We've taken on one of the most vexing problems faced by marketing teams - the monthly progress report - and not only have we reduced the time needed to create this behemoth, we've increased the amount of competitive data.
We're also taking our first steps towards allowing custom competitor lists, rather than using NAICS categories to define the competitors, as we have in the past. Now, when you create your report, it's entirely up to you as to what brands you wish to include - we'll still include the NAICS/SIC ranking in your report, but the more important ranking - how you stack up against your nominated competitors - now drives all table rankings.
Best of all - our new reports can be created right from our new home page.
One final word - the entire report is now being driven by our v3.0 API. Which means we can white-label everything Heardable, and produce beautiful custom reports under your brand - or your agency's brand.
Enjoy! And please give us feedback during the launch phase.
My wife sent me this link to graphic designer Adam Ladd's five year old talking about brands. It's pretty sweet - and somewhat revealing about what we know, and how early we know it.
Reminds of that Ted talk - the one where it was determined that 98% of kindergarden-stage kids test at genius level. There's certainly one at work here!
Okay, so you've read the news about the launch of Google's "Search plus your World" mashup - Google's latest adjustment to the way it renders search results. You've seen the arguments for and against. I've got a question for you: where did you find these arguments?
I found entire breadth of these anti-Google arguments on... Google. Including some that were absolutely scathing.
A truly evil company would not let you see any of this. They would just make changes to the way they do things, and block the discussion - end of story. Which goes to the heart of the argument that some are trying to make - what constitutes evil behavior?
Google is not evil. Evil people don't allow arguments and don't share information. The fact that Google is allowing all arguments to blosson - including those for and against their plans - allows us and them to collectively discuss and figure out what the world wants. And it might be that the world actually decides that Google Search Plus Your World is what the people decide they want.
As shown by Facebook several times over now, sometimes the world doesn't know what it wants until six weeks after they start using something they hate. Then they love it.
Note: Google, I do have an issue with paying you thousands of dollars for search, SEO, link and keyword data that remains incomplete, via your APIs*. That said, I feel a need to thank you as well, because we wouldn't have taken the time to develop our own algorithms in several key areas if your data had been enitrely trustworthy. So maybe, by withholding data, you actually helped us create some value that wouldn't have otherwise been created. If so, thank you.
Final note: There's a great article on the current state of SEO that was just published by Danny Sullivan. If you're in this business, it is well worth a read.
It's been said that today's glamorous militia leader (think Che Guevara) is tomorrow's head of city planning and infrastructure development (think - your Dad). The same thing can be said of platform developers, as they exit the protyping stage and prepare the "production-ready" environment. Today's glamorous designer is tomorrow's anonymous error handling management system engineer.
That's right. Now that we're rapidly entering our commericalization phase (watch for an exciting announcement on this later today), what's also happening is you're seeing the results of a year-long effort that has embraced not only the "big data" arts of data gathering, curation, analysis and presentation, but equally, the under-loved areas of user experience design: load balancing, flood management, query and index optimization, settings management, and error handling.
For many businesses, this transition can be extremely painful. Some developers simply don't want to lay down their arms and remove their beret - they simply weren't made to transition their skills into error handlling and query optimizing.
Wise managers will find a way to buy these engineers a ticket to Bolivia, so they can continue their work as revolutionaries. Dumb managers will allow them to push off the necessary back-end grunt work and continue the glamorous work of making the front-end ever-more shiny - a move that I know from bitter experience will lead to an extremely well-polished slippery slope down.
[Entrepreneurs, please take note of the above advice: Sell your vision, then build the city, brick by brick, - sewer system and all. You will create far more lasting value than simply putting up a pretty facade.]
At Heardable, we took the decision to start focusing on "invisible" stuff like error-handling and optimization about twelve months ago. Today, we're (quietly) launching a highly modular system that has one of the nicer error handling systems built into it that you're likely to (not) come across.
I say (not) come across, because we're trying to ensure that when a user requests a piece of data that doesn't exist, or needs to be updated, that we do as much of this automatically as possible. As with most defensive systems, our goal is to not be seen to be doing what we're doing.
