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What the Local Customer Service Ecosystem Looks Like in 2019

Posted by MiriamEllis

Everything your brand does in the new year should support just one goal: better local customer service.

Does this sound too simple? Doesn’t marketing brim with a thousand different tasks? Of course — but if the goal of each initiative isn’t to serve the customer better, it’s time for a change of business heart. By putting customers, and their problems, at the absolute center of your brand’s strategy, your enterprise will continuously return to this heart of the matter, this heart of commerce.

What is local customer service in 2019?

It’s so much more than the face-to-face interactions of one staffer with one shopper. Rather, it’s a commitment to becoming an always-on resource that is accessible to people whenever, wherever and however they need it. A Google rep was recently quoted as saying that 46% of searches have a local intent. Mobile search, combined with desktop and various forms of ambient search, have established the local web as man’s other best friend, the constant companion that’s ever ready to serve.

Let’s position your brand to become that faithful helper by establishing the local customer service ecosystem:

Your Key to the Local Customer Service Ecosystem

At the heart sits the local customer, who wants to know:

  • Who can help them, who likes or dislikes a business, who’s behind a brand, who’s the best, cheapest, fastest, closest, etc.
  • What the answer is to their question, what product/service solves their problems, what businesses are nearby, what it’s like there, what policies protect them, what’s the phone number, the website URL, the email address, etc.
  • Where a business is located, where to find parking, where something is manufactured or grown, etc.
  • When a business is open, when sales or events are, when busiest times are, when to purchase specific products/services or book an appointment, etc.
  • Why a business is the best choice based on specific factors, why a business was founded, why people like/dislike a business, etc.
  • How to get to the business by car/bike/on foot, how to learn/do/buy something, how to contact the right person or department, how to make a complaint or leave feedback, how the business supports the community, etc.

Your always-on customer service solves all of these problems with a combination of all of the following:

In-store

Good customer service looks like:

  • A publicly accessible brand policy that protects the rights and defends the dignity of both employees and consumers.
  • Well-trained phone staff with good language skills, equipped to answer FAQs and escalate problems they can’t solve. Sufficient staff to minimize hold-times.
  • Well-trained consumer-facing staff, well-versed in policy, products and services. Sufficient staff to be easily-accessible by customers.
  • In-store signage (including after-hours messaging) that guides consumers towards voicing complaints in person, reducing negative reviews.
  • In-store signage/messaging that promotes aspects of the business that are most beneficial to the community. (philanthropy, environmental stewardship, etc.) to promote loyalty and word-of-mouth.
  • Cleanliness, orderliness and fast resolution of broken fixtures and related issues.
  • Equal access to all facilities with an emphasis on maximum consumer comfort and convenience.
  • Support of payment forms most popular with local customers (cash, check, digital, etc.), security of payment processes, and minimization of billing mistakes/hassles.
  • Correctly posted, consistent hours of operation, reducing inconvenience. Clear messaging regarding special hours/closures.
  • A brand culture that rewards employees who wisely use their own initiative to solve customers’ problems.

Website

Good customer service looks like:

  • Content that solves people’s problems as conveniently and thoroughly as possible in language that they speak. Everything you publish (home, about, contact, local landing pages, etc.) should pass the test of consumer usefulness.
  • Equal access to content, regardless of device.
  • Easily accessible contact information, including name, address, phone number, fax, email, text, driving directions, maps and hours of operation.
  • Signals of trustworthiness, such as reviews, licenses, accreditations, affiliations, and basic website security.
  • Signals of benefit, including community involvement, philanthropy, environmental protections, etc.
  • Click-to-call phone numbers.
  • Clear policies that outline the rights of the consumer and the brand.

Organic SERPs

Good customer service looks like:

  • Management of the first few pages of the organic SERPs to ensure that basic information on them is accurate. This includes structured citations on local business directories, unstructured citations on blog posts, news sites, top 10 lists, review sites, etc. It can also include featured snippets.
  • Management also includes monitoring of the SERPs for highly-ranked content that cites problems others are having with the brand. If these problems can be addressed and resolved, the next step is outreach to the publisher to demonstrate that the problem has been addressed.

Email

Good customer service looks like:

  • Accessible email addresses for customers seeking support and fast responses to queries.
  • Opt-in email marketing in the form of newsletters and special offers.

Reviews

Good customer service looks like:

  • Accuracy of basic business information on major review platforms.
  • Professional and fast responses to both positive and negative reviews, with the core goal of helping and retaining customers by acknowledging their voices and solving their problems.
  • Sentiment analysis of reviews by location to identify emerging problems at specific branches for troubleshooting and resolution.
  • Monitoring of reviews for spam and reporting it where possible.
  • Avoidance of any form of review spam on the part of the brand.
  • Where allowed, guiding valued customers to leave reviews to let the greater community know about the existence and quality of your brand.

