Archive for August, 2011

Going Social: Tick-Tock Content

Posted by on Aug 31 2011 | Copywriting, Internet Marketing

“Let’s go social.” Most strategy meetings for marketing campaigns usually start or end with this declaration as a punchline, as if social integration is the latest magic lamp and all marketers are Alladin’s descendants. And it’s hard to argue against it: with the promise of doubled traffic, dynamic innovation and drawing more attention through widgets and social buttons, Socialand is the new Jerusalem for marketing Crusaders. However, in the race to enhance webpages with a bevy of sharing features (Like, Tweet, Digg, +1), could it be possible that we’re focussing on the peripherals more than the basics?

An internet user surfing through content is generally looking for three things: visual appeal, relevance and compatibility. Let’s talk about the third point. A simple content page should take 1-2 seconds to load, tops. Add a truckload of social widgets and the load time can stretch up to anywhere between 5 seconds to even minutes, if you don’t have a broadband connection. The functioning behind a social widget works somewhat like this: each social button is connected to hundreds of lines of Javascript, not to mention APIs, which can take their own sweet time to answer.

History does repeat itself. Remember those days when Flash animations were the new heights of cool? Website owners everywhere were scrambling to jazz up their pages with Flash content. Over enthusiasm and unending load times later, someone had the good sense to come up with the ‘Skip Intro’ button. Clicking on that button has become a Pavlovian conditioning for netizens by now.

It’s really a case of ‘Too much of good thing is bad.’ Social is cool, I get it. But uber-socialising your websites can lead to social pollution. And don’t think that getting a greater bandwidth is the cure-all: load time for content pages with social features are not dependent on your bandwidth, but on the API-social platform connection. An overload on the social platform’s IT structures means that, bandwidth or not, you can consider making some tea while you wait.

So, even if you haven’t yet experienced the problem of slow load times for yourself, let’s just play devil’s advocate and put ourselves in the shoes of a user who’s surfing through content pages with around 15 more tabs open (multitasking is but organic) and probably doesn’t have a bandwidth to boast of (which won’t help as aforementioned). Odds are, either he is reduced to swatting flies while content gets loaded or he gets to the point of no return and has to end up ‘killing pages’.

Call it overreaction, but social integration, although essential for attracting eyeballs, needs to be judiciously implemented while keeping an eye on both sides of the street. It’s great to have sharing features, widgets and the like on content pages to help spread the word; not so great when you ‘pollute’ the pages with social features to an extent that you drive visitors away and end up relying on third-party reading applications.

Don’t overdo it.

8 comments for now

Ethical Implications of Ghost Blogging

Posted by on Aug 30 2011 | Blogs

I’m sure the first thought that popped into the head of most of you who are reading this is, what in the world is ghost blogging? I am quite certain that most of you who are reading this are aware of the term, ghost writing, so, when you write a blog with knowledge that it will be credited to another person, that is called ghost blogging.

Ghost blogging is generally frowned upon by the internet ethics police, who believe that getting someone else to write a blog for you is akin to getting your dirty work done by someone else. Of course, the members of the internet ethics police are the same people who download pirated stuff on their PC’s and claim that it’s part of their freedom. So that’s that.

Ghost blogging is done by content writers for monetary gains. These writers are honest and ethical people who are loaning out their skills, talents, to those who do not have the time or the skill to write. It’s a part of their job, they know that they won’t be credited, and we should respect their decision instead of criticising them for it.

Keep in mind that most of the blogs which are written are done for corporate clients, who have specific needs and interests. The clients supply the writers with specific details and guide the writers on how they would like the blog to turn out, and in the end, it’s the clients who read the final draft and have the power to accept or reject it. So it isn’t like they are not a part of the blogging process at all.
I personally feel that the best way to end this would be to quote Michael Corleone from the movie The Godfather, “It’s not personal Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

7 comments for now

Popular Online Marketing’s Bluff: Called !

Posted by on Aug 29 2011 | Internet Marketing, SEO, social media optimization

A recent study conducted by Pew Research Centre’s Internet and American Life Project had some interesting results to show. It claimed that search and email were among the most popular activities online. The exact numbers shown by the study will be talked about later, but let’s focus on how this result affects the marketing maxims that people have long held holy. For one, it dispels the popular myth that social media optimization is your best bet as an online marketer. Meanwhile, those who are religiously engaged in tipping the search engine scales to their favour can breathe a sigh of relief: SEO still reigns supreme in online marketing.

