Posts in Category: Tools

Freemium: Time vs Use

I wish that freemium models would give up on the free trial by time/date limit. Freemium pricing would be more successful for those of us that evaluate a lot of software, apps and platforms for work if it were all based on number of uses instead.

One example is Sprout Social. I hear someone talking about it, and get interested in seeing behind the curtain – I think it might help a client. I sign up, set it up, then a (different) client project takes priority. I spend two weeks on actual work for clients, and not on a 14-day free trial. At the end of the “14 day free trial” I get the email message that I have a report waiting – this serves to remind me that I’d signed up for a trial and not used the service.

I sign in to see what the report says and get a note that I have to pay for the service.  Well, fair enough – if the Sprout service is awesome, I’d love to. But could Sprout have shown me the report first to entice payment, since I’d had no logins with the service at all during the trial period? Or could Sprout have made it a trial of “14 (fourteen) 24-hour login and use periods” instead of “14 days in a row”? That way I would have actually seen the program in action.

I realize this is a problem specific to someone who does what I do for a living that needs to be an early adopter of just about everything, but I can’t help but think that it would be helpful for the average user who also is busy running a business as well if all freemium models went to “uses” and not time frames for their trials.

What do you think? Is the freemium by time frame trial model broken? How would you change it?

Make Better Infographics (We’re Begging You)


If infographics are the new hotness, the least infographic makers can do is spare us from bad infographics.

A poor infographic design completely negates any good information contained in the image (and don’t get me started on infographics full of nothing but fluff information or outdated statistics).


Good infographic pointers:

1) Relay solid information in a fact-based story arc leading to a single vital point or conclusion in a concise way using good, easy to understand graphics

2) Make HTML infographics, not the usual bitmap infographics

(example: The State of the Internet Now! Notice how alive it is, and how concisely the information is displayed on the page)

3) Keep the information above the fold! We hate scrolling to read a mile-long infograhic. It detracts from your facts and your story.

(bad infographic example: This infographic on Work-Related Stress Deaths may contain great info, but I stopped caring as soon as I had to a) zoom in to see it b) start scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling….)

(better infographic example: This infographic on how the US highway system mapped like subways is great – it’s above the fold and highlights information on scroll over.)

4) Don’t make me download a PDF to read your infographic. It’s rude. Open in the browser. If you want to have a download or print option, fine, but don’t make it automatic. I dislike that as much as I dislike auto playing video and audio on a website.

5) Don’t blind the reader with garish, clashing colors or text that is too small. There is no substitute for good design. Make your infographics easy to read.

6) Put your infographic to the napkin test. Pre-map it to make sure your information and decision paths make sense.

In the end this popular information tool has become popular for marketing businesses instead of just relaying ideas and knowledge. That’s fine, but you can’t lose the knowledge element in your quest for marketing.


First Thoughts on Facebook Timeline For Business

Facebook Timeline for Business switched on for me today. Usually what I do is evaluate it then give clients recommendations after I’ve used it for a while, but frankly I thought it would be more fun to take a quick video of me futzing around with it for the first time, just like y’all might. This video is what a quick mental assessment of a tool for my own business looks like on the first time I see a change. Be rest assured, however, that while this video is a (very) casual look at what it looks like for anyone on day one, there will be more advice coming from me on this, because it radically changes the strategy of most businesses on Facebook.

Initial Takeaways:

1) Be Visual – This is graphics heavy. Your cover photo is your best place to make a sale now and the wall is simply there to reinforce it with customer engagement.

2) Try out different page views to see what works best – it seems to me on first look that different types of business are going to see differing successes with Highlights, Friend Only, Other, etc. For example, in a vertical where customer engagement and reviews are key, the tab highlighting the posts of others might be a great choice.

3) This puts the emphasis on your admin tools and your metrics/insights, which should solve some of the on-ramp and learning curve issues Facebook has faced in the past. This is also good because not enough people have been utilizing insights – a powerful tool for business – now you have no excuse. They are front and center in the admin panel.

4) This is supposed to create a history of a business but it doesn’t really. Too many businesses out there had special circumstances caused by Facebook’s own on-ramp issues and lack of certain features. Take Magnitude Media, for example. Once upon a time we focused on wine and were named Uptown Uncorked. Then we branched out, and have a few years where we helped more folks but still had our old name. When we rebranded, Facebook wasn’t allowing merging of pages – this means we had to start fresh. So did a lot of other businesses. Therefore, M2 looks like it started last year but in reality it just lost the previous page because of another FB issue – not being able to rename pages if you have more than 100 fans. Even Coke, world famous soft drink, had to buy a page that was started by fans – if they had not been able to do that as a major brand, they wouldn’t have a history either since they didn’t get on board early. So, Facebook wants to show the story of a business, but through their own faults with a lack of features (edit, page renaming or merging if more than 100 fans, etc), these stories aren’t complete.

What are your thoughts? Put them in the comments!

Double click to play, single click to pause:

(If the player below doesn’t play well with your browser, or you don’t have QuickTime, you can also view this video on SlideShare)

[qt: 540 300]


UPDATED to include this post by friend Cappy Popp from ThoughtLabs (he literally wrote the book on Facebook). He agrees with some of the assessments I made, and takes it a bit deeper for you. Enjoy!

UPDATED to include this from Jay Baer – a spot-on post about the detriments this has for small business. “14 Ways New Facebook Betrays Small Business – Smarts on the unfortunate evolution of Facebook from @JayBaer “

The Rise of Mobile in Retail

Mobile apps can be the door to happy customers and more retail sales, but they can also have drawbacks if not researched well and done correctly.

Altimeter released a great report on where Mobile Retail stands right now, and reviews a few of the missteps as well as the inroads companies have made trying out mobile in retail.

Some successes include Starbucks, a mobile pay and use-tracking solution I personally use often because it works so well (though I don’t tend to use their mobile play app to animate their cups – it suffers from accuracy and lag issues).

I also liked the notes Altimeter made about how online retailers such as Amazon are causing ripples in the offline space and pushing brick and mortar retailers out of their comfort zone.


I’ve embedded the Altimeter report for you below – it has some good information you can put to use right now if you are thinking of adding a mobile strategy to your retail store.



Metrics Snapshot Tool

Considering I’m writing Social Media Metrics for Dummies, I don’t talk about metrics often on this blog. Mainly that’s because I’m too busy helping clients figure metrics out in real life.

I did want to take a minute to mention the Social Metrics plug in for you. It’s not a tool for deep metrics analysis but it is a great tool for quick content analysis – seeing what’s working for you as a social network, as well as what’s emerging as sharable topics on your blog. For example, you can see that Digg, as a whole, is not a social network where we see a lot of shares here at M2. You can also quickly see that our readers are very interested in changing the face of education right now (as they should be).

I haven’t tried the Social Metrics Pro version yet but it gives you some nice Excel like features that the free version doesn’t. However, the free version is adequate for Magnitude’s needs right now since we have such deep analytics running elsewhere.

What’s your favorite metrics tool for your blog?

Simple Ways to Make Facebook Quieter for You

Over on my Facebook wall, I keep seeing the ubiquitous chain-status post about hovering over the subscribe button on someone’s profile to help get them out of the notifications column on the right.

That *is* one thing you can do, but you can also make yourself quieter for everyone. Go to your own profile (looking on the “wall view” that your friends see). Hover over one of the notifications of your comment on someone else’s wall.

Under the pencil icon (new timeline) or gear icon (old timeline) select “Hide this comment from timeline” then select “hide all comment activity from timeline”.

Do the same with a Like notification on your own profile wall.

This will significantly reduce how often you appear on Facebook by muting comments posting to your wall (and to the sidebar Facebook recently introduced), making it so you only appear in a relevant context to folks.

Additionally, it helps to double check your Privacy settings weekly. Set tags to need your approval. Turn off the ability of others to check you in to Places. You get the idea.

Also, be careful what Apps you allow to interact with your profile information. Many allow your friends to share information about you without your knowledge just by playing a game. There is a setting for this also, and a way to turn these notifications off as well. Be as on top of it as you can with each Facebook UI change.

Be proactive. Facebook will continue to throw us all curveballs but there is a lot we can do to make our own experience here better and more private.

@leslie + Eloqua = the Grande Guide to Social Advertising Free eBook

That’s right, the writing bug struck again and I worked with Joe Chernov and Eloqua to bring you a new Grande Guide in their Grande Guide series.