Links

Good customer service looks like:

  • Linking out to third-party resources of genuine use to customers.
  • Pursuit of inbound links from relevant sites that expand customers’ picture of what’s available in the place they live, enriching their experience.

Tech

Good customer service looks like:

  • Website usability and accessibility for users of all abilities and on all browsers and devices (ADA compliance, mobile-friendliness, load speed, architecture, etc.)
  • Apps, tools and widgets that improve customers’ experience.
  • Brand accessibility on social platforms most favored by customers.
  • Analytics that provide insight without trespassing on customers’ comfort or right to privacy.

Social

Good customer service looks like:

  • Brand accessibility on social platforms most favored by customers.
  • Social monitoring of the brand name to identify and resolve complaints, as well as to acknowledge praise.
  • Participation for the sake of community involvement as opposed to exploitation. Sharing instead of selling.
  • Advocacy for social platforms to improve their standards of transparency and their commitment to protections for consumers and brands.

Google My Business

Good customer service looks like:

  • Embrace of all elements of Google’s local features (Google My Business listings, Knowledge Panels, Maps, etc.) that create convenience and accessibility for consumers.
  • Ongoing monitoring for accuracy of basic information.
  • Brand avoidance of spam, and also, reporting of spam to protect consumers.
  • Advocacy for Google to improve its standards as a source of community information, including accountability for misinformation on their platform, and basic protections for both brands and consumers.

Customers’ Problems are Yours to Solve

“$ 41 billion is lost each year by US companies following a bad customer experience.”
-
New Voice Media

When customers don’t know where something is, how something works, when they can do something, who or what can help them, or why they should choose one option over another, your brand can recognize that they are having a problem. It could be as small a problem as where to buy a gift or as large a problem as seeking legal assistance after their home has been damaged in a disaster.

With the Internet never farther away than fingertips or voices, people have become habituated to turning to it with most of their problems, hour by hour, year by year. Recognition of quests for help may have been simpler just a few decades ago when customers were limited to writing letters, picking up phones, or walking into stores to say, “I have a need.” Now, competitive local enterprises have to expand their view to include customer problems that play out all over the web with new expectations of immediacy.

Unfortunately, brands are struggling with this, and we can sum up common barriers to modern customer service in 3 ways:

1) Brand Self-Absorption

“I’ve gotta have my Pops,” frets a boy in an extreme (and, frankly, off-putting) example in which people behave as though addicted to products. TV ads are rife with the wishfulness of marketers pretending that consumers sing and dance at the mere idea of possessing cars, soda, and soap. Meanwhile, real people stand at a distance watching the song and dance, perhaps amused sometimes, but aware that what’s on-screen isn’t them.

“We’re awesome,” reads too much content on the web, with a brand-centric, self-congratulatory focus. At the other end of the spectrum, web pages sit stuffed with meaningless keywords or almost no text as all, as though there aren’t human beings trying to communicate on either side of the screen.

“Who cares?” is the message untrained employees, neglected shopping environments, and disregarded requests for assistance send when real-world locations open doors but appear to put customer experience as their lowest priority. I’ve catalogued some of my most disheartening customer service interludes and I know you’ve had them, too.

Sometimes, brands get so lost in boardrooms, it’s all they can think of to put in their million-dollar ad campaigns, forgetting that most of their customers don’t live in that world.

One of the first lightbulb moments in the history of online content marketing was the we-you shift. Instead of writing, “We’re here, isn’t that great?”, we began writing, “You’re here and your problem can be solved.” This is the simple but elegant evolution that brands, on the whole, need to experience.

2) Ethical Deficits

Sometimes, customers aren’t lost because a brand is too inwardly focused, but rather, because its executives lack the vision to sustain an ethical business model. Every brand is tasked with succeeding, but it takes civic-minded, customer-centric leadership to avoid the abuses we are seeing at the highest echelons of the business world right now. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and similar majors have repeatedly failed to put people over profits, resulting in:

  • Scandals
  • Lawsuits
  • Fines
  • Boycotts
  • Loss of consumer trust
  • Employee loss of pride in company culture

At a local business level, and in a grand understatement, it isn’t good customer service when a company deceives or harms the public. Brands, large and small, want to earn the right of integration into the lives of their customers as chosen resources. Large enterprises seeking local customers need leadership that can envision itself in the setting of a single small community, where dishonest practices impact real lives and could lead to permanent closure. Loss of trust should never be an acceptable part of economies of scale.