The guys at Pew seem to have done their homework. Tracking online activities of adults since the past 10 years, they come up with some numbers that might rearrange the priorities of online marketers. Coming to the numbers themselves:

  1. Using search engines and reading emails tops the list at a dominating 92 percent,
  2. Reading online news gets the silver at 76 percent,
  3. Online purchases occupy 71 percent,
  4. Bringing up the rear is social networking, which is placed at a miserable 65 percent.

An interesting point arises here: Although the rise and rise of social networking sites has heralded a phenomenal growth of SMO activities to raise brand visibility and attract traffic, it looks like sites such as Facebook, Twitter etc. have not yet managed to consolidate their hold over all demographics. It seems to be more cluster-oriented, really. Au contraire, search engines and email have consistently attracted a sizeable chunk of followers from just about every strata possible.

Does that mean that a change is in order? Should we, for the matter of debate, start paying more attention to email marketing in our campaigns, something that’s widely regarded as the ignored cousin of SEO and SMO? Remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: this study is sure to get online marketers rethinking their strategies.

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Social Networking Deals – the new weapon to bolster business prospects

Posted by on Aug 27 2011 | Internet Marketing, social media optimization

Social networking has just come out of the box to explore the other side of networking. Online marketing has turned out to be the new junction for a varied recipe of social media optimization (SMO). The social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Stumble Upon, Digg etc provide an apt platform for online marketing ventures for a number of business enterprises all over the world. Yes, it sounds a little absurd to hear that the social networking websites are being turned into a business interaction stage, but that’s how things can really work for both the social networking websites and the business enterprises simultaneously. It would be the dumbest decision for the owner of a business enterprise to not utilize the social networking websites as a solid online marketing tool for the propagation of its business!

Millions of users log into their respective social networking accounts everyday to look for something interesting. Several deals that keep popping up in a particular section of these websites are also turning out to be another reason for the popularity of these websites. The on-spot deals provided by various companies on their different products help in increasing their visibility in the social networking circuit. The best deals found in the social networking websites are those which are based on the type of audience that engages itself in social networking. Such deals play a pivotal role in pushing the bar of popularity of these websites by augmenting the social media optimization of these websites. Living in an edgy age where one just can’t afford to be a step behind the competition, social networking deals have come up as saviours for most of the small, medium and as well as large business enterprises of the world.

7 comments for now

Netnography – A marketer’s secret (and probably the cheapest!) weapon

Posted by on Aug 26 2011 | Internet Marketing

The rage of social media might have calmed down a bit, but the possibilities and opportunities associated with it are still being explored. Companies are scuttling towards social media sites to advertise and announce their products and services and as consumers, we are gladly accepting this marketing trend! Apart from marketing, social media gives us a chance to discuss and share with fellow users (sometimes mockingly), our opinions and experiences on a wide range of issues, from books to movies, from sports to food, from automobiles to software, from clothes to things that are too explicit to be put on a public blog!

When I was planning to get a new cellphone, the first choice for getting opinions was to ask my friends but then common sense prevailed (along with a reminder of past regrets) and I browsed through a couple of forums that talked about which cellphones are popular and which ones are a fail!

Social groups like these, where we get to learn and criticize, are not only beneficial for us but also for marketing researchers, as they help them study and analyze the tastes, opinions, needs and desires of consumers. This method of qualitative research that utilizes social media data is known as internet ethnography or ‘netnography’. Market analysts and researchers get to peek into online social groups to identify and understand the behavior of consumers. The reasons why it is becoming popular are that it is far less time consuming compared to conventional ethnography and at the same time, it is unobtrusive for consumers (After my share of bad experiences with pestering marketing analysts asking for my ‘valuable’ feedback, I am thankful for netnography!).

Marketing researchers have started realizing the contingencies associated with social media techniques and are making the most of it through blogosphere, micro-blogging, podcasting, social networking sites and the likes. Netnography provides them a chance to learn about the likes and dislikes of consumers and get unbiased opinions and reviews about their products and services. Moreover, it provides them with an uninterrupted connection with customers without spending heaps of money.