This one is all about Social Advertising. If you want pointers on ads for various social networks, you’ll find this book a handy way to get started.

You can grab the Leslie_Poston and Eloqua_Grande_Guide_to_Social_Advertising here, or over at the Eloqua page.

Happy reading!

Level Up Twitter

Many have mastered the basic “figuring out there is a thing called Twitter, signing up, fumbling through some tweets and making some connections” thing. If so, here are some tips to carry you past the beginning of your Twitter story:

Learning To Work In An Environment In Flux

Twitter is not static. Twitter HQ makes great sweeping changes to the service, the user interface and the API all the time. When they aren’t making great sweeping changes, they are making small, annoying changes, or just generally buckling under the weight of so many people talking about Charlie Sheen, the unrest in the Middle East, the latest major weather event, #breakingnews, or Donald Trump’s Bad Hair. Regardless, the sooner you learn that Twitter can be wonky, sometimes is down, and isn’t meant to be worked like a 9-5 cubicle job on a one way track to nowhere, the happier you will be there.

Just Because They Connect With You Doesn’t Mean You Can Sell To Them

Twitter is a la carte. Not only do you not HAVE to follow people back, or even follow your mom if you don’t want to, a follow from someone new doesn’t mean “please auto DM me a suspicious short link to your latest self help video”. Auto DMs are evil. You’d think that would be in Twitter 101 and not Level Up Twitter, but you’d be surprised how many people still do this. Stop it.

We Hate The Word ‘Curating’ As Applied To Twitter, But Learn To Work Your Lists Anyway

Twitter introduced a new feature that is quite handy: the List. The list was a user generated idea that first began on clients like Seesmic and Tweetdeck as groups. It was such a good idea, Twitter “borrowed” it. Use lists well. They keep your Twitter noise levels manageable as you grow, and help you do a variety of things, from not losing people you care about in the static to tracking competitors and staying in touch with your industry.

You get 20 lists. Each list gets to have 500 unlimited Twitter users in it. Use them wisely – you’ll be surprised how fast you use them up once you get in the habit.

People use lists in so many ways – I use public lists on @leslie in a very personal way, to sort incoming information or share people I think are valuable, and private lists for clients and such, but here is how a company might use them:

• Private Lists: To do competitive intel on the competition or on former employees, to keep an eye on future hires and see their work in action without tipping them that they are in the running, to keep an eye on current employees (yes, that one is a little evil), to sort out your real life family and friends so you don’t lose them in the business noise, to research and track future clients, or keep a list of current clients for monitoring.

• Public Lists: To track people and companies based on industry, to sort by usefulness, to keep track of news on certain topics or regions, research on areas for business expansion or vacations, tracking the housing market, tracking the stock market, getting in touch with VCs (venture capitalists), learning new information from thought leaders in an industry, tracking events, learning about new music or film, learning about food and wine or whiskey, becoming an expert in your favorite hobby topic, connecting with non profits, helping others connect, job searching, job sharing and more.

It’s not enough just to have a list. You need to use it. Schedule your list interactions so you can manage your time, but interact with at least some of your lists every day, whether you read them or engage or just take notes. Start using your lists to shorten your sales funnel and broaden your competitive reach. Use them to make connections outside of your sphere of influence.

Maximizing the Retweet, the Old School Way

Before Twitter got fancy and grabbed yet another user generated idea, the retweet, and turned it into a button that made it look like someone else was talking on your account to your followers, there was the old-style retweet. This allowed you to shorten a user’s tweet (careful to  keep the context the same as their original, of course), credit their handle with a RT in front (e.g. [@username I agree! RT @leslie “old style RTs are so much more effective”]), and insert a short comment in front of the RT (which let your followers know why the heck you were sharing it in the first place). [Update: Twitter has brought back the “comment with RT” feature as of 2015]

This is still the best way to RT someone, as it gives the RT context to your followers.  You can still use this in several ways: the old fashioned “copy/paste/edit/post” method, or by using a button function called “quote” in several Twitter clients such as CoTweet, Seesmic, and others.  The use of shortened URL programs like takes care of the issue of metrics, since Twitter selfishly only tracks their own RT button on’s new Retweets tab for users.

How The Heck Do I Know It’s Working?