Has this paid off? Yes. Several times in the past week, we've had too many requests for information. As a small, fast-growing company, our only solution to this is to expand our capacity, and push our business to the cloud, which we're doing as fast as we can. But there are going to be times when the perfect storm occurs and a system needs to kick in to take care of the user - i.e. a "fail whale" (in our world, a simple alert page) needs to appear and tell the user what is going on.
Fortunately for us, this is happening less and less because we started in on our planning early, and moved the UX to the forefront of what we focus on daily. Right now, we probably spend as much time removing and handling conflicts and delays as we do adding capabilities, which feels like the right balance.
I like to think we're winning the battle. If you fail to see our version of the fail whale appear, you can be confident that we're winning as well. if you do - our apologies - and please know that we're working hard to make those appearances less and less.
Note: For all the "fail whale" talk above, we don't have one. Our current alert page is just that - a simple orange and gray message that lets you know we're ove the limit. Could this be improved? Sure - if you have any great ideas about what Heardable should adopt as its "out of connections" Fail Whale, please email me at email@example.com. Hand-drawn cartoons, creatures and animals will certainly be given strong preference for inclusion. We'll even add a credit if you wish.
*You need to have been a regular on Twitter two years ago to get this reference - a big white cartoon "fail whale" designed byheld up by birds, that used to appear whenever Twitter's servers were overloaded with "Too Many Tweets". The engineers at Twitter did a stunning job of focusing on managing the user experience and adding and improving that infrastructure - and deserve a large amount of the credit for the company's considerable sucess since.
Hopefully, we're headed down that same path. Stay tuned.
Watching Yahoo struggle forth is an exercise in frustration - like watching the final scene in Gladiator.
Actually, it's worse - because the wounds have been all self-inflicted. First, the board spurned an offer that would have made shareholders rich, and handed control of the company to an entirely new set of people (obviously, this is needed.)
Then in the immediate aftermath, they decide to double down and make the Yahoo content even less navigable, turn their once-great Yahoo Ecosystem (read: APIs) into a befuddling minefield, and make the user experience for advertisers, would-be social media users, and would-be buying customers ever more horrible. Then they topped that dubious set of accomplishments by devaluing the value of a Yahoo user id to the point of worthlessness, relaxing their once-heroic mobile efforts, and removing themselves from serious contention in the cloud, in search technology, and in social media.
Now, they have a new CEO. How long can user forums, email and dusty bookmarks lodged inside ancient PC browsers sustain a business? You're about to find out. Unless Scott Thompson is super-smart, the answer is: not very long. Can he fix it? That all depends - most of the core stuff that could be used to rebuild the business is really, really broken:
1. Yahoo user IDs are worthless, and virtually unusable outside Yahoo
When was the last time a site let you log in using Yahoo? When was the last time you needed to? Yahoo doesn't have a front-and-center strategy that could expand the use of its user identities - I find it consistently easier to log in to Yahoo using Google - than using my Yahoo credentials, and my Yahoo credentials are useless almost anywhere else on the web, either for commerce or access. Bye, bye social network, content-sharing and commerce partnerships.
2. Yahoo's confusing APIs, poor navigation, unreliable results, and "corporate' legal stance make it almost impossible for developers to use them
Yahoo's APIs - once the cutting edge of what was available - are becoming harder to use, license and manage every day. Try finding the billing page within the developer area and you'll instantly know everything you need to about Yahoo's other commercial businesses - and general approach to user interface design. Try understanding how "non-commercial use" expands their business when everyone is speeding in the opposite direction, and I predict you will, like most of us, just give up and try one of the 4,000 other sources of data. And what's with the substantial statistical differences between Yahoo Search results, and the results I'm paying you for? Why don't they match?
By the way, if any of you out there are studying user interface design, and what to see an example of what NOT to do, sign up for Yahoo BOSS (the custom Yahoo search API that is one of the few Yahoo APIs we still use.) I guarantee you will come away from the experience inspired - as in, inspired that there is much still to be done in the world of UX design.
3. Yahoo's own social media presense is zip, zero, nowhere
Sure, Yahoo Finance and News still get lots of hits. But the trend is, more and more, we are getting our news by following the stories that friends recommend on the (non-Yahoo) social networks that are the new web front end. Yahoo 360 has less users than Anderson Cooper has blood-stained white t-shirts. At Heardable, we track over a hundred social networks. With the single exception of Flickr, which remains a great, but internally under-loved service, Yahoo ranks at the very, very bottom.
