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Source: iStock Photo
Source: iStock Photo

By now most organizations buy in to the fact that data is one of their most valuable assets and that they should be making their business decisions based upon insights they derive from it.  It sure helps when you present data to stakeholders in a format that they can both understand and appreciate.

Data visualization tools, or dashboards as they are often called, can simply present data in a colorful and easy-to-understand format or they can be sophisticated analytics tools unto themselves, allowing users to manipulate the data in order to get answers to deeper questions. Some tools are simple graphical representations of the business data and others border on artistic.

Either way, if your end goal is to communicate information across a broad range of stakeholders and spark the kinds of conversations that can help create a competitive advantage, data visualization tools can be a huge asset to your organization.

Join us for a free webinar to get an overview of data visualization solutions and learn how they can prove to be one of your most powerful tools to unlock the value in your organization’s data.

Register now! Webinar: Practical Guide to Dashboards for Digital Channels

It’s incredible how much the web has evolved. More specifically, it’s incredible how many new products Google has introduced in the past year. When Google first announced their new platform, today known as Google+, I thought, “This could be a game changer in the social space.” But did I jump on it right away? No, not really. I was traveling in Vancouver for a company Face-to-Face event when Google+ was made available on a limited access basis. It was good times when all of us at Cardinal Path were able to take Google+ and Hangout on a test drive for the first time.

There’s been a lot of discussion since then around the potential of Google+. SEOs are taking advantage of what Google is doing with their platform like Authorship and AuthorRank. While Google+ is not a social network, we default to thinking it is because it’s another one of those sharing and communication tools with users who are always saying, “If you’re not on it, you’ll be missing out”.

Google+ is a ‘social layer’ that sits on top of many of Google’s products. You may have noticed the ‘+ Share’ button appearing in the top right of many Google properties and the many privately owned websites with the +1 button on their pages. Google wants you to use their platform because they believe there is some unique value in it that we, as users, can benefit from.

I can name a dozen Google products I use everyday. In fact, I probably use more Google products in a day than all non-Google tools combined. So, did it make sense for Google to integrate the plus functionality with all their products? I’d say yes.

I recently read Paul Goldston‘s phenomenal post on The Ultimate Guide to Google Plus for Business. Paul not only gives an overview of what Google+ is, he also gets into strategic and tactical elements that you can make use of right away. Like any new tool you add to your toolbox, you really need to give it a test run before you know whether or not it’s right for you.

Why Should You Be On Google Plus?

Here are eight reasons why you, as an individual and as a business, should be on Google+. Creating that linkage will only help you build greater trust with users and with Google.

(1) Authorship / AuthorRank

Google Authorship gives you the ability to link your written content on a domain to your Google+ profile. This allows Google to understand who you are, what you’ve published online, and to create a linkage between you and all your activities. Authorship also provides a more visually appealing result in the SERPs if you’ve configured everything properly. For instance, I’ve blogged on my own personal website, Cardinal Path and Online Behavior. This is what I see in the results when I search for any of my articles:

Google Authorship in Effect for Jackson Lo

As you can see, when done properly, your results will stand out over others. If any of you want to get really creative, you can test the background color, or even facial expressions, to see which may perform better. With all that said, the benefits you get are:

  • An image of the author appearing in the search results.
  • A link to the author’s Google+ profile page.
  • Demonstrates the authority of the person if he/she is in a lot of circles.

AuthorRank is another topic to discuss here, as it applies directly to authorship and Google+. I’ll use this snippet to provide a bit of context:

“The idea of ‘AuthorRank’ is this – if Google is able to identify and verify reputable authors in certain fields, they will then be able to weed out spammers and only serve up legitimate, relevant content by content creators that have proven themselves to be influential and relevant in their industry vertical or niche topic area.”