Have you been on Twitter for longer than 6 months? Have you engaged in a genuine two-way discourse with a good mix of news, talking, sharing and promotion for the entire time, on a consistent basis, and not been using it just as a “Me! Me! Me!” megaphone to shout at people about your latest special or deal? Have you seen your followers grow in number, organically (sometimes this can be slower, but it is infinitely more valuable than follower-getting programs and cheating)? If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then the answer to “Have you seen your sales or sales leads (or bookings, etc – whatever your cash measurement is) increase?” should be yes also.

That’s the simplistic way to tell, without analytics. However, you should have Twitter analytics in place by now! With the hundreds of applications, web sites and start ups that want to rate influence and other mumbo jumbo there is no excuse not to be using something to track how you are doing, in some way, other than hoping for sales with no real way to measure.

Some free ways to track Twitter effectiveness:

Hashtags: The little gibberish words and phrases you see go by on Twitter that look like this: #smbnh are called hashtags. Another user driven invention that Twitter appropriated, those little tags can be clicked on, and take you to a page of all tweets using the hashtag. You can then use tools like Twapper Keeper to keep a running diary of hashtag use for each one.

You make your own hashtags as you need them. I recommend choosing something short, easy to remember and that no one else is using. You can quickly use the search bar in Twitter to plug in your chosen hashtag and see if it pops up as being used elsewhere – if so, pick another hashtag instead of corrupting someone else’s tracking. Tell people what the official hashtag is for your event or marketing campaign! This will prevent them generating a hashtag of their own and having an issue of confusion.

Put the hashtag on your slides, web site, blog posts, uploaded pictures, uploaded videos and print collateral – this will enable you track your event or project’s impact around the web, not just on Twitter, via search engine and web site analytics.

Google Analytics: This tool goes on your website (please tell me you have a web site, and don’t just use Facebook). It’s free, it’s customizable, it’s comprehensive. There are paid tools out there that make this a bit easier, but if you don’t have the funds, or just want to experiment, start here. Use hashtags, keyword searches, group, campaigns, landing pages and other tools to make analytics work for you. If you have a social media consultant or staffer, a good one will insist on this or another tool of your choosing to measure the impact of your social presence. A great one will be giving you solid measurements, analytics and reports ongoing throughout your project(s). Analytics help you track success, and more importantly, help you shift away from tactics that are not working to spend more time (after all, time is money) on things that are.

URL Shorteners like, HootSuite and others offer statistics on URL traction, including click throughs and shares, and are a simple and free way to see if what you are sharing is making the rounds.

The worst way to track success is follower count.  So many people game the system out of impatience or a desire to look better than they are that it renders this metric moot.  As general rule, where unequal follower count (following more people than follow back by a great margin) was once a simple way to find a spammer, now it is often simply someone who erroneously clicked the suggested follows link when signing up for Twitter, or got excited and followed too many too fast, just as often as it is a spammer. Now you have to look at their tweets and decide on your own if they bring value to you (or if, conversely, your tweets would reflect you bringing value to others).

Free Metrics that don’t matter as much as people would like them to include Klout, Twinfluence, Twitter Grader and others.  Mostly, these encourage people to tweet at high volume instead of high quality, and penalize you for taking a break from engaging.  I’d rather go for quality, and would rather see you do the same. However, some shortsighted people and companies give Klout and other scores weight, so try to keep yours at 40 or 50 or over if you can do it without alienating your audience.

Paid Twitter Tools for Metrics and Engagement

One of the best things you can do for your brand on Twitter is stop using as an interface to talk to your followers – use  tool instead.  In spite of several recent overhauls, it is simply not an effective way to engage, monitor or listen as yet, though I know the folks at Twitter are working hard on that.

There are many tools for Twitter that you can buy. In the spirit of buying local, two NH companies: JitterJam (engagement dashboard, distributed teams, brand statistics, social measurement, more profiles than just Twitter) and CustomScoop (brand tracking and measurement, no engagement feature) offer a paid solution to the issue of metrics. Not local to NH, but effective: HootSuite, CoTweet, Tap11, PeopleBrowsr and others also offer paid versions for in depth tracking.  All of the tools mentioned here have varying price points, from $9 per month to $1500 and sometimes more.  They all also offer free trials and/or free versions with less features that may work well for you. Of the ones listed, I could do an entire post just on the pros and cons (or you can come to one of my classes or workshops for an even more in depth dive into twitter than I’m offering in this excessively long post).

You Need To Live In Search on Twitter

Live in search. By using search and lists on Twitter more often than any other tool, your return on time invested in the service will triple if not quadruple. Twitter Search is not the only search to live in now, and that’s a good thing since it is frequently “under construction” and currently doesn’t go back in time very far.

By spending more time listening than you would think you need to, you will gather information you didn’t even know was out there for the taking, and be leagues ahead of other in your field.  Learn to use the save search functions in your favorite Twitter client (some listed above, though we can’t count out Seesmic or TweetDeck, the granddaddies of them all) – have searches that you check daily, update them regularly.  Use Google Search and boolean operators in search terms with instant search turned on to get up to the minute tweets about your favorite keywords and topics.  You would be surprised what people and companies put out there into the public sphere. Knowledge you can then take and use to your advantage.

Increase the value of who you follow

Last but not least – you control your Twitter environment.  Follow people who are good at what you need, have useful things to say, are fun to engage with, or who are in parallel industries. Learn from them. They are out there sharing their knowledge every day, in hopes that this Twitter place and the online profiles that touch upon it will be better and more useful for everyone.  Some (but definitely not all) of my personal favorites:

Jeremiah Owyang (Analysis)

Stowe Boyd (Future Thinking)

Jessie Newburn (Generational Theory)

Ethan Zuckerman (Global Impacts)

John Herman (Media Literacy)

Alex Howard (Government 2.0)

Andy Carvin (Politics and News)

Tara Hunt (Women in Business)

Chris Penn (Measurement, World of Warcraft as a business metaphor, Finances, Idea Curation, Email Marketing)

KD Paine (Measurement)


Note: The awesome Hasthag Ninja graphic in this post is from a cool shirt by Josh Fisher of Secret Supr-Hero Gear and links to the web site, where you can purchase it and several other cool shirts. Happy shopping! (not an affiliate link)

Facebook Making Moves in Security, Agencies and Branding

It seems Facebook is all over the online news today with some changes geared toward overall safety, and others to working with brands and agencies.

Some of the safety changes have been in the process of being rolled out for a while, with Facebook finally collecting all of the options in one place for user access via this post on user safety education, tools and practices. I think the best part of that post is the first section which deals with user education. Half the battle for internet safety is good education on what safety really means online. By making videos and tutorials available Facebook is taking a late, but good, first step toward making an educated user base. I highly recommend seeking out safety education from other sources as well, since anything by Facebook is going to be in keeping with the usual Facebook MO of serving Facebook’s own best interests before the user’s.

In the last part of the safety post, Facebook mentions their constant HTTPS secure login (which should be internet standard, in my opinion, but too many sites are slow to adopt this practice), as well as their multiple step login process. When out and about I use the firefox plug in HTTPS Everywhere to make sure I’m logged in to every site I visit via HTTPS, so that’s a good thing, having an HTTPS protocol in play. As far as the two step log in (which I’ve dubbed multi step because of my experience with it), I think that will only frustrate users. I’ve been using that process for several weeks now, and mostly? I find it clunky and find that it doesn’t “take” on the first attempt -ever. Toss in the multiple emails I get when I log in on a new device, and I think users may be a bit annoyed by the process and freaked out by the emails.

I’d be interested to find out what others using the new security features over the last few weeks think about them, and to get your opinions on the safety videos and links.

For brands and agencies, Facebook has rolled out something they are calling Facebook Studio. At first glance, I’m not sure what building this layer for agencies and brands will actually do besides create yet another place online to have to track regularly. It purportedly is intended to encourage ideas through example and to help ideas gestate through a community of peers. Frankly, looking at the number of fellow agencies and marketers and brands in my profile friends list on Facebook and at the ease of access to people whose opinion I value on Twitter and via email, I’m not sure more touch points with like-careered folks were needed here. I am going to recommend using this with caution, and waiting until it proves out as useful before investing much of your premium time and attention here.

Brands and agencies, what do you think of having your own playground for ideas and possible test runs on Facebook?

LinkedIn Direct Ads vs Google AdWords vs Facebook Ads

These three ad types are hotly contested for effectiveness right now, so I thought I’d give you a quick run-down on the basic differences in each one for a small business.

LinkedIn Direct Ads

These are by far the least effective and most expensive for a small business. LinkedIn has several snippets of language in its ad agreement users sign that allow it to wreak some havoc on your ad budget. Most notably, the part of the usage agreement that allows it to exceed your Daily Ad Budget by as much as 20%. If they allowed you to set a Daily Ad Budget below $10, you might be able to accommodate this extra 20% easily, but their Daily Minimum is $10. This makes it hard for a small business operating on a shoe string budget to plan.

If the click through rate was high enough, the budgetary issues would not matter as much – you would be getting a better return on your investment. However, running an optimized LinkedIn Direct Ad for a week netted the following numbers: 27,143 impressions, 10 click throughs. That’s not a lot of activity on an SEO optimized ad. The other issue I found with LinkedIn Direct Ads was the inability to see where and how it was being displayed. Both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads offer you a much better snap shot of how your ad is being delivered, and much better and more comprehensive analytics to help you fine tune your efforts.

Bottom line: for a big business with a larger budget, LinkedIn Direct Ads may be a great solution, but for a small business who is counting every penny, I’d try another ad method for your hard earned dollar.

Facebook Ads

The jury is still out for me with Facebook Ads and how effective they are for a small business. They have some detailed demographic data and capabilities that make them worth checking out, and a much better analytics set up than LinkedIn Direct Ads (Google AdWords still wins the analytics data fight for ad tracking). Success with a Facebook Ad depends largely on your business type and target market, however; while success in AdWords can be much more broad if you are good at writing short ad copy.

Facebook Ads also gets a proceed with financial caution flag from me. Facebook is a bit better at setting daily minimums and weekly budgets, but a small business owner must pay attention to their weekly spend and remember to stop the ads from running if you find yourself reaching your weekly budget. This is also true of LinkedIn Direct Ads, and one way you can curb the bleed on their daily minimum.

With Facebook Ads, a great picture and action language is key to any kind of success. Don’t be afraid to do a little A/B testing, running the same ad with different photos and logos, to see where you score. Too many people just toss up one version of an ad and call it good, then wonder why they aren’t getting any results. Another thing to consider with Facebook Ads: the landing page. Are you choosing your Facebook Page with a call to action, or taking folks out of Facebook to your website’s great landing page? It matters. Do similar A/B testing with your landing pages and conversion goals to see what is more successful for your business.

Google AdWords

In spite of recent changes to search, for small businesses with tight budgets and a great need for detailed analytics on the ads they invest in, Google AdWords remains my favorite ad method. I think that Facebook Ads will be a contender over time, but for now – Google still wins. Small business needs the ability to see detailed drill downs of their ads, their click through rates and how well their ads are converting, and Google AdWords still does that the best.

It can be frustrating to work with Google AdWords, trying to hit that sweet spot of keywords and click throughs without triggering the AdWords moderator bots that can get your ad pulled. One key is action words and knowing the difference between a feature and benefit. What I mean by that is being able to show the ad reader the benefit your business gives them if they click through. So instead of saying you have a “wide selection of sizes” for a dress, you say you have “hard to find sizes always in stock”. See the difference? Don’t under estimate the power of linking your AdWords ad to your Google Place either – this can reap many local benefits for your business.

Google AdWords can also quickly exceed a small business budget. Be ready to experiment with your maximum  bid level and daily budget a bit until you find the return rate and expenditure paring that works for you. Just as with Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Direct Ads, you will want to monitor your budget daily. Even more important, set conversion goals and track them by linking your Google AdWords account to your Google Analytics account. If an ad isn’t converting, use version testing to try another method.

The Wrap

No ad system is foolproof anymore. People use AdBlocker on Firefox and Chrome extensions that remove not only ads but social widgets (including social comments) and other tools to keep ads at bay. That is another reason to be cautious about your ad spend and the duration of your ad campaign. Regardless, ads are still an integral part of great marketing, along with social marketing and traditional off line methods. You can’t assume that your target market is only in one place.  I hope this quick sketch, while not being a deep dive into methods for each system, helps you decide where your ad money will best be spent.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ad methods and how they worked for your type of business in the comments.