Microsoft’s Defensive Audible

On September 18th, Cnet.com posted an article in reference to the new Microsoft Ad Campaign.  No, not the Ad campaign staring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates (who seems to be doing a Napoleon Dynamite impression.)  This is a brand new ad campaign, titled “I’m A PC.”  The obvious motive, or strategy being used by Microsoft is to convince the viewing audience that PC has been made into a stereotype, which is actually stated at the beginning of the commercial, by a man impersonating the cfamiliar character from the Mac commercials; however, I did not need an impersonator to make it clear that this commercial is Microsoft’s tardy rebuttal  to all of those cheeky Apple commercials featuring budding movie star Justin Long.

The idea of the commercial is to give the “PC” a voice, in his own advertisement, during which time he makes it abundantly clear to the audience that he has been made into a sterotype.  Microsoft supports the “I am not a sterotype” argument by driving the point home throughout the commercial using everyday normal people from a variety of professions who all proclaim that “they are a PC” or “prefer to use a PC” or “have a beard…..?” Microsoft also used the celebrity power of influence strategy in the ad, by including cameos with Pharrell and Eva Longoria.

I have a couple of issues with the Ad.

One, is that it is long overdue.  Why did it take Microsoft so long to come up with their retort to all of those Apple commercials that added insult to the injury of Vista?  Did they think their imaginary friend Mr. Reputation was going to stand up for them and beat up the mean bully?  Microsoft sat on their hands for a couple of years, and allowed Apple make joke after joke about Vista and Microsoft’s software.  Maybe they were too busy working on their apologetic email marketing campaign to all the Windows Vista users.

Bill Gates (billionaire, founder, father, and a guitar hero)

Bill Gates (billionaire, founder, father, and guitar hero)

The other issue I have with the advertisement is the over abundance of celebrity cameos.  Honestly, who really cares about the operating system preferences of Eva Longoria and her husband?  Not me.  Also, what was the strategy behind including Bill Gates in the commercial?  Whoa, I had no idea he preferred Microsoft Products!!  Thanks for the info!  Perhaps they were attempting to reaffirm our faith in the company, by showing us that the boss is back, and he is going to clean up the mess.

Aside from those two issues, the new “I’m a PC” ad seemed to effectively deliver the  message Microsoft intended, which if I am not mistaken was:

“Hey, I know a majority of the teenagers and young adults out there think Microsoft is totally lame compared to Apple, but check out this diverse collection of normal people and celebrities who view us in a positive light.  Not as lame as you thought we were! Right?  Did you see Eva Longoria?  How about Pharell, did you see him?  There cool.  Right?  Okay, parents I know you heard us, so please reinforce that message if you are in the room.”

Now back to the Cnet Article I referenced at the beginning of this post.  The article basically summed up the information I just revealed, in a less colorful fashion; however, the article was also based on the opinion of some big wig Ad Executive in New York, who believed that Microsoft was playing the victim card in this recent ad.  The article went on to reveal that the big wig Ad Executive also did not believe that the “victim card” was an effective strategy, mainly because Microsoft is not a victim.

The epic battle between Windows and walls continues...

Exactly at what part of the Ad was Microsoft pulling out the victim card?  It looked more to me like Microsoft has finally realized that they are now on the defensive side of the ball,  and their defense squad needs to string together some plays that lead to a turnover, so the offensive team can get back on the field to score some points before it’s too late.  In non-sports analogy terms, it appears as though Microsoft is attempting to create a rejuvenated public image, which makes them look less like an indestructible corporate giant who makes product decisions based on what would be best for the company, in terms of profit.  The ‘New Microsoft’ wants to show everyone that they realize the Windows Vista road has been bumpy lately, and they are sorry.  The New Microsoft also seems to be admitting that they have not been spending enough time focusing on what’s best for the customer.  New Microsoft is sorry gang, and they want to make it up to you with bug fixes, new software, and an optimistic future…..without walls (which I am guessing is a way of poking fun at the white wall behind the two actors in the Mac ads…..but also implies that there is no limit to the future of innovative product offerings from Microsoft.  Nice touch.)

The big wig ad executive from the Cnet article also stated that she was confused about what age group Microsoft was attempting to target with the previous high-budget commercials, featuring Jerry Seinfeld.

