Tendo Dev Blog

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The inside scoop on the Tendo View redesign

In January 2008, we redesigned Tendo’s monthly email newsletter, The Tendo View.

If we developed a new email approach for a client, we’d certainly follow-up with some analysis on whether or not the redesign was successful and adjust our strategy accordingly. So, we’re doing the same for our internal effort and want to share the results with you.

(Some call this “eating your own dog food” but we think it’s just fair play. If we’re going to hold our clients accountable, we should do the same for ourselves.)

What Did We Do?

The Tendo View is an email newsletter that we send to approximately 1,000 recipients each month. Our audience includes past, present, and potential clients as well as freelancers and marketing professionals that are part of Tendo’s extended network.

Given our business, we have many marketers and Web-savvy folks on our list—the type of people who receive a LOT of email newsletters.

In 2007, our newsletter metrics were very respectable. We averaged a unique open rate of 20.71% and an average click-through rate of 12.21%.

We believed that the content we delivered was good. It provided value to our users and we had a nice mix of different content types, from feature pieces to site reviews to our popular “jargon watch” to blog entries.

But we wondered if the look and feel of the newsletter was inhibiting our ability to generate even more opens and better click-through rates. So we decided to make some tweaks to the design—not a wholesale redesign, just tweaking some elements—to see if we could improve our metrics.

Here’s what we found… Continue reading

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June 6, 2008 Posted by | Email Marketing, John Kovacevich, Metrics/Web Analytics, Tendo View | , , | Leave a comment

Web redesign tip: show your readers what’s coming

Planning changes to your site? Give your web visitors a peek behind-the-the scenes. Use it as an opportunity to engage them in a conversation about what they want and then give them previews about what’s coming.

I check SFGate every day. They’ve been rolling out a new design of their site over the last few months. But instead of just popping up the new design, they’re doing a good job of previewing the changes and explaining WHY they’re being made.

Such an approach can improve adoption of new features and reinforces the value proposition of your site. —John Kovacevich, VP Marketing Services

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Design, John Kovacevich, Web Content | , | Leave a comment

Who’s on LinkedIn vs. Facebook?

Everybody is buzzing about social media and what it can do for your company. With anything that’s “new” on the Web, there is always a lot of hype and hyperbole. So I was curious…how many people in the Tendo universe are actually using the big-name social networks?

I decided to conduct my own little experiment. I pulled all the email addresses from the Tendo contact database (approximately 1,320 addresses).

Then I fed those email addresses into the contact finder on LinkedIn and the friend finder on Facebook. (I would have done the same on my MySpace account, but MySpace doesn’t allow you to scan an uploaded list, and my own informal traffic monitoring shows that MySpace is on the decline.)

Both have a feature where they compare your address book to the addresses of active members and let you know if a member is in their network. (Don’t worry if you’re on the Tendo mailing list but don’t want your information circulated in either the LinkedIn or Facebook networks. Your information was not saved in either location; it was simply a one-time scan of the list.)

Here’s what I found: 50 percent of our contacts were members on LinkedIn and 18 percent were on Facebook.

Obviously, the Tendo list is not a “representative sample” of the whole world; given our business, we have many marketers and Web-savvy folks on our list. And LinkedIn is especially popular here in the Bay Area as a professional networking tool; the majority of our addresses are from the Bay Area.

But it’s interesting to me that nearly 20 percent of our list is on Facebooka more purely “social” network and one that was not even open to non-college students a year ago.

Again, this is just a snapshot in time and we probably can’t make any grand conclusion based on these two numbers, but it’s fair to say that the number of people using social networks is on the rise. The basic functionality of these sites is going to become more and more standard in a variety of applicationsperhaps even for your company’s network. So you may want to get yourself registered and start poking around. —John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

April 28, 2008 Posted by | John Kovacevich, Metrics/Web Analytics, Social Media, Web Content | , , , , | 1 Comment

Web headline lessons from The Onion

Lots of us here at Tendo read The Onion, the fake newspaper with the funny headlines. (The link to the online version is included, but frankly, the print version is better.) We’ll ask, “Did you see the headline in The Onion this week?” and then repeat whatever grabbed our eye.

And therein lies the lesson for anybody writing headlines for the Web. You have to get your audience’s attention. Yes, the content below the headline is important. But if you don’t get the click, nobody sees your content.

And The Onion understands this. According to a recent episode of This American Life (which you should listen toit’s great), the writers at the Onion come up with 600 headlines each week and narrow them down to the 16 that end up in the newspaper. Then, once those 16 headlines are chosen, they develop the story that goes with the headline.

