iMedia Connection gives us brief looks at how General Motors, Sun Microsystems and Wells Fargo are reaching out to their customers using blogs in the article titled 3 Big Brands Reinvent Themselves with Blogs. In addition to showing how these companies are making use of their blogs, the article also provides some useful advice for companies who are thinking of starting their own customer-facing blogs.
Back during the days of the dot-com bubble, the quality and quantity of swag available at conferences was nothing short of amazing; I'd often have to buy a cheap duffel bag in order to haul the promotional booty, which I then gave as gifts to my co-workers. Here at the Ajax Experience, I'm feeling deja vu -- while the "exhibit hall" outside the sessions is occupied by only a handful of vendors, the swag and prizes available from both them and the conference organizers is impressive.
One big surprise is AOL's table. Ever since The September That Never Ended, AOL has had a pretty bad rep among the developer set. In the meantime, other "portal" players -- Google, MSN and Yahoo! as well as portal-like entities such as Amazon and eBay -- have been boosting both traffic and developer love by becoming programmable by providing APIs, through which specialized sites and mash-ups can be built. What, you might ask, is AOL doing here?
It turns out that they're here to woo the developer community and promote their developer site, dev.aol.com and their APIs and encouraging developers to use AOL services for their mash-ups. They've been surprising a lot of developers (myself included) by opening their pitch with "Did you know that MapQuest is an AOL property?"
They realize that they're late to the party, so they've gone to some trouble to make sure that their swag is good. They've created a series of "mash-up" t-shirts, like the "Geek" one I'm showing in the photo below:
There are 6 shirts in the set. They're called "mash-up" shirts because you and your friends can wear different ones and rearrange yourselves -- that's the "mash-up" -- to form cute nerdy catchphrases. They've been very popular; people have been lining up for them here. Here's the set:
Some of these shirts may seem weird out of context: "Garden" will make people think you're into horticulture, and wearing the "unwalled" may convince people that you're either homeless or have poor impulse control.
Also on their table: USB cable extension cords, developer-friendly stickers (I found the Unix-hacker-friendly
chmod 777 aol sticker amusing), quick reference sheets and a postcard announcing a contest for the best mash-up using AOL APIs. They've also included an AOL-branded sprial-bound notebook in the knapsack given to every attendee (I'll cover the knapsack's contents in a later entry).
AOL's going to have a long, tough climb towards respectability, but they seem to be working hard at it.
WebProNews has an article titled Business Blogs and Customer Connectivity, which looks at the characteristics of sucessful business blogs. It says that many of the best "b-blogs" (business blogs) provide their readers with a look at the:
- Company represented.
- Individual heading that company.
- News that affects the company and its customers.
- Links that may be beneficial to the customers.
- Personality behind the logo.
Rolf Anweiler of Brand Republic says that newsletters are the most widely distributed and most established form of email marketing and an indispensable part of the communications strategy for many companies. He says that the six important factors for implementing a successful email newsletter are:
- PLACE How the newsletter is integrated into a website
- PROCESS How easy is it to subscribe
- PERMISSION Are data protection regulations being adhered to and how is permission gained from the subscriber?
- PERIODICITY Is the timing and frequency of the newsletter right?
- PERSONALISATION Is it tailored to the interests of the reader?
- PRESENTATION How good is the newsletter design and layout?
I'm not sure how I'd react if a user of something I'd developed came up to me and called it "the most white male fascist tool I’ve ever had the misfortune to use."
Dan Russell, one of the writers at Creating Passionate Users did the right thing when it happened to him. He took a deep breath and asked "And what made you feel this way?"
It may not be pleasant to deal with a customer who's all fired up about your product or service for the wrong reasons, but as the article Screaming Users Considered Good points out, you can learn a lot from users who are struggling with it, don't "get it" or have had a strong negative reaction to it.
"If Madonna was Marketing 1.0," says the entry in the blog Chartreuse, "then Paris Hilton is Marketing 2.0. She’s a real life version of what value is and how it is created today. Every web developer should pay attention to her."
The full story is at the article Why Paris Hilton is Famous (Or Understanding Value in a Post-Madonna World).