Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Viral vs. Social – What Is The Difference?

Thursday, 07. October 2010 by Anna Billstrom

Viral: when a marketing campaign takes on a life of its own.
Social: using social networking applications in your multi-channel (email/site/direct mail) campaign.

Viral example: almost anything that use a trope or motif that is embraced and reproduced by others, at no cost or expense by the company involved, such as, BlendTec

Social example: A marketing campaign that uses new social applications and existing social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. to further its goals. Example: Zappos.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have attended a conference seminar or read an article that was completely misnamed- not viral at all- and thus has been mis-used and abused in all of the time that has passed since it’s introduction. It’s not it’s fault, but the definition has been muddied.

Because I consider very specific social marketing being the use of social networks and social network tools- Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, etc. Viral has actually been around for a while, back to Guerrilla Marketing days, back to the “pay someone’s toll and add your business card.” Social marketing could be very un-viral, hiring interns to tap away twitter messages all day. Viral marketing could avoid all uses of social network tools- see example of business card at the toll booth.

Well, the distinction is muddied because most, if not all, social marketing campaigns aspire to viral. We all want to be the BlendTec of [insert your industry here].

Time for a facelift? – Newsletters

Wednesday, 29. September 2010 by Gavin Handley

Had the same newsletter template/design for 12 or more months? It is a good time for a facelift. Here are a few reasons why.
- It’s a good opportunity to do some in-depth analysis on what is working and what is not. If a section of your newsletter is not performing, yank it or change it up in the template. If anything, your readers will appreciate a fresh look. 

- It goes without saying from best practices point of view you should always be adapting your emails to contend with image rendering issues etc.

- From a design stand point, try and keep it simple but aesthetically pleasing, and don’t be afraid of white space. It will clearly define your content.

Once you have your new template, now is the time to optimize your newsletter. I think all e-marketers struggle with how much is too much, or too little! Each month I suggest selecting a section of the newsletter and do an A – B test, example, if you have top 10 tips:

1) Version A- Feature 1 tip with a CTA to all 10 tips

2) Version B- Feature 3 tips with a CTA to all 10 tips

This is a great exercise, depending on the content I found anything from a 20% lift in click-through to a 20% decline.

Change is good – here is the header image layout for Gallery Exposure, that was tested well over 4 years:

The Demise of Email

Thursday, 15. October 2009 by Anna Billstrom

This is the third time I’ve written about the death of email- and anyone who blogs in this space is all too familiar with the claims (oddly by those not in the know). Basically: email is about as dead as your social security number, your physical address, or HTML. WSJ, never quite hip to stuff tech, is scared and from their vantage, I can see that it’s a wild world of web2.0, nay 3.0 marketing out there, it’s confusing and bewildering. But have no fear, email will always be used, until something more dependable and better comes along, and, more importantly, is trusted by an evergrowing base of users.

I agree that the usage of email is shifting. More and more people are using email as a notification service, not as a message carrier. “Oh I got a note on Facebook.” or, “Oh I should visit my bill pay site.” Could other technical tools do this? Sure. But it’s not about what’s technically available to the consumer, but what they trust. More and more demographics- beyond the early adopters- are getting onto email. As many email marketers know, focusing on early adopters (as WSJ is trying to do, 3 years too late) only opens up that segment. If you are Apple or Threadless, that’s great. But if you’re selling mutual funds and radial tires, you probably don’t care about the 30-35 geeky male nerd who cycles to work and spends his money as he earns it.

I’ve noticed during the recession, that more businesses have started focusing on their email vendors, departments and employees skilled in these areas, because it is a measurable, dependable marketing channel. Is it the future of tech? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not intrinsically enmeshed in the future.

More reading:
Mark Brownlow’s Three Years And Still Going Strong; his comments at the end are great and very useful.
Kristin Gregory over at Bronto does a round-up: Best of the Blogosphere: Embedded Video and the Slow Death of Email
Bob Frady, “Never Trust Anyone Under 30″, I agree in that it says more about the East Coast constantly focusing on high tech as a youth industry (and thus I blame the dot-com bomb on them) but that’s another post.

Social Media Basics: Email Frequency

Tuesday, 06. October 2009 by Anna Billstrom

This is a series of basic questions, and tips, for email marketing.
Question: How frequently can, or should, I email?