AuthorRank can be perceived as a positive thing, in most scenarios. If you read the article that Bill Slawski wrote back in 2007, you’ll get a feel of what AuthorRank (Agent Rank) is all about. I can only see more people and businesses jumping on and getting themselves involved with Google+. Until more of that happens, and until the Google+ community involvement matures, we’ll probably only see a small percentage of folks taking advantage of Authorship and AuthorRank in the short term. So, take advantage now! I do see authorship as a big opportunity, especially for entrepreneurs, marketers and professionals in a particular niche.

Here are just a few phenomenal posts by my fellow industry experts that I follow, definitely worth the read through:

(2) Everyone Uses Google Products, Soon Google+

The vast amount of people using Google products is unimaginable. If I were to count the number of products that Google owns, I would probably get lost. With that said, Google+ brings a whole slew of opportunities whereby content and files can be shared much more easily with friends, family and peers. Google announced recently that they now have over 100 million active users on Google+, achieving this in just a bit over a year since the platform launched.

Is there a reason why you are not on Google+ yet? The future for Google+ integration with more of Google’s products is only going to get brighter over time.

(3) Better Control of Your Messaging

Organizing a list of friends and peers must be one of the most time-consuming tasks that we do on the web these days. Google+ allows you to group people by adding them to Circles. These are essentially groups that you can name and sort anyway you like. After you’ve finished your grouping, you can now channel your messaging to specific groups, notifying them of updates whenever you have something to share.  For instance, a message only the HR team should receive can be sent only to those working in HR departments. Likewise, if I discover an amazing article on SEO, I would likely only want my SEO friends to read it, and not everyone in my network. Google+ Circles allows you to do that.

There is definitely a learning curve to Google+. It took me a while to get on board and begin using it.

(4) Understand Your Own Stats Across the Web; Analytics Will Only Get Better!

Since the dawn of Google+, we’ve seen Google’s attempts to provide us some rich data around the platform:

  • Ripples
  • Authorstats in Google Webmaster Tools
  • +1’s for domains in Google Analytics

Just last week, Gren Finn posted a blog on Marketing Land mentioning a new analytics tool coming for Google+ pages. It sounds like Google wants us all to understand how effectively we are using our time online, and help us use it better – we can now write content available across multiple properties and tie that all back to a single individual. I’m excited (and anxious) to learn more about what is to come on the analytics side of Google+.

On the same note, you can get access to some amazing statistics about yourself or your competitors by using CircleCount. Circle Count can track your followers over time, showing you a history of how many people circle you or your brand. You can also get statistics like comments per post, re-shares per post, +1’s per post, and the number of characters per post. Here is what it says about Cardinal Path:

Circlecounter for Cardinal Path

Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit stale on Google+ until I took it on more at the start of the month. As you can see, my graph does not look as pretty:

Circlecount for Jackson

When you decide to plug yourself into a social network, it’s best to stick with it for the long haul. I’ve noticed since the beginning of this month, I’ve gained +20 additional followers simply by engaging with my fellow Circlers and sharing more content.

(5) Google Plus + SEO

Who said being on Google+ will bring no benefits to SEO? Fire that person. (I’m joking).

Google+ is still fairly new to many of us, so we’re still learning the capabilities this platform brings to the table. One of the SEO benefits that Google+ Profile and Google+ Business Pages bring is pages which can be indexed in search results. This means that these Google+ pages will show up in the results, if optimized correctly, for your brand keyword and, possibly, for non-brand keywords.

Last week, I read an exceptional post by Mike Proctor and he led me to this snippet inside Google Webmaster Guidelines:

“+1′s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality.”

Additionally, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz conducted a test back in June 2011 on +1s and whether it appeared to have direct effect on rankings. His conclusion is they do have a direct effect.

You can optimize yourself and your business on Google+. These are separate entities and should not be confused as being just one. Head over here to get the guide for optimizing a Google+ business page and here to get information to optimize your personal Google+ profile.

(6) Google+ Local

Earlier this year, the Google Places team announced that Google+ Local is now the new Google Places. This allows Google to direct traffic from Google Maps to the Google+ community. Now people can get directions, recommendations from friends and even host events from a Google+ Local page.

I’ve begun to notice that a lot of my friends have uploaded an image of themselves to their Google account. As a result, their photos get displayed in their reviews and the experience is more genuine than before. Photos provide more trust that a review is by a legitimate human being, rather than someone attempting to spam the reviews sections of business pages.

Reviews from Friends on Google+ Local

(7) Hangouts / Hangouts on Air

Everyone enjoys the luxury of using free tools. One of the key benefits that you get with Google+ Hangout is the ability to video conference up to 9 additional people plus yourself. While conferencing, you may also switch back and forth between your desktop monitors to do real-time collaboration. It only took me a couple of tries to say, “This thing can work.” Scheduling a Hangout in Google Calendar is super simple, with no need to copy and paste call information! (yay!)

I do believe, as this product develops further, that these tools integrated into Google+ will be a huge driver to getting even more people on Plus.

(8) Google+ and the Outside World

In order to effectively build a community on Google+, a person and their business must engage with their audience. Similar to how Facebook and Twitter operates, Google+ pages can receive +1’s and be circled in person’s Circles. There are other considerations that need to be looked at outside of Google+ (i.e. your website). As a brand that wants to engage with its audience on Google+, it is important that the message be marketed in as many places as possible. Linking from your domain to your Google+ Business Page will drive more people to your page, and likely to lead to you getting Circled more.

You’ve reached the end of this post, but this is only the the start of what Google+ will bring to the table. Have you fully taken on Google+? How about your business? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Almost two years ago, I sat at a round table to listen to world leaders at the G20 Youth Entrepreneurship Conference in Toronto. Why was I there? In short, I got my spot at the table after writing the ‘best answer’ to their contest question “How does entrepreneurship affect our world?”. The prize of this contest was to live-tweet and blog throughout the conference. Since then, I’ve seen the evolution of Twitter and how many more event organizers have integrated live-tweeting to increase reach and participation. There are three areas I believe make up a successful event with Twitter and it starts with planning ahead.

Plan Ahead

Having all the essentials that people need to live-tweet at an event is utmost important. If your room has a poor internet connection, how do you think your attendees will feel after being told they should tweet and follow conversations on Twitter? They probably won’t be very happy. Let’s get the equipment and location requirements down tight so technical difficulties are a non-issue on the big day.

A few questions to ask yourself in the planning stage:

  • Will everyone in the room have a secure and fast internet connection?
  • Do you have the credentials (login information) to the network?
  • Are there sufficient chairs and tables set up for the amount of people registered?
  • Is there a #Hashtag for the event?
  • Do the attendees know about the hashtag and how to use it?
  • Do your employees, who are tweeting at the event, know the hashtag and how to use it?

These are just a few questions to ask before promoting live-tweeting at events. Once all these have been handled, then it is a matter of ensuring your employees know their roles and responsibilities with marketing the event.

Getting the Basics Down

 

That’s right. Before you ask your participants to tweet at your event, it is important that they know how to do it properly. This is important for both parties; employees and external attendees. Twitter has a great guide on Live-Tweeting Best Practices on their homepage, but I want to take a few points further to bring some additional thoughts into the event planning process.

When the initial planning stages are complete, it is time to strategize what needs to be done to get the word out there about following the event on Twitter. Here are some things to think about:

  • Publicize a #Hashtag
    • Is the #Hashtag visible on the event homepage? And every page?
    • Is there a link to the Saved Search results for the #Hashtag for easy following?
    • Are there instructions for following hashtags? (most people may not know what a Hashtag is, so it is important to educate them and make it a seamless process right from the start)
  • Tweet presenters
    • Do you have the Twitter handles of your presenters?
    • Do you have other social profiles of your presenters?
    • Is there information about your presenters on the event site?
    • Are social profiles links embedded for people to follow the presenters?
  • Pre-write and schedule tweets
    • Do you have the schedule of the event?
    • Do you know who and when each presenter is going up on stage to speak?
    • Do you have links to share? Are those links shortened and tagged with appropriate campaign parameters?
    • It is best to have a schedule and write pre-written tweets to save time. Ensure that the #hashtag and presenter handles are used in those tweets.
  • Share photos and videos
    • Do employees have the proper equipment to take photos and film footage of the event?
    • Do employees know how to take a picture and upload it to Twitter from their phones?
  • ReTweet speakers, attendees and other colleagues
    • Are you helping others at the conference by retweeting their content? (often this will help to get more followers and retweets of your content)
  • Install a widget on the event page of your website

