Hello blog readers and curious onlookers. Hello spammers, too. There seem to be plenty of you spammers around, according to my comments sections. A few months back I had written how a book by Elizabeth Gilbert ignited a small fire within me to create more. You know, for creation’s sake.
During that time, I had started researching a book and even making calls with the goal of putting together a series of non-fiction stories about NHL players who had realized their dream of playing in the NHL – but ended up only playing one NHL game in their career. I had a few doozies that I was excited to write about. A few months after my research began, this book came out. Someone got to it before me. So it goes. Onward.
I’m happy that I have some creative freedom at my current job. We have a creative group that does the majority of our stuff and they do it so well. But I still get plenty of tasty morsels in terms of creative freedom. And that’s great. But I always want more. Insatiable need? Maybe. Today’s post isn’t about labels or personality traits, though.
Late last summer I connected with John, the owner of Hit the Net Sports, a sporting goods store in Acton, MA. They mostly sell hockey equipment, along with lacrosse and field hockey. Sounds familiar, right? I told him I was looking for a side project and would love to build him a new website. We met, I outlined my vision and he was cool enough to trust me to proceed with my vision. Neat.
Over the next 8 weeks, I slowly built the site, using the WordPress platform and a whole bunch of pictures I took at the store. The old site was very text heavy with a lot of images pulled off the internet. There were no actual pictures of the store. So my main goal was to turn it into something where the visuals tell the story. It’s not absent of text, but in an fast-increasing world of visuals, this was a glaring need. I also went in and shot some video, because video is where it’s at, if you’re to believe the marketing experts. Which I do.
In addition, I wanted to make sure the most common questions and their answers would be on every page, along with location and contact info. Important for a local business
Here’s a quick before and after shot of the hockey page:
It’s my first real website project that I’ve built on my own, in its entirety, other than this blog. While it’s not 100% complete, it’s 95% of the way there and it’s certainly far enough down the road to launch. So launch it we did, just after Thanksgiving. If you want to see it all, you can see it here. Hope you dig it. I was happy to hear that John liked it and I’ll be doing more with him at some point soon.
My mission continues: create. Inside AND outside of work. It keeps my spirit burning.
If you need a small website built, let me know! I’d love to help you out. I have a full time job, so most of my work happens piecemeal, but I’d love to build more. You can hit me up here with questions or ideas.
I had what I thought was a clever post ready to go, but it’ll have to wait for another time. Why? Because I got home today and received this (above) in the mail. It got me thinking about data. In marketing, you’re only as good as your data.
This came from 1-800-FLOWERS. They’ve been my go-to for quite a few years now, always dependable, always on time. I once strayed from them, earlier this year for Mother’s Day. I will never do that again. My mother didn’t receive her flowers until a week after Mother’s Day.
Anyway, check out that picture. Really, all I’m asking is that you just pay attention to the top part. I think it’s a solid marketing play to send out printed, personalized cards to remind you about an upcoming birthday. There is still undoubtedly a place for printed, physical, personalized mailers. I like that.
Unfortunately, I have no idea who Alyssa Kipetz is. I hope she has a great birthday, though. I do know someone whose birthday is August 21, but it’s definitely not her. It reminds me of the time that the Boston Bruins sent me a birthday greeting email on February 3rd. But my birthday is May 5th.
Now, two years ago if I had received this card, I probably would have written a real snarky blog post about how horrible 1-800-FLOWERS is for sending me such a huge mistake of a reminder card. But I’m not going to do that. In fact, I’m going to give them a mulligan here. A sweet, sweet mulligan.
Am I softening in my (sort of) old age? Um….no. And I’m not old, dammit! But I lived the experience of bad data, so I’m feeling their pain.
Here’s the thing. I think bad data is really common. Like, more common than you think. If a company flush with cash like 1-800-FLOWERS or even the Boston Bruins can’t get it right, how can a small-to-medium business get it right? I will be the first to tell you that database management, IT and clean data go beyond my baliwick but I can also tell you it’s been an issue at every single job I’ve been in. Every. One.
I don’t think I’ve had a string of bad luck, either. It simply supports my assertion that this is a large issue.
I managed a large web project at my last job where this was a total and complete nightmare. The backend system wasn’t strong in the first place. You can only fault the business so much for this. It’s a chicken and egg thing. When a business is small, they can only purchase systems they can afford. They simply can’t make the investment in some crazy-priced, beautiful backend – the cash isn’t there. Sales don’t justify the investment. You just hope customer and product data get entered correctly.
But as you get bigger, you damn well better be focused on advancing your backend systems with it, or it’s gonna get painful. You can only put it off for so long.
I don’t have any solutions. It’s a problem. I can tell you I’ve learned my lesson. If I ever come across this again, you can bet I’ll be googling the crap out of data cleaning services. Much like everything else in life, you live and you learn.
But I do give 1-800-FLOWERS (and others) a mulligan when I experience this now and I will keep buying from them because they’ve never let me down. And an occasional slip up because of bad data? I can deal with it, because I’ve lived it. I can sympathize. But it’s so true – you’re only as good as your data.
