SMCLondon: Ticket dates & Sponsors

A few weeks ago, I sent an email as a call for help for sponsorship. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who put in a word with their boss, friends or dug deep into their own pocket. It’s with great pleasure (and much excitement) that I can announce that we have secured key sponsorship to allow us to go ahead with it.

My thanks go out to the Equality & Human Rights Commission and Vodafone for offering their support for the event by sponsoring key aspects of the event. We are now confirmed to go ahead with Saturday, and should shortly hit the next few targets to allow us to hold the Sunday workshop day as well.

About our sponsors

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (@ehrc) digital team will be taking part as well as sponsoring. Newly appointed Head of Digital, Helen Aspell (@hel_razor), is keen to join the digital social media scene of London and hopes to bring a preview of a mash-up project, which the EHRC is hoping to launch later in the year. For those that are intrigued by a body like the EHRC being in this scene you can catch Helen at the Tuttle Club and London Blogger meet-up over the next few weeks.

Vodafone is the world’s leading international mobile telecommunications company and regularly takes part in community activities, and we’re thrilled to have them on board as well. Terence Eden, who did a cracking presentation on presenting to Big Scary Companies at the first SMCLondon, is the one you need to thank for this contribution. Hat tip to you, Terence!

Event details

So the big question, when do tickets go on sale?

The first batch will be made available on Tuesday 31st March at 11am UK time. You’ll be able to pick whether you’re attending both Saturday and Sunday, or only one of the days. We’ll then put a second bath out on Monday 6th April at 11am UK time. Set a reminder in your calendar, as you won’t want to miss grabbing one of the hundred tickets!

Meanwhile if you’d like to volunteer for either or both days, please drop me an email on vero@thatcanadiangirl.co.uk and we’ll find something fun and useful for you to help with. Have a look at this list if you’re not sure how you can help. If you’ve already emailed me, I’ll follow up soon!

Coming from out of town?

As there will be many out-of-towners wanting to attend, we’ve setup a “couchsurfers” thread in the SMCLondon Google Group so that those living in London who have a spare bed/sofa/floor can offer a place to stay to those who come from out of town.

Keep your eyes open for a follow-up post/email next week.

Sponsoring SMCLondon09

In October, our wonderful sponsors (Times Online, Sky Broadcasting, Moo Print, Campaign Monitor and Porter Novelli) provided support for an amazing first SocialMediaCamp London.

As we head towards our second event on 25-26th April, I pick up my panhandling hat to say “Please sir? Spare a dollar, sir?” and look for a new round of sponsorship. If you think your boss (or you, if you’re the boss!) might like to get involved and sponsor the event, don’t hesitate any longer. Grab the sponsorship document here (or use the online Google Docs version) and see how you can get involved.

Any questions about sponsorships? Drop me a line on vero@thatcanadiangirl.co.uk or find me on Twitter (@vero)

SocialMediaCamp London 09 – Rallying the troops up!

Yes, you’ve read correctly! SocialMediaCamp London 09 is rearing its pretty head ’round the corner and we’re beginning the planning. It’s only just starting to take shape so if you want to get involved, now is the time.

The aim of the event is to gather 100-120 people to exchange ideas on social media, from social networking platforms, blogs and podcasts to using new media cleverly, marketing ethically and identity the age of technology.  Attendees will be invited to do short presentations or hold discussion groups throughout the day on Saturday.

If facilities allow, Sunday could be a workshop day where we take on the challenge of creating a campaign, using social media tools, for a charity or small business who could benefit from our joint knowledge and experience. This day was described as “a Hack Day but socialer”, which is a fair description! The objective would be to end the day with a tangible campaign for the charity/small business can use and implement.

What we know so far

Dates: Either 18th or 25th April
Location: Possibly Wallacespace St-Pancras (where we held SMCLondon08 in October) but considering a location that would allow us to do both Saturday & Sunday

Helping with the event

My mistake last time was to try and take on everything myself, so this time I’ll be sharing out responsibilities to small teams. If you’d like to volunteer for one of the areas below, email me on vero@thatcanadiangirl.co.uk (and I’ll love you forever!)

