Okay, now that the film festival’s done, I’m finally able to blog about NetSquared Camp 2010, an unconference of activists, technologists, entrepreneurs, and assorted geeks who want to make the world a better place, in a full-day extravaganza of sharing and networking. It was my first NetSquared Camp ever, and I’m still digesting everything I’ve learned. Here’s a rundown of the talks I attended:
Social Media Ninja School
Cecilia Lu, owner of Kiwano Marketing, started off my day with some tips on using social media to promote one’s brand.
The first thing to do, she says, is to sit down and set some goals. Is this going to be your business or personal brand? What are the measurable results? Fundraising, volunteering, or just exposure of your brand/message? With so many entrepreneurs in Vancouver, it’s important to make your message uniquely you, to catch people’s attention.
Now that we have a focus, we got some practical tips. The question of corporate twitter accounts was raised. What if more than one person is tweeting? Should you use different accounts, or the same account but marked with your initials or something?
Now, how do you talk to people? Don’t be afraid of trying conversations. Engage someone online by following them, then replying or commenting (but intelligently) if you have something to say. Don’t be shy, and you can find clients, friends, even mentors.
And what’s the ROI? Sales (or whatever your goal is) are not going to skyrocket overnight. It usually takes time to build trust, and it will take you time to build a voice, as well. The best thing you can do in the beginning is to listen.
Measuring Social Media Success
Darren Barefoot has co-written a book on social media marketing, based on his years of experience, and that morning he walked us through some of its insights, condensing it into ten basic rules, including:
- Set quantifiable objectives (as opposed to things like public opinion, or “brand”)
- Beware of creatively named metrics, like “engagement.”
- Measure everything.
- Iterate rapidly, and
- Fail fast. (These two ideas come from the world of software. Social media is very young, and we’re still figuring it out.)
And, the acronym POST, representing the necessary steps of any social media campaign, in their proper order:
You have to start with people, but so many just start with technologies.
Many of the examples he gave us were taken from his recent work on The Big Wild, a conservation site big on infographics, clear and simple navigation, and easy actions to take. Perfectly consistent with his earlier talk at Northern Voice on doing good on the Web.
(And here are the slides of his talk)
All About SEO
This very informal talk was facilitated by Sean Cranbury, who works as a media consultant.
We talked a bit about keyword research and testing. Google Keyword Tool is your friend here. You need to look for keywords with high cost per click but low competition. That’ll help you stand out from the crowd.
Apparently meta tags don’t make a difference with Google rankings, though they used to once upon a time. For small businesses, you shouldn’t worry too much about keywords; authenticity and passion count for a lot. Quality content is important, of course, but there’s also metadata, dates and locations. All of that counts too. I think it’s here that someone brought up Google Maps as an advertising tool. Create a custom map, add whatever landmarks you wish (like, say, your business), make it public, and voilà, now you’re searchable in Google Maps or Google Earth. It seems this is an amazingly useful but so far underutilised advertising tool.
Then you’ve got the old standbys: blogging, twittering (and don’t forget hash tags!) WordPress provides many SEO opportunities. Sean mentioned a couple of themes that are heavy on SEO: Canvas, and Thesis.
Converting a static site to WordPress (or any other CMS): change as little as possible, including the URLs. If needed, use 301 redirects.
And, of course, to bring in incoming links, you have to have people engage with the site.
Finally, Google Adwords are a good way to test if your SEO campaign will really end up with the results you want. A campaign may last for months, and you want to know right away if it’s going to be worth it.
Another presentation by Darren Barefoot, on the finer points of Google ad campaigns.
Adwords show up in Google searches, which means we have to focus on keywords first and foremost.
Our ads compete for the top spot; Money × Quality determine your ranking. You pay per click, so it’s okay if an ad isn’t working.
To start, be as specific as you want. To write the ads, use good copywriting, make it compelling. Create landing pages for each of those ads so the action is immediately available, don’t send them to your home page. Then, you want to track conversions or other actions, which is what his earlier talk was all about.
Facebook ads are very different from Google ads, because you can target them by age, gender, or any other preferences.
As a final note, Google ads are not good for revenue generation unless you’re covering your site with ads, and/or have lots of traffic.
NetSquared was an amazing and inspiring experience, with excellent people who I learned a lot from, and who I may be able to help in return. There’s so much being done right here in this city, and I’m going to be a part of it. More than before, I mean.
Also, I have to give a shoutout to Nuba, where a whole bunch of us went to eat. The food was excellent (I’d never tried Lebanese cuisine before), and they handled our large group perfectly well.