Archive | May, 2011

Are you promotion ready?

From the old blog…

Congratulations to local team AFC Wimbledon! After a tense penalty shoot-out, you’ve been promoted to the Football League. You’ve caused great excitement in this living room and far beyond that. In fact, right now, you’re trending on Twitter worldwide. Thousands of people are talking about you. Oh, and your website has crashed.

My husband was checking it out just after the game, and got the following error message.

Error message on AFC Wimbledon website

We then went looking for the AFC Wimbledon Twitter account. There’s @AFCWimbledon but that hasn’t been updated since November 8. There’s also the much more active @WimbledonAFC, which is run by a fan and a member of the Trust*. There’s an AFC Wimbledon page on Facebook, but the default view is the events tab – where you get a message saying ‘You have no upcoming events’.

AFCWimbledon trends on TwitterOf course, some people will know enough about Facebook to click through to wall tab and leave a message for this fantastic team.

A lot of people will continue to talk about the victory even if there’s no updates from an official voice.

Some may even come back to the website later and see if it’s back up and running.

But to some extent, the ability to fully capitalise on the moment of victory may already have been lost.

I think there’s a lesson in there for all organisations. Are you ready for your big moment? Will your website cop with the sudden influx of traffic? Are your e-commerce systems in place? Will you be joining in the discussion? Will you be able to take advantage of your seconds in the spotlight, and use your new following to take your organisation to the next level?


* Update: We’ve just found @AFCWNews, which is the official Twitter page. Unfortunately it’s currently got a lot less followers than the other two.

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Do Some Good review

From the old blog and also 

Before I begin, let me just say that this is a review of an iPhone application, not the concept of micro-volunteering. The idea of using your technology to perform small but necessary tasks to help out not-for-profits has a lot of positives, but there are definitely some drawbacks as well. For an examination of some of the issues, check out Leonie Shank’s article ‘Micro-volunteering: Fast-food for the Big Society?

Volunteer from your iPhone

You can do such a lot with an iPhone. You can manage your finances, learn how to bake a cupcake, buy and sell on eBay, or whittle away the hours playing Angry Birds. And now, with Orange Mobile’s new application, Do Some Good, you can also use your phone to engage in micro-volunteering activities to benefit your community.

Do Some Good screenshotThere’s no financial commitment or charitable donations involved here; even the app itself is free. You also don’t need to commit a lot of time. Most of the activities are designed to be done in four minutes or less, requiring you to add information to a database, fill in a feedback survey, add locations to a map, or complete a range of other short tasks using your mobile phone.

Over the past couple of weeks, for example, I’ve used the application to answer a wellbeing survey to help shape the services offered by Samaritans. I’ve added our neighbourhood parks to the Outdoor Play Map, and I’ve taken photos and donated them to an image bank of pictures that charities can use free-of-charge in their awareness-raising materials.

If the warm fuzzy feeling of doing good by doing these small tasks isn’t enough for you, the application also allows you to work towards virtual badges and eventually real music rewards through the Orange Rockcorps collective.

Like many others before it, this application is let down by the strength of my mobile internet connection. O2’s poor signal definitely makes it more difficult for me to add to maps or submit photos when I’m out and about. However, at home, on a wireless connection, the application is much easier to use.

I was also hoping that new opportunities would be added regularly – but over the past three weeks at least, the potential actions have remained the same. There’s room for improvement in both speed and content, then. But, as I’m writing this on May 11, the users of this application have spent a total of 24 days and 20 hours completing 8952 actions to benefit charities and not-for-profits in the UK.

And I think that’s a pretty good use for the iPhone.

Download from iTunes
Developer: Orange UK
Released: 30 March 2011 (Version 1.0)
Price: Free
Star rating: 4.5

First published on Happy to answer comments here or there.

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Are you writing the blog entries that people are looking for?

From the old blog.

Blog entries are a great way to bring people to your website. They provide fresh content related to your organisation or business – the type of fresh content that search engines love. Other bloggers are also more likely to link to your blog posts than the home page (or services page) of your website, and those links can bring both referred traffic and a higher ranking on search engines.

