Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Geek Video of the Month




To honour Alan Turing, the clever people at LEGO have built a simple LEGO Turing Machine, to show everyone how simple a computer actually is. This is a great way to make every operation as visible as possible. LEGO Turing Machine was made using the automatic components of just a single LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT set.

According to Wikipedia"A Turing machine is a device that manipulates symbols on a strip of tape according to a table of rules. Despite its simplicity, a Turing machine can be adapted to simulate the logic of any computer algorithm, and is particularly useful in explaining the functions of a CPU inside a computer."

The Rocktime software developers are very impressed with the Turing machine language. If you require something a bit less complex but of great importance and bespoke for your business development, then please give us a call.

Author: Andy Clarke, Fiona Anderson

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Social Media Monitoring Tools and ROI



a useful tool for working out ROI
Percentage Change Calculator


ROI is the heart of business.
One of the areas we always try and encourage all our clients to adopt is to test, track, monitor, measure, evaluate and determine what is successful and work out what makes them some money.
That all important expression; ROI; Return On Investment. It is not a clich├ęd expression, it is the very reason to decide on one campaign over another, the reason to undertake new creative directions, the planning behind a new product development, the logic for expansion, the inspiration for optimising all the new channels. ROI is the heart of business.

Social media encourages businesses to do their business better
When it comes to social media it is a slightly different approach. Social media is really all about the users, the visitor, the customers. Social media is a wonderful medium that encourages businesses to do their business better, by offering real time customer services, creative ways of expressing their brand personality, making all their web pages and content relevant and user friendly and allowing pride in their brand to come through whilst tailoring everything they do be of value to their customers, their customer's enjoyment and their customer's user journey.

What to monitor on the social networks
Social media as a marketing tool is necessary and of benefit. The challenge comes when financial 'purse holders' in an organisation are less comfortable allowing insight in to the business structure.
So, when the question arises whether to engage in social media as a marketing tool, many businesses try to calculate what the return on investment will be. A very sensible approach!
The question is which metrics to use, what methods to use to capture the data, what tracking codes to add to the website, which free tools to employ, how much time and resources to expend on the process, how frequently to engage in the networks, which parts of the business to be involved in the communications, what data to calculate against another, what is an ideal conversion rate, how much testing needs to be undertaken, etc.
Quite a challenge for any business to determine straight off!

Search results have influenced what to monitor
Then there has also been some great Google updates that have recently taken place, to factor in and consider. These algorithm updates offer some real benefits to businesses, in terms of working out how their social media and search marketing come together but these updates also add to the confusion of what to measure, monitor and ultimately, how to calculate success and ROI. 
When Google announced the launch of Google social search update ‘Search plus Your World’ in January 2012 it brought social media and search marketing a giant step closer to each other, in terms of what is displayed in the search results.
Then the lines between social, mobile and local all converged in recent updates and businesses were again asking how they could best maximise their social media expenditures and prove a return on investment.

The integrated social media strategy
The tools to monitor social media are as varied as the social media strategies. A business signing off on a new social media campaign can be pleased with their efforts to determine what their social landscape is, their audience, their competitor analysis, their tone of voice, which social networks and channels are suitable to their business strategy, added social share and social badges and planned what type of content they want to share and have shared. They optimise their images, develop an inbound marketing strategy, sign off on engaging relevant content and set up a team to engage on a regular basis.
As visitors begin to leave comments and ask questions, occasionally post a review; both positive or negative, as in bound marketing links start to expand and content gets shared, often virally, the businesses start to realise the benefits immediately of having a social media strategy in place.
At some point shortly after this initial entry level stage, most businesses wonder how they managed before social media; the doors of communication are opened and both customers and suppliers get to be part of the business and no longer an entity to be broadcast to, or at.

