Sunday, March 23, 2014

Has LinkedIn lost it's way?

I need a Blog Post... have you wondered about how to remember and idea, well writing a quick blog posts seems like a good idea.

LinkedIn - we've worked out Facebook Pages and they are crucial, Twitter just bangs out updates, but its real strength probably lies in customer service.  Google Plus is essential for Search Engine Optimisation, I mean would you risk it?

So what happened to LinkedIn? Last year 2013, it was the darling of Social Media, profitable and on the up and up, this year - frankly not a lot.

Our take on LinkedIn, is that it's for industry and for professionals, you're not going to sell any widgets here, nor sign up the odd client even.  But you might 'connect' with useful people.  When you update your LinkedIn Stats - it's not so much when, but IF!

Then there's the Birthday Reminders and Job Anniversary emails - as if either are reliable or accurate, I wished a few people Happy Birthday and then rather wished I hadn't for invasion of privacy reasons and the rather oddness of it.  I know it's nice to be remembered, but just for the sack of it?

So what to do, what to do?  We've always propounded three things about LinkedIn - see if you agree?
  1. You should only connect to people you know - that keeps things tidy and means you have more meaningful relationships with those actual people... no room for companies here

  2. The only way to 'market' your activities (self or business) is to join the conversation, get involved with Groups and actually join in... this is the only point within LinkedIn that your name extends beyond the people you may know.
  3. Keep your Company/Corporate Page updated with your services and products.  If someone wants to find out who you work for - then it's essential your keep this updated.
It's the last bit that we need to focus on now, LinkedIn have realised that having a 'corporate' profile is probably more important these days than having a personal one.  In the game for attention (which this Social players all work in) and for LinkedIn to remain relevant they have to join the game of followers.  Unless people get regular value from LinkedIn they will see their users disappearing.

In this age of Mobile LinkedIn is regularly used as a source of news of what all your 'connections' are up to and that includes companies people follow... and there in lies the game plan.

The same rules apply to LinkedIn as to Facebook or Twitter - if you're not regularly updating your LinkedIn Company Page - you could well be missing a trick.

LinkedIn has realised this missing piece of it's puzzle and is hungry for people to take their company pages seriously.  The big advantage they have over Facebook and the main reason I encourage this is because the quality of LinkedIn's users is exceptionally high.  This target market might not be after your widgets, but they are almost all paying into a higher Tax Bracket.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Future of Gmail

Before I start - this is not just about Gmail... it'a about Hotmail, YahooMail and Gmail, with a little bit of Apple thrown in for good measure.

Clients are reaching their limits - inboxes are full, back up arrangements limited, computers replaced with iPads and mobiles, you know me - I've been on about this for years.  So what's the future holding right now.  And I'm only really talking about email for the moment.

I think it's a given - we all want our email 27/7 and on any device we choose, i.e. desktops, tablets and phones.  It's slightly questionable wheather we want access to our email from any computer - because we're usually most comfortable working from our desks in our offices, but we like the idea of being able to work from anywhere even if we in truth don't actually do it.

The next factor that springs to mind is the devision of personal and work email - the line is increasingly blurred, on the one hand it makes total sense to keep the two apart - increasingly this is hard to actually acheive - who hasn't used their work email for a private comminucation.  So I want to keep this in mind as well in terms of the future.

Lastly, multiple addresses - we often want multiple email addresses for slightly different businesses or representations of who we are and this also needs to be factored in.

The good news is that the core big four know all this, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple, they've got it down to a tee and are making massive strides to making email what we want it to be, always there, everywhere.  No social media type thing has come anywhere close to replacing email, so we can confidently say email is going to be with us for the medium future.

The not so good news is that these companies are vying for our business and attention, some of what we need is free, but there are certain deal breakers that are expensive and in some instances it can all get rather too expensive.  It's the usual business model for the Internet age - offer a free service and charge a premium for the perks.  The only query is how soon you need the perks.

At this stage the costs still very much make sense.  If you've offices with under 20 or so people it's going to be far more reliable and cost effective to sign up to the one of these four (less so Apple).  Even if you have a big office with hundreds of people there would be a business case for outsourcing email to these services.