Why does Microsoft have to be targeting a certain age group Ms. Big Wig?  Is it not possible to target a variety of age groups with one advertisement?  I am in my 20’s, and the advertisement certainly caught my attention, as well as my father’s, who is in his 50’s.  We both agreed that it was a funny, yet effective way for Microsoft to reveal that they are making an enormous effort to place more value in the opinion of their customers. For example, the commercial with Gates & Seinfeld hanging out in unfamiliar territory with some random middle class family, implied that Microsoft wants to establish a better, more intimate relationship with their customers, no matter what their age or income.  Gates & Seinfeld were not in that house to just have a conversation with the kids.  They were there to hang out with the whole family, even grandma.

Aside from the target audience arguement, I have a feeling we are on the verge of witnessing one of the fiercest advertising campaign battles of the decade.  Thank goodness.  I have grown tired of all the Budweiser vs. Miller Lite and DirectTV vs. Comcast battles.

The Power of a Blog: CEO Pays Attention

About a week ago, I wrote a blog post titled Everybody Loves a Peeping Tom, which addressed how effective the SMM activity of observing conversation can be in retaining your company’s current customers and generating a buzz to attract new customers.

Yesterday, I wrote a completely unrelated blog post, which reviewed some of the best free Web Analytics products that are available today, and the price you pay for “free”.

Ironically, today I was contacted by the CEO at StatCounter, who commented about my review of his product.

The intentions of Mr. Cullen’s comment to my article are obvious. I know the guy wanted to post a comment on my page so that readers could glance down at the comment and notice that technical corrections had been made to StatCounter; however, I am sure Mr. Cullen also realized that there are not many (if any) subscribers to my blog. Heck, in the three posts I have made on Sphinn, I have only received 8 Sphinn Votes, and a majority of those came from an article someone else wrote.

The truth is, I am just a small rookie fish in a giant ocean of internet marketers who have much more

credible of an opinion than I do. But Mr. Cullen didn’t care about my credibility. He wanted to address the problems I had experienced with his product, and reclaim my confidence in his brand.

Looks like some company’s do care what the little people think about their product after all. Good show Mr. Cullen. How are things in Dublin?

Here is his coment:

Hi Justin,

I just wanted to drop by and thank you for your review of StatCounter – we really appreciate it.

If I may, I’d like to respond to some of your points …

IP Blocking

###########
We are actually rolling out our new version of StatCounter (http://blog.statcounter.com/?p=9 8) at the moment and over the last few days we did have some trouble with the IP blocking feature. This problem affected projects created over approximately a one week period but has now been fully resolved. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Invisible Option & Custom Logo

##############################
We give all members (free and upgraded) the option of a completely invisible counter, a very customisable counter and a choice of buttons for their website. Our members are not forced to display a counter or logo on their sites.

In case there is any confusion, I just thought I would clarify what we mean by offering a “Custom Logo” option with upgraded accounts. This feature is mainly for our members who are website developers and track multiple sites within their StatCounter accounts.

To make this explanation a bit clearer let’s talk about DEVELOPER who is a website developer and has designed numerous websites for various customers including CLIENT.

Using the StatCounter user access privilege options DEVELOPER can assign special log

in details to CLIENT. Using this log in information, CLIENT can log into DEVELOPER’s StatCounter account BUT only see stats for his OWN website. In other words, the stats for the other sites built by DEVELOPER are not visible to CLIENT.

The Custom Logo feature allows DEVELOPER to display his OWN logo within the StatCounter account so the DEVELOPER logo is visible to all his clients when they log into his StatCounter account. I hope that explains!

Incompatiblity

##############
StatCounter works very well alongside all tracking programs… so we were a little surprised to hear that you have heard of an issue with wordpress tracking. If you have any more details about this we would be very grateful if you could pass these on to us so that we can investigate further. Please use this form and mark your comments for my attention:
http://www.statcounter.com/contactus.html

Thanks again for the review!

All the best,

Aodhan Cullen

StatCounter CEO

Sphinn

Nothings Free. Except Web Analytics….right?

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but our economy is kind of in the crapper right now. The low value of our homes is beyond frustrating. The unemployment rate is borderline depressing. To top it all off, the record high gas prices have caused even the most image conscious citizens to weigh their options on trading in their vehicle for a Vespa.

No doubt about it, times are tough for almost everyone.

In the midst of our looming recession, I am sure that, like me, you want to get the most bang for your buck on any purchase that you make.

Luckily for those of us who need a great Website Analytics service to keep tabs on our website’s visitors, there is no need to spend even a buck to get a whole lot of bang. Welcome to the wonderful world of freeware (or free basic version that kinda does the trick.) Keep in mind though, that nothing is ever truly free. Everything has a price, and that price does not necessarily have to have dollar sign in front of it.

