of our many valued clients, a Sydney based professional service provider, asked our opinion of some e-Mail marketing material they had received from a Melbourne based Internet Marketing company.

The e-Mail informed our client that "Google is on the cusp of changing its algorithm to favour responsive sites!" and went on to state that "On April the 21st, Google will change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.".

The e-Mail then went as far to say "If your website is NOT responsive, you WILL get left behind." (bold and emphasis not added, it is exactly as it was in the original e-Mail).

The e-Mail then briefly explained what a responsive website is, and ended with "Get in touch with us before the algorithm changes on April 21st to find out how we can help you create a responsive site. The investment is worth considering if you want to be found online and generate optimum conversion rates!".

The e-Mail contained a link to back up it's claim that "Google will change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal", which pointed to Google's Webmaster Central Blog, an article titled "Finding more mobile-friendly search results".

The article does discuss how Google will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal which will affect mobile searches, making it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages. The article then offers steps what website owners can follow to make their website mobile-friendly.

Strangely though, the article does not once mention the word "responsive", or mention anything about the explicit need for a responsive website to meet their mobile-friendly requirements.

We tested several of our non-responsive websites in Google's Mobile-Friendly Test, and all passed with flying colours.

We contacted the Internet Marketing to query their statement that a website MUST be responsive to ensure that it is mobile-friendly, and their response was that it was only an opinion that a website does not need to be responsive to pass the mobile-friendly test, and they did not wish to discuss this opinion with us.

It was also recommended that we do some more research into the topic. So we did.

A Google search for "does google favour responsive websites?" returns many recent blog articles with titles stating that Google does indeed favour responsive websites. Upon reading such articles however, you find that the term "responsive" is quickly replaced with the term "mobile-friendly".

Not one article showed any evidence that a website that isn't using a responsive design would be affected, let alone penalised by Google's algorithm change.

To say that "Google favours responsive websites" gives the impression that having a responsive website will provide an SEO boost, and deliver you a higher ranking in their search results, which just isn't true.

The statement is misleading, unlike the statement "Google favours mobile-friendly websites", which is completely true.

While a responsive website design is Google's recommended design pattern (because it reduces the workload for their googlebots), it is important to note that, in regards to Google search results, there is zero gain in having a responsive design website over alternative types of mobile-friendly websites.

There are many different ways to have a mobile-friendly website, and a responsive design website is just one of those ways. You could also have an adaptive website, or a completely separate mobile website.

The simple fact is, you DO NOT NEED a responsive design website to have a mobile-friendly website, but YOU DO need a mobile-friendly website to ensure that your website will be included in Google search results on mobile devices. Desktop search results will remain unaffected.

Google does not care what type of mobile-friendly website you have. As long as your website is mobile-friendly, you do not need to rush out and upgrade to a responsive design website before the April 21st deadline.

The iASP™ system has been providing single-solution, mobile-friendly websites to our clients since 2006 that don't require content to be duplicated or for two separate websites to be managed.

So before rushing off to pay top dollar rebuilding your website unnecessarily, why not get an honest opinion from an honest company about the best web solution for your business needs.

Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Try Google's own Mobile-Friendly Test or Get in Touch.


Further Reading:

Note: * denotes source of misleading information.



Got your own opinion about responsive vs. mobile-friendly? Do both terms mean the same thing? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs

5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs

5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs
What is a URL?

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator), is the web address of resources such as web pages, images and files on the Internet.

For example, the URL of the home page of the iASP Central website is http://www.iaspcentral.com while the URL of the Blog section of the iASP Central website is: http://www.iaspcentral.com/Home/blog.aspx.

Search Engines like Google "crawl" the Internet and index all of the URLs they can find in a directory, that we then use to search for things on the Internet.

Like any listing in a phone book or an address book, the easier the number or address is to use, the more favourable the number/address is. Search engine indexes are no different.

So what steps can you take to create better URLs for your website?

  1. Make URLs Meaningful

    The more meaningful a URL is, the more useful it is around the Internet, and you create meaning by using keywords.

    For example - the URL http://www.example.com.au/shop.html?pid=123&catid=456&anid=789 versus the URL http://www.example.com.au/shop.html?pid=cotton-tee-red&catid=t-shirts&anid=discounted-items.

    Even though the two URLs are almost identical, the second URL uses keywords related to the page content instead of ID numbers.

    The use of keywords is an advantage for two reasons:

    1. It gives people a better idea of what to expect at the end of a link after reading the URL, which also makes the URL better for sharing.
    2. It adds weight to search engine rankings.

    Avoid "stuffing" your URLs with keywords however, as not only does it unnecessarily increase the length of your URLs, the practice of keyword stuffing is frowned upon.


  2. Keep them Short

    Like addresses and phone numbers, the shorter you can make a URL, the better.

    While the URL www.example.com.au/shop/products/electronics/remote-controlled/helicopters/commando-copter-2.html is a meaningful URL, and includes useful keywords, the length of the URL will become a burden.

    Just like the benefits of using keywords, shorter URLs make for easier reading and easier sharing, particularly on social media platforms with character limits such as Twitter.

    Furthermore, tests by some SEO specialists have shown that shorter URLs also improve the direct traffic to a website1.


  3. Use Hyphens Between Words

    There are many ways to handle multiple words in a URL. YouCouldJoinThemAltogether, but that just makes it look like one long word, which is not useful for search engines.

    Or_you_could_use_underscores, but best practice is to-use-hyphens-to-separate-words.

    The reason for this is Google. Actually, the real reason is the use of the underscore in programming, but Google (and now most search engines) have made this part of the way they index numbers and punctuation.

    Whatever the reason is, it has become universally accepted that hyphens should be used to separate words in URLs.


  4. Make URLs Lower Case

    Consider the URL www.example.com.au/about-us.html versus the URL www.example.com.au/ABOUT-US.html.

    Both URLs should point to the same page, but there is a very good reason for using lower case URLs - some web servers are case sensitive, meaning that about-us.html and ABOUT-US.html are interpreted as two different addresses.

    When a search engine crawls a URL, it will try both versions of the address and dependent on the type of web server hosting the website, it will index the results differently.

    You could either end up with a search engine resolving the two versions of the same URL as being two different pages, or, the search engine will resolve one version and see the other version as a dead page.

    In either case, the result is poorer Search Engine rankings that what could otherwise be achieved by using lower case URLs.


  5. Use HTTPS URLs

    In mid-2014, Google announced that a small Search Ranking boost would be given to HTTPS URLs. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Using HTTPS rather than HTTP allows web browsers and web servers to communicate to each other with an added layer of security and encryption.

    While recent tests by various Search Ranking professionals are showing that, at present, the benefit received by migrating to HTTPS URLS is so low as to barely be worth the effort, small differences can have a big impact so it is still worth considering the switch if you are able to - at the very least you will be providing extra security for your website visitors, and your website will already be in line to receive the ranking boost if and when Google does decide to give HTTPS URLs more weight in their rankings.


Conclusion

After almost 20 years providing content management systems we understand that website administrators generally don't know the first thing about page URL's, and that's why the iASP™ content management system takes care of most of the considerations above automatically.

If your current solution does not support this level of control please contact us to arrange a no obligation demonstration of the  iASP™ platform.

While your page URLs may not be the number one priority when working on your website, a few simple considerations can make a huge difference to Search Rankings.



Resources:

  1. Does URL Structure Even Matter? A Data Driven Answer
  2. 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs
  3. HOW://DOES.YOUR.URL/AFFECT-SEO?
  4. Keep a simple URL structure
  5. Dashes vs. underscores
  6. Never Use Capital Letters in URLs
  7. Report: HTTPS URLs Have No Discernible Ranking Benefit In Google Currently


How do you structure your website URLs? Discuss your URL strategy with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Are Animated GIFs About to Make a Comeback?

Are Animated GIFs About to Make a Comeback?

Are Animated GIFs About to Make a Comeback?

I remember fondly when I "built" my first website. It was back in the late 90's, and it was a GeoCities website.

For the readers that didn't have the Internet so far back, GeoCities was like the Wix or the Weebly of the time.

You can see what your website would have looked like as a GeoCities website using the GeoCities-izer tool. Try it with www.google.com.au

GeoCities was a free website provider with all the tools, bell and whistles one needed to build a state-of-the-art, first class website.

Easily the best feature that GeoCities provided however, aside from the marquee text and fluorescent font colours, was the exhaustive library of animated gifs.

Every GeoCities website used them to great effect, literally (and I don't mean figuratively) displaying dozens and dozens of animated gifs.

Often, the best part of a visiting a GeoCities website was waiting for your web browser to load every gif file, keeping in mind that most Internet connections were 56Kb/s back then.

Sadly, as the popularity of GeoCities started to wane, and around the same time that Flash became popular, animated gifs were ditched like an empty milk carton out a car window on a long, quiet road.

Readers, I have exciting news, as the animated gif looks set for a come back.

In what appears to be a throwback to the heyday, website owners are once again embracing the now "retro-coolness" of adding animated gifs into the content of their websites.

There have even been vocal calls for Facebook and Twitter to add support for animated gifs into feeds and on user pages.

And we here at iASP Central embrace this new movement for many reasons:

  1. Animated gifs are an effective way to catch attention on a page. hot gif
  2. Animated gifs are supported on Apple devices, a major advantage over Flash animation. hot gif
  3. Animated gifs are smaller in file size than video. hot gif
  4. Animated gifs don't require a special player to be installed. hot gif
  5. Animated gifs are treated as images and so can be added almost anywhere into hot gif
  6. Animated gifs are really easy to make. A lot easier than a video, or a Flash animation. hot gif


 spinning earth gifdancing baby gifspinning earth gif 7up spot gif



Are you thinking about adding animated gifs to your website? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.



Page Views: counter gif


Will Social Media Shopping Change the eCommerce Game?

Will Social Media Shopping Change the eCommerce Game?

Will Social Media Shopping Change the eCommerce Game?

Last week we gave you our Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015, which took a snapshot of the predictions from some of the industries' thinkers and influencers.

In our review, we found that improving social commerce is a big part of the plan for this year.


The term "Social Commerce" has been around for the best part of a decade, and refers to the use of social media to support and influence the buying decision of consumers while they are using social media platforms.

The customer was still required to leave the website to complete their purchase however. The platform wasn't the marketplace, just another marketing channel.

This seems set to change in the very near future though, with announcements from the three most popular platforms - Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest - that they will all be introducing shopping services for their users.

Very quickly, social media will transform from a marketing channel, into a marketplace.

Or will it?


There are some major limitations in being able to purchase products on social media platforms.

For example, it will be difficult to convince consumers to purchase a bottle of Coca Cola on Facebook. People buy that product when they are thirsty and want to consume shortly after. Buyers won't wait for it to be delivered.

People won't buy their groceries through social media either.

Woolworths might post an offer for a particular item; but allowing the customer to buy it then and there will result in a loss of the sales they would otherwise gain when the customer shops at one of their stores or on their website; not to mention the delivery nightmare single-item sales will create for them.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum.

Items such as high-end electronics or white goods, where consumers invest a lot of time researching and comparing similar brands and products before purchasing, will also be difficult to offer for sale on social media platforms.

The customer still needs to leave the platform to do their research and comparison, and so you lose the benefit of offering the product for sale on the platform in the first place.


Realistically, the new shopping feature being added to social media platforms will primarily suit one-off, impulse purchases.

Products that businesses are already "selling" on social media such as clothing items or fashion accessories, but who then need to arrange payment and delivery for the goods separately.


For the majority of businesses that are on social media, it is likely that being able to sell directly to their social media audience will not be any more practical or convenient than it is now, and it is not likely to change their social media strategy.


For the most part, eCommerce and social commerce will remain much the same as it is now. In the short-term at least.



Resources:



What do you think about the social media 'Buy' button? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


A Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015

A Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015

A Review of eCommerce Trends for 2015

2014 was a grand year for eCommerce, both globally and locally in Australia. By the end of the 2014 financial year, on-line retail sales in Australia hit AU$15.6 billion, growing 8.6% from the previous year.

On-line stores were no-longer a cheap and tacky looking website with poor product images that left a feeling of uncertainty and doubt in the shopper, but were now professional websites that gave the customer everything they needed and more.

Australian retailers were quick to recognise that eCommerce was no longer a nice-to-have addition to compete with the store up the road, but was now a must-have part of their business if they didn't want to lose their local customers to overseas competitors.

Many industry players have made their predictions for eCommerce trends, and we have reviewed them to distil the most popular predictions for 2015.

An Overview

The overview for eCommerce is that 2015 looks set to maintain the pace gathered in 2014, improving on the lessons learnt from the previous year, and preparing for a big leap coming in the next few years as new technology becomes more widely available and affordable.

Greater Focus on Mobile

Overwhelmingly, a major focus on mobile was the #1 trend prediction.

Mobile shopping habits in Australia are currently shifting from on-line browsing to on-line purchasing, and on-line stores will adapt to this shift.

The focus will be in improving the shopping experience for mobile devices, making it easier and more convenient for customers to shop and purchase on their mobile devices.

Increase in Targeted E-Mail Marketing

Along with the increase in mobile shoppers, e-Mail marketing will also become more important.

It was reported last year that 55% of mobile web users in Australia now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online.

That means that 55% of mobile web users read their e-Mail on their mobile phone, a very direct channel to communicate to customers.

Like websites, e-Mail will become mobile friendly so as to be easier to read on smaller screens, and will become more targeted.

Personalised Shopping Experiences

With an increase in big data being collected around the Web, tailored shopping experiences will become the next big-thing for eStores.

Individualised prices, product recommendations and sales incentives offered to individual customers, timed perfectly for when that customer is in the market to buy a product.

Some industry figures are also predicting personalised products, allowing the customer to essentially make their own product before purchase, similar to what the eStore Shoes of Prey is already doing.

Social Media Selling

Social Media is always a necessary channel to engage customers, and will always be the second best way to maintain long-standing relationships with them.

Very soon however, social media will become the next marketplace to sell directly to your followers.

With both Twitter and Facebook announcing and testing "Buy" buttons on their platforms, retailers will need to be at-the-ready to jump on board as soon as the feature is officially launched.

Of course, the issues of payment, inventory control and order management will be a huge factor in how fast it will be adopted.

Omni-Channel Integration

As technology advances, stores that have both physical and on-line shops will combine the shopping experience offered at both locations.

The most obvious example will be Click-and-Collect purchases, where the customer purchases on-line, but then picks up their order in-store.

Another example - stores that allow customers to pay for their in-store purchase using their mobile device rather than queuing at a checkout.

NFC payment technology such as ApplePay and the similar solutions now being provided by the larger banks will assist this; as will the growth in popularity of mobile/digital wallets.

Greater Competition

In 2014 it became the "norm" for eStores to offer free shipping for all orders, as well as free returns.

In 2015, we will see more eStores offering these incentives as standard, and more, such as same day delivery and loyalty bonuses.



In summary, e-Commerce will become fiercely more competitive in 2015.

We should see larger, better designed eStores popping up and more imaginative strategies to attract customers being played out by retailers.

We expect to also start to see a blur between in-store shopping and on-line shopping.