This is, of course, almost the complete opposite approach to how most companies generate their Web content. Somebody writes content and then comes up with the headline last. I suggest an opposite approach: Write your headlines first. While the headline may not be as funny as The Onion, it will force you to define the value proposition and come up with a reason a person would click on your article before you invest the time in writing. John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

March 30, 2008 Posted by | Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Web Content | 2 Comments

How much is your content worth?

There’s a terrific piece in the March issue of EContent Magazine by Ron Miller called “How Much is Your Content Worth? – Measuring Website Content ROI”

(I’d love to include a link to the article…but it doesn’t exist on their website. For a publication that has such good content on this topic, it’s ironic that their own web experience can be a little frustrating.)

The piece talks about how many companies still generate web content with little concern for how effective it is. There’s a great quote from Phil Kemelor, VP of strategic consulting at Semphonic:

“I think companies are still only just getting the message that web analytics are the key to controlling costs in web development and analyzing and marketing your content. It seems companies have been comfortable spending money on developing content and they don’t know if it’s being read or not and if it’s really contributing to their bottom line.”

I found myself nodding in agreement, having had versions of this same conversation with most of our clients over the years. On the web, if you’re not clear about what you want them to do and how you’re going to measure success, don’t do it.

But I disagree with one quote in the piece (not from Miller or Kemelor): “I don’t think content matters. You have to distill it down to the business objective. What they are trying to do: save time, make money and so on.”

The point is valid—web content must be in service of some larger business objective and you need to be crystal clear what that is. But to say that “content doesn’t matter” is silly. The right content moves your target closer to that business objective; the wrong content is an obstacle.

Content isn’t just a bump on the road to your business objective—it’s the critical element that motivates the desired action you want from your customers. In that sense, the right content is worth a lot. John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

February 28, 2008 Posted by | blog, Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Metrics/Web Analytics, Web Content | 2 Comments

Keys to viral marketing success

Brian Morrissey has a good piece in ADWEEK’s January 7 issue called “The Rules of Viral Web Success, at Least for Now.”

He says it’s all about the three S’s: simple, self-expression, sharable.

Recent successful viral Web campaigns, such as Burger King’s “Simpsonize Me” and OfficeMax’s “Elf Yourself” took these guideline to heart.

It doesn’t need to be complicated or even use the latest technology. If it’s fun and you can customize it and share it, you’ve got a winner.

Don’t be afraid of the simple idea. Think of all the things you received in YOUR inbox over the last year. What did you spend more than a minute with? Did you pass anything on? If so, why? John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment

Making your content modular

Travelling this week, I finally got caught up on some reading, including EContent magazine’s annual EContent 100 issue. In it, I was struck by how many of the columnists were singing versions of the same tune:

Steve Smith: “ …one of the big stories of 2008 [will be that] everyone finally pays serious attention to content sharing, viral media, widgets, and downloadable media (Podcasts and vodcasts.) From the TV networks on down to trade magazines and B2B events, the task at hand is finding out how to fragment your own content and make it as portable as possible.”

Bob Doyle: “Now more and more content is ‘single-sourced.’ Meaning that it feeds not only the Web, but traditional print materials like advertising, market collateral, and documentation: multichannel publishing and in multiple formats.”

John Blossom: “Long gone is the era in which print, online, audio, and video media formed distinct publishing markets, as is the time when enterprise firewalls defined the boundaries of where professionals discovered professional-grade content.”

Web content creation does not live in its own silo—the walls are coming down. Content is becoming more modular and forward-thinking companies need to approach content in a new way.

One of the exciting areas we’re working on here at Tendo is the development of customized tools that allow a company to strategically manage its content assets. This is not the old “content publishing system.” It’s more than just getting stuff to appear on your website.

It’s about using collaboration tools across the enterprise to give greater visibility into content creation. You can target content toward specific business objectives and leverage it as broadly as possible. You save money and time and increase ROI. Who doesn’t want that?

Ironically, we’re talking about fragmentation as a way to do more integrated marketing. By boiling content into its most modular elements, you increase flexibility and make sure that your messaging is consistent across different communication channels.

If your Web publishing teams are working in isolation, creating content on their own, it’s time to make plans for the new reality. – John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

December 4, 2007 Posted by | Content Management Systems, Content Strategy, Custom Content, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment

Too old for MySpace and Facebook?

Let’s just say that I’m north of 30 and south of 50…but does that make me too old to use two of the Web’s largest social networking sites, MySpace and Facebook?

Clearly, it’s the under-20 demographic that fueled the explosion of these sites. Use of Facebook is now ubiquitous on most college campuses. (I read a recent interview where a college student estimated that most of her friends were on Facebook for five hours a day or more!)

In a recent Newsweek article, the Facebook folks (who started allowing non-students to join in September 2006) say these places aren’t just for kids anymore.

