SearchAmelia Discusses Website or Social Media

SearchAmelia Discusses Website or Social MediaSponsors, advertisers, writers and other contributers of SeachAmelia.com are invited to our FREE Social Gatherings that are held from time to time.

Our February SearchAmelia Social Gathering, held at Amelia Hotel at the Beach, turned out to be an intimate evening catching up with one another over good food and adult beverages.

About an hour into the evening Han presented a brief program, Website or Social Media?; here is what you missed:

If you were only allowed to take you business online using either a website or a Facebook page, which would you choose?

Social media is evolving quickly but the originals in the industry included names you may remember such as Classmates.com, Geocities, SixDegrees and a few others. The next “generation” of social media began in 2002 with Friendster, followed by MySpace, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter and Stumbleupon. It is interesting to note that Skype, who began in 2005, now has 700 million users.

Yahoo 360 launched in June of 2005, and then closed its services on July 13, 2009. Google Buzz launched February 2010 and was discontinued December 15, 2022, in favor of Google+. If you had spent the majority of your time and advertising dollars over the years building relationships on MySpace or Google Buzz, you would not be a happy camper!

Can it happen to Facebook? Of course it can!

There are new kids on the block who are avoiding the mistakes of the previous generation of Social Media. Names you should get familiar with such as Formspring, Thrillis and Pinterest. Pinterest is already driving more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined!

You must be in control by owning your own website. Having your own website becomes the nucleus, where Social Media send their referrals to. All other Social Media are just network outposts. You need to own your domain name (URL), have it hosted with a reputable server, and maintained, upgraded and updated by you. Meaningful conversations and transactions are going to happen on your site, at your home base, where you are in control.

If you missed our February meeting, we have another one scheduled for March 21, 2012. Details will come to your inbox soon.

If you would like to be notified of our next Social Gathering, and are not a current sponsor of SearchAmelia, please call Lawrence at (904) 583-1010.

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Brand Loyalty often Misunderstood

Social Search is ready for take off

Social Search for Personal Branding is Ready for Take Off

Having Brand Loyalty is a hugely important advantage when you’re in business, but often misunderstood. Loyal customers are a business’ lifeline in tough economic times. But brand loyalty is often wrongly attached to the product or service. A typical example is a TV product called Two and a Half Men, which faced that reality last week when most of the record 27.7 million viewers of the revamped show with Ashton Kutchner replacing Charlie Sheen, came to the conclusion that Sheen-acting-Sheen was probably the entire attraction of the show, in spite of being surrounded by a myriad of funny actors playing off his persona. Of course we will give Chuck Lorre’s writers another chance or two before switching to another channel, as brand loyalty will slowly reveal that it is not the product but the person delivering it, that creates the loyalty. Charlie Sheen’s brand on Cable channel Comedy Central in turn commanded an aggregate 10 million viewers that same evening with the Charlie Sheen roast, making it the most-watched roast on the Cable network ever, and the most watched show of any kind with the targeted audience of viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. That’s brand loyalty for Charlie Sheen, who apparently still is “winning”, settling his $100 million lawsuit amicably.

Marketing experts have known for a long time that people were never really loyal to individual products or services, even though they often say they are. It’s the brand that they are loyal to and the brand is always the person that represents the product or service. Service companies have known this for a long time and through non compete clauses and other tricky legalese tried to restrict their top people when leaving the company. To the customer they are the brand. If you drive Ford or Chevy for many years it’s most often the dealer who is the brand’s face. It has always been like that and to prove it just think how easily we claim “ownership” of people that do something for us with the phrase: my handyman, my gardener, my mechanic, my dentist, my postman, my webmaster, my doctor, my financial adviser or my broker. We don’t become “possessive” with the use of the word “my” unless there is a degree of loyalty involved.

Corporations know this. Communications and Insurance companies, Grocery stores and Supermarkets, home improvement giants like Home Depot, Lowe’s and even Wal-Mart have turned their branding efforts to people.

You are a Social Search Brand

So here is a suggestion for all of you out there who have websites. Pay very close attention to where video shows up and will show up in the next 10-12 months. Brands are moving much more rapidly through video !
For example, when you order that Best Seller on your Kindle or iPad watch what changes are coming your way! It’s likely that you’ll see a new “Special Embedded Video” edition rising up. What does this mean? It’s an amazing version of the entire book with multiple embedded videos scattered throughout the pages. Research Dave Ramsey’s book “EntrePreneurship”. Right on iTunes you’ll find a Special Embedded Video Version, which brings you even closer to his brand…. which is essentially, himself.

