Gaining insight into how organisations are using Social Media

Onwards & Upwards for OptixFROM huge multinationals to small start ups, confusion still reigns in business as to how to join the social media revolution and tap into its vast marketing potential.

Just as social media is transforming the way individuals communicate with each other, the business community is increasingly asking itself just how to it can best harnessed social networking in order to drive everything from brand promotional and increased sales to improved customer services.

The potential for Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin etc… – to open up previously untapped markets, promote products, keep in touch with existing customers and build partnerships with other businesses and organisations is the subject of constant debate.

However, evidence on exactly how businesses are using social media and which sectors are embracing it and which are not is still sketchy.

Devon-based Online marketing specialists Optix Solutions recently launched a comprehensive survey aimed at gathering an accurate, up-to-the-minute picture of business’s experiences of social media, both good and bad.

The multiple choice questions look at areas such as why your business does or does not use social media, how many employees are engaged in it and what problems your organisation has experienced in implementing a social media strategy.

Optix’s comprehensive online survey will provide the basis of a White Paper report on how effectively businesses are harnessing social networks as part of their online marketing strategies and internal communications, to be published later this year.

“Using Social Media effectively requires businesses to engage with potential customers in an entirely new way,” explains Optix director Alastair Banks.

“Social networking is very different from conventional marketing. It’s not about hard sell, it’s about opening up a dialogue with people, not just to let them know about your products, brand or what you do, but also to let them tell you what they want and learning and adapting accordingly.

“When properly employed, Social Media provides a vast opportunity to business to reach new audiences, nationally and globally, and with it increase profits.

 

“But it has to be done right. It is no good adding social media technology to your website if you don’t really understand how to engage with it. We want to find out exactly how businesses are rising, or otherwise, to this latest technological challenge.”

All businesses are invited to take part, even if they are not currently using Social Media at all. Reasons for not getting involved in social networking are of just as much interest as the experiences of businesses that have made Social Media part and parcel of everyday operations.

The idea for the report came from the Like Minds conference held earlier this year, of which Optix were proud sponsors, which brought together some of the country’s leading Social Media and Online Marketing experts.

Optix have received responses from the likes of Microsoft, Hospiscare, Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, South West Water and the Big Lottery Fund, but would like to hear from as many businesses and organisations as possible nationwide, regardless of size, industry or location.

To participate in the Optix Social Media Survey, please visit www.likemindssocialmediasurvey.co.uk

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Will you get a buzz out of Google caffeine?

The online industry has been waiting for the latest developments to Google’s search engine, Google Caffeine, to go public in the UK for some months now.

However, Google have a habit of rolling out new innovations slowly and gradually, testing the water and making adjustments rather than going in for Big Bang launches.

It is believed that Project Caffeine will soon be driving the Google search engine we will be using in the UK. So what is it all about and what differences are we likely to notice?

Well, for starters there is a clue in the name as to one of its essential improvements, namely Caffeine, a stimulant that gets things moving faster.

According to those who tested the new search engine last year, Caffeine is almost twice as quick as Google’s current search infrastructure, in one example taking 0.12 seconds to deliver results on a search that took 0.25 seconds on conventional Google.

Relevance: Testers reported that they not only found a much larger number of results for specific searches but also that Caffeine produced better results for longer ‘strings’. In other words longer search terms or searches for specific phrases or titles produced more productive results.

It also appears to be more reactive to current and breaking events. With Twitter and Facebook both launching real-time search engines, Google would naturally want to stay up with the game.

On the downside, it was reported that images and videos seemed to appear further down in searches than currently, although that may well change or have been changed already.

Due to Google’s gradual test, review and adjust way of doing things, we can’t say for sure exactly when you’ll be able to see Caffeine in action at home or at work, but it’s coming!

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Facebook Open Graph and Online Marketing

One of our online marketing team, Daniel Cave, was recently asked:

“Facebook Open Graph is pretty cool stuff when you think about it. Is the future of E-commerce online marketing about to change dramatically?”

That question covered such an interesting topic we have edited his response and posted it here for your pleasure.