Resources:



Do you have your own predictions? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


There's More to Social Media than Facebook and Twitter

There's More to Social Media than Facebook and Twitter

There's More to Social Media than Facebook and Twitter

The team at iASP Central were very pleased when we heard that one of our longest serving clients had received an award on an international social media website.

Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture were recently awarded the Houzz Best of 2015 Service Award after being rated at the highest level for client satisfaction by the Houzz Australia community.

Their award isn't a reflection of their presence on the Houzz website, it is a reflection of their contribution to the Houzz community. The service their staff provided to their customers left such an impression, that members of the Houzz community felt it enough to share their experiences with the rest of the Houzz community. And in such a small, but like-minded community, the result was significantly louder.

For us, this is a perfect example of selecting social media platforms that best suit your business goals and your social media goals.

Believe it or not, there are more social media platforms available than just Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Yes, these platforms have the largest number of users, and therefore the largest potential audience. But the Facebook community, and the Twitter community (commonly referred to as the Twitterverse), are so large that it becomes very difficult to break through the clutter of competing posts to encourage interaction that is more than just off-the-cuff likes, favourites and retweets.

Eclipse Handcrafted Furniture have a social presence on all of the major social media platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube. I would go so far as to say that of all the platforms they use, they have found the most valuable interaction with their followers on Houzz.

Houzz Australia is "a platform for home renovation and design, bringing home owners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community." For a manufacturer and retailer of hand-crafted furniture, joining a social media community such as Houzz Australia is a move to target a specific audience, which is difficult or expensive to do on larger platforms. In doing so, Eclipse Furniture have removed the half-interested and not-at-all interested users they would otherwise get on the larger social media platforms, which allows for more meaningful connections to be made with people who share a common interest with the business.

It is similar to presenting your business at a small Trade Show specific for wooden furniture, rather than presenting at a Home Expo. Although smaller, the Trade Show will attract people looking for wooden furniture. They know why they are there, and you know why they are there. While the Home Expo, even though it will attract a significantly larger number of people, it will also bring people that are there for other reasons, and you spend your day trying to attract over people who simply aren't interested.

Our advice, while it does require a bit of extra time, planning and work, it can be well worth the effort of seeking out other on-line communities that exist on the World Wide Web. Whether it be on forums, smaller social media platforms, in chat rooms or on other parts of the Internet. You never know what type of friends you can make.


Welcome to iASP™ CENTRAL

Welcome to iASP™ CENTRAL

Welcome to iASP™ CENTRAL
iASP™ CENTRAL is an online resource for current iASP™ clients and a source of information for potential new clients considering investing into an iASP™ solution.

As of today iASP™ CENTRAL replaces the now retired Hub Com Digital brand.

iASP™ CENTRAL, which is itself powered by iASP™ technology, showcases the Responsive Plus™ capabilities of the iASP™ platform as the site is equally at home on desktop computers, tablets, mobile devices and widescreen TV's.

Apart from highlighting some of the projects we've recently completed, we also regularly publish articles within the Blog that are tailored to the interests of our clients and focus on a variety of topics relating to successful publication and management of corporate websites, e-stores and enterprise software applications.

We invite all iASP™ clients to register to receive the regular iASP™ CENTRAL Client Updates, and we also welcome potential clients considering investment into an iASP™ solution to register to experience some of the communications an iASP™ client receives.

Like all dynamic corporate websites iASP™ CENTRAL is a work in progress and the information and resources available will expand and evolve over time so we invite you visit regularly.

Enjoy your visit to iASP™ CENTRAL, we hope you find the information published useful and if you're in the market for a corporate website, e-store or enterprise software applications please contact us to arrange a no cost, no obligation confidential discussion and demonstration.  


Twelve Steps to successful Christmas eTailing

Twelve Steps to successful Christmas eTailing

Twelve Steps to successful Christmas eTailing

It's less than a month until Santa fires up the Reindeer and eTailers should be squarely focussed on the annual Christmas shopping frenzy that's about to begin.

Like a bear fresh from hibernation, the Christmas Shopper is browsing, looking to feed their appetite, searching for the best deals on the gifts that give the most.

To help get your eStore ready for the Christmas shopping rush, HCD is pleased to provide our 12 Steps to successful Christmas eTailing.

Skipping the menial "make sure you have a reliable website that can handle the increased traffic load", and the "get your mobile website up and running" advice (because as HCD clients, we know you have already completed those steps, but if not feel free to get in touch and we'll do our best to help)...

So, here's HCD's Twelve Steps to successful Christmas eTailing:


Step 1: Plan to create an experience

One thing the Christmas Shopper loves more than the joy of buying the perfect gift, is being swept up in the moment while they are doing it.

Think about how you can boost that emotional connection with the customer during their shopping experience, leaving them wanting to a). share their experience with others, and b). come back for more.


Step 2: Put up some decorations

Break out the box of decorations and go over your website to give it a fresh feel.
Some simple but effective ideas are to:

  • Create a visual impact - Update or modify images to attract attention and create a new look.
  • Rewrite product descriptions - Change the language in your content to suit the moment.
  • Fix or remove any broken links - Nothing will lose a Christmas Shopper faster than a broken link.
  • Review your Returns Policy - Create reassurance for the Christmas Shopper by highlighting any specific conditions for this time of the year, and make the policy page easy to find.
  • Create a special category - Make browsing easy for the Christmas Shopper by putting the hot items front and center.
  • Create a Gift Purchasing Guide - Not only does a guide help the Christmas Shopper make a decision, it adds to the shopping experience.

Step 3: Offer Gift Wrapping / Gift Cards

Take away some of the stress for the Christmas Shopper by providing the peace-of-mind in knowing that the hard part of gift giving (wrapping it) is taken care of.

Create a lasting positive experience by going above and beyond expectations. A little effort can go a long way in this respect.


Step 4: Create a Landing Page

Create a Christmas themed landing page on your website to direct the Christmas Shoppers.

Keep it simple, with a clear call-to-action directives that guide customers onto where they need to go.


Step 5: Install a Live Chat plugin

Unlike real stores, eStores can lack that real-time enquiry and resolution that the Christmas Shopper often relies upon.

Adding a Live Chat feature to your website overcomes this, and allows your staff to answer customer queries while they are at your eStore, ready to buy.


Step 6: Entice the Early Shopper with Promotion Codes

The Early Christmas Shopper is typically calm, but has keener senses to sniff out the best bargains and can afford to be choosy.

Offer an early bird special at the start of the promotion to attract their attention, and reward them for being there at the start.


Step 7: Entice the Late Shopper with Last Minute Offers

The Late Christmas Shopper is usually in a panicked state, franticly searching for any deals that are still available.

Have a refreshing offer on hand to attract them over and satisfy their appetite.


Step 8: Sing your Promotion Loudly

Shout out frequently (but not aggressively) with newsletters to the Christmas Shopper to let them know what you have on offer! Your campaigns should run in parallel with the phases of your promotion:

  • Send a personalised email to loyal customers, with a special incentive just for them.
  • Advise Shoppers of your upcoming promotion start date. Add tips to help in their preparation.
  • Advise Shoppers that the promotion has started.
  • Advise Shoppers that the promotion has reached the middle, offer more incentives.
  • Advise Shoppers that the promotion is about to come to a end (just 1 week to go!!).
  • Advise Shoppers that the promotion ends tomorrow.

Step 9: Create a buzz on Social Media

Support your email campaigns with a social media campaign on your selected channels. You could also run a competition around your promotion to add extra buzz and/or incentive.

Keep your audience in the loop about your promotion's progress, and share the mood and festivities to add that personal touch.


Step 10: Give something back

Help the Christmas Shopper get into the festive spirit with the incentive of receiving something in return for their shopping efforts.

Charitable donations are a good additional incentive to offer during the festive time of the year to create a warm, fuzzy feeling of goodwill.

Small freebie items for the Christmas Shopper also work. And nothing works better than a little, unexpected surprise!


Step 11: Communicate the delivery process

Keep the Christmas Shopper in the loop by letting them know when their order is being processed, when their order is being packed, when it has been shipped, and when they can expect delivery.

The clearer the communication, the happier the Shopper.


Step 12: Follow up with post-Christmas rewards and opportunities

The day after Christmas is, of course, when the Christmas Shopper is ready to buy more. Entice your Christmas Shoppers to return by offering rewards or discounts that can be redeemed after Christmas, or even for a January promotion.


Just have some fun!

Your Christmas Promotion needn't be as stressful as your Christmas shopping.

With a little planning, and well-timed execution, your promotion should run as smoothly as Christmas at Grandma's house.

Spread the joy, share the love, and feed your Christmas Shoppers a feast they'll want to come back for.


Need some Help? If you would like some help to get your Christmas Promotion into gear, Get in Touch. Or if you have some preparation advice of your own that you think we missed, share them with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page.


5 Steps Towards Joining International Social Media

5 Steps Towards Joining International Social Media

5 Steps Towards Joining International Social Media

As the saying goes: business is booming somewhere, you just have to find it.

The Internet has removed many barriers to International business, allowing trade virtually anywhere and at any time and Social media provides business with platforms to communicate and interact with customers like never before.

So it makes sense that if you are going to trade internationally, your business should also socialise internationally.

Global Social Media Communities

In an article published just last year, eMarketer estimates that by 2017, 2.33 billion people will use social media networks around the world.

While Facebook and Twitter are household names in Australia, other countries have developed their own on-line communities.

China, for example, banned websites like Facebook and Twitter, yet nearly half the population are active on their local social media networks. That's over half a billion users that can't be reached through Facebook.

Other countries also have smaller social media networks that are popular amongst niche groups of people, for example Google+ in the United States.

With a little planning and preparation, new business opportunities can be created by branching out into social media communities that would typically be overlooked.

The 5 Steps to Get There

Planning and executing a global Social Media Strategy for an international target audience is very similar to planning and executing a Social Media Strategy for a local audience.

There are 5 steps to follow before joining any international social media network (with a few points to consider along the way):


  1. Select your target country and target audience.

    Points to Consider:

    • What language will you communicate in?

      Targeting countries that speak English will be easier, but don't dismiss countries that speak a foreign language just for that reason. There are many translation services that can be used, such as Google Translate, or see it as an opportunity to learn a new language.

    • What cultural differences should you be aware of?

      The last thing you want to do is offend your audience, so take the time to learn what is acceptable, and what is not. You don't want to get caught out giving the O.K sign when it doesn't mean O.K in a different language.

  2. Identify and join the networks used most frequently by that target audience.

    Points to Consider:

    • How does the audience use a particular social media platform?

      Take the time to learn how your selected audience use and connect on their preferred platform. For example, is it professionals networking, is it a forum style platform, or is it used like Facebook?

    • Individual or combined social media accounts?

      Think about whether you will make one account and post all content from it or make different local accounts for each country you are targeting. It might help to hire a social media manager who will be able to keep track of multiple accounts and respond to queries on all of them.

  3. Create and share content that appeals to that target audience.

    Points to Consider:

    • Individual or shared content?

      Different audiences will respond to different content. You can maintain consistency by sharing the same content across audiences, but ideally, create content that is tailored for your individual audience tastes.

  4. Engage and communicate with the target audience regularly.

    Points to Consider:

    • How will you manage the different time zones?

      Social Media requires interaction - joining conversations, replying to comments, and reacting to situations as they unfold. How will you business manage these events outside of opening hours?

  5. Measure progress. Refine and repeat.

    Points to Consider:

    • How will you measure progress?

      Just as you are tracking and measuring your progress on local social media platforms, how will you manage your key performance indicators on other social platforms?

You could combine several countries into one strategy and target a shared audience; or you could have individual strategies for each country, allowing you to target individual audiences with greater focus.

Get Out There, Be Seen, Say Hello

While creating a presence on social media networks in other countries might not result in direct sales immediately, it will create brand recognition and allow you to build reputation in new markets.

Be seen enough, and before too long, people will start to consider your products and services in their buying decisions.

You might not think that your product will sell in other countries, but it could just as easily become the next must-have craze that your local customers didn't catch on to.



Further Resources:



Are you planning to go social in other countries? Share your strategy tips with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Top Authoring Tips to Attract, Captivate and Impress

Top Authoring Tips to Attract, Captivate and Impress

Top Authoring Tips to Attract, Captivate and Impress

In a world where more content is generated every day than in all of history up until just a few years ago, content authors must not only instanty grab attention, but maintain engagement for at least long enough to successfully deliver their message.

At Hub Communications Digital content is a big part of our daily life and we've learned a thing or two about writing engaging content for your website.

  1. Picture Web Readers as Wild Animals

    In the article Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster, Jakob Nielsen at the Nielsen Norman Group likens readers to 'wild animals gathering food' who are looking for the 'maximum benefit for minimum effort' while searching the Web for information.

    Jacob describes the term 'Information Foraging' as the process of hunting for information and 'Information Scent' as the process of tracking or following the trail to the information they are hunting for.

    By considering this analogy, writing with the informavore's navigation behaviour in mind, you will improve the chances of catching the reader.


  2. Spend Time on the Headline

    The headline is the most important part of the article.

    Authors tend to focus more on the body of the article, putting a simple headline or title at the top. However, for the reader, the headline is their first sniff of the information scent.

    Typically on the web links to articles are the headline, which the reader uses to determine the relevance to their search for information.

    Headlines must inform the reader of the subject of the article, arouse their curiosity, encourage them to continue reading and be short and memorable, all in one line.

    While there is no perfect formula, there is evidence that six worded headlines have been found to be the most effective.


  3. Use Simple Language

    Writing for the Internet is very similar to writing for a newspaper or a magazine. The use of abstruse (hard to understand) words that are not part of everyday language will distract the reader (as just demonstrated).

    Even if you include hyperlinks to the definition of words that you have used, the simple act of wondering what a particular word or sentence means can distract the reader and break the flow of their reading.

    Unless your audience are academics looking for peer-reviewed journals, your readers will quickly lose interest and find something easier to read.


  4. Follow the Inverted Pyramid Style of Writing

    A popular technique among journalists is the inverted pyramid writing style - putting the most important information at the top of the article and expanding upon the idea as you move down.

    Try to imagine your average reader as someone who is late for work in the morning, but really wants to know what is in your article, and write your copy accordingly.

    Include the most important information in your opening paragraphs instead of having the reader go through an entire page.


  5. Pick Your Key Words

    Writing for the Internet is not just about writing interesting copy. You must also make sure that your content is search engine friendly.

    As an author, you need to consider the keywords of the topic you are writing about, and incorporate them into your writing to give your content the greatest visibility on the web.

    Some forethought is important however, as some search engines penalise the misuse of keywords, such as using unqualified or unrelated keywords, or using them too frequently.


  6. Write for Easy Flow Reading

    Write content that can be skimmed through quickly whilst still delivering the important details easily.

    Readers want the answer to their question immediately, so give it to them and make it clear, but reward those that take the time to read deeper by expanding upon what the reader would otherwise take away just from skim-reading.

    Stick to a single idea per paragraph or use bullet points to separate out the ideas in long paragraphs.


  7. Write Accurate Information

    One of the most important aims for any author must be the use of accurate information.

    Don't underestimate the ability of your readers to independently verify claims made by you in your article. Only provide them with well researched and factual content.

