Pinterest has got my interest

So I’m back on the blog today after a long absence. I’ve been busy with baby and business, and suddenly it’s February 2012. Facebook’s rolled out timelines, Google Plus has launched pages for business, and the next big thing in social media seems to be Pinterest.

For the uninitiated, Pinterest is basically an online pinboard where you can share photos or images from around the web with your followers and other Pinterest users. Each photo is pinned to a particular board, with a theme you’ve defined. So if you’re planning a wedding for example, you can have a wedding style board. If you like to bake, you could have a cupcake inspiration board with recipes you’d like to try. You could have a quotes to live by board or a infographics board; the possibilities are fairly endless.

As an example, here’s my Need to Read board. Over the past few weeks, when I’ve been browsing online bookstores, I’ve pinned the books I’d like to read here – just in case I ever get time to read again.

Pinterest screenshot
At first, I thought this was all a bit of fun, but somewhat limited compared to other social media channels which allow a greater focus on text. Then I read a Shareaholic study showing that in January this year, Pinterest referred on more traffic to the websites in their sample than Google Plus, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined.

Therefore, if you operate a business that deals in products or has a strong visual element, you may want to investigate Pinterest as a way to bring new visitors to your website. Of course, the fundamentals of social media still apply here. Social media is all about connecting and communicating with others, and if you just use Pinterest to pin photos of your merchandise, you’re unlikely to get results.

Think about how you can bring value to the Pinterest community. If you run a local business, can you use Pinterest to showcase the best of your town? If you’re a photographer, can you pin photos and add your tips? Follow others you’re interested in and learn from how they’re using the tool.

For more tips on how small businesses can use Pinterest, take a look at Sarah E. Needleman’s article from The Wall Street Journal Online: 6 Tips for Tapping Pinterest’s Surging Popularity.

If you’ve seen a great use of Pinterest, whether it’s by a business or personal user, feel free to share a link in the comments below.

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Creating BandPages

One of the key selling points of social media and the internet has always been ‘you can do so much for free’. While this has never really been true in terms of time required to create content and build relationships, it also seems that it’s becoming less true when it comes to using specialist apps on platforms like Facebook. In the world of significant monthly charges for welcome pages and promotional applications, I couldn’t help but be excited upon discovering the functionality available within RootMusic’s BandPages.

Georgia Barry's BandPage

There is a paid option here (for the relatively affordable US$1.99 a month) which allows greater customisation and fan-gating options, but there’s an awful lot that can be done in the free version. I’ve recently used these free features to create fan pages for two new clients, the talented Georgia and Jeannine Barry. You can see their pages on this post or check out the live versions on Facebook: Georgia Barry & Jeannine Barry.

Jeannine Barry's BandPage

The free version allows you to upload a header graphic 520 pixels wide by up to 500 pixels in height and select complementary colours for the music player and other page features. It allows you to display your Facebook wall, integrate your Twitter feed, and add in upcoming gigs.

But perhaps the coolest feature is that artists can upload their tracks, and change the settings to encourage people to become fans of the page – limiting the streaming or downloading of the track to fans only. These pages can also be set as the default Facebook landing page for non-fans.

To see how this works, check out Jeannine and Georgia‘s pages, have a listen to the tracks, and become a fan. From a Facebook marketing point of view – and from a music point of view – it’ll be worth your while!

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Are you ready to be promoted into the league?

Congratulations to local team AFC Wimbledon! After a tense penalty shoot-out, you’ve been promoted to the Football League. You’ve caused great excitement in this living room and far beyond that. In fact, right now, you’re trending on Twitter worldwide. Thousands of people are talking about you. Oh, and your website has crashed.

My husband was checking it out just after the game, and got the following error message.

Error message on Wimbledon AFC website

We then went looking for the AFC Wimbledon Twitter account. There’s @AFCWimbledon but that hasn’t been updated since November 8. There’s also the much more active @WimbledonAFC, which is run by a fan and a member of the Trust. There’s an AFC Wimbledon page on Facebook, but the default view is the events tab – where you get a message saying ‘You have no upcoming events’.

Some people will know enough about Facebook to clicAFC Wimbledon trends on Twitter worldwide: 21 May 2011k through to wall tab of course and leave a message for this fantastic team.

A lot of people will continue to talk about the victory even if there’s no updates from an official voice.

Some may even come back to the website later and see if it’s back up and running.

But to some extent, the ability to fully capitalise on the moment of victory may already have been lost.

I think there’s a lesson in there for all organisations. Are you ready for your big moment? Will your website cop with the sudden influx of traffic? Are your e-commerce systems in place? Will you be joining in the discussion? Will you be able to take advantage of your seconds in the spotlight, and use your new following to take your organisation to the next level?

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Do Some Good iPhone application review

Before I begin, let me just say that this is a review of an iPhone application, not the concept of micro-volunteering. The idea of using your technology to perform small but necessary tasks to help out not-for-profits has a lot of positives, but there are definitely some drawbacks as well. For an examination of some of the issues, check out Leonie Shank’s article ‘Micro-volunteering: Fast-food for the Big Society?

Volunteer from your iPhone

You can do such a lot with an iPhone. You can manage your finances, learn how to bake a cupcake, buy and sell on eBay, or whittle away the hours playing Angry Birds. And now, with Orange Mobile’s new application, Do Some Good, you can also use your phone to engage in micro-volunteering activities to benefit your community.

Micro-volunteering opportunities available on the Do Some Good iPhone applicationThere’s no financial commitment or charitable donations involved here; even the app itself is free. You also don’t need to commit a lot of time. Most of the activities are designed to be done in four minutes or less, requiring you to add information to a database, fill in a feedback survey, add locations to a map, or complete a range of other short tasks using your mobile phone.

Over the past couple of weeks, for example, I’ve used the application to answer a wellbeing survey to help shape the services offered by Samaritans. I’ve added our neighbourhood parks to the Outdoor Play Map, and I’ve taken photos and donated them to an image bank of pictures that charities can use free-of-charge in their awareness-raising materials.  

If the warm fuzzy feeling of doing good by doing these small tasks isn’t enough for you, the application also allows you to work towards virtual badges and eventually real music rewards through the Orange Rockcorps collective.

Like many others before it, this application is let down by the strength of my mobile internet connection. O2’s poor signal definitely makes it more difficult for me to add to maps or submit photos when I’m out and about. However, at home, on a wireless connection, the application is much easier to use.

I was also hoping that new opportunities would be added regularly – but over the past three weeks at least, the potential actions have remained the same. There’s room for improvement in both speed and content, then. But, as I’m writing this on May 11, the users of this application have spent a total of 24 days and 20 hours completing 8952 actions to benefit charities and not-for-profits in the UK.

And I think that’s a pretty good use for the iPhone.

Download from iTunes
Developer: Orange UK
Released: 30 March 2011 (Version 1.0)
Price: Free
Star rating: 4.5

First published on iPhoneAppCafe.com. Happy to answer comments here or there.

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Are you writing the blog posts that people are looking for?

Magnifying glassBlog entries are a great way to bring people to your website. They provide fresh content related to your organisation or business – the type of fresh content that search engines love. Other bloggers are also more likely to link to your blog posts than the home page (or services page) of your website, and those links can bring both referred traffic and a higher ranking on search engines.

So, how do you create the sort of content that people are looking for and linking to?

Google keyword tool and Google trends can give you an indication of how popular particular keywords related to your industry are – and how this popularity has changed over time. Writing articles which feature these popular terms  on is one way to optimise your website for searches relating to your specific niche.

However, this form of keyword-based SEO is not the be-all and end-all of website content. It’s important to also tap into what people in your industry are interested in right now. Listen in to conversations using Twitter search, look at the questions that people are asking in LinkedIn Answers. Has something in your field changed in the last week? In the social media space, for example, Facebook has recently altered its promotion guidelines again. When I was searching for more information about these changes last night, it was the early bloggers who got my clicks and a link back to their posts.

Alternatively, is something big going to happen in the near future? Is there an event coming up which you can link in to your topic? Last month, I wrote a couple of blog posts themed around the Royal Wedding: one on iPhone applications and another around social media use. The social media post is now the second most visited article on my blog (behind an earlier article I wrote on Facebook competitions).