Where to start with social media monitoring
This brings us back to the question of what to track, measure and evaluate. Well, there are loads of free tools to choose from and some with quite modest fees, that do a very reasonable job. 
Certainly opening a Google Account is a must. Google has not only set itself up to be a vast search engine but also has developed some splendid free tools to assist businesses with tracking their website performance. It is great to have a good presence on the social networks but if a visitor follows a link to a broken or slow website for more information, the positive user journey and brand impression is easily quashed.

Google Webmaster Tools enabled in Google analytics is ideal for tracking site traffic and conducting an SEO audit on the website; together these tools monitor and track social interaction analytics, user engagement, referring sites, conversions for e-commerce and landing pages, trends, adding goal tracking, event tracking and sales or multi-channel filters, cross domain tracking, and even a tool to help businesses experiment with content to improve goal conversions. 
There are also tools to give an overview on site load time, crawl errors, submitting XML sitemaps to Google, demoting sitelinks, discovering 404 page errors, working out which landing pages indexed by Google are bringing traffic etc, etc, etc. 
There are not only tools to track, measure and evaluate but there are also a plethora of reports that can be pulled from these 2 tools, plus plenty of forums and blogs for additional assistance.
So whilst the website is getting into optimum performance, the keyword research is being completed and the social media landscape review is being finalised, then this is a perfect time to start implementing the social media monitoring tools and determining which channells will be monitored by which tools.

Which social media monitoring tools to use
Having reread this summary list above, it sounds like we love Google Products. It is true! 
We haven't even started to mention all the other free tools in Google that help business grow and sell their products online; like Google AdWords, Google Shopping, Google+ Local, Google Maps, Blogger, Picasa with its great geo tagging facilities, Google Alerts, iGoogle Dashboard set up with RSS feeds of social media monitoring tools and plugins, Google Mobile and...back to social media; Google+ for brands and businesses. All activity within these products can be monitored for ROI.
There are, however, many other products we use, trial and consider for client use also. Each client is unique and has a unique set of requirements when it comes to reporting and demonstrating success and therefore, some monitoring products fit better with certain clients than others. 

Some of the following social media monitoring products will be very familiar to many businesses; like HooteSuite, Netvibes, Facebook Insights, Social Mention, YouTube Insight, Klout, SocialBro, Google Blogsearch, twilert and Tweetdeck. 
We also have insights into some of the fee-based options like Brandwatch, Meltwater, Wildfire etc and currently looking into some campaign specific tools that focus on leads and conversions, like Optify. Viralblog kindly wrote a useful guide to some of the other social media and monitoring tools
We are always looking for the least time consuming, the most accurate, easy to use and most integrated tools for monitoring. What we monitor is dictated by the brand or business sector, the social networks a business is active on, the amount of resources both budget and human to listen to the networks and process the data the monitoring tools provide. Also, importantly, we refine these processes as a business gains in confidence from the reports and starts to build broader strategies based on the insights and opportunities the reports provide. It really is a team effort!

Objectives of social media monitoring

So we can narrow this down a bit, to 'what we want to monitor'
  • social media monitoring
  • social media analytics
  • social media reporting
and also 'why we want to monitor'
  • review industry trends and business intelligence
  • real-time monitoring with a view to good customer services and PR
  • engagement
then we can 'choose a strategy for monitoring'
  • goals
  • choose suitable tools
  • types of reports
Future direction of social media monitoring
Brands that actively embraced social media a few years ago will have seen many changes and also chosen to change how they conduct themselves.

Listen Learn Engage (2009)
Inform Inspire Interact (2011)
Reach Impact Influence (2012)

The future of communicating in a face-to-face environment is still vital; the social networks make it easier for people to decide who they want to do business with, work with and socialise with. 
The vast data crunching side of monitoring and metrics is becoming ever more sophisticated, as we try and justify business expenditure and making sure we are marketing ourselves in the most prudent fashion.
Since mobile and mobile applications have become a tool that seldom leave our hand, we have been supplying more and more data about our sentiments, our preferences and our whereabouts. WE are being tracked, monitored and analysed also. Local targeted marketing campaigns pinpoint where we are and what we are looking for and we share this information freely.
Likewise, we can set up all our monitoring tools to report and alert us on our mobile devices.