    If you learn that information in an old article has become incorrect, add a correction into the article or write a new article with up-to-date information.


  8. Make Sharing the Article Easy

    While following the steps above will make a tasty article for the 'informavore', making the article easy to share will add the cherry on top.

    Add tools to allow readers to easily quote paragraphs of text from your article and post to their social media platform of choice. Provide the means for the reader to easily create a link to your article, or e-Mail the link to a friend.


In Summary

While writing for the web might be different from writing a book, or an essay; with continuous practice, authoring web content can become as easy as catching fish in a tank.

Keep the above points in mind when writing your next article and you are on your way to creating quality content for your website.



Further Information:



Got Your Own Writing Tips? Share them with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


5 Steps to Better Link Building

5 Steps to Better Link Building

5 Steps to Better Link Building

We have been covering the shift in web content and SEO practices recently, and now we get to the practice of link building.

Links are not the beginning or the end of Search Engine Optimisation, but they do hold a large portion of weight in the algorithms employed by Google/Bing to rank websites on their Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).

It is worth spending some time to understand link building, to incorporate link building into your content creation processes, so that you can reap the rewards from the effort in the future.

A Short History of Link Building

In their simplest form, links are like map locations for search engines to navigate between on their endless quest for information. Another way to look at them, is to consider a link as a vote from one website for another. Links help search engines calculate the popularity of websites and specific pages based on the number of other websites that carry links pointing to them.

Rand Fishkin of Moz, in 2009, summarised the history of link building and described it as follows: Between 2000 and 2002, direct link buys, email requests for links and link exchanges were popular. In 2003 and 2004, link networks, blog commenting and paid text links became popular. 2005 saw the advent of social media links, linkbait and quizbait and in 2008-09 came content licensing and editorial content for links.

After 2009, Google started introducing software like Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda which fished out websites that were aimed at fooling search engines. These complicated software algorithms were created to penalise such websites and to stop them from appearing at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

The Better Way to Link Build

Nowadays, the best practice for link building is to consider the bigger picture, and focus on building your link profile. QuickSprout has a great article - What is a "Good Link Profile" and How Do You Get One - that is worth reading if you have not heard of the term before.

Step One: Focus on Content

The first step is to produce quality content which is relevant, meaningful, and will gain popularity on the Internet in its own merit. Unless you create content which readers would want to share, you aren't going to create reason for other websites to link to your website.

As mentioned earlier, links are like votes. So if a website posts a link to your content, it is like the owner of the website voted for you. If a website which is considered an 'authority' links to your content, the value of the 'vote' increases. All of this affects where your website shows up on a Search Engine Results Page.

There are several ways in which you can structure content on your website to make it more appealing. Articles which list the '10 best' or '10 worst' of a topic are very popular with readers. Infographics or white papers providing insight into specific areas of your industry are also very popular and make the content easier to share as well.

Step Two: Only Aim for Natural Links

According to Google, their algorithms are configured to use only natural links for indexing and ranking websites. Search engine algorithms are able to distinguish between genuine links to your site posted by people who think the information would be helpful to others, and links which are posted specifically to "boost votes". The latter are referred to as spammy backlinks, which hurt your link profile.

Step Three: Promote, Promote, Promote

The content that you have created needs to be promoted aggressively by you. Do not wait for people to notice your content first and then start sharing. Instead, reach out to authority websites and "influencers" in your industry and share your content with them. If they find it useful and share it with their followers, your reach will increase exponentially.

Use paid options offered by social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to promote posts. You can also buy ad space in online journals using content syndication networks like Taboola and Zemanta to promote your content.

Step Four: Diversify your Back Links

Mix things up by requesting backlinks in different formats and on different platforms. Aim for some backlinks to be through social media, and some to be contained within content.

Another popular way to diversify link building is through guest blogging. However, today, guest blogging has become vastly more complicated than before. To establish your own set of followers, it is imperative that you contribute high quality content regularly. You must also promote the content you contribute and respond to queries / feedback.

Step Five: Backlink Management

Keep a constant watch out for any websites which feature your name or that of your brand. Check these websites regularly and request backlinks to your website if you have been mentioned, but not linked to. Another popular way of tracking mentions is through Google Alerts. You can enroll for competitions and also submit reviews of products to websites in return for a backlink.

In Summary

We have provided a very basic introduction into the practice of link building for today's content writers and provide a list of articles that should provide you with some more in-depth information. If you would like to discuss how you can improve your link building strategy or your overall content strategy, feel free to Get in Touch.

Further Reading:

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking "Mobile First"

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking "Mobile First"

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking Mobile First

Almost everyone would agree that mobile is the current focus for the Web, even Google holds a "mobile first" mantra for their products and services. Even still, the websites of numerous large companies are not taking advantage of rapidly growing mobile consumer market.

The team at Voucher Cloud have put together a Portrait of a Mobile Consumer; an infographic that highlights the current status of the mobile consumer market, and, once again, it gave some compelling statistics that took even us by surprise.

If your website isn't mobile friendly, here are 6 good reasons why you should be thinking "mobile first":

  1. It is estimated that there will be 8.2 billion hand-held mobile devices by 2018. The estimate for the global population in 2018 is only 7.4 billion.
  2. Within the next 3 years, m-Commerce sales are predicted to hit $626 billion, which is just shy of the 2013 e-Commerce sales total of $638 billion.
  3. 90% of consumers are already using their smart-phones for pre-shopping activities, such as to find directions to and the opening hours of a business.
  4. More than 50% of Amazon customers completed a purchase on a mobile device in the last fiscal quarter of 2013.
  5. Near Field Communication ready point-of-sale checkout terminals are expected to increase to 44.6 million within the next 2 years. I.E. Check-out/Pay via your smart-phone.
  6. Retailers are starting to use mobile-devices to create interactive in-store experiences, pairing the smart-phones with contact-less technologies such as Near Field Communication (BlueTooth for example) or QR Codes. So far, real-world examples are offering vouchers or membership benefits, but the possibilities are endless.

If you need to move your business on-line, or you want to make your website mobile friendly, Get in Touch for a FREE demonstration.

View the Infographic: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer

More Information: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer - An infographic by the team at vouchercloud.

Got an opinion? What was your reaction to the statistics put forward in the infographic? Share on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

It seems like only yesterday the "experts" were advising that to achieve the best search engine performance you needed a properly optimised website layout along with the use of hand-picked keywords in the important areas of the pages.

The way Google ranks search results has changed the SEO game dramatically, however, and the tactics and strategies for Search Engine Optimisation have shifted to be almost totally content focused.

It would seem content marketing has replaced "traditional" methods of search engine optimisation (SEO), so we ask, how relevant are these   traditional SEO practices and is there any use in still following them?

Let's begin with a quick look at the history of traditional SEO.

Traditional SEO

Keywords and inbound links are the two broad philosophies directing the SEO industry. The goal: to have your website at the top of the results pages whenever a specific keyword is typed into a search engine.

This gave rise to strategies that aimed to deceive search engines using techniques such as "keyword stuffing" (using keywords or phrases numerous times on a page without any context or providing meaningful content for the reader), creating link farms and other practices that took advantage of the simplicity of search indexing algorithms to gain a higher ranking.

Legitimate websites found it difficult to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages against these tactics, and it ultimately led to search engines changing the way they index and rank websites to ensure that the end user was being given high quality search results that gave them the information they were searching for.

New Age SEO

In response to deceitful SEO tactics, Google introduced a new algorithm that uses latent semantic indexing, which follows the idea that words used in the same context tend to have similar meanings. For example, the phrase "complete guide" is given the same ranking as "definitive guide" when either phrase is used in a search query.

Suddenly, the websites that had a stronghold on certain keywords and key phrases, and that were reliant on being at the top by pushing the competition out of the circle, found themselves now having to compete with websites using similar phrases. The distinguishing factor was now the content that was being provided to the user, not just the keywords in the search query.

Enter Content marketing. Content marketing, which involves the creation of high quality content to get ahead in website rankings is being touted as the new SEO.

Content marketing strategy also provides a greater return on investment by boosting a website's ranking through content being shared on a variety of social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and others.

A case study by Kissmetrics, presented by Neil Patel, studied the number of visits and back-links to 47 info-graphics which cost $28,200 to produce. These info-graphics received 2,512,596 page views and 41,142 back-links from 3741 unique domains. The social media contributions were 41359 tweets and 20,859 likes.

Patel estimates that the costs of trying to manipulate Google by buying Tweets, Likes, visitors and links would be $1,072,905.80 as compared to the $28,200 spent on producing the infographics. 

That is quite a difference.

Apart from the cost factor, another major advantage for content marketing as an SEO strategy is the fact that good quality content will remain unaffected by future changes that search engines might make to their algorithms.

The Conclusion

The positive practices of traditional SEO that helped search engines to deliver high quality search results to their users have remained a part of the New Age SEO practices, while the practices that worked against helping search engines have been dropped.

The answer to our question - how relevant are the traditional SEO practices today and is there any use in still following them? - is that since the positive traditional practices are part of the new age practices, it is worth focusing on a content marketing strategy to provide and boost SEO rather than trying to implement and manage two strategies in parallel.

As Aaron Agius from Louder Online told Huffington Post recently, "Content is the foundation of any successful online marketing campaign. A great strategy is needed in order to fuel social media activity, to create high converting landing pages for pay per click marketing and to power increases in search engine rankings for target keywords."

Further Reading:

What is your current SEO strategy? Have you shifted your focus, or are you still following the same practices? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

The Internet has created a platform to provide solutions to many every day problems. From basic websites that share information or entertainment, to highly complex applications that allow people to complete banking transactions on-line or see other parts of the world in real-time, we have been able to open our world like never before.

Just like in the real-world however, website owners must consider how their website or on-line application is used by visitors, including people with a disability.

For a web developer or a content author, this means that there are some techniques and tactics that need to be considered when creating a website or a piece of content that is published in the Internet.

So, we'll take you through what Web Accessibility is all about, and what you need to do to play your part in building an accessible World Wide Web.

What is Web Accessibility?

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Very simply, Web Accessibility ensures that the same detail of information is accessible to a viewer with a disability as is accessible to a viewer without a disability, so that the end experience for all users is as equal as possible.

The disability could be from a visual impairment, or a hearing impairment or a physical or mental disability that affects how the user is able to interact with the website and the content.

The Web Accessibility Initiative

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been ensuring that all areas of the World Wide Web are accessible to everyone since 2005 as part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA).

As stated on the Web Accessibility Initiative website, web accessibility depends on several components working together in order for the Web to be accessible to all, and content is one of the essential components that, when formatted to meet the WAI guidelines, could substantially improve Web accessibility.

The Web Accessibility Initiative website provides strategies, guidelines and resources for website developers, software developers and user agent developers to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.

For website content, this standard is outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline, and it is up to version 2.0.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was first introduced in 2008 and it defines how to make Web content more accessible "with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally". The recommendations and techniques provided to achieve WCAG 2.0 compliance are updated once a year to stay current with changing technology.

The guidelines, along with the resources that come from the guidelines, are all built upon a foundation of four principles of accessibility, such that anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

  1. Perceivable
    Which means users must be able to perceive the information being presented, it must be visible to at least one of their senses). For content, this means providing text based alternatives for non-textual content like images or audio. Multimedia content should have captions which are accessible to screen readers, or should also provide an alternative version such as a written transcript. The guidelines also cover techniques of displaying content that should be avoided, such as time-based media that may not be displayed for long enough to be read properly; or styling content in a way that makes it difficult to read or hides content from view.

  2. Operable
    Which means users must be able to operate the interface (or put more simply, navigate around a website) using in the very least, a keyboard. In most cases, users have a keyboard and a mouse to interact with a website, but alternative means to navigate around a website must be provided. This alternative is typically provided through the functionality of the web browser (using the TAB or arrow keys to scroll through navigation elements on the page), or it is handled by assistive technologies that are based upon keyboard commands to a web browser.

  3. Understandable
    Which means users must be able to understand the information as well as easily determine how to use the website. Authors of websites must make their text readable without much effort by the visitor. This includes choices of font, size of text as well as the layout of the page. Content must also be structured in a predictable format so as to not leave the user guessing. For example, providing the user with clear and meaningful feedback after interacting with the website, such as after submitting a form.

  4. Robust
    Which means users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible). From a content point-of-view, this principles means that content is structured in a way that is future-proof. Using valid HTML with correct semantic mark-up is the best way to ensure that your content will be future-proof.

So what does it mean for you?

As a website owner or content author, you should check your website to see whether it meets the current WCAG 2.0 standards, and then take steps to address any areas that are not up to standard.

For most websites, this will typically be ensuring that meaningful images also have meaningful text alternatives (so background images don't count), and that hyper-links and anchors have meaningful titles and can be activated (clicked) by using the keyboard. If your website has video, then ensure that your videos provide subtitles and/or a transcript that users can read instead if they are unable to watch the video.

Services like AChecker will let you check if your website meets the WCAG 2.0 standard of accessibility for free. Several other such services are available online and can be found in a list of tools provided on the WAI website.

It is also highly recommended that you read the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document to give you an idea of what to consider when creating content to ensure that it will be WCAG 2.0 compliant.

Further Resources:



Do you think Web Accessibility is important? Join our discussion on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

5 Content Marketing Fundamentals

A well planned and executed content marketing strategy is no longer optional in order to stand out in the crowded digital landscape.

Content marketing is now a mandatory component of any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy and a powerful way to give your audience a great experience of your brand.

Content marketing helps attract new visitors and build a loyal audience, which generally leads to increased conversions. Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Association is the discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.

For most of small businesses, all media channels and platforms typically means a corporate website, some Social Media engagement and hopefully some level of pro-active marketing in the form of promotional e-mail campaigns or other digital or traditional media advertising.

To point you in the right direction, we've listed 5 Content Marketing Fundamentals to help you plan and develop a content strategy that delivers on your investment.

1. Plan: Know your Audience and Objectives

Before you start chalk out a plan.

You may not have all the questions to begin with, let alone the answers, but beginning with why, who, when and how is a good place to start.

Who are you talking to and what areas of your business is of interest to them? How will you communicate and engage your audience?

Remember - it's all about building a community interacting with your brand!

2. Be Prepared to Spend

Ongoing creation of high quality content is neither easy nor cheap.

As a professional in your industry you are well placed to set the content agenda, but if you're talents (and time availability) don't allow you to be hands on in the entire process you might consider outsourcing as an option.

Here at Hub Com Digital, our management team develops an editorial calendar containing the topics we want to focus on for the coming weeks.

We then internally work up an overview for each individual content piece.

In the case of an article that will be published on our company Blog as well as our Social Media platforms, we would first develop the overall premise of the article and give it a working title. We then attach a couple of suggestions for a headline and send all that information to our graphic designer to create a suitable image for the article.

The articles themselves are either entirely written by our internal staff, or outsourced to external professional content developers, who write the actual article based on the premise / title and headline suggestions we provide.

3. Content for Brand Building

Gaining respect for your brand is not easy. It's the outcome of a process containing many steps over time.

Relating information about the evolution of your brand and your journey to the present gives credibility and builds empathy.

When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to include reference to your origins, what motivates you to succeed and what motivates your customers to keep coming back.