I want to be a:

  • Sponsor wrangler
  • Backchannel boss
  • Venue scout
  • T-Shirts & Stickers master
  • Food czar
  • Badges & signs design artist
  • Evening drinks & Saturday night happenings rockstar
  • Video streaming guru
  • Event cheerleader & promoter

Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of support if you take on any of these responsibilities, but you’ll help me keep my sanity in the run-up to the event. All we ask is that you are reliable and will communicate well. :)

Think you can sponsor? There will be sponsorships of all sizes to suit your budget, so if you think you can sponsor, please contact me directly.

Meanwhile if you’re interested in attending, please sign up to the newsletter (that big box on the left) and we’ll email you with details of the event & the date on which the first batch of tickets will be made available!

Post-SMCLondon08 feedback survey

This Saturday was a hugely fun day for all of us who took part in SocialMediaCamp London! As the main organiser of the event, I am unspeakably proud of the participation levels from attendees, the amount of support from everyone and already am looking forward to the next event.

If you’ve attended, please take a moment to give your feedback on the best bits, the worst bits and what you’d like to see next time around.

Fill in the survey here

Thanks again to everyone who partcipated, and see you at the next event in town!

Vero

Man Boobs, Incest, Sarah Palin and how The Times does SEO

Mariana Bettio has charts, and she is not afraid to use them.

Twice a day, The Times reports internally on what people are searching for and the results are astonishing. People are searching for Man Boobs and arriving at The Times Online – and the highest influx is from Pakistan. It turns out that Google ranks traditional media highly… and then, suddenly, the hits stopped coming. The Man Boob flood has rescinded.

Were people suddenly less interested in Man Boobs? Apparently not, according to Google Trends. The rise and fall of such trends is often inexplicable, and how much of that search traffic is driven to any given site doubly so. Another story on The Times ranks highly in searches for Brother Sister Sex; the story in question having a large number of comments, mostly – but not all – negative. Still, the influx of traffic from search is at a constantly high level.

It’s well known that search-traffic spikes occur in line with news about current affairs – sometimes even ahead of a breaking story. Some of this information is a stock-traders dream; searches for Bradford and Bingley spiked shortly before it was common knowledge that they were in trouble.

The knowledge of what people are searching for can be useful to drive investigative journalism – writing for the market that people are interested in. More to the point, you can also use search-knowledge to predict who’s going to win X-Factor – a bookies dream for odds-setting?

Charting hot-topic buzzwords is interesting as well – you are, in fact, charting the Buzz itself. The Times Online can (and presumably does) use this information to refocus their story-writing efforts. Of course, care must be taken not to write articles that are not interesting to the motivations of those that search, so Google Trend data should be treated differently from search data on your own site.

SEO is not without wide-reaching burden. Whilst search data is used to suggest topics, it is also used retro-actively to boost the results of relevant articles. The modern journalist needs to be aware of how to write in an SEO friendly manner, and not all take to this with ease. Ladening a headline with keywords can be important – but it still has to make sense! With 150 to 200 articles a day published and 20 million articles on archive, it’s a mammoth task to apply SEO pro-actively and retrospectively.

Once you have relevant traffic and engaged visitors, keeping them engaged with further relevant content is no easy task – often done manually. The technology to provide related content automatically is new, but Zemanta comes highly recommended by the crowd.

Conclusion: The Times, they are a changin’…

If You Work In Marketing, Kill Yourself Now

“Hello, my name is Chris!” says the projector. The title of the presentation, a quote from Bill Hicks – marketing is dead, long live PR.

The talk is on the topic of advertising. We’re reminded that some advertising is good; Hi Guinness!; but most is annoying, intrusive, and would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. Snap.com is example du jour of intrusive, unexpected advertising – a quick search of Twitter brings up examples of those already annoyed. Piggybacking on the premise of a useful tool, Snap.com embellishes small screenshots of a destination site with a border of adverts.

Quickly Chris brings up another example of “grass-roots” advertising by companies – astroturfing – perhaps where an intern has been hired to post on forums about his or her employer’s new product. It’s spam, but not as we know it – it seems relevant at first glance, but quickly becomes apparent that the poster is offering no engagement in the community.

There are two laws which can help the casual user. One is the EC Directive on direct marketing and opting-out; the other is the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations – specifically, the part which makes it illegal to pretend to be a consumer of your own product: a mandate to be open and honest. “Legistlating against PR Fail” as Chris describes it.

