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June 28 Marketing
posted by Mark Mark
Is Facebook Advertising Worth it?

For years, as online marketers have watched Facebook explode in popularity, we've been forced to advise a "soft sell" approach to working on the site. In other words, it was hard to promote your company or products outright, but what you could do was make important connections, describe enough about yourself or your business that people might want to work with you, and let prospective clients see behind the curtain a bit and build your brand in that way.

Now, with Facebook opening its virtual doors to advertisers earlier this year, the path to promotion and profits is being well-beaten... or is it?

Advertising on Facebook is far from a sure thing, if only because it's new. There isn't much of a track record of companies, big or small, making any money on the site through paid ads. What's more, as the most "social" of the social networking sites, it's a place that people go to in order to have fun and mix with friends and relatives – not necessarily find marketing messages.

So what does it all mean? Is Facebook advertising actually worth spending on? Here are a few questions to help you sort out the right answer for your company:

Do you sell directly to consumers? If so, you might be in luck. While Facebook is likely to remain a poor business-to-business advertising venue, it does seem to offer some hope for those who sell directly to consumers.

How specific do you need your audience to be? While new options are being added quickly, Facebook still lacks many of the customization tools you'd find on a more popular platforms, like Google Adwords. What that basically means is that you might have to settle for marketing to broad groups – like women or students, for example – as opposed to more targeted demographics, at least for now.

Do you have room in your budget to take the chance? Like other forms of pay per click advertising, it doesn't take much to get started on Facebook. But, as a new platform, it makes sense to test the system out and see whether the results will pan out in the bottom line. And as with any test, be prepared in case you get back less than expected... or even nothing at all.

As Facebook advertising grows, marketers will undoubtedly figure out which strategies, prices, and types of products can reliably succeed. For the time being, however, the concept is like a lot of things that have to do with social networking – fun, interesting, and a little unproven.

June 27 Marketing
posted by Mark Mark
Channeling Your Inner Marketing Ninja: Turning Social Networking Contacts Into Real World Buyers

When I read about the rise of social network marketing, I’m always reminded of those old kung fu movies, where a masked warrior moves silently through the shadows to defeat dozens of enemy samurai. Why? Because today’s marketers, like the old-time ninjas of the silver screen, need to rely on stealth to reach their goal and turn contacts into customers.

The problem isn't a new one... either to life or this blog. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are filled to the brim with buyers; at the same time, they don't come to any of these virtual destinations to be sold. That can create what seems like an unwinnable dilemma – come on too strong, and people will ignore you; fail to market it all and you'll be making lots of friends who will never buy anything. As much fun as it might be, that's not anyone's idea of a good business plan.

And so, your social networking marketing plan has to hide under the cloak of darkness. Here are three quick tips to help you forge a decisive attack:

Show, don't tell. It's bad form to tweet that people can save money by working with you, for instance, but perfectly all right to congratulate a client for improving their bottom line as a result of your services.

Hide everything behind humor and entertainment. There's always room online for something that makes people laugh, or at least gives them a momentary break from their day-to-day lives. Try to think of ways to embed your marketing message into a format that accomplishes one of those things.

Strike decisively. In the rare event that you do advertise or broadcast an offer via social networking, make it so strong and compelling that people can't help but have a look. You aren't going to get many opportunities to ask for business outright, so make every one count.

June 22 Marketing
posted by Amir Amir

This is an important question for any business owner or online marketer, and one that isn't easy to answer. While some businesses will devote all, or nearly all, of their advertising and promotional dollars into a web strategy, most companies face a dilemma when it comes to finding the right mix: put in too little, and they might see sales drop off; throw too much money at finding customers on the web, and their expenses end being counterproductive.

A lot of advertising “experts” advise putting anywhere from 10 to 75% of your marketing budget into Internet ads and promotions, but they aren't running your company... you are. For most businesses, the answer is going to fall somewhere in the middle. Here are three questions you should ask yourself to help find out where that middle is:

Where are your current leads and sales coming from? It's never a good idea to stop doing something that's working, especially when we are talking about finding the money that's helping you make payroll, run your business, and earn a profit. Regardless of what your future plans are, take into account where you are leads and sales coming from at the moment and make sure that revenue stream will continue.

Where will future sales be coming from? Are you likely to gather lots of new buyers from the Internet? If so, then try to start moving more of your marketing expenditures in that direction, until you can either find a flood of new business, or figure out that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

How profitable is your online marketing effort? Every form of marketing or advertising faces diminishing returns at a certain point – people stop responding to more of it, or you just end up chasing customers that aren't worth the money. Monitor your online marketing expenses closely so that you can identify the point without going past it.