The most transformative thing facebook has ever done for the web.

When you think about Open Graph and the wealth of information it provides about users, the potential is HUGE for marketing and e-commerce exploitation, the only issue is setup costs and lead times. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may not have been overstaing the fact when he said that this is the most transformative thing facebook has ever done for the web.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Using Facebook Open Graph for marketing is a potentially very powerful tool. Anything that gives you an insight into your potential customer’s likes and wants is powerful indeed. Add to that the fact that it also allows you to leverage social proof on your customers to sell your products then it is a powerful tool for site personalization and customization indeed.

If you have one of your developers learn how Open Graph works and start to do some basic stuff with it then you will be making a good start at moving towards using this potential.

Doing something easy like putting like buttons in place along with trying to match featured items with their likes on a fuzzy search, publishing to people’s wall with permission would be bordering on free advertising that rivals and beats paid for advertising.

It is hard to judge how much of this is hype and how much is really useful, but I personally think if Facebooks ‘vision’ of the web comes to life (without being killed off by privacy issues) then it will become a big factor in marketing and Site Design.

So, is Ecommerce about to change dramatically?

Maybe, but only if the Facebook Open Graph takes off in a big way (which I think it will) and is adopted across the mainstream web.

I think the end effect on sites will be subtle but important. You will start seeing sites extending beyond their own borders and reaching into social to both take information and to post some back too. Borrowing information about users preferences and using them to personalize sites and offer more relevant offers.

Using people’s friends against them as marketing tool is a very slick and clever way to market to them. After all how often do you buy something when you know a friend has bought it, and how often will you place more trust in a site that someone else has already used? That’s not to mention the “keeping up with the jones” effect.

Interesting questions to consider:

Contemplating the future of Open Graph in the context of social media and the wider web brings up almost unending list of ideas/possibilities and exciting potentials. Some of my initial thoughts were:

Could a process which cross references social networks work?

Think about it. If a person’s twitter account and Facebook page can be matched and cross referenced publicly then targeted tweets/follows/offers can be done.

Imagine this tweet:

“Facebook says you like holidaying and you’ve been tweeting about Spanish hotels. We hope you like this website: http://tinyurl.com/2uc2k77

How about:

Click Here to See people on twitter who have similar backpacking travel ambitions and check out their travel photos on twitpic at the same time”

How will site personalisation be treated by Search Engines?

Will they take notice of how many ‘likes’ a site gets? Will ‘likes’ the new links for SEO? Will personaized content be penialised by google as cloaking?

The very short answer is No, but it is an interesting prospect to consider.

What happens to your site when Facebook has downtime?

Will your site break if you have implemented too many Open Graph features and facebook suffers downtime?

Important things to remember:

Don’t get caught up and design your e-commerce site just for Facebook. A lot of people are slow to change and even dislike it, just look what happens every time Facebook changes its layout (millions of people protest, and then reluctantly accept it).

Conventions which work now will still work tomorrow and not everyone in the world is on Facebook so make Facebook integration part of the website not the core of it. A well designed site which is optimised to convert visitors into customers will always do well regardless of Facebook, but the same site with Subtle Facebook integration will possibly do even better.

Conclusion

Yes Facebook Open Graph can, and likely will, have an impact on the web but it will not be a radical overnight change and will most likely be a subtle change used to quietly influence users to buy as part of an overall web marketing strategy. Start small with it and slowly introduce it into your sites while it picks up popularity and you will be well placed to use the more advanced features of it when the time is right

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Introduction to the Use of Social Media in the Charity Sector

Optix Solutions are pleased to announce that we have been invited to deliver a presentation introducing Social Media to Charities throughout the South West.

Organized by Jackie Dawkins, Director of Shine Charity Recruitment the event will take place on Thursday 27th May, at Everys Solicitors in Exeter, between 4 and 6pm. Alistair Gleave, Optix Solutions’ Business Development Manager, will be joining forces with James Barisic, Charity Law Solicitor at Everys Solicitors, and speaking at the seminar.

This is an exciting opportunity for local charities to learn how to embrace Social Media in order to improve following, raise additional funds, increase volunteer numbers and engage with the local community.