What can we do about it? Part 1: Down with the bad. Don’t sit idle, but be active. Ignoring fake blogs just makes it socially acceptable. Vote them down, and complain vocally. Part 2: Up with the awesome. Praise campaigns you liked, even if they’re not your clients! It’s reactive PR, and it’s what the real grass-roots should do, as user-generated PR is a much more powerful tool now than ever before in history. Simply tweeting about it is enough to get started. Chris, in his role as a PR guy, freely admits that even such principled PRs as himself sometimes make mistakes… but openness and honesty wins out in the end (so we hope…)

Tangentially to the previous presentation I was in, Chris does not believe that it’s “all about the numbers” – how can it be when 1000 blog posts could be negative reviews? He alludes to services that can read and analyse en-masse which posts are negative or positive, but this is not yet a mature technology.

Discussion quickly progressed to examples of campaigns that look good in numbers, bad on blogs, and yet could have been a success because the target market demoraphic was not the same digital-nomads who are engaged by crowd-sourced video-clips on YouTube. Nevertheless, if you work in social media directly, then they probably are!

End of presentation – no suicide required…

Online Multilinguism by Chris Waigl

How not to translate websites! Internationalisation (i18n)… localisation (l10n)… these are buzzwords of importance for any website of size. As I work for Last.fm, I figured this would be a topic of practical application to me.

Chris, of German origin, is multilingual and the roots of her interest in this area lie with the fact that when she attempted to publish a bi-lingual blog, she could not find the tools to support her.

First, some facts. There are 347 languages in the world with more than 1 million speakers… that’s only 5% of the languages on Earth, but represents 95% the planet’s speakers. Stepping it up a gear: there are 75 languages with more than 10 million speakers, covering 80% of the speakers on the planet.

The largest languages are Mandarin with 900 million speakers, and then Spanish, Hindi and English with 300 to 350 million speakers each. Interestingly, English has 2.5 to 3 times as many second-language fluent speakers as first language speakers. This means that the majority of English readers would prefer another language.

Multilingualism is widespread outside of English speaking countries and, in contrast to rich countries of the west, not a mark of privilege. And it changes fast. Anecdotaly, Chris gives the example of Irish: adding Irish to the national curriculum, funded by the government, saved the language from extinction within 5 to 10 years.

Internationalization is a user-experience problem and should be integrated throughout the design, build and testing of a website or product, in the best case – testing with non-primary language speakers and multilingual users. But what tools are available to help with this process?

From the web-user’s point of view, any language I read well is a language I can do business in. Searching is another matter – I want the results of everything I can read together. Community-wise, I want to post content in all languages but not deal with content I don’t understand.

In an ideal world, automatic translation can solve some of these problems but in reality there are very few cases which that’s acceptable. Chris suggests that searching for, say, Korean news results and having them translated to a language she reads is acceptable – even with the awkwardness of the robot inflection, it’s still access to previously unavailable content. But what can be done better where multilingualism CAN be dealt with effectively?

Other key points to realise for an international web developer are that language is not the same as country; and country is not the same as language. You can not convert directly from one to the other, despite it being the path of least resistance for many developers.

An experiment. Chris travelled to Prague, with her laptop set to the German locale, to see how some websites behave at this conflict of information. Facebook offers immediately to have the site in Czech if you wish, although showing the site in German – taking in to account both the language setting and the location of connection.

Google, on the other hand, assumes that because you’re in Czech you want Czech despite being set to the language of your choice. This problem can go wider, especially for a traveller using an internet cafe and unable to understand the operating system itself…

Paypal is a third example – how at one time, it automatically chose the language based on your postal address, even if you are, say, an ex-pat! Fortunately that situation has since changed. Nevertheless, the choices of country/language combination are still very limited. Too many assumptions!

Chris was generally praiseful of Last.fm, but did mention from a user experience perspective how it’s potentially inappropriate to represent our country choices with country flags; a German speaking citizen of Switzerland is not German, after all. Not a point I’d previously thought about, but she concedes that it’s very hard to represent a language pictographically.

Next in the firing line is Amazon. Despite having high usability street-cred, Amazon does have a habit of redirecting users to specific language versions based on location. It’s a complicated problem and Amazon does not handle it too gracefully. Edge cases that fail include a French speaker in Switzerland being redirected to the german site; a traveller with an amazon.co.uk cookie being continually offered the choice of the .co.uk site despite living in France; ordering in one language from another country to ship as a gift.