The pace at which internet seems to be developing, it has made necessary for marketing researchers to identify and use new tools and techniques to understand their customers. Netnography presents them with a clandestine approach to obtain deep strategic insights, invent innovative ideas to enhance their brand image, performance and campaign management. So the next time you are grumbling on a public forum about a gadget that disappointed you, maybe the makers are listening!

8 comments for now

Image Search Optimization: What’s the point behind it?

Posted by on Aug 25 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

There are two different ways writers can improve the visibility of their website so that it comes up higher on search engine results. One is SEO and the other is ISO. Unless we get Google Taste or Bing Smell, these will be the two best ways to optimise your website.

The traditional SEO (Search Engine Optimization, if you haven’t got it yet), utilizes keywords, which are imbedded into articles. These keywords are what search engine trackers look for when they are scurrying about the internet. They more of these you have, the more relevant your website should be…blah…blah…blah… I’m sure you already know how this works, let’s move on to what I really want to talk about.

Image Search Optimization (ISO, everyone loves abbreviations), is when you tune your website specifically for image search, cleverly naming the image, the surrounding text, and many other things. This means that when someone does an image search for the article, there will be a higher priority an image from your website to come up higher in the rankings.

When someone is searching for something using conventional means, they are most probably looking for information. When they click on your website, they want to read about what you want to say/sell. But when someone does an image search, he isn’t looking for information or anything; he’s just looking for an image to steal copy. Honestly, have you ever used the image search function to gain info? No sir, we just needed the image as wallpaper for our computer, or for PowerPoint presentations or just to see what in the world an Escopetarra is. Even Google has resorted to showing you just the image; you need to click another link to see the complete website.

Its understandable that artists, painters and designers sometimes rely on the image search to sell their wares. But other than that, I personally don’t see anything good about enhancing the images in your website with alt attributes, long desc attributes, image naming, etc. It’s a waste of time and money.

8 comments for now

Internet Marketing: Is it becoming more arduous?

Posted by on Aug 24 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

As soon as the potential of the internet was realised, marketers immediately heard cash registers going ‘cha-ching’. Since then, internet marketing has become the place where content writing green horns go to sharpen their tools and where weary veterans show off their skills. But with today’s short attention span, has internet marketing become really difficult?

In a word, no, well, not for everyone at least. To know if internet marketing has become even tougher, you must first understand marketing. Unfortunately, explaining how marketing works is very boring, and I like my readers to be awake, so I’ll just simplify it. The problem lies with the fact that marketing depends on the on your target audience and the styles and needs of those people keep changing as the generations change. For example, an American during the 60’s didn’t care much about the environment because he was quite sure that the world was going to end in a nuclear holocaust anyway. So, selling him a car would have been easier than selling one today (thanks to global warming and other buzz words.)

What I’m trying to explain is that instead of exclaiming that marketing the car was too hard, they just changed their marketing style to become more relevant to the current generation. That is what content writers need to take care of while marketing a product on the internet. You must be flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing market. If you can’t adapt quick enough, you’ll find internet marketing becoming tougher.

You will also have to bear in mind that people on the internet have an extremely short attention span. So your title and your content has to be eye-catching, otherwise they will go back to watching cat videos or studying the human anatomy. People only find things difficult if they have a problem understanding the concepts, but once they do, it’s smooth sailing.

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A citizen of the world…….wide web

Posted by on Aug 24 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

Philosophers and social analysts have always wondered how we would react if we weren’t directly facing the consequences of our actions, if we could all hide behind a curtain of anonymity. Their curiosity was satisfied by the technological phenomenon called the internet. Hidden behind proxies and firewalls, people you thought were affable became miserable and thus a creature was born that was so vile that people gave it a name straight from mythology, a Troll.

As a content writer, it’s imperative that you be a good citizen of the internet. It is quite easy to forget etiquettes and become a troll by accident. A word or a sentence off and you could be lynched by a mob of pitchfork wielding villagers. Keep in mind that homographs exist, so words can have different meanings. Keep that in mind before you decide to describe a famous tailor as a fine sewer.