In fact, when I go take a peek at the new Social Network Utilization Map on Heardable, I can't even find (non-Flickr) Yahoo nets unless I first expand my results to show all 100+ social networks - and then finally, there they are, with almost zero presense. This, on top of a massive email base of tens of millions of users? Unforgiveable! What was Carol Bartz doing the whole time she was there? Did she ever look at the user database, and think "social"? Obviously not...
4. Yahoo Stores need to morph into something more like Facebook Pages, pronto...
If you're a business utilizing Yahoo's commerce, you're probably in one of the few areas of Yahoo that actually does what it says on the box. But how do you make users aware of the fact you exist, outside of Yahoo (and Bing?) Answer: not very easily.
5. Yahoo's advertiser front end sucks - indeed, as evidenced above, Yahoo's front end to virtully every possible customer - sucks
Why is Google so great? Because their user experience is a breeze. I can add advertising to my brand new site in a few minutes, and everything is really well-integrated, from AdWords, through to Google Analytics, site optimization, you name it.
Okay, I'm going to stop here. You get the idea. The problem with Yahoo is it has sat resolutely on its behind and watched the world go by. I'm sure inside Yahoo there were some really caring people who never, ever got a chance to do what they felt was needed. But I'm also sure that there are an equal number of dummies that really need to be shown the door.
On that subject - I had a meeting in Yahoo a few years back and sat in a conference room next to the executive offices. On the massive room-wide white board, someone had laid out Yahoo's corporate strategy. There were many, many interconnecting boxes, reiterating the need over and over again to create a "larger audience for our content" - but seemed to be missing any of the steps that would enable this to happen, including utilizing the brand, user base, or expanding via social media. The map told us everything we needed to know about where Yahoo was headed - i.e. into the abyss.
Can Yahoo be saved? Now is the time for Scott Thompson to start walking the halls and talking with everyone to see who gets it. Time to reach down and find that small band of repressed smart people that still work there. Time to finally give them their chance to make Yahoo great again.
It can be done, but only with a massive, company-wide effort - starting with the firing of the people responsible for this mess, and the hiring of some brilliant internal or external folks (from Facebook?) with great ideas and strong experience in building and sustaining innovative, web-wide user experiences and brands.
I just checked out the new StumbleUpon site, and I am very pleased to report that the redesign they released today is stunning.
Most importantly, the experience I had just now was technically flawless - no floating whales, no bunnies - in fact, the only time I managed to get the Gnawing Bunny to appear was when I purposely searched for something I knew wouldn't be there - and the site still behaved as it should. Investors - StumbleUpon's engineers deserve a steak dinner, and a bonus - nice work, guys.
The other surprise was the fact that the site still feels like StumbleUpon. Why should that surprise me? Because, dear reader, I learned long ago, that with few exceptions, no one wants change more often than brand owners.
Way back in the day, at age 19, I won a radio station competition and ended up working as an advertising copywriter at a major ad agency (George Patterson/Bates in Adelaide, Australia.) Before you can say "where is the next revenue coming from?", I learned very quickly that no one tires of ads, logos, signs, business cards and slogans faster than the client.
It is SO easy to sell a new logo and/or slogan to an ad agency client that there should be a law against it. Seriously.
Want the client to approve a new web site? Just ask them. They've viewed their own web site five gazillion times. And, unlike their customers, who've seen it one millioneth of that amount of times, they are sick to death of it. Does the client want a redesign? A new logo? A new TV ad? A different jingle? Just ask! Ka-ching!
This sad knowledge is why it was so gratifying to go onto StumbleUpon's site and see that they have retained their personality, and enough of the look and feel of old for it not to feel like a new place (unlike, say, Digg, or, ahem, Friendster). This is credit-worthy - that StumbleUpon somehow managed to avoid the temptation to throw away all that is old, and easily-identified by the customer, means they won't find themselves out in the cold, like Digg, who managed to achieve the complete opposite of greater loyalty during their redesign, and alienated technical and non-technical customers alike (the fact Digg apears to have their act together now is too-little, too late, really.)
This all goes to show that StumbleUpon has some smart, long-term thinkers running stratagy. How's this translating to verifiable success on Heardable? StumbleUpon is among our top 1% performing brands, and recently cracked the Top 10 of all listed Social networks on Heardable (we track over 120 social networks, including all the ones you use, plus some you've never heard of, and we run every site in our database against them every time we do a scan - to see them all, just click the link and increase the results shown.)
According to our analysis, StumbleUpon is sitting at #9 with a bullet, with more than 1.2% of all sites we measure linking to them. That number is surely to rise with StumbleUpon's new, much easier to understand, channel strategy for users and brands. Watch this space.
Yesterday, former GOP front-runner Herman Cain announced he was dropping out of the 2012 race for President. When interviewed by Reuters, several of his followers told us what most of us already know: it wasn't the affairs that bothered them, it was the denials: the covering up.
Yes, in trying to be the "perfect brand", Cain found out the hard way that people prefer their candidates/brands to be... well, a little more human perhaps. And honest with the customer.
Nobody has learned that lesson better than another Atlanta-based brand - Coca-Cola. At the same moment Cain was announcing his retirement from the race, Coca-Cola distributors were busy apologizing to retailers and consumers and re-stocking shelves with Coke's traditional red-colored cans, after a disastrous campaign involving a white-colored can.
The decorative can - the centerpiece of a campaign that was designed to ring in the Holidays, confused a lot of folks and annoyed Diet Coke buyers as they grabbed a can that looked like Diet Coke and instead gave themselves the sugar rush/calories they'd been trying to avod.
Coke's solution to the problem? Admit the error. Wind back the campaign - totally. As Coca-Cola learned way back during the "new Coke" campaign, you can actually earn a decent amount of fresh new brand equity from admitting your imperfections (and your love and respect of the customer and his views.) Whereas not admitting you're at fault - and especially not getting to the heart fo thigns - can detract from your brand equity significantly.
Full marks to Coca-Cola this week. Herman, next time you run, maybe you should drive across town first and sit down and take counsel from the masters of building brand equity on the back of imperfect ideas (there's a reason why Warren Buffett has always loved these guys.)
Anyway, back to the national stage. Do you think Herman Cain could have stayed in the race by admitting his "imperfections"? could he have weathered the storm? Of course, we'll never know - and only Herman Cain knows for sure how much of the noise translates into past reality. But one thing is sure - to a man/woman, Cain's followers are saying loud and clear that they wish he'd just "come clean with the dirty" - so they could then make a call as to which alleged womanizer they want as President, rather than attempt to appear "perfect."
Of course a brand needs to provide as great a customer experience as possible. But absolute perfection, as it turns out, may not be an absolute positive when it comes to brand-building.
Note: We removed Herman Cain from our list of canidates at our SocialStrawPoll.com site this morning. Which is fine, because it's been looking like Newt vs. Mitt vs. Paul for about two months now, according to the major social networks.
Okay all you long-suffering WordPress site managers, we have news: Heardable now supports mobile device detection for WordPress sites.
We're not just checking for mobile format readiness, we're checking for device-readiness as well. Which means if you have a WordPress mobile theme or mobile service pack installed, we're able to tell you which devices you're supporting, and provide you with a Portable subscore - and an indication (by market share) of who you might be missing out on by not supporting that device.
Want to see just how dramatic the effect is going to be on your WordPress mobile score? Just head on over to the WordPress site Heardable brand profile, or check out one of our favorite WordPress plugin experts, alexking.org for the before and afters. In both cases, the scores jumped by more than 100 points out of 1,000. That's a big step up.
Want to get full credit for your WordPress mobile plugin? Just enter your domain into Heardable and hit the orange RESCAN button on the home page.
If you still don't see a jump in your score, send us a message using the Portable feedback panel on the home page, and tell us. This is brand new and there may be some tweaking still to do - you know the score.
Marisa Guthrie of Reuters argued today that the brewing controversy over "Skins" is bad for the MTV brand - because advertisers are forming a line in the wake of allegations of "child pornography" and the like, and pulling their ads.