What's basically happened is that very careful data analysis has gone into the cost of running email and a price of about $5 a month has been put on it.  This includes everything from Hardware, Software, Servicing and Upgrading of everything - all told each individual email address is running at about $5 a month... it's definitely low cost... But it's also a cost many are not familiar with.  i.e. when they buy their new computers and callup the IT department to ask for a password, no cost is put on that time.  Let alone the cost of getting the IT Department to transfer legacy email to the new computer.

Therefore we can say the hidden cost of email has for too long been exactly that - hidden.  In the future the hope is email management will be a thing of the past, the incredible uptimes and redundancy and investment into the main four providers should remove the problems from email.

And by and large it does.  All you need to know is your password.

There is a cog in the works though - as there nearly always is.  In this case the cog in the works is that once you go with a 'provider' you usually have to commit to their way of 'doing it'.  If you choose Gmail - then the best way to work with Gmail is to use it, that might mean giving up on Outlook and 'your way' of managing email and subscribing to theirs.  Using Microsoft's Office365 system (which is essentially Hotmail), it is definitely more os a strugglr using Apple products,  Particularly, AppleMacs, using Yahoo - it's less customisable and does not include many of the benefets of these other suct as the extensive Office suites.

You do have a choice, but it is limited to choosing one of the four.  At the moment I would narrow that down to Gmail or Office365, and I think for the future that is going to remain the case.  The downside is a small monthly fee, the upsides however are there to be had - BUT only if you subscribe to their way of 'doing things'.

Incidentally I last looked at this question a year ago, when I firmly came down in Gmail's favour, it's nice to see Office365 fighting back.
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Welcome to Tim Dunham

I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome Tim to the NComp@ss Team.

Tim's role is to update and manage existing websites, catering for clients that need changes made be they a telephone number or entire new sections added to their website.

Clients needs vary - but in an environment where the mighty Google needs constant attention and feeding of news and fresh content, it's been increasingly hard to keep up with the various websites we manage.

NComp@ss is different to 'most' other web design companies, far to frequently a designer will develop a clients website, make it look nice, pay some lip service to SEO and perhaps recommend a trick or two.  But essentially when the job is done that's it.  They get paid.  Perhaps the client will revisit the website after a year or so and make a few changes, but the web designer will have lost interest.

Here we believe passionately that you need to keep up dating the website frequently with all your news. Your website needs to grow with your business, adapt, change and improve over time.  So we make a big thing of being there to support a clients needs.

And that's where Tim comes in, his role is primarily to fulfil the needs of clients on a day to day bases.

This also gives Tim the unusual 'status' of being the only NComp@ssian to work from the main office, all other SEO, Adwords, Social Media, Developers and Designers employed by us work from their own locations, homes, small offices etc.  It makes us nice and flexible, but for Tim's role we thought differently - a degree of common sense and discussion is often required to decide on the best way to adapt a website and for that we choose an in-house role.

As this is really an 'Advice' column as opposed to a 'Our News' column, we thought we'd end on a little maths - taking purely arbitrary figures for the costs of managing and maintaining a website, here are a few examples:

Example 1:
Assuming a website costs £1500 to build, includes a small content management system so the client can update rudimentary parts of the website.  Assuming the website lasts 4 years and assuming the clients requires occasional updates from us, you might average £200 per year.

Net cost after 4 years would be £2300 for a 'up to date' website.

Example 2 The alternative:
Assuming a website costs £1500 to build and no updates were made... after two years it would be hopelessly out of date, after four years? a further injection of £500 might be needed, but after fours years you would need a new website.

Net costs after 4 years would be £2000 and a new website needed for another £1500, £3500 or an increase in costs of 65%.

Example 3 - eCommerce:
Assuming an eCommerce website costs £6000 to build, includes a content management system, but most updates where handled by us for a monthly rate of £185 per month.  Assuming the website lasts 4 years.

Net costs after 4 years would be £14880 for a fully 'up to date' website

Example 4 - The Alternative:
Assuming an eCommerce websites costs £6000 to build and almost no updates done above the essential product management, i.e. no changes to the structure of the website or static pages.  Costs keep as low as possible and perhaps allowing for £1000 of emergency attention over 4 years.  Finally for eCommerce you would need to factor in lost sales due to poor management of the website, these could range for anything from 20% to 60% of revenue generated.

Net costs after 4 years would be £7000 and a new website would be needed for another £6000 plus the lost sales, assuming a small website with 'profits' of £20,000 per year, this additional cost could range from £4000 to £12000.  The net costs would then be between £17000 - £23000.