  • Have you heard of the Karmic Flute? Fundraising for Devon Air Ambulance Trust following a theft from a charity shop. £265 raised in a matter of days thanks to the power of Twitter and jamesmb!
  • Have you thought how you could increase your following by utilizing Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn?

Well we have and would love to share our ideas and success stories with you. Take a look below at the review from Matt Young, Heart Radio DJ, from our previous presentation.

Please come along to this free event and find out how your Charity can benefit from the use of Social Media.

Don’t delay, book today! Places are limited and in demand. http://charitysocmed.eventbrite.com/

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An introduction to our Online Marketing team

Ever since our inception over ten years ago, we at Optix have sought to stand out from our competitors by bringing a business-orientated approach to everything we do.

We see our job as creating web presences for businesses that are not seen as a cost but a guaranteed investment, an investment that can be individually crafted to generate sales and brand awareness; to boost profits rather than eat into them.

If we don’t think something will be effective, we’ll show you something we think will be and always tailor our online solutions to match specific customer requirements.

We provide Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) and Email Marketing, Social Media strategies, Online PR and Conversion Optimisation on a both service only and monthly contract basis to a wide range of differing companies and organisations. It’s like having your own outsourced Online Marketing Department.

This all requires a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating technical, creative and marketing expertise, and as we thrive on establishing close relationships with our customers and don’t believe in skulking in the shadows, we thought that over the next few months we’d introduce you to our specialist teams and put faces to the names of the people behind Optix.

Our Online Marketing Team

Among those you may well find yourselves working closely with are online-marketing consultants Paul Collins and Dan Cave.

Paul and Dan work in tandem with the customer and account managers Alastair Banks, Alistair Gleave and Kristen Sousa to identify the client’s precise objectives and build online marketing strategies.

Paul joined Optix almost three years ago to develop the potential of our Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) service for an increasing number of clients.

Paul now oversees all Online Marketing for Optix. In 2008, he was awarded coveted Qualified Google Advertising Professional status in recognition of his ability to use AdWords to improve conversion rates on ads while at the same time driving more targeted traffic to a website.

Dan is a new addition, having joined Optix at the beginning of the year.

An experienced Online Marketing Consultant, his many talents also include SEO and PPC, usability and A/B testing in design, ensuring sites are supported across different browsers and comply with the latest web access standards and regulations.

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Conversion Optimisation

Conversion Optimisation

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the goal of all e-commerce professionals and their clients, and the latest online market figures make it easy to understand just why.

2008 saw a single year increase in online sales of 16% across the market. Since 2000, Internet sales have risen by 3,500% to £42bn and it’s expected that by 2010 this figure will have climbed to a staggering £72bn.

However, this is about more than an increased willingness to buy online. It marks a seismic shift in consumer habits on the back of an ever more sophisticated online culture. Our confidence in, and dependence on, online technologies, from desktop computers to mobiles and handhelds, is greater than it has ever been before.

You should never assume your site is generating all the sales it can just because it looks good and everything works. All its elements must interconnect smoothly and effectively and this needs to be regularly put to the test. The mantra should be; measure, analyse and build.

The Optix team’s innovative CRO consultancy service can help you do just that. We believe CRO is best achieved by a constant process of site-wide performance analysis, not just confined to the final sales process itself.

One of the keys to CRO is to make your online store ‘intelligent’. There are an ever increasing number of excellent analytic tools that can provide data and insights on customer habits. With Optix’s analytics we can review the performance and effectiveness of your site, including the online store, and highlight weaknesses to be corrected and strengths that can be built on as part of ongoing optimisation strategies.

This regular reviewing of the journey between an initial visit and a completed sale yields insights into a wide range of information about your customers such as where they came from, their likes and dislikes and ultimately what their experience of engaging with your business online is like.

A truly customer-driven site is vital in building brand loyalty and staying ahead of the competition. The bottom line is that those who engage in the changing dynamics of selling online will generate more revenue than those who do not.

In a large competitive market, just a fractional increase in market share can represent a significant boost to profits.

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