So, how do you create the sort of content that people are looking for and linking to?

Google keyword tool and Google trends can give you an indication of how popular particular keywords related to your industry are – and how this popularity has changed over time. Writing articles which feature these popular terms  on is one way to optimise your website for searches relating to your specific niche.

However, this form of keyword-based SEO is not the be-all and end-all of website content. It’s important to also tap into what people in your industry are interested in right now. Listen in to conversations using Twitter search, look at the questions that people are asking in LinkedIn Answers. Has something in your field changed in the last week? In the social media space, for example, Facebook has recently altered its promotion guidelines again. When I was searching for more information about these changes last night, it was the early bloggers who got my clicks and a link back to their posts.

Alternatively, is something big going to happen in the near future? Is there an event coming up which you can link in to your topic? Last month, I wrote a couple of blog posts themed around the Royal Wedding: one on iPhone applications and another around social media use. The social media post is now the second most visited article on my blog (behind an earlier article I wrote on Facebook competitions).

The final thing to remember is that on the internet, you’re rarely a minority of one. If you’re searching for information and can’t find it, then chances are that other people will be looking for that information unsuccessfully too. Can you write a blog post to fill the gap? My post on re-importing photos in Windows 7 came from such a search. While it’s never going to be my main source of traffic, it’s been responsible for one or two new visits to my site every day since I wrote it.

Again, I’ve written a post here which focuses on content. So be it. In my opinion, content is absolutely key. Writing posts that are topical and useful is beneficial for both audience engagement and search engine result.

That said, there are specific keyword strategies and technical tips, including search-friendly URLs, title tags and internal linking, which can also help your blog be found by searchers. You can find some of these in this article by Rowan Pawale. If you’ve got other tips for bloggers, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Fair Tweets for Fair Trade Day

From the old blog.

Today, May 14, 2011, is this year’s World Fair Trade Day. The day is an initiative of the World Fair Trade Organisation whose mission is to enable producers to improve their livelihoods and communities through fair trade.

A certain favourite ice-cream company of mine is raising awareness of the day by asking people to donate the spare characters of their tweets. On the Ben & Jerry’s Fair Tweets site, you can type in a tweet to send out to your followers – and any of the 140 characters that you don’t need will be used to add in a message about fair trade. Here’s a promo video, explaining the concept:

And here’s a recent post of mine demonstrating a #FairTweet.

Fair Trade Day tweet

There’s been a lot of preparation here. There are different messages available depending on how many characters are left over. When I experimented with a one character tweet, the website added:

World #FairTrade Day is May 14. Now you can share all your unused Twitter characters to spread the word. #FairTweets

When I only tried a longer message with only six characters left over, it just added the #FT hashtag.

This could’ve easily been a promotion campaign for Ben & Jerry’s – but their positive PR is coming from stories about the application, such as this one on Mashable, rather than the tweets themselves. It could’ve also been used as a fundraising exercise, with every tweet linking through to a single donation page. But instead, those shortened URLs point to a range of different Fair Trade websites and articles: Fair Trade USA, Catholic Relief Services, the Fair Trade Resource Network, and so on.

For me, this makes it more interesting. I want to see what the different-length messages say. I want to see where each of the links will take me. And I’m learning a whole lot more about fair trade in the process.

To tweet your own message, visit Happy World Fair Trade Day everyone!

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Cake Days: The book vs the app

Cake Days screenshot

From the old blog.

For Mother’s Day this year, I bought myself the new Hummingbird Bakery recipe book, Cake Days. In the week that followed, I spent whole afternoons drooling over the gorgeous glossy photographs of cakes and cookies, muffins and slices, found within its pages. On April 16, however, I learned that Hummingbird Bakery had also released Cake Days as an application.

Given that I already had spent £10 for the book, could I really justify also paying £4.99 for an iPhone version that contained a smaller selection of the same recipes? In the end, I told myself that it would be useful to have both ‘for research purposes’. People often say that the film’s not as good as the book – but in 2011, is the book as good as the app?

