Tag Archives: web 2.0

Content and its Discontents

Diagram of a content management systemCustomers read your collateral and visit your website, because you have something which interests them. Moreover, Google and other search engines find you because of relevant content on your site. Have paltry content or let it go stale and you’ll loose visitors, search rankings and customers. No surprises there, but curating and managing content can be awkward and time consuming. Who’s going to do it? More importantly, how do you make it easy for those on your team with something to contribute – be it Arthur in accounting, Sally in Sales, or Wally in the warehouse – when they have real jobs to do?

This may be a job for a content management system (CMS). A CMS is software for collaborative building and publishing be it of websites, internal information systems, blogs, or even physical documents such as books. It accomplishes two kinds of tasks:

1) It separates information from format, so that a contributor, who has some “content” may submit it; for example, by entering it into an online form.

2) It organizes contributors into a team, in which members have different roles such as reader, author, editor, designer, editor in chief.

The result can be surprisingly powerful. CMSs can accomplish these without programming or technical expertise from users. Their output is assembled like Lego blocks rather than programmed. Putting content originators in charge through a CMS offers the potential of much more rapid development and maintenance. IT is less involved if it is involved at all. This last is crucial for smaller businesses, which lack IT infrastructure.

Many CMSs are now available.  They range from free open source tools to proprietary enterprise systems with enterprise prices. As in other aspects of technology, open source no longer means home made or compromising on quality. They are built on scalable databases and mature programming languages like PHP.

I’ve been using a few of these open source CMSs for clients recently and on the whole, I’m impressed. This glass is half full. They do enable building a useful, content rich, collaborative site without having to be a programmer. Creating a professional website can be pretty easy, if what you do is built into the system. That said, figuring out how to make each of these CMSs do just what you want is not always obvious.

If you want your CMS to do something out of the ordinary, you’ll probably need to get some custom programming. Customization can be a strength of open source systems. Unlike proprietary technologies, open source CMSs are designed to be extended. All the underlying code is available and they depend on proven scalable Web standards. They are popular enough, so that an ecosystem of books, training, and implementation consultants has grown up around them.

Let’s consider some CMSs you can start using today.

WordPress:

Wordpress LogoWordPress has the image of a blogging system. Indeed WordPress powers millions of blogs, but the current version is much more than that. You can build a showcase, online store, portal, or corporate site (with or without a blog). Multiuser capabilities are built in. If you don’t care to host WordPress yourself, most hosting companies already support and maintain it.

This is the most straight forward of the three CMSs and easiest to launch something quickly, especially if you have to do it yourself. WordPress has a very large library of themes and “plugins.” Themes allow you to change the look and layout of a site. Plugins – essentially snap in modules of code – enable you to add functionality. For example, there are plugins to create image galleries, block SPAM, and create polls. Some industrial strength WordPress sites include Spotify, Tribune media Group, and Network Solutions.

Joomla:

Joomla.org states that it is “award winning,” “popular,” and “requires almost no technical skills to manage.” That may be a bit optimistic, but it’s certainly worth a look. Its mnemonically named modules are straight forward. It has an intuitive icon interface, which made it easy to get a simple site off the ground.

Joomla sites include Barnes and Noble’s Nook Developer , GE Transportation and Europe’s Orange Mobile.

Drupal:

Drupal’s elegant architecture was designed for content management. After a decade of development it appears robust and full featured. It’s very richness, however, makes it less clear what to do next. Even without programming, managing a Drupal site takes a learning commitment.

Examples of Drupal sites include Fastcompany, Popular Science, and Yahoo Research

Who Ya Gonna Call:

“Easy to use” is easy to say. Unless you or someone on your staff loves getting under the hood, you may encounter challenges. With a proprietary CMS you pay for and hopefully get support.

Support can be problematic with these as with other open source applications. The umbrella organizations, which oversee these CMSs are largely staffed by volunteers. They do have online documentation and forums, and you can submit questions. This is generally with no charge and no guarantee of results. If you want to be able to pick up the phone and say “fix it,” or have someone build the CMS for you, you’ll have to hire a third party such as Acquia (Drupal) or CloudAccess (Joomla) or one of numerous WordPress consultants.

Any of these tools are waiting to help you liberate your content and get it to a potentially interested audience. Why not go for it? The price, as they say, is right.

Preserve Us From The Uncool


Twitter, the once esoteric microblogging utility has “crossed the chasm.” It is now popular, if not yet mainstream.

Consider:

In case you missed it, last Friday, 17 April 2009, was “Twitter Day” on Oprah. And Oprah has shown she can move markets, if not mountains. Not only is she on Twitter, but at least for Twitter Day was tweeting live on her show. Oprah herself has in a few days gone from a standing start to over 300 thousand followers. If you want the current stats on the followers, visit her Twitter page and see the block in the upper right corner.

Actor Ashton Kutcher became the first to amass a million followers on Twitter. This was not spontaneous. Rather it was the result of well orchestrated marketing campaign, including — you guessed it — Twitter.