And the changes keep coming…
As I have watched Apple roll out their iAds it’s become quite obvious that we could literally be entering a time when there will be no use or need for web browsers as we know it, even though Facebook’s changes last week were all aimed at becoming a player in SEARCH. But think this through… if you’re on your iPad or Smartphone it’s not likely you’ll even USE your browser like you might have if you were on a laptop or desktop computer. You might start browsing Facebook on an App, move over to Hootsuite to check your Twitter feeds, mosey over to read a book and if you do need to use Google, it’s most likely you’ll do so through….. you guessed it, an app! And you’ll do it following people, messages, personal contact… not products or services! It’s called Social Search and the term was coined in 2009, waiting for the technology to catch up on what people want.

Things are changing and it’s so important that you not only begin to understand, prepare and ACTIVATE for these changes, but you need to get your brand’s message right. Mobile marketing demands even more now than ever that your BRAND be wrapped around who you are and what you do.

Plain English? People want to see YOU and YOUR face and what you stand for on their mobile devices, not a glorified overly done flashy website.
When thinking through your brand, it’s important to ask yourself “Who Am I?” but remember, the answer to this question must lead to what people view you as. This might be a bit different than how you see yourself!
If you’re a professional and are used to being called “Dr So and So” or “Vet So and So” that is not going to work with branding. What you DO for people is where the focus needs to be.

This information will be hard for some to swallow but your college education, degree and investment into that Ivy League University means NOTHING when it comes to your brand, long term.

What does matter, what is BIGGER than that, is what do people want YOU for ahead of all others?  Do you make people well quicker? Do you make them money. Is your advise helpful in their custom circumstance?  Can you improve their health, their skills, their lives, their happiness, their income, their self confidence? This is part of your brand. If you’re a naturo-physician or therapeutic masseuse, do you treat people breaking all rules of traditional medicine? Than this would be a great brand-leading message. What result do you bring people? What are YOU an expert at? This is your brand. This is what people will know you as and remember for. Before the world wide web, you could not afford any profiling like this, but today it is at your fingertips or smartphone camera.

It’s important to not wrap our brand around our product or service. Always remember that people are never loyal to products or services. To get your brand into the minds and the hearts of the right people, my friends… wrap your brand around Y-O-U. That is why Facebook last week announced a number of ground breaking changes that all deal with emotional attachment at the center of the issue. Social Search is the Word of the Year. Watch Google’s Matt Cutts explain the essence of real content and in the process become the Face of Google.

Pop-up windows and why you should not use them

Pop-up blockers are still implemented

Why do so many website still use pop-ups?

One of the many tasks of a webmaster is to make sure that a website provides the best possible exposure and highest conversion rate for visitors and thus potential customers that use offers or “more information” links on their site.

Lately I have been doing some checking with SearchAmelia advertisers and their websites and noticed a very disturbing trend that should have been abolished a long time ago by their webmasters: Pop-up windows.

Why Pop-up windows are bad practice on websites!

The pop-up window and link was created as an invention by the Pornography Industry and became quickly one of the greatest nuisances to websurfers and visitors of well respected websites that deployed the use of Pop-up windows.

The nuisance was caused by how one pop-up window could set-off a “chain reaction” of hundreds of pop-ups. In the beginning the pop up was almost exclusively used by the porn industry’s websites, but soon also reputable sites fell victim to the practice forced upon them by their webmasters or as a result of the site’s owners wishes.

Pop-up windows can be designed as small as one pixel by one pixel or as large as the outer borders of your computer screen. They can actually even be set to negative values so that the frame with the “close button” of the pop-up window is outside your mouse’s reach and requires you to drag the window into view. However just the “click to drag” could trigger a whole set of new pop-ups to appear and at some point, as they keep pouring onto your screen, the only way to close them was through hitting the power off button or even unplug the power supply to your computer. Hugely irritating.

As a counter measure the browsers Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Opera and all other browsers that entered the market came with the option to turn off the trigger of Pop-up windows. This even evolved to the point that the browsers (the program that lets you surf the net) came with the “default” setting that pop-ups were blocked, simply because many people did not research their browser’s capabilities, but  instead kept complaining about these pop-ups.

Based on these built-in capabilities of blocking pop-ups, the “industry” developed the “pop-under” window, an even “sneakier” way of grabbing the users’ attention, when surprisingly by closing the regular browser window(s) a set of windows would appear and the user has no idea where they came from.

This nuisance kept on growing like a wildfire until even lawmakers became involved in the process of banning pop-up windows, and even though this never materialized, it triggered the technology that almost all browsers today have excellent pop-up and pop-under blockers installed and turned on by default.

Then why do so many websites still use pop-ups?

Well, a lot of them got stuck in the previous century which can only be blamed on either the “do-it-yourself” website builders or the use of free “dinky toy” do-it-yourself programs. Of course there are also still webmasters that have no common sense when advising their clients how to best grab the attention of their visitors and create interaction with the business.