The great book vs app comparison began in the lead-up to the long weekend, when I turned to page 158 of the recipe book and decided that those lovely-looking Banoffee Cupcakes with their dulche de leche custard topping would make a great Easter treat. They were. But they were also harder to make than I expected, with multiple cooking and cooling steps for the custard. Later, when I looked up the same recipe on my phone, it said Skill: Intermediate. That difficulty level wasn’t included in the printed cookbook. You can’t record your star ratings for each recipe in a printed cookbook either (without writing on the pages at least).

Banoffee Cupcakes

I’m not a tidy baker, and sometime between measuring the flour and getting the cakes into the oven, I managed to splash the Banoffee Cupcake page with excess milk. Cookbook damage is always a potential side effect in any of my kitchen efforts, so when it came to baking the Caramel Cupcakes (rated easy) the following weekend using the Cake Days app, I was grateful for my iPhone’s hardened case and wipe-clean screen.

I was also keen to try out the feature that allows you to clap your hands to move the recipe on to the next stage. In theory this is great, allowing you to work through the instructions without getting your sticky fingers on the technology. However, in practice, it wasn’t so effective. Every time I shut a drawer or cupboard, it triggered a new step. I had to keep swiping back to the ingredients list at the start anyway, to work out just how much milk or caramel I was supposed to be adding. The book definitely wins here by displaying the ingredients and instructions on one page.

Caramel cupcakes

Where the app comes into its own is with the extras it offers. These include the ability to save the ingredients for your planned sugary treats to a shopping list. I would’ve liked to be able to add just the ingredients that weren’t in my cupboard and to be able to send the list to myself via email – but having this on my phone is still better than carrying around a photocopied page.

Another highlight of the app is the video content. There’s a section at the end of the book, for example, which gives written instructions on how to perfect Hummingbird’s signature swirled frosting along with step-by-step photos. However, the short video demonstration on the app makes the whole process seem much more achievable. I also discovered, after baking my Caramel Cupcakes, that there was also a video on the app showing how the professionals make them.

The Cake Days cookbook, with its bright pink cover, looks very pretty on my shelf. For now – at least when I want to try out one of the 85 recipes that are also in the app version – I’d say it’ll stay on my shelf. While there are still some flaws in its usability, and extra features that could be added, the Cake Days iPhone app does, I feel, outperform the book. On the iPad, with its bigger screen, I’d imagine that the application works even better.

Of course, in both the book and app baking experiments, the final cupcakes were delicious. And there are some that would say that’s the most important thing.

First published on Happy to respond to comments here or there.

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Re-importing photos in Windows 7

From the old blog. Not really on theme, but since it’s my all-time most popular blog entry, I figured I should keep it on the internet somewhere.

I’ve been setting up my new HP laptop this afternoon: installing Office and Norton and iTunes. All was going well, until I decided to import the photos from my camera using Windows 7′s Import Pictures and Videos feature. The first time I tried the import, I didn’t really think about it too much, went with the default options, and ended up with a whole lot of unsorted pictures – rather than the date-named folders I had on my previous computer.

I still had the files from my camera’s SD card, so I decided the best thing to do was to delete everything and  reimport them again. No luck there. Windows told me there were no new files, and thus there was nothing it could import.

It took me half an hour and several part-answers on online forums to find out how to reimport the photos, so I thought I’d reproduce the final solution here. I make no claims to be a Windows 7 expert. hidden files are probably hidden for a reason and I probably can’t answer any related questions. As such, I’d recommend that you don’t delete any files you can’t afford to lose before trying this fix (instead you could copy them into another folder on your computer, leaving your Pictures folder empty).

Step one: Accessing hidden files

Folder optionsClick on the circle Windows Start icon in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.

In the Search box, type Folder Options, and click on the option with that name in the search results.

When the Folder Options window opens, click on the View tab, and select the radio button next to Show hidden files, folders or drives.

Click on OK to save your changes.

This will allow you to find a database file called PreviouslyAquired. Which brings us to step two.

Step two: PreviouslyAquired

Right click on the Windows Start icon, and select Windows Explorer.