Hogwash. First of all, when it comes a brand like MTV, controversies like this are milk and honey. The MTV audience isn't looking for safe and sweet prime-time fare. They are looking for something to wake them up, add some energy to the moment, throw up some new ways of looking at the world.
"Skins" is perfectly cast for its audience - and because the smarter advertisers know this, not every advertiser is going to wet their pants and run away. Some may even be brave enough to see this will see this protest for what it is - the constant pushing of the moral envelope by radical conservative groups.
Nothing of this sort happened when the show was aired in England. Zip. Emotional parents did not write letters to Taco Bell. No one tied it to fields of dead birds or floods or lakes filled with dead fish as yet another sign of the End of Days. The show just ran, and quite successfully. UK advertisers seemed to have been content to back what was, in essence, a very similar show. So why is the show provoking controversy in the US?
Consider this: in many US states, such as Texas, it is legally possible to marry (and, presumably, have sex) when you're 14 years old. In Arizona and Hawaii, you need to be 15. But in Minnesota, a note form your parents and a nod from the judge will allow you to bed down with a 13 year old. Think this only happens in the Wild West? In New Hampshire, girls can marry (and again, for clarification, have sex) at age 13. Even in the heart of civilization - New York City - 14 year olds can wed.
So now that we've established that in at least three of the four largest US states, children can legally marry and have sex, what is this controversy about, exactly? And, if having sex at this age is such a big deal, then why don't these advertisers penalize New York for allowing "under-age sex" by pulling their ads from Times Square?
Over the years, the smarter programming executives at HBO and MTV - including the folks that green-lit "Skins" - there have recognized that there is for more audience to be gained from "telling it like it is" rather than "telling it like your politicians/parents would like it to be." Smart managers step in behind their shows and support them through these temporary outbursts - because they know that if they don't, their opponents will out-talk them, which is what is happening here.
This would appear to be already happening. The producers are being vocal in their defense of the show, but MTV management? Deers in headlights. Yes, rather than fight off the "kiddie porn" charges as the baseless BS they are, they've chosen, essentially, to not say a whole lot. Which is a bad idea. In the Internet age, you have three options: stand fast, capitulate, or "not hold an opinion."
If you're not prepared to apologize deeply, or take and stand and fight until the fighting is done, you may as well stand on the rail and dive over - because the argument is going to be taken out of your hands, and you'll be handed the outcome.
TV channels tend to oscillate between being run by lawyers and being run by programmers. If there is any looming threat to MTV from "Skins", it is this: if this thing gets really out of control, the lawyers will be brought out of their coffins to take over management of the channel - which will see this brand wander back into the wilderness and relive one of its occasional periods of lost relevance. And that would truly be bad news.
Want to see what Heardable thinks of the MTV brand? Click here
I just took a look at the database and we've got 1.2 million brand domains in there now - categorized by NAICS code, zip code, and web site performance.
Is yours among our 1.2 million brands? Come take a look at your Heardable Score!
Well folks, the wait is over. Introducing Heardable 1.1 - the super-fast version of Heardable that requires almost no waiting and delivers data on more than 438 social presence and online brand optimzation (OBO) datapoints in the blink of an eye.
How fast is the new version of Heardable? Unless you're not in our regularly-scanned top 100,000 list, or have not been scanned in the past fifty days, your score is come to come up almost instantly now - in fact, we've shaved more than 95% of the wait time.
Note: Heardable 1.1 requires you to scan your site, if we haven't already done so automagically. If you find your site hasn't been scanned in the past month, simply go to the Heardable brand directory page, hit the "rescan" link, and this will populate the database with brand new settings, courtesy of an on-demand, immediate scan of your site. Every time you bring up your site after that, it will take almost no time at all.
So if you're one of the 25,000 visitors that tried Heardable last month - we look forward to hearing from you as you take Heardable 1.1 for a ride. We think you're going to like what you see.
My wife and I took a trip to the Riviera Maya last week, and before we left we did what we always do and consulted the reviews at Tripadvisor.com - a social network focused on traveller reviews.
This action, increasingly repeated by travellers worldwide every day currently has the hospitality industry up in arms. Why? Because after decades of travelling to places with only sunny advertisements to guide us, we can now seek real-time information on exactly how much construction is going on at our hotel of choice, whether the staff give a hoot, and whether we should eat in or go out - and if so, where.
