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How Online Customer Preferences and Feedback Has Changed.

Twitter or Identi.ca?

Micro-blogging has become a big thing when it comes to promoting your sites, network or keep in touch with your friends.

But which host do you prefer?

Identi.ca is a microblogging service where users post short (140 character) messages which are broadcast to their friends using the Web, RSS, or instant messages.  While similar than Twitter in both concept and operation, Identi.ca provides many features not currently implemented by Twitter, including XMPP support and personal tag clouds.

Identi.ca allows free export and exchange of personal and friend’s data based on the FOAF standard; therefore, notices can be fed into a Twitter account or other service.

Identi.ca is an Open Network Service. Their goal is to provide a fair and transparent service that preserves users’ autonomy. You deserve the right to manage your own on-line presence, they say. The service reached 1 million postings on November 4, 2008.

Users say it trumps Twitter by leaps and bounds in terms of features. But with these features comes an uncharted territory, much of which is sometimes getting abused.

Identi.ca is as close to Twitter as you can get. Instead of Tweets they call their massages ‘dents’. In fact it’s almost identical to Twitter….”almost” because Identi.ca was built with OpenMicroblogging in mind. This means that it is built on an open platform that can be shared with anyone who wants to host their own federated version of the software. So unlike Twitter, which hopes to monetize the service in order to turn a profit, you can host a Laconi.ca server, sharing ‘dents’ with any identi.ca accounts as well as with anyone else running the same software. This means no more down-time.

Twitter is close, and more popular, but identi.ca is robust, more reliable, and simply an ALTERNATIVE and a CHOICE.

Sometimes looking at a big company and their marketing strategy can teach us a lot about marketing our small business.

Apple Co. is no doubt a big company. They are known for their innovation and ‘cool’ gadgets. Every launch of a new product involves a presentation by Steve Jobs. Their products are sold in the millions in the first few days (iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million in 3 days) because they create such an anticipation and smart marketing campaign. What do they do that makes them so successful?

Looking at their last few launches a pattern emerges. Not only does Steve Jobs do all the presentations, not only he wears the same clothes no matter what weight he’s in, there are some things we can all learn from the big boys, with their cool innovations, the advertising budget and the PR firm. We can do it too, on a smaller scale.

When Steve Jobs does his presentation he is concise, to the point and entertaining. He does not concentrate on the technical aspect of the new product. He doesn’t talk shop – how fast it is, how the components became smaller. What he does talks about is what their new product will do for you, the customer. How will it improve the way you communicate or do business. If a customer wants to know the specifications of their new gadget he can go to their web site and get that information. Steve jobs is talking to the average customer to show him how cool is the new product and how fun it is to use.

When thinking about marketing and advertising, think about your customers first – how will they benefit from it, what needs your product comes to satisfy.

  • Create a buzz. That is what Apple does best. Months before the product launch they drop a few words here and there. Obviously not every company is as highly regarded as Apple, and not every launch is a topic of conversation on the big news networks. Creating a buzz before the launch is very important. Every company that is serious about their marketing can do it through websites, social media and bookmarking sites. Don’t wait until the product is completely finished. When you create a buzz you can get feedback about what people want and think your product will be. Monitor those conversations, see what customers really want.
  • Create a product customers will be happy to show off. When you look at Apple’s products, not only the components are important the packaging is important as well. It is always slick and new (think iPhone, iPad, iPod.) Apple always innovates, jumps ahead in leaps and bounds, not only evolves from model to model. What can you do to your product to make it as sleek as possible, something others will be proud to share? How do you show it on your website?
  • Get expert advice and recommendations ahead of time. Show your product to the titans of your niche and have them write a few words about it. Put it on your website and tweet about it.
  • Take pre-orders. This is a must and a base to build on. Even if you are not sure yet about the final price, you can create a following you can e mail to and update on pricing and new features. A business woman I know created a buzz by tweeting about her product when it was still in the building stage. She got 150 preorders just in the first few days. The product is not finished yet.
  • Make a big deal out of your launch – as big as your budget allows. If not a presentation in a big ball room, you can create a launch on the web. Make sure your speech is short and entertaining. Leave the technology to the experts.

The bottom line – when you are about to launch a new product, plan the launch months before the actual date. Think what information you want to release and when, think how you can maximize your exposure and don’t hesitate to turn to experts in the field to help you plan it correctly.

Why call a service Mister Wong? It comes from the term “Wong the Web!” a reference to the practice of wonging, card counting strategy in Blackjack.

Mister Wong is a creation of a German company that initially wanted to take on Google. Started in 2006 the website allows customers to bookmark their favorite sites and use that list as a basic search engine. To find a site that is not on your list, you can search the bookmarks of other people. It is a peer recommended search engine that is meant to weed out the less interesting ones.

With their services users can:

  •       Search and find the best website of a certain category.
  •       Save and manage their sites.
  •       Access the bookmarks from any computer.
  •       Connect with Twitter and import links.

Management of the bookmarks can be done by accessing the website or by downloading a toolbar that allows you to bookmark without leaving the current page.

A relative newcomer, the service is available in German, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and English, and is the leading social bookmarking service in Europe with over 50 million users in 2009. They claim to be the second largest bookmarking service in the world.