Navigate to: C:/users/[your account name]/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Photo Aquisition

If you can’t find the AppData folder, it may be because it’s still hidden (see step one). In the Photo Aquistion folder, you should find a file which is called PreviouslyAquired. If you click on the file’s name once and rename it PreviouslyAquired.old, Windows won’t be able to automatically find it when you attach your camera again. This should allow you to reimport your photos…

It did for me, at least.

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HTML writer review

From the old blog.

HTML writer screenshotHave you ever wanted to edit your website when you’re away from your computer? Perhaps you’ve been sitting on the train and seen a sneaky spelling error on one of your pages or you’ve finally decided on a hexadecimal code that would give you the perfect background colour. HTML Writer lets you make these tweaks from your phone.

This application is definitely aimed at those who already know the difference between a <tr> and a <br>. There’s no WYSIWYG editor here and no explanations for beginners, but there are quick insert buttons that allow the experienced web developer to open and close popular tags, or add in particular attributes or snippets of code. You can use these tools as you edit a file or, if you have a lot of time/can type quickly on your iPhone, create a page from scratch.

However, the functionality doesn’t end there. There are also a number of well thought-out extras that make this application a very helpful tool for website developers. These include previewing your edited pages before they’re released to the internet, accessing and uploading photos you’ve taken on your phone, emailing your finished files, and downloading the source code from any web page.

The application also allows FTP access to your website host. However, while testing it I found that I could only download and upload files in my root directory. Whenever I tried to drill down to the HTML files in my sub-folders, I got a message saying ‘connection failed’. Perhaps there’s a setting I could change if I had greater knowledge of how these things work, however it’s not a problem I’ve had with any other FTP client however and, for me, it limits the usefulness of an otherwise excellent application.

If you’re building a website from scratch or wanting to make lots of coding changes to an existing one, in front of the computer is probably still the best place to be. But if you’ve got a simple website and you want to make simple edits to its pages while you’re out and about, then this is the application for you.

Download from iTunes
Developer: Ronald Wheland
Released: 7 March 2011 (Version 2.6.2)
Price: £1.79

First published on Happy to answer comments here or there.

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When everyone’s twittering, how do you get yourself heard?

Sleeping birdsGrowing up on an orchard, I didn’t need an alarm clock. Instead, in the early hours, the local birds would start their morning chorus: singing to the sunrise at an unmissable volume.

While that was usually enough to wake me up and make me take notice, it was almost impossible to pick out the sound of an individual bird.

Over the weekend, as I was putting together a list of social media suggestions for a friend’s music group, it struck me that this is what Twitter is like today. Millions of people, sending out billions of messages, a timeline that renews itself in seconds. In that sort of noise, how do you make yourself stand out?

Two ways.

You can do something unusual.

There’s a Big Ben twitter account, for example, which broadcasts the appropriate number of BONGs every hour – and that’s all it does. But when I’m reading back over the tweets that have flooded my timeline overnight, I find those BONG tweets a useful way of separating the messages into hourly segments.

But perhaps a better strategy for most Twitter users is to be engaging.

Twitter works best as a conversation tool, not as a one way broadcast. I recommend tweeting regularly, of course, and tweeting at hours when your intended audience are most likely to see your message. However, it’s important to realise that your followers may be following hundreds, or even thousands, of other people, that they may only use Twitter for ten minutes a day, and as such your one message could easily be missed.

In an ideal world, of course, all of your followers would be looking back along their timelines to find your tweets, to retweet them, to click on your links. For most people, this isn’t a reality.

However, there are strategies you can use to increase your visibility.

The first is to create great content. Tweet things that your followers will be interested in, whether that’s useful links or your latest deals. This increases the chances that they’ll be looking out for your tweets.

The second is to create great relationships. Follow interesting people. Talk to them. Send @ replies and retweet their messages. Perhaps they’ll do the same for you. Perhaps they’ll add you to one of their filtered lists, which gives your messages a higher chance of being seen. This takes time, and it may seem a lot of effort, but in the end you should see the results.

There’s a whole lot of birdsong on Twitter, not just in the mornings but 24 hours a day. Are your followers awake and aware of your messages?

If you’ve got any other tips to increase your visibility on Twitter, feel free to leave a comment below.

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