Canadian geek in Myanmar

Category: Online Marketing

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

I look forward to this report every year. So many great insights.

Now I know who uses QR codes…China!

My new test for evaluating a digital agency

During my days at EA I used to get agencies reaching out to me on a weekly basis to ask for meetings where they could pitch their expertise.

One of the first questions I used to ask was, what’s your Twitter handle? It was amazing to me how many of these digital shops didn’t have their own Twitter accounts but claimed they could grow my considerable communities exponentially. There was one notable meeting where a social media agency was claiming they could get me up to 5k followers (!), ignoring the fact that I already had over 60k followers by that point. Clearly they did their homework ūüôā

For those of us who build product, it’s called eating your own dogfood. Meaning you do what you want to charge others for, which these agencies clearly were not doing. They were dismissed out of hand.

Nowadays, Twitter is much more common and isn’t much of a test so I’ve got a new one. In two minutes you can see if your digital agency/partner knows what they are doing or if they are full of hooey.

Mobile site
This seems like such a no brainer. Everyone in the world has been talking about the importance of mobile for a number of years now. Everyone knows you need a mobile strategy and everyone is scrambling to create apps and have a mobile presence. And yet, it seems to me like everyone in Vietnam is ignoring the lowest hanging fruit. Your mobile website.

I did a quick search of the biggest ‘digital agencies’ in Vietnam and not one of them has a site that is mobile friendly! One of my favorite digital agencies from my EA days is Mekanism.com. Check out their site from a mobile browser and you will see that it’s streamlined for this platform. Now take a moment to look at the mobile site of whatever partner you are trusting with your digital campaign. See?

Forget apps for now
There’s been a lot of discussions and arguments in whether or not you need to build a native app. While I think every company is different and needs to decide that based on a deeper analysis of the business, there’s absolutely no reason why your current website isn’t mobile friendly. If the site is built properly in the first place (from the back end) then it’s a minor investment to make sure that your site is rendering properly on a mobile browser. And I don’t just mean that the site loads. Make sure that the links and navigation are clickable, the content is readable and site is easy to navigate.

Check your stats
If you have an analytics tool like Google Analytics, you can quickly check to see how much of your traffic is and was coming from a mobile browser. I would place money that the trend is swinging upwards, and rather rapidly. This is the right investment! Stop distracting yourself with whether it not you need an app yet.

Controlled customer journey
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about mobile sites is that, unlike an app, you can manage the consumer real time, the same way you would with your website. Hell, you can mostly use the same tools to ensure optimization!

It’s time to start asking yourself if you are making the right investments in your online marketing initiatives…and if you have the right partners to take you into the new digital era.

PicMonkey & Vine

Recently, I decided to do my semi-regular sweep for tech tools I need in my life. Because tech moves so quickly, I always try to do this every couple of weeks so I can stay on top of the industry and also just try cool shit.  

This time around, I found PicMonkey, my new favourite Chrome Extension. After a 2 second installation, I can now pick any picture on any website and then edit and post the image within minutes.  Amaze-balls!

Try PicMonkey here

Yesterday Twitter was all abuzz with Vine so of course I was eager to test it out. ¬†After a quick download and sign up (nicely done guys!), I started my first video. After about two seconds I could see the potential but also the vast amount of work it would require for most mini-videos. ¬†I’ve never been much of a YouTube junkie so finding a social community that was making shorter videos that mostly look like animated gifs really didn’t thrill me. ¬†I will keep looking at it over the next couple of days but suspect this one won’t be on rotation for me. ¬†

Why I hate the word ‘gamification’

Those of you who know me will find this post a bit strange since I have presented on this topic several times now. As a matter of fact, I’ll be presenting at the next Web Wednesday in Ho Chi Minh City on this topic. As I work through my presentation slides though, I’m reminded of how I rolled my eyes when I first heard the term gamification.

First off, I don’t think that the concepts are bad, mostly the name. It makes the principals of using gaming mechanics on non-gaming initiatives sound like a flash in the pan trend when in fact it is so far from that. Companies have been using gamification concepts for years now. Take a look at any airline loyalty program for instance. Great sales leaders have also used competition and leader boards for decades. So this is not a new concept. Nor is it something that is going away anytime soon.

I’m actually a huge believer in using gaming concepts to drive engagement and retention. I just hate the name.