===============

In almost every case example one can consider where a business is reasonable profitable it would be far better value to keep a website up to date and reasonably managed for the right price.

One final take home would be to suggest that a well maintained and updated website might even last 5 or 6 years delaying the need to invest and build a replacement website - whereas a poorly maintained website may well need a proper revamp after less than 3 years further reducing the cost effectiveness of it.

So we welcome Tim and the service he brings, ultimately this means NComp@ss can better support clients in a cost effective and professional manner.
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Friday, February 28, 2014

What exactly are we Creating?

I noted the other day that my most popular Blog Post this month was one that I wrote back in 2010 about the Value of a Website within which I brought up Net Neutrality and indeed now NetFlix is paying US Internet Service Provider Comcast to accelerate films for their customers, giving Netflix a huge advantage in speed and performance over it's competitors who do not yet pay.

And so I want to expand on this.  What exactly are we creating.  I read my trade rag .Net Magazine and am astounded by some of the things I read, the latest comment I enjoyed was 'Aren't we lucky to be able to produce amazing things from just a computer'.  But really is that true?

Computers change the world, amazing things have been designed on them and they do an incredible job is every walk of life without exception and yes anyone can build a website and change the world, I can name dozens of examples.  But I also think it is incredibly important to put perspective on this.  The reality is that computers are extremely disruptive and while some people welcome this, I think an element of caution is still needed.

I recently spoke to an advocate of new technologies who is steaming ahead with his ideas and ambitions, it all extremely positive, but when questioned on the ethics of what is being created and what it might mean for humans - he 'outsourced' all potential concerns to a separate 'body' precisely for this purpose.  That gives him free reign to design whatever he likes, because someone or something else will take the rap should it go wrong.  That in my mind is scary.

An example is Google Glass - we've all heard about wearable tech it is the new big thing for 2014, but Google researchers have plunged on with this technology presumably farming out the privacy, ethics, moral and social concerns to another 'body'.  Now that they work - we should welcome them.  And that is the flaw as I see it.  Do we seriously think the scientists would have invented the Bomb if they knew the devastation it was capable of.  The reality is probably yes they would have done it anyway.

So what exactly are we creating?  It's worrisome and at the core of human society, the need to progress and yet do it responsibly, we created the banks, now we think they are the bad guys, we created computer games and complain about the wasted lives spent playing them.

Jan Koum, WhatsApp's founder' has declared he does not want to be an entrepreneur as by definition an entrepreneur is someone who sets up a company or entity to make money and I think he has a point.  I also think many of the truly life changing things that have happened are from people that aren't interested in the money side of things.

So how does this all relate to me, you, my clients and our future.  Sure we have to cover costs and make living we live in the real world after all, but I do put it to you that whatever your business is these are two golden rules we should all aspire to:

  1. Benefit others - it sounds crass, but if what we do truly benefits other people in real ways then great.  If we're in it for the money, or next years skiing holiday, or even as simply something to fill the time, then I question if we will be truly successful.
  2. Ethics - I remember a time when websites would frequently have a page on a companies 'ethics', but this is no longer the case.  Yet the entire, moral, ethical, privacy and social implications need to go hand in hand with what you're doing.
Sorry this Post was designed to make us wonder what we are creating with all the technologies in our lives, but it has turned into a mini lecture, this was not the intention.

I just hope that the things I am creating with my computer genuinely do put my own beliefs into action.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why you shouldn't advertise on Social Media

This one is going to hurt!

We all want likes and we value organisation that successfully have thousands if not millions of likes and followers on their social media.  But you cannot buy them... EVER!

Here's roughly why - then you should watch this short Video.  Roughly Social Media is a SOCIAL thing... people talking to each other socialising.  The word Advertising does not come into the.  When we do our washing we don't tell people we're using Daz or Ariel or Fairy.  When we're using products we don't tell people.  It's just nonsense.

On the other hand if we're asked we'll immediately give our recommendation, What Powder do you use for your washing? Ah ha... for that we have an answer.

This can be translated to ANY business, I don't go around telling people they need a website, people come to me asking if I can make them a website because they heard from someone that I make websites.

So time to watch the Video and understand why Facebook Advertising is really a waste of time, effort and money.