With the Verizon Yahoo thing so hot and heavy in the news today, I was reminded of the email I got from them last week. First, some background: I’m a FIOS customer who gets TV-Internet-Landline service from them and in general, I’ve been pretty happy with the service. Much like everyone else, I can’t believe how much I pay for it.
If there was only a company that could show me live Bruins games on my TV without having to pay for FIOS, I’d cancel Verizon within 10 seconds.
Anyway, so last week this email comes merrily dancing into my inbox:
Do you see what they did there? For the simple reason that my router is “older,” I am now being charged an extra $2.80 per month……unless of course I want to buy a new $60 router.
Well, my router appears to work fine. I don’t NEED a new $60 router. So now I have to pay extra each month for one that is working smoothly? What gives there? Does anyone see this as ridiculous?
What if other companies did this? Am I going to get billed an extra $5 per month from the Toyota dealer because my Highlander is now seven years old? Is my plumber going to charge me extra on my Gold Status account membership because my house is over 100 years old?
Well, shit. This should work both ways. I should be allowed to charge Verizon! I mean, they own AOL! Hah! AOL! And now they own Yahoo! Those two entities are old and decrepit! I should get money taken off my bill for their stupidity in owning these two worthless properties. Now it appears as if I’m helping fund the Yahoo purchase because my router is TWO years old!
I may want to stop here, actually. It probably won’t be a coincidence when my Netflix starts cutting out and getting choppy because I wrote this. Ouch.
I love you Verizon. Mostly. Kinda.
I was half-joking with my wife the other night and explained my temptation to completely rid myself of all my social media accounts. My posting activity is probably average in the big picture, but I find myself checking/reading it too much.
Realistically, I can’t shed it. For one, it’s part of my job. Two, I enjoy staying in touch with people I probably wouldn’t otherwise stay in touch with. Three, cats are funny. OK, I’m kidding on three.
The internet does have utility, though. And meaning.
Then I started thinking about social and the internet versus, um……real life? I say “real life” in part jest, but it’s the only way I can describe the alternative for the point I’m trying to make here.
I’d like to think I’m a pretty easy guy to shop for. The past few Christmases, my wife has gone to the local specialty beer store, the excellent Craft Beer Cellar in Westford, MA and gotten me the beer advent calendar. I get a new beer every day for 24 days in December. Killer!
They don’t really sell it online. In fact, if you look at their header (above), they make no bones about it, it’s a brick-and-mortar store. Stephanie has to call them, reserve it and then drive there to pick it up. This process is not necessarily rife with customer service issues.
This past Christmas, I decided something similar was in store for her. I decided to subscribe her to one of those subscription services that are so popular these days. For coffee.
There really aren’t any specialty coffee places like Craft Beer Cellar, so I had to go online (Starbucks doesn’t count). I’m a sucker for a nice, clean design and simple experience, so I looked at a few sites and settled on a 3-month plan for Craft Coffee.
Everything arrived as advertised for the three months I paid for. No complaints in terms of receiving what I paid for. Steph thought the coffee was okay.
Then the coffee arrived in month four.
I didn’t really notice because I’m not usually around to collect mail and deliveries.
Then it arrived in month five. This time Steph mentioned it to me, so I had to get on their live chat, then I had to call, sit on the phone and work it out. Turns out that Craft Coffee had some sort of issue in that the same account that purchased the gift was also receiving the gift, so they “accidentally” just kept it rolling.
I’m not writing to criticize them about assuming that we wanted to keep it rolling and I can confirm there was no language in my purchase path about such extensions.
It’s clearly an issue they need to sort out, but that’s not the point. Craft Coffee’s customer service was superb in getting things settled properly, because no internet business can survive without top notch customer service.
The point is that, in this case, it was much easier and smoother for Steph to do her similar transaction in person than it was for me to trigger hers online. So that’s saying something, I suppose.
I can’t logically sit here and tell you that I’d be fine without the internet. Or social media. This is a very situational example. Paying bills and banking, for example, is far easier online.
But sometimes these little stories pop up and I realize that it’s possible to NOT do it all on the internet and maybe I should pursue that end more. I would survive. Life would march on.
I don’t need to tell the story about all the Saudi princes who have emailed all of us over the years, promising vast millions. If I DO need to tell you about these and other online scams, then congrats, because you’ve avoided the internet for this long and your sanity is intact! No need to get on it now!
Over the last calendar year, we’ve seen the rise of chat and chat phone apps. The ones you may have heard of include Kik (150mm users), WeChat (400mm users) the Facebook-owned WhatsApp (500mm+ users) and, of course, SnapChat. There are dozens of others.
Facebook Messenger Screenshot
More recently, we’ve started to see some actual commerce getting infused into the chat experience. Back in December, the press was abuzz with the news that you could book an Uber car right through your Facebook Chat Messenger thingy (see screenshot of my Messenger app). Seems cool, but you can also see some good specifics of that experience here after a friend of mine tried it.