The aim here is to create personal connections with your audience and reinforce what your brand represents.

According to Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute, telling the story of your brand can be likened to conventional story telling at a level. In a post on CMI, Rose lists out ten steps divided into three broad categories which will help you understand how to create content that captivates and enthrals.

4. Content for Reputation

On-line reputation management, which involves the maintaining of your digital reputation as well as dealing with negative public feedback, has become a thriving business today. Many of us have Googled the names of companies along with keywords like 'negative', 'bad' to check the reputation of companies (and people) we are planning to deal with.

While most reputable organisations are unlikely to be subject to an attack like the infamous case where a large number of websites attached the keywords 'miserable failure' with a link to George W Bush's official biography page hosted by the White House, the reality is that social media networks have given customers a powerful platform and dealing with negative feedback - whether it is true or not - is an increasingly important part of modern business operations.

A pro-active content marketing strategy distributing positive content on-line is a powerful way to mitigate the damage of an attack. It also pays to have a solid policy for dealing with negative feedback in place. Refer to our Blog article: Five tactics to address negative customer feedback.

5. Content for Search Performance

Search Engines like Google are making it increasing difficult to manipulate their search rankings artificially. Google's documentation clearly states they reward "high-quality" sites, and by this they mean websites that give "great user experience" and "fulfill information needs".

Just as Google rewards "high-quality" sites, it penalises sites for "low-quality content". Before embarking on your content marketing journey have a look at this important article on building high quality websites in the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Summary

A content marketing strategy requires a significant commitment of resources. The impact is not usually instant and mistakes can be very costly.

On the other hand, the long term benefits from building and nurturing a community centred on your business are coveted by many for good reason.

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


The Apple, the Watch and the Wardrobe

The Apple, the Watch and the Wardrobe

The Apple, the Watch and the Wardrobe

Earlier this month, Apple launched the latest version of the iPhone. Alongside the new iPhone, Apple also launched the newest of their products, the highly anticipated Apple Watch.

Will the latest Apple gadget follow in the footsteps of it's world-changing ancestors: break the competition and dominate the market? A week after the launch (but months before it actually hits the streets) and the Jury is still out.

Forgetting and dismissing all of the rumours of what the Apple Watch would come with, lets look at the base specs, and then find the nearest competitor to compare against.

To begin with, the Apple Watch comes in 3 versions - The Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition.

The difference between the 3 models is: The material of the casing, the material protecting the display, and the band (which is interchangeable on the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition).

The Apple Watch is cased in polished stainless steel or space black stainless steel, with sapphire crystal over the display.
The Apple Watch Sport case is made from anodized aluminium in silver and space grey (think Mac Book look), making this model much lighter than the other two, and has Ion-X glass over the display.
The Apple Watch Edition case is crafted from 18-carat gold (available in yellow or rose gold), and the display is protected by sapphire crystal as well.
While the Apple Watch Sport lucks out with choice of bands (only the sports bands is available, but in a range of colours), the other two models have a selection of different bands to choose from that will suit most everyone.

Apart from this, the 3 models are identical in features and technology.

The Apple Watch will allow you to receive notifications, as well as send and receive messages, phone calls and e-mail all through the device's User Interface. A new level of communication is added through the new Digital Touch feature, which allows you to share a sketch, a tap, or a heart-beat with another Apple Watch user - which they can view or feel (as is the case for a tap or heart-beat). The Apple Watch also features an integrated fitness tracker to monitor your movements and activity (or lack thereof), and can help you to set and achieve your fitness goals.

The Apple Watch, as we've come to expect from Apple, has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use. The face of the watch is touch-screen that functions just like touch-navigation on other Apple devices, but also has new ways to get around. On the side is the "Digital Crown", which allows you to control the zoom of the display and doubles as the home button. On the bottom of the watch is the recharge contact point, as well as sensors that can detect your pulse, and a vibration unit that allows the watch to let you know when something needs your attention...and you can use Apple's voice command platform: Siri.

From our perspective one of the most exciting features of the Apple Watch is Apple Pay, a new generation of tap-and-go payment technology. Apple Pay is part of iOS 8, and is also on the iPhone 6, but having an Apple Watch will not only save you the need to carry credit cards, it will also save you having to even get your phone out! The system launches in the US first and we expect it here in Australia some time later in 2015 - as one of Australia's leading providers of e-commerce and m-commerce systems, here at Hub Com Digital we can't wait for it!

Perhaps what lets the Apple Watch down however is that the device must apparently be tethered to an iPhone 5 or 6. Everything the Apple Watch requires from GPS or Internet is provided by the iPhone, which apparently improves the battery life. This might seem trivial now, since every smart watch available at the moment has this same requirement; but the Samsung Gear S, which was unveiled in Berlin recently and is set for release shortly after Apple Watch, will come with its own SIM Card to remove this dependence. When you take into account everything that both devices offer and had to sacrifice, only time will tell how damaging this exclusion will be.

The Apple Watch also drew criticism from some who claimed it could not be used by Left Handers. As has since been found however, the watch does have a left-handed mode, and the crown does flip the User Interface around; so "Mollydookers" need not despair!

The only competitor that is markedly comparable to the Apple Watch at present seems to be the Samsung Gear 2, however Samsung will be releasing the latest version of the Gear - the Gear S - very soon. For the sake of the argument, we'll only compare the latest from Apple with the latest from Samsung, keeping in mind that both will become available to buy around about the same time, and both are keeping very mum about the finer details.

The Samsung Galaxy S has a 2" (51mm) curved AMOLED screen, a dual core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal memory, and comes with WiFi, BlueTooth and USB 2.0 connectivity. Compared to the Apple Watch, with a screen that is 42mm or 38mm (give or take a millimetre) and an industry first computer-on-a-chip. Processor speed, RAM and internal memory are not mentioned anywhere yet, but the S1 chip in the Apple Watch is said to be comparable to the new A8 chip in the iPhone 6.

Both smart watches come with a heart-rate sensor, and accelerometer. The Samsung Gear S kicks it up a notch by also coming with a gyroscope, a compass, light and UV sensors and a barometer (for when you're outside and want to know if a storm is coming).

Both smart watches go at lengths to show how customisable their device is, allowing you to change this part and that part to suit your style. On both, you can change the band of the watch, the clock face, probably even more. So no real notable differences on that front.

The only notable exclusion with the Samsung Gear S is an Apple Pay equivalent, but it is safe to assume that there'll be an app for that soon enough.

It seems that what the Apple Watch lacks, the Samsung Gear S makes up for; and what the Samsung Gear S lacks, the Apple Watch makes up for. The final decision is really going to come down to what smart phone you already use (or are willing to change to). Despite being able to use the Samsung Gear S on the go without needing to be within cooee of your phone, chances are that you're going to have your phone with you most times anyway to cover the gap between what the phone provides and what the watch doesn't (games, apps, video, etc). But it would be nice to duck out for a walk or a run without needing to have your phone strapped to you somewhere.

If you have an iPhone, you'll love the Apple Watch and won't miss the features that the Samsung range will offer. If you have a Samsung Galaxy, you'll love the Samsung Gear S, and will be willing to overlook the clunkiness that Apple seems to remove from their products.

Having said all of this, rumour has it that Microsoft are working on their own smart watch, that will be compatible with Windows, Android and Apple devices, just to make the choice even more difficult.

What are your thoughts? Watch the (very impressive) films of the Apple Watch. Let me know if you found it just as difficult to not be swept up in the awe. What is your first impression of the Apple Watch? Does it compare to the Samsung Gear? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Apple Launches Biggest Advancement in History.. of iPhone.

Apple Launches Biggest Advancement in History.. of iPhone.

Apple Launches Biggest Advancement in History.. of iPhone.

Many Apple fans around the world despaired as Apple's servers crashed under the global embrace during their new product launch event on September 9th.

As much as I planned to resist, I too was taken in by the innovation and overall fabulousness of the 2 new Apple iPhone 6 models: the 4.7" iPhone 6 and 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus.

You can compare iPhone 6 and iPhone 5 models together on the iPhone model comparison page of the Apple website.

The boss has already pre-ordered his new iPhone 6 - he's upgrading from an iPhone 5, and after using that phone for a couple of years and having a large-screen Galaxy Note II as his back-up, he reckons the new 4.7" version with 64Gb of storage will suit him perfectly...the 5.5" version is just that little too big, and he carries a full size tablet most places, so really had no need for a "phablet".

I too will be in the queue to get the new iPhone from the 19th (and reckon since I'm still sporting the now doubly-redundant iPhone 4, I should get priority).

Along with the 2 new iPhone 6 models (and the Apple Watch, which we'll look at next time), Apple also announced the release of the next generation of their mobile operating system: IOS8, which will open the door to a new level of innovations from the App Development community, along with the US introduction of Apple Pay - a technology that turns Apple devices into a virtual credit card - that has the potential to finally replace the fundamentally flawed "plastic" cards we now use as virtual currency.

Our US payment gateway partner Authorize.Net announced integration with Apple Pay within 24 hours of it's launch and we expect our local payment gateway partners to all over this exciting new innovation. Watch this space!

Rather than rewrite what has already been written over 9000 times across the Internet, instead, we will save you the search and list the best resources about Apple's latest offering to the Gods..

Got an opinion? What do you think about the new iPhone range? Does it stack up to the competition? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Here at HCD we aim to keep our clients well informed on all subjects that relate to the digital space. The Net Neutrality debate may not be the sexiest topic on our radar, but as it has the potential to change the way we use the Internet, we thought it was worth passing on the following information...

The Net Neutrality debate in the United States is one of those topics that could be nothing, but it could, potentially, be cause for serious concern. In all cases, such as this debate, it is better to be well informed and well prepared so that you can take any necessary steps to minimise any potential for damage before it occurs.

The topic of Net Neutrality is far from new; for the better part of a decade, many parts of the world have been discussing and debating the case for a neutral and open Internet. The debate has become particularly heated in the United States, however, with large corporations supporting both sides and the subject sparking numerous protests and petitions.

Major political decisions in the United States always seem to echo an effect globally, so will the outcome of their decision change the Internet as we know it today?

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is a term that was first coined by a law professor in 2003, and very simply, is the idea that data on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers in regard to transmission (sending and receiving the data), and in regard to fees applied to the services provided by Internet Service Providers.

In a nut-shell, this is the argument for an "open Internet" or for a "closed Internet".   An "open Internet" being one where people can use the Internet equally without any interference from third-parties (no slowing of Internet speeds, no blocking of Internet services or websites). A "closed Internet" being the opposite, where the content or Internet services a person can access is restricted and managed by the service provider they use to connect to the Internet.

One can imagine the limitations of having a "closed Internet" - for example, not being able to access YouTube, because your Internet Service Provider has their own equivalent website, or is partnered with a different website.

What are the current arguments for Net Neutrality in the US?

In one corner, there are many Internet content and application providers such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, along with groups such as Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, Gun Owners of America who are all in support for Net Neutrality. Just recently, the Major League Baseball (who are the largest distributor of live video on broadband networks in the US) also joined the supporting side.

Their argument is equal access to the Internet is a right, that the current lack of regulation is what created the Internet and Information Revolution in the first place. Supporters also argue that removing Net Neutrality will cause content providers to pay more to deliver their content, which will be passed on to consumers. Also, smaller content providers will have to queue up behind paying content providers who can afford to pay for their content to be delivered faster, resulting in the smaller companies being pushed off the Internet.

What are the current arguments against Net Neutrality in the US?

In the opposite corner, groups like Americans for Prosperity, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Competitive Enterprise Institute as well as all of the major Telecommunication and Internet Service Providers such as Comcast and AT&T are strongly opposed to Net Neutrality; and are even accused of attempting to essentially buy support and votes to help their cause.

The opposition stance is that Net Neutrality limits the usefulness of the Internet, and will discourage investment in the development of new infrastructure, which would result in limiting the overall bandwidth available for Internet data. The opposition also counter arguments from supporters of Net Neutrality by stating that the Internet is not classified as a utility, and so should not be regulated as such; and that by giving bandwidth preference to popular content is actually in the best interests of the consumer because that is what the majority want to access.

Will the outcome affect Internet in Australia?

The short answer is yes, as much as it will affect the Internet globally, though the effects may be more obvious for Australians as many of the communications cables linking Australia to the rest of the world link to the US. A significant chunk of global Internet traffic flows to and from the United States, and limiting the flow of traffic will have knock-on affects.

What about the Net Neutrality Argument in Australia?

We have already finished our debate about Net Neutrality, and it has been seen as a lost battle. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission already regulates Internet Service Providers, and prevents network traffic management that would be considered as being anti-competitive behaviour. Australian Internet Service Providers could be considered to be discriminating, however, in providing un-metered data however, which provides access to websites or services that does not count to the users data allowance, and could possibly result in users preferring the free service over a competitors. In this sense, Australian Internet is not truly Net Neutral, but un-metered content is seen as a benefit to consumers that have limited data allowance plans as opposed to the unlimited data allowances that all US consumers have.

HCD Tip: Keep an eye on this debate, as it may very well change the way everyone uses and thinks about the Internet.

Further Reading:

What is your opinion? Do you agree or disagree with the idea of a Net Neutrality? How do you think the Net Neutrality discussion in the United States will affect Australia? Share your thoughts on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

In a recent announcement on their Developers Blog, Facebook outlined a game-changing inclusion to their Platform Policy.

The new policy reads:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app's Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

You can view the full details here.

The policy change is aimed at curbing a practice known as Like-Gating - better known as "Like our page to get access to" or "Like our page to go in the draw" - which up until now, has proven to be an effective way to get a boost in page Likes in a short amount of time.

The new policy is also in line with Facebook's current promotions policy prohibiting the practice of sharing posts to gain entry to a competition or access to content.


Hub Com Digital Likes This

The new policy makes sense. It is to discourage the fake Like culture of Facebook and give more value to a single Like. As Facebook stated, the policy change has been made with the aim that people will Like a page because they actually Like the page (or page owner), giving a clearer indication of true followers rather than just a number of contest entries that haven't engaged with the page since.

It also means that companies will need to work harder to gain a Like by increasing their engagement, improving the quality of their content, and giving Facebook users a legitimate reason to Like their page.


The Like-Gate Alternative

The replacement strategy for Like-Gating is being referred to as Action-Gating - encouraging actions that generate true engagement from the user, such as providing some details or answering a survey in return for valuable content (or a competition entry).

This method is already a successful practice on websites, and it makes sense to use the same practice to generate leads on Facebook as well. The information that is collected this way is far more valuable than 1000 fake Likes on a Facebook page.


Further Reading:

What is your opinion about Like-Gating? Did you ever like-gate on your Facebook page? Or do you think the practice is right to be banned? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


How to Crack a Password in 3 Easy Steps

How to Crack a Password in 3 Easy Steps

How to Crack a Password in 3 Easy Steps

With news that 1.6 billion internet username/password combinations have been stolen by a gang in Russia, it goes without saying that updating your passwords and ensuring that you use strong passwords is as important and as urgent as ever!

We often hear about the need for stronger passwords and tips for creating secure passwords, but we don't often hear why.