The internet has put customers, staffers, and media all on the same channels. Ethical leadership is the key ingredient to building a sustainable business model in which all stakeholders take pride.

3) Lack of Strategy

Happily, many brands genuinely do want to face outward and possess the ethics to treat people well. They may simply lack a complete strategy for covering all the bases that make up a satisfying experience. Small local businesses may find lack of time or resources a bar to the necessary education, and structure at enterprises may make it difficult to get buy-in for the fine details of customer service initiatives. Priorities and budgets may get skewed away from customers instead of toward them.

The TL;DR of this entire post is that modern customer service means solving customers’ problems by being wherever they are when they seek solutions. Beyond that, a combination of sufficient, well-trained staff (both online and off) and the type of automation provided by tools that manage local business listings, reviews and social listening are success factors most brands can implement.

Reach Out…

We’ve talked about some negative patterns that can either distance brands from customers, or cause customers to distance themselves due to loss of trust. What’s the good news?

Every single employee of every local brand in the US already knows what good customer service feels like, because all of us are customers.

There’s no mystery or magic here. Your CEO, your devs, sales team, and everyone else in your organization already know by experience what it feels like to be treated well or poorly.

And they already know what it’s like when they see themselves reflected in a store location or on a screen.

Earlier, I cited an old TV spot in which actors were paid to act out the fantasy of a brand. Let’s reach back in time again and watch a similar-era commercial in which actors are paid to role play genuine consumer problems – in this case, a family that wants to keep in touch with a member who is away from home:

The TV family may not look identical to yours, but their featured problem – wanting to keep close to a distant loved one – is one most people can relate to. This 5-year ad campaign won every award in sight, and the key to it is that consumers could recognize themselves on the screen and this act of recognition engaged their emotions.

Yes, a service is being sold (long distance calling), but the selling is being done by putting customers in the starring roles and solving their problems. That’s what good customer service does, and in 2019, if your brand can parlay this mindset into all of the mediums via which people now seek help, your own “reach out and touch someone” goals are well on their way to success.

Loyal Service Sparks Consumer Loyalty

“Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to twenty times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
Harvard Business Review

“Loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase.”
White House Office of Consumer Affairs

I want to close here with a note on loyalty. With a single customer representing up to 10x the value of their first purchase, earning a devoted clientele is the very best inspiration for dedication to improving customer service.

Trader Joe’s is a large chain that earns consistent mentions for its high standards of customer service. Being a local SEO, I turned to its Google reviews, looking at 5 locations in Northern California. I counted 225 instances of people exuberantly praising staff at just these 5 locations, using words like “Awesome, incredible, helpful, friendly, and fun!”. Moreover, reviewers continuously mentioned the brand as the only place they want to shop for groceries because they love it so much. It’s as close as you can get to a “gotta have my Pops” scenario, but it’s real.

How does Trader Joe’s pull this off? A study conducted by Temkin Group found that, “A customer’s emotional experience is the most significant driver of loyalty, especially when it comes to consumers recommending firms to their friends.” The cited article lists emotional connection and content, motivated employees who are empowered to go the extra mile as keys to why this chain was ranked second-highest in emotion ratings (a concept similar to Net Promoter Score). In a word, the Trader Joe’s customer service experience creates the right feelings, as this quick sentiment cloud of Google review analysis illustrates:

This brand has absolutely perfected the thrilling and lucrative art of creating loyal customers, making their review corpus read like a volume of love letters. The next move for this company – and for the local brands you market – is to “spread the love” across all points where a customer might seek to connect, both online and off.

It’s a kind of love when you ensure a customer isn’t misdirected by a wrong address on a local business listing or when you answer a negative review with the will to make things right. It’s a kind of love when a company blog is so helpful that its comments say, “You must be psychic! This is the exact problem I was trying to solve.” It’s a kind of love when a staff member is empowered to create such a good experience that a customer tells their mother, their son, their best friend to trust you brand.

Love, emotions, feelings — are we still talking about business here? Yes, because when you subtract the medium, the device, the screen, it’s two very human people on either side of every transaction.

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What Ethical, Effective Selling Looks Like

There’s a well-loved myth out there that if you do something reasonably remarkable and distribute passionate content, you’ll automatically have an audience who will support you in style for the rest of your life. You don’t have to do anything scary. Like sell, for example. Now if that works for you, that’s terrific. So does
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Infographic Looks at ‘Man vs. Machine’ In PPC

Man vs Machine has always been a complicated argument. In every industry, machines have replaced jobs and turned them into automated functions, but there’s one thing technology will never replace: creativity. The one thing that can’t be programmed is intuitive creativity: the key piece to advertising.

