How NOT to use Twitter for Marketing and Sales

An example of social network marketing #FAIL.

I don’t follow many people, but among those I do follow is a person connected to a tourism publication that serves the Phoenix area. As the owner/operator of a helicopter tour and charter company, I thought it might be interesting to see if this person tweeted anything that could help my business grow.

On Thursday, January 14, at 4:03 PM, he tweeted the following:

There is still time to advertise in our annual Spring Training issue – it’s only 6 weeks away. Affordable exposure that drives results.

This is an exact quote. There are a few things wrong with it:

  • The tweet makes no mention of the name of the publication or the area it serves. So unless you know what publication this guy works for — and its name is not part of his Twitter name — you’d be hard-pressed to understand why this might interest you.
  • The tweet mentions the “Spring Training” issue, but neglects to identify the “6 weeks away” as the editorial deadline or publication date.
  • There’s no link in the tweet to take action. I suppose this guy thinks that if you do figure out what this is about and are interested, you’ll track him or his publication down and make contact. A link sure would make that easier.

As a former frequent business traveler, I’m very familiar with the publication. It’s available in all major cities. It might be a good match for my business to advertise in. But I needed more information.

I tweeted back with a direct (private) message about fifteen minutes after his initial tweet, at 4:20 PM the same day:

I’ll bite. Call me with your ad rates: 928/###-####.

(I obviously provided my entire phone number, which I don’t need to reproduce here.)

And then I waited. I didn’t sit around my computer. I had other things to do.

Almost an hour later, at 5:08 PM, he responded:

Maria… I’ll have my partner [redacted] call you – he handles sales, and I produce the magazine, videos & social media :)

But because I wasn’t sitting at my computer and wasn’t checking my incoming messages, I didn’t receive this response for a few hours. I figured I’d reply with some additional information that would help his partner get a better idea about my business before he called. So when I received this tweet a little after 8 PM, I replied:

Tell him it’s for http://www.flyingmair.com/

At 10:37 PM, he replied:

Will do :)

So from the time of his initial tweet about special ad rates to the conclusion of our discussion, more than six hours had elapsed.

By this time, I was asleep. Since he’d received my phone number after 5 PM, I wasn’t expecting a call that day anyway. But I did expect one in the morning.

But I didn’t get it.

In fact, it’s now Monday, January 18, almost four full days since his initial tweet, and I have not received a phone call from his partner.

So in addition to the poorly composed tweet, here are a few other ways this person failed at social network marketing:

  • When he posted the initial tweet, he was obviously not monitoring Twitter for immediate responses like mine. It took nearly an hour for him to respond.
  • Although he had my phone number in hand, he didn’t use it to contact me — even to tell me to expect a call from his partner. Instead, he relied on direct messages through Twitter — not even text messaging directly to my phone! — which relied on me checking for such messages. This stretched out an initial contact to more than six hours.
  • Although our contact was made on a Thursday afternoon, no follow-up contact was made on Friday (a work day) or the weekend. At this point, I don’t think any contact will be made at all.

In short, this person attempted to use Twitter for marketing, actually got a lead (!), and still dropped the ball by failing to follow up in a timely manner. This is a perfect example of a failure to use social networking for marketing purposes.

The result of all this:

  • I will stop following this person. There doesn’t seem any reason to continue to do so.
  • If his partner ever calls, I’ll tell him I spent my advertising budget on Friday, when I expected his call.

What marketers need to understand is that in this economy, few people actually need their product. It isn’t enough to make a half-assed attempt at reaching customers and expect them to do all the legwork. And it’s absolutely inexcusable to fail to call a potential customer after that customer has requested a call.

All the tweeted smilies in the world can’t fix that.

I call that #MARKETINGFAIL

RevenuSense

A Mac OS X Widget to track AdSense Revenue.

One of the things that bugs me about AdSense is that checking my AdSense reports is a multistep process:

  1. Launch my Web browser.
  2. Go to the AdSense home page.
  3. Enter login information. (My browser won’t remember it because I have an AdSense account and an AdWords account.)
  4. Click to log in.
  5. Select the report period.

Okay, so that’t not so much work. But wouldn’t it be nicer to just press a key and have yesterday’s, today’s, and the current month’s AdSense Revenue magically appear?

The RevenuSense WidgetThat’s basically what the RevenuSense widget does. Once installed and configured with your AdSense account’s e-mail address and password, it automatically queries Google for basic revenue information. Just leave the widget open on your Dashboard and press F12. The AdSense revenue information appears with all your other open widgets.

Additional configuration options include update frequency and currency conversions, so you can fine-tune how the display works.

