Monthly Archives: February 2016

email-marketing

Top tips for email marketing [Infographic]

Email marketing is awesome, but..

Email marketing is one of the most effective strategies for nurturing new sales leads, keeping in touch with customers and enticing customers to buy from you again.  But people get so many emails every day – it is easy for your message to be lost in the noise!

How do you cut through the email inbox clutter to make sure that YOUR email is read?

What subject lines work and which fail dismally?

What’s the best time to send a marketing email?

All this and more is answered in this great infographic by OnlineCourseReport.com.

 

Click on the image to see a larger size!

anatomy-of-email-outreach

PS – If you found this interesting, please share it by using the share buttons below.  Thanks!

Acknowledgements


The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things – What is it and how does it work?

In a time not far from now..

Imagine a world where everything is connected.

And I mean – EVERYTHING.

Your entire house is connected to the Internet.  Each device, door, window – anything that can turn off and on, or can open and close, is connected.

Your day starts like this: Your alarm on your phone goes off.  It talks to the coffee machine and tells it to make a coffee.  If you hit the snooze button, it tells the coffee machine to wait.  After all, you like your coffee to be HOT.

The TV in your bedroom automatically turns onto your favourite breakfast show when your wristband determines (by measuring your heart rate) that you are now actually awake.

As you head to the shower, the radio takes over.  It’s not really a radio.  It is a device which automatically provides a summary of all of the news that you’re probably interested in, based on your history of Internet searches and online news reading habits.  A sensor in the bathroom tells it when you’re there, and it just starts up.

If you say “boring!”, it moves onto the next story.

As you wander out of the bathroom, it automatically turns off.

As you have breakfast, you use the last of your milk.  That’s ok – the fridge detected it.  Milk was just added to the shopping list for the order that is being placed this morning (automatically of course – billed to your credit card), and being delivered 5 minutes after you get home from work this afternoon.

It usually takes you 35 minutes to get ready, and since it’s cold outside, your car turns itself on 25 minutes after you get up.  The car warms itself up to your favourite heat setting – synchronised with your household central heating.  We wouldn’t want you to have to be cold or anything.

As you sit down, your car tells you that there is an accident on your main route to work – maybe you should take a second suggested direction instead.  Meanwhile, your home alarm detected you leaving, locked the doors and turned itself on.  Your house also switched your devices into a hibernate mode to save electricity.  They’re ready to be woken up again when there’s any sign of network activity.

The car knows that you have a meeting as soon as you’re due to get to work.  Since you’re now going to be a few minutes late, it contacts everyone in the meeting to let them know.

Welcome to the Internet of Things – a world where everything is connected, all of your devices know everything about you, and having to lift a finger to grab a remote control is so.. 2016!

The Internet of Things – a definition

Wikipedia defines the Internet of Things as follows:

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The Internet of Things allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems”.

How does the Internet of Things work?

At a basic level, there are a few components that are needed.  Each device that is connected has the following:

1.      A network connection

This is typically a fixed line connection for large objects like a house, and a wireless or Bluetooth connection for devices like phones, appliances, etc.  Any other common communications protocol can be used including GPS and the mobile phone network

ZigBee, Z-Wave, mesh networks and more

One of the problems with the traditional network approach is that it requires a decent amount of power.  Other network connection methods (including “ZigBee”, “Z-Wave” and others) require much less power and are tailored for managing a large number of devices in close proximity to each other.  The whole IoT field is new at this stage, so various companies and interest groups are scrambling to make their network specification the one to use.

2.      A network address

Each device that is connected to the Internet must have a network address – called an IP (Internet Protocol) address.  In the old days (which in computer terms is more than 5 years ago!), this consisted of a series of four numbers between 0 and 255, for example 61.9.133.193.  This numbering system is called IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) and is still widely used today.  This approach allows for a total of around 4.3 billion addresses.

Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s it was realised that this approach did not provide enough addresses if all of the devices in the world were going to be hooked up to the Internet.  At the time, people were already talking about fridges having their own IP address and being connected to the Internet!

IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) was created to address the problem.  IPv6 addresses are made up of a series of 8 groups of 4 hexadecimal numbers, for example: 2001:0000:3238:DFE1:0063:0000:0000:FEFB.  Hexadecimal numbers are used since they convert easily into 1s and 0s, which at their core, is what every computer is made up of.  The also take up less room than standard decimal numbers.  If this sounds interesting to you, here’s a nifty IPv6 tutorial that also covers how hexadecimal numbers fit into the picture.