Cracking a password is as easy as:

  1. Downloading a password cracking application
  2. Enter in the password length, and the combinations to try (numbers, lower-case letters, upper-case letters, symbols/special characters)
  3. Press Go.

Basically, the program will use what is called a Brute Force method to go through every possible combination of letters, numbers and special characters within a defined set until it gets a match.

The stronger the password you use, the longer it will take for this method to match the combination that is your password.

For example: Your password is simply 12345.

Using the Brute Force method, the software will try 0, all the way to 9. Then it will try 00, 01, 02, etc. Then move to 000, 001, 002, etc. Until it finally tries 12345, and BINGO! It's cracked it. A smart program might even start at 1, then try 12, then 123; cracking your 12345 even faster.

Now compare this to a password that is also 5 characters, but has capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and special characters - 1tWo# for example. Now the program has to go through significantly more combinations to find a match. Make the password longer, and the number of possible combinations jumps even higher.

This is why it is highly recommended that you create and use passwords that are at least 8 characters long, and use a combination of numbers, lower-case letters, upper-case letters AND symbols / special characters.

Change your passwords regularly (at least every 6 months), and don't use a password elsewhere if you are using it for something sensitive like on-line banking.

The reason for changing every 6 months is keep your password fresh. If someone does manage to obtain your password, by the time they try to use it, you have already changed it.

HCD Tactic: Use a short, memorable phrase or word combination as your password. Make it something that is difficult for others to guess, swapping some characters for capital letters, and adding some numbers and symbols at the start and at the end (or anywhere in between). For example: $24ILikeCoffee68$.

There are many websites that help you to test the strength of your passwords, and can show you how quickly your password would be cracked by hackers. There are even websites that show how predictable your password is - that is, if you use words to make up your password, software can predict what the next character is more likely to be based on character combinations seen in words.

A list of on-line password strength calculators and testers:

  • How Secure is my Password is a great website to test the strength of a password before using it, and the website will show you how long it would take a normal desktop computer using Brute Force software to crack your password.
  • Telepathwords is also good to test how predictable your password will be for more advanced password cracking software.
  • This password strength tester by rumkin.com also explains the logic behind chosing a strong password a litte better, and is worth reading.
  • And the interactive brute force search space calculator provided by the Gibson Research Corporation explains everything even further.

What are your thoughts? Share on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


10 Things YOU Must Do To Improve On-line Security

10 Things YOU Must Do To Improve On-line Security

10 Things YOU Must Do To Improve On-line Security

One the one hand, the Internet is making life easier by providing access to information from just about anywhere, but on the other hand access to private information raises serious security concerns.

We could argue forever about who's responsible for ensuring that private information isn't easily accessible by unauthorised people, but ultimately we must be aware that anything we share / publish / post on the Internet can be seen and shared with everyone else on-line; and nothing is secure on the Internet.

We must all play a part in on-line security. It's is a team game. By personally ensuring that we're doing as much as possible to secure ourselves, together we make it harder for the bad guys.

There are many steps and tools you can use to improve your on-line security. To start you off, we've put together this list of our 10 fundamentals...

Your on-line security must-do list:

  1. Block Third-party Cookies: Cookies store little bits of information about you for websites that you have been too. Disabling the unnecessary cookies will decrease the chances of others exploiting this information.
  2. Use HTTPS: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is the secure communication protocol of the Internet, adding a layer of encryption between your computer and websites that you visit.
  3. Install HTTPS Everywhere: This web-browser plug-in forces the browser to use the HTTPS protocol instead of the regular HTTP protocol so you don't have to remember.
  4. Use Incognito Mode: Also known as Private Browsing, web browsers don't store your browsing history, save files in the browser cache, or save cookies when in this mode. Particularly useful if you are using on-line banking.
  5. Check for SSL: When entering sensitive information into forms (such as your credit card details), make sure the webpage is protected by SSL. Look for a green lock in the address bar.
  6. Email Carefully: Don't send sensitive information by email. This includes usernames, passwords, credit card details, etc.
  7. Encrypt Email: Consider encrypting your email. It may seem like a hassle, but once you and your regular contacts get into the habit it will become second nature.
  8. Use Secure Payment Gateways: Don't purchase from eStores that don't use secure, well-known payment gateways.
  9. Use Strong Passwords: Always. Test how long it would take to hack your password on How Secure Is My Password.
  10. Limit sharing: Don't share or publish information you don't want strangers knowing about you.

Lastly, make sure that your operating system, web-browser and anti-virus software are always up-to-date, and that you are using a firewall.

Join the Conversation - Got another security must-do that you'd like to add to our list? Let us a know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

So you have an awesome shipping policy and a killer returns policy ready to go, now it's time to move to the next area of eStore brilliance - On-line Promotions.

There are countless types of promotions...new stock arrivals, VIP benefits, seasonal clearances...promotions are an age-old tool designed to encourage customers to buy.

Promotions can be used to satisfy one of the fundamentals of great sales and marketing: fear of loss, which is arguably even more powerful and important in the fickle e-commerce world.

Great promotions are not just about discounts. Be creative. Promotions could be in the form of a bonus (free shipping), a "buy this get that" or a free sample. The key is to offer real value and incentive for customers to buy and to buy more and to buy NOW.

So, after much careful consideration, here's the 9 fantastic promotional tips that made the list.

HCD's Top 9 Tips for Fantastic On-line Promotions:

  1. Have at least one promotion running at all times. The only time you shouldn't have a promotion, is when you have nothing to sell
  2. Don't be predictable. Alternate the terms, length and other parameters to keep your customers guessing (and find what works best)
  3. Repeat successful promotions regularly and ditch the less successful ones
  4. Have at least one regular annual "Event", a promotion that customers can expect and anticipate. Make it HUGE
  5. Spread your promotions across your entire product range and target all your customer demographics
  6. Target customers who have purchased products with special promotional incentives on related products
  7. Align your physical store promotions with your on-line promotions
  8. Be aware of your competitors promotional activities and where possible out promote them or meet them head on
  9. Include post-sale promotions within orders shipped to customers. A thank you letter with a unique promotion code is a proven sales champion

Join the Conversation - Do you agree with our top 9? Perhaps you have your own tips for on-line promotions that you would like to share? Leave us a comment on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


On-line Resources:

The #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online.

The #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online.

The #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online.

The #1 reason* that in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online is the Returns Process.

If you think that's a powerful statistic, consider this: 89% of customers say they'll shop again at a store after a positive returns experience*.

We recently looked at how shipping policies can be used to improve online sales performance and customer satisfaction in our article 4 Awesome Shipping Tactics. Here we re-visit the randomly selected websites analysed in that article to look at their returns policies.

All policies we reviewed specify that items must be returned in perfect / as new condition, with tags, and in the original packaging; unless mentioned otherwise.

Target customers can return online purchases in-store, or by post, within 28 days of purchase. Returns by post require a returns form to be downloaded, completed and included with the item in a parcel. Target include an eParcel slip with orders which the customer can take to any Australia Post office. It isn't clear, but it appears Target pay the fee associated with returning the item unless they need to send it back again.

HCD Note: Allowing up to 28 days to return an item, and providing an eParcel slip with their orders to allow for easy returns is great, but their returns policy itself still left us puzzled.

Myer recommends customers use the FREE option of in-store returns. If the customer chooses to return the item by post, they must contact Myer for returns details. The customer must cover the cost of postage, and returns must be made within 30 days of purchase.

HCD Note: Myer, did you know the #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to shop online is the returns process? Now you do!. 

The Iconic allows returns within 100 days of purchase, and customers can print off a shipping label for the package. The Iconic pays for the cost of returning the item, plus, customers can choose to receive a refund, an exchange, or 110%(!!!) store credit(!!!).

HCD Note: If you couldn't tell by the (!!!), again we are impressed with The Iconic eStore. Full marks, plus 10 bonus points for a cleverly structured policy page in the form of an FAQ. If this policy doesn't make a customer happy, they never will be.

That Online Shop allow returns within 14 days of purchase. The customer must contact That Online Shop to receive a returns form and instructions.

HCD Note: A stock standard returns policy. We get the no-capitals style the website is going for, but it does make reading the returns policy difficult. Compare this to The Iconic and think which is more likely to capture that 89% of return business following a "positive" returns experience.

PS: Sad to see the shopping cart layout is still broken on That Online Shop. We did contact them last week in case they weren't aware. No thanks was necessary - or forthcoming!

Oxfam Shop clearly states that return postage is free within Australia, and items can be returned 35 days after purchase. There are some items that cannot be returned however, such as food items.

HCD Note: Perfect! Very clear and simply written policy. More than enough time to receive, try and decide to return an item, and free return postage. Items that can't be returned are clearly listed.

The T2 Tea returns policy is a little unclear. The website allows returns to be made within 30 days of purchase, but it is unclear whether the customer can just send the item back, or if they need to contact the website first.

HCD Note: Probably the worst example we reviewed, not only is the returns policy a small paragraph at the bottom of the Terms page, it provides no information other than they will meet their legal obligations. We recommend doing the opposite of this example.

The Results:  The only common trait in the returns policies of the reviewed websites, is that items must be returned in near-new condition, unused and with the original packaging. Beyond that, the policies are very varied. All meet their state and national legal obligations, and it is about 50-50 in regards to whether the store covers the costs of returning the item, or whether the customer does. Even the time period to return an item varies widely between 14 days and 100 days.

HCD Tactics: Be reasonable, and realistic, with the aim of making the majority of returns a positive, hassle-free experience for the customer. Conversion is the main goal, so if your competitors are offering free returns, then you should too, or reduce the costs as much as possible. Make your returns policy clear and concise, and make the returns process as convenient as possible for the customer. Provide a returns label if possible. Lastly, look for ways to eliminate the need for returns through the store-front, by providing more than enough information about the product that the customer will need, such as sizing charts, extra-large images, product reviews and demonstration videos.

For more information about returns policies, we recommend the following reading:

* Statistics from Entrepreneur's infographic What Consumers Want from Returns and Why it Matters.


[HCD Review]: 4 Awesome Shipping Tactics

[HCD Review]: 4 Awesome Shipping Tactics

[HCD Review]: 4 Awesome Shipping Tactics

With 59%* of shoppers saying they consider shipping costs when purchasing on-line, and 44%* abandoning their cart due to high shipping costs, determining what to charge for delivery just might be the second most important decision that an eStore will ever make (after deciding to launch in the first place).


Here's our 4 awesome shipping tactics:

  1. Keep it Simple: Flat fees are best
  2. Offer Incentives: Offering free or discounted shipping based on minimum order totals is a proven tactic
  3. Be competitive: Know your opposition and respect your customers - they'll know if you're gouging them
  4. Use a disclaimer: Reserve the right to re-negotiate shipping costs post-order if necessary

We all know it ACTUALLY COSTS money to ship orders, but with customers voting with their wallets, what is the Goldilocks amount to charge for delivery?

To help you decide, we reviewed some Australian eStores to see what they are doing... (Note: HCD has no affiliation with any of the businesses reviewed. We have chosen websites randomly. All amounts are in Australian Dollars).

Target charges $9.00 for delivery of small orders under $75.00, or free shipping for small orders over $75.00. Their delivery charge for large items is $15.00, or $30.00 for 3 or more large items. Target also offer a "Click and Collect" option, which allows the customer to pick up their order from selected Target stores depending on the items in the order. This option is free for orders over $40.00 or $5.00 for orders under $40.00. 

HCD Note:A $5.00 administration fee to collect a pre-paid order in-store...really?

Myer offers standard delivery for $9.95 for orders under $100, and free delivery on orders $100 and over, except for Goods that require Special Delivery. There is also the option to pick up the order from selected Myer stores dependant upon the items in the order, which doesn't have an additional fee.

HCD Note: 5 Stars from us Myer - Target take notice!

The Iconic offers a few choices. Customers can pick up their order from a Parcel Point for free, which is useful if you are living in a major city. Otherwise, the cost for shipping by Australia Post is $7.95 anywhere in Australia. Free overnight shipping is available for orders over $50.00. For an extra $2.00, delivery is available within 3 hours to metro areas in Sydney or Melbourne.

HCD Note: We love the express options and with a low $50.00 threshold for free delivery, this is about as good as it gets.

That Online Shop offer free delivery for orders over $100.00, otherwise they charge $7.00 per item for standard delivery or $15.00 flat for express delivery. They also provide free gift wrapping with a gift tag. The terms specify that a surcharge may apply if delivery is to a non metropolitan postcode and the item is bulky or fragile, dependant on the excess charges applied by the courier. Delivery is available to international addresses at the rate of $40.00 to NZ, USA, UK or Asia, unless the items are over 2kg, where shipping costs are negotiated personally with the customer.

HCD Note: Full marks for the free gift wrapping and gift tag, and the incentive to make a minimum $100.00 purchase or select express shipping is commendable. Alas, $40.00 for international shipping for orders less than 2Kg may discourage many overseas customers from purchasing, and, as there are no weights included with any product details, customers have no way of knowing whether or not they have exceeded the 2Kg limit.
Sadly, we experienced technical problems on subsequent visits to this site, which we have pointed out to the website operators. This highlights the importance of technology that works.  

Oxfam Shop has a different approach to delivery fees. They have set shipping fees at 15% of the order total, limited to $7.00 minimum and $17.00 maximum, or $25.00 for express delivery. They also specify that large items may incur a delivery surcharge. Oxfam offer international delivery too, which is 15% of the order total, set between $40.00 and $100.00.

HCD Note: At first glance we weren't sure about this approach, however, the actual delivery costs are reasonable. Our recommendations would be to offer free shipping once the order total exceeded a nominal amount.

The T2 Tea on-line store have set delivery fees to $10.00 flat rate for standard delivery, and $20.00 flat for express delivery. Orders over $60.00 are shipped free within Australia. International orders have a different set of fees which change dependant upon the order total.

HCD Note: Full marks - but remember - this website does not need to factor oversize or bulky orders, in which case, a disclaimer would be strongly recommended.


Summary
While there are variations, the current trend for delivery fees is a flat rate ranging between $10.00 and $20.00 with an offer of free shipping for more expensive orders of around $100.00.

Remember, customers shop around to get the lowest price possible, which includes the delivery fees. Customers will justify buying an item that is a few dollars more than on another website, if the total including shipping still ends up being cheaper. Having a flat fee also makes the process a lot easier. Customers know up front what they can expect the shipping costs to be.

HCD Tactic: Review the cost of sending an average order to each of the major cities in Australia through your preferred courier(s).

Set flat fees that cover most bases while remaining in line with your competitors. Aim for a delivery fee of $10.00 - $20.00 for orders within Australia and encourage customers to spend more by setting a free shipping threshold amount.

HCD Tactic: If you find you simply can't compete with shipping costs offered by your competitors, consider investigating out how they do it...do they have a better deal with a courier or lower cost packaging and warehousing costs?  

HCD Tactic: Where necessary, use a disclaimer to reserve the right to adjust shipping costs (after the original order is placed) for oversize or bulky orders, or orders being shipped to remote or otherwise difficult delivery areas.

HCD delivers enterprise e-commerce and mobile commerce solutions to customers serious about maximising return on investment. Our proprietary technology caters for just about any shipping configuration imaginable. For more information please contact us for a confidential discussion.

