Which web works?

I'm a woman of a certain age - let's just say generation X.  Recently I've been struck by the gulf that's developing in how my peers and generation Y's (also known as millennials), perceive and use websites.

Ah, websites.  In the early days they were a billboard to the world.  Function over form and a sure sign that your company was at the cutting edge of technology.  Back in the dark ages of 2005, (to give it it's full title as we did in the day), looked like this. Retro huh?

Further back, in 1996, even Apple was an ugly duckling.

For those of us who've lived through the early evolution of the internet, websites have become the trusted face of a company, so it's easy to forget that a mere decade ago, while generation X were embracing the joys of technology, baby boomers were suspicious of this passing fad.  

Earlier this year eMarketer ran an article showing the differences in behavioural internet usage by age range. The results confirm that those born in the age of social media are far more likely to turn to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for help and advice than they are to visit a company website.  Web pages which once had a monthly and in some cases yearly shelf life, just can't keep pace with the immediate need for answers that visitors now have.

This all means that knowing your target audience is key when defining how your website looks and the content it contains.  You can start by answering three simple questions, as you try to put yourself into your customers shoes.

1. What key problem is the visitor trying to solve or which burning question do they need to answer?  
This might be as simple as finding the phone number, address or opening hours of your company if you're aiming at generation X.

2. Does your website tell visitors who you are and what you do?
Do the colours used engage or distract?  Are you expecting your visitor to read text or providing the simplicity of a video? Does it load quickly and function correctly whether it's viewed on a tablet or a mobile or a laptop? (try it).

3. Are you making it simple for visitors to find what they need?
Each page of your website should have one clear call to action.  Make it easy for the visitor to do what you want them to do.  How many times have you clicked a link for a particular offer only to find yourself on the homepage scrambling around to find the offer all over again?  Equally, if a discount code can be applied, take visitors not only to that page, but preferably pre-populate the discount code for them as well. 

There are loads of great articles on designing your website from your customers point of view. These are some of my current favourites

What does your website do to bridge the generation gap?


7 ways to be a better tweep (twitter user) today

Every felt like you're tweeting in slow motion? Or that the rest of the twittersphere knows something you don't?  Here are a few tips you can follow today to make you look like an expert, even if you're still learning on the job.

1. Decide why you're on twitter

I know this sounds like a no brainer, but often I hear people say they're on twitter because they feel they have to be, rather than through any particular plan to engage potential customers, build a brand, share ideas, gather news - the possibilities are endless.  Having a purpose in mind, directs who you follow, what you tweet and how much time you need to devote to this addictive little tool.  What's yours?

2. Make your twitter presence visible

How many people know that you're on twitter?  If your twitter name doesn't appear on your business card, email signature, website, LinkedIn page, voicemail message etc. etc. etc. then you're missing some great opportunities.  Helping people to know you're there also adds a little personal pressure to keep your twitter stream active .....

3. Be more interesting

This is a note to self as much as anything else, but tweeting about the same old subjects in the same old way, can take all the fun out of twitter. Broaden your horizons, look for trending topics (change country for even more variety), or search for complementary ideas that are likely to be interesting to your followers.  The more you inform, engage and entertain, the more your following will grow.

4. Rerun past tweets

Twitter is more like TV than blogging. People don't tend to read a twitter stream from beginning to end, so you shouldn't be afraid to intersperse your new tweets, with old ones.  Good content is always worth revisiting and if you don't recycle once in a while, your newest followers won't get the full benefit of your tweeting skills.  Rerun your best tweets, but not so often that you sound like a broken record. Not sure what your best tweets are? Take a look at My Top Tweet.

5. Aim for retweets

It's not about how many followers you have, but rather how much they value your input. Getting a retweet is like an endorsement.  It shows that others agree with your stance enough to share it with their followers.  This is how authority is built. Think about how and what you like to retweet and fill your stream with similar nuggets.  Hubspot have a great post on how to get retweets.

6. Use hashtags

Hashtags (which look like this # - see the trend boxes above for ideas), let twitter know what your tweet is about and help categorise it for others to find. If you type a word or phrase into the twitter search box and prefix it with a hashtag, you'll see who's talking about a particular topic and that can help you decide on the conversations you'd like to join. My own rule of thumb is no more than two hashtags per tweet - more makes it difficult to read.

7. Fake it 'til you make it

Part of the joy of this social media world is knowing that we're all still learning.  Like any new skill, the more you practise the better you'll be and there's a wealth of information out there to help you.  Here are some of my favourites.

Enjoy, oh and follow me on twitter @vlindsay.


The Buying Cycle (in a nutshell)

You can also think about the buying cycle as

1. The customer realizes they have a problem
2. They set out to gather information about their problem
3. They start evaluating the solutions that might solve their problem
4. They choose a product/service
5. They implement their chosen solution and are satisfied or begin the process again

Marketers who shape their content to deliver answers to their customers at each stage, have a far higher conversion rate than those who ignore human logic.


Create, Curate or Syndicate?

It's all about content.
Content is King.
Generating enough content is the top issue on our little business brains, according to any statistics you'd ever like to quote.

I define content as the stories your company shares with it's various audiences, to help them understand what makes you unique and why they should spend their time and money supporting your brand.  Content is not a substitute for marketing, but it is the information you supply, to form an emotional connection with your customers - it gets them involved.

There are really only 3 ways to go.

1. You create fresh, original content

This is by far the hardest and most time consuming route, but as with anything in life, all that effort can lead to maximum returns if done well. Content creation puts you in control, lets you add your own personality and project images and stories that resonate with your distinct groups. You have the ideas, you produce a post/article/whitepaper and you share it.
See Red Bull content marketing.

2. You summarize and curate the content that's already out there

The time poor consumer is happy to do their own research, but anyone who can shorten their decision making process is a friend.  Companies who pull together the best content available, be that blog posts, articles, infographics, podcasts etc. around a particular industry/market/topic to share with their audience, immediately add value by saving them the trouble of finding these gems themselves.
IBM have a great curation example on tumblr.

3. You find key allies and syndicate content

Syndication is about getting your content in front of different audiences, often creating new revenue sources along the way.  You can either join forces with those already making a noise in the markets you want to reach and find a way to work with them, (guest blog, co-produced white paper etc.) or distribute third party information, usually be quoting links back to the original work, (or paying to republish as necessary). Newspapers are a great example of syndication, with several different journalists, puzzle makers, cartoonists etc contributing to the final product.
Take a look at the following sites to see more on this model
Social Media Today
Sustainable Business Forum
My Venture Pad

I suspect that the day is near when we won't even talk about content as a separate subject, since social media has now put the consumer firmly in control of the stories behind each brand.  Let coca-cola's content 2020 program lead the way .......


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