So the question is how should you promote your organisation on Facebook... The first rule is don't advertise, be Social.  Don't post photos of your products, offers or even news.  Decide what people will ask you for and then don't answer those questions on Facebook.

Instead post things that are interesting to you.  If they interest you then you'll almost certainly match your customers needs.  The truth is your customers like what you like or you wouldn't be doing it.  If you're mad keen on Sailing, you wouldn't start a sewing business talking needles and thread all day, You'd want to start a Sailing related business.

And this is why Social has to come from the 'heart' of a company, it has to be interesting primarily to you for it to be interesting to your clients.

This Video I am posting here is a good example.  I found it interesting enough to not only Tweet about it, but to actually Blog and share it with you all (nice of me)... no sales talk in this Blog post - (at least I hope that's the case).
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Saturday, February 01, 2014

Supporting your Customers

It's awlays tricky to know when to stop replying to emails, I kinda have a rule in that I always like to reply to emails, some people I know don't, they feel email has to be limited, cut down and reduced to it's minimum.  I agree.

But when it comes to customer or client support - where does it end?  Let's say you you request some information about a product you've brought, anything a Toaster for example.  So you ask your question, they reply - well do you then Thank them?  They've done a good job, in the real world you'd almost certainly thank them.

So assuming you do - then you get an email back saying - 'no problems, have a nice day'... is that I good time to stop this email banter?  You can imagine some people might well carry this on inadfinitem. It might even develope into a friendship.

So when should you stop.  It's rude to not to thank someone, so I usually do.

But now look at this from the other side... you're a company servicing your clients, they ask questions, you give the answers... now what do you do if they thank you?  Do you fill up their inbox with a 'have a nice message' or not.

I think you should... I am sure this question should be put more succintly than I am able to, but maybe it should be rephased - who has the last word?

I think the company should... The main rule should be All Enquiries Should End With a 'Waiting on Customer' note.  If we make that the main rule we fulfil all obligations to our customers and therefore are giving good customer service.

Obviously some intelligience is required to prevent it getting out of hand... and messages can be final in tone, but that I mean your final message to a client should be constructed so as not to warrent a reply.

Now back in the real world.  You feel it, at least I do, when the company I am requesting information from, thanks me for my thank you message, that makes a mark.  It works equally when they don't I notice it.

I notice it because of the contrast in support from those that do make the effort.  I notice it because some companies do thank me for my thsank you and do wish me a nice day, therefore by contrast I notice it when they don't.

The message here is this.  Regardless of your own preferences on this ultimately minor matter - if you want your customer to go on being your customer, then you need to make the extra effort.  It will be worth it.  Hard as it is to always reply to your customers emails no matter how trivial - it will be worth it in the end.

If you care to differ, please do let me know.
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Trends so far

I love sitting down at a blank page and just setting off on a ramble. I know what I want the title to be - Trends for 2014 so far - but the rest I'm making up.

Why bother with this - clients want to know where their websites are going and they look to us to provide some of that information.  With that information they can continue to grow their marketing and Internet presence and influence.  Our expertise is based on our experience, anyone who does something a long time (16 years) must have some experience to draw on.

So what's going to be big in 2014:

  • One Page Websites
    Think about it, it's what we've always wanted - everything you need to know on a single page. Whoever thought we needed more must be off their rocker, all we need is the answer to our query and possibly a contact number to call someone up.

  • Stories
    I love this idea - explain your product with a story, as one client put it, anyone can make any of our products, so all we really have is the story.  The story is rather magical to though, it's much more fun and interesting, I'm looking forward to more stories.

  • The Light Touch
    Gone are the bad old days of sell sell sell and advertising aggressively with eyeballs being all that matters, tomorrows advertisers are going to talk to us - however lowly we are in their eyes - to succeed in advertising today you need to communicate with your customers, you scratch my back I'll scratch yours.

  • And lastly - Lifestyle
    We going to see an awful lot more technology fitting into our lifestyle, whereas you used to have to go to a computer in the corner of the room, now you'll look at a wristband while jogging, read the news on the train, turn your lights off remotely. This lifestyle technology is hitting our selves now.
So there we are - a small take on some of the things that we think will happen in 2014, the main take away is that things are going to finally become a little bit simpler, and obtainable.

As usual though, in our experience, it's going to happen online and on your websites first!
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