* Statistics from VoucherCloud's infographic Consumer Psychology and the E-Commerce Checkout.


4 Current Super Über KickStarter Projects

4 Current Super Über KickStarter Projects

4 Current Super Über KickStarter Projects

KickStarter is creating a global buzz as a powerful way to gain funding to get new projects off the ground. 

Since the website's launch in 2009, over 60,000 projects have been funded, with over US$1 billion being pledged by over 6 million people around the world. 

A couple of  notable projects that have been kickstarted:

  • The Oculus Rift, a Virtual Reality headset famous for being bought out by Facebook owner Mark Zuckerburg, which received almost US$2.5 million in pledges from backers

  • Reading Rainbow, a project restarted by LeVar Burton (the actor who played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: Next Generation), a free for schools digital library project to teach children to read. This project smashed expectations when it reached its US$1 million target in just 12 hours!! The project currently has over US$4 million with 6 days to go. Check out the project on Kickstarter

While Kickstart may be better known for projects in creative industries such as fashion, design, art, music, games or theater, there's plenty of notable projects in the Technology category that caught the eye of the Hub Com Digital team.

Here's a few Technology projects we think are great ideas...

  1. Umbrella USB: A little USB jack that you can plug in between your USB charger cable and a USB port which eliminates the threat of data theft via "Juice Jacking". The is especially handy if you use computers on public networks to charge your devices.
    This project has pledges of almost double it's US$10K target with another week to go.

  2. Sherlybox: The Sherlybox is described as a cloud without the cloud. It allows you to manage and share your files securely without the need for a public cloud service like DropBox or Google Drive; and the software with it allows teams to work on the same files without over-riding one another. Pretty cool.
    This project has pledges of almost US$120K, nearly double it's target with 8 days left.

  3. iFind: Keep losing things? Stick an iFind tag on it and you'll never have trouble finding it again. iFind is battery free, and communicates with your smartphone device via BlueTooth to help you locate an item that has been tagged, or to notify if a tagged item is out of range. And if you lose your phone, you can find it with an iFind tag. Perfect!
    This project has attracted more than 20 times it's target pledges with more than US500K raised with 4 days to go.

  4. The 360cam: Billed as the world's first full HD 360 degree camera. This uber-cool device allows image and video capture of full 360 degree panorama's from the palm of your hand.
    No wonder this project has attracked over 3,000 backers who have pledged nearly US1.2M a whopping 800% of it's goal - and the best news is there's still 8 days to go to get on board!

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

In our recent article - Google Panda Goes Kung Fu On Your Website - we pointed out that Google is giving website owners a nudge to update and refresh their published content. With that in mind here's our top 3 hassle free tactics for keeping your content fresher for longer.

1: Regularly update the key message on your homepage.
It does not have to be a major re-write every time, but regularly (at least once a month) edit the primary message on your home page.
Remember, it's all about engagement, so consider including a topical or seasonal message of relevance to your audience. You might mention the season and how it relates to your business e.g. "Winter is a great time for one of our famous Irish Coffees sitting by the fire" or "With Easter fast approaching it's the perfect time to book our free vehicle safety check" or "Don't forget, your next BAS Statement is due on June 21st".

HCD Tactic: If your website allows inclusion of some sort of main image such as a banner on your homepage it is highly recommended you invest in updating this image regularly - at least several times each year. If you have a scrolling banner function you will get away with the same images in rotation for longer, and you might further extend the shelf life by swapping around the default starting image and the rotation order of the images.

2: Should you include the Date Published / Updated in your website content?
When it comes to newspapers, topical content that was news yesterday is old news today. When it comes to some areas of corporate website content there's a longer shelf life - for example your "About Us" page might only change when you have staff or other significant organisational changes and your "Product Descriptions" may also remain relevant indefinitely. In these cases you should never include the date published. Alternatively, if you publish news or a blog and write regular articles (at least one per month), then you should always include the publish date. 


HCD Tactic:
If you are not writing at least one news / blog article per month you should consider removing the news / blog altogether or at least removing the date published from articles (which is not ideal) - better still, increase the frequency you publish articles to at least one per month.

3: Recycle your content.
You can save time by publishing / archiving / re-publishing content. Be sure to give the content the once over before re-publishing to be certain it is still relevant and accurate. Re-writing the headline and the opening lines will be enough to attract a new audience.

HCD Tactic: Publishing a new image with recycled content is a great way to refresh it.

If you've got anything further to add we welcome your comments, or if you are struggling with your website content, HCD may be able to help. Please feel free to get in touch.


Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

The big news in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world is the recent release of Google Panda 4.0. If you're looking for this new app in your Google+ account, don't bother, Google Panda is one of Google's many algorithms that determine their search result rankings.

While done in the name of fairness, Panda 4.0, like many of Google's modifications, has resulted in wide-ranging change to positioning within Google search results. It even caught some of our clients in the net.

For the uninitiated, Google is now targeting websites publishing copied content or poor quality content more aggressively than ever. Panda 4.0 encourages publication of fresh, unique, user-friendly content.

The primary target: websites that 'scrape' content from other websites for publication on their own. 

This will challenge operators engaging in questionable content practices, however, it seems at the same time legitimate operators are also being penalised.

For example, consider accommodation portals such as Wotif and Expedia. Individual Accommodation providers using these platforms provide the content themselves, which in our experience is typically fed directly from their own website.

Should parties engaging in this type of practice be penalised by Google? Does Google expect the Accommodation provider to write a unique description for every Accommodation portal it advertises with?  

Only Google can answer these questions.

So what do the new changes mean for your website, and what can you do if you've been "hit"?

Google's own suggestion is "If you believe you've been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content."

HCD Tactic: Go through your content and give it a good spring clean. Rewrite your old content, remove duplicate content, and add new content that brings life back to your website.

Considering that SEO tactics at the moment consider the entire user experience, such as website navigation and having an intuitive website structure, mobile optimisation, and user-friendly content and metadata, it might also be time for a redesign or rebuild of your website.

No doubt, Google is being inundated with enquiries from businesses and website owners who have been penalised over the last fortnight, asking why they have dropped down the search results and what they can do to fix it.

If you think your website has been penalised unfairly, you can contact Google and ask them to restore your rankings.

We've compiled 5 useful sources for more information about the latest Google Panda release, and advice about what you can do to recover:

  1. Google Panda Update
  2. Google Panda Tips
  3. Google Panda Update Survival Guide
  4. High Quality Web Sites - The New Google Ranking Factor
  5. How to run blogs that inspire

10 Top Words of Wisdom from Successful e-Commerce Businesses

10 Top Words of Wisdom from Successful e-Commerce Businesses

10 Top Words of Wisdom from Successful e-Commerce Businesses

The phrase e-Commerce was first coined in 1998, but by then conducting commerce on the Web was already well established.

HCD Trivia: In 1998 HCD's founding partners Chris and Tony were Directors in Canberra based Internet Service Provider ACTweb - which was acquired by WebOne, which was then acquired by IINET. The ACTweb domain name www.actweb.net still resolves to the IINET website..

As the Web turns 21 this year, while surprisingly some still consider it a new science, last year e-commerce in Australia grew to almost 40 Billion dollars. 

At HCD, we believe if you are involved in certain industries such as consumer based retail and if e-commerce is not a core part of your competitive strategy your mid to long term survival is in jeopardy.

Successful entry into e-Commerce can be daunting, but the rewards and potential returns are high.

We are proud of the fact that many HCD clients are using the technologies and strategies we provide to deliver a great online experience to their customers and grow their business, but it's also true to say that we see some businesses struggle with their approach to e-Commerce.

HCD Tactic: The same fundamentals of "real-world" retail apply online. You need to attract new customers, give them a great experience and incentive to return.

Leading online shopping cart provider #Shopify put together a list of advice and observations from successful online entrepreneurs. 

Here's our top 10 from that list:

  1. Define your desired customers by what their interests are, what motivates them to purchase, what they like and who they want to be. If you design your storefront and products to meet all of their needs and stay true to that brand, your company will be the first thing they think of when they are ready to make a purchase. - Caydi and Alex Zerega, Fit Little Bride.
  2. When engaging with customers, do things early on that don't scale. Write little personal notes on packages. Say hi to them on Twitter. Invite local customers to come check out your shop. - Bill Trammel, Catan Boards.
  3. As a general rule, we only work with nice people. We try to treat our customers the way we want to be treated and make every interaction a positive one. - Mariquel Waingarten, Hickies.
  4. It's not an essential key to a successful business but it does help that you are immersed in the lifestyle of it. - Steve Watts, Slyde Handboards.
  5. Find a way to be genuine. There is so much noise out there and consumers are savvier than ever - you have to really believe in your product and have an honest commitment to your customers to find a message that resonates. - Kishore Hiranand, Lookmatic Eyeware.
  6. If you try to make everything as perfect as you can it's really going to show in your end product. - Chris Tsang, Mindzai.
  7. Make sure you have something awesome that your friends want. If your friends don't want it, then somebody else better want it, otherwise, it's not worth doing. - Mike Krilivsky, Rage On.
  8. We have found that an online store is not so different from our physical boutiques and that there is now a blending of service. - Gail Elliott, Little Joe Women.
  9. By using high-class photography, we are able to evoke the color and texture of our fudge so that we can invite online shoppers into our kitchen, the heart of our business. - Giancarlo Di Sotto, The Fudge House.
  10. People hate to wait for their purchases and they want to know where their items are, all the time. Pay a little more for a good shipping partner, because it will pay off in the future. - Diogo Cruz, Vertty.
If you're publishing an e-commerce website and have anything to add, please let us know or to discuss getting your business online  or improving your current e-commerce performance Get in Touch.

QR Codes Explained - 8 Do's and Don'ts

QR Codes Explained - 8 Do's and Don'ts

QR Codes Explained - 8 Do's and Don'ts

There have been many articles recently that suggest the only time to use a QR Code is Never. 

When used correctly (read appropriately), QR Codes can be an highly effective method of linking offline with on-line.

QR Codes (Quick Response Codes), are a 2-D barcode invented in Japan in 1994 to provide a means of storing more information in barcodes than the standard 1-D vertical lined barcode. Originally used in vehicle manufacturing plants as a method of tracking parts from delivery to installation, thanks to the fact SmartPhones can be used to scan QR Codes, they quickly spread into other industries, particularly marketing and advertising.

A fantastic example of QR Codes being used effectively is by a wildlife refuge in the US displaying QR Codes on posts along a walking trail to instantly direct visitors to a website with information about local flora and fauna along the trail. Perfect! The codes deliver convenience and something of value.

HCD Tactic: Be selective about where you place a QR Code, and what the destination will deliver.

So here's our 8 Do's and Don'ts for using QR Codes:

  1. Placement : Don't put a QR Code on a billboard. It's way too hard scan!
  2. Placement : Do put a QR Code on a poster in a bus shelter. You have a captive audience in easy reach.
  3. Content : Don't put a QR Code on a poster relating to personal or sensitive issues such as health disorders. No one wants to be seen accessing that information in public. In this case it's much better to include a website address or phone number that can be actioned without having to scan the message for all the world to see.
  4. Content : Do use QR Codes on a poster advertising your non personal or sensitive products and services. Customer sees product, likes product, gets taken directly to buying the product.
  5. Placement : Don't put a QR Code on a poster in a toilet. Hands are too busy with other things (or they should be!)
  6. Placement : Do put a QR Code in a press advertisement linking directly to the page on your website where customers can buy the product you are advertising. Customer gets an instant result. Their original activity (reading the paper) isn't interrupted.
  7. Incentive : Don't just link a QR Code to the same information they can already see alongside the Code. Give the visitor a reward for their effort - like a "QR Code Discount or Bonus". 
  8. Incentive : Do use a QR Code to enter visitors into your latest competition.  

Remember, QR Codes have practically unlimited uses, but the majority of them just don't fit with audience's habits and expectations. Use them wisely, and you can create positive associations with your audience and build positive results.

You can find several free and subscription (which provide tracking services) based QR Code creation tools on the Internet with a simple search for 'QR Code generator'. Free generators allow you to create static QR Codes quickly, while the subscription based providers include additional features such as customisation and dynamic QR Codes (allowing you to change the information in the code without needing to update/reprint the code) and code tracking data.

For more information about the QR Code, visit the Denso Wave QR Code website.


Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

When it comes to producing your website Terms and Conditions the best (and some would say only) approach is to seek professional legal assistance.

However, providing your lawyer with a draft for proofing should be more economical than having them prepare the contents from scratch. But then we are dealing with Lawyers.

HCD Tactic: When dealing with any service provider - Lawyers included - always get a clear indication of time / cost estimates before approving any engagement.
Lawlive.com.au is an Australian website that sells personalised templates of legal contracts and documents, including many relating to website terms and conditions for around $100.00 per document.

If your website is published in Australia you need to comply with current Australian Consumer Laws, and there may also be other industry specific requirements that could cause serious problems if overlooked.

If you're selling products or services online and accepting credit card payments, your merchant facility provider may also have specific requirements relating to the legal information you publish.

So if you're ready to tackle composition of your T's & C's, here's our 8 Point Guide outlining some of the key areas you need to cover...remembering of course that we're not lawyers, and the following is not in any way intended to be legal advice.

  1. Copyright - Australian Law automatically applies copyright to your website and content, but adding a copyright notice confirms this. Apply the statement to everything from the website design, your products, your images and your text content.
  2. Use of Information - Include a disclaimer that protects you against the use (or misuse) of the information or advice that you provide on your website. What you say may not work for everyone, and you can't predict how people may use it.
  3. Customer Returns - If you sell products or services on-line, it is essential that your Terms and Conditions comply with the latest consumer laws. You must include the following:
    • A statement that you comply with the latest Australian Consumer Law
    • The terms under which you will provide a refund, repair or replacement on faulty items or undelivered service.
    • Details of your guarantees.
    • Details of your warranties (if you provide any).
  4. Shipping Policy - If you sell products, and send them to customers by courier or mail, provide a clear outline of the terms of sending goods. Include expected costs and delivery times, your policy for late or undelivered goods, and any responsibilities of the customer.
  5. Industry/Product Specialist Risks - If you are in certain industries, or sell products that have a higher set of risks (like health advise or products for example), you should seek professional legal advice in relation to inclusion of special terms and conditions, such as for example disclaimers that limit claims for possible injuries or losses that may be caused by using any of your products or services.
  6. Amount of Liability - Most importantly, include a clause that limits the amount of your liability from any claims made against you or your business, including a maximum claim amount for damages (the amount paid for the product or service for example).
  7. Terms for International Customers - If you sell your products or services to customers overseas, include separate terms that cover international customers and their consumer laws.
  8. Privacy - Australian Privacy Laws changed in March 2014. Australian Private Sector Organisations are required to have a "clearly expressed and up-to-date privacy policy describing how they manage personal information". While not every Australian website is legally obligated to publish a privacy policy, if you are engaging your audience via interactive functions such as newsletter subscriptions, online shopping systems or even just simple online forms such as a contact form, you'll need to disclose how you manage the personal information you're collecting.