“Absolutely yes,” says Facebook’s COO, Owen Van Natta, to the question of whether it will change the world of 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds the way it has on campus. He then amends the question to conform to the company’s new unofficial, and weirdly defensive, motto: it’s not just students. “Facebook did not change college life, but it changed the lives of the early adopters … many of whom were in college. We’re entering a phase where every single day we have more people over 25 entering Facebook than any other demographic. So, absolutely, yes.”

I’ve been on MySpace for a couple of years and just joined Facebook a few months ago. (Unlike MySpace, where front pages can be viewed by all, Facebook is a “walled garden” so you won’t be able to link to my page unless you are also a member.)

So what are the implications of MySpace and Facebook for your business?

As more people join and as students who have used these technologies from a young age join the workforce, this kind of functionality is going to become a baseline expectation, not some fancy “Web 2.0” initiative for your company. Your customers are going to expect to interact with you in the same way that they interact with their friends and contacts on these other social networks.

Is your company ready? ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

October 12, 2007 Posted by | John Kovacevich, Target Audience, Web Content | 2 Comments

To comment or not to comment

I’ve noticed a change in my own Web behavior.

More and more, when I finish reading something online I click on “View Comments” to see what others have to say. (I originally typed “what they have to say about the article” but I deleted it because it seems that most of the comments are about the subject of the article and not the article itself. More on this later.)

Whether I’m checking local news on SFGate.com or reading the latest industry blogs, reading comments is an increasing part of my online experience. But do they really add value?

If you can get past the misspellings and vitriol that plague many postings, there are often one or two nuggets that are good for a laugh…but I don’t know that they really illuminate the topic or make me more loyal to that particular news source. They definitely add to the “noise” that is out there on the Web.

In an article in this month’s Esquire, Chuck Klosterman offers four ways to save sports media. He suggests that networks DE-emphasize what he calls “the fan’s perspective.” In doing so, he raises a relevant issue for all of us engaged in online community building:

“It’s easy to become infatuated with working from “the fan’s perspective”: It makes it simple to come across as passionate and charming, and―for a moment―being publicly partisan seemed like a revolutionary concept. But now it’s normative, mostly uninteresting, and never useful. This is best witnessed through caller-dominated talk radio and on Web sites driven by reader comments: By dramatically increasing the amount of discourse, there’s always a decrease in its overall quality.”

As Klosterman suggests, democratizing your website via public comments may have once seemed like a revolutionary concept, but that doesn’t mean that it adds value to either your company or your website visitors.

Some suggest that comment functionality is the “gateway drug” to blogging–allowing people to dip their toe into the blogosphere. But does it add value to your site?

Before you add commenting capability to your own site, it’s worth asking the question: is it useful? Does “increasing the amount of discourse” get you closer to your business objectives?

Another quick note: The comments feature is almost never an effective tool to measure the value of the original content. As I mentioned above, comments tend to be about the subject and not the content presentation.

In other words, you can post content about Britney Spears and generate a lot of comments, but what does that have to do with your business? Would you deem that piece of content more valuable because it generated comments if that increased dialogue never led to a sale? ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Custom Content, John Kovacevich, Web Content | 2 Comments

5 content considerations when implementing Web 2.0 strategies

1. Capability vs. strategy
Just because you CAN deploy a certain Web 2.0 technology doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Use of Web 2.0 techniques should be driven by the larger communications strategy for the customers. Web 2.0 is a MEANS to achieving your communications objectives, not a strategy in and of itself.

2. Web 2.0 content is about giving up control
Most Web 2.0 techniques “democratize” access to the Web and give more control to your users. When implementing any Web 2.0 techniques, it’s important to make sure that the company is ready and willing to cede some control to the users BEFORE it engages 2.0 tactics. (To pull back after the fact will expose the company to charges of censorship, which you want to avoid.)

3. If you build it, they may or may not come
Just because you create something doesn’t mean anybody is going to use it. (And if an element is not used, it may send a negative message to your users—that nobody is using your site.) The launch of a new Web 2.0 element must be supported by its own marketing effort, it must be supported broadly and over time, and it will require extra “care and feeding” in its first six months if you want it to take root.

4. Content creates value and builds the community
If Web 2.0 techniques are about building community, you have to create something that will draw that community. The Holy Grail is a self-sustaining community with user generated content—a true dialogue among users. But that won’t happen overnight and in the beginning, you need to supply content that “seeds” the turf and makes it attractive to other users. Blogs and Wikis in particular require a concentrated content development effort in the early stages.

5. How is YOUR company unique?
How can you use Web 2.0 in ways that no other site can? What is the unique value you can offer to a community of users? It is better to create a highly targeted pilot program that utilizes 2.0 techniques, generates a small, committed group of users, and delivers great value rather than try to mimic a large, existing Web 2.0 site. (Somebody is already doing THAT, but only you can do THIS.) ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

August 6, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment