Common Sense Policing

Yesterday I sent off my application to be a Special Constable for Staffordshire Police. I’m really excited about it but have been worried about how much pressure there is with all the paperwork that’s required so I was pleased to hear about this pilot scheme that is under way in four forces, including Staffordshire.

It allows officers to ‘use their own judgement’ more so that they don’t need to make so many arrests. It should hopefully free up a lot of time for officers. Sir Ronnie Flanagan, who’s recommendations in a report published in February have triggered the introduction of this scheme, said that it could potentially save at least five million man hours. That’s the equivalent of 2,500 officers!

Faceparty Activates Self Destruct

Social networks are attractive in business because, like TV, they have a captive audience. A captive audience about who a lot is known. Age, gender, location, hobbies, interests, sexual preference, musical preference, favourite TV shows, films, books; you name it.

So what do Faceparty do when faced with a bit of legislation? They cull hundreds of accounts. This is their intellectual property, for Pete’s sake. It’s suicide! Seriously, folks, how much would it really cost to put in some kind of system to verify age? If you really needed to do it why haven’t Facebook, Orkut, MySpace et al done it yet? Answer: because they’re not as thick as two short planks, that’s why!

Are All PR Professionals Scared of the Web?

For some reason I’m doing a good job of finding opinion pieces preaching to businesses about why they shouldn’t do SEO, PPC, social networking, blogging and so on. Obviously, being an internet consultant that could be bad for business but it’s getting my back up because I can see a common theme running through a lot of these – fear of change.

Fact: the internet is changing the way we all do business. Problem is, people don’t generally like change and this seems to be quite prevalent in traditional marketing circles, where a distinct lack of understanding of the differences in online marketing is manifesting itself into attacks on the worth of online tactics.

Case in point: This afternoon a client sent me a snippet from an innocently title article, Generating press coverage for your accountancy practice, by Tim Prizeman of PR advisors, Kelso Consulting.

Essentially he is suffering from a lack of understanding of the role of blogging in internet marketing. Corporate blogging is an essential part of online PR. In fact PR is a bit misleading in a B2B situation – it should be more like Industry Relations. Corporate blogging allows you not only to talk to your industry (like you do offline through press releases, interviews etc) but to actively participate in industry discussion with both journalists and industry peers (like you would do at an industry conference). It breaks down geographical barriers.

In part of his article, Tim says, “The next time a development arises that effects its readers (eg tax change, VAT tribunal, or you just generally think that people in that industry are missing a particular trick) immediately ring up the journalist and say something along the following lines: “Hello, I’m Mark Tomarket from accountants Tick & Bash. The change in yesterday’s Budget increasing employers’ national insurance could have a dramatic adverse effect on employment in this town because of the large number of retail and other labour intensive industries – is this a story you are interested in covering?”

The beauty of corporate blogging is that you become a semi-journalist. Instead of phoning a journalist you would simply write a brief blog post on your thoughts and because of the nature of blogging, that post would be immediately distributed around the web to all those people who are interested in that topic (ie, your industry peers). The benefit being that it gives your company credibility by showing that you are fully aware of your business environment and the forces affecting your market. That inspires confidence.

It doesn’t take a lot of time like Tim says, either. In ten minutes one can set up a blog, write a post and notify any clients and associates that may be interested creating an instant, targeted (if small) readership.

I’d like to know how Tim came to the conclusion that most have become moribund and why that makes all efforts at corporate blogging worthless. Tim himself admits that “a modest number of these have large and growing followings” which is surely a sign to us all that blogging can work.

I may be reading between the lines too much here but the tone of Tim’s article suggests that in order for a blog to be successful it must have “a large and growing following” but what about the thousands of blogs created by individuals to entertain their groups of friends, colleagues or community groups. Blogs that may only be updated once each month, if that, and only have a small following of twenty or less but are still much loved and cared for areas of the web.

Tim calculates that 179,900 unsuccessful blogs are created each day, adding to the already “71.75m existing little visited ones” again assuming that a less active blog is an unsuccessful blog. The phrase “it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality” comes to mind.

My immediate conclusion is that Tim is suffering from a lack of understanding. He’s never seen successful blogging and so he can’t comprehend it. In all likelihood he’s only ever seen blogging done badly and that’s all he has to go on. Funny enough, one of the most popular blogging efforts on the web today is that of Guardian Unlimited. The online arm of a publication Tim should be very familiar with. Guardian Unlimited in fact won awards for it’s web site and many people are now beginning to turn to media blogs instead of buying newspapers.

My second thought is that Tim is scared. He’s a traditional PR consultant and the internet is becoming more and more powerful. Businesses are switching more of their marketing budgets on line and away from offline marketing because they’re seeing such good returns in comparison. This is obviously affecting Tim’s business and he’s trying to circumvent.

My advice to Tim: Open your mind and realise that blogging is the most prolific form of online PR. Blogging is your cousin and you’d do well to get along or you may find yourself fighting a losing battle.

To the rest of you (accountancy practices included); keep an open mind and never dismiss an idea until you have all the facts. Always take advice about an industry from industry professionals and be mindful of ulterior motives.