Any multilingual blogger has three areas to worry about: translating posts, interface elements and static content. There are some bi-lingual plugins for WordPress but many issues left to iron out. Many issues arise – how do you translate tags, for example, and is that even necessary?

As a mainly non-technical talk focusing on user-experience, Chris touched briefly at the end on some of the ongoing sticky topics in this area including Unicode normalisation, UTF-8 and Accept-language HTTP headers – stuff every web-dev should know, and few are comfortable with.

In conclusion, a worthy topic with some excellent examples of what to do and what not to do, and I will be feeding back some of this information on Monday…

How to write awesome Headlines (So People read your Stuff) by Tom Whitwell [Times Online]

Tom Whitwell who is the Assistant Editor of Online at The Times starts the session by giving us a wizz through print headlines over time. Despite print having been around for a long time, it wasn’t until 1966 that you could actually see headlines on the front page of the daily papers. Before that they would have been badly places and tiny. The headlines were still in a bad state in 1983 and although they were attempting to be funny, they didn’t convey anything.

Then, suddenly, with the birth of the internet headlines became more important as everything depends on the it. Headlines were separated from stories and hence their importance as without a good headline people won’t click through to read.

With headlines as a serious business, the internet meant that we can find out what is really working (with newspapers we don’t know who’s reading which articles). The writer has to write what will get the reader stop and read while ‘page scanning’.

On the web, we know: The difference between good headlines and bad…

A good headline is: Subtle; it’s working out what the story is, what your reader will respond to, and how to squeeze all the goodness into 68 characters.

Conciseness, to the point=specifics can contribute to a good headline and it should answer why the reader should read that story and not another.

Don’ts:

Don’t try to be clever or funny

Play to your niche and don’t over simply or patronise in the headline.

Remember: Print and internet headlines require a different style…some just work in print and others just on the internet.

Right headline will also contribute to people finding it on the net (like SEO).

Quick wins:

Lists=force you to do research and explain your points properly

Quotes= Often the most interesting bit in the story

Numbers= Often the most interesting bit in the story

Names=Most likely who the story is about.

Dos:

If story is interesting, tell it in the headline.

Write the headlines first. Really and ALWAYS.

If you think you have a great story, but can’t explain it in the headline=crap story. So work at it and do the research to back up. Don’t publish until you have a killer headline. If you get stuck a great trick is to read someone else the story and how they react will tell you what the headline should be.

And there Tom’s insightful presentation finishes with: ‘I’m done. Sorry for ranting.’

How to present to big scary companies presented by Terence Eden [Vodafone]

To present to big scary companies, Terence advises us that we need the elevator pitch – ‘the what is in it for me?’ (A bit like previous session on headlines perhaps…)

Never take a rejection personally…it’s business and it might just not be a good fit.

A call might not get through if you don’t know them well yet-so send an e-mail and remember to check the grammar and spelling..learn who you are pitching to and gear it to this.

So how do you find out who the right people to contact are? Check through Google or LinkedIn. Remember that the approach can be annoying, but more acceptable and they might always be able to refer you to the right place. Remember who you can pitch to and who NOT (e.g. CEO of company) and send the elevator pitch in an e-mail.

Be flexible on dates for meetings if pitching, as they are doing you a favour by being available for you to pitch.

Arrive 5 minutes earlier…BUT not earlier…in case of running late-call ahead and let them know.

2 most important parts when presenting: brain and mouth – you need to know your material off hand

Tongue twisters before presentation for the later smooth talk presentation..

Who to send to a presentation: Send the right person (find out who you will be meeting and decide who to send depending on this)

How many people to send to a meeting: No more than 3.

Chat and flirt before the meeting…friendly interaction (culturally related when appropriate)

(In middle east totally fine to walk in and out during a meeting.)

Video is a good presentation tool, but anyone could have made it…make it engaging and have print outs as take away notes for the person you are presenting to.

Handy to have something in one’s hand..make sure that it will copy well in black and white or ensure colour prints out well.. Can give both print and e-mail version. Make it as easy as possible for the person you are pitching to. The person you are pitching to might not understand the tech speak – so make sure that you can explain what you know to those who don’t. Don’t assume anything.

If they have a question, then it is because they want to know right then – so answer it. NEVER argue a question.

Follow ups: Take an action to follow up with an e-mail or something say 1 week later as a reminder. Free stuff ok to a limit.