In the enormous world of marketing, creativity is king. It takes a human to properly strategize, while it takes a machine to turn that strategy into something scalable. The two of these powerhouses working together doesn’t translate anywhere better than within PPC. Bid management, the foundation of PPC, works similar to the buy/sell model of the stock market, targeting the prospects in the “I want it now.” Machine helps to automate the lowering and rising bids across a large scale by taking past performance into account. Meanwhile, the creative types are taking this info into consideration and are molding the campaign to make it work at its highest capacity.

Fifty percent of PPC ads shown on Google in the US are managed by one of the top bid management platforms. How can you utilize machines in tandem with creativity to optimize your advertising? Check out this infographic on how you can combine machine and man for a killer PPC ad campaign.

software-eating

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Amanda Bynes Returns to Twitter, Looks Slim

Former What I Like About You actress Amanda Bynes returned to Twitter after a 26 day hiatus, and posted a rare picture of herself.

Bynes has been infamously going through a rough patch for the last long while, and Twitter has been her choice platform to vent her frustrations and sensibilities.

In April, 2012 Bynes was arrested after hitting a police car, and charged with a DUI. The actress was later involved in two hit and run incidents occurring later in April and in August. Her downward spiral deepened after she was arrested for criminal possession of marijuana, attempted tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment. Police had witnessed Bynes toss a bong out of her 36th floor Manhattan apartment. She claimed it was a vase, insisted that an arresting officer slapped her vagina, and was taken for a psychiatric evaluation before being booked at a police station.

In July, 2013, Bynes was arrested after setting a small fire in front of a random house in Thousand Oaks, California. The former All That star was then hospitalized under a 72-hour 5150 mental health evaluation hold, and a judge granted her mother conservatorship over her finances and medical care. The conservatorship ended in December, 2013, and Bynes was arrested for another DUI in September.

In October, Bynes was placed on another psychiatric hold for 30 days, after accusing her father of repeatedly molesting her when she was a child, on Twitter. She tweeted, “He called me ugly as a child and then asked me if I wanted to have sex with him and i did not know how to respond and I said no and then.” The actress later recanted, tweeting, “My dad never did any of those things. The microchip in my brain made me say those things but he’s the one that ordered them to microchip me.”

Bynes is presently loose, and had this to say about her present conservatorship situation, peppered with more random tweets (She recently threatened to kill her parents, but later apologized):

Bynes’ latest tweet:

An employee at the Valley Village, California Boutique Jules location called Bynes “a lovely girl,” and added that “She is the best customer we have had so far.”


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Anna Kendrick Opens Up About Criticism Regarding Her Looks

Anna Kendrick is one of the most high profile actresses in the movie industry right now. But it seems all is not perfect in the world of Ms. Kendrick. Despite nabbing the cover spot on the December issue of Marie Clare, the star talks about the constant criticism she’s been given because of her appearance. She tells the magazine, “The most common thing that I get is, ‘Am I the only one who doesn’t think that Anna Kendrick is pretty?’ And you’re like, ‘No, you’re not the only one. Arguably, all of the boys in my high school agree with you.”

The Pitch Perfect star has always been self-deprecating when it comes to her looks, even describing herself as “not beer-commercial-babe hot”. In an interview with Glamour magazine back in August, Kendrick talked about her image and how it doesn’t affect the kind of roles she’s been given. “The thing is, my appearance — that’s never been my moneymaker. I’m fine being small. I’m fine being all the things I am. And I’m happy I’m not supposed to be on the ’50 Most Beautiful’ list all the time, because that would be super fucking stressful,” she said.

Kendrick has always been known for her quirky, out-of-left-field roles, and she says that her unique take on Cinderella for the film Into the Woods is no different. “You see what happens after she marries the prince, when you start to face problems in seemingly perfect situations,” she explains. “The interesting thing about her is she overthinks things, she’s uncertain–we don’t see that in most versions. In a lot of ways, I think it’s this incredibly brave story. She’s neglected and abused her entire life she finally gets love and it’s not the kind of love she was looking for, and she stands up for herself.”


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In Spite of Data ‘Fears’, Facebook Looks to Get Even More Information on Users With Free Wi-Fi Service

facebook-icon 1Hey, you can’t blame Facebook for wanting more data on its users. Marketers want it and will pay for it so Facebook is looking for new ways to provide it.

The latest comes in the form of a free wi-fi offering that is being used in the San Francisco area. Wired reports

The idea of offering people free Wi-Fi in exchange for their physical coordinates began at Facebook as a one-off experiment, a project by two engineers during an all-nighter in May 2012. Since then, Facebook has gradually spread what it now calls “Facebook Wi-Fi” further and further beyond the company’s corporate walls, deploying the system to cafes in Palo Alto and San Francisco and even into a line of routers made by Cisco.