Publishing current, clear, business specific Terms and Conditions that have been approved by professional legal counsel provides peace of mind for your customers while serving to mitigate the risk of legal action and costly penalties and fines for non compliance with your obligations.

For the latest consumer law information, visit the Australian Consumer Law website and for more information about the new Australian Privacy Laws visit the Privacy section of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, or select the link below to download the plain English factsheet.


5 Alternatives to the CAPTCHA test

5 Alternatives to the CAPTCHA test

5 Alternatives to the CAPTCHA test

CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) tests in on-line forms are a frustration, but seemingly necessary to prevent spam and malicious activities. Often it is difficult to read the characters that are displayed, and sometimes require a number of attempts.

Is there a better way to determine if a form is being submitted by a human?

We've put together a short list of some alternative methods to determine if the user is a Bot or a real person:

  1. Hidden form fields - Hidden from the human user using CSS or JavaScript, a Bot will "see" this field and fill it in. One downside is it can create a problem for screen readers.
  2. Confirmation Check-boxes - Like the hidden field, a human can distinguish between "Is a human" and "Is a robot", only selecting one option. Bots aren't able to tell between the two questions and fill both check-boxes, allowing you to reject the submission.
  3. Timestamps on forms - A human takes time to read the form, and fill in their information. A Bot will fill in all the fields much faster. If a form is submitted in under a certain amount of time, you can almost determine that it is from a bot.
  4. Verified Sign In - Require your users to sign into your website beforehand. This allows you to remove the need for any testing as the human user has already been verified.
  5. The logic test - Create a simple logic test like match the colour displayed, or complete a simple puzzle or game that a human could easily solve but a Bot can't determine. This one could also create problems for screen-readers however.

The Beginning of the End for Internet Explorer?

The Beginning of the End for Internet Explorer?

The Beginning of the End for Internet Explorer?

Microsoft developed its Internet Explorer (IE) web browser with the express intention of killing off the incumbent market leader (Netscape Navigator) and dominating the planet - and it did exactly that!

By 2002 of the more than 600 million global Internet Users, IE had around 90% of the market.

Today, according to NetMarketShare, IE still dominates the global desktop web-browser market with a 55% share.

That dominance however does not translate to the booming mobile space where IE's 2.31% share falls well short of Apple's Safari (53.91%) and Google's 2 x mobile browsers - Android Browser (23.44%) and Chrome (12.94%).

Even Opera Mini (3.51%) out performs IE in the mobile browser space.

But IE's future is now even more shaky after Microsoft admitted on Saturday that all versions from IE6 - IE11 have a serious security problem.

According to a Microsoft security advisory, "An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system...could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights."

What's even more troubling is that Microsoft can only resolve the issue for the latest versions of the Microsoft Operating System: Users operating Windows XP or earlier versions have no way to protect against this vulnerability - ever.

If you're running Windows XP or older - stop using IE immediately and permanently!

Microsoft has suggested a couple of steps to take for Users with more recent Windows versions to address the problem until they can resolve the issue, but our recommendation (and that of the Australian Government) is to simply download, install and start using an alternative browser. The two most popular are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

To e-Mail or not to e-Mail?

To e-Mail or not to e-Mail?

To e-Mail or not to e-Mail?

There's no solid formula for how often to send e-mail marketing campaigns, but here's our guide for optimum message frequency:

  • e-Mail Daily

    Generally speaking a "marketing no no" unless of course your audience explicitly understands they are subscribing to "Daily Deals" or "Daily Tips" etc.

  • e-Mail Weekly

    Weekly e-mail is great for promoting "weekly specials" from high volume retailers and "what's on" from hospitality providers.
    But remember - this is more than 50 direct intrusions into your subscribers lives each year so be very sure you have something new and worthwhile to say each time.

  • e-Mail Monthly to Quarterly

    This is where most professional service providers, business to business providers and the majority of businesses should probably lie.
    Sending marketing messages with this lower frequency keeps your brand in your subscribers minds without over-stepping and should allow you enough time to generate content that sparks real interest from your audience.

  • e-Mail Infrequently

    If you haven't got anything interesting to say - say nothing.
    Send marketing messages only when you've got something of real interest to pass on - a new product launch, a change of key staff, your Christmas trading...sending messages for the sake of sending messages is probably the worst thing you can do.

  • Hub Communications Tactic

    You might consider allowing your Subscribers more control over the messages they receive by offering multiple "areas" or "topics of interest".
    Indicate how regularly messages relating to each area or topic are typically sent i.e. "weekly specials" or "monthly industry news" and let subscribers opt-in (and opt-out) as they wish.

In summary, every business is different, finding the right balance requires testing and measuring... but getting it right can be well worth the effort!


4 Essentials for Planning Videos

4 Essentials for Planning Videos

4 Essentials for Planning Videos

Last month we explained that half of all online customers had more confidence in products after watching a video, and a third bought the product after being influenced by the video. Pretty good reasons to incorporate video into your online shop!

Everyone with a Smartphone or Tablet has a video camera, but like all online content, if it isn't engaging it will just be ignored.

Here's our 4 essential tips to plan videos that will engage and inform your customers effectively...
  1. Know your purpose - Why are you making this video? Are you showcasing your products? Providing instructions to help customers? Maybe something more creative?
  2. Know your audience - Tailor your language and content to your audience. Will they understand technical terms? Do they expect/need to see a full product demonstration? Do they want to hear about the manufacturing process?
  3. Where will you publish? - Youtube is King, but there are other video platforms. Will you publish your videos exclusively on your website? Will you broadcast over many different websites?
  4. Measuring your Results - How will you measure success? The total number of views? How many times your video is shared? Sales generated by your video? What tools will you use?

Consider our 4 essentials when planning videos to enhance your online store...and who knows, you just might create the next viral video sensation!

(Image by NewsbiePix.)


The Relevance of a Keyphrase

The Relevance of a Keyphrase

The Relevance of a Keyphrase
Google is constantly updating the way it indexes websites, so maintaining good Google rankings is an ongoing task...and you've got to keep up with the times.

Google is now looking closer than ever at the visitor searches. It's fair to say that Google is becoming more "human" in its approach to understanding what people are searching for.

Google now considers factors like the credibility and popularity of the website, the level of user engagement and the context of the content - so the days of treating Google like a machine and stuffing in as many relevant key words and key phrases as possible are long gone.

SEO Tactic: Develop meaningful content around your primary search terms - those that visitors are most likely to use to find you.

Google now understands website content far more deeply than just analysing the keywords, so with appropriate terms and clear language you can make it much easier for Google to include your website in the relevant search results.

33 Things We All HATE About Carts

33 Things We All HATE About Carts

33 Things We All HATE About Carts

A group called VoucherCloud sent us an infographic of statistics about US consumers and their online habits. While some points came as no surprise, there were still things that made us go 'Hmm'.

Like did you know that a judgement to buy your product (or not) is made in just 90 seconds! That's faster than your Aunty Denise on Boxing Day!!

Tell us what you think about the stats in this infographic. Does it change the way you look at your online customers?

View the Infographic: Consumer Psychology and the E-Commerce Checkout

More Information: Consumer Psychology and the E-Commerce Checkout - An infographic by the team at vouchercloud




To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
The power to publish directly via the web came with responsibilities and over the last 21 years business has had to adapt to this new reality.

Then along came Social Media - with it's own perils - did you know all content published on Social Media platforms is subject to regulation under Australian law...including all comments and visitor interaction?

Social Media has delivered the most powerful marketing tool to business since the Internet itself, but the moral of this story is there are big traps for young players.

Before engaging in Social Media activity, be sure you understand the legal responsibilities - and the terms and conditions of the various platforms you use.

For more information about the Australian broadcasting standards see the ACMA website and some popular Social Media Platforms terms of use pages are here:










Personalising the e-commerce Experience

Personalising the e-commerce Experience

Personalising the e-commerce Experience
As a leading provider of e-commerce solutions for more than a decade, we're always striving to meet demands for new functionality that satisfies the current and future requirements of the hundreds of clients using our iASP shopping cart and the hundreds of thousands of customers who in turn purchase goods and services via desktop and mobile devices using our technology.

To that end we are pleased to announce the release of new advanced adjustment and shipping rules that now allow for practically any adjustment imaginable at the checkout based on any combination of individual customer attributes, product attributes or transaction attributes.

For example, a vendor can now offer 50% off shipping to customers named Paul who purchase XXL Blue T-shirts on Tuesdays between 4:00pm and 5:00pm!

In the lead up to Christmas we're releasing more exciting new e-commerce functions, so please watch this space!

The 4 Most Important Google Rankings Factors

The 4 Most Important Google Rankings Factors

The 4 Most Important Google Rankings Factors
There are literally hundreds of factors Google uses to calculate search rankings.

SEO professionals spend their lives tweaking client websites to extract every possible advantage, however, in our experience, focusing on the following 4 areas will see most websites rise above their Google competition.

1: Overall Content

If your website does not contain the key words ice cream then chances are it won't appear in a Google search for that search term.

The placement and density of key words and phrases within a web page is the most important on-page search engine optimisation (SEO) metric.

2: Page Titles

Page Titles (for the technically minded Meta Titles), after the overall content, are the most important area to place your primary keywords and phrases.

Every page on a web site should include a unique Page Title. Page Titles not only serve as headlines for the page but also factor heavily in key word weighting.

3: Domain Name

If your domain name contains the key words within a search term you're well on the way to a high search ranking for that term.

For example, try a Google search for: peaches and cream (pages from Australia) and note the top results.

4: Google Page Rank

Google Page Rank was once the most important Google ranking factor and is still a useful method of measuring the overall link popularity of a web page.

Google Page Rank is based on the link structure of the web where a link from site A to site B can be considered a vote by site A for site B.

To get a FREE overview of your website's SEO performance, visit http://www.seobenchmarker.com.au/ and try the free Search Engine Ranking Score Tool, or to learn more about SEO download a free copy of the SEO Benchmarker white paper: An Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation


3 Killer Responsive Frameworks: Bootstrap, Foundation, & Skeleton

3 Killer Responsive Frameworks: Bootstrap, Foundation, & Skeleton

3 Killer Responsive Frameworks: Bootstrap, Foundation, & Skeleton
Bootstrap is a popular, modern, front-end UI development framework. It has a 12-column grid responsive layout and includes custom buttons and form elements of its own. Additionally, Bootstrap includes several JavaScript components such as carousels, modals, alerts, and tabs. The component and plugin library is large and community support continues to grow. Overall, Bootstrap is a full featured solution for making a responsive website.

Foundation is another popular responsive front-end framework. Like Bootstrap, Foundation includes a responsive grid system, base CSS, CSS components, and JavaScript plugins. It's also a 12-column flexible grid, but it can scale out to an arbitrary size that's also easily nested. Foundation was built using the mindset of "Mobile First". With the Foundation framework, the grid classes account for mobile devices first, and treat larger devices as the exception. Foundation will be a great choice if you focus on your mobile site more.

Skeleton is a small collection of CSS & JS files that can help you rapidly develop sites that look beautiful at any size. Skeleton seems to be most ideal for simple concise websites that don't require a lot of extra features as it's got just the bare essentials and nothing more. The Skeleton template only works up to a 960 pixel width. For those users who want to get started with responsive design quickly, you should look into this open source project.

2 Crucial Practices for Social Media for Business Novices

2 Crucial Practices for Social Media for Business Novices

2 Crucial Practices for Social Media for Business Novices
We all know that, for most businesses, social media is an invaluable tool. Everyone has advice and everyone has multiple accounts, but what if you're new to social media for business and want to take baby steps and learn the ropes?

The quickest way to build confidence and get you on the road to effectively managing your social media is to educate yourself. We recommend that you read as much as possible on the subject (Mashable.com is a great resource!) and get your hands dirty in a monitoring tool. There are a variety of social media monitoring platforms out there to help you schedule content, respond to relevant issues, and provide customer service, but if you're a novice, tweetdeck is one of the most straight forward tools.

With all the reading you're doing, if you're still not ready to post, you can keep an eye on keywords. Set up tweetdeck searches for your business name, words relevant to your business, an potential new clients. For example, if you have an iPhone repair shop in Geelong, you could set up a search for "iPhone repair Geelong" in tweetdeck. When a tweeter posts about their broken screen, you can respond directly. It couldn't be easier.

Cross-browser Performance

Cross-browser Performance

Cross-browser Performance
Unfortunately for website developers, and website owners, the major web browsers, Chrome (52.9%), Firefox (27.7%), Internet Explorer (12.6%), Safari (4.0%) and Opera (1.6%), all handle websites differently.

A website that looks fine on a device in Safari, may have problems when viewed in Firefox.

This age old issue has been greatly confounded by the explosion of smartphone and tablet browsing, which adds another level of complexity to the problem.

Over time, experienced web developers accumulate a list of methods and tactics they have used to combat cross-browser compatibility issues.

A useful resource containing many of these known tactics (often referred to in the trade as "browser hacks") can be found here: http://css-tricks.com/snippets/css/browser-specific-hacks/.

If you know of a browser hack that will save web developers time and hassle, please tell us.

Is Social Media a Good Choice for Your Business?

Is Social Media a Good Choice for Your Business?

Is Social Media a Good Choice for Your Business?
A big part of our business is dedicated to helping our clients successfully engage in Social Media.

We see the positive effects every day, but Social Media is not for every business.

Here's our Social Media compatibility check-list:

  • Audience:
    Does your product / service appeal to an audience that justifies the effort?
    If you supply specialised parts for an aircraft manufacturer chances are you won't appeal to a large enough audience to deliver return on investment and your efforts to engage customers could be better spent elsewhere.

  • Shareability:
    Is your product / service something your audience will be happy to share with their friends?
    Treatments for certain diseases may not be something your customers are happy to tell the rest of the world they are using!

  • Resources:
    Do you have the time, money and people with the knowledge and skills required to successfully engage in Social Media? If you don't have the people on staff, do you have the resources to out-source?
    Social Media requires a long term investment of time and money, but that's only part of the story.
    Social Media requires a team effort from all stakeholders in your business and demands a level of knowledge, certain skills and importantly the motivation to be successful.

If you're not sure whether or not Social Media is right for your business, here's my number 1 tactic: look at your competitors!

If your competitors are successfully growing communities and engaging their customers it means you can check off Audience and Shareability from the list, and this will probably provide you with all the motivation you need.

So it becomes a matter of Resources: Time, Money and People (either internal staff or out-sourced personnel).

More about this over coming weeks.


How Does Cloud Computing Work?

How Does Cloud Computing Work?

How Does Cloud Computing Work?
From a 'cloud', you can run software applications over the internet without needing to buy, install, or manage your own servers. The resources are retrieved online through web-based tools and applications rather than a direct connection to a server. This type of system allows people to work remotely.

Well known companies, like Dropbox and GE.tt, have adopted this technology to deliver services. They make it easy to keep local synchronised copies of files on multiple devices while maintaining a copy in the 'cloud'. Perhaps the most famous users of could computing are social media websites including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

The fundamental functionality of cloud computing means that entrepreneurs can focus on their businesses rather than on their software. All they need is a browser. How awesome is that?