Answer: The quick response is once a week. Very few of your customers will get upset if you email them once a week. Some folks use 1 every 5 business days, as a rule of thumb.

The longer answer depends on what kind of content you have in your email. Some email, such as daily stock alerts, can be sent every day. If your customer selects subscription with some kind of tip to frequency- “bi-monthly newsletter,” for example. Otherwise, if it’s regular promotional email “white sale,” etc. then you really should just send it once a week.

This frequency control is why more and more marketers are moving towards lifecycle, triggered, event email. That means the schedule isn’t dependent on you, the marketer, but on the user’s interaction with your site or products. Recipients don’t mind an email if it is super relevant to their communication with you.

A quick word about metrics: a way to find out the perfect frequency for your email is to do the following reporting work:
Determine the cost of acquiring email.
Determine the lifetime value of the average recipient on your site.
Watch and monitor the number of unsubscriptions per campaign, and the number of received emails per average user.

Balancing the ratio of acquisitions to unsubscriptions, along with the value of an email (the lifetime spend) enables you to carefully moderate the frequency with which you send emails. Once you lose a subscriber, it is very hard to get them back.

Blogging/Videocasting/Podcasting Basic Steps

Tuesday, 28. July 2009 by Anna Billstrom

I was recently on a podcast, and after listening to it, once it was post-production, had a lot of “constructive criticism.” The funny thing is that criticism wasn’t just about podcasting, the aural experience, or using the myriad of technical tools available to auditory editors. Nope, it was just good writing.

1) Make your point quickly. Especially with video and podcasting, users can’t graze or glance through material, so get to the main point, gist, angle, funny quickly. David Sedaris uses the “40-second rule” as does most of This American Life. Make your joke in 40 seconds.

2) Why are they here? Why should they listen? Think of your audience and why they’re giving you their precious time. Imagine in your head a composite audience member- some readers you know about or just guess who your ideal reader would be, and give them reasons to stay.

3) Short is good. I jumped into the podcast in 20 minutes. 20 minutes of the host rambling. I honestly can’t tell my friends to listen to it because they have to hear this guy for that long. (Actually I tell them to fast forward to 20 minutes).

4) Be niche. It’s an easy way to get a dedicated audience. This isn’t a requirement, just a tip.

Probably the best way to learn from good podcasts, videocasts, and blogs, is to show them.


Stuff You Missed in History Class (
WNYC Radio Lab (
This American Life (
Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (

Illdoctrine Hip Hop Video (
Steve Isaacs (
Bronto TV (

The Re-Send & Other Cost-Cutting Techniques

Wednesday, 15. July 2009 by Anna Billstrom

The reality is that it’s a very cheap campaign. Basically, take your email, and send it again a few days later. Heck, send it a third time.

You can see that list fatigue sets in pretty quickly. For this, you have some options:
- change subject line
- suppress openers and clickers, or those that act on the email contents
- change header text on top of creative (the text right before the main message, called different things now, by various folks.)

Some demographics will support this more than others. I’ve heard from B2Bs that rarely have any negative feedback, but they re-pitch only with conference registrations, and other once-a-year or twice-a-year notifications.

For consumer and retail, it’s been spotty. Basically consumers really need the slightest excuse to unsubscribe, and once that happens you don’t get them back. Some of my clients use this rule- only do the re-engage campaign occasionally. Then, a significant portion of your base won’t consider this as a regular technique. You don’t want them to say “stop hammering me,” essentially. But the occasional re-issue is tolerated.

It’s a great way to increase response and repurpose creative. There are also other more effective ways without the negatives:

- lifecycle campaigns. Make one creative and email according to the consumer’s lifecycle, not your marketing calendar.
- re-activation campaigns. Re-use the most popular creative to bring back lapsed viewer/engagers. Send this out after no contact in 3/6/9 months, for example.

More Reading:
The Reminder Email, Does It Work?
Killing Off Inactive Subscribers
Terminology: Transactional, Lifecycle, Event-Based, Trigger

Interesting Failures

Saturday, 02. May 2009 by Anna Billstrom

tree at donner creek
Friend of mine was complaining about her job, and in this recession, she still wanted to bail from her job. I started thinking about the jerks I’d worked for, and how, if I was in her situation, I’d probably treat it like school. Because when you know something is bad, you can only get better. I’d try different techniques on said boss, to try and figure out the best method. And, when I switch jobs, at least I’d have learned something. In a way bad situations give us a freedom to experiment and test that good situations can’t afford.