Let me give you some insight how bad pop-up windows really are.

79% of all websurfers (potential visitors) have their pop-up blocker activated. Meaning that 79% of the traffic to websites that make use of pop-up windows legitimately such as “get more Info” or “Contact Me” or even “order forms” and “Shopping Carts” are NEVER seen by the people that WISH to contact you or place an online order. The use of Pop-up windows for the most VITAL step in the process of selling online, will effectively turn 79% of all contacts away from your website. Gone, off to the competition.

Why do I say “gone to the competition”?

The people that intended to either place an order or learn more about your product or service still are in “NEED” of that information. If your competition does NOT use POP-UP windows to capture the contact, they are most likely to get the traffic and the sale, even if you’re product is better and less expensive.

The reason is that the Pop-up window when blocked will notify the surfer that the website attempted to force open a pop-up and the visitor to your site is given the opportunity to either “temporarily allow” the pop-up to show, or “disallow/prevent” the pop-up from opening.

Well that’s good news isn’t it.

No it is not, because the use of older “modern and non-modern” browsers such as IE 6 and early versions of IE7, older versions of Firefox, Safari, Netscape and Opera is still wide spread and these browsers do not display the Message that a pop-up attempted to “open” on their computer. They simply do NOTHING and therefore the visitor thinks your website is not functioning and moves on.

Secondly and even more important is, that people have become so “Security Insecure” that some 87% of them will deny the pop-up (even temporarily) to show.

Again: Bye-bye potential customer!

The use of POP-UP windows is simply BAD practice and what’s more, there are at least 4 different ways to have beautiful pop-ups that are NOT blocked by browsers, that have pop-up blockers turned on.

How can webmasters design a POP-UP that functions?

  1. By using “iFrames” or “in frame technology”. The iFrame technology is the least preferred method since search engines cannot read them although for the purpose of “contact”, “more information” and “shopping cart” which should have a “nofollow” search engine attribute (Search Engines are instructed not to follow the link) they work very well.
  2. By having the pop-up open in a new “blank” window (this is the least elegant way but it does the trick without scaring the visitor away)
  3. By using designated navigational windows such as the “Contact Me” while using “Intelligent Forms”. A very robust and secure way but it will take the visitor away from the visited page which is sometimes not intended such as with “shopping cart – more than one item purchase technology”.
  4. By designing “Pop-In” windows using Javascript. The most preferred way of using interactive communication with your website visitors since only a handful “die-hard paranoid” users have JavaScript turned off (2%).

Bottom line…

If your website has pop-up windows, have your pop-up windows redesigned to use any of the above alternatives since you are missing out on about 85% of all traffic to your  website. Ask yourself the question what purpose your website has and you come to a stunning conclusion: It is supposed to sell more and to people that are looking from far away but also close by, yet you cut them off before they even can ask a question, buy the product or get in touch with you.

Now isn’t that a waste of money, time, and opportunities?

Oh, before I forget, don’t make the mistake in thinking that your visitors will search for the phone number on your website to call you! They won’t! No, the websurfers have been spoiled by instant gratification and won’t go back to old habits by picking up the phone while it takes only a “one calorie” click to go to your competition.

If you wish the SearchAmelia Team to provide you a “no holes barred” honest website review -free of charge- you can contact us using the following (correct) form.

Contact Us for a Free Website Evaluation

Most important staff in hotel operations

Static Hotel Websites are a marketing nightmare

A doomed business marketing tool

Spurred on by the “Act Now and Get Two for One” article I was going to write a comment. I like commenting because I’m not a great blogger with a lot of journalistic talent, but commenting gives me the opportunity to be part of a story. Commenting provides a great way of participating view points often overlooked or not sufficient clarified in the article.

Of course that is a personal opinion and not everyone feels up to actively participate in a story which I find a contradiction to the behavior of not sharing your viewpoints on news sites or even hotel and resort sites.

Most people today have a Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or other internet medium account(s) to communicate with peers, colleagues and friends about trends and hot news, yet hesitate to comment on News, or experiences encountered in their travels. Be it business or leisure travel, both are for many people exciting highlights in their daily lives.

The Professional Traveler

I hear the groaning of those that travel for business that they don’t like it and wish they could stay home and conduct their business from home, but very shallow as I observe the business and leisure travelers in the airports, most LOVE to talk about their outings, the hotels and resorts they stay in.

Yessss, most business travelers complain when you strike up a conversation while waiting for your connecting flight in the airports, but when you listen closely it is mostly the part of the getting from point A to Point B they complain about.