The growth of Facebook’s free internet offering underscores the extent to which the social network is trying to vacuum up more and more information about its members, including their physical movements, and how valuable such data has become in selling advertising.

Once again, based on the hunger by marketers for more data and the money that is on the line this kind of offering should surprise no one. The question is whether the users of this service will truly know that they are being tracked and watched by Facebook to an even greater degree than normal? And the next question has to be, do they even care?

The service would work like this

Intended for use in businesses like cafes, Facebook Wi-Fi asks users to “check in” at the business location using their Facebook account. Once they do, or once they click a small opt-out link, they are granted wireless internet access.

Pretty slick. Will it get a more widespread roll-out and adoption? If these experiments prove that more data can be collected on a user than the answer is likely to be an emphatic ‘Yes!’. People love free things, especially wi-fi, and don’t worry much about what they might be sacrificing. If nothing else comes from the recent brouhaha over the government and the information it gathers on US citizens, it will be a greater understanding of the relative indifference of the Internt using public to these concerns.

The US is very much a ‘it won’t happen to me’ culture (that is until it DOES happen to someone then the outrage hits the fan) and Facebook, along with other Internet companies, are banking on it. Hey, it’s a free market and it appears that the market will bear it for now, so why not?

What’s your take on this one? Good idea that will be widespread or just a one-off?

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News360 Looks To Replace Your Google Reader By Being Something Different

Google Reader is almost officially dead. Just a few more short weeks, and it will be gone forever (it goes away on July 1st, in case you needed a reminder). Since Google broke users’ hearts back in March, announcing the product’s demise, other companies have been rushing to provide an adequate replacement for users who aren’t willing to give up RSS. Sure, there were already alternatives, but Google’s announcement lit a fire underneath them and others looking to create new products, as the opportunity was created for them to obtain a lot of new users.

One potential replacement that has been around for quite a while, News360, is taking a somewhat different approach than some of the others like Feedly and Digg. Interestingly, their philosophy is similar to Google’s when it comes to the changing landscape of how people consume their news.

“As a culture we have moved into a realm where the consumption of news is a near-constant process. Users with smartphones and tablets are consuming news in bits and bites throughout the course of the day – replacing the old standard behaviors of news consumption over breakfast along with a leisurely read at the end of the day,” Richard Gringras, Senior Director, News & Social Products at Google told Wired.

A spokesperson for News360 tells WebProNews, “Clearly there will be people who miss the simplicity of source-based feed subscription models, but I think it’s time we admit that RSS — as transformative as it was when it launched in 1999 — is no longer equipped to handle the amount of content the web churns through every day. It’s not enough to just aggregate – the onus is still on the user to process all of that data. Creating a ‘replacement’ for Google Reader today is like buying a black & white TV and hoping the picture is in color.”

News360 has 3 million users, and was built by a group of Google Reader “super users” long before Google’s announcement, in response to the fact that they could no longer keep up with the amount of headlines they were getting through Reader every day.

“Right now, News360 is solving a very different problem from Reader,” CEO Roman Karachinsky tells us. “Instead of giving you updates on a specific set of feeds, we’re about understanding your interests and finding great content specifically for you — from sources you might not even know about yet. Essentially, we focus on helping users discover new, important content in line with personal interests, rather than just regurgitating existing feeds.”

“We were very active Google Reader users ourselves and really loved the product, but at some point we realized that there was just too much content out there to have to manually keep everything in order and look at every headline,” says Karachinsky. “So News360 was developed to address our ’10,000+ unread items’ Google Reader accounts. The point of News360 is to be a smart app that is comprehensive, highly customizable and discovery oriented, without requiring you to manage feeds or browse through hundreds of headlines daily from high-volume sources. You can trust the intelligence-powered technology on the backend to get you everything you need and want to know, and you don’t have 1,000 headlines sitting in your feed.”

News360

“News360 focuses on offering the perfectly balanced news diet, combining the news you need to be a well-informed person (major world headlines) with the news you want about your personal hobbies and passions,” he adds. “This ensures that you’re up to speed with current events while also expanding your horizons with the discovery of new topics, stories and sources. We believe that striking the balance between the news you need and news you want is essential to eliminating time spent sifting through hundreds of headlines.”

“In News360, we let users choose what sources and topics they prefer, and also make recommendations based on what we know about them and their reading habits,” he continues. “We try to marry the best of both worlds — showing users what they want to read before they have to go looking for it, and empowering users to edit their newsfeeds down to the very detail to capture specific preferences. That means you can edit categories with x-ray vision and adjust a science section to include space exploration but exclude chemistry, and a tech section to include startups but exclude Oracle.”

