5 Easy Tips for Using Google+

Google+ LogoWell, it’s official. Facebook finally has a real, serious challenger for their crown as king of the social media sites.

Google recently launched the Google+ social network. Geeks rejoiced (partially because it’s fun to play with new toys).

This isn’t Google’s first attempt at social networking. Far from it. They’ve had a few years of practice with stuff like Google Buzz, Google Wave, and Orkut. This time, it seems, they’ve come out with something that’s truly promising.

If you’re a marketer, you know that this will make it to a whiteboard near you sooner rather than later. Before clients start asking about it, you’ll want to know more about getting started with Google+.

Here are five really easy tips for getting started with Google+: Continue reading

3 Easy Email Marketing Tips to Improve ROI

Few things in the modern world are as ubiquitous as email. In a few short years, the medium of email went from being a small part of the online experience to a centerpiece of our professional and personal lives. And yet, oddly enough, many marketers are unsure of how to properly utilize email as part of their branding campaign.

Here are three tips for getting the most out of your email marketing efforts. (Why only three? Well, for starters, email marketing is a massive topic that is far too important to tackle in just one blog post. So let’s just start with three and see how that goes.)

1. Understand How Images Load
These days, many of your target customers have the ability to receive HTML email, which means that you can include snazzy images. But many email programs do not show images when the email is opened. That means your splashy email may not display as intended until the user clicks “load images.” Be sure to design your emails, so that key messages display on the preview mode.

This video by my friend and technical advisor Chris Cullmann details how to optimize the images in the body of an HTML email. Note how certain techniques that work well on a website (white navigational text on a black background), just doesn’t work on HTML emails. Listen to Chris. He’s smart. Continue reading

Write Less, Say More

As most copywriters will agree, it’s actually more difficult to write less than to write more. It’s easy to blabber on until you get around to making your point. That’s fairly easy.

Write tight. Now that’s hard.

This is especially true online. People aren’t necessarily looking to “read” your magical prose. They are looking to get to their destination content. They want you to help them get there with the least amount of clutter. Words — when abused — can be clutter.

Google is a company that is always trying to gain an extra edge in efficiency. Their famously austere homepage shows that they want nothing to stand in the way of your search.

Google gave Gmail a makeover. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their old homepage, they provided a side-by-side comparison. According to Google, they cut some 250 words from their copy. They are literally saying more by saying less. Or at least using fewer words.

It’s important to recognize when your reader actually wants more detail, particularly when they are trying to determine if your product or service is what they want. At that point, you need to give them the information they need to make a decision about your product or service.

Check out your own website. Could your copy go for a little nip/tuck? Is your otherwise smart, valuable service drowning in a sea of prose? If so, sharpen your pencils and start editing.

More reading:

Freemium – A Net Business Model

Free is great, isn’t it? The Net is packed with free stuff.

Need a free dictionary? Use Dictionary.com. Need some free music? Listen to Pandora. Want some free news? Try CNN.com. Free classifieds? Try craigslist.com. Free phone calls? Dial Skype. It’s all free. I should know, I use all of these sites and services.

And, insanely enough, many applications are free. Years ago, you had to pay for word processing, spreadsheets, and databases. Now, you can get pretty powerful software, all for free.

As I noted in an earlier blog, free isn’t really free. Someone is paying for it in the hopes of earning money. While most of these applications and resources will remain free, there are a few that are starting to turn a profit on the “freemium” model.

That is, it’s free, but to unlock powerful premium features, you gotta pay. Hence, the techronym freemium.

Freemium in My Life

Here are some examples of free and freemium services that I use:

Google Docs - Google ApsGoogle Docs:
Free productivity software. Good stuff. I use it a lot. All free, until I want to roll it out enterprise wide to my coworkers or employees.

And if you use GMail, you may eventually run out of space. Yup, look at the bottom of the GMail window, and you will see a little “% used” message. After you exceed your GMail limit, you may be prompted to upgrade to a paid Gmail account.

Zoho PremiumZoho Docs:
Similar to Google Docs, Zoho is a productivity software suite. Actually much broader and more powerful than Google docs, but not as well known.

Similarly, you can do a lot with Zoho, but if you want more features and space, you pay a Freemium price. I’ve been impressed with Zoho’s software suite and may tap into a few of their premium features.

Flickr PremiumFlickr:
A photo sharing social network. I keep all my photos here. And now, with a pro account, I have greater control over my photo sets and I can upload videos.

Someone gave me a freemium Pro Account for my birthday and now I am addicted to it.

Evernote PremiumEvernote:
A free to use idea-and-stuff capture system. (It’s hard to explain. Check it out.)

A freemium account unlocks more space and flexibility in Evernote and some cool digital camera features.

WordPress PremiumWordPress Premium:
This very blog is based on free WordPress software. The free version allows me to blog on their platform or even install it on my own web server.

But a premium version unlocks some extra features and hosting options.

Will Freemium Work?

Will the freemium business model work? Will people pay for stuff that they are used to getting for free?

Let’s hope that the added features are an incentive to get people to shell out a few bucks. Because eventually, some of these programmers and content creators are going to want to get paid…they have to pay the rent and utilities too.

For now, most everything on the Net is free and freemium features may help to keep it that way.

In the future, freemium features are going to matter a lot. This will be the way that many sites capture revenue…and the way they attract advertisers and partners. (For example, “how many people are registered for the free service vs the freemium services?”)

For more on freemiums, check out:

And, as always, a visit to my personal website at buddyscalera.com is still free

Free Isn’t Really Free

Lots of people, including me, use free applications. This blog is on the free version of WordPress.

But free really isn’t free. There’s always a price.

As Google grows, more people register to use their free tools, including GMail, Google Documents, YouTube, and this little tool called “Search.” Yes, and it’s all free. We love free, right?

Google is a for-profit company that has a responsibility to it’s shareholders and employees. The smart engineers who write the code for these free applications…well, they need to get paid. Everyone needs to get paid.

So how does Google make money? Well, right now, they leverage the immense amount of data that they capture every time we do a search. Or they monetize the content of our emails. Or our social networks. Or our video viewing habits.

And it’s all legal and completely above board. It’s right there in their privacy policy, if you choose to read it. It’s really not Google’s fault if you dont read the fine print. Google is an exceptional company, creates a lot of great of amazing products and does a lot of wonderful socially responsible things. But all this is made possible because they also run a hell of a business.

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, WordPress and others offer free services with the hopes of getting a LOT of people to register. Then, they monetize it by selling profiling data about how we use their free services. (Note: Broadcast television and radio work in similar ways. Newspapers charge a fraction of what it costs to print and deliver the paper. It’s all fueled by advertising.)

Many people are thrilled that there’s a free alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite. But when you buy their software, you get a certain amount of protected anonymity. Microsoft isnt data mining information from your private Excel spreadsheets, but free services like Google Documents and Zoho can. The front end of these services are free, but they need to find a way to earn a profit. And currently that’s done by aggregating user behavior and selling it to advertisers.

There’s really no such thing as free. And with Internet applications, free is a temporary concept. Eventually, we will all have to pay.