The final thing to remember is that on the internet, you’re rarely a minority of one. If you’re searching for information and can’t find it, then chances are that other people will be looking for that information unsuccessfully too. Can you write a blog post to fill the gap? My post on re-importing photos in Windows 7 came from such a search. While it’s never going to be my main source of traffic, it’s been responsible for one or two new visits to my site every day since I wrote it.

Again, I’ve written a post here which focuses on content. So be it. In my opinion, content is absolutely key. Writing posts that are topical and useful is beneficial for both audience engagement and search engine result.

That said, there are specific keyword strategies and technical tips, including search-friendly URLs, title tags and internal linking, which can also help your blog be found by searchers. You can find some of these in this article by Rowan Pawale. If you’ve got other tips for bloggers, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Magnifying glass image courtesy of www.freepixels.com.

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Fair Tweets for Fair Trade Day

Today, May 14, 2011, is this year’s World Fair Trade Day. The day is an initiative of the World Fair Trade Organisation whose mission is to enable producers to improve their livelihoods and communities through fair trade.

A certain favourite ice-cream company of mine is raising awareness of the day by asking people to donate the spare characters of their tweets. On the Ben & Jerry’s Fair Tweets site, you can type in a tweet to send out to your followers – and any of the 140 characters that you don’t need will be used to add in a message about fair trade. Here’s a promo video, explaining the concept:

And here’s a recent post of mine demonstrating a #FairTweet.

Fair Tweets: World Fair Trade Day 2011

There’s been a lot of preparation here. There are different messages available depending on how many characters are left over. When I experimented with a one character tweet, the website added:

World #FairTrade Day is May 14. Now you can share all your unused Twitter characters to spread the word. #FairTweets http://fairn.es/6tu

When I only tried a longer message with only six characters left over, it just added the #FT hashtag.

This could’ve easily been a promotion campaign for Ben & Jerry’s – but their positive PR is coming from stories about the application, such as this one on Mashable, rather than the tweets themselves. It could’ve also been used as a fundraising exercise, with every tweet linking through to a single donation page. But instead, those shortened URLs point to a range of different Fair Trade websites and articles: Fair Trade USA, Catholic Relief Services, the Fair Trade Resource Network, and so on.

For me, this makes it more interesting. I want to see what the different-length messages say. I want to see where each of the links will take me. And I’m learning a whole lot more about fair trade in the process.

To tweet your own message, visit www.fairtweets.com. Happy World Fair Trade Day everyone!

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Cake Days: The book vs the app

Cake Days screenshotFor Mother’s Day this year, I bought myself the new Hummingbird Bakery recipe book, Cake Days. In the week that followed, I spent whole afternoons drooling over the gorgeous glossy photographs of cakes and cookies, muffins and slices, found within its pages. On April 16, however, I learned that Hummingbird Bakery had also released Cake Days as an application.

Given that I already had spent £10 for the book, could I really justify also paying £4.99 for an iPhone version that contained a smaller selection of the same recipes? In the end, I told myself that it would be useful to have both ‘for research purposes’. People often say that the film’s not as good as the book – but in 2011, is the book as good as the app?

The great book vs app comparison began in the lead-up to the long weekend, when I turned to page 158 of the recipe book and decided that those lovely-looking Banoffee Cupcakes with their dulche de leche custard topping would make a great Easter treat. They were. But they were also harder to make than I expected, with multiple cooking and cooling steps for the custard. Later, when I looked up the same recipe on my phone, it said Skill: Intermediate. That difficulty level wasn’t included in the printed cookbook. You can’t record your star ratings for each recipe in a printed cookbook either (without writing on the pages at least).

Banoffee Cupcakes

I’m not a tidy baker, and sometime between measuring the flour and getting the cakes into the oven, I managed to splash the Banoffee Cupcake page with excess milk. Cookbook damage is always a potential side effect in any of my kitchen efforts, so when it came to baking the Caramel Cupcakes (rated easy) the following weekend using the Cake Days app, I was grateful for my iPhone’s hardened case and wipe-clean screen.