If not, the important bit to note is that IPv6 allows for approximately 3.4×1038 addresses – as in

340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

That should keep things going for a little while.

The devices can also be set up so that they don’t connect to the Internet directly.  A number of companies have produced hubs that link the devices to the outside world.  The devices all connect into the hub, and the hub has the Internet connection.

3.      Communications protocols

For devices to talk to each other, they need to speak a common language.  For example, when you send an email, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is the language that email servers use to talk to each other.

In the breakfast example above, the phone would need to know how to talk the Hot Coffee Protocol (HCP) (not a real protocol!) in order to turn the coffee on.

Typically, when the technology is new, each major company makes its own software with its own proprietary language.  This (as you would expect) is a bit of a mess. Over time, as a given type of device becomes more common, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) gets a working group together and defines a common protocol for all companies to use.

4.      Software

A software program is required to handle everything.  Devices at the end of the chain (for example, a door or a coffee pot) tend to have very basic software that just controls the device.  These are usually controlled by a much more sophisticated device such as an Android tablet or iPad, a phone or a computer.  These devices are rapidly becoming much smarter, and much better at putting different pieces of information together.

For example, my phone now tells me how long it will take to travel to work or home, even though I never told it where either location was.

It prompts me about upcoming events in my calendar, shows me news it thinks I’ll be interested in, tells me to update my contact list with new information from an email I received.  It isn’t much of a stretch to think that its alarm could turn on my coffee pot.

5.      Specialised hardware

In a lot of cases, specialised hardware is required, but even this is becoming more common place. It often boils down to a programmable computer chip that is connected into the device itself.  Add in a wireless network (or Z-Wave or Zigbee or..) transmitter and most of the hardware components are in place.

The most common hardware types are sensors (for example, to work out how much water, milk and coffee pods are in the coffee machine), wireless network connections, enough of a computer to translate the Hot Coffee Protocol into basic instructions like “turn the coffee on”, and hardware that can turn the coffee on when an electrical impulse passes along the right wire.

Summary

So that is a very quick intro to the Internet of Things – what it is, and how it works.

What new application for IoT are you waiting for the most?  Add your gadget wishlist to the comments below.

PS – If you found this interesting, please share it with your friends by using the share buttons below.  Thanks!

About the author

Leon Troeth is a Melbourne-based freelance technology copywriter.  Leon loves turning complex tech jargon and concepts into articles that everyone can understand.


Blogs and websites that have been left to die

Make sure your website doesn’t say that you’ve gone out of business!

This week I carried out a survey of 50 Brisbane-based IT services companies.  My aim was simple – I’m looking for companies that might be interested in help with writing material for their business or managing their social media.

I was shocked with what I found.

My survey was focused only on IT companies – specialist IT services companies!

The amount of sloppy IT work that I uncovered was frightening.  Not just sloppy social media advertising, but also a number of ancient relic websites that look like they were built in the Stone Age (which in computing terms is anything more than a few years ago!).

Survey results – website updates

Out of the 50 companies, 15 companies had websites that are desperately in need of an overhaul.

There were a number of obvious mistakes like:

  • Links that don’t work in Chrome
  • Websites that have been optimised for an 800×600 screen
  • Websites that are not responsive (as in.. they won’t look good on a mobile phone)
  • Copyright info dating back to 2012 or earlier
  • Websites that just look awful compared to modern designs

These websites are so far out of date, it looks like the company has gone out of business.

Survey results – social media presence

Social media survey of 50 Brisbane-based IT services companies

Social media survey of 50 Brisbane-based IT services companies

54% of the companies had no social media presence at all.  That’s ok – it’s not a requirement to be on Facebook and twitter.

Another 13% were doing a really great job of it. Constant updates, regular engagement with their audience, blogs with good material.

However, one third of the companies really struggled.   These companies had done something in the social media space, but then left it to wither and die.  They had a page on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and even had a few updates.. but then.. nothing.

They also had a blog or “news” page with very few updates, and often no updates for months at a time.  It is hard to call it “news” if there is nothing new on there!

Bad social media presence is a whole lot worse than no social media presence

The bottom line is –

If you are not going to keep a blog or social media page updated regularly, don’t make one!

It gives a really bad impression to have a website that is so obviously out of date.