The product should be stand out by itself so shouldn’t need a bribe to sell it.

Rehearse and follow up..(in a professional way)

End.

Measuring Engagement of Social Media websites in a Web 2.0 world

Right after lunch, and back in to the thick of it. Peter O’Neill knows his stuff, starting his presentation on web analytics with credentials including Ask.com. Yes, the title’s buzzword heavy – and this is a large room with plenty of filled chairs.

It’s clear that nobody likes the term Web 2.0; but as a marketting buzzword it’s inevitable, essential and easy to sell. For Peter, content created directly for the online scope falls in to this category. Another hot buzzword is Engagement, and this is where Web Analytics shines. Are people interested? Are they coming back? How long do they stay? It seems obvious that if you can measure these indicators of interest, then you can measure customer satisfaction, which leads to loyalty and thus to revenue.

All of these assumptions are based on the age-old idea that loyal customers are good customers. Which metrics can tell you this? Surprisingly, the answer is not clear cut – despite the size of the online advertising industry built on these principles.

The main interactions a user has include viewing pages, making purchases, downloading a file, registering. Some pages are more important than others – who is looking at your Contact Us page? Who is writing comments on your products, or sharing things with friends? Who’s throwing sheep at each other, and should you measure that as a statistic?

Sheep thrown per day per person is a simple but effective demonstrator of Facebook’s engagement, but does not suit every website. Which metrics do suit depend heavily on your business objectives. For personal blogs, the writer is often interest in who wants to contact them for work, say. Other websites are sales driven, whether that’s through ad-revenue where unique visitors rule, or sponsorships where clickthroughs and relevancy are highly important. For some websites the focus is niche and a small number of loyal visitors is desirable.

Peter pulls up the example of STA Travel where what’s important are which actions are most likely to lead to a purchase. These may include people who’ve downloaded the tools, subscribed to the newsletter or read the travel tips – these people are already engaged and worth focusing on. The suggestion is that comparing compelling site features with acquisition rates is key to measuring the success of a feature, but if you flip that around, it shows you which features lead you to the best success at achieving your aims (and therefore where to spend your budget). Web Analytics can facilitate data driven design – and that’s more valuable than a designer telling you how pretty the site is.

On to another, familiar example: Bebo. I expected to hear the time-old story of how Bebo changed their focus to UK Teenagers, despite a generic social network starting point, due to following their demographic data. But the current hot topic seems to be ‘The Gap Year’, a sponsorship driven reality TV tie-in, sponsors including everyone from Canon to Colgate, and keeping such sponsors requires demonstrating a return on investment. But it’s a delicate balancing act – you can’t push the products too hard, or people will fall-back; but too little, and it’s difficult to show how the money is coming in versus regular revenue on other parts of the site.

I’ve worked for a number of companies who develop websites and analytics is often an afterthought, especially at agencies who roll out a large number of sites for a large number of customers. Referencing “Web Analytics Demystified” by Eric Peterson, Peter shows us a controversial and unweildy formula for measuring engagement – and it seems to serve only to confuse. Peter agrees, and this is an on-going topic of discussion. Nevertheless, the metrics used by the formula are paramount, and every website trying to make money would do well to put some thought into the capture and reporting of these.

Peter offers us 5 simple steps to metric-success. First, define your business objectives. Then define which actions on the site can lead to achieving them. Ensure these actions are tagged – that is, log them – and make sure you do that right the first time! Track their performance over time, as data is not and never will be 100% accurate. Finally, track the correlation between product features, traffic sources and that mystical paragon alluded to in the topic – engagement levels.

There are some things which contribute to engagement offline that are difficult to measure – imagine your web-advert going viral; no web logs to look at if it’s being re-posted to YouTube. You can, in this case, do the same thing that companies have been doing for years, and resort to regular offline market research. But whilst online, measure as much as you can, all the time, right from the word go – Google Analytics, Omniture, or any (every?) other way you can. Other useful tools in a Web 2.0 world are the obvious Feedburner, and less obvious Tweetburner and Facebook Lexicon – and of course good old Google News.

What do I take away from this? Tracking your engagement is hard to do right, unreliable and easy to do wrong, very, very important, and, with special relevance to Social Media, it’s important to remember that there are so many new ways to interact with a site. Make sure your design decisions are data-driven, because your purse-strings will demand it!