The list below contains some the best free website analytics services that are available, what their best features are, and what price you have to pay for the free product. Look on the bright side, they might be able to help you save up for that gallon of gas you always wanted.

Stat Counter

Best features:

  • Visitor Paths – Reveals the navigation path of each visitor (i.e., which parts of your website they went to) as well as the amount of time they was spent they spent in each area.
  • Magnify User – Enables the user to narrow down visitors to their host name, city, ISP, # of visits, Browser, and even their Operating System. I conducted a trial test to determine how accurate this was by visiting my website from 4 different locations around Atlanta. StatCounter only gave me 1 inaccurate result out of 4, but I will cut them some slack since the only thing they got wrong was my location on one of the trials, which was still within 30 miles of where I actually logged in from.
  • Popular Pages – Provides the user with a list of their websites most popular pages, which can be customized to show rank by the amount of time that was spent on each page, or how many times the actual pages were visited.
  • Entry and Exit Pages – Shows the user the most frequent entry and exit pages, which of course are ranked according to their relative frequency.
  • Search Engine Wars – provides a list which shows you which search engines generate the most traffic for you.
  • Recent Visitor Activity – This is probably one of the tools on StatCounter that I use the most. It gives you a list of your most recent visitors (whom you can of course individually magnify)

Price You Pay

  • Limited Features – The free website analytics package comes with every feature except for secure tracking, daily email reports, and the option to create a custom brand logo for the tracking device on your web page; however, the free package does not require users to add the StatCounter logo to their site, but instead give you the option to make the tracker invisible.
  • Compatibility Issues – StatCounter may not be compatible with, or provide inaccurate results, if you are tracking user activity on public websites that have their own free analytics service, like WordPress for example.
  • Technical Issues – StatCounter also seems to have technical issues with the IP Blocking feature. For example, every time I visit my own website to conduct a modification, it tracks the visit, even though I specifically added my IP address to the blocker. This technical flaw can also be extremely frustrating. Amendment: The CEO at StatCounter informed me that they were having some technical issues for about 2 weeks with their IP Blocking feature, but they seem to have recently worked out all the bugs, so it works fine now.

Google Analytics

Best Features

  • Customizable Dashboard – Navigating through the large amount of data reports and features that Google Analytics has to offer can be overwhelming, time consuming, and frustrating; however, taking the time to customize your dashboard to include your most important data reports is going to help you avoid these navigational issues, and save you a lot of time down the road.
  • Bounce Rate Data– Ahh…good old bounce rate. This is one of the more useful data reports that Google analytics provides. Not to mention, I don’t think there are any other free website analytics services that provide bounce rate data.
  • Conversion Goals – the conversion goal tool in Google Analytics is great way to define and track outcomes or actions that you desire from the individuals who visit your website. Google has a guide that goes into more detail about the tool, and instructions on how to set it up.
  • Context – Essentially allows you to compare one data report to another. Very helpful in assisting the analysts and decision makers.
  • Map Feature – While a lot of these analytics services provide a map where the user can view the frequency of visitors in various locations around the globe, the interactive map feature on Google Analytics is one of the best that I’ve seen so far.
  • Content Overview – Provides a table which shows a ranking of the top pages that are visited on your site as a percentage of all visits. If you want to verify how accurate it is, then create a website profile for the same site that does not block your own I.P. address, then manually records how many times you visit your own site, and verify your number of visits with Google’s data report.
  • Segmented Data – allows the user to segment their data by user type, source, browser, among many others. The two segments that I tend to use the most is the location segment (country, city, state) and the Network Location, which I have given an example of in the pdf links below:

City-Segment (example)

Network-Location-Segment (example)


Price you Pay

  • Fueling the Power of the Darkside – People in the internet marketing community seem to trust this data collecting powerhouse about as much as they would trust a puppy not to pee on the carpet. By giving Google access to your site’s analytical data you are giving them more information about you and your company, which can no doubt be used against you in the future when you form a rebel alliance to take down the evil empire. If you want to know more about this evil empire, read Danny Glover’s post in the SEOmoz blog: The Evil Side of Google?
  • Some Technical Issues – Word in the analytical community is that Google has worked out most of the kinks with their goal conversion feature, but I still have my doubts in the tools accuracy.