I was also keen to try out the feature that allows you to clap your hands to move the recipe on to the next stage. In theory this is great, allowing you to work through the instructions without getting your sticky fingers on the technology. However, in practice, it wasn’t so effective. Every time I shut a drawer or cupboard, it triggered a new step. I had to keep swiping back to the ingredients list at the start anyway, to work out just how much milk or caramel I was supposed to be adding. The book definitely wins here by displaying the ingredients and instructions on one page.

Caramel cupcakes

Where the app comes into its own is with the extras it offers. These include the ability to save the ingredients for your planned sugary treats to a shopping list. I would’ve liked to be able to add just the ingredients that weren’t in my cupboard and to be able to send the list to myself via email – but having this on my phone is still better than carrying around a photocopied page.

Another highlight of the app is the video content. There’s a section at the end of the book, for example, which gives written instructions on how to perfect Hummingbird’s signature swirled frosting along with step-by-step photos. However, the short video demonstration on the app makes the whole process seem much more achievable. I also discovered, after baking my Caramel Cupcakes, that there was also a video on the app showing how the professionals make them.

The Cake Days cookbook, with its bright pink cover, looks very pretty on my shelf. For now – at least when I want to try out one of the 85 recipes that are also in the app version – I’d say it’ll stay on my shelf. While there are still some flaws in its usability, and extra features that could be added, the Cake Days iPhone app does, I feel, outperform the book. On the iPad, with its bigger screen, I’d imagine that the application works even better.

Of course, in both the book and app baking experiments, the final cupcakes were delicious. And there are some that would say that’s the most important thing.

First published on iPhoneAppCafe.com. Happy to respond to comments here or there.

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Where should you be spending your time on Facebook?

Over the past week, I’ve been working on creating a Facebook landing page for my digital marketing services. Basically, a landing page is the first page that a potential fan of your brand or business sees on Facebook. Rather than directing them to a cluttered and confused wall, which may contain messages from others, the landing page allows you to explain who you are and encourage your visitors to click the ‘Like’ button. A recent post by Elizabeth Snyder outlines Why have a Facebook landing page? and links through to DesignMag‘s top examples.

Here’s mine. It’s not a top example, but for now it’s okay.

My Facebook landing page (as of 10 May 2011)

As I’ve discovered over the past week, it’s easy to spend hours obsessing over a landing page: wondering how to create it in the first place (I used the WordPress Facebook Tab Manager plug-in and then TabPress), worrying about how it’ll look for those using secure browsing, and making endless tweaks to the HTML code and CSS.

But at the end of the day, all the landing page needs to do is convince people to click that ‘Like’ button. After that, most of them will never see this landing page again. In fact, most of them will never return to your actual fanpage again, but instead, once they’ve liked you, they’ll start to see  your content in their news feed.

So, where should Facebook marketers be spending most of their time? My suggestion is they spend it creating great content.

Facebook gives users a choice of seeing the ‘most recent’ news from their friends and liked pages, or the ‘top news’ from these sources. The ‘top news’ is based on Edge Rank, Facebook’s algorithm which ranks a post based the type of content, how a user’s interacted with content from this person in the past, and how long ago it was posted. Have low Edge Rank with the fans of your page, and chances are, even if they’ve liked you, they won’t see your content very often – if at all.

Therefore the secret to achieving a higher Edge Rank again seems to come back to content. In a recent review of the statistics, Socialbakers suggested that brands shouldn’t post on their pages more than 5-10 times a week. It’s important, therefore to make those posts count by creating content people that will engage with through leaving comments or sharing with their own Facebook friends.

This might include:

  • uploading photos and asking for comments
  • using the questions tool to run a poll
  • using a status update to ask for feedback
  • running a competition using a third party app
  • posting useful links and inviting responses.

Basically, you’re looking for ideas which encourage people to interact, increasing your Edge Rank and the chances that your next post will continue to appear in that fan’s newsfeed.

Anecdotally it seems far more difficult to get a ‘like’ on Facebook, than a ‘follow’ on Twitter – so a clean landing page may be important for your organisation. However, as in any crowded social space, it’s easy for your Facebook posts to be missed or ignored. Spend your time creating engaging content, rather than endlessly tweaking your landing page, profile picture or the photos that appear at the top of your fan page, and it’s more likely that your brand will keep its place in your fans’ newsfeeds.