TIP on choosing the right #hashtag: Depending on whether the event will continue year after year, it is best to use a short and generic word that is memorable. For example, the Online Marketing Summit uses #OMS12 as their hashtag. While this is a good hashtag, if #OMS was not used for anything else, #OMS is recommended over one that has a year appended to the end of it. This allows past participants and followers to keep their saved search for that conference year over year.

Measure and Evaluate

 

At the end of the day, it is important that we measure the impact and evaluate what went well and what didn’t. There are a number of tools that can do this for you, but here are the ones that think work fairly well:

  • Crowdbooster – this is a great tool for measuring a single Twitter account, and to measure how far your tweet went, who retweeted you and who those influential people are around you.
  • Topsy Analytics – free tool that allows you to trend conversations over time from a search on #hashtags. Topsy also allows you to compare up to three search queries.
  • Hootsuite – free and paid versions. One of the benefits of Hootsuite’s paid version is that you can preset campaign variables for all links you want to tag. This is beneficial because it saves time from going in and out of bit.ly if that is your primary link tracking shortener.
  • Google Analytics – you will want to measure clicks and visits to your website through links shared on Twitter. Use Google Analytics to dig deeper into your visitors and how they behave on your website after the click.
  • Sysomos Heartbeat or Radian 6 – enterprise level options include Sysomos Heartbeat and Radian 6. The benefit of using these tools to monitor the conversations over free tools is the ability to archive and store conversations for later analysis. If you are into raw data, these tools are for you.

Remember…

One of the enjoyable aspects with live-tweeting is being able to follow an event in real-time, from anywhere in the world. So, don’t think that the people on your attendees list are the only eyeballs on you; there are hundreds, if not thousands of others who are tuning into the discussions online.

While we’ve summarized a lot you could use in your events, this is not a complete list if you have a creative mind. How have you planned for a live-tweeting at events? What has worked and what hasn’t? Please share your ideas and comments below!

Six years ago we started WebShare with the singular goal of passing on the knowledge and skills we had acquired in Internet marketing to our clients and partnering with them to take their digital strategy to the next level.Over the years we’ve been fortunate to experience tremendous growth that has allowed us to continue to add expertise and experience to the team, including a stable of experts in online advertising, conversion optimization, SEM, social media, and web design.  But the area we’re probably best known for has been our analytics expertise.  Offering a full range of services, from strategy to implementation and training to deep-dive analysis, our team includes thought leaders such as WAA Innovation Award finalists, industry authors, sought after speakers, seasoned trainers, and former Google employees.

Today we take a huge step forward with that growth as we combine the expertise of three of the industry’s top firms to create a world class organization featuring some of digital marketing’s finest minds.  WebShare, VKI Studios, and PublicInsite will be joining forces to give our clients a true one-stop shop for all of their digital needs.  This will provide clients access to a team with exceptional depth and expertise across a broad range of disciplines that include search marketing, usability and conversion testing, web design & development, training, business / competitive intelligence, and more.

Above all, we realize that we could not be where we are today without you – our clients, our team of employees, our partners, and our community.  We would like to sincerely thank you all for being a part of WebShare, and we look forward to what the future brings.

If you’d like to learn more about the merger, we’ve set up a FAQ page, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.  We’ll be blogging, tweeting, posting and conversing from Cardinal Path from here on out, so don’t forget to follow, friend, subscribe and friend.

We couldn’t be more thrilled about our future with Cardinal Path and what it will mean to our clients, partners and team — both current and future!