Social CRM and sentiment monitoring
The image above shows one of the 5 Rocktime useful online tools that we developed to help businesses: calculate the Percentage Change in campaign performance, the ROI sales funnel to work out how many visitors a site needs to increase reach to meet monthly targets, the Campaign Objectives Worksheet to assist with planning a strategy for social media, the Social Media Toolkit to determine the specific social landscape and opportunities for a business.

Rocktime even built our own BETA social sentiment CRM monitoring tool, called Chatabot, which we will use for ‘managing connections and networks of interaction’. Chatabot is a compliment to social media monitoring platforms that track ‘mentions’. We designed Chatabot to manually track potential engagements that a business wants to engage further with; so they don’t forget them.  We originally called it a 'virtual Social Networking PA'. There are dozens if not hundreds of platforms that can track the social landscape but they don’t seem to offer the human element of collecting leads together for future engagement
Such as
  • blogger engagement
  • social opportunities
  • PR
  • networks
  • directories
  • satisfied customers who could become brand advocates
Chatabot will certainly help to keep track of all the social engagements, better than a ‘spreadsheet / email / database / bookmarks / calendar’; which is what most businesses rely on. The market is gradually changing from purely monitoring likes, hits, shares etc, to the sentiment behind the engagement. That is the human side of monitoring social engagement.

Benefits of social media monitoring
Without monitoring a business's landscape, how will a business identify that there may be an issue that is being publicly debated and shared, or without tracking analytics how will a business know that we helped increase their web traffic by 400% within 2 weeks of launch of the website, how will we be able to prove that relevant landing pages with social media badges work best for paid search campaigns without the AdWords tracking code, how will the Hotels record that bookings are up from new optimised keyword research and integration with custom Facebook Apps, how can we see how competitive keywords within optimised web pages is increasing online visibility in the Google rankings without doing the keyphrase positioning review every month, how can a customer services team know they are dealing correctly with all issues unless they monitor their Twitter account for example. How will a business deal with a crisis if they are unused to explaining about their operation and ways in which they are good at solving problems for their customers.
This is all part of the consideration process we work through with brands and businesses about how best to use real-time data and advanced analytics.


On a humourous note, it was pointed out that within the Rocktime corporate name we had already given consideration to roi: R O ckt I me.
If you want to devise a strategy for social media and need to demonstrate to the Board of Directors that there is ROI then please give Rocktime a call; we can show you how exciting this development is for a business and satisfy the 'purse holder' that a strategy to integrate social media with search marketing, mobile and local is of value and profitable. Rocktime can help to 'keep it simple', define what to monitor and which reports will prove useful to the Team and therefore aid further investment and growth. We look forward to hearing what your business is all about!

We post regular tweets on @RocktimeSocial with interesting social and search developments, if you prefer to watch us for a while before you make contact.

What social media monitoring tools work for you? What are the best examples of ROI from monitoring that you have seen?


Author: Fiona Anderson

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Now vs Then








A humorous view point from one of the Web Developers at Rocktime, about 'Now vs Then' and the advances in technology; with reference to some nostalgic technologies.


***
As a child, who was born in the 70’s, my childhood experience of technology differs greatly from the world that my daughter will grow up in.

My little girl turned one at the weekend and as such she will never know of a world without mobile phones, digital photography, the internet, on demand television, online shopping, iTunes, sat nav or Facebook. I on the other hand grew up blissfully ignorant surrounded by red phone boxes, cheap instamatic cameras, BBC Microcomputers, TISWAS, waiting 28 days for delivery, our price, maps and actually having to speak to people face to face.

So in the interest of having a little bit of fun, let’s have a look at each of these points in turn.

Mobile Phones vs Red Phoneboxes 


Although I work at Rocktime, I must admit to having a bit of a pet hate towards mobiles. Granted they have completely changed the face of communication and with each month there appears to be a new all singing all dancing model that claims to rival a Cray Supercomputer.