First impressions matter

Having an out of date website leaves a very bad impression.  It is very easy to tell which websites have been updated in the past couple of years.  Modern, responsive websites all have a particular look about them.  Any website that hasn’t been updated in that time looks very old, and gives the impression that the company may not really know what it’s doing.

The sad part was, all of these were IT services companies.  If IT companies can’t modernise their website when they probably have the skills available in-house, how is the rest of the business community meant to do it?

The good news is that keeping websites and social media up to date is a lot easier than it looks.

Tips for keeping your website and social media alive

The following can keep your website and social media presence alive with the absolute minimum of effort.

1.      Use WordPress for your website, and update the theme regularly

If you are struggling to keep your website up to date, this is the best tip for you!

WordPress is a content management system for websites.  It is very easy to use, and many web hosting providers have a one-click install for getting it up and running.

There are hundreds of different themes that can be used with WordPress – each providing a different style for your website.  It will not take long to find one that you like.  Do a search on “Wordpress themes” in your favourite search engine to get started.  Other good searches are “best responsive WordPress themes” or “best free responsive WordPress themes”.

Many themes are up to date with all of the modern features.  They work on all modern browsers and automatically resize content to work on mobile phones, tablets, desktops – you name it!

You don’t need to know anything about coding webpages – just put in the text and WordPress and your theme will look after the presentation for you.

There are also a number of providers that will run WordPress for you – you only need to worry about the content.

WordPress also has a multitude of plugins that make enhancing your website easy.  It is very easy to install a plugin to provide whatever features you want – from being able to add social media sharing icons through to running an online store.

WordPress themes and plugins are also updated regularly.  Keeping your website up to date is as easy as logging into the admin console once a month and installing the updates that are available.

2.      Be consistent

If you have a blog, news section or any social media pages, make sure you post updates regularly.

As a minimum, post something every month.  It doesn’t have to be new material – just post a link to something that is relevant to your audience, and a brief blurb about why it is relevant.

It will be enough to show that your company is still alive.

Whatever you do, don’t post a few updates during one enthusiastic week, and then leave your pages idle for months on end.  Over time, this lack of updates looks really silly.

Note – if you want to get any traction with a blog and social media in general , you really need to be posting at least a couple of times, preferably three, a week.   For platforms like twitter, a few times a day is better.

3.      Consider removing your blog and social media pages

If you don’t want to have to worry about making regular updates, that’s ok – you can always remove your blog and social media pages.  Just review your website content at least once a year, and occasionally update the look and feel of the website (see tip 1 above), and the job will be done.

You can also create a company page on sites like LinkedIn.  These work just as well if it has static information about your company.  They don’t all need updates.

If you have any existing articles on your blog that you want to keep, you can always re-brand the page as a “resources” section.

If you do post any information that is only relevant for 6 months, put a note in your calendar to take it down when it is no longer relevant.

Summary

Just remember, your website and your social media pages say a lot about your business.  Just make sure they don’t come across like this..

This website is in major need of an overhaul!

This website is in major need of an overhaul!

PS – If you found this interesting, please share it with your friends by using the share buttons below.  Thanks!

PPS – If you need some help resurrecting your website, send me your web address.  I’m happy to give some free advice on where to start.

About the author

Leon Troeth is a Melbourne-based freelance technology copywriter.  Leon loves turning complex tech jargon and concepts into articles that everyone can understand.

Acknowledgements

Cemetery image by Stockvault


Do driverless cars dream of being a convertible?

7 ways a driverless car will change your life

Category : technology

Earlier this week, I was thinking back to the first computer I owned over 30 years ago, and I was reminiscing at just how clunky it was in comparison to modern technology.  But then, I don’t have to think back that far to see how much my life has changed due to new technology.

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was carrying around a Nokia brick, great for phone calls and text messaging but little else.  Now I spend a lot of my day looking up things on my Internet and app-enabled phone.  It’s not like I’m doing anything new – I had the ability to check the weather 30 years ago too.  It’s just becoming a lot easier to do it.

Do you want to see a movie?  No worries, I’ll just buy a ticket now and we can skip the queue.

Order pizza?  These days I order pizza on a phone app and it’s ready by the time I drive past.  I just walk in, pick it up and keep going.

I got to thinking about what is next? What is the next bit of technology that is going to change my day to day life?

Driverless cars

Driverless cars seem to be all the rage at the moment.  Many car manufacturers, and even a few other players like Google and Uber have come out and said that they’ll have something ready for 5-10 years from now.