Many radio and TV shows accept or even solicit listener input via Twitter, while businesses and organizations are actively playing with it.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, one Twitter account dominated all others. As you may have guessed this was Barack Obama’s. His campaign understood and applied social media better than any competing candidate. He currently has about 887 thousand followers.

In these depressed times, meteoric success like Twitters cheers me up – all the more so, because it was so improbable. Who’d a thunk it? Initially the experience of most Twitter users, and I include myself, was not love at first Tweet. Gradually, we found ways of making this lightweight utility pretty darn useful. Each of us did this in different ways with different constituencies.

All is, however, not well in the Twittersphere. It is very likely that increased traffic will strain Twitter’s servers. There will be more temporary interruptions in service just as we had come to depend on Twitter.

Among certain quarters, the objections are more profound and profoundly less rational. That is, by becoming popular, Twitter will loose the cachet it had by being esoteric, counterintuitive, or to many just plain weird. As in one of Yogi’s bon mot “it’s so crowded nobody goes there.”

  • PR maven and Twitter user Steve Rubel posits the decline of Twitter because the geeks, who were its first patrons, will desert it for the next cool thing.
  • Technology analyst Jeremiah Owyang, expects a backlash as Twitter approaches mainstream.
  • While PC Magazine columnist Lance Ulanoff laments that “Oprah and Ashton will destroy Twitter.

I don’t think so. Email may be uncool, but it’s not going away anytime soon. Most of those who joined Twitter only because of Oprah may drop out, unless she starts Tweeting messages relevant to them. Those who find it useful will stay, no matter how they first got there.

Going Viral

As marketers, we usually have pay to say or show something. So we have budgets for advertising, promotion, PR, events, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we could get others to do this for us. Not only would this amplify the reach or our message, it would increase its credibility. Those who spread our message are to some extent recommending us. Here’s where viral marketing comes it.

Viral marketing is not new (what in marketing is?), but new technologies make easier and can increase its impact. In addition to email, we have blogs, social networks, Tweets, and content sharing sites. They have the potential to launch an epidemic, which distributes our content farther and wider than we could, even if we had the budgets we wanted. It may be the latest embodiment of our eternal quest for the free lunch.

In its simplest form this means creating some communication so interesting, irritating, or attention grabbing that people will send it unsolicited and unpaid to friends and colleagues. If each recipient sends to multiple associates, you can get a hypergrowth, which resembles an epidemic hence the term viral.

Perhaps the best single example of a viral medium is YouTube. It is built to make sharing quick, easy, and free. Of course, this guarantees nothing. YouTube has not stated how many videos it hosts. Estimates are on the order of 100 million. If all you do is upload, an audience will probably not come.

Going viral is a long shot. As always, start with content. When creating something, whether for a local 30 second spot, a trade show, or a sales conference think about how it could be used or adapted as a viral communication. Reuse and mashups should be encouraged.

Marketing consultant and author David Meerman Scott cited the case of the Cadbury Gorilla http:// at the recent New Marketing Summit. David relates that Cadbury was able to reuse an existing commercial to the tune of over 3 million views on YouTube. The epidemic didn’t stop there. This video has spawned more than a dozen derivative videos, many of which have been viewed a substantial number of times. So there is a significant echo of the original message.

The video has no call to action – Cadbury can’t tell how many more chocolate bars it sold. The ROI is thus unknown. This could be a problem, but the cost of the program is negligible. In this case it amounts to the effort of monitoring viewership, links and references to the videos and to Cadbury itself.

To see what types of content are watching and more importantly sharing, consult video.google.com/videoranking

Not sure how viral fits your message and strategy or are generally uneasy about video production, you might wish to get started promoting something else. A number of firms are hosting contests. Draft a 30 to 60 second script or an idea on which to improvise and grab your home video camera. We hope to feature your video in an upcoming post.

Gary V

I had the chance to spend some tome today with that New Media force of nature — Gary Vaynerchuk. For those, who haven’t seen him, Gary is a dynamic and passionate speaker. Witness, for example, his keynote performance at the recent MyWeb 2.0 conference (note: contains some strong language). But there’s a key difference between Gary and a number of prominent business speakers — not only can he talk the talk, he has also launched and grown successful businesses and recently published a commendable no nonsense book on enjoying wine.

How does he do it? More important, what can we as marketers do — not to be clones of Gary — to grow our own brands and products?

As he tells it, he grows community. He uses tools such as blogs, Tweeter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube and SEO/SEM. It’s not the tools per se, but how he uses them. He is online to listen, learn, contribute. This is not just feel good marketing. It’s ROI driven and embraces measurable media such as Google AdWords over conventional pay and pray media buys.

How does this busy entrepreneur spend his time? “I read and respond to blog comments, hang out on social network groups where my customers go, and (at least try to) answer all of my email.”

How have you connected with your customers today?