So – last week I went to a conference/training day on social media in attempt to drag myself into something resembling a 21st century engaged person. But knowledge can be a dangerous thing; I emerged after 9 hours of intensive hotel conferencing, in the ballroom no less – wondering where the day had gone (it was dusk) and worse, having developed a strong craving for an expensive iphone 4.
It’s ironic because only the day before I’d been happy with my Nokia. I could read my emails on it, make calls, surf the internet (slowly) and access all my contact information. But then I learned that with an iphone 4 I could be doing so much more! Downloading zillions of apps, experiencing the impossibly cool new iphone barcodes that appear on brochures, menus and things, creating my own photo tours on ‘Trover’, filming then easily uploading funky video clips from the phone onto my blog – or Facebook page if I had one - (using iloader and imovie), enjoying ‘location based services’ city tours with 3d maps, ‘this way’ arrows, tags, restaurant reviews and information popping up on my screen as I go. Sigh.
The training was actually targeted really at those in the tourism business who need to make their online presence felt, who today are compelled to deal with sites like TripAdvisor – the conference was organised by these guys: http://www.e-tourismfrontiers.com/ but I tooled along in my ‘private’ capacity because I thought it might be interesting. I hoped my cover wouldn't be blown, that the 150 other professional delegates wouldn’t identify me as a sad old interloper/gatecrasher with a highly spurious agenda, 'a blogger' in other words.
Uploading all that information into my brain was mind boggling, however, now that I’ve had a few days to let it all sink in I think I can convey a little of what I learned. Apologies if I’ve got some of it wrong... I’m still learning!
Shall I tell you all my secrets? Well, here we go, here's a little of what I learned:
Social networking - If you are selling anything, then you'd be nuts not to engage.
Facebook – join groups to do mass messaging and create ‘events’ to promote stuff. Facebook currently has 500 million users.
Twitter – an online chatroom. –‘#fail’ means that you are not happy with something. To compress long web links to keep within your 140 character limit, use the website ‘Bit.ly’
Blogs – An extra tip I learned was to use Tumblr or Zapd to upload mini blogs from you mobile phone.
Viral media advertising – youtube clips that ‘go viral’ ie. they are so popular that they spread worldwide very quickly.
Funnies like this:
(this could be an advert for shampoo - got us all fooled?)
Flashmobs – People doing unusual things in public settings, hoping that passersby will record it on their mobile phones then upload it onto the internet. It’s less crazy that you think. Check out this, an ad for Beirut Airport's duty free shop:
UGC – User generated content is: online reviews, uploaded photos and video clips, blogs. This is what anyone who is selling anything wants to inspire since it's free advertising, but it can also backfire.
This country and western singer had his guitar broken by United Airlines luggage handlers in the States. After persuing a claim for more than a year for compensation and getting nowhere, he created this song. It been viewed online over 10.5 million times.
Creating a website
- Make sure you make usability a priority (ie the navigation is correct), then think about search engine visibility and only finally – design (this is the least important aspect).
- Put the most key information ‘above the fold’ on your webpage – ie, don’t make people scroll down.
- The average number of user clicks on a website is 3 – then you’ve lost them. Use Google Analytics to work out not just how they got to you, but when you lose them and where they are going next.
- Use hyper-links in your text to help navigate between pages. Make sure the longer title below your website name explains what it is all about in clearly defined search terms.
- Label photographs with a names/captions etc. To help search-ability of your site. (ie don’t just leave IMG-2543.jpg). Keep your photos on online sites like Picasa, Flickr, Photobox – this also helps with your web presence. Make sure your photos are reduced in size.
- I now know about the importance of inbound links since they drive 85% of search ranking.
- Make sure there is a ‘Like’ button visible so that people can respond by pressing this or commenting. Also, put a Facebook icon up there too.
- RSS feeds – people with RSS reader can be alerted when your page changes.
- Mange your own website, don't rely on techies to do it for you since you are the one with the interest.
Search engines – A virtual ‘spider’ searches for text match, relevance, recent updates, popularity and inbound links then ranks your site accordingly
- Avoid Splash pages – the spider cannot see past these.
- Avoid ‘Black hat’ strategies to optimise search results such as laying under your site a page of key search words in ‘invisible’ white, or paying for somebody in India to keep clicking on your site a zillion times a day in order for it to creep up search ranking results. (frowned upon and sometimes rumbled by Google who will then make your site obsolete).
- Use landing pages for promotions etc.
I'm ashamed to say that there was so much more but I have to admit, I'm running out of steam.
So now it seems that Africa expat should sign up for Facebook and Twitter at the very least, launch a new 'search optimised' Africa Expat Wives Club.com site (on it). I should certainly use more multi-media in my blogs and fewer words/less bulky text and also update more often. But are there enough hours in the day I ask you!!??
You might, like me, want to run and hide from the whole social media revolution but the bad news is that it's happening - and it's not going away!