Naturally, the hospitality industry is up in arms about this. Travel to the major hospitality industry sites and you'll discover much commentary on the effect of "overly negative reviews" and the problem of competitors slipping fake reviews in beside the good ones. What these sites rarely mention is that the fake reviews issue is more than balanced out by the number of fake reviews that are planted by the hoteliers and restauranters themselves - often obviously so.
In the midst of such confusion, it was nice to come across a sane white paper on the subject, courtesy of author Michael Kasavana, Ph.D., NCE, CHTP, a NAMA Professor in Hospitality Business for the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University. This 2008 paper, which can be found here, contains a number of solid observations about branding and the importance of using social networks for their strengths - because as we all know, they aren't going away anytime soon.
Among a raft of other good advice, Kasavana provides a list of what hospitality industry brand managers should be doing with social networks, in order to achieve the maximum positive outcomes for their brands (the list is actually a pretty useful checklist for brand managers in any industry.) Instead of bemoaning their existence, here's what you should be using social networks to do:
1. Stimulate Customer Engagement
2. Create Brand Awareness
3. Enhance Brand Equity
4. New Product/Service Introduction
5. Existing Product/Service Development
6. Identify and Monitor Opinion Influencers
7. Develop/Refine Marketing Plans
8. Leverage Digital Inputs to Improve
Also listed in the paper are a number of dedicated hospitality social networks, and their user pops as of fall, 2008 - along with a number of sites dedicated to the rants of current and former hospitality employees. I have to admit I coudln't resist taking a peek - here's the pick of the bunch in my book - BitterWaitress.com - perfect for a Saturday afternoon smile or two (or a look of abject horror if you happen to find yourself a target).
Lots of improvements this week. We've removed the login requirement for several features, fixed several small bugs, improved speed enormously, and fully-integrated with Twitter. Plus, our scanner is now sitting on its own dedicated box.
We just launched our beta Rails implementation, which enables multi-threaded scanning and far faster results. So far, the results are very positive. Scan times for single scans have improved dramatically (by about 190% over least week's times - which is approximtely an 18x improvement over our November beta). The bottom line: Heardable Scores and subscores are now rendering in a fraction of the time they used to, for every brand. Thank you Rails!
Next, we'll be switching the multi-domain comparison feature over to the new code within the next week to ten days, which should boost the speed of that feature even more than what we're seeing for single domain scans. The reason? Our new implementation uses a multi-threaded approach to scan brand domains simultaneously, enabling us to return comparison scan results in a fraction of the time (our first beta, by comparison, was on a shared box and used a single-threaded approach.)
What else? We've responded to your requests that we open up the site a little more by removing the need to log in if you wish to use the Brand Directory. Now, you can just go there directly, or from any Twitter search result, and see Heardable Scores and subscores for a target brand in real-time. Give it a try - click here to go to the Brand Directory. The default brand is Heardable, but you can search for any online brand (or category), chart your brand's progress over time, and even compare up to five brands at once.
Finally, we've started pushing the Heardable scan results live to our Twitter feed - that functionality went live for all scans (including the five-brand comparison score scan) this morning. We're going to keep tweaking this over the next few days to come up with the optimum presentation method (presentation is everything when you're dealing with 140 character limits and variable brand names.)
We hope you enjoy these updates - drop us a line if you do, so we can include your feedback in our growing list of user testimonials.
jetBlue is a well-managed brand - and increasingly, the best-managed of all airline brands when it comes to online optimization.
A scan this morning reveals the airline scores highly in many areas other airlines don't - such as support for mobile (and mobile apps), searchability, and shared content.
With a Heardable Score of 681, jetBlue is flying higher than all other airlines of the sixty we've measured.
Like the Superbowl, the Olympics are one of those branding opportunities where the number of variables turn the ROI into an absolute crapshoot - but that hasn't stopped some of the world's biggest brands from lining up to sponsor the games and compete for your business. Plus, it gives us a great chance to line up the nine premium-tier sponsor brands and hand out some Heardable Gold, Silver and Bronze.