Of course they’re not really new are they?  Michael Knight was driving around in one years ago..

Driverless is one thing, but to really be useful, I’m going to push the envelope and go for unsupervised driverless cars.

Here’s a taste of how my life would be different.

[If you would rather know how they work, skip to the bottom of this article!]

1.     No more picking up the shopping

The shopping is one of those chores that are hard to avoid.  After all, we’ve got to eat! I haven’t made the transition to online shopping yet.  One of the reasons is that I really don’t want to commit to being home to receive the delivery.

But how about if I could just send the car?

Some supermarkets already have a click and collect arrangement where I can order my goods online, then drop into the store and pick it up.

I’m sure they could make that a “send your car over to collect” service.  Beats me having to do it!

2.     No more walking to sporting events

My wife and I regularly head off to watch the footy (Go Cats!).  This usually means parking a fair distance away and hiking to the ground.  Even in Geelong, we’re parking a good ten minutes walk away from the ground.  The walk to Etihad stadium and the MCG in Melbourne is worse.

I would love to be able to get out of the car right next to the ground, then just tell it to go and park itself somewhere.

Afterwards, I can just give it a call and have it pick us up somewhere near the ground.

3.     No more expensive airport parking!

Speaking of parking – there seems to be nothing in the world more expensive than an airport car park.  The Melbourne airport in particular is a long way from home, and getting someone to drop us off is often a struggle.  So we end up driving ourselves.

When we get there, we’re often parking miles away and trying to juggle kids and bags through the car park, onto a long term car park bus and into the terminal.

I love going away, but the parking at the airport really brings the mood down.

I would love to get dropped off at the front door, then just send the car home for the week.  It can come back and pick us up when we get back.

No more expensive airport parking!

4.     No more paying for parking anywhere!

Actually, why not extend that?  Why pay for parking anywhere at all?  We can just drive into wherever we’re going and get the car to go and park itself wherever there is free parking.  Do I really care if it has to travel 5kms to find some?

No more city parking at $48 for a few hours!

[At this point, I wonder about how airport parking and other parking industries will survive in the world of driverless cars?]

5.     Pick up the kids from the train station, sporting events, etc.

By the time driverless cars are available, my kids are likely to be teenagers.  It would be great if the car can go and pick them up from their regular sporting events, or when they get back to the train station from a late night out in the city.

If anyone could make an automated way to drop off the kids to school and pick them up, all the while supervising them properly, they would be very, very rich!

6.     The car can take itself off for a service

This one is a bit of a problem in my family.  We have two cars.  The family all fits in one, but doesn’t fit in the other.  When we want to get the main car serviced, we have to drop it off and pick it up when we don’t have all of the kids at home.  This is a real pain to organise.

I would love the car to be able to drive itself off to the mechanic’s and bring it back when it’s ready!

7.     Catch up on sleep during those long drives

We have a lot of friends in Geelong, and are constantly driving from Melbourne to Geelong and back.  The activities when we get there are limited somewhat by how awake I am.  After all, I need to be alert enough to drive home late at night.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could stay out late then just sleep while the car drives us all the way home?

That would be awesome!

So how would a driverless car change your life?

What technology has made the biggest change for you?

PS – If you found this interesting, please share it with your friends by using the share buttons below.  Thanks!

PPS – I can’t let you go without saying something about how driverless cars actually work.  Here’s a nifty little overview, thanks to The Economist.

How a self-driving car works

How a self-driving car works

About the author

Leon Troeth is a Melbourne-based freelance technology copywriter.  Leon loves turning complex tech jargon and concepts into articles that everyone can understand.

Acknowledgements


Social media marketing - 5 tips for working out which platform to use

Social media marketing – 5 tips for working out which platform to use

Social media is changing the world – at least that’s what we’re told.  I’ve heard many stories of some guy who designed a T-shirt, put an ad on Facebook and made squillions!

But how can you do that for yourself?

And where do you start?

  • Facebook?
  • Twitter?
  • LinkedIn?
  • Flickr?
  • Google+?
  • Pintrest?
  • YouTube?
  • Snapchat?
  • Instragram?

Athlinks, Bebo, Cyworld, Elftown, Exploroo, Flixster, Flickr, Friendster, Gogoyoko, Ibibo, Lifeknot, Myspace, Netlog, Pingsta, Sgrougles, StumbleUpon, Talkbiznow, Tumblr, WAYN, Yammer…

My goodness.. there are too many to choose from!