The three things I learned doing global launches

One of the first accomplishments I had at EA was to launch a website in over a dozen languages simultaneously. Prior to this they used to launch a North American site and then eventually roll out a few pages in localized sites, if at all. The Need for Speed ProStreet site built in 2007 was the first time that we centralized one full site build globally and eventually, I was managing up to 26 fully localized sites for this franchise. For the next few years, this became the trend for the larger EA titles. Here are a few of the lessons I learned during that time.

1. QA is a pain in the ass and absolutely critical

This is pretty much true of all technology you’re going to build however, there’s another layer to this when you are dealing with multiple languages. While my centralized QA resources could catch the obvious things like design flaws or placeholder content, it was really critical that the territory managers who spoke the languages natively also did a full QA pass so you could avoid embarrassing translations like the MacDonald’s case from late last year.

2. Use your words!

They say a picture is worth a thousands words. I guess so but when it comes to building websites, those pictures can become a massive pain. Take for example, buttons that tell you to “sign up”. Now if you build that as an image, including the text then someone’s gotta go in and edit the image with a tool like Illustrator then upload the image separately to your CMS or CDN. When you’re dealing with over 2 dozen people world wide with varying technical chops, it’s critical to keep things as simple as possible. By making the copy on your promos and buttons text that can be translated into a CMS you not only ensure that the translation is easier to deal with, you also get a bit more SEO juice. Bonus.

Also, this seems obvious, but make sure your CMS can handle all your various languages. Cyrillic and Asian languages are particularly fun to support.

3. Centralize, centralize, centralize

While I’m all about making sure that the territories are accountable for their websites, the reality is that our priorities weren’t always aligned. Added to that, they had far less resources than I did and usually it was one guy who had to manage 20 different franchise/product sites so they were rarely able to keep up with all the content we were throwing at them. More often than not, I had to make sure that all the major content updates and certainly, any updates around major beats like E3 were centrally managed.

This goes double for social media channels. When Facebook and Twitter became hot topics, every territory wanted their own channels! This was a complete mess as the territories simply didn’t have the manpower to keep these channels updated, let alone engaging. Then there is the embarrassment of having a franchise like Need for Speed, which used to sell over 10 million units with a FB fan base of less than 200 in some of these territories. Absurd. Now that FB handles languages and segmentation better, this has pretty much gone away.

These years taught me so many other painful little lessons but these are the three key things I encourage anyone to consider if they are even thinking of launching a site in more than one language. One final thing, remember to build in a lot of extra buffer time, which you’ll need when dealing with decentralized resources in multiple time zones and misaligned priorities. Good luck!

What’s missing from Vietnam’s online marketing scene?

I recently read a couple of articles specific to online marketing in Vietnam. Links are below for your reference. I don’t know that I agree with everything in these articles but I think that Chandler Nguyen has some good points (not so sure I buy into all that Digiwave was trying to sell though). However, as I read through these blogs, there’s a couple of glaring omissions that I see.

The first is that Vietnam is trying to jump whole hog into this online marketing and social media game but most here haven’t learned the fundamentals yet. It’s like trying to run before you have learned to walk.

Most Vietnamese websites are a hot mess. There are blinking banners taking up every conceivable space, lots of stars and flashy lights, fonts are the same size and bolded throughout and not a deep link to be found. My eyeballs are usually spinning in their sockets before the whole page even has a chance to load. Even worse, I can usually find 2 or 3 navigations and rarely are they planned with SEO in mind. Some sites now throw a “share this page on FB” links at the bottom of their page but I’m not exactly sure what they are trying to accomplish with those links. Please don’t tell me someone has convinced them that this will cover them for link sharing!

SEO is not synonymous with PPC. Meaning you can’t just buy a bunch of terms on Google then think your job is done. SEO planning happens before you even start building your site or microsite. If you’re doing your job right then it should be forming a whole lot of the tags, copy, navigation and content of your site. Even better, use PPC to test your key search terms. Since natural SEO takes some time to get right, a quick and dirty PPC buy will help you to find the right terms and phrases to use.

Iteration seems to be a dirty word. The power of online marketing is the ability to do quick iteration and rapid deployment. So why is it that no one seems to have heard of multi-variate testing? Yeah, I know everyone’s trying to measure their stats these days but so what? (side note: I’ve had to two people excitedly tell me about some new start up building a listening platform, thinking it was the hottest new thing around as opposed to sooooo five years ago). You’ve captured a bunch of numbers from uniques to bounce and time spent…now what? I think this is the point where some poor coordinator/assistant has to create a huge ugly spreadsheet that has a bunch of numbers but doesn’t tell anyone squat. And besides, the report is coming too late to do a damn thing with your current campaign. If you’re lucky, you’ll take key learnings to the next campaign. Maybe.