So let the games begin! Let's announce our nine contestants:
Atos Origin (France)
Leaving aside the special-purpose landing pages so we have an even start, let's plug each brand's domain into the Heardable engine and see what comes out. Judges - get those scoring paddles ready... because here are the results:
Acer (Taiwan): 315
Atos Origin (France): 143
Coca-Cola (USA): 258
GE (USA): 293
McDonalds (USA): 414
Omega Watches (Switzerland): 169
Panasonic (Japan): 385
Samsung (Korea): 483
Visa (USA): 363
Which means that our Olympic brand champions are:
GOLD: Samsung (Korea): 483
SILVER: McDonalds (USA): 414
BRONZE: Panasonic (Japan): 385
Our congratulations to Samsung (and Korea) for a well-deserved win. To see what Samsung did right, you can check out their Heardable Subscores here - or you can replay the competition using our five brand comparison score tool.
If you're a reader of ZDnet or TechCrunch, you already know about PleaseRobMe.com - a new site that supposedly publishes geolocation information from Twitter to tell the world that your house is currently empty, because you just boarded a flight for London, or checked into a hotel in Singapore.
I've just been in both these places. Like many folks in business, I have to spend a reasonable amount of time on the road. The idea that my Tweets could lead a burglar to visit a home only occuplied by my wife and baby is not something I had previously considered. I have also spent much of my working life chasing computer viruses and other nasties, and inventing new technologies to keep people safe.
And now up pops a site that provides - via a handy form-based interface, no less - a list of "empty houses" that burglars can attack, safe in the knowledge that their occupants are absent? To quote the site:
The goal of this website is to raise some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc.
Surely this cannot be. I'm guessing this site is some kind of microsite designed for a different purpose. A score of 400 "out of the box" indicates the people behind it know what they are doing, from the standpoint of Internet marketing. The lead story in Google News? Mentions in all of the leading tech blogs?
PleaseRobMe.com's stated aim is to make people aware of the dangers of geolocation. I believe the real aim of the site will only become known in the next few days, as the "mainstream media" begins swallowing the bait and starts the inevitable push of users to the site.
If I'm wrong, and these guys don't shout "April Fool" and pull back the curtains to reveal some fabulous geolocation blocking tool (or movie/TV show/gaming site) a few days from now, that would be rather foolhardy of the site's owners - because they are going to lose a lot of money the first time they get called into a civil court to answer the charge that they aided burglars in robbing empty houses.
Call me an optimist, but for now, I'm betting this is a marketing play pure and simple, and looking forward to a lesson in the power of web marketing. Let's hope for that outcome.
This weekend, my friends Jeremy and Anne invited me to spend a night with them at their cottage in the middle of rural Herefordshire. There was just one catch - Anne, a successful personal life coach with a global client base, has just launched a new web site and wanted some advice on ways she could improve it. Naturally, the first thing I did was enter her site into Heardable.
The resulting score of 125 (out of 1,000) was not too bad for a first-time score, but it also indicated that Ann's site needed some work. First, we looked at the positives - the key requirement of Anne's site was to enable new customers to find her, via word of mouth. With an Actionable Score of 95 (based on inclusion of contact forms, email and phone number), Anne was well on her way to funneling those new customers to her business.
Her Portable Score indicated that no mobile redirects were in place yet - a useful addition to any site that includes a blog, as Anne's site does. I didn't have access to her core code or I would have added it on the spot. One of the scripts I highly recommend for novice programmers can be found here. It took me ten minutes to set this up the first time I used it - it is very nicely done. I've no doubt Ann'es developers will have this up in no time.
The next thing we looked at was Anne's Sociable Score. One of the things we were able to do within a few minutes was quickly improve Anne' Sociable Score by adding a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel. We also posted a few stories to Digg.com - one of the easiest ways for a new site to get noticed - and also uploaded some of her articles to Reddit and similar aggregators. Within literally half an hour, we were able to create a number of new connections on leading social media and search sites.
Shareable Scores rank the ability to interact, and with her RSS feed up and running, Ann scored well in this area. We made a note to include the feed within her home page - a move that will increase the dynamic nature of the site.