Wikipedia was no help.  Their “non-exhaustive” list of only “notable, well-known sites” comes to 210 sites!

Here’s a quick guide to narrow the field down to something manageable.

Before we start

To get going with social media marketing, you need to have something to share with people.  For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that you have some regular information that is ready to go.  If not, check out my article on how a blog is the foundation for all of your social media marketing efforts.

If you need more content, you can also make the most of using material that is already out there.

Naturally, driving people towards purchasing your own products and services is preferable!

How do I choose which social media platform to start with?

Here’s a quick guide to picking which social media service to start with, or (if you’re already on social media), which one to move to next.

1. Where is your audience?

The most important consideration should be:

Where is your audience?

Where is your audience?

For each product/service, you should have a very clear idea of who your ideal customer is.

  • How old are they?
  • What do they look like?
  • What do they talk about?
  • Why do they want to buy your product?
  • Who do they hang out with?
  • Even better – WHERE (online) do they hangout?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, stop reading and work that out.  It will save you a lot of time later.

Assuming you have a variety of products, you may well find that you need different social media platforms for different groups.

If you’re not sure, ask your next few customers what social media programs they use.  Ask them which one out of all of them is the best!  You will probably get a list of half a dozen or more  – depending on the demographic of your customers!

2. Platforms you’re already using

The next question is – what platforms are you already familiar with?  They are a great place to start.  Chances are, you already know how to use it, know what sort of material is engaging, and even better, you probably already have your own network of people who will see your posts!

If you’re not sure what works, just ask yourself what gets your attention.  If the regular crazy cat videos on Facebook grab your attention every time, imagine a cute video of a cat playing with one of your products..

[Ok – admission time – I made the mistake of clicking on the link! Argh!]

3. Platforms that your staff are already using

Another consideration is  – what social media channels are your staff using?

One of the things you will be looking for is existing networks that you can share content with.  Asking your team to re-share articles with their friends/networks is a great way to quickly get a lot of exposure.

4. Pick the big players

If you’re still stuck, choose one of the most popular platforms and go from there.

The answer to this will vary significantly on a few factors – does your company have a global or local reach?

Do your customers use one of the niche websites?

For example – the answer to “the most popular social media site in Australia” is likely to be very different to the “most popular social media site for independent musicians”.  Or not?   The bottom line is that the answers will vary depending on what you ask.

Here are some varying answers:

Facebook, Instragram and Snapchat top social media platforms for teens

Top social media platforms for teens – 2014. [Source: Pew Research Centre]

Twitter is the number one social site used within the sales process for 2014

Twitter is the number one social site used within the sales process for 2014. [Source: Forbes]

Be careful with this research.  The social media landscape is changing rapidly.  A survey from 2014 may be too old!  It wasn’t that long ago that Myspace was awesome and most of the others didn’t exist.  Keep an eye on your audience and move with them!

5. Use analytics to find out what works

Each social media platform gives you good information about how many people look at your article, like it, reshare it, bump it, thump it, pin it, etc.

If you drive the audience back to your website, and have Google Analytics installed, it also gives great reports on:

  • How many people visited your site
  • Which social media platform referred them
  • How long people from each site spent on each individual blog page

You can find the average reading time to help work out which audience actually engaged with your article.   I recently found that I had the most hits from StumbleUpon, but the longest reading time from users on Google+ and LinkedIn.  From this, I know that I’m better off spending my time focusing on them for now.

Summary

Just to recap – here are the 5 points to help choose a social media platform to focus on.

  1. Where are your audience?
  2. Platforms you’re already using
  3. Platforms that your staff are already using
  4. Pick the big players
  5. Use analytics to find out what works

So how did you go?  Where do your customers hang out and which social media platform works the best for them?

If you’re already up and running with social media marketing, what platform works the best for your business?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you found this interesting, please share it with your friends by using the share buttons below.  Thanks!

PS – I’ll have more to say about social media analytics over the next few weeks

PPS – I will also have a free surprise for you to get you going with social media marketing!  Join my mailing list so that you don’t miss out!

PPPS – For all of your social marketing needs, drop me a line.  I can help in all aspects from setting up a marketing strategy, setting up your social media presence, writing regular blog articles and fully managing the social media for your company.

About the author

Leon Troeth is a Melbourne-based freelance technology copywriter.  Leon loves helping small businesses use online marketing to boost their sales.