So what if you can play games, surf the web, take photos, listen to music, check emails, augment reality, or make a super skinny yummy mocha latte with your latest phone. I still can’t shift the 80’s image of larger-than-life men going through a mid-life crisis showing off their breeze block sized phones as a bizarre status symbol. Before mobile phones we made plans and we stuck to them.

Technology - 0 : Old fashioned red phone boxes - 1

Digital Photography vs Cheap Instamatic Cameras

I used to go travelling with a Boots instamatic, that cost about a fiver and come back with dozens of rolls of film, not having the foggiest what was on any of them. Eventually, I would get around to developing them and spend a few hours grinning like a deranged madman as I would re-live the events surrounding each photograph.

Of course, out of perhaps several thousand snap shots that I’ve taken this way, there are probably less than a dozen that would look good hung on a wall. While the professionals may debate whether film or digital produces the best results, the sheer numbers of photographs we can take inevitably mean that we’ll get a greater number of photographs we can be proud of using digital. But please remember people, simply going out and spending a few hundred pounds on the latest piece of kit does not make you David Bailey.

Technology - 1 : Blurriness - 1

The internet vs BBC Microprocessors

No contest, the internet wins. You can play the Acornsoft classic elite online!

Technology - 2 : 32kb - 1

On Demand TV vs TISWAS

Okay, if all TV was like TISWAS, great as it was, on demand would probably win this one. I do think that the likes of Virgin’s on demand service, iPlayer and the like have taken away the mystique of my beloved telly. I remember when there was only three channels and recall watching the first episode of Countdown the day that Channel 4 launched to great fanfare. We had to watch what the schedulers said we should watch and as a result some programmes became a national event.

The next day we would gingerly discuss the previous evening’s entertainment over monster munch and frazzles. Every Christmas they would show Star Wars and The Great Escape, there would be a Bond film pretty much every bank holiday and we would lap it up together as a country! Nowadays, you can download a film before the actors have even finished filming it and all sense of grandeur and occasion is lost as it squeezes onto a memory stick.

Technology - 2 : Nostalgia - 2

Online shopping vs Waiting 28 days for delivery

Firstly, whenever you sent away for something you had to pay for it with a Postal Order as very few children had bank accounts! These were only available from Post Offices (Do they even exist now????) and as such the experience would inevitably involve having to stand in close proximity to a gaggle of pensioners. Inevitably, the cost of the goods meant that you had to purchase a ridiculous combination of smaller denominations of PO in order to get the correct amount. You would then have to buy a stamp, find an envelope and a piece of paper, write down your details and order, address the envelope and then go and post it in the mail box. For some reason everything used to take 28 days to deliver which meant by the time it had turned up you were either no longer interested, or the purchase in question was so drastically out of fashion that you dare not be seen with it in public for fear of being branded a social luddite!

Technology - 3 : Rubbish - 2

iTunes vs Our Price

iTunes. If you could buy vinyl from apple I would have scored them 2 points!

Technology - 4 : My cassette has broken - 2

Sat nav vs Maps

Every so often you hear about someone who’s blindly followed their sat nav’s instructions and ended up either in the wrong county/stuck up a mountain/or at the bottom of a lake. Sensible route planning is in order.

Technology - 4 : Learn to read a map, it’s not that hard - 3

Facebook vs speaking to people face to face.

While Facebook is great for catching up with old friends, seeing what people are up to and having several different conversations at any given moment; you can’t beat good old fashioned human interaction.

Technology - 4 : The Dark Ages - 4

So it’s officially a draw. My daughter’s life will be pretty much the same as mine and in years to come, most of the items listed above will be obsolete and serve only to serve up fond memories.

***

Every aspect of working in web development and creating integrated search marketing campaigns is driven by change; be it innovations in hardware, software, social commerce, or Google algorithm updates. Please contact Rocktime if your business recognises that it needs to increase its online visibility globally, nationally or through local optimisation; we can help develop a strategy to embrace these changes.

Author: Foz