Same with email campaigns. Think of how creative we get when things get desperate, when options get slim. You try and spice it up with new copy, invigorating creative, shuffling around send times. You integrate other services in the company, try to get access to more data, and other tricks. Now is the time to try something new.

For that matter, failures are interesting. Looking back at your history, why did certain campaigns, strategies or methods fail? What were the flawed ingredients? Have you tried to recreate things or just run away in shame?

Some of my biggest failures made me realize the risks that I can stomach, and some that I can’t. And that informs the risks I take in the future.

Blunders: Obama’s Email Frequency

Monday, 13. April 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Their head of new media, Stephen Greer, responded to an apt question in his talk in December, at the Email Marketing Summit. Someone in the audience asked about the abusive frequency of Obama campaign emails. He replied, “You voted, right. Then we’re not emailing too frequently.”

That truism can’t work anymore, can it, now that core, grass roots activists *have voted* and are still getting, dare I say, spammed. I heard it on NPR, I watched it on TV, dare I say my twitterflock are also complaining. They’re glad he’s elected, but they don’t want to be “asked for money every day.”

Sadly, they’re going to lose that political capital quickly if they don’t listen to the folks that do this for a living, that have tested it out. No more than 3 a week, sir. As we know in the industry, once someone has unsubscribed, it’s very, very hard to get them back.

More reading:
I summarized a talk Stephen Greer, Director of Email and Online Fundraising for the Obama Campaign, gave in December, at Email Insider Summit
Political Spamming

Basic Twitter: Who Are You?

Monday, 06. April 2009 by Anna Billstrom

First, check out this profile and see if you can tell what’s amiss:

The biggest thing was: I don’t know what the acronym stands for. The profile should basically tell who you are, to all kinds of people, non-political folks, folks out of your niche, folks that are un-techy. Don’t rely on them to click on the URL, that’s there for follow-up info, but basic “who are you” info has to be in that profile.

Some other profiles that have a nice ratio of followers/followed and basic 411 right on the profile page:

Robert Scoble follows a lot of people, and engages with most of his followers.

Janet just twittered me (ha) that she “…thinks it’s worth it to add a link to an about me in the bio too. I use VisualCV now ‘stead o my websites.” I’ll definitely check that out.

What I like about these- full name, clearly says what they do, and they have nice “ratios”- that is, followers/followees. It’s a conversation for them, not a bullhorn.

Obvious spam example:

Zero followers, no posts, and no description. Easy.

For the sake of showing a full spectrum- here are oft-followed, rarely-follower profiles:

vb_twitter sean_twitter1

I end up being very wary of folks who are either followed, or subscribed, to more than 500 people. Why? Because I know how much work that is, even with Twitter tools. Users have different aproaches to the use of the tool, and if it’s a very lopsided ratio, they either use it as an inside-joke chat application, or a bullhorn. If it’s a more balanced ratio, it tends to be a threaded live discussion, which is what I prefer, and what I think is the best use of Twitter.

BTW, feel free to criticize mine at will!

Elements of Good Email

Wednesday, 25. March 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Bronto’s write-up on KodakGallery’s change of service email (one of my clients, but I didn’t work directly on this) made me think of the basic elements of a good email. Sure, this is a rehash of what a dozen sites cover really well, but I’d like to put in my $.02 on what I, individually, think are the key elements.

- Engaging, short, clever subject line
- Snippet text at top
- Segmented, targeted audience (aka, relevance)
- HTML layout that renders well with images-off
- Bright layout and color palette
- Simple, clear calls to action
- Relevant personalization (to show targeting)
- Programmatically clean, well-written HTML with accurate and spam-proof headers
- Copy that is spam-proof, short, consistent, clever, well-written
- Links that work, and point to relevant and offer-appropriate landing pages
- CAN-SPAM footer with terms, clear unsubscription
- Design above the fold (not all of it, but consideration of what is above the fold)

Basically, what it takes to get out of Bulk!
More Reading:
Email Labs’ has Email Planner & Checklist an oldie, but a goodie
Advanced Email Checklist I wrote this one a while ago, still relevant!
EEC downloadable checklists the Email Experience Council has a bunch of checklists available for download.

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