Google Reader has had a particular appeal to journalists and bloggers who, as part of their job, must keep up with the latest news in their particular field of expertise. They’re going to need a replacement that lives up to these needs, and may opt for more of a Google Reader clone, like what Feedly is currently offering, for example. While News360 operates in a significantly different way, Karachinsky still thinks it can fill the void adequately.

“Since News360 is so customizable, we think it can cater to all kinds of newsreaders,” he tells us. “Journalists and news hounds can add any of our millions of topics and hundreds of thousands of news outlets to their feeds. But even though you can subscribe to topics and sources in News360, we serve a distinctly different purpose than Reader, because our algorithms analyze content and user behavior to make the perfect match between a user and an article. Once you spend some time with the app, it’ll learn the level of detail you want from different sources and topics, and conform to the different professional and personal reading patterns you have.”

News360 takes the liberty of deciding which stories are important to its users. When asked about how it determines which ones fit the bill, Karachinsky says, “News360 tracks dozens of parameters for every story – who’s covering it, how, how quickly it’s spreading through mainstream news and social media, etc. If there is major world news that is being reported on in a wide range of sources, we think News360 readers should know about it. These important stories will show up in the category ‘Top Stories,’ which is automatically a part of each user’s homefeed, unless it’s removed. Integrating these big headline stories right into personalized news streams helps maintain the right news diet, ensuring that users aren’t missing out and don’t need to go searching for everything they want to read.”

On the personalization process, he says, “News360′s advanced artificial intelligence and semantic analysis technology learns from users’ reading patterns and behavior across their social cloud (FB, Twitter, Evernote and Google+) to strike the careful balance between feeding users content they know they like and content they’re predicted to enjoy. Once we have an initial understanding of your interests, the personalization engine continues to analyze your actions to refine your profile. Occasionally it tries to present new topics and sources it think you could be interested in, and judges your reaction to determine if these should be added to your profile. Serendipity is important too, so sometimes it’ll just surface some high-quality, but unexpected content in your feed.”

The product promises to give you “all points of view” on news stories, meaning you shouldn’t be getting biased reports from one angle only, unless of course, you want it that way.

“News events are displayed in clusters to cut down on repetition of sources and stories and easily let users see how each publication covered an event,” explains Karachinsky. “This exposes media biases and enables users to read every viewpoint.”

News360 had two separate apps in Apple’s App Store – one for iPhone and one for iPad, but they’re one of them, as they made the iPad app universal so that it is optimized for either screen. The iPhone app will be pulled once everyone updates to the universal app.

“The new universal app has all the same features and design that News360 iPhone users are accustomed to, and also includes a new, more streamlined sign-up process, which lowers the barrier to personalization, and the option to mute news outlets,” says Karachinsky.

There is also an Android app.

As it stands right now, you can connect your Google Reader account to News360 so it gets that data. Obviously, you’ll have to do that soon if you want that connection. If you do so, you won’t have to worry about it after Reader goes away.

“All the things that people import from Google Reader when they create their account are stored within News360, so nothing will get lost when Google Reader shuts down,” Karachinsky says. “We’re also working on more features in the app to help the people who rely heavily on feed-based consumption to help that port that behavior over to News360.”

This week, News360 launched a new native advertising program, so you can expect to see some sponsored content in your feed. We’re told that they will be adding new partners in the coming weeks.


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Looks Like We Made It …

Image of Bizarro Comic

Well, dawn has broken on December 21.

Peeking out of my curtains, I see no zombie apocalypse, no Mayan-speaking vengeance deities, no vampires or trolls or angry visitors from other planets.

Granted, the day is still young, but I’m going to call it good.

So we made it.

After a very, very hard end of the year. A lot of extremely bad things happened, and most of us are still reeling a little.

But we’re still here. And once we’ve ordered a Gaping Void I survived the Mayan Apocalypse t-shirt, apparently we still have to make a living for the rest of our lives.

So what’s next?

Here are my thoughts and suggestions for some big themes for next year. Business is moving, and if we move with it, we can make amazing things happen.

Here’s how I see it.

1. Stop living someone else’s dream

These are strange times, unpredictable and fast-moving.

Which is stressful. But it also opens up tremendous opportunities.

Maybe 2013 is the year you entertain the idea that you don’t have to live anyone else’s idea of a “normal” life, or work at what you always thought was a “normal” job.

Maybe this is the year you start something of your own, or make the company you’re in now smarter and better.

There’s something you want to see more of in the world. This just might be the year you start taking your dream seriously.

2. Start singing with your own voice

The one thing the Internet doesn’t need is any more clones.

No more buzzword bingo. No more weak copycats. No more lame “me-too” content.