Site Meter

Best Features:

  • Ease of Navigation – SiteMeter’s menu was one of the easiest ones to navigate out of all of the website analytics providers I have covered so far. Some of the other analytics providers, especially Google, should have gone through a more intensive testing process for the ease of navigation among normal users, not the designers. Maybe they should give Robot Replay a try. The different resources and features available for users are broken up into nice and neat categories. There is no detailed or complicated drop down menu, which helps a beginner avoid feeling overwhelmed. SiteMeter even has a tour that that explains how to find and use the different features. What’s even better is that the tour’s explanations are given in such a beginner-oriented method, that even my dog seemed to understand……”good boy.”
  • Recent Visitor Details – Once again, with other website analytics services I had it took me a while to find certain pieces of information about my visitors, especially specific details. You probably won’t have a problem finding this information on SiteMeter though, because it’s right where it should be, in the recent visitors category. After you navigate to the visitor details, SiteMeter provides you with an extensive summary of most of the information you need for a particular visitor of interest…… all on one page!! What a great concept.
  • Statistics Help – Staying true to the theme of making their Analytics Service as easy to understand as possible, SiteMeter even includes a statistics help box at the bottom of each page of data.

Price You Pay

  • Limited Features – The only downside to SiteMeter’s free package does not include a majority of the features that are available through the other packages. What’s even worse is some of SiteMeter’s competitors, like Google Analytics and StatCounter, offer a free package that includes many of the features SiteMeter makes you pay extra for.
  • IP Filter Problems – The free package also only lets you filter one IP address, but seems to have trouble filtering even that IP from your visitor results.

Robot Replay

Best Features

  • Mouse Gestures: You can record visitor’s mouse gestures. This feature can really help you determine if your visitors are having any navigation issues, and how easy it is for them to find their destination in as few clicks as possible (i.e., how high or low is the level of cognitive processing for the visitor) Mouse gestures should also be able to help you determine which parts of your website are causing them to pack up their bags and leave.
  • Form Replay: Lets you record and watch visitors who fill out forms. Pretty self explanatory.

Price You Pay

  • Compatability Issues – Robot Replay does not appear to be 100% compatible with other website analytics programs.
  • Beta – RR is still in the beta, so there are a number of obvious kinks that the designers still need to work on.

Sphinn

Continue reading

Warning: Creativity Not Included


The really difficult part of social media marketing is when marketing professionals actually have to do some creative work, and develop valuable content that will generate a response, and stimulate conversation among individuals in social media communities.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but individuals who spend a lot of time socializing with one another on Social Media websites are usually not going to pay attention to your company’s Myspace page, or new product announcement blog, or stupid YouTube video about how cool it is to shop at your store.

For example, let’s say you work in a certain shoe company’s marketing department, and you are developing a strategy to market this new running shoe that is coming out at the end of the summer. Let’s also assume that the shoe was designed to mainly appeal to younger customers, because of its vibrant designs, built in MP3 player, and picture of 50 Cent on the shoe tongue. Well, maybe I should scratch the 50-Cent picture idea that is a little ridiculous. Moving on. Now it doesn’t take a marketing wizard to figure out that you should direct a majority of your marketing efforts towards online Social Media channels, with a young audience that is interested in running.

First of all, you have to accept the fact that even if there is some Yahoo running group, most of the conversations they have about running shoes are probably not going to contain extremely detailed information about what aspects of a certain shoe they like or dislike. That’s way too much work. I mean, I love beer, but I am not going to spend time writing about what I like or dislike about certain beers on a conversation board or blog. People usually have better things to do with their time, like actually running, or drinking beer.

So let’s go back to the topic of engaging these individuals in conversation. And once again, when I say “engage” I don’t mean start some lame blog dedicated to product announcements (See: MyNikeRunningShoe BlogSpot)

While there may not be a guide or book for the correct way to be execute SMM, I can sure as heck assure you that if there was, this futile attempt by Nike would be in the ‘things not to do’ section.

Commercialized posts, like this one from Nike were obviously thrown together with minimal effort. Careless errors like this can create harsh feelings from those individuals who blog on a daily basis, which may lead to someone who is influential in their social media community developing a stale taste in their mouth for your brand. This might create a different type of buzz than the one you originally intended.

So at this point you may be asking yourself “Well then what’s the right way to engage these audiences Mr. Know-it-all?”

Let’s get one thing straight. I am not a Mr. Know-it-all. Show me an individual who claims to be the baddest Social Media Marketer in the west, and I will show you an individual who is feeding their own ego with dirty liar pancakes.

My first suggestion is that you should always develop SMM tools or devices that contain value.

If any SMM tool is going to ever create value for you, it is going to first have to create value for them.

Copywriters like Mike Figliuolo refer to a similiar strategy that they use in their writing, which Mike specifically refers to as the WIFY Strategy, or Whats In It For You (the audience…not you ya dope).