I think this is a great tool for any Mac user with an AdSense account — especially bloggers, who often depend on AdSense revenue to pay for their blogging habits.

How to Advertise Special Offers with your WordPress Blog

A surprisingly simple solution.

If you operate a blog-based Web site — or even a Web site that includes a separate blog — there’s a good chance that you can use the built-in category and RSS feed features to distribute special offers to site visitors by e-mail.

I set this up on my WordPress-based Flying M Air Web site the other day and it works like a charm. Let me explain how.

The Goal

Before I explain how to set this up, let me take a few moments to explain why you might want to do it. The best way to do that is to explain what my goal was.

Flying M Air offers helicopter tours, charters, and excursions throughout Arizona. Some of our flights begin and end in Phoenix, which is about 1/2 hour from our base in Wickenburg. The folks who buy Phoenix-based tours and charters cover the cost of our flight to the starting point, but with a penalty to our profit margin.

My idea was to “piggyback” other tours out of Phoenix on existing tours. So, for example, if I knew I had a flight at 1 PM, I could offer similar flights out of Phoenix in 12 noon and 2 pm time slots. These piggybacked tours would be offered at a discount to encourage customers to sign up. This would enable me to serve multiple Phoenix-based customers with one round-trip to the Phoenix area, thus maximizing my revenue for the trip.

What I wanted to do to get the word out was to publish the special offers on the Web site and automatically e-mail these offers to potential customers who were interested in receiving offers. I’m not talking about spam here. I’m talking about a mailing list that people voluntarily subscribe to and could unsubscribe from at any time. Something I wouldn’t have to manually manage. (God knows I have enough work to do.)

How I Did It

Flying M Air's siteI started by creating a “Be Spontaneous!” category on my Flying M Air site. The purpose of the category is to publicize “last-minute” special offers for specific dates and time slots. Because not everyone would know what “Be Spontaneous!” means, I also added a link to the category on the top navigation bar, with a more obvious label: “Special Offers.”

I then created post-dated entries with the special offers I wanted to advertise. Only one offer would appear at a time. I’d have to manually delete the offers after the date (or perhaps leave them there so visitors could see the kinds of offers they missed).

Next, I went to FeedBurner and set up a feed for the special offers. While there, I set up the E-mail Notification feature. You can learn how to do that in my Informit.com article, “Add Email Notification to Your Blog with FeedBurner.”

Finally, I added a subscription form to the sidebar of the site. I also got fancy and added an introduction to the Be Spontaneous! category that explained what it was all about and offered a subscription link.

Mission accomplished. (Really, though.)

Give It a Try

This is how I did this with WordPress, but you can just as easily do it with other blogging software. (Just don’t ask me which ones or how to do it. I’m a WordPress user.) The key ingredients are the separate special offers category and the FeedBurner e-mail subscription feature.

One word of advice: if you’re going to go through the bother of doing this, make sure your special offers really ARE special. Don’t turn this into spam. Not only will you annoy and alienate your subscribers, but you’ll give them the idea that subscribing to Web content always leads to spam.

And that’ll ruin it for the rest of us.

Watch that Theme

Are there hidden ads in your WordPress theme?

Just Shelly has posted an interesting article about how some WordPress themes incorporate advertising links. If those links are not removed when you modify the theme for your own use, you’ll be including ads on your site that you’re not getting compensated for! And those ads aren’t necessarily for products/services/sites that you want to promote on your site.

Read more here: http://just.shelleypowers.com/technology/watch-that-theme/

Displaying Random Ads in Your WordPress Blog

Instructions for using the AdRotator plugin to generate random ad images with links.

I’ve been wanting to do this forever. In fact, it was the first thing I explored when I started using WordPress late last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough understanding of how plugins and theme files worked to get anywhere.

Things are different now. I know what I’m doing. And this particular task is quite simple, as you’ll see here.

The Goal

My goal was to be able to display small advertising images at the top of the navigation bar. The image would appear randomly from a pool of images and, when it appeared, it would be associated with a specific URL. When the image appeared, the site visitor could click the image to go to a Web site or page.

I wanted to use this for wickenburg-az.com, a site I spend an awful lot of time working on with no compensation. The idea was to charge a nominal fee to add an image to the pool for a month. The money I collected would cover the cost of running the site.

Keep in mind that I could use any size image and place it anywhere in the header, sidebar, or footer. I wanted a 170 x 120 pixel image at the top of the sidebar. (I already run a strip of Google text ads at the bottom of the page, as I do here. I think too much advertising on a Web site is extremely obnoxious. But how much is too much when you have bills to pay?)