Signing off from the WebShare blog,

Corey & Dave

In the wake of Charlie Sheen’s recent shenanigans, companies with smart marketing people are jumping on the chance to capitalize on the buzz. In case you missed it, Sheen’s been quite busy the last couple of weeks. He’s ranted his way through several interviews, been fired from his hit TV show Two and Half Men, and even set a new Guinness World Record for Twitter for the “Fastest Time to Reach 1 Million Followers”. Oh, and who can forget his totally winning Ustream channel.

Sheen’s created quite a buzz recently and companies are cashing in, check out how these four companies have capitalized on Sheen’s buzz.

Poster Revolution

Poster revolution quickly grabbed a promoted tweet on the hashtag #tigerblood and #planbetter which started trending quickly after the ABC interview which aired the evening of March 1st and has been going strong ever since.

Why #tigerblood? Well that was one of the references Charlie Sheen has used during his recent interviews. Poster Revolution seized this opportunity and purchased a promoted tweet on the hastag and has been running this tweet on the stream to sell their Winning poster of Sheen.

At the time of this screen shot, the proted tweet has already received 825 retweets. I betcha they’ve sold a couple posters with this move. Pretty smart move I’d say.

Ford Vs. Iffinity

Car makers Ford and Iffinity have also jumped at purchasing promoted tweets on Charlie Sheen related hashtags. They’ve chosen to run on #Winning and you can now catch promoted tweets like this one from Infinity at the top of the stream for #Winning.

Infinity has chosen to tie the hash tag to a current promotional giveaway for a trip the NCAA Final Four. I’m sure they’re promotion has caught a bit more attention using these promoted tweets and surfing the Sheen wave then they would otherwise. Great job Infinity!

Spirit Airlines

Another interesting campaign that caught my eye is from Spirit Airlines. These guys have tied the Charlie Sheen phenomenon to a sale on airfare. They’ve dubbed it the “Living The Dream Sale” and are using tag lines like “Winning Fares”, and “Tiger Blood Not Required.

All of these companies are seizing the opportunity to jump into a conversation sparked by something totally un-related to their business. They’ve jumped outside the box and found a way to capitalize on a high volume conversation that’s already been ignited.

Don’t be afraid to try something different in your marketing mix, you can even celebrate your success with a Charlie Sheen cookie or a Charlie Dog topped with #tigerblood.

Social Media

Data Visualization: Enabling data-driven business discussions

Cardinal Path blog post

By now most organizations buy in to the fact that data is one of their most valuable assets and that they should be making their business decisions based upon insights they derive from it.  It sure helps when you present data to stakeholders in a format that they can both understand and appreciate. Data visualization … Read Full Post

8 Reasons Why Every Business Should Be On Google Plus

It’s incredible how much the web has evolved. More specifically, it’s incredible how many new products Google has introduced in the past year. When Google first announced their new platform, today known as Google+, I thought, “This could be a game changer in the social space.” But did I jump on it right away? No, … Read Full Post

Bringing Live-Tweets to Your Event

Almost two years ago, I sat at a round table to listen to world leaders at the G20 Youth Entrepreneurship Conference in Toronto. Why was I there? In short, I got my spot at the table after writing the ‘best answer’ to their contest question “How does entrepreneurship affect our world?”. The prize of this … Read Full Post

Goodbye WebShare, Hello Cardinal Path!

Cardinal Path blog post

Six years ago we started WebShare with the singular goal of passing on the knowledge and skills we had acquired in Internet marketing to our clients and partnering with them to take their digital strategy to the next level.Over the years we’ve been fortunate to experience tremendous growth that has allowed us to continue to … Read Full Post

4 Ways Companies are Capitalizing on the Buzz!

Cardinal Path blog post

In the wake of Charlie Sheen’s recent shenanigans, companies with smart marketing people are jumping on the chance to capitalize on the buzz. In case you missed it, Sheen’s been quite busy the last couple of weeks. He’s ranted his way through several interviews, been fired from his hit TV show Two and Half Men, … Read Full Post

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