Relating this back to SMM, when we create content to publish in social media, we must keep the goals of the audience in mind. What do they want to see, hear, watch, etc. What are they going to view as being valuable.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that Nike has a great marketing & advertising department, and it was probably some intern who thought posting a blog like the one above would be a great idea.

SearchEngineGuide.com has a great article by Mack Collier who explains the concept of creating value for your audience extremely well. I suggest you give it a read, and then come back here for some more dirty liar pancakes ;

Sphinn

Everybody Loves a Peeping Tom

No I am not talking about the weird person hides in the bushes. I am talking about the person who monitors conversation boards, review sites, blogs, and the many other social media channels where people are talking about a product of interest.

Yes I am aware that the subject has been covered countless times by individuals who are “qualified experts”; however, I think my personal experience with this strategy will provide a unique point of view, because in this instance I was not the person who was doing the observing. Instead, I was the one who was being observed. Didn’t see that coming did ya?

The goal of this piece is for you, the reader, to take a journey with me through the eyes of the consumers that you are stalking.

I’m talking to you too Mr. Skeptical Marketer. I know this task is time consuming, but I hope I can shed some light on just how valuable it can be.

Now I am going to digress a little and give a short background story that will lead into the personal experience I had with this strategy.

Whenever I write a review about a business on Yelp, I rarely ever avoid writing about any noticeable flaws or nuances at the particular restaurant, bar, or store that I happen to be scrutinizing. The more detailed my reviews are, the more credibility I have in the eyes of those in the Yelp community. The same goes for any other social media website, whether it be site dedicated to blogging, social news, user reviews, etc.

When I lived in Dunwoody I frequently visited this one particular tavern because it was close to my house, and some of my buddies tended to hang out there on a regular basis. Despite usually enjoying the nights I had spent at the tavern, for the most part, I really hated the patio area because of the seating arrangements. The patio was set up with three or four picnic tables that appeared as though they had been stolen from a public park, because of the decayed wood and tacky graffiti written all over them.

So of course I addressed my contempt for the picnic tables in my review on Yelp. I also made it clear in the review that despite some of the good times I had at the place, I probably would not go back, considering I had recently moved away from the area around the time I wrote the review.

I was amazed when not even one day had gone by, and the owner of the tavern contacted me through Yelp and informed me that he had recently replaced the picnic tables with “appropriate patio furniture.” He even posted a few pictures of the tavern’s new patio setup on his business’ Yelp profile.

Because the owner took the time to reach out to me, he made me feel like my opinion actually mattered. He showed me empathy and a genuine concern for what I thought about his business.

As a result, I went out of my to not only raise my rating of the tavern one star, but I also retracted my comments about the tacky patio furniture. I even made a special trip out to my old stomping grounds later that week to check out the changes.

The owner of the tavern not only won back one of his customer’s beer indulging patronage, but he also managed to change the opinion of an individual who is highly influential to their peers in this particular social media community.

We could all learn something from the tavern owner.

He simply conducted his own marketing research, which by the way cost him nothing but time, and took a chance in messaging some random guy who thought the picnic table patio furniture sucked.

I am willing to bet that this tavern owner is totally unaware that there are hundreds of marketing professionals in the world who spend all day trying to figure out how to how to accomplish what he did. Face it. All the guy had to do was use his common sense, and address a negative perception about his tavern, in hopes that it would correct the problem.

Kind of makes the whole process seem less difficult, right?

So back to why I love Peeping Tom’s like this guy.

Come on, it’s not that hard to like a person or company that reaches out to you and values your opinion.

CONCLUSION…….Listening to what someone has to say is never going to put you in a losing situation. You are really going to win them over if you give them feedback about their opinion, empathize with them, and attempt to resolve the issue or correct the situation.

I’m talking to all of the owners, managers, and marketers out there when I say this: Quit being passive. Get out there and give some attention to those movers and shakers in all of the social media communities. Listen to what they say. Address their concerns directly. Make them feel important.

Like I said before, this can be done through a number of different online communities or social media channels.

If you ever happen to find yourself in a situation where the reputation of your company or brand has been severely damaged by individuals with sinister ulterior motives (e.g., former employees,) then you will probably have to take a different approach to handling the negative publicity. Jeff Quipp wrote an excellent article in SearchEnginePeople.com that details where and how you can bury those negative posts that cannot be removed or resolved.

My Reviews On Yelp

Sphinn

Social Media Marketing

Continue reading