What we don’t have enough of yet is you. The best version of you — the smartest, most passionate stuff you have to offer. We’re waiting for that.

I’m not talking about throwing public tantrums in the name of “authenticity.” We have enough train wrecks to gawk at.

I’m talking about being honest enough to quit pretending you’re someone else, and to quit being nice at the expense of telling the truth. To recognize that you have something unique and valuable to offer.

Hone the hell out of that, and bring it forth.

3. Claim your authority

As Brian said yesterday, 2013 will be the year of the online writer. The coming content revolution needs an army of professional, serious wordsmiths who know how to create something special.

Are there plenty of companies who still don’t get it, who will try to get by with penny-a-page junk content?

Sure there are. And those companies will fall. Don’t worry about them.

Find the ones who know what they should be doing, but have no idea how to do it. They’re dying to make a connection with someone like you, someone who can write the words that will inspire their audience. We’ll be talking more next year about how you can find the clients who are hungry for smart, savvy writers.

4. Help someone

You know a lot. You might not always feel it, but you really get how the social web works, and you know the difference between good writing and lazy writing.

Are there people who know more than you do? Always.

Can you find some people who know a lot less than you do, who could really use your knowledge and abilities?

Always.

Go find those people and make yourself useful solving their problems. That’s the best foundation for any business.

5. Reject cynicism

You can be cool, or you can create something worth talking about. It’s hard to do both. (We’ll have to assume for the moment that you are not Steve Jobs.)

Turn away from companies or colleagues who think they can justify shady behavior by saying “It’s just business.” Business crumbles without trust and respect.

Turn away from the hipster crowd who are afraid to talk about anything that isn’t new and shiny. Being of real service means sifting through the noise to figure out what’s going to endure.

The ones who say it’s a dog eat dog world? Yeah, those are dogs. You don’t need them.

We’ll see you in 2013 …

As we often do, the Copyblogger team will be taking a brief break at the end of the year to enjoy some family time.

One of the things we do is get together with some laptops and pads of paper and a whole bunch of coffee and play around with interesting ideas we can implement in the upcoming year. I encourage you to do the same.

Hit your favorite coffee shop. Sketch out some ideas. Make them big or small, but make it something that excites you.

What could you do for a living in 2013 that would really turn your crank? That would genuinely be worth doing? Make a few days before the end of the year to sketch out a couple of crazy dreams.

And we’ll look for you on the flip side …

Post image from Bizarro Comics

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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New Study Looks at How Mobile Fits Into Daily News Consumption

Recently, News Corp announced that they were pulling the plug on their subscription based, mobile only newspaper The Daily. It was a grand attempt to get readers to pay for quality content but it fell far short of expectations. Did News Corp do something wrong, or is it the concept as a whole that is at fault?

Mojiva has some data that could help answer that question. They’re a mobile ad network site that reaches 1.1 billion mobile devices around the world. They just published a new report covering the US and the UK titled “The State of Mobile News Consumption“.  Talk about spot on!

Amy Vale, VP, Global Research and Strategic Communications of Mojiva, Inc. begins with this:

“People who read the news aren’t necessarily giving up one platform in favor of a different or newer platform, but are instead morphing into ‘multi-platform’ consumers for different news ‘experiences’. Reading the news in print, or even online, is a much more immersive experience given the nature of the screen size, whereas reading news on a mobile device gives consumers up-to-the-minute information on breaking news the second it becomes available, wherever they may be.”

I hate to disagree so early in the post, but I do. Ms. Vale says that reading online and print is more immersive than reading on mobile because of screen size. I say, screen size has nothing to do with it. Reading on mobile is MORE immersive than print and online because it’s designed for laid-back browsing and it’s tactile.

When you read on a tablet, you’re usually sitting on a couch or in bed. It’s a comfort environment, not a work environment. That means you can enjoy the experience more than reading at a computer. Since you have to touch the screen to flip the pages, mobile engages the user again and again. Granted, you can sit on the couch with a printed newspaper and you do flip the pages, but I’ve never found the wide wing-span and the inky residue of a paper to be relaxing.

Let’s go one more step. If the content publisher is using mobile properly, then the content itself will be immersive. Stories will contain clickable links, videos, audio, slide shows – the page will come to life and actively engage the reader. If that’s not immersive, then what is?

Mobile Update

The study found that around a quarter of US respondents use mobile to keep up with the news. 30% of smartphone users said they learn about breaking news through text alerts and notifications on their mobile device.

In order to keep up with the day’s events, 70% of US tablet owners check at least two news sites or apps everyday. For smartphone owners it was only 61%. Either way, that’s a lot of people using mobile to read the news.