But I’ve just mentioned that online marketing allows for rapid deployment and quick iteration. So, if you have built your sites properly in the first place, you can test two or ten different calls to a action, 5 different nav items and 20 different promos to see what people like. You can even see if Hanoians like the same things as the Saigonese. Even better, do specific links/promos drive more purchase intent and track to full conversion? And then as you start to review what’s working and what’s not, you can narrow down or change your CTA’s, promos, etc on the fly. And there’s so much more that can be tested and optimized real time…Oh, I could geek out about this all day!

I’ve focused this blog on websites but same basic principles apply for mobile web. Apps are a bit different and I’ll write something about what I see missing from Vietnam’s social media scene at some point. In the meantime, here are the blogs I referenced above.

http://www.chandlernguyen.com/2012/01/why-digital-marketing-is-not-booming-in-vietnam.html

http://thedigiwave.blogspot.com/2011/03/vietnam-social-media-landscape.html

When targeted online advertising goes wrong

Just saw this on the home page of LinkedIn. ¬†Been there. Done that. ¬†Even got a couple of their t-shirts I’m sure.

Online Marketing: Ask the right questions first

There’s no question that online has to be an integral part of any marketing campaign in North America but there seems to be many challenges I’ve seen with this medium in VN specifically.¬† Perhaps I’m wrong and someone here can correct me but below are the two big issues I see that need to be resolved prior to going ahead with online marketing in any campaign.¬† One caveat on the below, when I talk about “online marketing”, I do not mean online advertising, which frankly is little more than translating your offline campaign to a banner or landing page.

1. Is there executive buy in? And I don’t mean that execs are telling you to do this simply because everyone is talking about it.¬† Metrics from an online campaign are vastly different than that from a traditional impression and CPM’s can be high at first (but this will rapidly balance itself out if you are doing it right) and your engagement metrics are going to be different, and arguably, more valuable than your impressions. Without proper metrics & iteration you are leaving a lot of value on the table. ¬†Besides, “impressions” are soooo passe. So even if your boss is telling you to do an online campaign, make sure they are clear on what success looks like.

I remember my early days at EA when we were getting a tremendous amount of pressure to get people to go to our fairly lame EPK websites and Digg things but only get $1k to run a global campaign. ¬†Because shouldn’t a website cost only $500? ¬†Um, yeah, if you build a one-pager in someone’s basement and do a Hail Mary if you get more than 3 concurrent users. ¬†Then, once something is Digg’ed (Dugged?), there’s no money to do any follow up so it was a thousand bucks we pretty much threw away. ¬†Or at least the $500 we didn’t spend on building the lame website. ¬†See? ¬†Education is key.

2. Do you have people who actually know online marketing?¬† I can not count the times I’ve had conversations with “experts” who can’t go beyond banner ads, SEO or a Facebook brand page.¬† Yes, they all technically count but this is the tip of the iceberg.¬† Online channels allow for a very unique opportunity to engage your community and without leveraging that, you may be better off sticking with what you are actually good at and know you can deliver on. ¬†Getting your ass fired for a piss poor campaign certainly isn’t going to help anyone.

So, leave your ad banners and PPC campaign with the media buyers, that’s the boring numbers stuff they are good at. ¬†Instead, start looking for people who understand the digital space. ¬†In the absence of a lot of trained talent, a good place to start is someone who has a real passion for it and truly lives and breaths it everyday. ¬†One of my interview questions is, “what apps do you have on your phone” followed by “what websites do you go to every day”. ¬†Usually easy to call bullshit if the candidate can only give you “Facebook”. ¬†When I used to get digital agency pitches at EA, and this happened almost daily, the first thing I did was ask for their Twitter handle. ¬†You’d be amazed at how many of these self-proclaimed social media companies didn’t even use Twitter for themselves.

Here’s another free tip:¬†get rid of anyone who tells you that social media is only about conversation and not for marketing. ¬†That person is an idiot. ¬†I am assuming of course that you are running a business and not spending needless time and money on creating a brand for the sheer hell of it. ¬†Yes, you don’t want to do a lot of hard selling on Twitter but pul-lease…you are still investing in something to impact the bottom line, right? ¬†Sure, social media requires a softer touch but that doesn’t mean that you don’t make any contact.

If all else fails and your current online partner/employee/vendor still only pitches PPC and ad banners, send them to me and I’ll slap them around a bit for you.