And as you converse with your fans, listen to their opinions and gather their feedback via the comments on your posts, it’s likely that having a fanpage will become more rewarding for you and your organisation as well.

If you found this article helpful at all, please consider visiting my landing page (or my wall for that matter) and clicking the like button. I like to be liked, and I hope to deliver you interesting and engaging content over the weeks and months ahead.

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Apple and Walnut Cupcakes for the Globe

Apple and Walnut Cupcakes at the GlobeShakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank has been a huge part of London life for my husband and me. In our first year here, we volunteered as stewards: wearing the maroon tabards and keeping the groundlings standing. Since then, we’ve seen almost all of almost every show (I missed half an hour of Henry IV last year, when at five months pregnant, I fainted five minutes into the performance).

Things have changed somewhat this year because of Baby but on Saturday afternoon, I managed to join some friends for a matinee performance of Hamlet. To celebrate the start of our 2011 season, I made us the Apple and Walnut cupcakes that you can see lined up on the stage here.

My Cake Days book vs app article went up on iPhoneAppCafe.com last week.

The Cake Days cookbook, with its bright pink cover, looks very pretty on my shelf. For now – at least when I want to try out one of the 85 recipes that are also in the app version – I’d say it’ll stay on my shelf.

The Apple and Walnut cupcakes recipe is included in the iPhone application. However, I forgot a very important difference when I was writing my article: printed recipes don’t run out of batteries. While my iPhone charged, I made these cupcakes using the cookbook.

These were the first cupcakes I’ve ever made with chunks in them. In this case, they were rather large chunks of apple and walnuts, which resulted in holes in the cakes and uneven tops. They didn’t look the best, so I was worried about how they would taste.

They tasted fantastic. The combination of cinnamon and apple, walnuts, sugar and cream cheese frosting works amazingly well, resulting in an absolutely delicious end product.

Apple and Walnut CupcakesThe Globe’s production of Hamlet has received mixed reviews this year: both from the professional critics and from my friends. The cupcakes, however, seemed to receive universal acclaim – including a vote for ‘best cupcake recipe yet’ from my husband.

Using the book or the app, I’ll definitely bake them again.

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Re-importing photos in Windows 7

I’ve been setting up my new HP laptop this afternoon: installing Office and Norton and iTunes. All was going well, until I decided to import the photos from my camera using Windows 7′s Import Pictures and Videos feature. The first time I tried the import, I didn’t really think about it too much, went with the default options, and ended up with a whole lot of unsorted pictures – rather than the date-named folders I had on my previous computer.

I still had the files from my camera’s SD card, so I decided the best thing to do was to delete everything and  reimport them again. No luck there. Windows told me there were no new files, and thus there was nothing it could import.

It took me half an hour and several part-answers on online forums to find out how to reimport the photos, so I thought I’d reproduce the final solution here. I make no claims to be a Windows 7 expert. hidden files are probably hidden for a reason and I probably can’t answer any related questions. As such, I’d recommend that you don’t delete any files you can’t afford to lose before trying this fix (instead you could copy them into another folder on your computer, leaving your Pictures folder empty).

Step one: Accessing hidden files

Folder Options screen captureClick on the circle Windows Start icon in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.

In the Search box, type Folder Options, and click on the option with that name in the search results.

When the Folder Options window opens, click on the View tab, and select the radio button next to Show hidden files, folders or drives.

Click on OK to save your changes.

This will allow you to find a database file called PreviouslyAquired. Which brings us to step two.

Step two: PreviouslyAquired

Right click on the Windows Start icon, and select Windows Explorer.

Navigate to: C:/users/[your account name]/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Photo Aquisition

If you can’t find the AppData folder, it may be because it’s still hidden (see step one). In the Photo Aquistion folder, you should find a file which is called PreviouslyAquired. If you click on the file’s name once and rename it PreviouslyAquired.old, Windows won’t be able to automatically find it when you attach your camera again. This should allow you to reimport your photos…

It did for me, at least.

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