No, it is a complete different story the moment these professional travelers start talking about the hotels and resorts they have stayed in during their travels, the scenery they have taken in, the services they have received, the people they have met in their “put their head down and sleep” places. When you listen carefully, you would actually think they stayed months rather then a day or two at these “second homes”.

Their elaborations go on for minutes or even larger segments of an hour and these true Experts for Hotel Ratings can give you the finer details about what they liked about breakfast, the pool service, the fitness room, the masseur, the bellhop, the receptionists, the activities desk staff, the Golf Caddies to even the maids.

Oops, did I mess up. did Maids get another name? I’m not sure. Maybe “Interior Suite Attendants”. If so, I apologize.

Yet I never hear them talk about The CEO, The Hotel Manager, The Marketing Manager or even The Event or Activity Coordinator. In my 30 or so years of listening to travel experiences hardly ever a word about the hotel management is spoken.

My Beef with Resort Websites

And here is where my beef starts with hotel and resort websites. Exceptions duly noted, hardly any Hotel or Resort website features the people that count for any traveler, business of leisure. These websites feature the CEO, The Marketing Manager and Activities Coordinator, yet completely neglect any mention at all about “The Staff” beyond some generalities about friendliness and some other meaningless copy catted page fillers.

But my beef doesn’t end there. All these professional and leisure traveling people have excellent opinions, good and bad, yet to date I have to see Resort and Hotel websites that invite them to comment. Strangely enough in almost every hotel room there is a comment form that invites you to comment and rate from the soap that is used in the bathrooms to the freshness of the bagels for breakfast and everything in between, yet NOT ONE form has ever encouraged the guest, which most of them travel with a laptop these days, to log-on to hotel website and WRITE comments or even ratings.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re a value shopper and not a bargain hunter for the cheapest hotel room in town. Sure price is an important factor but price for value is much more the ultimate deciding factor.

Do I trust the Hotel website’s passive “Claim to Fame Self Indulgent Brochure Type Written Content”? I don’t think so and neither does 90+% of the rest of the traveling populations around the world. We rather listen to a complete stranger’s recommendations on facebook, tripadvisor, and other social media then dream and getting convinced by the website copy that our choice of where we are “putting our head down” is the right value for our money.

Living in a Tourism Driven Economy

The last 20 years I’ve been living in a tourism driven economy in the Caribbean as a marketeer and for the most part a webmaster and only once I have been able to convince a “putting your head down service” not to create a Website Brochure but an actual blog site with commenting and rating system. A mid sized Boutique Hotel. Within 3 months of their operation with their new website which they seriously maintained, upgraded and wrote daily stories on, their overall occupancy increased by 91% compared to the previous period a year earlier with a standard, static brochure type website.

Did I have anything to do with their success? I like to think so but know better. I merely gave the hotel an interactive tool to communicate with past and potential guests. The family run boutique hotel did the lion share by writing about the weather, the upcoming events and activities, the beaches, the traffic, the expansion plans, new additions to the hotel such as a spa, and they wrote about personal experiences relayed from their staff, the guest that lost his or her room key or locked him or herself out of the room, the sun burned guest, the fishing stories from guests, the day trips and experiences on the dinner cruises, the restaurants their guest visited right down to the broken down toilet in room number 9.

Management encouraged guests to comment and even write a story or two about their visit to St. Maarten on their blog in stead of filling out a form. And the more they saw how people interacted they realized that true live and life stories, the good and the bad, only raised their occupancy numbers and “bad comments” where not deleted but it gave them a chance to rectify and satisfy a “disgruntled” guest through the same commenting system for everyone to read.

That’s what you and I as a traveler look for when weighing price for value. The personal touch, the recommendations and experiences of other guests rather then just look at the room rate. The moment you arrive at your hotel of choice you should know the receptionist by name, where the restrooms are and how to get to your room and the maid’s name that cleans your mess on a daily basis. That to me is more important then the faceless name of the CEO or the manager of the resort or hotel.

There’s a sad ending to the Family Run Boutique hotel. A sudden passing away of the Matriarch of the family, a very astute business women in her late 70’s, ignited a family feud that eventually let to the sale of the hotel and the new owners had other ideas about how to use their website as a marketing tool.

It’s too early to tell if they are right or wrong and the current economic downturn may not be a great measuring stick to compare the marketing value of a traditional website versus the prior blog site, but most certainly there is no updating going on and neither are comments prominent anymore since that feature was eradicated from the new website and now it looks like a nice online brochure again.

A shame in my personal opinion because I like reading comments and comment myself once and a while and so do 90%+ of those that search the internet for information. Be it for recommendations for a hotel or a gadget such as the launch of the Apple iPad today, the power has shifted from passive marketing messages to the voice of the people and that’s what counts.

Give us your opinion on how you seek and validate your choice of your next purchase or vacation.