If you’re thinking about blogging or internet marketing in general then philipjohn is always available to answer questions without any obligation. Call him on 0844 884 5419 and he’ll help in the best way he can.

Yahoo Takes on Google Analytics

Just over a month ago I received an e-mail from IndexTools to let me know, as a customer, that the company was to be acquired by Yahoo. I’ve been a consistent user of IndexTools for a good few years now, having discovered the tool whilst evaluating analytics vendors for my previous company, so it was exciting news to me.

I immediately contacted my clients to let them know that IndexTools would soon be completely free of charge! Low a behold, on Friday, another e-mail which says,

So moving forward from here and upon your acceptance of the Yahoo! Master Terms & Conditions and Program Terms the product will be provided to you free of charge.

It’s obvious (to me, at least) that this is Yahoo’s move to compete with Google Analytics. Personally, I much prefer IndexTools over Analytics but we’ll see. Yahoo does, of course, have to play catch up but IndexTools is a damn good piece of kit and with the right effort could be a serious rival.

I wonder how long it will take to be integrated into Search Marketing.

Yahoo Sucker Punches Microsoft

I had to laugh when I read the news on the BBC site this morning that Yahoo and Google have teamed up in an advertising trial. For two weeks, Google will serve 3% of Yahoo’s ads. The article doesn’t mention which ads – I’m presuming pay-per-click ads on search results.

The move is clearly intended to fend off Microsoft who have given Yahoo a time limit to accept their offer. This deal comes the day after Yahoo announced they were purchasing IndexTools, a web analytics and PPC bid management vendor I am very familiar with, having used them for five years.

Yahoo’s share price was up 7% on the Google announcement, making life that little bit harder for Microsoft. Personally, I think a merger would be a disaster. For years, both companies have been hammering away trying to compete with Google but have never caught up because of mis-directed effort. Bringing the two together, as far as I can see, would only cause upheaval and disruption for advertisers and publishers. The end result would probably be another misguided effort that doesn’t come close to tempting advertisers away from Google.

I’m giving up on StumbleUpon

I wanted to do something very simple today. I wanted to look at the StumbleUpon profile of a guy I know who’s blog I was reading. He’d linked to it, so I clicked on it. And there began my frustration.

I have a general dislike of any web site/application/social network/whatever that asks you to login to do the simplest of things, because it’s not worth the effort. For example, if I just want to look at someone’s profile after they’ve actively encouraged me to do so, I’m not going to be bothered to sign up to a site just to look at that one profile, and then have to deal with what will probably be TWO sign-up e-mails (why it’s always two, I don’t know)  and then usually one more e-mail each week telling me how great the whole thing is. Breathe.

If that wasn’t enough, I then tried every combination of username and password I could possibly think of that I would have used to sign up (I do have a SU account) but all failed so on to the password reminder. When I got the e-mail with my password I noticed it was some random jumble of letters I would never in a million years use as my password. So I logged in and proceeded to change my password. Except I couldn’t. There is, seemingly, no way to change your password on SU. And then I remembered – I’d been here before. I’ve been annoyed with SU for this very same reason a couple of times.

Screenshot of the StumbleUpon homepageSo I figured, forget it – I’ll just go click on the link to that profile again and then get on with my life. If only. StumbleUpon decided that despite logging in only moments before, it wanted me to do so again. Bugger that for a bag of chips, and I went to the home page to login instead. Click on the thumbnail and look around for the login link. Don’t see it? No, nor me. I’ll give one hundred pounds* to anyone who can find the login link on that page.

In summary then, when I sign up I’m given a nonsensical password I can’t change, I can’t do anything until I log in which is hard enough with my brilliant password and that’s even if I manage to log in seeing as the only way to do that is to find a deep link and click on it. StumbleUpon, you’ve pissed me off and wasted my time – and I’m including the time taken to write this rant.

Now, where was I?

*I won’t really, I don’t have £100 to give away. Especially someone who can spot a link that’s right in front of my stupid face.

Intel: Choose Us, We’ll Screw with Your Computer

Intel haven’t actually said anything like that but what impression do they really expect to give, with this ad?:

Screenshot of an Intel advert

When it first loads up you see the rather evil looking (okay, red and fuzzy) word “Virus” fly towards these three Matrix-types. It is quickly caught and thrown to the ground. I’m happy with that – Intel are making me think that their technology will stop viruses before they get to my laptop. Nice.

Then the unthinkable happens. As I hover over the ad, I find my mouse pointer is also thrown towards the men. The pointer is scrunched up like a drinks can (as you can see) and then thrown to the floor. Then, it fades away. I’m left with no mouse pointer. What do I do now? I can’t do anything – I’ve lost my mouse pointer! At this point my Mom would probably hit the power button (not that Intel are targeting advertising to my Mom).

So what are you telling me, Intel? If I use your technology will I no longer be able to use my mouse pointer? Are you scared those few little pixels contain a virus? Nope,  you’ve lost and annoyed me. Good job.