Ads

Here’s a stat I don’t get:

67 percent of U.S. smartphone owners, 54 percent of U.S. tablet owners will pay more attention to mobile ads if the content is relevant to the actual news story they are reading or watching on their mobile device.

Matching ads to news stories? So, home security systems next to a story about a deadly, home invasion robbery? Weight loss pills next to a story about rising obesity in children? I suppose it makes sense, but it feels wrong just the same.

I like this one better:

The top three factors for mobile advertising receptiveness within mobile news sites or apps in the U.S. are personalization/relevance (25 percent), humor/entertainment (19 percent), and interesting content and information (15 percent).

Don’t you love that humor was more important that good information? What’s more interesting is that in the UK, they didn’t ask for interesting content. Their third spot went to “a minimal presence of fewer ads overall.” Basically, if there are fewer ads, they’ll pay more attention. I can see that.

Subscriptions

Here’s the killer. The stat that took down The Daily.

65 percent of US and 69 percent of UK smartphone respondents, as well as 59 percent of US tablet respondents, would not pay for a subscription to access their favorite news source from their smartphone or tablet.

Ouch but I get it. I write for a living and yet I’m reluctant to pay for a digital subscription to a newspaper or magazine.

Is there anything that can change the minds of the majority? Yes. More immersive content. I’d pay for a digital subscription if it wasn’t just a regurgitation of information I could find free online. Make it sing, make it dance, do whatever you gotta do, because words on a page simply won’t cut it anymore. So sad, but true.

Want to read the full report? Give Mojiva your contact info and you can download “State of Mobile News Consumption” for free.

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

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Yahoo Looks to Help Small Biz With Marketing Dashboard

One gets the sense that with all the turmoil that has beset Yahoo in the past several years there may still be hope for the company.

Unfortunately, there have been cuts in both product offerings and thousands of employees of the company and thus there has been a lot of pain. The company that once stood as an Internet icon even removed an iconic billboard from the San Francisco landscape last year.

So why have hope? Well, today the company announced a marketing dashboard for small business that looks pretty interesting. From the Yahoo corporate blog we get

Today, Yahoo! Small Business launched the Yahoo! Marketing Dashboard, a free tool that helps entrepreneurs discover new marketing opportunities to grow their businesses, while getting a comprehensive picture of their marketing results, online reputations, and website performance, all in one place.

Designed specifically with the small business owner in mind, the Yahoo! Marketing Dashboard provides a clear, consolidated picture of a business’s marketing results and reputation, making it easier to discover new insights and develop new ideas for growth. With key business metrics from across the Web accessible in one location, small business owners with limited resources can spend more time focusing on their core businesses and less time buried in multiple interfaces and spreadsheets.

Since Site Explorer was put to rest in November of last year many wondered if this side of Yahoo, the one that can provide actionable data, had gone away completely. Although not an SEO centric tool the new dashboard gives some insight as to where Yahoo thinks they can find business in their brave, new world.

As listed in the post some of the key features include

Search engine and directory listings: Enables monitoring and provides recommendations on new listing opportunities, covering over 100 sites (including Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and more)

Online reputation management: Pulls information from up to 8,000 sources (including Facebook and Twitter)

Site traffic analysis: Enables users to understand key website performance metrics (including Google Analytics)

Small business-focused news and advice: Provided from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor

Campaign tracking: Provides email marketing, SEO, and SEM campaign tracking (must subscribe to these services)
Support: 24/7 in-house free customer support

It may be a stretch but it looks like Yahoo feels they can get a foothold in the large yet hard to corner SMB market. This elusive beast has been the target of every company in the world it seems. The trouble is that most SMB’s don’t have a lot of cash to throw around at services despite the fact that in the US they comprise a large portion of the total businesses.

At least Yahoo’s offering is free but there are paid upgrade options like that included in the reputation monitoring option. Now, the question remains, how many businesses will take advantage of it and draw closer to Yahoo in the process? There are a lot of other dashboard type products and services vying for the SMB’s attention in the marketplace. Can this offering be enough to put Yahoo back on the map? Will SMB’s pay for additional services?

What’s your take on Yahoo’s position in the marketplace these days? Do you think that the SMB’s of the world will be interested in this offering? Will they even know about it? Let’s get your thoughts in the comments.



Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

10 Strange Discoveries On Google Earth From giant rabbits to cruise missile tests, here are 10 of the strangest things found on Google Earth. If anyone wants the coordinates you can find them @ our FB page in the information tab.. ow.ly Where else to find All Time 10s… Facebook: ow.ly Twitter: ow.ly Check out a selection of video’s highlighting some Alltime10′s favourite and interesting people.. @ www.youtube.com
Video Rating: 4 / 5

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