When content writing, be careful not to get carried away and start using socially unacceptable forms of words, or words which may be racist, homophobic and so forth. Tread carefully if you wish to remain a good citizen of the internet.

Remember that when you are content writing, you are providing a service for the people. Try to make your content fluid so as to avoid frustrations. Your content should be easy to understand and relevant to most of the people on the internet or at least your targeted audience. Nobody visiting a funeral website will want to know about the joys of life.

Your best bet is to stay informative and to the point. Just do your research and stick to the facts, after all, truth is what is common among all cultures. Bear in mind that being a good citizen on the internet is the same as being a good citizen in the real world. Just realise that all your actions will have consequences, so tiptoe carefully around the minefield that is language. You never know how big that explosion may be.

9 comments for now

Reader Attention is a Tricky Temptress

Posted by on Aug 22 2011 | From the Writer's Desk

Jerry Seinfeld once said that the longevity of content doesn’t matter as long as it’s good. Now, of course, he said this in his characteristic, Seinfeldic style and I vaguely remember an after-joke that had something to do with a couple of giraffes and George Carlin, but the gist was the same. However, with multitudes of web content clamouring for eyeballs, coupled with a stubbornly myopic attention span on part of the viewers, it seems that ‘I told you so’ probably isn’t on Seinfeld’s list of things-to-say-when-kicking-the-bucket.

It’s tragic really. Scores of great content, write-ups that deserve more than just a second glance are being sidelined along with other, inferior content, like a burra sahib being herded along with the rest of the flock in the general category of a Banaras local. Content writers everywhere are being hard-pressed to deliver crisp, edgy content that can keep the attention meter to a cent percent at all times. One could argue that it’s all for the better, as this would automatically translate to better standards of content. Debatable.

With the dynamic pop culture dishing out new watchwords of cool (read FTW, OMFG, ROFL, LOL and the asinine ‘muaah’) it seems the writing is etched firmly on the wall. If it’s terse, you get the cookie. Case in point: the blog is slowly but surely being replaced by the tweet (Microblogging? Oxymoron, if there ever was one!) The age of good ole’ content that would languidly sculpt a scenario before executing the much-awaited coup de grace is fighting a losing battle against its briefer, crisper progeny. Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy must be turning in their graves.

The tone of this blog will might decry suggest protest, rant et al, but for many, this has come as a good change. Conciseness is a godsend for those (read all) who don’t have the luxury of time on their hands. So, if you’re looking to wow readers with cut-the-bull content, you had best deliver in spades. Failing that, your readability can be measured in seconds, if at all.

7 comments for now

Travel Writing: To Be There When You’re Not…

Posted by on Aug 20 2011 | Content Writing, Copywriting

Regular documentary-watching of art maestros does not an art lover make, bike magazine subscriptions do not make a Valentino Rossi out of you and watching viral videos of the Wine Inspector will certainly not sculpt you into a wine connoisseur. An age-old maxim is apt here: ‘You need to be there to experience it.’ Many would argue that this adage may be implied just about everywhere. After all, where’s the fun in writing about the Sistine Chapel when you’re sitting morosely in a country far, far away? (Big fan of Star Wars here)

Turns out that most people do it all the same. If a consumer believes that every travel writer actually visits the place he/she’s writing about, well, just keep reading. It’s a sad truth that some, or even most of the writers who are weaving magical scenarios about Casa Exotica or Honolulu are probably sitting in a basement somewhere in India, asking their mummies for more sandwiches while they construct a sun-soaked beach scene with pina coladas and samba dances.

The point is, travel writing is all about using one’s imagination. In the field of content writing, not everyone can afford to visit Amsterdam if presented with an assignment on cannabis and coffeeshops. The next best thing? Imagine it, concoct a setting, add sub-plots, infuse a dash of humour and a few random and untoward incidents and voila! You have successfully managed to draw eyeballs to the captivating appeal of a location which you haven’t even sampled for yourself, real time!

Misleading? I think not. Fripperies aside, travel writers always ensure that hard, bare facts are never trifled with. So, the next time you decide to stay at a hotel in Dijon, France, you might not get the salacious candle-lit dinner with a sultry temptress that was so tantalisingly intertwined in that hotel article you read, but the hotel will still be pretty much there, will all that was promised in the article. Arranging for the gymnastics is up to you, really.

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