June 20 Marketing
posted by Moiz Moiz

Besides being a handy marketing tool to reach hundreds or thousands of your customers at once, Twitter is just, well... a lot of fun. The equivalent of an online party with all kinds of little conversations going on at once, it can sometimes cause even seasoned marketers to let down their guard. After all, if everyone else is having a good time and posting whatever they want, shouldn't you be, too?

As in all other situations, there's a fine line. One of Twitter's best qualities – and indeed one of the greatest things about social networking in general – is that it lets us drop some of our professional façade and let people in. This can be a great thing for relationships, business or otherwise, so long as you know how to keep yourself out of trouble.

Here are four tweets you should never, ever send:

Anything with obscenities, slurs, ethnic remarks, and so on. It should go without saying that these are the kinds of thoughts you should keep to yourself – if you insist on having them at all – but recognize that just one of them is likely to leave a permanent impression on your business and career.

News that isn't public yet. From new client contracts to earnings reports and future product releases, it's best to keep sensitive information in-house until it's been reported elsewhere.

Complaints about customers or coworkers. The quick, fluid nature of Twitter can make people feel anonymous. You aren't, so keep that in mind as you decide what to post, because it will get back to whomever you're writing about.

What you had for lunch. Also included would be your pet's favorite food, what you thought about a certain celebrity’s choice of clothing, and anything else that's likely to bore readers. Twitter, even more than other social networking sites, runs on attention. Make sure you give people a reason to tune in, or they'll go elsewhere.

June 15 Marketing
posted by Mark Mark
Your YouTube Video Marketing Checklist

As we noted a few weeks ago, YouTube is currently gathering more than 1 billion hits a day, effectively making it the world's second largest search engine (behind Google), and a hot destination for online marketers looking to spread their message virally.

Like a lot of things in life, however, marketing on YouTube is a lot easier to talk about than it is to actually accomplish. That's because viewers go there looking to learn or be entertained... but rarely to be sold to.

For that reason, the marketing message has to be wrapped up in something more interesting – like medicine that tastes like candy, it needs to be fun before it can be effective. You can only take this idea so far, though; videos of your employees falling down the stairs might get lots of hits, but they aren't going to bring many sales.

With that in mind, here are the five items on your YouTube marketing checklist. Don't upload a video without them:

A crisp, relevant, and interesting topic. The most impactful videos are short and to the point. They should show off your expertise while teaching the viewer something special they can use in their work or home lives.

A script. A lot of marketers are tempted to “wing it” and produce their videos without any script or rehearsal, but it’s not something we would recommend. While you don’t want your clip to be so practiced that it seems unnatural, it’s a good idea to at least run through your thoughts a few times before you shoot the final version.

A catchy opening. If the first 5 or 10 seconds of your video are boring, no one is going to bother watching the rest. Aim to capture attention quickly.

Good production. Shooting quick videos with a handheld cam is a great way to save money… except that it usually costs you future customers. If you don’t have the equipment to produce and edit sharp-looking video, find a creative partner who does.

Contact information and a call to action. Invite viewers to visit your website, download a free report, or take some other action. Otherwise, they may click away to the next video and never return.

June 13 Marketing
posted by Amir Amir

In many ways, the explosion of social network marketing has mirrored the growth of search engine optimization just a few years ago. Both are focused around content, both change the ways that businesses can attract new customers (not to mention the philosophy behind those methods), and both are largely considered necessary for any company with an Internet presence.

In fact, given that they are coming so closely related, you might be wondering: are search engine optimization and social media marketing still different topics?

The short answer is that they are... but only just so.

At the moment, SEO is a lot like commercial real estate. You might start out at a remote location, but through the careful investment of time and effort, you can steadily move your business into a high traffic, high profit neighborhood in a relatively short amount of time. It's still one of the most cost-effective ways of finding new customers, and the process that often takes on a life of its own once you've got it moving.

Social network marketing, on the other hand, closely resembles networking events in the off-line world. Approach them the wrong way, and you'll quickly find yourself stuck in a mixer with low-level marketers talking endlessly about products nobody wants. But open the door with the right kinds of content and profiles, and you can slip behind the velvet rope and talk deals with the movers and shakers. In other words, social networking is a great way to meet individual decision-makers – rather than a horde of "generic" customers – as well as deepen relationships with your existing buyers.

Search engine optimization and social network marketing definitely overlap, and the two are inching closer to one another all the time. For now, however, they are still separate disciplines that yield separate results. But even though you might have to spend a little time on each one, both are great ways to bring new business into your company

June 08 Marketing
posted by Mark Mark
YouTube Optimization: Relearning Old Lessons

Recently, we posted an article pointing out that YouTube – with more than a billion daily hits – had effectively become the world's second-largest search engine. But as much as we'd love to take sole credit for the idea, it seems that we aren't the only ones who noticed.