Mister Wong has a different approach than Del.icio.us for example. Mister Wong’s variation is more to the point with users creating groups on top of the groups created by tags. Here, just like in Reddit, users can vote with thumbs up or thumbs down, and the recommended site will rise or fall from the top of the list. You can also make friends through the site, create user profiles and show your latest stream of bookmarks and links.

Mister Wong is another website that uses human recommendations to get a site ranked. Unlike Google for example, where new information is scanned and placed by machines, Mister Wong and other bookmarking sites concentrate on allowing you to search less cluttered result pages in an attempt to save you time and compete with the big search engines.

Their dream, to be an alternative search engine, is not yet fulfilled. With more users, and more recommendations they eventually might be able to do just that. Another great visibility opportunity.

You have your products ready, and your services are in place. Your brand image is ready and your marketing collateral is all written, designed and printed out. You now need to target your preferred demographic, your target audience and the niche your small business will occupy.

Nearly every product or service is aimed at a specific demographic group that will be interested buy it. As a small business, you need to do some market research to determine your sales demographics and establish a target audience.

If your product is something that a wide range of customers will use, you will need to create various marketing campaigns to reach different segments of this broad market. Then there are products and services which have a fairly specific target audience which need to be zeroed in using a more specific manner. This is called niche marketing and if done properly, can be very beneficial and cost-effective.

How do you determine your market niche? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What should be the age of your potential customer?
  • Who would be more interested in your product, a man or a woman?
  • If your product is pricey, what income level should your potential customers belong to, preferably?
  • If your product requires it to be used in a certain way, what is the education level of your potential customers?
  • Is your product something that will be used by a family or an individual?
  • What will your customers appreciate the most about your product? Its price, easy availability, or ease of use? What do they like or dislike about the product or service in general?
  • Where does your audience research for products? Do they use the Internet, newspapers, books, or television?

Based on the results of your marketing research, you should be able to determine the focus of your advertising and marketing efforts. If you happen to find that your potential clients spend are frequent users of the internet, likely that your best marketing lever would be a Web page or an e-newsletter. Again, if you find that your potential customers are interested in listening to talk radio, you would do well to develop promotional strategies that revolve around radios.

Your audience might change too, depending on various factors. It’s always important to keep on top of who your target audience is. Do this, and you will maintain a steady flow and easy returns. Another great visibility technique.

Founded in 2002, Friendster is one of the web’s older social networking services, launched before MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn came into being. Users can join and connect with friends, family, school, groups, activities and interests.

Friendster mission is to create a safe environment for meeting new people by browsing user profiles and connecting to friends, friends of friends and so on, allowing members to expand their circle of friends more rapidly than in real life.

Today, Friendster has a membership base of more than 115 million registered users. Over 90% of Friendster’s traffic comes from Asia where it has more monthly unique visitors than any other social network.

The website receives approximately 19 billion page views per month, and is in the top 500 global websites based on web traffic.

As for advertising, Friendster offers two systems: a pay for impressions (CPM) or Cost Per Click (CPC) models.

For CPM, a single impression is when your Ad appears on a Friendster page someone is viewing. CPM is calculated by one thousand impressions – the cost of showing your ad 1,000 times. If your ad is $5 CPM and your budget is $100, your ad will appear 20,000 times over the span of your campaign.

Cost Per Click (CPC) is where you pay for each click on your ad. CPC advertising allows you to specify a certain amount that you are willing to pay each time a user actually clicks on your ad up to your specified budget.

Targeting allows you to specify where and who will see your ad – This powerful tool makes your advertising more effective by zeroing in on your target audience. Their system allows advertiser to target a group by different criteria; age, gender, country, interest etc. and is available in different languages

Promoting a Small Business Without Breaking The Bank

How do you promote your small business while staying afloat? All you need is a little ingenuity!

The classic promotions options are print, television media and direct campaign. You might think that all these options will cost money, and that you need a large budget to get your message across. Without spending an incredible amount of money, you can attract customers, and have ready to use custom recorded video content for future use, as follows:

  • Cut costs by using your own employees in place of models for print and television Ads. It’s more believable and you stand a better chance of being noticed and remembered.
  • Obtain a database of email address and send your company’s information with links to your site via emails for direct campaign.
  • Put up your promotional videos on your website, with additional content and offers that people can read and watch. Always make sure that your website loads fast, and don’t use too many graphics and heavy content that might slow down the experience for your customers.
  • Spend a little to ensure more traffic to your website. With more traffic you can usually expect more sales.
  • Use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise your products and services. Even though too many companies are doing this nowadays, you can still garner eyeballs if you package your company’s identity realistically.

What you need to do is to combine guerrilla marketing with traditional advertising strategies to gain exposure and get paying customers by letting the current technology work for you instead of against you. Create interesting and entertaining under 3 minute videos and post them on your site; while you’re at it, you may as well upload them on video sites such as YouTube. Most video sites are free; by posting your videos online, you can create exposure for your company.  Make sure that your video titles contain keywords that are commonly searched by people.

Focus on your demographic; who do you want to target? If you know this already, well and good. If not, consult a good advertising agency to help you define your correct demographic. When you’re on a budget, focusing on your exact target audience will get you more paying customers.

Optimize on television broadcasting by purchasing media time in any locality on any cable network. By doing this, you can run a local cable television advertising campaign in many different cities at the same time. For example, if you know that most of your customers live in large cities, focus only on them. By doing this you can bring down your advertising budget. A national television campaign is way more expensive than a cable TV campaign, and is not as effective either.

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