Regardless, that was a long-winded intro into what I am NOT talking about today. Sorry. That’s bad journalistic practice, I know. My point was that chat is getting huge and it’s inevitable that more and more commerce-enabled functionality is coming.
This can only mean one thing – more Saudi prince types mucking up your clean, fun chat apps. Get ready, because it’s already here.
Case in point – last Friday afternoon. I’m at work, setting up some ad campaigns on Facebook and I see that red Pavlovian notification dot on my chat, so immediately, like a dog, I go click for my treat.
I see my aunt has messaged me.
Now, let me say this before I go any further. I feel like I have a pretty good bullshit detector when it comes to online fraud and spamming. I’ve been doing this digital thing a while now, both at home and at work. But this one, at least for the first 2-3 back-and-forths, got me good. Here’s the exchange.
I was totally buying it until the “oh lol ok” part (not like a 70 year old aunt to say such a thing). Then it abruptly turned into a “winning money” and investment question. Then I knew for sure this wasn’t my aunt, but I let it go another couple of lines because I wanted to know where it was going.
I immediately checked this person’s Facebook profile and it was completely blank, confirming it was a spammer. Part of me felt dumb for even believing it for those first couple of lines and in retrospect, “hope they all fine” should have been a small giveaway, but people mistype all the time.
Oh well. This is the first time I’ve been hit up like this on Facebook Chat – and I suspect it won’t be the last.
Wherever there’s a positive online commerce trend happening, there’s an ugly duckling trailing behind. It’s inevitable and has been happening since commerce was invented. As technology and the internet progress, it’s actually fascinating to see how scammers dream up their next pickpocket schemes.
My aunt, she’s fine. She caught wind of it and posted a beware message.
You – be careful out there!
I tweeted this the other day, it was really a passing thought. The more I let it stew, though, the more I realized there was probably a fuller blog post in there somewhere. So here we are.
Some people are always skeptics. That must be hard, though I bet it can come in awfully handy on occasion. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them, but I could also describe myself as situationally skeptical. I think this is probably the most normal, but I don’t have any sociological data to support that notion.
I’ve always been skeptical of the reporting that companies spit out, particularly internet companies who rely so heavily on the impression, the click, the interaction or my favorite one, the “active” user.
Some companies claim an active user is someone who has interacted with their site in the past 12 months. Some only count active users if they’ve done something on their site in the last 30 days. That’s a wide swing. Personally, I believe an active user should only be in the 1-3 day range for most sites.
The one I’ve been thinking about lately, as my tweet mentions, is the “unintentional engagement.” This doesn’t exist. But it should.
Have you ever been scrolling through your Twitter feed on your phone, using your finger to swipe down, down, down and you accidentally click instead of swipe, so a photo or video comes up? Of course you have. I think it might happen to me every day.
If you’re looking at the bottom tweet, the auto-play video on top is counted as a view. Wrong.
Well, Twitter is counting that as engagement. It’s a click. If it’s a video and it plays for just 3 seconds, Twitter considers that a video view. Three seconds!
If you were an advertiser paying Twitter, wouldn’t you want your reporting about video views or tweet views to be more true? Can’t they detect when you click and revert back to the main feed right away, like in 1-2 seconds? Of course they can. And they should.
Facebook, same idea. Have you ever been scrolling down your feed and a good friend of yours posts a paragraph or two of deep thoughts and you read it for a bit? Yes, you have. But just above that, a video starts playing on it’s own (that’s called “auto-play”) and it continues to play while you read something else? Facebook considers that an engagement, a video viewed! That you didn’t pay attention to it or see it matters none. They have the same 3 second rule in place, too.
YouTube is a little better. They don’t consider a video viewed for their analytics platform until :30 seconds. That seems much more reasonable to me. Unless your video is 20 minutes long, I guess.
Auto-play seems a little misleading to me, too. For example, the sound never goes on. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of recipe videos with text overlaid on them. Clever. But 3 seconds on auto-play counts as a viewed video? Facebook and Twitter say yes. I say no. There have been recent reports saying that as much as 85% of videos aren’t even heard!
So let’s get back to the main point of the tweet. I think it would be great if the social media sites actually reported “unintentional engagement.” They can absolutely do it. They can track if I click something and immediately head back. Facebook could easily not count an auto-played video as an official view for my brand if people have engaged (commented, liked, shared) with a post right below or above mine. It can be done.
But it won’t. Because they need to show HUGE numbers to advertisers as a carrot to get them to spend and keep spending.
Let me also say this, to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I’ve purchased plenty of video advertising on Facebook at my last couple of jobs. I don’t pay much attention to views or impressions, because those are bullshit measurements.
The success – depending on your goal – is usually in the engagement of it, the clicks to your website and the performance once they get there. I’ve generally been happy with the performance, particularly on Facebook.
I just think social media sites could be a lot more honest about this stuff. Or the IAB should come out with universal standards for engagement metrics. I’m not holding my breath.