It’s difficult to find solid numbers, but estimates suggest that users are adding more than 200,000 new videos every single day, or about 13 hours worth each minute. While lots of those undoubtedly involve house pets dancing to modern hits, many of the new additions are coming from savvy online marketers just like you... and the trend is only gaining strength.

Here at Blue Beetle, it reminds us of something.

It wasn't that long ago that regular old search engine optimization was the hot new thing. Companies had just started figuring out that fresh content was the key to working your way to the top of Google, Yahoo, and MSN (now Bing), and so they got into a mad rush to add articles to their websites. In many cases, this was a great thing, because it brought valuable information to the Internet. But just as often that meant marketers who were trying to make a quick buck posted poorly-written collections of key words they called articles, making it difficult for searchers to actually find the useful pages they were looking for.

The same thing is beginning to happen on YouTube. For all of the wonderful advice and entertainment that has already been uploaded, we are starting to see badly-produced videos coming from marketers looking to take shortcuts. A few of them might find a way to make money from this strategy, but it's bound to fail in the long term because people don't go online looking for junk—they're searching for quality advice and insight.

With that in mind, we are going to tell you something you probably already know: the goal of your video marketing campaign shouldn't be to have the most YouTube videos, but the most effective. Post material that educates and entertains, not clips that take up a few minutes while parroting your sales message again and again.

One good video on YouTube can bring you millions of views and thousands of new customers, but a badly done piece only costs everyone time and aggravation.

posted by Khurram Khurram

If you've worked with Blue Beetle recently, there's a good chance the topic of "usability" has come up more than once. That's because, like many of our counterparts, we believe it's a trait that no serious online marketer can afford to ignore – in the same league as search engine optimization or compatibility across different browsers.

Most clients understand this intuitively: the easier it is for people to move around your website and find what they're looking for, the more likely they are to decide to do business with you. The difficulty isn't in seeing the value of usability, but putting it in practice.

What's needed is a way to add features to an existing online platform, without having to sacrifice speed and performance for your visitors.
As it turns out, there is a tool that does exactly that. It's called AJAX, which stands for asynchronous JavaScript and XML. While I'm sure that clears up the issue for those of you who spend your leisure hours looking through web design articles, maybe I should point out that in the real world, that basically means that AJAX allows your website to run more like a desktop application would – cleanly and seamlessly by displaying portions data dynamically, instead of refreshing the entire page when loading new data from the server.

The result isn't just an improvement in usability... it's a whole new chapter. By changing content and adding resources as your visitors input information, AJAX lets them read, shop, and navigate with a level of data and responsiveness that wouldn't have been possible a few years ago.

For your website to be helpful to your visitors – not to mention profitable for you – it needs to have a high level of usability, and there's no better way to achieve that in this day and age than using AJAX.

posted by Mark Mark
New Coastal Mountain Excavations Website

New website for Coastal Mountain Excavations (CME), a Whistler based heavy construction company is live. The inspiration for the design was drawn from the companies awesome location and with some funky Google Maps integration we delivered a website that showcases their projects and expertise quite effectively, even if we do say so ourselves.

 

posted by Mark Mark
What we Can Learn About W3C Standards From the American Wild West

If television and movies have taught us anything about history, it's that the old American West was a place "without law." Drinking, gambling, and gun fights in the street were the symptoms of towns that seemed to have sprung up from nothing – the result of a mad gold rush that attracted entrepreneurial types from all over the world.

While the idea of saloons full of marshals, cowboys, and horse thieves might be overplayed for entertainment value, the concept of places being built from nothing actually gives us an interesting parallel to the development of the online business community. In the first days, there were sparse settlers setting up shops in camps at any URL they could find. Over time, though, areas have become crowded, complex communities have formed, and yes, laws are coming.

In this case, we aren't talking about political laws, but accepted standards of the way sites should be designed and arranged. The World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), an international group of designers and consultants, is moving towards a set of universal guidelines that would serve as a kind of guide to best practices in layout and coding.

This might seem like a bit of a reach, given that the online community can be ferociously independent, but it actually represents change in a good way.

Just as laws and standards eventually came as a relief to the American West – few people enjoyed the prospect of being shot in Cheyenne or Abilene – uniform standards on the web will make pages safer and more accessible for everyone. By creating a handful of common tools, they mean that pages from all parts of the world will become easier to find and use by anyone, regardless of their hardware, operating system, or local provider.

Why should you care? Because usability is a close cousin of profitability; the more people who can view and navigate your site, the more potential buyers you can reach effectively. As more and more communities go online, and next-generation mobile devices spread like wildfire, WC3 standards are going to help smart marketers expand their reach.

The "law" might not be coming to the web, but standards are. Making your site work within them might not be mandatory, but it is going to be a good business decision.

June 2010
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