To improve Anne's Measurable Score, we made an entry in Google Webmaster Tools and asked her web developers to add Google Analytics (still one of the best tools on the market) and GetClicky (a terrific alternative analytics platform). I am personally a big fan of Quantcast as well - I love their demographic breakdowns.
Finally, we looked at the Searchable Score. Because the site is so new, it hasn't yet been indexed by Google, Bing, or the other major search engines. Of all the scoring areas, this is the one that will require the most leg-work over the coming weeks (those of you that have been through this process are nodding as you read this). But with the addition of the great little AddThis widget to her site (a tool that facilitates sharing), and a bit of hard work, it will now only be a matter of time until her site starts showing up in the major indexes.
While doing this, we were all struck by how difficult it is for first-time web business operators to utilize some of the tools out there on the web - some were truly incomprehensible, and almost impossible for first-time users to navigate. Heardable, on the other hand, provides a very simple interface that doesn't need any instruction. It's easy to use. As a tool for web designers, Heardable has a lot to offer in terms of immediate benefits and advice.
Note: if you're a female executives looking for inspiration and guidance, you should contact Ann through her site. If you're a first-time web business operator, enter your domain into our engine at the top of the page and check out your Heardable Score. You may find some valuable pointers on what you should do next.
We went into this second round beta of Heardable over-cautious and under-expecting - which is the opposite to where our brains were at in November. Which makes this week's feedback expecially sweet.
The bottom line? So far, the results of our Zoomerang surveys are encouraging us to keep paying our hosting bills: most of you are loving Heardable. We're hearing nice things about the site - and our future propsects as a start-up in the brand analytics space. Which, after months of really hard work, is extremely welcome.
But let's not stop here - if you haven't yet filled out our survey form, we want to hear from you - the changes we make right now will be the changes that we take public. So if you haven't visited Heardable yet, please do so - and log in and let us know what you think.
We've started adding user quotes to the web site already - our aim is to recreate the basecamp.com buzzwall - but for brand optimization analytics. if you're cool with us adding your quote to our wall, please let us know when you contribute.
Andrew C - your quote made it into the title of this blog - thank you for your feedback!
I sometimes like picking a category and pushing URLs through the Heardable engine, just to see who is nailing it, and who... well, hasn't a clue. Leafing through Wired tonight, I spotted an ad for Camels (which I used to smoke, quite happily, a long long time ago) and their new website.
Here's what ran through my mind, prior to punching in the URL. If you're a cigarette manufacturer, you're pretty-much down to a handful of advertising venues - outdoor (and even that is under threat or gone in many places), events (such as Formula One - but pretty girls in white overalls handing out cigarettes can only scale so far), and online (think Joe Camel in drag - can you say "viral"? - But nothing that interesting can be found at camelsnus.com)
Keep those thoughts in mind - and stay with me as I punch these revered brands into Heardable. What do we get? (Note: A lot of these brands redirect to tobaccopleasure.com - which isn't exactly an excuse, but could account for some of the uniformly low scores...)
Marlboro: 260 out of 1,000
Camel: 211 out of 1,000
RJ Reynolds: 202 out of 1,000
Winston: 129 out of 1,000
Philip Morris: 94 out of 1,000
Newport: 94 out of 1,000
Kool: 94 out of 1,000
Virginia Slims? Not even in the first hundred results - no official site on Wikipedia. This was once one of the most powerful brands in the business - and still holds down 2% of the share today.
Way back when I worked as a junior copywriter in Adelaide, Australia, it was still legal to advertise anything anywhere. And as brands go, these brands were then much-revered. It's hard to believe that they have fallen so far from the public view - but even harder to believe that more work isn't being done by their current managers to create value in the places where they are still legal (I'm not condoning this, or hoping it happens, just frankly amazed that a multi-billion-dollar industry isn't pulling out the stops).
You would think that these brand managers would at least make the web a great place for people that are *seeking* these brands - and be leading the charge when it comes to viral marketing. But they're clearly not.
Have the tobacco sellers, like so many cigarette smokers in recent years, just given up?
Dear "300", our second-round private beta is now live. We learned a ton from the first round - we'd appreciate your feedback again this time as we gear up for the public launch.
Please send us your feedback - we look forward to hearing from you.