Don't Want to be Tracked? How to Clear Your Mobile Browser Data

Don't Want to be Tracked? How to Clear Your Mobile Browser Data

Don't Want to be Tracked? How to Clear Your Mobile Browser Data
Whether you are or aren't aware, if Safari is your browser on your iPhone or iPad, your data is being collected for several reasons. This isn't as terrible as it sounds because it helps to speed up browsing and store login information, but this doesn't mean that security is not a concern.

Following Facebook's recent security failure in disclosing personal details, many are worrying about data saved by Safari and other browsers on local devices. Data collected about your usage can be used for tracking purposes, but if this is something that makes you uncomfortable, there are options.

If you'd rather not be tracked, you can clear the saved data from time to time.
These are the steps to clean your browser data:

1. Go to the Settings on your iPhone or iPad.
2. Scroll down to locate Safari and tap it.
3. Scroll down and tap on Advanced.
4. Tap on Website Data.
5. Scroll down through the data stored by Safari and tap on Remove all Website Data.
6. When prompted with a confirmation, tap Remove Now.

Every once and a while, repeat this process if you'd prefer not to be tracked.

Responsive Design VS Dedicated Device Versions

Responsive Design VS Dedicated Device Versions

Responsive Design VS Dedicated Device Versions
As more and more users surf the web with mobile devices, website designers need to implement web design solutions that cater to these users. Two of the most popular solutions are Responsive Design and Dedicated Device Versions (i.e. publishing a desktop computer version and a dedicated mobile device version).

The Responsive web design (RWD) approach aims at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience. Whether the website is viewed on a smart phone or a large computer monitor, a Responsive website layout adapts itself to fit the size of the screen. Certain elements might change position or become hidden, but still most or all of the content is typically the same across all screen resolutions.

The other method is to publish multiple dedicated device specific designs. For example, a dedicated desktop site and a dedicated mobile device site.

Typically with the standalone approach the mobile device versions will only contain the most essential information in a lightweight framework that optimises the viewing experience on a small screen.

Unfortunately in our experience neither of these approaches ticks all the boxes. In some cases a Responsive design is preferable, whereas, a dedicated device version can also deliver a highly optimised user experience.

In the near future as this exciting technology evolves Hub Com Digital will continue to develop the capabilities of our extensive proprietary technology platform: iASP, and we'll keep you posted as the evolution continues.

Happy New Financial Year

Happy New Financial Year

Happy New Financial Year

In the blink of an eye the new financial year is apon us.

The global economy is still in a state of flux and many local Australian business operators are already experiencing tough times, due in no small part to both the current state of national politics and the looming federal election, which inevitably leads to a slow down across many sectors.

At times like these business needs to work as smart as possible, and my number one tactic - and new financial year resolution - is simply get with the program.

What does that mean you ask?

There are so many time saving programs (software tools, apps and plugins etc.) now available that the day to day operations of a business do not have to be such hard work.

Likewise the Internet and in particular e-commerce has reduced the hassle of some menial and time consuming tasks from once taking hours to just minutes.

For example, some vendors like Officeworks deliver orders placed before 11:30am in capital cities on the same day...so why would you battle traffic, check-out queues and your office stairs when in a fraction of the time you can arrange for goods to be delivered right into your reception area!

When it comes to your existing systems and software, make it a priority to be sure your suppliers are doing their part to upkeep the technology with the latest capabilities.

In our case we've been sure to keep our website development technology capabilities at the forefront of the mobile Internet revolution.

It's also a good time to review the terms and options vendors offer. For example, one software vendor we deal with offers a full purchase option for around $3,000.00. Alternatively, an annual subscription to their cloud based service is around $50.00 per month.

The moral of this article is be pro-active and look for ways to save time and money, which can be re-purposed for other initiatives that have a positive impact on your bottom line.


Even Facebook Encounters Security Bugs

Even Facebook Encounters Security Bugs

Even Facebook Encounters Security Bugs
Last week (Jun 21st, 2013) Facebook announced a security bug that exposed users' personal contact information. In a post on the Facebook Security Page, Facebook explained that some of the information that the site uses to deliver friend recommendations was "inadvertently stored with people's contact information as part of their account on Facebook". As a result, anyone using Facebook's Download Your Information tool to download their friends' data were presented with information that should have remained secure.

This bug affected 6 million users.

What's more shocking is that it's been live since last year, but was discovered only last week. Although the security team fixed the bug less than 24 hours after it was detected, this highlights the fact that even with a strong technical team and massive resources , it is impossible to ensure that no bugs exist. This is worrisome as social media continues to integrate deeper into our daily lives.

What's the best Android smart phone on the market?

What's the best Android smart phone on the market?

What's the best Android smart phone on the market?
If you're like us, you're torn between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. Both have powerful components and run Google Android's Jelly Bean OS, but are suited to different needs.

The HTC One hit the market in March 2013 and the Samsung Galaxy followed on it's heels in April 2013. In terms of design, the HTC One takes gold. Machined from a solid block of aluminum, it has a more square look but is visually softened by it's rounded corners and convex back.

Although slimmer and lighter than the HTC One, the Samsung S4 closely resembles its predecessor and appears cheapened by the plastic backing. In sharp contrast to it's cheap external appearance, its photo capabilities are far superior to the HTC One. The Samsung S4 has a 13 megapixel BSI Sensor and 2MP user face sensor meaning that it produces a clearer shot.

If you're after a sturdier sleeker looking phone, the choice is definitely the HTC One, but if you rely on your phone for quick quality photo production, you'll want a Samsung S4.

CSS Tricks You May Not Know About

CSS Tricks You May Not Know About

CSS Tricks You May Not Know About
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a language used to describe web pages' font colours, area sizes, and element positions.

As well as ensuring design integrity, CSS3 (the current version) can also control the interface that user experience based on the viewing screen. This is called Responsive Design or Adaptive Design.

Dependent upon screen size, page elements can adapt by resizing and repositioning to fit the device.

Using CSS, a single website can appear optimised for both a mobile phone and a desktop monitor.

CSS also dictates another key user interface element.

In HTML5, CSS is taking the place of Gif, Flash, and Javascript to display animations.

This simpler way of animating is being embraced because of the limitations of Gif animation and the incompatibility of Flash with many mobile devices.

That leaves CSS and Javascript.

In a battle between the two, our money is on CSS because of the increased performance.

Less computation power is required using CSS and transitions are smoother than they would appear in Javascript.

How to Plan Meaningful Content

How to Plan Meaningful Content

How to Plan Meaningful Content

The most difficult part of any social media continuous marketing strategy is to generate meaningful content. It can be daunting, but a content calendar is a great way to start.

Choose topics relevant to your business and plan the days that you'll write about each topic. Schedule staff to contribute because, ultimately, their skills and relationships with clients comprise the knowledge and capabilities of your business. It's also great to periodically reference industry related news, but be sure that you choose reliable sources.

Remember that it's important to keep your company's voice consistent, so all content should pass through your Community Manager before it's shared with the world.


iOS7, Hurrying to be Released?

iOS7, Hurrying to be Released?

iOS7, Hurrying to be Released?

Apple recently announced, iOS7, the newest version of their mobile operating system. Although still in the development stage, iOS7 appears to be the most dramatic change in graphic style since 2000. The familiar stereo-effect is gone in favour of flat icons, subtle gradients, and a cartoon cut-out style.

Some disappointed 3-D lovers criticise the operating system's new style direction calling it "ugly" and "inconsistent" and pointing out problems with overlapping icons. Usability issues overshadow well-received features, like iTunes Radio, and are generating a growing opinion that iOS7 is far from ready and that the development team are in a hurry to release it.

As developers, test driving iOS7 can be a lesson in attention to detail. Because users naturally interpret interface bugs as incomplete and broken systems, it's important to test from an end-user point of view and be sure that the graphic elements are consistent throughout. Thorough testing will ensure that no bugs or graphic problems linger on in the officially released version.


What is responsive design...and why it's not the end game!

What is responsive design...and why it's not the end game!

What is responsive design...and why it's not the end game!

So what is responsive design?

The simple answer is: websites featuring responsive design automatically adjust according to the device they are being viewed on.

Elements such as overall size, the position of various elements, the size of elements such as images and even the way functions like navigation menus are displayed adjust automatically to present the site in optimum format according to the device it is being viewed with, be it a desktop, smartphone, tablet or even a wide-screen TV.

With the explosion of Internet usage on tablets and smartphones, website developers are under increasing pressure to provide multi-device publication capabilities, and responsive design has created a lot of industry hype, but even the most sophisticated responsive design cannot satisfy all multi-device functionality requirements, especially in the transactional website environment.

Not even the most creative responsive design can accommodate optimum simultaneous display of all website functions on both a 4 inch smartphone and a 60 inch wide-screen TV.

There are some functions, like shopping carts for example, that are simply better with a purpose built interface for desktops and a purpose built interface for smartphones.

Best practice responsive design also imposes limitations on overall structure and layout of pages, and in the content management system environment, where the content authors are not necessarily web designers, this can also be problematic.

Until the next quantum leap is design, for now I think the best solution is a hybrid: part responsive design and part device-specific functionality.

We've recently completed development of such a solution and as soon as it's live we'll let you know.

For now, feel free to have a look at some other websites that allow simultaneous publication of the same content in both desktop and smartphone specific profiles that we've recently delivered:

www.igoulburn.com
www.bigclean.com.au
www.themassageoilshop.com.au
www.onlynaturalorganics.com.au


Submit a Google Local Business Listing

Submit a Google Local Business Listing

Submit a Google Local Business Listing
Our Best Mobile Strategy Tactic:

Here's a no-brainer starting point for your mobile strategy: Submit a Google Local Business Listing.

If you're not sure how, here's another pearler for you...Google it!

A huge percentage of mobile search is local...and a huge percentage of results lead to a direct visit...so claim your share now and stop giving up the high ground to the other guys.

Mobilise the Forces

Mobilise the Forces

Mobilise the Forces

Are you mobile ready?

Chief Executive of Google, Eric Schmidt once said "If you don't have a mobile strategy, you don't have a future strategy", and he practices what he preaches.

Since 2010 Google has embraced a mobile first culture, meaning the technology superpower is primarily focused on mobile.

With the continuing explosion of mobile Internet use - more people now check e-mail on mobile devices than on desktops - make sure you don't miss the boat!


Use Keyboards Shortcuts to Save Time and Pain

Use Keyboards Shortcuts to Save Time and Pain

Use Keyboards Shortcuts to Save Time and Pain

If only I knew about Ctrl + Z!

I have a confession. It took almost 10 years working in the Internet industry before in 2008 I finally studied up on keyboard shortcuts...and I soon realised the cost of this oversight.

Keyboard short cuts now save me lots of time everyday, but the all powerful (Ctrl + Z = undo on most Windows based systems) is my favourite.

Many times when editing content I've mistakenly deleted a paragraph or a page or even the whole document. Before I learned Ctrl + Z my only solution was to have a little cry and re-do the work.

If you use a keyboard and you don't use keyboard shortcuts you're just wasting time.

Apart from Ctrl + Z, for me the 3 other most important keyboard shortcuts are (Ctrl + A = select all) and (Ctrl + C = copy) and (Ctrl + V = paste). If you've got a favourite let us know and we'll be sure to pass it on.


Use Cross-Browser Testing to Your Advantage

Use Cross-Browser Testing to Your Advantage

Use Cross-Browser Testing to Your Advantage

Time is Money...so here's a valuable tactic...

As software developers, we're constantly testing our work, and we advise clients using the iASP™ cms to always check the live changes they make to their websites.

Many platforms on the Internet provide access on an individual user basis...so just because something looks OK to the administrator does not necessarily mean it's OK for all other user levels.

For reasons highlighted in a recent post, it's important to test everything from the perspective of all users, and here's our number one tip for saving time doing this:

Use multiple browsers.

When using a web browser such as Firefox, new windows or tabs always open with your current login status, however, opening a new browser will not. So you can quickly login to the new browser for testing purposes and you can then return to the original browser without having to log back in.

We hope this helps...let us know if it does...or if you've got any other time saving tips drop us a line.


Why do customers leave without saying goodbye?

Why do customers leave without saying goodbye?

Why do customers leave without saying goodbye?

It was fun while it lasted...

I talk to businesses worrying about customers posting negative feedback, but a customer can do something far worse: Leave, without even saying goodbye!

Don't rely on customer feedback to highlight problems...in reality customers are more likely to just move on if they encounter barriers to your offerings.

Case in point: A client recently created a promotion-code based offer on Facebook.

Plenty of followers claimed the offer, but no sales resulted...on investigation the code wasn't set-up properly, but nobody complained...they just didn't buy anything!

Tactic: There is a second powerful lesson here...many online systems behave differently according to login status: be sure to test everything is functioning properly from your customers perspective... on this later...


Five tactics to address negative customer feedback

Five tactics to address negative customer feedback

Five tactics to address negative customer feedback

With the emergence of social media, customers are becoming increasingly savvy about how to effectively focus the spotlight on poor customer service, products and other sub-standard business practices.

In today's competitive environment transparency and integrity are vital, so if you have skeletons in your closet, it's more important than ever to clean up your act.

If a customer exposes a legitimate issue with your customer service, your products or your other business practices (if only I had a dollar for every time that's happened to me over the last 25 years), these five tactics have proven highly effective in my experience:

1: The best and only policy is (and always has been) to respond honestly and quickly.

2: Respond directly to the feedback within the platform it was submitted, even if you plan to action the issue in other ways. For example, respond to comments posted on your Facebook wall with an answer on your Facebook wall, even if you plan to telephone the customer directly.

3: Be sure your response is polite and professional. It's a good idea to frame responses with the mindset that they might appear on the front page of a newspaper...as has happened to some operators who didn't consider this possibility.

4: Don't feel any obligation to be overly specific, but if possible provide a brief explanation of how or why the issue occurred and if relevant how you will address the issue in future, for example:
"We had a power outage that afternoon, which explains why our telephones were off-line. We're consulting with our provider to investigate options to mitigate this in future".

5: Regardless of whether the customer is entitled to any formal compensation under your terms of service or in respect to any warranty, consider how you would want to be responded to if you were in your customers position. Even a token offer of compensation can be a very powerful display of empathy, however, be sure any such offer cannot be misconstrued as patronising.


Welcome to Hub Communications Digital

Welcome to Hub Communications Digital

Welcome to Hub Communications Digital
The HCD site is powered by the latest version of our own technology - iASP™ 6.0 and showcases our new "home-page wall" function, responsive design capabilities, and more.

Today also marks the launch of our full service digital agency, a joint venture combining the collective talents of Hub Communications, Enotia and SEO Benchmarker, to provide our clients with access to everything from logo design to video production and mobile commerce to social media community management and just about everything in between.

HCD is thrilled to welcome Tiffany Waldron, a highly respected and experienced Social Media professional, who is overseeing the development of our Social Media related offerings, which includes our flagship service: Social Media 101 - a tailored 3.5 hour on-site workshop that extends into a 365 day Assisted DIY Social Media Management Program.

Over the coming weeks we'll be making regular additions to the HCD site, and we're in the process of writing to all our valued clients to personally explain HCD's capabilities and how they can be leveraged to advance your competitive strategy for the future.

We're absolutely thrilled with our new site, but we want to know what you think...please tell us!