The Plugin

I won’t go into detail about my search for the plugin. It was neither long nor exciting. I wound up with AdRotator by Angsuman Chakraborty, which was really designed to work with Google AdSense and other prepacked blog advertising tools. But as I read the comments for the plugin’s description, I was assured that it would do what I needed to do.

But how do I use it? The User Manual was difficult to find. It wasn’t very user-friendly, either. (No offense to the plugin author. Frankly, I think that every programmer should team up with a tech writer to get documentation written. Programmers program. Writers write. Programmers don’t usually program and write — although an exception does come to mind.)

So I decided to write up a quick How To piece that would explain how to use AdRotator to do just what I wanted it to do. This isn’t AdRotator documentation. It only explains how to use the plugin for one particular task.

Also, these instructions don’t explain every single step in minute detail. If you want that kind of explanation, buy a Visual QuickStart Guide. Instead, these instruction assume you have already mastered the basics of using your image editing software, an FTP client, a text editor, and WordPress.

Create the Ads

First, use image editing software and your FTP program to create and upload the ad images.

  1. Decide on an ad size based on where you plan to place the ads. I used 170 wide by 120 tall so it would fit in the sidebar column of my theme (modified Connections).
  2. Use your favorite image editing software to create each image in the desired dimensions.
  3. Save the images as GIF, JPEG, or PNG format files with the appropriate file name extension.
  4. Use your favorite FTP client to upload the images to a folder within your WordPress wp-content folder. I created a folder called ads (real creative, huh?) and put them there. For obvious reasons, the folder’s permissions must be set so its contents are readable.
  5. Put away your image editing software; you’re done with it for now.

Install and Activate the Plugin

To use any WordPress plugin, you must download it, install it, and activate it.

  1. Download the plugin. This was pretty challenging, since I had a hard time finding a link to it. You can find a link on this page or simply click Download the plugin.
  2. Use your favorite FTP client to upload the AdRotator.php file to your plugins directory inside your wp-content directory.
  3. Go to the Plugins adminsitration panel in WordPress and activate the AdRotator plugin.

Create the Reference File

Now comes the part that seems to confuse most people (according to the comments). You need to create a plain text file that includes HTML for displaying the ad graphics with links to their URLs.

  1. Fire up your favorite text editor. Do not use a word processor like Microsoft Word! I use TextWrangler, which I can’t say enough nice things about.
  2. Create a new text file.
  3. For each ad/URL combination you want to include in the pool of ads, create a line in the text file that includes the following code:

    Of course, you’ll substitute real URLs and text for what is shown above. A real example from my setup would be:

  4. Save the file with a Web-friendly name and the .txt file extension. In my example, I named it ads.txt (not very creative).
  5. Use your favorite FTP software to upload the file to the wp-content folder in your WordPress installation.

Reference the Ads

Now you need to reference the AdRotator plugin in the theme file in which you want the ad to appear. Normally, this will be header.php or footer.php (for banner ads) or sidebar.php (for ad boxes or towers).

  1. Open the theme file in which you want to reference the ad.
  2. Include the following code exactly where you want the ad to appear:

    < ?php echo getad('adfilename'); ?>

    Of course, you’d replace adfilename with your file name excluding the .txt extension. So in my example, it would be:

    < ?php echo getad('ads'); ?>

  3. Save the theme file you edited.

Check Your Work

That’s all there is to it. To check your work, display any blog page that uses the theme file you modified.

If you’re great at following instructions and I didn’t make any mistakes in the instructions here, it should work fine.

If you’re human (like I am), you’ll have to fix a number of tiny boo-boos you made along the way. The mistakes I made include wrong image URL (duh) and incorrect formatting (theme-dependent). I also made some ugly images the first time around and had to make new ones that looked better. I’m a writer, not an artist.

If you make some errors and your fixes don’t seem to be working, clear your browser’s cache. Then reload a page. It should be okay.

If you want to see how mine came out, visit http://www.wickenburg-az.com/.

Tips

A few tips for making advertisements less painful for site visitors:

  • Keep image file sizes small. I recommend less than 20K, but definitely less than 100K.
  • If the ad image is textual and you’re placing it on a colored or patterned background, consider saving the image as a GIF with transparency.
  • Animate GIFs look cool if properly done. Unfortunately, I can’t make one that isn’t terribly obnoxious.

And one tip for making advertisements more painful:

You can create multiple txt files, each with its own lists of images and links, and reference each one in a different place on your blog. This makes it possible to combine header, footer, and sidebar advertising on one site. Just don’t expect me to visit often; I really do hate ads.